Many people split the world into opposing sides such as politics, religion, and the pursuit of
justice. There is another that can have the same effect on a community and that is randomness
in games. One’s opinions can be determined by morals and code of ethics in regards to the first
three mentioned, but the mind of a person can be as fickle as the odds. Ultimately, it depends
on how fair the game itself is and the odds that determine whether it is a good design or not.
Randomness is important in game design because uncertainty creates a thrill in games that
would otherwise simple games. Slot machines are one of the most simple games out there and
it is also very profitable. Skill and strategy games are great when playing against AI but it is
unfair between two people who have an absurd difference in skill-level.
What is fair or unfair is purely subjective because not everyone adapts to changes in a similar
way. Casino games are a great point of reference because there are not a lot of games that rely
on chances. In fact, most would argue that casinos won’t be fun if their games are based on
There are two kinds of randomness used in games and those are ‘input’ and ‘output’. The
difference between the two is which part of the game is determined by the RNG (random
number generator). What makes them appealing is the potential for replayability but their
chaotic tendencies can ruin an otherwise flawless plan.
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Input randomness is when the game randomly created its contents and it is up to the player how
to navigate it. Survival and exploration games do this so the player can’t rely on their memory
each time they play. This does promise that they can replay the game over and over but it can
be unfair in some cases, especially with competitive multiplayer.
Good use of input randomness: Poker
Good use of input randomness is to make an unpredictable level for the player but it should not
be impossible to beat. The best example of this is poker. Every player on the table competes
against each other but every player’s hand is determined by the luck of the draw. While the
game is about who has the best set of cards, there is another layer that allows the unluckiest
players to win and the luckiest ones to lose.
Winning is not about who has the best cards but who takes the pot. To do that, one’s objective
should be to up the ante for as high as they can until it is time to reveal the cards in hand. Those
who do not have favorable cards would find it too risky and fold when they’re sure the
opponent is more confident. The luckiest player loses when they show too much confidence and
simply take a few chips. This is why ‘poker face’ is about having an unreadable expression. It
could also be about having a misleading reaction where a confident player acts worriedly.
Bad use of input randomness: Solitaire
A great example of bad input randomness is a game of solitaire. The cards are shuffled and
the player draws them by fours each time and must use them in order from the fourth to the
first drawn. The game is designed that it is possible to be completely unbeatable without telling
the player. Electronic solitaire on Windows 7 lets the player know if the arrangement of cards is
unwinnable once they drew the entire deck and the game reads the player’s possible moves.
Output randomness is when the game determines its conclusion. It is the part of the game
that tells the player if they win or lose by chance. This is exactly what slot games in online
casinos like casinodays are known for. The player starts the spin and presses the stop button
immediately to see the results. The only control the game gives the player is how much they are
willing to risk and how many lines they are willing to pay for.
Good use of output randomness
The chances of missing a good opportunity are what makes the game thrilling. A good strategist
would prepare a backup plan for when they completely failed the first plan. Gamblers know not
to put their entire savings in a slot machine. They know to bet an amount that is high enough to
be satisfying when successful, but low enough to be comfortable when lost.
The result of the output randomness becomes input randomness because it determines the
player’s situation for the next spin. After one spin, they either lose their betting budget, increase
it, or hit a bonus stage that changes the odds of winning.
Such a practice was used in many popular strategy games. Players move their characters like
chess pieces to find better positions relative to enemy pieces. Attacks can miss or deliver bonus
damage then the game continues where the player(s) have to work with the aftermath of the
Bad use of output randomness: Loot boxes
A bad example of output randomness is when the game asks the player to risk everything for a
chance to win something with no reassurances that they can reverse the cost. The most
controversial example for which is the ‘loot box’.
Players are asked to pay with either in-game tokens that they can earn through playing or with
real money. The reward for each box ranges between common to legendary with the chance for
the latter usually being 1% or less. Loot boxes are terrible excuses for companies. And they are
not similar with how slot games are operated.
Firstly, slot machines reward players with more money which they can use to double their
investment or play another round. Loot boxes from most video games offer no ways to play
again in hopes for another round nor do they have bonuses. What’s worse is how loot boxes are
not considered gambling by rating agencies so they appear on games for ages 3 and up.