Thursday, June 5, 2014

3.70. The Perfect Loot System

Drecca is the lone survivor of a heroic Rotface kill,
Icecrown Citadel

What Makes the Raid Go 'Round

Heroic work began in earnest immediately following the Lich King's defeat at the start of April. Drecca continued to make a name for himself by being the sole survivor of a desperately close attempt on heroic Rotface, and the screams that filled Vent poured the concrete around his ankles -- he was one of us now, and there was no turning back. By this point, Drecca was not only charging head-first into heroic bosses for the 25-Man progression team, but was assisting Mangetsu with the Alt-25 with increasing frequency. As our roster grew, fewer spots were available in progression, so the Alt-25 continued to garner interest from both guildy and stranger alike. The good news was that both Mangetsu and Drecca felt strongly about keeping standards high in the Alt-25, and this trickled down in the form of a strict set of rules to be followed as described on the forums. It was nice to see guildies finally taking pride in their play, and the result was a surprisingly successful 2nd 25-Man team.

When Mangetsu picked up the Alt-25, GDKP was the loot system first discussed, the reasoning being that non-guildies could be persuaded to help out. The concept of pouring gold into a pot to reserve a spot in the lineup worked surprisingly well, and if players hoped to see any of that money back, they were forced to stay throughout the duration of the raid. We knew nothing about non-guildies, hadn't vetted them, and couldn't vouch for the presence of any integrity or reliability -- the promise of a "damage deposit" was a convenient method of due diligence. But the success of the Alt-25 grew to such a level that it was eventually staffed by all DoDers, and GDKP gave way to a simpler solution: Need Before Greed rolls, with one Need per night. As soon as you "Needed" on an item (and won), that was it -- you were relegated to Greeds for the duration of the run. I wasn't particularly fond of NBG, due to the randomness of the roll and the fact that it had no memory; players who had raided since forever could lose to the newbie of the week. But, it wasn't the loot system that the 25-Man used, and I was fine with Mang using it in Alt-25; if anything, the DKP system of the 25-Man progression team acted as a carrot for those driven to get out of Alt-25 and to one day be a part of the guild's historic first boss kills.

As sound as our progression team's loot system was, there were still problems creeping up. The first-round bidding system I developed as as a perk for the Elite rank had backfired a number of times already. The last time it bit me in the ass was when an "alt" or "off-spec" bid ended up winning an item, denying it from a player who was bidding for their own main spec. At the start of 3.3, I amended the system to allow players to categorize their bids by adding "off" (eg. 20 DKP off), and any off-spec bids would be cast aside if even one main spec bid was on the table. But that wasn't the end of the problems for our loot system -- very quickly into ICC heroics, more loopholes were becoming evident.

"Crimson Acolyte"
Artwork by Nancy Cho

Loot Fears Float

Players like Deathonwings the shaman had no main spec. Each week, players like Wings flipped back and forth from Elemental to Restoration, an incredibly helpful type of player for a roster in a guild like ours, as they could fill a variety of needs at any given moment. We called these players "floaters", floating from spec to spec as the guild needed them to. As expected, some floaters were good enough to qualify -- and eventually arrive at -- the distinguished rank of Elite. Once Elite, Wings fully expected to start 1st-rounding bids on some of the most top notch items falling off heroic ICC bosses. But...for what spec? Was it fair for Wings to 1st-round items that were Elemental and Restoration? Of course not! But the alternative was to forfeit his ability to 1st-round...which was one of the primary reasons guildies pushed for the Elite rank in the first place. Floating as a reflection of roster need should not have come with a penalty...but it did.

Another type of floater caused me great concern as well, but these players had more selfish intent behind their decision to change specs. These were the players who had simply grown listless, requesting a change to help alleviate the doldrum now apparently baked into their everyday raid life. I'd suffered this first hand, so tried to keep perspective when players came to me about expressing their need to switch to a role that was more exciting. And I had no problem with purposeful role switches...until it came time for them to leverage their 1st round bidding rights as an Elite. I became painfully aware of this loophole when it affected me directly: the night Omaric attempted to bid 1st round on a freshly dropped heroic Deathbringer's Will -- a trinket long sought by pure DPS classes that had been waiting patiently. I wasn't particularly happy with Omaric's decision to seek the trinket before other non-floaters had their shot...but there was nothing in the rule book that said he couldn't. My recently promoted 2nd-in-command, Sir Klocker, confirmed the issue in a forum topic expressing current concerns...and it had been going on longer than I cared to admit.

There was no such thing as the perfect loot system, but I often daydreamed about what that might look like. I theorized that it would be a DKP system that weighted your earnings based on the role that you played. In this alternate reality, a player would keep four pools, separated by role: melee, ranged, healing, and tank. As raiders toppled bosses, logs were generated and uploaded to sites like World of Logs, and a breakdown of their contributions would appear there. In my mind's eye, I foresaw a report that read like so:

Tank / Melee / Ranged / Heals
Bretthew: 98/2/0/0
Mangetsu: 0/0/100/0
Wfredlund: 0/12/0/88
Mature: 48/52/0/0
Gunsmokeco: 0/0/0/100
Deathonwings: 0/0/76/24

If such a magical tool existed, breaking down an individual player's contributions, bids on specific types of loot would be far easier to manage. If Wings saw an exceptional elemental staff, he'd know that he'd have 76 DKP to bid on it...1st round, if he so chose. Likewise, those who took to a new role out of boredom would be free from facing the wrath of the fellow guildmates as being deceptively evil with their 1st-round bids. A player freshly floating from tank to melee, for example, would have no melee DKP accrued at that point, and would have to work towards it from scratch. If such a loot system could be, no player in my guild -- regardless of rank or contribution -- could argue it was unfair: players bid exactly what they earned, and their earnings were exact reflections of level of contribution.

It was a wonderful make-believe system. The problem with it was primarily the 'make-believe' part. Could I build it, I wondered, perhaps as a plugin to eqDKP, or maybe even reach out to the owners / administrators of World of Logs. Maybe there was a set of rules we could come up with to determine how to break that analysis down, displaying it in subsequent reports. But it ate away at me. This is too complicated, too much to administrate. There's no guarantee the people at World of Logs will ever get on board with this craziness. Keep it simple and compartmentalized within DoD. So, back to the drawing board I went.

Contributions vs. Consistency

A sample of Hanzo's notes during one
of several attempts to theory out a
better loot system for DoD
"I've been pouring a lot of energy into a theoretical new system I've come up with. And I need it picked apart. Can I forward you my scribblings?"

"Sounds good."

I flipped over to Google Documents, and shared various drafts of my high level concepts over to Cheeseus. The loot system centered around an emergent behavior of players wishing to fill multiple roles, "floaters", and how they would be handled fairly when going up against players uninterested or unwilling to do so. My initial idea was to split DKP into four pools, then using a custom tool to analyze raid reports would subdivide the player's earnings appropriately, weighted by the percentage of contribution per role. A player that tanked 100% of the raid, therefore, would receive 100% of their DKP in the tank pool, and would only ever be able to use that pool to bid on tanking items. But there were problems with the concept from a practical standpoint.

Administratively, four pools were too much to track and too confusing for the player. Furthermore, no such "custom tool" existed to perform the calculation telling me that Drecca and Bretthew had both earned 100% of their pool as a tank, while Deathonwings had earned a 50/50 split of ranged DKP and healing DKP. Most importantly, what would stop greedy players from simply switching to whatever role they felt like playing, just to scoop up loot? After having earned a healthy amount of DKP in two pools, selfish players were free to "go to town" on whatever dropped, not caring for a moment what was being denied to the rest of the roster. It was a self-serving mentality that harmed the non-floaters in the long term.

My second pass felt much closer to the mark. I had to shift my mentality from rewarding your contributions to rewarding your consistency. If people were going to switch at the drop of a hat, I was fine with it, but the switch needed to come at a cost, which meant losing the right to 1st round bid (if they were Elite). Over time, they could earn the right again, a concept I sketched into my notes as a yellow bar growing into a green one. Hence, consistent players in a particular role were green, while floaters remained a neutral yellow. Both had upsides. Green players earned the right to 1st-round bid, and yellow players would never have to bid off-spec on anything -- to a floater, all loot would be main spec.

Cheeseus got straight to the point.

"Overall, I really don't like the way this reads. So you're saying that if Dalans decides to come back and fill his old role of tanking, that Mature...who was tanking in his has to pay the penalty of switching back to DPS? Sorry Dalans, You're an asset to the organization, but you're not worth the 458 DKP I’m going to lose as a result of your return."

His comments continued to flow in.

"The 1st round bit seems very counterintuitive. Why would an Elite, who has proven himself as quite capable of doing whatever is needed, want to remain neutral in bidding? They're just like everyone else now, except with more responsibilities."

I took that as the "no off-spec bids" perk wasn't enough of a game changer.

"A non-elite can main bid on any role they're neutral to, any role they're switching amongst."

"So why would they want to go green? Alternately, why would you, Hanzo, want to let an up-and-coming DPS Death on tanking gear? And your most capable people, who would only benefit from being green, couldn't be used for any other role.”

Cheeseus continued to poke holes into my theoretical loot system until it looked like a used kitchen sponge.

"I know people wouldn't want to be neutral. The point is...they are now. This is how Deathonwings, Omaric, etc...are treated today. I don't want to have to go to them and say 'I need you to pick a role and stick with it, because it's not fair to the others.' I want a system in place where I can say, 'Do what you want, and what you do defines what you get.' In my eyes, that is the path of least resistance and gives them the greatest freedom."

Cheeseus remained unconvinced, "Right, but why should a potential Elite...who is giving up his punished further? They already can't raid consistently, am I right? They should be motivated to raid and excel, not threatened with a loss of perks if they are unable to keep it up."

"Because Elites that have done that to me already don't care!! 'Hey I got everything I needed, I'm off to go skiing! Oh, hey, remember me? I'm back now, I just broke my legs in a skiing accident...remember I used to be an Elite?? I can still 1st-round shit, right' No! There needs to be some repercussions to coming and going as you please!"

Cheeseus loosened his stance, "OK, I'll rethink that a bit more. But overall I still think that something is missing, this needs a bunch of work. Personally, I still think you should go loot council, but that's just because I'm pro-communism ideology. It fits the raid mentality well, everyone contributes, everybody gets a slice of the pie."

I glared back at the instant messenger window with narrowed eyes.

"I'll never go loot council in DoD. Ever. Too easy to manipulate by those in power. Too easily corruptible."

"Oh, I know. It would never work, just as communism would never work in the real world, but if you look at it on paper, isn't it an excellent idea?"

It would be...if we were all the bestest of buddies in real life. If we had to face one another the next day at work, have to deal with the fallout of making a horrible decision the night before. To be made to feel guilty about being selfish and dishonest, and to have that paraded around the office until we learned our lesson. Be excluded from social gatherings, to not have our phones calls answered or our emails replied to when we decided to take whatever the hell we wanted off of bosses. Yeah...then loot council would be fantastic.

How wonderfully simple World of Warcraft guild leadership would be if people could be held accountable for their actions.


Anonymous said...

Darn real world people, getting in the way of a perfect system. XD

Loot council is only as good as the leadership, you guys may have been good, but who's to say your successors would be too?

Gotta plan for the next generation sadly. :(

-Catelina, KT Alliance Holy Priest

Anonymous said...

I've always been a fan of loot council, but I've never really cared much about gear or done heroic mode raiding or 25 mans, so different culture probably. How I usually do it is everyone who can use the item links what they have, and we discuss it as a team to decide what helps the team most. Usually if it's a big upgrade for someone everyone else passes.

Then again, I might have simply never noticed loot drama from this style due to personally not caring about loot. For me, once I have enough gear to enter the content I feel like doing, I stop caring about gear entirely. My mentality is that more practice as a team against the boss is always better then loot, so the loot afterwards is just a nice perk that I may or may not get, secondary to the act of killing the boss. Sort of a "Journey over destination" type thing; I come for the challenge of downing the boss, not the shinnies you get for it. Incidentally, this means I get impatient with farm content very, very quickly.

Journey over destination type thing in other words.

Ian said...

At the midway point in ICC I joined a guild on my Paladin as a main spec ret, and it was probably the happiest I've been raiding. Our loot system in our 25 man was I guess a modified round robin type. We would open /roll, first as main spec. For example, if myself and a DK wanted a str helm, we would both roll, and the highest roll would win, unless one of us had won an item in the previous lockout, then it went down the list until it got to someone that hadn't gotten anything.

Offspec was also an open roll, but there were excerptions. There was at least one dps that would heal when needed, and myself and a DK were swing tanks. Eventually, it was just me being an extra tank. So if a tank piece dropped that neither of the tanks needed, it was my option to get it before it went offspec.

I never really felt like I should have main spec rights to tank gear, because I was only tanking about once every two weeks, and a piece or two of gear wasn't going to make a huge difference in normal, plus I would tank one of our ten mans and get mainspec loot for that run, so I was usually less than a half tier behind main tanks.

The thing to remember is, even if you have a 50/50 split on time spent, when you get a tier set token, there's a spec you pick when you turn it in, and that's your main spec.

Balkoth said...

The funny thing is that we're shifting to 25 man and then Mythic for WoD and thus I'm having to come up with a more formal loot system. I originally proposed, in the middle of raid during trash, that we were thinking about a DKP style system and everyone immediately shouted me down and said they didn't want DKP and wanted loot council instead.

Shawn Holmes said...


Of course they do! Who wouldn't? Loot council is the easiest to administer, so for players who care about playing / slaying dragons, and can't be bothered with complex systems that track contributions and player history, it's the ideal loot system...

...and I hope you have loyal, trustworthy folks who will never, ever put themselves before the guild, long after you've farmed a boss for six months for that one drop and it finally arrives.

Anonymous said...

It's rather pointless trying to design a system with the next GM in mind, because of course the next GM can do whatever the heck he/she likes and there is absolutely nothing that anyone can do about it.

I held my guild to Loot Council. We had a core of regular raiders and a few who subbed in. Loot drops were discussed openly. We had the potential candidates link their existing gear, and we looked at their gear set as a whole.

The needs of the raid were put above the wants of the individual. If we thought that the tanks's set bonus was more important than more melee DPS, that's where the gear went first. Everyone got their shinies in the end, but we as a group decided where the boosts were needed most, and that's where it went. The subs did get gear, but after the regulars were considered and the needs of the raid attended to.

In the case where candidates for loot were on an even keel, well, that's what /roll was for. And once you'd won a /roll, you were done for the night unless candidates were even once again.

As for 'loyal and trustworthy', well, the final decision on loot was always mine, and I always put the welfare of my guild and our raid group before my own or above any other individual in the guild/raid for that matter. Heck, I even once /gkicked my Raid Leader when he demonstrated extreme immaturity and disdain for the non raiding section of the guild. Guild first, Raid second, individual last.

Eccentrica, Silver Hand(A)

Rob said...

@Shawn Holmes

This is a rather random post to comment this but seeing as its the most recent:

Where does your guild stand these days? I'm coming back into WoW and I want to explore the Horde side of things, but I simply have no ideas as far as guilds or servers. Seeing as how I've been reading these since the start I figured I'd ask. Anyone is welcome to toss in any helpful comments as well lol.

Bandinoriel#1948 if you want to catch me in-game

Moorawr said...

I want to note that the Alt-25 had historically been using the NBG since the Anni days. Ironically, trying to address the inequity of the system may have contributed to one of the factors that led to him giving it up.

Shawn Holmes said...


It's in a sad state; a shadow of its former self. It remains to be seen what life WoD may (if at all) breathe back into DoD, but I expect that a large handful of us will be back, at least initially.

You can reach me at Hanzo#1150.

Rick said...

I think you are looking at loot council WAYYY to black and white. I never had a problem with loot council in my guilds, even in random guilds I was only with for one expansion, because you know what keeps the communism in check? Your guildies vote for you and your choices with their presence. They will start to notice when you are being biased, and they will quickly leave. You start abusing loot council, your raiders stop showing up, you lose good members, and your guild falls apart.

In my opinion Loot Council is the best system, because unlike communism, its members are not forced to be a part of that nation... ahem... guild, and can easily find a new home with better GM's.

And if you as a GM ARE being just with your loot decisions, and random low tier members leave, do you really care? Do you want selfish children who don't understand they don't come first? When I first joined a guild, I ALWAYS knew I was low man on the totem pole, but I would always eventually see my loot. And the better I performed, the more gear went my way to reward that. Works for both sides.

Zanshin said...

Man, I never thought about how hard it would be for a GL to manage DKP for switch hitters. When I raided in classic, I always mained a hunter in our 40's and was resto shaman in our 20 man, so I never needed to switch roles like some other classes. I always figured the DKP system would take care of the problem naturally, especially since they still need to be geared for either role.

Just to share a loot system story, as the hunter officer in my guild, I had a good relationship with the other 3 regular hunters, so we worked out among ourselves about what items we'd need to bid for and which we'd just go for 1 DKP. We had to save the DKP for the sweet sweet "hunter items" that rogues and ferals might also be gunning for. Had to keep competitive or the other Agi classes would edge in on our raid spots! :P

Zanshin, Kil'Jaeden