Any good Economics or Business major can tell you about the concept of a price signal.
A price signal is something that communicates to consumers and producers of goods, based on demand, whether the producer of the goods should increase or decrease supply.
You see, in a situation of perfect competition, stuff gets priced based on the demand for that stuff. Let’s look at an example:
If you try to sell ten pencils for $100, you’ll notice that no one buys them. This is your price signal as a producer of pencils, that perhaps your price is too high and maybe you should lower it. This signal is aided by the fact that other people are selling pencils for much less as well. Eventually, in a competitive market, the actual demand for pencils will end up determining the actual price of a pencil. Because it’s the same on the other side.
If you need a pencil, and you have $100 to spend each paycheck, you’re going to make a decision on whether you want a pencil MORE than… say food, or to pay your electric bill. So your demand for a single pencil is actually built right into what you’re willing to pay for that pencil. And if the price is too high, you won’t buy it.
So what in the world does this have to do with Jurassic World: Alive? Stay with me. I’ll get there.
The RNG “Problem”
One of the most talked about issues in Jurassic World: Alive, at the moment, is a discussion around the fairness or unfairness of random number generators (affectionately known as RNG).
When you have a 75% chance to stun your opponent, the computer generates a random number between 1-100 and if it’s between 1 and 75, your stun worked. If it’s between 76 and 100, it failed. This is what we refer to when we talk about RNG: the moves that are not guaranteed, but instead have a certain percent chance for something to occur.
Indoraptor’s Evasive Stance is based on RNG. Indominus Rex’s Cloak is based on RNG. Stunning moves are based on RNG.
And the reason so many of us discuss it on the forums and in chat rooms and on discord and twitter and facebook etc, is because when something is “expected” to happen, and it doesn’t, it’s annoying. And it affects a lot of things.
Your total trophy count can be severely impacted by the number of times you had a 50% coin flip work in your favor or against it, or the number of times a 75% chance to stun worked for you or against you. In fact, people can rise and fall a good 1000 trophies in the arena at any given time, seemingly based on “bad RNG” versus “good RNG.”
But is it really RNG that causes us to rise and fall so much?
In the early game, RNG doesn’t seem to be the problem. At least, we never complain about it then and we don’t seem to be so tied to it as we are later on. Many of us level our dinosaurs and cruise through the first few sets of arenas without any real issue. And those casual players who just don’t play enough or perhaps don’t understand the battle mechanics aren’t really blaming RNG for it on the forums or on Facebook or Twitter. They recognize the fact that they spend little time playing the game (perhaps they play only casually) and it makes sense that they’d lose to teams with dinosaur levels below them who are better, or teams with higher dinosaur levels who are just more powerful.
Low-level RNG complaints, in fact, seem completely absent from the conversation. Nobody complains that they’re stuck in Mt. Sibo or S.S. Arcadia or the Nublar Jungle. My initial thought was perhaps this is due to no RNG based dinosaurs. But there are plenty of stunning dinosaurs at that level with high and low stunning chance. Einiasuchus. Triceratops. Stegoceratops. Dracorex. Sinoceratops. Stygimoloch. Iguanadon. Edmontosaurus. Tenontosaurus. The list goes on.
Perhaps the issue is dodge chance. Indoraptor and Indominus Rex both possess moves with a possibility for 50% damage negation. Such a case could be made.
But then why are Ornithomimus and Gallimimus, two others with 50% dodge chance on their basic attack, not also causing people trouble in lower arenas to the point that they want to rage-quit the game? If RNG is so powerful, why aren’t people taking advantage of Gallimimus or Ornithomimus to rocket up 500 trophies in the lower arenas?
End Game Scenarios
Another complaint we see often is “even level tournaments” — as if by leveling the playing ground, we could see who is truly better and who is worse. What’s interesting about this concept is that when you do face someone with even level-dinos, we still seem to blame RNG for our woes. In friendly battles, we lean back into RNG as the reason that we lost, considering only that one critical hit that seemed to shift the tide, or that one time that a cloak didn’t work in our favor.
We ignore all the other moves that were made, and the rest of the strategy. In fact, when we lose, we’re certain it was because of bad RNG. And when we win, we’re certain it was because of skill. Even at the same levels.
From what I’ve heard, people who are near end game (have a team of 8 dinos at or above level 27) do not experience the same woes to the same degree. For one, there seems to be a moment when most teams near end-game will remove the RNG issue from their teams as much as they can. They tend to limit their teams to one or two dinos with evasion or cloaking, despite having 3 or 4. Monomimus, Indominus Rex, Indoraptor, and Erlidominus are all viable upper-tier candidates. Yet almost no team will have all four. Why? Because it works against them as much as for them.
In fact, lots of people with Indoraptor will use Evasive Stance first when they originally get it. They remember all those times they couldn’t kill the opposing Indoraptor, and they think doing the same thing (dodging) is the answer. Then they are often disappointed by the results. Eventually, most Indoraptor users will use Evasive far more sparingly. They’d prefer to open with guaranteed damage. An odd thought, but it’s true. We start to rely on what is controllable (like guaranteed damage over a 50/50 chance to dodge the next attack) instead of what isn’t.
If RNG is the problem, why does it seem like at some phases of the game it isn’t? Or have we come to blame it for things that aren’t really RNG’s fault, and perhaps can be explained elsewhere? If the issue is RNG, it should be uniform. All arenas, and all levels should be frustrated. But they’re not.
The Muddy Middle
And here’s where we get back to price signals. If you look at the teams in Lockdown, Sorna Marshes, and Jurassic Ruins, you see this really wide variance. People like to blame it sometimes on high level teams dropping to lower arenas for incubators, but I don’t think that’s the only reason we see stacked teams an arena below where they belong. So many people complain that they win or lose games based on a “lucky roll” and share their team in our Discord for help on team makeup, and some of those teams are good enough to be higher but they’re still losing. I bet their opponents think they’ve “arena dropped” when really they haven’t.
I mean, look at the bots in strike events. If a real player had that team, same level, would they do as poorly as the bots do? No way. Some players would have no chance at beating two level 30 dinos in a match against a skilled player. But bots in strike events? Yeah. Definitely doable. Why? Because skill is the missing component that we’re so happy to ignore.
You can have great dinosaurs and be a low-skill arena player. You can have really poor dinosaurs and be a really high-skill player. So in order to understand why Lockdown, Sorna Marshes, and Jurassic Ruins are such a muddy cluster, we need to consider player skill level as a factor.
Which brings us back to price-signal. In a perfect world, you’d be among players at “around” the same progression as you. This way, you’d get the proper signals. If you and another player have around the same level of dinosaurs (say within a 3 level variance), and they keep beating you, then you start to get the right signal that you need to improve your skill in order to win more matches. It becomes clear that your team isn’t losing you games. Your skill is the issue.
You might still blame RNG. You could still look at it that way. But if your level and their level is similar and you keep losing and losing and losing, you get the right price signal. It can’t be RNG if it never levels out. You need to personally improve your play.
It’s why no one complains about the early arena. You get the right signal. You win most of the time when your team is better. You beat the teams with low skill and low dinosaur levels, and you move forward until you hit the Sorna wall (or maybe the Lockdown wall).
I mean, think about the chart above and what’s happening in Sorna.
You’ve got one match where the high-skill player with the low-level team just crushes you. And the very next match the low-skill player with the high-level team loses to you. It leaves you confused as to where you are in the range of possibilities. I mean, you beat the teams with higher levels, but lose to teams with lower levels? And then you lose sometimes to teams with higher levels (high skill/high level team), and you just don’t really understand where you belong. If you belong in Sorna Marshes, you’d think you’d win and lose 50 percent of matches for small gains, but you go through phases where you lose 10 in a row and don’t level out or get back to exactly where you thought you belonged, and you wonder what in the world is going on.
Progression Also A Factor
Something else happens around Lockdown/Sorna/Jurassic Ruins. DNA needed to evolve increases exponentially, and you run out of coins. These two progression milestones make it difficult to level the team you have, and also act as a natural bottleneck. So lots and lots of players get “clogged” in the muddy middle while they wait to slowly progress.
It’s another reason why you are facing level 27 Stegod’s in Jurassic Ruins and Sorna Marshes. You’re left wondering how in the world a team like that can be at your level of progression. But they might legitimately be there because they have relied for too long on the level of their dinosaurs to overcome the matchup and haven’t properly learned how to battle against higher skill players. And people with a level 23 Tryostronix keep destroying their teams.
It’s confusing as all heck. And it’s not just confusing for bad players. It’s confusing for good players. And worst of all, it doesn’t give anyone a price signal that tells them whether they’re actually good or actually need to improve their battle strategy.
Because when you’re a high skill player with a low level team and you’re beating 50% of the teams with higher level dinosaurs than you, you begin thinking that’s where your skill should put you. Up there! And when you’re a low skill player with a high level team and you beat a lot of low skill players with lower level teams but then lose to lower level teams, you can’t help but wonder what the crap is going on.
You see, you feel like RNG is the only feasible answer for the bad price signal, because it would explain why you lose games you feel you should win, and win games you feel you should lose. But RNG isn’t actually the source. It just exasperates the issue. It creates even bigger swings, more confusing outcomes. The real issue is you’re getting a constant influx of conflicting information about how good you are and you don’t know what to do with it. So it must be RNG.
And sometimes RNG is the reason. Sometimes a string of unlucky events is impossible to overcome. But when outliers happen in a good ranking system, those outliers are easily overcome and you find equilibrium again. You know full well when you beat players that you shouldn’t beat, and when you lose to players that you shouldn’t lose to, because you know where you belong on the skill and team level chart.
The Real Issue and a Possible Solution
You see, the real issue in Jurassic World: Alive might be exasperated by random number generators, but if RNG was the only issue, we’d see it at every level in the game — and we don’t. The real issue is we aren’t getting the proper price signal. We don’t know where we actually belong based on our skill level and our team level, because the muddy middle is a giant bottleneck full of bad price signals that don’t tell us what we need to know — whether we need to improve our TEAM to improve our rank, or whether we need to improve our SKILL to improve our rank.
How can we be sure that’s the problem? Well, if they “fix” some RNG things with the next update and we still don’t know what the crap is going on, we know RNG isn’t the issue anymore. It just helped to exaggerate the issue.
And how do we fix this issue? The only way I can think of is tiers.
If your rank and arena wasn’t determined by just generic totals of wins/losses but instead tiered out based on the average level of your top 8 dinosaurs, you could kill two birds with one stone. You’d force people into an arena where their team level was within 2 or 3 levels of everyone else [AKA no more arena dropping] and you’d also force people to be among similar enough leveled dinosaurs that they’d know for certain whether they were skilled at battling or needed improvement.
As it stands, arenas seem to be a marker of progression when they’re not really marking anything. The target is constantly moving. A team that is good enough to get into Sorna Marshes today wasn’t good enough to get there a month ago, because as people keep making incremental trophy gains, the targets are moving.
The best possible option would be a dual rating system that takes both skill level and player level into account, but being that I have no idea how that could be created, the best option I can think of is tiers in arena/matchmaking.
Especially if those tiers represented progression (so the Lockdown/Sorna Marshes/Jurassic Ruins tiers might be 7 tiers thick instead of 3 tiers thick to allow for more variance in progression than the low end or high end tiers).
So you might get fewer arenas for the beginning of the game, and a lot more arenas in the muddy middle where you’re really only playing people with a 1-2 average level difference than you versus at the beginning where you might play players with a 3-5 average level difference than you (because it takes so little time to level in the early game).
RNG isn’t the problem. The issue is we’re getting bad price signals. And we need better ones. Doesn’t matter how. Dual ranking that takes more than trophy total into account, tiered rankings, player level being used as part of the equation, there just needs to be some solution.
Because if RNG gets improved and people keep complaining about battles, I’m not sure what we’ll decide is the problem next… but it’ll probably set us further back.