Garbage Loot Needs To Stay In The Trash


I’m on a grinding spree, purging Elwynn Forest of wildlife to assert humanity's dominance in the virtual world. But my rampage comes to a groaning halt. My bags are full, littered with junk items titled in smoky grey—a color reserved for only the most useless garbage. I have no choice. Opening my bag I destroy with the same ferocity I showed the wolves. And return to the grind, only to be halted once more when my limited bag space is overflowing with waste.

Garbage loot is an outdated standard that is as offensive as the Great Pacific garbage patch; developers are choking me with a 6 pack ring. It serves nearly zero purpose in every MMORPG. Quests reward you with spangled Green items in the first twenty minutes of play, sending Grey and White loot into the bonfire rather than the recycling bin. Why? Why are my bags bogged down with drivel? The same bland items have been hanging off wolf coats for over a decade.

There’s no economic purpose. Junk loot sell for pittance compared to any colorfully decorated gear. And at level 15 I could care less about filling my wallet with copper coins that aren't enough to buy Oliver Twist another bowl of gruel. It’s a waste of time to run to a vendor, to sell items before heading back out into the forest, shattering immersion like a broken wine glass at a Mensa dinner party. I play games to forget I have dishes to wash not accrue more menial tasks. I would rather pick up the equivalent of junk loot’s value in copper, silver, or—unlikely—gold. What can be done?

Deconstructing junk for resources is one way to circumvent ineffectiveness. If I can transmogrify “Iron Sword” into its constituent parts and use them to raise my Alchemy skill then I don’t feel weighed down. Further made robust if no vendor sells the required materials, giving keen players an incentive to monetize their acquisitions. But it's a mechanic rarely instituted. Final Fantasy 14 has a desynthesis skill, but it’s also a rare game that promotes crafting as a progression pathway. Whereas many titles slap on crafting like scratch and sniff stickers accentuating a notebook.

Ultima Online handles junk loot perfectly. There isn’t any. Because the differences between basic gear and great gear are minute. Even a skeleton’s dropped Katana serves a practical purpose. Ganked by Stone Harpy's, my loot viscera splattered the cave walls. But equipped with random item-drops I marched back into the Harpy Nest, slayed the West Side Story reenactment, and reacquired my loot. But the modern MMORPG prides itself on an insane disparity between beginner’s gear and end-game equipment, rendering every former item useless the moment a quest rewards you with iridescent labels.

There is only one reason to weigh down my playthrough with bile junk. Tired of being halted at the gates of routine Spring cleaning? Then be sure to pay Charon a penny. Bag space has been commodified. And monetizing the number of slots through an arbitrary limitation and then filling bagspace with auto loot junk is a way to incentivize conversion. It's a grimy methodology. I'll keep sending my stinking loot to landfill hell.

Developers ought not be afraid to challenge orthodox norms, or abandon them outright. Besides pranking friends in Diablo 3 and taking a step towards completing blasé achievements, garbage loot is a waste of effort—unless the MMORPG monetizes bag spaces and pesters players with inordinate rubbish to persuade expanded slots in exchange for cash. But it’s a tired system. Don’t waste player time with loot designed for sale. Every item should serve some end in and of itself, not be a means to pennies misplaced without care. While recycling is a noble cause, garbage loot needs to stay in the trash.

From Mega Man II to Ape Escape, I've been playing games for as long as I can remember. I've spent months killing porings in Ragnarok Online and more recently lived a second life in Eve Online. I usually play as gUMBY, gUMBLEoni, or gUMBLes in-game.