Chance from Experience Perspective

Randomness is fun

Chance, or say Randomness, is important in a game. Why is is important? Because randomness means uncertainty. Uncertainty means surprise. Human love surprise. For surprise there is two scenarios. One is when you stayed at home, you wife came back and told you: “Our lottery got the first prize!” Second is when you looking at the lottery show, your lottery matched every number on the screen. Which is is more exciting to you? Personally, I prefer the second one. The different between these two is that the second one is involved with anticipation before surprise. For human beings anticipations strengthen emotions.

Critical Strike in WoW
Critical Strike in WoW

For the followings, I will talk about the chance in anticipation → surprise models in games. The most common example is critical hit. “40% chance to critical attack.” This sentence tell you the possibility of surprise. Think about this moment: your character deployed a critical attack; Blood splashed from the enemy body; Even the enemy was taken down with a bullet time. It is so exciting that I make a critical attack! I am so powerful! And then think about another moment. The boss had only 20 HP left and your attack was 15 but only had 1 HP. You pressed the attack button and begged a critical attack. Nothing special happens. The boss killed you for the next attack. Oh, @#$%. I had such a bad luck. It has been such a long time that I can’t deploy a critical attack! It ruins me. My former mistakes of wrong strategy choices were not important. It is just my bad luck. Chance involves an significant part of the above situations. For the first one chance gives you a reason to anticipate and receiving the more exciting surprise. For the second one, chance gives you a excuse to blame and to hide your own mistake. So you are always doing good, the game is always fun.

Critical Strike in DOTA 2
Critical Strike in DOTA 2

It works very well in single player experience. However, in multiplayer arena experience, such as DOTA, your good luck means the opponents bad luck. So if I lose a game simply by bad luck so obviously, then it means all my efforts and strategy seem to be not important in the game. Audience and players tend to make a conclusion that the game is judged by chance instead of ourselves’ skills, which is not fun. So there is a clever modification to the chance system, it called “Faked chance”. It means the current chance of expected effect depends on how long you do not have that effect. It makes sure that the game is in balance most of the times with a cost of surprise. Another extreme is “deploying a critical attack for every 3 hits.” It is totally anticipatable.

Crit Chance in XCOM
Crit Chance in XCOM

In summary, in single player games. Chance is a great way to generate the fun of surprise and a great way to capture the players for more times and spending on the game. In multiplayer arena games, chance is a trade-off between balance and fun of surprise.

Reference: DOTA uses “Faked Chance” for critical attack. World of Warcraft uses a lot of “anticipatable critical attack”. And I guess that XCOM uses “Faked Chance” for hitting. It means when one of your soldiers hit the enemy by chance, other soldiers’ hitting chance will be diminished.


4 thoughts on “Chance from Experience Perspective

  1. I like that you mentioned “faked chance” – I think it’s important to have an arsenal of how designers introduce chance and still balance the game, and faked chance seems to be an excellent way. This reminds me of Jesse mentioning Mario Kart, where the losing player would have greater chance of picking up good items, and vice versa for the winning player. Faked chance also ties in nicely with your point of anticipation — the longer time passes, the more anticipation builds up, so that when the critical attack comes, it is all the more satisfying.

    Critical attack is kind of a strange thing though. In the long run, if you have weapons which increase the odds of a crit, on average your basic damage increases, which means that there would have roughly been the same effect if designers just increased base damage. Is crit just there for the surprise element then? Is it there because with a lower basic attack, it lowers your expectations, so that when crit happens, you will definitely feel good? Gameplay wise, do players adapt different techniques for champions with more chance of crit, compared to champions with strong base attack?

  2. There’s a lot to like here. I’m in agreement that chance is a great tool for eliciting anticipation in one’s audience. Furthermore, I liked that you developed the idea of one person’s fun being someone else’s “unfun” with regards to chance in multiplayer games. This notion is of utmost importance to any designer working in the multiplayer space. Finally I would like to share a great collection of articles by tabletop game designers. Be sure to check out the article on chance and randomness by John Kaufeld.

    Link to book:

  3. I think you had a fairly interesting article on how critical strikes and chance can influence the user. Your topic is more like “ways to build good surprise with in tactics of games.”It would have been really nice to hear more examples on how to tie chance into strategy though and if possible games that implement them. Or maybe dug a little deeper into the pros and cons of the various critical strike mechanics. I like that you used actual video games that do this as a reference, it helped me better relate what you were trying to explain. Overall your point got across, players like chance to feel strategic,not just luck and there are ways to tie in chance with strategy.

  4. I agree that chance is nice to build anticipation for a nice surprise. However, I disagree with the separation of single- and multiplayer games. Chance in single-player games could also be implemented for the enemies, so you could very well have a critical hit killing you in an otherwise winnable situation. In fact, there probably is not much distinction in player versus some opponent (be it AI or another player). Chance/Randomness is better thought about on the core mechanic rather than single/multiplayer.

    I like that you brought to attention the use of chance and the illusion of chance; it is similar to the freedom versus illusion of freedom design. The illusion of chance is one that is easy to think of but not necessarily noticed as such; it might go by the term “positive feedback” or “negative feedback”, which refers to giving losing players bonuses and winning players obstacles.

    Also, as debated in class, randomness != uncertainty entirely.

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