Thursday, April 14, 2005


Solo loot better...slightly

Maybe it's just taken me a while to notice, but there's been some work done on making solo loot more interesting. Previously, it was limited it to useless "vendor trash," or items that are useless aside from the money NPC vendors will give you for them. There were also a few quest-starting items, which were worth even less because of their minimal rewards.

I've seen some items with actual stat bonuses and such dropping now, even if they are still not items that anyone would use. It's a step in the right direction.

However, the typical solo loot is still very dull, especially the normal monster drops. You get the same 2 or 3 junk items from every monster of a given type, plus the "lore and legend" items. These items are the same from level 1 to level 50...the higher level ones are worth more than lower level ones, but they have the same looks, the same names, the same drop rates, etc. For example, every skeleton in the game drops "a skeletal hand" as its common drop and "a femur" as its rare drop.

This is bad for two reasons. First, in a game where you do and see the same things over and over for hundreds of hours, you need as much variety as you can get. The loot system is one opportunity to add variety (and at a very low development cost, too). Second, there is no feeling of progression derived from the loot system. You get more powerful, you should be getting better/more interesting loot. In EQ2, though, the high level "common" stuff looks exactly like the low level "common" loot, except in the Sell Item interface, where the NPC vendor will offer different amounts of money based on the item's level (which is otherwise invisible to the user).

Because EQ2 and games like it rely so heavily on the appeal of character advancement, all the game systems that are related to character advancement (such as loot) need to be done right. Diablo 2, for example, succeeded almost solely on the strength of its loot system alone, as the rest of the game was average. My guess is that most of the problems with the loot system (there are some more mentioned here) are a result of the game being shipped before it was done. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that a lot of the items just had stats generated randomly, and the intent was to go back and fix them later...which of course never happened. If not, then they were certainly designed to be balanced, rather than interesting.

You shouldn't create balanced systems with the intent of adding the fun later. You should make fun systems and then balance them afterwards.

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