A minor complaint about randomized rewards

As a footnote, the psychological effect of a wide range is well-understood, and I don’t doubt known to the devs: humans are loss-averse, and in this context that means that the cost of a below-average reward is greater than the benefit of an above-average one. It’s easy to demonstrate that people will, on average, choose a lower-mean reward if it has increased reliability (i.e. smaller variance). So what’s being reported is (my guess) very likely an intended consequence, whether or not it’s one that you enjoy.

The random result is kind of almost okay for actions with a cost of one, because the law of big numbers will ensure you get around 1 echo per action when grinding (there is still this annoying situation when you are short of 1 echo of items for the conversion, and you only have one action left, and this action gives you less then 1 echo, because screw you player, so you have to sit at the Unfinished Business screen waiting for more actions).
It becomes worse as the cost of action increases. Even at two actions it sucks to get 20-50 Jade several times in a row. Sure later RNG will give you 400 several times later, but that later is not now. For now you are in the red and can’t afford to go on an expedition for several more hours. At five actions per result you can waste your whole pool and gain virtually nothing for it.

Still, you know, it could be worse. It could be much worse. remembers the Burning Enigma conversion RNG and shudders

If the yield is going to be so low- 1 secret, for example, I’d at least appreciate tailored snippet. Like, if there were several success prompts, the last of which denoting some pyrrhic victory, it would be a lot easier to swallow. Because its weird when the text makes it seem like you won big, when you get a tiny tiny reward for a ostensibly good amount of time spent by your character.

&quotYou contacted one of your less reliable sources for help in deciphering the secret. Twelve hours later, after hearing about his two-year-old child for the seventeenth time, you finally manage to excuse yourself–the only thing of value you’ve learned is his wife’s ‘secret’ recipe for beef stew, and at the rate he gossips you doubt that will be of value for much longer. Your appalling secret certainly won’t be.&quot

Good one! Except that does actually sound like the kind of text you’d get when failing, not when succeeding. As pointed out earlier in the thread: “ostensibly a success”

[quote=OPG]When I get 2 foxfire candles from Veilgarden I strangle one of my housepets. When I get 187 candles from Veilgarden I don’t care because I’m only making up for a loss I either have or will suffer.
edited by OPG on 1/8/2014[/quote]

This is also my feeling about randomized rewards in some storylets.

Also, it seems to me that, especially at high stats, the return in terms of PPA flattens out quite dramatically; up to maybe 120 in each stat it was possible to get roughly one penny’s worth per stat point, with each action. Above that level, there’s no consistently profitable option for grinding; I’m still at the same PPA that I had months ago. Right now I’m grinding secrets (for expeditions in the Quarter and for Searing Enigmas) and I’m stuck with the frustrating Seeking Curious - whose challenges have been straightforward for me for a long time now, and whose returns don’t really seem to be worth all the actions I’m spending.
edited by salirsalisco on 1/9/2014

I’m approaching the 120 stat level - do you mean that certain of the &quotUnfinished Business&quot options disappear after that? Or does the luck check re-base itself? Just curious as to why that’s a line of demarcation for profit.


[quote=A B Nile]I’m approaching the 120 stat level - do you mean that certain of the &quotUnfinished Business&quot options disappear after that? Or does the luck check re-base itself? Just curious as to why that’s a line of demarcation for profit.
I didn’t mean to discourage anyone; it’s just that there is no option (that I know of) that grants consistently, e.g., 180 PPA if you are at 180 stat level. If I want &quotcash&quot and I don’t care about specific resources/items, the Mahogany Hall grind is still one of the best options - almost one year after I first started using it with profit, if memory serves me well.

I’m approaching the 120 stat level - do you mean that certain of the &quotUnfinished Business&quot options disappear after that? Or does the luck check re-base itself? Just curious as to why that’s a line of demarcation for profit.


Unfinished business storylets are all available it the 200+ range, and don’t seem to be bound to ever disappear. I think salirsalisco was just complaining that while your stats may go up dramatically, the reward for your actions are still roughly the same than when they were lower. Though I can’t completely agree - the Affair of the Box is a very profitable carousel, but to get its tests to 100% success chance you need a pretty high Shadowy level. But yes, most of the grinding options don’t seem to increase proportionally to the related Quality value; Unfinished Business theoretically can yield higher results based on the quality level, but with the randomized reward the actual improvement is barely noticeable, though personally I tend to get a slightly better revenue than with the old system (lik, my most recent grind was &quotThe prince of…&quot, yielding an average of 55/60 Souls per action, compared to the old 50. But that’s an average number, I cuold just have been lucky).

I agree that a somewhat less wide spread would be a good thing.

I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I’ll try and re-state my thoughts in a more organized manner.

Unfinished Business has been changed (intentionally) by the developers to add a wide spread for rewards without lowering the average reward value. From this we can infer the reason is not based on economic balance, but rather to alter player behavior. Ewan C. gave a good explanation above.

I am saying that the intention of the developers was to lower the number of people grinding on this set of storylets.

It sounds like the main message to the developers is “this is keeping us from grinding this storylet, and we’d prefer a smaller range to make it more attractive.” It also sounds like this is precisely in line with developer intent, and there response would be something more approaching validation instead of concern.

In order to convince the developers this was a bad design decision, we should bring light to the secondary consequences. People grind these storylets less, and therefore … Playing the storylets less is the primary intention and primary consequence of the change, and there may be less obvious unexpected secondary consequences that could ameliorate the design decision.

In the Notability example, the data showed that too many people were still taking the mathematical approach instead of the human risk adverse approach. Again in this case, they have a risk aversion mechanic in play, implemented for the precise reason to cause the reaction presented by many in this thread - these storylets are now much less desirable.

What I’m trying to say is if you truly want to try and persuade change back towards reliability, it’s probably best done by surfacing the secondary consequences, and not the known primary consequence.

I hope this makes my train of thought easier to follow.

Well, with few exceptions I don’t think people grind Unfinished Business for money. It’s because they need specific items to create advanced PoSI stuff, and Unfinished Business is the best source. Sometimes effectively the only source, given how other storylets tend to get get locked off, either because your stats are too high now or because you advanced the plot (and in some cases have been kicked out of the area entirely).

There’s no practical or effective alternative to UB in many cases, and making UB worse doesn’t push people elsewhere, it just makes it hard for people to get what they need. As with the minimum Making Waves requirement for Notability (the old one I mean, not the new way; as established I am a fan of how it is now, generally speaking), it doesn’t alter anyone’s behavior because it does not address the issue causing people to behave that way.[li]
edited by Roland Jones on 1/9/2014

[quote=Theus]Unfinished Business has been changed (intentionally) by the developers to add a wide spread for rewards without lowering the average reward value. From this we can infer the reason is not based on economic balance, but rather to alter player behavior. Ewan C. gave a good explanation above.

I am saying that the intention of the developers was to lower the number of people grinding on this set of storylets.[/quote]

Except changing it to more random doesn’t affect its utility for grinding (either items or money); you’re playing the storylet enough that an individual repetition doesn’t matter. It might affect its perceived utility, but no one other than the developers has any data on whether it does that. It does, however, affect the storylet’s utility if you need, say, 50 souls and want to get it done in as reliably few actions as possible.

What people are saying is that the small rewards are unsatisfying, both narratively and player experience-wise. I do agree that it’s odd when the text makes it sound like you made out well, but you in fact only got 1 item. And the player frustration… there’s no final reward as there is normally when you succeed after failing. The text is the same next time, as you already &quotsucceeded&quot, you’re not advancing any story, you’ve probably played the storylet plenty of times before, and just want the items.

[quote=Theus]This is incorrect. Over long time horizons, randomness doesn’t matter.[/quote]First, I probably should have said something like “large scale” as opposed to “long term”, as I was referring to things like ships, 5-card lodgings (not through the Wicket), etc. They just take a long time, though, so it doesn’t impact your point all too much (I think). Second, just because something’s long term doesn’t mean it’s not taking place in the short term. If there was some way to store up 100 actions and then use them all at once that’d be much better, but we’re doing this on an action by action basis, where my murder/apathy dichotomy still applies.

Also I support Roland Jones and Rhoanna’s comments. They’re quite accurate.

That’s precisely what I’m doing and it’s maddening, quite honestly. I feel like I’m being penalised because I need to grind these particular items (Cryptic Clues at the moment; I can’t find a steadier source than eavesdropping in Spite), and I can’t plan around using a particular number of actions because it so often happens I need about 40 more and my last try nets 3.

A smaller range would dull the pain significantly, though if FBG want to include more storylets with randomised rewards (as seems to be the trend), the various Unfinished Businesses seem a strange choice since they’re themed around being very good at things.

If I succeed at a challenge, I should get a worthwhile reward, otherwise that’s what I’d call a failure. And the challenge is straightforward. I shouldn’t be failing.

Another punishing reward system seems to be feeding tears of the bazaar to your noman. The result is always small and can be one point. So you spend an item worth 312 echoes on paper but more than that in reality in order to increase the life of your noman, but in return you get much less than a week’s extra life from them and it seems to me that there’s a high chance of the tear having no impact on the life of the noman at all.

Just to rub it in, the only effective way I’ve found to get tears is fate locked. Nice little earner, I’m sure.

I don’t think the Noman is made to last. Isn’t there a warning when you get it?

I completely disagree. I am a non-power user, as you put it.

Dragonridingsorceress (a Significant Author, Master Thief and accomplished Fighter who somehow manages to stay a Society darling) is growing bored of London (again) because I don’t have a clear path; but it seems like too much effort to grind for a boat to go exploring the Unterzee, or do anything else that would require grinding. Grinding bores me to tears. It was the reason I quit for a few months last year - I got stuck grinding.

UNRELIABLE grinding only makes it worse.

When I was trying to get souls for the Rooms at the Brass Embassy, I would repeatedly rob the Brass Embassy. Why? Because it FELT like progress, even though it was possibly not the most efficient source of Souls/action.

If I played a UB and got something shockingly low, I don’t think I’d bother using it again.

Sure, it’s a temporary thing, and that is made very clear up front, but to offer an expensive route to keep it alive and make that route a gamble where the odds aren’t in your favour unless you’re loaded feels… tight.

Maybe I’m over-reacting in this case, but it takes a lot of actions to grind out a tear (let’s say that it takes 1.5 echoes/action (no idea if that’s accurate, but I do know that it takes a lot and that there doesn’t appear to be a certain route to getting one) then it would take about 200 actions to get each tear. That’s one tear every 33 hours, assuming that you never lose an action to the candles over-filling and never spend an action on anything other than tear-farming. I haven’t seen many results from the tear turn in, but posts in the forum give numbers like 14, 17 and 1. The Time the Healer action appears to remove much more than that (reported values go from 28 to 49, with most in the high 30s).

Assuming the numbers in the noman’s progress thread are representative (I know, I know), each tear gives about 10 life and each week takes away about 40. Note that the damage to the noman appears to be on a much tighter range (as a proportion of the max) than the tears.

That means that on average you’re looking at more than 2 tears to keep it going for an extra week. Let’s call it 2, so that’s 66 hours. More than a third of a character’s weekly allotment of actions to keep the noman going. Due to the random distribution, any attempt to keep the noman alive longer than their natural life-span of three weeks will be both expensive and mostly futile. One extra week is achievable (although expensive), but more than that would require recklessness and luck.

I think that anyone trying to extend the life of their noman is likely to waste a tear and then stop.

Okay, so keeping the noman alive is a losing proposition and it’s pretty clear that we aren’t supposed to, but would it really have been that bad to make it one tear a week and let people see how long they could keep the darn thing? Or else remove the option of extending life entirely? Maybe I’ll eat these words when I find out what happens when one levels to 15 or something, but this discussion is about the apparent fun of randomised rewards, not the actual fairness or effectiveness of them.

Deleted by me because I’ve re-posted it here, and I don’t want the conversation to bifurcate.
edited by Richard on 1/10/2014