Doing a bit of everything and loving it

I’m still playing the heck out of Black Desert Online. I’m very happy to have found a game that lets me play it just the way I want – even when I want to play it completely differently from one day to the next. It really feels more like a virtual world to me than any other game I’ve played, which makes it so much more than the sum of its parts (of which there are many to boot).

Some play sessions I dedicated to following the main quest lines with the Striker. At first I had to do some backtracking because the quests led me to areas I had already visited while leveling. This wasn’t bad though, since there was still much to discover.

Black Desert Treehouse
Like this village of treehouses in the southern Calpheon area. Great view and thankfully no Ewoks.

A village called Trent, which I had visited before, all but drowned due to the most pouring and realistic looking rain I have ever seen in a game.

Black Desert Downpour
A still doesn’t do it justice really. I had to crank up the brightness a good bit too, it was much darker than this.

Of course I had to kill hundreds of mobs for the various quests, so I snatched quite a bit of loot. I replaced all my accessories during the last couple of weeks and even got some pretty good armor pieces. The Striker doesn’t need the latter anymore, but any future alts I might play will start pretty well equipped (no level requirements for any kind of gear in this game and no bind-on-pickup or bind-on-equip either).

I even looted some boss scrolls. I guess I was quite lucky since I got three in the course of just two days. From what I’ve heard they are pretty rare. Two were for the goblin boss Giath, whom I hadn’t fought before.

Black Desert Giath
The bigger they are…

The helmet he’s wearing is actually the piece of boss loot he can drop, imaginatively called Giath’s Helmet. No luck with that though.

I also got to explore a completely new region, Mediah. I think it’s supposed to look and feel mediterranean, and it kind of does I guess.

Black Desert Mediah
It actually reminds me a lot of some parts of California or Arizona.

In any case, I quite like it.

The largest town of the area is Altinova.

Black Desert Altinova
Admittedly I haven’t seen something like this in California…

It’s nice, I won’t set up shop there though. I feel more at home in the medieval ambience of Heidel or Calpheon.

A couple days ago I hit level 56, which means that I gained access to the ‘awakening’ of the character. I did the requisite quest chain and now have a second mainhand-weapon, a monstrosity called ‘Gardbrace’.

Black Desert Gardbrace
Fisto’s got nothing on me!

A whole bunch of new skills are also available to me now, though I haven’t taken a closer look at them yet.

Of course I also wanted to continue with crafting, gathering and farming, so I didn’t only play the Striker. I’d estimate the Witch got about a third of my total playtime.

In addition to the mainstays beer brewing, carrot farming and meat acquisition I explored some new ventures here too. I had read that Olvia is a great place for Alchemy, so I went back there after quite a while of absence. Indeed there are a lot of Alchemy quests on offer, but there’s more. I also found some quick and easy cooking dailies, and most importantly lots and lots of gathering quests. Those are really great because not only do they give a good chunk of extra gathering XP, when finished I get to keep everything that I had to gather for them, incidentally supplying some of the materials for the cooking and Alchemy quests.

Oh, and I learned how to milk cows. I kid you not.

Black Desert Milking
Even the Striker had to try it. I hope he remembered to take off that Gardbrace first…

I also researched a bit more about workers. I had already noticed that they come in different tiers of quality. What I didn’t know was that lower tier workers can take a promotion test every ten levels (level 30 is the maximum, so no more than three tries per tier). If he passes the test he gets promoted by one tier and resets to level one. Since levels 20 to 30 take considerably longer it is recommended to level workers to 20, then have them try the promotion test twice, and fire them if they fail both. Only one worker can take the test at a time, and it takes 24 real time hours whether logged in or not.

Black Desert Workers
Another way to progress which I quite like. It’s somewhat comparable to collecting trading cards, and just as addictive.

I’m really happy about how progression is handled in this game. There are countless ways to progress, so many XP bars to fill and stuff to level and/or tier up. What’s great about it: the ceiling for most things is so high that even hardcore players won’t reach it anytime soon, yet nothing is useless or worthless even at the lowest levels. There are so many MMOs where, once a couple of weeks have passed after the game’s release, you have to grind your way to the top before you can do anything substantial, anything of value. It’s so much more satisfying to be able to do useful stuff from the beginning while knowing that you will get continually better and better for a very long time.

Lastly I finally managed to tame a tier 5 female horse, which means that I now have horses of both genders at the highest tier to be found in the wild. I will train them to at least level 25 each and then do a breeding attempt. A breeding calculator I found claims that there will be a chance, albeit small, for a tier 8 horse, which is the maximum tier as of now. Fingers crossed!

It’s already a big upgrade as it is though, because the female has learned the skill Sprint while leveling, which my other horses didn’t. As the name implies it makes a horse run faster. A LOT faster. It’s level 10 now and runs much faster than my level 23 male without Sprint. Imagining a tier 8 horse with this skill…hell yeah!

I’m sure I forgot some odds and ends, but these were my last couple of weeks in BDO in a nutshell. I’m lovin’ it!

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More jump field shenanigans

Last Monday’s public fleet was the last hurrah for our Wolf doctrine, at least for now. CCP has reworked Assault Frigates and we will do some testing with different boats during the next couple of weeks.

Hence Captain Cean was more than willing to take us into a big fight should the opportunity arise. Why let all those Wolves gather dust in our hangars when they could die in a blaze of glory instead.

After our Scouts caught a lone Arbitrator and an Algos for our first kills of the evening it looked like our wish would be granted. We spotted a mixed gang of Cruisers, Battlecruisers and even an Armageddon supported by two Guardians near Nennamaila. Unfortunately I didn’t save the D-Scan, but I think they were about 20 pilots. We were pretty sure that they’d be willing to fight us.

Alas, for some reason they were not. Before we could catch them at the gate through which they arrived in our system they warped off to the NPC station and docked up. What the hell? We weren’t willing to give up just yet though. We positioned ourselves right at the station’s exit and waited for anyone to undock and hopefully break their invulnerability before docking up again.

EVE Station Exit
Everyone orbiting Cean and waiting to be booshed off together with our prey.

When someone undocks they are invulnerable as long as they don’t do anything (like lock someone, stop their ship or change direction for example). If they don’t stop they keep flying in a straight line though, until they eventually leave docking range. Which means that they have only so much time to decide what to do. Checking if someone’s still invulnerable is as easy as trying to lock them. If you can lock them, they’re fair game.

Some of their pilots would poke out their head for a moment to check the situation every now and then, but they were smart enough to dock up again while still invulnerable.

That is, until a Cerberus undocked that we hadn’t seen before. He seemingly wasn’t part of that fleet and had no idea that we were there. He obviously didn’t know what to think or expect of our presence, or he just panicked, either way he became lockable. Cean fired his jump field generator right away. Whatever the pilot had done to break his invulnerability couldn’t save him, and he found himself 100km off station surrounded by an angry swarm of frigates and destroyers. As sadly is often the case the loot fairy said no, but a nice kill anyway.

Meanwhile though some pilots of the other fleet seized the opportunity to undock and warp off. In the course of the next 45 minutes we chased them around the neighborhood. We were going to get our fights, whether they wanted or not.

First we caught a Myrmidon and his pretty expensive pod, a Caracal was next, then a Gila and an Oracle. During these events we used our jump fields in ways we hadn’t used them before (at least I hadn’t), sometimes to great effect. Whenever we chase someone who manages to warp away just in time we try to see where he went and warp after him. But did he warp to zero? Or to 100km or something in between? Normally we all warp at different ranges so that hopefully at least some of us land within tackling distance. This time around we all warped to 100km a couple of times, and when we saw that our target had warped to zero we used a jump field to jump us right on top within seconds. Pretty effective.

The Caracal kill was especially cool. When we arrived at the combat site he was in he had already pulled about 150km range from the beacon and still kept burning out full speed ahead. Cean and I aligned to him and fired our jump fields in relay, as we have done numerous times before. Between aligning and spooling up both jump drives this took about 10 seconds total. Which meant that by the time our second jump was finished he had burned another 40 or so kilometers and more or less bumped right into us when we landed. Even he had to laugh about that.

By now we had a good bit of loot in our cargo holds and it was time for a bio break anyway, so we docked up in a freeport Astrahus in Hikkoken.

EVE Lava Planet
Astrahus sitting above a pretty but rather inhospitable planet.

We weren’t satisfied yet though. Next up we caught a VNI, then a Devoter, a Brutix and one of the Guardians (loot fairy still didn’t like us).

Then an EVE University fleet of Catalysts and Griffins crossed our path. I guess we were in total-carnage-mode by then because we didn’t even think twice about taking prisoners. Three Catalysts, two Griffins and a couple pods fell quickly. Sorry guys!

Things quieted down a bit after that, until Spike reported a Daredevil that he might be able to tackle. He was two jumps out from us, but Cean told him to go for it and we gave chase. Our second scout, Waleri, was in between and would arrive ahead of us.

Indeed Spike got him and managed to stay out of webbing range at first. His task was to not let the guy escape until we arrived while staying alive himself. A Stiletto is no match for a Daredevil in a one versus one fight. The Daredevil pilot knew his stuff though, and maneuvered himself into web range after a few moments. Bad news. As feared he killed Spike shortly after, but by then Waleri was almost there, and the rest of us close behind.

He managed to warp off, but made the mistake to warp to a medium site where we could all follow. Finally Waleri hard tackled him and our fleet caught up. With several logis on the field there was no way he could be a threat to us anymore, so we just held him down. We wanted Spike to reship, return to us and get in on the kill. Suitable vengeance.

EVE Tackled Daredevil
Daredevil warp scrambled, webbed, target painted…doomed.

The guy didn’t want to wait that long and initiated self destruction though. Unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards penalty! Ahem. Spike didn’t make it back within two minutes. Fortunately he’s still on the kill mail since the Daredevil didn’t leave system after their encounter, so all is good. Finally the loot fairy decided to be on our side for once too, probably to reward our great camaraderie. Almost a hundred million ISK dropped, more than twice the cost of our lost Stiletto.

The evening still wasn’t over. We killed some more small stuff, and, our last kill of the evening, another Brutix. Spike tackled him sitting right at a gate. He hadn’t seen the rest of our fleet, yet decided not to jump to (assumed) safety after Spike aggressed him. Instead he started shooting back. Of course we all jumped through and killed him. A few minutes later a friend of his convoed one of us. He stated that the Brutix had been quite expensive and he deemed it unfair that a bunch of “unskill people” in “crap rifters” killed him. And that we should “repay his ship”.

I’ll leave you with the sound of our reaction to that and a closeup of my Magus and a couple fleet members.

EVE Magus

 

Player-made music in MMOs

Music is very important to me. I love music since I was little. I became a musician myself relatively late though, I started playing the guitar when I was sixteen. A couple years later the drums became my main instrument.

Although I’m not the most creative person when it comes to composing music, expressing myself through music has been a part of my life for a very long time.

So you can imagine my excitement when Star Wars Galaxies came along in 2003 with a pretty sophisticated system for player-made music.

It didn’t actually allow players to compose music themselves though. Instead it had eight (I think) songs to choose from at launch, and five instruments to play them. Among those songs was the Mos Eisley cantina song of course, but also a couple of new compositions. Each instrument had up to eight musical variations, called Flourishes, for each song. For every bar of music one of those could be chosen while playing. Additionally some lightshow effects could be triggered every now and then.

This was already pretty nice when playing alone, but it was obvious that the system had the potential for greatness when played as a group.

Hence I didn’t hesitate for long to start looking for a band. I found two guys looking to start a new band on my server, Gorath, on one of the german SWG forums. We met ingame and talked about our ideas and visions and decided we were a good match.

We started meeting regularly to practice. We experimented with different combinations of instruments for the various songs, and which Flourishes sounded good together. We even practiced solos for single instruments, which meant all other musicians had to use one or more ‘Pause’-commands at the right time. Since this was before voice chat had become a common thing we had to coordinate our efforts via ingame-chat, which was trickier than it probably sounds.

Practicing a vocal composition in the sunshine of Corellia.

When we felt that we were good enough to play in front of an audience we started looking for opportunities. Since Gorath had a pretty large and lively roleplaying community that didn’t take long. Soon we were booked for our first gig, at a player wedding no less.

SWG Wedding 1
Playing the song ‘Ceremonial’ as a substitute for the Wedding March while Groom and guests wait for the Bride.

It was great. I have to admit that the roleplaying stuff was a bit over the top for me, I’m just not into these things. But being there and playing for an audience of real players, being cheered at and asked for encores was a gaming experience I’ll never forget.

SWG Wedding 2
Rocking the wedding party in a guild hall…
SWG Wedding 3
…and on the beach at night followed by fireworks.

We were joined by additional musicians and a couple of dancers over time, rehearsed even more sophisticated shows and wore more elaborate stage outfits. I wouldn’t say that we were the best or most famous band on Gorath, but we were definitely playing in the top league. It was a fantastic time.

SWG Enabran Tain
Entertaining the crowd at a local crimelord’s palace. We were very glad that he liked it…

After I quit SWG I had to wait for about six years until I played a game with player-made music again. This game was All Points Bulletin (the reboot, APB Reloaded, that went live some time after the original game tanked is still running and I play it from time to time). A MIDI-like editor can be used here to compose 5-second long themes or whole songs.

Recreating Marilyn Manson’s title theme from the first Resident Evil movie.

I never saw a reason to do whole songs because the game supports using one’s own music library to be played by car stereos ingame anyway. Also the available sound libraries aren’t really that great.

The themes are where it’s at though! Every character can equip such a theme, and whenever you kill someone it gets played to your victim. If the game bestows the MVP title upon you at the end of a match it’s even played once to all players on both sides.

Because people are people I don’t really have to point out that there are lots of folks who choose a theme that’s basically just noise and as annoying as (in)humanly possible. Fortunately blocking a player is but a few klicks away, and then you don’t hear that player’s themes anymore.

However there are also many players who want to have a nice, high quality theme that suits their style or taste, so a talented theme-maker has not only lots of potential customers but can also earn quite a sum with his craft. I made millions of ingame Dollars selling the themes I made, I even did a couple on request.

It feels really great to receive a whisper after killing someone and not be called a cheater/dickhead/whatever for a change, instead getting: ‘WOW what an awesome theme, did you make it yourself?’.

The third and until now last game with player-made music I played was ArcheAge. Here a somewhat peculiar notation system is used to compose songs. It takes some time and effort getting used to. Apparently it’s taken from an earlier game, Mabinogi, which I never played.

Composed music is written down on special paper that has to be crafted first, and these song sheets are then used to play the song with an equipped instrument. They can also be traded or sold. The amount of notes that fit on one sheet are determined by your Artistry skill. Songs can have up to three voices, which is kinda cool because you can make even wind instruments play three notes at the same time this way.

Playing a pretty cool looking and sounding lute on my balcony.

The important thing that’s missing though, at least in the EU/NA version of the game, is band support. Playing all alone is quite nice when you have some good sheets and a couple of instruments on hand, but playing with a band would be a world of difference (see SWG above).

Lord of the Rings Online seems to have a very good system with bands and everything. There are even big festivals, like this one just a couple weeks ago. I’ve never played LotRO though, so I can’t speak from my own experience about it.

Now, I fully realize that there are without a doubt many players who couldn’t care less about player-made music in their MMOs. So every developer team has to weigh the cost-benefit ratio when deciding if their game needs something like that. There are also games where it just wouldn’t fit thematically of course.

Generally speaking though, if you want to make a game that’s more than just a treadmill of quests, gear and combat, instead offering a rich and varied virtual world to explore and experience, a good system for player-made music can be a massive enrichment and a real asset to your game.

Spontaneous cooperation for the win!

The formup for Monday’s public fleet looked promising. Not only did we have quite a lot of Wolves, our mainline DPS ship of the day, and enough Deacons for reps, we also had three Command Destroyers, two Hyenas and a Keres for support. I joked that when our fleet looks this good we probably won’t find any targets to kill at all.

Indeed our roam started pretty underwhelming. Within the first hour we only caught one lone Stabber.

Desperate for a fight our FC, Captain Cean, contacted our friends at EVE University. When I say friends I mean that we like and respect what they do, and when we meet one of their fleets by chance we normally only engage them when we feel that they have at least a fighting chance. We are pirates, but we are also fully aware that EVE’s biggest problems with player retention are it’s steep learning curve and it’s sometimes pretty hostile environment. Chasing newbros away from the game by mercilessly slaughtering them time and again doesn’t help anyone.

From time to time we arrange scrimmages so that they can have a fleet fight at more or less even odds. It’s good training for them and additional content for us.

This time they had a Caracal fleet already going and were willing to meet and fight us. We turned around and headed for the rendezvous system, eagerly anticipating the fight.

After a couple jumps our scout suddenly reported a neutral gang just one system ahead of us. They had a fleet composition very similar to ours. Since some Caldari Militia pilots were among them we suspected this might be our arch enemy Chichou again. Cean didn’t hesitate for even a second, we gave chase full speed ahead.

We caught up with them at the Oicx gate in Vlillirier. Some had jumped already, about ten still sat at the gate. Cean fired his Jump Field Generator as soon as we landed in hopes of booshing at least some of them off the gate with us.

EVE Chichou/IVY fight 1
We caught eight of them and the fight was on!

Then shit got real.

What looked like some easy kills at first turned into a serious slugfest as the overview filled with more and more hostiles quickly. Their fleet was much bigger than what we had seen, and our position 100km off the gate didn’t slow their reinforcements down much. They probably used their own Command Destroyers to jump right on top of us, I honestly wasn’t able to pay attention to everything that was going on. Chichou was indeed among them.

EVE Chichou/IVY fight 2
Setting drones on the primary target and keeping Chichou tackled while taking damage myself.

Despite our early kills the tide began to turn. They outnumbered us a good bit and still had six of their seven logis left on the field. We switched targets often but had a hard time breaking our primaries, each kill took quite a while. Meanwhile we lost four Wolves, one Hyena and the Keres in the course of less than three minutes.

When we also lost one of our Deacons it sure looked like we were going to get wiped out.

Suddenly another group of neutrals appeared on grid. More reinforcements for Chichou or a third party looking for easy kills?

EVE Chichou/IVY fight 4
EVE Uni to the rescue. Never been happier to see these guys.

As it turned out Cean had kept Uni’s FC in the loop. And why wouldn’t he? After all they were waiting for us to come and fight them, and were about to get robbed of that oppurtunity. So they decided to give us a helping hand. Cheers guys!

With their help we gained the upper hand again and made short work of the remaining enemy forces. Some managed to get away, but we made very sure their General wouldn’t be able to.

EVE Chichou/IVY fight 5
Chichou awaiting his demise.

We saved him for last. Unfortunately his pod got away, but it felt really good anyway. Cean and I were especially pleased, because he got top damage and I got the final blow.

ChichouKill
Lakisa got her whoring-drone on him in time too.

As was expected we didn’t have to go without a hefty dose of salt from him either. While we looted the field he ranted in local about us having set a trap for him and bringing the perfect counter for his doctrine. Yeah, right. Never mind the fact that we did nothing of the sort, or that he started using ‘his’ Wolf doctrine only after seeing us use it effectively, accusations like that are really grand when they come from someone who never takes a fight if he doesn’t have the clear advantage.

Besides, the Battle Report shows that even with EVE Uni’s and our fleets combined we didn’t quite match the numbers he had. Again.

Which makes us the clear winners of a relatively even fight. Thank you EVE Uni for being the cool guys you are! Thank you Chichou for…not running away quickly enough this time, I guess. Be sure we’ll hunt you down whenever we get the opportunity.

Wrapping things up here’s a screenshot of the fight with the UI turned off and zoomed in a good bit. Unfortunately it’s still hard to make out any details, but at least it looks pretty.

EVE Chichou/IVY fight 3

 

Moon mining Part II

Yesterday we met up again to mine some ore. Since last week I got the Mining Director and Industrial Command Ships skills to level 4 each, so the fleet boosts I applied were a bit stronger this time around. The biggest chunks of training are still to come though,  since learning a skill from level 4 to 5 takes substantially longer than levels 1 through 4 combined.

I made sure to be in the right system at the right citadel in time as I wanted to keep my promise to deliver screenshots of a chunk of moon being blown up.

EVE Athanor charging
The Athanor charging it’s weapon.
EVE Athanor firing
Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational…errr…refinery.

EVE Athanor Explosion 1

EVE Athanor Explosion 2

EVE Athanor Explosion 3

EVE Athanor Explosion 4
Asteroid belt taking shape.

It’s quite a sight. After numerous engine upgrades over the years the game looks pretty great, explosions are no exception. Too bad the game is played with the camera zoomed out very far most of the time. It’s necessary to keep track of everything that’s happening, but it’s a shame nonetheless.

We weren’t as many people as last time, so it took a good bit longer to mine everything of worth. Every now and then someone would join Teamspeak in hopes of some PvP happening. We had some laughs as every ensuing conversation went like this: “Hey guys, what’s happening?” “We’re mining, mate.” “Uhhh…I gotta go.”

We hung in there until the end. I played a bit of Black Desert, read some blogs and prepared this piece on the second monitor while keeping a half eye on the EVE client, changing position when rocks were depleted or watching the scanners when a neutral showed up in local. A low-excitement activity for sure, but also very low-maintenance.

In the end I had mined minerals worth about 150 million ISK. Considering that the Porpoise has but a fraction of a Procurer’s or Retriever’s mining capabilities, especially because I can’t use Tech II mining drones yet, that’s not too shabby in my book.

Even so I look forward to blow stuff up again during tomorrow’s public fleet. In the end it’s all about the pew pew!

Moon mining for fun and profit

I started playing EVE Online on December 22nd, 2005. Since then I had used a mining laser to extract ore from an asteroid exactly once, and even that was just two years ago when I made a new alt and tried the revised New Player Experience, which included learning how to mine.

I had never actually mined for real, is what I’m saying. This changed last Friday.

In October 2017 CCP launched the Lifeblood expansion, which included a drastic overhaul of moon mining. Instead of collecting the ore passively the new player owned structures blow a chunk out of the moon in question and blast that into many smaller pieces, essentially creating an asteroid belt that has to be actively mined by players.

We placed a couple of Athanor refinieries at moons in our region of space, and to reap the benefits we now have to form mining fleets regularly. Some pirates we are, eh?

EVE Athanor
One of our Athanor refineries. The beam on the bottom left is pulling a chunk of ore towards us.

A proper mining fleet needs fleet boosts, just as a combat fleet does. The sub-capital ship for that purpose is the Porpoise Industrial Command Ship. Since I already had all non-mining related fleet boost skills maxed out I thought what the hell, I’ll learn those skills too and contribute to our mining efforts.

I managed to get the Industrial Command Ship skill as well as the Mining Director skill each to level 3 ahead of Friday, allowing me to fly the ship with reasonable stats and use the Tech II version of the mining command burst modules.

We met in tethering range of our Athanor and waited for the citadel’s pilot to push the button and blow the asteroid to pieces. I had the game’s UI turned off and my finger hovering over the print screen button. Alas, there was nothing to be seen, although the chatter on Teamspeak suggested that it should have been. As it turned out I was sitting all alone at the wrong citadel. Doh! I’ll make sure to take screenshots of it next time and post them here.

When I finally met up with the fleet the asteroid belt was already waiting for us.

EVE Athanor&Moon
More like asteroid sphere or asteroid ball. Asteroid slice maybe?

Since we had two Porpoises we split up into two groups with one booster each and warped to seperate clusters of valuable ore. Boosts were applied, and mining lasers and drones began their work.

EVE Mining1
Blue beams for mining lasers, orange beams for drones. My Porpoise right in the middle.

Granted, the process isn’t the most exciting or engaging. Asteroids are mined until depleted, then the fleet moves on to the next batch of rocks. When a ship’s ore hold is full it warps to the citadel, unloads and warps back in. This repeats until we have scooped up all valuable ore. We also have some defenses in place of course, which I won’t disclose here.

It isn’t nearly as boring as I would have thought though. The main reason is of course that we do it as a group, chattering about whatever is on our minds and keeping ourselves entertained. As long as at least some people keep watch we can even play something else or watch videos in the meantime.

I really didn’t think that the day might come, but, yeah, I’m mining in EVE Online. Well, moon mining to be precise. In my opinion it’s a fun group activity that rewards a nice sum of ISK for your corporation and/or individual pilots. I wouldn’t want to do it every day, but enjoyed in moderation it’s a neat and rewarding variation of the standard routines.

I’ll continue to train the related skills until they’re maxed out, and I’m looking forward to our next op.

On randomness in MMOs

A great deal of gameplay elements in many video games are chance based, especially so in MMORPGs. Since those have their roots in Pen & Paper RPGs and board games more than skill based arcade games this isn’t actually a big surprise. Instead of dice being rolled the game’s random number generator (RNG) decides if you succeed or fail to, for example, hit your target or get your hands on a piece of desired loot.

Is this good or bad though? After thinking about it a lot and weighing my experiences over the years against each other I have to decidedly conclude: it depends. 🙂

Many forms of randomness aren’t really noticable as such. That my attacks sometimes miss is a fact that I just acklowledge and that I work against by raising stats like accuracy. But the important bit is that missing an attack every now and then is almost never a big deal. It doesn’t hurt much, is what I’m saying.

My first experience with randomness that could actually hurt was in Star Wars Galaxies. When crafting I sometimes failed, losing all materials in the process. I didn’t know how my chances for success were, nor if I could have minimized the chance to fail somehow (it wasn’t even known for sure if using crafting stations and tools of higher quality had any effect back then). After a while I was convinced that I failed more often on critical combines consuming the most resources, resulting in me thinking “RNG hates me!” for the first time. It wouldn’t be the last.

I don’t know how many times during my first years playing Everquest II I hoped in vain for a specific drop that I really wanted, or worse, saw it drop only to have someone else win the roll. For a while I really hated the randomness of it all.

As time passed and the genre evolved to more accessibility and less overall difficulty, token systems came into play. Instead of specific items (often only usable by a specific class) mobs would drop a token that could then be exchanged for an item of choice. This circumvented the frustration of ‘again a whole dungeon run and not a single drop for my class’, but made competition even more fierce since most players had ‘Need’ on most drops regardless of class all of a sudden.

Even further went The Secret World’s approach. Instead of tokens dungeon bosses would drop a fixed amount of currency. Every endgame weapon, armor, enhancement and upgrade would be bought with that currency. The good thing about that was that every player always got the full amount of currency, so there was no competition and no envy between group members at all. At first I really liked this solution.

After a while I felt that something was missing though. There was no pleasure, no adrenaline rush and no associated story when getting a new item.

TSW_Blade
This was my pride and joy in TSW. Nevertheless I have no idea when exactly I got it, which dungeon run gave me the needed currency or how I got the token to upgrade the Glyph. Nothing.

In contrast, I still remember under which exact circumstances I got most items for my Warlock in EQII’s Rise of Kunark expansion. The Tormented Bracelet of Doom, for example. This could only drop from a contested named mob in Kunzar Jungle, Doom. I would swing by his turf every time I started playing and look if he was there. He was pretty sturdy and hit very hard, fighting him solo was a tough challenge. On the day he finally dropped his bracelet the fight was particularly close, I beat him with just a sliver of health left myself. I was overjoyed to finally get it, so much so that I still remember now, about ten years later, that it gave +4% to crit chance and +17 spell damage at the time without looking it up.

Being a Dark Elf Warlock I probably should have been friends with this Ancient Evil. Unfortunately for him I wanted his bracelet really bad…

This made me realize that when it comes to item acquisition I actually prefer the much more random approach of yore. For me token and currency systems took pretty much everything that’s fun about getting better gear away.

Then there’s gear upgrading as seen in ArcheAge and Black Desert Online, among others. This seems to be an Asian thing, basically not being able to use an item right after getting it because it has to be heavily upgraded first to become effective. Chance plays a huge role here too.

I passionately hated ArcheAges’s system, which involved so much RNG and so severe consequences when failing that it made the whole thing downright hostile.

The RNG ‘fun’ began well before the upgrading part. When crafting armor or weapons the outcome in terms of stats was completely random, and most versions couldn’t even be crafted further to higher tiers at all, forcing you to start over.

The real pain started once you had managed to get your desired base item though: the regrading system. This boosted the stats of an item while keeping basic properties intact. From the second tier onward (of which there were twelve!) there was a good chance to fail an attempt. From fifth tier there was an added chance to downgrade by one tier if you failed. From seventh tier you could downgrade two tiers with one fail. From eighth tier onward you could lose the whole item. With every tier upgrade an item gained exponentially more power than with the previous one, making top tier items godly powerful, so just not doing it wasn’t really an option. I quit the game mainly because of this crap.

ArcheAge_Bow
Ironically not long after getting this. Should have quit much sooner though.

Black Desert has a system that works similar in outline, but is much, much more forgiving. I’m actually having quite some fun with it, though one important reason for that is the fact that the game keeps handing out upgrade materials, silver and lots of other stuff for free on a daily basis. This lessens the feeling of loss immensely when failing a couple of times.

In conclusion, RNG elements in MMOs can be extremely frustrating to the point of ruining a game as a whole for me. When done right though they are not only ok, they can actually enrich the experience by giving achieved goals much more gravitas.

Your mileage may vary of course.