MMO Rant #2: WYSIWYGn’t Loot

WTF happened to WYSIWYG loot? Has it been relegated to being a thing of the past? You know, WYSIWYG–that wonderful acronym first popularized by now-ancient web design programs. What you see is what you get. Except in today’s MMOs, what you see is not what you get, and it cheeses me off.

Remember back in the good ole days when you saw a creature wearing ringmail armor, an orc helm, and a two-handed axe, then you killed it, and it dropped ringmail armor, an orc helm, and a two-handed axe? Some of you are probably shaking your heads, because you’ve not played MMOs that let you do that. Well, I’m here to tell you that getting whatever you see on a creature as loot is not only rewarding, it’s fun.

Oh, there are a number of reasons why WYSIWYG loot tends not to exist in games anymore (and by anymore, I mean games released since around ’99). It generally comes down to itemcentricity, but I’m not here to offer up explanations, excuses, or even solutions; I’m here to rant.

When I see a mob wielding a big broadsword and platemail armor, I want to kill him and receive a big broadsword and platemail armor. I don’t even care if I can’t wear it. You know what, go ahead and break those items so I surely can’t wear them, but at least I know that the mob dropped what he was wielding, rather than all the items poofing into oblivion. The void doesn’t care about that loot, but I do.

If adding WYSIWYG loot to your game means you can’t give mobs really cool looking armor because it’s not animated or fitted to player characters, so be it. You shouldn’t be giving mobs cooler looking stuff than players can obtain anyway, because it’s bloody disheartening to know you can never get a cool looking item no matter how hard you try.

You know what else is disheartening? Not getting items you see a mob using as loot. Also, it’s completely illogical, and everyone knows I hate artificial restrictions (or rather, illogical restrictions, as “artificial” has implications beyond that of simple logic).

You may say–if you are a designer–that you want to avoid a couple of issues with WYSIWYG loot. Namely, you don’t want to overburden players with junk item loot, and you don’t want to make items of a particular type or look overly common. Call the effing wahmbulance. You’re creative, so come up with ways around the problem.

For example, make the armor essentially worthless unless it’s a decent drop (so players won’t loot it all the time), and don’t equip mobs with cooler looking gear than players can get (because it shouldn’t be common on mobs if it’s not common on players). But come up with something on your own, because I’ll probably use that idea in a game at some point.

In summary, I want to get the items I see a mob equipped with as loot. Any kind of loot. Broken loot, worthless loot, and the occasional worthwhile loot. No more of the magical poofing of gear just because you aren’t intelligent enough to design around the feature, which I feel is fun enough to implement and work with (i.e. deal with the negatives).

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