Want to know how Plates Across America™ decides which license plate to show in the game? If so, then read on for all the nitty-gritty details. First, we will give you a some hints on some upcoming features since they are directly related to license plates.
Which License Plates?
Every state (and D.C.) can have multiple license plates. Further, each license plate has two important attributes: 1) what years the license plate was in use; and 2) how common the license plate was during that time. In our early versions of the game, neither of these is much of a factor since we only have a single plate for each state. However, we are working on extending the set of license plates in the game and will be working this into some interesting new route concepts.
With that as some background, when a new puzzle is displayed, exactly what happens to decide which license plate to show? First, we look at your avatar's current location in the game. Most of the time, you get a plate from the state your avatar is in (and eventually the "time" you are in). If there is more than one plate for the state (and time), then we'll randomly pick one based on how common it is. To simulate what you might experience in the real world, we look at your immediate location (in the game) and a few mile radius from where you are. When you travel in real life, as you near the borders of states you tend to see plates from the neighboring states more often then if you were in the interior of the state. In the game, the likelihood of seeing a plate from the current state or neighboring state depends on how close you are to the border and the relative populations of cities in that area.
What about Random Out of State License Plates?
Most of the time we look at your avatar's current location, but not all of the time. Ever see a car with an out of state license plate from far away? We simulate this in the game by occasionally picking a state from the other states. In the real world you are more likely to see plates from places like New York, California, Florida, Michigan, etc. because those places simply have more people which increases the likelihood that a visitor is from there. It is much less likely to see a plate from North Dakota given how few people live there. Therefore, when the game does decide to pick from other states, it does so based upon the relative populations of the states.
So there you have it, the full details of how the license plates get picked in Plates Across America™.