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danuese

Luck as a Gameplay Factor

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How does luck affect a game? How is luck even part of your average videogame? What purpose does it serve?

Very poor uses of luck, most prominent in older games, levels that could only be solved if you were lucky.

minesweeper.jpg

It should be very obvious to every game designer to avoid this. Always. Forever. There is no way anyone should ever use it. Period.
So when should luck be a part of the gameplay? There are different ways to employ it correctly:

The Average Approach
An example for this is Diablo, DnD, really almost every Action RPG out there, often strategy games too; as they all randomize weapon damage. Why is this acceptable? Simply because you use your weapon so often that it averages because of the sheer number of rolls.
It also makes the player think, do I want to do 2-7 damage per hit, or rather 1-8?
As I mentioned above, it's not something you actually need to consider, as it averages out really fast, but it makes the player think, and having the player strategizing and thinking about things in-game hooks him to the game on an intellectual and (hopefully) emotional level. Since you had to think about it, you already invested yourself into the game.

This is a way to acceptably use LUCK in your game. This only works if you 'roll' often. Otherwise a single roll can make the difference that makes it frustrating to the player:

[indent=3]Imagine finally getting the atom bomb in an RTS, after being almost overrun since you had to invest all your ressources into this, and then *Poof* nothing happens. Why? The superweapon does 200-9999 damage, and you just happened to roll low. Because of luck, you lost the game.


The other classic example is Critical Hits. These have usually a 5% or lower chance of occuring and are therefore very heavily luck based. Of course it can then be used to give the player a chance to increase his critical hit chance.

The alternative route
This is something that I have hardly seen in games. It basically says that luck depends on the outcome of the mission, but you don't FAIL. It means that the story goes in a different direction, or that you get different missions. This could be used for interesting effect, but it can frustrate the player, since he might not be able to see the story go in a different way when he replays the game.
A possibility to avoid this would be to program the game to automatically have it work out the other way when you replay the game. Say the game notes if you finished with version A, so the next time you will always get B.

To repeat my questions from the beginning: What purpose does luck serve in your games? Is it a part of your game at all? Should it be?

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Luck should not be part of the game if you want competitive players.
But if you want players who just play for the fun of it and aren't that hardcore then add as much randomness as you want.

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Random number generation is very important in video games. You seem to only talk about Random numbers that you, the player, can see on screen but they are used for many other things.

For instance, AI random numbers will make an AI choose between left or right instead of always choosing the fastest route to a destination.

Also, if the designer decided to make the bomb do 200-9999 dammage and the avarage health of a structure is 8000 he did somethign wrong and its not because of its random factor, its because of balance of random numbers.

Plus, for a bomb, you could spread the random numbers. What I mean is when the bomb explodes the dammage is rolled for every units in the blast radius. this creates a better sense of chaos created by the bomb instead of total anhilation or zero anhilation, you will have a base where some buildings are left intact and others are not.


The other important factor in luck: Its fun to be lucky. if you play a game and score a critical hit your immediate reaction is YEAH!!! and game designers have to take that into account. When you design a game its for it to be fun not to be a model of balance to be used in a game algorithm class.

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Luck should not be part of the game if you want competitive players.
But if you want players who just play for the fun of it and aren't that hardcore then add as much randomness as you want.


I disagree. Knowing that there is a random factor in competitive play is a nice way to put players in high risk high rewards situations. The player has to tell himself : Okay i have 50% chance of this happening no matter what, is this worth the risk?

This is the kind of choice you want players to make in competitive play.

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Random number generation is very important in video games. You seem to only talk about Random numbers that you, the player, can see on screen but they are used for many other things.

For instance, AI random numbers will make an AI choose between left or right instead of always choosing the fastest route to a destination.

Also, if the designer decided to make the bomb do 200-9999 dammage and the avarage health of a structure is 8000 he did somethign wrong and its not because of its random factor, its because of balance of random numbers.

Plus, for a bomb, you could spread the random numbers. What I mean is when the bomb explodes the dammage is rolled for every units in the blast radius. this creates a better sense of chaos created by the bomb instead of total anhilation or zero anhilation, you will have a base where some buildings are left intact and others are not.


The other important factor in luck: Its fun to be lucky. if you play a game and score a critical hit your immediate reaction is YEAH!!! and game designers have to take that into account. When you design a game its for it to be fun not to be a model of balance to be used in a game algorithm class.


Since we are talking about the creative side and not the technical side, I didn't take in account things like AI programming. Of course we're not just talking about visible numbers, we're talking about situations where the player can clearly say: I did the same thing and it worked out differently.

The Bomb balancing was an extreme example, since those are the easiest to understand. But if you roll for affected unit and structure seperatly, then yes, it works out again, which is exactly what I mentioned earlier: Averaging through a high number of rolls. It was an example to illustrate how luck negatively affects the game experience.

And of course you're right about something I forgot to mention: Being Lucky is fun. It's the appeal of gambling. Definitely something a game designer needs to consider. You could even take advantage of this: A possibility would be to increase critical hit chances when your health is low. (of course without the player knowing)



I disagree. Knowing that there is a random factor in competitive play is a nice way to put players in high risk high rewards situations. The player has to tell himself : Okay i have 50% chance of this happening no matter what, is this worth the risk?

This is the kind of choice you want players to make in competitive play.


While I can see your point I have to disagree: Luck in competitive play reduces the influence of the player's skill. High-Risk-High-Reward situations should arise without luck involved.
An example could be in a 2vs2 RTS game, when your enemies attack your allied base you could, instead of helping your ally, attack the now undefended enemy bases. You risk having your own base wiped out by the enemy's combined force, but it's also possible that you completely destroy their base and their support, so you can defeat both armies that were weakened by your ally. This is a high-risk-high-reward situation that arises without the influence of luck, and that gets resolved by skill alone, which is exactly what you should look for in competitive play.

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Luck serves to level playing field for kids and adults. So, if you are making a casual family multiplayer game where kids and parents are supposed to play together luck is a must (that's why kids love all sort of luck games, they can beat adults in these).

The second major purpose of luck is replayability, althrough you can substitute it with other mechanics (but not always and not as perfectly).

Note that the most hardcore games rely heaviliy on luck (all roguelikes, dwarf fortress), which is kind of a paradox since on general hardcore players tend to loathe luck.

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What might be interesting would be implementing some sort of a karma + randomness system, so that your actions and situation can make you more lucky than another player, getting you more critical hits and dodging more bullets.

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The Bomb balancing was an extreme example, since those are the easiest to understand. But if you roll for affected unit and structure seperatly, then yes, it works out again, which is exactly what I mentioned earlier: Averaging through a high number of rolls. It was an example to illustrate how luck negatively affects the game experience.


My point is that the randomness of the dammage will create an uneven and chaotic result in the area of effect. if the dammage is consistent you will either blow a round hole in the enemy base or just destroy nothing. with randomness into account, you will creat a zone of chaos wich is one of the effect that tyou might want the bomb to have.

Also, on a smaller scale you rely less on certitude. For example if i have a squad of 5 troops and the enmy has a squad of 8 troops I might decide to risk it if they have dammage that is random.



While I can see your point I have to disagree: Luck in competitive play reduces the influence of the player's skill. High-Risk-High-Reward situations should arise without luck involved.
An example could be in a 2vs2 RTS game, when your enemies attack your allied base you could, instead of helping your ally, attack the now undefended enemy bases. You risk having your own base wiped out by the enemy's combined force, but it's also possible that you completely destroy their base and their support, so you can defeat both armies that were weakened by your ally. This is a high-risk-high-reward situation that arises without the influence of luck, and that gets resolved by skill alone, which is exactly what you should look for in competitive play.


If you want a good example of where randomness is applicable in competitive play you should look at MOBA games like League of Legends. In these games, certain champions are particuliary good at benifiting from crit chance so if at the begining of the game they have 10% crit chance, they might decide to use their abilities that proc crits on champions instead of on creeps.

the best example is a champion named Gangplank.

this champion has an ability where he shoots a bullet at the target and this bullet has a chance to crit. if it crits it does massive dammage but if it doesnt you just wasted 50 mana because the dammage is rather low. on the other hand the same ability grants bonus gold if you use it to kill minions so you can wait for them to be very low health and use it on them to have consistent bonus gold. Here, luck is a major factor in how you play the champion. if you are lucky you can harass the enemy out of the farming zone but if you dont risk it you can decide to use it on creeps to get bonus gold.

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First, before I comment specific to things already said, I wanted to mention a few of my thoughts towards Luck as a concept of game design:

The first thing I wanted to mention is that Luck isn't a bad thing when it comes to games. There are bad applications of Luck, and good applications of Luck (I'll be talking about this later).

Luck is randomness, but it doesn't always make things completely 'random'. In fact, an element of luck can be used to smooth sharp edges in diagrammatic representations of elements like damage. A classic example of this would be Diablo's use of luck when it comes to weapon damage. It has a lower range and an upper range, and the damage is calculated somewhere between then. By sheer probability, there would be an average damage that represents how much damage the weapon actually deals, yet when you look at a graph representing the weapons damage, it becomes a line or a curve rather than an individual point. Now, this is particularly useful in a game like Diablo because it blurs the lines of balance between that weapon and others (to some extent). When a player picks a weapon up and compares it to his current weapon, he doesn't automatically see which weapon is better (based purely on damage. I'm ignoring other things like ethereal-ness or ability upgrades). Sometimes, when the weapon is really inferior, the difference is obvious and the weapon is discarded. But like danuese said, the player has a choice of 1-8 or 2-7. In reality the choice might not make much of a difference, but it presents the player with an interesting choice. A choice that is completely balanced no matter which side is picked, and yet in a small way impacts the players future performance. And in an RPG of course, providing a player with as much choice as possible while staying on the path of the story is a goal.

Another good application of Luck in single-player (and sometimes multi-player) games is positive reinforcement of a player characters abilities. A classic example of this would be critical striking in games. Games nowadays have linked critical strikes to visually obvious cues like your player beheading an enemy (Skyrim / Dragon Age) or them simply blowing up (Fallout 3). They give the developers ways to provide the players with increasingly satisfying kills. These kills reinforce the image of the player being an unstoppable killing machine, or a sneaky backstabber, or whatever else they want to feel like. Even though they're quite random, its randomness isn't recognized by the average player.

A last good application of Luck brings me back to RPGs and the realm of loot collection. Random epic loot drops might seem disappointing or frustrating from a game developer's point of view (And sometimes from a players view -> WoW), but a lot of RPGs successfully implement random drops quite well. Well enough, in fact, that exploring new dungeons, killing new monsters and opening chests of loot are like presents, waiting to be unwrapped by an eager player.

Specific to the last two points I've made, I think the best way to implement those kinds of luck would be to establish a base level, before using luck to sometimes give the player a positive push. For example, while roaming in Diablo or Diablo 2, you expect moderate / average loot, a few blue (magical) items here and there. When you find a gold item (unique) or a green item (part of a set) you feel elated, glad that you were lucky enough to find such awesome loot. Likewise, in Skyrim, combat is pretty regular most of the time, which makes those critical hits all the more satisfying when they get pulled off. The baseline is important. I earlier mentioned how players could be disappointed by loot dropping in a game like WoW. A classic example would be a WoW raid. You raid a certain dungeon to get certain loot that's dropped by a specific boss or creature. When a player enters a raid, in their minds they have a 100% chance of obtaining said loot. However, when a random % chance stops that from happening (like a dice roll from a player in your party), the player suddenly feels that they have wasted their time.

That's all I can really think about right now, I hope that you found it interesting.

Commenting:

This only works if you 'roll' often.

Otherwise a single roll can make the difference that makes it frustrating to the player[/quote]



I agree with this for the most part.



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

snapback.pngglhf, on 08 April 2012 - 05:25 AM, said:[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

Luck should not be part of the game if you want competitive players.
But if you want players who just play for the fun of it and aren't that hardcore then add as much randomness as you want.[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

I disagree. Knowing that there is a random factor in competitive play is a nice way to put players in high risk high rewards situations. The player has to tell himself : Okay i have 50% chance of this happening no matter what, is this worth the risk?[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

This is the kind of choice you want players to make in competitive play. [/quote][/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

I personally think that luck undermines competitive play for the most part. It takes a certain amount of power away from a player's skill level and makes it random instead.[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

While Risk is an important aspect of competitive play, it's important to remember that the real Risk you want players to interact with is the Risk of competing against each other. A player needs to gauge the decisions and actions of other players, friends and foes, and calculate his own actions.[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

Also, if the designer decided to make the bomb do 200-9999 dammage and the avarage health of a structure is 8000 he did somethign wrong and its not because of its random factor, its because of balance of random numbers.[/quote][/font]




I agree with this. Random numbers can be balanced, and they should be.


[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

And of course you're right about something I forgot to mention: Being Lucky [/font]


is

[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

fun. It's the appeal of gambling. Definitely something a game designer needs to consider. You could even take advantage of this: A possibility would be to increase critical hit chances when your health is low. (of course without the player knowing)[/quote][/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

I agree with this. It's part of what I mentioned earlier. Establish a base line that the player is satisfied with, and then let him win big from time to time. Negative impacts of gambling might negatively impact the players experience.[/font]





[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

Luck serves to level playing field for kids and adults. So, if you are making a casual family multiplayer game where kids and parents are supposed to play together luck is a must (that's why kids love all sort of luck games, they can beat adults in these).[/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

The second major purpose of luck is replayability, althrough you can substitute it with other mechanics (but not always and not as perfectly).[/quote][/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

I completely disagree with this. [/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

1) I don't think you should ever have so much luck in a game that it makes vastly different levels of skill comparable. That much luck simply degrades the game down to throwing dice. An important part of every game (to me at least), is to give the player a circumstance, a set of rules and possibilities and to let them decide the course of action. If their decisions have little impact on the outcome, then it isn't a game, it's a movie.[/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

2) I also don't think that a game should be called 'replayable' simply because of lucky possibilities arising. Again, it takes away from the amount of control a player has on the outcomes that are created.[/font]





[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

[/font]



[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

If you want a good example of where randomness is applicable in competitive play you should look at MOBA games like League of Legends. In these games, certain champions are particuliary good at benifiting from crit chance so if at the begining of the game they have 10% crit chance, they might decide to use their abilities that proc crits on champions instead of on creeps. [/quote][/font]




[color=#282828][font=helvetica, arial, verdana, tahoma, sans-serif]

Actually, competitive MOBA games like League of Legends are removing certain random elements from their games (like the recent removal of dodge chance). I play League of Legends myself quite a bit, and I can safely say that most tactics using crit chance usually involve having enough crit to almost ALWAYS crit, thus increasing the entire baseline average to the point where you simply do more average damage.[/font]

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You know SuperSmash Bros? The items are dropped random and some other items have a random chance to do some "random" effect.(Pokeball, explosive Capsules/Barrels, ...) and even the character Mr. Game and Watch got a skill, which depends on luck only(The hammer attack: you roll a number between 1-9 where 9 is the maximum damage and 1 the least). An other example is tennis in Wii Sports. You have the chance to make an epic, non block able super serve.
Does ist make the games boring or destroy the PvP? Nope, it is one of the strengths of the games.

In my opinion luck is a must-have in games that you play together with some friends, family or other people you know.
They play mainly for fun and not to see who is the best(well, of course their can be some kind of rivalry between them).

However, in high competive games that you play with strangers, you play to test your skill. Luck could totally destroy the balance
of the game.

So should ask yourself for your targeted audience. Are they casuals who want to have some fun?
Or are they hardcore gamer who want to compete against other players?

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