The introduction of randomization in games brought about all sorts of new mechanics. Using randomization in a game has a huge impact on how engaging users find the game and its replay value. Randomization can be found in just about every genre, although some are more subtle than others.
Some of the first randomization can be seen in “Ms. PacMan.” The big difference between “Ms. PacMan” and the original “PacMan” was the introduction of randomization in the artificial intelligence (AI). Instead of always following an exact path as in “PacMan,” Ms. PacMan’s enemies had some randomization to them that allowed them to move in a slightly more unpredictable manner. Randomization in enemy AI can also be seen in “Resident Evil 4.” Each enemy would begin sprinting, or slow down to a lurch, randomly as they approached you. This made it much harder to identify your top threat. By doing this in both games, it forced the user to adapt continuously.
Randomness can also be found within First Person Shooters (FPS). FPS games utilize randomness within gun properties to make each one unique. Game developers increase the randomization in the accuracy of the guns by randomizing the amount of horizontal and vertical recoil in guns. By doing this, they can make guns more suited for close quarters combat or longer range fights. The user weighs the risk vs. the reward: Do you choose a gun with high damage but low accuracy or do you go with a gun with high accuracy but low damage? Spawn points are also randomized in team deathmatch games. Randomized spawn points keep the action moving throughout the map and prevent spawn trapping from happening.
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games use randomization in loot you get from enemies. This helps to make the gameplay interesting. The user does not know when an enemy will drop a good piece of loot or a piece of junk. Without this the user would simply be playing just for experience to level up their character. The gameplay would get monotonous and boring quickly.
In “Minecraft,” every time a user starts a new world they are presented with a randomly generated landscape. Even though the user can change the landscape however they want, they might be inspired by the way their present world is than the world they were presented with last. A user might see an island they didn’t have before and decide to build a castle on it or they might build a subterranean network of tunnels in a large mountain.
I find that iPhone and iPad games seem to have a limited amount of randomization within them and I think that is why many games get played for only a short amount of time. “Plants vs. Zombies” has some randomization in the spawn points of enemies which keeps your strategy changing. “Angry Birds” isn’t exactly randomized, but the chances of you shooting a bird at the exact same speed and same angle and have the physics react identical every time is rare, which makes it feel somewhat randomized.
Having randomization in games keeps users coming back to re-play a game. Whether it’s obvious or subtle, randomization keeps games interesting, it helps them feel natural and real to us.