There’s a quest in World of Warcraft called, “Are you there, Yeti?” where you have to find two pristine yeti horns to complete the quest. A couple years ago, the drop rate for these yeti horns was atrocious — 5% or less. Now, it seems to be much higher. But the internet remembers the earlier times. If you visit Allakhazam.com for this quest, you’ll see how players reacted to the extreme randomness of the drop.
Hey guys. I was frustrated after killing 60 or so patriachs and matriach and not having a single drop. Then it hit me. “No beat up or broken horns, please!” said the quest log. I’m was playing a warrior and I’ve been Executing every single one of them. So I tried letting my auto-attack do the killing.
1st try: horn dropped
2nd try: auto attack kill but no drop
3rd try: accidentally executed
4th try: horn dropped
Anyway, I have no idea with classes that relies on spells like mages and priests, etc but can anyone try this method and support my claim?
Now, there’s no way that WoW has implemented this quest in such a way that you need to use only auto-attacks to kill monsters in order to get their loot. WoW is famous for its clear quest direction, and when it fails at clarity, it’s due to errors of omission, not outright hidden mechanics. And even if they did have this weird mechanic, wouldn’t it be a 100% success rate if you followed their weird secret rule? If you search around, you’ll find people saying that this worked for them… it only took 20 kills to get the two horns. That’s not a trick, that’s just random.
But wait! There are other competing theories!
I think people are seriously right about that magic theory. I’ve killed over 40 of these mobs and the one where I decide to stay in human form and cast magic (I’ve been using bearform for Druids) I get the horn.
So now you’ve got to use magic to get the horns? That doesn’t sit very well with “you have to use auto-attacks”, does it? And if you search, you will find more and more of these theories for the quest. Most of them conflict dramatically with each other, but all of them have one or two other people who vouch for how effective they are.
And this is hardly the only occurrence of players being superstitious.
“There’s something wrong with the attack calculations!”
City of Heroes went to great lengths to remove “streakiness” from their attack rolls. Players complained when their attacks missed many times in a row, even though this is a reasonably likely occurrence given a true random number generator (and CoH’s rather low chances to hit). It was not possible for the developers to convince players that this was just randomness (and anyway, everyone agreed that it was frustrating), so they added hacks to keep the streaks from getting too long. If you miss too many times in a row, the game will cheat and help you hit.
“My tapers are burning faster!”
In Asheron’s Call, mages use “tapers” as material components for their spells. These tapers have a small random chance of “burning up” whenever a spell is cast, so players tend to carry hundreds of them at once. Then something weird started happening: players became convinced that their tapers were burning at a faster rate than before. This became a trend: “hey, you’re right, I think they are burning faster!” and so on, until the developers were compelled to get a log of the actual random rolls to make sure everything was fine. It was… but some players could never really be convinced of this. They had noticed a pattern, and they were 100% convinced it was really there.
The amusing part is that after every update, players would insist that the new update had made tapers burn even faster. If this had been true, by about the 50th game update, the change should have been pretty noticeable…
Even to this day, some wise-ass players will say “my tapers are burning faster!” which means “you’re imagining patterns that aren’t really there.” The more modern version is ”Onyxia is deep breathing more!“, which is the equivalent scenario from World of Warcraft.
What’s going on here?
Human beings don’t deal well with randomness in general. Our brains are powerful pattern-matching machines, and we will see patterns no matter what it takes… even if the patterns are fake. It’s hard to convey randomness in a way that doesn’t cause our brains to tick into overdrive in order to “figure it out.”
Does it really hurt your game if players are making up crazy theories about how it works? Well, it’s not ideal. This misinformation gets propagated until it becomes “common knowledge”, at which point it can literally become impossible to convince players that it isn’t true. This, in turn, can lead players to do weird things that are frustrating for all involved, and to blame you for having to do it.
The cure for this is communication. If the quest actually said “Yetis drop pristine horns 5% of the time,” we’d have far fewer crazy theories running around. Then again, players would have just avoided the quest entirely because they would instantly know it’s not worth their time… which points out the flaw. This quest really wasn’t worth doing at a 5% drop rate. There are better ways to spend your time in World of Warcraft. Obscuring this percentage didn’t make the quest better, it just made it harder for people to realize that it was sub-par, thus delaying how long it took developers to get around to fixing it.
Another cure for it is to remove randomness entirely. I’ll get into that more next time!