At the beginning of the month, I asked a poll question about progress towards rewards. Well, the results are in. The question was "Which do you prefer?", fifteen of my readers responded, and the options were (in reverse order):
Slower but more efficient progress towards multiple rewards?
This poll wasn't a fair fight, I said as much in my commentary when I opened the poll, and the results bore it out. Twelve of my fifteen responses chose this route. Indeed, this seems like it is in some ways the "correct" answer. Case in point, my recent decision to go for max fishing skill. Technically speaking, I should have plunked my tail down by the uneventful body of water of my choice and reached 375 in a day. Instead, I chose to do the fishing daily quest every day and wait for the skill points to come in passively. Sure enough, I got the last point of Pre-Wrath fishing skill earlier this week. I also raked in a substantial amount of money from the fishing quest and its vendor-able rewards. Good times all around.
Rapid progress towards one reward?
This option was less popular but still took in 20% of the vote (3/15). And, sure enough, there are times when getting the one reward quickly can help you gain additional rewards, such as a minimum amount of PVP gear for survival, or a weapon if your class is unusually dependent on weapon DPS upgrades.
Brewfest might also be a good example of one-reward-at-a-time: other than the instance boss, all of the other rewards are earned by a single currency. You're not raking in any other compensation as you work towards your outfits, kegs, or brew club applications, and it's a currency, so you'll need to earn more as needed to buy the stuff you want. The advantage, though, is that you get each item you're after comparatively more quickly that is typically offered in a rep/daily quest grind, because that item is ALL you're getting for your time.
Random chance for a reward?
Those of you who have been counting may have noticed that no one selected the first option in my poll, random loot. This is in some ways remarkable because random chances at obtaining loot is absolutely standard in the industry, be it Warhammer's "Vegas Style" public quest rewards or low percentage drops from either raids or daily quests (take that cake recipe that I've been after for a while now and FINALLY got today).
It doesn't seem that anyone really LIKES knowing that they could do the quest/boss/etc an ungodly number of times and still never get their loot. And yet, somehow, this is just another one of these things that we MMORPG players put up with because we accept despite their non-fun nature. This being a blog that focuses heavily on incentive structure in games, I actually got a few comments defending the practice of random loot, and I agree with every one.
And yet, we come back to the 50+ times I ran the daily cooking quest chasing after a drop in the sub-2% range. There are reasons why random loot should be in the game, primarily focusing around longevity (or, to put it less charitably, the reality that players will exhaust all the new content in a game far faster than content can be created, requiring developers to come up with ways to convince players to repeat content they've already done). But there are also good reasons why it should not be in tere, and thus it's interesting that developers haven't found a way to make this feasible just yet.
(Wrath Note: At least some of Wrath's daily quests will feature tokens that you cash in for rare recipes instead of a random shot at getting the recipes outright. That said, all the PVE content continues to be itemized with the same random boss loot table system that's been around for ages.)