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What Is RNG in Video Games, and Why Do People Criticize It?

https://www.howtogeek.com/446695/what-is-rng-in-video-games-and-why-do-people-criticize-it/

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Gamers like to criticize “RNG” in games. For example, picture a game of dice where you and your opponent both roll a dice, and the highest roll wins. That’s “pure RNG.”

Random Number Generator

A random number generator (RNG) is an algorithm that produces random numbers. In video games, these random numbers are used to determine random events, like your chance at landing a critical hit or picking up a rare item.

Random number generation, or RNG, is a defining factor in many modern games. They’re the reason why you always meet unique Pokemon, why items in Mario Kart are different each time you pick them up, and why you randomly find super cool treasure (or not) in Diablo. Some procedurally-generated games, like The Binding of Issac or Minecraft, wouldn’t even be possible without RNG.

Not every game depends on RNG. Rhythm games like Dance Dance Revolution or Guitar Hero are a great example. Competitive multiplayer games like Rocket League and Mortal Kombat are practically devoid of randomness, too.

This isn’t to say that all competitive games avoid RNGs. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive uses RNG to determine how bullets hit targets, and DOTA 2 uses RNG to determine how often abilities will affect opponents. There’s an element of randomness in the gameplay, making it unpredictable.

RNG Keeps Games Fresh (But Can Undermine Skill)

A gamer plays CS:GO on their computer.
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Randomness is what keeps things from becoming monotonous. It’s what leads to curiosity and risk, and it’s one of the best tools to keep a game fresh.

Think of the blocks in Tetris. Each block in Tetris is chosen randomly. If they weren’t, then Tetris wouldn’t be fun, stressful, or unpredictable. There would be no risky or clever moves; there would only be the right move. Tetris would be an endless memorization game—like counting down the digits of Pi.

Even some competitive games, like Hearthstone, rely heavily on risk-based mechanics that are more comparable to Yahtzee than they are to Mortal Kombat. And that’s where RNG becomes a contentious subject. In an RNG-heavy game like Hearthstone, skill can take a backseat to luck. A lucky novice can beat a pro. So what happens when you stick RNG in other competitive games, like CS:GO or DOTA?

You end up with a lot of pissed off gamers. While randomness in a fighting game may sound like fun to you or me, some competitive gamers are (understandably) turned off by the idea of losing to lady luck. Imagine if people took a straight competitive game, like chess, and added something like random power-ups. In the mind of chess fans, this completely defeats the purpose of chess. A gamer who loses might blame a loss on the “RNG” that went in their opponent’s favor.f

Some RNG Can Be Manipulated

A pair of hands with puppet strings tied to each finger.
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As we mentioned earlier, random number generators are algorithms. They’re basically just math problems that spit out random values. But as you know from your many years of math experience, two plus two always equals four. For an algorithm to produce random values, it needs to include variables (like X or Y).

Where does a video game get its variables from? It has to look for naturally changing local values. A game could use the console’s internal clock as a variable, or the number of objects on screen, or your character’s name, or even the sequence of buttons that you’ve pressed since starting the game. There are many ways for a computer to generate random numbers.

In some cases, these numbers are actually predictable enough to manipulate. It’s a bit like counting cards, except harder.

RNG manipulation isn’t a part of competitive gaming, but it’s a part of classic RPGs and retro video games (where “RNG” algorithms were fairly straightforward). An experienced gamer can count their way into a perfect Pokemon or press seemingly random buttons to get rare items in Final Fantasy.

RNG: Good or Bad?

For many people, RNG is great for keeping games unpredictable and fresh. Random number generators are a crucial part of the gameplay in many modern puzzle games, card games, and RPGs, and they’ve been used to good effect in some action and multiplayer games.

RNG can be good. Should every Minecraft world be the same, or should every item you find in Diablo be identical every time you play? RNG offers variety and can keep things fresh.

But many competitive gamers feel that RNG undermines skill. It can be an annoying complaint to hear, but it’s only annoying because some competitive games, like Smash Bros, lead a double-life as casual party games (which require RNG to stay fun). Games made for the esports community might place a heavy emphasis on skill-based mechanics for this reason.

RELATED: What Are Esports, and Why Do People Watch Them?

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion. This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would…

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These ten enterprise M&A deals totaled over $40B in 2019

It would be hard to top the 2018 enterprise M&A total of a whopping $87 billion, and predictably this year didn’t come close. In fact, the top 10 enterprise M&A deals in 2019 were less than half last year’s, totaling $40.6 billion.

This year’s biggest purchase was Salesforce buying Tableau for $15.7 billion, which would have been good for third place last year behind IBM’s mega deal plucking Red Hat for $34 billion and Broadcom grabbing CA Technologies for $18.8 billion.

Contributing to this year’s quieter activity was the fact that several typically acquisitive companies — Adobe, Oracle and IBM — stayed mostly on the sidelines after big investments last year. It’s not unusual for companies to take a go-slow approach after a big expenditure year. Adobe and Oracle bought just two companies each with neither revealing the prices. IBM didn’t buy any.

Microsoft didn’t show up on this year’s list either, but still managed to pick up eight new companies. It was just that none was large enough to make the list (or even for them to publicly reveal the prices). When a publicly traded company doesn’t reveal the price, it usually means that it didn’t reach the threshold of being material to the company’s results.

As always, just because you buy it doesn’t mean it’s always going to integrate smoothly or well, and we won’t know about the success or failure of these transactions for some years to come. For now, we can only look at the deals themselves.

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom. Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition. To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and…

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Jumia, DHL, and Alibaba will face off in African ecommerce 2.0

The business of selling consumer goods and services online is a relatively young endeavor across Africa, but ecommerce is set to boom.

Over the last eight years, the sector has seen its first phase of big VC fundings, startup duels and attrition.

To date, scaling e-commerce in Africa has straddled the line of challenge and opportunity, perhaps more than any other market in the world. Across major African economies, many of the requisites for online retail — internet access, digital payment adoption, and 3PL delivery options — have been severely lacking.

Still, startups jumped into this market for the chance to digitize a share of Africa’s fast growing consumer spending, expected to top $2 billion by 2025.

African e-commerce 2.0 will include some old and new players, play out across more countries, place more priority on internet services, and see the entry of China.

But before highlighting several things to look out for in the future of digital-retail on the continent, a look back is beneficial.

Jumia vs. Konga

The early years for development of African online shopping largely played out in Nigeria (and to some extent South Africa). Anyone who visited Nigeria from 2012 to 2016 likely saw evidence of one of the continent’s early e-commerce showdowns. Nigeria had its own Coke vs. Pepsi-like duel — a race between ventures Konga and Jumia to out-advertise and out-discount each other in a quest to scale online shopping in Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation.

Traveling in Lagos traffic, large billboards for each startup faced off across the skyline, as their delivery motorcycles buzzed between stopped cars.

Covering each company early on, it appeared a battle of VC attrition. The challenge: who could continue to raise enough capital to absorb the losses of simultaneously capturing and creating an e-commerce market in notoriously difficult conditions.

In addition to the aforementioned challenges, Nigeria also had (and continues to have) shoddy electricity.

Both Konga — founded by Nigerian Sim Shagaya — and Jumia — originally founded by two Nigerians and two Frenchman — were forced to burn capital building fulfillment operations most e-commerce startups source to third parties.

That included their own delivery and payment services (KongaPay and JumiaPay). In addition to sales of goods from mobile-phones to diapers, both startups also began experimenting with verticals for internet based services, such as food-delivery and classifieds.

While Jumia and Konga were competing in Nigeria, there was another VC driven race for e-commerce playing out in South Africa — the continent’s second largest and most advanced economy.

E-tailers Takealot and Kalahari had been jockeying for market share since 2011 after raising capital in the hundreds of millions of dollars from investors Naspers and U.S. fund Tiger Global Management.

So how did things turn out in West and Southern Africa? In 2014, the lead investor of a flailing Kalahari — Naspers — facilitated a merger with Takealot (that was more of an acquisition). They nixed the Kalahari brand in 2016 and bought out Takelot’s largest investor, Tiger Global, in 2018. Takealot is now South Africa’s leading e-commerce site by market share, but only operates in one country.

In Nigeria, by 2016 Jumia had outpaced its rival Konga in Alexa ratings (6 vs 14), while out-raising Konga (with backing of Goldman Sachs) to become Africa’s first VC backed, startup unicorn. By early 2018, Konga was purchased in a distressed acquisition and faded away as a competitor to Jumia.

Jumia went on to expand online goods and services verticals into 14 Africa countries (though it recently exited a few) and in April 2019 raised over $200 million in an NYSE IPO — the first on a major exchange for a VC-backed startup operating in Africa.

Jumia’s had bumpy road since going public — losing significant share-value after a short-sell attack earlier in 2019 — but the continent’s leading e-commerce company still has heap of capital and generates $100 million in revenues (even with losses).

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between. It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in…

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Airbnb’s New Year’s Eve guest volume shows its falling growth rate

Hello and welcome back to our regular morning look at private companies, public markets and the gray space in between.

It’s finally 2020, the year that should bring us a direct listing from home-sharing giant Airbnb, a technology company valued at tens of billions of dollars. The company’s flotation will be a key event in this coming year’s technology exit market. Expect the NYSE and Nasdaq to compete for the listing, bankers to queue to take part, and endless media coverage.

Given that that’s ahead, we’re going to take periodic looks at Airbnb as we tick closer to its eventual public market debut. And that means that this morning we’re looking back through time to see how fast the company has grown by using a quirky data point.

Airbnb releases a regular tally of its expected “guest stays” for New Year’s Eve each year, including 2019. We can therefore look back in time, tracking how quickly (or not) Airbnb’s New Year Eve guest tally has risen. This exercise will provide a loose, but fun proxy for the company’s growth as a whole.

The numbers

Before we look into the figures themselves, keep in mind that we are looking at a guest figure which is at best a proxy for revenue. We don’t know the revenue mix of the guest stays, for example, meaning that Airbnb could have seen a 10% drop in per-guest revenue this New Year’s Eve — even with more guest stays — and we’d have no idea.

So, the cliche about grains of salt and taking, please.

But as more guests tends to mean more rentals which points towards more revenue, the New Year’s Eve figures are useful as we work to understand how quickly Airbnb is growing now compared to how fast it grew in the past. The faster the company is expanding today, the more it’s worth. And given recent news that the company has ditched profitability in favor of boosting its sales and marketing spend (leading to sharp, regular deficits in its quarterly results), how fast Airbnb can grow through higher spend is a key question for the highly-backed, San Francisco-based private company.

Here’s the tally of guest stays in Airbnb’s during New Years Eve (data via CNBC, Jon Erlichman, Airbnb), and their resulting year-over-year growth rates:

  • 2009: 1,400
  • 2010: 6,000 (+329%)
  • 2011: 3,1000 (+417%)
  • 2012: 108,000 (248%)
  • 2013: 250,000 (+131%)
  • 2014: 540,000 (+116%)
  • 2015: 1,100,000 (+104%)
  • 2016: 2,000,000 (+82%)
  • 2017: 3,000,000 (+50%)
  • 2018: 3,700,000 (+23%)
  • 2019: 4,500,000 (+22%)

In chart form, that looks like this:

Let’s talk about a few things that stand out. First is that the company’s growth rate managed to stay over 100% for as long as it did. In case you’re a SaaS fan, what Airbnb pulled off in its early years (again, using this fun proxy for revenue growth) was far better than a triple-triple-double-double-double.

Next, the company’s growth rate in percentage terms has slowed dramatically, including in 2019. At the same time the firm managed to re-accelerate its gross guest growth in 2019. In numerical terms, Airbnb added 1,000,000 New Year’s Eve guest stays in 2017, 700,000 in 2018, and 800,000 in 2019. So 2019’s gross adds was not a record, but it was a better result than its year-ago tally.

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