Rigged Dice Distribution - An hypothesis.



  • Hello everyone. I am a lover of Catan, played the game since I was 14 years old, in the Netherlands with my family. I know that on Catan Universe I am just one of the many who has gotten incredibly frustrated by the dice distribution that appears to be so much against reality.

    I have played/observed many games, chatted with many players and analyzed many distribution charts. In the end I formulated a theory as of why is the dice distribution so seemingly unrealistic.

    Let me start by quoting a developer:


    The dice RNG does what it is supposed to do. It produces random numbers. We get feedback about changing RNG results (it’s getting worse or better) after every Update but the RNG hasn´t been touched in a veeeery long time.
    This shows us, most Catanians do perceive the RNG to be changing when it fact it doesn´t. It has been the same and it works perfectly fine.
    For a regular game with -let’s say 50 rolls - chances are quiet high to not even get close to a standard distribution. Or let’s put it in other words… the results might be all over the place. Seemingly favouring certain numbers over others despite them being less probable to get rolled. Now why is that the case? It´s because we do not use loaded dice.
    We encourage everyone to do a small experiment at home. Just write down every roll for every player when playing with your friends or family at home sitting around the table. It’s very likely that someone gets lucky during the game and someone will have bad luck. Now would you think the person who is lucky used loaded dice? Or rigged the dice?
    Also feel free to use https://www.random.org/dice/?num=2 and write down the 50 dice results. You might be get quite random results

    Mr. Catan Universe [CM]


    This folks is a half-lie. Or rather, misleading information.
    For everyone that know a little about software development and computers in general, should know as a fact that perfect randomness is simply not achievable.
    (here an interesting article about it Stack Overflow ).
    Mr. Developer's comment refers to one of those algorithms that emulates randomness, but it does not address how Catan Universe probably does not use one of those, or uses an adjusted algorithm.

    So that was point 1: No true realistic random number generator exists.

    And here's point 2: How do they adjust the algorithm?

    Please understand that the following is speculation, however I tried to find a logical explanation as to why Catan Universe doesn't make an extra effort to address the dice problem.

    The idea is: Catan Universe is a business. Much like any major social network, its business model expects to create a big community of users, who will then purchase items in-app over time, and provide a cash flow, which will then generate revenue.
    Hear me clear here, it's a business with the sole purpose of making money: they don't develop Catan because you like to play Catan with your friends.
    Once you understand this, you will see how, from a business perspective, it's very natural and pertinent to the business plan, the effort of maximizing the users amount: a small community would simply be unsustainable.
    So how do you maximize the community? By making sure that everyone wins!
    Here it's where it becomes delicate.

    I have the dreadful suspect that there is some kind of hidden ranking list that records losses vs wins on any given player. If the player loses for example 4 games, the algorithm will make sure to favor the player in the fifth game. That is how Catan Universe makes sure that nobody leaves (deletes their account) from the platform. That is how Catan Universe makes sure that even the worse player wins every now and then. That's how Catan Universe maintains the platform addicting, just like the slot machines in a casino: you would turn away if you lost right away. Slot machines make you win a bit in the beginning, and then you're hooked. That's how Catan Universe meet its business requirement to keep a huge community of players.

    But if all of this is actually true, how is a player advantaged vs others in a game? Many variables come into play. Please note that these variables only affect the optimal scenario in which other players don't interfere with the preset handicaps. NOTE: These observations apply only to the base game, although some of them might be present also in the expansions.

    1. Starting order: you will notice how sometime the board is arranged horribly in favor of the first player, who in this case will be the advantaged player (AP).
    2. Dice distribution: what everyone is complaining about. The dice will favor the AP only.
      2.1 - The AP cannot be kept blocked by the robber. AP will often roll 7 to unblock themselves.
      2.2 - Game 90% stars with a 7 in the first round. Usually by the AP, easy way to block others and get an head start.
      2.3 - 7 Often strikes players with more than 7 cards that are not the AP.
      2.4 - 7 Often gets rolled in succession until the robber gets parked on a spot that will effectively block the players who are not the AP.
      2.5 - 7 Often gets rolled after a knight card is played wasting the efforts of buying and using the dev card. This happens to everybody but the AP. (BTW the AP doesn't need a knight card: see point 2.3)
      2.4 - Dices often roll numbers on which AP is settled. Often many times in a row, creating an irrecoverable gap.
    3. AI: bots act completely irrationally.
      3.1 - on a 7 bots almost never rob the AP. It might happen that the bot robs the player who is winning, but that's just because the current leader happens to play better than the AP.
      3.2 - bots tend to avoid trading with players who are not supposed to win.
      3.3 - bots trade until the is at 2 points from the win (3 if I am not wrong in C&K) when it's already too late.
      3.4 - bots trade easily more than 1-1.
    4. Development cards: development cards tend to advantage the players. You might have noticed more often than not, how you will pull a card that you don't need at all for your tactics.
      4.1 - You will invest in dev cards but the very first card you pull from the deck is a victory point card (pulling a victory point card as very first card is a complete disaster, some of you might understand). The probability of pulling a VP card as the very first card is 1/5. But the probability of that happening often is way lower than that... yet you are left with what you experience.)
      4.2 - You will pull a road builder in a game on which it's completely useless.
      4.3 - [...]
    5. New player account: if the player recently signed-up there's a good chance he will win in the first 5 games.

    Conclusion

    These were my observations and speculations as on how Catan Universe keeps it's community and sustains its business model by predetermining an advantaged player for any one game. I have observed several methods, one of which is by messing with the RNG.

    If you find this helpful please contribute by replying with what you have experienced. Also, if you think that some of my analyses were wrong please let me know.



  • This is just a conspiracy theory.

    It's more likely that the RNG is (sometimes) broken and outputs the same sequence of numbers it has done for other games.



  • @Stroom

    It's a theory. If a business plan becomes a conspiracy theory, then we live in a world full of people maliciously plotting against the consumer.

    Anyway my friend, I've read some of your past posts like this one.
    Not sure why you tend to defend the NRG system if you have no proof, nor an opinion that can be sustained with logical reasoning.
    Please don't make other people's posts look ridiculous by making vague irony. I have observed (and as a fact many other people have) weird behavior in the NRG.


  • administrators

    As part of the Catan Universe team, I do feel it is my duty to answer the here posted hypothesis despite the fact that we already answered a lot to the mentioned topics above.

    1. Of course, most of the feasible RNG solutions for games are pseudo RNGs. We used to describe it as such in many many many posts in the past and tried to explain how they work and that it is perfectly normal to use such a pseudo RNG.
      Well… that always backfired! Because our users thought that this was the smoking gun! That pseudo RNGs aren´t real RNGs and therefore the RNG is flawed.
      Also please keep in mind not every user does have either programming experience nor a deeper understanding of statistics. By describing the inner works with more common terms we do have a bigger chance of more Catanians understanding what is going on.

    2. There is a lot of unpack here but I´ll give it a try.
      In your hypothesis you are trying to prove, you should be able to find one major flaw. If one player wins up to 3 players are losing and having a bad time. If there was such a thing as an advantaged player, 3 players would just have a bad time and they would be much more likely just to delete the game.
      But without speculations, here is what we do:
      The board:
      The setup of the map is the so-called spiral method you´ll also find in the physical board game as well. Catan Universe had a more random approach in the past but Catanians asked for the spiral method because it produces more similar but more balanced board overall. So we implemented that.
      Please look up the board game rules here: https://www.catan.com/service/game-rules. You´ll be able to find the random map method and you´ll be able to find that every base game board will be according to those setups. Please note: The ore for Wool scenario is excluded in this case because due to the “special task” a certain setup is needed.
      The 7 /dice in general:
      We just recently added a new feature to the game. It´s the “live dice statistics”. Now every player can track every player dice throws throughout the game. Why did we do that? Because Catanians wanted to know who rolled what. Is there any value in knowing that your opponent already rolled the 8 three times. Absolutely not ^^ But player wanted it and we gave it to them. If there was anything fishy with the RNG, why would we lay this info open like that?
      Catan Universe doesn´t give any player an advantage when rolling the dice. The pseudo RNG isn´t influenced by anything happening on the board. It is a thing on its own. It works independently from any influence. The only thing that influences the pseudo RNG is the so-called seed. The seed is pre-determined before the game even starts. It’s a combination of different hard values we are in control off and that can´t be changed by any player for example server time and date. But the seed doesn’t involve any value connected to any Catanians profile.

    Dev Cards:

    The dev card stack is shuffled one time while the game gets initialized. It only includes a certain amount of cards. You can read up on the dev cards here as well: https://www.catan.com/service/game-rules.
    After the first shuffle, the stack just sits there. There is no line of code in Catan Universe reorganizing the stack based on any event in the game.

    AI:

    The AI isn’t perfect but it doesn’t care about any Catanians overall stats nor does it have any “knowledge” about it. The AI that comes in after one player drops, isn´t the smartest one we offer in Catan Universe. So it will make mistakes by design. Those “mistakes” are solely based on not being super aggressive towards players in general and being more inclined to trade. If we had put in the strongest AI as a substitute, it might give players a challenge that is too big to overcome.

    General statement:

    Catan is a luck-based game where the portion of luck you need to win can be reduced by understanding how the game works … your skill. But skill alone won´t shield you from having bad luck from time to time.
    But we can see that over the last years the same top players not only do well in international championships but also do well in-game events here in Catan Universe.
    Our goal was to create a platform where you can play the game as true as possible to the board game. CATAN is such a great game, we do not need dirty tricks to get people hooked. We do not need voodoo magic to let people have a great time. The design of the board game is what makes this game special



  • Dear @administrators, thank you for replying so swiftly.
    I'm glad that my article raised your interest, if it was total nonsense you wouldn't bother to answer.

    Let me just go over some of your points for the sake of discussion:

    In your hypothesis you are trying to prove, you should be able to find one major flaw. If one player wins up to 3 players are losing and having a bad time. If there was such a thing as an advantaged player, 3 players would just have a bad time and they would be much more likely just to delete the game.

    Actually this proves my point: in fact, those 3 players who have a bad time, will be candidates to be the next APs in their future games. This is how it works: the matchmaker algorithm—which in theory pairs players according to skill and other factors—also combines a match of X amount of players, among which, one of them has lost previous games more than what the other players have, and will IPSO FACTO be elected as the AP for that games.
    Allow me to illustrate this with an example that will explain the logic of the mechanism a little better for the benefit of all the "Catanians".
    Imagine three games 1,2,3 of X number of distinct players, so that we have:
    Game 1 - Players A,B,C
    Game 2 - Players D,E,F,G
    Game 3 - Players H,J,K

    Results are as follows:
    Game 1 - Winning player B
    Game 2 - Winning player D
    Game 3 - Winning player K

    Now we have the ingredients for a fourth game to be played. The match-making algorithm will combine players as follows:
    Game 4 - Players B (winner in their last game), D (winner in their last game), J (not a winner in their last game)
    **Player J in Game 4 will be the advantaged player. **

    This is how Catan Universe balances out wins vs losses of any one player and keeps them hooked to the platform.
    I know it's just a theory but it does make sense, doesn't it?


    But hey, I'm not just here trying to make a point based on my vivid imagination. It's actually is a product of my experience.
    And so today I did play a game, in which I happened to be the Advantaged Player. When I started noticing it, I took a few screenshots:

    Here is how the game ended with me as a winner (RED player).
    Image 1 - My initial settlements were the two cities that you see. Intersections 5,9,10 and 8,4,10.
    Curiosity: all the other players were wrapped around the 5 wheat... guess what happened?

    2.2 - Game 90% stars with a 7 in the first round. Usually by the AP, easy way to block others and get a head start.

    I started the game rolling a 7. I put the robber on the 5 blocking all three players wheat. The other five was my domain... guess what happened?

    2.7 - After a 7 get rolled and a number on resource not belonging to the AP is blocked, that number will start to get rolled often. This will maximize the effect of the robber on other players widening the gap between them and the AP.

    Indeed, the 2nd, 3rd AND fourth numbers rolled were a 5. Not only the other players didn't collect anything, but I gathered resources for every roll. After that pretty much toward the end of the game, all my numbers were majorly rolled. 10 was rolled 3 times in a row.
    Please see for yourself and draw your own conclusions.
    Final statistics: Image 2
    You can see how my points doubled the player in second positions (who happened to be a GRANDMASTER OF CATAN, according to the new badge system).


    Finally, one note about the AI.
    If the matchmaking algorithm combines people following some vaguely defined skill criteria, couldn't replacement bots match the same average skill level of the game that is currently being played? It's consequential how the bot shouldn't be the worse one possibly right?


  • administrators

    @Alejandra said:

    Actually this proves my point: in fact, those 3 players who have a bad time, will be candidates to be the next APs in their future games. This is how it works: the matchmaker algorithm—which in theory pairs players according to skill and other factors—also combines a match of X amount of players, among which, one of them has lost previous games more than what the other players have, and will IPSO FACTO be elected as the AP for that games.
    Allow me to illustrate this with an example that will explain the logic of the mechanism a little better for the benefit of all the "Catanians".
    Imagine three games 1,2,3 of X number of distinct players, so that we have:
    Game 1 - Players A,B,C
    Game 2 - Players D,E,F,G
    Game 3 - Players H,J,K

    Results are as follows:
    Game 1 - Winning player B
    Game 2 - Winning player D
    Game 3 - Winning player K

    Now we have the ingredients for a fourth game to be played. The match-making algorithm will combine players as follows:
    Game 4 - Players B (winner in their last game), D (winner in their last game), J (not a winner in their last game)
    **Player J in Game 4 will be the advantaged player. **

    This is how Catan Universe balances out wins vs losses of any one player and keeps them hooked to the platform.
    I know it's just a theory but it does make sense, doesn't it?

    You really seem to have run down a rabbit hole here...

    Sorry but no this doesn´t make any sense at all ^^ There is absolutely nothing to gain and way to many variables in an online multiplayer game featuring up to 4 players to implement something even remotely close to what you are describing. We do offer one time purchases and once a player has acquired his/her favorite expansion there isn't really anything they have to spend money on to play as much as they want. We are very happy if we did a well enough job for our players to come back again daily and play again and again but we do not make any money from it. It doesn´t matter if you played 100000 games or just one.

    It is very puzzling to see such an allegation for an App that's very open about the costs for the player and doesn´t monetize with Ads nor has a large number of consumables.

    The design approach we took is absolutely the opposite. We specifically used a ranking system in Catan Universe that is in absolute contrast to what you are describing. Elo isn´t about how many games you played but how good you did in comparison to other players. The top-ranked players have a massive delta in regards to how many games they played.

    About the anecdotal pictures:

    Congratulations on your big win. Next time it's a closer call, feel free to post as well :)


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