The Two Types of Random in Game Design


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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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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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 9:26 No, if someone makes it to a later world or even beats the game in spelunky, it was a result of skill. The game is freaking hard.

  10. This was very entertaining, thank you for making a video so good.
    The editing sure took you some time but it was worth it.

  11. I like to think that Mark's regular videos like these are like lessons and his yearly game jams are the pop quizzes

  12. "There are many types of random, random and randon't are some of them"
    -Me trying to make a funny quote 2020.

  13. The "game lying about the true probability" for output randomness is super prevalent in Wizard101. Almost every spell has a chance to fizzle out and not execute, which is based on which school the spell is from. Fire school spells are usually in the 80%-85% hit range, but in my experience there's never a time that it fizzles more than once every ten tries.

    I think it makes sense considering the combat is pretty simple and was originally designed for kids, who would understandably get super frustrated by continuously losing due to randomness, whether or not they understand percentages to begin with.

  14. Randomness I love…
    Randomness I hate…

    Crits in RPG's.
    These are the worst!
    Edit:Also lootboxes in microtransactions


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