1 for 16

This post exists mostly so that I can link to it in the future as an anecdote on why random drops can be a problem.

Towards the end of The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™, I decided to get the Annuminas armor set. There are six pieces. You barter for three with items that can drop from every enemy in the sub-zone; get a few hundred and you are set. The other three require barter drops from the bosses of the three Annuminas dungeons. Each boss always drops one barter item, which trades for the relevant armor piece for each class. Turbine used this boss barter drop system for all the dungeons and armor sets in Shadows of Angmar™ and Mines of Moria™, before moving to a more pure token system in Siege of Mirkwood™.

The downside here is that you can lose. You know the guy who beat Boss X 46 times before he got his magic boots? My number was 16. I was running at least one Annuminas dungeon most nights that I played, frequently unsuccessfully because every group included at least two people who had never been in that dungeon before. Some nights I waited a long while without ever getting a full group, and some groups broke up after half the team wiped on the way to the dungeon. (Annuminas was a rough neighborhood in those days.) Out of 16 successful runs, I won the roll once.

That is not even a terribly unlikely outcome. You will lose 15 of 16 1/6 bets 6.5% of the time, and you will lose all of them 5.4% of the time. 1 in 11 people who will have my luck or worse on that roll. [Update: I think my original math here was wrong.]

Me? I quit. I left LotRO for at least six months, checking out Mines of Moria™ halfway through its lifespan only because I already had a lifetime account. There was just one thing in the game that I really wanted to Achieve, I had spent at least 40 hours on it (between waiting and in-dungeon time), and I had one piece of armor to show for it. The dungeons stopped being fun the tenth or twentieth time I had to explain “keep the silence-aura ghosts away from the healer.”

“Almost 1 in 4” is a lot of players to potentially lose on a 1/6 roll. My odds might have been better if I had a guild that ran those dungeons consistently, but pull me from the PUG pool and you have even more groups failing. Remember, that was 1/16 successful attempts; these are not fast, faceroll-easy heroics. You get a lot more tolerance for unfortunate luck on the prize roll when the win is all but guaranteed.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “1 for 16”

  1. MMO companies that want to see their subscription moneyz coming in have no interest whatsoever to make the life of their customers easier, and if that includes making it almost impossible to obtain mandatory gear, even better.

    As long as subscription MMOs can survive in this market this won’t change. That’s why I hope GW2 is sucessful. If it is, it will prove to the MMO industry that not only you don’t need a subscription to create an AAA title, but that you also don’t need to treat your customers as cash cattle.

  2. The flip side to this is also a cause for your problem. Running that specific dungeon as a needed tank class, I had 100% success rate for the 2 drops I needed. I too, quit. (running that instance). Sorry for your luck, but I have a different 1 for 16 place I need to be now. Look me up when your luck changes, in the odd chance it hasn’t turned into 1 for 32 on me.

  3. The move to tokens for amour sets is a much better idea because you are no longer relying on the random number generator to complete your set.

    I still think there is a place for random drops though as long as they are not things you really need or really expect to get (like pieces of a set). While I am glad Lotro has moved towards tokens for armour sets I am not entirely happy that they also use tokens for almost all the rewards in Mirkwood. I miss the excitement of killing a random mob and finding an unexpected bonus reward drop.

    As a general principle I would like to see tokens used for anything that players genuinely expect to get like armour sets or class items. On the other hand I would also like to see more random drops of stuff that is nice but not essential.

  4. “Almost 1 in 4” is a bit misleading, since you computed the chances of winning any of the 16 bets, whereas in this context a sane person stops once they win one. The chances of losing the first 15 is more like 1 in 15. Still not uncommon, but you were unluckier than you make it sound.

    1. You are misunderstanding the situation. There are three pieces to win, so a sane person stops once they win three. I stopped going for that one I won, which left 2 dungeons.

  5. On the other hand, if the game handed the armor out, you would have been ‘out of content’ after the first 1-2 runs of that dungeon. From a dev perspective, that’s just not sustainable, and I’d rather frustrate you after 16 tries than have you un-sub after 2-3.

      1. That’s… kinda what this genre is about.

        Now the breaking point is whether you enjoy the style or not. In this case, Zubon did not. In 2005, we had a good time with MC run 139, but that was more based on the social aspect than that particular content (not just laughing in vent during a ‘night off’ raid, but also building up the guild to push for server-firsts in AQ40 and Nax40).

        If the aim is to only do totally unique content every night, while still playing at the pace MMO players play, no game is sustainable.

  6. This is why I can’t stand the end-game in most MMOs, and I applaud you for pointing this out. I realized this all the way back in vanilla WoW that the end of the game wasn’t worth it. I remember for most players, the tiered armor set dropped in the level 60 dungeons. I ran Scholomance about 30 times and not once did my set piece drop. I quit soon after I came to the realization that the end of the game was just one gignatic grind for very little ROI.

    I came back again for both expansions, but once I hit the level cap for both, I quit again knowing how heavy the odds would be stacked against me in the slot-machine loot game. Now, you couldn’t pay me to return to WoW. Why go through the same grind just to reach the same conclusions in the same wasteful manner…

    I don’t have an addictive personality, so I really just don’t get it.

  7. Interesting. I wrote on item sets a couple of weeks ago, but only posted it this morning (without seeing this). They are even more annoying in leveling content, since you’ll outlevel the gear sets before you collect all the pieces.

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