How do you design Loot chests? (Fixed, randomly, adapting Player's style...)

Aerosys

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Hey all,

I did this thread for fun, as I'm not making a Game right now, but I somehow thought about loot chests and want to hear some other opinions. About loot chests, or rather to say, their loot.

I think there are 3 major strategies to fill loot chests:

fixed:
Yep, that's easy. Right-click on the Map, Quick Event creation -> pick an item or gold, and done! Nothing special, but it works fine.

randomly:
When you are tired of always thinking about what loot to choose for this specific box, then you may think about randomizing it. Random number between e.g. 3 ~ 5, random selection from HP potion, MP potion, Antidote, etc aaaaand done. Another reason to do so might be to create some replayability maybe? Not sure about this one, because the most RPGs aren't played multiple times I think, and even if so, randomly loot won't impact that much.
Unless you have a smaller game, maybe a dungeon crawler, then it could be fun, especially when you play it in parallel with some friends. I remember Bioshock sometimes gave me other special abilities when I reloaded an older save, which actually changed my experience.

adapted on Player's style:
Maybe I should explain it briefly. Let's say, a Player who is always low on health, has higher chances to get potions, or other way, a good player has less chances to get them. I think the reasons for such a system are A to raise chances for bad players and to not let them fall off from their game flow, and B to give better players still the feeling of having just enough supplies left. The problem is, you don't really reward a good player. Like the rubber band in NFS, nobody likes it, but for some reasons it's still there in every game of the series.

So, what strategies do you use? What strategies do you like and dislike and why?
 

Soulrender

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I use very clever method:

First:
- define array of items for average party level
Code:
var chest = [
    [id1, id2, id3 ... id10],
    [id11, id12, id13 ... id20],
    [id31, id32, id33 ... id40]
];


Second:
- When chest appears I use script call
Code:
var totalLevel = 0;
for (var i = 0 ; i < $gameParty.members().length; i++) {
   var ac = $gameParty.members()[i];
   totalLevel += ac.level;
}
var averageLevel = Math.round(totalLevel / $gameParty.members().length);

$gameParty.gainItem($dataItems[chest[averageLevel][Math.randomInt(amountOfItems)]], Math.randomInt(5));

That way party will get item adequate to their average level.
 

GolvaeGames

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The third option doesn't seem feasible, I don't think it would be worth the trouble. I really like what @Soulrender suggested. Its more interesting than just fixed chests, the only thing is it might encourage players not open chests until later.

I personally prefer fixed but that's just because I prefer to keep things 'tight', if you will. If it's not equipment, and just consumables I guess random would be fine but I think that would still encourage save scumming.
 

TheoAllen

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Random.
Not because of the replayability.
But because I'm too lazy to determine each chest content.
And I want my player to just adapt random input.
 

Hungry Moogle

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I use both.

Basically, I use three different kinds of item containers, each with their own distinct properties from one another: treasure chests, cloth bags, and sparkling lights.

- Treasure chests function like they do in most RPGs, their contents of fixed & remain empty for the duration of the game once they've been opened. Their contents are usually large sums of money, equipment, and the more useful inventory items (i.e. things like Hi-Potions, Ethers, Elixirs, items that give buff effects, etc.) and are typically found in places where you would realistically expect treasure chests, rather than lying around in the middle of a forest. Treasure chests are also tied to a side quest where a adventurer who judges a person's level of skill at adventuring by the number of treasure chests they've found, will reward the player with rare one-of-a-kind accessories based on how many treasure chests they have discovered.

- Cloths bags are similar to treasure chests in that their contents are fixed but will disappear after being opened rather sitting around empty like treasure chests. Their contents include sums of money that can range from large to small, common inventory items like Potions, Antidotes, resurrection items, etc. and on less common occasions, the more rarer inventory items such as Elixirs. Also similarly like treasure chests, cloth bags will appear in places like ancient temples & castles, but will also appear outdoor environments such as valleys, mountains, caves & forests.

- And lastly sparkling lights which function similarly to the glowing orbs that appear in Xenoblade. In contrast to treasure chests & cloth bags, sparkling lights' contents are not fixed, more-or-less, and will respawn when the player leaves & re-enters an area. Their contents are either random amounts of money, or loot that is unique to each major area. Another big difference between sparkling lights and treasure chests/cloth bags is that their locations aren't always fixed, most of them are, but a few will spawn at a random rate while others will only appear during certain weather conditions such as whether its sunny or raining.
 
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Wavelength

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For standard RPGs that have chests in predetermined places on the map, I recommend predetermined loot from those chests as well, because otherwise you run the risk of highly imbalancing the player's power (for example some players will eventually luck out and hit a great weapon whereas others won't, and some will get necessary consumables while others get crap), not to mention giving the player multiple copies of the same equip.

For games with randomized dungeons, or games with highly circular gameplay structures (think Pokemon Stadium or Madden NFL for instance), it's not a bad idea to Randomize or Semi-Randomize (based on something like player level) the rewards. This adds excitement and unpredictability and opens up a dynamic of improvisation, which can be fun.

Having the drops be "adapted based on the player's style/situation" is a very cool idea, but there are a few caveats: it will take a lot of work to set up, the player could end up with a lot of the same thing (especially if the game thinks the player needs something but the player realizes she doesn't), there is a very real possibility of permanently missing out on certain things (e.g. the player is at low HP so the chest awards a Hi-Potion instead of a Chain Mail), and clever players could abuse the system to get the best drops by engineering themselves into a certain situation.
 

Archduke

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The third option doesn't seem feasible, I don't think it would be worth the trouble. I really like what @Soulrender suggested. Its more interesting than just fixed chests, the only thing is it might encourage players not open chests until later.

I personally prefer fixed but that's just because I prefer to keep things 'tight', if you will. If it's not equipment, and just consumables I guess random would be fine but I think that would still encourage save scumming.

I think it's definitely feasible, and it wouldn't necessarily be difficult to do. It would merely be a few variables that keep track of general information about the player (such as average battle length, number of deaths, how often reviving is necessary, etc.) and then using a simple script to alter the contents of a chest accordingly. It's more work than having fixed chests (in some cases), but could have the added benefit of making it more accessible for players that are more easily frustrated by strategic hardship and difficulty.
 

GolvaeGames

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Feasible might not be the best term. Really just my own opinion but I don't think a system like this adds value. I don't think its a good way of adjusting the difficulty.
It's more work than having fixed chests (in some cases)
I can't think of any case where this would be less work.
 

MikaTeapot

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I use a mix of random chests divided by tier, these drop item upgrades, potions, consumables, etc of 3 varying tiers, basic weak level stuff for the <20 level zones, slightly better in the 20-50 and the best stuff only drops in the 50+ level areas.

Weapons/armour/special things I manually write in, I think it's bad for balance otherwise.
 

Archduke

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Feasible might not be the best term. Really just my own opinion but I don't think a system like this adds value. I don't think its a good way of adjusting the difficulty.

I can't think of any case where this would be less work.

Imagine you simply have an item pool attached to an individual map. Then, when you didn't need a specific item in a chest, you'd simply have it pull from that designated pool and its associated percentages for different things to appear. You'd need only copy paste chests to different positions with a simple script that grabs the item. A little setup, but in the end a lot less work.
 

Frogboy

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What I plan on building is tiered item pools. I haven't implemented it yet or tested it out but the idea is this. Plugin parameters will define item tiers similar to what MikaTeapot described and a list of items in each tier (potion, potion, dagger, ether, potion, short sword, scroll, potion, etc). At the beginning of the game, the items in each pool get shuffled and handed out in their new order. You won't know exactly what is in each chest but if you find all of the chests, you'll get the same loot, just not in the same order. You won't be able to reload to get better treasure or because they'll always drop in the same order.
 

Milennin

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My first game that had them had fixed loot, but now I'm more going towards semi-randomised. Passive abilities can be found in treasure chests, which can alter the way you play a character if you choose to equip them, so having them randomised gives a lot more replayability (for my own entertainment, of course). The "semi" comes from having some checks in place that control the outcome to a degree, to prevent potential stupidities from complete randomness, like getting several character-specific passives for the same character in a row, and to avoid distributing the more complex passives in early-game chests.
 

GolvaeGames

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@Archduke I can concede that it would be easier to when you just copy the event. I don't know how you would set up the item pools and I hadn't even thought of that :rswt

I do think there are better things you could with this kind of system rather than focus on the players difficulty. Maybe have a different weapon if the player recruited an optional character, give a different stat seed based on what abilities the player if you use a skill tree/skill learn system, give different things to a player wearing a certain piece of gear (like diamond armlet in ff12). That last one might irritate people though, depending on how you implement it.

I still think preset chests are the way to go, unless your doing so random map dungeon crawler thing.
 

freakytapir

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I'm kind of torn on this issue. On one hand, having the same loot every play-through seems a bit boring. So random loot seems best.

But then I think about it. Do I really care if that chest was an Ether or a Hi-Potion? Will I even remember on a new game? And what if it's the difference between a potion and the game's best weapon at that point? (FF12 I'm looking at you on this one. Gooddamn blood sword. God forsaken Zodiak spear). Then I'll just savescum, and feel frustrated if I don't get it. Because nothing feels as bad as knowing what you're not getting.

So that's random loot for you. It's either such a small difference that it's negligible, or it's so big that the player will only accept one possible outcome. At least with random loot drops from enemies, I'm getting some XP and Gold every time. (That would be a weird game wouldn't it? Getting XP from random chests?)

Now that would lead to the opposite, every chest just having the same thing in it every time.
Now, one one hand, this seems boring, but that's only because most treasure is inherently boring.
Yay! Another potion!
It was so worth it to explore this side part of the dungeon for just an Elixir. (Which I'll never use, but hoard all game long. In case I need it later.)
Great, Chain mail armor, I bought that for all of my characters in the last town.

Or you run into the reverse problem. "Oh, this is just the item I need to defeat the boss. Lucky I opened this completely random and missable chest. I'm looking at you FF VII and your Water ring. Didn't get the item? Have fun losing to this boss. Found it? You can never lose this boss battle. Weird how old games get away with design choices that would get you shot in the RPGM community.

Now, what is the solution, you say?
Well, I know what I'm going to do.
Players want potions? Players damn well buy potions. Same goes for Ethers, Antidotes and Elixirs. Someone wants to take the time to grind gold and buy 99 Megalixirs? Great for them. (Not that I think an item that resets all sense of resource management has a place in a game, but what are you going to do.)

If my players see a chest, they know it's something unique in there. That also means, that If the players see a chest they can't get to yet, it'll be worth their while to try and reach it. Random junk is what loot drops from enemies are for.

Now, does this leave my dungeons a bit barren? Why deviate from the standard path you say? Well, that's easy. Non-Tangible rewards. Things such as bonus conversations, lore, a nice piece of scenery.
 

Aesica

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I use a few methods:
  • Loot in chests: Mostly fixed, since it's usually important stuff related to progression. I want control over the flow of loot distribution. The Legendary Sword should be in the Final Dungeon, not the Newbie Rat Cave, right? The Ring of Ice Resistance does no good in the Obligatory Volcano.
  • Fishing loot: Randomized from a specific loot table for a given body of water. Some contents of a given loot pool can be limited quantity, so fish enough times in the Golden Pond and you'll likely end up getting the Legendary Golden Carp at some point. But only one from that pool, ever.
  • Shops: Another tried and true method of loot distribution. Find a town, buy (or sell) stuff in the shop. Some items are limited quantity, most are not.
Overall, I favor fixed loot by a pretty large margin. Random loot only works if you plan on burying the player with it and if the equipment is randomized like some sort of quasi-MMO. "Flaming Acolyte Hammer of the Monkey (Blue Quality) was found!" Unfortunately, where this is a thing, so usually is limited inventory, which I'm not a fan of at all. I want my players fighting epic battles in an epic story, not playing Inventory Management Simulator 2.0.
 

GmOcean

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For me, it's a bit mixed.
For instance Loot in chests would have 1 - 3 items normally. Item 1 would always be a fixed. Items 2-3 would be random loot from a given item pool.

Same as items that can be found on the ground. I'd generally have it be random from a given item pool, but fixed in times when I think the player would need it, like finding a revival potion on the ground in an obscure location, before the boss fight.
 

Frogboy

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There is one other method I'm considering. Chests pretty much just hold valuables (gold, gems, jewelry etc). That's pretty much it. Weapons, armors and items are purchased with the money you find which mostly comes from chests. This method makes money a more limited resource that needs to be managed better than what you usually find in most RPGs.

One thing that kind of always annoyed me about most RPGs is that in the beginning of the game, you have to save up your gold in order to make that big purchase to get that attack or defense boost. But then mid-game, you just get all that for free in random chests while your gold supply becomes useless. I'd like to keep that saving up mechanic throughout the whole game. Certain items will probably only be one time purchases but you'll still have to save up and pay some master blacksmith to craft it for you.
 

Celestrium

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I use a few methods:
  • Loot in chests: Mostly fixed, since it's usually important stuff related to progression. I want control over the flow of loot distribution. The Legendary Sword should be in the Final Dungeon, not the Newbie Rat Cave, right? The Ring of Ice Resistance does no good in the Obligatory Volcano.
  • Fishing loot: Randomized from a specific loot table for a given body of water. Some contents of a given loot pool can be limited quantity, so fish enough times in the Golden Pond and you'll likely end up getting the Legendary Golden Carp at some point. But only one from that pool, ever.
  • Shops: Another tried and true method of loot distribution. Find a town, buy (or sell) stuff in the shop. Some items are limited quantity, most are not.
Overall, I favor fixed loot by a pretty large margin. Random loot only works if you plan on burying the player with it and if the equipment is randomized like some sort of quasi-MMO. "Flaming Acolyte Hammer of the Monkey (Blue Quality) was found!" Unfortunately, where this is a thing, so usually is limited inventory, which I'm not a fan of at all. I want my players fighting epic battles in an epic story, not playing Inventory Management Simulator 2.0.

I would say something very similiar to what Aesica does. I want control over the treasure chests, and I want it to be meaningful loot, not just a potion lol. Fishing loot I might not do the limited amount of fish, but see the appeal in that. Shops pretty much the same.
 

Aesica

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Fishing loot I might not do the limited amount of fish, but see the appeal in that.
I should've probably elaborated better, but the limited loot in my fishing system is mainly for really rare rewards that I don't want there to be multiples of. Things like a quest item or special common event trigger, a locked chest with a powerful item inside, etc. In most cases, there's as much salmon or carp as the player has patience to fish up. :)
 

gstv87

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don't confuse loot chests, with environmental rewards.
in Diablo for example, everything is loot: you can break barrels, vases, chests, anything you find around, and they'll always have coin, or potions, or something else.
THEN, when you get to the dungeon bosses, you get *loot chests* which often have the quest item you need, and also weapons, gems or rare items.

a *loot* chest needs to be *kept* by someone or something, for it to be *looted* by the player.
that something is usually the boss, or a very complex lock.
and, the thing kept is usually what you're looking for in order to complete the quest, which if not started, shouldn't reward you with that item.
 

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