Thursday, August 14, 2008


I have a great appreciation for chance/luck in games. I played a lot of boardgames and poker growing up, and those games tend to involve as much or more chance than skill. Monopoly, Sorry!, Chutes and Ladders, Scrabble, Life... countless boardgames have proven that there's a massive market for games in which the roll or the draw is king.

Complete randomness is not good. Spinnerbox, one of Fable 2's three pub games, is a terrible game. It's basically a slot machine. Slot machines can probably be found in nearly every casino in America, if not the world. The game is certainly popular, but I don't think that's because it's fun. It's addictive -- that's not the same as fun. If the reward was not monetary, I doubt anyone would play the game. It's the concept of money for nothing that's attractive. The anxious anticipation of winning quickly fades for most as the game is replayed. People stay for the money, not the game. I could be wrong, though.

So anyway, 100% chance is bad. But chance doesn't have to be a small part of gameplay. Luck can be the heart of a very popular (profitable) game.

And chance doesn't exclude choice. One thing Monopoly and Diablo 2 have in common is that player choice occurs mostly in reaction to uncontrolled events (dice rolls and loot "rolls"). The same happens in epic literary adventures; characters respond to, rather than cause, major events.


  1. Randomness is a good tool, but as a tool it can't save a bad design. Likewise, it's absence doesn't inherently sabotage a game.

    Part of me does wonder, though, why games such as Chess and Go are among a very small portion of truly deterministic games left. At some point the playing card and the dice seem to have replaced the concept of what goes in is what comes out.

    I'm not particularly market driven myself. Perhaps, it's the market forces of that extra boost of adrenalin. Or perhaps there is simply some limit on the playable variations of game that can be made without a random component, though I rather doubt it.

    I'll have to think about this a bit more.

  2. Hmmm. Interesting point about player choice in Monopoly and Diablo 2 being a reaction to uncontrolled events, and the connection to literary adventures (though not exactly sure what you mean by that - examples?). I'll have to think about that more, there's probably some very useful insight to be found further along this thought...


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