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BeeJay

Games that don't use random rewards

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Following on from the discussion in this thread I think it really is worth looking at the issue of the development of the freemium model and the associated apparent growth in random reward as a game mechanic. I am interested because of the potential for addiction due to random reward mechanics.

http://www.rllmukfor...depressed-rant/

I want to investigate how many 'top' games use random rewards and to what extent. How do the top money making games compare here against the top critically acclaimed. I am also interested in how things have changes over the years. Are more games about random reward today than 10 or 20 years ago. How do Nintendo, MS, Sony and PC platforms match up against each other?

To be clear, by random reward I mean where a game offers the player a random amount of something in return for completing a task. I do not included player luck which is not as a result of a deliberate construct of the game. I also want to eliminate grinding from the equation.

Let's have a look at the gamerankings top 10 for last year:

981375_229111.jpg PS3 Batman: Arkham City

Rocksteady Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, 2011 95.94%

33 Reviews 615803_227387.jpg X360 The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Bethesda Game Studios/Bethesda Softworks, 2011 95.22%

73 Reviews 991073_203755.jpg PC Portal 2

Valve Software, 2011 95.03%

37 Reviews 997842_205299.jpg 3DS The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

GREZZO/Nintendo, 2011 93.84%

53 Reviews 605239_177984.jpg PS3 Mass Effect 2

BioWare/Electronic Arts, 2011 93.17%

41 Reviews 960633_229802.jpg WII The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Nintendo, 2011 93.11%

57 Reviews 606525_180001.jpg PC Minecraft

Mojang AB, 2011 92.79%

21 Reviews 954843_114819.jpg PS3 LittleBigPlanet 2

Media Molecule/SCEA, 2011 92.20%

68 Reviews 998181_215248.jpg PS3 The ICO & Shadow of the Colossus Collection

Bluepoint Games/SCEA, 2011

91.99%

615426_190913.jpg PS3 Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Naughty Dog/SCEA, 2011 91.76%

There is a notably high variety of amounts of random reward here. Please note that I have not played batman, minecraft or uncharted enough to be able to fully comment

Small or no amounts of random reward:

Portal 2, ICO and Shadow of the Collosus, uncharted 3, LBP2, both Zeldas, possibly Batman too.

Games that have random reward at their core:

Skyrim is the only one that stands out to me.

Conclusion: It appears that most critically acclaimed games are still not using random rewards to a massive extent, instead choosing other mechanics.

I will dig out the top 10 grossing games in 2011 for a comparison when I can find one. If anyone finds one please post it up.

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One to point out is WoW. MMOs in general have a lot of randomness, such as "loot drops", which I can't be pestered with - that's one of the reasons why I liked Guild Wars, it really minimised that.

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MMOs and dungeon crawlers pretty much completely work on random reward. I think that has been the case for many years. Nothing has changed there really.

The trend seems to be to blame mobile and facebook gaming for this but I don't see it like that personally. Random reward has been around in gaming for a long time.

Mario Kart was is a great old example with its random item drops. That is as big a part of Mario kart as it is in Diablo.

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I don't think Skyrim uses "random" rewards at all? The rewards you find are either set or they're scaled to your level?

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Yeah, randomised rewards certainly help to make super-popular games (that I hate): WoW, Diablo, Pokémon. Personally, that sort of thing makes me want to hurt people - I've no issues with randomisation, but games which make randomised rewards a core part a grind structure not only annoy me, they always strike me as being artistically (and somewhat morally) bankrupt in their lazy manipulation of human nature.

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I don't think Skyrim uses "random" rewards at all? The rewards you find are either set or they're scaled to your level?

The stuff in the chests? That is random isn't it? Or is it all predetermined? Regardless, the experience to the player is largely the same. When you go to a chest, barrel, body or whatever, the loot you get is not understood before you search it. Therefore the psychology is the same.

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Yeah, randomised rewards certainly help to make super-popular games (that I hate): WoW, Diablo, Pokémon. Personally, that sort of thing makes me want to hurt people - I've no issues with randomisation, but games which make randomised rewards a core part a grind structure not only annoy me, they always strike me as being artistically (and somewhat morally) bankrupt in their lazy manipulation of human nature.

I have realised that most of the games that I play, and my favorite games of all time, use random rewards to a greater or lesser extent. I would like to have a period of time playing only games that don't do this to see how I get on.

Worst offenders over the years for random rewards that I have spent way too much time with possibly due to the random reward nature:

championship manager

puzzle quest

fifa ultimate team

tiny tower

I think CM was the first game that I really remember it in to be honest. I remember restarting matches several times until I got the outcome I wanted.

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The stuff in the chests? That is random isn't it? Or is it all predetermined? Regardless, the experience to the player is largely the same. When you go to a chest, barrel, body or whatever, the loot you get is not understood before you search it. Therefore the psychology is the same.

It's very different if there's rhyme or reason to it, however. The thing with purely random rewards is that they make no sense to the player - they must make no sense to the player for them to work. The player may know that certain drops can only occur in certain locations/with certain enemies, but there can't be any reliability so that they repeatedly perform the same actions in the same locations. Having set drops in different places forces them to visit different locations and explore to get the best loot; it encourages a very different play style.

(I have no idea about Skyrim's chests, mind - just wanted to point out that there is a difference for the player with the two different approaches)

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It's very different if there's rhyme or reason to it, however. The thing with purely random rewards is that they make no sense to the player - they must make no sense to the player for them to work. The player may know that certain drops can only occur in certain locations/with certain enemies, but there can't be any reliability so that they repeatedly perform the same actions in the same locations. Having set drops in different places forces them to visit different locations and explore to get the best loot; it encourages a very different play style.

(I have no idea about Skyrim's chests, mind - just wanted to point out that there is a difference for the player with the two different approaches)

Having re-read that several times, I get the point. I guess I need to test the chest with a save to see if the rewards are the same over several re-loads. I take your point about not being able to go back to the same point and look again without a re-load (although this did happen to me where a mission took place in a cave that I had already cleared previously, all the enemies were back and the loot was new too).

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On Skyrim, don't know if this true but I have no reason to doubt it as it sounds logical:

"The chest contents (as well as the enemies) are scaled to your level as soon as you enter the dungeon. You could load right before entering the dungeon but then you would have to fight through it again to get to whatever chest."

So you can reload from outside the dungeon and get different loot. Or, like I did, even go back in to the same dungeon multiple times and get different loot.

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I think random rewards are fine, what ires me is what you often find in MMO's when you have a predetermined reward at the end of usually a long grind. For example daily quests in WoW. Normally there's a mount available for a set amount of tokens, say 120 and you can maybe get 10-15 tokens a day if you do all available quests. The vast majority of players hate these mindless quests and will actively complain about how rubbish they are, yet of course they log in every day and set aside an hour or two to do them all so they can eventually hand over their 'hard earned' tokens. It's basically the laziest form of content/gameplay to keep people subbed up and logging in every day.

This video is a really interesting look into 'unethical game design'.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0J9BDANo0iM

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Does Animal Crossing come under this random reward thing? I'm not sure if I almost forgive it in a way as although what you get in Nook's shop is random every day, you can't actually re-load or anything to get something else (or Mr. Resetti will kick your ass). Which I actually think is a good way of doing it.

Also, aren't Batman's rewards related to what has been done? Or you know at least kind of what you'll get? Stuff like the riddler trophies etc, while arguably a grind to find 400 in Arkham City, they only provide back story things and 100% completion if you want it, you don't actually get anything in-game that's related. I enjoyed hunting most of them down to find out about the characters etc but I'm not really fussed about continual loot hunting gamese like Diablo etc.

Maybe I'm a little confused as to what counts as what...

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Maybe I'm a little confused as to what counts as what...

I think that excellent video above covers some of this. The truth is that all these concepts are still in relative infancy but as he says at the end of the video, those that are putting the most time and money into understanding are those making money from it.

I don't believe that animal crossing was designed to tap into our compulsions as many games are today but it does still have lots of traits of the modern day complusion manipulator.

The video is spot on about the mainstream press missing the point. We have to push this ourselves because no-one else will.

I would like to at least see some kind of distinction drawn between games that manipulate our complusions and those that do not and an appropriate age rating applied.

Not all games are like this, which is the point that we need to make. If we don't make the point then mainstream gaming will largely become glorified fruit machines and once again sent back in to the dark ages of social unnacceptability.

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MMOs and dungeon crawlers pretty much completely work on random reward. I think that has been the case for many years. Nothing has changed there really.

Actually, it has completely changed. With the auction houses there's less need to rely on the random reward, although you are buying someone else's random reward I guess. Knowing that the grind is utterly pointless (bar picking up chaff to sell without a second glance) because someone has already found and is selling something better kind of removes the sheen from the reason to play these sorts of games, which is the endless killing in the hope of some brilliant shiny reward you've never seen before. Downgrade the importance of the reward and I'm not sure what the point of spending so much time with it is.

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Wouldn't it be easier to just look at games that have random rewards in, instead of listing a load of popular games from last year and then saying "but these don't have random rewards in them"?

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I think that excellent video above covers some of this. The truth is that all these concepts are still in relative infancy but as he says at the end of the video, those that are putting the most time and money into understanding are those making money from it.

I don't believe that animal crossing was designed to tap into our compulsions as many games are today but it does still have lots of traits of the modern day complusion manipulator.

The video is spot on about the mainstream press missing the point. We have to push this ourselves because no-one else will.

I would like to at least see some kind of distinction drawn between games that manipulate our complusions and those that do not and an appropriate age rating applied.

Not all games are like this, which is the point that we need to make. If we don't make the point then mainstream gaming will largely become glorified fruit machines and once again sent back in to the dark ages of social unnacceptability.

Can't really watch it at work at the moment but I'll give it a look later, I think I get it, there was somethign in one of the mags about this a while back iirc. I actually think the level up perks in CoD are very dangerous for this personally, I know it's not quite the same but I know quite a lot of people that batter the game on team deathmatch just to get to some seemingly arbitrary level and then don't even use a lot of the perks they unlock.

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The presence of auction houses also means there is a monetary drive to keep playing, in that YOU might find an item worth something in your next random drop.

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Wouldn't it be easier to just look at games that have random rewards in, instead of listing a load of popular games from last year and then saying "but these don't have random rewards in them"?

I genuinely didn't expect that result to be honest. It was a genuine test as my gut feeling is that most games are using random reward now. Mass effect 2 has the planet scanning which is classic random reward.

In a lot of ways, our desire for a random outcome has been a massive development in our culture in the 21st century. Ebay is a classic example. Many millions of people have spent hours and hours clicking away, in the hope of getting a bargain or selling something for a high price.

Ebay got the timing and the application spot on. Now, things have changed because a lot of people have got burned and are preferring to go back to fixed price for buying and selling.

The ipod shuffle function is another classic example. Who the hell wants to listen to a song randomly chosen by a computer? Millions of us. And even then we demanded that the randomness get made less random to meet our expectations of random.

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The presence of auction houses also means there is a monetary drive to keep playing, in that YOU might find an item worth something in your next random drop.

There is that, but not being a Chinese slave driver I just can't be arsed to hope for much that's dead good. They've upped the amount of absolute shite and dropped the amount of amazing stuff which obviously benefits the online/AH side of it, but it's absolute bollocks if you just want to get some exciting reward from the game to play with without putting in about 3000 hours. Problem is, success means everyone else then does the same thing.

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Monster Hunter is mental for the amount of grinding due to low-percentage material drops, so much so that the end game becomes about perfecting your gear and techniques to kill monsters quicker for another spin of the wheel, which is fun in itself, but once you've got everything the gameplay is fun in an I-can-do-this-in-my-sleep-now kinda way (hello, Ridge Racer Type 4), but the compulsion is gone.

If there's any element of pay-to-play, it's just gambling really, innit?

Good uses of randomness (or seeming randomness) can do wonders for replayability though - this article on Gamasutra has some good examples, Bubble Bobble and Rainbow Islands being my favourites:

http://www.gamasutra...20_.php?print=1

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Minecraft is an odd one though as it's all player led stuff.

You could battle through a cave system to get a few gold or diamonds, but you could just as easily source them by other means, and their worth is totally dependent on what your overall goal is. If you're intending to build a wood hut gold is probably pretty useless. But you don't even need that wood hut; strictly speaking, there's no reason you couldn't spend the entire game residing in some shitty hole in the ground.

And when you do go on high-rish high-reward ventures, you can call quits at any point (indeed, one major cause of death in MC is greed). The game never really MAKES you do anything.

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