Loot. There’s not much other way to start this editorial this fortnight, because the topic of hot debate for all budding Hyborians is loot!
“We want to have item looting, but haven’t yet decided the exact balance for this, so it is not something I can promise right now. Will we be able to loot everything, one item, items from the back-pack? We shall see.” – Gaute Godager
An interview posted here at AoC on WarCry with Funcom developer, Gaute Godager, certainly stirred the hornet’s nest and revealed many player sensitivities not only regarding PvP, but the issue of player looting and how it will be manifested in ‘Age of Conan’. It is yet to be determined how and what sort of looting system we’ll see in-game, but a wedge has been driven between the PvP community as a whole.
Okay, nothing has been set in stone yet, but it is made quite clear that a form of looting is on the cards for ‘Age of Conan’ PvP, on what you might consider the “hardcore” PvP servers anyway (referred to as “RPvP” by Gaute). But what I’d like to do today, firstly, is to look at the different options Gaute suggested (nothing definitive there of course – just things thrown out) for looting: looting everything, one item looting, and items from the back-pack; examine the pros and cons of each, and leave it to you, the Mitra’s Method faithful, to see whether each way could be viable or acceptable, but more importantly to pick out the flaws so that the method could be changed in a way that everyone could live with, or thrown from the drawing board to the waste-basket.
This would work like your “all in” bet with every bet at the casino. Anyone should know that coming into a PvP environment in itself is a bit of a gamble, and in this scenario the stakes are high, so you better have your game face on. In a situation like this it’s always everything to gain, and everything to lose, and like in a game of Poker, it’s usually someone who knows that game best that’s going to come out on top. Even on PvP or RPvP servers, there are always going to be people that have a better knowledge of the combat system, a plethora of tactics to dive into when faced with different combat scenarios, those who prefer to fight in packs, so to speak, and so on. Essentially, this system favours the more experienced PvPer(s). An experienced PvPer is going to worry less about losing their own items and quite simply “go for the gold”. Expect to see your “high rollers”, and those that figuratively just gambled away their life savings.
What kind of behaviour would a “Loot Everything” system encourage? Team fighting? Mob mentality? Ganking? Possibly nothing different to what you’d see on a standard PvP server in any game right now, but there’s only so much losing all your in-game possessions a player can take, and even the most hardcore of PvPers may become discouraged after losing their prized possessions, but you may call this incentive to persevere: So much to gain, so much to lose. I mean, you’d lose your weapon of choice, your armour, jewels and so on, and would have to start from scratch. On top of that, you’d lose Bloodcoins making those special PvP-only items even further out of reach (if not acquired already), forcing a player to go back and fight with newly purchased PvE items. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think everyone could be happy with a full-looting system.
One Item Looting
Some might consider this to be a safer gamble, but how would it be decided on which item would be lost after being defeated by another player? Would bound items be exempt, or would it be one item randomly selected by game mechanics? Regardless of how items are selected, I think it would be safe to say with a system like this, a mob mentality and ganking is less likely to occur as a means of “farming” other players for their gear. One item looting would actually encouraged more one versus one combat as players would not have to worry about being defeated and having all their items shared amongst a group of, yes, gankers. So the lone wolf-type PvPer should not be afraid in venturing out to the Border Kingdoms or adventuring alone in a FFA environment.
The only issue with one item looting, as earlier mentioned, would be on what items would be eligible for looting: all or non-bound items? An “all items eligible” system would give this particular method of looting a lucky-dip feel, or what some might call the Forrest Gump effect, because “You never know what you’re gonna get”. If the system was worked out to be random in nature, that is more of a game of luck, then the equation would simply be that if you want decent loot, you’re going to have to spend more time PvPing, unless of course you’re absolutely lucky the first time around.
With this system you’d have to assume it would work just as it sounds: what ever is in your back-pack at the time of defeat is there for the plundering. The good thing about this sort of looting system would be that items already equipped (weapon of choice, armour, jewels, etc.) would be safe from grubby little hands (since they’d be out of your back-pack and on your body), so there’d be no tears shed (not to say that any of you would actually cry over something like this, right?) over losing your hard-earned items. An item required for a quest may be exempt (like 10 boar hoofs for an NPC alchemist or whatever), but otherwise if it’s in your back-pack, you’re going to lose it!
The sensible player with this system would ensure that any valuable item in their back-pack was stored in an in-game vault (bank or guild-house) before entering into the PvP environment. This way, the only thing a player would have to lose would be anything they have accumulated from any other player on the play field, so in the end you may just end up breaking even, no biggie. This option is probably the least “hardcore” of the ideas thrown out there, as there are ways of avoiding being looted of any decent unequipped items. For the loot enthusiast, this may be an option that bears too much risk for very little or quite possibly even no reward.
Okay, so those are the ideas Gaute put out there (and please keep in mind they were just ideas – nothing definitive), and I’ve broken them down and run through them with a fine-tooth comb, but what about the concept of looting itself? The idea of looting lends itself well to almost any MMORPG, and is no different for ‘Age of Conan’. This is a world filled with brigands, thieves, swine (and the bacon-type too), scoundrels (Han?), pirates, and those who just want copious amounts of bling (please note that Robert E. Howard never used the word “bling” in his works), so realistically, and for the sake of immersion, perhaps looting should be expected. I, personally, would be welcoming of it, but in a form that everyone could live with. Of the three different systems Gaute threw out there, which would you prefer (and please, feel free to leave a comment with your preference), or can you think of something better?
For most PvPers, perhaps the reward of Bloodcoins is not enough, and the penalty of losing only Bloodcoins on defeat is not serious enough. In addition to his comments about a looting system, Gaute said:
“We want risk. As to reward, this is much better.”
And he’s right: the reward of loot for defeating another player is much better because it adds that element of risk in a PvP setting. Having something at stake, like a prized possession, makes the PvP encounter all the more interesting, and for most, a lot more fun. Think of it this way: You and your buddy have made a friendly bet on the outcome of a football game (Gridiron for you Yanks, and Soccer for you Euros). You and your friend put nothing at stake except your own pride and there’s nothing to win except bragging rights. Throw some money (or a ridiculous punishment) into the mix, and things suddenly get interesting. Why? Because bragging rights last only as long as until you make the next bet, and so the desire for a bit of wager revenge wanes.
As soon as a player loses and item or a hard-earned bit of loot, typically, the player’s desire to win it back increases, and the only way to get it back, in a PvP scenario, would be to fight for it. The same happens in a friendly wager – what starts out as a friendly bet may all of a sudden turn into “double or nothing”. Would victory be not all the sweeter when you have won back your items and gained those (or one or two) belonging to your opponent?
Funcom realises that looting is not everyone’s cup of tea (or “bowl of steaming mead” – what the hell was that all about?), and so looting will not be implemented on every server type. But for the PvP/RPvP servers (yes, we’re still waiting for clarity on that issue itself) looting certainly seems like making its way in. So now, responsibility falls on Funcom developers and beta testers. Looting systems like the three mentioned earlier should be tested, and feedback given by the beta player-base should be taken very seriously. In other words, the customer is going to want a feature with a product they are going to get the most enjoyment from, and while I can’t see Funcom not putting looting in-game, they’re going to have to be careful with the way it finally winds up on release. So the challenge has been set: Funcom, implement a looting system that every PvPer can live with.
Conclusively, it is evident that ‘Age of Conan’ developers want to implement a looting system that fundamentally is fun, drives players to fight more and more, and build a strong and competitive PvP community. No matter what your view is on looting, and whether you’re a “hardcore” PvPer or not, be constructive with your feedback regarding PvP item looting. PvP should be more interesting for those willing to take the risks, as “Fortune favours the bold” and “Nothing risked, nothing gained”.
Until next fortnight, this is Stephen “weezer” Spiteri,
Want to contact me? Then email me here.
© Stephen Spiteri, June 2007