Daily Archives: October 8, 2009

For the loot, honey, for the loot.

I hate dungeon instance loot. Ok, that’s not entirely true: we loves it, we wants it precious. What I hate about dungeon instance loot is the way, like so many other things in MMOs, its awarding is perfectly designed to make one or more people in the group feel rubbish about their evening, and how it turns nice normal people into quietly seething Sméagols or outwardly furious frothing Gollums. I hate it most when it does such a thing to me, especially when I’d promised myself that loot did not matter and I was only there for the companionship of others and to enjoy the World of Warcraft. Yet it manages to do so, loot distribution in WoW is like the One Ring of Middle Earth, it has a will of its own and evil intent.

We’d finished a run of the Deadmines and I’d upgraded my character with two pieces of Defias leather armour, making out like the proverbial bandit. I’d rolled Need on the items, and professed the niceness of them on our VoIP channel, but only because they were, indeed, nice. Our healer, who can also wear leather, did not roll on the items, and I was pleased with my new preciouses for a short while before being hit by a wave of guilt towards the end of the run when I considered that my proclamation of their niceitude had perhaps put the healer off of rolling on the items at all, which was not my intent. Indeed, I was still in my premeditated mindset of The Loot Does Not Matter, and frankly there’re very few healing leather items at this level so any leather loot is free game, although I obviously wouldn’t roll on anything that was clearly healer loot. Things will even out a bit at level forty, as my Shaman moves up to using mail armour and the only other mail armour wearer in the group will move up to using plate armour at the same time, thus making the loot boundaries fractionally easier to determine.

We moved on to Shadowfang Keep, and still feeling a bit of loot windfall guilt (which I think afflicts some players more than others), I passed on the leather pieces that dropped there, one of which was blatantly a healer piece anyway, and the other was a nice upgrade for either of us, it having a chunk of stamina on it. The other two members had grabbed a few useful drops by this point too, and it was all looking like a fairly balanced evening of loot distribution. But the loot system is treacherous, it will betray you, and it is always trying to find a way to ruin an evening’s play.

So a really shiny two-handed axe dropped. I’m currently using two-handed axes until the point I can dual-wield in twenty levels or so, and this item was a huge upgrade for me, with its lowest damage range number being greater than the highest damage range number on my current weapon. That’s a pretty tasty boost in DPS. I think we all professed the shininess of it at the point, and I apologised for rolling Need (why do I feel the need to apologise each time I roll need on something, is this just me?) and rolled for it, so did the Paladin tank. And of course they won.

I think I hid my frustration quite well, and again I like to think that my Loot Does Not Matter mindset at least partially brushed it aside as just one of those things, but as we continued through the instance the loot system pulled at me, taunted me, and drove me to dark thoughts.

(I had posted my reasons for being annoyed here, but I was informed that it looked like a castigation of that person, and that’s not the purpose of this post at all. It’s the loot system that is primarily at fault.)

I wonder if the healer felt the same way about me rolling on those leather pieces, and whether they felt that I expected them to be mine and shied away from rolling. I wonder if I would have been annoyed to not win those pieces either and have come out of the evening with nothing, or whether, having gained a couple of nice items, the loot system took over and twisted my thoughts towards expectation and rightful ownership, exactly the things that I’d sworn to avoid, having been on the receiving end of such rolls in the past, and had evenings ruined by what I perceived as… no, not unfairness, what happened was fair by all the rules. Perhaps thoughtlessness? It’s all very subjective, and that’s the biggest issue with these loot systems. The boundaries of who has a claim to what are often blurred, grey and misty, like putting on the One Ring and trying to see clearly.

I wonder if anyone else even cares about this, or if I’m just someone who spends too much time reading things into situations that don’t exist. I’m not writing this to try to shame that person into giving me the weapon, hell, they may very well have a point of view that, when explained to me, will make me realise that they had just as much claim on the item as I felt I had. And I most definitely wouldn’t want the item now, there’s something odious about getting an item from someone because you whinged about it: it’s just what the loot system would want. No, I’m genuinely writing this because loot systems in most MMOs are utterly rubbish, and instead of just copying the Need/Greed system and forcing the players to come up with DKP and other overlaid systems in order to make things more fair – and often still failing and causing grief between players – developers should really put some effort into coming up with something that is an enabler of group play, not something that causes discord and resentment between otherwise friendly and reasonable players. At the end of the day your character in most modern MMOs is nothing, gear is everything, so why is the gear distribution system in most MMOs such a hideous archaic throwback that has probably never once worked well.

Developers wonder why so many people will happily Play Alone with Others in MMOs, and yet when you look at the odds stacked against having a good time when playing with other people, even people you consider friends, it’s no wonder that more and more players switch to solo play wherever they can.

Firstly you’ve got to be on the right continent as your friends. Then you have to be on the right server. Then you have to belong to the same faction. Then you have to be of a comparable level. Then you have to have the same quests. And if all of that comes together and you can finally run an instance together, you have to hope that the loot which drops is easily apportioned and that nobody is going to feel that they deserved the piece more. Which when it comes to players and loot, is an almost certainty no matter how good their intentions, the loot system bends all to its will eventually.

I’ve resolved to do what I normally do in these situations, and that’s to not give the loot system a chance. Let’s face it, nobody outside of the end-game in WoW (PvP twinks excepted) needs to care about gear, I could probably perform well enough as a meleer in a set of cloth caster gear that we’d still make it through an instance, but quest items are plentiful enough that I will be able to pull my weight with ease. Yesterday I was tempted again, and though my brooding Galadriel-like thoughts almost brought me to a bad place, I think I have resisted the temptation well enough, and hopefully this will allow me to not worry about the loot and just enjoy the dungeons of WoW and the companionship of others.

No longer is the loot is precious to us, we don’t wants it no more; nice friendses, that’s all we wants.