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Tiny Wings isn't procedurally generated (the maps don't change -- only their colors do), but they're so "complex" that it's nearly impossible to memorize them. I'm fine with this, though. I've played hours upon hours of Tiny Wings and have never felt cheated. Maybe it's the calming music and sound effects. That said, Mario Kart does frustrate me sometimes when you've worked your way to first and then you're blasted with a purple shell. Pretty interesting.


They don't change every time you play, but there definitely are some elements that move around.

In particular, the placement of items like the blue boosters changes. Some of the map elements also seem to be included or not occasionally. For example, on Island 2 there are usually two down slopes with small lips upward, but today there is only one (in my version at least). However the procedural elements are working is very clever, to the point that it might well be imagination on the part of the viewer sometimes to think they've moved when they haven't.

The net sense of the unpredictable effect is bad though. I noticed in particular that it was easy enough to get up to Island 6 or so, but then I hit a wall where there was no obvious way to improve, and sometimes I got there with sequences of boosts that were differently placed the following time. Sometimes there are two steep hills on Island 6, and again sometimes not. I also hate that the Sun rules pretty much kill any chance of succeeding past an island if you screwed the previous one up badly but made it. Again, rat in a maze.

What I think saves it (not to detract from Andreas' work) is that the act of getting the bird to fly is a real treat, and when you manage several in a row it's a thrill. The production values of the game are also truly lovely.

It's an interesting case regardless, as it's making the point that fairness is all about perception. By its nature it will be subjective, and often even plain wrong on the part of the viewer in terms of strict information.

Thanks for the comment!

Jonathon Duerig

I definitely agree that being apparently fair is extremely important.

I think that randomness must be manageable by the player to feel fair. Perhaps tiny wings would feel more fair to you if you could pick up boosts and still have a short time to use them for instance.

Whenever I design the basic systems of a game, I take pains to make sure that everything errs on the side of the player. When colliding with an enemy, only harm the avatar if they are clearly visually connecting. When colliding with a ledge, err on the side of letting the player make the jump. I try to do this kind of thing with every basic system.

Then when I balance for difficulty I make the enemies a bit bigger or the ledges a bit farther if I want to challenge the player. The player will not balk at missing a long jump in a platform game, but they will ragequit if they see their avatar apparently hit the ledge and fall through anyhow.

In a game world, there is no such thing as true fairness. There is only the appearance of fairness and a (hoprefully) balanced challenge curve.

This is a lot trickier for multiplayer games as you discuss, but I haven't had to worry about that yet. :)

Account Deleted

I'm a hardcore Mario Kart Player and I feel all the issues described by Tadhg, and I put a lot of thought to it.

In Mario Kart Wii, the probability for spiny shells do feel highly unfair, specially when sometimes you have like 30 secs of advantage and you receive three spiny shells in a row on the last half of the last lap. It just insane. But after considering some selection biases of my own and having faith that Mario Kart Wii designers are not "that bad", I like to believe that the probability actually does not change and it's just a perception problem.

Nevertheless, I was facing the same question: How would I change this probability to feel fair? What would be awesome is that any hurdle on the last lap should consider the possibility of, if affecting you, leaving you enough time to reach a particular position at the end of the race on the time remaining. For example: if you were consistently leading the whole race, last lap disasters feel highly unfair, but it would be a thrill to suffer them at a point that assuming almost perfect racing, allows to feel a "fantastic recovery" from the circumstances and win the race anyway.

That feeling sometimes can actually happen on multiplayer races, but how to modify the odds in the end in order to enable this "fantastic recovery" feeling? Well, that depends on the particular model of the race and the game data, but it shouldn't be that hard to do. Maybe for leading position is simple enough, but modeling a fantastic recovery for all the other positions, or worse, fantastic recovery for every player on a multiplayer race, seems a little bit harder.

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