It came from the PUG: I’ll … roll … in … a … minute

Now I haven’t ventured into the dangerous waters of PUG heroics in Cataclysm myself, I think I have better things to do than spend a couple of hours in the company of Joe Random who cheated the iLvL requirement by buying PvP gear …. like washing my socks or something.

But normal Cataclysm dungeons in LFD I’ve had fairly good experiences with. I’ve had some groups where the tank or healer was nervous and the rest of the group was friendly and supportive. I’ve had several groups where different people helped to explain encounters to people who didn’t know them. I’ve even been in a group where one guy started with the ‘gogogo’ and everyone else told him to shut up. And he did!

The worst behaviour I’ve seen so far was the guy who said as we zoned in, “Sorry, meant to queue for the heroic,” and instead of either leaving or finishing the normal instance, he just sat down at the entrance and went AFK. This left the group the option of booting him (which couldn’t happen for 15 minutes) or leaving the instance themselves (leaving gives you a 30 min debuff before you can queue for another random).

Rolling with the slow rollers

But one thing that is mildly frustrating for me at the moment is people who insist on asking “Can I roll need for this drop” when it’s an upgrade for their main spec and role which they are playing at the time.

Really guys, if you are tanking and a tanking upgrade drops, you don’t need to ask if you can roll need. That’s what the need button is for. You don’t even need to ask whether you can roll need for offspec (it’s usually considered polite, but you don’t have to.)

Sometimes people do ask the group if they can roll need for offspec gear. I always automatically say, “Sure, that’s fine,” after a few seconds have passed regardless of who asked or what offspec gear they wanted. I figure it gets things moving, since no one else was probably going to answer. It also makes you feel very authoritative cos the person who asked usually just wants one random person to say yes to make them feel better about rolling.

I was in a group where one of the dps did this and then the healer paged me with a sad face several packs of trash mobs later. Well, chuckles, you could have spoken up and said, “This is an upgrade for my main spec, please don’t roll on it.” If you choose silence instead, don’t whine if you lose a roll.

And speaking of people who are slow to roll, there are occasions where I’d wait to see if the tank rolled need on an item before rolling need for offspec. And I noticed that some tanks (and healers) won’t do this until they can see that no one else in the group has rolled. I don’t know why this is. Surely if they want to need on a mainspec item, they could do that as soon as they compare it with their gear and find that it’s an upgrade. If they don’t need it, that gives everyone else the chance to roll need for offspec without having to ask pointless quests that random group members will answer.

Cataclysm Shot of the Day

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Another picture from the revamped old world. I’ve noticed that they’ve been tweaking the colour palette to be more naturalistic in some of the old zones. This is from Blasted Lands, if you can believe it.

How to stop worrying and love the RNG

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Ah, loot. Where would we be without these small objects of desire? These pointless, insignificant, virtual items which have the power to make us so happy, or so furious?

Obsessing over loot is one of gaming’s simple pleasures. My partner still gets excited about every single piece of loot he acquires, even if it’s just a random green item to disenchant. I’m not quite at the point of being able to list every epic I’ve ever got with a whole backstory … but I could come close. The trinket I only won because both the other main spec tanks were away that week. The sword that we all thought was never going to drop, which finally came into the grasp of my cold, dead hands long after I no longer needed it. The drama! The excitement! The tears! The stories! The shinies!

You have to care about the game – if you don’t care then why play? – but it doesn’t have to take over your life. But it’s so easy to cross the line and care just a bit too much. No-one needs to stress like crazy over a game. You can have fun, obsess to a reasonable amount, not freak out any time someone in the game does something with which you disagree, and learn to play nice with others. It doesn’t have to be a fraught, stressful experience. There is another way.

(And by the way, it’s a constant struggle to keep a balance between caring too much and not at all. It just happens to be a very very useful balance to learn and will help in other aspects of life as well as gaming.)

My loot philosophy was driven by PUG raids

I first came into contact with loot drama while playing DaoC, which not coincidentally was my first MMO. Nothing there was BoP, but people had got into the habit of only rolling for things that they needed.

I’d been to a few public raids and noticed that the raid leaders spent a lot of time distributing loot. This was because most raid leaders at the time were very keen to be fair, and to make sure loot went to deserving players who were going to use it. ie. as opposed to people who would give it to their alts. So there was always a lengthy interrogation about what gear people had, what alts they had, and what they intended to do with loot before it was passed out.

I was nervous of leading a public raid, but wanted to try anyway. But the horror of loot distribution kept looming before me. (These raids often had upwards of 100 people turning up.) I realised quite early on that I really could care less who got what loot – my main concern as RL was that we had a successful raid. Anything after that was gravy.

So when I set my first raid up, I decided that my goals for loot distribution would be:

  • As little stress as possible for the raid leader (this was the main criteria :) ).
  • Should be fair to all raiders, or at least equally unfair to everyone.
  • Should be simple, quick, and easy to understand.

I informed raiders at the beginning that anyone could roll for anything they could use. I didn’t care if it was for a main or an alt. There would be a limit of one item per person. I noted that I would prefer that people did not roll on stuff if they just wanted to sell it.

This was a very different tack to other raid leaders on the server. But there wasn’t a revolution. There were a few murmurings of discontent, but people shrugged and got on with it. After the first successful raid, I never heard any complaints about the loot system. I like to think that people understood that whether or not they liked the ‘system,’ it was equally fair to everyone who turned up, and was a lot faster (and with less drama.)

Not only that, but they weren’t bound by the raid leader’s notions about who was most deserving of loot.

Plus even the guys who were most outspoken about only letting people roll for their mains enjoyed being able to get stuff for their alts after their mains were geared up. Or bringing their alts who needed master level raid quests, and rolling on items for their mains. (From my point of view, the loot system encouraged experienced raiders to keep turning up and helping, which was a bonus for me and my raids.)

I still think those loot criteria are pretty smart.

You can’t fight in here! This is the war room!

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One of the great things about the random number generator (RNG) is that it can settle all disputes uncontroversially, if players will only allow it to do its job. You can’t argue with “whoever rolls the highest wins.” It’s fair. Everyone who rolls has the same chance to win. It’s very silly to complain that someone else stole your loot when you had an equal chance to win it and they were just luckier on the roll.

Or in other words, the RNG is not your enemy. It may not be your friend either, but it is neutral. The more you use it, the more that the lucky vs the unlucky rolls will tend to even out. Perhaps today you’re not lucky, but maybe tomorrow will be that day. So when you lose a roll, shrug and move on and accept that you DID have a fair chance to win, you were just unlucky.

People also tend to convince themselves that a drop is more significant than it really is. Especially when you have been unlucky and not seen it for awhile, or feel that you have put in a lot of work (i.e. lots and lots of dungeon runs) and never seen it at all. On the first run, you’ll be chilled out and uninclined to care if someone else wins because you know that it will drop again. On the 40th run, you just want to never have to go there again ever and things get a little more heated.

Just remember, the RNG doesn’t care about that. Be like the RNG. Let things wash over you. You’ll have another chance to roll some other day. Move on. Think zen thoughts. Don’t stress unduly, it’s not that important.

The only time when it really gets my back up is people rolling ignorantly, on items that aren’t actually upgrades for them. And in a WoW world in which items can be traded whilst inside an instance, it’s easy enough to explain this to someone and ask for a trade. And if they refuse? Enh, shrug and move on. That’s the price of random groups.

Kallisti! For the Fairest!

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There are two types of loot distribution system: the ones where you have to all pretend that you care about who most deserves the loot, and the ones where you don’t. The ones where you don’t are much less prone to implode under stress.

This is not to say that a loot council can’t work, it’s just more work and more stress for the loot council officers. And there will be times when you ask yourself how much it really matters whether some loot item goes to the feral druid who will use it 33% of the time, or the rogue who only turns up once every three weeks anyway. (The answer is – it matters a lot to the players. Which is why it’s so stressful for the staff.)

My personal philosophy is that I really don’t want to waste brain cycles on caring about who deserves what loot. And especially not in a 5 man instance which people can run five times an hour if they so wish. Just roll, stop whining, and let the RNG sort it out. Random rolls ARE fair.

Some people will always feel that they are most deserving for everything that ever drops. Every single piece of loot, however minimal the upgrade, is a matter of life or death to them. Whereas others are more chilled out, or shy of speaking up, even though the loot itself might be just as big an upgrade. Just roll, stop whining, and let the RNG sort it out. The RNG does not care who whined most loudly. It knows that quiet, shy people might want loot too.

There will be cases where that isn’t the best way to go. In a regular raid, the loot system needs to encourage regular attendance and RNG doesn’t do that as effectively as DKP.

But even there, every DKP system, for example, uses some fairly mechanical method to reward players with points. The more complex the DKP system, the more work for the poor officers who are tasked with maintaining it. And frankly, simpler systems work just as well for getting the loot distributed with the least possible fuss. Trying too hard to be ‘fair’ to everyone is a doomed enterprise, because people won’t agree on what that means. Is it fair to reward people who show up more frequently? Is it fair to reward people who play better? Is it fair to give an extra reward to the raid leader? Or to reward people for providing raid consumables?

The answer is: the fairest thing for a raid is to reward whatever will most benefit the raid in the long run. So that means incentives for new players to improve, experienced players to keep coming along, everyone to work together happily and with minimal drama and no one to feel that this is unfair. And it also means explaining patiently to people that yes, the guys who attend most frequently will gear up faster and that no amount of DKP is going to force the item you want to actually drop (*coff* warrior tier tokens *coff).

There is no Off-Spec, there is only Dual-Spec

I have heard an argument that people should always queue as the role on which they wish to roll for loot. I don’t see any good reason to do this, the global benefits of encouraging more people to queue as multiple roles are just too high.

Or in other words, why should I pretend that my character has half of it’s actual potential just to make you feel better? I realise that you don’t want to share, but I’m happy to come tank or heal or dps your run and all I ask is a fair shot at the loot I want. Which I intend to use. If I don’t win, I’ll congratulate you. (It’s particularly silly when dps do this, because they should be used to sharing by now. Tanks/ Healers are more cosseted by the system because there’s usually only one per group.)

If I really do want or need some item then I’ll aim to run with a guild group and agree the loot beforehand. But jumping into a random group and making grand demands just makes you look like an arse. Trying to bully or abuse people into not using the RNG is even worse.

The best and fairest loot distribution you can possibly hope for in a random group is a fair shot at any loot via RNG. So don’t complain if that’s what you get. And don’t pretend that common loot won’t drop again, everyone knows that it’s histrionics and it will make you look stupid and whiny. People in your random group probably don’t care if you have to run the instance again every day for a week. And nor should they have to.

Dealing with Loot Doldrums

The last thing about loot is that it is always miserable to lose a roll on something that you really wanted. Especially when you feel that you deserved to win, or that the winner didn’t. It’s only human. And it’s because we care about the game and are emotionally engaged in it.

But. Sometimes you have to just suck it up. If this is the only thing you ever learn from playing MMOs, then they’re worth all the time and effort poured into them.

Thought of the Day: On rolling need for offspec drops (in WoW)

One of my current projects is to try tanking on different classes in WoW, just to get a feel for how the mechanics work. I have tanked a few instances on my Death Knight so far, and since I have a perfectly good level 80 resto Druid alt, she’s next on the pimping block.

Now the challenge of gearing up an existing alt for a new role is how you prefer to collect your loot. Do you queue up as your current overpowered self, to make easier dungeon runs both for you and your whole group? Or do you queue as your severely undergeared and inexperienced new role instead? If you pick the former, then you have to also decide, will you roll need for your offspec gear? If you pick the latter, how do you feel about the possibility of being bitched out by the rest of your group for both poor gear AND inexperience?

I had an amusing experience when running normal trial of the champion (to pick up a tanking trinket for her). I was queued as a healer. The trinket drops. I hit need, because that’s the only reason I am there. It is won by a Death Knight, who spends the next minute haranguing me as a ninja.

The punchline: He wasn’t tanking either. He was queued as dps.

There is no off-spec, there is only dual-spec.