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The Philosophy of RNG and its reception by the ESO player base

I would like to highlight what I believe is a fundamental philosophical difference between how the ESO dev team looks at RNG and how the ESO player base looks at it. Of course, some players may disagree with me (as some people will always be content with the status quo, no matter what), but I believe I have a good grasp on the general population's attitude and will do my best to articulate it respectfully and rationally.

 

THESIS :

 

ESO players prefer predictability over lotteries, while the dev team believes that lotteries are more fun and exciting than predictability.

 

THE PROBLEM:

 

Every time a vMA final chest, final boss in a dungeon, or Elite PVP gear box is looted, players are faced with rolling the dice in multiple stacking lotteries (i.e. the RNG system). If the player is very, very lucky, the item received will be something useful and exciting, maybe even exactly what they were looking for. Otherwise, they will either receive no special item at all, or one that is not what they were interested in or would even consider using. The chances of a successful roll for an item to (drop) + be the desired (weight) + be the desired (item type) + be the desired (trait) are all compounded with each other and by the large number of alternatives. This is further exaserbated by the sometimes very long and difficult content gate to even get to one chest (in the case of vMA, for example). Others in the forums have demonstrated the math on these drop rates, which are worse than 1:100 in most cases.

 

PLAYER PERSPECTIVE:

 

Certainly the number of forum posts making this point, and the many voices agreeing with them point to an overall discontent with the RNG system, but beyond that, one could also look to the choices ESO players make between item sets. Consider sets like Hundings, Julianos, Seducer, Alchemist, Lich, Molag Kena, etc. which all provide a predictable benefit which is either always on or can actively be triggered. Aren't these kinds of sets vastly more preferred over sets with bonuses that involve chance? And when a chance set is preferred, isn't it only because the proc rate and strength is good enough to be considered powerful "on average" (as if it were on all the time, but at a lower power level). Even here, players are trying to determine what the consistency and predictable power of a set will be, and they will always gravitate away from those that fall behind in this way toward those which are shown to perform better. The commonality throughout the player base of this kind of thinking reinforces my thesis.

 

DEV PERSPECTIVE:

 

Turning to the dev perspective, in the May 20th ESO Live, Eric Wrobel mentioned the use of RNG in the PVP set boxes bought from the elite vendor as more "fun and exciting" than if the individual items were made available to be purchased directly. This was said as a consolation to a player asking if individual items could be made available instead of boxes to decrease the RNG, and Gina responded that there would be too many items for the vendor to hold. The player's primary concern which motivated the question was left unaddressed except to say the items will be BoE, so you can at least sell what doesn't work for you. We have also seen that any concern with the RNG system the devs have addressed has been met with solutions that do not fundamentally change the system but only modify drop chances to some degree (which is only the first roll in the series of lotteries that must be won to get a desired item). These include adding The Golden vendor in Cyrodill, modifying vMA chest and leaderboard drop rates, and modifying Undaunted chest drop rates. The updating of item traits and the addition of more traits to the loot table was an attempt to make more items agreeable to players, but also has the effect of further diluting someone's chances of getting a particular piece if that person is only interested in one specific trait (especially with the addition of non-combat traits like Training and Prosperous being in the loot table). In all of these attempted solutions the fundamental philosophical difference between players and devs is not being addressed.

 

THE REAL QUESTION:

 

So now, hopefully you will agree that I have demonstrated that ESO players respond more positively to predictable results, and that the attempts by the dev team to address player concerns have not dealt with this fundamental issue, but instead have continually reasserted their commitment to the RNG system. Why does the dev team feel so committed to this system in spite of considerable player feedback and data showing how undesirable it is? Unless we get an official answer from the dev team, we're left to speculate. I assume they believe that the RNG system is better for keeping players involved in between DLC cycles. You lose the desire to run content when you've gained all the rewards you wanted out of it, and that's not in dispute here. The real question is, is RNG the only or the best way to ensure content repetition? Is the frustration players feel at completing vMA or WGT 100 times without getting their desired drop just a necessary evil? I don't believe so. There is a solution, a way to keep players running content while still making them feel like they are gaining something instead of just wasting their time.

 

THE SOLUTION:

 

When players complete WGT or ICP they are awarded shards/fragments which they can accumulate to open a treasure room for a special reward. Similarly, killing mobs in Imperial City grants various trophies which can be used to unlock treasure rooms. All of these items and Tel Var stones represent the closest thing to a Token System ESO has. Just taking one example of the Willpower, Agility, and Endurance jewelry sets, the system works remarkably well. The items are all BoE, so they can be sold if a player doesn't need them but wants to make money or just happens to acquire lots of trophies doing IC content. The treasure rooms are distinct, dividing the different sets and even necklaces from rings. The only RNG element is which of the 3 possible traits the jewelry gets. That's a 1 in 3 chance of getting exactly what you want. The player feels like they are making progress gathering trophies and has a good chance of getting what they want or selling one of the less desirable pieces. The level of dissapointment for getting a Robust Willpower ring, for example, is considerably lower than failing the get any vMA weapon at all on the last chest. This is the sort of thing that needs to be more pervasive. Here is one example of how such a system could work:

A player completes a Vet Dungeon, the same RNG chance remains on the final boss for a monster helm, but additionally the player receives 10 dungeon tokens, I'll call them Sigil Remnants (for a splash of lore). After collecting 100 Sigil Remnants the player can take them to a Daedra who will combine them into a Sigil which will open an Oblivion gate. Upon entering the gate the player finds themself in a room full or chests. Above each chest is a wall carving of each of the vet dungeon bosses. Opening the chest you choose guarantees you will get that boss's helm. The weight and trait could still be RNG if necessary, but you can see how this would bring an additional encouragement to run random vet dungeons, a feeling of progression, and a diminishing of the RNG on top of RNG stacking. You could even go further and put 3 chests in front of each wall carving representing light, medium, and heavy, like the bronze silver and eso gold Undaunted chests.

 

The point is, there are ways to allow players more control over what they receive, be lore friendly, and most importantly, positively encourage and reward repetition of content. This would be a "more carrot, less stick" approach. Rather than being satisfied with player frustration over constantly missing all the RNG rolls for the item they want, provide a token system that gurantantees a payoff after a certain amount of repetitions so that even if a player happens to be unlucky in the short term they still have confidence of a reward they would really want if they stick with it. As things currently are, players can easily get so fatigued at trying and failing the RNG rolls that they end up losing hope and giving up. This doesn't benefit anyone and is not healthy for the game.

 

Making one token for all non-DLC dungeons, would make sense, along with maybe adding DLC helms to their respective treasure rooms. A different token for vMA would also be necessary. Perhaps allow the various Daedra around the arena building to each own one of the Maelstrom weapons which you can trade them a certain number of vMA tokens for. For the PVP boxes, the load could at least be split between 3 vendors (light, med, heavy) who sell boxes that only contain items from 1 set. So you could go to the medium vendor and get a Morag Tong box, for example. Perhaps the devs already have something like this in the works for when town capture is added. Ideally, I would like to see a game state in which the only constant RNG roll, if there has to be one at all, is for item trait, or alternately weight with trait re-crafting available (i.e., there could be a whole lore friendly system like malachite shards to create a crafting element that allows you to change an item's trait).

 

CONCLUSION:

 

My hope is that this post will be reviewed seriously by the dev team, and if a dev could please respond, it would be greatly appreciated! I do believe I have proven my thesis and offered a reasoned solution based on elements already in the game. If you've read this entire post, thank you for taking the time to do so!

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