Making Loot Less Random

Almost every subsystem in Flare has been written twice: first a version that simply works, and rewritten to make it flexible for the engine. The Loot Drop system is perhaps the last major component of Flare needing this treatment.

Recently I blogged about designing items that are more interesting. As part of that work we reset most of the item list of Flare-game. The old loot drop algorithm doesn’t really play well with a sparse item list.

Today we discussed what a new loot algorithm would look like. The more we talked, the more I realized that we need less random and more planned loot. Instead of having a large amount of random, forgettable loot like Diablo, we’re going to move towards a smaller, well-crafted, memorable loot list. Some ways this will affect Flare game design:

  • Each enemy will have a small custom loot list. A Goblin Shaman will have chances to drop gold, a Mana Potion, a Rod, and maybe some pieces of mage armor.
  • Treasure chests and containers will have specific loot, and will only be opened once per playthrough.
  • We’ll put more unique items in off-the-main-path places to reward exploration.
  • Vendors will sell specific items. There will be more incentive to save up gold to buy items.
  • We’ll add more vendors in remote locations that sell exotic items.
  • When designing an item we’ll have to consider ways the player can get it. Is it a random boss drop? A specific boss chest item? A vendor item? A hidden map treasure?

Random items can be fun. They especially shine in brutally hard roguelike games, where the random items and maps create the actual fun of the game. Each playthrough depends on the hand that the RNG gods deal. A lot of that was lost in translation in Diablo. The loot there is more about addiction, about reward schedules and skinner box / slot machine / loot pinata gameplay.

But thinking about game dev this long gives me time to think about the kind of games I really want to make. For now I prefer this controlled, hand-crafted experience. The items in Flare 1.0 games will be more like the items in Zelda, or Dark/Demons Souls, or Castlevania, or Final Fantasy. There is a lot of design space in this simple implementation to create good games.

Maybe in the future Flare-engine will support more random content — maps, items, enemies, and more. I’m not going to rule out that possibility.


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