Monday, August 13, 2007

Need before Greed except when it says BOE

The title for my post summarizes the problem with the current loot system in Lord of the Rings Online very nicely. The majority of the system is exactly the same as World of Warcraft with one small modification. Most items dropped by mobs are Bind on Equip instead of the more common Bind on Pickup found in other MMOs. This means that items earned in dungeons and random world drops can be transferred between players until someone actually equips it. This was probably done to end the frustration of killing a boss only to find it dropped loot no one could use.

The unintended consequence of this design decision though is that players in Lord of the Rings Online are starting to find it more acceptable to always roll need on items. All it takes is one bad string of no loot for a class to cause a player to start picturing other people's gear as giant checks to be cashed at the auction house. The worst part is that sometimes gray areas in loot distribution can make this problem even more severe. For example say an earring with "Will" dropped which is only a sidegrade for the group's lore-master, do the melee classes get to roll on it? If the guardian won the earring what are the chances that the lore-master would roll on the next item for the melee classes?

Despite the problems, some people like the cutthroat economic system caused by BoE items. Basically they argue that if everyone rolls on a item then everyone can have a chance of selling it in the auction. Players can then use money earned in this manner to buy gear they can actually use from the auction house. This makes the auction house and player trade much more important in Lord of the Rings since it becomes the primary method of distributing items. Honestly this argument might have some validity since MMOs with strong player run economies tend to be more stable then those dependent mostly on NPC merchants.

One can see though how this trend of using the auction house to distribute items could backfire. If everyone uses game currency to buy gear from other players then the game becomes much more attractive to professional gold sellers. In my short time playing LOTR I can already see that the in-game gold spam has greatly increased in the last few months. Yet would changing items to Bind of Pickup be an answer to fixing the social and blackmarket aspects of the LOTR loot system? It might make it less likely that someone would win your upgrade but honestly if your in a group with a rude person its just as likely they would roll need on a BoP item also.

In the end, the issue comes down to your personal opinion on what you think is more fair for distributing items in a MMO. Should everyone share the chance to sell an item for money? or Should everyone automatically get an item if its an upgrade for their character? One leads to the degradation of politeness/fun while grouping while the other one can mean hours wasted running the same dungeon trying to get an item your character can actually use. Hopefully in the future we'll see more thought put into loot systems to prevent both these issues.

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1 comment:

Garrett said...

I would tend to agree with the BOE strategy in general. I think that bring the business and opportunity to the Auction House is more important than banking on luck and courtesies at the end of a raid (especially when a warlock grabs a warrior's sword... jeez!).

Of course, if everything is at the Auction House, you can bet that super-twinks will be more prevalent.

At any rate, it's definitely an interesting topic, but not one we players can do a whole lot about :).