‘Loot’ in Gaming, How Important is Player Incentive?

One of the more common ways a developer keeps their player-base invested in their game for an extended period of time is to employ a ‘loot’ system. The most common example of a loot system is an RNG (Random Number Generator)  systems that randomly give players loot upon completing activities within their game; with similar systems found in games such as Bungie’s Destiny and Blizzard’s Diablo 3.

An argument has recently appeared within the gaming community about whether or not keeping a player engaged through a ‘loot’ system, rather than adding actual substance through gameplay, is the easy option when designing a game. Let’s break down the argument below.

Keeping the player ultimately invested in the game is one of the top priorities for a developer, no matter what systems are put in place. Destiny for example, thrives on a process of using RNG mechanics to reward players throughout the game in the form of ‘engrams’, hexagonal glowing objects that are taken to numerous vendors in Destiny’s social spaces to be turned into tangible usable loot of increasing rarity. It thrives because Bungie had the idea for a loot system even when Destiny was in its conceptual stage. Therefore, Destiny was moulded around the process of a player being rewarded loot at its fundamentals; and it works because of this. It gains its substance and player satisfaction through the player earning of loot, and the subsequent stories a player has surrounding their favourite piece of exotic loot.

One of the biggest complaints surrounding Destiny was it’s repetitive mission design and lack of competent storytelling. Maybe Bungie focused too much on the loot?

A player is likely to become invested if they can engage with their player character. RPG games such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim have almost perfected this formula. You create your own character from complete scratch, and earn loot in the form of weapons, armour and aesthetic pieces to further personalise your experience as a player. This proves that finding the balance of deep and interesting gameplay elements, and an intuitive and exciting loot system that makes the player strive towards earning better gear throughout their time with the game. Having an over-abundance of one and not the other can leave the game feeling lifeless and leaving the player’s experience ultimately being disjointed and disconnected as a result of a lack of looting and customising your player character.

Player incentive is easily one of the most important aspects of a modern game; and as games are continuing to push boundaries and evolve the formula, keeping the player engaged is one of the only aspects of gaming as a whole that won’t ever change and that is striving to keep the player as engaged as possible; even if it is by finding that fancy, shiny looking machine gun you’ve been longing for.

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7 years ago

I understand the importance of loot in many different genres of games. But in FPS games, its being overdone and abused. But its necessary for the developers to include. Why? Because gamers have deemed themselves addicts. No different than being addicted to drugs or gambling. Today, gamers need to feel like they are gambling in order to stick around. They need to experience an illusion of something else being in front of them, instead of playing according to principles and beliefs. Gamers today need loot and then a random generator to feed them stuff. It gets them locked into a cycle of gambling like at a slot machine.There was a time when a gamer population in a FPS game played because they enjoyed the game, were competitive and wanted to be a part of the community. Today they need to feel like they are gambling or they move on to the next fix looking for something to hook them in.