Love – Hate Relationship with Randomness in Game Design

Creating a video game that involves randomness can make it less appealing to serious players, and shorten the life of the game. In most cases, randomness is something best left to games for young children. There’s a sort of love-hate relationship with video game randomness among avid gamers; on one hand, it supports variety and diversification, but on the other hand there’s no actual way to design “genuine” randomness. What would happen if developers made a game with random outcomes but within limitations that can be influenced to match with the overall design of that game?

Game Design in Love-hate relation

Snakes and Ladders – best example to highlight randomness in video game design

An example where randomness works well is the game of Snakes and Ladders. There is randomness throughout this game. Both the snakes and ladders are placed randomly, and the roll of the dice gives random results. It all adds up to make the winner of the game pretty much random. For four year olds playing with their older siblings or parents, this is ideal. It gives them just as much chance of winning as adults and more experienced players. This randomness is fine in this case, because that is the desired outcome. However, if you want a game where players actively try to learn and get better, then randomness is a problem?

Randomness vs. skill in video gaming

In any game that players strive to master, there must be set rules and conditions for the game. You learn to play within these rules, and then learn to play better and better with more experience. Think of a real world example like NFL football. The rules are fixed, and this is a game of skill and strategy. There are a few random elements, like the weather, or the coin flip at the beginning of the game, but the game is 99% skill. Players and coaches work hard to be the best in the game, which would not happen if the game was random and out of their control.

In some games, randomness at the beginning of the game can be a good thing. The original Sonic and Mario games were only partially about building skill. In order to get through the levels, players had to memorize the layout of each level. That made the game just as much a memory game as a skill game. Some newer games have randomness introduced in the game layout, so that the game is not the same every time you play. That removes the memory aspect, making it just a skill game. The fact that the game play itself is not random means skill is still the dominant factor, and players have an incentive to improve their skills.

Randomness in game design – a hindrance for players

On the other hand, randomness during the game play can be a disincentive for players to strive to do well. A good example of this is Mario Kart. In this game, there is a winged blue shell that appears randomly. This is a powerful little device, which boosts the lowest placed player, and takes down the highest place player. This random addition to the game penalizes the best players. Why try to be in first place, when the blue shell will just come along and knock you out? Knowledgeable Mario Kart players now specifically try to avoid being in first place, just to avoid the dreaded blue shell.

When randomness in your game play rewards players who are not the best, and helps them win, that can turn off the people who otherwise would take the time and effort to master your game. Those are the people who could be your biggest fans and promoters.

Author Bio
Fredrick Cameron is a freelance writer who always stays updated with new gadgets launched or will launch in the market. He also has a great passion to play online games and he usually prefers them playing at the site Cooking Games 365.

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