Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Why Pure Luck Based and Not Progressive Luck Based?

I've said it before and I will say it again, I am wired differently than most.  I do not like the luck based system.  I can see it has its place in the game but it is not interesting or compelling design in my opinion.  Even when I am lucky, which has happened from time to time like with my shaman last expansion and my monk this expansion, I still do not like the luck design.

Luck works for some things.  Luck with mount drops works for example.  It gives you something to do, or me something to do at least.  Like the mount off horridon in ToT.  It only dropped once when we were running it every week but now I will occasionally join in on a pug just for a chance to get it and next expansion, assuming we can solo it, it will be added to my list of things to do when I am bored. 

Just like I solo onyxia once in a while now still trying to get that mount, and so many other raids and dungeons I did for years here and there trying to get those mounts.  Kara, TK, stonecore, VP, UP, etc.  Some took less time, like VP and others took 3 expansions like UP, but it always gave me something to do when I was bored.

So I am not saying luck based drops do not have a place in the game or that they are bad for the game.  They do have their place and they are good for the game.  But only to some extent.  Things that you could argue are "needed" should never be luck based in my opinion.  That is when it turns from something fun to do, like going back for a mount, to something frustrating, like killing the same boss 3 times a week (LFR, flex and normal) to try and get that helm you "need" for example.

This post is not about loot luck, or lack of loot luck, it is about everything else in the game that is luck based on when it drops.  Such as quest item drops, because we all feel we "need" them too to complete a quest right?

Does anyone remember the old quest in darkshore to collect the moonstalker pelts?  I do, I still even have nightmares about it, so to speak.  Before the cataclysm came this quest was the bane of my existence when I leveled in that area.

You needed to collect 5 or 6 pelts (don't recall the exact number) for a quest and the moonstalkers, despite the fact they all had pelts, never seemed to have pelts after the died, as if it just disappeared somehow.  I remember my first character back in the day doing that quest.  I would log in for an hour or two here and there and play and it took me days, not kidding, days to finish that quest.

I would log in and spend the entire time I was online killing moonstalkers and picking herbs.  I would every moonstalker I came across it took me a long time to finish that quest and get all the pelts I needed to move on.  It was not fun, not in the slightest, it was actually quite the opposite.  Now I could have always skipped the quest, but I did not know better, and even when I was new I had the same dedication I do now.  I do not give up, if I have a quest, I finish the quest.  No questions about it.  So I wanted to get it done.

If you had looked up the quest on throttbot or wowhead or whatever you used you would see comments from countless people complaining about the drop rate on this quest.  I remember seeing people complain on the forums about it.  It actually became one of the prime examples for why drop rate quests suck.

So it is not just me that was complaining about the drop rates, it was a vast majority of the player base.  Find me one person that never said "the drop rate for this quest sucks" and I will point out a person that has not quested much.

Luck based drops are just not fun design.  I find it amazing how the same people that will complain "the drop rate on this quest sucks" can say they are okay with random drops otherwise.  If you do not like bad drop rates, you do not like luck based drops because the only way something could have a bad drop rate is if your luck is bad.  Those two go hand in hand.  Random is random and random is bad.

If so many people had issues with so many quests with bad drop rates, like myself with the moonstalker pelts, and they have been vocal about it for as many years as they have why is blizzard still dedicated to a horrible system of rewarding players for doing things?  You would think by now that they would have heard the calls from the community to fix drop rates.

At the very least they should fix quest drop rates.  Like when cataclysm came out they fixed the moonstalker pelt drop rate the best way it could be fixed, by removing the quest as it was.

100% drop rates on quests is not fun either.  There needs to be some element of chance but as the game is designed now if I had to choose between a 100% drop rate or a luck based drop rate I would rather "not have fun" with a 100% drop rate than "not have fun" killing 200 moonstalkers for five freaking pelts.

This expansion had a few bad drop rate quests, just to prove it is not a problem they have fixed.  The worst drop rate I have found was during a quest, alliance side, where you needed to collect croc eyes, only five of them, but it seems that all crocs that walk around that area are blind because none of them have eyes.  When I leveled my first character through there on day one of release I killed so many of those things I had over a stack of meat, which is not even a high drop rate on its own, before I got the 5 eyes I needed for the quest.

Each character that went through there had roughly the same issue, needing to kill countless crocs to get 5 eyes to finish off that quest.  One character, my most recent one, to go through there actually had some luck.  I got 5 eyes in 8 kills.  The odd part is I did not even notice it.  I expected to need to kill at least 20 of them like I normally do and I just kept pulling more and more when I noticed in my quest log it showed as done.  I was like, really, and just moved along pleasantly surprised to have had finished the quest so quick and easy after my past experiences with it.

Did they fix the drop rate or did I actually get lucky and for the first character of the 15 alliance side characters I have bought through there, one finally had some luck?  Either way, the drop rates should have never been that bad for those eyes, not so bad that it got to the point where I felt finishing a quest in under 10 minutes was lucky.  It should never be something I would feel lucky about, it should be the standard, luck should not play a part, at least not like that.

How could the game be designed to fix the luck rate when it comes to drops like that?  Well, I have an idea actually.  Don't I always?

Lets play pretend for a moment and explain why things are luck based now with a make believe example.

You are given a quest to collect 10 monkey brains and you need to kill local hozen and then scoop out their brains, should they have them, until you have gathered all 10.

The game is designed, as it is now, that hozen have a 10% chance of actually having a brain.  If you leveled a horde character and talked to them, you would understand that this is actually a pretty decent percentage because I would have figured even fewer had brains, but that is beside the point.

The coding looks at every single drop as a one time event and does a roll for loot, so to speak, to see if it drops for you.  Think of it as you doing /roll and a 10% drop rate means that you need to roll a 91 to 100 to get it to drop.  If it rolls anything else then your quest item did not drop.

Every single time you kill a mob the same thing happens, it does a /roll, if you do not get a 91-100, it does not drop.  That is a very simplified way to explain it, but you should get the idea, in case you did not already understand, how the random system worked from the inside.

This means luck plays a huge role in if you get your quest items fast or if you need to kill 200 moonstalkers to get 5 moonstalker pelts.

That is the problem with a luck based system, there is always a 10% change to get the drop.  Bad luck means you can go forever without seeing it.  How many times have you done a /roll in raid after a wipe while waiting for others to get back or joking around and did not see a 91 or better in 10 or 20 or even 30 rolls?  That is how many mobs you would have needed to kill before you saw a drop.

There is a way to fix that however.  By having each kill count toward progress on the quest.  If you kill one mob and it does not drop the next mob does not have a 10% chance, it now has a 20% chance.  10% from the one you did not get it from and 10% because that is the base drop change.  So the second mob you kill would have a 20% chance to drop it and rolling an 81 or better gets it.  If you do not get it the third mob would have the previous 20% and an additional 10% to now equal 30% and rolling a 71 or better will get you the quest item.  Basically this would mean that something with a 10% drop rate would see you get 1 out of every 10 you killed even if you had the worst luck in the history of the game because the 10% mob would effectively be a 100% drop chance.

If it keeps adding up then while luck would indeed remain a factor each kill you make is also making progress toward you getting the quest item.  You would still be upset you did not get the item but at least you would know that kill was making your chances for the next kill better.  It would make all kills important because all kills would be working together toward making the drop chances better. 

Once you do get one it would then reset the drop rate back to 10% and you start the process all over again.  This would greatly smooth out the bad luck of drop rates for items.  It could be adapted to basically anything luck based in game.

Have you ever read anything on those low drop rate mounts where some guy would inevitably make the post that said something like "there is no way to make the crop chance 100% but if you kill 9,800 of those mobs you would have a 99.9% chance."?

Well, he is wrong.  If something has a 0.1% drop chance every single time you kill it it has a 0.1% drop chance.  Killing it 9800 times does not increase your chances at all.  Not even in the slightest.  It does however mean you would be more likely to get it within that time because of the sheer amount of kills.  Luck based of course.

If something in game is currently a 0.1% drop rate it would be like doing a /roll (1000) where you needed to get 1000 to actually win it.  That is how it works in game when you kill something to decide if you will get it.  You effectively have a 1 in 1000 chance of getting it, or 0.1% drop chance.

Even for mounts this design of progress kills could work wonders for solo content, would not really work well for group content, unless you add the combined luck chances for the group together.  Every time a kill is made the chances of the drop rate go up.  For a group it increases the chances for all, inspiring people to work together.  So if it was the first time for everyone in a dungeon, and there are 5 people with a 0.1% drop rate that would mean it was 0.5%, as it would add +0.1% for each kill, and each persons first attempt.

This would inspire people to team up but that is not what this post is about, this post is about smoothing out luck based drops.  So lets go back to thinking about it as a solo endeavor for now.

If the mount in UP has a 0.1% drop rate, effectively meaning that it will drop 1 in 1000 times, each time you kill it your chances should go up by 0.1%.  So kill it 10 times and that makes it 0.1% x 10, now you have a 1% drop chance.  The more you do it, the more your chances are increased, so even failures count as progress toward getting the mount you desire.

This would effectively remove the luck factor while still keeping the luck factor in play.  If you will it 1000 times and it is a 0.1% drop rate on your 1000th kill you would be guaranteed a drop.  You would have earned it.  But if you get it sooner, luck was on your side.

So why is blizzard so intent in keeping everything pure luck based?  Wouldn't better design be progressive luck based where each kill gets you closer to your desired results?


  1. "I find it amazing how the same people that will complain "the drop rate on this quest sucks" can say they are okay with random drops otherwise."

    Because quests are generally designed to take a certain amount of time to complete &/or kill a certain number of mobs. So, if it's a "kill X mobs" quest you'll probably have to kill 8-20 of them. If it's a "collect X items" quest that requires you to collect 5, it'll probably have a 33%-50% drop rate. When I personally get grouchy is when it's a "collect X items" quest that requires 15 items but has a drop rate of 20% (there aren't a lot of examples of that so it stands out when I come across one). Thinking random is fine in general doesn't mean that you can't point to a specific quest and say "THAT one isn't balanced." Another example is the single quest that includes "kill X of this, Y of that and Z of that" where the kill ratios don't even come close to reflecting the actual mob ratios in the kill zone, so you've killed 5x as many X as you need and are still hunting for Z. But you keep killing X because killing more of them may spawn more of Z. Maybe. You aren't sure. I really hate those quests.

    It's the same reason that I can say unshared named quest mobs are fine as long as they respawn roughly quickly enough to satisfy the number of people doing it, but when a named quest mob takes 15 minutes to respawn, that's too long. Doesn't mean I dislike the mechanic in general, just that it was implemented badly in that case.

    In general, though, I like the idea of progressive luck even if it's minimal and non-stacking... perks are perks. I like the implementation for bonus rolls and I don't see a problem with having it extended to other areas as long as the overall drop rates remain about the same (so the base drop rates would have to drop a bit to compensate, I'd make that trade personally).

    1. I get what you are getting at, for some things you think it is okay and for others, not so much. That basically means you don't like random, even if you interpret it differently.

      Basically you would be on the side of "random is bad" even if you do not agree with it. Because saying that is basically saying random is fine but only when it works for me. When it doesn't work for me I don't like it.

      See what I mean, can't say random is fine and then complain about something being random.

      The quest mob one I agree with. Shared would be better 100% of the time. Shared and a faster respawn time would be even better than that. Those outlands quest mobs with the 15 minute spawn timer have to go. They have no place in the game any longer. This is not the old days where they made sure to slow you down to extend the life of the game. Everything is meant to be quick now, the game has changed, it is time the mobs changed with it.

      I think it would be a fair trade, lower it from 10% to 5% but make the kills progressively increase your chances for a drop. Now that would be much better design. It should work that way for everything in the game in my opinion.

      Luck should not be the deciding factor between one characters killing 5 mobs and getting 5 drops and another killing 50 to get the 5 drops. That pure luck based design is just old design and old design just does not put it in gaming any longer.

      Heck, even the old character models which I still love are being changed because they need to update it. If anything they should say screw updating them and fix the game otherwise. Character models have absolutely zero to do with game play. They should be on the bottom of the list. Fix the pure luck factor before character models in my opinion.

    2. Nah, I'm fine with random always when it's implemented appropriately... statistically speaking, it just means that I want the mean time per quest to be roughly the same for all quests, the difference is that I'm fine with a larger standard deviation than you are in general but I wouldn't object to a smaller one if that was an option.

      Counter-example, if we got rid of random quests entirely and they were all "kill X mobs" quests... you'd been doing a bunch of "kill 8-15 mobs" quests and suddenly get one that requires you to kill 90. That's an outlier... doesn't mean you don't like "kill X" quests, just means that it doesn't fit the pattern. I'm the same way with RNG, I'm fine with RNG but I don't like when the average time to completion is significantly higher for a quest that's otherwise normal (doesn't drop better gear, doesn't result in some sort of lore moment, etc).

      Yeah, I'm honestly baffled by the whole character model update furor (both since they started talking about it and the sheer number of bloggers who seem to think it'll be the holy grail for the game's continued existence). I never even notice my toons when I play. Seriously. If I have helms turned off I might notice hair, that's it. I don't notice the toon, I don't even notice the gear (I tend to be lazy on my hunter and run 2pc T5 when questing so I don't have to worry about pet healing, I sometimes forget to switch back for harder content... which, considering how significantly different those T5 shoulders look, should be a no-brainer if I noticed gear... but nope, it's never noticing the shoulders that triggers me to change).

    3. Basically with random collection quests they are "intended" to be a kill 20 quest but with a different flavor. They only get annoying when you have to kill 60 instead of 20 and I would have preferred it just be kill 20.

      I tend to notice capes because you see them all the time. It is also why I often turn them off. There were a few nice split capes in MoP however. Most of the time the only thing I notice about armor is how obnoxiously bulky and ugly it is. I don't mind the ugly, I do mind the bulky however.

  2. I don't know what sort of program WoW uses for generating random numbers. (I'd imagine the info's out there somewhere, but I don't even feel like looking it up). However, I feel like this game would be better served by a pseudo-random number generator rather than a true (or even close-to-true) rng.

    Remember TI-86's "random" number generator? There was nothing random at all about it, it was a set algorithm. I'd rather see a more complicated version of that type of number generator. Where your numbers appear random, but are actually controlled, so 10% of your rolls are 91-100, 10% are 81-90, etc... This would keep some of the luck based wackiness they seem to like at blizzard, but would make it more reasonable.

    A popular problem is "the gambler's fallacy", which is when people, for example, are watching a coin being flipped, and the first 3 times the coin comes up heads. Since statistically the coin flips will regress to the mean, the gambler's fallacy would have us believe that the next coin flip is more likely to come up tails.

    We suffer from this delusion when gaming also. I always catch myself getting my hopes up, thinking "Nothing has dropped for me in weeks, so surely something will today". When, as you explained, each individual "roll" (or coin flip) actually has no baring on the next.

    A pseudo-random number generator would do away with that; if you killed something with a 10% chance of dropping something, 10 times, you would be assured to get it once (and only once).

    1. The first thing you learn about any random generator while learning to code is there is no such thing as random.

      When I used to code, in a galaxy far far away some 15 years ago, I used to use time stamps at the millisecond it happened to trigger a random event or number.

      The reason for this was even if someone figured out what I was using they could never manipulate it. But that is the basis of all random in computer code. There is no such thing. It always has to be triggered by something, there always needs to be a starting point and as such there will never be a true random. It might look random, but it really isn't.

      They can develop a way, however, to smooth things out so they feel less random, less luck based, and more reward based. That is why I suggest a progressive based system and less of a pure random base system. So the computer does not chew you up and spit you out if you happen to be on a bad random number generator at the moment.

    2. In theory I support the "10% is 10%" idea but it wouldn't actually work in practice. If you can only win gear 1 out of 10 times and you win it in your first kill you'd have zero chance of getting gear for your next 9 kills. That would suck.

      Unless you mean that the counter would reset after a win but that wouldn't be any different than a 10% base drop rate with a flat 10% boost each time you don't get gear (so your 10th roll has a 100% chance of winning) with a wipe after a win. That's just a typical increasing odds scenario looked at from a different angle.

      Here's how I'm currently "gaming" the bonus roll stacking odds... I've made the assumption they're stacking for the player, not for the toon (which is completely arbitrary, no reason to think that it works that way, but that's the only way I'd have a chance to game it so why not make that assumption? Keeps me amused...).

      Whatever toon I MOST want world boss loot on doesn't go first... I run my least important toons first. Once I miss 4 or 5 bonus rolls in a row, THEN I run my important toon. If any less important toons win a bonus roll before that happens, I'll keep throwing more important (but not my most important) toons out there actually hoping for an unlucky streak (talk about win/win... either I get gear or, bonus, I don't! It's like betting against your favourite sports team, either way involves a payoff of sorts...), once I get a losing streak going, I flip to my main toon. Once I run out of toons, then I run my main toon regardless if I didn't have a streak, no choice at that point, but it rarely takes that long to miss 4 or 5 in a row. I haven't noticed any particular benefit from this but it at least FEELS like I'm doing what I can to improve my chances based on what small amount of control they give us.

    3. Yes, I mean the counter would reset, you always have "at least" a 10% chance to win. If you are lucky you can win a lot more.

      I think I recall someone saying it was on a per boss, per toon basis. Like if I use my coin on the bow boss three weeks in a row it increases my chances of winning something on him, but if I use it on the three bosses prior to him, it does not.

      At least that is the impression I am working under.

  3. they did this in WOTLK


    Pretty sure I've seen other blues mention it since then too.

    1. That is exactly what I am talking about. They might have said they added it in LK and I can't rightfully say I remember any "bad" drop rate quests in LK so perhaps that is why, but it is surely not in the game any longer and needs to be put back into the game.

      Not just for quest item drops either. For anything. Like you want to get the pet from Garnia on the timeless. It took me more than 90 kills to get it. I had parked me character there for week and switched for respawn each time. It is cataloged at a 4% drop rate. Do the math, there is no reason it should take over 90 kills with a 4% drop rate if progressive luck is actually in the game.

      So it might have been there and tested in LK but it is absolutely no longer in game now and it really needs to return. For everything.

    2. It IS in the game currently.

      But it is only for quest item, not other drops.

      I even game it when I'm on quest with kinda annoying drop rate cause the loot is determined when you loot the creature, not when you kill it, so there is way to abuse it with AOE looting.

      For example, the fatty goatsteak daily for the tillers, droprate is kinda annoying, so after I've killes like 3-4 goat without loot, I gather a BIG pack (taht mean aggroing 2-3 packs of goats) and most of the time I loot like 6-7 of them at once (when you need 4) cause the drop rate have become quite high.

    3. That one croc quest in the jade forest begs to differ. Most quests seem okay however.

      My point is that it should be done for everything, not just quest stuff.

  4. I concur. Everything should use the increasing luck system (bonus-roll method) or something equivalent. If something has a 1% drop rate, I should have a guaranteed drop after 100 attempts.

    I usually give up on things that have really low drop rates because of this problem.

    1. I gave up on the timeless island because of that. Killing rares, 100s of them, every single day and still needing 29 things for the bigger bag achievement left a bad taste in my mount.

      I know think the timeless island design can go fuck itself, I not longer give a crap about trying to get solo achievements because it is not worth the effort, and my over all enjoyment of the game has been effected by it. I no longer feel I can enjoy myself having some fun just trying to get some of those solo achievements and kill a few rares.

      Bad drop rates are bad for game play and bad for customer morale. Unhappy customers leave.

  5. Anon, Grumpy's former GL:

    Back in the day, when Jeeves was all the new hot rage, my priest with engineering went looking for the pattern. Kill random Northrend mech mobs says the description I read. Grumpy, among others, assured me that they got the pattern easily. Some in just the first kill, or more like the first two or three kills and others were "oh man, that took me nearly an hour of grinding."

    Time passed, minutes into hours into days into repeated expeditions into Northrend, slaughtering every mechanical in existence repeatedly. The RNG did not like me. Time passed and it eventually became a guild joke when I said I was going to go slaughter more mechs for the Jeeves pattern.

    Of course I did eventually get it, but over half my total kills...likely well over half...are mechs from Northrend.
    So no, I am no fan of the RNG and would much prefer a progressive, kill enough and you know it will drop approach.

    1. Took me three kills personally on just normal every day quest mobs. I was not even trying for it.

      I remember killing the ulduar mechs hoping you would get it whenever we had the chance. I don't think you got it until well into cataclysm when we went back to get it on a throw back run one weekend.

      Some things just elude us, and it really puts a hurting on our joy of the game. Random might not be "that" bad, but when random allows for horrible streaks like that, it is bad.

    2. Wasn't that the one where you had to "Engineer Skin" the mobs to get the pattern and like 90% of the people heading out there were just killing and looting mobs without skinning them? Wonder if that's the problem you had and you just happened to skin one at some point and it dropped... I recall it being something like a 10% drop rate for skins so it wasn't uncommon to get it within the first 5.

    3. Yeah, you needed to skin them to get it. He skinned lots of them all day everyday sometimes. Just had extremely bad luck, my type of luck with them.

  6. Anon, Grumpy's former GL:

    Sigh, yes, I skinned all those mechs too...killed, looted, skinned, and looted again. Every mech in Northrend for ages and ages. It was purely ridiculous how bad the drop rate turned into for me. Eventually, way longer than the most unreasonable person would have thought likely, and then a few hundred mobs later, I finally killed a mech in Borean Tundra just south of the Fizzcrank Airport and lo and behold...the Jeeves pattern finally dropped. I learned it immediately and the long, overly long, grind was over.

    It simply was a case of the RNG never favoring me until it finally did. So if the chance of a skinned mech giving the pattern was 10%, then it was a much larger 90% chance of not dropping and not drop it did over and over. My opinion only, but it was way to long for my taste.

    So in short, I prefer a progressive RNG that accumulates slowly per kill until the chance of a drop becomes 100% after a sufficient number of kills. In my case, it would have literally shortened the search for the Jeeves pattern by many months.