Ferrel has an interesting post up over on his blog Epic Slant. He takes a closer look at the item generation mechanics of WoW and other MMOs. He has an opinion which I haven’t heard discussed in a long time; MMOs were better off when mobs dropped named loot instead of the randomly attributed items we’re seeing now. He looks back upon the original Everquest and recounts pleasant memories of planning out his playtime to achieve his gearing goals. Even though I never played Everquest, I can definitely relate.

I have to say, I miss that old loot system. Like Ferret, this was something I enjoyed when I used to play MUDs. Back then, a “Greatsword of Darkened Will” meant something. If you had an item like that, you obviously put some time and effort into getting it. And the best part? Some random item you bought on auction didn’t compare to it. These items also tended to carry the name of its previous owner or even a description when you examined them. More than anything though, they mattered. The “name” meant something. Nowadays, a “Battlemace of Black Death” can compare to the “Wizzlewomper of the Goldfish” someone found on a level 8 gnoll.

There’s something to be said for these mechanics of old. Named items meant more named mobs, which made the open world that much more important. Not every drop was great, of course, (you could find a crappy named item fairly easily) but there was a wide variation. Much like the raids we see now, if you put in enough effort and had the knowledge to back that effort up, you could gear yourself up with items the majority of other people couldn’t. I don’t think we need an elitist loot system by any means, but I do think that a game that had this kind of loot system would have much more emphasis on the actual game world instead of instanced dungeons. I believe that MMOs should be mini worlds unto themselves. Instancing is fine but none is better.

Vanguard had a system like this. Right on “Trial Island” you’ll encounter several named mobs that drop equippable gear. It was a nostalgic experience to start off in a game wearing an item like “Varian’s Jewelled Pendant” instead of “Gold Chain of the Monkey”. I didn’t get too far into Vanguard but I’ve yet to hear any complaints about this type of system. MMOers being as vocal as they are, silence must mean good things, right?

In this day and age, we’d be most likely to see a mix of the old system and the new system. That’s fine with me. So many facets of the past have gone by the wayside; there’s no more equipping gear to improve your level gains, no more big death penalties, no more renowned killers or rp’ers. The scope of our genre has grown too massive and most game developers have given up on these traits to open the door to more players. I don’t blame them, MMOs are wonderful games and the more people that can enjoy them, the better. The variation of logical looting could still work, however, and I hope we see its return in some up and coming title.

Nice post, Ferrel. I agree.