Realistic loot (and inventories)

I read what Raph wrote about WYSIWYG loot and I cannot avoid to criticize some parts.

The point is that, again, Raph keeps doing really smart and interesting considerations from the point of view of the SYSTEM and of the DEVELOPER. But never from the point of view of the PLAYER.

The problem with WYSIWYG loot is noise level, just that. Not (only) database noise level, but “info to player” noise level.

Think to the fun in a game as a “signal to noise” ratio. Noise isn’t affordable.

Think if when you killed a boar you would be prompted with tenths of different items that you could get and that are part of the daily mmorpg experience. Eyes, livers, meat, skins, teeth, bones and whatnot. This is why often in WoW quest objectives drop only after you are quest-enabled for that item. You only see what is relevant for you. With minimal noise. Without the quest those items would be invisible.

So what’s the point of this kind of loot system? From my perspective only the desire for realism and immersion. This is why in my “dream mmorpg” notes I write about realsitic loot and inventories. I had planned a system where bags aren’t abstract entities, but need to be located precisely, have weight and *volumes* and the same for every “manipulable” object. It’s part of a whole different layer with its own purpose in the design. I believe it contemplates all that is interesting and valuable in a WYSIWYG loot system while removing the useless noise that has no purpose.

Realistic loot means that a boar doesn’t drop swords or gold coins. But it also doesn’t mean that one goblin drops a leather jackets, coins, shoes, bags, a dagger, a slingshot, stones, teeth, nails, eyes, hair, a tongue, pieces of skins and tenths of other potential objects. Because this is just “noise” that is not relevant for a player.

Raph imagines a cloth system to randomly generate groups of mobs with trousers of different colors and “wear” and “decay” to justify a WYSIWYG loot system. Why?

It’s a game, all the elements that are superfluous and don’t add to the fun… are CUT. Without even a hint of regret.

Why adding annoying and frustrating mechanics like wear and decay only to support a loot system that seems to not have any other worthwhile purpose? Is this design because there’s a NEED for it, or it’s just bloat for the sake of it?

Any time spent on making kobolds customizable NPCs with attach points and morphs and whatnot is time that could have gone into making different monsters altogether. On the flip side, if you spend a lot of time with the kobolds, it’s extremely apparent that they are cookie cutter. A little algorithmic variation would go a long way towards making the process of killing 45 of them less tedious.

You can develop a complex cloth system that randomly generates each kobold and makes it look different. But what’s the point? The gameplay needs to be tuned, it needs designers that plans fun encounters, give paths and patrols to guards, put certain mob types in certain locations. Bundle casters with melee fighters to create interesting encounters. How they are dressed matters in THAT context. In the combat. In the different patterns that it creates.

You cannot spawn fifty kobolds, randomly generate how they look through a clothing system, add two tents and call it a kobold camp. It sucks. It has no depth. No crafting.

A Cloth system on kobolds is superfluous? BEEEP! Wrong.

Cloth system, yes, it is superfluous. Different kind of kobolds aren’t. Not from this perspective of the loot. But because you want equipment to bring to varied gameplay. Kobolds that attack you in melee, kobolds with more or less armor protection, kobolds that attack you from range, shaman kobolds and so on.

The “algorithmic variation” is needed to create varied gameplay. Different kinds of kobolds that don’t just look slightly different, but that also have different behaviors that go to intersect with the gameplay and that require the players to adapt and react in different ways.

The former case can easily be illustrated by the ways in which these things worked out in UO and SWG. The famous green cloth that Janey always pursued in UO was the result of one of these random customization spawns: a particular NPC happened to randomly get a shade of green dye that wasn’t necessarily easily available. People chased after NPCs with particular colors of clothing in SWG because they wanted it for their own customization (in fact, there’s an additional side effect there, of people “killing for sneakers” so to speak). Both of these are examples of further detail in the simulation creating value for the players in what might have been useless throwaway loot. (Obviously, the majority of what is generated is still useless to most people, and has little market value).

Condensed pharagraph: for every chunk of content randomly generated, 98%+ of it is usually garbage. So why we need to save it? Remove the superfluous (again). A game is a distillation of reality with a hint of magic. You take in only the best. The available space is limited and should never be wasted with something that isn’t the Very Best.

Then he also throws in the mix other complicated elements like economy and customization, and looking at them from a perspective I consider surpassed (that kind of overcomplication is something that I would definitely cut LIGHTHEARTEDLY).

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