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Initially, I almost felt that your piece was too well researched and realised to provide the authentic manifest experience, but your examples around low and true realism opened my eyes to the possibilities.
I do have to disagree with one thing though: I believe excessive loot *is* true realism. Consider a real task you'd undertake in the real world: Whatever it is you're doing now, for example. In your immediate vicinity, how many objects/things/items are actually useful to your task? How many things are completely inconsequential-to-useless for your task?
I believe true realism should dictate that 99.9% of all loot should be useless, and you should be surrounded by it at all times to the point where it sometimes gets in the way of accomplishing your tasks.
i really like this! though im not sure if 'reputation system' belongs on 'THINGS TO DO' because i've never seen it not implemented in a bland, numbers-crunchy way