Tobold's Blog
Thursday, October 09, 2014
Is Destiny's random loot an example to follow?

As I mentioned when the game came out (and independent from the fact that I'm playing a free copy), I like Destiny more than the average Metacritic score of 76 suggests I should. A lot of people who criticized the game now find that in spite of their reservations, they are still playing. Basically if you plotted the imaginary curve of how much somebody likes Destiny over time, it didn't start out all that strong, but lost a lot less over the subsequent weeks than other games. Weeks later it is still a perfectly viable option for me to start the game and play a bit. And I believe that one factor in this is the loot system of Destiny.

We are all used to the MMORPG loot system of games like World of Warcraft or similar games: Specific loot drops from specific boss monsters. It isn't certain that you'll get the sword of uberness you wanted if you kill a boss, but it is certain that you won't that particular item anywhere else. There is actually software out there that looks at your current gear and tells you where to go next. That can be problematic if the activity you are supposed to do is one you either dislike or are for other reasons unable to do. That can lead for example to people quitting guilds, because the game basically tells them they need a different set of friends to get better gear. That isn't ideal from a social networking point of view.

Now Destiny isn't great with social networking features. But it never tells you what exactly you have to do next. Loot in Destiny is perfectly random. You might get that sword of uberness by doing a raid, but you might also get that exact same item while doing patrol mission from some low-level mob. Of course drop probabilities aren't the same, and the system can be exploited by setting up situations where you just try to kill a massive number of low-level mobs in the shortest time possible (aka the now defunct loot cave). But the overall result is that you never feel that the activity you are currently doing doesn't have a chance to improve your gear. You can choose your activity in function of how much time you have available, whether friends are online, and how fit or tired you are feeling, and you will always have some chance of finding that legendary engram which improves your "light" (aka gearscore). You can do harder content when you feel like it and the situation allows it, and you'll be rewarded better for that harder content. But if for some reason you're just doing something easier you aren't totally excluded from any chance of getting an upgrade.

While such a system isn't necessarily easy to balance (how much faster can you kill lower-level mobs compared to what lower level of drop chance?) I do think there is a good concept here which could help other MMORPGs. Look at your character and a map of WoW and you'll find that in the large majority of locations there is absolutely nothing for your character, no reason to be there at all. In Destiny, which has far fewer zones and locations, there isn't a single one where I shouldn't be right now. There is some progress to be had for my level 23 character even if he is just doing patrol missions on Earth killing level 2 mobs for some random bounty, or re-doing story missions at some level of my choice. Of course it helps that in Destiny a level 2 mob can still hurt a level 23 player, and the player still needs to aim right to kill it. But what really makes a difference is that I feel I have the choice of what I want to do, and it isn't the game that is telling me what I should do.

Now that the loot system has received some tweaks I feel it is working pretty well. I agree that the freedom of choice feels great.

My concern with the game right now is hitting that progression wall where the only way for me to advance further is through the raid which I don't have the time to do.

One of my favorite things about destiny is the ability to jump in play for an hour, join friends immediately in whatever they are doing and then getting off.

For me with the limited time I have to play games this is perfect. I've been able to reach level 27 even though I rarely play for more then am hour at a time.

But soon I'm going to hit the point where the only gear I need comes from the raid.

Maybe in the future destiny will go WoWs route and have some sort of lfr version of their raids, because one I hit that wall there is not much for me to do besides PvP.
Look at your character and a map of WoW and you'll find that in the large majority of locations there is absolutely nothing for your character, no reason to be there at all.

Isn't is horribly depressing that the only reason you're playing a game is to improve your character and not just to have fun and/or relax?
Isn't is horribly depressing that the only reason you're playing a game is to improve your character and not just to have fun and/or relax?

Progression is one part of it. But in WoW, if you are not in a level appropriate zone, it would also be rather difficult "to have fun", unless you like to one-shot monsters that haven't got a chance to hit you. What are you supposed to do in a low-level zone, just walk around and look at the flowers?
Random loot is nothing new. Diablo III, Torchlight, Borderlands I/II and other games featured it long before Destiny. The random generation concept is a grat marketing way to say stuff like "you will find infinite weapons in this game!"

It's a good way to avoid farming for specific weapons BUT it also completely kills the fun/challenge to find THAT great weapon which requests some effort (hard enemies to kill, a questline, reputation, whatever).

Diablo III is maybe the king of "random things". You can get an uber-amazing weapon from a final boss or from a vase. I liked it, at first. But then you realize that you have no incentive in visiting some location, because any place is fine as long as it provides a good stream of enemies to kill.

So over the long run you start focusing on stuff like "highest density zones" or "best kill/drop ration". Which is nothing different than farming for a specific premade weapon.

After 4 years of WoW and 2 years of Diablo III (and Borderlands, and Torchlight II) I can say I prefer the "fixed/premade" loot of WoW. It gave me a lot more satisfaction. Because I felt I was "working" for something and I could "achieve/conquest" in some way (instead of just killing random stuff anywhere until it dropped).

While you can (and some maniacs do) try hundreds of hours on a boss, you can't kill him more than once a week.

But you can kill lvl 2 mobs all day. Literally, if you have a bot.
What are you supposed to do in a low-level zone, just walk around and look at the flowers?

For example complete the questlines reading the story and ignoring completely the "fight" aspect of them (which more often than not really feels glued on just to give you something to do).
And BTW flying around looking at the flowers, or more precisely picking them up with herbalism, is actually very relaxing. At times I think that I should level a 2nd druid just to do this.....
I honestly think that one of the best things of WoW has always been "wandering around" just for the fun of doing useless things (fishing, for example).

There are tons of things to do in the so-called useless areas: quests, achievements, collecting stuff, finding a specific npc for some weird task and so on.

WoW has something that others struggle to achieve: an impressively deep lore. Which is a VERY important part of a videogame, in theory.

I've been playing WoW for 4 years almost completely alone, meaning I never felt the need to make friends or group with strangers (except for dungeons/raids).

It was like watching a good movie or reading a nice book. While listening to great music and watching the occasional incredibly cool landscape.

Fighting and collecting loot, in my opinion, tends to become boring soon. Exploring and having weird things to do on the other hand... is priceless.
Best part of GW2 is that anywhere you go in the world, you scale to the point that you can still have a fun, engaging time. It's not perfect scaling, but it's good enough. In WoW, reading quest text in zones you've outleveled is all well and good, but you've passed over the standard gaming experience and can never get it back without starting over from the beginning.

Random loot is why I keep going back to Diablo III over and over.
I think different styles of rewards appeal to different people. Personally, I can sort of understand the appeal of the random loot system, but I find myself lapsing in Guild Wars 2 play specifically because there's no reliable way to "attain" any new upgrade. I've been staring at the requirements for a legendary weapon for over a year and have gathered basically everything I have control over. The only element left is a precursor item which you can only get by totally random luck or obscene amounts of gold from other players. As neither route feels practically doable after all this time, I lose interest.

With my particular perspective, I think I'd need to see upgrades with at least some regularity to get into a random system. There's a line between "If I play more, I'll get something good" and "No matter how much I play, I'll probably never see anything I want."
As others have said, this has been done before, but I do not think it is as popular a feature as you are having us believe.

The first problem is that it cuts away at identity-based commitment. Whereas in World of Warcraft the loot system almost always requires a group, games with the random loot system allows for people to play solo. A solo experience, while beneficial for short-term commitments to a game, is not going to end well for an online community. The WoW guilds have common interests that keep players logging in every night (like progressing through a raid), and this also fosters bonds-based commitment between the members. People often just come back to play with their friends, and although some leave guilds to join better ones, they are at least staying within the game. On the other hand, if you're leaving Destiny raids to farm for gear off low-level mobs, you might get your gear quicker, but your overall investment into the game experience would seem unbelievably shallow. There's no commitment to helping other people get gear because it's random, and with weak bonds, I would predict that a lot of people would get bored after farming and go play a different game altogether.

The linear progression model you mentioned about WoW does make certain areas in the game less worthwhile to visit, but it also instills goals within the players. Players want to progress forward because there is an intrinsic reward for climbing the difficulty of dungeons and raids. Making it a mandatory feature in WoW means there's an entry barrier to specific content, and believe it or not, there are studies ( suggesting that entry barriers like this increase commitment to the online community.

Anyway, I'm really enjoying your blog. I'm a new blogger myself. Can't wait to read the next entry!
Rng is what makes me quit games. While some randomness is fun, eventually the inability to reliably progress just makes me bored. Many Rng systems are like what, in wow it took me 9 months to get priest shoulders from bwl because they never dropped. In vindictus I quit because all the gear needed extremely rare drops.

I am interested in looks, increasing power gives me no joy, I just need it for progression, but when collecting stuff is all gated behind Rng, I just quit.
This loot style seems great in the beginning, when you can potentially use an upgrade in every slot. Months later, when your gear is mostly filled out, it feels like the opposite. No matter where you go, the chances of getting a worthwhile drop are extremely low.

Talk to me in 3 months when everyone hates it.
Heli, the quest text is as much the glued on part. If you want to read cliched flash fiction there are better options.
it would also be rather difficult "to have fun", unless you like to one-shot monsters that haven't got a chance to hit you.
Yesterday, my tweet feed had a high proportion of screenshots from people doing just that.
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