When Random Ruins Fun

Most people have pulled the lever in a slot machine.  The rules are fairly simple.  Match up the proper items, get a fixed reward.  The randomness is that you’re not quite sure which of the possible rewards you’ll get, but you still know the options.  Random chance on the event is the kicker here.

Diablo is based on randomness, both on the chance of a reward, and the reward itself.  When D3 launched, the variance on the rewards was completely out of whack.  You would find bows with Intelligence (that no one could use).  You would find swords with +/- 50% overall impact to DPS, with odd rolls.  The actual percentage chance to get something useful was well below 1% – yet the game kept giving you “big” prizes.  A legendary was a rare event, but until RoS, every legendary was useless.  It’s like a slot machine paying out in chocolate coins rather than real money.  Lots of blinking lights, even more disappointment.

Thankfully, the system today is a lot better.  Rare drops have generally decent rolls.  And there’s a chance where the rare drop gets an overall upgrade.  That upgrade, in 99% of the cases, is superior to what you had before too.  And there’s ways to get that upgrade rather than face banging against a wall.

WoW has toyed with this model for a few years now.  It started with fixed item drops on bosses.  You’d kill some guy and he’d drop shaman gear, but you didn’t have a shammy.  Then it went with tokens, where the gear wasn’t on the boss and you needed to return to town to get it.  Tokens then could be used in the field (MoP).  It then included a random chance for an upgrade on a drop, which was the model until legion.

Legion has done many things right.  Many, many thing.  Randomness is one of them, in the form of daily quests.  There’s always something different to do each day – certainly as compared to other games.   For anyone playing up until LFR, and a bit of M+, there are no real issues.

For those past that point, things get wonky, quickly.  The randomness of stats on gear drops is ok in principle, if those stats were properly balanced.  I know my Monk has gear 30 ilvls lower than the rest simply due to bad rolls.  It got better in 7.1 but it won’t be truly fixed until the next expansion.

This is compounded by the gear drops that can roll up to 15 ilvls higher than normal.  No longer do you get 2 rolls, you now get 4 (normal, 5, 10, 15).  Stats are again an issue here, so it’s entirely possible to get a super rare roll (+15) with horrible stats.  This goes back to the previous slot-machine/chocolate coin issue.  You should be excited but end up disappointed.  A properly rolled item isn’t marginally better… it’s dramatically better.

Finally we get to legendaries.  The main issue here is that the legendaries are so game-changing, that they are practically mandatory for raiding.  Most provide a clear 15% increase in dps/hps – so it’s clear you need one.  This gets worse

  • There are truly bad legendaries.  The “fun” legendaries use the same drop chance as the “optimal” legendaries.
  • You can only ever have 4 drop per character.  If you get 4 and none of them are useful to your spec, you need to re-roll your character and start at level 1.
  • The method to acquire legendaries is out of player’s direct control.  You either chain run raids, high M+, or do emissaries.  There’s no finish line to get one, you simply keep pulling the lever.
  • Combined, it means that any alt required a huge grind to get to a “raiding” power level.

Each of these items has a reasonable way to address the issue.  First, you split legendaries into utility, and DPS/HPS.  Utility ones can be acquired through other means, likely something related to daily tokens.  You can swap 2 legendaries for a legendary token – account bound.  Legendary drops are guaranteed after 60 emissary turn ins (2 months).

Random is good.  It’s one of the few carrots out there.  Random turns bad when a rare event is not a reward but a step back.  WoW has certainly taken the random portion to hear, with a plethora of things to see and do this expansion.  In some places, that randomness wasn’t properly balanced.  In most cases, this is just due to the odds and inability to test low percentage events.  The overall lack of fixes on this issue… that speaks more to the development cycle required to make code changes.

4 thoughts on “When Random Ruins Fun

  1. Hey, I really enjoy reading your blog. Lots of interesting and well-reasoned opinions. However, this statement regarding legendaries is incorrect:

    “You can only ever have 4 drop per character.”

    You can continue to obtain legendaries even after you have four. Anecdotally, I’ve read that the drop rate is much lower after this threshold, but it’s certainly possible to obtain more than four.

    Previous to patch 7.1 (I believe), they had a system in place where you no longer benefited from their so-called “bad luck protection” (increasing the odds of receiving a legendary after you complete an activity that could award one but didn’t) after you already had four legendaries, but this system was apparently removed. I’m skeptical that it’s truly been removed, but that’s the official line. 🙂


    • Aside from those who got double drops during that early window, I have not heard of anyone getting a 5th. I’ve read the party line too.

      If you look at the top 20 or so raiding teams, they all have that issue.

      Not that it affects me. I’d be happy with just one!


      • Funny story: In my weekly Mythic+ cache that I opened yesterday, I received my fifth legendary. So I can attest that you truly can receive more than four! 🙂

        I swear, though, the timing of receiving it immediately after I commented on your post is… unnervingly fortuitous. It’s almost as if Blizzard was watching…

        Anyway, my comment about enjoying your blog still stands. Keep up the great work.


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