Some time ago, I wrote an article [here] about price signals and how they relate to the effects of random chance in Jurassic World Alive.
The short version can be summarized in the following two statements:
- There’s a bottleneck of progression where everyone is crammed into the space of 1000-ish trophies and gets matched perpetually, causing a lot of frustration among players.
- It’s hard to tell when we were out-played versus when a single critical hit or stun not landing would’ve swayed the game — because every situation changes what your opponent would do next. You may feel you lost by one move. But your opponent may have swapped to something else that gave you no hope of victory if that crit didn’t land.
Of course, this article was built on the following premises that we also discussed in [this] article — that RNG does indeed correct itself eventually. That article can be summarized in the following two points:
- We as players are biased. When something good happens to us that had a probable chance (like when our stun lands) we don’t see that as luck. That was expected. Which would be fine if we didn’t also see when their stun DOESN’T land as “expected” as well. Or when our dodge works. Etc. When good outcomes are “expected” and bad outcomes are “bad luck” we end up always feeling like we have bad luck.
- Over the course of time, things should move towards the mean. If you get hit through dodge 10 times in a row, despite the fact that your chance of dodging the next blow doesn’t increase, over time you should move towards the mean. You should eventually get a string of dodges that are “above average” — again despite the probability being no different on subsequent rolls.
All of this is well and good – and I still stand by it all, but what I’ve noticed after patch 1.6 and the newly introduced Thoralodosaur with it’s 40% critical hit chance, and the newly buffed Trykosaurus with it’s 30% critical hit chance, is something entirely different.
Everything… Literally Everything… Is Based On RNG
Let’s talk about all of the different things that are based on RNG in the Jurassic World Alive Arena.
- Team Selection: Your team in any given match is a random selection of four out of eight dinosaurs. Personally, I love this. I love it because it makes it harder for someone to just level four dinosaurs to cap and choose the 4 best dinosaurs in the game for every single match. It’s good, but it has the potential to ruin even the most well-balanced teams. You could end up with a squad that just doesn’t work well together. Or you could end up with a squad that your opponent just happens to counter in every way. You drew 4 strong tank-like dinosaurs — and they drew 4 tank busters. And it’s all based on chance. Your selection at the start of each match versus your opponents can also single-handedly decide a match. And often you’re making such decisions based on what you drew.
- Dinosaur Order: As an offshoot to team selection, the order of your dinosaurs could make or break your match. Getting something with hit and run next to Draco Gen 2 is an incredible advantage. Getting something with hit and run next to a counter-attacking dinosaur is as well. It gives you more options. But the order is also completely random. Or again, by drawing an order where you are trying to set up a hit and run into a counter attack could also lose you the match by choosing a less-than-ideal starter or by your opponent opening with the perfect counter to a starter you wouldn’t normally pick.
- Stun Chance: While in previous updates, we had all sorts of ranges of stun chance, now we’ve just got two. There’s a 66% chance a swap-in-stun lands, and there’s a 75% chance a greater stunning impact or greater stunning rampage lands. That’s it. Yet still, missing on a stun could EASILY determine the outcome of a match – either for you or against you. So even with the buff (bringing everything to 75%) — missed stuns decide games.
- Dodge Chance: Presently, three moves offer a 50% chance to negate ALL damage in the game. Not some damage. ALL damage. Evasive Strike, Evasive Stance, and Cloak are all incredibly critical to winning and losing games. Anyone who has ever used Ornithomimus, Monomimus, Erlidominus, Indominus Rex, Indoraptor, Gallimimus, they have one of these moves, and dodging above average or below average absolutely determines the outcome of the match.
- Critical Hit Chance: Every single dinosaur in the game has a chance to critically hit another. The base percentage for most dinosaurs is 5%, but some dinosaurs are real monsters. Indoraptor and Erlidominus have a 20% chance to critically hit opponents. But with the recent update (version 1.5), Ludia granted Trykosaurus a 30% chance and the new Thoralodosaur a 40% chance (both as the base critical chance). Plus we have dinosaurs like Spinotasuchus with Critical Impact (50% chance for one turn to crit), or Tryostronix with Ready To Crush (50% increased crit chance for 2 turns). These critical hits landing or not landing has a massive impact on the outcome of a match. Even a 5% chance critical hit landing (out of nowhere) can truly swing an entire game.
- Matchup: Much underlooked, another massive factor in how much you improve on the leaderboard (or don’t) is determined by who you are playing. Have a lucky game against an opponent who is very high on the leaderboard and would beat you 9 games out of 10? You improve by 60 trophies. Lose to someone who is much much lower than you? You drop by 60 trophies. Win five matches in a row against people way below you? You may only improve by 7 trophies per win. Then you could lose 36 trophies (for a net loss) in one match that doesn’t go your way against someone around the same place as you on the leaderboard.
Just as important as whether a critical hit lands or a stun lands or a dodge lands is WHEN these events occur. All crits/stuns/dodges are not made equal. Some decide games completely and single-handedly. Some may just give you or your opponent a slight advantage.
Are The Formulas for Trophies Broken?
Maybe. But I’m not convinced that’s the real reason that we have issues. Imagine you’re literally number 1 on the leaderboard. Every match is versus someone below you, and no match is versus someone above you. And lets just say you get between 7 and 26 trophies for a win depending on how far below you someone is.
If you really won 98% of the time because you had a team of all level 30 dinosaurs, you wouldn’t care too much about jumping back into the ring. You should win far more matches than you lose. But we all know that’s ludicrous. You lose half the matches you should win and you win half the matches you should lose. It’s not consistent at all.
We do hear from people often that the opportunity-cost (risk of attempting to battle again) goes down as you get higher on the leaderboard. If you only get 7 trophies for winning against someone you should beat, but lose 47 trophies when you lose, it makes you second guess the point of going into the arena, sure.
But we see the same thing with flat trophy-count rewards in tournaments. It’s not just people at the top who second-guess battling. People who find a way to push to 4500 trophies might just camp there for 2 weeks of the tournament just to guarantee they’ll get the reward. Because the potential for losing and never making that mark again is high.
But why is that? Is it just because someone peaked well above their potential value? Is it because the trophy system is completely broken? Or is it something else?
You see, the problem is — when you have so many factors determining the outcome and reward for any given match, it’s not about just getting the dodges. Winning a match means getting the dodges… and the stuns… and the critical hits… and getting the right team… in the right order… versus the right opponents… all at once every time. And while over time you should fall back to the mean on your dodges alone… you might get below average stuns, or below average team lineups, or below average critical hits, or draw opponents who will really damage your trophy count or not reward you with much of anything.
Take for example, a sample of my last 14 dodge attempts (I kept a log) for my Indoraptor. I hit the mean exactly. 7 dodges. 7 hits.
But how did that play out? The first two games I played opponents far below me on the leaderboard, missed 2 dodges and got 1, then missed 2 and got one again. Both games were lost. Both times I lost about 30 trophies. The third game I missed 3 dodges and lost to someone around my level (20 trophies). And the fourth game, I got a beautiful 5 dodges in a row, sweeping my opponents entire team, and it netted me… 9 trophies.
So while I was exactly average for dodging – in those four games I netted a loss of 71 trophies.
And while this truth — this scenario of getting swept and losing far more than we gain, or gaining far more than we lose in the opposite circumstance, is unmistakable for any JWA player — it’s not readily obvious if you don’t play 20 matches a day or aren’t fighting to hit a trophy count.
There is so much chance in this game, so much opportunity for one or two of the wrong things to happen at the wrong time, that losing trophies is far easier than gaining them.
People post on the forums about how the game is rigged, or the odds aren’t right. They say that because they don’t feel like they have an average position (or average trophy count). But it doesn’t need to be rigged at all for that to be the case. We see these swings just because we have 6 or more factors randomly working for you or against you in every match, and your opponent just needs a single thing to go their way that doesn’t go yours to beat you.
Do you know why we’ve seen complaints about random chance in this game from its conception until now? It wasn’t just the fact that we’d have sweeps of getting stunned on a 10% chance and a 33% chance and a 75% chance. It was all of the above factors. We know that now because 3 months after an update that corrected the stun-locking nature of the game, we still have daily complaints about RNG being a problem. And even when we play the game for fun, we can’t help but feel a twinge of frustration when we lose a match because we didn’t land a 75% chance stun, or because they happened to critically counter-attack our dino when just a regular attack would’ve saved us.
You see, it’s not just that your RNG needs to correct itself when you have bad luck. But how it corrects itself (during a match you are already sweeping or in tiny chunks of 2 dodges and 1 hit) and when it corrects itself (during matches when a win nets you a lot of trophies or virtually none) is as important if not more important than that it corrects itself.
Because getting every dodge and every stun and hitting through every cloak and evasive stance in one match may return you to the mean, but that one brilliant and beautiful match sure as heck won’t correct your 15 game losing streak.
And yes, random chance IS good. It makes a game interesting. It offers an opportunity for a player to win a match they surely shouldn’t — which feels really great. But the current system is bound to frustrate players to no end specifically because there are six ways to lose, and really only one or two to win. Because your trophy count peaks when all six factors work FOR you for a string of 15 games, and returning to the mean could be spread out by 15 x 6.
And that, right there, is why people get frustrated with RNG.