The feeling that random effects are not random but favorable to a player.
Many events in games are in practice impossible for players to control in a predictable and repeatable fashion. However, sometimes players feel that they can affect these events anyway, either through how they perform the actions or through the idea that their wishes regarding the outcome will affect it. When this causes players to feel that they are more likely to success or perform better, the games are letting them feel Luck.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Using the pattern
- 3 Consequences
- 4 Relations
- 5 History
- 6 References
Gambling Games are nearly always based upon the possibility for players to feel Luck, and Craps, Guts, and Roulette are examples of such games. Blackjack, Mahjong, Poker, and Texas Hold'em also hold large potential for Luck but here player skill can be noticeable over many game sessions.
By their random nature, Dice Games such as Yahtzee and Card Games such as Dominion and Whist have possibilities for players to feel Luck. This inherited by games that make use of these randomizers, e.g. Axis & Allies, Dungeons & Dragons, GURPS, Memoir '44, and Warhammer 40K. The randomness in Computer Games can make Luck more difficult to notice, but for games such as World of Warcraft or Torchlight this can occur when loot is found and critical hits can do the same in games such as the Fallout series or Dead Island.
Using the pattern
As the name suggests, Lucky Guess Solutions can support Luck but in general Luck can be hard to explicitly design into games since it is subjective emotion and emergent as well. Instead, different approaches can be taken to maximize the chances for these to occur sometimes during game sessions. This is much easier, most often simply some form of Randomness or Uncertainty of Outcome is sufficient, and classical ways of providing Luck through Randomness include letting players roll Dice or giving them card Hands. For Dice rolls, this can further be enhanced by using Open-Ended Die Rolls. Common examples on how Randomness is linked with Luck include Skills checks (e.g. in Basic Roleplaying and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay) and railroaded Movement in games with Location-Fixed Abilities (e.g. in Snakes & Ladders and Monopoly). Risk/Reward situations is also a general way of supporting Luck since players can choose what to do based on how lucky they feel, as is unknown Delayed Effects. The action of other players in Multiplayer Games may surprise and this can also give rise to the feeling of being lucky. Note that some of these solutions work towards making players feel lucky when an outcome is revealed while others work against players being able to feel lucky while the outcome is determined, regardless if they will actually feel this when the outcome is revealed. Betting can be seen as a combination of several of the things mentioned earlier; it depends on the action of other players and while it does not have Randomness there is typically some amount of Uncertainty of Outcome.
Other, more specific, ways of supporting Luck without changing probabilities of actual success is to provide players with multiple Drawing Stacks to draw from or allowing them to choose with Dice to use. Introducing Critical Hits is a way of augmenting the possibility of Luck since how players have more than one level of possible success. Near Miss Indicators can make players feel lucky because they avoided being hit, and can realize how closely they avoided this.
Several patterns can work against players feeling Luck. Extra Chances take away the perception since unluckiness can be avoided through them. Fixed Distributions, Predictable Consequences, and Strategic Knowledge can work against it since players may know exactly what will happen in unfolding events, or at least the exact odds for different outcomes. Avoiding these intentionally in a game can be seen as a form of trying to support players in being able to feel Luck while playing.
The alternative to trying and encourage experiences of Luck by creating possibilities for it to occur is to cheat. This can be instantiated by Game Masters which can combine this with providing Tension. A specific way of doing this is to make Feigned Die Rolls and give players the unlikely but positive outcomes. This however introduces Risk/Reward choices for the Game Masters since if players notice the cheating they will not only lose the sense of Luck but quite likely also of an Exaggerated Perception of Influence.
Luck is a fickle solution to providing Player Agency since while it can do so if players feel the Luck is there if can likewise be felt to just be "Luck".
Misfortune Mitigation can weakly or indirectly modify the presence of Luck in a game. This since it can allow players to feel lucky in avoiding misfortune, but also in that it can ruin Luck if other Agents in that game can use Misfortune Mitigation to counter players' Luck. In contrasts, games that allow the use of Explicit Random Seeds to create the starting positions of games (e.g. through Procedurally Generated Game Worlds) can let players reuse lucky starting positions if they keep track of the random seeds.
One way of making players feel Luck is to inscribed fortunate events in Predetermined Story Structures, e.g. receiving an unexpected and large inheritance or winning a lottery. This is of course a fragile design solution since replaying the game will reveal this to be a deterministic event rather than a lucky one.
Feeling Luck gives players an Exaggerated Perception of Influence in games, and this can be enough to create interesting games with No Direct Player Influence. The experience of having a large amount of Luck can be perceived as an Exceptional Event. However, hoping for Luck can create Tension since the outcome of events are unknown, and this become more likely when perceived in actions with Delayed Effects since players may not be sure about their Luck. Games that make it possible for players to feel that the outcome depends on Luck have deceptive Smooth Learning Curves if not real ones.
Luck can ruin or lessen the satisfaction of Goal Achievements when it allows the goals to be achieved not by player skill but fortunate events. The perception that one can have Luck can also work against Further Player Improvement Potential when this is possible since the importance of being lucky may feel more important than actual trying to improve. If can even more strongly work against Gameplay Mastery since having Luck may remove possibilities to learn and may remove the possibility to feel a Value of Effort since it can be Luck rather than effort that determines outcomes of gameplay.
with Delayed Effects
with Game Masters
Can Be Instantiated By
Betting, Critical Hits, Delayed Effects, Drawing Stacks, Feigned Die Rolls, Game Masters, Lucky Guess Solutions, Multiplayer Games, Near Miss Indicators, Open-Ended Die Rolls, Predetermined Story Structures, Randomness, Uncertainty of Outcome
Can Be Modulated By
Possible Closure Effects
Potentially Conflicting With
Extra Chances, Fixed Distributions, Further Player Improvement Potential, Gameplay Mastery, Goal Achievements, Misfortune Mitigation, Player Agency, Predictable Consequences, Strategic Knowledge, Value of Effort
A rewrite version of the pattern Luck that was part of the original collection in the book Patterns in Game Design.
- Björk, S. & Holopainen, J. (2004) Patterns in Game Design. Charles River Media. ISBN1-58450-354-8.