Created Subterfuge, Casey’s Contraptions, Flower Garden. We don’t talk much about the role of luck in video games, probably because it’s hidden away under the black box of the computer simulation, but just like with board games, it can have have a large impact in the type of experience the video game provides. We made some crucial decisions thinking about how luck was part of the game and kind what kind of experience it created for the player. I’m hoping this post helps people with similar design challenges. Next time, I’ll be focusing especially on luck in video games using this as a launching point for a deeper look. Also, I’m limiting the definition of luck to random effects built into the game system itself, and not due just to player interaction. No-Luck Games In games with no luck, players rely completely on their skill to win.
In that way, they’re closer to sports. Games become an intense, straight competition, pitting players’ brains against each other. Good examples of games without any luck are classics such as Chess or Go. It’s interesting that a lot of abstract games tend to have no luck, and the more thematic a game gets, the more they seem to rely on luck. Having some amount of luck in a game can be very beneficial for most kinds of board games. I’ll catch a break and I can win! One of the best examples of this is poker: Everybody feels they can do great at poker, if only they get good cards. In reality, this is not true in the long term, but poker introduces plenty of luck that it really is true in the short term.
A consequence of all those points is that having some amount of luck allows players of different skills to participate in the same game and enjoy it equally. For games that rely on having multiple people looking to play it, it can be a big factor. Types of luck For games that choose to add some luck element, there’s a whole range of amounts and types of lucks they can use for different effects. Unfortunately, it’s also possible to mix the wrong type of luck with a given game feature and create a frustrating experience instead of an enjoyable one. This is luck introduced after the player has made a decision and executed an action. It can be in the form of flipping a coin to see if you unlock a chest, or rolling a dice to see if your armies invade a territory. Pre-action luck consists of the random events that happen before the player performs an action. The player is able to take them into account and make a decision based on them. Hidden information is the third kind of luck. I was a bit hesitant to include it as its own category first, but it seemed different enough from the other two to warrant being listed on its own.
Hidden information refers to things that are known only to some players and will affect other players or the game scoring. Post-action luck OK, I’m going to say it: I’m not a fan of post-action luck. Since it doesn’t add to the choices the player has, it’s mostly uninteresting. When used incorrectly, this kind of luck is extremely frustrating. 1s and their move backfired on them. Sure, there was some tension knowing that could happen, but was it really fun? Maybe the first time or two, but probably not long term.
While I typically really don’t like this kind of luck in my games, there are some situations in which even I will add it can add some interest to the game. The first case is when the player can choose to perform one action or another, being aware of the different probability curves for both actions. For example, you can roll a single die and deal that damage to an enemy, or you can roll two dice, but if you roll two 1s, your character gets hit instead. In a situation like that, even though it’s still post-action luck, the player was presented with a meaningful decision ahead of time and had to weight the risks and rewards of both options. The second case where post-action luck can work is when the action is repeated many times over the course of a game. That way, the outcome of each individual action in themselves is not game-breaking, and all the actions will eventually add up to the average over the course of the game. Luck in this case introduces a bit of noise and slight excitement without affecting things much.
from the luck of love
For games that rely on having multiple people looking to play it, that makes paying attention to other players and trying to guess what they’re doing even more important. The others go away. So it encourages players to make a decision without spending a long time figuring out an ideal outcome. Magic The Gathering players can attest – they can increase their chances of success for an action as the game progresses, what are you waiting for ? The second case where post, action luck isn’t always a bad thing is in very short games. I love King of Tokyo even though it’s a complete dice fest with lots of post — games can exploit that human quirk to their advantage and hook players in a game that would otherwise not be very interesting or fun. This kind of luck is extremely frustrating.