Diablo 3

A discussion on the topic of Item Tetris.

diablo13 - A discussion on the topic of Item Tetris.
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It comes down to one question: what purpose does the item meta-game have?

It adds gameplay in the form of turning your inventory into another decision: for making gold and for picking upgrades.

Remember that Diablo stemmed from
Moria (video game - A discussion on the topic of Item Tetris.


roguelike dungeon crawlers). You had a limited time to live and a limited amount of time at merchants to trade gear — certainly none of this town portal crap! — so the concept of picking which items you kept or dropped was an important part of the overall game.

That time spent at a vendor was your only chance to get back inventory space and you had to FIND them. This meant you had to decisions to make about the icons in your inventory, with bigger ones possibly being more expensive but also taking up more space. The smaller ones can sometimes be more expensive (like a good ring or necklace) but you can definitely fit more of them. Now you have to decide what you want to keep around: that 1×1 ring you just picked up that may identify to be super expensive or that 1×3 sword that may just be an upgrade. You can't fit both! You may not find another merchant on the next level or you may die without that gold because you don't have enough potions!

Item size combined with item identification provided a means to say: this item is bigger and may be more powerful but this unidentified small item may wind up being more expensive. We report, you decide!

But the item meta has been changing every game since Diablo 1, namely: vendor access and access to item identification.

Identification in Diablo 1 always cost you 100 gold, either through the scroll or having Cain do it. In Diablo 2, you could do it in town for free or pay 100 gold out in the world in the form of scrolls. In both games, identified items could sell for way more than their unidentified cost but you also had to manage when you wanted to do it: either with a scroll or identify or a scroll of town portal.

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In Diablo 3, that cost is gone. Now identification is just a few second wait and no longer an economic decision.

As far as getting back to town, remember that scrolls of town portal were just another item in Diablo 1 and 2. You could learn the spell in Diablo 1 but that costed mana. Going back to town in those two games was an active decision with (some) consequences, just like the roguelike that inspired Diablo 1. In Diablo 3, town portal was usable at any time with zero cost.

Also, the vendors were more useful in earlier games.

In Diablo 1, the item vendors were pretty crucial to your success. Adria provided a primary means to find skill books and stat boosts, along with a means to get weapons for the wizard. Griswold could sometimes provide weapon and armor upgrades. Since uniques and good rare items were a lot more uncommon than later games, the blue items were pretty good.

In Diablo 2, you could sometimes find upgrades off the vendors as well, though not as likely late-game as rares and uniques took over.

In Diablo 3, I think the item from the vendors were largely useless, which I think made the item game a bit unnecessary.

Without any interesting choices about what to keep or sell due to the lack of useful vendors, along with instant vendor access due to lack of limited town accessibility, along with lack of meaningful identification meta, the inventory space decisions made by the different item sizes just didn’t feel as impactful in Diablo 3 as it did in Diablo 2 and certainly Diablo 1.

So, whether Item Tetris ™ in Diablo 4 has any real impact I think depends on how the game handles vendor access and item identification.

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