Friday, 1 December 2006

Random Loot

I hate random loot. I really do.

We made a bit of a run on Blackrock Depths, just completing a couple of the earliest quests, in the process killing three or four bosses. In a group of two plate wearers and two leather wearers, what BoP items dropped? Mail and cloth, of course, every time. And that seems to be a bit of a running theme, that whatever our group consists of, the BoP drops would suit a class that isn't present. A random loot generator (not that it's totally random, clearly, when a boss has a certain chance of dropping certain items, but it's close enough to rant about) doesn't favour a type of item any more than an iPod favours certain artists, but either bad luck means the dice happen to fall the wrong way for us, or selective memory edits out the times we get appropriate loot and reinforces the times we don't. I suppose I could record exactly what drops every time I play (or get an add-on that does that), but it doesn't really matter, it feels the same either way. It's not so bad for "trash bosses", but if you spend several hours battling through to the Super Tough Boss at the end of an instance, and you know he has a chance of dropping something really nice, how much of an anticlimax is it when you end up with something nobody in the group really wants? (OK, the first time you do it there's the sense of achievement of having beaten the dungeon, beaten the boss, but let's be honest, it's all about the loot isn't it? Why else would you keep playing WoW...)

Then, of course, when that desired item does drop, you'll probably have to win a roll for it against someone else of your class, or someone who values similar item properties to you, or a hunter (I kid, I kid). So you have a second layer of random capriciousness to deal with. In the last week or so, while out and about doing general quests, three drops have particularly stood out amongst the usual bits and pieces: a 16 slot bag, and two potion recipes worth around 50g and 100g at auction. From a group of three or four (with no alchemist), the same person has won the rolls for all of them. Not that I'm bitter (he said through clenched teeth). OK, so I'm very slightly bitter. But then, the person who won the stuff hasn't hit level 60 yet, and I just got my epic mount, so fair enough. For raiding, there's a bunch of DKP systems that can be used (none of which are perfect, judging by the number of them), but what about just while generally out and about?

One of the things I work on is a job management system. It used to be that eight sites each had a person who'd do all the jobs raised by people at that site. This wasn't ideal, as workload could vary a lot from site to site, and there was major disruption when someone was sick or on leave. Thanks to the wonders of networking, it got to the point that people on one site could do jobs raised at other sites, so they wanted to change the job assignment system. But to what? In hindsight, it's a similar problem to loot distribution (see, there is a point), only inverted, as people really don't want new jobs, rather than wanting loot. In both cases you want to make sure the distribution is equal as possible, but the jobs vary wildly in terms of effort required, much like loot varies wildly in value, so a simple "number of jobs" total is as meaningless as "number of pieces of loot (ignoring quality/value)". What did we end up with? A random assignment scheme, so the users probably feel the same when three jobs in a row get assigned to them as I feel when someone else wins three loot rolls. I guess, to paraphrase Churchill, "random rolling is the worst form of loot distribution, except all those others that have been tried".

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