Imagine this familiar scene: An oversized carcass lays strewn across the snow, a purple light emanating gently from its corpse. A group of players run hurriedly over, frantically clicking before bothering to resurrect fallen comrades or paying any mind to that strange puddle of goo beneath their feet. A chorus of elation and vulgarity-laced groans can be heard throughout Ventrilo and the chat log floods with “brb bio.” What happens next is the reason many players engage in endgame PVE in the first place. You rub your eyes, carefully open your bags and sure enough, find that singular piece of loot that has eluded you for oh-so-long.
At some point in his or her MMO career, every player has experienced this moment of euphoria. At this same junction between effort and payoff however exists a lurking, fragile thing that can otherwise ruin the experience for nearly the entire group: loot distribution politics. A majority of the angst and disagreements often found within a guild, or even a pick-up group, is caused by perceived discrepancies regarding loot distribution. MMO players as a rule have very little to no tolerance for the mismanagement of loot assignments, so how can you be certain to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with raid looting? The answer is simple: you need a system.
Read on below the jump for highlights and explanations of a number of commonly used MMO loot systems, one of which might just be right for you.
Aside from strong leadership, the success or failure of a PVE-driven guild depends heavily on its loot policy. Below are highlights of a few systems that have worked their way into the current SWTOR Operation structure, some more popular than others, but all with the same goal…providing a framework devised to equitably distribute loot.
The Needy and the Greedy (Need vs. Greed)
The traditional “Need Versus Greed” system works well in almost any MMO, and Star Wars: The Old Republic is no different. The argument can be made that this really is not a system at all or at least a default system as the game prompts a “Need”/“Greed” window with every piece of loot that drops in a group environment. Players who wish to roll for an item that will improve their Advanced Class gear set will roll Need and players who wish to roll for an item that they wish to sell or equip on a companion can roll Greed. There are arbitrary rules that can be applied to this system and a smart Ops leader will announce them before the Operation begins so that all players are clear on the rules. “Pug” groups usually splinter because of a failure of communication about how loot will be distributed. If a special item like a vehicle or a schematic drops then players should know in advance whether or not they should roll Need or Greed. The “Master Looter” option removes most of these headaches but if a group chooses not to assign a Master Looter then the rules need to be clear before an Operation begins.
Some guilds who choose to adopt this uncomplicated system may apply additional rules so that a single player cannot continuously win roll after roll, collecting all of the loot for a particular class, unless that player happens to be the only one needing it. Guilds can institute a “one and done” type of system which means that once a player has won a main spec item, they cannot win any additional items until another player of the same class has also won their first piece. This guideline tends to even things out and most players feel comfortable knowing that they are likely to win loot on a regular basis under this system.
“That’s a 50 DKP Minus!!” (DKP & EPGP)
One of the unspoken tenets of any loot system is the need to reward effort. Devotees of a particular system may argue its merits over another but the common thread, with only a few exceptions, is that long-term effort should usually result in more loot. If a system results in some players receiving more loot for less effort then the structure of that particular system should be revisited. The most common way to reward effort is by giving points to Ops members for a variety of activities. Some guilds award points for boss kills only. Others award them for showing up 15 minutes early, for achieving guild Ops goals (short of an actual boss kill, typically during new or progression encounters), or even penalize players for poor performance or failing to execute an assigned mechanic. DKP and EPGP are two of the most common point systems utilized in MMORPGs today. Below is a brief explanation of each and their functions.
DKP – DKP is an acronym for “Dragon Kill Points.” The lettering works for Star Wars The Old Republic as well since “Droids” are a familiar enemy, so you can think of it in those terms instead. This system is among the more popular and prevalent in today’s MMO landscape because it commonly rewards participants evenly for their efforts and gives players more control in how they go about gearing their characters. The foundation of a DKP system is a flat points reward distributed to every player that takes part in a boss kill. The more bosses you fell, the more points you accrue. Points can also be added or deducted based on incentives or penalties decided by the guild master or Ops leader. Most guilds that utilize DKP will post the current point totals of each member as well as details of all acquired loot on a website for tracking, planning and archival purposes.
Loot distribution under the DKP system works as follows. Say the unassembled Rakata Bounty Hunter Gloves drop from the Annihilation Droid XRR-3 in The Eternity Vault and there are two Bounty Hunters in the raid, neither of which already has them. It is likely that both will be interested in the item and so the determination of who receives priority is decided by the players’ current DKP totals. The Loot Master will simply glance at the DKP standings and award the gloves to whichever player has the greater number of DKPs. Under this system the item goes to the player with more DKPs, no exceptions (assuming that player does not elect to “pass”). The player who wins the item will have a portion or all of their DKPs removed from their score; the actual amount to be subtracted is at the discretion of the guild’s particular system.
The same loot situation can be applied to a variant of the basic DKP system in which players “bid” on items. Instead of simply handing loot to the player with the highest number of points, the item is auctioned off in either a chat window or verbally with all interested players taking turns making high bids. This is a slightly more complex system and it requires players to pay more attention during loot distribution as often times there are chat window protocols that require the player to respond quickly and decisively when it comes their turn to bid. There are usually a few rounds of bidding in which all participants have a chance to post their bid or drive up the price in hopes of eliminating competition for the item. This type of DKP system does not favor new players as they usually have a much smaller bank of points to bid with and can sometimes go weeks, or even a month or more, without winning an item depending on the progression and gear set of other players.
EPGP – This system works similarly to DKP in that it rewards players for effort. EPGP stands for “Effort Points/Gear Points”. Effort points are usually awarded for boss kills and Gear points are added to a player whenever they take Main Spec or Off Spec loot. A priority system is then created based on a flat ratio of EP/GP. For example if Player A has 200 EP and 1000 GP then that player would have a .20 priority. Player B in the same guild could have 200 EP and 800 GP (the same amount of effort as Player A, but having received fewer pieces of loot) giving them a .25 priority. Player’s B’ .25 priority would trump the .20 priority of Player A and would allow them to select the next piece of loot eligible to their Advanced Class. If Player B received an item with a value of 300 GP, his new priority rate would become .18 (200 EP / 1100 GP), putting him again behind Player A.
To prevent the problem of “point hoarding” (where over time some players are able to amass vast numbers of points and hence effectively control all loot decisions for their class), both systems can be regulated by the use of a “decay” mechanic. This term refers to a standard rate of decay that is applied to all players, wherein their point totals gradually decrease over time. Some guilds choose to do this so that players cannot take long leaves of absence with a gigantic pool of points only to return eight weeks later, still with a dominant loot position. The decay can also encourage players to take more loot rather than hoarding points for a particularly desired item that may never drop. This would theoretically bolster a team’s collective gearing since players will be more hesitant to hold onto their points. If players are constantly taking upgrades, the entire group will prove a stronger unit. This does not mean that point hoarding is impossible however. Most decay rates are weak enough that a player could conceivably hold out for long periods of time in hopes of nabbing a huge upgrade and still be atop the loot list. Typically only the most active and consistent players are capable of maintaining such a position, so the desire to “punish” them for this behavior is certainly open to debate.
(If you didn't catch the "That's a 50 DKP Minus!!" WoW reference, you owe it to yourself to check this out. Watch the whole thing. Trust us.)
We Judge Thee Worthy of Loot! (Loot Council)
This system is very straightforward with litle ambiguity. Loot is distributed by a selected group of players (typically guild officers or raid leaders) who determine which piece of loot is assigned to whom. This system is seldom practiced because individuals sometimes feel that they deserve a particular piece of loot over another player, only to be frustrated by the council’s decision. This system is usually found within tightly-knit guilds that have been together for a long period of time, with a solid record of raid progression and cooperation. Players within this system place a great deal of trust in the council to do what is right and to ensure that the proper choice is made when it comes time to hand out the spoils.
Other MMOs have seen a lot of “World First”-type guilds utilize a council system for a variety of reasons. For one: experience. Such groups have gone through the rigors of competitive PVE and the guild leadership knows which characters and classes to gear first; the players usually fall in line with little or no resistance because their method is tried and true. Another reason is that competitive guilds recruit players on a trial basis in order to judge performance and those players are unlikely to receive high-end gear unless they have proven themselves and are offered a permanent spot on the roster. Guilds of this caliber do not want to award “best in slot” quality gear to players that might not be around in a few weeks. The council system is a way for guilds such as this to protect themselves and to ensure that loot rarely goes to waste.
Star Wars: The Old Republic does not have progression tracking at the moment so the absence of highly competitive PVE makes it somewhat less likely that players will run into a loot council scenario in their travels, at least for the time being.
Climbing the Ladder (Ladder / Round-Robin / Suicide Kings)
Another system that has gained in popularity recently is something called the “Ladder” system (variants include Round-Robin, Suicide Kings), under which players have a set order in which they receive loot. Once this schema has been agreed upon for distribution, players conduct a roll-off ("/random" command) to determine loot order and then strictly adhere to it. This system has interesting implications when examining the hard mode loot from Operation: Denova. The Unassembled Pieces that drop from the four Hard mode bosses in this Operation are not class-specific as they are in the Story mode version, or in both the Hard mode and Nightmare mode versions of The Eternity Vault and Karraga’s Palace. Any-player class will therefor be eligible to roll on the unassembled pieces. An eight player Operation that consistently runs a full weekly clear of HM Denova could likely guarantee that all players receive loot in a two week span. An alternative way to construct a ladder would be to examine what each boss drops in a specific Operation and plan the loot order around what each player’s greatest needs currently are. This should result in less passing and a more efficient ladder system in the short term until the team is fully geared, but at the expense of a greater time investment in prior planning.
The only real flaw in this system occurs when players within the ladder are absent from a run. The replacement player needs to take the vacant spot in the ladder on a temporary basis or the group can decide to roll for a new order. Another issue can arise if the guild decides to allow players to pass their turn because they have either previosuly received a piece of loot for a particular item slot or if they deem a drop to be a downgrade to their current gear. The group can choose to hold that player's priority for the next boss, or force the player to wait until the ladder completes another full cycle. Holding the player’s priority is usually the best option in this situation as a player should not be penalized for passing on a duplicate piece of loot.
Deep Pockets (Currency Auction)
In-game currency-based loot systems are a fun and interesting way to simultaneously gear players in an Operation while adding to their bankrolls. The way this system works is that all players pay a fee to enter the Operation and then loot is bid upon using in-game currency. The Master Looter acts as treasurer and is charged with keeping track of all the credits used by players to purchase loot as well as the entry fee. To sweeten the pot, a minimum bid for all items is announced before the raid begins and any player who wishes to purchase an item must meet the minimum bid requirement. At the end of the Operation all players split the pot evenly.
Example: Eight players each pay a 400,000 credit entry fee to take part in a Karagga’s Palace Hard mode Operation. Current pot = 3.2 million credits. The minimum bid for any Unassembled Rakata-level gear that drops is set at 200,000 credits. At the end of the Operation 10 Rakata-level items have been bid upon and sold for an average of 300,000 credits. Current pot = 6.2 million. If no other items were sold or bid upon then every player in the Operation would receive 775,000 credits, nearly doubling their entry fee. This theoretical equation excludes exotic crafting materials, schematics, vehicles, color crystals and any other loot that could potentially receive a bid. In this system players benefit from either an increase in personal gear OR an increase in personal wealth. In other words, nobody goes home a loser. If nothing else its adds a twist to the loot process and can be a good way to break the monotony of the weekly Operation grind.
The only time this system would become less profitable to the group is when the group out-gears the Operation and no one elects to bid on the items. This system is actually more enjoyable and profitable for slightly under-geared pug groups that still have the potential to clear content. A good place to round up players for currency-based runs is server forums or in general chat. Once players realize that it isn’t a scam to steal their credits it can become a great way to gear your toons, earn credits, meet new friends and potentially assemble a regular Ops team.
Additional Image Sources