Loot System  

In the last post, I covered why I thought the loot system in the vanilla game was not really a good option (in my eyes!) for BaL. This has been at the back of my mind for a long time, ever since I started working on this mod.

The first idea I had was to generate random loot items with prefixes and suffixes based on enchantments picked from a pool defined in a 2DA. Not very original, I admit. I mean, it's not like this hasn't been done in every action-RPG out there. While I was very enthusiastic about the idea initially, that feeling quickly (and rightly!) ebbed away once I realized this will not suit the gameplay at all. Then, I came up with the idea of extremely limited world drops but the player will have the possibility to run some dungeons which will scale loot according to level. Way too much work!

So, what can be done to make loot interesting? The loot definitely has to be of some use to the player and at the same time, there should be a feeling of anticipation when clicking the loot bag. The system I settled on revolves around Crafting. I know Awakening has Rune-crafting as a skill but again, in my opinion, I felt it was not enough.

Old-time readers of this blog might remember me mentioning Phaenan's Crafting GUI Framework a long time back; the possibilities this opens up are endless. The vanilla crafting GUI, unfortunately, had hard-coded ability IDs for the craft-skills which severely limits what you can do to extend that interface. However, with this new interface, the restrictions are removed and more important, customization options are present that makes it much more modder-friendly. Phaenan has already implemented this in the latest version of her Winter Forge add-on and if you are a modder, you can read about the implementation details on the Flexible craft UI project.

Phaenan's Crafting GUI in The Winter Forge (c) Phaenan
So, how can crafting make the loot system better?
  • The player is always on the lookout for reagents and this can be used to generate loot tables that will be of interest to the player.
  • The above only works when there is sufficient diversity in the reagents required. As an example, requiring one to just harvest Elfroot while all other reagents can be bought makes the player go ho-hum when he encounters another Elfroot plant/drop.
  • The crafting itself can be designed to keep the player engaged in creating/modifying key aspects of the game. 
Now, I keep saying crafting but only because it is tied to the crafting GUI. As I said before, with Phaenan's modifications, the possibilities are endless. I am working on one such possibility right now and once it all comes together as intended, the player will be presented with a new avenue to strategically modify how the game is played. More later...

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Time for an update?  

Work on the new interior level is progressing well. The basic structural pieces are in place now. The tricky part is in finding the right VFX for the level. At this point, I'm not there yet and quite likely, won't get to that part till later. Why? This level was conceptualized around a big boss battle and until I have the mechanics of the battle in place and tested, the level will remain in it's rudimentary form. This way, if at all a rework is required, I can re-do the level quickly and re-test. This will also be one of the final areas the player encounters so as such, there won't be any screenies coming out on this area till release.

In addition to the level building, I have been working on some of the systems within the game, most notably the loot system. I mean, it's high time some of these are done and integrated into the module for balance testing.
First off, the loot system designed for Dragon Age is a very versatile one; requiring one to just modify 2DAs or add additional ones if required. I consider this much more flexible than manually assigning loot for every container/mob and is also much easier to tweak and adjust. So, I won't be making many changes to this system in its basic form.

However, there are a couple of issues with the actual loot in Dragon Age.
One, loot distribution was bad. I am not talking about vendor trash here. Vendor trash is an essential component of any loot system - it is not possible to have every drop contain an item that will be an upgrade to the player. Besides, vendor trash helps generate gold which can be used to purchase other useful things.

This fish is not meant to be cooked!
The problem I see with DA loot is that the distribution of the items for the different treasure levels was bad. Towards the very end, you come upon a locked chest that requires level 4 lockpicking and possibly, extra cunning to break through. You eagerly open it...and find a Health Poultice inside. Oh, the disappointment! Or you find the rare Manuscript Copy. Most of the highest level chests/creatures either gave you potions or money or trash, with some giving runes - which can be more easily purchased.


Second, usefulness of the items. Either the items were inferior to what you already had (even in late-game loot since some of the best items can only be purchased) or you ended up with lots of salves and poisons. Now, if the game mechanics required you to use them, it wouldn't be so bad but I hardly recall using any salve or poison when playing in Hard difficulty. Maybe in Nightmare? Further, unless you are min-maxing and/or playing with a reduced party size, you don't need the best equipment to get through DA. Which results in a lot of gold lying around in the player's inventory. Admittedly, it is not possible to implement a good economy in a single-player game but nevertheless, I think some of these points can be addressed.

How? I cannot just cut down the loot drastically because players expect some reward for the fight they just won. In the same vein, I can't just give out rare and powerful items because that will trivialize the gameplay. There has to be a balance between the two and while there are multiple ways to go about it, I hope to deliver an enjoyable and useful system with BaL. I will cover the details in my next post.

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