For the past few months, I have been trying to desperately to bring attention to a real problem within the decoration market. Several people have written posts on the official forums and reddit trying to bring attention to this problem as well, and while some of these posts have been been met with derision, others have sparked real discussion. I am hoping that I can get some attention to this post, and hopefully get some insight from Bioware on this.
An Example of RNG (Random Number Generation)
I was introduced to the concept of RNG in two separate instances at a pretty young age: computer programming and Dungeons and Dragons (DnD).
In computer programming, trying to get a real RNG value can be hard based on different factors. So most computer languages have existing functions to get a random value, although these values again, are not truly random. The Random class/function that exists in the .NET framework for example, will take a seed value to try and create a random value. By default however, if no seed is provided, it will use a time value (look at the constructor definitions to see this).
In DnD, a dungeon master (DM) would use RNG to determine what type of treasure, weapon, armor, or even random encounter a party had discovered. For example, the DM might roll a d10 (10 sided dice) to determine what type of item the party had found, ie. armor, weapon, magic item, etc. Based on that value, the DM might then roll a d100 (100 sided dice), or two d10’s, and then consult a loot table to determine what the actual item is. For example, the DM rolls a d10 and gets a 3, which means the party found a weapon. The DM then rolls two d10’s, with the first being a 7, and the second being a 1, for a value of 71. The DM consults their loot table and determines that rolls of 70-75 mean the weapon is a broadsword of giant strength. Some DM’s or even some published adventure modules, will use a single loot table to determine what item is found. So in the previous example, a roll of 71 is that broadsword of giant strength, while a roll of 70 is a potion, a roll of 72 is something else, and maybe the general rolls of 1-30 for example, is some coins. These loot tables could be as generic or specific as needed.
The Current State of the Cartel Pack
So a few weeks back, they put one of the old stronghold packs, if I remember correctly, the Gatekeeper pack, back up on the Cartel Market. As one of the first packs with decorations in it, its always good to see some old items back on the market. At the time the stronghold packs were released, there were 7 slots in each pack that could be filled, which had both positives and negatives to it. For example, a positive was the fact that you could get up to 4 or 5 new items in each pack, with the other 2 or 3 slots being things like Jawa junk, cartel certificates, or companion gifts. The big negative with this however, was that there was also the large opportunity to get a ton of stuff you didn’t want in each pack, like in this group of packs with the Series ### cybernetic armor pieces, or the Antique Socorro weapons. Because the market was flooded with these things, I don’t know how many times I just destroyed them, because I couldn’t sell them and they were taking up valuable inventory space. This is one of the big reasons why I love the bronze/silver/gold item packs, because it focuses on a specific item type and except for the gold armor packs, doesn’t give extra items that you need to get rid of.
The current packs however, only give four items, with two of those slots being used for Jawa junk and companion gifts. In fact, you are now only guaranteed to get a new item from the current pack in one of those slots. I believe the current pack changes mean the other slot can be a grand chance cube, or any item from the current or previous Cartel packs, with armor being full armor set boxes, and not the individual pieces or upper, lower, supplementary boxes. That’s what, at least 1000 items from the entire Cartel Market that can pop up in that second slot. That’s a lot of RNG right there. The argument can be made for a new player it might not be that bad however, because they get an opportunity to possibly get an item through RNG that they missed out on because they weren’t playing at the time, and that may go for several million credits on the GTN. Okay, thats a valid argument.
The problem however, is it is taking a guaranteed slot from an item in the current pack. Most of us who buy packs now, are doing so to get the new items, not old ones. With only a single slot dedicated to the new pack, it means there are less chances to get an item from the new pack. So the economists out there might say thats a great thing, because it means less items are flooding the market for sale, and people who are looking to make some credits can do so, without massive undercuts going on. However, it also means that there are multiple items from the current pack fighting for that spot.
The Good, the Bad, and the Collection
So a few years ago, the Collection interface was added to the game, which allowed players who got an entire armor set, weapon, mount, toy, pet, or emote, to purchase an unlock of that item for their entire account. This was a great thing, because it allowed those of us who had multiple characters, or played on multiple servers, to only have to get one item from a Cartel Pack, and then we could unlock the ability to get a copy of that item on any character we had now, or created in the future!
However, this feature was also met with some outrage from players who were selling Cartel Market items on the GTN. The prime example here, was before the change, I would have to buy multiple Tulak Hord armor boxes if I wanted that armor set on multiple characters. At the time, this was seen as a valid argument, but at the same time, the argument was made that it still meant a player had to get the item and for armor, they had to unlock the entire set before it could be unlocked in the collection. For those who were unlucky, you still had to chance buying the armor set from the GTN, which meant someone was still making some credits on it.
For me, this mimicked a feature that guilds had, where users who had unlocked a Cartel Market decoration, could then spend credits and unlock one or more copies for the guild to use. The only limits there were the number of that item that could be unlocked, up to 999 items for several item types, and the number of credits the player wanted to actually use to unlock the decorations. Prefab decorations, or those bought from vendors with cartel certificates or credits, as well as trophy decorations, are not eligible for guild unlock.
A Volatile Market for Decorations and Stronghold Decorators
So one factor I haven’t discussed yet, is who is actually decorating strongholds for something more than conquest bonus. If you are someone who is trying to create a good looking stronghold, and do not want to have rooms full of basic chairs and meat trees, then you are either looking to buy decorations from the GTN, buying Cartel Packs to get the latest decorations, or looking to buy the gold/silver/bronze decoration packs when they go on sale.
If you are looking to buy items from the GTN, then you will have noticed that most decorations, no matter their assigned rarity, can be going for several million credits. This has led to several posts on the official forums and reddit, on what many consider ridiculous prices for these items. Some of these posts are then met with comments of stop whining, or other derisive or immature comments, but some people cannot see what the actual issue is here.
And what is that issue? Unlike every other Cartel Pack item, you can only unlock one decoration per item you get. If you get a volcano deco out of the current pack, you as the player, can only unlock one volcano for your personal use. If you do not want the volcano decoration, then you will probably sell it on the GTN. However, if you are looking to get multiple volcano decorations for your underwater Manaan area for example, then after the one you get from your cartel pack, you will either be trying to get another from an RNG pack, or be frantically searching the GTN waiting to snipe the next one that pops up for sale. If you are like me however, you have a max amount of credits you are willing to pay for that item. The buying and selling of items for profit on the GTN has actually created a type of player who will create multiple characters, one per server, who are looking to make a profit or get a good deal on an item, and will move items between servers in order to make the most profit! Theres nothing wrong with that either, I just thought it was a weird thing that has popped up in the SWTOR economy.
Which brings me back to the RNG examples from before. If you have only one slot per new cartel pack that is guaranteed to drop an item from that new cartel pack, then what are the chances you will get an item you want, especially if it is a decoration. Well i know the rarity of the item will probably have some weight in the item that can be obtained. So using my previous example, lets say a d10 rolled to determine the item type, and then two more d10’s are rolled to determine the actual item.
For our current Cartel Pack example, lets say the type rolls look something like this:
- 1-2 is armor
- 3-4 is weapon (including tunings)
- 5-6 is mount
- 7-8 is decoration
- 9-0 is misc (toys, emotes, pets, flair)
Well if we rolled a 1, then we get armor. So lets see how the armor would break down. Each armor set could be found together in the result list, or spread out across the result set. Well, unfortunately for this pack, all of the armor sets are considered gold, so the break down would be pretty even:
- 1-11 – Diligent Engineer Supplementary
- 12-22 – Keeper of Iokath Supplementary
- 23-33 – Shikaakwan Royalty Supplementary
- 34-44 – Diligent Engineer Lower
- 45-55 – Keeper of Iokath Lower
- 56-66 – Shikaakwan Royalty Lower
- 67-77 – Diligent Engineer Upper
- 78-88 – Keeper of Iokath Upper
- 89-99 – Shikaakwan Upper
So what about a decoration from this pack, how might that loot table look:
- 1-15 — hex light: red
- 16-30 — set light bar: green
- 31-45 — house organa banner
- 46-60 – aquarium – see scalefish
- 61-75 – volcano (i thought this was gold and not silver)
- 76-87 – cooling tower
- 88-99 – manaan: fountain of knowledge
Now my example assumes that based on the rarity, there should be an equal division of chances for each item in that rarity. But what if thats not always the case? What if some items are given more chances to hit since there are no more bronze items, but Bioware still wants to consider some silver items common. What if the decoration results looked like this:
- 1-20 – hex light: red
- 21-40 – set light bar: green
- 41-55 – house organa banner
- 56-70 – aquarium: see scalefish
- 71-81 – volcano ( i essentially make this a gold item rarity)
- 82-90 – cooling tower
- 91-99 – manaan: fountain of knowledge
Obviously, there are more chances to get one of the “common” light items now, than one of the rarer items like the fountain!
So What Does This All Mean?
Well if you love decorating your stronghold, you might be thinking that just waiting for items to pop up on the GTN is the safest bet. And if you don’t have a lot of disposable income then you would be correct in thinking that. The problem is, how many other people are thinking that as well? How many of those rare Manaa fountain items are being put up for sale? If you do have some disposable income, then buying a hypercrate or two might be what you think is best. If you open the packs, you have a chance on getting the items you want, and those that you don’t want can be sold. Obviously this plays into the mess of gambling on RNG, and praying you have lots of luck to get the items you want. And if you do just sell the hypercrate, the packs, or even the items, then you have to hope that you make enough credits to buy the decorations you want. The other problem here, is how many other people are wanting that volcano, or the manaan fountain? how many of those decorations could pop up on the GTN? again, you have to be really lucky sometimes to get the chance to get the items you want.
Is There a Good Solution?
Yes, I still think there is a solution to the volatile decoration market, and I’ve provided that solution in a previous post: have the same type of interface for buying decorations for a guild, just make it for individuals. Just like the guild version, you have to have previously unlocked the decoration in order to buy copies of it. if the individual unlock has to cost more than the guild unlock, in order to satiate the fury of those who think paying 100M credits for the Yavin head sculpture deco is a good thing, then so be it. However, that unlock cannot be more than double the guild unlock price. For example, it costs 50K credits to unlock the volcano decoration for a guild, then it cannot cost more than 100K credits to unlock a copy for an individual.
Theres no good arguments against this idea, at least none that I have seen.
- You have to have unlocked the decoration before. This is the same as weapons and armor in order to unlock it in collections.
- It has the huge potential of removing large amounts of credits from the economy, which has the added benefit of fixing the massive inflation that exists right now, which could bring other GTN item prices under control.
- and with the ridiculous GTN prices on not just decorations but armor and weapons under control, it means less people being tempted to buy credits!
Hopefully I’ve got everything I wanted to say on this topic, off my chest now. I just hope an influencer, Bioware employee, or other SWTOR player sees it, and wants to get other opinions on it.