Vitenka: 1483
I made this / Cat Games - Less lag, more 'thats bad'
/ MORAT / freespace / Catnews / Editorial
There's nothing to see here except for shadows of the past - and these ones won't be returning.

I'd point you to my next project here - but I'm not that organised. My style is to act and then sort out the consequences, rather than the other way around. Oh, and lying. I do that a lot too. (i.e. if you look closely, you may have seen some links appearing roughly once a week) is registered to me for the forseeable future, so you might find something there.

Edited by Vitenka at 2003-04-09 08:22:54

Vitenka : Tue 30 04:21:09 2002  
... my thoughts on 'play to win' ...

Dom dom dom DOMINOE!

Firstly, full disclosure. I have only ever played two games 'seriously' - and neither for over a year. Those games were netrunner and tfc.

Secondly - no, I won't explain the titles. Go read the associated catlink for the first, and the book for the second.

Play to Win! Win to Play!

Playing games is fun. Winning games is also fun. The definition I am going to use of "playing seriously" is where you always play to your fullest, and STILL prefer to lose, because it means that you have discovered flaws in your play, or new tricks to use.

Playing seriously, playing at this level of competition is extremely rewarding. The problem is that there are several serious barriers stopping 'any old joe' playing at this level.

Ouch! It smarts!

Sorry - a large chunk of the potential game-playing populous just isn't smart enough to play at this level. They cannot cope with the number of different variables they have to juggle - at least not without a pen and some paper and a few minutes. Another (probably even larger) chunk could cope - but is unable to work out what variables need balancing.

Meta gaming is better gaming!

Which is sorta related to this problem. Every game evolves as time goes on. New strategies are invented which are more effective - and suddenly old styles of play become completely unimportant - or worse, de'facto knowledge.

This means that if you don't play for a month, then rejoin - you will be beaten through no fault of your own; and often with no hint of what you need to change. It also means that the skills you worked so hard to hone are suddenly perfected by everyone. The local 'best' strategy has been found, and copied.

Cheap Play

That leads on to a new definition of cheap play - any type of play which beats you due to meta-gaming considerations. To which the only answer is 'adapt or die'.

Now, sometimes - this is easy to do on the spot. Continually being fragged by a single class? Change class to counter. 'Cheap' tactics on this level are only cheap when you can't learn to fight against them.

Although, it must be admitted that it is frustrating to play when you find yourself unable to figure out a counter move. (Leading to the llame definition of 'cheap' as 'anything that defeats me') - but in a well balanced game, frankly, that is your fault. There IS a counter, you are just too blind to see it; or too lacking in skill to pull it off.

Perhaps a better example of 'cheap play' is in a slower paced game - where you cannot adapt during play. Card games are perfect examples of this, where you build your deck to suit a certain style of play without knowing what style of play your opponent will be using. This makes the metagame the ACTUAL game you are playing, and relegates the 'real' game almost to a foregone conclusion. (Netrunner, thankfully is not so vulnerable to this flaw - unlike some other games)

Metagaming to Death

One problem is that many games are NOT well balanced. They seem to be so on the surface, but a few iterations of metagaming soon reveal gaping flaws. These come in two real types: Apparant plateaus and black holes.

Black Hole

Infinite optimisation. A strategy is discovered which, provably, cannot be defeated. As an example, a strategy which allowed you to win on the first turn, without your opponent ever getting a chance to make a move.

Such strategies are obviously worse than 'cheap', they are 'broken'. The problem is that you often cannot easily fix such a strategy - removing the pinnacle of optimisation simply leaves a ring of 'not quite as good' strategies - and people will just choose from them.

Annoyingly, the fun of inventing better and better strategies around a black hole is often one of the most fun periods of playing any game - right up until the 'ultimate' is itself discovered. And it's a natural progression in most competitive games. The idea is to win before your opponent does, so a strategy to 'win quickly' is usually a good one to try...

Frankly, when a game acquires this cast, you are left with no choice but to change the game. Gentlemans agreements are hollow, since you know of a 'better' strategy that you are simply not pursuing (and arguments over how closely you may pursure it will abound)

The fix may, thankfully, be simple. The removal of a single card, the introduction of a new rule (respawn timers) may remove the problem entirely. If not, it may be neccessary to radically alter the game itself - which will (more often than not) splinter the community and lead to the games death.

I suppose 'finding the ultimate game' could be treated as a metagame in itself...


This is, mathematically, less important. The strategy found is currently the best - but a counter-strategy will be found and disseminated eventually. The problem is that 'eventually' carries no guarantees of 'before I get bored of this game' or even 'in the lifetime of the universe'

The only thing I can think of here is that it would be wise for the few people who DO discover the counter-strategies to share them as soon as possible. Not to wait until the whole world wants it (which usually ensures it will be rapidly shared, the lure of fame as the discoverer is very strong) but instead to disseminate early and often.

As long as people think that, with a bit of effort, they could overcome this barrier soon they will continue to play. Plus, of course, there is always going to be some 'expert play' inside the plateua - as people strive to execute the current 'best' strategy as flawlessly as possible. (Four medic CJing for example)

Keeping up With the Jones'

As I said before - the metagame will change over time. This IS a problem for a games community because new players will not know.

As an example, let's compare CS as it is described on the box, as it was in beta1 and as it actually plays now.

CS describes itself as 'team based counter terrorism' - and in beta one it played like that. You used maneuvers much like those you saw SWAT teams use on TV, covering each other, advancing up the field, storming doors two at a time...

Nowadays, of course, the game is much more evolved around sniping, moving the hostages to avoid them being found and other such tactics. A new player is going to be completely lost with all this. And if a game is very different to the way they expect it to be (eg. at the height of bunnyhopping) then they will probably just refuse to play it.

There are a few suggested solutions to this - most of which can never work.

Play the game as it was meant to be played

Sorry TPF - it's never going to happen. Yes, small specifics bugs you can pretend aren't there; No, large scale tactics cannot be ignored.

An experienced player is just going to be unable to resist using a good counter tactic to whatever tactic the newbies use - and the newbies don't know as many tactics. The outcome is (on average) pretty much clear. On a small scale, teaching your friends works - but you will have to accept that you will have to slowly bring them up to speed (teach them the latest and greatest tactics) or they will never be able to enjoy a game outside of the sandpit. On a larger scale - you are never going to be able to persuade the whole community to avoid certain tactics just because they are 'cheap'. Indeed, I would argue that for the longeivty of the game, you should not.


This one will work. If you can force (through some technological means) newbies and veterans to play apart then the newbies will happily play against each other, and teach each other new tricks - and eventually become veterans themselves.

There is a problem, of course. Once the rate of newbies coming into the game drops too far, new players won't have ANYONE to play against, and will leave - ensuring that this state of affairs ontinues and the game dies. A similar thing will happen with veterans.

There is a big upside that many will not expect. If you have a number of distinct communities, each evolving new strategies without any cross-fertilisation of ideas then they will each evolve in different directions. And when communities DO meet - you get an explosion of new ideas and interesting gameplay. For example, 4CJ-medic (europe) vs 4-soldier (US) or Bartmoss-Joan vs PsychoTycho. {Frustrating though these clashes will initially be}

Of course, segregation can never be perfect - which further limits the application. And some people will always strive to defeat it (creating new accounts for easy wins in warcraft, for example)

Keep the documentation up to Date!

This is probably the simplest solution. If the documentation that comes with the game, and that can be found online ABOUT the game is always up to date and reflects the actual state of the community from the point of view of an outsider, then newbies should be able to just jump right in. (After all, it is much more important KNOWING about, say, rocket jumping than it is to be good at it)

MMORGs are absolutely the WORST offenders here. Even the community documentation is hopelessly out of date - and the bugs currently in use and the styles of play common are almost never described. Let alone the docs in the box.

Get in on the Ground Floor

In theory, if everyone started the game at the same time and if they dropped out never rejoined - then everything would be fine.

I can't see games companies going for that though - it would obviously limit their total audience. (Although being able to advertise their game as "Buy now (at full price) or you will NEVER know what this game is about!" might increase initial sales some.)

Is there Hope?

It depends what hope you are looking for.

Is there hope that games will be crystalised and play the way you remembered - yet still be alive and have huge audiences of fodder? No. I think that's rose tinted. You will simply have to try to recapture that excitement in new games. (And there are STILL issues of metagaming there - no one will ever be excited about discovering a rocket-jump again, no matter what game it is in)

But are there ways to prolong the experience and to keep more newbies? Yes - although to a large extent it requires you to alter your expectations slightly as to which game you are playing. And is there hope that the large majority of players will manage that change? I think we will be hearing cries of "Lol. Camper-fag." in games that it is completely innapropriate to - for some time to come.

Edited by Vitenka at 2002-07-30 23:44:33

Older News  
Main News>>>


[Froody Comics]

[Nifty Links]
[Guilt Box]
You owe:
['Tenkas Tips]

This HTML design by Vitenka
I'm aware it sucks, but am also too lazy.
Note that now you've changed all the colours, it could be about anything!
BTW - this site looks fine in IE5 and netscape4. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find it, maybe you can use - Netscape 2.