July 12, 2020
A Pirate101 Thought Experiment: Part 2
In the previous article in this series, I discussed some of my conditions for an RNG-free Pirate101, with the goal of determining whether or not it’s possible (and beneficial) to remove RNG from Pirate101 entirely. Since RNG can often spoil skillful victories and ruin well-laid plans, many players want it minimized, or they want to remove RNG entirely.
I analyzed the current state of the game in regards to these conditions, mentioning how the conditions could be better met, if at all. As a quick reminder, here were my conditions for an RNG-free game:
- All players have knowledge of all previous moves or conditions.
- They have knowledge of all possible future moves
- There is no variability in the ability to make a certain move (ex: not drawing a certain power at a certain point)
- The precise consequences for all of these moves are known to both players.
While the first article discussed the first 3 conditions, this article will discuss the fourth and final condition. I feel this one is the furthest from being implemented in the current game. Furthemore, it is the most interesting and challenging to find a solution to.
The precise consequences
for all moves are known to both players
In a game that’s free of RNG and has perfect information, like say, Chess, you can calculate precisely what an opponent can/will do in response to any move you make. (Obviously subject to any time constraints and mental capacity). Let’s say I plan on capturing an opponent’s knight. I could calculate every possible response to that move with certainty. Then I would make my decision. Thus, I am solely responsible for my fate and the consequences of my decision. If something unfavorable happens, it’s because I missed a response or didn’t calculate far enough.
In Pirate101 the same isn’t true. I cannot calculate the precise outcome of even a single move, let alone multiple moves in succession. For instance, let’s say I’m in a buckler mirror match and both players have low health. I have 2 choices: hide and heal OR go for the kill with an Assassin. Let’s look at how many uncertainties are involved in this decision making process alone. Any question I ask represents an uncertainty.
Hide and Heal
- Does my opponent have an AoE that can either break my hide or attack me through the hide?
- If they can break the hide, I will not hide (I could either die to unlucky chain hits, or the following round I would be in the same position I was at first, only down a hide)
- If they have an attack (such as Hurl Blades), what are the odds that it high rolls? Low rolls? Criticals? Or more simply, how likely is it to kill me?
- If it’s likely to kill me, I will not hide.
- So, I’ve decided that I’m likely enough to be hidden and alive the following round, where I plan to heal.
- How much will my heal heal me for? Will it high roll? Low roll? Critical? If it does low roll, I could still be in a dangerous position after my hide expires, making my move move pointless.
- I also have to ask these same questions about my opponent’s decision. If an attack from them would be ineffective, I assume they heal too.
- Will their heal high roll? Low roll? Critical? If it does high roll/crit, do I have the necessary attacks to close out the game before they are able to kill me (factoring in any chains, critical/high roll attacks, etc. from both players which are their own source of uncertainty)
Go for the Kill
- How likely am I to die to chain hits before getting a chance to use my own attack? (Presumably, a couple of landed/crit ripostes and first strikes are fatal). I may know approximately how many chain attacks I can tank, but I have to take into account high/low rolls and criticals.
- If I do use my own attack, will it high/low roll? Will it critical?
- If my attack will kill regardless of rolls, and I’m sufficiently unlikely to die before using it, I obviously attack
- Should I need a high roll or critical, I’ll continue my decision tree below and then come to a decision.
- How likely am I to die if my attack fails? (This question encompasses high/low/critical rolls from my opponent, as well as possible chain hits in an exchange before the attack. A lot of uncertain aspects here)
- So, if I needed a high roll or critical to kill and I’m unlikely to die to their attack, I go for the attack. A second attack will almost certainly be fatal.
- If my attack fails and they decide to heal (again, asking all the questions about high/low/critical rolls), what position am I in? Am I able to kill the ensuing round? Do I have to pivot to the defensive to avoid death?
- If my first attack is likely to fail and a heal from them is likely to put me in a bad position, I don’t attack.
Consequences of RNG and Uncertainty
As you should realize, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved in just this decision alone. Every heal or attack that could be used can either high roll, low roll, critical, or normal roll. I have to take possible chain hits (that can all critical, high roll, or low roll) into consideration.
In chess, I could describe any move like this: If I do this, then my opponent will do that. In Pirate, moves can be described like this: If I do this, and X, Y, and Z happen (all of which are chance-based factors), then my opponent will do that. Thus, I can only calculate what the likely consequences of my decisions are. A significant portion of my fate is tied up in RNG. Thus, the condition is nowhere near being met. I don’t know the exact consequence of a move until after the fact.
So, is there a way to remove all this uncertainty? I’d argue that it’s possible, but would require fundamentally altering the game. To review, what are the sources of uncertainty that would have to go?
- High/Low rolls for all attacks and heals
- Criticals for all attacks and heals
- Chains (their accuracy, as well as high/low/critical rolls)
High and low rolls, as well as criticals are pretty easy to “fix.” Simply removing them would go a long way towards making calculation precise. If an attack does 900 damage and I have a fort on, the attack will always do 450 damage. Criticals would only remain on powers that are guaranteed criticals (super strikes on companions, for instance). I discuss this topic further later in the piece.
What would the consequences of removing these two mechanics be? Removing high and low rolls would have relatively little impact on the game and would be a welcome change. They don’t really do anything to the game other than add unnecessary RNG.
Removing criticals (outside of guaranteed crit attacks) would be much more impactful. It would make a lot of powers and talents much worse. Discipline, Shadowdance, Hoodoo Touch, stat buffs, and all variants thereof interact with critical chance. Removing criticals would essentially invalidate the main function of all of these powers (stat buffs would still increase weapon power, but that increase isn’t major).
On the talents side, Bladestorm and all its variants trigger after criticals. In the past, bladestorm only triggered when you killed an enemy, making it pretty worthless. Removing criticals would essentially revert it to its past iteration, despite it still triggering after guaranteed crit attacks.
Is there a way to make criticals still exist, but not be RNG-based? Removing them would adversely affect so many powers, so that can’t be the answer. How about a system where you are guaranteed a critical every “n” attacks/heals? For argument’s sake, let’s set the base value at 1 out of every 10 attacks/heals. So, your first 9 moves that could possibly critical wouldn’t. The 10th would. Critical buffs/reduces would add and subtract from this value.
I’m not sure of this system’s merits. It would be difficult to keep track of on the players’ end, it could possibly lead to a metagame where players focus too much on ‘timing’ their critical for use on a large hit or heal, and it would weaken classes that currently have a propensity to ‘crit spam’ (it would also make training Bladestorm 2+ much worse). However, for the sake of this thought experiment, it does remove RNG, while keeping criticals intact.
Now we come to the most difficult part: how to fix chain attacks. Removing them entirely obviously won’t work, as they form such a massive part of the game. Making them guaranteed to hit also won’t work, as it would invalidate accuracy and dodge, as well as any dodge-based epic talents (riposte, second chance, etc).
So, is there a solution that removes the RNG of chains? Going off my “solution” for criticals, I believe so. Although it would be needlessly complex, I could see a system where you get a dodge every “n” attacks. Attacking with high base accuracy or accuracy-buffed units would raise that number, while defending with high base dodge or dodge-buffed units would lower that number. Again, it would be very complex (and very, very, difficult to calculate in a match) and almost impossible to make a reality, but for the sake of argument, it’s possible. This just goes to show how intrinsic RNG is to this game.
Whenever players within the Pirate101 PvP community comment on how they would “fix” the game, one solution I often hear is that they would simply “remove RNG.” They often say nothing else, assuming this explanation is sufficient. I hope this article highlighted just how much RNG is intrinsic to the game itself. Removing it entirely is a Herculean labor and doing so would be a fundamental change to how the game is played. Furthermore, some of the “RNG” like spawn points and power drawing are fine aspects of the current game and need no changing.
However, I think there are quite a few things KI could do to help ameliorate the problems that RNG pose. The most impactful way to remove or reduce RNG, I think, would be to remove high and low rolls. This would make calculation much simpler. Furthermore, I’d like to see KI be more forthcoming about the details of Pirate101’s critical system. What, exactly, is the base chance to critical any given hit, all else equal? By how much does each tier of critical increase the damage of an attack? Do all epic talents have the same critical rate? We know that damage and accuracy differ across talents, so it wouldn’t be too much of a leap for critical rates to vary similarly.
These are questions players can get fairly accurate estimates for, but it would be both simple and very helpful to have a clean answer. We can currently calculate with a fair degree of accuracy how likely we are to land chain attacks, so if the above fixes were implemented, a player could pretty reliably calculate the consequences of their actions. The accuracy of this estimation would be further increased if we were given the base accuracy of every epic in the game. This would put their fate largely in their hands, which should be the goal of any strategy game! Although it would obviously not entirely remove RNG, I don’t think the game needs to fully remove RNG to be successful.
Do you agree with the proposed solutions? Disagree?
Let us know in the comments below!