RNG – More Gameplay, Less Rewards

Hello everyone, it’s been a little while since we’ve managed to get a regular post out.  We hope you’ve been enjoying the podcasts that have been happening on a weekly basis however!  If you haven’t listened to our latest episode you should go do that…right now.  Or maybe after you’re done reading this, your choice.

A little over a year ago Frantic wrote an article on how RNG in games is great for increasing the replayability.  I still agree with most of what he talks about in that post; it’s a smart move by developers in order to increase the longevity of their game by having a reason for your player base to keep returning to continue the hunt for that ever-so elusive item they want.  On the other hand, with the way it has been incorporated into recent games I can’t help but feel that it’s just a cheap way of bringing players back instead of relying on other parts of the game to do so.

Two of the biggest examples that come to my mind are the REQ packs from Halo 5, and the reward system in Destiny.  Let’s take a look at those REQ packs for starters.  By now I’m sure you already know what they are intended for, if not, here’s a quick rundown.  They are the only way to unlock armor customization pieces, assassination moves, and emblems to use in Halo 5’s multiplayer; they also include weapons and vehicles to use in Warzone.  For the most part I think they are pretty cool, I always look forward to opening up a new gold tier pack when I have the points.  What I think is wrong with them is the fact they are the only way to get new armor pieces, emblems, and even new assassination animations.

Call me an old-school Halo fan if you would like, but it gets rather frustrating when you are trying to make your Spartan look like a badass ODST but have to rely on an RNG based system to get the armor you want.  Of course, this is encouraging you to come back and keep playing the game for a couple hours at a time which is what the developer hopes you do.  However, if they were to say…tie the armor pieces (and even emblems) to certain prerequisites that you have to meet in order to unlock said item this would essentially still accomplish the same goal of bringing your players back to play the game but make it actually feel like you’re earning your armor pieces.

I mentioned Destiny’s loot system earlier, and yes, as much as I enjoy the game even I admit the way rewards are handed out to players is still slightly broken.  When playing any activity in Destiny, any player, no matter their level of involvement in said activity, has just as much of a chance of getting an exotic or legendary item as anyone else in the same activity.  The person who literally just backpacked their team in a match of the Crucible to a slim victory could get nothing for their work, meanwhile the person who went 0-12 gets the legendary item to drop.  I understand it would probably be a lot more difficult to add in an extra factor of how someone performs in a game to an algorithm relying on RNG.  Since the release of the Taken King expansion, some tweaks to the reward system have been done and the above scenario doesn’t happen as often as it did back in the first year of the game.  Especially since the path to new exotic weapons have been tied to completing certain quests.

Granted, not every game has an aspect of RNG in it. One of my favorite games this year, Tales from the Borderlands, had no RNG present and yet I have played through it five more times since I first finished it.  What did it have the kept me and thousands of others coming back to play it?  A captivating story.  When wanting to incorporate a randomized aspect into your game I would point you in the direction of Fallout 4.  I feel they did a very good job at making some encounters feel randomized but not relying heavily on them.  Say if you’re wandering around downtown Boston, you might come across a group of Super Mutants out on patrol, seek cover and accidentally end up walking over a mine and dying.  Once your game has reloaded from your previous save, that mine could not be there or those Super Mutants could be in a different area…perhaps some Ghouls have decided to drop by instead.

In Frantic’s post, he mentioned a couple of games he was really enjoying because of how RNG was incorporated into it.  I would love to see more games incorporate RNG into mechanics instead of small things like loot or rewards.  Let me use Destiny (again) as an example; the raid that originally shipped with the game, the Vault of Glass, has several encounters that incorporate a small bit of RNG to them.  In the last boss fight of the raid, there are three players who are teleported to some fancy alternate dimension kind of thing.  Originally, you could send your three best players to go through that stage of the encounter; eventually this changed to where the game picked three people at random to teleport instead of the those hanging in the back of the room.

Since that change was implemented I have bounced back and forth with my thoughts on it, but overall I feel that it was a change for the better of that game.  It helped newer players learn how to do that part of the raid instead of just relying on your three best players to sherpa you through it (Players in the Destiny community that guide/carry newer players through things like raids and other end game content are often referred to as “sherpas”).  With having some element of RNG involved in the games actual mechanics, it can show you a different way to play the game each time.  Plus, it makes it less boring instead of simply going from point A to point B and back again.

Randomly generated content is not, by any means, a bad thing and it is certainly great as an easy way to give an extra boost to the replay value of your game.  However, developers should not rely entirely on that RNG to give their game a purpose to be replayed.  It would be great to see developers use the “random” aspect for encounters in their game and not necessarily for rewards or loot only.

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