将随机性整合到《Pedit5》的设计中引起了一个有关计算机时代的古老问题：当我们放手，让一切听天由命时会怎样？但这也是游戏在各个世纪会以不同形式呈现出来的问题，并伴随着将自己的命运投掷在随机机制中的人类。20世纪基于骰子的桌面游戏，如Ludo和印度双骰游戏便可以追溯到1914年由德国人设计的《Mensch ?rgere Dich Nicht》。我们可以将其粗略地翻译为“喂，别生气”，即意味着游戏带有让人沮丧的随机性关卡。一款1965年的家庭类游戏《Trouble or Frustration!》也是完全依赖于运气元素。在这款游戏中，玩家必须滚动骰子并获得点数6才能出发。这些游戏都是受到印度双骰游戏所谓的“交叉和圆圈”家庭规则的影响。
英国建筑师兼作家Edward Falkener在其1892年出版的书籍《Games Ancient And Oriental And How To Play Them》中探索了16世纪的印度双骰游戏，根据报道，印度皇室会将活人当成棋子，并在一个巨大的棋盘上操纵着他们玩游戏。Falkener写道：“印度阿克巴皇帝和他的侍臣们会一起玩这种游戏；16个年轻的奴隶被命令穿上代表不同棋子的颜色的衣服，并根据骰子的滚动朝方形移动。”根据Falkener，玩家是用来自宝贝螺（一种海产软体动物）中的6个贝壳代表骰子。然后玩家会计算有多少贝壳是开放一面朝上。所以印度双骰游戏是最早基于随机掷骰子原理的游戏（人类是在20世纪20年代一个苏美尔人的坟墓中发现这一事实）—-这要追溯到公园前2600年，那时候他们还是使用四面体的骰子。
The Director只是关于支配《求生之路》中随机元素的算法集合的名字。它不带有任何感情或目标，但是玩家必须将The Director的想法当成一个实体，并如此进行讨论与思考。
在YouTube上名为《The Director Hates Us》的视频中，一名玩家描述了其最近的游戏体验。他说道，The Director会选择性地攻击自己与好友，并隐藏重要的健康包，直到他们来到关卡的最后环节。他在视频的描述中写道：“他会在采访车和急射机枪右边设置一个女巫。”
基本上人类总是希望能够看到代理和模式，即使现实中什么都没有。我们很容易想象到特性是如何在人类发展过程中保留下来。游戏《100 Rogues》的设计师，同时也是《Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy For Understanding Games》的作者Keith Burgun认为，当人们在玩游戏时，这种继承性便会表现出来。他说道，当孩子们在玩《Candyland》这样的桌面游戏时，他们便会相信在自己的骰子角色背后拥有一个代理。甚至当人们逐渐长大并开始清楚自己不能真正控制骰子这样的事物时，他们仍会将在大多数随机游戏中的成功归功于自己。
在Rusty Rutherford离开了原本的工作和自己所创造的先驱游戏后，18岁的Paul Resch来到了伊利诺伊大学的地下室。Resch沿着混凝土阶梯走下，走进一间泛着橙色灯光的房间，这是PLATO系统所发出的光线。一群学生集中在机器附近，正在使用这些机器去学习果蝇的杂交（生物课）。看来这是一项有关教育游戏的项目。
他自己的班级还未上课，但是Resch却非常想要试试这些先进的机器，所以他便假装自己也是一名生物学学生，偷偷地访问了一个终端。正是在那里，他发现了一个被遗弃的文件：Pedit5。Resch联系了一些好友，并在接下来几个月的时间里开始修改代码去完善它。Resch创造了基于网络的多人聊天系统，并将其整合到游戏中。他还添加了来自《龙与地下城》世界中的更多规则，他们甚至还想办法获得了Tactical Studies Rules（游戏邦注：TSR，《龙与地下城》在那时候的发行商）的使用许可。
Games of chance: what does randomness bring to videogames?
By Edge Staff
In the autumn of 1975, Reginald ‘Rusty’ Rutherford watched a monster – his monster – wander around a computer screen at random. The orange glow of the vector monitor displayed a map, a tiny hero with a sword, and contextual information rendered in the solemn style of Dungeons & Dragons. This is Pedit5, the earliest known roleplaying game on a computer.
Rutherford was a programmer working on the University Of Illinois’ Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations (PLATO) computer system. The hardware, built in the ’60s, was among the first networked computer systems to be used for educational purposes. In the ’70s, decades before the Internet came into being, PLATO could connect to around 150 locations worldwide, and it was regularly being expanded to new ones. Space on the system was limited, but Rutherford’s group had access to two unused files, which were labelled ‘Pedit4’ and ‘Pedit5’.
Disregarding the rules against such things, Rutherford took Pedit5 and began working to develop a game based loosely on Dungeons & Dragons. Pedit4, meanwhile, became an instruction manual for his new game. Rutherford was attempting to emulate an incredibly rich and intricate boardgame, but his program lacked complexity. Each dungeon contained one floor and about 50 static rooms. The creator puzzled over how to keep the experience from getting stale.
He found the solution within D&D’s rulebook: randomisation. If Rutherford allowed PLATO to make its own decisions about where to place the monsters and treasure, the number of potential level layouts would skyrocket, and the game had a much better chance of holding players’ interest. Rutherford worked on Pedit5 until late ’75, but soon after moved on, leaving behind his job, the PLATO system, and the two secret files that would later become the foundation of an entire videogame genre.
The idea to incorporate randomness into Pedit5’s design brought an age-old question into the computer age: what is possible when we let go and leave things to chance? But this is a question games have been posing in various forms for centuries, with human beings throwing their fates into the hands of random mechanics. Dice-heavy 20th-century race boardgames such as Ludo and Parcheesi can trace their roots back to the 1914 German-designed Mensch ?rgere Dich Nicht. The title translates roughly to “Don’t be mad, man”, indicative of the game’s frustrating level of randomness. An irritating dependency on luck would also define the 1965 family game night atrocity called Trouble or Frustration!, depending on which side of the Atlantic you lived on. In it, players have to roll a six just to get on the board and play. These games fall into the jurisdiction of the so-called ‘cross and circle’ family, which most researchers believe originated with the Indian game of Pachisi.
In his 1892 book, Games Ancient And Oriental And How To Play Them, English architect and writer Edward Falkener traced Pachisi back to the 16th century, where royalty reportedly played on enormous boards with live human figures as pieces. “[Indian Emperor Akbar I] and his courtiers played this game; 16 young slaves from the harem wearing the players’ colours represented the pieces,” Falkener wrote, “and moved to the squares according to the throw of the dice.” According to Falkener, the game was played by throwing six shells from cowries, a type of marine mollusc, in lieu of dice. Players would then count how many shells landed open side up. And Pachisi is predated as the first game to leave an element of play up to random rolls of the dice (or a fishy equivalent) by The Royal Game Of Ur – discovered in a Sumerian tomb in the 1920s – which dates to 2600 BC and featured tetrahedral dice.
All these games, from The Royal Game Of Ur to Trouble, are really just more codified versions of a favourite BC pastime: casting lots. These were games of chance – simple systems built around a simple luck-based tool. Randomness has always been the easiest way to leave the outcome of a competition to the whim of God, instead of solely to skill.
But while today’s games – both board-based and digital – owe a debt to the history of early randomisation tools, it’s only in recent decades that we have begun to discover what randomness can achieve when we harness it in new ways.
‘Create New World’ says Minecraft’s rectangular button. Click it and an instant later you might find your nose pressed against a vine-covered tree trunk. Or perhaps you’re standing knee-deep in water. Maybe you’ll appear in a pumpkin patch, with a spotted cat lurking nearby. The possible scenarios are so numerous as to be effectively endless, generated by a fixed algorithm in combination with a random or player-given ‘seed’ sequence. Since each seed grows into a different world, few buttons can surprise and delight like the one in Mojang’s blockbuster hit.
Minecraft is about creating, living, and working resourcefully within a universe that has been instanced just for you. As a result, no GameFAQs walkthrough can tell players what’s around the corner in any particular cave, and YouTube tutorials won’t show you exactly where to find diamond ore. Since the advent of the Internet, videogames have been, as a rule, unable to hide secrets from their players. With its randomness, Minecraft spurns becoming solvable. You can learn how the game works at a basic level in minutes, but you have to play well to survive and thrive.
Like boardgames, videogames with lots of design randomness have traditionally been abstract. Think of Tetris with its ‘T’ and ‘L’ shapes, and that ever-elusive long block. Or consider Bejeweled, a game of raw systems built on the concept of matching like-coloured objects that fall from the heavens. But neither is truly random. Tetris, for example, generates randomly shuffled but discrete sets of all of its block types to ensure you never play a game that presents an endless procession of ‘Z’ blocks.
But games need not be abstract to benefit from leaving swathes of the experience up to chance. The Diablo series has progressively striven to randomise as much of its own content as possible, from loot drops to map layouts. And 2009’s Borderlands, with its purported 17.75 million guns, used a random item generation system as the crutch of its marketing campaign. Even popular mass-market series like Gears Of War are embracing randomness to alleviate repetition. Die and restart a level in Gears Of War: Judgment and its Smart Spawn system sends you a group of new, randomly selected enemies to fight.
The notion of semi-authored randomness is core to the genius of Spelunky, Derek Yu’s sublime merging of the platforming and roguelike genres. Like many games before it, Spelunky features randomly generated levels, in this case constructed from rooms made of randomly selected tiles from a fixed set. An algorithm then runs a set of checks and populates the level with monsters and obstacles, which are also subject to randomness, but balanced by intelligent rules. You play this setup just once. Either it kills you and you restart, or you succeed and move on to the game’s next world, which is built from a new set of level tiles and algorithms.
One of the most obvious benefits of this is that the game avoids becoming repetitive. Instead of falling back into a world you’ve partially conquered once, Spelunky’s levels ask you to overcome a new space that’s forged by the same consistent laws. It expects you to navigate the new landscape using what you’ve learned from previous runs.
Randomness allows players – and even creators – of games to be continually surprised by them. But is randomness in game design all about world and weapon generation? Is creating a game with endless content a goal worth pursuing? Yu doesn’t think so.
Needlessly padding out a game’s length using randomness, he says, can be “one of the worst things you can do unless you’re still introducing new things to the player and giving them a great experience”. To Yu, this means constantly observing and learning new things, being challenged, and “having your concept of the world expand”.
An extreme example of a not-fun implementation of a random system would be a slot machine. Pulling a lever and watching cherries and lemons spin teaches you nothing – the spinning is meaningless noise. Trying to understand and control it is a little like trying to divine a pattern in TV static, but that doesn’t prevent some people from becoming hopelessly addicted to the machines due to the rush of endorphins they can induce. Yu calls this handling of a system by the human brain “the inherent addictiveness of randomness”.
The human brain is wired to find patterns in noise, and so even when an implementation of randomness is just static, players will often interpret it as coming from an unseen controller.
Take Valve’s 2007 hit Left 4 Dead, which may have fixed, unchanging levels, but employs great degrees of randomness in other areas of its design. Vital resources such as health packs and weapons can be found in different quantities and locations on each playthrough. The game’s hordes of zombies are also placed at random, with huge waves bursting forth at times, all dictated by an underlying AI system called The Director.
The Director is really just a name given to a collection of algorithms that dictate the implementation of Left 4 Dead’s random elements. It has no emotions nor goals of its own, but players have latched on to the idea of The Director as an entity, and often discuss the game in terms of them versus it.
In a YouTube video titled The Director Hates Us, one player describes a recent gameplay experience. He says that The Director chose to attack him and his friends, and hid vital health pickups from them until a late part of the level. “He also threw a Witch right next to where the news van and minigun were,” he wrote in the video’s description.
Of course, the man behind the curtain is just a machine, but because the verdicts and outcomes delivered by it are unpredictable, players have anthropomorphised it. The Director – or the bits of code that compose him – assumes a living quality because unpredictability makes him seem human.
It is a basic human need to see agency and patterns even when there are none. It’s easy to imagine how that trait has remained an asset throughout the process of human evolution. Keith Burgun, designer of the game 100 Rogues and author of Game Design Theory: A New Philosophy For Understanding Games, argues that this inheritance reveals itself when people play games. When children play a boardgame like Candyland, he says, they believe that they have agency behind their dice roles. Even as people get older and begin to understand that they don’t have real control over things like dice, they continue to attribute successes in mostly random games to themselves.
“People stand up and celebrate when they roll a 20 in Dungeons & Dragons,” says Burgun. “They allow themselves to participate in this very human thing, this tendency to see agency where there isn’t any.” Burgun remains quiet for a moment, then observes in a manner and tone that is characteristic of him and his work: “This is also the origin of God.”
A few weeks after Rusty Rutherford left his job and his pioneering game behind him, the 18-year-old Paul Resch walked into the basement of a building on the University Of Illinois’ campus. Resch descended a flight of concrete stairs and entered a room lit by the neon-orange glow emitting from more than a dozen PLATO system displays. Groups of students huddled near the machines, using them to learn about the cross-breeding of fruit flies for a biology class. The program seemed to be some sort of educational game.
His own class wasn’t scheduled to begin yet, but Resch desperately wanted to toy with the highly advanced machines, so he pretended to be one of the biology students, stealing access to one of the terminals. It was here, through chance, that he discovered an abandoned file: Pedit5. Resch gathered some friends and over the course of the following months began modifying the code to improve it. Resch built networked multiplayer and a chat system into the game. He added more rules from the Dungeons & Dragons universe, and even retrieved proper permission to use them from Tactical Studies Rules (popularly known as TSR), D&D’s publisher at the time.
TSR’s response was mostly one of bewilderment. “They wrote back saying, ‘Sure, we don’t know what you’re talking about, but OK,’” Resch explains. More changes were made, and Resch decided that his game had evolved enough to warrant a new name. He titled his modified game Orthanc, naming it after Saurman’s tower from The Lord Of The Rings universe.
Eventually, Resch designed an algorithm that would automatically create random levels for Orthanc. Every six months in real time, the algorithm would run and Orthanc’s old world would disappear forever, replaced by a new, albeit temporary, one. A couple of weeks before the level-change event would occur, a message would display to PLATO users currently active in the game: “New levels are coming.” It was a friendly heads up, but also a warning – if users kept playing right up until the moment of the level-generation event, the entire world would vaporise around them, and a new one would materialise. It was more than likely that they’d then find themselves trapped by walls on all sides.
Resch – who is now 55 and has worked for companies including Atari, Apple, and Google – was developing features that we didn’t associate with videogames in the mid-’70s.
But why design a complex algorithm that only executes twice a year? Why not just design the levels yourself? Resch’s reasoning was both cogent and macabre: he knew he wouldn’t always be around to make new content. In a way, he was taking out an insurance policy in preparation for his own inevitable death.
Randomness in games has often been about replacing or simulating humans. Rutherford and Resch modified their games to become self-replenishing. The Smart Spawn system in Gears Of War: Judgment is a miniature designer included in the game who watches players and provides those who have to repeat a sequence with something new to play with.
Other videogames, such as Spelunky and Minecraft, make use of random systems not to pad out their length, but to allow for surprising situations to come about on their own. It’s a totally different application of randomness than when you roll a die and win based purely on luck in a game of Ludo or Parcheesi.
The surprise that comes when a game cooks up an amazing thing the designer didn’t think of is the sort of gift only videogames are capable of giving. So when choosing the random games we make or play, it seems wise to ask a simple question: do we want to be surprised, or do we simply want to feel lucky?(source:edge-online)