Junk Loot

We’ve all experienced this a million times:

*You loot [insert junk loot] and 32 silver.*

We do that a few dozen times then realize we have to go back to the vendor to free up some inventory space.  When we get there, we rummage through our bags trying to figure out what is supposed to be ‘junk loot’ and what’s worth keeping.  After about 30 seconds, which feels like 30 minutes, and some aggravation later we finally have a somewhat clean inventory.  A few minutes later we go to equip our new sword and realize we just sold it to the NPC.

I don’t know about you, but that’s a tale as old as time for me.  Usually it’s bad enough to drive me to find an addon that simply sells all of my junk loot, or I stop looting everything altogether.  Sometimes I’ll even just vendor everything and say to heck with it all.  I started thinking about this yesterday and came to the conclusion that it’s not an interface problem, or something to be solved with an addon.  All of this is indicative of a larger problem: Why have junk loot at all?

Having mobs drop coins makes just as much sense to me.  I don’t need that act of going to a vendor and saying, “Hey, would you like to buy my moldy broken leather belt for 6 copper? Please?” Mobs can still drop loot.  Why not make it all worth using in some way?  Let’s assume I was going to get a broken hilt from a bandit.  Makes sense that in our scuffle he broke his sword.  Usually that’s junk loot and I would have to sell it.  How about it becomes salvageable in some way? The mechanic exists already in almost every modern MMO to be able to break down an item into components of some sort.

In many MMOs today if you kill a bat and it drops its wings — rare, I know, for a bat to have wings — you vendor them as junk.  In EverQuest they were used as reagents in the spell ‘levitate’.  Bone chips, a common thing found on a skeleton, were used for necromancers to summon their pets.  Many items that by today’s standards would be automatically sold by addons were used in quests to gain experience; Collect 5 belts and turn them in for faction and experience.  That turned ‘junk loot’ into something people actually wanted to hang on to and trade among other players.

Here’s another lesson of the day from Keen: When you think about getting an addon to make your life easier or solve a problem, think about whether or not there’s another way this issue could have been solved if the game was designed just a little bit different.  You’ll be amazed by the wondrous ideas and possibilities you discover.

  • The “junk loot” in FFXI was the only loot mobs dropped and therefor the only real way to make money off of killing mobs. There were no armor or weapon drops off regular mobs. All that came from crafters that used the “junk loot” to make the gear you needed while leveling.

    On one hand, i miss the economy and crafting community that this spawned. On the other hand, you had to get your butt farming and grinding mobs to get any gear.

    I’m torn at which is better but one is definitely better for group based leveling MMO’s.

  • Salvaging is a great way to go.

    Another option is to make this class of generic loot modifiable. If one treats magical items as having limited enhancement options, the grey loot can be used for maximum modification.

    In this way different professions might also get involved, blacksmiths, enchanters, jewelers, etc. Also this might include customizable skins. Plus if the game incorporates a critical success enhancement chance then that boring grey weapon may someday become a highly sought after unique item with a far greater personal identification than the generically modelled drop magical items floating around.

  • Given how heavily classified a lot of loot is these days, some with extra attributes to show what its for, the only use for junk loot is to get you to either get more bag space or go back to a vendor more often. I believe that is one purpose. I’m gonna guess games don’t come with a sell junk option to force players to look over their items. Which of course leads to mistakes you mentioned about the sword, which is why buyback was such a big deal when they added it to WoW way back when. But junk is there to fill up your inventory.

    There were times I just didn’t want to go back to town. Things were going good. I didn’t want to travel or interrupt that one last quest. So I started ditching items. Either the crafting ingredients I didn’t think were worth much to other players (they are almost never worth anything substantial to a vendor, with a few exceptions). Or the junk items worth the least amount of coin, or crap consumables. If a low cost item stacked, I’d consider the price of the whole stack. My choice.

    Players with lots of money, who only want to grind mobs for some quest or exp don’t have to loot if they don’t want to, much to the chagrin of skinners. Or in some games turn off auto loot and only pick what they want.

    This mechanic doesn’t go in the “interesting choice” bucket of mechanics. But I think its there to keep you from turning on auto-pilot for too long.

  • I have to plug FFXIV here which does not have junk loot and whatever drops is useful (also you don’t have to run over to loot the corpses!).

    From a more cynical perspective, free-to-play-style games need junk loot (and non-junk loot, for that matter) in order to steer you toward buying more backpack space, so I think it’s more of a business decision nowadays.

  • While I usually agree with Keen on most game mechanics, this one I’ll disagree. Junk loot is annoying, and your example of ways to make junk loot more useful is spot on. However, as we know these examples were not the norm. I think having a skeleton drop that rusty mace which it was using to attempt to bludgeon your skull in with makes sense and adds a real world feel to the game and fight. Same with worn leather belts, spell regs off casters, etc.

    Sure it can be annoying to fill your inventory with crap then have to sell, but this is traditionally only in the early stages of the game, when finding anyway to earn gold is crucial. Once you’re more established, you have a bigger inventory and can carry more things. Plus, that bone chip is probably not worth your time to make a special trip to sell. So ignore it. If you’re OCD and have to loot everything, that sounds like a personal problem 😉

  • I have to agree with JJ. One of my favorite MMOs of all time is Rubies of Eventide. If you killed an orc there he dropped every single piece of armor he was wearing, and his weapon, and some stuff out of his pockets. Yes, it clogged your bags up but you learned to quickly look through it and just leave the stuff you didn’t feel like carrying on his body. It made a huge difference to feeling like you were in the world.

    Anyway, I *like* sorting my trash loot. I don’t see it as a chore and I don’t use add-ons to do it for me. I like the whole “ffs my bags are full AGAIN! Now I have to go sell” thing. To me its a significant part of what I come to MMOs to experience. Few things would be likely to make me lose interest in an MMO faster than mobs that only dropped coin.

    That said, there are, absolutely, better ways it can be done and your suggestions outline some of them. When I say I like “trash” loot what I really mean is I like to see something tangible for my labors when I kill something. Things I can sell to a vendor are good but reagents, fixable items, crafting materials and consumables are even better.

    Oh, and trash loot isn’t always trash. EQ had a great mechanic of rare but highly-valuable vendor loot. Remember how excited you’d get when something dropped that you knew would sell for 100x the value of a piece of regular loot? That was a s good as getting a useable drop any day. And then there were the beautiful icons they used – some of the valuable items were so attractive I didn’t even sell them. I still have an antique clock in my bank somewhere…

  • I do believe junk loot adds a lot more immersion to a MMO and makes mobs more interesting. I hate how automated things have become now. Many will disagree, but I used to enjoy grinding as a simple pleasure. I’d get random loot. Sometimes I could use that loot (rares), sell/trade that loot (reagents), or sell it. Sometimes what I sold was worth good money. Nowadays, it’s largely click to receive gold and the clicking part is going away too.

    I think the biggest problems with junk look stem from other forms of loot. Quest loot should never be in your regular bag space. It serves zero purpose. I don’t need a bag loaded down with Bind on Loot Orc Ears to know I’m halfway done with a quest, especially when the journal tells me how many I have. I think reagents too need their own separate spot. New characters should start with a super tradeskill bag and an expandable inventory bag.

    We’ve also gotten too far away from when junk loot felt great. Like JJ and Bhags, it was a lot more fun when you could see the loot on the mob before you killed it. I loved that about EverQuest since anytime I saw a skeleton with a cracked staff, I’d do everything I could to kill him because that thing was worth a lot more than the rusty weapons they’d otherwise have.

    I think the immersion factor alone is worthwhile. I love junk loot that comes with flavor text or references the mob in a humorous way. Not every game needs to have a use for Giant’s Toes in crafting or spellcasting, but I think it’s fun to loot them from time to time.

    I do agree with you that we need to go back to more tradeable ‘quest’ item-based junk loot. I think doing A LOT more of that would be a fun way to add something extra to a game without relying on your Quest Function to cover all levels of questing. MMOs need a task/job feature that doesn’t necessarily get tracked, doesn’t have an epic speech or a lengthy amount of lore justifying its existence, that overall just serves as a bonus way to get experience and gold.

  • LOTRO tried to resolve the junk loot problem by making junk loot useable for gaining faction. Unfortunately I felt it was a pretty poor implementation. It did make junk loot a good bit more interesting though.

  • There is another reason for junk loot and it is an important one for social activity. Making people go to town! Without this function a towns would be empty, socially spread out and without hubs to congregate you lose that mmo experience. More people in town the more trading, the more conversation the more it feels like a community. Junk loot is one of those facets that helps that.

    Ever played Asheron’s Call 2? They tried to do something unique in this manner. All loot was sold for gold from your inventory or salvaged or crafted. Why? The game had no NPC’s whatsoever! For the explorer and loner it was great plant yourself somewhere and never return. For the rest of us it was a weird and lonely MMO. Part of the reason it failed and is no longer around.

  • “Why have junk loot at all?”

    Because it makes much more sense to get a teeth from a wolf than silver coins. Now, why an NPC would buy all your wolf’s teeth for money is another story…I think is now fundamental that in RPG games you have loot. It would feel very weird to kill a bear and get coins or get nothing at all.

    “Sometimes I’ll even just vendor everything and say to heck with it all”

    I feel you here, I do this very often. I think the problem is not the loot itself but the game lack of depth and good crafting systems. everything I have in my bags should be valuable.

  • I agree with the post for games like Diablo or Torchlight. But in an mmo it always feels odd if the mobs only drop cash. I like opening the loot window and finding what this guy had in his pockets.
    Money? Thread? Handful of wires? I will agree that making the junk level loot into usable items would be nice.

    But I also like killing gorillas to see if they drop empty barrels…

  • The junk is there to add flavor and inject coin. And no, getting coin from a snail doesn’t make any sense.

    If players feel there’s too much junk to manage then they need to look at it upstream, by offering more coin from places that coin makes sense.

    On the other hand, this is a world and those items add flavor… if you are forced to parse them to sell then, you get the intended benefit of that flavor.