Random is Random

Last night I ran the second part of Throne of Thunder LFR on my Hunter. I also did Galleon and Sha of Anger.

Ended up with a 496 ring and two iLevel 502 drops. No, not the bow, but really when enjoying an embarassment of riches, who cares?

Contrast that with last week, where I didn’t so much as sniff a drop. Or Cassie, who ran the first section last night, used a coin every kill, and also didn’t win new loots.

Random is random.

It’s funny, I remember one of the core tenets of video games when I was growing up in the ’80s, which was that digital logic programming couldn’t produce truly random results. At some point, there had to be a seed, and from that seed all pseudo-random gobbledygook must follow.

Duplicate the seed, and you repeat the sequence related to that seed. The secret to beating video game ‘random’ sequences was discovering that hidden, secret seed or how the system was programmed to respond to your actions.

I wonder sometimes if that is where some of our legends on influencing loot drops comes from. That old faith in an underlying structure, a belief that nothing in a video game is truly random, and that things are programmed to respond to our input, to react to our actions in some way, and if we could just nail down what the repeatable response would be, we’d know what to do to influence events to fall our way.

I sometimes wish that our wild theories on how to influence loot drops or ‘random’ events really, well, WORKED.

I loved the mystery in Vanilla WoW of wondering if we the players, by our actions, could somehow influence, say, when Onyxia would deep breath. People in raid would come up with strats for what the players had to do, and they were serious. Stand over there, DOT early, don’t DOT until 15 seconds in, all Mages stand in the center, etc. Some of it was that Onyxia wasn’t tauntable, so tanks had to be allowed to really build up threat before people started doing damage, but other things were just… attempts at seeing if player actions in weird ways would affect when Onyxia would do something.

There is a part of me that wishes there really was some chance that filling my bellybutton with blue mud, dancing naked in the rain widdershins to the wind and rubbing my tummy with one hand while patting the top of my head with the other, I could increase the chances my Gun would drop from Lei Shei by 10%.

It would give me the illusion that I could somehow influence my fate.

I’d even welcome the inevitable “blue mud is unbalanced, nerf blue mud” forum posts.

I’d like to think that there were secret, behind the scenes things that players did in their ordinary gameplay that would have unforeseen and unknowable effects later in the game, on loot or bosses, when you least expected it.

You could call it karma if you like, but I am not suggesting that there be any way to track it. It would ruin things if there was a clear link between cause and effect. Part of the fun would be in thinking you’ve discovered a secret trick that always works for you, you don’t know why nobody else has discovered it. It didn’t work for someone else? They didn’t do it right!

“Hey, I don’t know what’s wrong with your group, when me and my four Druid friends formed a raid and made a stack of Reindeer, Ashes of Alar dropped from Kael’thas right after. I’m telling you, you need to try it. Did you have five? Maybe you didn’t have enough Druids in your stack.” 

It would be so much fun if there was a gentle suggestion from the devs that, should you do things of a positive or friendly nature in the game, your kindness would be returned to you in ways you could not foresee. And that it was coded right into the game to track random acts of kindness, just like tracking achievements. But without any way for the player to see what is or is not tracked, or what they have or haven’t noticed to create some ‘perfect guide’ to gaming the karma system.

I know people in the game already who enjoy taking items, wrapping them in gift paper and sending them to friends, just to cheer them up. Or who offer tips instead of criticism, support and encouragement instead of unloading with venom.

People that do the little things that go into being a positive person in public rather than a depressing pain in the ass.

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if we were told that keywords, phrases, even trends of typed chat in the game contributed to some kind of karma system?

Such a terrible dilemma. To troll people and rant in trade chat, swear and yell at noobs, post ‘anal’ links and risk reduced loot chances or increased damage done to YOU by bosses (or enemy players in PvP!) or, as the alternative, pretend to be nice to court unspecified but presumed real karma rewards, even when you’re a nasty little shit in real life.

It’s fun to contemplate. It really is.

Thinking about these things, and how it would be fun to experiment with the results in a live setting, it all  just points out how glad everyone should be that I am not a game developer.

Because I’m telling you, straight up, i’d implement the system and not tell any players until the game had been out at least 6 months, and then track social behavior changes.

Lab rats or players… well, as the saying goes, eventually developers would grow a fondness for the rats.

Also, there are some things you can’t get the lab rats to do. One word? Achievements.

Better all around to just use players. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Random is Random

  1. Pingback: Group Quest #108: Lord Jaraxxus, I choose you | Group Quest

  2. I seem to remember a mud back in the day that tied everything you said into a reputation system with the npcs. Your influence would affect if they would serve you or adjusted the cost of goods. The problem was people worked out the keywords and would run around spamming them. Players are clever and eventually work these things out.

    That said it would be fun to have something like that where you don’t know the numbers! The main mud I used to play (Xyllomer) you never had any numbers associated with things just appropriate texts so you could make very loose comparisons and that was it.


  3. Omg… implement the social karma system now!

    I can already see the lfr kicks for saying naughty things.

    Especially if you can get some human interaction at random to police the use of alt spellings and l33t speak. Also sarcasim… although some bear I know might be in trouble if we punished sarcasim.

    Oh, and bacon, just cause.


  4. Lol… I know I’ve offered Tsulong bacon, extra coins, orphan souls, and other forms of payment to give me that 10% drop Sha-spell-sword. After getting it last week my interest in running any of the 5.0 LFR content has gone down to near zero.

    Oh and this article’s going on the community stack for GroupQuest on sunday.


    • Isn’t it recursive that I write a post that you will talk about on a podcast I love to listen to?

      It feels… cannibalistic.


      • Plus, you need to do more to set off DeGei, last weeks Group Quest episode was awesome and hilarious both. It’s refreshing to hear someone get so worked up and passionate about something, even if it was a topic as touchy as sexism in WoW raids and Mogu female designs. And even if he started frothing at the mouth and barking, and kept Guldan from being able to get a word in edgewise. That was good entertainment, right there.

        I said set off… now I must think he’s da bomb! Or A bomb.


  5. I was one of those players convinced there were tricks to getting better drops. Kept a stack of rabbit paws (the gray items) to influence better drops on grinding kills. Didn’t really matter that it didn’t work – it SEEMED to work, and that was good enough for me.

    I’m still convinced to this day that frost lotus bonus from regular flower picks in Northrend are more likely in a specific zone on a certain day. Just the other day, leveling up alchemy on my monk, I was flying around Stormpeaks and got 11 Frost Lotus in a row – but not a single one in any other zone. Way back in the day, when LK was current, I found more often than not that farming flowers in Zul’Drak would produce more FL, but if a guildie announced finding one in another zone, I’d fly over and pick… Sometimes it didn’t work though… it might (because Blizzard is an evil genius) be that they’re player specific for the day too.

    Even if I’m not doing much, I’ll still fly out to Kun Lai to grab some LuckyDos off the ground. And I love me some Luck Potions.

    Someone in the dev crew thinks the way we do, and has some influence on getting them in game. For that, I’m forever thankful.


  6. I dunno… I think they should hire you. 🙂

    I found this to be especially poignant: “It would give me the illusion that I could somehow influence my fate.”

    We’re playing games, not watching movies. We *should* be able to influence our fate. I, for one, *really* don’t like random drops. I know, I know, it’s perfect for Skinner slot machines, but it just rubs me the wrong way.

    …and I’m pretty sure they have reams of data about player behavior. I’d love to peruse their databases.


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