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  • How Lobotomy Corporation Teaches The Value Of Bad Choices

    [11.09.21]
    - Josh Bycer

  • Making Controlled Choices

    Gamers have been talking about random number generation or RNG for years to describe how the game itself can define your fate: Missing a shot in XCOM, getting an ultra-rare character in a gacha game, and many more examples.

    The problem with a lot of choices and rewards is that they are random: a game could give you the very best, or very worst, option and there's no input by the player. A concept that I've been talking about in videos and during our Game-Wisdom streams is the idea of a more controlled form of RNG. I don't know if this term will stick, but I've been saying "controlled number generation" or CNG.

    The idea is that the player is the one who is deciding the outcome of rewards and situations; not just being give a good or bad result. Going back to my piece I just wrote about feedback when it comes to learning a game, the player is not being told what option is good, bad, or ugly, but is given the knowledge as to what these choices mean.


    It's all fun and games until the death train rolls in

    You rarely want to have something that is always good or always bad, unless you're looking for "spikes" in your design, but the concept is that the value of a choice is dependent on what is happening in the game. Think of this as designing your game around sidegrade choices - giving the player something good at the cost of potentially something bad. Every choice has the potential of value during a run, but that value is not fixed. If I'm using magic damage in an RPG and I have to choose a curse and pick "all melee damage reduced by 50%," that means nothing to me during that run. However, that could be disastrous if on another play I'm building a warrior character.

    Learning Lobotomy Corporation

    Lobotomy Corporation is one of those games that you're not going to find anyone else with a game similar to it, and that alone makes it worth checking out. While it is not the most accessible or approachable game (there is one abnormality that will crash your game on purpose if you use it), it is still a great example of how letting the player choose their successes, or failures lead to fulfilling gameplay and letting them be the masters of their own fate.

    If you enjoyed this story, consider joining the Game-Wisdom discord channel. It's open to everyone.

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