Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Dream Features: Less-random loot tables

In a comment this week Melmoth linked to an interesting blog article by Tomas Rofkahr about Intermittent Variable Reward (IVR), the principle that you are willing to do something unprofitable repeatedly for the small chance of getting a big reward. It's what makes people buy lottery tickets, but is also what makes people go to the same dungeon repeatedly until they get the reward from the loot table they want. I know a warlock from my guild who went to Shadow Labs over 20 times to get his Robe of Oblivion from the end boss Murmur there.

Now I don't mind a bit of randomness in loot tables, it's okay if I don't know what will drop when I kill a specific boss, or even if I come out of a dungeon and nothing for me dropped at all. But what I do find annoying is if something drops that nobody in the group could possibly use. The piece of leather armor, with no leather wearer in the group. Zoso complained about that recently (thanks again to Melmoth for pointing it out). In my only heroic instance run up to now the final boss dropped an epic, but it was mail armor, with no mail wearer in the group, and no disenchanter eiter, so I ended up winning it with a greed roll and found it sold for only 4 gold to a vendor. Doh! Not the reward you'd would have expected from beating such a hard dungeon.

Now we do know that pre-2.0 patch in Molten Core the loot tables were not totally random. Paladin loot didn't drop for Horde raids, and Shaman loot didn't drop for Alliance raids. So modifying the loot tables in function of the group going into an instance is technically feasible.

So my dream feature for today would be dungeon loot tables that takes into account group composition. If there are 2 plate wearers and 3 cloth wearers in the group, there should be no leather and mail drops, and there should be a 50% higher chance for cloth drops than for plate drops. It still leaves you with random chance, and the possibility that the drop isn't better than what you are already wearing. But at least it saves you from these annoying drops nobody could possibly use.
I have fond memories of raiding Molten Core with a paladin who wore a shield, golden helmet and a blue evening dress. I used to flirt with him. Good times. He was a good paladin too.
I agree, to a point. For no-drop items it should act this way, but for anything else it should all be up in the air.

There is a market of people who would rather buy their gear than grind for it, and that's where the auction house and random drops come into play.
The idea stated by you, Tobold, is certainly a step into the right direction but it is also most certainly not what Blizzard wants. Their business model relies on two things:

- How long can we capitalize on existing assets
- How high is the probability of customers bailing out when overdoing that


(1) Re-Use of Dungeons
Well, there is a nice set of dungeons around which took time modelling, texturing, foolproofing and itemizing. Maximize thre reuse of these dungeons by splitting them into normal mode and heroic mode. Force players to repeatedly visit these dungeons by making them the only place to increase your reputation for the different factions.

(2) Split rewards
Why, oh why are all the different crafting recipes/enchants/etc. spread across the different factions?

Combine this with (1) and you add another time sink.

(3) Make loot unplannable
With the exception of the tier 4 / tier 4 tokens, Blizzard has practically done nothing to improve their loot tables. Why? Because it does not annoy people enough to quit. Similar to the quoted intermittend variable reward there is a habit with intelligent creatures: The effort of doing something repeatedly is larger when the reward is random. The quoted warlock player is exactly the perfect customer for Blizzard. He goes through that dungeon 20 times to get the complete set. I know of players that went to Stratholme >100 times for their Dungeon tier 0 trouser.

These people make the best ROI (Return on investment) for Blizzard.

Your idea, Tobold, would unfortunately lower the ROI for Blizzard as people would have their set far sooner complete than intended which would force Blizzard to come up with new content sooner than planned. That is also the reason why Blizzard puts in "content blocker" in the game. Gruul was one. The Karazhan key attunement (Black Morass) was one. The hilarious Mount Hyjal attunement is a ridiculous content blocker.

You can see the end of Blizzards imagination. I personally think they messed BC up. Too much hardcore-oriented progression and a deliberate (!) easy entrance at the beginning of the game to lure casual gamers into their net.
Wiki has a good explanation of the Skinner Box, and any mmorpg player who isn't familiar with the experiment should give it a read. Afterwards, you'll look at this subject in a whole new light.
This is something I definitly wished for, and still wish for. Back prior to the BC I took my rogue to scholomance over 50 times to the get the shadow craft mask. Not one drop. I did see the pally helm drop quiet often tho, even without a pally in the group most of the time. Except the few times I rolled my pally through scholo.

I just ended up getting my mask of pennence for my pally. It drops in the steamvaults. Took me 12 runs, not so bad. I had one run of the steamvaults where every drop wasn't useable, most were hunter drops and the last boss dropped two hunter items. We had no hunter.
it's okay if I don't know what will drop when I kill a specific boss, or even if I come out of a dungeon and nothing for me dropped at all

I feel the same way, but with the caveat that I just can't do the 'run the same content umpteen times, but not see any major reward from it' thing. If other people were getting great drops, I honestly couldn't be happier; in fact it's just the repetitiveness of it that destroys it for me, full stop. It's one of the reasons that I never managed to get a character to level 50 in City of Heroes or City of Villains: after a while you're just running the exact same content, over and over and over again, and there's very little reward, especially towards the higher levels where your power upgrades become few and far between. It's just dull.

Curiously though, I will happily roll a new character in WoW and potentially play the same content again whilst levelling them up without hitting a brick wall of boredom in five seconds flat. Perhaps it's the new class and learning the new abilities that accompany that, or the fact that you can often revisit levelling content and find places that you missed the first time around, but it just doesn't seem so utterly, mind-numbingly, tedious as grinding instances, grinding reputation or best of all: grinding materials to enable you to grind instances.

Are there ways to provide a challenge without the need for players to repeat the same content to such an extreme degree? Of course, but they involve far more time and investment on the part of the developer, and when so many people are willing to work on the current system, why change it?

So, for me:

Getting no loot? Not a problem.

Repeating something because there is a reasonable level of challenge to it? Of course that's not a problem, it's the basis for most games.

Grinding the same tile set and same encounters for weeks on end for little to no loot, on the off chance that [ePeen of the Mighty Wang] will drop? Wrestling a bagful of rabid badgers would be less painful.
Yeah, right, that will NEVER happen. If it does, you better believe that Blizz will make yet another list on the tier progression chart. Players running the same instance 20 times is what keeps the money flowing and I believe, is the main reason Blizz can afford to slack for 2 years on creating expansions.
You left one thing out of the heroic instance Tobold, and that was the Primal Nether someone should have got from the final boss. Assuming you alloted that to a guildmate who tailors, blacksmiths, or leatherworks that's one epic item they can craft for anyone in your guild.

Otherwise - its insane to run something nonheroic 20 times for a robe that isn't as good as the mana-etched set. If you've run it 20 times you should have the rep to go heroic and get better gear there.

Something BC has given us is the opportunity to look for gear upgrades in a number of places - 5 man drops, epic quest chains, crafting, heroic mode 5 mans, 10 mans, and 25 mans. Anyone who feels compelled in that environment to run the same place 20 times for one sub-par drop is missing the forest for the trees.

ps. Run with an enchanter, shards are really nice to have these days.
If my priest was my enchanter, my lock would never see a group. It's funny sometimes when I ask people if they want my priest (who runs in shadow mode and lets the paladin have endless mana) or lock (tons of damage, but is an enchanting machine and de'ing on a run can add 100g profit on a run).

I would love to see it less random though. Last night I ran Black Morass. Every single drop was sharded, despite 3 people in the group hoping for items. And of the drops sharded, one of them is an item my priest has been hoping for for 6 runs.
This would be my biggest dream feature for WoW right now I think. I have a group of friends that I run instances with. We don't manage to go often (time schedules) and they're almost the only ones I instance with. We have a Warlock, Priest, Shaman, Mage, and Druid. We do great. In our last 3 runs, 2/3rds of the drops have been plate. 3 runs, 9 bosses, 6 plate drops. We had one run where not a single person in the group got a single item they could use. That's just ridiculous.
Hello, my name is Belt of the Tracker, and you can rest assured that I will drop at least once every Karazhan clear. Perhaps I will even drop twice from the same mob just to make sure your supply of Void Crystals is never depleted.

The hunter who is in every Team A run actually took it once and kept it in her bag based on a stress-induced superstition that if we have one of those in a bag somewhere, another will not drop. Guess how that worked out.
Sometimes the question is more complicated, though. Take [Legguards of the Fallen Crusader]. These are plate pants that had +int, +sta, and +str that only dropped in BWL for Alliance. Despite the fact that they are clearly paladin pants, they were one of the better dps warrior pants available at that time. Horde warriors complained that these pants were not available to them.

Similarly, if a paladin is running an instance, should +healing offhands drop? What if the paladin is main-healing?

If a druid is in the group, should rogue leather drop?

About the only thing that we could categorically state shouldn't be dropped is something that could not be equipped by a group member. Everything else is a matter of taste.
I don't think it's a good idea. It's not just what you can wear. A group with a warrior,paladin,druid,hunter and rogue would get no cloth drops. Yet I know several druids that have some cloth healing gear that they use for healing.
Also it doesnt guarantee desirability. A mage in your group could mean healing cloth might drop, a hunter might get mail with spell damage on it.
If this were true, people would get a group not based on utility, but based on influencing drops. A warrior wanting a sword will refuse druids and priests as healer, and take a paladin instead, along with hunters, rogues, warlocks or mages. He might leave cloth wearers at home alltogether to minimize the drops he doesn't want to increase his drop chance.

Besides, this system is already implemented in places like ZG, naxxramas and now the TBC raids. You get generic tokens which you can exchange for epics. This way makes the chance of a drop being useful much higher.
And they even implemented a kind of DKP system with badge of justice. An item needs say 20 badges, so you run them enough times until you have them.

As some people commented, some ran scholo/strat 20-50 times to get that one drop. At least this means you can find people that need to go. Imagine you're leveling up your draenei/blood elf and you're 40 now. By the time you reach 70 everyone will have been 70 for months. If drops were easy and guaranteed everyone would already have everything they ever wanted from instances, and be unwilling to go and you'd be left in the cold with no people to group with.

Finally, what about enchanting ? If everything is useable, enchanters will have a much harder time getting prismatic shards.
If they can make epic tailoring crafting patterns only drop for tailors, they surely can modify the loot tables. Pre BC running MC on farm and pushing BWL, we got our first Vael Kill. After about 2 months of whiping (we are casual/raiders) we defeat this evil boss and what was our reward? Shaman belts, we are Alliance. There was no possible way for any Alliance Shaman to exist yet, yet thats what we get for our dedication to BWL. Being an enchanter I have become sick to my stomach at the things I have seen drop but no one could use.

We killed Attumen last night and had no pallies, and these bad boys became void crystals.
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