Traveling the Multiverse

Aka Ironyca Stood in the Fire – gaming blog

Ninjas Breed Ninjas

If you have ever been ninja’ed from, you probably know the feeling of injustice, that your effort was exploited by someone, who just stuck their long fingers past you grabbing the shinies.

Well, prepare. Cause more are coming!

I’ve subjectively noticed an incline in ninja looting in heroics, especially on the last boss. They will wait for everyone else to just leave the dungeon before pressing need to collect the goodies, without the hassle of actually being called out on it. Often ninja looters benefit from the rush storm heroics are these days, pressing need on everything that drops.

No one cares enough to make a deal about it, thus rendering it easy and without consequence to ninja. This also means the underdog undergeared player who actually needs these items, will probably find themself in a headwind battle alone, where no one else has time for principles.

The higher the chance of a ninja in the group, the more reason to ninja yourself, or press need. I’m sure you can see where this is going (= the wrong way). So what are we going to do about it?

To make things straight: A ninja is someone who purposefully gains ownership of an item, avoiding fair distrubution, like skipping the queue, although it really is closer to theft.

Ninja’ing is well known in multiplayer games, it is considered cheating and loot systems do not completely prevent this, they can always be worked around. Here’s an example of a ninja at work:

Items that get ninjaed a lot:

– e.g. items that have greater value, than the risk and damage of being named and shamed. That’s why heroic ninja’ing is barely regarded as such. The stolen item needs to be of high value (to everyone) in order to get people angry about it.

Bad conscience is easily kept at bay if you feel like you really deserved it, and also if you feel this upgrade was bigger to you, than any of the others.

Although, if it turns out you can not use the item anyways, you might then feel bad about it, and end up apologizing on wowconfessions.com, although not for the act of ninja’ing in the first place. Whether this guy could use the trinket Deathbringer’s Will or not, he’s still a ninja, rather in this case, a ninja with no gain.

We can look at ninja’ing in the view of Game Theory. This can teach us in what way this system works and how we should deal with it. Here’s a small introduction to what I’m on about:

“Game theory attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, or games, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others.” (from Wiki).

We can set up the loot scenario in a simple scheme like the one below. Imagine it is a heroic dungeon, and players can either choose to greed in case someone actually needs the item (wanting to equip it, rather than sell it), or need regardless. In this scenario, neither you nor the other player really needs the item as an upgrade.

We can see two states of equilibrium here (like a state of balance and equal chance) which is when both greed. But there is only one Nash Equilibrium (a state where it doesn’t pay off to change strategy) which is when both need.

From this matrix, it looks pretty obvious to me, that needing is by far the best option – you will either win or have equal chance, but never risk just giving up any loot, it can’t go bad! Well how come we greed at all then, when it doesn’t pay off?

Because we trust people. We trust them enough so that one day, when we actually do need something, they will greed, and we will be able to rightfully need it and use it, instead of the 7 gold it can be vendored for… or more with the 2 hour duration trade option BoP items have now (Vault of Archavon is infamous for this happening).

But as the matrix showed, trust is easily lost, as the only stable situation, where no one can get tricked, is when everyone needs. Like just having one big button saying “LOOT”.

The thing is, the second you start employing the ninja strategy, you become one yourself, and the more ninjas around, the more in does not pay off to play nicely. Ninjas are like a chaotic force knocking the valuable balance out in favour of personal greed.

But, if we turn back to Game Theory, there is a strategy that is more beneficial and will earn you more in the long run, than purely needing. It requires for the game to be iterated, meaning repeatedly played, with the same players, to work  (this is one of the reasons why heroics are the perfect playground for a ninja, the anonymity of the cross server grouping means the players barely get to meet again). However, if we count on using an addon that can blacklist players – this is what you need to do, it’s called Tit for Tat and has four principles:

Be Nice

The most important condition is that the strategy must be “nice”, that is, you will not need unless someone else does. Basically this means that you trust people at first meeting.

Be Retaliating

Being a blind optimist doesn’t work either, if someone needs on you, you list their name and retaliate. This means, if you meet this player again, you adopt their play style and need as well, resetting the chance of loot.

Be Forgiving

You don’t want to perpetuate the ninja cycle either. If you meet a player who previously needed, which meant you needed as well, and they greed you this time, you greed also. You basically “forgive” them and treat them as trustworthy in the future, unless of course they need again. This stops long runs of revenge and counter-revenge.

Be Non-envious

The last quality is being non-envious, that is not striving to score more than the others in the group or raid. Sometimes you gain less in a specific run, in order to get the loot you really need another time.

Update 1st of November 2010

I’m not surprised that threads regarding this issue, emerges on the WoW forums at this point: Abusive use of the need button, Increased Ninja-ing.

I also realised that putting someone on ignore prevents you from being grouped with them again in the Random Dungeon Finder. This means the Tit for Tat strategy will not work using the ignore button, as the game is not iterated and the ninjas never get a hard time from you again.

I can’t help but think that the way Blizzard delt with this, was an short fix solution. Of course it is beneficial to you, you will not have to deal with negative people once more. But at the same time, it relieves the burden of consequence to the ninjas – there is no karma. The game is repeated from scratch over and over, and ninjas never get pointed out repeatedly, because the players who dislike them enough to ignore them, will never meet them again. The saying “what goes around comes around” I believe, lost it’s meaning in the Random Dungeon Finder.

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4 comments on “Ninjas Breed Ninjas

  1. Tabathine
    October 21, 2010

    At the end of an ICC 25 run, where I had rolled two 4’s and a 5 on gear I needed, and therefor obviously lost the roll, I ended up rolling a 100 on a sanct token. I was soooo happy. then I realized some other guy also rolled a 100. when we rerolled, I rolled an effing 28, therefor losing the roll. I had gotten jack shit from the whole run, but it had been fair and I had gotten jack shit fairly, so while i was pissed, I figured that those ppl needed the gear too. What really got me was when the guy who got it asked who in the raid wanted to buy the sanct token off him, because he didn’t need it. Even if I had the 2k he wanted (I didn’t) I would not have boughten it off him. No way am I supporting that. While he technically did win it, I still felt like it was ninja’d from me. I am a person with morals, and have actually passed up an awesome trinket because I had D’Ced for most of that last boss (I was chewed out by a guildy for doing so, lol). But I knew I had not earned it. Unfortunately, WoW is indeed filled with assholes, and I just hope people like us, who who have a conscience, continue to play though all the shit.

  2. ironyca
    October 21, 2010

    Thanks for your reply, unlucky rolls makes it harder to resist, when the item is available right there in front of you… if you want to pay!
    I think pressing need has been redefined to include “needing gold”. I didn’t know how prevalent this was, until I won a 264 PvP belt in VoA, and the whispers ticked in. I wanted to use it myself and did, but suddenly an item that shouldn’t have a price, was being bid on. Very surreal, normally you don’t see open bidding in raids, but behind the scenes in whispers, I bet they happen all the time.

  3. ladyerinia
    October 28, 2010

    Ninja’s annoy me. I don’t hit need if everyone is greeding because of principle..even if I need the item. I just think it’s wrong. Luckily, I’ve never run into a problem in a 25man raid where someone can ninja an item. Master Looter ftw. Anyway..

    Your chart is similar to the Prisoner’s Dilemma Game. Game theory, social psychology concept…it’s all the same. Anyway…here’s a link to a comic that explains it quite well. http://www.smbc-comics.com/comics/20100605.gif

    Good post.

  4. ironyca
    October 28, 2010

    Prisoner’s Dilemma is probably the most well known example within Game theory, the only difference is that the ninja version is a zero-sum game, only one person can get the loot, which in theory should make it more competitive.

    I’m trying to incorporate the Tit for Tat strategy, so I’ve downloaded an addon, that is originally for PvP servers, as it uses “kill on sight” as a form of blacklisting. I hate the fact that I have probably played with a lot of ninjas without knowing (and risked my own gain), so I decided to start tracking the ninjas myself.

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