Revisiting Randomization

Back in 2009 I wrote a short piece about how I like Randomization in my games (pen and paper, digital and otherwise!) and once again in 2017 when Gevlon was discussing how he disliked Randomization . In that one I linked back to the first one, and in this one I did it to both. I’ll likely link all three, if not more of posts where I espouse what I like about randomization – I seem to have a lot of them.

I’ve been playing a couple mobile game regularly, and both have random elements (or so I thought) It turns out one does, but one does not – but the second tries to maintain the illusion of randomization. I think that is the absolute dirtiest trick in the book (faking randomization) – especially when it is tied to monetization. Thankfully, this example is not, but still, unsure why they played it out that way.

In you play a roguelite-ish style where you kill enemies, get random upgrades, and have several paths to upgrade your base character in between rounds. It’s a fun little 10-15 minute bite sized jaunts and progression is clear, easy, and doable largely in a free to play manner. During the game, if you kill a boss and or mini-boss it spawns a chest and those chests give you upgrades to the gear you are wearing – but it is based on luck if you get one upgrade, three, or five. Obviously, getting 5 upgrades in a single chest is huge and really moves you forward.

Backing up a step – there are 5 upgrades for each weapon or item until it turns into a “super” item, which is a bigger step up in quality from first 5 linear steps. This last upgrade is available on the chests. So, you grab a chest, it shows 20 or so available upgrades, and the glowing square (s) (1, 3 or 5) cycle around the 20 speeding up, then slowing down, and stopping on whatever “luck” you had. The thing is, if you have a “super” upgrade, it always lands on it, no matter what. At first I thought it was just luck – but after a couple hundred rounds and having it hit 100% of the time – those are impossible odds for true randomization.

So, what gives? Why not just give it to you automatically? I don’t understand the theatre of it. It’s not tied to monetization, and it completely destroyed any illusion of randomization at all in the game. If it always hits, what else always hits and is hidden behind the guise of “good luck”?

I’ve stopped playing since I sorted it out. I can’t reconcile why they programmed it that way and having it predisposition to do what it is going to do ruins the fun for me.

Marvel Snap is the other, card based game I am playing at it also is a great game. While I’ll leave most of it to a larger, follow up post the rate of which you get new cards is standard with levelling, however which card you get is left up to chance. This forces you to build different decks and try different things, but at first I wasn’t sure if it was a set release of specific cards or just the same drip-fed deck build everyone else is going through. I had to google it, and apparently it is truly random. I hope that is the case.

I argued in the past (And still argue now) that if there are random elements in a game the game should be upfront and honest about it – especially around loot boxes and monetization. Because, when / if the curtain is pulled back and the Wizard of Oz is just a middle aged programmer pulling fake levers and pressing buttons under the guise of “good luck, bad luck”, the illusion of fair chance is ruined and the games are worse off for it.

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