GameDev Protips: How To Properly Implement Luck In Game Design

The question of whether or not randomness should be incorporated into games has been one game designers have had to deal with since the beginning of game design itself. Although the element of luck can add surprise and excitement to games, players might feel that reliance on luck instead of strategy is unfair. While luck can make a game exciting, or add balance where needed, purposeful randomness is not always a good idea. Many aspects of a game which rely on randomization can be approached through other means, such as careful use of strategy or through solving puzzles to access items.

However, when you create a game without any randomness you are limiting the game to sheer skill and sometimes encouraging cheat if they feel they cannot win without luck or some other bonus. Due to the ability of randomness to add a dimension of spontaneity to gameplay, it is largely viewed as a necessary evil to designers, because it makes gameplay more fun and many times more challenging, because a player cannot predict what happens next.

That being said, too much reliance on luck based mechanics can be a detriment to gameplay. The skill of the player should determine the outcome of a game most of the time. If not, players start to complain and start to feel like the odds are stacked against them. Even with the worst of luck, players still want to feel as though they have a chance at winning. If a good player knows that they cannot win based on things outside of their control (i.e. a perfect hand in a card game) then they will feel like their skills are not being adequately rewarded.

Actionable Takeaways: Luck can make your game more exciting and can add an element of randomness to your game. Doing this will extend your game’s shelf life, since the player can’t entirely predict what will happen, even with the best strategies available. However, too much reliance on luck will make players think the game is unfair or unbalanced. Furthermore, players want to be rewarded for their skills, and not just rely on getting lucky. Make sure to test early, and test often with playtesters and gather their feedback in order to refine all elements of luck.

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Thank you so much for reading! I’m Daniel, Co-Founder of Black Shell Media. We’re a publishing and marketing firm dedicated to helping indie developers succeed.

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