There are multiple ways to make the game more interesting and surprising, and one of the possible techniques involves adding the element of randomness to the game.
Randomness can come in various shapes and forms and today we’ll take a closer look at exactly this: RNG in video games.
By definition, RNG refers to simply picking a random number from within a given range.
The concept of RNG is as old as the first tabletop role-playing games, notably Dungeons & Dragons from the ‘70s, where random numbers were used extensively for things such as deciding how much damage the character would deal in their next strike, how successful their attempt at picking a lock would be, or what item they would get after defeating a creature.
The outcome of all these and many more encounters would be decided by throwing a proper die and comparing the results.
RNG is an invaluable tool for making games more interesting. Unpredictable outcomes may be surprising and will sometimes provide an extra challenge that you’ll have to deal with. Other times it may work in your favor, rewarding your efforts in a much more generous way than you’d expect. All in all, it improves gameplay if used right and balanced correctly. If not, it may be more of a tedious hindrance than a source of joy.
The Basics of Random Number Generation
In real life, to get a random number you’d have to throw a die, for example. In video games there’s no need to throw dice manually – instead, the computer can do this automatically under the hood as you play. So, for example, whenever you kill a monster in a game with RNG loot, the game will throw an imaginary die and will reward you with appropriate items, based on the result of the throw.
Although loot and combat are the first things that come to mind when talking about RNG, there are other uses for it, and we’ll take a look at more examples shortly.
Types of RNG in Gaming
Generating a random number in real life is as easy as throwing a die. Computers, however, don’t have the ability to throw dice and must rely on different methods instead. The two most common approaches are pseudo-random number generators (PRNG) and true random number generators (TRNG).
Numbers generated in PRNG are based on a predictable seed. The seed itself is a number, which is most often based on the current system time. More specifically, it’s the number of seconds passed since January 1970. This seed goes through a series of various calculations and the final result is a number that looks completely random. However, if you knew the algorithm that was used, and the value of the seed, you could generate all the numbers yourself and you’d get the exact same numbers every time.
This approach is usually sufficient for video games, but not reliable in cryptography, where TRNG is preferred. TRNG relies on the measurement of physical variables that can’t be easily predicted, such as thermal noise or photoelectric effect.
Examples of RNG in Gaming
RNG can be used in various ways in video games. More often than not it’s used for deciding what items you will get after defeating enemies or how much damage you will deal with each strike. Another common use for random numbers is critical hits – if you pass the critical strike check, your attack will become much more deadly. In role-playing games, the outcome of any activity can be solved by RNG – from perception checks and bribe attempts to determining the success of a harvest or encountering a rare monster.
RNG is also often used for generating maps or even entire worlds. For example, worlds in Minecraft are virtually infinite and different from one another, because they are procedurally generated. No Man’s Sky goes even further and generates hundreds of star systems, along with random fauna and flora on the planets that can be discovered and named by the players.
The Impact of RNG on Gameplay
RNG found wide use in video games and not without a reason – benefits include the added element of uncertainty to the gameplay, which improves the game’s replayability and longevity. It can be a source of joy and excitement when luck is on your side, but it can also be your nightmare when RNGeesus refuses to hear your prayers.
RNG makes sure that your experience remains as fresh as possible every time you decide to play the game. With a bit of luck, you may be able to pass difficult challenges that would otherwise be impossible to complete. On the other hand, seemingly easy encounters can become much harder if you fail the imaginary die throws. There are numerous pros and cons for RNG and it’s up to you to decide if that’s your cup of tea or not.
RNG can be used to make video games more exciting, but balancing it the right way is a challenging task for development teams.
If done correctly, it can vastly improve the experience by making it a little bit more unpredictable and surprising, but if not, it can quickly become exhausting or simply not fun to deal with during play. Having too much RNG will make you feel like your actions don’t matter at all while having no RNG can lead to gameplay that’s less exciting than it could’ve been.