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Ramses

Randomness in high score games

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Hey guys, I wanted to ask a few questions related to old school game design. Normally I'd ask something like this on a game developer forum (actually, I'll probably do that as well), but I'm curious to hear opinions from fellow old school gamers.

 

What are your thoughts on randomness in old school arcade style games as far as high scoring goes? If you like playing competitively for high scores, do you prefer games with the least amount of random elements? Or do you prefer random elements to keep the game more interesting each time you play? Pacman is one of the top arcade games of all time and from what I understand about the ai, there's not any true randomness to it, aside from maybe Clyde. It seems random, but once you know how the ghosts behave, it sort of reduces the game down to memorizing a path. Not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I do find the Pacman ghost AI fascinating myself. It adds a level of strategy to the gameplay.

 

On the other hand, you can have a game with a lot of randomness - placement of powerups, enemy behavior, etc. That will keep the player from strictly memorizing a sequence and instead making decisions on the fly. The only downside is, a player might be lucky and get a rare favorable sequence of random events that make the game a lot easier for that particular play session. I would think that would be unwanted in a game that is played for high scores. Another question is: was that ever much of an issue in old arcade games? Does it really matter much in the end?

 

Thoughts?

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Back when my objective was to learn enough to make a quarter last as long as possible, I would have said that the game needs to be, at least theoretically, completely predictable so that as long as I knew enough about it, and did the right thing, I could make the game do exactly what I wanted (and hopefully play long enough to get my money's worth).

Nowadays, I appreciate some random elements, but still get discusted if unfair events are put in my face.

To be fair, I used to enjoy a lot of pinball. Even though the angles the ball bounces are not actually random, they are so unpredictable that it may as well be. Sometimes the ball would drop out with zero possiblity of saving it. I guess I could live with that because you got other shots to make up for it, but it still always irritated me.

In my opinion, the programmer should take care to make sure that anything a reasonable player would want to do to random elements is at least POSSIBLE. For example, if you put two power ups on the screen at the same time, put them close enough together that you can get from one to the other.

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In my opinion, the programmer should take care to make sure that anything a reasonable player would want to do to random elements is at least POSSIBLE. For example, if you put two power ups on the screen at the same time, put them close enough together that you can get from one to the other.

Some programmers just don't know any better and I think some randomness-hating programmers do that on purpose to 'prove' that randomness sucks instead of simply controlling the randomness. Reminds me of OJ trying to fit his hand in the glove or an actor in a commercial pretending that something easy is just too hard to do, so you must buy the product they're selling to make life easier.

 

I just added a part about power-ups to my controlled randomness section based on what you said above:

 

randomterrain.com/game-design.html#controlled_randomness

 

It's in the second paragraph.

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As PacMan is mentionned, I can only agree that while the game is nice, I can't appreciate it really, because of the pseudo-randomness.

I like way more KC Munchkin on the Videopac/Odyssey² because of much randomness.

Probably peopl dislike it, but I like it. You can NEVER play the same game twice; so when you play it, it's like the first time you play it. You can never be sure.

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Thanks for the links Random Terrain. I think I'm leaning toward controlled randomness as the general ideal. Makes sense. My favorite old school arcade game is Millipede and it's not the exact same game each time you play. I do like it's use of the game of life algorithm with the mushrooms.

Edited by Ramses

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I can enjoy "pattern" games for a quick boot here and there, but when I really want to dig into a game and go for a high score (like, for example, in the AtariAge MAME high score club), the pattern aspect is a bit of a bummer. Reason being, for me, pure tests of skill (Robotron) are always going to provide much more sustainable enjoyment than memorization exercises (Pac-Man).

 

 

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I can enjoy "pattern" games for a quick boot here and there, but when I really want to dig into a game and go for a high score (like, for example, in the AtariAge MAME high score club), the pattern aspect is a bit of a bummer. Reason being, for me, pure tests of skill (Robotron) are always going to provide much more sustainable enjoyment than memorization exercises (Pac-Man).

This for me as well. Randomness is what makes it fun and worth playing over and over. That said, I still enjoy Pac Man because I never really learned the patterns so for all intensive purposes, it's still "random" to me.

 

As far as the powerups go, it depends what they do and how influential they are. If you have a boss that's ridiculously hard most of the time, but a breeze with one specific powerup, maybe you don't want to allow that one in some cases (or rebalance). That said, everyone has the same odds of getting that powerup so it is fair.

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