We left the last entry in this section with the problem of inflation in DKP systems. Taxation and price increase were possible solutions but often tricky in practice. A practical way to overcome this problem has led to some popular DKP variants.
2.1 Zero-Sum DKP
Zero-Sum DKP solves the issue of inflation by ensuring that the total DKP within the system is always zero. It employs a varied earning and static spending (VE/SS) model where items are bought for a fixed amount of DKP, but DKP can only be earned through the spending of others. Initially, all members will start with zero and when an item is bought (taking a particular member into negative DKP) the DKP spent is immediately redistributed equally between all members. As such, inflation is impossible as no DKP enters or leaves the system.
Zero-Sum DKP still has problematic features however. Like any system that relies only on boss kills to affect distribution priority, it fails to provide reward or incentive for raids that provide little or no loot. One attempted solution to this problem is to introduce imaginary currency (IDKP) into the system. On nights when no bosses are killed and no loot is earned, participating raiders can be awarded a certain number of IDKP. The total IDKP given out is then divided by the total number of raiders in the guild and deducted from every member. Thus no new DKP is introduced into the system, but members participating in progress will have a higher total DKP (TDKP = DKP + IDKP) than non-participating members, and are thus suitably rewarded.
However, the Zero-Sum system often fails to solve the problem attributed to inflation. While no inflation can take place in the system in the strict sense, the underlying problem of the ‘DKP Gap’ still emerges. The DKP Gap occurs when a player finds themselves sufficiently far behind in the DKP standings that they have no realistic chance of obtaining loot. This can happen to players who have long periods away from raid participation, but is most commonly a problem for new recruits to the guild. Recruiting new members is typically an essential component of a guild’s progression, as is gearing them up so they can make useful contributions to the raid. If when joining the system they have a large DKP gap between themselves and veteran players they will be unable to obtain new items. This has a double negative effect of increasing the potential gap in performance of new recruits compared to veteran members, as the disparity between their gear increases, which in turn lowers the chance of new recruits becoming regular members of the raiding team. Guilds that use distribution systems that suffer from large DKP Gaps frequently have a high turnover of new recruits for this reason.
If a new recruit enters into a Zero-Sum system and stars off with 0 DKP it might appear that they enter into the middle of the priority list, ahead of those with negative DKP and behind those with positive DKP. Yet in reality the player is still entering at the bottom of the list as players with negative DKP have already earned loot, and will receive DKP from any loot the new recruit is able to take. If there reaches a time when all members are equally geared, the newest recruit will have the highest negative DKP and the lowest priority for new gear. Thus the optimal strategy in terms of loot acquisition for new recruits in Zero-Sum systems is to leave the guild for another after the initial period of loot acquisition and the DKP Gap emerges, leading to a high turnover of new recruits who end up taking gear out of the guild which then does not benefit the guilds progression.
Another alternative is to combine static earning with variable spending (SE/VS), by allowing players to bid in auctions for available items. Under these bidding systems (BDKP) players within a guild use the DKP they have earned to enter into free market competition with each other. Different systems opt either for open or silent bidding, and may place restrictions on the bidding process by introducing minimum and maximum bids.
Such systems inherit both the positives and negatives of free market competition. On the one hand inflation and DKP Gap are not necessarily problematic. Players bid on items for their subjective worth and so player A might still outbid player B for an item despite player B having a greater total amount of DKP. On the other hand the system promotes prioritising individual need over the collective needs of the guild, as players develop optimal bidding strategies. For example, the cost of items will inevitably decrease over time as competition decreases. As such, it is ideal for players to collect DKP at the beginning of a raid tier and start bidding on items when prices have deflated. A large disparity may then emerge between the gear levels of members of the guild, which will often disadvantage the guild as a whole.
Open bidding systems are also arguably the worst systems for social cohesion. The system tends to encourage and certainly exacerbates negative attitude and behaviour. Players might seek to gain advantage by forming smaller social circles with the aim to collude on price fixing, or artificial bidding to drain the resources of other members. Such practices are common place and inevitably detrimental to the guild.
Another issue is that there is always an imbalance in ‘classes’ and ‘roles’ within a guild. The class of a character describes what type of character they are. It determines the abilities the character has, what loot they can obtain, and what roles they can fulfil. In WoW, as in most MMO’s, there are three roles; the tank, the healer and the damage dealer, or DPS (damage per second). The aim of the tank is be the focus of attacks from the boss being faced, the healer will counter the attacks of the boss, while the DPS in turn attack the boss.
Within a raid there will be certain number of dps roles, a smaller number of healer roles and a much smaller number of tank roles, as necessitated by the game. Additionally, loot that is desirable for a tank will not be desirable to others. As such, it is always the case that players fulfilling a DPS role will face more competition for desirable loot than players fulfilling a tank role. Thus under a bidding system they will find they need to earn a far greater amount of DKP on average to gear their characters than players fulfilling other roles.
A different approach to solving the problem of inflation and DKP gap is to use a relational DKP system. The systems we have looked at so far have operated on the principle of earning DKP, and having that DKP taken away through spending. The net DKP is then used in priority calculations. Relational DKP instead uses the ratio of earned to spent DKP to assess loot priority.
The most widely used system of this type is the Effort Points to Gear Points system (EP/GP). Players can earn EP in the usual way DKP is earned by turning up to raids, performing well and contributing to the guild. GP is accumulated when a player is awarded gear, with a weighted formula used to calculate the appropriate GP per item type. For each player a personal rating (PR) is then calculated where PR=EP/GP. Players with the highest PR have the first priority in loot distribution.
One of the key factors of EP/GP is that a decay percentage is integrated into the system for both EP and GP. This has a number of advantages over other systems, even those that use a flat taxation rate on DKP. In the first instance EP decay prevents hoarding by veteran players to boost their PR. It also rewards past effort less with each week which encourages continued attendance and allows new recruits to quickly climb the PR ladder. Some guilds also utilise EP decay to introduce the concept of minimum EP. As EP decays over time, falling below a certain EP threshold will equate to dropping below a certain percentage attendance. Thus it is often useful to require raiders to meet a minimum EP to be eligible for loot.
At the same time, GP decay discourages EP hoarding as it rewards earlier acquisition of loot. If two players have the same EP and have looted the same number of items, the player who looted furthest back in time will have the higher PR, as their GP will have decayed more. Thus EP/GP solves many of the issues faced by other DKP systems, rewarding veteran members while allowing new recruits a fair chance of loot acquisition.