The Two Types of Random in Game Design

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From critical hits to random encounters, and from loot boxes to procedural generation, video games are stuffed to bursting with randomness. In this episode, I look at the way randomness is used in games – and why some forms are more contentious than others.

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Sources

Uncapped Look-Ahead and the Information Horizon | Keith Burgun

A Study in Transparency: How Board Games Matter | GDC Vault

GameTek Classic 183 – Input Output Randomness | Ludology

Why revealing all is the secret of Slay The Spire’s success | Rock Paper Shotgun

Crate | Spelunky Wiki

Random Generator | Tetris Wiki

Level Feeling | Spelunky Wiki

Plan Disruption | Etan Hoeppner

Fire Emblem True Hit | Serenes Forest

The Psychology of Game Design (Everything You Know Is Wrong) | GDC Vault

How Designers Engineer Luck Into Video Games | Nautilus

Roll for your life: Making randomness transparent in Tharsis | Gamasutra

12: Into the Breach with Justin Ma | The Spelunky Showlike

Find out more

Many faces of Procedural Generation: Determinism | Gamsutra

Why Our Brains Do Not Intuitively Grasp Probabilities | Scientific American

How classic games make smart use of random number generation | Gamasutra

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance)

Cuphead (2017)
Enter the Gungeon (2016)
Octopath Traveler (2018)
Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle (2017)
Griftlands (In Early Access)
Dicey Dungeons (2019)
Hearthstone (2014)
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth (2014)
Darkest Dungeon (2016)
Dead Cells (2018)
SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech (2019)
Into the Breach (2018)
Spelunky (2012)
Armello (2015)
Minecraft (2011)
Chasm (2018)
Downwell (2015)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)
No Man’s Sky (2016)
Celeste (2018)
Fortnite (2017)
Mario Kart 8 (2014)
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (2014)
Tekken 7 (2015)
Super Mario Party (2018)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (2019)
Borderlands 3 (2019)
Call of Duty: WWII (2017)
Valkyria Chronicles 4 (2018)
Civilization V (2010)
Wargroove (2019)
Plants vs. Zombies (2009)
XCOM: Enemy Within (2013)
Chess Ultra (2017)
Mark of the Ninja (2012)
StarCraft II (2010)
Slay the Spire (2019)
Apex Legends (2019)
Civilization IV (2005)
XCOM 2 (2016)
Overwatch (2016)
FTL: Faster Than Light (2012)
Card of Darkness (2019)
Diablo III (2012)
Tetris 99 (2019)
Puyo Puyo Tetris (2017)
Phoenix Point (2019)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Tharsis (2016)

Music used in this episode

Cuphead soundtrack – Kristofer Maddigan (
Tharsis soundtrack – Half Age EP by Weval (

Other credits

RNGesus original artwork by Dinsdale

Super Mario Party – Luigi wins by doing absolutely nothing | Nintendo Unity

Fire Emblem: Three Houses – New Game Plus Maddening Walkthrough Part 43! | MrSOAP999

Deadpool 2 © 20th Century Fox

Pandemic Card Art © Z-Man Games

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28 COMMENTS

  1. You want information… here: the two types of randomness discuss by the video are input and output randomness

  2. RNG in "X-COM: Enemy Unknown":
    99% chance to hit = 3 consecutive misses. 🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️🤦‍♂️ (aka "completely screwed")

  3. The example was of FTL vs Into The Breach was hilarious, since FTL was vastly more successful (and in my opinion) a far, far better game.

  4. I think a good example of output randomness is tabletop gaming yes it’s different but the fact is that rolling dice to attack a monster in dnd is the same as trying to attack an alien in xcom

  5. WoW BFA patch 8.3 is basically the Xzibit of randomness. They put in rng inside of your rng so you can rng while you rng. Anyone who has played it knows what I'm talking about. Its really a prime example of how to implement randomness in a bad way.

  6. Don't even forget how RNG is sometimes a very big fun factor, in for example Hearthstone, where sometimes players intentionally build and play RNG decks just for shits and giggles.

  7. Only example of input randomness that is frustrating is the circle in games like pubg where if the zone forces you to run across an open field is pretty annoying

  8. My friends invited me luck not a civ 5 game and I have 2k hours so yer when they found me on my island they were suprised. I have no fun I'm that game I hate it seems much because I can't have fun it it's just about winning. And that's no fun

  9. As someone whose first ever Terraria run was graced by a pre hardmode Drax, I can confidently say I thought Terraria was much easier than it actually was for a long time. RNJesus has never given me such luck since.

  10. 2:00 I have some objections!
    Minecraft worlds aren't infinite, they are very very large.
    You can see that for yourself by typing in the following command:
    /tp @p ~200000000 100 ~200000000
    You will see the edge of the world. If not, repeat the command, eventually you will be there.

  11. The two kinds of randomness:
    Good randomness: When all outcomes are desirable, but there's a variety
    Bad randomness: When you randomly get either a "good" result or a "bad" result

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