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Unhealthy Competition

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I got to thinking about balancing issues, and how it can lead to UNhealthy competition. Everyone likes to win of course, but it got me to thinking about how people will rules-lawyer, or worse, brag about their victories because of how they can defeat other people. While I don''t really know of anyway to prevent this way of thinking. What bothers me is I think that game balancing can actually encourage it by making players think they are on equal footing. Therefore if I beat you, I''m a better/smarter player than you are because we were "equal" ...type of thinking. Any one have any ideas on how to create a more healthy way of playing against your opponent that doesn''t encourage an ego-boosting mentality? Maybe the reason I like the concept of unbalanced games stems from my martial arts training. If a student got cocky during sparring, the instructor made sure that he showed that student just how far he''d have to go to get better. Maybe that''s also the reason why I like the "Kobayashi Maru" type of make players learn how to deal with defeat. As Bruce Lee put it, "don''t think of your opponent as your enemy, but as your teacher and student. He will do his best to show you your weaknesses just as you will do your best to show him his". But I guess this requires some very mature players to do this. Any suggestions?

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No one likes getting their ass wopped, and thats it. I always thought it would be enat to give the current ''winner'' (if they are tottally blowing away the compitition) subtle disadvantages... so in esence the ''GAME CHEATS!'' as I always scream when I lose. Just an idea.

CodeSmith the Pixel Pusher

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Guest Anonymous Poster
The flaw is that the only measure of pecking order is when one player defeats another. Why not assign a point value to measure a player''s long-term score? Defeating a high-ranked individual is worth more points, but a single victory is not enough to put a player on top. Maybe use an average of the defeated opponents or somesuch.

Likewise, two players could use the relative scores to provide a handicap and compete for a fixed amount of points.

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It is called 'sportsmanship' Chris Crawford notes in the Art of Computer Game Design (something along the lines of) that sportsmanship is a system that evolved to overcome the powerful feelings involved in sport / games.

So players need to develop 'digital' sportsmanship.

Edited by - Ketchaval on July 19, 2001 8:36:20 PM

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Original post by Ketchaval
It is called ''sportsmanship'' Chris Crawford notes in the Art of Computer Game Design (something along the lines of) that sportsmanship is a system that evolved to overcome the powerful feelings involved in sport / games.

So players need to develop ''digital'' sportsmanship.

Edited by - Ketchaval on July 19, 2001 8:36:20 PM

Or do they? The thing about online games is that when you taunt people mercilessly there isn''t much they can do about it. I''m not sure that you can really enforce sportsmanship unless it becomes part of the game. Maybe some sort of admin slap (ie, where the administrator can damage the player) and online referees? Unless there are some disadvantedges to acting like that people are always going to taunt their oponents.

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I think there are a few ways to start a game:

Random - like a card game. No attempt at balance. (Bridge or 6 deck BlackJack in Vegas!)
Buy and Build - the champ in the balance camp. (Civ2, etc.)
Pre-built scenarios - the rules or some level designer dictates the balance. (Backgammon, Majesty, Civil War, etc.)

I don''t think balance equality or inequality can shut up a griefer. They are part of life - read "People who suit MUDS" ( In fact, your game is showing that it is healthy when you have greifers (spades). I agree with The Senshi that digital sportsmanship is unlikely.

The guy who beats you and brags when the forces are even will brag even more when YOU start with an advantage! And will justify any loss - balanced or not. Screw ''em.

CodeSmith suggests "behind the scenes, outside the rules, on the fly" balancing - I can imagine that makes Dauntless see red!

A multi-player game where everyone works together against a computer force builds commeraderie - but for some reason has fallen out of favor. (Wayback machine - anyone remember the raytracing arcade game "Ripoff"?? Maybe the only great cooperative game...the computer was the bad guy.)

MMORPGs build friendships when you team up to beat the NPC monsters and make enemies when you get PKed or your kill gets looted. Team Fortress builds friends and foes via the chat channel.

It would shut some griefers up if you had a rating like chess has an ELO. I also like the idea if having a handicapping system. It''s also tough to take a braggart seriously when they talk trash, but are scared to enter a tournament.

(Try pitching this to your friendly distributor...)
Maybe the game should have no winning conditions! You just do the best you can in the time allowed (or the time you can spend). I think what Dauntless really wants is focus on strategy not a focus on points gained or number of kills. So you play the game, manuever around, shoot, take casualties and end the scenario. Then you look over the final position and discuss what happened and maybe argue why you should be considered victorious. If the computer does any kind of evaluation (like who controls the most tiles) you are back to a black and white "I win/you lose" situation.

Other options - ummm - puzzle games and sim games? Stuff where there is no competition...and oh yeah - solo play!

Dash Zero
Credits: Fast Attack - Software Sorcery - Published by Sierra 1996

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In the RTS genre, you could get the player used to defeat, as well as show off some more advanced units by creating a "tutorial" mission in the begnning in which the player gets throughly whomped. Could even use it to build a story-line with...


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Play an online game called Subspace, kind of like a multiplayer asteroids clone (NOT like Silent Death, which stinks). It lost financial backing from it''s publisher several years ago, however players in high places have managed to keep the game alive. Given that the server software was distributed with the game, there are numerous ''super-zones'', or arenas where the balance is out of whack. However, you''ll find that zones with the original settings (or ''SVS'', meaning "standard VIE settings") set players on equal ground in all aspects of their capabalities to deliver damage, manuever, etc.. and are HIGHLY addicting. The gameplay in this game (the original gameplay, again is incredible. One on One Duels between players with identical ships can last upwards of 30 minutes without a dull moment. On the surface the game seems simple, but it is damn hard to master. You only have two primary weapons, bullets and bombs. The game employs simple newtonian physics, and your weapons lack any real acceleration, so hitting moving targets at long range requires impecable timing. The bombs have a fairly large proximity, however get anywhere near this proximity and it does a moderate amount of damage back upon the firer. The catch is this: Your energy (you lives, 1700 points) is used for the firing of these weapons, though it recharges at a fairly fast rate. Bombs take away nearly as much as they deal, so button mashers are easy pickings . In duels it can get very intense: between two decent players, one wrong movement or attack will put your momentum going in a direction which your enemy has probably predicted, and if you''ve wasted energy firing a bomb then get into an exchange of bullets you''ll bottom out first. It takes a good deal of time and patience (and a TON of dying) to initially get down the physics of the game, but it can take years to develop a mastery of the nuances of combat, both 1 on 1 and against unfair odds (which is an entirely different ball game). I''ve been playing it for about 4 years now, can''t get enough . It''s a tough game though, way too hard to learn again after a long break .. but very rewarding if you stick at it and take the initial losses...

woah, tangent
here''s a site where you can get it:
Here''s a strategy guide (it''s big):

When you choose zones, play in the ones marked SSCE, examples being SSCE Dueling Arizona and SSCE Chaos Zone. Most of the others (Trench Wars, Extreme Games) have alternate settings from the standard, and definitely don''t support the kind of gameplay you guys have been talking about here. I really can''t stand them.. The annoying thing is these zones are perfect for newbies who''re turned off by the learning curve in the standard settings. They don''t know what they''re missing

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I started looking at that guide I posted a link to, haven't read it in awhile . These sections popped out at me, I think they explain Subspace better than I did. Btw, I play in SSCE Dueling Arizona under either Diablo Cow or Pulse. If you mention you're there because of this post, I'll teach you the ropes in a duel. If you want to learn fast, doing lots of duels with an experienced teacher is a good idea. Dueling random people helps too, need to be ready for adversity as well, hehe.

3.2.2 - Timing
There are two skills that separate the great player from one who is merely good. The first is an acute sense of timing, and the second is the ability to predict what other ships are doing. Since you need good timing to act on your predictions, the first skill is perhaps more fundamental.

Almost everything you do in battle will succeed or fail based on your judgment of where things will be one or two seconds in the future. You ship is traveling along one vector, your enemy along another, and your bomb will form a third. Whether or not you score a hit will depend on how accurate your assessment was
of the desired intersection point between the path of your shot and that of the enemy ship. You must also take into account the possibility of his changing course, not to mention the probability that you can avoid anything he may be
able to lob your way. Shooting at a faraway target is even more difficult, since you must make an educated guess at where things will be five or six seconds from

As you can see, you must perform a delicate juggling act between three or four variables just to keep up with the crowd. There is little you can do to improve your ability to handle these calculations outside of practice and experience. Gradually, you will become better able to predict what someone is going to do
next and where your bullets are going to hit, but be aware that this takes time. There is nothing more satisfying that to see an opponent slam into three or four of your bombs after he's run far enough away to think you could no longer be a

6.1.1 - Conservation of Energy

A bomb is not only a projection of your willpower, but of your life-force. Every shot you fire will exert an energy drain on you of around half of the damage it will do to the opponent, assuming a direct hit. If you are too close, you may be
caught in your own bomb's shockwave and will take an even larger penalty. The danger here is extreme, and at all times the value displayed in your energy bar should be the first and foremost thing on your mind. Not only are you vulnerable to your enemy if you miss a shot, but you are both sitting ducks for any other
ships that decide to intervene. Perhaps 50% of my kills and 50% of my deaths are due to outside interference in battles, or vulching; such behavior is a common game tactic, however, and you must be prepared to not only deal with it but to
take advantage of its opportunities.

Every decision you make in battle should be weighed according to the risk you assume by taking on its cost in energy. It is difficult to win a battle without enduring a very large power drain yourself, due to the mechanics of the game. Ships recharge very quickly with the maximum upgrade, and thus must be hit by an enormous number of bullets and bombs in a short space of time to be killed. You simply are not going to win a battle against a good player by not taking risks, and this is perhaps the one concept most misunderstood by newbies and Quake players. Many newbies will gleefully sit back and slam a neg or two into
oblivion with a single lazily aimed pbomb, and will then wonder why such behavior doesn't faze the guy with the 300 bounty. Also, a surprising number of good Quake players will walk into the game thinking they can dominate and instead find out they have to relearn everything they know. SubSpace is not a
twitch and shoot game; killing is a much more intricate and involved process.

6.2.2 - Prediction

SubSpace may appear to be a game rewarding brute force over any other kind of strategy, but be assured that this is not the case between two good opponents. You can only kill your enemy if you fire at him, and only if what you fire actually hits. Whether you're shooting at him from across the map or whether you're circling his ship in close battle, you have to fire not at where he is but where he's going. Since he will be doing the same, the fight will be won by the pilot who is better able to model his competitor's behavior.

How can you turn this to your advantage? First, be unpredictable. Make sharp
turns, and veer away from exits or corridors at the last moment. While he's positioning his ship for a shot suddenly change directions to throw off his aim, like a schizophrenic. Second, be aware of the terrain around you, for it will dictate the range of possible motions for both ships. If you see the enemy
running toward an exit, fire not in front of him, but toward the exit itself. If you are circling each other in a fight, try to extend that circle out in your head and shoot where he is turning. The farther out in the future you can
predict your opponent's behavior, the greater your advantage, but the greater the risk. It is hard to do this accurately past two or three seconds, but there are always exceptions.

Your mind is your greatest weapon. The most formidable players make use of all variables at their disposal: the strength of the enemy, the location of walls and obstacles, and the presence of other ships. Get good at this.

Edited by - eotvos on July 20, 2001 2:30:09 AM

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What you suggested at the end was actually very much what I sort of had in mind. To me, a strategy-type game would be less about beating your opponent than dealing with the strategical and tactical considerations involved. But I think this only really works for certain types of games like you suggested.

Also, as for RPG styles of games, I find these interesting too, because you don''t necessarily try to "beat" other people, you are really trying to improve your character. However, I think RPG in the computer world face much of the same issues that paper&pen RPG''s faced not too long ago. Instead of being ROLE playing games, they are more like ROLL playing games. In other words, it''s not so much acting out another persona in a new world as it is about increasing stats, getting wealthy, etc. So I think DashSero is right on about MMORPG''s being more "healthy", whereas all the FPS team-based shooters can stoke ego''s (although they too can build up teamwork).

Which gets me to thinking, why aren''t there more co-operative based multi-player games? For me, those are the most fun types of missions. Are they not as popular? Am I so out of tune with the rest of the populace that I''m not all about trying to beat other people (maybe because I suck at games ).

As Codesmith said, no one likes to get their ass-whooped. I guess the real trick in designing a game is balancing not feeling like a "loser" if you lose, and not making a winner feel like he''s "all that" if he wins. Some good suggestions on the thread so far though, hope more ideas come rolling in....

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