That Certain Randomness


There is this certain randomness in video games. There is fast learning involved especially when you start playing some game. Games are usually easy to pick up but hard to master. That gives you a feeling that you want to play this game some more. You learn a lot. How much does your skill develop when you are playing? It seems to develop a lot. That isn’t although the only thing your success in playing the game depends. It also has a lot to do with good luck. We can name this element “certain randomness”.

This idea became clear to me as I was one day playing again Need For Speed Hot Pursuit Remastered. I had to catch at least 5 racers as a police officer. The task seemed hard. I kept failing and failing. After trying as hard as I could I got lucky. There were several bad guys captured. It didn’t have so much to do with my skills as it had to do with pure luck.

You might be familiar with randomness in programming. While it is debatable if the random number generated is actually random or not there is a nice way to generate a random number between certain values that can be defined in almost every programming language. At least this is possible in Java and Python. How I first got to know this type of numerical behavior was as I had to deal with a Java application that had to generate a value of a dice getting tossed. You basically had to generate a number between one and six and do it as randomly as possible so that it would describe in the source code how a dice would act in real life.

If you know anything about dices and how are they used in games like Yatzy or some roleplaying game you can figure that their role is to create this random feature that gives you a nice feel when you are playing. It gives you an element of luck. For example if dice gives you 1, 2 or 3 your hit of axe has hit and if it gives you 4,5 or 6 you have missed. You can also define the enemy’s body part that was hit and define the amount of damage caused. A common way to use dices in board games is how many times you can move your character. You get to move the character the amount of times that the dices value is showing.

Playing video games is not only about your skills or your reaction time. It would be very boring to play games that only required skill and would have nothing to do with luck. But if everything in a game is random that isn’t satisfying also. Take poker for example. It is nice to play a game or two of poker. Would you play poker for three hours? Would you enjoy the game if there were no money involved? Of course the answer to these two questions are both “no”. Poker is such a game of luck, isn’t it?

I think the best games are the games that mix randomness smoothly to the skills needed to succeed. If you succeed all the time doing exactly the same thing it gets quickly boring. You want challenge. And you want some surprises. Nowadays video games are getting more complex. This makes things more interesting to us players and I think for also game designers. While you can mix things up by making them abstract and random you always don’t even have to. That’s because games are more complicated than this. You can watch the statistics, like how many kills you have in a shooting game, and make these figures random but in this case the number of kills depends also about the players skills and this forms the players performance. Some things can be simple and random while others can just be thought to be like that.

Anyways. Thanks for reading, again! I am going to continue to have my couple days of since it’s the mid summer party here in Finland. I am probably going to play, make music and read some books. We already had a small meeting with a friend. I have also something more to tell you about our game that we hope to have for sale soon. See you next time!

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