It’s the little things

Yesterday and over the weekend I played WoW quite a bit (spousal unit is out of town). And my conclusion: it’s still a fascinating, fun game. Who knew? More importantly, why did I enjoy it so much the last couple of days, when for almost the past year it has seemed like an August slog through a mosquito-infested Louisiana swamp? I’ve thought about this quite a lot, and I think I’ve come up with some reasons.

First, through a bit of phenomenonal — for me — luck, I finished my legendary ring on my mistweaver. Last Tuesday I needed 9 more tomes, and wonder of wonders I got them in just 10 bosses. This in itself was pretty impressive, since I had been averaging about a 50% drop rate for the first 24. So I was really happy when I finished that part of the final stretch. But I was nowhere near finishing the shipyard portion of it. I was not close to the level 3 shipyard, and I was a couple of weeks out from getting the necessary Tanaan rep to circumvent the need for a carrier by substituting Unsinkable gear. Which meant that as soon as the final Master and Commander quest popped, I would be stuck, no chance of successfully completing it. Which in turn meant a long slow grind to get to where I could actually complete it.

Well, long story short, the final quest popped, the best I could manage was a predicted success of 81%, and I just said what the heck and went with it, no unsinkable, no carrier, just damn the torpedoes full speed ahead.

It worked. For once the RNG gods smiled on me, and I got the quest item. Finished up the other minutiae for the ring and did my happy panda dance.

I was absurdly happy about this. Not because of the ring — as I have said before its design makes it not worth putting any effort into getting it. I was happy because for once in this game, after almost a year of really really bad luck, I finally got a break. I was not broken, demoralized, and mentally exhausted by the time I finally reached a goal. I was actually energized to spend more time playing, because it was suddenly fun again.

This is the thing Blizz completely fails to understand about the wholesale crap shoot approach they have implemented for nearly every aspect of the game: repeated failure in reaching a goal, whether that is gear or something else, does not make people keep coming back. It grinds them down, they almost dread playing because they feel like they are doomed to endless disappointment. No one likes all their game outcomes to be solely at the mercy of chance. People like it when their actions have a direct result on the outcome of an endeavor. They do not like it when they feel like no matter what they do, they have no control over a result. Winning is more fun than losing, and there needs to be a safety net that prevents continuous losing due solely to bad luck. 

The second thing that contributed to my fun was the new garrison holiday decorations. Players have been asking Blizz for years for a space of their own that they can personalize. Lots of us hoped that garrisons would be that space, but we were sadly disappointed, and Blizz’s attempts at personalization have been downright dismal. Those stupid monument pedestals for weird achievements? Please. Jukeboxes? Spend hours — on every alt — chasing down multiple tracks of elevator music and hoping again for random drops, nope, not  my idea of personalization and definitely not my idea of a fun way to play. Get a random drop of an archaeology trophy to place in a specified spot in a cold, bare, ugly room you never use? Still nope.

But something about the decorations I liked. For one thing, they are easy to get — a few minutes even on my squishiest alt gave me the necessary coin to get them. (This is the next best thing to making them account wide.) For another, they really do perk up the place. Even though I know that tens of thousands of garrisons on every server look the same, still for some reason I feel like I have done something to make my garrison my own. If there were more decorations I could get by doing dailies, I would be out chasing them. It is something I enjoy working for, it gives me the illusion that I am personalizing my own space.

Again, this is something Blizz completely refuses to understand. People like having some place to call their own, to make cozy and personal in whatever way that speaks to them. Yes, I am talking about player housing. But we are not even close. And Legion will take us even further away — I guarantee you I will not be interested in fixing up a class hall. Sadly, the closest we have come to player housing was probably the little house on Sunsong Ranch. 

But I suppose player housing has nothing to do with raiding and eSports and megabucks, so in Blizz’s mind screw it. God forbid it might “cost a raid tier”. (Still, and this is meant for you, Michael Morhaime, I bet it would increase the active play time for many…. Just sayin’, you know, in case you are interested in some bonuses come quarterly report time….)

So I had fun the last couple of days, and the reasons were small and unrelated to Blizz’s notion of a proper end game. It boils down to a sense of player control, not in the big things but in a few small things. The modern world is so vast and complex that many people feel they have little control, and they find their comfort in the small things they know they can influence — dinner, a garden or potted plant, posters or paint on the walls of a room, tattoos, purple hair, whatever. And this game — founded on the idea of social interaction and meant to offer a respite from all that we cannot control in the real world — needs to offer small and meaningful controls, safe havens, to all its players.

I had fun this weekend, and I think I know why. Too bad Blizz neither understands nor cares about those reasons.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to It’s the little things

  1. Grumsta says:

    I’m pretty sure Blizz have ramped the drop of Tomes from LFR because I had a similar high drop rate getting the 735 ring for my Hunter. Fells like it went from 50% chance to 80 or 90% chance. About ****ing time too.

    I had a not-so-fulfilling evening in the game yesterday chasing three separate elusive RNG goals: the Headless Horseman mount; the Vial of the Sands recipe; the Riding Turtle from the Garrison pond.

    Having read that people have been after the HHM for years, I am just trying for it on one toon per night. If it happens, it happens. That’s okay. Random drops of mounts from kills I’m actually okay with. I try for the Onyxia mount on my mage once per week. Same philosophy.

    The Riding Turtle grind however is starting to get to me. I can feel the twitch starting in my right eye. Fishing for hours to get the right fish, then throw it in the pond to summon the NPC, then kill it for a bag full of crap and a tiny chance at the mount. RNG on RNG on RNG. We hates it.

    I’ve now given in, installed oil rigs on my two mains, put fishing nets on two each of my boats, and I’ll try to fish them up while running the oil missions every day. I feel dirty. But I might retain what’s left of my sanity.Unless the Vial of the Sands finishes me off……

    Oh god, the Vial of the Sands recipe. I dearly want that recipe for the mount. I enjoy gathering the mats to make it, I’ve done it a few times for guildies, I have the mount already but I want someone in the guild to have the recipe and I want that person to be me, dammit. (Our previous recipe owner quit the game as soon as WoD came out).

    At least now there’s one element of RNG eliminated in that I don’t have to dig up Tol’vir archaeology directly. Now that WoD flying is available (huzzah!) I can do Draenor archaeology and trade the chests for Tol’vir fragments. The only RNG is now to get a Canopic jar, and for that jar to contain the recipe. As a bonus, the spare room I never otherwise enter in my Garrison is filling up with exciting graphics mementos of my thrilling Archaeology adventures. I feel like Mr Benn. []

    I won’t bore you with how utterly frustrating doing even an hour of any of the above is: you well know the “joy” of achievements that require solely RNG to succeed.

    In contrast, I recently completed fishing up Lunkers to get the two pets and the mount from Nat Pagle. Now there is a clear effort v reward mechanism. Fish up 50 coins, buy a pet. 100 for the mount. Simple. It took ages, but at least I felt I was always getting somewhere. After an hours work I’d have a few coims to show for it: clear progress towards my goal. Similarly with rep grinds: at least you feel you’re getting closer to your goal every time you do something relevant.

    With VotS I have to spend hours to have the chance at getting the recipe, and if RNG doesn’t smile on me I’m no nearer to getting it than I was at the start. Excuse me while I chew my desk.

    If I have a wish for Legion it’d be that every time a dev suggests putting RNG in as a mechanism, they get slapped around the back of the head by a Felblight Frenzy. Just stop it Blizz! It is no fun! No joy, just a relief when the grind finally ends. And then, masochists that we are, we start another one. *Sob*.

  2. Fiannor says:

    LOL! Not to make light of your frustration — because believe me I absolutely know what it feels like — but reading your tale of woe made me want to go “Awwwww” and give you a hug. And your mental image of the twitch starting in your right eye almost made me spit my coffee.

    My current White Whale is the pattern for the Stylin’ Crimson Hat. It is dropped by Sethekk Ravenguards in Sethekk Halls, of which there are a grand total of 6 in the entire instance. I have killed them thousands of times, over the course of 2 years, still nothing. Pretty sure I can run Sethekk Halls with my eyes closed. Here’s the thing. Drop rate is said to be .4%. Which means approximately 4 drops per thousand kills, or something like one per 250. I know all about how probability works and all, but Blizz could certainly make it so that if the drop rate is .4% and you kill something 249 times and have not yet gotten the drop, then you get it the 250th time. That way you know if you just stick with it, you will get the drop you want. Same with mounts.

    You nailed it: “clear progress towards my goal.” People don’t care that things take a long time or are difficult to get, but they do care about feeling they have some control over the end state. I don’t know why this is such a hard concept for Blizz to grasp.

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