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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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  • 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.
  • 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?
  • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @10:58AM (#9724941)
    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 Rainbow Six (the original game) to be fairly limited. The enemies might have appeared in various locations, but I haven't really noticed much of a difference - usually, the only changes in the enemy patrol paths have to do with taking a bit longer to complete a portion of the map.

    Also, I found that Rainbow Six had enemies with "Aim-bot" accurracy. This resulted in either the mission being very easy or very hard (your teammates are easily gunned down by one enemy should you fall.)

    The first two games required skill and adaptability, whereas R6 3 was reduced to a sort-of Counter-Strike "plus" to cash in on more casual gamers who weren't looking for the counter-terrorism simulation that characterized the originals. Very sad to see one of the most unique games butchered by attempts at garnering mass appeal.
    Rainbow Six (Raven Shield) was the first game in the series where I noticed that enemies were in different locations than normal for each attempt of the map. However, in general, they were usually in the same place and could be dealt with by using Auto-Aim (either that or you die as soon as you step into their FOV - especially on 'Elite' difficulty.)

    Of course, it was also the first game where I actually noticed an unnecessairy delay after throwing a grenade and switching to your primary weapon. (Why the fsck do you have to draw a second grenade and put it away before switching? Didn't see anything in the manual or training on how to do this properly.)

  • 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 :)
  • 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.

  • by agraupe ( 769778 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @12:38PM (#9725386) Journal
    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 explored.
  • X:Com (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mollyhackit ( 693979 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @12:58PM (#9725474)
    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 online play for good measure, then we'll have some fun. Oh, if you can't get X:Com to run on your computer try finding the port for the Playstation
  • by ksiddique ( 749168 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @01:08PM (#9725517) Homepage
    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! :)
  • 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. :)

  • It's simple (Score:2, Insightful)

    by saia ( 657352 ) on Saturday July 17, 2004 @04:37PM (#9726501)
    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.
  • 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).
  • 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.

  • 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.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay