The J.C. Penney's Effect - Designing "Fair" vs "Feels Good" Systems - Extra Credits


Just because a game design solution is objectively better for the player, doesn't mean it will be perceived as the better choice. Sometimes we make design decisions based on human nature and psychology rather than efficiency.

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(Original air date: May 15, 2013)


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Channel:  Extra Credits
Topics:  Topic

WoW Lich King did it best. Even if you failed to get to get the gear you wanted you got Frost tokens. So it still felt good because hey if you ran enough dungeons you can just outright buy the good enough gear.

Nate Kammerer 


Just Nobody 

I have a feeling this applies to a lot of other things. Someone might be more driven to work our than play a video game, as they want the reward way more; however, since the reward isn’t tangible and immediate after you finish, people would rather the video game reward


"people dont work that way"

applies only to the general idiots like the americans

Zeus Jansen G. Lujares 

Despite your keen mind on psychology you guys are really horrible at picking up the problems in mmo. But psychology is what I watch you guys for anyways. My best bet is that you guys are just scratching the surface of mmo after reading forums or something.

Paweł Bieliński 

There is another option for loot systems; in Assassin's Creed (Origins and Odyssey anyway) your opponents generally drop items, but those are always decomposeable for simple resources.


Tl;dr : We need to patch the human brain.

The Dude 

I think I like crafting better because it feels awesome to make a awesome gun then to just find it

Doctor Soul 

RIP Firefall! u_u Another potential game now out of commission.


Why do I feel like the people who made ESO watched these videos?

Underlord 26 

What about a game with normal Grindy mechanics where you can dissolve any item you get into material items which make other items, the best items are made by getting materials from every location

Alina Nechiporenko 

Possibly have each one drop 1 thing to feel epic (Ex: a wand), but also have a bunch of crafting items. Legend of Zelda BotW uses this.


What about if you had a "Ranged and "Melee" stat that you can level up instead of going to buy or grinding on enemies to get those weapons?


So basically what the J.C. penny effect tells us is that you can't trust the consumers intellect and do need to treat them like children.

Apparently that new CEO never worked coustomer service in his life.

Glaze_the _Icewing 

I'm a huge Minecraft fan and I lean mote towards components. There's just something very satisfying about getting that special item by working towards it and making it yourself, that moment when you see the icon in the crafting table and drag it into your inventory is always one of the best ones for me. To me it feels much better slaying the same old mobs hundreds of times just to have a sword drop in front of you.

batu ganda 

I think both would be good. Naturally you can scavenge your opponents wreck and find resources. And sometimes, intact weapons. So...


R.I.P. Firefall


The obvious solution here is to make material drops feel cool and unique or enable some kind of use from otherwise useless item drops, though that might take a bit more skill than making it a regular item drop.

Eric Olson 

Warframe does this crafting system sorta right. When you get a rare item, there's a sound and a pop up in the corner


Fairly interesting using this for what World of Warcraft is currently going through. At the start of BFA, it's loot system was more feels good system, though it has been ridiculed by many in the world of warcraft community for not being fair on RNG and not have gratifying rewards. Now we are seeing world of warcraft lean towards a fair system where you go and do content and obtain currency that you spend at a vendor for weapons/gear, interestingly enough it has been in the game for ages.... interesting.

Bacon Muffin 

Really curious what you guys think of this topic with monster hunters more recent success using exactly the system mentioned throughout its history.

Marcelo Marinho Iwai 

Gear Loot from creatures that USE Gears, Components from Creatures that DO NOT USE Gears. Example:

An Orc who use an ax can drop such an ax, but an animal like Giant Spiders or Wild Boars that do not use equipment, only drop components.

At the beginning, the drops of equipment are bigger and better, but at higher levels, the rate decreases and giving privileges to those who build their equipment. But it is necessary to create a notion during the game that later it is better to build equipment. At the same time make certain drops of equipment unique (and rare) from very strong monsters. Changing the meta on each expansion is important as well.

Pedro Rijo e Silva de Figueiredo 

minecraft lol

appsolute zero 

If you wan't to know why developers and employers see the average consumer as an idiot. Look no further.

Mohanned Bakez 

in wow it can be both the professions is essential a "component" based system gatherer professions (like herbalism) can gather base materials (such as flowers, ore from mining, leather from skinning), and most other professions (like inscription and alchemy which uses herbalism flowers) can use the basic components to craft better items. but even normal enemies ("trash or mobs") can drop materials, i remember grinding a certain enemy to level my jewelcrafting profession, so yeah.


TL,DR: people are dumb


i dont know about if i ever answered, or if the survey is still available, but i at least thought i would go for components over items, and i still do feel it would, mainly because so often in games that give you the items i get items that dont help me in anyway so eventually i stop checking every drop and start grinding until i feel like i've grinded enough, or my inventory gets full, or a message pops up saying i got a badass weapon i can use. after the grind i check my inventory and decided which i keep and which i sell. And aside from the message saying i just got a badass weapon (which can easily be mimicked in a system that drops components instead of items) i feel it'd be the exact same loop of grind, check inventory, equip. in fact id feel the loop would be so similar that it'd even play out just as long.

as for how you get the same "message you got a badass weapon" thing, you can easily have each component have some kinda way to increase the stats on the equipment it will mak


Gosh people are infinitely stupid.


Yeah I used to work at J C Penney and some items were on sale 24/7/365. But I could have told the CEO that being “honest” with the customer wouldn’t work. The average person is an imbecile with the attention span of a gnat (myself included). When a customer sees the sign “Sale” they think well if the sign says sale then it must be true. I’m going to save some money, yay!! No...

That being said, tricking the customer is really effective but, if a customer can see right through the bullshit, it will leave a sour taste and most likely not purchase anything.


intellectually firefall is better but even knowing it, playing the game i prefer a mix

drops for second from best wth best needing crafting mats

תומר פילו 

humans are stupid

Colin Paddock 

My preference would be for items to drop, with the ability to harvest them for components. “Realistically🤣” what is an ogre more likely to be carrying? An ogrish axe, too heavy for a human to use effectively, but with enough iron to craft half a dozen good human-sized swords, or a bunch of iron lumps?

Winged Mirage 

As someone who's worked in retail, this is so true. I try to tell people that coupons aren't always the best deals, but they ignore me because they REALLY want to use their coupon, getting mad when it doesn't work. Even if the item on sale is less than the item at regular price plus the coupon...

In a weird way it reminds me of the GTS in Pokémon too. People don't just want fair trades - they want steals. They want to get a Mewtwo for a Pidgey, not another legendary.

MeeM MaM 

Ok i made a comment similar to this but TERRARIA.

theres an NPC that can basically tell you what you can make with what you give him, even if you only have one component of the item or are too underpowered to get any of the others.

You can ask this npc "hey what can i make out of iron" and he'll show you stuff like minecart tracks, basic armor, and the ultra greatsword of death that takes endgame ores and a special crafting device. It gives you an objective in a game with little to no direction, where you want to spend your time collecting the things needed to make the ultra greatsword.

And because of this npc, whenever you get a new ore or material, you're excited to go check back with the npc to see what new things you can make. and it also makes you excited if you see an ore you've only seen as a part of an item only accessible way later in the game because it's like "WOAH IM CLOSER TO BEING ABLE TO CONSTRUCT THE MEGA LONGBOW" etc

Basically terraria solves this problem and more


Looking back at this episode, it's weird how they completely glossed over the fact that many traditional RPGs use the material drops CONSTANTLY and to great effect. It's used all the time in Etrian Odyssey, and that game is an enstablished (if niche) and alive franchise with six main games, several spinoffs (if we count Persona Q games and Etrian Mystery Dungeon) and an upcoming title already in the works.

Marken Angel 

I think a combination of both types would be cool, where you could get components or, more rarely, gear. this would actually retain all of the good points of both systems, while eliminating most of the down sides. the loot system's problem of not being able to equip some things is overridden by the components being dropped, while the component's lackluster feeling is supplemented with the occasional rare gear drop.

Mostyn Michael-White 

The best solution would be for enemies to drop multiple random rubbish weapons only they have branches of upgrades, the materials also dropped are used to unlock the upgrades, as you go further in the game the bigger those branches get or the more substantial the upgrades are . The multiple weapons dropped help to reduce the frustration and grinding .Also when the upgrades are completed you have a unique weapon you made that no one else will have and it will be tailored to your game play. That would feel awesome.


Snippet from the future, y'all: Firefall shut down on july 7th, 2017. EC's prediction was absolutely correct.

Cataru Moore 

Both Item and Component with a Caveat.

Allow players to sell or deconstruct loot items into components for crafting


This reminds me of Steam Summer Sale. It did away with anti-consumer practices such as flash sales with refund to boost, but players complain that the sale is worse since the lack of flash sale makes it "less exciting".

Blobby Blobfish Gaming 

They died.

TSG aerospace 

As long as I don't have to get a skill level to craft things, then the component system is better


This mechanic is actually why the Living Card Game system has a big challenge.

Because it doesn't "feel" better to get some super-rare-chocolatey-fudge-coated-mega-super-card when it's in the basic set (And you know it's going to be there), versus when you pull it out of a pack.

Austin me 

The crafting system seems amazing and to fix it just say that enemies will drop materials AND gear that can be scraped for materials

Insert good channel name Here 

:( why?


Why not just use a youtube pool?


Both. Drop mostly components from basic mobs, and weigh it more heavily towards full item drops from elites/bosses.

Always thought that getting a giant piece of armor dropping from a little rat or something is ridiculous.


I think that if Firefall included your system that lets players track their progress towards certain gear, it would make crafting material drops feel even better than getting epic rubbish.


Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow actually uses a pretty clever system. While it has standard loot as in weapons, armor and items, enemies can also drop souls, which can be used as magic abilities. While the souls themselves are useful to the player, some of them are also used to upgrade certain weapons, where the highest tier weapons of each class almost always require unique soul that you get from a boss. It is the player's decision if they want to use a rare or unique soul to get a better weapon or not. The idea is great, but it feels kinda limited because you can only upgrade weapons. Having upgrade-able armor as well as using more wide variety of souls would make the system more meaningful.

MeeM MaM 

terraria. talk to the guide and he'll tell you what you can make with the things you have, even if you only have one part of it

monster drops some new item? check in with the guide, 'oh looks like you can make a CrazyBlade, the CrazyWand or the CrazyBow with +2000 to Awesomeness each, but you're missing this ore or this plant'

theN you go out on this pseudo quest to make one of the Crazy weapons, and it just feels awesome when you finally get to use it

we need more games that do things like that