A Theory On The RNG Factor In WOW

RNG is short for Random Number Generator.  this is also a term that is used in abundance in the popular game, World of Warcraft.

now how is this important to the game?

well for one, if you are not in a guild with a laid out system already, such as those making use of the DKP or EP/GP looting system to distribute the loots from raid instances to their members, RNG will certainly be a BIG factor to you.  in most cases, you won’t be in such a guild.  only hardcore and some slightly-dedicated raiding guilds use such loot distribution systems.  and how many hardcore/dedicated raiding guilds are there in a realm?  perhaps only 25-30% of the active population?  so most of the time, you will be left to the mercy of the /roll system.  pray the RNG gods are in your favor.

/roll is an internal game command that you can use to generate random numbers.  /random is similar.  based on the official definition of the 2 commands, they are exactly the same (check it out here for reference of the said commands and their usage).  but some addons, loothog for example, discriminate against using the /random command.

so what really is the difference between /roll and /random?

most players will use /roll instead of /random.  i think there really is none.  most probably it has to do with /roll being a shorter command and thus faster to type in the keyboard. and games such as the World of Warcraft, they are so full of shorthands, abbreviations and acronyms that would almost make up a new language.

how reliable is the World of Warcraft RNG? dice

i would say it is NEVER reliable.  it is random, yes?  not really.  try to observe in your guild raids how some player will always get a high roll than the rest of the players most of the time.  this is very true.  in our guild, since we’ve been raiding from February, there are 3 to 5 prominent players who will, most often than not, get high rolls. i am not saying they win all the time, but their rolls are up there.  this happens most of the time, ridiculously i say, that it is very hard to miss once you’ve been running with the same set of people several times.

in all the complexity of the World of Warcraft, and given how many people are playing it at any single time of the day, not to mention that you have a hundred other issues to consider, random number generation that is done server-side, has several controversial issues.  for example,

(a) Need or Greed system in the game.  how many times have you heard or been in cases where in a 5-man raid, 3 in the group selects Need and all get a roll of 100, but the first to roll need always gets the loot?  this scenario is familiar is it not?  it doesn’t happen all the time, but it has happened many, many times. of course, there would have been X times as well that the first player to roll a 100 and got a tie from another player, also didn’t get Y item.  that goes for the other players who got a 100 as well.  Blizzard says the server will pick out a random player as a winner when this happens.  Read this article for more information.

(b) try to observe or remember how many times your rolls are low,  like below 50 low, since 50 is the median in the accepted rolling system of a number between 1 and a 100 in the game.  i myself can certainly attest to this.  i’ve been in countless situations where my rolls never go above 50.  sure, you can say i must’ve rolled a number above 50 countless times too.  true.  but then we go back again to being in the same set of people in every raid and the same people getting high rolls, it’s just impossible to miss.

(c) some people would  even say that there is a pattern to the number the /roll command gives.  they say it is 1 low, 1 mid and 1 high roll in succession.  the low, mid and high rolls referred here won’t always mean low is below 50 and high is above 50.  it is said that the rolls would look like this if you observe carefully – 14 (low), 32 (mid), 33 (high) or 77 (low), 92 (mid), 99 (high).  some say your first 2 rolls are always low ones. the 3rd produces a high number.  i’ve never seen this pattern.  normally when i just /roll to check my luck (or the lack thereof), the results would be mostly low numbers.  yes i’m not exaggerating.  anyway, if many people have noticed this so-called `pattern` to comment about it, then there must be some truth in it.

(d) ever notice how rolls seem to be grouped or close to each other?  if someone rolls a 90, there will be a high chance that more people will get to roll numbers that are close to, or over, 90.  try to observe that in the occasion that you roll against other players for a loot.  this also happens a lot in programming. i’ve seen this many times over the years.  you generate a set of random numbers, the results seem a bit much clustered to every other number.  if the first random number is a high in X loops, then many of the succeeding random numbers would also be highs.  same goes the other way around.

why do other players get high rolls most of the time?

i believe it has something to do with the random number generation and seeding used by WOW.  in programming, there is really no such thing as random.  there are many algorithms that can create very long sequences of numbers with good random properties but eventually the sequence repeats after only tens of thousands of trials.  these functions may even fall short of a high-quality randomness that is required for applications of a statistical nature, cryptographical, or in numerical analysis.

everything is in some way pre-determined by some initial value(s). this is what you would call a Seed or a Key. in its simplest definition, a seed is, A integer used to set the starting point for generating a series of random numbers. this is what they call pseudo-random number generation (PRNG).  if you are familiar with functions in popular programming languages that produce random numbers, you will find out that there is a pattern to how the function produces random numbers based on a seed.  or to put it directly, if you use the same seed on a random generator, no matter how many times you use it, it will always produce the same set of numbers.

now given that there are some seeds for these functions that will output low numbers more than half the time, say for example, in a thousand iterations of a number between 1 to 100, inclusuve of the min/max boundaries.  it is also true that there are seeds that produce mostly high numbers.

ever since i have noticed how the same set of people in a group/raid only a few select people get high rolls many times, while the rest get low (or mid) rolls, i have started thinking that each player must’ve been assigned a seed at some point in the game.  this would minimize the computing overhead for generating random numbers several thousand times a day on their servers/software.  this is not just in the case where the game client will have to call on /roll. there are several instances or mechanics in the game where RNG is needed too.  your attacks are also subject to RNG.  the same thing goes for heals, blocks, parry, etc.  these things however can be manipulated in some way through your choice of gear.  still, they rely on RNG.

while i can’t provide any evidence on this claim, then why in the 3 to 4 months of raiding do i only remember just 3 to 5 same people in a raid composed of 25 getting high rolls several times. and once again, i must say, their rolls are ridiculously high most of the time it is impossible to miss it.  i myself get low rolls a lot of times.  and i do mean lots, lots of times!  these are rolls that are lower than 50, and somewhere around the 20s and 30s.

this seems to be too much to be just a coincidence.

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Notice: This article was published on May 22, 2009 and the content above may be out of date.