Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Treatise on The Oculus, Part 3: Working as Intended?

Click here to go back to Part 2
  • I'm forging ahead with my original set of posts, despite the many changes made to The Oculus this week (thank you Blizz!). When I give my own suggestions for "fixing" the instance tomorrow, you'll see that I somewhat support the route Blizzard has taken, but would have done it slightly differently. I just wish I had posted this over the holidays when I originally began jotting down these ideas.

Back to business!

“Random is random.” This is a refrain on the WoW General Forums in the extremely common event that a player begins a new thread to complain about getting Oculus in the random Dungeon Finder an inordinate number of times, seemingly defying all statistical odds. If such a thread is started less than 3 times an hour, then it’s a slow day.

But the Dungeon-o-matic is, in fact, not purely random. It uses weights, which influence the outcome. For instance, if a player already completed a heroic once today, they are less likely to get it again. Which means that if the Finder puts you in a group with them, you too are less likely to see that dungeon. Another influence is the built-in gear thresholds. Fewer people in the Q will be allowed to do Halls of Reflection, so you are less likely to see it than one of the Wrath release dungeons.

So you can already see how the system is slightly weighted to give you Oculus: it's the least likely heroic for someone else in your group to be already saved to, and it has no gear requirement.

But the biggest reason why the supposedly "random" system gives you Oculus all the time (and I know there are many who, like Larisa, have resigned themselves to an eternal purgatory of running nothing but the big O when they Q for a random) is that if a group loses a member, they get put back in the system at the front of the line. Think about that for a second, and realize that whenever you are put in a group, you too are necessarily at the front of the line. Now add in the fact that Oculus is the only dungeon that players leave immediately in droves. Combine that with the fact that, as I have already explained, it is the most likely to be failed and/or have people leave or be kicked during the instance. Suddenly, you find yourself playing a kind of Russian Roullette where most of the front of the Q is populated by partial groups already in Oculus who are looking to fill in the spots left by leavers.

That is the explanation for why everyone is constantly getting Oculus, in defiance of all "random" odds.

To be fair, the system really is, in a sense, "random" because it's not preferentially putting you in any single dungeon. It's just that circumstances are exposing a specific weakness in the system Blizzard chose to use to place people in dungeons. The Dungeon Finder isn't broken at all. But is it really working as intended? True, the system is working "as designed". But I'd argue that the intent of the developers when creating the Dungeon Finder is not being fulfilled.

I do not believe that they intended for people to get Oculus constantly (and too much Old Kingdom and Halls of Stone, to a lesser extent). "Because they wanted that type of system" is not the reason they made a random system. They made a random system to achieve a goal, and in this case that goal was twofold:

1) Provide players with variety, showing them all of the dungeons in a roughly even distribution. A purely randomized system would be excellent for this goal - but, as we've seen, this Finder isn't purely random.

2) Prevent exploitation: keep players from being able to repeat the "easiest" dungeon over and over, or otherwise "game" the system to gain better rewards or grief their groupmates.

The current system is doing OK at achieving (2), but failing spectacularly at (1). Players are not getting variety. Players hitting the "random dungeon" button are nearly guaranteed to see Oculus, and maybe HoS or AK:OK. This is not very fun.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap up this series by discussing solutions for both The Oculus itself and the Dungeon Finder tool. Blizzard has already implemented pretty decent changes, but I intend to both improve upon those changes and offer advice for how future designs can avoid the pitfalls The Oculus hit.

Until then, may all your randoms be VH!


LarĂ­sa said...

I always thought it was some kind of curse making me get Oculus all the time. Not that I hate it that much - actually my runs there have been quite enjoyable - I guess only the people who have an idea about what to do there will have the guts to stay for the run. But after all it gets a bit tedious doing the same intstance day after day.
However I think you're right about the mecanics. It isn't a curse, only a natural consequence of Oculus being first in line when people bail out.

And btw I'm absolutely not pointing fingers at your spelling. I did the same thing myself over and over again until like 24 hours ago...

Ixobelle said...

i have yet to get oculus, but i have done halls of stone about 5 times already, and it's the running joke in our guild's vent. We also get CoS a bunch, but never an oculus... yet.

Hatch said...

@Larisa: I know you weren't pointing fingers at me, I'm just overcompensating for my mistake, so I hope it didn't come across personally. I'm just trying to "head off at the pass" anyone who is going to try to point the mispelling out to me. Though most likely they would have seen it at your site, since no one but you seems to have realized that we were all mispelling it! :)

I also hope that me talking about the mechanics of why Oculus comes up a lot didn't come across as directed at you either.

@Ixo: Yeah HoS, OK, and CoS are the other culprits. People don't like waiting through the opening sequence in CoS or the computer event in HoS, and OK has a perception of being unusually hard (even though it's actually pretty quick if you skip the bosses) because the trash is a bit overtuned.

I run 4 randoms a day on my alts to gather primordial saronite through frost emblems, and there have been days where I got OK 3 times in a row, or Oculus for all 4, or gone HoS, CoS, HoS, etc. I've never seen *any* other instance more than once a day, even though I'm Qing on alts who aren't saved to anything.