The Things of Whatt

...and other stuff

Making chances fun!

Is rolling dice fun? Not really.

Can it be? You betcha!

There are few things in this world more engrossing than chances. Chances for glorious things, chances for terrible things; The very chance that something might happen is enough to occupy someone endlessly... And chances are absolutely everywhere! The world we live in is dominated by examples of probability.

But nothing is ever certain.

Is this excitement? Is this dread? We often take preemptive measures to try to sway our chances one way or another -- so that we have some degree of control over what might happen. Our actions play into our chances and steer our probability in one way or another. It makes us feel like we have power.

But nothing is ever certain.

Many claim that they hate chance, and that may be true in a sense: They may not want to play the machines in Las Vegas or buy lottery tickets. They also might think that they would rather always have the most positive outcome from any situation. This is only natural.

But that's not how chance works... It is not simply the probability that you get something you like or hate -- it acts as an amplifier too!

If you won at absolutely everything and always had the best outcome, these things would suddenly stop being a novelty and start becoming a norm. If this happens it will cheapen every experience you ever have.

If you saw a beautiful sunset, or received a priceless gift, would you be happy? What about if it happened twice? Three times? Every day? Eventually the incredible becomes monotonous, regular... These things lose what made them incredible.

This applies to design too!

When designing a game, adding a hint of chance to it can make those who play it more invested, more emotionally involved. The chance for something to happen can make players tense, excitable...

But what happens if you start out with something that starts out completely random? Is it possible to make these sorts of things engaging too? Surely you couldn't add more chance to something purely random could you?

Of course you can! It even has the same effect..!

If you start out with something that is purely random, introducing a some small degree of control in the form of additional chance will have nearly the same effect as introducing chance into something without any to begin with. This is because the semblance of control is what makes these things engaging, and not what you apply it to.

What is this sorcery you ask? Allow me to introduce you to a little trick called "mostly-random".

Introducing mostly-random!

If you were, hypothetically, going to make a dice game that involved a player having to do something decided by simply rolling a set of dice (NSFW) and getting a random outcome... If you are the gambling type, you might already enjoy this, but it would only appeal to a very specific type of person.

But what if you suddenly gave the player some amount of control? Something where if the outcome of the chance was terrible, you allowed them to, for a trade-off, take a chance again.

Does that suddenly sound more engaging?

What happens if you allow the player to sway their odds as many times as they like for this trade-off?

Suddenly a simple dice game would have completely different dynamics. It would involve a mental game of chicken where the trade-offs would eventually intersect with the worst case scenario... A game where those with bad luck would want to get as close as they could to this intersection, and those with good luck have a cushion meaning that they might be able to recover if their luck takes a turn.

It would give players a semblance of control where their decisions suddenly transform a simple game of probability into a game of contemplation and choice.

But nothing is ever certain.

The above example is using the literal epitome of chance: dice... Now imagine if you were to take these concepts and apply them to something already engaging. Try to brainstorm of a way something you love or hate could become interesting by introducing chance; what can you spice up?

Go ahead... I'll wait!

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...back? Ok! Continuing on...

The trap

One thing you might have been tempted to do during your little brainstorming session is make chance play an overly large part in something.

If you involve chance too much, it make the things you introduce it into incredibly frustrating. Especially if it completely turns the tide of your luck instantly...not to say that this doesn't have its place. (Like in Mario Kart)

For common things, low-profile chance is generally more fruitful, whereas for rare occurrences, sometimes it is fun to have crazy chances play a role. Chance is a spice of life, and like putting too many spices into your cooking, discretion is the better part of valor.

Now that you have it in your repertoire, where can you use this spice?

That, of course, is up to you.

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