After Blizzard unleashed the latest patch for Diablo 3 on Tuesday (v 1.0.8), some players began to exploit a bug stemming from the update that enabled them to duplicate gold through the Auction House.
The patch itself made gold ten times cheaper by increasing the stack size for gold sales on the Auction House from 1 million to 10 million. But when clever users canceled a gold auction before the transaction completed, the bug refunded them double of the amount listed. News of the bug quickly began to spread, and players were duplicating trillions in gold. In turn, this gold rush inflated the in-game economy as the coins were used to purchase high-value items thus pushing sellers to charge higher prices.
"Blizzard dropped the gold floor from $0.25 cents a million to $0.25 cents per 10 million," wrote one NeoGAF forum member. "Enterprising players then bought gems for real money and converted them to gold. People were making billions on this. But then! A gold dupe has just been discovered with some streamers duping TRILLIONS in gold by playing around with the 2 auction houses. It is quite the mess at the moment."
Blizzard immediately shut down both the gold and real-money Auction Houses after learning of the exploit. By 10:15pm PDT, the company said it believed to have discovered a fix for the bug and would bring the game into maintenance for approximately one hour. By 12am PDT, a fix had been implemented, but the company decided not to roll back the servers to the start of the patch. Why? Essentially to identify those who used the dupe.
"We've been able to successfully identify players who duplicated gold by using this specific bug, and are focusing on these accounts to make corrections," said community manager Lylirra. "While this is a time-consuming and very detailed process, we believe it's the most appropriate choice given the circumstances."
"We know that some of you may disagree, but we feel that performing a full roll back would impact the community in an even greater way, as it would require significant downtime as well as revert the progress legitimate players have made since patch 1.0.8 was released this morning," Lylirra added.
Do the Auction houses hurt Diablo 3, or make it better? Former Diablo 3 Game Director Jay Wilson votes for the former, saying the he and Blizzard originally thought they would reduce fraud and provide a wanted service for players. The Auction Houses would be used only by a small percentage of players, and prices would even limit how many items would be listed and sold.
But once Diablo 3 went live, Wilson and Blizzard discovered that they were completely wrong about the prices and usage. Nearly every single player made use of the auction house, and currently around 50-percent of the players use it regularly. They also discovered that gold does more damage than real money because players use it and prices fluctuate a greater amount.
"I think we would turn it off if we could," Wilson said. But it's not as easy as that, he added, because Blizzard has no real idea how many people like the system or hate it. Blizzard doesn't want to shut down a feature a majority of the customers are using.
As of this writing, both auction Houses here in the States were offline, whereas they're currently up and running in Europe and Asia. To check the status, head here.