Over the past couple of months, I’ve been exposed to a few different perspectives on the concept of looting in quick succession.  This circumstance has highlighted that subsystem for me, and gotten me musing again (as time has allowed) on the impact such a minor element of play can have on the overall experience in game.  (Long time readers know that this is the type of thing that fascinates me…)

The typical implementation of looting in MMOs has usually run along the lines of the following:

  • when a mob is defeated, a “corpse” or “remains” object of some sort is placed in the game space;
  • no reward is accumulated unless/until the corpse is selected and opened/searched, and for some defined period of time, it is “locked”, meaning that only the player(s) granted credit for the “kill” are able to open it;
  • there is no indication of what loot the corpse might contain until it is opened/searched, which requires a distinct action on the player’s part;
  • opening/searching a corpse generally prevents or is interrupted by other activity, particularly combat and/or significant movement;
  • after some time frame, the corpse is “unlocked”, and anyone can open/search it, regardless of who received credit for the kill;
  • and finally, after some further amount of time has passed, the corpse and any items remaining assigned to it, are removed from play entirely.

Until recently, this seemed pretty to be a pretty ubiquitous implementation of the concept of “looting” in MMOs, in my experience.  I can think of a couple of variations on this basic theme, but nothing stood out enough for me to really engage my attention until recently.

Sword of the New World (Granado Espada)

The first title that I ran across recently that brought a new twist on looting to the forefront was Sword of the New World.  It’s not really all that different from the basics I’ve presented above: however, there is one twist… the items that drop upon defeating a mob literally drop to the ground next to the body, for all to see.  There is no action that the players need to take to view the potential loot… it is automatically revealed to everyone, even passersby.  (BTW, Hellgate: London was recently described to me in a way that sounds very similar to this.  I haven’t played that game yet, however… there may also be significant differences, not sure.)

There is still a period of time where individual items are locked and can only be picked up by the original victorious player, although other elements of play can make it difficult on occasion to do so (the combat is relatively fast and furious, with multiple foes attacking with great regularity… it is not always easy to take the time to vacuum up fallen loot).

Now, the loot which generally drops is not of the highest value: while there are occasional weapon, armor, and other equipment drops, the vast majority of such loot falls into the category of crafting components of limited intrinsic value, such as iron, cloth, etc.  Coin, and typical consumables such as ammo or spell components, are pretty much unheard of as a loot drop, by comparison.  This seems likely to be a consequence of being a free-to-play title, supported by purchases of game items (including in-game currency), but it does impact the basic gameplay… it is not uncommon for players to simply ignore most of the loot that falls during play.

Tabula Rasa

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to play around with Tabula Rasa a bit as well, which incorporates a couple of small, interesting twists on the basic looting concept.

In essence, TR looting is a three-step process.  First off, gaining credit for a kill automatically grants a certain number of credits (TR’s basic unit of wealth) to the character’s account, with no further action required on the player’s part.  This is as automatic a process as gaining XP, to the point that it becomes about as noticeable at times, i.e. “where did I get another 5k credits from? Oh, that’s right…” 

This works fairly well in TR’s particular setting, being essentially a bounty paid by the overarching military the character is automatically a member of.  Also, in a game dominated by ranged weaponry of various types, and a need to maintain significant quantities of ammunition, automatic accrual of wealth is a godsend.  (As an aside, are there any RL military organizations that require their soldiers to purchase their own ammunition?  Is that a fairly typical procedure, that I’m just unaware of?  Para-military orgs, I could see it… I know, I know, it’s just a game.)

Getting back on track… a significant number of corpses in TR will also contain some type of equipment or “recipe” item, locked to the PC credited with the kill.  TR’s minor innovation in this instance is that simply running over the corpse will automatically “loot” it… it seems to be a very effective alternative in a game that is attempting to emulate an active, FPS style of play.  It is also possible to target the corpse and press T to first examine the item, reminiscent of a typical looting interface in other games… but it is not required.

The third potential step in the TR looting process is to use a couple of scanner type items on the corpse in order to gather the most basic crafting elements: a tech scanner-type device to loot “metal scraps”, and a biological scanning device to gather “genetic material”, which can then be used in combination with looted recipes to create weapon mods and the like.  (Since TR currently lacks an “auction house”, a feature which is still in development/testing, this is actually functionality that is a little difficult to utilize to it’s full potential atm, but most of the pieces seem to be there.)  Obviously, this is highly analogous to Skinning in WoW/EQ2, amongst other examples, but it stands out as part of a fairly well-planned progression in TR.

Summary

Anyway, the point of the above musings is simply to again highlight how even the simplest, most mundane elements can have an impact on the style of play in a game.  By automatically displaying potential loot as opposed to leaving it concealed, opportunities for “ninja-looting” could potentially be somewhat restricted, tho not entirely eliminated; requiring different levels of activity to gain different kinds of resources from defeated foes helps to accommodate multiple styles of play; and those are just a couple of possible impacts off the top of my head.

What other twists on the basic looting paradigm have I missed or overlooked?  Anyone have ideas that expand even further on the concept?  One of my own little pet peeves has always been the lack of wealth “unattached to a corpse”… treasure chests, vaults, that kind of thing… what concerns do people have in terms of adding that kind of thing to a game in some measure?