Values and Rules

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Syl's at it again, stealing ideas before I could even think of them.  Pretty awful, right?  Now she's talking about loot rules and how people have different perspectives on when it is okay to roll or not.

I'm of the general opinion that laws should be based on values.  These values may be general, such as valuing human life, resulting in specific laws regarding murder, pollution, and healthcare.  I suspect people share my opinion on this (laws based on values), though the particular values will not be the same.  This is why we have voting, compromise, and geographic and other separations of jurisdictions.  The idea there is that I live under the laws I want and you under the laws you want and if there is overlap, we have to work things out somehow so that the resulting laws are not in excessive conflict with either of our values.

This is why we have legislatures which get voted in and out, petitions and protests, and at times, even have direct democracy, with the public voting on particular rules.

Games tend to have none of these.  Instead, there is just a set of rules.  In the case of this subject, loot rules.  The developers say "These are the rules for action and beside a few anti-scamming rules, if you can roll on it you may roll on it."  The result is that people of widely different values are playing under the same rules.  This is inevitably going to result in disappointment.

What's to be done about it?  Some would say that there is nothing wrong, but denying the existence of a problem doesn't actually solve it.  Given that the problem in this case is a matter of individual perspective, of what is a fair loot system, the perception of a problem is the problem, though obviously it is a bigger or smaller problem depending on how many people care and to what extent.

I suggest a "create your own rules" system.  Developers would create a set of rules which could be set on or off and given thresholds and groups could then create a rule set which works for them, and people wishing to join the group would accept or reject the rules.  For example, there could be a "minimum bosses killed before current" rule, which Syl might want to set to 2, so that if a player has not killed at least 2 bosses with the group before the final, they will be ineligible to roll.  Players who dislike carrying others might set a minimum percentage of damage done.  Players queuing up for groups would then have the option to toggle whether they'd automatically accept certain rules, reject others, and manually accept or reject particular sets.

It's complex, of course.  That's what happens when trying to create rules that more closely match the values of those playing under them.  The question whether the complexity is worth it.


Syl said...

Yep indeed. In the case of a 5man it sure isn't worth it. It's interesting though that in a guild the question of loot distribution will always come up and usually a better, more complex system is installed. And why? - because people want to get along longterm. 5mans benefit from shortness and lack of consequences. A ton of people behave more greedy or inconsiderate in pugs than they would among guildmates or friends.

The beauty is though, I don't need a different system in a PuG; I still have the freedom to be courteous and pass for someone else, if I feel he deserves an item more than me. ;) the system might entitle me to the loot but might makes not right - and people are still responsible for their own choices.

Feliz said...

Replace laws with morals and see where that gets you. Every person has its own set of morals, dictated by the society they live in and grew up in.

As for law and rules, look at how real laws come into existence: People start doing things in a certain way. In the beginning, not many people participate anyway, and not many rules are needed, since the system is usually policing itself. As more people come in, eventually somebody will start gaming the system and look for loopholes, trying to optimize his personal outcome. Eventually, there will be laws and regulations, trying to keep the worst abusers in check.

The problem with laws and regulations is, they simplify outcomes and create disadvantages in certain places. A large group, like players in PuGs /LFG's systems doesn't take the time to define them beforehand, therefore, they will have to use the simplified "laws". Those simplified laws just can't take into account that somebody else needs an item more or has contributed more to the success of the mission. But the simplified need/greed laws are still better than a survival of the fittest rule who'd give loot to the player that arrives first at the corpse.

Kring said...

Awesome, I would have to check with my lawyer before accepting any group invite. :)

Klepsacovic said...

@Syl: You're right, it may be too complex for 5-mans. I wonder if something like "LFD DKP" would work, where players get some sort of points from boss kills which then give some weighting to rolls. It wouldn't directly fix the "this guy joined for the last boss" problem, but it might help players recognize that the player hasn't spent their entire play time getting nothing but last bosses. They slogged through with someone.

@Feliz: I specifically chose the word "values" rather than "morals" because, at least as I use it, values are not based on religion and people can more easily reach compromise.

The current system is better than the "first to loot" of games past, but "players in PuGs /LFG's systems doesn't take the time to define them beforehand" is precisely the point: people aren't able to make any rules ahead of time, so they're subject to a system which they may disagree with, with poor alternatives.

Kring said...

> I wonder if something like "LFD DKP" would
> work, where players get some sort of points
> from boss kills

It's called Badge of Justice.

Syl said...


this isn't really a question of laws though; N/G is just the suggested system and it gives you several options on how to act. it's not 'illegal' to pass on an item after all. the system doesn't even say that it isn't greedy to roll in a certain situation - it only says that you 'can' roll.
the interesting part is how people roll need and in which situations - also in which groups. and how they defend their choices by referring to the system (or rather the lack of sanctions). the system is a tool free of morals actually, it's our choice how we use it even if some like to ignore this.

and morals are definitely not universal; but then again in most situations the great majority of people would actually defend the concept of having to earn your share. in real life our salary is based on an individual contract and not a group-vote at the end of every month. am fairly certain most people prefer this. ;) in an MMO PuG suddenly the same 'morals' don't seem to apply anymore and people take as much as they can rather than what they earned. gelegenheit macht diebe? (= opportunity breeds thieves). it's actually a bit of a worrying example of how, when laws and regulations are gone, people will behave.
that's what happens in many PuGs because N/G is actually fairly low on regulating a specific action - and funny enough exactly this gives opportunity to caveman instincts à la 'survival of the fittest', for example 'take what you can and run'.

tangentially, I don't think the only alternative to a flawed system is an even worse one - that last argument strikes me as defeatist. we've certainly progressed but we're not at the end of the road. in terms of loot systems in MMOs there are many interesting options around in games - funny enough those that get the most praise like in DDO, are the least 'free' systems: the distribution is entirely determined by the system and on individual player level. one can make guesses as to why the devs perceived this to be a better way of doing things...I have a hunch or two.

Feliz said...

@Syl re: "Gelegenheit macht Diebe". I've lost much of my faith in humanity after the wall and iron curtain came down. Looking at the speed criminal organisations took over in Eastern Europe and often are still in charge has left some scars. To me, it's not just a worrying example, it's reality. And I don't believe that this has changed much in the past 3000 years or so. Only the venue where it happens has changed.

This carries over into your PUG / LFD. If you don't have social control over your fellow players, like you have in a guild or among your personal friends, your only protection is to be selfish. (No, I am not a Libertarian :)

Of course, a system like Kleps proposes would help moving the fairness of looting forward in the same way as the step from free for all loot systems to Need/Greed did.

But I have one deeper concern here: The frequency of winning loot, or completing sets of tiered armor is dictated by the developers. Somewhere in the system, the developer wants you to spend 80 hours (number made up on the spot) to complete your basic armor set of 5 pieces. If all players need that long on average, the developers are happy. That you, individually needed 20 hours for your tier 10 set and 150 hours for your tier 11 set doesn't matter.

Any loot system that takes out the randomization, and therefore lowers the time to complete your set will have to lower the probability that good loot drops. It needs to do this in order to balance the playtime and to keep you from rushing through content. On top of it, they can't just say "so be it" and allow for faster completion time, since on the other end, you will become to frustrated because the game's to easy in its dumbed down form.

But as Kring says, the fairest loot system is a badge system. And it takes the excitement of loot rolls completely out. How much fun would it be to just use a badge system, instead of random loot drops?

Maybe I need to write my own post now: "Loot drama is part of the game"

Klepsacovic said...

@Kring: The badge system is a currency with no effect at all on the distribution of boss drops. It also does not have the effect of sending information that the player has slogged through, as the LFD DKP system would, so badges, while they are fair, do not change the sense of unfairness of people winning the loot from the single boss.

@Feliz: My system wouldn't necessarily make things more fair, but it would mean that if people are under an unfair set of rules, it is a set they chose.

I don't think the average time to complete a set would be significantly altered. The drops itself are unchanged, merely the distribution. Since everyone starts with the same need for pieces, there is no average speed boost by concentrating or dispersing the items. The only thing that might change is that there would be fewer "needless ninjas", by which I mean, people would not take set pieces that they do not need from those who do need them, which would slightly increase the average, but I do not think this would be significant.

Feliz said...

I guess it would take some serious math to prove or disprove what we both said about the impact to completion time.

I have one additional thought about the badge system: What Syl seemed to criticize was the fact that the final boss had so much more loot than the others. Therefore, Syp didn't contribute fully to the success of the dungeon.
This could be addressed with a system that awards loot solely by difficulty. If they want to reward you for completing a dungeon, then give loot to the individual at the end. Amount and quality of dungeon loot can then be aligned to overall contribution.

Klepsacovic said...

In regard to the math, I'm seeing a few ways a drop can turn out. It can be useless to everyone, so that my system has no effect. It can be useful to someone and within that, it can either go to someone who needs it or someone who does not. My loot system would cause more loot to go toward people who need it. How much it would shift it depends on some information we don't have: how much ninjaing would be altered under my system, for which I don't even have an estimate. What could be done is to randomly sample boss kills and see how much gets ninjaed, thereby having an estimate for how much ninjaing slows set completion.

Beside the difficulty, there is still the slogging through part. On average, you'll fight the last boss less often than the first. The longer the instance the greater chance that a group disbands, especially if there later bosses are harder than earlier. That means that you still cannot isolate each boss as a unit of effort, since it takes increasing effort just to get from boss to boss, effort which is not needed from someone who joins late.

Anonymous said...

@Klep: Oddly you suggest more variety of systems for players to choose from. Truth is, there are already different group loot options in most MMOs. Players don't use them.

I think all of you have hinted at something but haven't said it yet. It's that relative time to gear-up, a parameter set by the designers, impacts how often good loot drops. This in turn creates fiercer competition for ANY piece of valuable loot, whether a player can use it or not. No greater variety of group loot options will address this. It's frustrating by design for all players.

Klepsacovic said...

The other options I've seen have generally been worthless. Round Robin makes little sense when gear isn't universally useful. Master looter is the key one, in that it is then used so that players can use their own systems. Unfortunately, any fairer systems rely on master looter, making them impractical for randoms. Even worse, it is frequently not possible to switch loot systems.

Certainly there will always be competition. My goal was only to reduce the frustration and ninjaing. Only a system in which everyone gets the drop would fix that, and I don't like that system much beyond a supplemental badge system.

Anonymous said...

You're right that the default loot options that are in games, like round robin, are extremely useless. Does not go well for the reasons you state.

I'm not sure how I feel about badge systems anymore, but for PUGs it's probably the best loot system available. Everyone leaves the dungeon closer to loot they actually want and while they're in there they may find something. But you're right, there should be some middle-ground solution to make grouping less controversial.

There is the system that DDO uses (and a couple other MMOs these days) and that's a system where things only drop for each player and they don't see each others' loot. So if there's pally, mage, and rogue in a group when a boss dies, he will drop something for ALL of them, all the time. It may not be an upgrade, but at least it's a non-controversial piece of loot that's always theirs.

WoW could benefit greatly from something like this, but ...yeah. How's GW2 handling this?

Klepsacovic said...

@Doone: This discussion has led me to think more than ever, that the anonymous grouping is the problem. When we'll never see someone again, it's much easier to feel cheated, especially when there is no way to retaliate against unjust actions (such as telling their guild or trade chat). Still, given that anonymous PUGs seem to be the future, maybe it's best to given up the current concepts of loot distribution and just hand out something to everyone.

I haven't looked into how GW2 is handling it. I'm hoping to not care much.

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