Greedy Goblin

Friday, August 19, 2016

Skewed RNG and socials

Enchanting in Black Desert Online is a pretty annoying minigame. In order to upgrade your gear, you have to farm or buy black stones and shards which serve as resources. Nothing new so far, WoW had this with justice points and whatnot. However you don't just go to some vendor with your old gear and the stones, you need to use them in a gambling fashion: first you put one stone and a useless piece of gear to the enchanting interface and hope to fail the enchant, because that gives you a bonus. You repeat until enough bonus is collected (and curse if you succeed to enchant the useless gear), then put in your good gear with a more expensive shard and hope that you succeed. If you fail, you put in another stone. Sometimes you even end up with gear losing level or totally destroyed (accessories).

The minigame is annoying and the whole process is hated by everyone. Why do the devs use it instead of an "insert X stones and gear, get level" method with X being the average stones needed now. Same input, same output, less annoyance for the players.

The secret lies in skewness of the chance distribution. This means that the individual outcomes aren't evenly distributed around the average. Skewness does not mean being rigged: it is not biased against any participant, nor its average result is wrong. Let me explain it with coinflips where you want to get a head. You have 50% chance for it, so on average you need 2 tries. However if you give coins to 1024 people and ask for their experience about this "game":
  • 512 will tell "I did it in one toss"
  • 256 will tell "I did it in 2 tosses"
  • 128 will tell "I did it in 3 tosses"
  • 64 will tell "I did it in 4 tosses"
  • 32 will tell "I did it in 5 tosses"
  • 16 will tell "I did it in 6 tosses"
  • 8 will tell "I did it in 7 tosses"
  • 4 will tell "I did it in 8 tosses"
  • 2 will tell "I did it in 9 tosses"
  • 1 will tell "I did it in 10 tosses"
  • 1 will tell "I did it in 12 tosses" (bonus internet points for those who understand why not 11)
So if you are a social, who makes decisions not by facts but by the opinions of "friends", you will be convinced that you need less than two tries to get a head. After all half of your friends said it can be done in one try, 1/4 of them did it in two and only 1/4 needed more. If you are good at maths or just don't give a damn about the opinions of people, you realize that this game has lots of small winners and few big losers.

The result is simple: socials underestimate the effort needed to enchant their gear and keep farming, believing that the upgrade is just around the corner, just like it was for their "friends". Also, they don't believe me when I tell them to just go to the marketplace and buy their gear, selling their stones. The marketplace is full of the gear of the "lucky" people who got it cheap (or "free", since the stones you farmed yourself are free, right). It stays full as the dumb people rather "try their luck" than accept a one time high cost. The result is obvious: they have crap gear and they are broke while I am full of upgrades and money.

It sucks to be a social!

12 comments:

Manserk said...

This minigame is well known in asians MMO, I played a couple others and it's a recurring thing .

Just an example : http://www.aruarose.com/game/features/refining you have to "refine" your gear with materials and have a chance to fail. you get +1/+2/+3 on your gear if you suceed.

BDO have the same exact feature. I can understand westerners get frustrated with it because it's something that didn't exist in games here

Gevlon said...

@Manserk: everything is originated from somewhere, that's irrelevant. The relevant thing is that it spreads and works for a reason: socials listen to opinions instead of facts.

99smite said...

was just about to say the same thing. It does not matter who invented it, the psychological incentive behind that method has been proven valid.

So, basically the reason why we do not get fixed numbers of resources in order to get +x gear is that people will get bored or frustrated realising that they have to farm i.e. 512 resource units in roder to get +max weapon.
The minimal chance to need only 300 is incentive enought to keep grinding for 300 resources, as 300 is significantly less then 512, right?

Shivaro said...

I think it work for two diffrent reasons:
1. Its gamblibg. And getting randomly positive resualt is very addictive - see gambling and usus of random positive feedback in dog training.
2.it give the gear system open ended and deminished returns.

Gevlon said...

"gambling" alone does not explain this. After all, they could make the gamble with the drops. WoW has such gambling with boss drops, you don't know which gear it drops from its loot table.

The point is to make a skewed chance to make it look more easy than it is.

maxim said...

@Gevlon
In my practice, every time i saw such a system implemented, the intent was to increase the dev's ability to manipulate the amount of rewards he gives out without players really noticing.
So you shouldn't just discount rigging altogether :D

Anonymous said...

"1 will tell "I did it in 12 tosses" (bonus internet points for those who understand why not 11)"

No bonus points for me then. Can you point me to an explanation?

Gevlon said...

@maxim: good point. This way they can make sure that the "hardcore" always has something to do (refarm the failed gear) and the "casuals" can catch up (as they are the lucky ones)


@anon: the last guy is the average of
1/2 guy need 11
1/4 guy need 12
1/8 guy need 13
1/16 guy need 14
...

Anonymous said...

I agree it makes sense to simply buy from the market, however, many items are not listed (such as accessories and +3 outfits etc). This forces you to 'try your luck'.

Anonymous said...

"It sucks to be a social!"

They don't know any better, so it doesn't suck for them. That's like saying, "it sucks to be a rabbit!"

Jean-Mira said...

I think it's worth to mention that the average needed number of tosses is 2. In fact, the inverse of the success chance of 50%.

So while the expectation of most would be lower, it's not as unfair as it looks at first glance. For most people it will feel like the numbers 99smite used above.

Kurtizzle said...

Can anyone confirm if they modified the success rate of upgrading reblath armour gloves, I know they made them none tradable.

I wasted 150 black stones upgrade three pieces of armour to +13/14 from +12.

As Gevlon said, I could have just sold the stones and got 15m pre tax, that would have been enough to buy a +15 armour or a good part towards it.

I just need to decide what to do with the +7 day back pack and the 50-60ish Relic Shards I have sat in my Calpheon Delivery Mail Storage.

PS: One Black Magic Stone on the market for 5.5m