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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."
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Loot Theory In Modern Games

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  • 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.

  • 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 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 Renraku ( 518261 ) on Sunday September 14, 2008 @05:57PM (#25001899) Homepage

    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.

  • by mlawrence ( 1094477 ) <martin.martinlawrence@ca> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @08:59PM (#25003887) Homepage
    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.
  • by wintermute000 ( 928348 ) <(bender) (at) (planetexpress.com.au)> on Sunday September 14, 2008 @09:49PM (#25004299)

    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 levels. A headshot is a headshot and even starting out you have the tools to do that ;)

  • by MeanderingMind ( 884641 ) on Monday September 15, 2008 @10:54AM (#25010431) Homepage Journal

    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 necessary.

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito