An MMO Without a Focus on Loot

I was having one of my regular MMO discussions with a friend yesterday when we brought up a subject that started to make a lot of sense. MMOs didn’t used to be about the loot; sort of, but not really. The following are just thoughts we came up with while having this discussion.

We started thinking about a few examples of the older games we played extensively, and tried to identify in as few words as possible why it is we played — what was our drive or our reason for logging in each day.

Ultima Online – We were essentially living life. We made houses, started careers, accumulated wealth, and everything centered around making the act of living life easier.

Asherons Call – The world was constantly changing and we wanted to see it evolve; all about seeing what happens next.

EverQuest – Building relationships and creating dependencies on others was what kept us logging in. EQ (before Velious) wasn’t about raiding or looting as much as it was seeing how far we could advance and what challenges we could overcome.

Dark Age of Camelot – We lived in the world to defend our realm.

Loot can’t be the focus in a MMORPG that is going to recapture our attention. An MMO can and should have loot; we decided to nix the idea that maybe an MMO didn’t need loot at all, but can’t be the center where all roads lead.

When loot isn’t the focus, the other aspects of the game suddenly because exponentially more important and visible. There’s a reason players don’t participate in things like exploration, socializing, housing, or care about things like “realm pride” anymore. Those things do not actively drop epics, nor should they because that doesn’t make sense.

An MMO without a focus on loot is set free to be so much more. Design becomes a slave to gear when too much focus is placed upon it.

  • I agree. It all harks back to Tabletop RPGs. Did we play those simply for loot? To hop on a loot treadmill and drool over the comparative stats between said drops? Not at all. We played (play) those for the social interaction, and the feeling of living in a different world.

    Once MMOs diverted from that basic path, they entered an entirely different realm. One I find to be quite sad.

  • Awesome point. That’s so true. I’m playing D&D and the loot I can get from this campaign is so far from the first thing on my mind. The gear helps me go on the adventure, but it’s the adventure I seek and the social and dynamic nature of roleplaying this character. I look forward to the way in which we defeat a monster — seeing that and experiencing that — not seeing what it drops. And again, so true about older MMOs adhering to the path of D&D.

  • For me the key reason I log into every MMO is to be with my characters. I want to spend time with them, learn along with them, see the world through their eyes. Loot, levels achievements and all the other markers are important only because they aspire to them, not because I do.

    This will sound crazy to some people but it’s nothing unique to MMOs or gaming. It’s a feeling that will seem familiar to many lovers of fiction in all its forms. I see playing MMOs as a very similar experience to reading novels, something I have done obsessively for almost the whole of my life.

    Ardent readers will often express strong affinities with the characters in the books they read, talking about them as though they were people they know in just the way they know their own friends or relatives. One of the commonest questions readers want to ask authors is “what happened next?”

    With an MMO you know you’ll never turn the final page and come to the end of the story. You’ll always be able to learn what happens next. It’s not the only reason I play but more than anything it’s what keeps me logging in.

  • If you guys don’t have your eye on it yet: Revival

    It’s easily the #1 game on my radar, surpassing Star Citizen. Focusing on virtual world sandbox mechanics, with advanced AI and live storytelling… it to me is the future of the genre.

    We’re in an age where it’s ok that games don’t chase WoW-level success, and gamers are going to benefit from it because we’re seeing more studios take more chances and develop games that might not be mainstream successful, they can be wildly niche successful.

  • While I think Bhagpusss is spot on on why I like to play, I love checking out other characters to see what gear they have. I used to love EQ when a char would run by with some gear that just looked awesome. Ask him where he got it, etc. It was almost a badge that char had. I think that is lost a lot now with the selling of appearance gear on cash shops.

  • @Lethality :

    Revival looks good, but doesn’t the monetization scheme worry you a bit?

    Maybe previous F2P games have ruined my trust, but their description of the financial model reminds me a bit of the old Molyneux double talk from an old article where for most of the post he implied that F2P publishers were doing a disservice to the gaming community and at the last moment stated that Godus mobile would be F2P, but would be different.

    From the Revival monetization page:

    “When you think back to the sandbox games of old, all of which were subscription games, were the paying players really any more or less invested than the other players? We think not. We do, however, think that player investment is important. In fact, it’s the basis of our monetization strategy.

    That might seem strange, but hear us out.”

    “The currency players can buy is called the SP, or Standing Point. As you might expect, you can use SP in lieu of in-game gold when needed, but that’s not really what SP is for. As the name suggests, SP is a way to track who is invested in the world: People with SP are people who have a standing in Theleston and care about its future.”

    “Maybe that’s a bit of a hard sell, considering that people can buy SP with real money, but maybe that’s just a matter of perspective. After all, people who invest real money to purchase SP have, in their case literally, invested in the world of Theleston, haven’t they? Whatever their desires, it can be said that they have a stake in the way Theleston works and their pool of SP reflects that.”

    It has the feeling of trying to avoid the obvious problem intrinsic to their monetization scheme by acknowledging it could be a problem, but aggressively assuring us it isn’t, and leaving it at that. They are acting like they have addressed the problem and assuaged our doubts when they really haven’t at all.

    Do you think there F2P approach won’t be problematic?

  • @Gankatron

    I think it will be a terrible p2win model, absolutely. They specifically state in there that people with more SPs will be more involved in “random storyline stuffs” involving world changing God interaction….

    But more worrisome is where they specifically state that SP will be used to gain major buffs (blessings) from the gods, including things like being immune to PvP. That sounds horrifying.

    The only glimmer of light in their entire monetization post are the Gold servers, which will be subscription based and have the Devs running around as NPCs doing things with the players. But it still doesnt say whether those servers will NOT have p2win stuff. They most likely will. I’m sure in their minds making people pay for a sub AND buy SPs is just too orgasmic to pass up.

    Overall… count me out.

  • @Rawblin:

    I agree with that. I too will keep an eye out for the Gold server though. 😉

  • I have to call bs on this. You weren’t hanging out in the constant trains that was crushbone or mistmoore because the loot was bad. And that’s just one of many examples. No they weren’t raids but they were about loot too.

  • I was in Mistmoore and Crushbone for the EXP in groups. The loot meant nothing. The ZEM (zone experience modifier) was where it was at.

  • Wow, the monetization system in Revival sounds like potentially the most awful system I’ve ever seen.

    Why can’t we just have a sandbox game that charges 15$/month and doesn’t try to sell any bullshit? :/

  • Ok I guess, but that was only meaningful because leveling was ridiculous. And there were “bosses” in both of those places that dropped loot we needed. Granted, some of it was for crafters to make us loot. Or just loot we could sell to not be so poor. Did you really not try to get those mobs? Didn’t those gargoyles at the entrance of mistmoore either drop an earring we either needed or could sell?

    And wasn’t there a dvinn knife. I’m pretty sure I got some amazing spaulders outside the castle in mistmoore too.

    But it’s all a function of scarcity. Scarce xp. Scarce equipment. Games today have forgotten this point.

  • @Baba

    I think you are misinterpreting the topic on this one. Keen never said an MMO without loot, simply an MMO without a *focus on loot.

    They all had loot back in the day, and it was still an integral part of the games themselves. But it wasn’t the entire point of the game. That’s all we were getting at.