Flameseeker Chronicles: Unpacking Guild Wars 2’s beta drop RNG

    
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Never before have I seen Guild Wars 2’s Dry Top and the Silverwastes hive with such activity as we’ve seen this week. In case you’ve been living under a rock since the announcement, the bright sparks at ArenaNet decided to make gaining access to the next round of beta testing a little more interesting by introducing a rare portal item drop from enemies and event chests in both zones that guarantees beta access. The quirky level 80 zones mentioned above aren’t exactly my favourite spots in Tyria (read that with a high-pitched Irish lilt that’s dripping sarcasm, folks!), so high-tailing it through these areas most definitely feels like a grind to me.

In this issue of Flameseeker Chronicles, I’m going to talk about my views on the RNG method of assigning beta spots and a brief synopsis of my portal-hunting strategy. For full disclosure, I’ve put two days into scouring the area so far but have had no luck in looting a portal just yet; there’s nothing you can do to absolutely guarantee that you’ll find a portal, even if your methods are solid. If you’re still searching too, perhaps you’ll find my ramblings useful as you go! Good luck with your search, and happy hunting, everybody!

boss Husk copper

R(i)NGing in the beta: What is RNG?

I should start by weighing in on the RNG debate that is currently bubbling away everywhere you see the beta portals mentioned. It’s certainly not the most conventional method I’ve seen employed to cut the wheat from the chaff and hence narrow down the beta pool. Beta selection is usually random in MMOs, but this is typically abstracted away from the player’s view in the form of random selection from active newsletter sign-ups or a list of players who signed in within a set timeframe. Players also accept the abstracted RNG selection used by random signup or login selection more readily because of the low amount of effort involved.

We’re slapped in the face with this form of drop-linked RNG selection employed by ArenaNet: You need only check out chat in either zone to see the majority of beta hunters mourning the time they have lost in search of the elusive drop, but you’ll also see the inevitable gloating shares from those who insist that 10 minutes of effort was all that was required to secure their beta access. Who has the right of it? Is the drop difficult to come across, a lost cause that isn’t worth the time it could take to farm, or will a better farming strategy make the portal hunt easymode?

Well, both scenarios have the potential to be the case since that’s the very nature of RNG. Like any random occurrence, every single instance that triggers said occurrence has the potential to be successful. Let’s get our geek on and think of it like this: I have a Bag of Holding and it contains 100 potions labelled “ultimate potion,” of which 99 are placebos sold onto me by a very dodgy apothecary and the other is a potion that will grant me demigod status for one hour. If I reached in there to retrieve just one potion, I’d have a 1% chance of becoming a demigod just in the nick of time before meeting my untimely death at the hands of a gold great wyrm dragon. If I were to pull 5 potions, however, my chances of reaching near-godliness would rise significantly, since each potion I drew would have an even better chance of being the real deal. As much as I can draw the correct potion on any given potion retrieval, it’s more likely to happen later rather than sooner.
broken vehicle

What’s the problem then?

In the example above, there is a finite number of placebos and only one real potion, so we can do the math pretty quickly: We can see that the pool gets smaller and our chances get higher as we proceed to down the potions. The problem with ArenaNet’s method is that we don’t know the drop rate to do the math for ourselves, and we also don’t have a finite pool of loot to go through before we are guaranteed to find what we’re looking for. We have no idea if the number is time-limited on top of being RNG, and we also have no idea if there is a hidden finite number of portals that can be found.

The uncertainty breeds contempt among the playerbase, separating off the successful and unsuccessful as one group explains how easy it is to find a portal while the other gets increasingly frustrated that it hasn’t happened for them. We can also say for certainty that every player who searches will not find a beta portal: Such a “rare” drop (we cannot say how rare without figures on the drop rate) combined with the fact that the farming zones are level 80 is a clear indicator that ArenaNet wants a more manageable testing population.

True, levelling in Guild Wars 2 isn’t the most taxing MMO experience I’ve ever had, and it’s not a wild stretch to reach level 80 in a matter of days. The zonation will still put off a significant group of players simply because levelling presents another layer of arbitrary hoops to jump through, so newbies will have little input in the beta. That’s before we even consider the otherwise-active level 80 population that can’t stand Dry Top or the Silverwastes. The areas are not particularly hospitable, and both are best tackled with friends or a casual group. A substantial amount of work goes into the Siverwastes event chain, and learning tactics is vital, which isn’t for everyone.

With so many diverse types of content available to the level-capped player — fractals, dungeons, PvP of all kinds — I’m not surprised to see gripes about the particular application of the in-game RNG beta pool selection. Many people are complaining not specifically about the method of selection but about its implementation and how it inhibits their usual activities as they sacrifice their gaming time to the Wastes or Dry Top.
silver vista

So why choose drop-based RNG distribution?

Despite the grievances listed above, there are actually some very compelling reasons for choosing this method for assigning beta access, I promise! The first, which I think could perhaps be ArenaNet’s most pressing reason, is that the two newer zones that drop the portals are more indicative of the feel the team are going for with the Maguuma Jungle. The zones are not just geographically close to Heart of Thorns‘ jungle playground; they’re also developmentally closest to the content we’ll be exposed to in the expansion.

Can’t stick the Wastes? Perhaps the developers think you’re then not going to enjoy the Jungle. This is a way of selecting those who will be most likely to enjoy the beta, making it a more active beta and hence a better experience for the testers. It also helps ArenaNet get that little bit more organic hype about the expansion: When people have fun, they’re much more likely to get excited and share that information.

I also think ArenaNet uses the random system to diversify the beta pool in order to gauge the reactions of the wider level-capped GW2 playerbase. It would be a wonderful world if everyone were rewarded for his or her proportional effort, account longevity, achievement points earned, or any other mark of dedication to the MMO, a wonderful world indeed, but how beneficial would such an elite beta pool be in terms of statistical analysis of the wider in-game population? Collecting a drop shows activity and a desire to test the expansion right now, and players who span many different demographics with a vast amount of unique perspectives will be called upon to test HoT. ArenaNet would run the risk of catering only to the most hardcore players if it decided to skew the droprate to reward the dedicated, and the developers would inevitably suffer from the lack of input from other key audiences that don’t measure up compared to the seasoned veteran players.

dry top vista

If you’re still searching for a portal and are desperate for a beta invite, I’d suggest just going out there and having fun! If you don’t like the idea of RNG beta selection though, just remember that people will also be called upon from the newsletter database. You shouldn’t go grinding if you find it totally irksome simply because there’s a fancy carrot being dangled in front of your nose. That’s not fun, and it’s not what GW2 players are typically known to do. If you do go a-huntin’, there is some very solid advice provided by Aaron Heath at GuildMag. It’s roughly the same instructions I employ in my portal search: Prepare well, venture out methodically, focus on tagging as many events as possible, and then repeat. I’ve made a fair bit of gold on my circuits, so if nothing else, your character will at least leave the search better off!

I decided to focus my beta-searching efforts on the Silverwastes since the events chain together very neatly and players can make some quick cash there while searching. Besides, my climb-or-whoosh-across-all-the-things manual dexterity skill isn’t as good as it should be for easy Dry Top runs. I spent about half an hour there before remembering how much I loathe it, forcing me to switch up my strategy before the swear words started flying ever upwards faster than my character could with the jump buff. If you have any advice of your own, don’t be shy: Leave it in the comments below for those of us who are still searching.

Tina Lauro has been playing Guild Wars 2 since it launched and now pens the long-running Flameseeker Chronicles column, which runs every other Wednesday and covers everything from GW2 guides and news to opinion pieces and dev diary breakdowns. If there’s a GW2 topic you’d love to see covered, drop a comment Tina’s way or mail her at tina@massivelyop.com.
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Kanbe
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Kanbe

Maybe I should have clarified a bit because I wasn’t really redefining to gear here. I myself run exotics because ascended isn’t something I care about. I was more referring to the system they had in place (and maybe its gone now i’m not really sure) that penalized people for farming. I recall there were measures in place that if you farmed a specific map for so long you got penalized in the eyes of the RING gods. Basically if you tried to farm somewhere specific Anet had code in there to make your drops pretty crappy and thus discouraged this exact kind of thing.

crashhamster42
Guest
crashhamster42

Kanbe It is anti-grind in the sense that all grind is totally optional. You don’t *need* to grind for a Legendary weapon, or Ascended Armor- you could get away with playing the entire game in the lowest quality armor if you really wanted to, it’s viable. However, BiS gear is there if you want to go for it, though it doesn’t offer a giant leap in stats like in some other games. Here, it’s roughly +5% when compared with Exotic gear, depending on the stat choice. 5% isn’t insignificant, but it isn’t game breaking either if you don’t have it. The same principle applies here, and with many of the other totally optional items. Guild Wars 2 has stayed true to the promise that you don’t have to grind, if you don’t want to…but there’s still plenty of grind out there for people that like to.

Craywulf
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Craywulf

Sinaptic Well that was pretty obvious on the basis of your distorted perspective of the game. Clearly you haven’t been playing. I am curious since you have expressed such vitriol towards the game, why bother reading and responding to articles of a game you obviously hate?

Sinaptic
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Sinaptic

Craywulf Sinaptic 
I did it is why I dont play this crap anymore.

Father Xmas
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Father Xmas

Well a 1% chance is always a 1% chance.  And while it’s true the more tries you have the less likely it is to strike out but here’s the thing.  It’s not impossible.  With 100 tries you still have a 36.6% chance of not getting one.  With 200 tries it’s down to 13.4%.  With 300 tries it’s down to 4.9% of not getting one.

On the flip side after 100 tries you have a 7.9% chance of getting 3 or more.  200 tires a 5.2% chance of getting 5 or more.  300 tries a 3.3% chance of 7 or more.

This disparity is just how an equal random chance shakes out over the course of multiple tries.  While everyone has the same single chance, the cumulative number of success will favor some over others.  No grand conspiracy except math and possibly the devs not understanding how bad the distribution skew is and how it fosters a sense of unfairness.

Craywulf
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Craywulf

BalsBigBrother So you want ArenaNet to interview and psychoanalyze their prospective candidates. Do you also suggest the candidates be under a lie detector while being interviewed?

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

Sinaptic get a grip!

Craywulf
Guest
Craywulf

I am sorry if anyone feels gypped by the RNG, but the problem isn’t ArenaNet’s. It’s the players responsibility to understand that even knowing the drop rate, you don’t deserve anymore of a chance to a beta key then the next guy. It’s random and you have to accept that it’s random regardless of the drop rate. You also have to understand that there’s more than likely a limited number of beta keys available and massive influx of players trying to acquire one. So it creates a needle in haystack effect. 

Most regulars who sit down at slot machines usually do so for limited time or budget, very rare do they expect to win. Although a compulsive gambler will always think their next chance is the jackpot. How often does that happen? How often do you buy a lottery ticket and proclaim I am absolutely going win! Then find out your numbers were not even close.

People need to understand if you’re going to Dry Top and Silverwastes to win a beta key, you’re in for some real disappointment. But if you’re going their in hopes that you might win a beta key while playing those zones, then you’re being a lot more reasonable and you’re not setting yourself up for rage-quit rants. So please get a grip on your own expectations before you put the blame on ArenaNet. It’s random…you have no control over it, and ArenaNet isn’t singling you out by manipulating your chances. Play or step away, please stop the bitching.

Grimmtooth
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Grimmtooth

I am actually avoiding SW & DT now because I don’t want to be tempted to go int the beta. I would rather wait & experience HoT fresh on release.

I will give ANet props for not being scared of throwing out a new twist on a trope. An in game RNG for beta access instead of out of game RNG.

racccoon
Guest
racccoon

Yes I have neglected the game and been under the influx of playing game releases rocks!
GW2 is a great game & I need to find time to call N play 
I feel my time is just going to be taken away by Witcher 3 Imminently as its currently already drawn away by trying to complete other interruptions before this hand is played.