Why we should praise RNGesus
Would computer games be any fun without random numbers?
Random numbers play a significant role in many forms of video games, enabling the game to develop interesting variations. This can be implemented in two ways, the first is to randomly vary something outputted by the game to create moment-to-moment unpredictability. This could decide whether your bullet hits (e.g. X-COM), whether you critically strike (e.g. League of Legends), or whether you draw the card you need to win the game (e.g. Hearthstone). The other way of implementing random numbers is to change the game’s input parameters, such that each play through is unique. This implementation can be used to create unique characters (e.g. Lord of the Rings Shadow of Mordor), create unique stories (e.g. FTL), or create unique game content (e.g. Weapons in Borderlands).
Randomness in games are mainly created using a pseudo-random number generator. A seed number is chosen and used as an input into an algorithm to form the random number. The seed must be chosen carefully as the pattern of random numbers generated by the computer is directly related to the seed. In some games such as Pokemon emerald, the seed being a fixed number (zero) leads to patterns emerging, due to numbers being output in the same order. The result of this is that supposedly random events can be predicted, and people have exploited this effect to ensure they always get the best Pokemon (Find out more here).
In most games exploiting random numbers is not much of a problem, as it is barely worth the effort of doing; however, this can change when games involve gambling. A group of programmers found a flaw in an online poker game (Find out more here). They successfully produced a program that could exploit the method the company were using to seed the algorithm to successfully predict the cards in the “shuffled” deck. This worked because poker allows 5 cards to be initially seen by the player, eliminating the possible shuffle combinations down to a single possibility.
Quantum Base has developed a simple random number generator.
When it is incorporated into electronic devices it will provide computer games with easy access to truly random numbers. Find out more here.