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Thread: On randomness (or "That's X-COM, baby")

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    On randomness (or "That's X-COM, baby")

    Why do posters here like the randomness in this game? Even the lead designer says "That's XCOM" when a very low-percentage shot hits or a very high-percentage shot misses.

    Obviously, some element of uncertainty was present in the original, but that doesn't make it a good game mechanic. I think there's just too much in X-COM. Ars Technica just posted a preview that really points out the problem with the level of randomness in XCOM: Enemy Unknown:

    "Matches usually came down to a standoff between one or two units on each side, with a lucky roll of the shot dice making the difference between a win and a loss."

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/0...fare-your-way/

    That's really just disappointing. What's the point in playing, if so much just comes down to dumb luck? With two reasonably competent players in multiplayer, what's the point? This is no Frozen Synapse.

    Even in the demo, I found myself taking an awful lot of 40-60% shots that were basically just coin flips. (Bizarrely, one time when I marched an Assault unit right up to a Muton, I only had a 23% chance to hit.)

    Too bad chance plays such a big role. A little chance can be exciting. A lot just ruins, or at least severely limits, this game's potential.

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    I think you might be playing it wrong. And it sounds like Ars Technica(whoever the ☺☺☺☺ that is) is absolutely doing it wrong.

  3. #3
    Yeah I think you don't understand how to flank.. when you do you almost always get upwards of 80% and you rarely miss those shots. The coin toss shots you are talking about is when you try to shot aliens in cover from the front.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post

    Too bad chance plays such a big role. A little chance can be exciting. A lot just ruins, or at least severely limits, this game's potential.
    Lots of chance and randomness is what made the original so special. If your soldier is crappy at aim, then chance is your best friend, if he has a good Firing Accuracy stat , you rely way less on chance, which is correct and fun. And I think chance still plays a big role on the new one.

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    In my experience there's no such thing as luck.

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    It's not always possible to flank. Even when I do, it usually requires bypassing an overwatch shot (another random chance.)

    Are you suggesting all your shots are 80%+ odds flanking shots? Please.

    Still, I am glad you brought up flanking mechanics in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Note that, unlike Frozen Synapse and the original X-COM, this game does NOT incorporate facing! That dramatically limits tactical depth. The only way to flank now is to flank cover.

    I guess I'm fearing the same thing Ars Technica is (and they played far more of the game than any of us has.) It just seems like they substituted too much luck for tactics.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    Why do posters here like the randomness in this game? Even the lead designer says "That's XCOM" when a very low-percentage shot hits or a very high-percentage shot misses.

    Obviously, some element of uncertainty was present in the original, but that doesn't make it a good game mechanic. I think there's just too much in X-COM. Ars Technica just posted a preview that really points out the problem with the level of randomness in XCOM: Enemy Unknown:

    "Matches usually came down to a standoff between one or two units on each side, with a lucky roll of the shot dice making the difference between a win and a loss."

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/0...fare-your-way/

    That's really just disappointing. What's the point in playing, if so much just comes down to dumb luck? With two reasonably competent players in multiplayer, what's the point? This is no Frozen Synapse.

    Even in the demo, I found myself taking an awful lot of 40-60% shots that were basically just coin flips. (Bizarrely, one time when I marched an Assault unit right up to a Muton, I only had a 23% chance to hit.)

    Too bad chance plays such a big role. A little chance can be exciting. A lot just ruins, or at least severely limits, this game's potential.
    It would be very boring if you hit every time or most of the time. The random factor is what makes X-Com ... well X-Com.

    Its what makes the incredible shots that much more incredible, as opposed to ... well, yeah, I know I"m pretty much going to make this shot even if I'm shooting through two windows and a crack in the wall.

    There wouldn't be memorable X-Com stories, it would just be business as usual.

    The idea is to put yourself into position where you get the highest % you can of being successful and well, if you end up missing a guy from 10 feet away and shooting one of your soldiers in the face, well, ☺☺☺☺ happens, cause that's X-Com Baby!! And that's what we love about the game its never the same, nothing is a sure thing, and its not predictable.

    No other games like this exist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    It's not always possible to flank. Even when I do, it usually requires bypassing an overwatch shot (another random chance.)

    Are you suggesting all your shots are 80%+ odds flanking shots? Please.

    Still, I am glad you brought up flanking mechanics in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Note that, unlike Frozen Synapse and the original X-COM, this game does NOT incorporate facing! That slightly changes the way a person has to think about the positioning of their troops. The only way to flank now is to flank cover.
    Fixed that for you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harmonica View Post
    In my experience there's no such thing as luck.
    dude you might be the luckiest guy in the world...and i'm not kidding.

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    You mean like every dice-based game since dice were invented?

    I think it's a fair representation of depending on the boots on the ground to do their jobs while you tackle the strategy. The best you can do is stack the odds in their favour by giving them the best gear and the best squad composition but really, when it comes down to it, the soldier is the one making the shot, and he might miss (as represented by dice randomization). That's how generals throughout history have done it - stacked the odds as far as possible, made the best moves they could, and depended on their troops to do their bit.

    @Dirt Nap - Ars Technica is some hipster tech blog.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harmonica View Post
    In my experience there's no such thing as luck.
    (Clearly never been exposed to actual combat.)

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    There wouldn't be memorable X-Com stories, it would just be business as usual.

    The idea is to put yourself into position where you get the highest % you can of being successful and well, if you end up missing a guy from 10 feet away and shooting one of your soldiers in the face, well, ☺☺☺☺ happens, cause that's X-Com Baby!! And that's what we love about the game its never the same, nothing is a sure thing, and its not predictable.

    No other games like this exist.
    I disagree. Have you played Silent Storm? To be sure, games like this are very rare, but that doesn't necessarily make them better turn based strategy titles than games that do not rely on chance, which are also rare (See: Frozen Synapse).

    Fixed that for you.
    The new positioning tactics offer far fewer choices than the previous ones. Before, you could face in 360 degrees on every turn. Now, you can only basically face in one. It's just...less depth.

    @Dirt Nap - Ars Technica is some hipster tech blog, related to Kotaku.
    I'm not sure personal attacks are a good response to legitimate criticism of a game. Ars certainly has a more competent staff than half the sites that have previewed XCOM so far.

    Yes, generals have relied on some chance in history. I'm just saying, for game purposes, there's too much here. It's like playing Risk vs. Axis and Allies vs. Diplomacy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kilirm View Post
    dude you might be the luckiest guy in the world...and i'm not kidding.
    Quote Originally Posted by gunnergoz View Post
    (Clearly never been exposed to actual combat.)


    And I thought you guys were nerds... It is a Star Wars quote!

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    " The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" No matter how much you think you've prepared, or how well you outfit or train your units, it could all come down to one shot. I like the fact that I may have the superior position, units, and equipment, yet still may lose to chance. That's exciting to me. But that's almost any strategy game. Only in Xcom your losses are individual team members that don't come back. I really enjoy games that punish me severely for my mistakes and failed risk taking. It just makes my victory that much more satisfying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    Why do posters here like the randomness in this game? Even the lead designer says "That's XCOM" when a very low-percentage shot hits or a very high-percentage shot misses.

    Obviously, some element of uncertainty was present in the original, but that doesn't make it a good game mechanic. I think there's just too much in X-COM. Ars Technica just posted a preview that really points out the problem with the level of randomness in XCOM: Enemy Unknown:

    "Matches usually came down to a standoff between one or two units on each side, with a lucky roll of the shot dice making the difference between a win and a loss."

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/0...fare-your-way/

    That's really just disappointing. What's the point in playing, if so much just comes down to dumb luck? With two reasonably competent players in multiplayer, what's the point? This is no Frozen Synapse.

    Even in the demo, I found myself taking an awful lot of 40-60% shots that were basically just coin flips. (Bizarrely, one time when I marched an Assault unit right up to a Muton, I only had a 23% chance to hit.)

    Too bad chance plays such a big role. A little chance can be exciting. A lot just ruins, or at least severely limits, this game's potential.
    You're doing it wrong.

    Random elements are a cornerstone of game design. If they weren't present in this game it would make it much much less enjoyable. Ever played a RPG? Random criticals, random loot, random etc, etc. Random elements are in most if not all games we play, and we LIKE that, because it makes the games unpredictable, exciting and surprising.

    Also it doesn't apply to the multiplayer at all. In the long run luck will even out, thus those who play better will rise naturally. Don't bet your house on a single game, but don't bet anything on the guy who constantly take 25% shots just because "it's all luck anyway".

    If I was having a multiplayer league or tournament I would have best of threes or fives for brackets, or have everyone play each other twice in a league. Sure, you get some unexpected results here and there, but at the end of the day you will find the two players who make it to the final are getting there on skill more than luck.

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    I really like the explicit randomness. It's a bit like poker; you can miss a few 90% shots, and it's really sucky when it happens, but if you play well, and make sure the odds are in your favour, you will win in the end. Sure, it really sucks when you did everything right and had a 90% chance to kill the little sectoid dude and your best guy misses and ends up dead, but THAT really is what makes XCOM so continuously compelling. It also makes it all the more satisfying when that 10% shot comes off. I'll go back to the poker analogy - it would be no fun if Aces always won.

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    If you have minimal chance shots, you're not playing effectively. Did you use grenades to bust enemy cover? Did you flank? Did you use your skills? Did you attempt to lure enemies into killing fields?

    There is a lot of tactical depth, if you're playing it as two sided trench warfare, you are not playing it to its full potential.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    I'm not sure personal attacks are a good response to legitimate criticism of a game. Ars certainly has a more competent staff than half the sites that have previewed XCOM so far.

    Yes, generals have relied on some chance in history. I'm just saying, for game purposes, there's too much here. It's like playing Risk vs. Axis and Allies vs. Diplomacy.
    It wasn't a personal attack against you. I simply consider Ars Technica a blog written by hipsters; I'm not trying to suggest you are one.

    How would you make the game more balanced, if you think the current system is flawed? I mean, would you do things like remove the element of chance entirely, or maybe increase the odds to hit?

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    I wonder if you can turn off the shot percentage overlay and just... play

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    Why do posters here like the randomness in this game? Even the lead designer says "That's XCOM" when a very low-percentage shot hits or a very high-percentage shot misses.
    Probably the same reason silly people buy lottery tickets rather than putting that money in a savings account...
    Risk is thrilling. If you don't get it, I doubt it can be explained.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    It's not always possible to flank. Even when I do, it usually requires bypassing an overwatch shot (another random chance.)

    Are you suggesting all your shots are 80%+ odds flanking shots? Please.

    Still, I am glad you brought up flanking mechanics in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Note that, unlike Frozen Synapse and the original X-COM, this game does NOT incorporate facing! That dramatically limits tactical depth. The only way to flank now is to flank cover.

    I guess I'm fearing the same thing Ars Technica is (and they played far more of the game than any of us has.) It just seems like they substituted too much luck for tactics.
    You enjoy it more when your soldiers get shot to death without even trying to turn around?

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    Quote Originally Posted by jitty View Post
    Probably the same reason silly people buy lottery tickets rather than putting that money in a savings account...
    Risk is thrilling. If you don't get it, I doubt it can be explained.
    Risk? How many lottery tickets are you buying?

  23. #23
    If there is no such thing as luck why do we fear the god Murphy?

    Hate to mention it but a 40% to 60% chance is basically a coin flip.

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    The problem - they're taking the MP seriously, instead of looking at it as a side attraction.

    And in terms of the campaign, the lucky rolls add a lot of flavor to the game. Seeing a guy panic then take a shot and critically kill an enemy creates those moments you share with others.

    If you want something that is more rewarding of superior play, you could play Frozen Synapse, or Chess. (Just an FYI, Frozen Synapse does have some RNG if two guys with the exact same conditions start firing at each other at the EXACT same time, such as two guys aiming, strafing and both coming into line of sight with each other)

    Random elements are a cornerstone of game design.
    Calling bull**** on this though. They're great for XCOM but not for every game.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    Why do posters here like the randomness in this game? Even the lead designer says "That's XCOM" when a very low-percentage shot hits or a very high-percentage shot misses.
    Give me examples of your favourite games. I'm sure they're full of random elements. Just because you don't get a % sign on your screen all the time doesn't mean that they're not there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post

    Even in the demo, I found myself taking an awful lot of 40-60% shots that were basically just coin flips.
    I am shocked that a 40-60% chance is like a coin flip. Shocked! Absolutly shocked! All those years studying probabilities thrown out the window.

    If you're not going to bother learning how to play the game...

    This kind of a mechanic goes all the way back to the original pen and paper dungeons and dragons, were even a level 20 (the max) character can miss a level 1 character... and that level 1 always has a chance to criticaly hit the level 20.

    "The world's best swordsman doesn't fear the second best; he fears the worst swordsman, because he can't predict what the idiot will do." ~David Weber

    There are no guarantees in life.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Harmonica View Post
    And I thought you guys were nerds... It is a Star Wars quote!
    But, but...Star Wars is fiction, unlike XCom.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMediator View Post
    Calling bull**** on this though. They're great for XCOM but not for every game.
    I didn't say every game. I said game design generally. Most games have random elements. It is far easier to pick ones with them than those without.

    Dice, Cards, Boardgames, Computer Games, whatever. Random elements are pervasive and they are pervasive for a reason.

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    The percentage chance to hit is absolutely the corner stone of the game. Having that one soldier left with a 20% hit chance on an alien, with a launcher, that is about to wipe out your team and he scores a kill! That is REALLY xcom baby!

    Or on the other hand having 4 shots at 50% + only to miss all of them so you actually want the alien to kill that dumb ass rookie! It's what makes the game fun/exciting. You always have a slim chance when things look really bad, but you also have a chance to fail when things look really good! It will provide hope no matter how bad things go in multiplayer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lamaros View Post
    I didn't say every game. I said game design generally. Most games have random elements. It is far easier to pick ones with them than those without.

    Dice, Cards, Boardgames, Computer Games, whatever. Random elements are pervasive and they are pervasive for a reason.
    Mostly because random is easier to understand and more challenging to game than something with deterministic but convoluted rules. Frozen Synapse is a great example... in a shoot-out is aiming from an exposed stationary position going to win against than running into low cover and then firing? The only way you can know is if you have the numbers written down or do a test run. With RNG, you can add up some bonuses, and then let the die decide. You still have mathematical expectations which add strategy, but you can manage without gaming the system at every turn.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TheMediator View Post
    Mostly because random is easier to understand and more challenging to game than something with deterministic but convoluted rules.
    Disagree completely. Frozen Synapse is 'random'; another human mind is an incredible random generator. Simultaneously play ensures that the game is random enough, so further random elements are not needed to make it fun. But make no mistake, if Frozen Synapse was turn based it simply would not work.

  32. #32
    OP, you do know that every game out there, from Candy Land to Fallout, is based on randomness, right? Your job, as the player, is to optimize your chances of success using the tools the game gives you.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Warmaster Horus View Post
    OP, you do know that every game out there, from Candy Land to Fallout, is based on randomness, right? Your job, as the player, is to optimize your chances of success using the tools the game gives you.
    You hit the nail on the head. In a well built game, a good player with bad luck will beat a bad player with good luck. You make your chances higher by playing the game better than your opponent.

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    What does seem to happen is that the randomness is seemingly biased against the player in higher difficulty levels. That's just what it looks like from some of the playthroughs and streaming videos.

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    The percentage chance to hit is absolutely the corner stone of the game. Having that one soldier left with a 20% hit chance on an alien, with a launcher, that is about to wipe out your team and he scores a kill! That is REALLY xcom baby!
    Isn't rewarding players for poor tactical positioning a cornerstone of bad game design? Sort of like getting the Fountain of Youth and 500 gold in the second turn of multiplayer Civ 5.

    You enjoy it more when your soldiers get shot to death without even trying to turn around?
    Yes! If it is not my turn, my soldiers should not be moving or acting (assuming no overwatch). This rewards tactical play.

    How would you make the game more balanced, if you think the current system is flawed? I mean, would you do things like remove the element of chance entirely, or maybe increase the odds to hit?
    I think the best way would be to introduce simultaneous movement for multiplayer, as well as the requirement that soldiers face a particular direction when entering cover. This keeps a form of "gambling," but you're gambling on what you think your opponent will do, rather than a dice roll.

    However, I am no game designer. If simultaneous movement is too drastic, perhaps the game could reward kills only when a targeted unit is both flanked by one unit and fired upon by another (the Diplomacy method.) Facing should also be introduced.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheMediator View Post
    Mostly because random is easier to understand and more challenging to game than something with deterministic but convoluted rules. Frozen Synapse is a great example... in a shoot-out is aiming from an exposed stationary position going to win against than running into low cover and then firing? The only way you can know is if you have the numbers written down or do a test run. With RNG, you can add up some bonuses, and then let the die decide. You still have mathematical expectations which add strategy, but you can manage without gaming the system at every turn.
    I think this is right. A high element of randomness helps Firaxis, also, because they don't really have to design a very coherent tactical system.

    Give me examples of your favourite games. I'm sure they're full of random elements. Just because you don't get a % sign on your screen all the time doesn't mean that they're not there.
    I enjoy Counterstrike: Source and Global Offensive, as well as multiplayer Civ 4 (custom balanced maps) and Frozen Synapse. All three involve some chance, to be sure, but at a level that is significantly overshadowed by skill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    The new positioning tactics offer far fewer choices than the previous ones. Before, you could face in 360 degrees on every turn. Now, you can only basically face in one. It's just...less depth.
    Ermm - the one direction you're facing includes 360 degrees of vision. I'm not sure I understand your distinction, could you explain it for me?

    I don't think the changes to the los rules with respect to model facing will make as much difference as some people think - because I think the game as a whole is designed around particular axioms, and that things are going to hang together. Of course I'll have to wait until I've played the game to be sure, but the things I've seen so far give me ample reason to hope.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gunnergoz View Post
    What does seem to happen is that the randomness is seemingly biased against the player in higher difficulty levels. That's just what it looks like from some of the playthroughs and streaming videos.
    Not necessarily. You are not fighting mirror images, so giving the enemy better base aim (the primary element of randomness) is not biased in any 'unfair' sense. You are just relatively weaker. It's not like you get half the defensive bonuses or range penalties the enemy does, they just start from a position of strength.

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    Simultaneously play ensures that the game is random enough
    I agree that the way the system is setup it is "random" in a sense. When you assume the enemy is going to make the best move possible, and you counter that best move, but then the enemy makes a move that would have failed if you weren't playing intelligently, but succeeds because you thought he would be smarter... it can be rock paper scissors-ish at times.

    In a scenario like that, it is easier to just make a gamble than figure out what is the best outcome. Random is more approachable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by georgetownhoya View Post
    I enjoy Counterstrike: Source and Global Offensive, as well as multiplayer Civ 4 (custom balanced maps) and Frozen Synapse. All three involve some chance, to be sure, but at a level that is significantly overshadowed by skill.
    CS: S and Frozen Synapse are SIMULTANEOUS multi-player games - the other players are random elements. XCOM is a turn based game.

    Civ 4 I don't know well enough to speak of.


    Quote Originally Posted by TheMediator View Post
    I agree that the way the system is setup it is "random" in a sense. When you assume the enemy is going to make the best move possible, and you counter that best move, but then the enemy makes a move that would have failed if you weren't playing intelligently, but succeeds because you thought he would be smarter... it can be rock paper scissors-ish at times.
    Absolutely. But there is a reason that the examples of 'not random' are simultaneous games. Most things that are turn based include that random element in other ways.

    As for what type of random people like, it's a matter of choice. But there's no call for randomness to be dubbed as 'bad' or 'lazy' design.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lamaros View Post
    Not necessarily. You are not fighting mirror images, so giving the enemy better base aim (the primary element of randomness) is not biased in any 'unfair' sense. You are just relatively weaker. It's not like you get half the defensive bonuses or range penalties the enemy does, they just start from a position of strength.
    I should have clarified that. What I perceived to be biased was the gunnery outcomes. Whatever the estimated odds are shown before the shot, the actual outcome seemed more inclined to be a miss when the player was doing the shooting.

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