Iniquity and I have been on a tear lately when it comes to Rift raiding. Once we dropped Lord Greenscale everything just clicked. We now have the capability of clearing all of GSB and basically to Alsbeth in a single two and a half hour period (though we tend to leave the Herald alive for our second raid day). It won’t be very long before she falls and ushers us to the gates of Hammerknell. This entirely new tier of raiding has us really thinking about our loot system. It works well, there is no doubt about that, but there are some problems. Problems that we think we can solve with bidding!
Loot systems are all about levels of control and fairness. You want to be as fair as you possibly can and offer the right amount of control to keep the system working as intended. Loot isn’t about rewarding players so much as ensuring your guild has the appropriate tools to continue your progression. In Iniquity the officers and I do our best to give as much control of the system to our members. They don’t need to be watched constantly. They are mature adults who do a wonderful job of working with each other to ensure everyone gets a piece of the pie. As officers we would just get in the way. In our current system we took control of one major aspect: item costs. In doing so we did an average job at best and I feel that there are some glaring mistakes in our system.
We took an approach of “one size fits all.” That means all items of a certain type (breastplates, weapons, etc.) cost the same. This seems pretty fair and reasonable. Where this breaks down is in the subtle differences. You might say that all 33 DPS weapons are equal and you’d be close to right. The DPS number is far more important that the statistics. That doesn’t change the fact that some 33 DPS weapons will be better and more desirable. In our system they’re the same price. Someone might pass on one, which would upgrade the whole guild, to wait on another that is equal cost but better. It has always been my position that if an item is an upgrade for someone, even if a small one, the system should encourage them to take that item over it rotting. If we charge full price that won’t happen. If we let members name a price we stand a chance!
Enter the Bidding
Generally I don’t like bidding systems. They are very easy to game and abuse. Rift and Iniquity, however, offer a perfect opportunity for this kind of system to thrive. If we discuss gaming that normally is an issue of class price fixing. Let me give you an example. In your guild you have three clerics and two warriors. They all wear plate armor. The clerics secretly get together and agree that on any cleric specific item (intra-class) they will never bid over five points. This means that when plate armor drops and they have to compete with warriors (extra-class) they will have more points to spend. The same is true for items that are usable for many classes.
You saw a whole lot of this in EverQuest. Many classes shared a desire for certain items. In Rift you see almost no instances of this. Yes, some warriors might go after leather and some clerics may seek cloth but it isn’t typical. The only real extra-class competition you have is on weapons. Can the system be gamed? Certainly so! The chances of it happening are just far less likely because there is an extreme minority of extra-class loot.
Iniquity is also a particular honest and close-knit group of individuals. Gaming the system where possible just isn’t in the nature of our members. I don’t have to keep an eye on them to make sure they’re playing fair. Beyond the good nature of my members our system also offers another clear check against gaming. We use a zero-sum point system. If you bid low and win low then everyone gets a lower pool of points. Slowly over time our range of points gets smaller and smaller until you simply can’t game anymore. We plan to use a minimum so by bidding small our range decreases. Eventually you just can’t go any smaller and things will correct themselves. It seems like a solid check!
Fear and loathing in Telara
We do seem to have a fairly anti-bid feel in the guild because I think most people feel like I do. These systems are notoriously corrupt. I could come up with at least twelve ways to cheat them in EverQuest if I wanted to. We base our opinions on experiences like that and it means fighting an uphill battle to change perceptions. I think this will work for a Rift guild. We’ll have to see.
Does anyone have any experience with a zero-sum bidding loot system?