Game talkWYSIWYG loot

 Posted by (Visited 12045 times)  Game talk
Oct 272006
 

It’s been a while since I did a straight-up design topic, and both Sara Jensen (at her new blog!) and Brian Green jumped in to reply to Ryan Shwayder’s original post on the subject, so why not perpetuate it?

Basically, the issue is this: when you kill some dude standing around in pink tights, a floppy hat, and elfin chain mail, do you get the pink tights, floppy hat, and chain mail? Or do you get something else, if anything?

The arguments against are pretty straightforward:

  • You’re going to generate a lot of items if you have WYSIWYG loot.
  • This also means a surplus of items nobody wants.
  • It complicates the loot tables.
  • It also crashes the value of this type of item on the game market.

I tend to approach this from a simulationist point of view. The whole notion of “loot tables” bugs me, to be honest, because I am not really a fan of the whole item-centric approach. When I approach creating a system to populate a town with NPCs, I see two classes of NPC:

  1. Special ones, with personalities and quests and some role to play.
  2. Spear-carriers. In fact, most NPCs everywhere are spear-carriers. Most everything you kill is a spear-carrier.

Special NPCs
Special NPCs have tended to get custom models or special outfits. This is because you want them to stand out — they are special, serve as entry points for quests or as bosses to signal player mastery. And in fact, special outfits with WYSIWYG loot has a long tradition from the MUD days, because then if you kill the guy, you can keep the custom item that the guy had as proof. It serves basically the exact same role as special items dropped from loot tables: the role of trophy. It’s something everyone recognizes: “oh, you have the feathered hat that Falstaff wears! That means you killed Falstaff. And that means you’re a bad ass.” Bottom line, WYSIWYG loot is just about always desirable on the bosses for a very “gamey” reason: the only reason to have special named items is as trophies anyway. So the more signaling you give the trophy, the better.

If you have gone the custom model route, having niceties like attach points and equipment slots on your custom model is actually extra work. So you may hack it by putting the Flambe Sword in their hand in the model and then making a separate one to spawn in loot. This also means that you probably don’t make the feathered hat. This is a shame, because the feathered hat has more and greater potential for play than the Flambe Sword does; you’re going to outlevel the Flame Sword in another two levels anyway, whereas the feathered hat can serve as an object of conversation throughout your entire play career. By tying the trophy too tightly to game mechanics, you actually limit its utility to the player in the long term. (This is why WoW devolves into a chase for the next trophy).

In games where even spear-carriers are promoted to special status, by features such as more varied NPC conversation systems, capabilities to give rumors, persistence (such as persistent randomly-named but killable shopkeepers, like UO had), or even procedural quest generation, then you end up wanting to make even your spear-carriers have these characteristics. If Falstaff happens to be rolled up, has something memorable attached to him, and hangs around in the bad part of town for six weeks until he is killed and never returns, that can be of real value. His hat can still be a trophy.

Spear-carriers
You can have spear-carriers all look the same — and in fact, this is the default case, really. They exist in order to make the area feel populated and in order to provide endless fodder (I remember when we were trying to tune the spawn populations of the area outside Mos Eisley in SWG; John Smedley kept asking for more critters and NPCs in the “newbie yards,” until you could peer around the outskirts of town and see dozens of hopping things. His goal was, of course, to provide plenty to kill right off the bat. But it did look rather incongruous).

It saves work to have spear-carriers and special NPCs share the same underlying body models, and be distinguished by clothing and other forms of parametric customization. (You can still make a custom model for when you really need one, of course). Your special NPCs get a table of equipment that includes their special items and whatever other generic items you need in order to make them look right. Your spear-carriers can get generic outfits assembled from whatever clothing you have available for the body type.

The advantage to his is that your spear carriers look varied. The disadvantage is that your spear carriers look varied. Players cue off of special-looking NPCs, so when you see the pink-and-purple fat dude, you think that he means something, when he was just rolled up randomly (in the bad part of town, where he doesn’t fit in). These days, when we cue players with giant glowing icons over NPC heads, this is perhaps less of an issue from a player direction point of view, though still from an aesthetic point of view.

Either way, though, once you are developing in this fashion, WYSIWYG loot happens by default; you have to implement special-case code to not have it.

There are significant tradeoffs to developing this way. Take kobolds in WoW. Sure, you could end up with immensely more varied kobolds, but who cares? It’s not like the kobolds form that large a part of the overall experience. Any time spent on making kobolds customizable NPCs with attach points and morphs and whatnot is time that could have gone into making different monsters altogether. On the flip side, if you spend a lot of time with the kobolds, it’s extremely apparent that they are cookie cutter. A little algorithmic variation would go a long way towards making the process of killing 45 of them less tedious.

Basically, though, if your spear-carriers are essentially consumables, then it makes little sense to do more than the most cursory algorithmic variation. If they are intended to persist to any degree, then we have a very different situation.

The other tradeoff is technical; the algorithmic variation, particularly if it’s visual variety, carries a heavy penalty in terms of client-level performance. It chews video memory and it requires a lot more packets to be sent down. This can result in client-side lag.

Piling up junk
The issues with accumulations of junk largely happen for two reasons:

  1. The stuff that is dropped is not itself randomly customized, and therefore has zero value.
  2. The flow of “getting something, evaluating whether you want it, and then discarding it” leaves the item in a place where it’s harder to garbage collect it. (For example, pushing players to “get all” and sort it out later means that you’re more likely to end up with junk laying around than if you force players to pick and choose what they take from the corpse, then decay the corpse and all contents afterwards).

The former case can easily be illustrated by the ways in which these things worked out in UO and SWG. The famous green cloth that Janey always pursued in UO was the result of one of these random customization spawns: a particular NPC happened to randomly get a shade of green dye that wasn’t necessarily easily available. People chased after NPCs with particular colors of clothing in SWG because they wanted it for their own customization (in fact, there’s an additional side effect there, of people “killing for sneakers” so to speak). Both of these are examples of further detail in the simulation creating value for the players in what might have been useless throwaway loot. (Obviously, the majority of what is generated is still useless to most people, and has little market value).

Now, if your userbase is chasing primarily functional value, rather than aesthetic value, then all these drops are effectively creating factories of these items. You should, as Brian points out, expect the market value of these undifferentiated items to fall through the floor. Anything that is dropped regularly by a spear carrier becomes a commodity item with little market value (just like the in-game currency does). Needless to say, a game economy without wear and tear and decay will not support this well at all, and therefore WYSIWYG drops should only go in games with item decay.

Some final thoughts
WYSIWYG loot really only fits in games with certain assumptions:

  • That how equipment looks can be as important as how it performs from a mechanical point of view.
  • Games which assume a robust enough economic model will be present: decay and floating item prices.
  • Finally, an assumption that spear-carriers are not solely consumables, and that NPCs are part of the persisted world state.

In other words, if you want WYSIWYG loot, you need to be looking in worldy games. Gamey worlds have a host of design characteristics which encourage moving away from this particular feature, and they are good reasons. Looked at from an extremely mechanical and reductionist point of view, the classic Diku-style gamey world is about popping many identical XP bags to get loot. What drops and what the bag looks like are largely irrelevant, and only the most basic veneer of plausibility needs to exist. In a worldy game, you want every bag to be different, and you want there to be a reason to pop it, and you don’t always get the same reward; it’s about organic consistency rather than mechanical consistency.

  58 Responses to “WYSIWYG loot”

  1. Again I’m a little late on this (one day I’ll make posts in a timely manner), but, last Friday, there were several blog discussions stemming from this post on Nerfbat about ‘WYSIWYG’ Loot.

  2. Over at Raph’s Place today, Raph posted some thoughts about WYSIWYG loot. Basically, the question is this: If you see a mob with a spear, leather jerkin and sandals, why are you not able to loot that spear, leather jerkin and sandals when you kill it? And, if you could, in what game could you best do this?

  3. Never really liked the idea of WYSIWYG Loot.

    It seems like virtual worlds need to have some boundaries to help players decide what is reasonable to “want” and what isn’t reasonable to “want.”

    Players shouldn’t “want” every piece of armor they find on anything they kill, but if an NPC will offer them even minimal reward for the item then the player will take it.

    Just like some NPCs aren’t killable, because players shouldn’t “want” to kill them. Even though it seems like you should be able to kill those NPCs.

  4. Good topic. My apologies if this is more of a side topic, but I do think it ties into the conversation.

    I like the idea of making some loot rare by making it… well… rare. I’m not a big fan of bio-linking because I believe it does nothing to make an item rare or original. If the market ends up flooded with “rare” items it would seem to me there are other issues at work and bio-linking does nothing to fix those.

    Didn’t Yoda say “Bio-linking not make item rare” ?

    I really like the idea of looting an object such as a hat the NPC was wearing, from a very rare or even “one-time” NPC. I just want to be able to gift that item to friend if I like (if for nothing more than RP).

  5. Wysiwyg loot does offer some potential for other uses though. As an example, a creative system could allow suits of armor that would be damaged in battle, or too oddly shaped (for players to wear) to be melted down to be used in tradeskills.

    I know that the original EverQuest did quite well at the lower levels with wysiwyg loot. Seeing an orc running along with a cracked staff was a prized kill, either because it was a decent 1hb for a caster, or worth a cool 1p to sell to a vendor. EQ also had some decent tradeoffs in the early days, bags were expensive, and you needed special ones to hold all sizes of items. Weight restrictions were tough, and people who really wanted to loot heavy 2h weapons would have to sell frequently. Conversely, EQ didn’t do as well with special NPCs, as Emperor Crush would always drop the weapon he was wielding, but you could never tell if he was wearing his prized armor.

    The problem as I see it is that kind of environment is possible to build and initially enjoy, but difficult to maintain, simply b/c the nicer named drops will eventually turn the common items into junk for all but the newest of players.

    Real item decay and breakage possibilities combined with a tradeskill re-use option would be potential ways to combat this though.

  6. […] Comments […]

  7. It seems like virtual worlds need to have some boundaries to help players decide what is reasonable to “want” and what isn’t reasonable to “want.”

    This sentence almost doesn’t parse for me. 🙂 If you show it to any individual player, someone in the playerbase as a whole will want it, period. There’s nothing “unreasonable” to want — we often wish it were so, from the design side, but if we dangled the carrot, then it’s reasonable to reach for it.

    Just like some NPCs aren’t killable, because players shouldn’t “want” to kill them. Even though it seems like you should be able to kill those NPCs.

    That’s not why those NPCs aren’t killable. They’re not killable because killing them disrupts the game for other players and causes customer support calls. It has nothing to do with instilling some sort of morality.

    I like the idea of making some loot rare by making it… well… rare. I’m not a big fan of bio-linking because I believe it does nothing to make an item rare or original.

    I’ve never heard the term “bio-linking.” I assume you mean WYSIWYG loot (which is also an ersatz term that Ryan coined). But maybe you mean soulbinding.

    In and of itself, it has nothing to do with rarity. In such a system, the rarity is on the NPC, not the item. If Falstaff himself is rare, then the item he drops will be rare. If you put WYSIWYG drops on a common NPC, then no, those items will be extremely common. 🙂

    But it’s worth pointing out that non-WYSIWYG drops also have nothing to do with keeping an item rare or not. “Rare” is a misnomer, really, because no items in an MMO are rare over a lengthy span of time.

    As an example, a creative system could allow suits of armor that would be damaged in battle, or too oddly shaped (for players to wear) to be melted down to be used in tradeskills.

    Definitely; this is about making those items have economic value.

    the nicer named drops will eventually turn the common items into junk for all but the newest of players.

    Again, something common to all named drops, common to all item-centric games, and orthogonal to the WYSIWYG issue. Personally, I dislike named drops because they really don’t jibe well with the . If you want to make it rare, then make it unique. Named drops are basically the same trophy trick again.

  8. It also crashes the value of this type of item on the game market.

    Good. A shirt is a shirt. I hate shirt +1.

    I have been a fan of unique items in a game, but most of it is abserd.

    If there is only one Excalibur in the world, then there should only be one. If that person dies in PvE, it gos back to where it came from and someone elese can quest for it. If that person dies in PvP, then the winder gets it.

  9. I firmly agree, though I’ve always referred to this sort of system as ‘logical loot’. However, it make more sense for a game that is not item- or loot-centric.

  10. Items are dublicated with sequent spawn of mobs, which are meant as limited (unique, rare, only 7 demon kings etc), therefore it creates an inconsistency (apparently, the 7 demon knight only have 7 armors to give to players). It seems that the persistency of »stories« in persistent worlds and the concept of limitation will always create inconsistencies as persistency of rules (there are 7 unique demon knights to defeat) is unlimited.

    My solution would be, that everything that belongs to a mob can only be as limited in the world as its owner. So 7 demon knights result in 7 sets of armor and weapons total. Apply a »player with such items can be killed and those items be looted off the corpse« rule. Whenever such items are not available (because player keeps it in bank etc), they decay through magical energies and a new demon knight emerges from the darkness.

    Apparently only adresses part of the WYSIWYG Loot topic 😉

  11. ADD: not only looted by players, why not stolen by minions and the set returns to the darkness as well (and a new demon …), well you get the idea :p

  12. bio-linking

    That would be from SWG there Raph =p

  13. bio-linking

    That would be from SWG there Raph =p

    Told ya I hadn’t been involved in a while. I assume it’s soulbinding, then?

  14. I think bio-linked loot (I like that term, nice one Yivvits) can work in Dikus, if they have a reason to break common loot down into sub-component crafting resources.

    I’m thinking AC2, later SWG, the Disenchanting skill in WoW and the new Jewelcrafting “Prospecting” skill coming to it. All allow items to be broken down into consumable resources others can use in crafting processes.

    Granted, I consider neither AC2 nor SWG particularly diku in the EQ/WoW sense of the word. However, WoW Disenchanting is a very useful skill already, as the crafting skill that uses the result (shards) have as their business the ability to add stats to both crafted and world-dropped items. The profession is so lucrative, most Enchanters do not even bother getting their stuff to disenchant by adventuring. They get it by buying the “junk” people sell on the Auction House.

    A strong “crafting” economy is possible in a diku too. But one must assume that a) most players are NOT there to pick flowers; and, b) a thriving crafting economy can be based on just the few that are, and those that support them. Usually you have a few dedicated crafters, more than that number dedicated to collecting resources and selling in bulk to them, and the rest consuming the end result as part of their equipment set while off popping “XP bags” for the rest of it. 10 people can bang out enough swords to arm a server of thousands in a diku. And that’s how it should be because those thousands are the primary reason that diku was inspired.

    So in this system, getting a spear from a mob who was holding the spear can mean you either get the uncommon/rare/uber spear, or something you yourself could either break down to a component for crafting, or which can be sold to someone who has that skill.

  15. Yep. Linked.

  16. Of course, that’s all assuming gamey worlds should even have any kind of economy, whatsoever. Infinite Rarity is one of those absurd oxymorons only this industry can, um, spawn.

    I say if you must have economy, make it the most complete sandbox (litterbox) imaginable with no holds barred. Otherwise, it is faux, highly suspect and only gets in the way. That means more than item decay and brokerage.

    Perhaps the litmus test can be: make a world where you yourself can quit your day job and live.

    If you take out economy, WYSIWIG loot could be a cool feature in a gamey world. Junk loot problem is solved and the other stuff I didn’t understand, but you got lackeys to work on that, don’t ya? 🙂

  17. Basically, the issue is this: when you kill some dude standing around in pink tights, a floppy hat, and elfin chain mail, do you get the pink tights, floppy hat, and chain mail? Or do you get something else, if anything?

    Yes, you get all that. A few odds and ends from inside the purse [not visible to the viewer’s eye] is fine as well 🙂

    In other words, if you want WYSIWYG loot, you need to be looking in worldy games.

    Fine by me….

  18. my dream loot table is one tightly woven in with crafting like *cough* SWG was….Only more so
    I wasnt a crafter BTW but a pistoleer when the PEEP love loot campain broke loss me and my weaponsmith where dreaming of more components and less completed loot things like changing bolt color for example or change damage type.
    If i loot a X then I go off shooting my X.
    But if I loot x component then I can sell it, use it as brownie points with my crafter, use it to make me something. All itms that make a player more powerful should have to be crafted like this IMO if I loss to a crafted weapon I know someone earned it and put time in to get it. But to loss to a looted weapon when It took me a year to get mine sweeet. well not fun.
    Id love even more complexity here IE; a bounty hunter can loot some components that can be crafted into a BH exculsive set of armor like a LS resist or a Tracking module with % chance to break cloak. in this fashion a bounty hunter can get better at doing his job VS a jedi but doesnt offset any other class. This would make a very scary BH possible to obtain but not common. And in all cases is earned.
    Its my opinion that options such as these would make a end game everending as long as you have options to better yourself that isnt easy to do obtain.
    also I think skills are cool but should never make or break you not grinded ones anyway attachments are good if somewhat rare.

    Its nice to have people who are Uber with reputation to fear and be feared to respect and be respected. Based on hard work not a dot or a basic skill.
    I know the weekend warroir will whine I dont have time and the lazy will say crafters cheatthem or charge to much, this types seem like people who just dont want to put in effort and want to be like him right now. always have these types and always will if they stick it out theyll love you for the challange if not they would of quit anyway.

    One big loot problem for me was also static spawns with good loot = camping = LAME. all good loot should always be random and mob specific where it makes sense. Make POIs drop trophys no ones will camp a trophy item (well surely somebody will) but not a game breaking camp.

    Falstaff would be a cool dude to spot out and get his feather for my hat as could many different random guys wandering around, maybe even some with bodyguards or some who try to get away if spotted always great to see rare badass even if he clobbers you its a story to tell at the cantina.

    Sorry for all the SWG references it was my first and only MMO and has left me spoiled to any other now I just wander around lost posting in forums

  19. A deeper issue might be “How much players are willing to suspend disbelief.”

    In a game-like world, players don’t mind if rats are carrying suits of platemail because they admit they’re playing a game. (They also don’t mind that their character can lug around 22 suits of plate armor in a sack.)

    In a world-like world, players want things slightly more realistic. (And/or players that like realism prefer world-like worlds.) Thus, if an orc attacks their character with the scimitar, it should be lootable. If the orc has healing potions, it should drink them. Conversely, such players might not expect to carry around 22 suits of armor. Then, looting becomes a resource-allocation game of taking the most valuable equipment only and leaving the rest to disappear.

  20. I remember the days when I would get hit by the acorns the doom squirrels threw at me. It was a joyous day when I began telekinetically flinging them back and kicking their decessicated, but fluffy, tails with their own favored weapons.

    Okay, so they aren’t called doom squirrels. They’re… pale grey death squirrels. *whistles*

  21. Ahhh loot.

    Well there’s two types of Loot. PvE loot and PvP loot.

    Pve Loot –

    If I kill a simple stormtrooper for example, I don’t expect to loot a legendary or epic item. Stormtroopers are pleanty, and there should be no change at looting anything rare either. At the same time, a stormtrooper is weaing full armor! I expect to be able to loot at least one piece of undamaged stormtrooper armor! Of course, the stats wouldn’t be great, but that piece of armor in looks alone would be worth it.

    Basically for PvE loot I expect to loot what would be plausible to find on that NPC in the ‘real’ universe. If I’m fighting a neanderthall, I don’t expect to loot some technological item (such as a broken datapad). I expect to loot arrowheads, small leather bags, maybe a spear or club.

    I *hate* loot tables where devs just have say 5 tables and try to add every NPC in the game into those 5 so it doesn’t matter if you’re fighting a chubba or a thug, you’ll get the same change to loot . Instead, there should be many tables…one for stormtroopers/imperials, one for ‘caveman’ npcs of every planet, one for civilians, one for creatures of each type of planet, etc. That way the loot you get is not only more realistic of what that NPC would actually be carrying, but also makes every planet more diverse and interesting to travel to.

    PvP loot –

    This is a tough one when in SWG terms. In eve-online terms, whatever you have fitted on your ship when you die is left in a can for your killers to loot. So if you have 1 billion worth of fittings on your ship and someone kills you, they just picked up 1 billion worth of equipment. I LOVE this, it gives consequences to dieing, makes combat more fun and exciting, really gets your blood pumping.

    So in keeping with SWG – there needs to be consequences to dieing and rewards for doing well. I think that players who pvp (or even get ganked without wanting to pvp) should absolutely be able to be looted by thier killers. Now, there would need to be some fine-tuning to this system, and I think the only lootable things would be equipped items, not inventory items, (don’t pvp with that 500 million sniper rifle people ;)), but this would spice up PVP, add consequences, make it feel more real and really get peoples blood pumping.

  22. Note –

    In eve in addition to whatever is fitted on your ship, the opponents can also loot the contents of that ship. We’re you transporting a 100 billion blue print original in an unarmed badger? You just lost 100 billion buddy. Next time, travel with an armed escort.

    It seems VERY harsh, and early on losing a ship can really hurt. But after you get past that initial shock and get used to the system, you really begin to understand how much fun it adds to the game…just keep in mind that there are also protections to keep carebears out of pvp…they just need to fly in systems only populated by concord (police). This will protect the, but thier ability to make money and pvp is significantly decreased in these systems.

    I really wish this type of gameplay would find itself in other MMOs.

  23. The reason they don’t, in my opinion, is because most players don’t want that much accountability. Eve is awesome, and the game is way better today than it was at launch. But fundamentally it is a concept with a narrow appeal. No matter how many people come to this genre, games like Eve (and ATITD) will only ever enjoy a very specific percentage of them. Eve (like old SWG) was a totally immersive experience, very hard to play as a simple diversionary one. Even the diversionary experiences offered in Eve (ratting, market trading) are frought with enough risk you don’t just jump in for 15 minutes and expect pure guaranteed wins. Eve cuts into one’s life more than it seems the average gamer wants it too 🙂

    Meanwhile, you can pop into a WoW PvE server and finish a quest or two during lunch.

    Not saying either, or ANY, MMOG is better than another. There’s more than enough variety here for everyone. Just saying that MMOGs comprise a broad array of demo- and psychographics with games that attract different types and different quantities of players. Companies appropriately scale their business to match their actual business potential.

  24. Well I wasn’t trying to talk about the game in general, just the looting aspect. Brought the PvP examples because if you die in pvp, the opponent can loot whatever was fitted on the ship plus whatever you were hauling in your cargo.

    To bring it back to WYSIWYG, I don’t think every npc should have loot on them, but their tables should reflect what that type of NPC on that specific planet should be carrying around. The loot doesn’t have to be meaningfull or worth something, especially depending on the NPC, but WYSIWYG should apply. If they’re carrying a spear, you should have a chance to loot that spear, just not every time. You might also loot a flower native to that planet that the NPC had ‘picked’ or something. Just create a table with items that you could see that NPC carrying if the world were real and add a chance to loot one or more of those items.

  25. Oh I understood ya 🙂 Eve has what I consider truly relevant PvP, in every sense of the word. Combat is tied to economy is tied to crafting is tied to combat, in the way old SWG tried.

    I was just saying there’s a price to building a game like that in terms of how many potential people it will appeal too 😉

  26. There is and there isn’t. I don’t want to hijack his blog post here, but I believe the wow type games are going to decline once people relize they’re limited in what they can do once they level and they’re doing the same things over and over again.

    Sandboxes like eve and original swg are going to begin thriving as long as the development of such games keeps increasing thier skill at making them better.

    And part of that evolution is the looting 🙂

  27. Another potential problem with WYSIWYG loot that I haven’t seen mentioned is that killing wild creatures becomes solely an endeavour to collect crafting materials.

    Kill an NPC with a sword, and get the sword…OK that makes sense. Kill a dragon, and get his hoard…good, still making sense. Kill “Urson the Gigantic Bear,” and get…his fur. Hmm. Now what do I do with the fur? I can’t just go around wearing a stinking, rotting, nasty flap of bear flesh, can I? I’d better take it to a craftsman to have it properly prepared before I sport it around town…

    This is more realistic, of course, but I don’t know that it’s any more fun than just getting the “Cloak of Urson” on-the-spot.

  28. Informis, that’s a great example of what I mean by assumptions.
    Why are you killing the bear? Because it’s a pinata with prizes. It generally has two classes of prize: some advancement, and some loot.

    Some pinatas are themed; they only have healthy treats in them, or they only have chocolate in them. But all pinatas give advancement.

    You’re saying that it’s less fun to come across a pinata that only gives out mints, as opposed to one that only gives out chocolate. Consider that for people with different tastes, the pinatas that only give out chocolate are annoying — maybe they are allergic to chocolate — and they want pinatas that give out other stuff.

    From a strictly mechanical point of view, you would want pinatas to all give a nice mix of stuff; so every NPC would have at least something for everyone. But you could also say “chocolate pinatas aisle seven, mint pinatas aisle three” and direct people to kill the NPCs that carry the stuff they want.

    I bet that if the bear gave zero XP, the issue would come up less, because there would be no reason for you to kill it in the first place, and therefore no unhappiness with the resultant loot.

  29. Titan Quest has implemented wysiwyg loot, or close to it. Not that you would want most of the equipment dropped as most ends up being broken. Titan Quest is a Diablo style RPG, though the maps are static.

    I like the system, though it probably would have problems carried out on a MMORPG.

  30. I’ll take mints, chocolates, demo CDs, or whatever. 🙂

    I was taking WYSIWYG literally but, like you implied, it’s not really an either-or kind of thing. With a few exceptions, DAOC monsters dropped only items and space-taker loot (items that could be sold to vendors but had no other purpose), which was A) unrealistic (i.e. bear drops perfectly wearable fur cloak even after you fireballed him), and B) unsatisfying because it resulted in a “Your bag is full…with crap…again…” mechanic that was more annoying than fun. I think WOW does a decent job of mixing the two approaches (usable ingredients + usable loot).

  31. I always loved looting NPC’s in UO and finding pants and shirts and things that I could use to make bandages as well as finding junk weapons that I could melt down to get ingots. It just made sense that if you killed a bandit with a blue shirt, you looted a blue shirt.

  32. In my opinion, the issue of WYSIWYG loot is not a matter of whether there should be WYSIWYG loot. The issue of WYSIWYG loot concerns whether players are appropriately rewarded for their participation.

    A quest to retrieve "a bag of cookies" from a shopkeeper probably shouldn’t reward the player’s character with a "Giant Longsword of Dragonslaying". Similarly, the player who wins a hover-car race held in a hostile futuristic underground bunker probably should be rewarded with more than a decorative trophy.

    Thus far, the discussion has focused on removal actions (e.g., "kill baddies") and physical rewards; yet, there are more actions and more rewards than that which were discussed.

  33. […] So I ask you, given the history of SOE in throwing away progress, i.e. Raph Koster’s original design, CURB, and the CU, how can you possibly think logic and SOE have any relationship to one another?  They don’t!  They are complete strangers to one another.  Wherever the Ouija board points is where Smedley and Gang take SWG.  Please stop giving them credit for either caring, or thinking in advance.  They don’t know how to do either. https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/10/27/wysiwyg-loot/#commentsRaph said on October 27th, 2006 at 2:40 pm:….I’ve never heard the term “bio-linking.” I assume you mean WYSIWYG loot (which is also an ersatz term that Ryan coined). But maybe you mean soulbinding. […]

  34. John Smedley kept asking for more critters and NPCs in the “newbie yards,” until you could peer around the outskirts of town and see dozens of hopping things. His goal was, of course, to provide plenty to kill right off the bat. But it did look rather incongruous

    This is totally the way they did it in WoW, 8 feet of wolves, right at the guy that gives the quest for wolves, then 8 feet of Kobalts. On the game vs world system, this is a heavy game win, but when you play it it seems to work well. Why add 20 feet of running to the wolves? It’s still not realistic. Realistic would be 1 wolf every 1/4 mile, but then tracking becomes the game, not simon says — er, I mean combat. 🙂

    If you show it to any individual player, someone in the playerbase as a whole will want it, period.

    If not, try telling them that they can’t have it, it’s race-specific. Then wait for them to froth at the mouth and demand one. “Oh, I guess there is one way to get this item if you are of the wrong race/class …..” And talking about carrots dangled, I’m always wanting to do things I see the NPCs do, like carry a serving tray. I bet you if there was a quest in WoW that would let you do the same gesture as the idle animation for the succubus it would be the most popular quest ever. 🙂

  35. # Morgan Ramsay said on October 28th, 2006 at 12:44 pm:

    In my opinion, the issue of WYSIWYG loot is not a matter of whether there should be WYSIWYG loot. The issue of WYSIWYG loot concerns whether players are appropriately rewarded for their participation.

    A quest to retrieve “a bag of cookies” from a shopkeeper probably shouldn’t reward the player’s character with a “Giant Longsword of Dragonslaying”. Similarly, the player who wins a hover-car race held in a hostile futuristic underground bunker probably should be rewarded with more than a decorative trophy.

    Thus far, the discussion has focused on removal actions (e.g., “kill baddies”) and physical rewards; yet, there are more actions and more rewards than that which were discussed.

    Should there be “rewards” in MMORPG’s at all? Well in EQ model MMORPG’s sure, but what about those that are trying to simulate a world?

    Personally, I do not think so. Dropped items should just be what they are, componants of a NPC/Monster/Animal. Sure a NPC’s drops can have some sort of use, but that use should not be a motivation for combat (and they should not supplant the crafter economy).

    The motivations for combat in a world simulation should be realistic. The motivations in my opinion should be political (your killing the enemy army to control territory), survival based (you are being chased by a Red Dragon and it wants to eat you), and needs based (you are hunting a bear for a pelt to make a rug or cape or some other craftable).

    I will also take this concept a step further. I not only believe that items should not be rewards, I also believe items should not be another form of advancement. What I am saying is, one sword should not be better then another.

    Items, like weapons and armor should be defined differently, in my opinion. Chainmail, like historic chainmail, should protect against missiles effectively and be rather weak in protecting against a battle axe. Another form of armor, such as plate, should be strong against a battle axe, maybe offer moderate protection against a missile attack, and weak protection against a warhammer.

    In other words, items should be defined by their unique value and not their power.

    Back to the topic though, in a world simulation MMORPG you must have WYSIWYG, and it must be used to create an air of realism in your game.

    (Now I’m sure I will be told this has all been done in UO before. Sorry, I’m a relative neophyte to the MMORPG genre, only 5 years experience [EQ, SWG:Classic, SWG:CU, DnL for a day, and Ryzom, hardly are large sampling of MMORPGs].)

  36. Slightly tangential, but it’s always bugged me that RPG’s with ‘theif’ classes seem to have the theif’s skills tied to chance of success, nothing related to ‘assesment of target’.

    At Casuality last year in Amsterdam, one of my co-workers was pick-pocketed by a pro crew. A guy in a black jacket and hat lifted his wallet and within a second disappeared into a throng of guys in matching black jackets and hats who instantly scattered (maybe they’d seen Thomas Crown Affair?). In less than 3 seconds his wallet was gone and he had no idea who to chase.

    Anyhow, he wasn’t amazed that they did it. He was amazed at how the guy had been able to spot his wallet (held in a non-usual-spot pocket) at a distance and pick him as a target.

    In cases where the WYSIWYG-loot thing gets worked out, perhaps How-well-you-see part of it is a skill that can be trained over time?

  37. I will also take this concept a step further. I not only believe that items should not be rewards, I also believe items should not be another form of advancement. What I am saying is, one sword should not be better then another.

    Items, like weapons and armor should be defined differently, in my opinion. Chainmail, like historic chainmail, should protect against missiles effectively and be rather weak in protecting against a battle axe. Another form of armor, such as plate, should be strong against a battle axe, maybe offer moderate protection against a missile attack, and weak protection against a warhammer.

    In other words, items should be defined by their unique value and not their power.

    I second that.
    I’m bothered by the focus on getting better equipment. The way I see it, a character’s combat efficiency is a combination of their equipment and skills – and skills should be the more important. Sure, mithril chainmail is pretty sweet (and looks dashing) but a real warrior should be able to make do with a rusty hand-me-down – and that would still be vastly better than being naked. Diminishing returns for higher-priced equipment simply makes sense.

    One might adjust the skill/equipment dependency over several classes, though – one class, say Monks, would have practically no equipment, just relying on skills, while another, say Knight Templar, would be all about heavily customised weapons & armor, and the ability to handle them well.

  38. ^^ Agree.

  39. It all depends on which “disbeliefs” you want players to “willfully suspend.”

    For example, I got very tired as a GM of leading some games where players went into every situation as if it was going to be life-or-death. They tended to gird for ultimate battle even when going into the equivalent of a 7-11 to buy a Slurpee. Time-consuming, not very fun, not very RP. So I had me (like Pooh) a think, and I thunk, “What about a run where there is no real character death? Where the only thing that is really lost is a bit of XP and maybe some time?” This is years before modern MMOs, but not before video games where you can save progress, so it’s not like the idea of “saving characters” was new.

    I came up with a sci-fi, near future game where the players were all part of an elite anti-terrorist team that had access to cloning, memory storage and regen facilities. It was inherent in the storyline that if any member of the team died, they’d go back to their last “deep back-up state,” and as long as one other member of the team survived, they could be re-started. So the story mechanic and the game mechanic for “no real character death” were parallel and in synch and made perfect (I hope) sense.

    [Pimp on] If you want to read some of the play-by-email story of “Phoenix Rising,” the adventure that came out of that, it’s posted here [/Pimp off]

    An opposite case, to me, was the horrible decision in “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace,” to introduce the concept of midichlorians to explain The Force. It was unnecessary, added nothing to the plot, tended to de-emphasize the spiritual (and thus more powerful), archetypal contstructs of the films, and was really… just an odd narrative decision. One of the rules of great writing is that if something works *without* an explanation, don’t stick it in.

    If you’ve got a game system that is, essentially, token/symbol based… then you need ways to manipulate those tokens that are not related to the fact that the tokens have a passing, metaphoric relationship to an objective reality outside the game.

    Mike says, very wisely:

    In a game-like world, players don’t mind if rats are carrying suits of platemail because they admit they’re playing a game. (They also don’t mind that their character can lug around 22 suits of plate armor in a sack.)

    Right. The “I can pull anything out’n my butt” bonka-copia of plenty scenario. Again, when GMing live RPGs, you can go the route of “extreme realism” and make your players tell you exactly what they’re carrying, at all times, down to the ounce… or you can say, “Look. When it starts to get funky-stoopid, we’ll have a talk.” Depending on what’s most fun.

    Fun rules, right?

    So… is it *more fun* to have WYSIWYG loot? In a game like EVE, it makes perfect sense, because the game is built from the ground (ahem) up to be world-y in that manner. On WoW? Jeez, no.

    If a game was more world like… and the “world” had some mechanism whereby when you were transported, along with your loot and garb, back to square-one when you were killed… the question is moot. If items are all “soul bound,” the question is moot. If items are incredibly plentiful, and all real advantages are bestowed due to skills… the question is moot.

    So, to me, the question isn’t is “WYSIWYG loot any good?” But rather, “What do you want players to get?” and “What do you want them to see?” And how do those two compare?

  40. Developers have only so much time and money to throw into the “content game”: think WoW pre-60. After that, they have to implement a “grind game” because they don’t want their players (AKA subscribers) to win the game. So you need a game that A) rewards players for continuing to p(l)ay and B) reuses content so you don’t have to keep churning out zones. Where WoW uses items as the grind, DAOC uses Realm Ranks, and D&D uses plain old levels, each as artificial as the last.

    Item-based advancement is a means to an end for the developer, while at the same time offering a more tangible, demonstrable measuring stick for players to live up to. Which is more fun? Drawing a sparkly new sword or typing “/g hey guys i’m level 126 now”? That’s another aspect of WYSIWYG design…if you look at my character, can you tell what I’ve accomplished, or how much trouble you’ll be in if you attack me?

  41. Riflenomican wrote:

    Should there be “rewards” in MMORPGs at all?

    You’re assuming that the term rewards refers to "items". A reward isn’t always tangible or usable in game.

    Raph wrote:

    WYSIWYG loot really only fits in games with certain assumptions …

    On the other hand, whether players are appropriately rewarded for their participation fits into every game. It seems to me that a lot of really smart people are concentrating too much on the mechanical details of "WYSIWYG loot" when the discussion should actually concern the application of psychoeconomics of rewards to games. That, of course, is probably a subject for another book!

  42. Well, but Morgan, the original topic was about WYSIWYG loot. 🙂 I agree that there’s plenty to talk about in the larger topic of feedback in general, but if anything, it’s actually somewhat well-trod ground at this point.

  43. First of all, Shwayder is just flat out wrong about the origin of the term. It was word processors, damn it, not web design. And never you mind that someone recently told me word processors are web design programs. *cringe*

    I’m baffled that the topic even exists. Fluff is fluff, unless it’s not.

  44. WYSIWYG loot, hmm. I think there comes a point where the ‘realism-world’ and the ‘gamey-world’ overlap anyway. There are many items of loot available from mobs that arent visible in either approach. Rings, money, gems, bracelets, charms, keys etc etc. I wouldnt expect the character designers to designate mountpoints for every single ring or design NPCs backpacks to bulge according to their loot. In a super realistic world I should be able to cut off the dead guys hair or pull out his teeth.
    Obviously a realisticly complete loot list is impossible and in most cases tedious. Perhaps loot needs to contain some degree of trash, just to suggest that the npcs have ‘other lives’ than just walking pinatas. Fluff is obviously more important to RPers whereas trophy loot is what the ‘hardcore’ care about. Designers will setup tables to provide for their audiences (WoW has almost enough fluff to keep modest RPers happy, while providing ample tedious trophy loot too).
    The level of detail in loot itself can confuse the issue. If I am charged with fetching a few rats teeth for one quest, I might assume that other teeth are available from all toothy npcs. However if teeth are never mentioned in the first place, perhaps my expectations would not be so high? I agree that Eve has a nice system in that cargo holds bypass much of the WYSYWIG problem, it also treats items in a more transformable way than some MMORPGs.

  45. Why are you killing the bear? Because it’s a pinata with prizes.

    See, this is the part of the equation with which I take issue. What’s the point of having more realistic (WYSIWYG) loot when you are still treating creatures as pinatas?

    Instead, have the goodies come from the field, from the mines, or from wherever else it makes sense. Iron mints come from iron mines, and gold chocolate from gold mines. Instead of pinatas, kobolds are the monstrous creatures that get in the way of my iron or gold mining. The loot the kobolds wear also comes from a mine somewhere, so that although kobold blacksmiths fashion it, its wearer is not its ultimate source. To me, this is the direction for the true simulationist.

    Of course, this turns the “game” part of the MMOG onto its ear. It moves away from providing the content for the game in the form of either random or hand-crafted Falstaff encounters. So what might replace this content? The content could be replaced by a context that could look like Caesar III (city-building), Civilization (empire-building), or Age of Empires (RTS). Within such a game context, I see the potential for content that looks very similar to current MMOGs, but against a backdrop that holds much more meaning that pinata-bashing does for me.

  46. I’ve got to agree with Paul here. Pinata’s just aren’t very exciting and offer very shallow content. It might be fun the first time or two, but soon becomes very boring even in a different dress, because of it’s shallow nature.
    The bear is trying to eat you. Does it matter?
    I also think that giving players the ability to build a social environment, such as cities, to expand them in decore and capability, is truelly the next generation of gaming.

  47. I’ve never encountered a piñata that attempted to eat me…

  48. I’m with Paul in taking issue with discussing WYSIWYG loot when creatures are viewed as Pinatas.

    Common sense would infer that if the previous wielder of a spear is killed and no longer able to wield the spear then anyone can pick up the spear.

    However, MMORPG common sense has evolved over time (it’s warped, I say) to not expect that outcome. Creatures as pinatas is one of these MMORPG common senses.

    Treating creatures as pinatas and attaching them a loot table is simple and can be made fun and gamey. However, it just demonstrate (to me at least) that the leads did not seek more creative or elegant implementation (something that has more than a “basic vaneer of pausibility”.

    I think that players don’t need realism, but do want their fantasy/escapism/fun to be somewhat plausible (see Gunman21’s comments). And players can only suspend belief so far (see Andy Haven’s comments).

    So I think the discussion should go back to implement something that is pausible given the game design. We don’t really need WYSIWYG loot, we just need pausible loot (as Raph indicated in the original post) and it has to be more than basic veneer is gamey games.

    Frank

  49. […] Realistic loot (and inventories) Submitted by Abalieno on October 30, 2006 – 16:22. I read what Raph wrote about WYSIWYG loot and I cannot avoid to criticize some parts. […]

  50. I’ve never encountered a piñata that attempted to eat me…

    Think of it as a tetherball. You hit it, it spins around… and you either hit it again or you duck. =P And if you hit it enough times, it shatters.

  51. […] As those of you who follow the blogging scene have noticed, WYSIWYG Loot is the newest hot topic in our space. It all started when Ryan Shwayder wrote his “MMO Rant #2: WYSIWYGn’t Loot”, which has gained the attention of some other developers to also post their reprisals and to show why and how come this type of thinking is not being put in to our games. Brian Green, the same developer that I will take on his challenges to provide ‘new ideals’ posts his “Useless features” article. Sara Jensen then replies to the article written by Biran Green with her “Why Mobs Shouldn’t Drop Their Equipment” and finally Raph Koster then puts in his thoughts over at his site with an article titled “WYSIWYG loot”. […]

  52. Magicback (Frank) said:

    So I think the discussion should go back to implement something that is pausible given the game design. We don’t really need WYSIWYG loot, we just need pausible loot (as Raph indicated in the original post) and it has to be more than basic veneer is gamey games.

    I agree basically, but if you’re going to go forward with plausible, for that “realism” feel, why not go just with WYSIWYG? You can’t get any more plausible than that, and it can pay off better I think in the overall picture.

  53. […] The MMO-dev blog topic of the moment is WYSIWYG loot.  This one started at Nerfbat, and spread over time to Psychochild, Raph, Sara Jensen, Darniaq, and probably a dozen other places I haven’t found yet. […]

  54. […] https://www.raphkoster.com/2006/10/27/wysiwyg-loot/#more-777WYSIWYG lootIts been a while since I did a straight-up design topic, and both Sara Jensen (at her new blog!) and Brian Green jumped in to reply to Ryan Shwayders original post on the subject, so why not perpetuate it?Basically, the issue is this: when you kill some dude standing around in pink tights, a floppy hat, and elfin chain mail, do you get the pink tights, floppy hat, and chain mail? Or do you get something else, if anything? […]

  55. The trouble with plausible worlds is that any implausible action that’s possible within the world can break immersion.

    One big problem — if not THE big problem — with WYSIWYG loot is the fact that the number of hapless victims one adventurer racks up within one lifetime would leave even the most bloodthirsty Mongol hordesman or Viking raider weeping in envy. In almost every online game out there, even the worldy ones, one hypothetical adventuring party is directly responsible for as much (virtual) death as the crew of the Enola Gay, if not more.

    If you’re going to design a game with WYSIWYG loot without introducing other artificial limitations, you have to design a game where one PC gets the chance to loot maybe a few dozen humanoids, total. And dragon hoards? Once in a lifetime, and maybe not that.

    Sure, you could find some people who find such a world entertaining. But it’s probably a very small niche.

  56. I totally disagree, Jim. When UO first started, players looked for bags and backpacks among loot because they sold for more than most loot was in total, and considered themselves lucky. It’s all relevant.
    Why would WYSIWYG loot mean you can’t kill loads? If a blacksmith can churn out weapons and armor at unrealistically high rates to sell, what’s wrong with adventurers gathering the same at something similar to those rates? However, I will say that I’ve always wanted to see these trade skill rates-of-production vastly reduced for the sake of the economies. It is all relevant, so what harm to the player? (Give them parts to make in stages for those rapid dings, if you feel that players generally are really that shallow). In this case, loot of this type can be of lower qualities to reduce their value, maybe to smelting down. With some exceptions, of course.
    How is this bad?

    On top of that, Dragon hoards should be rare and very difficult to get to, much less get away with. But what if the usual dragon was “young”, and the size of a lion, with armor scales and fire breath and a little magic, and what if this dragon was a challenge to kill. What if this dragon’s hoard was mainly shiney pebbles, with maybe a bit of gold nugget if you’re lucky? Is this any different in an economy where copper pieces were the common currency, and a world where common orcs were always a tough battle?

    Why is it that developers and the heavy gamers that involve themselves in these conversations believe that players are really this shallow that they need a ding per few seconds and masses of items and treasuries of game money and massive Dragons raining dead at their feet? Because less that 0.1% of the players, the same ones that have liquid greed oozing out their ears, posted that that’s what they want?

  57. Jim said: The trouble with plausible worlds is that any implausible action that’s possible within the world can break immersion.

    That’s probably the single best reason not to work towards them. It’s also a great reason to continue working on them, realizing that you won’t be perfect. Don’t sell perfection and your playerbase will understand when it breaks.

  58. […] Raph has an interesting post up that made me think.In most games of all types, the enemies are faceless bundles of statistics, save for bosses. Similarly, the player upgrades by buying the next generic bundle of statistics, whether it’s a new gun or a nifty wizard cloak.I’ve played every Elder Scrolls game that’s been made. You know what the biggest rush in those games is for me? The slew of random crap you pull off of every corpse and out of every treasure chest. The idea that you’ll find a dagger with a few new capabilities, or a left bracer with a funky new graphic, or a loincloth of burning.When I play those games, I’m totally addicted for ten, fifteen hours. Then I lose all interest. Why? Because the loot doesn’t hold up. By the end of those hours, I’ve explored everything the game has to offer, at least as far as I’m concerned. The first weapon I find that does blammies when I stab someone? What an incredible rush. The next one? Not so much. The seventh one? Not at all.It devolves: the only thing that interests me is the graphics associated with the items. A fruit-filled hat is worth more than the flamey sword of Nimbulus, because the flamey sword is just an extra +5 to something… but the bananahat is unique. Plus, I can enchant it to be a fruity hat of flaming, if I really need the flame.Of course, a steady progression of “unique” is required there, too. The bananahat only holds my attention for so long before I must move on to the next hat.Actually, that’s a failure on the designer’s part. The problem is that there isn’t really enough feedback to prolong my joy in my bananahat. If everyone commented on my bananahat and changed their interactions with me in some interesting way, the bananahat would become extremely interesting to me. Also, generally speaking, there isn’t much in-world feedback.You might be able to see yourself, but it’s a rear view and the costumes aren’t generally very interesting from the back. Notice that the new “custom-avatar chats” always show your character from the front, even when they’re full 3D? Yeah, fronts are better in terms of feedback.Worse, the costumes themselves leave only a small mark on the screen, especially in Elder Scrolls games. World of Warcraft got this right: the costumes are extremely loud and large, totally dominating your character’s appearance. Of course, there’s the problem that you have fewer pieces to play with, and that’s a big drawback…Moreover, there’s only so much joy you can get from permutations on the same stock. No matter how many hats I wear, they all go on top of the same head, with the same art style and the same model. The base gets boring, even if the hats don’t, and that drags the hats down. Don’t get the hats down!This is true even in games like SecondLife. It doesn’t matter that there are 50,000 different kinds of “hats” and more coming out every day. The stock beneath is the same, so they stop being interesting after a while. Thus the thriving business in morphing your avatar: you can’t really wear clothes, but in changing the baseline you have changed your whole… um… baseline.Okay, as per my recent unfortunate habit, I’ve started to ramble. What I’m saying is:Manufactured or unique is the wrong question to ask. Randomly generating 500,000 different kinds of sword will only broaden the game so much. In the beginning, it’ll be awesome, but by midgame, you’ll be just as bored of the random swords as you would be of 100 carefully scripted, balanced swords. You’ll know the parameters. Random generation is really a “wide” solution rather than a “deep” solution, and unless you plan on absurdly restricted access to randomly generated things, it’s not going to add play depth for anyone other than newbs.Subtracting out the gameplay elements actually deepens the play, because now the system follows supply and demand. Nobody cares that there’s only three blue swords of cystic fibrosis, because they’re worse than the ten thousand red swords of blammifying. But if all swords are equal, the rarity of those blue swords makes them incredibly valuable. The same idea applies for hats.The feedback you get on your non-combat-related equipment is pretty strong in a MMORPG, although exceedingly weak in a one-player game. This means that you don’t require as much depth in a MMORPG, because feedback will create more depth. In a one-player game, you’ll need to go further. Much further.For example, being able to dress a whole roster of characters in whatever fashions you prefer. Again: linking these things to play bonuses is basically a bad idea, because it dramatically limits the player’s options.Another idea is to be able to change your avatar, either piece by piece or in whole. You could pull a Shiny trick from Messiah: let the player inhabit whatever randomly generated NPC they can lure into a dark corner alone. NPCs can have some immediate gameplay results (such as being better warriors, or having access to certain places), but in the long run have fundamentally interchangeable capabilities. NPCs should look dramatically varied – it might be best to use animal-people, since they look very different from each other. Elves vs dwarves is about the minimum.This would allow the player to grab an avatar, equip it, and run around. If he or she wants, he or she can jump into a new NPC – one that looks very different and people react to in very different ways.This allows them to change the baseline and all the stuff on top. That’s cool. I think that would be a fun game, either one-player or massively multiplayer. Imagine the economy that would spring up in body sales. Some NPCs are extremely hard to get because they are always surrounded by people, and those call in the highest prices.Obviously, there would need to be some, I dunno, GAME involved at some point. But, pshaw, that’s the easy part.Labels: balance, game design, long-term play, loot […]

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