Gamers love to criticize «RNG» in games. For example, imagine a dice game in which you and your opponent both roll the dice and the highest roll wins. This is a «pure RNG».
Random number generator
Random Number Generator (RNG) is an algorithm that generates random numbers. In video games, these random numbers are used to determine random events, such as your chance of getting a critical hit or picking up a rare item.
Random number generation, or RNG, is a defining factor in many modern games. They are the reason why you always encounter unique Pokémon, why items in Mario Kart are different every time you pick them up, and why you randomly find super cool treasures (or not) in Diablo. Some procedurally generated games like Binding of Issac or Minecraft would not be possible without RNG.
Not every game depends on RNG. Rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero are great examples. Competitive multiplayer games like Rocket League and Mortal Kombat also have little to no randomness.
This does not mean that RNG is avoided in all competitive games. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive uses RNG to determine how bullets hit targets, while DOTA 2 uses RNG to determine how often abilities will affect opponents. The gameplay has an element of randomness that makes it unpredictable.
RNG keeps games fresh (but can undermine skill)
Randomness is what keeps things from becoming the same. This is what leads to curiosity and risk taking and is one of the best tools for keeping the game fresh.
Think of blocks in Tetris. Each block in Tetris is chosen randomly. If they weren’t, then Tetris wouldn’t be fun, stressful, or unpredictable. There would be no risky or smart moves; will only right move . Tetris would be an endless memory game, like counting pi numbers.
Even some competitive games like Hearthstone rely heavily on risk-based mechanics that are more comparable to Yahtzee than Mortal Kombat. And this is where the RNG becomes a point of contention. In a game with a lot of RNG, like Hearthstone, skill can take a backseat to luck. A happy beginner can beat a pro. So what happens when you use RNG in other competitive games like CS:GO or DOTA?
You end up with a lot of angry players. While the randomness in a fighting game might seem like fun to you or me, some competitive gamers are (understandably) turned off by the idea of losing a lady’s luck. Imagine if people took a straight competitive game like chess and added something like random bonuses. According to chess lovers, this completely contradicts the purpose of chess. The player who loses can blame RNG for the loss, which went in favor of the opponent.
Some RNG can be manipulated
As we mentioned earlier, random number generators are algorithms. These are basically math problems that give out random values. But, as you know from your many years of mathematical experience, two plus two always equals four. For an algorithm to generate random values, it must include variables (such as X or Y).
Where does a video game get its variables from? It should look for naturally changing local values. The game can use the console’s internal clock as a variable, or the number of objects on the screen, or your character’s name, or even the sequence of buttons you’ve pressed since the game started. There are many ways for a computer to generate random numbers.
In some cases, these numbers are actually predictable enough to be manipulated. It’s a bit like card counting, only harder.
RNG manipulation is not part of competitive games, but is part of classic RPGs and retro video games (where the «RNG» algorithms were fairly simple). An experienced gamer can calculate their way into the perfect Pokémon or hit seemingly random buttons to get rare items in Final Fantasy.
RNG: good or bad?
For many, RNGs are great for keeping games unpredictable and fresh. Random number generators are an important part of the gameplay in many modern puzzle, card and role playing games, and they have been useful in some action and multiplayer games.
RNG can be good. Should all Minecraft worlds be the same, or will every item you find in Diablo be the same every time you play? RNG offers variety and can keep things fresh.
But many competitive gamers feel that the RNG undermines the skill. It might be an annoying complaint to hear, but it’s only annoying because some competitive games like Smash Bros lead a double life as regular party games (which require RNGs to stay fun). For this reason, games made for the esports community may emphasize skill-based mechanics.
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