On Loot

 Posted by at 8:00 am  DDO, Game Play  Add comments
Dec 132013
 

This is what happens when I have too much time to think
This is what happens when I have too much time to think

Yesterday’s post about Named loot really got me thinking; about loot in general, the different types, and the different roles that the types fill. Oops wrong, I need to change that to “the different roles that the types are suited to fill”; over time these roles have shifted and diffused and are not so clear cut.

This is going to be long. A meandering journey containing everything I think about loot and everything I’d like to see changed. Never fear, there is a TL;DR at the end for those of you who just don’t feel like 2000 words today.

For everyone else, let’s get into it:


Loot is the glittering lure that keeps us playing. It is the carrot perpetually dangling in front of us, just out of reach but oh-so-close. It is also the source of the DDO economy, or what remains of an economy. Take away the loot and everything stops. The loot has to be there, it has to, and it has to be good enough to keep us lunging for the carrot. But it can’t be too good; otherwise you won’t need the next batch of loot that gets released.

This never-ending cycle of reward and loss-of-reward powers the entire game. And not just DDO, but most (every?) persistent world games. Get the very best stuff for your character, and see it immediately degraded by the release of even better stuff. The cycle cannot end until the day they turn the servers off.

Personally, I believe that the current loot systems are sub-optimal, maybe even broken. There are too many systems that were left to age and wither, devaluing the effort made by developers to create the systems and by players to use them. Other systems were not ideal to begin with yet were left as is rather than improved, while the main crafting system is not even finished.

More important than the crafting systems though is the core system, the heart of DDO, Random loot generation. There is nothing about Random loot today that is fun, nothing, and nothing about it that motivates me to care. Did you know this weekend is a +2 Loot weekend? Does a higher-minimum level piece of vendor trash loot appeal to you? It does not appeal to me.

Random Loot

Random loot has at most two attributes (a prefix and a suffix) plus the potential of one or two augment slots. It is tightly limited by minimum formula level; you can find items with more power in the suffix or in the prefix but cannot find one with more power in both until you level up further.

The main purpose of random loot is to give players a reason to open chests, to seek out optional chests, and to look forward to +Loot weekends.

Random loot has been through a lot of changes over the years, and I believe that the sum of all these changes, taken together, have removed a lot of the fun of random loot:

  • It used to be that random loot came in a bewildering variety, but no more, it has been simplified. Meaning boring-ified. Simpler was not better in this case although I imagine it is easier to develop and maintain

 

  • It used to be that there were a small number of very powerful/desirable random loot traits that were also very rare. That is no longer true, first the very rare attributes became too common, and then they were changed to be much less powerful/desirable. This was not an improvement: there should always be the possibility of pulling that one incredibly desired thing every time you open a chest

 

  • It used to be that some attributes were simply better than others. That is still true but not in the same way, they are now designed to be different but equal. You use one kind of weapon against one monster and another kind versus a different monster; a rock/paper/scissors type of balancing act, each attribute being just as good when used in the correct situation. I get the inherent balance, but it is boring. I’d rather have rock/rifle/rocket launcher choices that keep me searching for the rocket launcher.

 

  • It used to be that random loot attributes were limited by item slot; you could get STR on gloves or belt or bracers but not in helmets or necklaces while a ring could have any attribute. That is no longer true, which means all loot is kind of amorphous. This severely detracts from the value of Named Loot and Raid Loot because Named Loot’s ability to have attributes in off-slots was one of its more powerful attractions

 

  • It used to be true that the most sought items in the game were very rare random loot. I liked that, it meant that anyone might get lucky, anyone, even the newest or most casual player. Every chest opening event was exciting.

If you agree with me that Random loot has lost everything that was fun about it (and I understand that not everyone will agree with me), the fixes are simple. Add more attribute types, make them more interesting, make the better ones available only at higher levels, and include one or two super-rare ones that everyone will want and hardly anyone will get.

Crafted Loot

There are a lot of crafting systems in DDO. Too many. They do not have the same purposes; Cannith Crafting makes Random loot. Alchemical crafting, special event crafting and miscellaneous upgrades like Incredible potential, touch of Madness and the Cauldron of Sora Katra make Named loot. Meanwhile, Greensteel, Dragontouched, and Epic crafting make Raid loot.

Cannith Crafting is the most significant because it is so pervasive and requires so much effort and treasure to use properly. It should be finished! It should allow users to duplicate the Random loot tables except with much more predictability and slightly less power potential (e.g. you can always find something slightly better than what one can craft, but only slightly, and you have to find it while crafting lets you design it). Importantly, it should not allow users to create items that are as good as the very best Random loot. And it should reward those who achieve maximum crafting levels with one or two item attributes that cannot be obtained any other way.

Epic Crafting is the only other truly significant system because for four years, this was how you made the best items in the game. Four years is a long time, and many, many people did just that, sometimes at incredible expense of time and effort. These people are now miffed that their toil has produced things that have become eclipsed by higher-level random loot. But there is no real fix for this, the carrot has to always exist, there must always be better stuff, and the level cap will soon be ten levels higher than Epic crafting items.

On the other hand, considering that Epic crafted items are no longer premium, it may be time to make their acquisition a little easier.

Named Loot

Named loot can have any number of attributes, not just two, and may come with one or more augment slots. Named loot can violate the minimum level rules, and the rules for attribute placement; an attribute that can only be found in Random loot on armor can occur in any slot on a piece of Named loot. The ability to get an attribute earlier than it is available on Random loot, and/or in a different equipment slot, is part of the appeal of Named loot.

Unlike Random loot, Named loot is found in known locations and can be farmed, meaning that the main purpose of Named loot is to reward us for running specific quests. Recent changes to Named loot are intended to reward us for running those quests on higher difficulties.

Named loot also supports those who like to design their character’s equipment load out; it is much easier to design with known items than it is with random ones.

Like random loot, Named loot has gone through some changes over the years, not all good:

  • Originally, Named loot was rare, powerful, and usually unbound. It made excellent trading material and contributed to the existence of a DDO economy. Now it is much more common, relatively less powerful, and usually bound, all but removing it from the economy.

 

  • It used to be that if you wanted a specific attribute (say Toughness) in an unusual item slot (say headgear), you had to farm a specific piece of Named loot. Now that all of the random item attributes are available on so many item slots, Named items have become slightly less valuable overall.

 

  • It used to be than each Named item came in one flavor only; now the versions you find improve when you play at harder difficulties. Generally, the Elite (or Epic Elite) versions are much better than the Normal versions. I think this is a good change.

 

  • It used to be that some of the attributes on Named loot were unique and could only be found on specific Named loot. I am not as sure about this but I believe that all of those attributes are now available on Random loot, although some appear only on higher-level random loot.

There is a specific type of Named loot (called Random Loot in the wiki) that is supposed to drop in any chest. There are not very many of these items, none of them remain very good, and no new ones have been added in four years. So I am ignoring them.

Raid Loot

Raid loot, like Named loot, can have any number of attributes, multiple augment slots, and come in a variety of power levels depending on the level and difficulty of the raid.

Raid loot is always (100% always? I think so) Bind to Character.

Raid loot is the best. So good that it often remains on your character even when you’ve leveled way beyond the item level. Of course, it can’t be so good that it will never be eclipsed by other items, even by Random loot: level caps increase, power curves increase, and the carrot has to keep dangling.

It would be nice if all of the raids (and I mean ALL of them) worked more like the challenges in that they could be run at any level above a certain minimum, and if their loot scaled up with level. I would love to see a Level 28 Chattering Ring, or a Level 28 Epic Elite Sword of Shadows. And I would love to have a reason to go back and revisit the Titan or Sullamaades.

Managing the balance

Within a specific level band, items should differ in attraction:

  1. The most attractive item should be the most elusive and unattainable “perfect combination” random loot item
  2. Raid loot should always be the next most attractive, nearly as good as that perfect combination item but attainable via raiding (grinding? upgrading?) and not just incredible luck
  3. Named Loot should be better than random loot but part of that superiority is because because it can be farmed, has specifically targetable attributes, and allows combination or placement of attributes that is not available any other way
  4. Crafted loot should be nearly as attractive as good random loot, but of course can be designed rather than found
  5. Finally, normal random loot

It would be nice to have large level bands within which all of the above is true. That is not attainable though, you cannot expect any item you get a level 14 to still hold value when compared to level 20 equivalents. You simply can’t.

I love Knicker’s dual Epic axes, I do, but I knew even as I (finally!) acquired them that the joy they brought me would be fleeting and soon I would need different axes. It is just the way things are, and more, it is the way things have to be. All of you who are bemoaning the fate of your own hard-won riches, hey, I feel your pain, I do.

But the loot moves on and always will.

You have to let go the joys of holding and hoarding and learn to take solace in the acquisition itself. Because you are going to be acquiring again, and soon.

TL;DR:

  • Rework Random Loot to be more like it used to be, including more limits on which attributes appear on which item slots
  • Include one or two super rare types in Random loot that everyone will want and almost no one will get (but are unbound)
  • Stop putting every weapon attribute ever created into the Random loot system; some should be reserved for only named or raid loot
  • Finish Cannith Crafting and give it one or two types that can only be crafted, not found
  • Modify Epic crafting to make it easier to acquire level 20 epic items
  • Make more of the new Named loot items Unbound (but not Raid loot, only Named)
  • Players need to let go of the best items much sooner than they would like but it has to be that way. Deal.

๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ™‚

  5 Responses to “On Loot”

Comments (5)
  1. Hopefully with the patch the random loot should be improving again now, I always look forward to getting one of those “outlier” combinations – i remember ages back (level cap 16 era) a friend pulling an anarchic burst adamantine dagger of greater construct bane, he dubbed it “the tinopener”.

    I don’t agree with the idea that higher-level stuff should *always* outdo the lower-level things though, especially in the case of things like named & raid loot which is precisely due to its special/unique capabilities, in which case the trade-off might be worth it… see things like the torc & concordant opposition greensteel where their effects are simply not found anywhere else, or the shimmering arrowhead trinket (slow an enemy 50% on a crit with a ranged weapon while actually able to use the high-dps ranged weapon? yes please!).

    I also like that there are certain harder to obtain named gear, such as Shining Devastation & Phosphor, a greatclub & a heavy mace respectively, which on a character with the right setup can hold up well against something with a minimum level that’s 10! levels higher, and the fullplate of the defender from VoD, which in pure AC terms, (not counting additional effects & dont give me the “ac is worthless” argument, not everyone is an uber EE player) isn’t actually outdone until level 25+ with the epic dragonscale stuff.

  2. I’m torn here. I understand the frustration you have with too much choice, yet the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. In this case, some quests might need a special effect found only on random loot, at least in terms of reliably finding that prefix or suffix. My problem is that the developers move about these prefixes and suffixes far too often. It’s okay to add some new ones but don’t remove the old ones. The last two updates have been terrible as a result of this (now presumably fixed with 20.1).

    If I see another Ghostbane item, I’m going to throw all my characters off the bridge to the Twelve.

    • Ahh but don’t you pretty much only play monks? they’ll just float down harmlessly ๐Ÿ™‚ About the only reliable places to die from falling would be into that gorge in Schinylindylandylundylrin… or I guess you could assemble a crack team of thieves, break into a high-security vault, fight your way through the defenses, kill a dragon (because since you’ve come that far, why not?) then throw yourself off & die on re-entry ๐Ÿ™‚ That still wouldn’t rate as the most epic quest for suicide though, The Nameless One is still the king when it comes to that ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Yeah. Killing my characters is a PITA. Best I can do on a daily basis related to DDO is to post something “witty” on the forums and let Teh Troll and others rip me a new one to kill whatever pride I’ve amassed in a day. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Best write up on loot I have seen for a long while! You bucking for a job a Turbine Geoff?

What do you think?

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