Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Random thoughts about randomness

Would World of Warcraft be as attractive (or addicting, as the critics say) as it is, if it wasn't for the element of hazard or gambling? I doubt it. The lottery is everywhere when you think about it. It's not only when you're rolling for an epic in an instance, it's in your everyday life, whenever picking a herb (will there be a fel lotus as well or will there not?) or opening the reward bag from the fishing quest to see what's inside).

OK, there are a lot of other aspects in the game that haven't got much to do with randomness. Like PvP, which is more about competing, trying your skill against other players, just like any wrestling game in RL. Or RP, as I imagine it, though I don't perform it myself, where you explore your imagination, creating content yourself in cooperation with others.

But for many players I still think looting and rolling is a essential part of the game. (I can't help feeling a bit silly when I think about it. I'd rather be one who didn't care a single second about it. Doesn't it sound a bit more sophisticated, to be a role player dealing with performing art rather than craving for loot?)

I don't think I care more about loot than most people do. I love to raid even if I don't get a single drop. Beating content beats everything. Still - rolling can be a thrill, can't it?

Thinking about it I realize that my first experience of a computer game ever was a lottery one. It must have been in the beginning of the 70s, around 1974, when my father worked at a university institution where they hosted a huge computer in a chemistry lab. This machine filled a room but still didn't have more memory than an ordinary pocket calculator today. My father used to bring me there sometimes during the weekends, when he had some work to do, and he made up a little program to keep me occupied. It was really simple stuff, small games where I had to use my sense of logic. But the game that I thought was most fun of all was just a sort of hazard generator, which allowed me to play on tombola. I never got tired of doing it, no matter how mindless it was.

I guess our fascination about randomness has got to do with the fact that it resembles to real life. Life isn't always fair, neither is the game. How many times haven't we seen it? The guy who's been working harder than anyone else, always helping others as well, the Good Guy - who only has one flaw: his bad luck, which makes him constantly lose any roll - if the items he wants will drop at all... And on the other hand The Lazy Bum, who never thinks about anyone else but himself and still gets any loot he want, without even thinking about it. And we never stop hoping that one day there will be some justice and the Good Guy will win.

There are ways to decrease the importance of being fortunate. Using DKP is one. Or you can simply appoint a loot council, supposed to take wise decisions about loot distribution, based upon principles everyone has agreed about. In our raids we use the latter. Having two guilds which raid together, we usually form a loot council of officers from both guilds. The disadvantage about this is that you risk quite a prolonged process of loot discussions. Sometimes it ends up in a roll anyway. Common sense only gets us to a certain point - after that it's all about chance again.

So... how come that I suddenly got all those thoughts about randomness in my head. Well, of course there's a reason for it: it seems that I suddenly jumped into a cluster of Larísa Luck. There's no way else to put it. I used to be one of those unlucky players who rarely got the drop they wanted, and if the item dropped I'd lose the roll anyway. But the last week was just the opposite. Wednesday I won my T5 shoulders from Void Reaver in a roll. And Sunday I got the T5 trousers from Karathress. Since we've just started out doing T5 content, there's always plenty of needers - I think there were ten of us this time, and it seemed that the loot council was overwhelmed with the task. All needers were asked to roll. Two rolled 90 - I was one of them. Reroll - and I rolled 100 for the first and probably last time in my WoW career. I just couldn't believe my eyes. To have two T5 pieces is a such huge upgrade for an arcane mage, because of the set bonus of 20 percent increased damage from Arcane Blast. I hadn't expected to get it though in a very very long time, and now I suddenly had it, thanks to chance.

For a brief moment I couldn't help feeling a bit bad about being so lucky. What had I done to deserve it? It just wasn't fair, there were other guys in the raid who hadn't got a single T5 piece and now I had two. But then I shrugged. We had all agreed on the rolling. Next time I'll lose. And the time after that I'll lose again, over and over again until I may - or may not - stumble into another cluster of luckiness. It's a part of the game. The tombola we're all playing.

No comments: