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Designing ‘Luck’ RNG 101

October 12 Sandra Wong

By dictionary definition, luck is defined as ‘success or failure apparently brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.’ In this post, we talk about how to design for ‘luck’ in casino game design, and why it is such a hot topic with real money online casino players.

When it comes to casino gaming, we talk about ‘luck’ in many ways that center around words such as; game math, odds, superstitutions, karma, expected value, game theory optimial, randomness etc. While these are all important buzz words to the casino patron regarding luck, the hot topic (one most talked about) is true randomness of random number generators, aka RNG.

What is RNG?

When designing for the ‘luck’ variable in a game, the system needs to generate some sort of data randomness. Any game that needs to spit out a random result, uses a random number generator.

RNG is the video game term used to refer to the phenomenon of randomosity – the unpredictable outcome of a situation featuring a significantly randomised element. It is a computational or physical device designed to generate a sequence of numbers or symbols that lack any pattern, i.e. appear random.

“Have you ever been to a casino and played a slot machine? That is, in some form, random number generation. When a gamer mentions that they’re hoping for good or favorable RNG, it’s almost like a gentleman’s way of asking for good luck. Taking that into consideration, we can dumb down this entire discussion to the point of saying that RNG is simply luck.”

Without randomness or the luck factor, a game will be purely based on skill. A game purely based on skill can feel less exciting and too structured which in-turn can lead to disengagement and cause demotivation for less skilled players. IE. It could possibly give unfair advantage to others that perhaps started earlier (too far ahead) for example. In casino gaming, gameplay is centered around ‘the gamble’ so designing for luck, balancing luck vs. skill is less crucial than other genres. Gameplay fully evolved around luck may be a turn off to players as they feel they have no control over their outcome.

Complaints about casino RNG

Lack of Randomness – While it’s normal to go on losing streaks playing online casinos games, just as it’s normal to go on long winning streaks. But if a site fails to use a proper Random Number Generator to ensure that all deals, spins, and rolls of the dice are random, or if that RNG is found to be flawed, the online casino is blacklisted.

Because most casino games are based on chance, and skill is merely percieved control, design must imitate skill in some way. When a game ‘feels’ like it is too much reliance on luck, when users go on down streaks, a player will feel the game is rigged, that they are cheated and the odds are stacked against them. Even with the worst luck, players still want to feel as though they have a chance at winning.

This is indeed a big issue in the online casino industry that needs to be addressed.

How Do Casinos Use RNG’s?

RNGs are used for virtual casino games or in other words, games where there’s no dealer. With Live Dealer Casino, this becomes a non issue. One would think that this applies only to online casinos, offline casinos use them, too, for games such as virtual blackjack and roulette games, digital bingo, digital baccarat, keno, video poker and video slot machines.

How exactly does an RNG work? Let’s take slots, for example.

The general idea is this: They assign a value to each symbol on a reel. And let’s say there are 12 symbols per reel, and this is a 5-reel slot machine. The RNG would come up with a value of 1-12 for each of the 5 reels. The result would be 5 different symbols. And, if those 5 “random” symbols made a winning combination, you’d be paid according to the chart.

What Steps Are Taken to Ensure Random Number Generators Are Fair?

All reputable (licensed and regulated) casinos software is tested.  This is done by independent, 3rd party companies.

One example of such a company is Technical Systems Testing (TST), a company now owned/operated by Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) where they offer a full range of testing and consulting to both online and land-based casinos and gambling companies.

They perform all kinds of services and testing evaluations, such as:

  • Random Number Generator (RNG) evaluations
  • Game and mathematics evaluations
  • Ongoing RNG or game payout verification and reporting
  • Live dealer, sportsbook or betting exchange evaluations
  • Lottery and pari-mutuel system evaluations
  • Poker system audits
  • Penetration testing and full security audits

Are you an online gamer? Do you gamble in land-based casinos but never online? I’d like to hear it what your experiences with casinos are.

In a future article on my, I will be exploring more on casino RNGs with highlights including:

  • Skill vs. luck in game design.
  • The pros and cons of RNG in game play.
  • What does luck add to gameplay?
  • Implementing luck or chance elements in the game keeps the users engaged.
  • Exploring RNG models. What is fair randomness? And how to generate this?

You can tweet me @astrogurl here to stay connected.


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