If you’ve been gaming for a bit, you’ve probably come across the term “RNG” on online forums, Reddit, gaming blogs, and elsewhere. What exactly does it mean?
RNG is a critical feature of many video games, built into their code. Without RNG, some games wouldn’t function the way they do.
Today, I will explain what exactly RNG stands for, what it does, and whether it’s a good or bad thing. By the end of this article, you’ll have a pretty good understanding of the purpose of RNG and whether RNG games are for you.
RNG stands for Random Number Generator. Before getting into the specifics of RNG, how it works, and whether you can manipulate it, let me summarize what RNG does.
RNG introduces randomness, or luck, into games. It makes games fun and exciting, as you never know what will happen, which challenge you will be up against, what treasure or Pokémon you will find, and so on.
At the same time, many people dislike RNG, for reasons I will get into very soon.
The intention of the RNG function in games is to introduce randomness and unpredictability. It’s supposed to add the element of luck to games.
It could also be used to give even less-skilled gamers a chance of winning through the luck of the draw.
Think of RNG as a pair of dice. In old-fashioned table games, people would often roll a die or a pair of dice. The outcome of the game, including who wins, could depend entirely or partially on what the result of the dice roll is.
That means that even people who are skilled at a particular game may not win if the dice roll rules against them.
Think of RNG as a pair of dice, but in code. When you roll a die or a pair of dice, the way the game continues depends on the number the dice roll has produced.
The RNG algorithm will generate a random number each time it is used, and that number will determine how the game will proceed.
RNG is like rolling dice, but using code. As a gamer, you won’t necessarily notice it – it’s built into the code of the game, which isn’t visible.
New gamers who don’t know about RNG might not even realize that RNG is being used when random events occur. For example, when you are wondering which random character or opponent will appear or what you will find in a treasure chest, the game might be using a random number generator without you realizing it.
Regardless of which coding language you are using, you can create a random function that generates random numbers. However, in most games that use RNG, it’s not a true RNG – it’s not 100 percent random.
There are actually two types of RNG. One is called true RNG, or TRNG, while the other is called pseudo RNG, or PRNG.
Most games use the latter. In pseudo RNG, a seed value is used, upon which various mathematical operations are made to arrive at a seemingly random number on a scale of 1-100 or another scale.
The truth is that this isn’t true randomness. It is based on a predetermined seed value; the same computation will produce the same result while using the same seed value.
However, it is random enough for video gaming. It definitely seems random to the vast majority of players!
After all, you never know what the end result will be.
To code special events in a game, the developer can use less likely mathematical results to cause less likely events in a game. Let’s go back to our game of dice.
When a few dice are used instead of one, there is a likelihood of landing on some numbers more than others (once you add the sum of the dice together). For example, if you use three dice, you’re more likely to get a six than a three, as there are more possibilities that will add up to a six.
Similarly, a developer can use the vast majority of numbers (on the scale of 1-100) to result in standard events, with a slight percentage of possible mathematical results causing a special event, like a rare character, to appear.
So, what is true RNG? True RNG, or TRNG, does not rely on a seed value.
To achieve maximum randomness potential, true RNG relies on factors in the environment that are random and uses that to generate data. A hardware RNG device can use atmospheric noise, thermal noise, or other random environmental factors that can help achieve true entropy.
This type of RNG – true RNG – is not necessary for gaming. Instead, it is used for security encryption, for example, when true randomness is indispensable.
For gaming, the randomness generated by pseudo RNG is enough to make a game fun, exciting, and unpredictable.
Not really. Technically, pseudo RNG can be beaten, as long as you figure out the seed value and how the system uses computations to arrive at the seemingly random numbers.
Once you figure out the sequence of operations, you can technically beat pseudo RNG.
In other words, since pseudo-RNG relies on a computer algorithm instead of environmental factors that are impossible to predict, it’s not truly random, and the algorithm can be observed and figured out.
In fact, there is an entire site and Discord channel dedicated to hacking the Pokémon RNG to find specific wild Pokémon.
In addition, there was a notorious Russian hacking ring that would send people to figure out the algorithms of slot machines in casinos and use that information to walk off with millions in winnings.
According to Novomatic, the producer of the slot machines for the casinos in question, you can actually observe the slot machines for prolonged periods of time to figure out patterns and determine the end results, thus hacking the system.
Yes, casinos also use random number generators! That’s how they introduce randomness into slot machines and other games.
However, in real life and in the practical sense, you can forget about trying to beat the RNG for most video games. While true RNG may be necessary for high-level security purposes, the truth is that pseudo RNG is typically sufficient for encryption and security, as it can be very tough to hack.
Yes, a Russian crime syndicate did figure out how to hack RNG. However, do you have the resources required for such a large operation?
Probably not. You’ll need a team effort – like the one used to hack the Pokémon RNG – to figure out the algorithms.
As a side note, casinos in the past did use true RNG. There used to be something called a fan clock, which was a true RNG because it relied on environmental factors such as humidity and temperature.
Furthermore, there are some examples of true RNG used in casinos today. For example, a roulette wheel is a true RNG.
However, an online roulette wheel will usually be based on a PRNG – a computer algorithm. The same goes for video games.
RNG definitely makes games fun. It’s more of a neutral thing than a good or bad one, as it depends on how the developer uses it.
The reason RNG makes things fun is that it introduces the element of surprise. People like getting surprised.
When life becomes predictable, it becomes boring and uninteresting. Video game creators introduce RNG precisely to spice things up.
Why do people play video games in the first place? Some people do it to escape their regular lives.
Due to work and family responsibilities, people often live lives that aren’t always exciting, and that’s okay.
Many of us need to get to work at the same time every day, and we might be leasing an apartment for many years. We see the same scenery when we wake up and head to our cars to drive to work.
Video games make life much more exciting. However, if a video game were to be predictable, it would be less exciting – we would know what would happen, and we wouldn’t look forward to it as much.
On the other hand, RNG has a dark side. Not everyone likes leaving things up to luck.
Many people play video games because they enjoy developing their skills and getting better at the game. A game that is skill-based offers gamers a chance to work on themselves, figure out how to get prizes and win, and make their brains sharper in the process.
Yep, it’s true! Video games can make you smarter.
According to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and quoted by CBS News, people who played certain action games were smarter and were better at many tasks than people who played non-action games.
That’s beside the point, though. People who work hard to become better at a game don’t want to be faced with a situation in which their skill and hard work won’t matter because an RNG algorithm decided they will lose.
For many people, the fun is not about luck and surprise, but rather about getting better and improving their skills through their own doing.
Granted, most games that use RNG don’t rely entirely on RNG. A lot of games require both skill and luck; some use RNG to a greater extent than others.
However, many gamers feel that RNG “ruins” games instead of making them more exciting.
Many people talk about getting ruined by the RNG, despite being good players.
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Perhaps. If the right level of RNG is included in a game, it can help you win even if you aren’t that good at the game.
However, that is only true if the RNG generates an equal chance of winning vs losing. Many times, the opposite is true, and skill is required to overcome the poor chances of winning.
Some people call RNG the Random Number Goddess. This “Goddess” decides whether you will be lucky during a game and encounter favorable situations that will allow you to win or extremely unlucky, in which case you might lose.
You might hear players talk about being “RNG carried,” which means that they have encountered incredible luck throughout the game, setting them on track to win.
If you are developing a game and considering using RNG, you might be wondering how much is too much. What amount of RNG is enough to make the game unpredictable and exciting without taking away the competitive edge and skill required to win?
If you include too much RNG, players may shy away from playing the game, as they don’t want to do everything right and still lose.
A good rule of thumb is to include RNG to generate random situations and circumstances but not to make the outcome of a game dependent on RNG.
What does that mean?
In many video games, you might want to introduce an element of randomness in terms of enemies the player can fight, weapons they have access to, which world they land in, the type of gear or their character gets, etc.
Having one enemy rather than another doesn’t necessarily have to be bad; all enemies can be similar in terms of strength.
Or, you can make some enemies more powerful than others without overdoing it. That will add an element of suspense, as players will be hoping they will get the weaker enemy or the more effective weapon.
All of these different situations spice things up and make the game a lot more interesting. The player never knows what will happen.
What you don’t want to do is cause the outcome of the game – whether the player wins or loses – dependent on RNG. Otherwise, the game might be more frustrating than fun – people will get annoyed that they lost due to random occurrences out of their control.
RNG can also be used to make the length of a game longer or shorter without affecting the outcome. For example, certain situations may prolong the game and force the player to work harder, while other situations might cause the game to end sooner.
Many famous games use RNG to some extent. For example, if you play Mortal Kombat, you may be confused about how gear unlocks are chosen, as they seem pretty random, but it’s likely RNG determining which player gets what.
That might not seem like a big deal, as gear in Mortal Kombat 11 is more of a cosmetic thing. Nevertheless, it still makes the game more interesting and unpredictable.
On the other hand, for some games, RNG is a big deal. For example, in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, RNG determines which bullets hit their targets.
RNG is involved in every bullet shot in the game. Does that mean that skill and proper aim don’t matter at all?
Probably not, but it’s hard to know for sure without seeing the code of the game. Nevertheless, many players complain on Reddit that Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has too much RNG.
An example of a classic game that uses RNG is Tetris. Tetris is a classic game that is present even on some flip phones.
It’s a puzzle-style video game that involves falling blocks, which you are required to fit in the right places to fill the line. Tetris has been around since 1984, and it’s one of the oldest and most popular video games.
Tetris uses RNG to determine which block will fall next. In fact, Tetris is a great example of why RNG is sometimes critical.
Imagine the same blocks fell, in the same order, each time you played the game. If that happened, the game would become less fun, as you would already know what to do.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get better at Tetris or that your fate is determined by the RNG. RNG doesn’t directly affect the outcome of the game; you can get better.
In fact, the Tetris Classic World Championship has been going on for well over a decade. While luck and RNG play some role, good cognitive skills and adaptation are necessary as well, and scientists are studying that in professional Tetris players, according to Science Blog.
RNG stands for Random Number Generator. It’s an algorithm that introduces randomness and unpredictability into video games.
In other words, RNG introduces an element of luck. However, varying degrees of RNG exist, and it doesn’t always mean that the outcome of the game is purely dependent on luck as opposed to skill.
Scott L. Macarthur is a marketing consultant and an online author. He is mostly engaged in providing his expertise to startups and SMBs. He is also an author on TheNextWeb.