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World of Warcraft Column: LFR and Drop Rates

By Reza Lackey on April 22, 2013

One of the most controversial topics this expansion cycle has revolved around daily quests and the RNG of drops, specifically from the LFRs. It continues to be a hot discussion, both for and against these mechanics, the most vocal being those who blame bad luck on a broken system. I don’t believe the system is broken however, and in fact think it does a great service to a vast majority of players. I’ve been reading a lot of player feedback on this topic and thought I’d try to take a closer look at the discussion.

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The System

For those not up to speed on how item drops work on bosses in the LFRs it goes a little something like this: When your raid defeats a boss, the game randomly determines if a player will receive an item from that bosses loot table. This is checked completely under the hood, think of it as a dungeon master in D&D rolling a check behind a game screen and only sharing if it’s a pass or fail while not disclosing the actual numbers. If you’re lucky enough to win an item, the game then randomly chooses an item from the loot table relevant to your class specialization (this will change to any specialization of your current class as an option come patch 5.3) and drops it in your bag. Getting a piece of loot with this new system carries the same chance of an item dropping under the old system where anyone could roll on several items that a boss dropped. However, with this new system there is no drama over who should get what - you either win something or don’t, no discussion.

The next part to this system are the Bonus Rolls that were introduced this expansion in which players can spend an Elder Charm (now Mogue Rune’s of Fate since patch 5.2) after a boss has been defeated to “re-roll” on the loot table for another chance at winning an item. If this Bonus Roll is unsuccessful, players will receive a small amount of gold as compensation. Three of these Charms/Runes can be obtained per week by turning in 90 Lesser Charms. Lesser charms are rewarded for completing daily quests. To restate simply, Lesser Charms are earned by completing daily quests which can then be spent on three Rune’s of Fate per week that allow re-rolls on a bosses loot table.

The Issue

There appears to be a large divide among players who are either for or against the way this new loot system works in LFR’s. The primary frustration comes from spending several hours completing daily quests for Rune’s of Fate and then not getting any items from a boss even after a bonus roll, sometimes for weeks on end. Conversely, some players will earn loot from every boss downing with or without having to use bonus rolls. Lot’s of players also enjoy the way this system works as it removes the potential for ninja looting and the drama associated with it.

The fundamental issue here is the perception of how mandatory Bonus Rolls are for those running LFR’s. In any MMO, anything that could potentially aid character progression often feels mandatory and that seems to be the case here, just as players felt the same with gear locked behind reputation walls.

There seems to be three questions at the root of this discussion:

  1. Should players feel obligated to complete hours of daily quests to have a better chance of earning loot in an LFR?
  2. Is the time investment to earn Rune’s too great?
  3. Should drop rates be increased so that less LFR runs are rewardless and have less dependence on bonus rolls?

Without having hard numbers or sufficient data to back up any analysis, let’s take a look at what we do know and what players are saying.

A Balancing Act

With most MMO’s, WoW included, there is a strong correlation between time invested and reward to the player. There are many systems within WoW that illustrate this such as reputation, valor points, and honor - typically the more you play, the more things you can earn. Achieving a good balance of time vs. reward is very difficult to achieve and will always feel different for everyone - the stick that holds the carrot will almost always be too long or too short.

So what can help lessen this frustration some players feel after running LFR’s with nothing to show for? Some users have suggested removing bonus rolls altogether, eliminating the need to complete a bunch of daily quests and the remorse of time wasted to earn bonus rolls that fail to produce anything substantial. I don’t feel like this is a great solution because having a bonus roll on loot feels good - when I down a boss and don’t receive anything, it’s great to get another shot at something immediately and not having to wait for the reset. If you think about it, having three Runes on a three boss LFR wing is essentially like being able to run the raid twice back to back. To me that convenience is well worth having to earn 90 Lesser Charms when there is gear I could use.

Other players have often stated that having to complete tons of daily quests to earn Rune’s is too time consuming and gets in the way of doing other things in game. This particular complaint seems to come from players who binge on daily’s, trying to earn all 90 Lesser Charms in one or two days - spread this task out over an entire week and it becomes far more manageable. Perhaps decreasing the cost of Runes to something less than 90 Lesser Charms is the answer. Though would too many players be using them then, essentially making bonus rolls feel less special and even more of an unskippable task?

What about increasing the drop rate of loot? Maybe just increase the drop chance with bonus rolls so that a win is more likely? As the system stands now, when new LFR content is released, the older content sees a substantial drop rate boost (again the exact numbers are unknown, but it has been stated that the change is fairly significant). It’s easy to say that the drop rates need to be increased, especially when you’re a player who hasn’t seen new loot in quite some time, but without the data that Blizzard is no doubt analyzing, it’s far too difficult to say if a change would suddenly flood the player base with loot. If loot dropped too often then the excitement of running in a raid and downing bosses would be substantially less. It would be great if all the loot I wanted dropped on the first shot, but what fun would that be?

They key here is to recognize that this loot system, bonus rolls included, is simply a matter of luck - you’ll win some, you’ll lose some. The bonus rolls simply add to the odds of you winning something, not lessen them. After reading tons of discussions on this topic I think I’ve learned one thing - players want to win something other than gold, regardless of how useful it is. It seems that many would rather walk away with something, even if not ideal, than nothing at all.

My Idea

More often I see complaints of “I didn’t get anything” rather than “I got the same sword three weeks in a row.” So here’s my thought and please be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below.

If you enter a LFR with three Rune’s, you can either use them on the bosses as a bonus roll as you can with the current system, or exchange all three at the end of the raid for a guaranteed item from all of the loot tables of the bosses in the LFR wing you just completed. The catch is the item is not specific to your class and could literally be anything on the loot tables, even a fist-weapon useless to your priest. Perhaps this item could be account bound as well? This way, you get something for the time you spent completing those dailies beyond just gold. What D'ya think?

It’s also important to mention that come patch 5.3, there will be some “Bad Luck Prevention” with bonus rolls. Unsuccessful rolls will increase the odds of the next bonus roll earning loot.

Have a better idea or thoughts on this system and how it works? Let me know in the comments.

This week’s throwback item: Tuskbreaker

Follow me on Twitter @rezalackey


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