The benefits of luck in gaming
  • In episode 106 of NoobToob, Tobin mentioned that he doesn't like the luck elements of some games, such as Settlers of Catan.

    This reminded me of a fascinating article by Richard Garfield (the guy that created the games "Magic: the Gathering" and "RoboRally") that I read a few years ago about the benefits of luck in a game. The article can be found here:

    Just how much skill and how much luck should a good game have?

    I'm curious what you think about this. In video games, the computer does a lot of the math and background calculations that are too difficult to do in board game. This is one reason why dice are used in board games; they provide an elegant (albeit simplistic) substitute for the unpredictability of real life.

    The frenetic or random nature of some games makes them come across as "luck based." There are also hidden bits of randomness in games that can appear lucky or unlucky. When you respawn in a FPS, for example, where you respawn could put you in a good or bad position, depending on the position of the other players at the time. This could set you up for a "cheap shot."

    The question is, is this a good or bad thing?

    Personally, I think a controlled amount of luck can be good in a game. In a game of pure skill, such as chess, there is little replay value between mismatched players because the loser knows, unquestionably, that he lost because of a lack of skill. I agree with Richard that luck can go a long way to cushion this psychological blow, and keep the less skilled player coming back.

    I also agree with his assertion that the amount of luck in a game bears no relation to the amount of skill required to play the game well. For example:

    *Tic-Tac-Toe has no luck, but it also requires almost no skill.
    *Chess has no luck, but requires an enormous amount of skill.
    *Flipping a coin has a lot of luck, but requires no skill.
    *Settlers of Catan has a lot of luck, but also requires a lot of skill.

    One important part of game design is finding just the right amount of luck and skill (without treating them as trade-offs).

    What are your thoughts?

  • thebgbb said:
    *Chess has no luck, but requires an enormous amount of skill.

    If you think about it, nothing is pure skill or pure luck. For my example, I shall take Chess, as you did. Chess, while being almost exclusively skill, does indeed have some luck involved in the way your opponent moves. Let's say you put two clones against each other. They are perfectly matched in every way, have the same playing style, etc.

    So let's say Clone A and Clone B are playing Chess, and of course, let's assume that they are human clones, flawed in every way a human normally is. Again, they are both perfectly matched in terms of skills and playing style. Clone A makes a move, and Clone B is pondering his. Little does Clone A realize that he has exposed his king and can be checkmated on Clone B's next move. There is that small chance that Clone B will totally overlook the fact that he can checkmate Clone A and win the game. He overlooks that move, and makes one totally different. Clone A suddenly realizes his mistake, and thus, has gotten lucky because his opponent made a mistake.

    But, let's take a slightly more fantastical approach to the subject.

    This time, we'll be using the flip of a coin as an example. If you had a perfectly calibrated coin-flipping machine, there was no chance for it to malfunction or anything of the sort, you could set the parameters of how the coin was to be flipped, (what angle, how much velocity, how much spin, sort of like Scorched Earth) and assuming the air is perfectly still, if you set the same parameters on this machine, and the coin and room are made of some magical indestructible material incapable of being chipped or warped, you would get the same exact result every time regardless of how many times you do the flip because none of the factors change. So, you could say there is no luck involved at all because there are no unpredictabilities.

    Now, as for my opinion on to where on the skill/luck spectrum games should be placed, I think that a game should be as much skill as possible. Obviously, you cannot totally take the unpredictability factor out completely, such as a player's controller going dead, or someone getting to a weapon first that you are better with. Luck will forever be a factor in games, so it should be dealt with as much as possible.

    Whoo! I'm a long-winded bastard ain't I?
  • God damn, this is a hell of a topic. I'll collect my thoughts and post in there. Hell of a topic, bgbb. You rock.
  • nice topic
  • I think that a game must mainly be based on skill. As much as luck can keep the interest of new players who may win the occasional game because they were lucky it can also alienate skilled players who lose because they were unlucky. A small element of luck is good in that it makes the game more interesting in the long run due to that unpredictability that is associated with chance. Ultimately all competitive games have an element of luck in that you can say "I was damn lucky to have been playing with an idiot such as yourself"

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