There were a bunch of interesting submitted superstitions that didn't neatly fit into the narrative flow of the article, but I wanted to make sure that they were shared as well. Here they are.
Many years ago, in Asheron's Call, outside the city of Rithwic I came upon a new player that was standing around as a cow was beating the living crap out of him. I moved closer to save him, as he was taking no action to thwart the rampaging dairy cow. I drew my weapon and he called out, 'Please don't kill the cow!!!' Perplexed I stopped and he explained that he was deliberately letting the cow eat him without reprisal because he had heard that if a monster attacks you, it would 'raise your defense, and that's very important later in the game!' I didn't have the heart to tell him that it would literally take years of continuous bovine assault before it made a substantial difference. [ATITD, M, 34]
A Special, Happy Place
In EverQuest there were several folks in my guild who believed if their characters got drunk enough they would actually be teleported to a special location. I think this rumor started because somebody got so drunk they couldn't tell where they were walking (since being drunk warps the way the game draws the graphics) and got stuck in a weird place under Freeport or Qeynos. So these guys kept getting smashed on long camps to try and go to this 'special' location, which really screwed us one time when the MOB we wanted appeared but half of the group was too wasted to attack it. No matter how much others tried to convince them that there was no special place they never stopped believing it was true. [WoW, M, 36]
Paint Brush of Souls
There is an area deep in a temple in FFXI where you have to go through a ritualistic sort of procedure to open a secret door. First you have to acquire an item (the Paintbrush of Souls). This item gets taken to a particular room. Once in the room you have to 'talk' to a few objects in a certain order, then face your character at a blank canvas. The game tells you that your character starts to paint on the canvas, then puts a mark at the end of the line to let you know that you have to hit Enter to continue.
The trick to opening the door is you have to wait approximately thirty seconds before hitting Enter. You must give your character time to finish their painting. (The game gives no hints on your progress, nor when you are done. You just have to be patient, and wait a minimum of thirty seconds.) In FFXI, you can chat in real time in a variety of different ways. If you hit enter to send a chat message during the painting, it would abort the waiting period. I can't tell you how many times I had been in that area, where a raid leader would swear up and down that the *only* way to open the door is for *everyone* to be absolutely silent for two full minutes; if anybody typed anything at all, the door wouldn't open and it would be YOUR FAULT! [EO, M, 27]
Hm, I guess it isn't really an MMO but I remember back on Diablo 2 there were many such supersitions.
There was this one boss, named Mephesto that you used to repeatedly kill for drops and it was a wide spread rumor that if you opened a portal back to town in his keep before killing him, it'll reduce your chances in getting any decent drops.
Anyway, interested read.
As for the "seeding" in WOW.
I have got in many an arguement about this one.
Everything in WoW when it comes to instances is based on the group leader at the time. Example, You are farming Maradan and you have killed/checked all the mobs you want. (*before the let you reset instances yourself, which only the group leader can do). To repeat the instance, you would ask someone in your guild to invite you to a group, and then you would go back into the instance and there would be whole respawns. If you were to do the inviting, and then zone back in, you would return to your old instance. Because the generation of the instance is based on the group leader.
NOW?..is the loot that drops based on the group leader that generated the instance? I would lean towards yes.
Why? I once was running with a druid who said she had killed the baron 18 times now and she had seen hunter legs mostly, some shaman, some druid and 1 priest and 1 war....but never druid legs.
I said, I know its nuts, but do you allways for the group? She said yes, and that she mostly got the same loot every run for most the bosses.
I said, well, have someone else start the group.
She did, and the next time, she got her legs.
OK, maybe it is just randomness, but I have seen multiple examples of people "farming" instances, who allways start the group, and never get the item they want. And they often get the item they want, much faster by letting someone else lead.
The same seems to go for instances like BWL. WE had the same Raid leader for over 20 runs in a row, and razorgore was dominated by warlock or priest gloves. We kept track, they were more likely to drop. Though, we did have a limited sample size, there was no reason to explain, for 8 different classes, that we could see one class 10 times(1/4 of the gloves dropped) vs not a single set of hunter gloves.
Finally, the week before TBC, the RL brought an alt to start the raid. That night, we got 3 items we had never seen before and 2 items we had seen maybe once.
So, I had allways argued we needed to vary the raid leader, not for "good" loot, but for "different loot.
It never happened, but by allways using the same raidleader to form/run the raid, we got a good chance to show that one person can directly effect which items are dropped.
Because the leader of the group/raid directly effects the population of the loot table.
Some people say, you are being superstitous, I say , no, I am being realistic. The game is programed by people, which makes what happens, not random, as much as people want to believe in random number generators. The coders want some items to be more rare then others, and hence, they probably do not use simple random generators. And since every instance in wow is based off the group leaders...well, why not..what does it hurt :) Vary the damn raid leader everytime.
The raid seed is a very difficult myth to bust. Even though we all "know" it's random, we still speak of it as if it weren't.
The GM of my raiding guild always used to form Naxx raids, and for months we got the same kind of trash loot - lots of warlock and feral druid chest pieces, and no weapons. Some drops became "instant disenchant" because we'd seen them so many times.
After months of frustration, the Rogue class leader started a raid. That raid we got new and different drops, and we were excited! Buffy, the Rogue CL, was the coolest, luckiest, person alive, and when new raids started we'd always say "is it Buffy's raid?"
We definitely felt like we were getting better drops - we started getting weapons, for example, and more people who had been patiently waiting for drops were rewarded. But it's also possible that we downplayed our luck in the "unlucky" raids and played it up in the "lucky" raids. I mean, it's supposed to be random, right?
That Mr. Yee was an excellent and interesting piece of writing. Thank you.
I've got a couple of superstitions that people do.
These are from DAOC.
The first has to do with graphics and latency. Raid leaders would command, order even, under thread of dismissal from the raid, that you remove your cloak for the raid. It was rumored that cloaks added to lag for everyone when a lot of players were together. Mythic has claimed that this is not the case, but people do it anyway.
Secondly, npc's. DAOC is a RvR game. Which is to say that there are epic battles between armies of players. NPC guards do the dirty work of standing around protecting keeps and towers from small bands of players. When attacking one of these fixtures, you'd eventually need to kill some of these guards, and they drop coin. Obviously, you don't want them to return too quickly. Some one came up with the notion that if you didn't pick up the bag of coins then the guard who dropped it wouldn't return till the ba diappeared. Actually the guards are on a spawn timer that has nothing to do with the loot bags.
I think DAOC has a lot of spawn and raid superstitions. This is due to the ToA expansion and dragon raids. Dragons' behaviors are supposedly coded to the # of players attacking it, and also the damage tyes used against it. Supposedly, certain damage types of spells will cause the dragon to use his breathe weapon more. There were raid rules tha banned using weapons with procs so the dragon wouldn't use breathe as much.
I actually has a superstition of sorts when I first started playing mmorpg's. I thought that if I positioned my shield directly between myself and the mob, that I'd block more. I no longer do this.
One of the most annoying superstitions I've come across is related to the CoH respec(ification) trial.
In the last mission of the trial, you have to work your way into a reactor room in a power plant, and then protect the reactor core from waves of attackers. During the mission, there are several "glowies" (Interactable objects that are used to either give you clues or complete mission objectives), in the form of boxes taht are full of anti-radiation gear (In no way useful to the players, just supposedly left there by the enemies). Also, when you reach the final room in the reacor, there are several coolant belt glowies on the wall that give the player who touches them a temporary power to heal the reactor core with.
There are a lot of players who keep telling you to not click the boxes, or even go as far as telling you to not even click the coolant belts, because it supposedly makes the reactor fight harder. This is of course not true (Why would the devs put in something to help the players and then cause it to make the fight harder?), but I've heard of people getting kicked from teams for touching the glowies.
Oh my goodness... I've been reading through these and have found myself guilty of some of them.
I've come to the conclusion that this is how religions get started!
I have to agree on the superstition thing... before the xpac came out, I used to go to Baron three or four times a day to help a rogue friend of mine get his pants. He was always the group leader. And we must have done Baron almost 70 times before I got frustrated and stopped going, and his pants never once dropped.
I never believed it was based on seeding though - I just assumed that the WoW gods hated my rogue friend. That's much more realistic, right??
I ran most of the 40-mans in WoW under the same raid leader for a year who almost always entered the instance first. I didn't notice any strong trends in loot distribution. Priests got slightly less loot than other classes, but I suspect it was just bad luck. I doubt the class of the raid leader (Paladin) made any difference.
Onyxia's Deep Breath has several superstitions to explain why it happens. Once we were bored with the encounter and could survive a few deep breaths, we spent a few months testing all the common theories. None of them really held up to testing. Positioning and "phase 1 DPS vs phase 2 DPS" are definitely wrong. We could never tell for sure about the "number of people on her hate list after moving" theory, but I suspect the deep breaths are truly random. If there's a method to it, I suspect it's one that the players didn't think of.
That's often the case in raid design. I've worked in the game industry for 7 years, so I've encountered my share of false theories about how an encounter or a particular class or skill works. I've also yet to see a first kill of any MMO raid boss done the way the developers thought it would be done in design and testing. But if you try to explain how things really work to the players, either officially or anonymously in-game, they accuse you of not knowing the game...
Generally, I find these superstitions silly. But not in FFIX and AO. Both those games did wonky stuff (intentionally or otherwise) to the point that I was willing to beleive almost anything. I don't appreciate that as a player, however, and didn't stay subscribed long.
This is so funny to read. I have another superstition to add for WoW. My friend sweared to me that bringing out non-combat pets in instances was "very" dangerouse, because they could aggro, and therefore cause wipes. He sweared to this many times, even said he'd seen it happen many times. He would even get angry at people and leave group or kick if the didnt but away their pet.
Ofcourse this has nothing on it, but it annoyed me so much, that in the end i had to ticket a gm to confirm this wasnt so. He still gets a bit tikt off when he sees a pet in instances.
However im not untouchable by the supersition. I myself have ben carreing five rabbit foots in my bags since my char was lvl 8. she has been 70 for quite a while, and still has the same feet in her bag ^^
Hehehe that was great, I wish I had come to the site more often to submit a story.
I play WoW and once I heard from a friend that if you have someone targeted while you are crafting things, you're chance at a skill up will decrease. Sounds absurd, but once when I was cooking up some buff food and not getting a skill up in many crafts, I realized I was targetting a vendor. I untargeted the NPC and when I made another of the food I was making I got a skill up. So even though it sounds rediculous I make sure I'm never targeting a npc/player every time! Even when I pass by my boyfriend playing the game and I catch him crafting items while targeting someone, I have to point and yell "AHHH! GET RID OF YOUR TARGET! HURRY!"
I haven't experienced much superstitious behaviour ( I found a rabbit foot, but happily vendored it when I found out it didn't have a use). I am, however, part of the rolling superstition.
I do a lot of group runs, mainly with the same set of people (WoW). On quite a few runs I've won nearly all of the greed rolls, leading to people saying that I have lucky dice (or roll hacks). Now if people have lucky rolling streaks we tend to say they've stolen my dice.
Whilst the system is just random I can see how easily superstitions get formed. Me and a priest friend often get runs where we win most of the random loot, but my boyfriend and a rogue friend rarely win anything.
Well superstition is a normal behavior within a general context, even though it's ridiculous. It probably helped players to elaborate for unlikely results making the virtual world seem coherent and somewhat controllable. "making one feel in control of one own's destiny."
I do wonder if players have any offline rituals that they believe would affect their online play. for example, praying to god for a good raid. Better yet, do religiosity have an effect like believing that the good or bad results are the actions of external forces,having faith that they would go through a tough session.
Anyways, it's something worth looking in offline gaming context or perhaps in Second Life.
In EQ1, my guild had an Iksar (lizard guy) monk that we ALWAYS played with. One of the common drops from lizardmen in The Feerott zone was "a lizard tail". For whatever reason, we always seemed to have more luck when this particular Iksar was with us - so we decided it was his lucky lizard tail. He went out and farmed a bunch of lizard tails and then would hand them out to guild members as "lucky charms". All of us knew they were NOT really lucky, but we carried them anyway - sort of as a guild talisman or "mark". It was purely for fun.
Now in EQ2, I play with the same person, but now he has a human character. I was hunting in The Feerott and got "a lizardman tail" as a drop. I gave it to him for him to carry as a "lucky charm".
I have a character named Rabbitte who DOES carry "a lucky rabbitt's foot", but that's more just for the novelty of it having a reference to her name.
Also, most of my characters are halflings (EQ's answer to a "hobbit"), and there is a coin collection from their original home city of Rivervale in the game. ALL of my halflings end up with A Rivervale Coin in their inventory, not because *I* think it would mean anything, but because if I was a halfling, I would carry one of those coins as a reminder of where I had originated from - sort of how modern Americans will put an "IRL" sticker on their cars when they're 1/25th Irish...
So, it's not superstition for me necessarily, but a nod toward what my characters would have floating around in their bags if I really was one of them...if that makes sense. :)
There was a myth in Dark Age of Camelot for a long time (and it might still be around) that if you wore all black as an assassin class you could stealth better. Also, wearing a cloak with a guild emblem supposedly made you easier to detect. This persisted for a long time, and some people refused to group with my green-colored, fully emblemized Infiltrator because they were sure I'd be visible from a mile away.
In ATITD2, there were any number of superstitions based on things that didn't even tie into the RNG - even for the simplest of systems. For example, a simple dig, where everyone would stand around the pit and pull up rocks for crafting, was often interspersed by people doing the hambone emote.
And in Tale 3, I'll admit to being guilty of waiting until a minute has passed before I do a charcoal run, just so it syncs properly. Damned if it has any effect, but...
The thing is, the odd "superstition" that pops up as true/confirmed makes sure other, sillier ones never die.
For example, Diablo 2 seeded your character at generation. This seed dictated spawn tendencies and loot drops throughout your character's lifetime. Since WoW comes from the same company (Blizzard), why wouldn't people think seed values are also pre-generated and act accordingly?
The crafting "superstitions" for FFXI are true. Direction faced, day of week, moon phase, and moghancements will all affect your crafting outcomes. There is a website that will tell you the ideal set of conditions needed for each synth based on what you are looking for; success, HQ or skillup.
My favorite would have to be the myth that says "In order for Baron Rivendare to drop the epic mount, the leader of the group who also MUST go into the instance first MUST be Exhalted with Argent Dawn"
I play an MMORPG called Flyff and we are very superstitous. There's this thing in Flyff called cheer, and every hour you get a cheer point which you can use on other players. No one is really sure what it does but when you use it it appears like a buff and has a 10 min timer. People believe cheer increases drop rates, experience, and drop rate success, and sometimes won't go without cheers.
Beanybag, cheering in flyff does indeed increase exp gain, not sure about the others though
In EvE I have run across a few, I have always been told/threatened not to mine a valuable asteroid down to nothing. Being told that it will not respawn. It goes as far as corp/alliance rules dictate what you can mine and how much you have to leave in an asteroid before moving on to the next... The thought being if you leave a little bit in each one it will grow back, but if you deplete the asteroid and it goes away, that it will come back as a less valuable asteroid. or that you can deplete an asteroid field to nothing and less and less will respawn.
Also if you do not pick up the cans that drop from an NPC that you kill, a good spawn will not occur. But if you don't pick up after yourself, you will hear about it from others. Or you have to kill all of the small less valuable spawns in a system before the more rare boss type spawns will appear.
All of this pointing to if you take the less valuable stuff, that leaves the better stuff for others *wink*
I'd like to point out that the rumor of having to kill the less valuable spawns for better spawns to appear in eve is at least grounded in fact. The spawns that appear are random, so if you kill a spawn fully it will cause another spawn to appear somewhere in system. As you make more spawns appear the chance that one of them will be a commander/officer (rare spawn) increases as the odds go up with the number of spawns being generated.
Superstition--what is it but distrust in God! --Mary Cholmondeley _Let Loose in
The inferior man‚s reasons for hating knowledge are not hard to discern. He
hates it because it is complex because it puts an unbearable burden upon his
meager capacity for taking in ideas. Thus his search is always for short cuts.
All superstitions are such short cuts.
H. L. Mencken, "Homo neanderthalis", The Baltimore Evening Sun, June 29, 1925
Depend on the rabbit's foot if you will, but remember: it didn't work for the
rabbit! R. E. Shay
No one is so thoroughly superstitious as the godless man. Life and death to him
are haunted grounds, filled with goblin forms of vague and shadowy dread.
--Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896)
For more on the subject visit: Website
A faith much more deeply ingrained in this country than Christianity. Since
[World War II], and to a much greater extent than in America, an astonishingly
powerful superstition has arisen that only the State is truly competent to
preserve the fabric of society and to address its most pressing needs.
Matthew d'Ancona ' Sunday Telegraph, June 2000
Part of the reason that these superstitions arise is the programmed behaviors in the game. If one observes wierd but repeatable behavior one is conditioned to believe in other wierd behaviors.
Two examples, try the 'em yourself. In EQ1 some of the noob fighing areas are pathed to make loot inacessable. Make a new toon and raise it in the Kelethin area. You will see a tendancy of the mob to 'die' inside a tree. --No loots for joo today bucko.-- :) This dont't sound like much, but remember, you are weak at this stage. Fights are iffy propositions and you are going to have to sit a bit before you can try again.
This makes the process of leveling slower, not much for each player, but if they can stretch out the time 3 or 5 percent for 100,000 players, they are gonna make money.
In WoW, make a caster class troll or orc, you will see VERY little cloth armor drop in the Valley of Trials. Lots of leather and mail though. Then make a leather armor class. There's that elusive cloth. :) The leather drops however go into the dumper.
Game developers will do this kind of stuff, so while it sounds silly to insist that your maiden aunt Tilly wear argyle socks on the night of the big raid there are things that the devs do that will affect the loot drops/mob spawns.
One cannot say 'oh thats all just superstition' because while most of it is, there's a bit of truth in there.
The article mentions 'badly coded random number generators'. The thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a well coded random number generator. Code is deterministic, and good - technically, "cryptographically strong" - random numbers are computationally expensive to generate from deterministic code. As a result, there are patterns in the random numbers, and they can sometimes be exploited.
There are also superstitions that are incorrect but beneficial. For example, the Horde general in Alterac Valley is accompanied by two elite wolves. You'll often hear "don't loot the wolves so they won't respawn". This is patently false: I've seen two or three dead pairs of wolves, all unlooted, lying on the ground at the same time, so they obviously respawned before they were looted.
On the other hand, any time people are looting or skinning the wolves is time they aren't spending helping to kill the general. You'll have a better chance of winning, and will win faster, if people aren't looting. So belief in this superstition does foster victory, even though the superstition itself is technically false.
The superstitions about dice rolling are much older than MMOs. I can't tell you how many times I've seen one of two things in d20 games - rolling before hand to get rid of the bad rolls, and I've also been told the opposite, "Don't roll the die unless you're rolling for something! You'll jinx yourself" I'd be willing to bet those are superstitions that have been around as long as there have been games that use dice.
In WoW, when I jumper cable someone, I always do it the same way... I stand as close to them as possible, while still facing them, leave them UNselected, and just mouse over them after I hit my cables until the mouse-pointer-hand highlights and then click on their body.
Ask any of my friends or guildmates and most will tell you I'm the luckiest cabler they know.
I don't think the *way* i cable has anything to do with it, but it's true... I've been very lucky with cables, and will continue to do it this way :P
That's often the case in raid design. I've worked in the game industry for 7 years, so I've encountered my share of false theories about how an encounter or a particular class or skill works. I've also yet to see a first kill of any MMO raid boss done the way the developers thought it would be done in design and testing.
One thing to remember about random number generators is they are indeed RANDOM. Here's an example. Say you had a quarter that you flipped 10 times, and all 10 times, it landed on heads. What are the chances that it will land on heads again if you flipped it? 1-10? 1-100? Nope. 1-1. It still will be a 50/50 chance, because the side the coin lands on has nothing to do with a previous flip. Just someting to consider.
In regards to the FFXI crafting superstitions, there are some untrue quotes, to say the very least. The first quote on page 6 mentions that the "day of the week definitely affected the rate of successes..." which has only be demonstrated for sample sizes far too small to be considered statistically significant. Other studies (yes, it's gotten to the point that people have done experimental studies) using 1000 synths or more demonstrated that there was no statistically significant difference based on day of the week.
The last quote on that same page claims that there is "substantial" evidence that direction effects crafting results, when to the contrary, I have only see two valid studies which have both suggested that direction has NO effect on crafting results, and never found any valid studies to the contrary, despite exploring all the usual suspects (places that would share that information with the public).
Most evidence in favor of these superstitions use very small sample sizes or anecdotal evidence, such as, "I definitely noticed a difference when I did it."
That said, even when presented with the data that points to the contrary, people still cling to these superstitions. It never ceases to amaze me how people will trust their own casual observations over the results of a legitimate study.
I can vouch for many people using the argument that it's so easy to do, it's worth the few seconds it takes to try. What they often fail to realize is that the premise they are operating under is based on mere speculation, and comes with the same opportunity cost as any action. For example, the theory (which is unfounded and unsupported by data) would go something like, face north for success with fire crystals, but face northeast for high quality results with fire crystals (they use a compass graphic to demonstrate this). Depending on how you try to justify the "logic" behind the theory, the idea is that somehow resisting the element gives better results, or conversely, catching its tailwind gives you a boost. Either way, this fails to consider the opposite: what if the theory is backwards and the direction you are facing actually hurts your results? The theory is only based on shady reasoning and dataless testimonials. If the reasoning is backwards, which it may as well be, then the idea that you "may as well try" doesn't hold much water.
Oh man! Now it makes sense why warrior gear dropped so little in our MC and BWL raids, we had the same priest leading all the time ;)
I also remember this supersition that if hunters didn't dismiss their pets before jumping down to fight Rend in UBRS that we would wipe. Seemed to be a really popular one as I have never seen a hunter not dismiss their pet ;)
I started reading this article suprised that I couldn't really relate to a lot of these supersitions--it just never occured to me and no one told me about any they did. But then...it all came back.
I'm trying to get my chestpiece off of the last boss in Shadow Labyrinth--I can't tell you how often I've ran the damned thing. It got to the point where the [Silent Slippers of Meditation] became a horrible loot curse on me. I kept passing on it bc my boots are better AND at the start of every run I'd predict they'd drop and they always did.
Then finally I somehow thought maybe the game really really wants me to have have them and so the next time it inevitably dropped, I took 'em and something else that dropped everytime off the third boss.
On the very next run, with both those items in my inventory, different loots dropped. Not my chest, but at that point I was/am like "At least I'm making progress!"
" also remember this supersition that if hunters didn't dismiss their pets before jumping down to fight Rend in UBRS that we would wipe. Seemed to be a really popular one as I have never seen a hunter not dismiss their pet ;)
Posted by: Raithen on May 4, 2007 02:08 PM"
just wanted to clarify this for you.
a hunter or warlocks pet will follow the path down into rends room, wich goes through i think 4 packs of mobs. Pets do not jump down with there owners.
so thats not a superstition its fact.
don't dismiss the pet and you will get around 4 packs of mobs following it.
"One thing to remember about random number generators is they are indeed RANDOM. Here's an example. Say you had a quarter that you flipped 10 times, and all 10 times, it landed on heads. What are the chances that it will land on heads again if you flipped it? 1-10? 1-100? Nope. 1-1. It still will be a 50/50 chance, because the side the coin lands on has nothing to do with a previous flip. Just someting to consider.
-Posted by: Jon on April 30, 2007 02:11 AM"
Actually Jon, I hate to correct you, but Random number generators are NOT random. They generate whats referred to as pseudo-random numbers at best.
There is something called a random number "seed" and that seed plus a mathematical algorithm are responsible for the _random_ numbers you see in a computer. If you use the same seed with the same algorithm - you will get the SAME (supposedly) random numbers in the same order.
Regarding the second point you made (example of a coin being flipped 10 times and getting heads each time)
This is absolutely correct - as a REAL WORLD random event, it is not determined using any seed or algorithm known to mankind yet :) Hence you can confidently say that the likelihood of a coin showing heads or tails remains 50% irrespective of the 10 heads straight that popped up.
Though if I was a gambling man I would DEFINITELY want to have a closer look at that coin - it sounds very very fishy to me. lol. ;)
Normally, I never enter an instance first because if I do I can be sure that nothing will drop for me.
My friends and I also figured out that set items always seem to drop for the class we didn't take with us (we have several twinks), except paladin. Our paladin has his set almost complete, while my mage got no single set item yet.
Bad luck? Superstition? Murphy's law? I don't care, but I will for sure try to get a rabbit's foot, maybe then I will get my set. ^^
Tula, sorry but I was just intejecting a little WoW humor into the posts, hence the wink. This did happen to a group I was in once and it was quite spectacular, lol.
One could build an entire game around the concept of superstition! Encouraging it with weird rules and moonphases etc. I think that would be excellent!
Superstitions are grounded in perception biases derived from complexities. Which sounds really academic, but it's actually fairly commonsense.
We are constantly faced with complex situations. For example, your computer stops running smoothly, so you start fiddling around with the settings. Suddenly, the computer is fine, and you note that it got better when you adjusted the control panel. Ergo, you determine that “Adjusting control panel” = “Fixed computer.” Except, what really was happening was a hidden process was running in the background, and you didn't know it. So the next time the process runs, you go to your control panel and start adjusting things.
One of the problems with this is that superstitions can quickly become unwieldy. In the above example, you mess with the control panel, but nothing happens because you haven’t given the hidden process enough time to complete. So you start going methodically through the options, turning everything on and off. Suddenly, the computer starts working fine again - immediately after you changed the volume controls and the monitor settings. Now your superstition is that you not only have to go to your control panel, but you also have to adjust your volume and monitor settings. And when the computer slows again, you'll try that whole string first and nothing will happen. So you add another step, and then another, and so on until you've created a huge process for no benefit.
Usually, rationality kicks in at some point and says, "This really doesn't make sense. Do I really need to be doing all of this?" Especially in the case of something like a malfunctioning computer, we can take it to be repaired (or get a friend good with computers to look at it), and we'll be told what is going on and how to correct it. Thus, the unfathomably complex situation has been explained and converted into something simple. We laugh at our foolishness, and life goes on. Not so for something where we never learn how things are really determined or happen (i.e., random number generators). The question is why we continue to believe the superstition, even though we are pretty darn sure that our behavior isn't really doing anything.
Enter perception bias. Have you ever read a word or done something, and suddenly you see it all over the place? New parents start seeing infants everywhere, or you hear the word "pernicious" all the time. In my case, a woman in my office does beading, and suddenly I've discovered that many of my friends, co-workers, and even new people I meet are beading enthusiasts and have been for years.
Basically, our minds latch onto something and start bringing it to our attention. It's not that I didn't see the beadwork my friends were doing, or that there were no infants around until the new parents had a child; rather, we just didn't pay that much attention to it. You selectively see what you find interesting, which is essentially seeing what you want to see.
The same goes for the success of superstitions. For those people who swear by it, ask them (or yourself), "How many times do you honestly have proving that the behavior causes the result?" Don't let them (or yourself) just say "a lot." Get a number and divide it by the total number of times you’ve been in the situation. Compare that with the success rate of several other people who don’t use the superstition. And be careful not to be swayed too easily by percents. 1 success out of 4 events does not compare to 10 successes out of 400 events, even though the percent is better. That should help put things in perspective.
Finally, be careful of what’s called “escalation of commitment.” You’ve invested time and effort into proving your superstition right, defending it, telling others to do it, etc. Most people in this situation could have the actual code printed out in front of them with the game designers and programmers carefully explaining why the superstition is wrong, and they will still believe their superstition. In fact, they may believe it even more. Basically, we tend to reject that we’re wrong on something we are so committed to, and every challenge to our belief causes us to become even more adamant that it’s right.
Sorry for the length of this post—I just really like this topic! I think it would be interesting to see if superstitions are more likely to occur in MMORPGs than elsewhere, the strength of these beliefs, what it takes to remove a superstition, and how easy it is to start one.
In WoW, I was told by a friend that praying to the gods (/pray) before rolling on really special loot would yield a higher roll. I only tried it a few times on random drops that I really wanted, but every time I did, it worked, and I walked away victorious. Of course, someone saying "it's worked every time for me!" no doubt adds to the superstitious power of the myth.
I also remember a myth told to me at Blizzcon, perhaps only mildly related to superstition, in which someone SWORE that there's an island on the outskirts of the map (not the one off of the coast of Tanaris, but one even further out) on which resides an unfinished high-level boss controlled by a GM. Any lucky (or unlucky) players who manage to find this island are "struck by lightening" and ported to the middle of the earth. Of course, this person heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend, etc...
Myths like that sound plausible when a devout player is telling it to you, but when you try to remember it out loud to a real GM to verify its truthfulness, then it just starts to sound silly and ridiculous.
Superstitions can be based on fact, and not fantasy. Here is an explanation and resolution of probably the largest superstition in Asheron's Call, the Wi FLag!
In this month's update to Asheron's Call, Turbine has fixed the Wi Flag! Here's the text straight from Turbine:
As we mentioned in last month's Letter to the Players, there are two secrets about which we feel it is time for us to come clean. One we've suspected for a long time, but the issue proved ever elusive to track down (so elusive, in fact, that we wondered whether it ever existed, our own anecdotal evidence to the contrary). The other we've known about for awhile, but we were unsure what to do about it.
Now the truth will be revealed.
First, the Wi Flag. For those of you who don't know what the Wi Flag means, a little history. From the beginning of AC, some players have complained about unbelievably bad luck. When the swarm of Lugians spawn in the citadel, they will go after certain players--every time. The player's level doesn't seem to matter, nor does the number of other players in the room. What does seem to matter is that this player is cursed with that most unfortunate of distinctions: the Wi Flag.
For some players, the flag came and went. For others, it was a perpetual nightmare, present in nearly every monster experience. To live a Wi-Flagged life meant to be hunted at every turn. Perhaps other adventurers could know peace in a BSD or a Citadel, but there was no rest nor respite for one under Wi.
Our developers at Turbine initially answered these complaints by saying that they could find no such bug. Occasionally, a senior Turbine engineer could be found who would admit that perhaps there was something “not quite right” with the system, but they still could not identify a cause, if one even existed. Easy culprits, such as a malfunctioning random-number generator, were eventually dismissed.
But our search went on. For there were people even at Turbine convinced that the Wi Flag existed, and that they had it in spades.
And then one day, long after most people had learned to either forget or ignore the Wi Flag, the answer was found. Here in the report from Sandra Powers, AC Live's Lead Engineer, on the nature of the Wi Flag. We warn you in advance that it is a very technical explanation, but we hope it is of some interest to those of you who have long been afflicted with this terrible burden.
“Many of our players have complained for a long time that their character are `Wi-Flagged'--that is, that creatures attack them a much greater proportion of the time than random chance or distance should dictate. After looking at the code in depth, I believe I have found out why this might happen.
Generally, a creature chooses whom to attack based on who it was last attacking, who attacked it last, or who caused it damage last. When players first enter the creature's detection radius, however, none of these things are useful yet, so the creature chooses a target randomly, weighted by distance. Players within the creature's detection sphere are weighted by how close they are to the creature -- the closer you are, the more chance you have to be selected to be attacked.
The actual algorithm for selection looks like this: We roll a random number within a certain range--say between 0 and 1. Each player is given a portion of the range based on how close they are to the creature. The closer you are, the larger a portion you get. The player who owns the portion into which the random number falls is selected to be attacked.
This algorithm is sound. The problem comes up when we are assigning portions of the range to various players. If we wanted distance from the creature to be proportional to your chance to be selected--that is, if the closer you are the *less* chance you have of being attacked--then we would assign this range by taking your distance from the creature over the total distance--the distances of everybody under consideration added together. But we really want the inverse of this ratio--so that the closer you are, the *more* chance you have of being selected. So we invert this ratio by subtracting it from 1 to assign you the size of your portion.
A is 5 meters from the creature.
B is 2 meters from the creature.
C is 3 meters from the creature.
D is 10 meters from the creature.
Total distance is 20.
The size of A's portion is 1 - 5/20, or 0.75.
The size of B's portion is 1 - 2/20, or 0.90.
The size of C's portion is 1 - 3/20, or 0.85.
The size of D's portion is 1 - 10/20, or 0.50.
So we assign these people these portions of the total range:
A has between 0.00 and 0.75.
B has between 0.75 and 1.65.
C has between 1.65 and 2.50.
D has between 2.50 and 3.00.
Notice, however, that while the original ratios added to 1 (.25 + .1 + .15 + .5 = 1.0) that the inverted ratios -- and thus the total range from which we should have rolled the random number -- no longer add to 1. Instead, they add to 3. (Some algebra will convince you that the assigned portions always add to n-1, where n is the number of people under consideration.) So in order to randomly select some portion of this total range, we should roll a number between 0 and 3.
But in the existing AC code, we always roll a number between 0 and 1.
You can easily see in this example that if the random number is always been 0 and 1, only A and B have any chance at all of being selected, and A has the majority of the chance. And the reason that these two have all the chance is simply because they are first in the list, and so were assigned the low parts of the range. Normally--if we had rolled between 0 and 3 in the example--your order in the list should have no effect on how likely you are to be chosen. But because we only rolled between 0 and 1, the earlier you appear in the list, the more skewed your chance of selection is. And as it happens, in AC code, your position in this list is determined by the InstanceID of your character, which is assigned when you create the character and never changed. (Note that the InstanceID is hashed--mutated by the system into another number--to determine position. So it's not a simple relationship like the older the character, the earlier in the list they will be. It is, however, a static relationship--an ID that hashes to an early position will always hash to an early position, although it's exact position will depend on what other ID's are also under consideration.)
So what does this mean? The way this random targeting algorithm is implemented right now, if you happen to have an InstanceID that hashes to an early position, you will tend to be attacked more than your fair share when the creature is using random targeting, regardless of your distance from the creature. In other words, you are Wi-Flagged.”
We're glad we were finally able to fix this bug. With the July Event, may you know peace in the fast-spawning dungeon of your choice!
In Everquest, the Ancient Cyclops dropped a very valuable item. Because the Cyclops was a wandering monster and its placeholder was not readily identifiable, players swore by many different techniques they believed would cause the cyclops to spawn. I, myself, am guilty of trying several methods, and am still persuaded that one of them was working, but that the mechanic was changed during a game patch.
The methods included several measures or combinations thereof, including:
- Clearing an entire area of the zone of specific classes of monsters
- Not killing any of other classes of monsters
- Killing a specific monster (not obviously a placeholder)
- Performing any of these tasks at a particular time of the game's day, thereby creating the proper conditions for the rare spawn.
Oh man, as a WoW PVPer the one thing that always got me: Don't loot the dogs! The ridiculousness of the concept is immense, and yet trying to fight off the superstition or even just trying to enlighten people are a losing proposition, whether in AV or not. Regardless of what proof you may give people, they refuse to believe anything but what they see for themselves, however small their pool of experiences is that they draw on.
I don't play WoW anymore, and I never got into farming AV (/yawn!), but recalling the handful of times I ran it 1~ year ago, I'm fairly sure the wolf respawn actually held some kernel of truth. Hear me out: if you looted the wolves, the corpses would disappear quickly and respawn quickly; that was a given. If you didn't loot them, maybe there was a timer for them to eventually respawn anyway, but it did seem like we had a breather to kill the general. I can't remember ever hanging around more than a few (3-5?) minutes between killing the wolves and attacking the general, but I do remember that once they were dead and unlooted, they didn't respawn before we were ready to attack.
Perhaps their forced respawn was longer than their expedited respawn, or this was later changed...again, this is pre-TBC I'm talking about, but I ran with some no-nonsense R14 grinders who knew virtually every detail about the BGs and weren't superstitious at all. The "superstition" could be a holdover from the way it used to work (perhaps changed *because* it was easier to kill him without the wolves repopping, thus unbalanced, Horde QQ'd etc.), the same way the balcony above Rend *did* used to cause pets to run around to the gate and collect an aggro train, then was eventually fixed so that summoned pets jumped down with you--yet people insisted on hunters/locks unsummoning them for a long time afterwards out of habit.
Anyway, I experienced the same WoW raid seeding superstitions too, along with some amusing ones like "Jumping helps you dodge," "Pickpocketing a mob reduces the loot it can drop," "The person who deals the killing blow to a boss determines its loot table," etc.
Onyxia seemed to attract the most myths, though. I heard everything, but two popular ones on my former server (Lightbringer) were "Keep lots of DoTs on her to prevent Deep Breath" and "Keep up high DPS while she's airborne to prevent Deep Breath." That damn Deep Breath attack just set imaginations into overdrive. :D
Although Blizzard denies loot table seeding, there were a few alleged cases of evidence to the contrary involving a very special mechanic: server rollbacks. Supposedly (back during the first year of release, when server stability was ubiquitously horrid) some raids had the unique occurrence of killing a boss, checking his loot, having a server rollback, coming back to find the boss alive again, killing him a second time--and getting the exact same loot the second time. If these reports were/are true (again, I don't play anymore and don't really care to get to the bottom of it!), SOME kind of crude seeding of the RNG was obviously going on there. But whether it was the person who formed the raid, person who zoned in first, person who dealt the killing blow, did the most DPS, did the most healing, died the most, died the least, tanked, had the longest name, had the longest /played, did the most /dances, or any of the ridiculous variables I've seen proposed...who knows?
Personally, as a hardcore raider for 2+ years, I saw WAY too many "loot streaks" up until Blizz switched to the token system (though we still saw streaks in AQ40/Naxx for e.g. weapons and trash mob epics). We know that there's no such thing as true randomness with any computer-generated "random" number as Gautam explained above, so Blizzard's loot RNG had to be based on SOMETHING, and the overall algorithm seemed pretty poor to be able to produce consistent loot streaks in so many guilds--back when armor set pieces were part of the loot tables instead of tokens, there were CONSTANT complaints/reports of loot streaks all over the forums, as set pieces were the one thing that every class was watching for and which supposedly all had equal chances of dropping.
My pet theory (all dedicated raiders who had "bad luck" on drops eventually developed one :P) was that the RNG was seeded with a VARIETY of info, for purposes of making it hard to figure out and exploit; that some event near the beginning of the instance triggered the writing of loot tables (zoning in, attacking a trash mob...whatever); and that the TIME that this trigger (or triggers) occurred was a major factor in determining the seed for the RNG. Why? Each guild I was in had set hours for raiding every night; when raiding outside of those hours, or after changing guilds, I noticed markedly different loot patterns than previously. Not necessarily better or worse, but the "streaks" seemed consistent depending on the time of raid. I also took into consideration anecdotal evidence of "loot streaks" from other guilds, particularly Oceanic guilds on my server with much different raiding times.
I doubt time was the sole seed, but maintain my strong hunch that it was involved in some way. This theory never drove me to act any differently, though, and I found it amusing when players would insist on switching who formed the raid. I did have a Nazi guild leader at one point who held up the raid while having specific people zone in first and similar nonsense. :P
Finally, I also played FFXI a few years ago, and the dense aura of superstition surrounding crafting is PRECISELY what drove me to quit crafting (and shortly after, the game--but mainly that was because games should be fun, not work :D). It's bad enough when you have something like raid loot streaks in WoW, where it's obvious there's a specific mechanic there that's too close to the surface and not working optimally in a way that makes the fake randomness transparent to the player. But FFXI's crafting superstitions--coupled with a grossly inflated economy, impossibility of soloing, and punishing crafting system, amongst other flaws--were just intolerable for me. I was already wasting money/resources that had taken me way too much time to farm so tediously...having a crapshoot of miscellaneous factors govern my crafting, some of which were only hearsay, was just absurd. On top of which, the game developers and primary playerbase were both Japanese, which made it difficult to communicate as an English-speaking player--our information was all secondhand, and we couldn't just ask the devs questions directly, etc. Obviously that was our choice when joining an established game, but the language barrier really made me feel disconnected from FFXI's true experts/knowledgebase, and I hated trying to sift through all the rumors, myths etc. in a game that was already so harsh with its penalties for failure. FFXI is not Animal Crossing, where that kind of mystery is harmless and cute and doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out in frustration.
Anyway, excellent article, I laughed quite a bit--especially at the "Checking anti-camp radius" bit. :P Imagine if Blizzard threw something like that into WoW, with their 8-million+ subscribers...
I'm surprised you didn't factor in the sunk-cost
fallacy into the superstition analysis (this was
a very interesting read in any case).
When it comes to known % outcomes, it's always
interesting to watch folks expect that they are
converging to success, while the probability of
success in the next 10 tries is no different than
the probability of success for their last 10 tries.
Games with exceedingly rare occurances, such as
crafting in Dark Age of Camelot, are good examples
of this behavior.
In any case, fascinating project, keep up the good
You can go all the way back to nethack in the early 80s to see the RNG beliefs. Including the RNG taking an intense disliking to a particular player and killing a succession of their characters.
This is interesting because the source code was freely available but people still had superstitions about the mysterious forces inside the machine.
Some superstitions are stengthened by the known quality of code.
In Utlima Online, we know that the code is pretty old (10 years of release + years of development) with different teams, and there are often bugs that are due to a forgotten commentary, a condition not working as it should, etc. Developpers themselves mention that as an explanation before fixing the the bugs. So even if developpers say that X doesn't cause Y, there's always a doubt that the developpers themselves wouldn't be aware of a flaw in their code.
That's how I accepted the superstition that having your character hungry in UO would decrease the percentage of success for a skill check. After a developper said hunger doesn't affect skill checks, I tested it on the test server and I had to come to the conclusion that it was only a superstition.
Also Ultima Online is tile based. During a long time, an anti-macro code divided the map in square of 8x8 tiles, and when you had a skill gain on one of them, you wouldn't have another after a moment. But if you moved to the next 8x8 square (north or south, depending on which server), you would automatically have a skill gain. You could chain skill gains (generally on a boat because it was easier to have a clear line to run on sea). It was not a superstition but a fact and developpers had to decide whether it was acceptable or not, RoC-wise.
In consequence I started to feel that the tile where you stand had an effect on RNG. When missing more and more spells with a probability of 70% on the same tile, I now have the reflex to move by one tile to break the chain of failed checks. It became more something to cope with the irritation, shaking the character to make it work.
On Lineage 2, on the contrary, sniffers are used by some players to get statistics of random figures. It is possible to actually see the spreads of success and failure in over-enchanting. It appears that on things we don't do often (like risky crafting or over-enchanting), there's no point in looking for the difference between an official 60% of success or a 70% one.
On those risky attempts, I sometimes like to have fun with fake rituals, like holding the breath or saying some stupid invocation. But I assume it is very similar to first shamanic rituals, like dancing around fire to have a good hunt or singing to make evil spirits flee.
As an FFXI player for over two years, this article had me laughing out loud. The worst superstitions were in Dynamis, where everyone had a theory about what would make armour drop. Thanks for the great read!