Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Great Debate Over RNG

For those of you who can’t keep up with a thousand acronyms, RNG stands for “Random Number Generator” and essentially applies to any move that does not have a definite outcome. A good example is any one of the elixir skills for an engineer or the steal mechanic for a thief. When you use either an elixir or steal, you basically have a chance for several outcomes. Essentially, you don’t know what will happen when you use the skill.

So, now that you know what RNG is, what and why is there a debate?

Guild Wars 2 is a game that sells itself to a massive PvP audience with a very significant emphasis on player skill.  Debates have raged for quite a long time, but if you reduce the debate down in to one sentence, it would be over this question:

“Does RNG provide too much randomness in a game that sells itself as a potential e-sport, and promote luck over skill?”

No one wants to see the outcome of a hard-fought battle based on complete luck. ArenaNet has been pretty direct when addressing this issue, and their official response is:

“Jon: I guess people read somewhere on the Internet that random effects cannot be in competitive games. Like everything on the Internet, that is at most a half truth. The truth is that random effects are what create moments of opportunity for players to react to. There is a threshold of randomness that is not acceptable, but if you are given outcomes that have clear, non-game breaking implications, those are the moments that expert players should be using to press advantages. Without randomness, all you have is masked complexity, which is hard for new players to understand, and creates false choices.”

If you water this down, this means that ArenaNet wants random effects to be in the game, albeit in some restricted fashion.

The e-sports community had quite a rage when they saw this. So on one side, they do not want RNG at all, and the other side wants some sort of limited inclusion of RNG. In my personal opinion, both sides seem to be a little too extreme, and there may be a middle ground option.

I think there is a way to compromise, and I think I can propose a solution. It probably has been offered before, but I haven’t fully followed the debate on the forums, and thus haven’t seen it.

Allow RNG in the game, but have it in extremely limited amounts, and promote choices that can avoid it. Essentially, this philosophy would allow weapon and trait types that promote RNG to exist, but outlaw anything that is required by a profession. RNG traits would be completely on the table, because players have a choice to add randomness to their build.
A person playing an engineer can choose to opt in for randomness by choosing elixir skills, or avoid them entirely by choosing other skills. Thieves, on the other hand, are forced into randomness. A skilled player must utilize all advantages, and to be the best, we will have to use our unique mechanic, steal. Steal is very RNG, though it has been reduced, and I believe every steal used, has one of two outcomes when used on a person in the latest build. ArenaNet, this is still too much RNG. Have it be one outcome per profession, and you remove the randomness of a “required” mechanic in competitive PvP.

ArenaNet allow us to choose whether we want RNG, it becomes unpopular when you force us into it. Of course the counter-argument is the question of where do you draw the line. For example, instead of the line being drawn at a profession level, you draw it at a weapon set level. For example, a player could argue that they should be able to choose a weapon-set without randomness, and that by choosing their “favorite set” they are “required” to have RNG of some sort. The line needs to be drawn, and the community and developers would be needed to discuss further to define the boundaries.

However, I would argue that if you get rid of “required randomness” for the profession-as-a-whole, a large amount of the community would be satisfied. People are always going to argue on both sides of an issue, but no one can argue, that more player choice is a bad thing (unless it prevents proper balance.)


  1. RNG was the bane of my existence when it came to dungeon and raid drops more than anything. As for skills with RNG, they will ultimately always throw the competition more than the person utilizing it since it's easier for them to know what to expect than other players, I think the important thing with steal is that whatever players get, it's something worth getting.

    As for whether or not RNG can't exist in an E sport, it does exist in at least one "sport" I can think of, and that's poker. It's very much a game of bluffing and strategy as well, but ultimately it comes down to luck of the draw.

  2. I don't think you can get rid of RNG since it represents those unexpected or lucky hits that occur in a fight. In addition, unpredictability is an opponent's bane. In PvP knowing for certain what the other class can do for counters, debuffs, dispells, etc allows players to train for and anticipate reactions. RNG procs or abilities mess their battle rhythm up. Critical hits or heals tend to be an acceptable form of RNG, unless it happens too often I guess. Even if you go with your suggestion of RNG on weapons or trinkets there will be hot debate on how often they occur,30% vs 60%, and what type of ability or buff/debuff it provides and is it too powerful.

    I would stay away from RNG dependent skills but I'm all for and RNG that allows 3 skills to do something, like say a 100% crit chance or no cool down, etc. but I have to pick which skill I use. With that kind of setup I can still choose what I want to use depending on the situation.

    1. okay...need to read Aly's comment before posting LOL!