Randomness in Games and Game Design

Updated: Jul 5, 2020

A good way to think about randomness within game design is to consider the way some common traditional games are designed. Most card games include the ‘shuffling of the deck’, the boardgame of Snakes and Ladders relies on the random aspect of the ‘roll of the dice’ to determine whether you may go ‘up a ladder’ or ‘down a snake’ and Monopoly has both the ‘roll of the dice’ and the opportunity to ‘draw a card’ from a randomly shuffled deck during game play to help influence positively or negatively the way your game options play out.

Similarly, in electronic game design, we can include randomness elements within certain parameters, to influence the way a game plays out – random generation of which foe a player may have to face or the strength and skills that foe may possess, landscape hurdles can be designed to be randomly generated within certain rules to create easily accessible, challenging obstacles, or unsurmountable aspects that need to be avoided.

Randomness can be used to help lower skill level players to achieve positive results within a game or as an equalising influence on those who are higher skilled but may be negatively impacted by a random aspect within a game. Randomness in games can be controversial, in most cases though, some degree of randomness will help make the game more interesting and less prone to being too repetitive, too much randomness though can be frustrating to players and can hinder the way a game can be played to achieve a certain outcome. Getting the balance right is something you’ll need to think about in your design and test out in game play scenarios and to adjust if needed to try get the best balance for your particular game. At VR Voom, we teach students to consider introducing random aspects within their game design, both as a learning opportunity and to help make the experience of playing their game just that bit more interesting/unique and re-playable, as each time you play the game will be slightly different. We also make students aware that too much randomness will hinder the game as it becomes more a ‘game of chance’ rather than requiring development of skills and something you can improve at over time by playing again and again.

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