USING CHANCE WELL IN GAMES

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This is a topic that has come up in a few games I reviewed recently, where random chance was used poorly and without much thought, causing actual problems in the game. So...might be best to discuss the best ways to use and when to use chance in games!

Perhaps I think about this more because I designed tabletop games before I started designing video games, but randomness shouldn't be 100% random. Even the best designed games can use chance very poorly. One example from tabletop was when I played the Mechwarrior tabletop game (not Battletech), the hit region roll was 2-12, rolling 2d6. We wondered why we kept hitting people in the right arm over and over...and it turned out the book had the hit region for the right arm be 6-7...which if you know the probability of a six-sided dice, are some of the most probable numbers (7 being -the- most probably when rolling two dice). A simple thing like that breaks immersion and the fun when you realize your highly trained team of commandos is constantly shooting people in the same arm over and over.

When you design video games, you obviously have a very finely tuned control over chance, since we deal with straight up percentages. I'll mention a few areas we tend to use it, and how it can be used well, and not so well.

The first and most obvious is encounters. Lots of old school RPGs use random encounters, which are obviously listed as a probability per step (or rising probability as you take more steps in more modern games). This helps the game if done well, as it provides a sense of danger, and not knowing when to be ready for the next fight...should you heal up now, or wait a bit and risk getting into a fight before the next recovery area? Poorly used, this can be an annoyance...too high of a random encounter set makes exploring a chore, and seriously hinders any decision to explore.

The second is numerical, meaning in combat. This can be hit/evade chances, damage randomness, and the like. Two recent games I played struggled with this, one game punished you for missing, and had characters whose job was noticeably hurt by having a high miss chance when it punished what they were supposed to do. Another had enemy damage be way, way too random. An enemy could do 20, or 200 damage, and you never had any idea when to heal. Obviously randomness is nice in combat, because it adds to the danger as well. If you know an enemy can't hurt you, or only does 10 damage a turn, the battle becomes just a math formula, not an engaging combat experience.

The third is drops, which not all RPGs use, but can be used to good effect if you like. An obvious use is randomly dropped items, the 1/256 best gear in Earthbound, etc. Too random makes getting the items an exercise in frustrating grinding, while properly used random drops can make finding healing items after a fight just when you need them all the more satisfying.

What do you guys think? How do you deal with randomness in your game?
This is an interesting topic as the game I'm designing at the moment has a big role for chance. I'm making a game based on a sort-of-pen-n-paper-RPG I came up with few of my friends. In the game I threw a coin for every action and event happening. Guess wrong and things go horribly wrong, guess right and you get great rewards. This works well, because I never intended the game to be very long.

Now trying to translate this to a video game is difficult because I'm worried it's going to get frustrating fast, but at the same time I wish to keep the ruthless rules intact. Also as the game got further my own sympathy played a role as I didn't want to kill off characters with just a toss of a coin anymore seeing as people invested few hours into them. How to do this in video game format?

One way I figured to work by this, is that I give enough warnings to the player in the way of enemy patterns, enviromental tips, etc. If he/she still wants to go through, it's going to be 50-50 chances.


One bad example for this topic would be Elder Scrolls: Morrowind. I think it's close to unplayable these days without some mods because the chance of an attack actually hitting the enemy is really low. The combat gets really tedious fast.
I can think of a few places where I believe randomness fulfills a purpose:

-Enemy Setups
Pretty simple in thought. A group with of five brigands with melee weapons is simplistic, but if one also has a shield and two use bows instead, the encounter would play out differently. Maybe they can also have charge skills, fire bombs or healing potions. Just varying the types of enemies and their skills can trip up the player and require different tactics.

-Secondary Effects
Hit chances are pretty much just annoying to me. However, secondary effects make the hit/miss thing not a binary where your attack is either fully effective or does nothing at all. Having this chance mechanic in your combat will completely abolish losses because the party's attacks missed too often.

-AI
A good amount of randomness keeps your AI from being completely predictable. While there should be patterns and tendencies, some situations and enemies should have random actions to leave uncertainty.
Jeroen_Sol
Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays. A game of betrayal, where the most suspicious person is brutally murdered? How savage.
3945
Speaking of Hit Chances.

I think Fire Emblem handles randomness very well. There is no variance in damage other than critical strikes, so it is very easy to see whether or not you'll kill an enemy, allowing you to strategize. On the other hand, there is a hit chance, creating some risk-and-reward situations where attacking with a stronger but less accurate weapons will kill the enemy in one hit, but you might miss altogether. The reason why I think it works well is because every character can use a whole collection of weapons, each with varying might and accuracy, giving you a lot of control over the risk you want to take. It also plays well into the weapon triangle, where choosing the correct type of weapon will immensely increase your hit rate.

The other way Fire Emblem uses randomness is in level ups. This I'm less sure about how well it works. On one hand it makes characters different each playthrough, which was s cool. but on the other, it also makes it possible for certain vharacters to become unusable because they get screwed by the rng.
I actually forgot to mention level ups as something that is terrible to randomize. That just encourages save scumming to ensure you get the best level ups.

Please don't do this >.>
Jeroen_Sol
Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays. A game of betrayal, where the most suspicious person is brutally murdered? How savage.
3945
It's not inherently bad, though. It can lead to different characters one normally wouldn't use suddenly becoming viable, which creates replayability.

Any use of randomness encourages save scumming. The mindset 'Let me reset because my level up was bad' is the same mindset as 'let me reset because my attack missed' or 'let me reset because I didn't get a critical hit'
Except you can get through a game with a miss or not getting a critical hit, that's moment to moment randomness you get in any RPG. Level-up randomness can screw you over for the entire game. There are other ways to encourage people to use characters you normally wouldn't, such as having different story options for using them, vastly different styles, etc.
Jeroen_Sol
Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays. A game of betrayal, where the most suspicious person is brutally murdered? How savage.
3945
Well, in games with permanent death like Fire Emblem missing or not getting criticals can definitely also screw you over in the long run, but I digress.

I don't mean to say that randomized level-ups are the best way to create replayability or even a good way of using randomness. Clarity and room for planning is important in any game, and few things are more clear than knowing how your character will grow. That said, having certain characters grow into different roles on different playthroughs of a game because of randomness is not terrible. Fire Emblem does it kind of poorly because extremes like levelling each stat or no stats exist. But if a character always levels, say, 3 random stats each level, they will always become a useful character, but might be more defense-oriented in one playthrough, and more magic-oriented in another.
Solitayre
Circumstance penalty for being the bard.
18722
Chance should never be used to gate the player's progress.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7612
I agree, level ups aren't really the best place for true randomness. Fire Emblem has a sort of systematized randomness where unit classes have different growth rates for stats, so it gets a free pass from me. Plus, most FE games don't allow save scumming, meaning that you have to deal with the outcome you get unless you want to waste the time restarting the chapter over and over again. It's good for making playthroughs feel different from each other, because maybe then some characters don't gain stats as often as they did before and forces you to change your strategy.

That's really the only good thing I see about randomness: the need to improvise.

When I first started development of Prayer of the Faithless, my intent was to eliminate all randomness to every aspect of combat and allow players to plan at least three turns ahead when it comes to damage down to exactly how much damage they could give and take. Sounds nice on paper, but this meant that battles started getting static and boring, at least when I had to playtest the battles about twenty times per troop per equip loadout, so I introduced small, 5% evade rates and abilities that manipulated those rates. The way that the game was set up, each hit, even from basic attacks, would do enough damage and had just enough cost to execute that a miss could potentially force players to alter their strategy on the fly.

This is a bit of a reach, but has anyone played a Humongous Entertainment game when they were children? Pajama Sam, Spy Fox, etc? Those games used randomness to change the sequence of events to progress. Pajama Sam, for example, was essentially a game about collecting pieces of a superhero suit to confront the main bad guy. However, each time you started a new game, a set of variables were rolled, and each variable changed the location of important items, opened and closed certain areas, and even changing the appearance of characters, puzzles, and tweaking dialogue.

It's a lot of work, probably too much for an RM game that few people would care about playing more than once, but it's a real interesting touch and gives a lot of replay value.
slash
APATHY IS FOR COWARDS
4008
Well-designed randomness can definitely add a lot to a game. It's a way to make your player have to plan around any possible scenario. It doesn't have to be "Flip a coin, heads: you win, tails: you lose". You can use things like "parallel results" where there are two outcomes that are different but have an equal magnitude of effect on the game. If you know that your enemy has a 50% chance to cast Poison and a 50% chance to cast Sleep, and both are going to cause trouble for the battle, you have to be prepared to handle either.

I find things like critical chance to be a little more boring usually, but anything where the player has some way of interacting with the dice rolls - buffs that increase crit chance, or having the opportunity to re-roll a miss - those things make innate randomness more interesting, because it gives the player more to think about and gives them more credit for their successes (and failures).

I actually wrote an article about this a while back! http://rpgmaker.net/articles/874/

Jeroen_Sol
Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays. A game of betrayal, where the most suspicious person is brutally murdered? How savage.
3945
author=Red_Nova
This is a bit of a reach, but has anyone played a Humongous Entertainment game when they were children? Pajama Sam, Spy Fox, etc? Those games used randomness to change the sequence of events to progress. Pajama Sam, for example, was essentially a game about collecting pieces of a superhero suit to confront the main bad guy. However, each time you started a new game, a set of variables were rolled, and each variable changed the location of important items, opened and closed certain areas, and even changing the appearance of characters, puzzles, and tweaking dialogue.

You're right, those games did do that. I think each item would have a 50-50 chance of spawning in either location, leading to 16 different possible games. I had a real blast replaying those games back in the day. The start of a game is definitely a great time to use randomness. It can add a lot of replay value while still keeping the game completely deterministic.

author=slash
..but anything where the player has some way of interacting with the dice rolls - buffs that increase crit chance, or having the opportunity to re-roll a miss - those things make innate randomness more interesting, because it gives the player more to think about and gives them more credit for their successes (and failures).

This, I think, is where Fire Emblem shines. The weapon triangle that influences hit rate and stronger weapons having less accuracy makes it so that the player has a lot of influence over their own hit rate, as well as making weaker weapons have value even when stronger weapons are introduced.
Red_Nova
The all around prick
7612
Slash, make sure to separate the closing parentheses from your link, otherwise we'll be getting some wall-climbing paint.

Anyway, gonna read that article now.
XCOM comes to mind. It's not uncommon to have 25% or 50% chance to hit an enemy, but the game remains more strategy than chance.

Two reasons it works:
1) The player sees the exact percentage chance of their attack hitting. You know exactly what you're getting into when making decisions.
2) The player has full control over the percents. The game is about out maneuvering your enemy so you're in a position with 90% chance to hit and they're left with 5%.
As far as JRPGs are concerned, I prefer if chance mainly alters how things play out rather than whether or not something is going to be hard. For example, an enemy randomly deciding between directly attacking or buffing another enemy's attack stat is better than an enemy randomly deciding between a weak single target attack and a strong multi target attack.

When it comes to chance where one outcome is definitely better than the other, such as evasion, it works better if the game is set up so that it's multiple rolls that matters rather than single rolls in critical situations. Over a hundred attacks, if you have 30% evasion, you can expect to evade somewhat close to 30 attacks and that way conserve healing. If you get unlucky in one battle, geting lucky in another will compensate as far as resource conserving is concerned. However, in a game where characters are restored to full HP between battles, every battle will count and if you get a string of unlucky rolls in one, it will not help you at all if you get a lucky string in another. Heck, getting lucky just means you end up winning and getting fully healed, just like you'd do with normal luck.
LockeZ
I'd really like to get rid of LockeZ. His play style is way too unpredictable. He's always like this too. If he ran a country, he'd just kill and imprison people at random until crime stopped.
5363
author=Crystalgate
it works better if the game is set up so that it's multiple rolls that matters rather than single rolls in critical situations. Over a hundred attacks, if you have 30% evasion, you can expect to evade somewhat close to 30 attacks and that way conserve healing.
And yet when I make enemies that take more than 3 hits to kill, in order to actually accomplish this type of gameplay, I get people screaming at me that my battles take forever, and player/enemy HP both need to be halved to double the battle speed, and that the game is completely unplayable because battles take more than a minute each.
Jeroen_Sol
Nothing reveals Humanity so well as the games it plays. A game of betrayal, where the most suspicious person is brutally murdered? How savage.
3945
"chance, when it comes to math" is called probability theory. It's a relatively new branch of mathematics that I'm sure you can find a lot of information about on google. This thread is not about probabilit theory, though. It's about the use of RNG in video games.
you could take a random number generator
and make a bunch of customizable features on a player character!

then generate a bunch of characters!
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