Monday, November 12, 2018

Pick It Up, Buttercup!

How many ways are there are to stuff body parts into a sack, anyway? People have been talking,
Azuriel among them:

 "GW2 showers you in random bags of useless loot at every stage of any activity. We’re talking Diablo-levels volume of drops, every one of which is utterly useless to anyone anywhere.

I think all GW2 players have felt like that on occasion - some of them feel like it all the time - even though it's not entirely, or even mostly, true.

Wilhelm, meanwhile, reacquainted himself with Lord of the Rings Online's solution to the perennial problem of prodding a dead bear so the best bits pop out:

 "I cannot recall when the current looting method went into the game.  After slaying a mob loot just goes into a pending state that you can collect from a window at your leisure. It is handy, never having to click on a mob again, so I am not complaining about it."

Shintar observed in the comments that this time-saving system had its drawbacks:

 "I do remember finding the loot system particularly weird, and kind of missing the joy of actively taking stuff from my fallen enemies."

She went on to expound on the theme with a post on Neverwinter Online's recent move to full autoloot:

 "A part of me is actually kind of disappointed by this. I remember when trying LOTRO, I was quite weirded out by how loot just appeared in my bags automatically. I enjoy the act of looking at and sorting out what rewards I just earned from defeating an opponent - if they just go into my bags without me doing anything, that makes for a very disconnected experience."

Belghast, who appears not to have noticed the changes in Neverwinter that so unsettled Shintar, chipped in with a very different take:

"This game has a lot of positive things going on, but it is an inventory management nightmare…  which ultimately prompted my little burst of posts on twitter.  Inventory Management is just not something that is fun… and out of the tons of favorites I only got one person who chimed in stating that they actually like cleaning their inventory."

Yes, well, if I was on Twitter you'd have gotten two. As Wilhelm often says, there's no MMO system or mechanic so universally reviled that, on its removal, someone won't pop up to complain that it was their favorite part of the game. Bloodymindedness notwithstanding, I would contend that quite a few people do actually enjoy managing their inventory, provided always that the games provide adequate tools and resources for them to sort in a relaxed and stress-free manner.

And there's the rub. So many MMORPGs fail that test. Yes, I do see inventory management as a core pillar of gameplay, but that doesn't mean it's always fun in every game. Sadly, it's never one hundred per cent fun in any game. All systems I've seen have flaws, drawbacks and shortcomings. What's handled well in one game is awful in another and vice versa.

Sticking for the purposes of this post to the pure process of picking the stuff up in the first place, rather than the even more fraught practices of sorting, storing, salvaging and selling, I find myself, like Shintar in two minds about autoloot. A few years back that would very much not have been the case. I used to be a strong and vocal advocate of opening the bear where it lay.

I, too, felt there was a need to keep the processes connected. Shoot the bear, loot the bear. Indeed, going back further, to my time in the EQ2 beta back in September or October 2004, I vividly recall sending some blisteringly negative feedback the first time a massive wooden loot chest thumped to the ground out of thin air when I killed a mob.

My feeling back then was that if clicking on corpses had been good enough for my characters in EverQuest then it ought to be good enough for their descendants. The passing of five hundred years and the cataclysmic destruction of half the planet was hardly reason to go against tradition. I've mellowed some since then.

GW2 holds a strange position for me when it comes to looting kills. I have three accounts, all of which I play every day, but only one has full autoloot. In PvE it's a Mastery that you have to earn, which takes some time to do. In World vs World it's an ability associated with rank. In either case you have to own the Heart of Thorns expansion.

I find that, while I very much appreciate autoloot on the account that has it, especially in fast-moving zergs and big events, I also don't much miss it (or notice its absence) when playing the two that don't. Because GW2 uses a bag-on-the-floor mechanic for loot rather than click-on-the-corpse I don't feel autoloot detracts much from an already disconnected experience but it does somewhat irritate me that, with autoloot, I can't run up to the huge chest that appears after a World Boss goes down and frenziedly click on it along with everyone else. Sometimes I do that anyway and pretend.

LotRO's version is better. All the loot goes into a pending pot, represented by a bag icon at the lower right of the screen. You can open that and peruse the contents as often as you like, pick things you want and leave the rest for later. Given LotRO's severe issues with inventory space this is exceptionally useful.

There are some filters you can set to affect what gets kept and left and quest items automatically update. For F2P players like myself, who may be concentrating on Tasks in the absence of Quests, there's a small problem with task items not updating the count until they're removed from the pending bag and placed in inventory but I've found that enhances my awareness of the Task at hand and to some extent re-establishes the broken connection Shintar mentioned.

The best autoloot system I have seen, by some margin, belongs, surprisngly, to EverQuest. Anyone who played EQ back in the day and never again will be shaking their head in disbelief at this point but that's because they don't know about the Advanced Loot System that was added to the aging game in 2015.

I'm not going into detail about how it works. The above link does that admirably. If that's not enough information, Keen posted a short video walkthrough on YouTube outlining how the ALS works in groups and if that's still not enough, PathToEternity has an exhaustive eighteen-minute explanation that covers pretty much everything you could possibly want to know.

I love the Advanced Loot System. As PTE says, once you're comfortable with it you'll never want to go back to the old version. What's more, every time I play EQ I come away wishing I could bring the ALS with me to every other MMO I play.

In the end, when it comes to looting, what I most value in MMORPGs is flexibility. When I'm starting out, either in a brand-new game, on a new character in an old one or even just when I'm exploring a zone or region I've never seen before, I prefer to click my corpses so I can learn what drops what. Similarly, when I'm soloing and immersed in the world, I enjoy taking my time picking  over the spoils.

Conversely, in a game I've been playing for years, where I might be running dailies I've done dozens of times, killing mobs that hold no surprises and hoping to get it done as quickly and painlessly as possible, I want the game systems to pick up the slack. Not to mention that, when it comes to something like GW2's frenzied, chaotic all-pile-ons, not having autoloot often means not getting any loot at all.

As the MMORPG genre approaches the quarter-century mark, you might think this most basic of activities would have been buffed to a sheen but there's clearly still work to be done. Someone should get on that. These bear parts won't pick themselves up, you know. Oh, wait...


  1. I still have a "what the hell EQII?" post still to go based on my time playing it recently, and one item on the list is looting. EQ looting used be a big pain, so I can see why they have given it a system like this. But EQ2 is still back in the stone ages. And worse, EQ2 still leaves random quest related objects in your inventory after you're done with the quest. So, to your stress-free statement about management, I am always half wondering if I should toss these things out.

    When I get to that post though, I think you'll like the first screen shot I have planned for it. LOTRO has just been eating up my time recently.

    1. Yes, much though I love EQ2 I wouldn't be lining up to defend some of its systems and mechanics, many of which seemed clunky in 2004 and haven't changed much since. It is strange that the older game's loot system got such an exhaustive and effective overhaul (and it was like pulling teeth to get some veterans to accept it, as I recall), while the newer one limps on with what is, as far as I can tell, pretty much the system we started with fourteen years ago. I might even include that as a data point when trying to work out which of the two EQ games is more important to DBG these days.

  2. I have to comment and second that I absolutely love the Advanced Looting system in Everquest. I sort of wish that existed in every game. There are certain things I never want to loot or even know if they exist.


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