From Gamble to Grind

Looking back at this blog's archives, I seem to write about the Nar Shaddaa Nightlife event about once every three years. It's not one of my favourites, as people's weird flexing about who can manage to lose the most credits in the shortest amount of time always weirds me out, and I just don't consider watching my character stand at a console clicking things to be particularly riveting gameplay.

Still, it's been three years now since Bioware introduced casino chips as world drops to encourage greater participation, and ever since then I've at least tried to make use of the free chips the game keeps giving me - I say tried because I remember two years ago I meant to use them all up just before the event ended, but got the time wrong so that I actually showed up too late. Last year I think something similar happened, except then it occurred when I finally wanted to see the prize vendors about what to buy with my certificates. The fact that I can barely even remember what happened kind of speaks for itself really.

This year though, Bioware added a new, third slot machine called the Emperor's Grace, and a lot of the chips that drop from content were the type to use on this new machine. It was bugged initially, but the last patch fixed it, so I thought I'd stop by quickly to use up the seven or eight chips I'd earned through drops so far. I figured it was going to be a quick affair, and it being the newest and shiniest machine, the prizes had to be good, right? That's one of the big appeals of gambling: the chance to win big with minimal effort.

I therefore felt a mix of delight and horror when I realised that the most common prize for a win at the Emperor's Grace machine actually consists of fifty tokens a pop for the Kingpin's Bounty machines - which meant that within minutes I had racked up several hundred of the things.

I briefly felt excited by the sheer monetary value of my winnings - at the vendor, one Kingpin's Bounty chip costs 75,000 credits, meaning that I had won more than 50 million credits worth of casino chips. Unfortunately you can't sell them back to the vendor at that price though.

Now, even without knowing the exact drop rates of the prizes coming from the Kingpin's Bounty machines, it's pretty obvious that having several hundreds of complementary tokens to spend on them is bound to result in a nice payout. Even if you don't win one of the rare "special" prizes, the more common certificates that can be traded for all kinds of decorations and cosmetics are pretty damn useful as well.

However, considering that each spin's most common outcome is to simply give you your chip back, getting rid of literally hundreds of the things takes absolute ages, and it was with this realisation that the feeling of dread set in.

I mean, this isn't even gambling anymore. There's zero financial investment required from my side, not even in virtual currency, because the game's just given me hundreds of tokens for free. There's no question about whether I'll even get anything from playing either - with so many chips, I'm guaranteed to receive a good number of prizes. However, we're not talking about a quick game of chance for a potentially big win anymore - instead I'd have to spend literal hours at the slots just clicking away to be able to claim my rewards. It's basically the worst sort of grind.

And while I don't mind some grinds, I'm not sure I'll be able to make myself go through with this one. Maybe if I an opportunity arises to watch something sufficiently engaging on my second monitor for long enough, but I don't know. I kind of find myself thinking: "If you just want to give me free stuff, Bioware, why can't you just give me the stuff? Why are you asking me to stupidly click on slot machines for hours first?"

It's a silly question of course, but in a way it was still enlightening that I found my thoughts even going down that road. I've noticed that in many modern MMOs, people complain a lot about randomness in all aspects of their games. And I've often considered that a bit weird, remembering my early days in WoW and recalling my delight at many random drops, and just generally not minding the randomness too much most of the time.

However, the thing back then was that I wasn't expecting to get every possible drop. The odds of many items dropping compared to how often you would realistically run the content were such that you knew that you were never going to get everything you'd potentially like, and everything you did get was therefore perceived as a treat.

The thing is, with content having become more and more accessible and infinitely repeatable to keep people busy, you're much more likely to hit a sort of "saturation point" where you've got everything you want/need and once you know that the game is designed to give you everything over time, you're essentially just grinding out the time to that saturation point. I guess at that point it's not that big of a jump to ask why you can't just cut to the chase, especially if the activities on offer don't provide a lot of inherent enjoyment.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this. Just... damn slot machines.

1 comment :

  1. So, I was here, reading your post and - guess what, clicking in the cassino bc I needed to get rid of those chips.
    Hundreds, hundreds of them.
    But this one character had only ~100 so I read and clicked, and considered how every red circle felt like a BIG PRIZE and not a loss.
    Eventually, it got me 1 Emperor Coin.
    And in that one roll I got a Kingpin's Predator.
    I'm shocked.
    I'm also super bored, BUT, HEY, I WANT THE DECOS, so I'll click and read. Click and study Dutch. Click and tweet. So is life.


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