Shared Loot Table

I have seen quite a few debates about random drops versus tokenization. Should bosses have a 2% chance to drop the Ubersword of Epicness or should they drop 2 badges (and a vendor in town exchanges the Ubersword for 100 badges)? There are merits in each direction, although I tend to favor tokenization because random drops tend to encourage endless grinding of a single dungeon/boss.

Let me, as I often do, mention a third-way solution used in City of Heroes (and a fourth). City of Heroes has used both, but the most sought after items (purple crafting recipes) are random drops from a shared loot table. CoX applies it even to trash mobs, but you could restrict it to bosses and let all of them have a chance to drop all the rare items. That would be an even larger lottery, but you would not have only one boss in the game that dropped the one item you want. Of course, players might replicate “grind one dungeon endlessly” by optimizing for the most time-efficient dungeon, but I am not in the mood to ponder people who want to spend their $15/month doing something they do not consider fun (if you like grinding the efficient dungeon, hey, double-win for you). OTOH, I can understand why you might prefer fewer rolls with higher chances to many rolls with a lower chance of that specific item.

Several games use a menu as a middle-ground between drops and tokens. When you win, you pick one item from a short list. WAR chests are a good example. Another implementation is to give a token that can be redeemed for one of several items, rather than tokens you accumulate as currency. CoX combines menus with randomness by including “a random pick from pool D” as an option on the prize menu. Another middle ground is to have a fixed drop that is variable by class, usually done as a barter item that some or all classes can trade in for their equivalent of the item.

My thought is that players want both fixed and random elements in their game rewards. They want to know that they are going to get something, and little nuggets of achievement are encouraging, but they also want some chance to hit it big. Slot machines make a lot of money, and developers can embrace that without making everything random.

: Zubon

8 thoughts on “Shared Loot Table”

  1. Another option is the dungeon/area specific crafting route where all bosses can drop a core part of a weapon/item/armor and trash drop supplemental parts. With an appropriately set drop rate (WoW’s drop rate is much to low to make getting the item worth my time) this can function as a sort of middle ground between random drops and tokens as well as giving you progress towards the item every time you run the dungeon.

  2. A 2% drop rate on the Sword of Uberness is just another way of saying that it will never, ever drop for some fairly large percentage of your player base. I really view making loot like that simply unattainable as a very poor design choice, no matter how it’s spun. Death’s Verdict or Solace of the Fallen from the ToC raid are good examples of how not to handle this sort of thing; they will never, ever actually drop enough for everybody to get one, even if people raid ToC long after the content is obsolete for them.

    Tokenization isn’t the most exciting way of handling the situation, but simply shrugging and placing the situation totally outside of player control is even worse.

    I’ve long thought (since Molten Core, if you want to know how long) that major raid dungeons should have player-specific quest chains associated with them, tied to killing new bosses and possibly to demonstrating mastery of the raid content, that reward the Charismatic Megaloot of the dungeon. That helps keep the rewards tied at least a little bit to the storyline of the dungeon, while also avoiding giving the RNG control over the player experience.

    1. Problem with raid quests is they are one-offs, and in order to make developing a raid ‘worth it’, you can’t have people only going in a few times.

      That said, yea, 1% drop rates on bosses are not all that fun, especially if the item in question is tied to significant raid advancement.

      1. Well, I’m not suggesting making raid quests the only way to distribute loot, but rather one of the ways to distribute major pieces that everybody is going to want one of.

        Icecrown actually does a better job of avoiding the need for this, as there’s a lot of duplication of good loot and a lot of it on the first few bosses (Bryntroll, for example). But Deathbringer’s Will is still a good example of what not to do.

        Back in the day, most of Nefarion’s drops would have been well-suited to a raid quest for Blackwing Lair, with his replacement table being things less universally lusted for.

        Another part of the problem is Blizzard’s insistence on making certain parts of one’s kit (weapon, always, and trinket, recently) vastly more important than the other parts. Can’t make a weapon drop? Well, you suck.

  3. “My thought is that players want both fixed and random elements in their game rewards.”

    Yep. For instance after 30+ runs of Fire Temple in Aion (the only available instance for that level range I was in), I had 3 armor upgrades and a random jewelry upgrade, although I and everyone else were after the 1% weapon drop, which I only saw 1 of drop (unusable to my class). But that one item made me rich as it was salvageable into uber rare crafting components.

    Anyways I’m in favor of a 2 loot table + token drop system. I really don’t beleive everyone should have the 1% weapon, but after multiple runs everyone should have a reward of a very good armor set (that would be equal to an expensive craftable one).

  4. DDO loot works fairly well. Every player in the group is assured of some reward *that they can use* from the major loot box in a dungeon. You’re never sure exactly what it is, but you’ll always get something worth the run.

    Class-specific, player-specific, *usable* loot like that, with a range of randomness, seems like a good aim to me.

  5. Note that city of heroes is off the “pool” system: by and large, it’s all done by tokenization (reward merits) now, with a few exceptions.

    As you note, the Purple recipes are random drops off any mob, and special recipes (for character respec) also work that way. And there are the PvP drops. Even for those, there’s now a new tokenization system with the alignment merits allowing for purple and PvP recipes.

  6. Here here. Zubon, you are quickly becoming my favorite blog author. All your articles seem to resonate common sense above all the other gaming archetypes, and I think common sense nowadays is a rarity and should be applied more than elitism or epeening or what-have-you that most gamers seem to crave. I applaud you, sir.

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