This week's Mobhunter discusses the advantages of a point-based loot system. While Everquest primarily uses random drops to reward players with equipment, Lost Dungeons of Norrath showed us a new, fair, and powerful loot system. It is my hope that we see systems like this used more in the future.
Along with instanced dungeons and content scaled for all levels, the Lost Dungeons expansion brought us the adventure merchants. This new method for acquiring treasure rewarded each member of a group with points they could spend on new items. This article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of the adventure point system.
The adventure point system lets developers tune equipment directly against the effort required to acquire it. A Breastplate of the Sands always takes 1492 adventure points. At a minimum this takes 15 hard adventures at level 65 or 15 hours at a minimum to complete. Most likely it takes 30 hours; 30 normal adventures at level 65. Random loot, in comparison, may drop the top item the first time or the 500th time. Even the developers do not know how often it will drop. Developers control the odds of a dropped item but they do not directly control the drop rates.
Adventure point systems reward all participants in an event evenly. Adventure point systems also offer clear progression towards equipment goals. Each adventurer wins and each adventurer knows how much closer they are to the item they desire after each adventure.
For years many high-end raiding guilds used a point-system for raid loot distribution called the Dragon Kill Point system. This system, maintained by the leadership of the guild, awarded loot to the members of the guild who deserved it most based on attendance. This works well for most guilds but works poorly for less organized groups. Such systems face corruption or destruction when the leaders either move on or turn sour.
While the DKP system works well for many high-end guilds, a game-based point system works for everyone. Any player from any guild can earn points by attending encounters or adventures that award points. They may hunt with a different group every day but every day they earn points. For unguilded or lower-end guilds, such systems help players grow steadily towards their goals. Point-based systems help facilitate pick up groups between players who do not know each other but may one day grow into great friends. It rewards players without regard to their guild tag and does not require the sacrifice of a group for the progress of an individual.
There are some problems with an adventure point system. The wide range of armor available on the same point systems in LDON rewards everyone with progress at the most powerful gear. Because any player of level 20 can go to the Lost Dungeons, they begin earning points towards the high-end armor right away. The only thing in the way of top-end gear is time. Regardless of how easy LDON missions become, the points each player earns always lets that player buy new gear.
Dedicated adventure loot for specific content solves this problem. The sewers in Gates of Discord have a set difficulty – Level 65 pre-elemental level. The developers know how difficult the sewers are and tuned it for a specific group. They also know that Elemental armor would benefit this group. They do not want players gaining elemental loot every time they enter the dungeon so instead they make them rare drops. The problem with rare drops is that even the developers don't know if this treasure drops the first time or the fiftieth. The players are not progressing towards this gear, they hope for a good loot table roll and a good roll against the other players. It can turn players against one another instead of supporting them all equally.
Instead, consider a sewer trial that rewards each player with one sewer point for each completion of a sewer expedition. Our friend, Mordin Rasp, offers us Elemental-level loot for ten points each. Do ten sewers, get a nice item. For the Tipt / Vxed trials, offer a different set of loot on a different point system. Loot is carefully controlled and is directly based on the difficulty of the encounter and the time one needs to spend in it. The loot system cannot be corrupted by other players and everyone in the trial earns something for their effort.
Point-based loot should not replace random drops. Developers design random loot to be a surprise to players, not something to be farmed over and over. A mixture of point-based loot and random loot helps ensure players can gear up for new content but doesn't remove the excitement of getting a surprise item off of a hideous beast.
Point-based loot works well for progressive loot like the basic armor. Chest, wrist, leg, feet, head, hands and arm equipment could come from point-based systems while rings, earrings, masks, and necklaces, may still come from lucky random drops. Players work steadily towards progressive armor while still receiving random equipment for secondary slots.
The point based system of Lost Dungeons of Norrath was one of the great improvements of Everquest. SOE has no plans to further capitalize on this system. While it is not the solution to loot in Everquest, it offers many advantages in many situations over random drops and dice roll rewards. It rewards groups of strangers as well as guilds. It helps all players earn gear required for further progression. Much in the same way a Player vs Environment system fosters cooperation, point-based loot systems rewards successful groups, not lucky individuals.
10 June 2004