Monday, May 12, 2008

Some (Dis)Enchanted Evening

Loot is generated by random choices by Blizzard's server when you step into a zone. Knowing this, no matter what you bring in the group or what your group has all ready seen as far as drops, it's entirely possible to get everything you ever wanted, or that damned dagger that's dropped for 5 weeks straight and disenchanted every time. It is wholly frustrating to kill the same raid boss for months on end and watch some bracer or a shoulder armor drop 9 out of 10 times. My guild has killed Rage Winterchill for months now, and have not seen several pieces that are on his loot table. What's more is that we're also on the doorstep of Sunwell having killed Illidan last week, so I'm taking stock of my gear to see what desperately needs to be replaced so that my armor matches my content level. What's my worst piece of armor? My bracers, the [Bracers of Eradication] from The Lurker Below in Serpentshrine Cavern. Who has the next upgrade? You guessed it, Rage Winterchill, the entry boss in The Battle for Mount Hyjal. That bitc... excuse me, that Lich is holding a pair of [Furious Shackles] hostage and just won't give 'em up. I'm not the only one to suffer from loot frustration. Every week, raids and instance groups enter into mortal combat with the bosses in their selected zones, and oftentimes they are after specific pieces of armor, or a particular trinket, or maybe a weapon. But they have no control over what the boss drops - the server could decide arbitrarily, and you might be doomed, like a former hunter friend of mine, to 70+ runs of Stratholme until that piece of gear you want drops.

The system seems broken from the player's point of view. Why would Blizzard frustrate its customers by having its instance bosses be so stingy with their drops? There's truly nothing gained from a run when a group with no plate-wearer's killing a 5-man boss and sees tanking plate drop. There's a method to their madness though - every week that a player doesn't see the loot he wants is another week he'll "need" to run/raid that content to get what he wants. Many players are completists, or perfectionists, and won't stop their killing spree until everything they're after from a zone is in their possession. Blizzard understands this, and also understands that once a player has obtained everything they want from a zone, they likely won't return there and the content will stagnate. However, I have an idea. A half-baked idea that I came up with on the train into work this morning, and an idea that won't be implemented, but an idea nonetheless.

Many people have knocked this random loot generation system, and Blizzard responded by implementing the token turn-in system for set armor. Instead of having a 1 in 9 chance that your tier set helm is going to drop from raid boss X, you have a 1 in 3 chance that your class bracket's token will drop, and that token can be exchanged for a tier set helm at a vendor back in town. They introduced it back with Ahn'Qiraj and have been riding along with this ever since. There's still a chance you could see three of one token bracket drop from a boss and none of the other two brackets from any given boss kill, but in principle it's better. Loot that is not tier set, however, is still randomly dropped, and could be useful to only one or two raiders. That two-handed fast polearm that drops? Yea, basically only Hunters are going to be after that. I don't know about you, but my guild only has 2 Hunters in any given raid. Once they both get that particular weapon, it's going to be disenchanted over and over. Same goes for that two-handed mace - only person after that for a raid weapon is me, it'd be a PvP toy for the Warriors elsewise. Oh, and those mail spell damage bracers? Only an Elemental Shaman wants those, and most raids don't have more than one of them.

So now you've got a problem. There's loot that drops that potentially only one or two people can use. If that drops in abundance, it's a total waste, but if it doesn't drop at all, there's usually not many other options for those few group members to turn to. Solution? Move to a completely token-based system. I know what you're thinking - this would shorten farm times on content and Blizzard wouldn't go for it. Ah, but here's phase two of my brilliant half-baked loot plan: add another element. Have the bosses drop crafting materials in short supply that are required to turn in with the tokens. If a boss drops 3 tokens and only enough supplies to turn in one or two of them, a group must ration out their supplies of the rare boss-only items that come with the tokens, and not every token can be turned in every time. To off-set the potential build-up of tokens that stagnate without getting turned in, have the end-boss of the zone drop more materials than tokens to reward the group for completing the zone, and encouraging them to run the complete zone again.

Obviously, I haven't thought the entire system through, and haven't thought of what pitfalls I would introduce if I convinced Blizzard to switch to this sort of system, but I think the player base would be a little less gear-frustrated and Blizz wouldn't lose players to stagnation and boredom. I would however like the system to retain some of its random nature, if you will - some items that a boss would logically own or have would still be straight-up drops with a drop chance as an additional item on their loot table, beyond the token and material drops. Examples would be the [Warglaive of Azzinoth] from Illidan, or the [World Breaker] from Fathom-Lord Karathress, or perhaps some chest armor or tidbit that the boss seems to be wearing/holding/using. I dunno, I just know that the current system drives me bonkers.

*As I was drafting this, I blog-surfed and found this post over on p0tsh0t's blog. It's generally the same idea, just extended to all instances and with a different motivative purpose. Apparently my line of thinking isn't alien! Now if only Blizz dev's would blog-hop...

*EDIT: And, on Relmstein's blog, I surfed back some posts and found this post on overcoming random loot tables and the usefulness of items that only one class/spec can use. Another good idea from the player base!

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