Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dropping the RNG From the Loot Table?

There's an interesting trend unfolding in multiple games; the once sacred random loot table appears to be under attack. What's going on?

The Multi-Game Roundup
Tobold writes that the revamp to 5-man loot in WoW's patch 3.2 effectively shifts the game to a token-based loot system. The loot that you obtain from the tokens you gradually earn through dungeon runs is actually higher quality than the loot that was on the dungeon's loot table in the first place. He's got a point - I got the very last 5-man upgrade I wanted back in February but continued to run 5-man dungeons anyway for tokens I could spend on heirloom items, even BEFORE the patch.

EQ2 hasn't had quite so much gear inflation, so their token loot does not blow their RNG loot out of the water. However, SOE has apparently decided that there should be an upper limit to the amount of times some item can fail to drop (see Stargrace's celebration after finally obtaining a shield upgrade). In the new patch, you'll be able to cash in a very large number of shards for many of the rarer dungeon drops. If I understand it correctly, you get 1-2 shards per run, and the vendor wants 150 of them, so this is really a very last resort measure, but it's a step up regardless.

LOTRO will also be getting a token barter system for its "radiance" gear. Raid bosses in the game give off a "gloom" aura that incapacitates characters and can only be overcome with compensatory gear, which was only available as random drops in group content. Where most grinds in an MMORPG are optional in that you can compensate for your decision not to wear pants with better gear everywhere else, radiance is actually mandatory.

I seem to recall that Warhammer had made a similar shift with their originally much-decried Ward armor system, which, like LOTRO's system, was mandatory for later content.

What changed their minds?
Overall, it seems like developers are beginning to come around to the view that unreasonably low drop rates can eventually cross the line from "great, cause we can make players repeat the same content dozens of time" to "uh oh, the low drop rates are convincing players that they should give up instead". It will be interesting whether they try to replace the RNG with something else, or whether studios are beginning to resign themselves to the possibility that players will only tolerate so much timesink at a time when there are other games out there to play.

Misc Itemization News
P.S. Not worth a separate post, so you get bonus itemization newsbites.

The EQ2 shards I mentioned above, and now almost all dungeon loot are flagged heirloom and bind on use, meaning that you can pass dungeon drops to alts on the same account. This is obviously a huge incentive to continue running dungeons on your main after you finish the content, though it could also create any number of loot assignment issues. It will be interesting to see what effects this has when it goes live.

In other news, Ghostcrawler says that Blizzard actually did not intend to push the gear curve as hard as they did in this expansion. Apparently, they originally thought that optional hard modes could remain purely cosmetic and only realized after the fact that you really only need so many mounts, titles, and achievements.

This puts the gear inflation of patch 3.2 into slightly better context - the entry level gear was trailing the top of the line by far more than Blizzard anticipated - and it could have interesting implications for what they do when the expansion hits. My first reaction to the expansion announcement was that the lower level cap could allow them to avoid a total gear reset. This may still be the case, but it sounds like we can expect a STEEP depreciation curve for combat ratings between levels 80-85, if they've got to bring numbers back under control BEFORE launching off on another cycle of raids and hard modes.


Aaron said...

In the "uh oh, the low drop rates are convincing players that they should give up instead" department, I quit TBC because of low drop rates on gear. After spending literally weeks running every regular-mode dungeon I could and *still* not walking away with a single piece of Dungeon 3 set gear, I finally decided to hang up my staff and seek greener pastures.

Indeed, the token system is the only thing that kept me *subscribed* as long as I was into Wrath (I only quit 3 months ago). Once again, I was remarkably unlucky with drops, and even as the only Holy Priest in my guild I was lucky to see an upgrade via drops every other week. The token system allowed me to have a reason to keep running Naxx and OS and Archy the Loot PiƱata and Heroics week after week, because I was able to accrue enough tokens in just a few days to upgrade my gear once every week or so, sometimes twice if I did get a lucky drop.

Constant progression is key. Because devs can’t reward fractions of gear per run (well, they can, but there are only so many Atieshs you can build), they weight it into the RNG – rather than giving you 1/10th of a chest piece, they assign that chest piece a 10% chance to drop.

But players who don’t win the RNG lotto don’t *feel* that progression. Much better to give 1 badge per run and bill me 10 badges for that chest piece than give it a 10% drop rate, because for the 4/9/24 people who don’t win the lotto, the run feels like a waste of time. Repeat that enough times, and you’ve lost a customer, and MMOs should never lose customers over drop rates.

What's my main Again? said...

I hate RNG and RNG hates me... I ran Kara over 30 times before the tier 4 gauntlets dropped for my druid. I don't mean thats the first time I won the roll... I mean that was literally the first time I'd ever seen them drop.

As much as I would love to see RNG go away entirely... there is a profession totally dedicated to RNG which is Enchanting. If gear always drops that someone needs then nothing will ever get disenchanted.

Before 3.2 I bought the tier 8.5 chest which was an upgrade from the 7.5 on my shaman... but there were other slots that if I had the choice I would have upgraded. Unfortunately the badge gear is limited and in the case of an elemental shaman... non existant outside of the tier pieces. Now if you could only get the emblems in the dungeon of that level but could buy any piece of gear off any of the loot tables then that would accomplish the removal of RNG.

Ferrel said...

I'm a huge fan of "fixed" loot and tokens. The overly random and diabloized systems we have now just get on my nerves. I, like many others, have been stuck running the same instance 30+ times to get that one particular item. Eventually you just want a GM to show up and say, "Yeah, sorry... here it is."

I think part of the problem with the random systems is that the tables are so much bigger these days. In EQ the named mobs would have two items usually. Rarely three. Even raids split it out better as each "slot" on a mob could have a different loot table. EQ also had a lot of "cross class" loot too. Truthfully, I think in many ways, that is a superior system.

I'll take tokens though. I will be honest and say I get more excited about item drops but in the long run tokens come out ahead.

Stupid Mage said...

How would you feel about bosses loot table changing depending on how the boss died?

75% boss damage done by magic increases chance for caster gear to drop.

Nobody died during encounter, changes loot table.

Last man standing changes loot table, possibly favoring the last man.

Yeebo said...

I think RNG is great for casual and soloable content. That's why Diablo is so addictive after all. I think it's a fundamentally broken mechanic for raid content, however.

Loyal said...

@Stupid Mage: Great idea, so my paly tank would always get penalized because he didn't do enough DPS. Or how about that healer saving you ass? I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem cause we all know there's already way to many tanks and healers in the game and making it harder for em to gear make some of em go DPS instead.

Emblem drops is a nice way to ensure that all get something from a raid. But there still needs to be a bit of RNG to make it interesting and reward you for doing the harder bosses. The same way there needs to be different levels of emblems to ensure that doing the hardest HC raids doesn't reward the same stuff as running a normal 5 man.

Stupid Mage said...

I didn't say it should be that way for every boss. Just a gimmick for some. Figuring out how to make Sword of the Holy Lord drop would be fun no? Like getting an achievement that results in a drop.

Or what about guilds that don't have any caster dps (like mine). Seeing cloth drop all the time sucks.

DeftyJames said...

Yeebo's comment is interesting. I need to think about it.

Tesh said...

I'll offer a counter to Yeebo. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm playing casually, I *don't* want random drops. I want to be able to plan around what I'm going to get, since I don't have time to waste grinding and hoping for the right bit of gear that lets me get on with the game.

Of course, that's assuming that gear and loot are important to how you progress in the game. If it's not, then sure, random loot can be fun to change up how you approach the game.