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Luck As A Stat?

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Love it? Hate it? Got a better idea on how to do it? What do you think about a Luck Stat being used to modify combat success, skill tests, chance to find game generated gear and even the chance to find NPCs in the world? I didn't care for it's use in Morrowind because I had no appreciable idea of what it did or how much one or a few points were. But since I'm planning on procedurally generating just about everything in my own game I've started wondering about the wisdom of using Luck in a game that depends heavily on randomization. I can see very well what high luck would mean, but I wonder about low luck. High luck could affect chance gossip you hear, or let you walk through dangerous areas with no or minimal encounters. It could even affect the chance to meet special NPCs, like an entrepreneur who's looking for someone just like you. But bad luck? Weapon jamming, equipment malfunction? Not sure. It should be interesting, not annoying. Being framed for murder, or cases of mistaken identity are to me more interesting than things breaking. Even showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time (in the middle of a tense drug deal) would be better because it would make you try to play the game prepared-- maybe you never leave home without your trusty autocannon and nanosplicer for those cases when your bad luck strikes. By default Luck would be a neutral stat. Like GURPS, you'd have to pay character points to have higher than average luck, and you'd get points in other areas for being unlucky. Thoughts?

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But bad luck? Weapon jamming, equipment malfunction? Not sure. It should be interesting, not annoying. Being framed for murder, or cases of mistaken identity are to me more interesting than things breaking. Even showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time (in the middle of a tense drug deal) would be better because it would make you try to play the game prepared-- maybe you never leave home without your trusty autocannon and nanosplicer for those cases when your bad luck strikes.


I like this section. You could use luck to calculate items the character finds, your game generated gear. Take the luck score and multiply it by what the character could find and give items that equal the total worth calculated.

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I think luck is a stat no one would miss. For one thing it's a "self-serving" stat. Example: In any of the GBA Final Fantasy releases you can view a beastiary, but I don't believe any of the monsters have the Luck "stat." Luck can only ever help or hurt you, the player.

Implementing the stat properly would be far too complicated because how would you make luck influence everything and not make players wonder "Why... just why?" Example: "Well, I was lucky enough to run into the infinity plus one sword toting uber-goblin deathsquad but they were unlucky to not be carrying any of the sword at the time. I had an easier time of defeating them but in vain. Guess I'm not so lucky."

I'd say just go with pools of random drops/events/encounters (not necessarily getting sucked into an encounter on a world map but just what enemies or npcs are walking around at the time). Keep the pools separate and only in places where they would make sense in the context of whatever settings in the game you are currently traveling through.

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It could work as a resource rather than a stat: rub the space rabit paw on Klaxoon 5 and you stock up luck - it then wears off in time and when "used" avoiding harmful encounters or finding better treasure. The same, insult some deity to get enough bad luck to encounter some alien monster you hunt - suffer the side effects for a good while after.

[Edited by - Diodor on March 12, 2010 5:25:16 PM]

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Original post by Wavinator
High luck could affect chance gossip you hear, or let you walk through dangerous areas with no or minimal encounters. It could even affect the chance to meet special NPCs, like an entrepreneur who's looking for someone just like you.
But bad luck? Weapon jamming, equipment malfunction? Not sure.

Luck should come into play whenever there's anything random going on in the game. With good luck, increase the chances of the desirable outcome occurring.

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Rather than a stat I rather see luck as either a set of traits or an expendable point system. As a point system certain rare actions would reward you with a luck you could spend at any time. Spending a luck point gives you the best possible outcome in that situation. A lucky dodge allowing you survive a normally fatal injury unharmed. Finding a winning lottery ticket on the ground, etc..

Or as set of traits along “Lucky ...” You might take Lucky in Love. Lucky in life, Lucky Shot, etc.. These traits could be as simple under the hood of moving the default place on the event table up a few notches assuming you have event tables.

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Luck doesn't give the game designer or the game player control over the experience. If the game designer wants there to be an 80% chance of goblins then why not just go with 80% instead of 60% + 0.3 * Luck? In FF6 the moogle charm item makes you immune to random encounters. This gives the game player a feeling of power. He can equip it to affect his play experience. This is a lot different than putting a couple of extra points into luck during character creation.

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What if luck was more of a fluctuating thing? If events are generated for the player every so often then depending on where the player's "luck biorythm" is that entrepreneur is either going to become your best friend, worst nightmare, or somewhere in between.

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I think that luck should not be a skill you can put points towards, it just seems silly. I NEVER use the luck attribute in any RPG game because I get more out of bumping up my other attributes.

I DO think that luck should be affected by some sortof Karma, or actions that you take throughout a game.
So if you have good Karma, you are a luckier character, and vice-versa.

However this would sortof put people off wanting to play the evil role, so luck shouldn't be used to affect your other attributes, but to set of an event that is in the favour of your side of Karma.

For example, having a really good Karma would maybe randomly spawn a life giving fairy, which permanently gives you more life if you catch the fairy.

Where as having a really bad Karma or an evil character, A demon might appear, you have to fight this demon, if it defeats you, you are only knocked unconcious and the demon disappears, however if you defeat the demon, you get some kind of random special weapon to do more evil with.

Things like that I think would make luck a bit more interesting. Right now, the luck attribute in games just seems like a random context sensitive stats booster.

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I don't much like having luck as a stat. I hated it in Morrowind (and all Fallout games) for the same reasons as stated above - it's unclear how much it affects the game, and it takes away valuable points that could be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps more importantly, luck is not a constant - you can have bad luck one day, good luck on another occasion, but having "constantly good luck" is a bit far-fetched. I can see how you could improve your charisma, strength, dexterity, wisdom, or even intelligence through hard training, but luck?

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This is a must read if you're looking for a very in-depth, detailed analysis about randomness and luck in game design.

Cheers
Dark Sylinc

PS: Yeah I found out how to increase the size but apparently the size number is ignored, I didn't want to be the words to be THAT big. At least you won't miss it, which was my point
Edit: Fixed

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I hate luck in games its just bad, just... just wrong, pcs cant do randomness so why add artificial randomness that they player can only control in a superficial manner.

Albeit maybe if you told them when their luck played a part in actions it could be interesting. Luck is kind of a fundamental of adventuring, most of the time its the only thing that keeps them alive. I'd hate to have to min max a stat and decide whether I should put one point into it or not without really knowing what I will get or how much of an effect that one point will have.

Perhaps have it another way, you set up the amount of luck you want your hero to have at the beginning of the game. Three levels of luck, the highest level you have to sacrifice quite a bit of stats so you are almost totally reliant on it but it makes for a more interesting story(people come to save you, strange fortuitous events etc)even when your playing badly. The lowest level your more reliant on yourself but you have better abilities to compensate.

You could look at it as difficulty levels. High luck makes the game easier, the luck doesnt work unpredictably, there is definite places and whens that it will work in or against your favour.

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Original post by Calabi
Albeit maybe if you told them when their luck played a part in actions it could be interesting. Luck is kind of a fundamental of adventuring, most of the time its the only thing that keeps them alive. I'd hate to have to min max a stat and decide whether I should put one point into it or not without really knowing what I will get or how much of an effect that one point will have.
"Have" to min max a stat?

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Perhaps have it another way, you set up the amount of luck you want your hero to have at the beginning of the game. Three levels of luck, the highest level you have to sacrifice quite a bit of stats so you are almost totally reliant on it but it makes for a more interesting story(people come to save you, strange fortuitous events etc)even when your playing badly. The lowest level your more reliant on yourself but you have better abilities to compensate.

You could look at it as difficulty levels. High luck makes the game easier, the luck doesnt work unpredictably, there is definite places and whens that it will work in or against your favour.
If "luck" is a way to avoid bad things, then a highly skilled character might have ways and shortcuts to tackle a problem that a lucky character simply cannot succeed at. You don't play a violin well by luck, not even a fraction of a second. On the other hand the player of a nonlucky character must play more conservatively, stock more ammo, drink health potions early and waste some of their effect, forgo some loot that he could get if everything goes well, etc. - because something might go wrong. It's a different style of play that requires a more paranoid and/or patient player. The lucky player might need to use deeper strategy to compensate for not having any special skill, but is also able to do this since deep strategy requires predictability. Whether there is a difference in difficulty is optional. It might well be more difficult to play the unskilled lucky guy.

I recall the Fallout speed run was accomplished with a super lucky player character BTW.

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Original post by Dragonsoulj
You could use luck to calculate items the character finds, your game generated gear. Take the luck score and multiply it by what the character could find and give items that equal the total worth calculated.


Nice. A natural result of this idea that I really like would be that you'd finally have some control over item drops, which would liven up searching a bit.

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Original post by Glass2099
I think luck is a stat no one would miss. For one thing it's a "self-serving" stat. Example: In any of the GBA Final Fantasy releases you can view a beastiary, but I don't believe any of the monsters have the Luck "stat." Luck can only ever help or hurt you, the player.


But couldn't you use it in opposition, both stats taken together? It would be like using stealth vs. detection or perception, strength vs strngth (as in grappling with another) or intelligence vs. intelligence (guard's int vs. your int to pull off a ruse).

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Original post by Diodor
It could work as a resource rather than a stat: rub the space rabit paw on Klaxoon 5 and you stock up luck - it then wears off in time and when "used" avoiding harmful encounters or finding better treasure. The same, insult some deity to get enough bad luck to encounter some alien monster you hunt - suffer the side effects for a good while after.


Haha. That'd be unusual, which is good. But it then places the onus on the player to have activated luck before encounters. In some cases they'll be screwed because they didn't activate it before something major, and in others it'll be like some rote ritual before they open any chest, which while maybe realistic is a bit awkward. Worse yet I think they'll feel compelled to do it all the time, which reminds me of running through a level compulsively pushing the same button looking for secret areas (Doom, Wolfenstein).

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Original post by TechnoGoth
Rather than a stat I rather see luck as either a set of traits or an expendable point system.


I don't know that making it a resource fits with what I have in mind (I can't see adding it in a 'science fictional' way that doesn't draw attention to your character sheet) but I really like the idea of luck falling into given categories.
If I do use it it would be interesting to specify your luck categories, though this might work better with a skill system, where skill magnifies the luck category.

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Original post by Glak
Luck doesn't give the game designer or the game player control over the experience. If the game designer wants there to be an 80% chance of goblins then why not just go with 80% instead of 60% + 0.3 * Luck?


This is a good point but I think it mainly applies to linear games. More open-ended sandbox would benefit because you'd be expected to play through more than once.

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Original post by kseh
What if luck was more of a fluctuating thing? If events are generated for the player every so often then depending on where the player's "luck biorythm" is that entrepreneur is either going to become your best friend, worst nightmare, or somewhere in between.


Hmmm... wouldn't this mean that if you wanted less variation you'd want less luck? Because wouldn't the pool of luck fluctuate to more pronounced extremes the more you have?

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Original post by otreum
Right now, the luck attribute in games just seems like a random context sensitive stats booster.


Thinking about this more it might be better to constrain luck to encounter content and keep skills and other stats for actual task resolution. So maybe a very unlucky character doesn't miss often if highly trained in aiming, but has the misfortune of coming across stronger opponents or more ambushes.

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Original post by lightbringer
I can see how you could improve your charisma, strength, dexterity, wisdom, or even intelligence through hard training, but luck?


I don't think it's ever a good idea to read too much into stat improvement in RPGs versus reality. Else you get the weird little dissonances of things like skill points which allow you to improve your pottery making because you killed a ton of ogres or your intelligence every other level just because you brought back the holy handkerchief to the princess. XP, skill improvement, stat improvement, etc. make no sense and encourage game design for the sake of reality (skill decay, grinding a single skill ad naseum, etc.).

At a point you have to ask if it fits as a game mechanic, especially if immersion is to take a back seat to options and choices.

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Original post by Matias Goldberg
This is a must read if you're looking for a very in-depth, detailed analysis about randomness and luck in game design.


Thanks. I found that write up awhile ago and found the discussion of regression toward the mean to be very important, as it will determine the majority of experiences a player will have.

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Original post by Calabi
I hate luck in games its just bad, just... just wrong, pcs cant do randomness so why add artificial randomness that they player can only control in a superficial manner.


I don't understand. What specifically would make it superficial?

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Albeit maybe if you told them when their luck played a part in actions it could be interesting.


Hey yeah, a sound or little unobtrusive icon might work.

Quote:

You could look at it as difficulty levels. High luck makes the game easier, the luck doesnt work unpredictably, there is definite places and whens that it will work in or against your favour.


I really want to avoid this kind of thinking. It's sort of like playing a party base RPG with one character, just to challenge yourself. I don't see luck so much as handicapping, but as providing different experiences or tweaks to circumstance. As I said in the OP, it needs to be playable rather than annoying (as gun jamming likely would be, for example).

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Original post by Stroppy Katamari
If "luck" is a way to avoid bad things, then a highly skilled character might have ways and shortcuts to tackle a problem that a lucky character simply cannot succeed at. You don't play a violin well by luck, not even a fraction of a second.


Agreed. High luck and low skill should find you getting opportunities to bypass skill tests or find someone who can help. An example would be finding a security door unlocked with high luck, and maybe unlocked with three guards on the other side with low luck. Neither situation would prevent you from deploying skills.

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On the other hand the player of a nonlucky character must play more conservatively, stock more ammo, drink health potions early and waste some of their effect, forgo some loot that he could get if everything goes well, etc. - because something might go wrong.


I like this reasoning. A low luck low skill character is going to need to have deeper reserves. In pure combat terms it could be the difference between having to trade off health / ammo for lots of inventory space for loot versus the lucky character who finds items based on what he needs. So a high luck character that gets a specific status effect like poison is more likely to find antidote than a low luck character.

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I generally don't like luck stats in games, for a few reasons:

1. Often, it's completely opaque as to what benefit the luck stat actually brings. Most of the time this is left deliberately vague in the manual but even when hints are given it's usually unhelpful. What's the point in spending precious stat points on a stat that may not be having a useful effect?

2. For other stats (like strength) it's always beneficial to have a higher stat, but not so for luck. Sometimes I want my character to have bad luck - being ambushed while doing a drug deal or being framed for murder is interesting. In contrast, having the good luck to randomly find that key you need lying on the ground rather than having to pickpocket it from your target is bland and uninteresting.

You might argue that this means I should just play with a zero luck stat, but this tends to have the unfortunate effect of introducing all the tedious bad luck (weapons constantly jamming, bad item pick ups, low ammo drops, etc.). These are not interesting luck effects, and instead just make the game harder - and we've already got a separate setting to control game difficulty.

The best way to resolve this would be a fallout-3 style 'perks' system, where you could take specific luck options. Things like 'more likely to find interesting items in crates' or 'enemies guns more likely to jam'. This has the nice side effect of making luck more tangible (and therefore seem more useful).

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@ Wavinator

What I meant by that is luck is like giving the player control yet not giving him control. Its the illusion of control.

I'm playing somes games at the moment where you have a luck stat. Digital Devil Saga\Nocturne. You have the luck stat but you have no idea what it does, even the forums, no one except the Developer knows exactly what it does and how it effects things.

These games are pretty hard compared to the majority of RPGs and you really have to be astute with how you place your limited stats. Ignoring the fact its really hard to make informed decision in RPGs anyway. How do you decide on something that you have no information and no feedback from. Whats the difference between one additional point or one less. How much is too much, how much is too little.

There really isnt a way of deciding.

As it goes I'm just going to have to use the other characters as frames of references. Say a bit less than one character and a bit more than another. I dont know why its what you do. The other game I'm just going to put as much as possible, because they like to randomnly kill or severly debilite you at any point and as often as possible, but then I dont even know if it will help.

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Original post by Wavinator

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Original post by Diodor
It could work as a resource rather than a stat: rub the space rabit paw on Klaxoon 5 and you stock up luck - it then wears off in time and when "used" avoiding harmful encounters or finding better treasure. The same, insult some deity to get enough bad luck to encounter some alien monster you hunt - suffer the side effects for a good while after.


Haha. That'd be unusual, which is good. But it then places the onus on the player to have activated luck before encounters. In some cases they'll be screwed because they didn't activate it before something major, and in others it'll be like some rote ritual before they open any chest, which while maybe realistic is a bit awkward. Worse yet I think they'll feel compelled to do it all the time, which reminds me of running through a level compulsively pushing the same button looking for secret areas (Doom, Wolfenstein).


Resource inflation is a problem but easy to solve in any number of ways e.g. by restricting spawn locations, times.

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If you want luck to be interesting, you need to give the lucky/unlucky characters distinctive personalities. Playing these builds should have unique challenges compared to other builds.

A good archetype to use for luck would be the action hero of movies: Constantly outnumbered 100 to 1 in shootouts, jumping off exploding buildings into helicopters, deactivating explosives as the timer blinks 1. In more gameplay oriented terms, I'd say the bonuses luck gives you should scale with the audacity of the situation. 2 enemies will attack normally, 50 suddenly become inept. To make it interesting I'd also suggest luck bonuses that decrease with time: The warrior archetype should be the one wading through seas of opponents, killing them all one by one. The lucky character should be constantly extricating themselves from impossible to win situations.

By extension, the unlucky character needs to play at a plodding pace: A coin will come up against them 2 times out of 3, so they need to also have a probabilistic advantage in all encounters. An unlucky build could play regularly in 1 on 1 encounters, but be doomed when outnumbered. To mirror the lucky character, they'd lose these penalties as an event plays out: The lucky character swings through a window to rescue the princess and fights his way out the front door. The unlucky character lays siege to the fortress using their other advantages to make up for their poor luck.

In a procedurally generated game you can change the flavor of events to match the personality as well: lucky characters should be pushed towards the audacious, unlucky characters should be kept away from no-win scenarios. This can either be explicit, or you can give both characters access to both sorts of storylines, and expect the player to identify the appropriate quest for their character.

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Another thought, along the lines of Han Solo's "Never tell me the odds":

Luck could only apply to facts not known ahead of time. If an unlucky character swings into the maiden's window to rescue her, he'll find she isn't in right now. If he instead first climbed a nearby hill and peered into her window with his telescope, he'd find her there. A lucky character would experience the opposite. Thus an unlucky character who gathers intelligence, sends scouting parties ahead and otherwise operates with good knowledge can use this foresight to 1)avoid some unluckiness penalties and 2) develop appropriate strategies for dealing with the challenges.

A lucky character, to contrast, would maximize their bonuses by always operating under the minimum information available. This prevents them from ever being able to explicitly prepare for a quest, but they'll generally find that whatever equipment they brought was the right things to bring, and the challenges lack of preparation do cause are balanced by the general good luck.

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I personally hate luck in games (generally, not just as a stat) which means I ignore this stat when it occurs in RPGs...

If you're trying to optimize your character, it's quite easy: If the estimated increase in "value" by improving the luck attribute is larger than the corresponding increase in value by the second best alternative stat, improve luck, otherwise improve the second best stat. The problem usually comes from the fact the game actually won't tell you what the "luck" does and how the probability distribution looks. That makes it a black box and useless unless you like playing lottery where you aren't even assured that the arrangers have to put a certain part of the revenue into winnings.

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