It’s a bold headline. Many of you are probably thinking “Whaaat?” I am of course referring to the Random Number Generator that forms the basis of many loot drop based games. Destiny and Dragonball XenoVerse are the 2 games that come to mind, that I’ve played recently, which have this built into their entire game design. Before I go into specifics perhaps I should explain further.
The RNG or Random Number Generator is often referred to as “RNGesus” by players as in many games it has taken on an almost mystical ,or deity like, status. If RNGesus favours you, you get great drops that you want but if not, the opposite is also true. We seek to anthropomorphise the process because that’s what humans do, we want to make stuff relatable to us and understandable in some way.
I feel on a philosophical level that humans don’t like anything that’s truly random. RNG when done poorly doesn’t feel like a reward, it feels arbitrary and almost like torture or punishment. Playing the same Parallel Quest mission in DB: XenoVerse over and over, fulfilling the mission specific requirements to unlock the Kaioken Transformation but not getting it because some RNG didn’t spit out the right number feels like bullshit! It really does.
Destiny has the same thing baked in, where when killing enemies you can get a random item or engram drop, (the engram adding another layer of RNG because it could turn into 1 of several things when you take it to the Cryptark to be turned into an item), which for the most part proves useful in some way, even if you simply are dismantling the item to get materials you will later use on something better. However, when you complete the 6 player Raid which is a fairly large undertaking and the only things you get, from your 1 drop this week, is an armour shader and a ship (i.e. Cosmetic Items) that you’ve already got… Man, is that frustrating, especially when someone else got the thing you wanted! For the 4th time.
So what can be done? It’s really simple for me, learn when to use RNG and when not too. Killing enemies and getting random stuff is pretty cool and the odd time it’s actually something good is even better. That’s a good use of RNG. Don’t set players a hard challenge and then not give them the reward they seek, it gets demoralising and will ultimately lead to them putting down your game and moving on. Set the challenge, if you want the Kaioken Transformation then you need to complete the level in 3 minutes with 80% of your health remaining. You want that cool Sniper from the raid then get 25 Precision Kills in 5 minutes on Hobgoblins at the Templar area.
Set the challenge and the reward and watch players push themselves to achieve it. You’ll see how happy they are when they do it and get a cool thing they’ve been wanting. Developers, please listen to me on this one. I think you’ll find I’m right for once.
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