The Random Chance Element in Game Design and Development

Jason Dookeran
5 min readApr 3, 2024
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If you’re building an indie game, you probably have considered random chance mechanics. Both video games and tabletop games use dice (or a virtual representation of them) for things like movement, damage, and other elements that may need a bit of random chance thrown in. Some players see random chance as the reason they lose games, yet others see it as a “balancing” mechanic to make games impossible to plot beforehand. Does randomness enhance a game, or does it make it less rewarding when you win?

Randomness is a Fact of Life

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Even though we may pay them no mind, many things around us rely on random chance. The fact that we don’t get a flat tire every morning (or that we get it on one particular morning) is down to random chance.

Since randomness is a fact of life, it should be an element in a game, right? Well, not necessarily. Take, for example, Chess. There are no dice there, and each move is made with the player’s full attention. There’s no randomness there. Even so, there are so many ways to play the first ten moves on a chessboard (approximately 32.4 trillion combinations) that it’s impossible to predict.

Some People Prefer Solid Numbers

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Gamers like having an idea of what they’re getting into. When you look at the most competitive games out there, especially those in the eSports category, numbers play a huge part in how gamers calculate the best move for them.

Compare that with a game like Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Most heroes have a range for their damage, and the generator in the background calculates what value the damage packet sends when it hits the opposing player. In this case, randomness adds to the fun of the game. The skill shots in DotA are more dependable damage-wise, making the game a bit more balanced.

Some Games Use Randomness for Gambling

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Personally, one of the gaming developments I like the least is loot boxes. Sure, I get game companies have to make their money, but many loot boxes feel like cheap money grabs. What’s worse is that most players can’t afford enough loot boxes to compete by simply playing the game.

Whether it’s EA’s blatant cash grabs with loot chests, FUT packs, or gacha games like Genshin Impact with their “rolls,” these games use a random generator to reward their players. I’m not the only one who sees a problem with this reward system. Some EU member states (like Belgium and Slovakia) have banned loot boxes entirely.

When Is Randomness a Blessing For a Game?

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Randomness can inject excitement and unpredictability into games, making each session unique and engaging. In board games like Monopoly or card games like Poker, randomness ensures no two games are alike, keeping players on their toes and encouraging adaptability and strategic thinking. Random elements can level the playing field, giving both novice and experienced players a chance to win.

Additionally, randomness fosters suspense and anticipation, as players never know what might happen next, leading to thrilling moments of surprise and delight. Ultimately, randomness adds depth and replay value to games, enhancing the overall enjoyment and appeal for players of all skill levels.

When Randomness Plain Sucks

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While randomness can add excitement to games, it can also lead to frustration and undermine strategic depth. In some cases, excessive randomness can overshadow player skill, resulting in victories or losses that feel arbitrary rather than earned. Games heavily reliant on luck may discourage players from investing time and effort in mastering strategies, as success becomes more about chance than skillful decision-making.

Moreover, random outcomes can diminish the sense of agency, leaving players powerless or cheated by uncontrollable factors. In competitive settings, excessive randomness can undermine the integrity of the game, as outcomes are determined more by luck than by players’ abilities. Thus, while randomness can enhance enjoyment in moderation, excessive reliance on it may detract from the overall gaming experience.

What’s Better For Your Game?

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If you’re building an indie game, random chance could help or hinder your final product. One of the best ways around this is to plan, test, and get feedback from players about your indie game. Don’t be afraid to give your playtesters your game before it’s finally ready to get critical feedback on what works and what doesn’t. That feedback could help you determine whether dice help or hurt your gameplay.

Hi, I’m Jason, an indie game developer, gamer, and writer. I’ve spent a lot of time (more than a decade at the time of writing) working on my indie games. I also write for some online outlets. If you’re a fan of Indie game development, want to know what’s coming out soon in the indie world, or are just curious about the process of building an indie game, feel free to subscribe to my Medium. I usually post articles like these once a week.

Until next time, remember that if you lost a game recently, the dice probably weren’t as much to blame as the choices you made. After all, you can only blame randomness for so much!



Jason Dookeran

Freelance author, ghostwriter, and crypto/blockchain enthusiast. I write about personal finance, emerging technology and freelancing