ArenaNet:Developer updates/20070420

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ArenaNet Image This is a copy of the Developer Updates webpage, maintained by members of the Guild Wars Team. It includes semi-official announcements, clarifications, and news from the developers, notable background information about skill balances or to clarify rumors.
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[Dev Update] Farming and Loot Scaling -- 20 April 2007

Some players have been concerned about the loot scaling aspect of this week's update. They wonder whether the fact that drops are scaled according to party size will substantially affect their gameplay experience and whether it will impact upon their ability to acquire wealth in the game. We asked the design team for some insight into the design of and the intent behind loot scaling, and found out a lot of interesting reasons for its implementation, including how the changes that have been a point of concern are readily addressed within the very system itself.

The bottom line is that ArenaNet's goal is to make it easier for normal players to make money while redirecting the efforts of the expert farmers to a way to continue to reap rich rewards without having a harmful effect on the overall game economy. The loot has not been scaled across the board. Instead, the loot scaling is selective, and it preserves a means for the high-end farmer to make money.

But let's hear it from the design team itself, with this latest Dev Update:

Why would ArenaNet make changes that impact solo farming?

ArenaNet understands that people enjoy playing Guild Wars in many different ways, and our goal is to make each of those ways fun and rewarding. Solo farming sometimes becomes a controversial issue because it can damage the game for other people. In those cases, ArenaNet tries to keep the game fun for everyone while still providing fun and rewarding play for solo farmers.

A major theme of our most recent update is that the game should be friendlier and more rewarding for casual players, including casual solo farmers, and that the most advanced farmers should differentiate themselves from the crowd not through the amount of gold and common loot that they farm directly from monsters, but instead through the amount of gold that they can get from selling rare items to other players (directly or through traders).

That's a very important distinction. Advanced farmers are always going to earn more money than their more casual counterparts. There's nothing wrong with that. When farmers earn their money by finding valuable items and selling them to other players, they're making the game more enjoyable for everyone. They're facilitating trade, and the gold they acquire from doing so is gold that was already in the game. It's only when solo farming introduces a huge influx of new gold into the economy that it becomes a problem.

Because of the way that Guild Wars loot system worked, solo farming traditionally generated at least eight times as much new gold per participant as playing in a party did. And because solo farmers were motivated to farm only certain specific groups of easily exploitable monsters, they could often generate not just eight times as much, but 10, 20, or 30 times as much loot per hour as everyone else. Even more problematic was that the activity that they were performing was easy for professional gold farmers to automate, so if a single solo farmer could generate 20 times as much loot as the average player, then a network of ten computers running bots could generate 200 times as much loot. This huge influx of new gold caused inflation and made it harder for casual players to afford the items they wanted. In order to contain this problem, ArenaNet periodically added code to prevent monsters from being exploited, for example by adding complexity to the monster AI. But these types of changes made the game less fun for other players.

With the introduction of Hard Mode, we took a look a fresh look at normal mode to see how we could make the game friendlier for normal players. One thing we really wanted to do was to remove some of the advanced AI from normal mode -- things like monsters scattering from AoE, refusing to gather around individual characters, and fleeing or kiting players -- that we had originally introduced to contain botting. But in removing them, we needed to be sure that we weren't reintroducing exploits that would allow professional farmers to destroy the game's economy.

The answer to these problems was to somewhat scale loot according to party size, to bring the direct gold rewards from solo farming more into line with the rewards from other ways of playing the game. But we still wanted solo farmers to have an edge, since solo farming can be a fun way to play and a major reason why people engage in solo farming is to make more money. So we kept the direct gold rewards somewhat better for solo farmer than for people in parties, and then we added new loot which is very valuable to other players and which is exempt from loot scaling, so that solo farmers can farm this loot more effectively than other players and earn money by selling or trading it. Thus, our goal is that solo farmers can still earn as much money as they did before, but they'll have to earn it in different ways. Instead of looking for things to sell to merchants, solo farmers should now be looking for things to sell to traders or other players.

How does loot scaling work?

Without loot scaling, solo farmers received every loot drop, whereas people who played in a party received only a fraction of loot drops. Thus, solo farmers received up to eight times as much loot for killing the same group of monsters. With loot scaling in place, solo farmers still get more loot than people who play in parties, but the gap is less severe than it was before. It is impossible to quantify precisely how much less because it depends on the type of loot farmed and involves some randomness, but here are some rough guidelines:

  • People who play in normal size parties, including parties of heroes and henchman, will see no difference at all from loot scaling. At the same time, they will notice that normal mode is now much easier to farm, and that the introduction of Hard Mode provides a place they can play where the loot is better than ever before. Thus, people who play the game primarily in parties will simply make more money than they previously did.
  • People who periodically enjoy farming solo (with no heroes or henchmen) but are casual about it are also likely to see an improvement. They'll find that solo farming is much easier than it was before, because monsters don't have the anti-farming AI that they used to have, and because the game no longer prevents players from repeatedly farming the same monsters over and over. Many types of builds that didn't work in the past, or that haven't been effective since the earliest days of Guild Wars, can now be used for solo farming. Thus, casual farmers will find the game much easier to farm than it was before, and that they can earn more money than before even with loot scaling in place.
  • People who were advanced solo farmers and who were earning vastly more money through solo farming than through playing the game normally will see the full effect of loot scaling. They will earn less gold and common loot from solo farming than they did in the past. The loot scaling for gold and common loot is not linear with the number of players in the party, and it includes an element of randomness, so while the difference is not easy to quantify, it is by no means a factor of eight. Advanced solo farmers may now earn about twice as much gold and common loot from farming solo as they would if they farmed in a party. While gold and common loot are thus reduced for these players by loot scaling, certain other types of loot are completely unaffected. For example, Skill Tomes are completely unaffected by loot scaling, so they still drop eight times as frequently for solo farmers than they do for people who play in parties. Thus, advanced solo farmers will find that certain types of farming are still extremely productive for them, but they may have to change what and where they farm if they want to earn as much money as they did before.

If ArenaNet makes it harder for players to farm, doesn't that drive players to purchase gold for cash from the professional farmers?

ArenaNet's goal is to make it easier for normal players to make money, so that they can buy the things they need without having to purchase gold for cash, and then to redirect the farming activities of the most advanced players so that the way they make money is by selling things to other players rather than by introducing a flood of new gold into the economy.

Here's how we've made it easier for normal players to make money: we removed the advanced AI behaviors from normal mode that slowed down the rate at which people could kill monsters there, we removed artificial barriers to casual farming such as certain farming builds not working or the game penalizing repeated farming of the same groups, we provided somewhat more gold and triple the number of uncommons and rares in Hard Mode, and we introduced entirely new types of loot.

Here's how we've protected the economy from a flood of new gold: advanced farmers and professionals who choose to farm for new gold (as opposed to things they can sell to other players) will only make perhaps two or three times as much gold per hour as normal players, whereas in the past they made at least eight times as much, and by finding specific exploits they sometimes made 10, 20, or 30 times as much gold per hour as normal players.

Here's how we've provided a new way for advanced players to make as much money as they did before: by introducing new items which will have a high demand from other players and thus high trade value, and then by making those items completely unaffected by loot scaling, so that solo farmers still have very effective ways to make a lot of money, but so that they make their money without hurting the game's economy.

Will ArenaNet make additional changes to the loot scaling system?

We constantly monitor the game to ensure that people are able to make good rewards for playing. Originally the list of items that were exempt from loot scaling was limited to newly introduced Hard Mode items. However, after reviewing player feedback and analyzing play logs from the past 12 hours, we've decided to make a broader range of items exempt. We want players who enjoy solo farming to have a wide variety of things that they can enjoy farming. Thus, with today's build, all of the following types of items will now be exempt from loot scaling: