What do Guild Wars 2 players get more than two blues and a green? Bags. Loot bags, moldy bags, thorned bags, champion bags, supply bags, treat bags, and another pile of alternately named ones. There’s no need to ask for paper or plastic, because doubtless in your inventory is leather, metal, and giftwrap, too.
And recent memory has gifted the heroes of Tyria with an astonishing technological wonder: bags within bags. During this most recent Wintersday, a single bag could give a player 14 other bags.
Mice were made for the amount of double-clicking needed to handle the onslaught of bags. Well, they were made, because doubtless they’ll break by next Thursday after finishing off the latest stack of bags. Or luck. Or salvage. Or…
…Anyways, I’m going to overview why there are so many dang bags in the game, what problems it causes for players (not including breaking their left mouse button), and some ways to make bags within bags less of a metaphysical impossibility, er, pain in the charr.
There a several reasons for bags, but at the base of all of them is moderating the economy.
A Bag is a Loot Table
Want to add yet another layer of bag to the bagception? A bag is gotten from a loot table, and it is a loot table itself.
Bags are a great development shorthand. Rather than needing to adjust the loot table of dozens of mobs whenever drop rates need changing, changing the table of the bag does all the work immediately.
Granted, this isn’t true for the unbagged parts of the loot table, but the balance of everything else is very stable if the values on the Trading Post are any indicator.
And for the case of seasonal items, all that needs to be added to a mob’s loot tables is a seasonal bag. All the data work required for festival-appropriate loot drops done with one simple data addition.
A Bag is Delayed Loot
When a player gets a bag, there is a choice: consume it, or place it for sale (there’s a third choice to wait, but economically it boils down to consume or sell). If a player consumes it, the loot enters the economy, to either be sold or used in crafting.
If a player sells it, it becomes beholden to both the market forces on its average value (based on a good invisible hand guess of how valuable its possible contents are) and the 15% TP tax. Even as it makes someone money, it sinks gold out of the economy, especially if the bag doesn’t drop the high value item driving its cost when opened.
Bags Hold a Constant Drop Rate
Bags are unaffected by magic find. Thus, their drop rate is a known (and adjustable) constant without needing to throw advanced probability and data modeling into the mix to adjust for the average magic find of the playerbase.
Since bags are a major source of the crafting materials that drive the exotic, ascended, and legendary creation markets, this is a game design godsend for trying to keep the economy reasonably stable.
Combine all three of these things, and bags are a deliberate design decision to ease the control and balance of the overall game economy, especially with the wide reach of most bags’ contents.
The Ill Effects of Bagception
However, no matter how effective bags are for making John Smith’s job easier, they are received poorly by the player base, especially as more and more loot becomes dependent on their use.
Magic Find Feels Pointless
Back in September 2013, the Back to School Super Adventure Box* update changed magic find from a character-based (and party-screwing-over) bonus to a permanent account-bound bonus. Better drops, in essence, became part of an account’s progression.
But of what use is an endgame account progression tool if 90% of what a player receives is intentionally unaffected by it? What is the point of having “more luck” if it doesn’t actually cause more luck?
The sheer absurdity of the magic find bonuses in Silverwastes show this in clear detail. Aside from chest-running (an activity explicitly affected by magic find), the drops are primarily bags awarded from event credit, and in no way affected by the 300%+ bonuses a reasonably progressed account will generate after killing the Vinewrath.
The Thrill of the Drop Doesn’t Exist
As I mentioned back with the Gold Standard, there is little excitement in picking up loot in Guild Wars 2. The occasional rare drop feels like a total crapshoot, not this awesome thing to look forward to.
The primary way to affect that feeling of garbage loot is by raising magic find, which at least on paper improves drop rates of rarer items.
Only…bags aren’t affected by magic find. Only being a favored one of the random number generator affects bags. And bags are more and more what players receive when it comes to loot. The thrill, such as it is, gets lessened by the simple knowledge that there is absolutely no agency in it beyond rolling as many times as possible.
All the Clicking Means Less Playing
The worst part about the plethora of bags is how long it takes to deal with them. And since most actual worthwhile loot is tied up within them, they must be dealt with. Any amount of time spent playing the game has a down period of “selling/salvaging/consuming inventory.”
And worse, because the entire economy is predicated on a bunch of relative junk eventually adding up to the thing you want (Gold Standard again), players do not have the genuine choice to avoid it.
To play Guild Wars 2 is to spend a lot of time not playing Guild Wars 2 because the inventory must be cleaned out, the bags opened or sold, the materials deposited, the luck consumed, and so on.
Inventory management and clearing should not be its own minigame. It’s not fun, it’s not enjoyable, and it takes time away from actually playing the game.
Less Moderating, More Validating
Having magic find functionally not matter negates the point of even having it. Yes, bags keep drop chances very stable and easily adjusted with the quick update of some values in a table, but making bags the primary form of getting loot period makes a poorly regarded rewards system even worse.
Due to how intricately tied they are to so many markets, I agree with keeping crafting materials-based bags (like the aforementioned Moldy, Thorned, and Treat bags) unaffected. There’s literally too many levers involved in the supply of crafting materials to try to adjust around magic find’s effect on them.
But champion bags, loot bags, and anything that doesn’t drop purely crafting materials (this includes chests)? That’s most of the loot end game players get. The same players who have invested enough time in the game to get a fair amount of magic find and would love to see that time and hard work pay off with better stuff.
So I suggest that these loot bags be affected by base account magic find. This is itself a control to keep people from saving tons of bags, running up as many MF buffs as they can find, and then opening everything. Kinda like how karma used to be before consumables became flat rate.
Consuming all of a stack should be a one-click thing. If it’s a raw consumable (like luck*), one and done. If it adds things to inventory, a simple “is the inventory full?” check can interrupt the opening process so players can clear space before hitting the button again.
*Just because the artificer has recipes to combine luck into smaller forms for consumption does not mean luck should be excluded. Making Mawdrey uses exotic essences of luck, so there is still a point to the artificer’s recipes.
Going next level, the inventory gear should have the ability to “use all bags.” Bags are meant only to be opened, so there is no use case where using all bags can be truly detrimental. And a player would still have the option to use all on individual stacks if desired.
Salvaging takes just as long as opening bags, with the bonus of needing to be precise. Misclick? Well, time to double-click that salvage kit again! It’s an intensely manual, and annoying process, especially if all a player is trying to do is salvage all of a specific rarity (rare, masterwork, fine, etc.) or type (light armor, sword, etc.).
Instead, add the ability to right click an item and salvage all items of that type or rarity in inventory, using a salvage kit in inventory*. If an account- or soulbound item matches the criteria, it’s skipped over so there isn’t accidental salvaging.
*I’m at a loss whether to say “first in order,” “most uses left,” or simply having options for each and every salvage kit in inventory. The first two aren’t clear at first glance to a newer player, the latter takes extra code work.
For my personal criteria, that would reduce salvaging to exactly two right and left clicks, excepting rares.
Bags are everywhere, unavoidable, and a total pain. Regardless of their positive effect on managing the economy, they cause their own problems for the player base. On the one hand, they null the point of magic find. On the other, they turn inventory management into an unfun minigame.
For the first case, magic find should affect bags that aren’t crafting materials awaiting creation. Most player loot is in the form of bags now, and having that conflict with the account progression nature of magic find should not be done.
For the latter the ability to use all and salvage all is desperately needed. Playing the game should not come with the requirement to not play the game almost as long.