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  • Game Design 101: Random Generation

    Jul 27 2014 11:15 PM | SkyBlueFox in Media Reviews

    Random generation has seen a rise in prominence in recent years. Many games are implementing it in both small and large ways; Minecraft randomly generated an entire map to explore, Skyrim has a system to take generic quests and randomly chooses a dungeon to set them in, and other games, like Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, Faster Than Light, and Rogue Legacy, are all roguelikes that revolve around randomly generated maps, events, upgrades, and content. It shows up elsewhere in smaller, subtler, more unseen ways – a flickering torch sprite in a dungeon may change the chances of an encounter with every frame.

    However, despite the usefulness of random number generation, it is important, once again, to know when to use it and when not to use it. An over-reliance on RNG can hurt a game in a number of ways, and though it is rarely ever enough to cause the game to become bad outright, it can cause a player to spend less time playing it than it would have seen otherwise. Like most pieces of game design, it is a fine balancing act that needs to be used carefully and tested rigorously.

    Terraria is a good example of both RNG done well and also RNG done poorly.

    Terraria could be described as a side-scrolling version of Minecraft, and it also implements elements of a Metroid- or Castlevania-style game, emphasizing exploration and finding equipment and item upgrades more than Minecraft's slower-paced micromanagement. The world is randomly generated, as are the...

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