Why Make Games Random?

Why Make Games Random?

What is the point of having a "Luck" factor in video games like Fallout 4 or The Binding of Isaac?

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Is "the big one" profit? It's profit, isn't it?

Gotta keep that Skinner box running.

Theres also the idea of verisimilitude. Sometimes shit does go wrong, either because someone made a mistake, something malfunctioned, etc. An enemy(and allies) who always make the best decision is not only boring, it's unrealistic and frankly, annoying.

Apollo 13 was crippled by a $2.00 part malfunctioning and causing an explosion, nearly killing the astronauts on-board. During the Battle of Long Island, the wind was favorable to allowing the American Forces to escape by sea the mainland but turned just in time to impede the British pursuit, allowing an escape. The battle of Waterloo may have been decided in advance by rain falling on the battlefield the previous night, by delaying Napoleon from getting an early start moving his troops(and the battle was still raging when Prussian reinforcements arrived to aid the British forces).

All of these could be classified as "Luck". It does change things in real life so why shouldn't video games use that to their advantage to keep things interesting?

Dalisclock:
Theres also the idea of verisimilitude. Sometimes shit does go wrong, either because someone made a mistake, something malfunction, etc. An enemy(and allies) who always make the best decision is not only boring, it's unrealistic and frankly, annoying.

Yeah - this. I sometimes roleplay a bit on IMVU and the issue with it is that the combat systems have no chance of failure. Player 1 strikes, player 2 reacts. There's no chance of either player screwing up their action - only them making the wrong action.

As a result, tabletop tends to be way more engaging, because you can fuck it up, and have to work around that.

Tangentially related, I'm beginning to feel "Rogue-like" is bordering on becoming a pejorative.

The potential and appeal of procedurally-generated worlds is easy to see; rather than one static world that the player completes and grows tired of, a game can have endless worlds and a new challenge with every single one.

But way too often, the randomness of procedural generation is used as an excuse for crappy game balancing. If the creator of the game knows that if the player doesn't get x, y, and z by the time they reach the final boss fight (an element which is not random at all, but inevitable, natch) their chance of winning that final fight approaches zero... There is no excuse for not including some shading in the algorithms that generate the world, so that the player should always have an opportunity to obtain x, y, and z.

It's one thing to have the player come to the grim realization that some earlier, preferably transparent choice has doomed them: "Damn, I should have invested in that fire weapon when I had the chance, rather than playing it safe and maxing out shields." It's quite another to waste an hour or more of the player's time in what amounts to a procedurally-generated dead end. It shouldn't be any more acceptable than a bug that causes the occasional hard crash.

"It's time for me to take on another reader question by going off on a tangent and running out of space before I give them a straight answer. "

Well, at least there's a plan! ;)

Good column as always. I think next week we are going to talk about Diablo (and the pic was a subtle hint)!
In other words; random levels in which to hunt down rare, random monsters.
This is VERY interesting; in D3 ("we can now patch all the time, so who cares about finishing the game or balance first?") there existed many random elite-enemy traits... some would completely pulverize all/95% of players when the game would randomly combined them together. In other words: some random combinations are utterly "broken" or "break" the fun/game completely. You CANNOT deny that makes you get on the edge of your seat, which is INTERESTING!!! :)

An example would be an enemy that you can not stand next to, that would avoid pretty much all ranged attacks and that is ultra fast (and yes: he *HAS* tons of hitpoints by default). This means your ranged character would almost always miss him, and your brawler cannot do enough damage before being sliced to ribbons; not that it matters when the enemy is waaaaay faster than you.

This leads to the biggest flaw of complete random: a challenge or -usually- enemy "being overpowered" (OP) by pure random chance.

May I take a guess as to what the The Big One is? I'm betting the replayability of said game.

If you go through a game once and there's nothing different the second time through--enemies behave the same, weapons are in the same place, characters act the same way--the only randomness in the game is going to come from the player, and if they already know the best way through, odds are they'll stick with it, and that will get boring. Kind of like the "Balance" one that was brought up.
But if loot drops are switched up every time, or weapons are moved to new places, encounters are different, then you have a new experience each time.

You say that in a perfectly balanced game the best player always wins but that is if the best player is a computer with better stats, humans make mistakes and have good days and bad days, sure a bad player wont take out a good one with ease but two balanced teams (or a balanced 1v1) will have a better time in a game where they understand why they loose or win instead of feeling that the outcome of every encounter is out of their reach and influence.

I think that a game(mode) that avoids randommness is Unreal with Instagibs, its still very fun

Is it just me, or did the article take a question about a single-player game and discuss reasoning that primarily applies to multiplayer games?

Also, if sword #1 is in every way better than sword #2, then I expect sword #1 to be locked in a chest behind the secret boss. Or perhaps requiring all 24 masks be gotten so you can give them to the skull kid. Or perhaps requiring a weird string of side-quests based on the myth of the guy who got rich from trading. Or perhaps as a congrats for collecting all the figurines. Wait, no, not that last one. That one was crap.

Personally, if a game wants me to choose between two equally good swords, I would prefer they have other distinctions. If one has a wider range of random damage, I consider that an inherent weakness due to being unreliable. Instead I'd prefer sword #1 give double damage but also half defense, while sword #2 doubles speed but halves stamina.

Callate:

But way too often, the randomness of procedural generation is used as an excuse for crappy game balancing. If the creator of the game knows that if the player doesn't get x, y, and z by the time they reach the final boss fight (an element which is not random at all, but inevitable, natch) their chance of winning that final fight approaches zero... There is no excuse for not including some shading in the algorithms that generate the world, so that the player should always have an opportunity to obtain x, y, and z.

It's one thing to have the player come to the grim realization that some earlier, preferably transparent choice has doomed them: "Damn, I should have invested in that fire weapon when I had the chance, rather than playing it safe and maxing out shields." It's quite another to waste an hour or more of the player's time in what amounts to a procedurally-generated dead end. It shouldn't be any more acceptable than a bug that causes the occasional hard crash.

This is true. FTL is so annoying because you can get completely curbstomped at any point unless you have the right upgrades which may or may not show up randomly at shops. In XCOM EU, the game could simply not give you abduction missions in high panic countries, which is the only way to stop them from disbanding.

XCOM 2 is better because while enemy placement and maps are random, you have total control over when and where you build up your influence and fight the Avatar project(no spoilers). And even with RNG combat a skilled tactician can minimize the risk with cover and fields of fire, so it's a nice mix of skill and chance which is great for building excitement. I mean, that's why poker is popular. I reckon Firaxis did a much better job this time around.

There also needs to be a bit of randomness when it comes to the bots/enemy AI's ability to play the game. If there's no randomness in it, then every AI in something like Call of Duty would headshot you on sight. That would be boring.

woodlandkammo:

Callate:

But way too often, the randomness of procedural generation is used as an excuse for crappy game balancing. If the creator of the game knows that if the player doesn't get x, y, and z by the time they reach the final boss fight (an element which is not random at all, but inevitable, natch) their chance of winning that final fight approaches zero... There is no excuse for not including some shading in the algorithms that generate the world, so that the player should always have an opportunity to obtain x, y, and z.

It's one thing to have the player come to the grim realization that some earlier, preferably transparent choice has doomed them: "Damn, I should have invested in that fire weapon when I had the chance, rather than playing it safe and maxing out shields." It's quite another to waste an hour or more of the player's time in what amounts to a procedurally-generated dead end. It shouldn't be any more acceptable than a bug that causes the occasional hard crash.

This is true. FTL is so annoying because you can get completely curbstomped at any point unless you have the right upgrades which may or may not show up randomly at shops.

This is why I used the mod to give me time to explore the region rather than rush me to my doom.

kimiyoribaka:
Is it just me, or did the article take a question about a single-player game and discuss reasoning that primarily applies to multiplayer games?

Also, if sword #1 is in every way better than sword #2, then I expect sword #1 to be locked in a chest behind the secret boss. Or perhaps requiring all 24 masks be gotten so you can give them to the skull kid.

I don't think the author was taking into account Infinity Plus Ones in this article. I figured he was more talking about the player deciding between a selection of weapons currently available to them that have somewhat different advantages and disadvantages for any given situation.

Shamus Young:
As a game designer you probably don't want a game of pure skill, particularly if you need to maintain a steady stream of new players to pay the bills. It would mean a new player would need to spend hours and hours losing before they ever get their first taste of victory. That's frustrating and most people will look elsewhere for their entertainment. Your userbase will shrink and your game will die.

Does Dark Souls not fit this description? Is there something it does differently or better that I'm missing, or is it just an exception to the rule?

EeviStev:
Does Dark Souls not fit this description? Is there something it does differently or better that I'm missing, or is it just an exception to the rule?

I was actually thinking of this as I was reading the column.

Dark Souls is an example of an "RPG" that is very much skill-based, at least after the first time you experience it. Then again, the Souls series still has a relatively small fan-base.

kimiyoribaka:
Is it just me, or did the article take a question about a single-player game and discuss reasoning that primarily applies to multiplayer games?

It's just you. ;-)

Except that the article actually covers applying randomness appropriately. That works in either single or multi user games.

Heavy impact of Random Number Generators is only acceptable IMO when they allow a second path around it, even if that path has twice the "opportunity cost". Action games that don't allow an alternative means to acquiring something besides RNG, I consider intentionally ABUSIVE an there's way too many of those on the market right now. Some that even had Crafting to begin with, seem to be removing or trivializing that alternative just to enhance the primary cash grab, even in Buy to Play games. I honestly think it's gone past acceptable and there could be a revolt against it pretty soon as everyone starts recognizing how lazy and intellectually dishonest it really is.

All this article did was remind me why I still choose Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the GBA over Kingdom Hearts: RE:Chain of Memories for PS2/PS3 in terms of how the map cards work... (It's technically not the only reason, but I digress...)

In Chain of Memories, all of the rooms (outside of the Key To Rewards rooms) are randomly generated with only a vague size reference and heartless count as the basis for some kind of consistency per map card... The heartless can spawn anywhere in the room (unless the room has either specified heartless spawn points or they stay spawned throughout the room until you leave the room or a fight starts), the "items" that you can hit/stand on for the chance of getting random HP/MP balls, a random card used in combat (that's not a heartless card or a green friend card), nothing at all, or starting a Barrel Spider fight (if you attack the barrel item) constantly reset after you leave the room (so you could technically grind for HP/MP balls and cards), and due to the rooms being randomly generated, no two rooms from even the same map card look the same when compared side-by-side...

In RE:Chain of Memories, all of the rooms (including the Key To Rewards rooms) have a specific/distinct design to them per floor on top of a base heartless count... Everything from the heartless to the "items" that you could hit/stand/interact with are all pre-positioned at specific points within the room itself, so the only "random" aspect the rooms even have is the amount of HP/MP balls that come from a "item" that can supply it, the "rare" possibility of getting a card used in combat, or the possibility of getting nothing or starting a Barrel Spider fight... At least there's four ways the room can be "presented" depending on which of the four corners of the room you come from on top of having more "items" showcased in comparison to Chain of Memories, but it does not change the fact that two rooms can look the exact same way when compared side-by-side and, on a lesser note, none of the "items" reset after you leave the room so that you could technically grind off them for more HP/MP balls and, to an extent, cards and Barrel Spider fights...

In other words, the map card rooms in Chain of Memories has more random elements to them than in RE:Chain of Memories, which basically has stock rooms generated per floor... To me, that made [re-]playing through RE:Chain of Memories not as special because it made each room generated by a map card less exciting to go through after seeing what the room(s) would look like the first time around and no amount of the doorway spawning from the south side of the room instead of the east side would make that better overall... Plus, the fact that none of the "items" reset after leaving the room makes me wish it was more like Chain of Memories in that aspect, alone...

 

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