John Evans' Blog

1/5th of a hamster

by on Aug.26, 2008, under Uncategorized

So, Kingdom of Loathing recently introduced a “clan dungeon”; an area that was intended to be explored by a group of people. Obviously, it seems foolish to focus effort on content that solo players can’t experience; still, I found myself thinking about it from a sort of mathematical perspective. Specifically, I was thinking about an article about the division of “loot” after completing a “run” of this area.

Let’s say that a group of 5 people go and complete this quest in the hope of getting 1 really interesting item at the end. Of course, there’s only one of these items. How do you divide up the loot? Maybe there is a simple way.

If, at the end of the run, the group gets 1 Mega-Prize, then you award each player a “1/5th of a Mega-Prize” voucher. Now they can do whatever they want with this voucher. They can give it to another player, they can sell it for whatever amount of currency they believe is fair, they can save it for a rainy day…anything. Then, whoever obtains 5/5ths worth of vouchers can trade it in for a Mega-Prize. Until then, the Mega-Prizes just stay stashed in a vault or something.

There may have to be some additional rules, like, “Vouchers can only be traded among clan members” and “If you leave the clan, you forfeit your vouchers” (but to whom? hmmmm…). I think this solves the problem rather neatly.

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14 comments for this entry:
  1. sora_blue

    Forfeit to the system?

  2. johnevans

    Forfeit to which system, is the question…

    I probably didn’t make this clear, but the point is that this is a set of rules that a clan could implement on their own. It wouldn’t have to have any in-game support or coding. You don’t even have to represent the vouchers as “objects”, you can just keep a list of who has how many.

    Hmmmm. But maybe you have an interesting point. If someone leaves the clan, they forfeit their vouchers to the clan. Then, anyone who collects enough vouchers to make up enough for a Mega-Prize, including the forfeited vouchers, can trade them in.

    In other words, say there are 5 “1/5” vouchers, one person trades with people enough to get 4 of them, leaving 1 in the possession of someone else. That person with the 1 voucher leaves the clan, forfeiting their voucher. Then the 4/5ths person can trade in their 4 vouchers and automatically use the forfeited 1 voucher, so they get 1 Mega-Prize.

    It could work. *rubs chin thoughtfully* ^_^

  3. thello

    Okay, but who gets to use the Mega-Prize while nobody has enough vouchers to buy it? Does it just rust in a chest somewhere during the next X raids until someone finally has 5 vouchers to buy it? That sounds a bit wasteful.

    And it’s not really clear who gets to use the “forfeited” vouchers. If we change your example a bit so that Mr. A has 3/5, Mr. B has 1/5 and Mr. C has 1/5 and quits the guild, who gets to use Mr. C’s forfeited voucher, A or B?

    And… do we keep track of separate vouchers for each of the Mega-Prizes?

    Sounds pretty complex to me.

  4. johnevans

    Okay, but who gets to use the Mega-Prize while nobody has enough vouchers to buy it? Does it just rust in a chest somewhere during the next X raids until someone finally has 5 vouchers to buy it? That sounds a bit wasteful.

    Yes, you’re right. I figured it would “rust in a chest”, as you say. That’s one big drawback to the system.

    Still, I think that might be the only drawback. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And it’s not really clear who gets to use the “forfeited” vouchers. If we change your example a bit so that Mr. A has 3/5, Mr. B has 1/5 and Mr. C has 1/5 and quits the guild, who gets to use Mr. C’s forfeited voucher, A or B?

    So, we have A with 3/5, B with 1/5, forfeited 1/5. A + forfeited = 4/5, B + forfeited = 2/5. Neither one has enough to trade in for a full Mega-Prize, so no one can do anything. If A acquired B’s 1/5, he’d have 4/5, then 4/5 + forfeited 1/5 = A gets a prize. Or! If B acquired A’s 3/5, B would have 4/5, and the same thing. But, as it is, no one can do anything yet.

    And… do we keep track of separate vouchers for each of the Mega-Prizes?

    Probably not. Only if the “Mega-Prizes” are actually different, then you’d need a different set of vouchers.

    Continuing the earlier example; A 3/5, B 1/5, forfeited 1/5, 1 Mega-Prize in storage. Let’s say that A, B, D, E and F do another run, and they each get another 1/5 voucher (and there are 2 Mega-Prizes in storage). A would have 4/5, B 2/5, the other three 1/5 each (and 1/5 forfeited). Now, A has 4/5 + 1/5 forfeited = A can trade for 1 of the Mega-Prizes. So after that there would be 1 Mega-Prize in storage with B 2/5, D 1/5, E 1/5, F 1/5.

    Now I actually see what my proposal entails…A is able to acquire C’s forfeited 1/5, because A was the first person able to scrape together enough vouchers to trade them in. Being so quick about it rewards A with another voucher.

    I don’t think it’s too complicated because you just put faith in the math to work itself out. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And really, it’s intuitive. “You were one of 5 people so you get 1/5 of a prize!”

    Maybe there’s an alternate system: Any forfeited vouchers should be split up among the other runners! So if V, W, X, Y and Z go on a run, they each get a 1/5. Then Z leaves and forfeits his 1/5, which is split into 4 1/20s which are each awarded to V, W, X and Y. (And of course 1/5 + 1/20 = 1/4, so everyone is left with 1/4!)

  5. thello

    Hmm, the first system would probably be best, because the second would involve adding 1/5 vouchers to 1/4 vouchers, which isn’t the most intuitive thing. We’d just have to watch out if somehow 5 vouchers from different people get forfeited in close succession – anyone who’s fast enough to claim the 5 forfeited vouchers would instantly get the Mega-Prize ๐Ÿ˜›

    Still, as a player, the “rust in a chest” problem would probably scare me a lot. If the raid groups are diverse enough, there could technically be five, ten, twenty Mega-Prizes sitting unused in guild chests before someone gets five vouchers that correspond to that particular Mega-Prize. Maybe there’s a way to combine the vouchers’ advantage of being less random and the traditional methods’ advantage of using the prize right away?

  6. thello

    I thought of my earlier comment about vouchers looking like money, and maybe there was something to it after all. Basically, the goal is to reduce randomness, without having to dictate a price for the Mega-Prize, right?

    So how about this. When the group wins a Mega-Prize, that group starts an auction right away for the prize. The highest bidder wins the prize, then splits the bidding price equally among the others. That way, everyone walks away with something, no randomness is involved, the prize can be used right away, and we can still have interesting valuation games among the players.

  7. johnevans

    Hey, that’s pretty clever!

    Basically what you’re saying is…The auction is a process by which the players decide “It’s worth X currency and one person is going to front all that currency to buy their shares from the rest of us”. Neat.

    Hm…I wonder if there would be people trying to inflate the price. But then they might get stuck paying when they don’t want to. I suppose that’s one danger of an auction.

  8. sora_blue

    Oooh, I thought it would be automated.

  9. johnevans

    I could talk about this for hours

    Well, you have to understand the problem I was trying to solve. If you have a group of friends and you go on these “dungeon runs” that afford one piece of huge loot per run, how do you split it up among your friends? I envisioned this as a simple system clan-mates could use to keep track of it and division it all fairly.

    Of course, there’s no reason the clan-mates couldn’t make a web app that does it for them, and there’s no reason the game itself couldn’t automate the process (as per Steven Scougall’s comment below). ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. thello

    So these vouchers are things that can be exchanged for what you actually want, but that have no intrinsic value themselves.

    That sounds like… cash?

  11. johnevans

    *snickers*

    Well, no. Not really. Because they DO have intrinsic value…Each one is worth 1/5th of a specific item.

    But you can’t possess 1/5 of an item, so you have to do something else, some other negotiation. This system avoids the problem of assigning a specific value to the Mega-Prize, leaving that to the individual players. I’m imagining interactions like this:

    Player A: I’ll give you 1,000,000 currency for your 1/5 voucher.
    Player B: Okay, that seems worth it to me.
    Player C: I’ll give you 100,000 currency for your 1/5 voucher.
    Player D: Okay, that seems worth it to me.
    Player A: Wait, they’re worth more than that!
    Player D: I don’t care, I really needed the currency.

    “Worst-case” scenario: No one wants to trade their vouchers. They have to do 5 runs. Over those 5 runs, 5 Mega-Prizes get accumulated. Then suddenly all 5 players each have enough vouchers to get one of the Mega-Prizes. Everyone’s happy.

  12. sscougall

    I haven’t checked the article (I’m at work, and I’m pretty sure our firewall won’t let it through), so I don’t know if it mentioned the World of Warcraft scenario. WoW instituted something similar. Instead of the Big Bad dying and dropping a piece of Phat Lewt that people had to squabble over, the Big Bad dies and everybody in the party gets a token. Once you save up enough tokens, you can trade them in for Phat Lewt at item vendors.

    It doesn’t have the trading of tokens mentioned in the comments here, though.

  13. johnevans

    Sure, if it works for them.

    One wonders, though, if they’re going that far, why didn’t they just implement a way to drop enough prizes for everyone and save time? ๐Ÿ˜‰

    (A possible explanation: “Because the loot is so valuable it’s worth only getting one after a dungeon run”–Lame! Do you really want to force players to grind that much?)

  14. sscougall

    > A possible explanation: “Because the loot is so valuable it’s worth only
    > getting one after a dungeon run”–Lame! Do you really want to force
    > players to grind that much?

    I haven’t checked, but I am almost sure that that’s the explanation.

    And yes, they really do want to force players to grind that much, if the rest of WoW is any indication. It’s how they get their subscription fees, after all.

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