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  • Solving Luck Manipulation In Roguelike Design

    [10.29.20]
    - Alex Pine

  • Other methods

    As we've seen by now, RNG abuse is a problem with quite a few solutions, it's just up to you to choose which one works best for your game or be creative and think of something else entirely. In fact, I believe there's many other ways you can solve this, I'm just listing all the solutions I'm aware of here. Let's quickly go through a few more examples of how I've seen RNG abuse reduced.

    A very straight-forward way to approach RNG abuse is by giving players rewards for choosing not to abuse RNGSlay the Spire gives players a little bonus at the start of each run, but only if they made it past the first boss on the previous run. This is an extremely simple fix - so much so that I have pretty much nothing to say about it and so decided not to have a separate section of this article dedicated to this method.

    Slay the Spire gives you a bonus at the start of each run, but only if you got to the first boss in the previous run

    It should be noted though that it's a method with drawbacks, mainly because, as with item progression, the beginning of the game might still feel like an annoying chore to the player. A less important thing to consider - it's a very visible way to solve the problem, making your intentions as a designer very clear to the player. I personally think solutions to problems like RNG abuse work best when the player isn't even aware of the problem being solved, when they have no clue how the designer is making the experience feel right, but it still feels right - that's just an opinion though.

    Here's another one. Permanent progression, especially in the form of straight up becoming more powerful rather than unlocking more options, is a topic that has sparked quite a bit of debate between roguelike players. Whether that's something you want in your roguelike is something up to you to decide, but one of the benefits it has is that it does reduce RNG abuse.

    It's helpful mainly because it shifts the player's goals. Rather than the primary objective being the completion of a run, the primary objective becomes making permanent progress so that future runs could be completed more easily. Retrying a bunch of times until RNG gives you a good starting item doesn't really affect the success of your new goal as much, so players abuse RNG less.

    You can increase this effect further by giving players various permanent currencies that they can spend between runs. This puts additional emphasis on death and failure as being absolute requisites for progress and gets players excited to spend whatever they have earned in their runs - the success and failure of each individual run becomes almost irrelevant.

    In Hades, all sorts of stuff - keys, darkness, nectars, titan blood, gemstones, diamonds, ambrosias - persists between runs and can be used for various purchases. Dying in this game feels like returning home.

    A method that I haven't ever seen used - because it risks making the game too easy and would only be applicable to a few games - is preventing RNG abuse by guaranteeing a good starting item. Really, if your players only enjoy your game if the starting item is good, maybe you should just give them what they want. Weighted RNG + feedback loops works better, but this could also be fine as long as it's balanced accordingly.

    A brute-force approach where you make players unable to abuse RNG by making resets more time consuming or annoying, such as by removing a "quick restart" option, is perhaps the clumsiest way you could try to patch the problem of RNG abuse. Not only will many players still abuse RNG through an even worse process, it also doesn't address the actual causes of the player's dissatisfaction and feels like more of a punishment than a fix. In many cases, trying to solve RNG abuse this way would be worse than doing nothing.

    Even if it might be possible to come up with some completely new, wildly imaginative approaches to this problem, I think these methods should be enough to have you covered no matter what the specifics of your roguelike are. Furthermore, similar methods could be used to resolve this problem in games outside of this genre that suffer from RNG abuse. A lot of strategy games, for example, start with randomized conditions.

    And, on an even broader scale, this teaches us something important about solving game design problems. On a very surface level, you might have just thought that removing the option to quickly restart would be the obvious way to solve the problem, but digging deeper and finding the root of the problem might give you new insights as to how the problem can be solved in the most satisfying way.

    I wanted to end this article on some nugget of wisdom that's relevant to the topic at hand, so I figured - what could be more fitting than a randomly generated deep quote. After all, as InspiroBot told me once I had abused its RNG a zillion times:

    Madness is generated by freedom.

    Further reading / watching:

    (Note that most of this list is only loosely related to the topic of the article and is intended to give you something to check out if you're interested in roguelikes and RNG. I couldn't find any sources specifically on RNG abuse.)

    https://gamedevelopment.tutsplus.com/articles/solving-player-frustration-techniques-for-random-number-generation--cms-30428 Solving Player Frustration: Techniques for Random Number Generation by Kyle Sloka-Frey

    https://www.gdcvault.com/play/1024920/Board-Game-Design-Day-White White, Brown, and Pink: The Flavors of Tabletop Game Randomness by Geoff Engelstein

    My friend Ryan said "Rng abuse kinda cringe ngl :/" and that is my only source

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F5XM2DmUdmw In Defence of Randomness by Adam Millard

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwI5b-wRLic The Two Types of Random by Mark Brown

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4kbJObhcHw How Games Use Feedback Loops by Mark Brown

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNFURLFsd2E Does Into The Breach Really Have Perfect Information? Why RNG Matters by Adam Millard

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uM588ci-sMQ The Evolution of Roguelike Design - How Rogue led to FTL, Spelunky, and So Many More by Design Doc

    https://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1025&context=grrj The Probability Distribution of the Sum of Several Dice: Slot Applications by Ashok K. Singh, Rohan J. Dalpatadu Anthony F. Lucas. (I used this source to visualise the probability distribution of 10 dice - no game design here, just mathematics)

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