Long Live Random!


Later this fall, a host of games will come out, boasting huge budgets, cinematic cut-scenes, and “gripping” singleplayer plots that will attempt to ape the best Hollywood has to offer. Black Ops 2, Halo 4 — the list of sequels could continue. Some of these games will be good; some might even be great. But all of them will have one problem: they won’t be random enough.

If the history of game development has proved anything, it’s that games can do a huge number of different things. What it’s also proved, and what not enough people pay attention to, is that games are best when they embrace the things that games do best: Interactivity. Immersion. Randomness. Ever since the release of the space-faring title Elite in 1984, which generated whole worlds procedurally using the power of contemporary 8-bit computers, games have been able to offer experiences that change every time a new playthrough is started, changing enemies, place names, items, and characters. Out of all the different forms of entertainment media, only video games are capable of doing this.

This week, two titles were released that understand the power of Random. Borderlands 2, with it’s “bazillions” of procedurally generated guns, ensures that no two players will ever fire exactly the same weapons. Torchlight II, with its randomly generated levels, guarantees a theoretically unlimited amount of replay value — players will never have to slog through the same dungeons, or kill the same familiar array of enemies.

These games might not boast the detailed stories or set-piece epicness of other titles, but they don’t have to — they’re designed by people who make games that play to the inherent strengths of the medium. Games will never be movies, and frankly, some of them should stop trying. Instead, they should keep finding ways to exploit and expand the unique qualities of the world’s newest and most exciting form of fun.

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3 Comments on Long Live Random!


On September 21, 2012 at 7:33 pm

I raise my glass to randomness…
A lot of game I have and love do have some kind of randomness… From Project Zomboid (where you start (sandbox mode) and where the zombies appears) to Torchlight (now just starting Torchlight 2)…

“… Interactivity. Immersion. Randomness.”…
True… And I’ll add more: Fog of War! and his brother Line of Sight!…
From ol’ Wargames (And new one too) to recent RTS game…
From the black shroud that is removed by exploring (Dune 2, C&C, etc…) to the satellite view of the already explored map that still to be scouted to actually see the enemy (Supreme Commander) to games using both mechanics (good ol’ XCOM Enemy Unknown)…


On September 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

I don’t disagree with the the whole article, but I definetly think games are better movies than movies can ever be. Movies are trapped inside a format that more or less can never change. Games have no such restrictions when it comes to telling a story and there is no crime in releasing a game with more cutscenes than gameplay. The problem is when all games do this. There is a place for every genre and type of game.

Mgs’s continued success tells you that.


On September 23, 2012 at 12:14 pm

That randomness certainly keeps me engaged when playing Borderlands. Never knowing what loot will be dropped keeps the shoot and loot idea interesting.