Video games come in many forms. Some are linear in the way they play out and others offer free roaming in vast worlds or cities. Many of the original and classic arcade games had set patterns. This allowed players to learn sequences and thus build up huge scores and complete all the levels. Procedurally generated games are not all new, but randomization is more common in games now.
While there certainly are games that feature set patterns and objects placed in the same locations, there are many examples of games that use randomizers to keep the gameplay fresh and exciting.
What is a random number generator?
An RNG is a way to produce numbers that could not be predicted. They might be used in a game to emulate the roll of a dice for example. Since the dice will be represented graphically on screen and is not a physical object the result needs to be created by the software. In this instance, the RNG or random number generator would be programmed to pick a number between 1 and 6 to represent the six sides of a standard dice.
Are they bad?
Many gamers dislike RNGs because they can undermine skills that have been improved through play. A lot of gamers play in a competitive fashion and random events can cause frustration by turning the tables unexpectedly.
In their defense, though they can extend the life of a game by making each restart feel fresh. Objects will be placed randomly making it harder to predict where the good stuff will be found.
What are list randomizers?
These are different from RNGs because they literally shuffle lists into a random order. There are many real-life purposes for these including shuffling a playlist or randomizing data from a spreadsheet. You can use an online randomizer for any similar task you may have.
List randomizers are generally considered better than pseudo-random number generators. In the game’s world, they could be used also to select the order of the soundtrack or they might shuffle conversation options for AI characters.
Role-playing games are a big user of random number generators. They may be used to place objects, spells, and weapons. They are used in the battle sequences to emulate dice rolls. Final Fantasy is a good example of this. And, in some instances, other types of randomizers are used to generate whole worlds.
Spelunky is one game that creates a procedurally generated map from randomization for every new game. This means that there is no set route to take and the game can keep players addicted for a long time.
Loot boxes and chests
Many games contain loot boxes, crates, or chests that when opened bestow a power or an item onto a player. These are often set by random. In free to play, indie game Reventure all the chests contain the same item and are placed in the same spot every game. In World War Heroes for instance the chests are used differently. You are awarded different chests for different game outcomes and when opened it will reveal one of several items. These random outcomes are different in that they are weighted towards lower value items thus making some other items rarer.
How random is random?
There are disagreements over how much of a game is actually random. A computer can’t actually generate random numbers so it is really pseudo-randomness. This isn’t particularly a problem in general play but there are some downsides to randomizers.
Rewards can be weighted
As mentioned above the loot boxes might not be exactly random. Games developers want you to enjoy their product for a long time. If there are high-powered weapons and magic cards discovered early on then the game will become easy and the lifespan of it will drop.
For example, there may be ten possibilities of what you can find in a silver chest. That should mean you have a ten percent chance of getting the best item but the randomizer can be set to give you only a 1% chance or less, keeping that lucrative weapon out of your reach for longer. It is this weighting that is giving loot boxes a bad name.
They can be manipulated
This is one of the reasons competitive players do not like randomizers. They are not foolproof and there are ways to play with them to give an edge to a player.
So, number and list randomizers are used extensively in games and are here to stay. Whether they are a good thing or bad depends on the player’s outlook and the style of games they play. Spelunky fans wouldn’t change it but competitive players are very likely to want the game to come down to skill and not luck.
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