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# The million dollar question

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There is one problem I can see with nearly all of today's popular games. I feel that this is one thing that turns a lot of people away from the games. So I ask you guys this question, to see if it is something that has an answer. What can games do to become more ballanced? ie Natural Selection (if anyone isn't familiar, fun strategy FPS mod for hl found at natural-selection.org). This game used to be a TON of fun. It's mix of strategy and fps created a new genre for me. I would stay up hours playing it. This was in it's early beta stages when everyone knew how to play. Now it has moved on and changed quite a bit deal. It now definatly has the flaw of balance issues. I'm not talking about which side wins more, there are two, aliens and marines. Both would probably win about 50% I'd say. The problem I see is that the games last about 25-30 minutes, however, almost 100% of the time, the outcome of the game is decided in the first 5 minutes. During this time one team almost always gets some advantage that puts them in the lead for the duration of the game. It's almost like you don't need to play the 2nd 20 minutes. After the first 5 you always know how it's going to turn out. During the first part of the game, one team gets put in a very good position, and the other is in a very bad position. These are positions that you often can't get out of. If the other team has all the resources early, then they can do things to make sure they don't lose them. Meanwhile the team without the resources can't gain them to do anything that would allow them to take resources back. I see this as a problem. Games are fun because they are somewhat unpredictable, yet still based on strategy. If everything was planed, and you knew exactly what was going to happen, than it wouldn't be fun. To me this makes me extremly (I mean very very very) frustrated. I wish I just had a button that could end the game early after the outcome has been determined. It's totally pointless to keep playing. If your on the wining side you know your going to win, if your on the losing side you know your going to lose. Yet the game drags out untill this actually occurs. It just ends up with one team constantly killing, and one team constantly dieng. It isn't fun when you are traped with no way out. Infact, that's probably one of the least fun positions you can put someone in. Some people will probably say that you might as well play the rest of the game because it's a game and its just to have fun, even if you know the outcome, but we are competitive beings by nature, not many people can have fun when losing or feeling traped. I think this is true for other games too. ie Everquest. Again i got very frustrated at this game. It was a game I hated, but was addicted to. The problem here was that there were always people at the top, who had all the cool stuff. But, more than that, they had all the cool stuff. The average person on the other hand, had no chance in hell of ever achieveing any of this stuff. Yes it was nice to dream about it, but unless you happend to be in the good clan, or know someone up there, (or have  to spend on ebay) it wasn't going to happen. Do you guys agree with this? For a game to pull in a larger audience and keep it, you need to give everyone the image that they can still 'win.' Is this possible? In some ways I think it isn't. ie in natural selection, one obvious solution is to make it so the things that people do to gain advantage, aren't as drastic. ie make it so gaining or losing resource nodes don't have such an impact. But then, if you take all the advantages out, then it might as well be completly random, and thus not really worth playing either. What are your guyses thoughts? Is it possible to have a competitive game (we like competiton) where everyone thinks they are wining? (we hate losing) I say games are ment to be played by humans, they should be designed to work with (and not against) our natural human behaviour. We don't like to be put in a situation we have no control of. We like to grow and advance, but we hate when we are stuck in a situation that we can't. [edited by - DrJonesdw3d on November 15, 2003 4:08:42 AM]

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Even if after 5 minutes one person clearly has the advantage, the game isn''t over. Take Star Wars for example. (The series not the games) You have the Rebellion and the Empire. Empire has advantage and is HUGE and Rebellion is small but still surviving. They can quickly hide and take pot shots at the Empire.

I remember playing a game of Warcraft 2 campaign. My base was wiped out and all i had left was a group of about 7 units. one or two paladins, a wizard, 3 archers and one other guy i forget who. I circled the enemy base and used my pals to draw attention then run back to the group. If a dragon came by, i used my wizard to polymorph. A death night... the pal''s would use exhorsist (sp?). Basically I was able to defeat a massive army with just a few guys. It wasn''t over so long as I played my cards right. Now playing against a human is much different but the same rule could be applied.

I think one of the problems is that we are so pappered when comes to strategy games. We are given this tech tree and it''s all about the race to build to the top first. Battle just become massive un-coordinated attacks where it''s my more advanced units against your slower less advanced ones.

Take the game of Risk or "Axis and Allies". Yes there were a few technologies that could help the game but they were aids... not goals which would severely outway the balance of the game. The game focused on strategy. How do you plan your attacks. Do you just rush in or do you take potshots and weaken him for a massive attack from behind. I would defintely like a game where using strategy over mastering the techtree/building fast is what the game is all about.

Things like Ambushes and using terrain as a tactical advantage.

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In reality, a 20-minute fight that has few than a hundred participants is very rare, especially in a small area. If there are any kind of fortifications involved, then you''re either going to have a huge slaughter or a stalemate in about ten minutes. If you want two teams of three to ten guys each to have a long, involved battle that can go either way at any time, you''re going to have to fake it.

A good way to do this is with map design. Make the heavily fortified areas pretty much useless except as refuge when you''re being chased, and make critical areas into deathtraps. Flag rooms could be virtually indefensible, meaning that a fluid defense is required to keep your enemies out. Networks of tunnels that can never be totally covered also serve to introduce an "X-factor" into the game. Realism can really start to blow in games, so make them fight in worlds that no sane military would fight in.

Also, weapons can be designed for that sort of thing. Trajectory-aimed grenade launchers could be used to harry an enemy, although it probably won''t do a lot of damage. Grossly innacurate automatic weapons that lay down suppressing fire are also good. But this leads to kamikaze enemies. You see this problem just about everywhere.

My favorite solution is permadeath. The Rainbow Six games did this well. If bullets started flying, you got behind something and stayed there. Only a fool would charge across an open area, and a twenty-minute game was mostly spent creeping from window to window, and looking over your shoulder. There was a Quake 3 mod called Urban Terror that did this pretty well, too. Very fun, especially without respawn.

But those games can become boring, even infuriating, when you die in the first few seconds and have to "ghost" the next twenty minutes of everyone else creeping around. I liked that part, myself, because the chat function let you gripe with the other corpses about it, and gloat when the guy that shot you buys his farm. But it lacks the fast&furious play that so many crave.

It''s a tough situation, no doubt about it, but balance will always be an issue. An otherwise excellent game with a crappy map set or an overpowered weapon with suck within minutes. An "upgrade" could ruin a game completely. It''s just something to be dealt with. Playtesting is a good safeguard. Betas are often better to play than the finished product, though. I don''t know what goes wrong there.

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What bothers me the most about gaming is how society has turned into nothing more than either winning or losing something (namely the online community). Winning has become everything, and losing only causes anger. A lot of people these days don't care how they win, they don't care why they win, all they want is for the game to acknowledge that they have "won" the battle. When in fact, people who lose are the ones that are winning. They gain knowledge and tactical information that they can use during their next conflict to better fend-off or even defeat their opponent(s), and this, by far, is more valuable than having a higher score. If this sounds corny to you, then you must be one of those people I'm talking about, who only cares about winning.

If a game has become nothing more to you than just building massive amounts of units and launching un-coordinated attacks (you're confident your army of 100+ will destroy any opposition), then you shouldn't be playing that game anymore. You've either learned the inner-workings of the game so well that you can destroy anyone without resistance, or you're just exploiting some technical bug in the game to gain complete control. In either case, the game/players aren't challenging you, and you should find some other game worthy of your time. The whole point of losing is that you know the battle was a challenge. People grow from challenges and mistakes, and it helps them to become a better player and a better person. That fact is human in nature.

The world today is not balanced, and games built today often reflect some aspect of the world, so shouldn't the game be unbalanced as well? If every side had a similar array of units with similar capabilities, similar resources and equal terrain, then it wouldn't be a very fun or interesting "game." Flaws should be included in every game ( and I don't mean graphical or technical flaws, because every game already has those ), because it adds the ability to adapt, luck, challenge, and skill into the game environment, which is a part of every day life. So if you feel a game is unfair or unpredictable, then look at the world around you; nothing is perfect, and nothing is balanced.

[edited by - omega147 on November 16, 2003 4:05:35 PM]

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Omega147: While I agree that gamers are focused on winning, I would argue that the reason that is the way it is is that many modern games DON''T offer anything to learn when you lose. In popular FPS games, for example, almost all of the gameplay focuses on who can point and click fastest. In many ''strategy'' games, the same problem exists - everybody knows the ''best'' strategy and the person that can do it fastest wins. The amount of thinking required in most games is minimal, which means there generally isn''t much to learn from a better opponent unless that opponent is intentionally teaching you.

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Agreed. In the highest levels of playing, there are canons of strategy and play that have been tried and tested by thousands of players and offered in scores of FAQs. Perhaps there are multiple styles, but even those can be ranked by effectiveness. There are exceptions, of course. Take Starcraft, for instance. There are little tricks that let weaker characters defeat much more powerful characters, but the three races were balanced, if not in game terms, in player terms. Protoss were favored by players who preferred surgical use of force and weren''t afraid to retreat now and again, while the Zerg were the choice among micro-managers and fast-clickers. I''ve only ever seen a few players choose Terran, but they have usually excelled, though I can''t imagine why. I suck with them.

I knew a hardcore group of Starcraft players some time ago, and they would identify a lesser opponent''s style within minutes, and proceed to dominate them. I should note that these guys were all economics majors, and could do incredible things with resources. It sounds silly, but I''m not kidding. I remember walking in on a guy ("Mojo") who was almost done with a battle. He was down to a fairly weak Protoss force that was being visibly overwhelmed by a substantial Zerg army. I made some flippant comment about how he was finally getting beaten, and he told me that the idiot he was playing didn''t have a damn clue how to handle Zerg, and was going to run out of resources right... now. On cue, the assault petered out and he launched an all-destroying counterattack using reserve forces he''d concealed behind his burning structures. It was epic. He went from about 23% of the map to total domination in the time it took me to borrow a DVD.

That''s the sort of thing I''d like to see in more games. Huge comebacks and overarching strategy. But honestly, there''s no way I''d put the kind of thought into my games that Mojo did. Especially with multiple players on a team, a strategy that involved sitting around in reserve for twenty minutes is going to eat some heavy wang. Unless it''s some kind of clan play, nobody will use strategy, and so you''ll have to depend on twitch and luck, and hopefully some good maps and gametypes.

And don''t give me that after-school special crap about the losers being the real winners because they learned a valuable lesson. You learn at least as much when you find something that works as you do when you find something that doesn''t. Unless you don''t ever have to change tactics in mid-game, in which case you''re either playing an absurdly simple game or your opponent is a twit.

For what it''s worth, I''ve seen some impressive heroics in FPS games. Notably in Q3: Urban Terror, where my newb friend avenged three of us by taking out a fairly tough team of four after they nailed most of our team with a lucky frag grenade. We blamed lag, of course, both for our defeat and his victory, but it was a great show nevertheless. Especially when you factor in all the trash-talking.

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quote:
Original post by Omega147
What bothers me the most about gaming is how society has turned into nothing more than either winning or losing something (namely the online community). Winning has become everything, and losing only causes anger. A lot of people these days don''t care how they win, they don''t care why they win, all they want is for the game to acknowledge that they have "won" the battle.

One game this reminded me of was Goldeneye 007 for N64. Sure you always just won or lost but there was something extra that kept you watching, at least me anyway. The awards. Getting the award for most effective or deadly. Seeing my friends get "Most Cowardly" or "Most Suicidal". But that got me thinking. Maybe there''s some way of ranking people online. You''d have a ranking of not just best or worst but have categories and breakdowns so you can see what style of play they are.... Are they for FPS''s the longest-life / deadly kind or the shortest life and most kills kind....

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I think your argument is one that needs to be addressed in a serious way, in the gaming industry and in society as a whole.

The idea of everyone winning is ludacrous. Did I spell that right? Why on earth would you play a game online if everyone would always win? If you want to win all the time, then play against the computer on the easiest difficulty setting and have a ball.

As for myself, and countless others in the gaming community, the possibility of losing, defeat, humiliation, and the eventuality of getting owned, having to spectate, disconnect, endure the annoying insults of the guy who has the upper hand, are all part of the gaming experience, and they keep it alive and interesting and worth coming back to time and time again.

If you lose, then learn from your mistakes. If you have to think about them, painfully reliving the experience until you glean some info that is useful, then that's great. For example, take starcraft, a great game, with many many levels of skill, and myriad strategies. In Starcraft you save replays. Some people may only save the replays when they win. I have saved a few where I lost bad, and I learned much from my opponents. Competition drives everyone to work hard and learn, and this is IN NO WAY a problem. The only problem I have with a guy winning is when he cheats to do it. If they win with skill and experience, then my hat's off to them, and I hope to learn all their secrets and in turn use them to destroy my enemies.

Don't make me get political on you dude. I've had it up to here with pc bs and it's a terrible, terrible thing. Keep games challenging, and reward the guy who takes the time to learn the game. If you want to, be chivalrous and humble about your victories, and accept your defeats as lessons. But if you can't handle losing, you may consider not playing online.

[edited by - ironotaku on November 20, 2003 6:54:02 PM]

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Designers in the industry are not good designers since many go in it weather it be from friend family of from another ability like programming. Itfs like hiring a dishwasher to one day to be the head chef lol. Many top designers say they got in the business lucky.

Games are mostly made for profit, if they were mad for fun then we would get more original fun games than clones that do the same things. The gamers are also to blame since they buy that to support it, and many game designers and programmer do the same things and don''t all gather up to make a good game. If every hobby game programmer and designer gathered up you would see better games but everyone is selfish and people get what they deserve.

And yes there are game ideas to make it feel that everyone wins but everyone does the same things and are afraid of new. Many say I have the best online game idea but what do I know about online gamming in how to make them and I am a bit lazy to get it started since most programmers care to do their own ideas even though I don''t see much top games from them.

Go with real life rules since you don''t see a child fighting an adult since they have different sill levels.
Look at strategy games in how they work, dissect them and compare them and just evaluate things. Some rules to take is to put people that are around in the same level together and that you go to more advanced areas when u upgrade or you can go to the advanced areas to pass levels faster and for a harder challenge. Also if someone is too powerful that person should me marked to be attacked kind of like the game gauntlet where it has a thing that tags you as it, Etc. Another thing to be improved upon is view and control, so skill should play a factor and we should not let luck heavily dictate the outcome. Also to have more winners that looser is not appealing to the majority, but if they feel they are close then they feel they won since they believe they could have won is they pressed fire instead of block.

Check out some classic games like bomerman, finalfantasy tactics, or warsong. The thing is that most people don''t know what especially designers and if they did then we would have every game be a triple a game.

"Profanity is for those who lack intelligence and imagination to otherwise express them selves." "You are what you repeatedly do; Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." Aristotle

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Look at Nintendo's Mario Kart 64.

The grand prix and versus racing games allow people in the back an advantage. This means you can never really feel like the game is lost or won until it is over.

In the multiplayer battle games, each player gets 3 balloons and you lose 1 each time you are hit. There is no advantage of the balloons. A guy on his last balloon can play just as effectively as the guy with 3 balloons. Again, it's not over until you lose the last balloon.

[edited by - 5010 on November 21, 2003 11:45:18 AM]

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Most games want to let the player win. Because of this they put all sorts of balance problems in the units, not the maps. Then, when you get online, these problems are still there. Most games suffer from this, but are patched up for online play overtime. If game designers were more creative, they could use maps for an advanage instead of unfairly tweaking stats. I have seeing this is many games, although most of the time it is very minor. Still, the issue is there.

Scott Simontis
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