Slashdot is powered by your submissions, so send in your scoop


Forgot your password?
Games Entertainment

Loot Theory In Modern Games 111

HDRL is running an analysis of loot systems in modern games. They talk about how in-game rewards, formerly the domain of RPGs and adventure games with powerups, have expanded to exist in every genre, as achievements and unlockable bonuses have become standard fare. "For the majority of gamers, once the novelty is gone, they move on. To keep players interested, rewards are required. ... The Diablo series is a perfect example of the theory in effect. Just as in the story of the donkey and the carrot, a game's rewards cannot be too frequent, nor can it be too infrequent. If rewards are too frequent, they lose value in the eyes of the player, and they lose interest. If the rewards are too infrequent, the player loses sight of the carrot, and likely loses motivation to keep playing."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Loot Theory In Modern Games

Comments Filter:
  • It really is true (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lord Lode ( 1290856 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:49AM (#24998543)
    On Newgrounds, many of the new flash games posted there have an achievements system, it's like they have to have it these days. And that is a good thing imho, I enjoy getting these too. The game will have more play value for me due to wanting to achieve these things. It's not like we're drones made to play games right? The achievements make it fun, and that's good. Right?
    • by Fozzyuw ( 950608 )

      I use to visit Newgrounds a lot several years ago. I was then introduced to They do something similar. Most of their flash games have some sort of achievement rewards which can award you with points and "cards". Said points then "level" your account.

      It's an interesting system. And I enjoy their flash games. What I found, however, is that most of their flash games can equally be found on other sites, like Newgrounds. The more the merrier.

    • Except for those people who cheat (boost, exploit dups, etc.) which cheapen related achievements.

      But I agree that achievements have made games more valuable as they increase the playthroughs for the majority of people, and have lead me to explore the game more and find interesting things, more information about the plot, etc.

    • 1000 achievement points for FFXI. Uh...not all are like that.
    • by tixxit ( 1107127 )
      I think you're right. Achievements can serve to help people suffer through the not-so-fun parts of games with the hope that this suffering will be worth it in the end (for the achievement). When the game becomes 90% about getting the next achievement, and not the gameplay in between achievements, then that's not cool. I remember playing Pokemon as a kid and sitting for hours (literally, 4h+) just walking through tall grass to level up my Pokemon. At no point was this fun, but I did it to get to that next le
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:51AM (#24998553)

    In addition the Booty Theory also works, if your audience is male.

    The way it works is: Add lots of hot women into your game.

    You can mix the two, to get the Booty Loot Theory, in which the in-game character gets laid a lot.

    • by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:57AM (#24998605)

      That's called Leisure Suit Larry.

      • Wrong (Score:2, Informative)

        by RichiH ( 749257 )
        If you think Larry gets laid a lot, you did not play the games :)
      • It's been a while since I've played the game but, if I recall correctly, the ONLY time poor larry actually got laid, there was a big fat (wobbling) "censored" bar across the good bits (taking into account the graphics of that era).

      • No, it's The Witcher. It pretty much has a minigame to conquer as many women as you can, complete with trophy porn cards.
    • Most modern Fighting Games have this in them: Its the achievement to unlock new costumes. The ones for the men will often have new weapon designs and maybe some armor changes.

      But for the women, its all bout the Inverse Armor Law. They are the ones that get the thong fighting costumes or the dress that grants the player a panty-shot every time she does a high kick.
  • Loot? No Loot? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Creepy Crawler ( 680178 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @11:54AM (#24998589)

    I like using other peoples loot. I also like making my own loot.

    Games like that are ones that allow hacking around with the game to make new mods and redesign the game.

    Who here still lays Mechwarrior 3? Betcha not many. Now, how many play Total Annihilation? Knowing about the multitude of mod sites and Spring, quite a lot.

    There's no unlockables in TA, other than mission mode and the tiers of technology, but that's expected in RTS'es. There's no hidden 3rd faction or hidden maps.

    And trust me, loading a completely new mod on the network and playing 6 friends on a mod that we've never seen is crazy as hell in a great way.

  • by djsmiley ( 752149 ) <> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:10PM (#24998699) Homepage Journal

    The game its self (story wise) can be ran through in a matter of hours... but then you can re-run the whole game over and over getting better equipment etc so you end up better/stronger/faster.

    I know its a old idea, but its strange to see how well it still works. Also crazy how many people will just grind hours away going for one item which pops in huge rarities... (I remember spending weeks in parts of everquest trying to get said items off random bosses) and I'm pretty sure this must still happen in things like wow?

    Really, where is this going to take us? I tend to wonder how this is going to change in the future, or will we always just be looking for the next great bit of loot? - Sounds like the other artical posted other day which basiclly said people grind for higher levels, when in reality i think better items are a far more lucritive reward.

    • by Kandenshi ( 832555 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:45PM (#24998951)

      I'm pretty sure this must still happen in things like wow

      The problem with such stuff in WoW and such games is that the really great loot drops when you're not around []. You hear about how a friend of a friend recently got [insert awesome item] and drool. Even if you didn't get that item, the fact that you're reminded that it's around, and that OTHER people are finding it keeps your hopes up. We're like rats in a big room lever pressing for snacks. Other rats getting one is a "reward" of sorts for us, and keeps us working hard in the hopes of being similarily rewarded.

      • Skinner Box (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @01:13PM (#24999151) Journal

        It's called this: []

        That's what many of those games are :)

        • by g-san ( 93038 )

          Thank you. I am a very frequent WoW player. I'm interested in how this game has me so affixed. After clicking that link, and seeing the picture, not even reading the article, I am going to cancel my account. You are my savior!

      • I was on a plane with an in-flight entertainment system recently. One gentlemen a row in front of me played a slot-machine game. I am quite certain he wasn't playing with real money (he was profitable), and it seems unlikely that it would be some system of redeemable points or miles.

        So there you have it: nearly the most abstract Skinner Box conceivable. He had two buttons on the screen to press ("bet max" and "spin") and a display telling him he had been rewarded.

        He played for something like three hours

    • by Bragador ( 1036480 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:45PM (#24998953)

      Yeah, Chrono Trigger was like that too...

      Actually, the loot system is simply old practices developped by casinos to keep their players gambling, but applied to video games.

      Games like WoW are very similar to gambling. You invest time and money and you receive a big reward infrequently. No wonder some players get addicted...

      • by IorDMUX ( 870522 )
        I would say that Final Fantasy XII is the worst (single player) offender of this nature.

        In previous games in the Final Fantasy genre, the great rewards were predictable. A side quest would be handed to the player (or uncovered via exploration), a dungeon would be explored, some bonus plot would be uncovered, a boss would be fought, and a reward given. The plot in the side quests helped remind you that you were still advancing your main goal (to save X or fight Y) and worked as a needed tie-in to the ma
        • So, that means you found the Pink Tail item in FF2 (US)? I seem to remember it had a 1/64 chance of being dropped by a monster you'll only find in one room 1/64 battles or something absurd like that. I tried for a while and never got it myself.

          • by IorDMUX ( 870522 )
            My apologies, I never did play FF2... or any of the sequel games, either (X-2, those random 7 sequels, etc.). Any idea how one can find FF2 nowadays, anyways?
            • Sorry, I meant Final Fantasy II for the Super Nintendo (It was Final Fantasy V or something in Japan). I don't know where you'd find a copy nowadays other than eBay - they seem to get a fair bit for them too.

              • by IorDMUX ( 870522 )
                Yeah. That one I've played (It was FF IV in Japan, though the Japanese version was actually notably more difficult than the US version... just some odd trivia). But that's easier to find than FF II ... ... I think there was one re-release as "Final Fantasy Origins" for the PS2 or something, but that's even harder to find.
                • I think there was one re-release as "Final Fantasy Origins" for the PS2 or something, but that's even harder to find.

                  For the PS1, actually. Of course, it can be played on a PS2. I have a copy :-), but it's not hard to find. It got a Greatest Hits rerelease and you can get it fairly cheap on Amazon. They did it again for the GBA and called it Dawn of Souls; that one I don't have, but it's still not all that hard to find.

          • by IorDMUX ( 870522 )
            Wait a minute... do you mean Final Fantasy II for the Famicom or Final Fantasy 2/IV for the SNES? If the latter, I do believe I actually got the item, once (pure luck... I was killing time as a minimum-wage sysadmin/repair-guy waiting for trouble to pop up in the lab where I worked), but failed to realize that you were supposed to trade it for the Adamant armor. But even in this case it's only one suit of armor in the whole game, as opposed to the top 15 or so weapons and all the top level armors in FF XI
        • FFII was similar. Check out the chances of getting the adamantium armor in that game. After hacking a controller to grind the pink puffs for me it still took over a month to get one.

    • SoTN had some ultra-rare items that almost never dropped. So if you got one, you were blown away - and you would play the game over and over again to see what ultra rare you would get on the next playthrough.
      • Ah but in too human you keep all your drops, did SoTN do this?

        Surely then you could run thru 2-3 times and be some "uber" person who no one would mess with?

        • by ProppaT ( 557551 )

          No, but you could put 50+ hours on the game trying to get all the drops. Not only that, but many of the weapons had hidden abilities...and then there were combinations of items that gave certain abilities. The number of items were staggering as well. Then you could challenge yourself to beat the game with certain items. Also, you could play back through the game with alternate characters that were unlockable.

          SotN did it in a more addicting manner, imo. Too Human was like a "not as good" Diablo II in th

      • Your posts gain a lot more currency when you define your acronyms outright...
    • "Really, where is this going to take us? I tend to wonder how this is going to change in the future, or will we always just be looking for the next great bit of loot?"

      Loot theory taps into human greed, I mean come on this is exactly what happens in the real world - people trying to get rich and outcompete other people for wealth. Why would it not apply to games?

    • by archen ( 447353 )

      It's interesting that World of Warcraft seems to have directly copied the loot system from Everquest, but is very much trying to get away from it now. Run after run of the same dungeoun in order to get a certain item probably led to burn out of more than a few people. Blizzard then came up with a new system - they give you a sort of token which can be turned in for an item. That reduces the chances of always having caster items dropping when you are melee, now you just have the generic shoulder token tha

  • Total score!

    Really, who didn't do things like try to land on the 3,6,9 timer for Super Mario Bros? Who needs a study for that?
  • by dave562 ( 969951 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:36PM (#24998881) Journal
    When I first started playing WoW about two years ago I was very curious about why so many of my friends were hooked into the game. I knew a lot of people who had been playing since beta. I had avoided it because I knew my own inclinations to spending lots of time plugged into a game on the internet. When I took the plunge, my perception was tuned into what about the game would make it so addictive. After about thirty minutes it was completely obvious. The quests themselves were small enough to be completed in short amounts of time. There were numerous quests grouped around the same area so you get the sense of accomplishing more than one thing at once. Among the common quests were larger "thread" quests with multiple parts that introduced you to other areas of the game. In addition to the quests, the talent system hooks in new players because they can customize their characters. Many of the quests have item rewards to make the character slightly more powerful.

    Then the big hit of crack comes in... groups. All of a sudden things start going faster. With another person you're able to complete the quests more easily. You can tackle quests above your level with someone else that you would have had to wait to handle on your own. At that point the whole game world opens up. It isn't just about you fighting some monsters. It is all about you and whoever else you can make friends with getting things done together. Questing solo gets boring and you start looking forward to doing it with others. That becomes the biggest reward. The social dynamic enters into the game. The team work aspect enters into the game. That is the best loot of all... especially for gamers who might not have strong social lives to begin with. All of a sudden they belong and they have a purpose. I see it quite frequently in WoW. There will a young guy (usually) who will farm materials all day to make potions for the guild to use while raiding. That person will farm materials so that other guildies can make better items for themselves. That person dervives pleasure and a sense of belonging by contributing to the efforts of the guild.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Renraku ( 518261 )

      Sounds like they'd be perfect for a stereotypical office job. Serve others so that you can make them way more money than you're making, and can take four weeks of vacation a year while you sit at your desk and grind away those work units and look forward to your one week staycation because you can't afford gas for your '93 Oldsmobile with irregular paint.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by g-san ( 93038 )

        Dude, you need to level up.

        • by Renraku ( 518261 )

          There's a huge difference to leveling up in the game, or ranking up in your guild, and being promoted in your job.

          Companies have a limited amount of funds. Each employee needs to be paid, as do taxes, fees, etc.

          This means that you can only employ a limited number of people. A company is a balancing act between staffing, production, and profit. In a company that seldom ever changes, many people will not get promoted but once every few years. Its common for people to work 5+ years in an entry level positi

          • That is why you take your experience and run. I have never stayed in a job past 2 years without a promotion. Once I see that coming, I start looking for the promotion elsewhere.

    • WoW copied all the Everquest ideas you mentioned above - quick quests, many quests, group quests. Everquest launched many years before WoW. WoW just had a much better marketing system with the success of the Warcraft line. But they didn't do anything groundbreaking.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        I dunno what version of EverQuest you were playing, but when I played it around the time Luclin came out, the quest system was a royal pain in the rear. There was nothing quick about it. No quest log, no clear indication of what NPCs were offering quests, and on several occasions, I was given a quest that characters ten levels higher than me had no hope to complete.
      • But they didn't do anything groundbreaking.

        Blizzard rarely does (Diablo was Blizzard North). They just put in the time and expertise to do it better than anybody else has done it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          The implication of your parenthetical statement seems to be that Diablo was groundbreaking but doesn't count as it was developed by Blizzard North. That is misleading.

          Diablo wasn't particularly groundbreaking, plenty of other Dungeon crawlers existed prior. Like every other Blizzard game Diablo was simply better.

          I'm confused about the second implication. Blizzard North was no more separate from Blizzard than Will Wright is from EA.

          Perhaps I simply read into your statements, but I felt clarification was nece

  • by Ghworg ( 177484 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @12:46PM (#24998965)
    Bleep bloop []
  • by frovingslosh ( 582462 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @01:59PM (#24999509)

    While I grant you that games like WOW are extremely popular, even to the point of adiction, there are some players who avoid such games. I'm one and I want to say why I hope this "all games must have this" approach does not, in fact, come to pass.

    I get a different type of achievement out of playing on-line games. I build my skill. I enjoy playing First Person Shooter games like Quake 3, Unreal, and other similar FPS games. But as long as I'm not playing against cheaters (and there definitely cheaters on-line), I can start any individual game on a fair footing against my opponents, the only factor that will influence who wins and who loses is player skill, not stupid repetitive tasks to build up some in-game form of currency that is then used to unbalance players. Even worse (IMHO) are the games that will sell players an edge for hard cash, making everyone who doesn't cough up money their licking boy. I see this as little more than a ligitimized and sanctioned cheat. I'm not going to buy the super weapon from some game supplier to over power the other players, and I'm not going to play in a game against people who do.

    In a sense, even games like WOW sell the player better weapons or tools, they just do it by a rewards system (called loot here) that doles the advantages out over time. Thus the stupid requirements of repeditive tasks, "kill 1000 chipmunks and tan their pelts". So while the rich and vast world of WOW greatly appeals to me in eye candy value, I completely have no interest in playing it based on it's Hammurabi economy type of play. I neither wish to be some one's cannon fodder nor to be given what I consider an unfair advantage against others just because I completed some (usually extremely repetitive and boring) tasks.

    I could see a loot system in games appeal to me, but it would have to be a system that doesn't affect overall game play, and as yet I have not seen such a system in play. In a game like Unreal, such a system could acknowledge players accomplishments with eye candy rewards that don't affect the actual game is any significant way. Perhaps extra and special skins granted to players for special acchevements (hopefully none that give an edge in being harder to see though, like all back ninja suits) or special flame paint jobs for a character' vehicles. Or a noble title added to a player's name (obviously not to be permitted when the name is first created). Granted, these type of things are harder to come up with than just "leveling up" a player to a level 95 Knight Elf Mohawk, or giving him a sword that has a +23 kick ass factor, but they prevent the games from favoring the players who have played the longest rather than favoring the better players (usually related but certainly not always). Loot systems have unfortunately come to replace the gaining of actual skill in the game play, and for that reason I hope that the prediction that is made in this article, while obviously a growing trend, does not come to completely dominate gaming.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      Even FPSes are implementing achievement systems that do not affect game play, or minimally affect it. For instance, in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 you get an achievement for carrying a garden gnome around for a long time and eventually launching it off in a rocket. Does this need to be done? No. Does it give you anything other than an "achievement achieved" message and the right to brag about doing it? No. Do people still do it? Absolutely.

      Let me give another example. In Team Fortress 2 you can earn achievements

      • Thank for the feedback and insight. Please note that, as you quoted, I said that I had not seen such systems, not that they didn't exist. Unfortunately, since WOW does indeed have a major emphasis of the game focused around repetitive tasks and "building up" the character, I've avoided it and still will avoid it, so that they have also included some non-impacting rewards becomes a non-issue for me.
      • by Macgrrl ( 762836 )

        My main character has currently collected 62 out of 75 available[1] vanity pets in WoW - she will get probably another 5 when 3.0 goes live (bag space constraints).

        [1] - I haven't yet obtained any pets which require real work money to acquire.

    • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

      It's funny that you mention Quake 3 since it had those medals you got for some actions before archievements were commonplace.

      • Yea, but they didn't affect game play, at least not in a positive way (a bug in the game would keep the award around even when the rest of the player was invisible!!!) And Unreal can give out some extra point awards for many things, like "first blood", "revenge" or killing sprees. I wouldn't object to such awards that spanned rounds of the game (those that you speak of only persist in the instance of a single round AFAIK), but I simply have no interest in games where awards build up your character, or as I

        • by KDR_11k ( 778916 )

          AFAIK most archievements on XBox Live don't affect the game either, they're just stamps you get for completing some extra challenges

    • Team Fortress 2, to me has the ideal system. Acheivements AND rewards where the rewards don't unbalance game play.

      For example, the first achievement for the Pyro class, a flare gun, replaces one of your existing weapons, a shotgun. It is by no means better than the shotgun, as it contains several drawbacks. It just provides a different style of play while keeping the whole thing balanced. It keeps things interesting for older players who decide to play with the new weapons and those who play in match
  • What about no loot (Score:5, Insightful)

    by neostorm ( 462848 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:28PM (#25000305)

    This is something that's been bugging me for a while, I could care less about loot. One of the things that keeps me from playing online RPGs is that the only thing they have to offer is "more loot". Warcraft players just talk about the loot they've gotten, or will get, and I'm playing Lord of the Rings Online right now and it's much more of the same.

    We absolutely have to find a better reason to play than "loot". What about the joy of playing? What about the story? Are these things no longer important to us? Do we need that kind of reward to keep us in the game? I swear, games are becoming a sick reflection of our materialistic society in some ways.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by MagicDude ( 727944 )
      You should play City of Heroes. The core gameplay isn't centered around loot per se (though some of the recent expansions have introduced a system of optimizing your character with "salvage"), but is more of the kind of story you'd expect from being a super hero - fly around and bring righteous justice upon the criminal element. On top of that, there is a fairly good story system, where you make contacts who take you on story arcs where you ferret out conspiracies, do hostage rescues, timed bomb disarm mi
      • City of Heroes seems to have gotten more loot-centered. In the beginning Influence (money) flowed so freely and there were so few money-sinks that you could get your characters maxed-out enhancements by 30th level and keep them there with little effort. With the additions of prestige and the invention system things have gotten much more complicated, to the detriment of the game, I think.
      • "When I posed the question of how to go about getting small pick up groups on the WOW message boards, I was basically told that unless you're in a guild, nobody will want to team with you, and that I should just grind my character up to level 25 so I could start doing some of the upper level raiding."

        To some extent, this is true. You just need to realize that at the lower levels, you have two categories of players:

        - Other new players
        - Experienced players leveling an alternate character

        At the lowe
    • Huh? Wow is too social-oriented. We are just playing it to pass the time until Diablo 3 comes out.

    • Another issue is the integration of loot systems in PvP games when the loot has a measurable impact on PvP performance (as with WoW). Such a design effectively bars casual players from being competitive. Personally, there's nothing that will drive me away from a game faster than the use of a loot system as a motivation tool.

  • Where's the paper? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jack9 ( 11421 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @03:34PM (#25000371)

    HDRL is running an analysis of loot systems in modern games.

    I am looking for the analysis, not just a blog comment. Can someone provide a link?

  • by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @05:54PM (#25001879)

    That's what I hate about CoD4. When you start, not only it's hard to fight more experienced player, but on top of that they have better weapons, perks and all that. So what happens is that you're really widening the gap between experienced players, which means the "noobs" get "pwned" a lot more than they naturally should. I think that sort of system is pretty weak, and it calls for a rethinking of it.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about removing that sort of promotion, or even reversing it. No, rather, I think it has to be approached differently. I won't solve the problem in 5 minutes of thinking time, but an idea could be instead of giving you an edge that makes you an even more deadly killing machine than you already were, you could gain access to new skills, no responsibilities, new capabilities that wouldn't make you more deadly a soldier but nevertheless achieve new things by gaining strategical advantages, i.e. you could gain some sort of intelligence and leadership others don't get so you could turn into a sort of leader. If you look at it, in CoD4 as you climb the rank ladder all you get is better guns and such. They could at least get some inspiration from reality, when you become a colonel in the Marines they don't reward you with an AK-47 and better ammo.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      My sentiments exactly

      The most broken things are
      - Airstrike and Helo kills stacking. Once you get an Airstrike you're almost guaranteed a Helo. Support kills should not count same as normal kills
      - Grenade perk is overpowered

      But being multiplayer its pretty hard to think of leadership/intel perks as all the other players are human, and they're not going to be inclined to take orders ;)

      Still a level 1 player in COD4 is on a far more level playing field than any MMORPG confrontation between people of varying le

      • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

        And there's something particularly annoying regarding grenades and airstrikes, it's that on most servers there's 2 or 3 times more people than the map was designed for, so these make your life expectancy so short your life is only worth as much as the grenade you'd have the time to throw away, and you won't always have enough time to do that anyways. The problem being that most of these upgrades you get are meant to make the average overall life expectancy much shorter, which is an awful thing to do, becaus

    • I thought the same thing for COD4. My brother had gotten the game and wanted me to play online with him. He was explaining the experience system and how cool it was.

      The first thing that came to mind was exactly that, the people who have been playing a while will just make it that much harder to catch up. It's like the cheaters vs. non-cheaters except it's sanctioned by the game. Really, the upgrades my brother was talking about did sound cool, but it seemed like it would detract from new players wanting
  • good or bad (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    While yes it helps with the replay value it also creates a culture that is constantly looking for more frequent rewards in the game. I have seen the older game not really care either way over this new reward system; the one that grew up with out it. However, I have seen the younger gamers become overly obsessed with it to the point that they will not play games with out this reward system in the game. Good or bad, I guess time will tell.

  • Seriously, if you want a game where too much time is spent on side-missions, just try collecting all of the secrets in GTA3, Vice City, or San Andreas (or GTA4) without any guides to point you to where *insert objects* are. Hell, finding all of the oysters was pointless as hell in GTA:SA, yet plenty of people still did it

    Now if you want a less-properly done example: Madden Cards in Madden 2002 (Sorry, I think that was the last Madden game I bought, maybe it was 2003). That was just frustrating.

  • I see the newfound prominence of loot systems as being a standard progression of the gaming culture as it moves beyond the somewhat antiquated and abstract point-system. Very few games outside puzzle games (especially narrative games) can get away with using abstract points as a compelling measure of performance for players anymore. Tying those rewards to in-game mechanics seems to be a much more fluid and logical approach. It is much more common and intuitive for players to discuss their progress in a game

The trouble with the rat-race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. -- Lily Tomlin