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The loot grind of modern AAA games

  • 02-05-2023 12:05pm
    Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,436 CMod ✭✭✭✭

    Just a bit of a general chat thread about one of the prevalent trends in modern AAA games.

    So I was watching a review or two for Redfall and I immediately was turned off when I saw 'that screen'. You know the one: the Destiny-style character power screen. And sitting beside the character portrait? A bunch of weapons of different rarity colours.

    Of all the negative trends in modern blockbuster games, it might be the loot grind that, well, grinds me down most. Whether it's Horizon or God of War Ragnarok, Deathloop or Redfall, or any of the countless other titles and 'live service' / 'looter shooter' inspired games, there's the RPG-ification of items that really frustrates. Different games do it in different ways - Ragnarok at least has three standard weapons, but then a million configuration and micromanagement options elsewhere - but they're all forcing you to spend too much time in menus to tweak percentage points one way or the other. Games like Horizon are particularly bad offenders IMO, throwing so much weaponry at you with minor stat differences that it's hard to care about any of them.

    Now, of course there are games built around this loot grind - we do have a new Diablo on the way, after all. But it's become commonplace in so many games that don't need it, IMO to the detriment of the game. It doesn't have the sense of discovery and momentum you get with games with a more standard weapon / armour progression system (playing RE4 at the moment and upgrading weapons is a simple joy) or a game with more consistent weapon variety (like the Souls games and their vast troves of unique weaponry).

    Is this just me having a rant or is it something that annoys others too? Or do you disagree and think this is actually a positive trend?


  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 51,372 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    No it's not just you. This thing stick of studio exec interference. 'These systems are in the popular games that sell therefore the developer is mandated to include them to maximise sales'.

    I really don't mind a good upgrade system but the kind that are in these types of games just instantly turn me off. It's like adding complexity by over loading the player with choices but when it comes down to it, these incremental changes to player load out make absolutely zero difference to the player. I mean the 6%-> 8% increase in damage output or against poison damage, is that a change that will actually be felt by the player? There's also abstraction layer between these upgrades and their affect on the game world. People give out about the abstraction of turn based games yet happily put up with this bile. I mean why am I upgrading light points on my armour in destiny? What the hell does it actually mean? When I get a new shotgun in Resi 4 it looks and feels different. +2% to ADP stat? Who cares.

    I really like how From have moved away from this, armour has stats and the stats there do matter but they have basically made the armour classes light, medium and heavy while letting you fashion souls to your hearts content as those stat buffs are only there for the high level play.

    I can only imagine how frustrated game developers are by this. I've gone through college, played all the right games like Super Metroid, SF3 Third Strike and FF Tactics and they are incredible examples of how you can make massively deep games with very simple mechanics. Then you are forced to add this stuff to your game that you know nobody will like. It's just bad game design. There has been a move to make every genre more like a RPG and it was very successful the majority of the time but when your loot system is way more complicated and granular than FF Tactics then you've gone too far.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33,667 ✭✭✭✭Penn

    It's definitely becoming an issue. I even mentioned earlier in the Jedi Survivor thread that there are too many collectibles etc which are all cosmetic or mostly just used for buying cosmetics, to the point where you take on a dangerous fight, maybe it even takes a few tries, you finally beat them and you find a chest which contain your grand prize; a set of earpieces to customise BD1. It's extremely annoying. There's about 5 different types of pieces for BD1, maybe 6 for the lightsaber, about 4 for the gun, maybe 6 for Cal himself, and then colour sets are another collectible. Even if you allow 10 different options for each, that's the guts of 300 different cosmetic items.

    Borderlands 2 was probably one of my first real experiences with a real loot-based game, and for the first few hours I was scouring over the stats for every item dropped, every chest opened etc. After that though, bosses explode into a hundred loot items, and if I don't see purple or orange, it just doesn't matter, and even then it likely doesn't matter anyway. And with each game they keep adding in new types of items to dilute the loot pool further, especially for cosmetic items for a character I can't even f*cking see.

    As for games like God Of War or Horizon where there are RPG-lite elements in terms of the gear, yeah it feels like there can be so little difference between them. There can be cases where the right combo of gear gives you a bit of an advantage, but it's really just all a way of ensuring incremental progression through the open world. Making sure it's much harder to take on enemies in areas you're not really meant to explore yet until you've found or upgraded your gear. That's all it is really, and why as time has gone on I don't really engage with the numbers-game until I start hitting a wall, then will tune up gear to give myself a boost to keep going. Otherwise managing all the different gear, upgrade materials, stats etc would drive me nuts.

    I would say though my most hated aspect of the loot-gear type of system, is RNG. If I know or can google "You go here or you beat this boss and you get this good item", I can do that. If it's "You go here, and this enemy has a 4% chance of dropping this item, but here's the cheese way of beating him quickly so you can grind for the item quicker", f*ck that. I have neither time nor patience for that sh*t no more.

  • Registered Users Posts: 23,171 ✭✭✭✭J. Marston

    It's very annoying these days. I'm enjoying Horizon but loot drops like "6% shock defence coil" is just bleh, who cares. The big damage output ones are okay.

    Compared to getting something like the Albinauric archer's armour in Elden Ring. I remember getting that and letting out a quiet "Yessss." That felt good and rewarding.

  • Registered Users Posts: 29,836 ✭✭✭✭Zero-Cool

    I think it all comes down to the trend that stockholders/upper management want the maximum hours in a game to either show ad companies how many hundreds of hours their average player base are online for and can demand more money with more hours (NBA 2K is a prime example of this) or if your players base is spending a hundred hours picking up pointless loot, it means they're not spending a hundred hours in a competitors game doing the same thing.

    In NBA 2K, the grind is to unlock vc to upgrade your player but the missions have you pointlessly running around a big map from A to B to complete quests. Ton of ad billboards on your travels and hours spent running around means more revenue for 2K. They have no competition for Basketball games so purely greedy tactic.

    Then you have, like mentioned in posts above, out of touch bigwigs who force looting mechanics because FORTNITE or whatever. Like look at the state of the upcoming Suicide squad game. No one wants that shyte, every hates how it looks, game gets delayed but I doubt the bigwigs will be like "yes, maybe we should listen to the players", it will be more "devs, you better make this work". I feel so bad for the devs who are trying to make the best game possible only to have barriers thrown at you by upper management and getting death threats online for the **** game.

    All hail Indies.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,079 ✭✭✭McFly85

    In general I’m tired of the idea that you need to commit hundreds of hours to these games to get anywhere close to the best loot available - and that generally is a temporary thing anyway as new seasons bring new loot and more grinding.

    I like when a game doesn’t outstay it’s welcome, and much prefer a solid 20 hour experience over hundreds of hours of repetitive grind to maybe hope the RNG gods smile upon me to get me loot that won’t get used nearly as long as the time it took to get it.

    I like gaming more than most of my friends but it’s still a hobby to me, I like doing other stuff too! Modern loot grind games seem developed to keep you there as long as possible and I couldn’t be bothered with that.

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  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 51,372 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    The problem with suicide squad, avengers and it's ilk is that they jumped on the bandwagon of service games when Destiny was a massive deal. Games take a long time to make and 5 years later as the game is nearing completion, service games are totally not on trend anymore and most people are sick of them.

    Honestly if you are going to chase trends and deliver a soulless game then I'm happy the publishers at least delivers some schadenfreude.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,086 ✭✭✭Sudden Valley

    To be honest I'm too old for the grind and play on pc so I just use mods (such as wemods or nexus mods) to max out most stats at the very start. That has its own dangers in making the game boring but I cant be wasting my time on copy and paste type side quests.

  • Posts: 2,725 [Deleted User]

    I know they are much maligned, but I’ve always enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed series. Until Valhalla. Just an endless grind of side quests, contracts, river raids and riding around bumping into random strangers etc.

    So boring.

  • Posts: 0 ✭✭✭ [Deleted User]

    I do the bare minimum to progress the game. I find in most games you'll tier up just playing the main story.

    One of the best things I ever did was turn off achievement notifications on the xbox and stop chasing mundane tasks like a lab rat in a maze.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Computer Games Moderators, Entertainment Moderators Posts: 29,436 CMod ✭✭✭✭johnny_ultimate

    I definitely agree the level of abstraction is a major factor. Percentage point tweaks one way or the other do not make for an interesting experience, unless the game is very much focused on that. Like I kinda get the appeal in Destiny, but when it ends up in a single player game it just detracts from the core mechanics IMO.

    There’s something to be said for the classic JRPG way of handling things. Arrive in a new town, and you’ll inevitably only have enough money to buy a few upgraded weapons or armour. So it’s a simple but compelling balancing act - what do you want to prioritise when? And there’s a bit of a risk / reward balance as you may well find some of the items in the dungeon you’re about to go to, although you’ll get a hard start if you buy early. You have that sense of constant growth and forward momentum, but with only small amounts of menu maths.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 14,011 ✭✭✭✭Potential-Monke

    Yeah, it's in nearly everything. Even in GT7, collecting car parts/engines you'll never use. Playing Dead Island 2, constant looting for parts to upgrade your weapons. No auto-loot, and no upgrading unless you do really. Seems pointless. Just give me the cool weapons every now and then and let me off. But it's one of the worse ones with limited inventory space. As annoying as HFW was for loot/collecting, at least everything over your current inventory space went to your home chest. But still far too many tiny upgrades to make a difference.

    SP games seem to be coming into fashion again, so I'm hopeful of some tight gaming stories in the coming years. I understand loot grinding in MP games (someone mentioned Diablo, god that's horrible for excessive loot/drops, or at least 3 was), but in SP games it shouldn't exist. Horizon would have been far better if it was smaller and more direct. I'm also not a fan of choices in games, I hate to think I was locked out of something because I say yes instead of no to something unknowingly. Again, I want to be told a story, not make one. Different strokes.

    I don't remember GoW 2018 being bad for it, but Ragnarok was skirting my patience at times, and I more or less stuck with the same armor/skills/perks for the whole game. Was better for it. Some day, maybe, actual gamers will be making the calls, not the execs. Doubt it.

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 51,372 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    I think a lot of this could be skinner box based. Keep giving the player shiny loot to stimulate the dopamine centers but only occasionally give out something good. Then increase the length of time between meaningful upgrades to make the player keep chasing that dragon. Got yourself an abusive addition loop.

  • Registered Users Posts: 14,011 ✭✭✭✭Potential-Monke

    Thinking back to Soul Reaver, the only pickups were to extend your health and soul meters. And then a story required reaver upgrade. That was it. And it still managed to keep my attenion start to finish. Horizon, GoW, Dead Island 2, these would be better if they had less collecting.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33,667 ✭✭✭✭Penn

    Even the old GOW games, all chests had were health, power and rage pickups. But that's all the chests were designed to do in those games; you get enough to keep you going on your normal path, and if you explore all the nooks and crannies you might find chests which go towards extending your meters for health, power and rage.

    But because of the open world mechanics of the newer GOW (and similar games), there needs to be items to find everywhere, rewards for every task, as well as trying to keep you out of areas you're not supposed to be in yet. So all the gear and upgrades do is limit your strength so it can be built up slowly in line with the story and give you stuff to come back to later in the game.

    And it works. I'm playing Jedi Survivor at the minute and I have to admit, most of the time I get an ability upgrade as part of the story my mind instantly starts thinking "I can get into that place I found earlier now", "I can get up to that other area now". Yes, most of what I'll find in those areas are a goatee for Cal or a grip for my blaster I don't use, but they also might include some tough boss fights, puzzle areas, and often some true upgrades to make me stronger. The game is just saying "If you've reached the point where you've unlocked this ability, you're capable of taking on this new area".

    So I don't think it's a bad mechanic in and of itself, it's the implementation. Gear etc always felt redundant in GOW until it's not and you find yourself hitting a wall, and then you have to jiggle around with different gear or upgrading to make yourself stronger. But even then the amount of different upgrade materials required just became needlessly annoying. Horizon is the same, I didn't really bother with coils and weaves in this game at all because they have so little effect and the management of it was a pain in the hole. And there are so many different weapons and outfits that you just become blind to the stats and pick whichever you prefer because it doesn't really matter that much.

    The Batman games had it right imo. You earn XP as you go. You use that XP for upgrades and abilities. The more you do side stuff such as side missions, riddler trophies etc, the more XP you earn. No faffing around with 8 different currencies, no collecting different shades of eyeshadow for under Batman's cowl, none of that sh*te. Just be Batman and fight using your own abilities.

    And now we're getting Suicide Squad....

  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Computer Games Moderators Posts: 51,372 CMod ✭✭✭✭Retr0gamer

    The fact that games like Breath of the Wild and Souls/Elden Ring make exploration so rewarding I really feel there's no excuse for what the likes of Jedi Survivor or GoW do. There's ways of making exploration meaningful without resorting to gear. Even the old GoW games gave you Exp chests which were actually meaningful as they went towards unlocking new abilities rather than +2 to daze resistance.

  • Registered Users Posts: 33,667 ✭✭✭✭Penn

    Definitely, but that's what I mean by the fact that oftentimes, the enemy fight or the puzzle (traversal or otherwise) can still make the exploration worth it. Even GoW as an example, I don't mind exploring, finding an enemy or boss I have no chance of beating, then later in the game when more levelled up going back and trying it again, even when I don't care about the gear upgrade materials I get by beating them. The gear system in the game is just a way of incrementally building you up until you're strong enough and have the right abilities etc to beat such enemies.

    Last night in Jedi Survivor I got new abilities which led to new areas with some really tough boss fights. That was great. However I also got a new ability to open some previously locked chests out in the open, and I got a grip for my blaster and some new paint colours for BD1. That sh*t is just pointless.

    I agree the exploration in Elden Ring always felt worth it, but it too had a lot of collectibles, upgrade materials, so many weapons, gear, talismans or ashes of wars that you'll never even use because they don't suit your build, and not enough upgrade materials to properly try too many different weapons. But the boss fights and the journey always felt worth it. Obviously though, Elden Ring's exploration had a lot more going for it in terms of insane level design, variety of enemies, amazing environments as storytelling etc.