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fractoid

Combatting 'scrubbiness' in games.

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This starts off in the context of RTS games (specifically Warcraft 3) but I believe the problem I'm talking about it is common to all multiplayer games. Put simply, the problem is that gamers seem to form their own quasi-rules, or social rules, about what is or isn't 'fair'. This is covered on the great series of articles on sirlin.net about playing to win. Further, I see these social rules stifling the variety and creativity that makes these games fun in the first place. The particular example that brought me to write this is a Frozen Throne replay (here, from this page, if you have Frozen Throne). Watching the replay, it's plain that the human player has found a tactic that works very well against that particular orc's play style. Instead of being congratulated on his tactic, he is subjected to a stream of abuse. This sort of thing is so common in Warcraft culture, and it bugs me no end. The guy came up with a way to hit you without you hitting him back - that's the point of the frikkin' game! 'Strategies' are limited to 'build slightly more crypt fiends' or 'build slightly more ghouls', and every f*cking game looks the same... watching the replays from Blizzard's Warcraft World Invitational tournement, each player has one race they use, and one orthodox strategy that they use. They might vary their units a smidgen in the late game, but mainly it comes down to who has the better micromanagement and luck, which, in a game with so much potential variety, is stupid. What I'm trying to think of is a way to encourage variety. Maybe this is not possible, since this seems to be a purely social phenomenon, but I'm hoping... My best suggestion so far is to give each unit type a quota, spread over (say) five online games. So, if you're a habitual dryad masser, then you may be fine for three games, but then run out and have to spend the next three games with only two or three dryads available. Hopefully this way people will learn to use more than one type of unit. ...Ideas? [edit: repointed the play-to-win link to the second part, which introduces scrubs] [edited by - fractoid on March 6, 2004 11:52:17 AM]

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Hmmm... you have a good point. Many times people will say, "No attacking for 10 minutes", which essentially nulls several strategies, just so they can build up a base.

I would say this: make it so if you quit mid-game, it counts as a loss, and make it so the game creator cannot boot people, but they are booted automatically for innactivity (mouse or keyboard haven''t ben touched in 2 minutes, lets say). That way, if someone makes a lame rule, people don''t have to follow it. However, if they have their own server, that wouldn''t work, but then again, they should be able to choose the rules in that case.

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Yep, that sort of thing is one example of what I''m talking about, but at least that sort of thing is consensual. A bigger problem is the arbitrary designation of ''anything I can''t easily beat'' as being ''cheesy'' or ''cheap''. These words are thrown around places like battle.net a lot.

I actually gave up on battle.net around the time I figured out that *any* tactic I used would be ''cheese'', and there''s only so many weeks of verbal abuse I can take before it becomes no longer fun. Grunt rush? cheese wtf. Tower rush? cheese u fkn noob. More than three of the same type of unit? massing cheeser. A nicely balanced army? already wiped out by fifteen dryads. About the only tactic that doesn''t result in claims that one is playing unfairly is mass wisps, or something similarly unlikely to succeed. *sigh*

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The solution is extremely simple: just implement a filter that takes out words (and context) like "cheese" "cheap" "noob" etc.

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same stuff happens in other games too.

take team fortress classic, apparently over the course of time some rediculous rules about offense shouldn''t shoot at offense, no flag chasing, and a handfull of other pseudo-rules that are completely retarted. It''s partially the reason I quit the clan scene.

Where the hell does this crap come from?

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A lot of it comes from inherent game-balance issues. A particular tactic is shown to be too effective--ie, the number of tactics that can reasonably surmount it are few--but the tactic itself is easy to implement, requiring little work or effort on the part of the attacker. It''s like a lot of un-balanced fighting games I have seen, where a certain single move is deadly effective and causes enough of a reaction delay to prevent the defender from recovering and counter-attacking in turn, resulting in an easy "cheese" win due to the victim''s inability to react. The attacker found a legitimate (meaning: allowed by the game) way of winning the fight, so why does it feel so much like cheating?

Because of the lack of an effective counter. Tactics and strategy no longer apply; it becomes a race to be the first one to correctly execute the killer move or strategy, thus deciding before the match is even played out who the victor is to be. The rest of the game is just a meaningless charade, a waste of time.

Same with RTS games with the ability to execute tactics or builds others might regard as "cheese". I remember falling to many a deadly Zergling rush in my early Starcraft days. Building a small start-game zerg rush was extremely easy; defending against it could be very challenging, if not impossible in some situations. It was a valid tactic (the game allowed it), but it removed tactics and strategy from consideration, skewing the balance of power in favor of the Zerg rusher. As the game lengthened out, the brutal effectiveness of the zergling rush was dampened, and it became a non-issue, so many folks would try to forbid zergling rushes in early game, to try to level the playing field.

The best counter I can think of is proper game balance. If a particular build, tactic or strategy is brutally effective, it needs to be proportionately difficult to build in the first place. If a rocket launcher is a total game-buster, maybe it should be toned down in power a bit or paired with an appropriate defense to counteract it.

Finding a strategy that works well should of course be congratulated rather than reviled; but it lies upon the shoulders of the developer to ensure that such a strategy is not an obvious game-balance loophole that could conceivably be called a cheat and incur contempt due to lack of inherent balance. Such loopholes are not fun for other players (thus the revilement and abuse) and consequently destroy the whole point of the game for the players, which is to have fun win or lose.


Golem
Blender--The Gimp--Python--Lua--SDL
Nethack--Crawl--ADOM--Angband--Dungeondweller

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We in the Magic: the Gathering community have a word for things like that: "broken". You''re right, it is an issue of game balance, so us designers have to work out what kind of things are balanced.

void Signature(void* Pointer)
{
PObject(Pointer)->ShowMessage("Why do we need so many pointers?");
};

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Perhaps dynamic unit stats could help. For example, rather than banning rushes, have it something like; For the first 10 minutes of the game, units have half their attack rating. Or if you don''t like that, when a unit is created, it''s attack starts at a fraction of it''s full value and every minute or so raises a little, and after about 10 minutes will be at full strength.

It would slow down rushes. I don''t know what looking after underpowered units would be like tho.

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Most people moan about tactics because they lost. It is the same in every game. They want to play the game the way that suits them but you use a tactic, which is effective against their style of play. This doesn''t make the tactic too effective. If they had picked a different tactic the result may well have been different. For them to moan that you must play "fair" is stupid. What they mean is you should play the way that suits them best (and most likely lose as a result).



Dan Marchant
Obscure Productions (www.obscure.co.uk)
Game Development & Design consultant

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quote:
Original post by DrEvil
same stuff happens in other games too.

Where the hell does this crap come from?


Tabletop wargames. Well before multiplayer computer games took off. Often these games would go years without a revision of rules or even never get revised. Any inbalance issues (which there are always some of) get branded cheating, cheesy, beardy, cheap, unfair etc. Most people generally would only play once or maybe twice a week and so being beaten because the "rules" werent compelty fair in their opinion caused lots of frustration. This has speard and would ahve developed on its own into online gaming. How easy is it to say "I lost because the game wasnt fair". It''s all bullshit really. You just have to play how you want.

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