The JC Penny Effect, Extra Credits, Warframe, Components Vs. Gear

This week’s Extra Credits really got my “little grey cells” firing.  I would like to share one of the thoughts going through my head here.  But first, go ahead and give this a looksy!

That “JC Penny Effect” is fascinating.  Though I could sort of see the unfortunate outcome.  Despite the fact the CEO wanted to be honest with customers, you know the first question John Doe will ask is, “Where are all the sales?”

Even though the price won’t be any different, even though there was never a sale to begin with, people were going to ask, “What happened to the sales”?  This is what happens when dishonesty is your policy for YEARS: it comes back to bite you hard, and everyone around you is hurt as well.

Good thought, right?  Well, that wasn’t the one I meant to share.  I wanted to talk about components versus gear as loot in our massively multiplayer games.  And I wanted to talk about Warframe!

I took EC up on their survey for components vs. gear, and reasons for choosing one over the other.  This is what I wrote:

Greetings, dear Extra Credits team!  This is my first email to you.

I partook in the Firefall beta a few times but I never gave any thought to the components over gear system until your recent episode (for which I thank you).  The beta never really grabbed my attention, unfortunately; probably because it felt like a super-traditional, super-grindy MMO at the end of day.  I tossed around the idea of gear vs. components for a few minutes because I wasn’t sure how to answer, but I was able to choose “components” when I remembered two things: my days of old playing The Lord of the Rings Online and the fairly recent open beta of Warframe.

While I can imagine how exhilarating it would be to pick up a rare (or great new) item, I’ve personally found I’ve almost never experienced that (save perhaps in a few instances–like Torchlight II maybe?).  In LotRO, practically EVERYTHING I found in drops or from rewards never interested me because I knew I could craft something infinitely better.

The second thing (which actually relates back to the first) is that despite my aversion to grinding, there is something in crafting I find rewarding: to put in time and investment into something you know is going to be fantastic.  Warframe is the first game in a long time to simultaneously reawaken and scratch that itch.  Pretty much everything you collect is for crafting a new weapon or combat suit (the warframes, go figure).  So in my case, it *is* exciting to land that rare mineral or technology I’ve been searching for in the construction of my next chassis or weapon.  And I think your idea of a progress bar for components needed to build X is great (please do that, game devs)!  Although, I think would like it better if bosses (which is only where rare components drop 99% of the time) would do more dropping of of those rare resources and less dropping of common stuff in fewer quantities than the container I opened in the previous room (rage!).  That wastes EVERYBODY’s time.



PS: I wonder if component rewards only make a better use of everyone’s time grinding as opposed to getting that epic sword you can’t use and completely wasting that time?

Now that was essentially the thought I wanted to share.  Yeah, I probably should’ve stuck to bullet points since my decision and its bare bones reasons are possibly, possibly (maybe) what they’re interested in, but… I couldn’t help myself.

One thing I do realize now (and am kicking myself for) is that I did not specify in the email that Warframe is a game where the loot drops are all crafting materials or blueprints as opposed to actual gear.  It’s an aspect of the game I’ve actually come to enjoy, despite some of its flaws (like the afore-mentioned bosses dropping common junk as opposed to rare junk, and forcing you to run the level AGAIN).  There’s nothing special to it, you collect the stuff, get the blueprint, hit “build”, and wait.  But as I said, I’ve found I enjoy building stuff in games, despite its tedious nature at times.  There’s an odd fix that’s satisfied when you acquire the part you need to make that +3 Epic Level Boomstick of Awesome.  Oh well.  Considering what these guys do, they probably know about the game anyway.

I’m also very interested to hear other gamers’ opinions on the components versus gear thing, should the odd person comment of course.

So, Warframe.  What is it?  I’ve been railing on about its components for loot without really saying what the game is.

If you’re up for more reading, look here.

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5 Responses to The JC Penny Effect, Extra Credits, Warframe, Components Vs. Gear

  1. Aldowyn says:

    Hey, you wrote more than I did in response to that. Anyways, I brought up Warframe too, but since I haven’t played enough to get a good handle on the crafting system, I was more reserved. Here, lemme find the email I sent them…

    ‘It’s impossible to REALLY know which I would prefer, having not played a significant amount with a system similar to Firefall’s as you described it, but I think a components system COULD work quite well, although given it’s rarity and how often the gear-focus is used (like almost always, except maybe EVE?)

    That said, I’ve been sitting here for a while, and everything I’ve come up with so far is only a stopgap measure that fails in some cases. The main problem seems to me is that ‘crafting’ has always existed in professions, and there’s a reason for that – so a single person can’t make everything you need. Following from that, it makes sense that different professions require different materials.. so the problem is just shifted to drops being useful dependent on profession rather than class. It’s an interesting debate, but I think with a lot of work a ‘components’ based system could be really awesome.’

    Crafting is used to run an economy, and if everyone can make everything, you’re left without very many options.


    • Ian says:

      Yeah, one problem I see (which can happen a lot at times in Warframe) is that everyone can be searching for a resource the game refuses to drop, so players are running certain levels over and over trying to get what they need out of necessity, not because they want to do it. It can be a frustrating waste of time.

      I don’t think a component loot system doesn’t necessarily mean the removal of crafting professions, but I don’t necessarily see a problem with resources anyone could use. Warframe is simple enough (in contrast with, say, LotRO) that the system they have in place actually works. Anyone can use any resource and can make whatever they want, though different blueprints require different materials of course. You then send your stuff off to the Foundry where it builds. Other than having to wait three days for a new warframe to complete (which is just an obnoxious way of prolonging things), I think the system works. A more robust game would probably require professions and such.


  2. X2-Eliah says:

    Hmm. Crafting system components vs gear as rewards for fighting?

    Hard to say. Personally, I am more eager to get gear itself, for the following reasons:
    – I can use that piece of gear instantly (with luck, of course): is it better than my thing? If yes, I equip the new thing, become more badass by a tiny bit.
    – Crafting usually is a *longer* grind than fighting. This is, at least in the MMOs that I’ve played/can remember, a fairly common thing. Crafting takes ages to be relevantly high to be useful.
    – Crafting is a chance-based thing, often, and may result in indeterminate item qualities/strengths/bonuses. Well, okay, so are drops, but with a drop, you have a single ‘randomness gate’ – The item drops, you see it, you check it out, you know if it’s good or not. If it drops a crafting component, then.. You just passed one randomness gate, but another one awaits you when you actually go and *craft* that item. (And that’s assuming there’s one component to make one item – realistically it would be more like 5 to 10 components to make 1 item, so 6 to 11 randomness gates).
    – Can’t I just buy something better from the game’s auction-house / player market? In most games, I think I can. And I can getthe money by selling that dropped item.

    Now, all my responses are influenced by the MMO’s that I’ve played, in which crafting is, well, ‘typical’ – grindey money and time sink with rare random chances of producing good things and mediocre chances of ‘failure’ of some kind in each attempt.
    I guess from a lore standpoint, enemies dropping components would be more logical than dropping epic items of zomgbling. HOWEVER… I just think that seeing “oooh a rare violet helmet just dropped!” is more exciting than seeing “oooh a semi-common component, that makes up 10% of what could maybe be crafted into a rare violet helmet, just dropped!”…


    • X2-Eliah says:

      Heh. Watched the vid. Hm. Guess I ended up inadvertently agreeing with their suspicion that some players might prefer the objectively worse-off loot drop system..

      But, er, yeah. Even knowing all the factors, I’d still prefer loot drops over resource/material drops. I think…


      • Ian says:

        Nevertheless, I think you bring up an interesting point with the “randomness gate” with gear versus components, and that itself is worth discussing as a possible defense for gear-based loot.

        I would say, though, that with components, even with that randomness, gate you still know what your getting. In LotRO for example, most materials are definite and scattered throughout certain areas, and if you pick your profession right out the door with a toon, then you pick that stuff up on your usual quest-grinding routes. When I played that game, I almost never could get excited by anything that quests or mobs or stores had to offer because the (say) bows I could craft for my archer were light-years better–even at the starter levels.

        You bring up another interesting point with the auction houses, and using gear loot as vendor trash, but that gear as trash was only worth a few monies at most. In fact, the way I made money to buy AH stuff (or whatever else) was by collecting wood for crafting and selling it at that very AH for hundreds–even a thousand or more–monies. The “vendor trash”, whatever it might’ve been, was nice pocket change in comparison. In some cases I would be grinding quests to level anyway, but I would also, of course, go out just to collect materials, so that would be an additional grind fest itself, yes. But I do think that it is fair to say that farming materials for crafting is a preference. Even though I don’t always (or necessarily) enjoy grinding that stuff, it satisfies a weird fix. I just enjoy the idea of making something, and that’s me. But I do think it’s generally a better use of my time than constantly finding stuff that’s either useless or not usable for my toon.

        Now, Warframe’s system is really simple because all you do is run around large, procedurally generated levels shooting things and picking up what falls–which, if it isn’t health, energy, or ammo, it’s crafting components. Every item only uses four components at most, and every planet has a notification telling you “X, Y, and Z drop here.” The entire game revolves around leveling up toys to get more toys to help you get stuff so you can make more toys so you can level those new toys so you can do that all over again. Annoyances aside, the crafting system works.

        This honestly makes me wonder if there’s even a good way gear and components can coexist. Gear itself almost seems like something that, in order to work best, needs to stand on its own in a system that revolves around it–and with ways to help cut down the gambling aspect.


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