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Role Playing (Games)

More Randomness, More Replayability For Games? 57

Thanks to GamerDad for its 'Long Shot' editorial discussing whether randomly generated gameplay and maps make for more interesting videogames. The author argues: "As time has advanced and games have become less like the arcade games of old, plotting and story have removed the randomness from many of our games... That's to say nothing of the gameworlds themselves... The places you'll visit are always going to be the same with each play through." However, he points out: "Ensemble Studios has done an absolutely superb job of making online play in Age of Mythology exciting through the use of random maps. These maps are generated using excellent seed criteria that give the player the feeling of playing a pre-designed map but with completely unique designs every time", concluding: "I'd like to see the same kind of thing applied to first person action and more."
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More Randomness, More Replayability For Games?

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  • Paranoia (Score:4, Funny)

    by RidiculousPie ( 774439 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @08:26AM (#9724458)
    This is about as close as I've gotten to what many old arcade games did as a matter of course, drop players into a world and let them fend for themselves in a situation with pre-determined rules but random everything else.

    I personally prefer the paranoia solution. You aren't allowed to know the rules ;-). Endless crazy fun
    • I personally prefer the paranoia solution. You aren't allowed to know the rules ;-). Endless crazy fun
      While the paranoia situation works if done properly, most GMs don't know how manage a game properly. As a result, you will see GMs performing six rapid illegitimate deaths in a row where a drop pod "accidently" lands on a character, with the next drop pod "accidently" hitting two more characters.

    • I personally prefer the paranoia solution. You aren't allowed to know the rules ;-). Endless crazy fun...

      For the GM. For the players, not so much.
    • Of course. The computer wants you to be happy.

      The computer wants you to hunt those evil commies, but you are not a high enough clearance to know the map or the rules! Sounds like a game to me... ...wait a minute...
  • by bigman2003 ( 671309 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @08:31AM (#9724468) Homepage
    Randomness would be good, and one genre that would really benefit, would be the First Person Shooter/Sneakers.

    I'm in the middle of playing through the Rainbow Six 3 campaign mode, and what I've been dealing with is the same thing that I have seen on every other FPS:

    I walk into a new room, and start getting shot at. Instead of running out, I continue to move forward to draw fire from as many enemies as I can. Yes I die, but now I know where everyone is.

    Reload my last save, and this time I enter the room knowing where everyone is. I 'sneak' in, kill them, and move on.

    I would say that this is 'smart gameplay'. It works, but it is also 'cheating'.

    But that is the only way to do it, when they hide the enemies behind boxes, tables, etc, and they are set to ambush you as you walk by.

    While I do LIKE this type of gameplay (problem solving really) it would be nice to have some randomness built in, to keep me honest.
    • There's a utility for Half Life, called RandMap []
      Check it out :)
    • I used to do that too in the earlier versions. Why bother with heart beat sensors and reading the intelligence, I'm probably going to have to try the level several times anyway and can learn where the terrorists are that way.

      I've always disliked that kind of thing - it's the reason I like the lack of quick save on most console games. If you have to repeat the last five minutes of level just to get to that point again, you're going to be much more careful.
    • It was made by french Ubisoft developers under the Red Storm label.

      The original games, Rainbow Six and Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear had a good deal of randomness. Contacts would move in patrol paths, starting at different positions each time you played, sometimes not appearing in the paths at all. Enemy positions on the pre-mission map were almost always approximate, you never knew if a terrorist would actually be at the indicated location. Each mission was satisfyingly unpredictable (to a reasonable degree
      • The original games, Rainbow Six and Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear had a good deal of randomness. Contacts would move in patrol paths, starting at different positions each time you played, sometimes not appearing in the paths at all. Enemy positions on the pre-mission map were almost always approximate, you never knew if a terrorist would actually be at the indicated location. Each mission was satisfyingly unpredictable (to a reasonable degree), each time you played them.

        Actually, I found that the randomness of

    • SWAT3 would randomly generate where the bad guys were. They would start at 3 or 4 predetermined locations. It always kept you looking out in different directions. That was a good game.
    • I call it 'dumb gameplay'. R6 has heartbeat sensors etc for a reason, to allow planning: determine location of terrorists, make a plan, execute plan. *That* is smart gameplay.

    • How do you save in Raven Shield? A cheat? Normally, saving isn't allowed mid-mission.
  • F-Zero X (Score:3, Informative)

    by wick3t ( 787074 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @09:14AM (#9724572)
    If anyone wants to check out a great example of randomness, I highly recommend F-Zero X on the N64. The X Cup (which needs to be unlocked) generates random tracks providing a whole new experience every time you play. There are the occasional tracks with tight corners and no walls where everyone just flies of the edge and dies, but I see it all as part of the fun.
    • My favorite X cup track was fairly short, and the only feature to it was a curve with a jump in the middle of it. As a result, all 29 computer cars flew off the track, and I won easily.
    • I loved F-Zero X's X Cup! I only wish there was the option to save those tracks when the random numbers stumble upon a design that's extra-good.

      In Japan, if you didn't mind plunking down some cash on the ill-fated 64DD, you could get an F-Zero expansion disk that included a track editor. I still wish that had been released here in some way; I was disappointed that F-Zero GX had no such extra. Editors are another good way to boost replay value. Random maps have the advantage of surprising the player,
  • Ikaruga (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doctor Ian ( 452190 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @10:09AM (#9724771) Homepage
    I don't think that it follows that more randomness means more replayability. It can just highlight the meaninglessness of playing games. Ikaruga is almost totally deterministic with just a few enemies that swap around to keep you paying attention. The whole game is about 25 minutes from start to finish, yet the serious players have spent hundreds of hours on the game. That is some serious replayability, and it gains it through being not random.

    Then again, on the other side, there's stuff like Diablo, Phantasy Star Online or Minesweeper where the random spin is pretty much the saviour of the game.

    Another issue with random whatever (evel, monster placement, etc...) generation is that, most of the time, it sucks. No care or human ingenuity is used. For example, F-Zero X's random track generator creates tracks that aren't half as good as the 24 built in ones. All the randomly generated Doom level I've played from various programs can't even compare to maps which are made by anyone who knows roughly what they are doing. Again there are counter examples, like the levels in Worms which were randomly generated.

    I think it all boils down with how the game needs the player to deal with possibilities. If there's something which needs to be unknown, or some unknown factor, what better way to set it up than have it picked out randomly?

    I'm only trying to point out that it's a double edged sword, as the article seemed very pro-random. The dungeons in Daggerfall were just completely uninteresting, yet the author suggests this is down to a poor random generation algorithm? I don't think so, the dungeons were generally well constructed from a technical point of view. They were boring because it is just boring to wander randomly around a dungeon full of random, meaningless corridors and templated rooms, looking for a random item placed randomly somewhere in the dungeon, so you can get the item back to the random villager who gave you the random quest to do this. It just sort of hits home that maybe you're really wasting your time?
    • Well, what about moving away from random generators and talk about plain old replay value instead. Random generators are good for map games, but good replay value can be added to any game and make you come back to it again and again. Like RPG games where you pick the character you want to be, u have partial replay when you win and go back to be another character, but it gets better when that character gets to go on their own quest, and not down the same on you just spent hours and hours beating. Then you'll
    • Phantasy Star Online's maps may seem random at first. Truth is: they are exactelly the same locations, with only three or four variations of gates and enemy placement for each level.
    • Daggerfall's problem *could* be that there weren't enough interesting things that could be generated in dungeons. With out current level of random design thinking, you'd need a huge number of possible "specials" that could appear in a dungeon.

      Mark my words: I predict in the future, random content will become the norm rather than the exception. People are waking up to the fact that Nethack's simple rooms and corridors, items and monsters produce a surprisingly interesting game experience. (Well, until Ge
  • The Unexpected (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ThePyro ( 645161 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:06AM (#9724977)
    The thing that hurts replayability the most for me is that, after the 1st time through a game, I usually know where most, if not all, the enemies/items/etc... are going to appear. There are no surprises any more!

    I don't think random level generation is needed. Just look at how popular multiplayer is - those people are playing on the same levels over and over again. It's the unexpected that keeps bringing them back. With human opponents, you never know when or where you're going to run into somebody, OR what they're going to do. You must constantly use your head to do well.

    Random enemy placement (especially right behind the player :) ) may extend the life of a game by a bit. Also, it might be helpful to give more variety to the tactics that enemies use. Thus, the players won't know for sure that "okay, that brown guy is going to run at me for 3 seconds and then break left, so it's safe for me to take careful aim now."

    All you really need is a little bit of a surprise here and there to keep the adrenaline flowing...

    • Why even play the game the first time through? Just type in the game/level/npc/quest item/whatever into a search engine and have one of the multitude of spoiler sites guide you through it.
  • Random maps? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:08AM (#9724986) Journal

    Worked for Rogue/NetHack/Moria/Angband/ToME for years :)
    • Re:Random maps? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You forgotten to mention ADOM [].
      • These maps are generated using excellent seed criteria that give the player the feeling of playing a pre-designed map but with completely unique designs every time

        The same was done with Gateway to Apshai [] (1983)
        Seeded randomness created approx 800 levels on the Coleco version, and 128 levels on the Atari/C64 versions.

  • by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @11:23AM (#9725053)
    Every level in Gauntlet was hand-designed, and the same each time you played the game. What changed was the positions of the enemies, as they tended to spawn extremely rapidly. As a result, minor changes to your own route could radically change the opposition you encountered.

    Anyway, I agree with one of the other posters: purely random levels just make the game meaningless. It is the same with soaps on TV (which I consider to be randomly generated for the purpose of this argument): I'd rather see a good, one-off story, then see the same elements repeated in different combinations again and again and again.

    • You can't do "pure random", because you're more likely to get broken maps than you are to get anything fun. Diablo was one of those games that did "random" very, VERY well. I can still play that game for hours even with it being very old tech now.
  • Randomness is great for games like FPSs, RTSs, and other games where things can soon get repetetive. That being said, I think if a whole bunch of games start coming out with "Random" modes, it will be the plot and story that suffer. For example, I can reply Final Fantasy 7 without getting tired of it. The story is so engaging that it gets me every time. For games like racing, though, where there isn't anything in the way of plot, randomness is an excellent feature. I think both avenues need to be explo
  • Covert Action should be a case study of why random can be fun. Every mission, heck every BUILDING is completely random-generated, and it's a blast.
  • Disgaea (Score:4, Informative)

    by dancingmad ( 128588 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @12:46PM (#9725425)
    In Nippon Ichi's tactical RPG Disgaea, there's an item world; you "enter" an item and do battle on randomly generated maps. For every 10 levels you beat the item becomes stronger. It adds a lot of replay vale to the game and certain stages (Cave of Trials) require you level up your weapon.

    Sometimes you do get a doofy level where you can't beat all the enemies or the exit panel is right next to the base panel (you can exit in one move), but overall it's always give you some way to get out of the level (defeating all the enemies or the exit panel).

    Its really one of the big elements that make the game last as long as it does (80+ hours - I'm at 70 something and nowhere near unlocking all the stuff).
  • Point Blank (Score:2, Informative)

    by philbert26 ( 705644 )
    One thing I hated about Point Blank was that some stages were totally predictable. The stages that had carboard baddies pop up for you to shoot at followed a pre-defined sequence. I loved that game for its variety, and it seemed such a waste to have predictable stages.

    I don't think you can apply total randomness to FPS games, because level design is pretty difficult to do well. I guess with some effort, you could at least make some variation. I remember being impressed the first time I went back through s

  • X:Com (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mollyhackit ( 693979 )
    All I want is X:Com. It had random encounters and map generation. It didn't even need a thick slowly progressing plot. You made it yourself, "Hey remember the time they invaded the base and we got them with the last gernade". The randomness was what made you play for hours. Even though the maps where layed out in tiles it still kept the creepiness because the aliens were always in different spots. Just rebuild X:Com using Front Mission 4 style giant robots (but a better customize interface) and some o
  • Oh man! I've already got a lot of games that I'd like to play through once that I don't have time for. If they start making games more replayable then I'd never get anything done! :)
  • Recently, I picked up a tamagotchi-like RPG called Dungeon Quest [] that's been eating my free time like Skittles. It's a very basic roguelike (randomized maps and items), but it's small enough that I can bring it to work (and easily stuff it into my pocket with the Boss passes by).

    Considering how much idle time my job involves, having this has provided me with more than ample entertainment and sanity saving for it's price.

  • by Gothic_Walrus ( 692125 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @02:32PM (#9725935) Journal
    Lest we forget, randomness needs to be done correctly to work.

    The Xbox version of "Toejam and Earl" boasted completely randomly generated worlds. According to my friends that have played it, though, the levels aren't really all that different from the ones that were generated the time before. Heck, I've even heard someone say that the random levels took away variety from the game.

    On the other hand, we can't have random levels that don't work. Putting a snowy mountain in the middle of a rainforest just won't work, and it's not fair to have random levels that are impossibly difficult (as mentioned in another post, F-Zero X has generated race tracks with incredibly sharp turns and no walls).

    Still, randomness is appealing. I love puzzle games like Tetris, mainly because the experience is different every time. The basics are the same, but the actual challenge is never the same.

    It's been said, but this would be great for some genres. There are too many shooters and strategy games for the PC. Find a way to develop random maps that are logical, challenging but not overwhelming, and fun and you've got a goldmine on your hands.

    As far as I can tell, finding a good randomization system is the biggest hurdle. If we clear that, then we've just found a way to put level designers out of business. :)

    • TJ&E III's worked by making random landscapes, but making the randomness less threatening to the player than in the original TJ&E. In TJ&E 1, if you fell off a level you got sent to the level below it. In III, you just got put back on land with a minor health loss. Considering that III, like the original game, and Rogue and Nethack for that matter, were games of resource management where the resources you got were randomly selected, this put a bit of a hamper on gameplay by making it less ess
  • It's simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saia ( 657352 )
    Randomly generated content is only as good as the generator. Some games spend lots of time making sure that the code that spits out random stuff is decent and the random content is good. Others just spit out completely random crap and it usually suffers for it.

    So everytime someone says it either works or doesnt work in Game X, it always boils down to the quality of the random generator.
  • Idealy games should incorporate random elements within a compelling plot and good level design. In a FPS this might mean having a dozen different arrangemts of bad guy placement within a level. That combined with good AI, reacting to the player, would create game play that seemed to always be different but would still seem non random. This could even be taken a step farther by having predefined level styles which could be built and populated randomly (like a random style map in a RTS game). If done well
  • dahrkdaiz has made a neat little hack for Super Mario Bros.
    It randomises the levels and enemies... just need to patch your game (that you own): Dahrk Hax []

    This hack starts you at level 1-1. After that, it's all craziness from there. Every enemy, except Bowsers, have been randomized. The positions of the enemies have been slightly altered to prevent impossible situations. Not every possible enemy is included in the randomization: Spinies, Lakitus, Green and Red Koopa Troopas, 4 types of fire bars, long

  • I'm sure there may have been some predecessors, but SoF2 was one of the first mainstream FPS games to include random map generation right out of the box for both SP and MP. Now granted, these maps are heightmap generated terrain maps with random buildings scattered about, but they are still surprisingly fun. The other cool thing is that each map is generated off of a seed, so if you find a cool random map that works well you can note the seed and then utilize that exact same map in the future. Of course,
  • by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @08:21PM (#9727794)
    But I have to mention Raven Software's attempt at random generated first person shooter maps in SoF2 : While very far from perfect, and limited to outdoor maps : it is a very good, and inovative thing they did (which got very unrecognised, imho).
    • SOF2 = Soldier of Fortune 2 (for those who don't see this in the storm of abbreviations nowadays ;) )
    • But I have to mention Raven Software's attempt at random generated first person shooter maps in SoF2 : While very far from perfect, and limited to outdoor maps : it is a very good, and inovative thing they did (which got very unrecognised, imho).

      Actually, I've seen random map generators for earlier games. The first random map generator released commercially would be RandRott, released on the Bonus Pack CD for the game.

      There have also been some third party random map generators for Doom as well - the fi

      • Allright, cool to know : Will google those ones later.
        When you mentioned the Doom one, i vaguely remembered it, but good to see some names with it.

        • Just so that you know, you might want to select "Slige" as your favoured map generator. Currently, it's the best one for the game, but has been idle for an extra long time (the author even took some time to answer e-mails when I contacted him - he really didn't have much free time.)

          I would have liked to patch Slige to fix some scattered bugs but there is one problem - the author placed the entire source code into one file, making it fairly difficult to keep track of the general area where changes should b
  • by Teddy Beartuzzi ( 727169 ) on Sunday July 18, 2004 @12:48AM (#9728987) Journal
    Civilization, Railroad Tycoon, Master of Magic etc, they *became* classics because they had random maps.

    Sadly, many of the sequels dropped the random maps, and were lousy. They just never seemed to figure out the correlation.

    • One couldn't argue that the maps in Civ II (the only Civ I have experience with) were connected to any sort of possible reality. There were jungles, deserts, tundra, etc, all kind of mashed together. That being said, it's still an entertaining game. With cheats, I've been able to get into space in 1600. Oddly, that is no less satisfying than playing it the way it's meant to be played, because the map/diplomacy, is alway different.
  • It's very hard to incorporate a story into a randomly generated world. Some games are built on story, such as most of the FFs. Others - FFCC, for instance - aren't, and wouldn't suffer much, if at all, from randomisation, but many people like games to have a good story, and would be alienated if all games were made wholly random.

    So you'd need a generator that can handle certain conditions. For instance, a typical Zelda game, if it were to have randomised dungeons, would need to have the dungeon item, map,
    • There's another problem: memory. You can't randomly generate a dungeon every time you enter, it would break the continuity. So you'd need to store the dungeon on the memory card, and depending on the complexity that could be big.

      Actually, you *can* randomly generate it. You only have to preserve the seed used for the dungeon builder, plus a few others things(items found, puzzles completed.) Just run them through the generator again and you should get the exact same dungeon.
  • I implemented a random terrain generator and a random house generator (3D), and made it a MOG. Plus some other sweet stuff like a cool AI system and lots of wild speculation. ;) []
  • The Space Between (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Randym ( 25779 ) on Monday July 19, 2004 @01:18AM (#9735664)
    Trying to assert that "more" or "less" randomness is 'better' or 'worse' misses the point that randomness is a continuum from, as it were, "brown" (deterministic, correlation between neighborng events = 1: i.e. hand-coded, no surprises) to "white" (completely random, correlation = 0). What might make games more interesting is not whether they are hard-coded in the 0 or 1 mode [digital], but if you could *adjust* the amount of randomness in the game (0...1, analog). If you wanted to play the game like it was originally designed, select 1; if you want wacko wierdness, select 0; if you want a random-like game that nevertheless mostly follows the rules, pick something like .7.

    (This could be related to Wolfram's lambda parameter in cellular automata research as well: a game that 'hovers on the edge of chaos' would seem to be more interesting than either one totally deterministic or totally random.)

    Of course, it goes without saying that this sort of analog parameter would have to be designed into the game from the beginning. Obviously, it's just easier to declare a certain sub-set of the game objects to be 0 (totally random) and another sub-set to be 1 (fixed). That's precisely why randomness in games *isn't* that interesting: too much all or nothing.

  • A few of the posts have pointed out that randomization doesn't work so well with certain genres or within certain game frameworks. Some games, after all, are built completely around the idea that it is the level design itself that provides the challenge.

    But many old games had total randomization and did it well. I think a great example would be the Intellivision game Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The entire world was totally randomized - right down to where the mountains were and where the rivers flowed

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