I once wrote about the sadness I felt when Ashes of Al’ar finally dropped for me after 40+ weeks of hearing Kael’thas repeat his drivel about me being “too late” and Sanguinar yelping at me, “Blerd fer blerd!” When the original fiery bird mount was in my possession, I knew that I would no longer see Tempest Keep for any other reason and frowned at the fact that it has, for all intents and purposes, lost its significance in my eyes. I’ve gone on to feel the same way to many other instances like the Firelands, Onyxia’s Lair, Karazhan, and Magister’s Terrace. Now that I look back at it, I still stand by my melancholy for routine, but I am extremely happy that I never have to face the disappointed at coming up empty-handed again.
But it’s not only mounts that we go after through the horrors thrown at us by RNJesus, and basically anything under the Azerothian sun that requires any form of luck is something we play tirelessly for. Pretty much, it’s really just gear, but gear is arguably the most important thing for every WoW player when speaking of the material plane in MMOs. But because of all this randomness and despite WoW’s current ease of access to the public, we all continuously get screwed over by a couple of bad rolls. We do what we do because we want to, but when do we all really draw the line at crap drops? When do we get miffed and pissed, and heaven forbid, tired of the system of acquisition?
Al’ar might be the only 40 week foray I had in farming something, but I’ve certainly attempted other items in WoW that have taken me much longer for what they were worth, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one that feels that way. For example, the then-heroic version (now Mythic) of Kardris’ Toxic Totem back in Siege of Orgrimmar (SoO) was one trinket I wanted so damned much, but eluded my cute little warlock for nearly six months of raiding SoO without as much as missing a single raid night. Not only did it refuse to drop for me in Heroic, but both Normal and Flex versions avoided me like I was ebola. So, there I was, decked in almost full Heroic SoO gear and I was rocking an LFR version of the trinket like a tool. Certainly, a first-world mmo gamer problem, but annoying nonetheless.
Imagine the most unfortunate player on earth who can’t catch a break, constantly saddened that each foray into a raid for each week, religiously, yields not even a single piece of gear that they can upgrade, and when something does drop, they have enough luck (or lack thereof) to roll only single digits. Of course, it’s highly improbable that a person of such a state exists, but it isn’t unreasonable to think that there is. Despite all their efforts, knowing all the fights, playing nice with everyone they raid with, and all the time they dropped into the activity, they have nothing to show for it. Within the context of gaming, that’s the saddest thing ever.
What’s wrong with that, you ask? You might even just tell everyone in my position to just keep at it and determination can trump any sort of problems with these. But, that’s just it; players might more likely drop the game before they ever get what they want from it. Grinds are always a threat, yet always a staple in MMOs, so there’s no real way to circumvent it. However, it’s one thing to have a long grind with a guaranteed achievement and completely another to have a long grind, period. It can become a disheartening experience to repeat raids in lower difficulties just to make up for not getting anything in the higher ones, and that can make one wonder why they even play the game in the first place, and, frankly, that’s quite horrid and counterproductive of Blizzards goals to make raids less repetitive.
We all feel this at some point in our WoW careers and we all experience the same grief any other person would if we have invested so much time into it already. It explains why many people are in such a hurry to get to endgame and be decked out in Best-in-Slot (BiS) as soon as possible. Most of us think that the earlier we get into it, the faster we can get out of the constantly-disappointed-phase, not having to worry about getting left behind, so to speak. It also serves as an impetus for forming raids to want only the more experienced players to join them to a fault, unwittingly (or decidedly) ostracizing new players from getting into raids. After all, who wants to wipe four thousand times on Operator just to get a whole lot of nothing rather than one-shotting him and then getting a whole lot of nothing.
Correlation does not imply Causation
Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that I want WoW to give out gear without working for it and with all the hatred for “welfare” epics it sounds like I’m simply another whiny gamer that doesn’t get what he wants, but the chaos of character progression and vanity items should not be so, well, uh, chaotic. Working and playing hard is one thing and completely another to get lucky. Just because you see this one player of an item level of 690+ doing a gazillion damage on skada, doesn’t really mean they’re any good; it could just mean they got lucky. The polar opposite of our little unlucky example above also exists, where he or she simply gets everything they want at the drop of a hat. This then becomes completely unfair for other people, because despite all the work they put into something, they don’t get rewarded in the same way who have had far less trouble.
Perhaps one of my longest grinds involving RNG-based loot is the notorious Stratholme mount obtained from Baron Rivendare which isn’t really all that cool in my opinion. But if it is an epic mount, I simply must have it! Despite my passion for it, it has been a grand total of 14 months and 5 to 10 times a day of intensely re-deading the undead Baron over and over, but, to this day, I still have yet to see that stupid horse. Yet, on her first try, a guildie of mine ran Stratholme casually, in child-like innocence even, going “ooh” and “aah” at seeing the instance for the first time in her two years of playing WoW, taking over half an hour due to her exploring, obtains it easily after one jab to the Baron with her Tauren monk.
Seriously. There was no fanfare over vent nor did she ever bother telling me what she got. It was all just “meh” for her. As much as I am (angrily) happy for her, I still do have to admit that I do not see her to be less deserving of the mount than I, but the proportion of effort is so randomly skewed at this point. There should at least be some consolation for my efforts like an ever increasing chance for the mount to drop (ever so slightly, of course).
The current system, as it really has been at its core for over a decade now, doesn’t truly reward PvE players equally as it should due to effort and skill, regardless of whatever else they put into raiding, arbitrarily rewarding players instead. As time goes by, people find it more of a hassle to maintain a raid team and we all truly know the feelings of the populace on that, and the chaotic loot distribution only serves to compound on that sentiment. If a player ends up becoming far more unlucky than what is regarded to be possible, raiding then becomes a dead end job, serving only to cause stress and distress, transforming the game into what should be a fun activity into a sardonic, living lottery.
I’d like to win something, please
Despite WoW’s ease of access in recent years, acquisition and achievement in the game is still mostly impeded by the randomness of their distribution. WoW, in all of its progressive advancement, would have come up with a gear-gating system that doesn’t rely too much on RNG. Sure, re-rolls and those welfare epics are nice, helping any player start off in goodly fashion, they all are still pretty random, and even re-rolls have gained the reputation of “Seal of <insert gold amount here>.”
Unless the God of Chaos favors you, the only sure thing in an archaic system of randomized loot drops is that you will never get BiS, you will more likely never see the Litch King give you his coolbeans horse, hell, even transmog can be hard to obtain, and you’ll more likely quit or take a break from the game before you get anything else. But, I do have to admit, this sort of system does make finally acquiring your most sought out item to be simply one of the most orgasmic experiences of your MMO career, and when you do finally get it, you will realize that it was all worth it. As for the issue of the core of loot distribution, I don’t have any answers to improve WoW’s current system, but, I can dream.Related: Column, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday