The Elder Scrolls

A rant on why RNG makes games devolve

TheElderScrolls15 - A rant on why RNG makes games devolve

This is a rant. If you don’t like reading rants, you wont like reading this.

I’ll preface with something many of us agree with — this game, even in its seriously flawed state, is a fantastic card game. When someone says, “this game is shit,” or, “this game is broken,” I imagine they’re often saying the game is disappointing, because frankly, at the moment, thats exactly what it is.

The core set and the mechanics that made this game shine are creative, interesting, and rewarding. A serious skill was (and still is) being familiar with classes and their associated strengths, weaknesses, staples, and blowouts. Knowing these, and knowing your opponent knows them as well, made games intellectually sophisticated and interesting — which made TESL a gem of skill testing and interactive gameplay.

Now lets think of some of the recent gameplay complaints players have had. We read them here every day so try not to groan when I list some of them.

Tricolor and RNG come directly to mind, with the ring of magicka somewhere behind holding a sign reading “50% I promise.”

Why people complain about these particular problems is a question the Devs should be asking themselves when making decisions, and the answer, to me, seems fairly clear. They each make games slightly less rewarding., making the game overall significantly less rewarding.

Their means of doing so are slightly different — Playing against tricolor increases the pool of cards to play around, and eliminates the weaknesses of dual color classes. This is really just RNG in disguise. Sure, its unavoidable draw RNG, but an outcome being dictated by whether or not a house draws a specific answer from a pool of up to twelve cards or so reduces some player agency. Some players genuinely believe Houses were a serious mistake and I understand their position. I disagree, but I do concede that, in their current state, they’re contributing to the cancerous meaninglessness of games. But they’re not as bad as seriously influential RNG.

Ah yes, the hottest of topics. We’re told RNG is a sort of necessary evil, and in a way associated with draw RNG, this is true. Necessary evils are generally treated with caution, but, for whatever reason, the Devs like to poke this particular dragon. I suppose the reason is actually pretty clear: winning from RNG is genuinely exciting, and new players, because they are new, may be drawn by these games. Offenders like Mudcrab Merchant, Suran Pawkbroaker, Cruel Firebloom, and Royal Sage have been controversial since their inception because they offer insane high roll potential while minimizing the necessary sacrifice (in either stats or low rolls).


I understand the argument that these cards are effective at attracting new players, but, and this is my main point, I question if short term attraction is worth long term frustration. Players do no invest in a game because they want to get lucky often. Players invest in a game because they want to be good at the game. They want to learn the skills that lead to victory and minimize the mistakes that lead to defeat.

When a player loses to a random effect — be it to a 50/50 firebloom, a suppress from a pawnbroaker, or a Mudcrab into Mundas Stone into double charge roll lethal — the player leaves the game likely learning nothing and attributes the loss to randomness, even if they really lost on turn 4 by choosing the wrong 2 drops. Notice that it doesn’t matter whether the player lost the game due to RNG or not, the point is the player will decide that the loss (or their RNG filled win) had nothing to do with their decisions — thus decisions feel less meaningful, and games become less rewarding. Again, whether RNG won the game or not becomes irrelevant — players feel losses were unwinnable and wins were dumb luck, resulting in losses feeling like wastes of time and wins as having little value.

As a side note — us as a community advocating that this line of thinking is justified is also contributing to the problem. As much as I dislike them, far far far far more games are decided on decisions than RNG rolls.

Now, to the person in the back yelling, “Just go play chess!” I ask you to stop and consider the broad spectrum between chess and dice, and ask yourself where a digital card game should land. There’s obviously a line which needs drawn, and I’m not qualified to draw it. Also consider that the success of the game is tethered to the player experience, and ask yourself if the satisfaction from RNG wins overshadows the frustration from RNG losses. Some people will answer yes, but I imagine the majority would answer no.

I, along with everyone else interested in actually getting better at (and therefore likely investing in) the game, would rather lose fairly than win randomly.

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