The All Hallows Eve season is almost over, and I find myself feeling conflicted.
Every year, World of Warcraft has some kind of event to celebrate All Hallows Eve.
I really like it. There is the traditional, and sometimes the new.
As an example of the new and unique, in 2008 we saw the addition of Prince Tenris MirkBlood in Karazhan during the Scourge Invasion event. He appeared in game six days prior to October 31st, and for those that logged in during that event and killed Prince Tenris, there were guaranteed Vampiric Batling pets, some Monster Hunter kits through a quest chain, and the chance of getting an Arcanite Ripper, the epic axe that let you, well, rock out with an epic axe.
As an aside, I was present for that on both my Druid and my old Hunter that was replaced by my new Hunter. My Druid therefore is fortunate enough to have the Vampiric Batling.
This year, there were some really nice items that you could get that haven’t been around before as well. My love of the Luggage… err, I mean the Creepy Crate is already well known, and the Feline Familiar is also awesome. A black cat with a witches’ hat may not seem all that special to you, until you see that when you mount up and fly off, theFeline Familiar mounts her own broom and follows you.
It’s pretty damn cute. I find myself hoping that, if the Feline Familiar is far enough advanced in the magical arts to be able to fly on a broomstick, that when PokeWoW is released we will see her be able to have her own form of Polymorph… turning an opponent pet into a mouse, for at least a few seconds. How freaking cool would that be? I mean, what ELSE would a cat be trying to research while studying the works of her Mage master?
Anyway, putting the new and special aspects of the season aside, the one part of the traditional All Hallows Eve I’ve always participated in is taking the fight to the Headless Horseman in the Scarlet Monastery.
From the times when we had to physically travel to the Scarlet Monastery to engage the Headless Horseman (and didn’t all the PvP bodies in the instance entryway littering the ground look cool?) to now, when the LFD tool lets us get in at our convenience, I’ve been doing it on my plate wearers.
Every time. Every day. Every year.
I’ve done it for the sole purpose of getting the Horsemans Horrific Helmet (or earlier, lower level variations of same).
Coolest helm in the game, imo. Love it. Always wanted it.
Never seen it drop for me. Not once.
So it goes.
I feel a little sad about it, but mostly I feel disappointed.
Disappointed in the drop rate and my lack of luck thereof, but mostly disappointed in the mechanism of getting it.
There are a lot of items in World of Warcraft that are just way too cool. Some of them most people would love to have, like a really cool rare mount drop, and others have special meaning to just a select few, like the Antique Cornerstone Grimoire that dropped from Onyxia, one of the items that lets you have a neat temporary bodyguard. A flavor item.
What sets the Helm apart from most of them is that, for those other items, if at first you don’t succeed, you can try, try again. It didn’t drop this raid? Maybe next week. Or the week after. Or the week after that.
Your mount didn’t drop in Stratholme Undead this time? Well, maybe your luck is really, really bad, but you have the power to chose to mindlessly run that sucker endlessly, 50 times a day for 4 weeks if you are that het up about it, until the bloody thing finally drops.
You really want that Whelpling? Well, all it takes is time, patience, and about 20,000 kills in Wetlands on the average, depending on which mobs you hunt.
What I’m saying is, it may be ridiculous, it may be so out there silly that only a completely insane person would do it… but most things in the game, if you really, really want it, all you need is time and a whole lot of will.
Oh yeah, and a long song playlist or some good audiobooks or podcasts. Worse than fishing.
With the helm, especially now that it’s loot from the Loot-filled Pumpkin, it doesn’t matter how determined you are, how patient or how willing to grind endlessly. You get one shot a day, for the duration of the holiday event, and if you don’t get it, then you don’t get it. Seeya next year.
So be it.
I’m an adult, I’m not crying home to mommy. The RNG God of Loot has long ruled WoW, and we all deal with it in our own ways, and have known our own disappointments.
As an adult, I can also acknowledge that the harder it is to attain something, the more effort it takes to get it, the more we cherish it for reasons beyond the items own intrinsic value.
There is something about working hard and consciously devoting time and effort into getting something that adds meaning. Significance.
If the shit is handed to us on a plate for showing up, we don’t value it at all.
It’s all digital pixels on a hard drive, it is the meaning we give to those pixels that gives them value.
I have a friend, Falromord. For all of Vanilla WoW, he played his warrior. He raided Onyxia for part of it, and he always wanted the tanking sword, Quel’Serrar.
Time moved on, and he never saw the sword. It wasn’t until years later when Wrath brought the revamped and revitalized Onyxia’s Lair with all new useable loot that the guild I was in went back in there, and I was there when it dropped and Falromord won the roll.
Was that sword the exact one he wanted? No. But it brought back to him all the times he had tried and failed, all the times of hoping and seeing nought, and all the times since when nobody wanted to do it anymore because nothing in that place was of any value.
To hear his joy on the microphone when he got it was a moment. A good moment.
I think most of us have a moment like that in us, something we’ve built up in our minds, something we’d just squee over if we finally won it or it dropped for us, something that other people might just look at and say, “What, you wanted that? Sure, it’s yours, whatever. I have no interest in it.”
The Horsemans Horrific Helmet is not that item for me. It’s not built up that much. And the main reason is, there is little I can do to try and earn it beyond showing up once a day for 5 minutes and seeing if I got a little luck in my bag.
There is not enough opportunity for me to work at it. It’s hard to get emotionally invested in the chase, when it’s five minutes and then see ya tomorrow, Charlie. Seeya Ralph. Whistle blows, off for the day.
Why I’m writing this post is really to muse a bit on the goals we set for ourselves in the game, the things we covet and how the game is designed to give us ways to obtain those things.
Someone has to make conscious design decisions on methods to earn loot. Drop rates, group loot rolls or personal loot bags, daily chances or endless repeatable tries.
I like systems where you do have to work for your loot, where you have to invest of yourself to gain it.
But what I like best are systems where the gateway that prevents you from obtaining your desire is skill and, to some extent, a willingness to spend time to achieve your goal, and not pure luck. And I don’t like ‘limited time only” when it’ is pure luck, and you can do everything in your power to make it happen and still fail. Not skill, not effort, not time, just luck of the draw and then gone for another year.
Really, I’m not complaining. But my friend Tesh likes to talk about game design and enticing players with good design, and what is more central to the current MMO model than the carrot that urges us on to greater efforts?
Another part to this whole topic is the idea of rarity among the population. I’m talking about when the drop chance percentage of an item is adjusted up or down because a designer has a target of x number of items per so many players in the game.
Or, to narrow it down further, if one person gets an item, a certain number of other players must be denied an opportunity to get the same item, in order to keep its existance scarce among the community, and thus feel ‘special’.
Have we ever really talked about that concept on this blog before? I don’t think so.
It’s built into the game and we take it for granted, but if you step outside of the game and think about it, isn’t that an amazing design plan for a game where every player represents a paying customer?
I pay a subscription fee, and you pay a subscription fee, and theoretically we both have an equal chance to win an item… but in reality that chance is very, very small because as a group very few players will be lucky enough to get that coveted item, no matter how hard they try, by intentional design to encourage feelings of jealousy and perhaps to inspire other players to strive harder to advance to gain rare items of their own.
As a goad to spur players to involve themselves deeply in regular gameplay, I’m sure it has been very successful over the years. But if being a goad towards greater involvement is one of the purposes of item rarity, then wouldn’t that work better if it wasn’t pure dumb luck driving who wins and who loses? And shouldn’t a player actually have the chance to earn that item, effectively making it less rare?
And shouldn’t that be okay, because periodically new content of greater level comes along and resets the progression and the hunt for the rare begins anew all over again?
I see someone riding an Amani War Bear, and I know that they achieved something through skill and, yes, gear levels. But it takes investment in time and effort to get those gear levels, and by removing the mount when gear gets high enough, it keeps that mount as a testament to skill and teamwork.
Would I have a better chance of getting the helm if the drop was guaranteed, but required the gear and skill of an Amani War Bear? No, because I don’t have the time to play and the friends to gather to do it. But I would feel a lot, LOT happier about it, simply because I would know the only things holding me back from achieving that special goal would be the amount of time and effort I was willing to invest in getting it, and not the whims of man and the dark gods of programming.
Or a quota of drops that, once achieved, got nerfed to the ground, baby.
I consider the whole situation of legendaries sometimes, and it reminds me of that classic scene from Real Genius;
I see a lot of people get excited every time, and a lot of people freak out over how awesome they are, and wonder if everyone else is crazy or is it just me?
When the news about the new legendary daggers was announced for 4.3, I swear to you, somebody I know said, “Man, I think I’m going to roll a Rogue so I can get those daggers, those are sweet!”
This was at the announcement.
I think I am crazy.
Think about the designs of the drop rates for legendaries.
They are designed to be so brutally hard or random that unless you are already at max level, well geared, and actively raiding and clearing 100% of current max content when the legendary content comes out, then by the time you ARE at that point and able to start raiding to get the legendary, it’s too late. There is new content that has just rendered the stats on the legendary you struggled to get obsolete and no longer best in slot for your role. Your raid team is already moving on to other content, or doesn’t need anything from that content, or has someone else in the raid team already on the quest and so all drops towards the legendary go by default to that player, not you.
There are certainly guilds out there that have the current legendary staff, and some got it quite quick, before the drops got nerfed.
The fact remains though, that most guilds that aren’t very hardcore don’t have one yet.
If they do have one, or even two, that is still one or two people in a guild full of raiders.
That is great for those one or two people, but the rest of the people don’t get that legendary, but they do get a sweet pet as a consolation prize this last go ’round.
Is that good design? Blizzard wants to keep legendary items legendary, but I have to ask, if the item is already obsolete and useless as what it is by the time you get it, what really was the point, aside from being able to say you’ve got one, and isn’t it a beaut?
It becomes a conversation item, an object of the utmost rarity… and of no other use than as something to equip while standing on the fountain in front of the bank at Stormwind.
Shouldn’t a legendary be something that is worth the effort put in to obtain it? And in that case, shouldn’t you either be able to get it while it is still very useful in terms of progression, or be able to scale with your level because it is so damn rare it is a one of a kind item that is, well, legendary?
I dunno. It just seems very silly to me for anyone to get all worked up and super-excited at a legendary item, when by design the chances that any given player are ever going to see it while it’s still useful are slim as all hell.
A cool item? Certainly. But a reason to roll a new character for current content and powerlevel and max gear and get rep and grind valor?
I guess you tell me. Do you have a story about that item you really, really wanted? Do you think the legendaries really are all that and a chip of ram?