Follow your nose… to lazy game design. And coconut socks.on February 19, 2015 at 8:00 am
On the flip side, .01% of the time, that loot is going to be something really useful. It’s going to outclass your other gear or it’s going to be the thing you needed for a raid. That’s going to feel awesome when it finally drops! You’ll feel so good that you’ll run out and try your hand at the lottery, because you’re feeling super lucky.
But, if you needed it, then why was it so hard to get?
That’s the other thing that bothers me about loot: its frequent necessity.
Loot would be a much more digestible and welcome mechanic if it weren’t so damned compulsory so much of the time. If you take “Borderlands” as an example, the scaling is so bad in that series that a weapon, even a couple of levels under the enemies you’re fighting, is obsolete and useless. This game creates a constant need for you to engage in its perpetual motion machine of greed and desire just to progress.
This is an instance of malpractice in game design… but it’s such an accepted part of many games that no one even bothers to question it.
If you look at the world of MMOs, it’s not enough to have simply leveled up your character and built it correctly. You also had to have gone through an uncomfortable and tedious amount of work to gear up for content. You’re not able to compete or contribute unless you’ve got all of the same stuff that everyone else has.
What is the fun of loot, when everyone is attempting to get the same drops? What is the point of a persistent influx of items when none of them are worth using. Hell, most of the time, they aren’t even worth selling. Players frequently leave stuff lying on the ground.
“It’s not rainbow rarity? Fuck it.”
These systems aren’t being implemented to support the other aspects of the game. They ARE the game. Loot is what drives the player forward. Loot is what tells the player they can progress. Loot is the economy of these games. Loot is everything.
This is an instance of malpractice in game design. An oversight which could be avoided, but it’s such an accepted part of many games that no one even bothers to question it. It’s expected that this is just the way many games work.
Well, we shouldn’t accept things as they are just because it’s the way they are. We can make it better.
Actually, we don’t need to come up with any fancy ideas to improve it. It has already existed in RPGs all this time. Just let us buy our upgrades from shops and find them in treasure chests. If you want to add a dash of randomness to the proceedings, then make it so those loot drops aren’t the focus of the game, but a nice thing that happens.
Even if you want your game to be loot focused, you need to make it so that loot isn’t the most important thing you can do for your character. Make it so that equipment isn’t forced into obsolescence almost as soon as you pick it up. Make it so that your other growth systems are more important and meaningful than gear.
This wouldn’t be as big of an issue if these games were balanced properly, but they never are. Of course, most RPGs aren’t, but in games that don’t feature loot, you’re not left to random chance on whether or not you’ll be strong enough to tackle a challenge. You have a defined and consistent growth path you can follow. One that gives you a clear path you know you can take to get stronger, if you want or feel you need to.
Loot has become a buzz mechanic. Something developers throw into games to get the kids exciting and wanting to buy their product because, on paper, it sounds SO GOOD. In reality, it’s cheap crap.
Loot is like the prizes you used to get in cereal boxes. You never wanted the cereal. You would pour it all out, searching for the toy like a crack-addled street walker. You didn’t just want that prize, you NEEDED it. Of course, once you got it, disappointment typically set it pretty quick. They were trinkets meant to fool kids into getting their parents into spending money on the cereal. You’d then see a commercial for another toy in a cereal box and the fervor would set in all over again.
This is what loot in video games has turned into: shitty prizes in cereal boxes. Useless, meaningless garbage meant to distract you from the nutritionally deficient sugar bomb you’re ingesting.
Loot is no longer exciting. It is no longer cool or tempting. It has become a tedious and unwelcome presence in many of the games we play. Games that use it to hide weaker parts of their design. We’re all falling for it and our games are getting worse because of it.