Perfect Ten: The 10 types of MMO loot I’m always thrilled to get

    
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Loot’s not something that I see discussed much these days among MMO players. It’s probably because loot’s been around since the beginning of online time and is such a staple that we’d notice it only if it went away completely or if the object in question were a major game-changer for us.

Random loot from mobs is a reward mechanic that is bordering on archaic, having been supplanted by dependable quest rewards and barter vendors that give us the gear we so desire. Of course, now we’ve come around the weird circle to the point that dropped lockboxes hold interesting loot, but we’ve got to pay for the privilege of seeing what’s inside.

But let’s not go there today! Instead, I’m going to share with you the 10 general types of loot that still get me excited while playing. They will shock, amaze, and radically reshape your life, as long as you’ve had a recent brain wipe and are awaiting brand-new neural instructions.

Vanity pets

I know that not every player cares about companion pets, but hey, a lot of us do! Having that little critter following us around is a good feeling, especially when it adds a bit of personal flair. Finding a small, adorable companion when you least expect it never fails to lift my spirits for the rest of the day.

Major gear upgrades

Note that nowhere on this list will you find “minor, incremental gear upgrades,” even though most of the quest rewards and dropped loot will be just this. Major gear upgrades are exciting simply because they are so very rare, and if I find some out in the game world versus during a dungeon run, I feel like I’ve won a lottery and need to run into the nearest bar and buy everyone a drink (then run out because drinks are expensive and I don’t know those people anyway).

Expensive stuff I can pawn

This type of loot depends on whether or not money in a particular MMO is useful. If so, then I’m always thrilled to find an item that I don’t personally need, but I know that either a vendor or a player will pay me large sums of cash in unmarked bills to obtain. If only it were so easy to become rich in real life! After spending two weeks of killing forest creatures and bringing their various organs to my local pawnshop, I’m going to have to say that this is better left to MMOs and a jury of my peers.

Leave your clothing on.

Gear that looks cool

Stats are OK? I guess? But if you really want to inject me full of enthusiasm over a piece of virtual gear, it’s got to be an armor model that looks gnarly and radical — and something I can use in a game’s cosmetic outfit system. Fashion comes before practicality for me, and if I can one-shot raid bosses but look like I dived headfirst into a Salvation Army reject bin, then what’s the point?

Fireworks (and other one-shot gags)

If MMOs are games, then loot are the toys within it. Some toys just look good on your shelf, some you’re going to get tons of use out of them over the years, and some are fun and silly one-shot items that serve to please you momentarily.

So I’m not against one-shot toys like fireworks, transmogrifying potions, and snowballs — I am their biggest fan. Yes, the fun of firing off an explosion into the lower atmosphere may be fleeting, but its brief lifespan also encourages me to enjoy it to its fullness. Plus, other players always enjoy it when you light fireworks right over the heads of ERPers.

Potions

Just go with me on this one. Many MMOs have health, mana, and Red Bull potions coming out of the wazoo, but some don’t, and in those titles, a discovered potion is a treasure meant to be cradled to one’s bosom and talked to in a low, approving voice.

Sunglasses, eye patches, and backpacks

At the very top of the cosmetic item foodchain are these three items, and they can never be surpassed in coolness and desirability. With them, you are always prepared for action in case Pirates of the Matrix begins filming in a zone near you.

Housing items

One of the reasons I feel that all MMOs should have player housing is that it makes the game’s loot richer — and not just an endless parade of vendor trash. If I am given the choice between selling off that novelty clown portrait that dropped from an ogre or hanging it up in my den, I’m more empowered than I would be otherwise. I do hate to let a good clown go to waste when it could be deeply disturbing visitors.

Plus, finding decorations and furnishings out in the world is so absolutely surreal that it’s a form of entertainment unto itself. Why was that water banshee toting around a leather recliner? And now that I have it, I’m going to lash it to my back and walk on home with it as if it’s garbage collection day and I’m that weird guy who prowls through neighborhoods in his pickup truck looking for the last endtable to satisfy his feng shui.

Temporary ability items

As a complement to #5 there are any items — whether they be gear, clickies, poitions, or what have you — that grant your character a temporary ability. I don’t know why this suit of armor lets me throw out six fireballs before going empty forever, but I’m not going to question it. I’m going to find those six cats that hissed at me in the alley the other day.

Temporary abilities are, yet again, just plain fun. They’re not overpowered because of their transient status, and they give you joy in seeing your character do something her or she normally couldn’t. Dungeons & Dragons was always great about having loads of these one-shot abilities on hand just in case, but that game design’s been phased out over the years to the point that devs now make any problem we face solvable by blunt force trauma.

Dyes

You want to make me really happy, random number generator? Then spit out a rare shade of dye the next time I kill a critter, and you’ll see me doing a jig, strut, and foxtrot all in the privacy of my room. For some games (say, Guild Wars), the right dye is worth more gold than a roomful of weapons just because people like looking awesome and turning heads.

And if the game decides to reward my loyal butchery with a whole slew of colored ink, then I’ll be so happy I could dye.

Everyone likes a good list, and we are no different! Perfect Ten takes an MMO topic and divvies it up into 10 delicious, entertaining, and often informative segments for your snacking pleasure. Got a good idea for a list? Email us at justin@massivelyop.com or eliot@massivelyop.com with the subject line “Perfect Ten.”
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Dean Greenhoe

To me loot is only good if the game provides these three mechanics:
1) Enough space to store it, including shared space between characters
2) A high function inventory system to easily manage all my loot
3) A fun and easy way to sell excess loot

Outside of these, I dislike:
1) Things that expire
2) Anything that has no value other than to fill inventory space
3) If I find a hat I should be able to wear it regardless of my race/class. My class/race should only determine if I gain any benefits from the wearing it.

Other than this, I love all loot!

EXCEPT: Do not drop me loot that I can not pick up….. ARRRRG

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Ald

I still like the oldschool loot methods after experiencing everything since. As in, i like to know the rare mobs that drop the loot i want and i want to know it’s drop rate. That way i can farm that mob until it hopefully drops.

What i don’t like is random loot from anywhere or lots of drops that devalue the rarity of good loot.

ACuriousTanuki
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ACuriousTanuki

For gear rewards at least, I think of things as breaking down into 3 categories: Power, Perks, and Personalisation (3 P’s).

In broad strokes, Power affects your baseline effectiveness in activities (eg higher stats in WoW, etc), Perks offer mechanical modifications to gameplay (eg affixes that change ability behaviour in Diablo); and Personalisation is options for self expression (cosmetics), or touch-and-feel preferences (eg selecting between roughly equivalent weapons in your favourite shooter).

A lot of games smoosh these things together (Destiny’s weapons and armor lock all three into a single RNG item) which can be frustrating since it makes it significantly harder to get a satisfying reward (good perks on an item you don’t like; awesome looking item with bad stats, etc). This might extend the play time as folks “grind” out the exact item they actually want, but it also adds aggravation and dissatisfaction to get yet another ‘reward’ that’s basically useless because it’s a case of ‘almost, but not quite’.

We are seeing more systems though that enable separating these P’s apart and allowing them to be considered and pursued individually. Eg: transmog systems permit collected cosmetics to overlayed on top of other items independently; Destiny’s infusion system commodifies the power on an item allowing it to be transferred to similar items; and Kanai’s Cube in Diablo 3 lets you equip perks without being tied to the original item’s stat rolls.

Each game has its own balance of how it handles each of these 3 P’s (a Battle Royale handles Power very differently from an MMO, and selling cosmetics is well received in one when it can be frowned on in the other), and it seems to me that understanding and appreciating these distinctions could lead to better loot and rewards systems in many across many games and genres.

ACuriousTanuki
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ACuriousTanuki

Could maybe add Progression as a fourth P to account for things like accessing new story beats, unlocking new areas, characters, or game features, etc. Haven’t spent too much time thinking that one through yet; word choice for alliteration and subject to change.

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NeoWolf

Cosmetics, Mounts and Crafting recipes are the three loots I tend to get most excited for :)

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Ironwu

Great list!

Unless you are playing WoW Retail Shadowlands, of course.

Then, the correct answer is “Anything. Anything at all.”

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styopa

I lol’d.
So g-d true, man.

Said by no player ever: “Please, give me a new token-currency reward useful only for things of ephemeral utility and CERTAINLY only in THIS EXPANSION, in increments that will tell me clearly that I have at least 800 hours more of grinding the same damn missions and events in hopes of being able to spend that currency to unlock another set of grinding events that give me yet another token-currency that *might* eventually allow me to buy something that offers a vast 0.1% increase in a stat I don’t even pay attention to, and which esthetically is exactly the same model I’ve been wearing for the last ten levels slightly recolored, or better yet, not even recolored AT ALL!”

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Neurotic

Yeah, I have to say, WoW loot has been a bit dreary lately. And everything green from the last two expansions has the same name too. “X of the Firelash” or something like that. BFA’s Kul’Tiran shields were basically the same model and texture with 50 different names. Ech. Uninspiring, I have to say.

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Schmidt.Capela

Out of these:

– If they were random drops, then just about anything in this list annoys me, even if (or perhaps specially if) I actually like the item. If I don’t have a dependable way of obtaining something I want, then I will never aim for it, thus the fact I still have blasted RNG-based crap to obtain will never keep me playing.

– Temporary one-use items, such as potions, fireworks, temporary ability items, etc: I don’t like the impermanence, and really dislike having this crap take my precious inventory space, so I tend to sell or trash those items without even trying them, unless they are actually needed to complete some piece of content — and the rarer they are, the less likely they are needed, as doing otherwise would lock any player who lost or misused the item out of completing the content.

Caveat: when the temporary one-use item doesn’t compete with the rest of my items for inventory space, and I obtain them often enough without having to go out of my way or to purchase them, then I will use the item strategically while trying to keep a reasonable reserve of it. Think consumables in a typical JRPG, where having the max amount of potions in my inventory doesn’t reduce in any way how many other items I can carry, and not using them is detrimental because I would start losing extras if I reach the potion cap.

– Permanent power increases (e.g., major gear upgrades) and items that can be turned into large amounts of gold: I don’t quite look at the individual pieces of gear, but at the progression curves. Meaning I don’t quite celebrate getting those individual items; rather, I get annoyed when there are hiccups in my progression, such as when the game is suddenly much easier or much harder than just before.

– Cosmetic permanent items, such as pets, mounts, cosmetic gear, housing decorations, etc: I really love those as long as they don’t take inventory space. They are the things I collect, and as long as they don’t waste my inventory space and there is little to no RNG involved in obtained them those are the kinds of loot that can keep me happily playing long after I’ve seen all the content the game has to offer.

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styopa

The alternative to RNG seems to be GW2’s array of varied currencies which, because there are a tiny% of people who appear to play the game 22 hours a day and we don’t want to make it too easy for them, we’re going to dole out in TINY increments or need huge quantities of (or both…yay.) to then go buy at some bored vendor.
That seems somewhat less heroic, imo.

For me a lot of that list is summarized by:
– permanent improvements to my main character (which, I get it, eventually have to tap out) or
– permanent improvements to my account and something for all my alts, eg in other games this is often dyes, mounts, and pets.

I won’t waste 2 hours running an instance for a single-digit percentage chance drop rate on a piece that might be a slight power upgrade.
OTOH I’ll cross goddamned continents to spend hours catching an interesting mount that all my characters have access to, even though it’s basically the same speed/capabilities as the basic mounts I already have.

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Schmidt.Capela

Yeah, the main alternative is one or more currencies used to obtain the gear. It’s not the only one, though; Monster Hunter World’s crafting-centric progression also reduces a lot the RNG (more so because you can influence what materials the monsters drop quite a bit by changing how you defeat them, thus allowing you to offset the remaining RNG with raw player skill).

Also, how grindy will be any alternative way of obtaining new gear is a matter of tuning. And if the developer doesn’t have the decency to tune the grind to a reasonable level, this for me signal that they don’t actually know how to make the game fun, so I tend to leave it earlier rather than later.

BTW, I really can’t stand RNG in loot drops, to the point I often stop playing if I ever reach a point where all further progress depends on RNG loot. Too many other games for me to play to bother with RNG-obsessed devs.