Is XCOM random?
We’ll eschew the bugs for now and focus on something that’s is one of the two biggest complaints on the 2K XCOM forums…which are Panic and the Random Number Generator. The short of it is that a player’s perception of random is totally bonk, and the problem therein is that a player trusts his or her own gut over the truth behind numbers in so many cases. The cases where it’s a non-issue are the ones where the player in question has a functional understanding of statistics, random number generation, or both.
I’ll be honest. I thought about writing such an article a few times, but I’m too lazy. Fortunately for all of us, this gentlemen blogger I just discovered is not only not-the-least-bit-lazy…he’s also damn smart. Mr. Brown over on the Sinepost has a series of articles (four at the time I’m writing this) discussing randonmess and probability in XCOM. If you have any shred of doubt in you that the game’s not being truly random, dig into this article where he recorded the results for over 1000 shots and graphed out observed vs. expected results.
Also, there’s this:
Interpretation of randomized game systems is a study of player psychology rather than mathematics.
— Jake Solomon (@SolomonJake) November 14, 2012
Even if you don’t want to trouble yourself with the math or the psychology or the theory, you can still consider XCOM fair just be asserting it to yourself. Or live with the fact it’s not fair. Honestly, when your entire team Panics in a chain of shooting at each other and freaking each other out, preventing you from moving anybody so you get to watch the next turn when the entire squad is wiped out by two Sectopod missile salvos and you might feel you’ve been treated unfairly. The proper response is to yell at the screen “THAT’S XCOM, BABY!” then to take a break for a little while.
I wish I’d have gotten that mission on tape; it was that mission that motivated me to do this in the first place. Losing my entire customized, manually named, elite team to such an epic cluster bang was the most true XCOM moment I think I’ve ever experienced.
Speaking of tape.
Episode 2 is on the editing table and I’m about 20% of the way done after a night of work; the introduction took a lot of experimentation and learning of Premiere’s feature set, which it likes to hide so you get to feel good about finding it. Also it turns out that if a segment is short enough (and then time dilated) you can’t Fade Out the audio on it. Hopefully the workaround I put into place is good enough that nobody notices there was a need to do this at all.
Editing is getting faster the more I do it, but part of the editing stage for me also involves recording (and re-re-recording) audio commentary, trying to explain important decisions and why I move my soldiers into otherwise inane places. This mission was a short one though (uncut its only like 12 minutes of field time I think) so I’m hoping to get it done tonight. Hoping.