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Thread: JRPG Spoils Make No Sense - Editorial

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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff InstaTrent's Avatar
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    JRPG Spoils Make No Sense - Editorial

    Sometimes it's easy to ignore something you've seen practically everywhere. Precedent, however, is no excuse for illogical design. When it comes to battle spoils, JRPGs are as illogical as it gets.

    Editorial
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    BEARSONA Administrator Paws's Avatar
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    I can carry around 99 milk in a stack, but only 5 bear corpses in WoW. I don't think JRPGs are the only guilty party

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    Member Angelonight's Avatar
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    I get what your saying, and I understand. And like you said its something you notice and never really pay attention to. I guess a way to look at it so to not make it seem like developers are lazy is that is IS a fantasy setting and not everything strictly needs to make sense. Though I do agree, and I to like just a little bit of realism with my fantasy particularly in the weapons and armor catagory, That's right looking at you WoW with your 3 foot eagle statues on your shoulder pads.
    That being said I can also see where things like money and items on monsters could be easily explained as being eaten by the monster after defeating another adventurer. The key would be to find a happy medium between fantasy and reality.
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    It's a disconnect between the game and the setting. It's like you spend hours running around killing enemy soldiers as you may your way to the next story point. And when you get there the main character says something like "We don't want to fight or see people get hurt."

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    Dread News Editor RPGamer Staff Fowl Sorcerous's Avatar
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    Then pen and paper tradition doesn't always hold up that great, either. D&D treasure tables have gotten less specific over the years so if the GM decides to let the dice fall rather than use it as guidline, you end up with goblin chieftains with a taste in oil paintings and evil Earth cleric carrying tridents of fish detection.

  6. #6
    Final Fantasy 12 did away with the random spoils system, and you mostly get drops that are related to to whatever you're killing. I think in 14 it's fairly close to this sort of system as well, with the gil mostly being from completing quests and duties, and most monsters dropping things that monsters would normally have. My memory is a bit fuzzy, but I think FF13 and 11 are the same way.

    My bigger concern is the inconsistency in drops. You kill one toad, and it has a toad skin. The next one you kill doesn't have one? It's for gameplay reasons, really.
    Last edited by kazriko; 01-13-2014 at 12:34 PM.

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    Staff Healer RPGamer Staff TwinBahamut's Avatar
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    This has never, ever bothered me at all.

    Generally, this is the point where world logic has to give way to making the game play well. This kind of loot system may be less realistic, but I think it generally makes for better gameplay. Sure, various RPGs that try to be more realistic by letting you loot everything off of everyone and giving everyone plausible equipment is somewhat more realistic, but it is extremely bothersome. I don't want to have to look through every bauble in their pockets and collect a giant pile of very heavy items of of every enemy that slowly adds up to affect the inevitable encumbrance statistic. It's tedious and dull.

    The interesting part is that the two systems end up being exactly the same when you get back to town and sell all of your loot. At the end of the day, both results are that you get a certain amount of money and experience from fighting a group of enemies, with a handful of items that are actually useful thrown in. The only meaningful difference is that one game makes you manually sort out the wheat from the chaff and convert the junk into money, while the other handwaves it and automates the process. If you simply imagine that the "money" you get from random monsters in a Tales game is, in fact, just a representation of something equal in value to that amount of money and is directly converted into money the moment you reach a store, then it makes sense just as well as the "WRPG" system. Final Fantasy 12, Persona 4, and the Etrian Odyssey games use a system halfway between the two extremes that actually clarifies how similar they are (and is better than many because it makes the loot meaningful without requiring any bothersome sorting, just sell it all AND get the benefits).

    An important part of making games fun is using abstraction to ignore all the things that are tedious to track so that people can focus on what is actually important. That is why we use HP systems rather than complex damage tracking to individual organs, why we use one-size-fits-all armor rather than require armor to be custom-tailored to individual characters, and so on. Really, the ability to kill a giant orc, take its armor, and let a petite female elf put that same suit of armor on and use it effectively is just as absurd as wolves who cough up gold when you kill them, but it is an essential part of the "WRPG" loot system you praise.

    Also, I may as well object to the use of JRPG and WRPG in this discussion. It is way more complex than that and you know it, and reducing it to "WRPG is good, JRPG is bad" doesn't make for an interesting or meaningful discussion. This is particularly true when the most unrealistic and unjustifiable loot system of all, the Diablo-inspired classic MMO loot system in which killing a monster is akin to drawing a collectable card game card pack with a random chance at the rare loot you need regardless of logic, is one of the most important parts of many of the most popular western RPG series.

    Also, I rather dislike the idea that it is even a laudable goal for videogame RPGs to try to resemble tabletop RPGs, which is central to the first part of your discussion. That's probably worth an editorial from me at some point, though.

  8. #8
    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff InstaTrent's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwinBahamut View Post
    "WRPG is good, JRPG is bad" doesn't make for an interesting or meaningful discussion.
    It's more along the lines of "realistic is good, and many WRPGs are more realistic." I love me some JRPGs, but dead creatures generally don't explode into gold and items when they walk into the light. There is a place for realism in fantasy environments, and logical drops don't have to be boring or tedious just because they avoid spoon-feeding the player.
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    A Familiar Teacher Administrator Strawberry Eggs's Avatar
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    The first Baten Kaitos is somewhat realistic when it comes to its spoils. The monsters don't carry money (even human enemies don't) and instead you have to make money by taking pictures of monsters and sell those (pictures of bosses and rare monsters sold for quite a bit). I say somewhat because monsters do carry Magnus cards. Monsters carrying cards (Magnus cards are artificially created, so it's not as if their Magnus becomes a card upon death) is about as baffling as them carrying money. Baten Kaitos Origins has the monsters dropping money, though.

    I recall Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World has monsters that give out little, if any money. They did drop plenty of monster parts (horns, fur, etc) that could be sold if not used in crafting. Human enemies and humanoid monsters, like ogres, drop money, and lots of it. The original ToS isn't as "realistic," though.
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff Wheels's Avatar
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    Realistic spoils are great... so long as they don't just switch to having monsters drop "junk bits" that you then just sell to get the currency you'd get normally.

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    BEARSONA Administrator Paws's Avatar
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    It doesn't really knock me out of the fiction of the game, but I can definitely appreciate games that take a good middle ground. A good example is Chrono Cross: you get money when you kill stuff, and logical bits to craft new equipment: mechanical stuff drops screws, beasts drop fur or leather, shelled things drop carapace.

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    Member Ethos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InstaTrent View Post
    It's more along the lines of "realistic is good, and many WRPGs are more realistic."
    Realistic is good? I'm not entirely sure how to react to that. Are you assuming this is widely regarded and not just an opinion? And what do you mean by realistic? Do you mean a literal interpretation of how a fantasy world should behave by assuming that the fantasy world inherits our world's laws? Because "realistic" could also mean "balanced" or it could mean a realistic sense of accomplishment or a realistic way in which the fantasy world behaves in order to be consistent with its world's laws in addition to the way the game's mechanics behave. Should JRPGs rid themselves of menus because it is not realistic to believe that these characters would be subject to having their world pause arbitrarily to be filled with text? No, instead we make the connection that the menus are a conduit between player and universe. A way of making the player feel like they are interacting with the world. It is a worthy avatar for the party sitting down and using items or changing their equipment.

    Realistic can be heart-stopping when done well as The Last Of Us made no small effort to prove last year, but Flower and Shadow of the Colossus and Skyward Sword and Etrian Odyssey IV are all outstanding efforts (in anticipation of the bevvy of opinions that surely counter mine, I am sure the holders can provide their own examples of what they would deem outstanding) and the rules of their universes are very different than ours or those found in The Last Of Us. Agro feels realistic to control in relation to our world (in that the horse feels like its own creature, and riding it is more of a relationship than the hollow direct control that a game like Twilight Princess provided), but it did not seem out of place for Wander to grab onto the grassy back of an ancient stone creature while it dragged him underwater or for him to follow a magical light reflecting off of his sword.

    I think "consistent" and "thematically relevant" are terms that have far more significance and interest in a discussion such as this. I honestly can't figure out the misplaced obsession with "realistic" people have, beyond a preference. And a preference is something that I can understand, but it has very little to do with what is "good" in the non-moral sense.

    (edited for clarification)
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    Staff Healer RPGamer Staff TwinBahamut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by InstaTrent View Post
    It's more along the lines of "realistic is good, and many WRPGs are more realistic." I love me some JRPGs, but dead creatures generally don't explode into gold and items when they walk into the light. There is a place for realism in fantasy environments, and logical drops don't have to be boring or tedious just because they avoid spoon-feeding the player.
    I'm sorry to say this, but did you really read what I wrote? This is a pretty bad rebuttal to my points, in which you are trying to take a single statement made within my argument as if it were the summation of my argument. It wasn't.

    I'll break it down again, this time starting with your own characterization of your argument.

    "realistic is good, and many WRPGs are more realistic". I'll add in the implied "than JRPGs" to complete that statement. Note that I say "JRPGs" rather than "many JRPGs" here because you never use the term "many JRPGs" in your editorial. You lump them all together, so letting you make exceptions would be letting you move the goalposts, which I'm not inclined to do because I want to make a point of it.

    To start with, the first statement in there is patently false, as I spent most of my own statement trying to establish. People, as a whole, don't crave realism or simulation in games. This is, in fact, seen as one of the most classic traps for game designers to fall into when creating games. Almost any good discussion of game design will, at some point, have to make clear that merely simulating something or being "realistic" is not, in of itself, going make a good game. Making something "realistic" is a tool in a game designer's toolbox, not a goal in of itself. Sim Tower was not any more fun for having been built on top of an elevator planning simulator, and Sim City games stop being fun when they turn into traffic management simulators. Note that they may be fun for some people, but generally not many people. Reality can be tedious, complex, stressful, and often quite dull, which are all traits that games don't want to share. Elegance and simplicity are often much more attractive in games than realism is.

    Now, let's look at "many WRPGs are more realistic". This is also an untrue statement. The "loot everything and either equip it on characters or sell it all in a shop" system is not realistic. It is unrealistic for these bizarre shops, which are willing to buy anything and everything from you regardless of quantity or the shop's own needs, to ever exist. As I said before, it is unrealistic for your characters to actually be able to use this loot for themselves. Often the circumstances of what loot is acquirable is just as unrealistic as any other game (too much equipment, enemies that always wear their armor day-in, day-out, butchering animals without training or the right equipment, items than never spoil, loot that scales to match the player's power level, and so on). Realism is a complex and unforgiving thing, and every game becomes laughably unrealistic at some point. The system you are describing is less abstract than some, but it is not really any more realistic in practice. I find that, the more a game tries to be realistic and non-abstract, the easier it is to see how unrealistic it really is.

    Finally, let's look at "many WRPGS.... are more than JRPGs". This is where your argument simply looks prejudiced. I'll break this down further.

    1) You are explicitly comparing a subset of WRPGS to all JRPGs. This is an imbalanced comparison that is going to be flawed no matter what way you look at it.

    2) You never specify which WRPGs actually use this system. As such, you are comparing all JRPGs to some imaginary, arbitrary WRPG that you don't even prove exists.

    3) Given number 2, it is hard to accept the claim that this imaginary WRPG is actually representative of "many WRPGs". This is particularly problematic given that many of us here have played WRPGs that use completely different systems than the one you describe!

    4) You never give a qualifier to JRPGs, so you are rather strongly stating that all JRPGs use the system you describe. This, however, is blatantly false, as there are a wide variety of JRPGs out there that use a wide range of different loot systems. Your criticisms many apply to some games, but they don't apply well to others.

    Generally, your statement simply falls apart because I can name several WRPGs that don't use the system that you describe, and I can name several JRPGs that use a system that is rather comparable to the one you praise as an WRPG system. To be honest, using the terms "WRPG and JRPG" as a way to refer to particular loot systems and not even making any effort to actually define those terms is just sloppy work on your part. You can't make a good argument if you can't even define terms or break away from relying on stereotypes and made-up examples.

    So, yeah, I think you're making a pretty bad argument.
    Last edited by TwinBahamut; 01-13-2014 at 02:56 PM.

  14. #14
    The entire adventuring party suddenly comes down with food poisoning and gets diarrhea (not an extreme example at all; VERY common problem when traveling actually). They miss their appointment with the king because the party doesn't want to stray too far from a toilet and the messenger sent to inform the king is unable to reach him before he becomes impatient and dispatches his own guards to complete the quest.

    Yeah. Realism is good.

    I love me some JRPGs, but dead creatures generally don't explode into gold and items when they walk into the light. There is a place for realism in fantasy environments, and logical drops don't have to be boring or tedious just because they avoid spoon-feeding the player.
    Remember that when you're exploring a monster filled dungeon where none of the monsters drop healing potions or MP restoratives because beasts an animals would never carry that stuff and your party is in DESPERATE need of healing items.

    And as a few members have already pointed out, you're just gonna sell those tiger teeth and shark fins for cash anyway, so why not just skip the middle man and take the cash straight up? You could balance it out with an item crafting system, but then the dev would have to develop another feature when they could just give you the potions and items you would have crafted anyway as monster drops.

    Game design ALWAYS trumps realism.

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    News Director/Reviewer RPGamer Staff Severin Mira's Avatar
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    One consideration is you can look at stuff like this as a measure of how engaged you are in the rest of the game (provided "accurate hunting/looting simulation" isn't a major point of the game, but if it that and fails on this aspect, well...). If you start to care about this stuff then it seems to me that suspension of disbelief has gone away, and it's probably time to find something else anyway. But if it's a thing that is actively bugging you then it's debatable whether the game's going to hold you even it had a realistic system. All this points to to me is just a preference/different priority on one aspect of game design, I can't see any real argument that when personal preference is removed either way makes a game objectively better, it's just an option. Hurray for options! On a personal front I mostly don't care too much for heavy crafting systems, so I'm in the camp which quite happy with shortcuts like this. Perhaps that means the initial idea I ventured is more indicative for people closer to that preference but hey, something to consider.
    Last edited by Severin Mira; 01-13-2014 at 03:39 PM. Reason: Added "Hurray for options!" :)
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    RPGamer Staff RPGamer Staff InstaTrent's Avatar
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    Not to harp on this, but the point of the article isn't WRPGs. Not even a little. I'm just stating that illogical JRPG spoils generally take me out of the experience.

    You can disagree, and that's fine, but please don't misunderstand my disagreement as condescension.
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    My issue was always with the "steal" command. Why does this sword that this monster doesn't even use cease to exist the moment I kill it?

  18. #18
    First off, the idea that purple horned bobcats carry fire rings is ridiculous. It's the red ones.

    Secondly, it's hard to argue against the counterpoints that others have made, though I get your general gripe. You can't expect (and I don't think you want) perfect realism, but it is very reasonable to expect some effort from the game to do something more creative than just handing you random stuff.

    I agree with others that gold in lieu of beast guts is an appreciated shortcut device. I'm not a fan of standard encounter weapon/armor drops or of the synthesis/crafting mechanic since it's too much trial and error, and it is near impossible to convince me to sell ANYTHING during a game. Personally I've always been partial to finding items hidden in various areas (chests, etc.) as the main loot delivery system. However, nothing is worse than digging deep into an area for a 'rare' item, then finding it being sold by the gross in the next town over.

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    Member Kiralyn's Avatar
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    Not sure what WRPGs you've played, but the majority of ones I've played over the past 30 years have used the same exact "random crap & cash" drops that JRPGs have. It's rare, in my experience, to have enemies drop their actual equipment.

    /shrug

  20. #20
    chaotic neutral observer ironmage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kazriko View Post
    My bigger concern is the inconsistency in drops. You kill one toad, and it has a toad skin. The next one you kill doesn't have one?
    It does, but your black mage had his fire spell tuned too hot, and the skin is badly scorched. The witch-doctor who buys that sort of stuff wouldn't be able to use it, anyway. The fighter isn't innocent, either; when she decides to practice her new attack, then instead of a nice whole skin, you end up with a shredded mess. Nobody wants that.


    Anyway, why concern oneself with minutiae like loot, when there's an elephant in the room?

    I've often noticed, while playing a game, that enemies continuously increase in strength as the game progresses. How could it be that the distribution of enemy strength so closely reflects my party's journey through the world? How come the grunts near the end of the game are twenty times stronger than the elite squadron I fought near the beginning?

    This is beyond coincidental; it's completely unbelievable. It's obvious that the game designers, with flagrant disregard for realism, have tweaked the enemy strength throughout the world specifically to fit the flow of the plot.

    But, nobody cares, because leveling up is fun. The same thing goes for loot.

    Sure, it's possible for the writers/designers to take too many liberties. As soon as you contradict the "common sense" of your audience, you break immersion. But this break point is different for everyone. I think this editorial is just Trent complaining about his particular break point being exceeded. It doesn't really reflect a significant problem in the genre.

    Quote Originally Posted by InstaTrent View Post
    Not to harp on this, but the point of the article isn't WRPGs. Not even a little.
    Go back and read your own editorial. You have a whole paragraph on how WRPGs are different. Even if it isn't your main thesis, it is a significant point. If you weren't trying to highlight a perceived superiority of WRPGs over JRPGs, then you should have titled the article "RPG spoils make no sense". (They don't. I'm okay with that.)

    I suspect that WRPG vs. JRPG threads, like FF threads, have funnel-like properties.

    I'm just stating that illogical JRPG spoils generally take me out of the experience.
    What about illogical WRPG spoils? Are you okay with those? If so, what makes illogical JRPG spoils worse than illogical WRPG spoils? If not, why do illogical JRPG spoils merit special treatment?

    You can disagree, and that's fine, but please don't misunderstand my disagreement as condescension.
    When in debate, you should defend your points when you believe you are in the right, and gracefully back down when you find you are in the wrong. If you post glibly, but don't make a real effort to participate, people will get frustrated.
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