I am currently working on an ARPG and I am trying to figure out which elements of the game influence each other and one example is that endgame activities inherently influence loot drops/handling and the other way round. The more classical loot systems we usually get in touch with are following:
- Classic MMORPG loot where enemy bodies have to be clicked which open up a window which displays the loot that can be clicked one item at a time. Sometimes it is possible to enable auto-loot in order to skip the clicking of each item.
- ARPG loot where slain enemies die in a explosion of loot which can occasionally get extreme up to a point where loot filters are necessary otherwise the screen will be cluttered. In this case players usually pick up uncapped currency like gold automatically while everything else from gear to crafting parts has to be looted manually if the player so desires. Diablo, Path of Exile and the likes to handle it with cliackable labels on-screen while Borderlands for example spreads the loot all around the place and has visual light beams indicating rarities that allows players to filter quickly and go grab the items they might be interested in.
- "Loot chests" is what I call the system of Destiny. During a strike or adventure players do participate in combat and are not distracted by random loot on the ground which would require consideration as to whether picking it up is a good choice. After the event has ended, typically after defeating the final boss a chest appears that contains loot.
- "Vacuum loot" which was used for Guild Wars 2 and Wildstar where the loot physically drops on the ground and players can loot everything from currencies to gear with one click of a button. In an ARPG this would never work out since inventory space is even more restricted than anything else.
My naive first thoughts are based on how the endgame of Diablo 3 is designed. In classic endgame rifts players can slay enemies and are usually busy picking up materials and some "useless" items that may be used to disassemble them for even more materials. Furthermore they are looking for chests and hoping for some random drops. In contrast to that game mode there are greater rifts which, similiar to Destiny, drop no loot at all except when you kill the final boss that appears after progressing far enough.
In greater rifts there are no distractions just the challenge to finish those at higher difficulties and farming them with specific speed builds while on the other hand the classic rift slow down gameplay when you have to stop every few meters just to click and pick up those items.
I have reached an impasse since I understand players might want to blaze through content and I don't want to make them slow down constantly (with a system like classic rifts in Diablo or Path of Exile in general) but when I stick to "loot chests" at the end of an activity it might happen that less loot drops in general and that there is less gratification when collecting things since the is nothing on the way. Take a long dungeon for example, a "loot chest" system might incentivize just skipping all enemies and do the bare minimum to tackle the final boss. In such a scenario I basically invalidated almost the entire content I am presenting!
Comparing this to (current) legendary items in WoW: if one legendary drops I might be relieved to finally get one (and be angry about it since it's a shitty one...) but I missed the reward stimulus up to the drop itself. Applied to my scenario, the player sees a dungeon as an annoying chore to finally get the chance of acquiring something. If the drops are not satisfying it could possibly be more demotivating thinking that that only chance to get something after such a chore was a waste of time.
So my question is the following: Even though loot explosions may be enojoyable at first they can degenerate into an annoyance (e.g. clicking a bazillion items on the floor). When thinking about making them less boring I end up with something that can be as frustrating in the end. How can I balance this?