The last few years have seen World of Warcraft’s loot system getting worse, and worse, and worse. The oversized, bloated loot tables that started years ago continue to plague raids with horrible droughts and drops that they don’t need. In Firelands my raid went 8 full weeks without seeing a single melee item. Our experience was not exceptional or unheard of. I am friends with a guild that experienced a similar 6-week loot drought this tier. There are several reasons the antiquated loot system should be changed, as well as several possible solutions to the problem.
The Other Guys Already Solved This
Other MMOs, including some games that are far older than 2004, already have measures to solve the problem. When a class is not present in a raid, the loot system is smart enough not to drop items for that particular class. “Smart Loot” as it’s called, works quite well in a number of games currently on the market, but is not necessarily the best solution. Warcraft doesn’t really have class-restricted loot anymore, and the commonality of offspecs means that raids might actually want pieces that aren’t suited for anyone currently in the raid. Especially when a raid is mostly finished with a zone and people have mostly just offspec items left to get, this kind of smart looting system would not be ideal for Warcraft. Smart Loot traditionally works in games where each class only has one possible role, even though it would reduce some of the extra bloat Warcraft’s loot tables have.
We’re Getting Less Drops
A big reason why Warcraft’s loot system has been so problematic this tier is that we, as raiders, are getting less loot over time. Many Dragon Soul bosses drop only one piece of gear from their loot table now instead of two, making it more than three times as likely that a specific item drop won’t be seen over the course of 4 months (30% chance vs 9% chance). It’s actually worse than the drop rate being cut in half. This is apparently due to 25man groups getting too much loot, and I can agree that it was a bit excessive that they were getting 9 items per Shannox kill, but the current system where 10mans get only one item plus a tier token, with the loot tables continuing to be large and bloated, simply doesn’t work. If this reduced rate of loot is going to continue, which it could, the current system absolutely must be changed.
Random Drops Proven To Not Work
Random loot drops in raids have been attempted in all three tiers this expansion. In Tier 11, Throne of the Four Winds dropped only set-pieces that contained random stats. This actually worked the best out of all three tiers, and some of these items were actually good, however the drops were focused mostly on very restrictive belts and legs rather than the preferred non-restrictive, more inclusive rings that dropped from Conclave. In Tier 12, random drops consisted of non-best-in-slot weapons, which served as a decent stopgap until the best weapons dropped, but soon into the tier these drops became a waste of a drop. Also, this random-from-any-boss concept introduced the problem of unpredictability, meaning that a guild with a bench can have problems with people not wanting to sit even on bosses they don’t need loot from, due to the chance of a random drop instead. This unpredictability is very bad. In Tier 13 this unpredictability continued, except now many of the random drops actually are best-in-slot, causing people to be even less inclined to sit even when they don’t need any regular drops. It also means that a non-useful random drop takes the place of what may have been a useful regular drop, and completely wastes that boss’ loot for the week. The 30% chance to never see a specific item over the course of 4 months actually goes even higher than that.
Furor Has Become The Dinosaur He Hated
Regular drops aren’t the only problem. Another problem that has received even more complaints during Cataclysm is the issue of tier tokens. While tier token drops often resolve themselves over time, for many groups they do not, and the fact that the probability of it happening is so low really doesn’t excuse the fact that it does happen for many groups. If 50000 raid groups clear Dragon Soul every single week, 512 of those raid groups are going to see 5-out-of-5 Vanquisher tokens. Some may argue that that’s a small number but it’s really not; lots of groups complain all the time that they got a specific type of token 4 or 5 or 8 or more times consecutively. The small chance does not excuse the fact that it does happen to real people on a regular basis. 512 raid groups is anywhere from 5 to 15 thousand people, it isn’t a small amount.
Back in 2001, when Furor was just a regular player, he popularized the call for MMOs to adopt a tier token system in the first place, and they did because of his campaign. That was 11 years ago though, when the raid size was anywhere from 72 to 300 (yes, really); the loot system today is just as antiquated and unsuitable as the loot systems were back then. The current style of tier tokens does not function properly for small raid sizes, because of the way 1-drop-per-week often causes problems. You might feel that the low probability makes this a blip in the system, but the people who actually experience these problems every week don’t enjoy being called a blip in the system, and they especially don’t like being ignored. For some guilds the tier token issues have been going on for four consecutive tiers now; those people don’t feel like it’s a blip. Now Furor personally keeps the antiquated status quo in place, and I’m not sure if he’s aware of the irony.
Let’s Talk About Solutions
Having already established that Everquest-style Smart Loot systems aren’t really suitable for Warcraft due to the popularity of offspecs and keeping options open, there are however still ways to innovate. The first, simpler solution is to widen tier tokens. If you aren’t going to bring back all-class, trophy-style tokens (though you should, Essence of the Forlorn worked wonderfully), then widening the tokens beyond just 3-4 classes would still go a long ways towards solving the problem. A token for only 3 classes has a 16.8% chance of not dropping over the course of 5 weeks; that’s outrageously high. A token for 6 classes has only a 1.5% chance over the course of 5 weeks that a class will not see their token. 6 classes able to use a token sounds high, but this can be remedied by adding a fourth token type, and allowing each class to use two.
Current system of 3 tokens and 10 classes, with each class able to use 1 token – 3 classes (30% chance), 3 classes (30% chance), 4 classes (40% chance)
Proposed system of 4 tokens and 11 classes, with each class able to use 2 tokens – 6 classes (27% chance), 6 classes (27% chance), 5 classes (23% chance), 5 classes (23% chance)
This sort of widening is imperative with how small raid sizes have become over the years. Tokens (or molds, as they used to be called a decade ago) were okay for 25-man raids, or 40-man raids, or 54-man raids, or 72-man raids, or even more, but when the size drops down to ten the probability becomes a problem.
Let’s Get Even Crazier
The last suggestion I want to make as far as changing the current loot process is even less conventional. It involves giving a small degree of choice when it comes to raid drops by shrinking the loot table, introducing a ban-draft not unlike what you’d see in League of Legends or other, similar games. Through a UI feature (the encounter journal works well for this), a raidleader would be allowed to choose a certain number of items before a boss fight that the boss will not drop when killed. If Morchok’s loot table is 16 items, allowing us to ban-draft four of those items brings the loot table down to a more manageable twelve, which is still a little bit bloated for 10-man raids but not outrageously so. It also gives the raid a little bit of choice without going so overboard as to let the raid choose which items drop; it simply narrows the table down by excluding things the raid doesn’t want.
This sort of narrowing, combined with the removal of important items randomly dropping from a multitude of bosses, would make loot much more predictable and rewarding, without requiring much of a framework change from Blizzard. If loot is going to continue to be one-per-boss, it’s absolutely important that something is done about the overly large tables. Even if loot doesn’t continue to be one-per-boss, this method still reduces waste raid loot substantially, which was a major complaint even before Blizzard amplified it terribly by reducing the amount of loot drops. The current 30%+ chance to never see a specific, non-random item after 4 months cannot be allowed to continue, and by allowing raids to ban-draft 15-25% of the available loot table, this “never-drop” chance is reduced to 22%. That’s still unfortunately probably too high, but allowing the proposed ban-draft plus increasing drops back to two-per-boss reduces the “never-drop” chance to 5.6%. That number looks a lot better.
Ban-Draft Fixes The Token Problem, Too
Additionally, many casual raiders would be very relieved to see tokens eligible for banning. The large number of raids that see 4 or 5 or more of the same token in a row would be able to actually do something about it, and would receive less waste loot overall. It’s easy to sit back and say that only a small percentage of raids see this problem occur, but 1-2% of all raids is not a small number of real people that get to be frustrated by loot problems all the time. Waste loot has been a huge problem in all three tiers this expansion, and has only gotten worse over the course of it. Ban-Drafting attempts to solve part of that problem without being game-able, a criticism Blizzard has made about other suggested solutions to reduce waste loot.
Please Do Something
Loot has been a contentious issue throughout all of Cataclysm. It was announced at the end of Firelands that the loot system would be changing in Dragon Soul, and it did, but this new system is simply not reasonable to anyone who wants to raid 10-man and actually be fully-geared by the end of the tier. Even on non-random items, the chance that a certain drop will never be seen is simply too high, and that discounts the actual random items that may very well also never be seen by a raid. Changes to the system need to occur before we move to tier 14, and I hope this suggestion for innovation at least creates some thought about the problem.