Randomness 2

So, in the last Randomness post I went over the consistency of dice and the closed system of cards. There’s more to say about both of them, but I’ll address those some other time.

Today, I want to talk about a few more kinds of randomness: pseudo random number generation and pseudo random determination.

Pseudo Random Determination
I’m sure there’s a better a name for this, but it’s accurate. Pseudo Random Determination is using a non random method to try and create a random decision. Now, in reality this includes all physical randomization, including dice and cards, but we’ll use it here to describe methods like Rock-Paper-Scissors, or War. It’s random, but this is generally because of two conflicting sources creating a determination.

These methods are good for quick, even decisions, but the distinct problem is that it is difficult to scale or modify. Where cards can have different values, and dice can be modified in terms of quantity, or additions or subtractions from the final value, Pseudo Random Determinations tend to be Boolean; they end as either ‘true’ or ‘false’, being one side wins and the other side looses, with no greater determination.

Additionally, these determinations require there to be two entities to participate; it is difficult to make them work for a player against non-player entity unless there is some sort of referee.

Regardless, these determinations are easy to make on the fly, clear, and require a minimum amount of materials to perform.

Pseudo Random Number Generation
Again, Dice fall in this category, but this is really more about computers. People not well acquainted with computer programming may not know, but computers are terrible at ‘random’. In fact, there are a number of popular techniques, used for different purposes, for creating ‘pseudo random’ numbers; these number aren’t really random, but they’re excellent fakes. However, the longer and more regularly they are used, they more likely it will be that a pattern will form and the illusion of randomness will fall apart.

In video games, pseudo random number generation has a lot of uses, depending on the game. While a lot of games use no random chance at all, it can have a lot of functions in video games that aren’t possible in other games, such as creating levels and generating characters.

While there are weaknesses in the methods of pseudo random number generation — that they create detectable patterns over time, that they sometimes fail to perform the same across different computer platforms — they also have notable strengths. The simpler strength is that you can easily generate a random number of any range. Further more, these numbers can be tied in to any number of automated functions (which of course is a strength of programming vs rules, which we’ll talk about another time). But one of the most unique strengths and uses of Pseudo Random Number Generation is seeding.

Seeding refers to a way of manipulating Random Number Generation — when a number generator creates a number, it uses a base number called a Seed. The Seed number is usually generated randomly from another internal generator, BUT most generators can allow someone to set that Seed number. Numbers generated with the same Seed will follow the same pattern — for example, if we use seed ‘x’ to generate a number between 1 and 10, the first time we might see 1, 3, 5, 10, 10, 2, 5, 6, and so on. If we use ‘x’ again, then we know the first number will be 1, the next is 3, then 5, then 10 and so on.

It’s not always obvious why this is amazing, but it lets you do a number of neat tricks. Say if you have a game that generates levels randomly (Like Rescue: The Beagles from yesterday, or Spelunky, or Nethack, or any number of games of the like); seeding will let people experience a consistent level, producing the same level each time a seed is reused. Some games, like Worms use this method, allowing users to play a random map, or to enter in a string of letters and numbers to generate a particular map, letting players return to their favorites again and again.

Moreover, it allows players to compare their experiences by pitting each other against the same generated circumstances, like in any normal game, but has the added advantage of effectively infinite levels.

I could talk about pseudo random number generation for a quite a lot longer, but it’s something we’ll come back to when I discuss procedural generation later down the line. Otherwise, we’ll leave randomness to be concluded in it’s next post, later on!

To be continued!…


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One Response to “Randomness 2”

  1. Randomness 3 « The Art of Game Says:

    […] I’ve talked about different methods of randomness, here and here, and gone over some of their strengths and weaknesses. But we come back to the ‘why’ of […]

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