Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Theories On Games...

... which is different from game theory. Badminton is getting a lot of news for obvious reasons. Now, read and get up to speed on that. There are a few key take-aways from this story and lessons learned. First, you should always give it your all.

Second, if you want to encourage a certain kind of behavior, structure your rules to encourage that behavior. I'm sure there are probably different, more cogent ways of explaining this, but let's look at why this scandal happened. The teams wanted to increase not just their odds to win the gold but their country's odds as a whole. To do so, a loss at this juncture was a surer bet than a victory, to avoid having to knock each other out at the next round. However, what the Olympics wants is for players to play their hearts out (see the first lesson.)

This is true in games as well. In short, if you write your rules in a certain way, you distort the way people will play your games. Your rules need to reinforce how you want people to play. Look at most table top RPGs. Call of Cthulhu's game rules encourage players to not build specialists, but to have people with skills as divided up as possible to take advantage of skill ups.

It translates into online and electronic games as well. That's what the Olympics did wrong here. They wanted their athletes to play one way, but what they really did was promote a play style that was toxic and against the spirit of the rules. The best example I can really think of is in League of Legends' champion design. They want a high-action, MOBA-style game. They want poking to matter, they want you to have lethal early, mid and end games.

But, their actual rules structure promotes overly cautious play, because of how strong and fast snowballing happens. An early kill can cause a spiral even a good team cannot recover from. The strength of sustain in lane early is so powerful that supports have routinely been smacked with nerfs to promote the play style that Riot wants. Yet, each time, they are still more valuable than any other fifth team member.

They have yet to deal with the actual underlining problem (the snowballing). What's worse, their attempted fixes have not actually done what they want! Soraka, Sona, Janna, Taric and Alistar are all still top tier, excellent picks. The entire metagame is toxic to what has been described as desirable. Zero CS support is still an extremely powerful role, because providing items to a fifth character is worth less than a pile of items on the carry. All that has happened is new supports have been found to fill the niche, like Blitzcrank, Gangplank, Nunu or Leona. This makes play even more cautious because playing in the bottom lane can go wrong incredibly fast now.

They wanted to make building items on support characters more appealing. So what did they do? They reduced the AP ratios supports got from items. In short, they wanted supports to buy more items, but they made it less useful to buy items and comparatively even more valuable to sacrifice gold to the carry, who now scaled even better than their lane partner. On top of that, they then provided additional passives that allow supports to generate gold for wards and what few aura items they get without having to farm. All of their actions have worked exactly against their stated goals.

Not only that, time to kill is getting lower. This means that having map awareness is even more valuable to prevent snowballing. This means that someone needs to be sacrificing gold to place wards. You might argue that is a team effort, and early game, yes. Each lane places a ward or two. By mid game though? Your bruiser, AD, AP and jungler can't fall behind or risk getting snowballed. So, it is best to take the gold from a single source, especially when that person gets the least out of the items, again reinforcing the zero CS part of the meta.

Each and every change chips away a little at Riot's different wants. What they really need to do is either tweak everything or sit down and do a massive redesign of the support champions to play into the aggressive metagame they want. Some, like Taric and Janna, wouldn't change much. Others, like Soraka, need a massive overhaul. That's needed to make it less profitable for players to use a style of play Riot doesn't want to promote.

When people aren't playing your game the way you want them to, you need to look at the fundamental underpinnings of your rule structure. It may be as simple as not structuring the game so that your player's goals are opposite your desired goals, as in the Olympics where winning it all was not synonymous with, uh, actually winning them all. So, when you sit down to write, patch or edit a game, make sure the changes you make are actually going to encourage the behavior you want.



To make up for the puppy theft news, here are some dancing robots. I initially had a draft paragraph on WOW, but League of Legends makes a better, tighter, example.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Are you commenting? Thank you! Please be nice; I'm lazy and would hate to actually have to moderate things.