Greedy Goblin

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Future of gaming: "daddy lets toddler win"?

Imagine that 5-years old boy runs in the house with eyes sparkling "Mommy, I've beaten Dad in football!". Would you think that he actually won? Or rather that daddy let him win to make his son happy and to motivate him to play more? Obviously the latter. It's a lie. It's a cheat. But it works, so parents do it. It's considered OK to lie to a little kid since he is unable to comprehend the World yet and has looong way to go. The truth would be "son, you suck in football so I beat you easily but if you keep practicing and losing for years, you'll be so good that you won't only beat me but can participate in some serious football team". It's just too much for a 5-years old.

This image was mentioned by my girlfriend explaining the success of the game World of Tanks and co. In these games the bad players are treated as toddlers. They are granted wins without telling them so. World of Warcraft is losing customers because of communicating the nerfs. The visible "luck of draw" and "power of aspects" buffs, the "accessible dungeons" mantra on the devblog all have the same message: "yes, you'll clear the place and get rewards but only because we nerfed to your pathetic level". The social doesn't want pixel items. He wants the feeling of being loved and respected. WoW doesn't respect bad players, just throw them welfare epics with the same attitude you drop a coin to a beggars hat. Sure, it saves him from having to go on with his day without booze, but I doubt if he truly enjoys the act of getting charity.

World of Tanks and low-end League of Legends provide boosts to the bad player without him having any clue about his uselessness. "We won yay" says lvl 14 guy with 1 kill, 2 assists, 10 deaths when the team of him and 4 lvl 18 wins. Same for the moron who died in the first minute driving to Malinovka field. For LoL the boost is in the hidden ELO that creates a group with both good and bad players without telling the latter that he is way below the others in ELO. WoT probably uses that too, and messing with penetration and hit and probably detection and God knows what else.

You know what makes this scheme perfect? Besides the few people who truly play for win, it serves the good players too. I'm talking about the l33t social, the guy who actually has skills, but not aspiring for victory, challenge and improvement but - like all socials - peer respect. He's the one who tops the damage chart on the Arathi bridge. In this scheme he is either "pwns", or really loses because of bad luck or terrible teammates. You know, these people use to lie that "we won because of me, we lost because of the sucky team". In this scheme that statement is true.

Look at this and compare it with the one from a week ago:
I used to have 84% winrate but the last 10 matches I had 50%, despite my average damage/battle barely decreased (579 vs 595). Damn my sucking teammates and my luck getting them!

Except I know it's not luck. Probably my post did not go unnoticed (WoT forum is my #1 referral for the last month in the blog), so they changed the algorithm. I guess the original algorithm was looking at XP/battle and not win rate, as most players consider that the most important stat. My Marder II wasn't strongly nerfed by the algorithm since even the world best Marder gets less XP/battle than an average T5 tank he is pitted against. Now they probably watch win rate too, making sure it stays in the 40-60% range. So I did not beat the system with the exceptional gun of Marder II but by its low XP/hour. Now they proved that they can "adjust" the game so not even a Marder II can't chain-win.

The future of gaming is not hardcore, average customers will suck and leave.
The future of gaming is not accessible because it's called "lame" by even those who couldn't complete that difficulty without boost.
The future of gaming is not having various difficulty levels, allowing everyone to play on his level since no one wants to face that he is on the lower levels.
The future of gaming is lying to the customer, telling him he was beating equal peers while actually he was winning in a totally controlled environment carefully tailored to his skills.

I deleted the game I once loved with disgust from my computer. But I doubt if there are many people out there like me. If none of us play games without proofs to be fair, they still have legions of bad players and several "l33t" socials to pay in their shop. What's left for us to play? Story-games like WoW-MoP and SWTOR doesn't count, they are not games to play but interactive movies to consume. We have sports, Chess and EVE. We'll be fine.

I'm really-really worried about Diablo III. What if Blizzard delayed it to reprogram for this scheme? What if the monsters against bad players will be stealth-nerfed, and the difficulty for good players stealth-buffed to make the hype of "OMG it's hard" while letting drooling facerollers still complete it if they buy some gear on RMAH? I mean if the game needs some farming from the HC, it would be unbeatable by the average even if he buys full BiS. Does D3 has an exportable combat log?

Even worse: what if the item-droprates are adjusted to give an OK item every day and a great one every week, regardless of how many hours you play a week and what kind of monsters you kill? I mean such system would make the casual motivated and prevent the HC from getting BiS and leaving. Is there and exportable drop-log we can upload to a 3rd party site to verify that it's random and check if a named really gives better loot than a random monster?


EVE Business report: Thursday morning 10.3B (3 PLEX behind for second account, 0.1B spent on Titan project)
Remember that you can participate in our EVE conversations on the "goblinworks" channel and your UI suggestions are welcomed.


PS: read the analysis of Susan on ship prices! Really good.

37 comments:

Andru said...

Well, you are somewhat ignoring pre-built teams.

WoW has arenas and RatedBGs, in which 'sucky teammates' won't enter your team, and if they do, you have only yourself to blame.

Guild Wars has been doing it for years. Guild vs Guild tournaments are regularly held, for real money prizes too.

Your analysis maybe holds true for games where a random matchmaker is present. (Which you probably correctly suspect isn't all that 'random'.)

Anyway, you might be right about D3. It's a glorified single-player game, what do you expect?

Azuriel said...

You are factually incorrect vis-a-vis the reason WoW players left/are leaving. If your argument was sound, we would have seen the same exodus when the stacking nerf was first introduced in Icecrown. In fact, the opposite occurred: subscriptions went up.

In any case, your incredulity towards ensuring "even teams" is baffling. FPS titles have been forcing team-shuffling (e.g. splitting the highest scorers) inbetween rounds for decades. The only "innovation" WoT has brought is (allegedly) the addition of under-the-hood damage tweaks.

P.S. Most professional sports use drafts to recruit new players. From the Wiki:

"An entry draft prevents expensive bidding wars for young talent and ensures that no one team can sign contracts with all of the best young players and make the league uncompetitive. To encourage parity, teams that do poorly in the previous season usually get to choose first in the postseason draft."

Gevlon said...

@Azuriel: it needs time (probably months) until the community opinion changes. Until then the momentum (the old, now incorrect opinion) drives the system.

The BC idea was that "raiding is hard, heroics are hard", so players were happy and proud to complete heroics and raids in WotLK at the beginning.

Uranax said...

"We have sports, Chess and EVE."

Add StarCraft 2 to that list. It is an extremely hard multiplayer game. Because it is so hard it is very satisfying when you win a game. You might want to try it out sometime.

PS: Say hi to Livia from me.

Energybomb said...

....I think it is time for someone to introduce you to the wonderful world of paradox interactive.

I've known you for a long time Gevlon, so my personal suggestion to you is to google "Victoria 2".

I am happy I did. I gave up in humanity, at least when games were concerned. I prefer the solace of a small circle of friends with games that actually stimulate you. It is actually quite liberating.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about EVE in a post DUST world?

CCP spent a lot of money and nought several companies in order to make a console game. It is no longer going to even have a shipping cost, totally free.

Will CCP be such incredibly bad business people that they allow the people they *need* to buy lots of micro transactions to be run off or not get enough wins? And ISK is ISK, even if it is earned or spent on a console or a PC.

For many people, CCP being in a partnership with Sony is not a comfort.

Fawr said...

There is an alternate explanation for world of tanks.

Maybe you now have ~50% win rate because the game has taken this long, but has eventually worked out how good you are? Before you had a super high win rate because the game thought you were new, and so matched you with stronger teammates.

Maybe the game only reads match results and updates its ratings every day/week/month?

chewy said...

Your comparison with the Father and toddler is spot on for me, games like wow are truly patronising players.

Sadly I don't see a replacement that captures the essence of what made WoW so popular and it's not a WoW clone. It needs something that captures the imagination in the way that WoW did, doesn't mind people winning through ability and capability, encourages true sportsmanship and probably won't make as much money.

Ah, I stumbled on the reason it won't happen - the money.

Gevlon said...

@Fawr: and is your opinion somehow conflicting with my main point "WoT is a cheat?" All you say that I was cheat-boosted before instead of cheat-nerfed now.

MrStrange said...

You did 132 matches to prove your first hypothesis and then do 10 more, find different results for those and conclude that WOT reprogrammed their game.

How about considering that 10 matches is not enough ?
Some time ago you noticed that the time of the day conditionned greatly the quality of your playmates. Did you play those 10 on the same time slot as the first 132 ?
How about your state of mind ? I notice that when I'm stressed I'm much less matient an tend to suck a lot more.
You played the first 132 with a partner, how about the last 10 ?

And even taking the hypothesis that you are right and WOT is cheating, would you rather crush your ennemies each and every time, or win by the skin of your teeth ?

In timed chess when two disproportionate players match, the best one has less time to play than his adversary. Same in golf with penalties. What WOT is doing is exactly the same, they are evening the field to make thing more interesting for everyone. The bad players can actually get a shot at victory, the best get more challenge.
Where they are a bit sneaky is that they don't tell the players their level.

I guess they believe most video games player are not mature enough to handle that piece of information !

Azuriel said...

The BC idea was that "raiding is hard, heroics are hard", so players were happy and proud to complete heroics and raids in WotLK at the beginning.

The two million people that left during Cataclysm did so BEFORE the stacking nerf in Dragon Soul. In fact, it is a pretty established fact that they left a few months after Cataclysm shipped, when heroics and raiding were tuned to the much higher TBC model.

The amusing thing to me is when you wrote:

The future of gaming is lying to the customer, telling him he was beating equal peers while actually he was winning in a totally controlled environment carefully tailored to his skills.

Finding a game environment carefully tailored to your skills is the epitome of perfect game design. Every single game that you enjoy, pretty much by definition, you enjoy because it is tailored to your skill level. How fun is Chess when every opponent is is a Russian grandmaster?

Racing games have had rubber banding (e.g. computer opponents catch up to you no matter how much of a lead you have) for decades too.

So, basically, this isn't a new "future" concept by any means. And, ironically, you were having hundreds of hours of fun in WoT until you peeked behind the curtain and saw the sausage getting made.

Ulv said...

Gevlon - your sample size of 10 games is not enough to draw your conclusion from.

The original 132 game sample was plenty but, to make the statements you have off a sample size of 10 isn't good stats.

Gevlon said...

@Sample size people: read up some statistics about confidence intervals. In short: 50% is so far from 85m, that even a small sample is enough. With this sample the result is 50%+-10%, enough to claim that the two results are different. If I would get 80% in the 10 match, I couldn't claim that anything changed since 80+-10 includes 85.

@Azuriel: but players must have some feedback about their play and deserver better rewards for better playing. In WoT, the difference of credits and XP between me and the AFK-er comes from direct damage dealed by me. All the team rewards apply to him too.

Also, the WoT cheat is very different from chess ELO. There the difficulty comes from more skilled opponents. Here the difficulty comes from having to play with retards and having an ineffective gun. Very strange idea about "fun".

Kreeegor said...

Gevlon - this is not the future of gaming. This is the future of mainstream multiplayer noncompetitive team based gaming.

There will always be market for quality single player experiences where the difficulty is a main selling point. And also in niche gaming (It is sad pure deathmatch FPS-s are niche nowadays)

Kelindia said...

Having been playing a Marder 2 exclusively for around 500 matches before Gevlon's post I personally noticed my win percentage drop by about 1%. I had a 60% when his post came out moving upwards since my last 50 games had me at 67% win percentage, so to see a drop it is either really bad luck or a nerf. Personally I noticed alot more misses then normal and find it likely to be there that an adjustment was made.

I don't mind having the game adjust the difficulty if they make it easy to then play at your appropriate skill later on. League of Legends is mostly a game of knowledge. You have to know how to make the most of your items against varied opponents who will stack varied items themselves. While you might be great at playing Ashe against Miss Fortune or Garen, when someone jumps on some of the lesser played champions like Vladimir you have a learning curve. There are 96 champions each with 4 abilities and 1 additional passive ability. You have 480 abilites to learn plus the varied itemizations for various team dynamics. To be great a league of legends requires alot of information to the point that making you play in random matches where you have a decent chance is almost required.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure D3 drops will be dynamic to make the market interesting... something as simple as giving you less chance to get your own items will throw ppl into the RMAH.
And this is a 5sec idea... imagine what you come up with with a few months.

Okrane S. said...

You should try DotA: the precursor of LoL which is a very hardcore game. It runs on Warcraft III. Also there is DotA2 being developped by Valve, currently in beta stage and it is a very enjoyable yet hardcore game, much better than League of Legends.

Bozzor said...

Worry not about Diablo 3 going the same way as WoW.For instance, D3 is a ONE TIME pay to play game, and M&S will had already bought it.Quitting it after a while will not matter...because it is not a monthly sub game.

Also, in the eveny of an expansion, Blizz will make such a big promo campaign, that even those M&S who quitted will be enticed to buy the expansion...and so on.

RMAH must be a Blizz money milking cow.Otherwise they will not bother implement it.I expect rare drops for 8-10 hours / day plat time gamers...a drop rate related to number of kills.Something like 30 kills with crap drop before anything good drops.The 8-10 hours / day player (most likely unemployed) will provide good stuff for the 2 hour / day player (most likely employed).The second category will be like 80% of the Diablo 3 buyers.

M&S will struggle in Hell...and will be obliterated in Inferno.But, here comes RMAH.They buy stuff, making an easier Hell, but almost the same dif Inferno.

RMAH is going to work well Gevlon.Diablo 3 will not go nerfing way...not for first 2 years anyway (remember vanilla WoW).

Goodmongo said...

This reminds me of a few recent blogs on why we play games. For you the answer is clear. Not to have fun. Is WOT supposed to be fun or some kind of e-peen device?

Gevlon said...

@Goodmongo: your idea of "fun" is to be teamed with AFK-ers, griefers and rushing idiots with a nerfed gun?

Anonymous said...

@Goodmongo

Who knows? Perhaps? Why not? or simply Yes... What's wrong with deriving fun from being a dominating abomination who facerolls everyone in his path?

People like different things and understand "fun" differently. Some people find their leizure time more enjoyable by slaughtering with ther leet skills, some preffer to be controlled and forced into handicapped situations to make them improvise. By the end of the day it's the same person who seeks the same thing... fun.

Kristopher said...

Goodmongo:

Games are about competition.

If fair competition ( "fair" = everyone playing under the same rules and hardships ) is not your idea of fun, then you need to get a Hello Kitty online subscription.

What Gevlon has noticed is that, in the short term, game companies can make money by secretly helping idiots compete.

This is what happens when you let the ad men and bean counters make big decisions ... they turn a good product into crap to sell it to the retards that live to the left of the center of the bell curve.

Eventually a product will come along that allows real competition. The hard core players will flock to it. But, as always, people who can't see past immediate short term gain ( the business world morons and stupids ) will turn it into swill to sell what is now a cool game to the majority: the blithering idiots.

And so it goes ...

Trektar said...

Most skill intensive games I played until now:
Dota, Starcraft 2, Bloodline Champions, Go/Weiqi

Dota 2 could have the same problems as LoL concerning matchmaking.

Malthan said...

A couple points about LoL:

1) It's perfectly fine to be a few levels lower than your team at the end of the game, especially if you're playing support. I understand that's not the case you mean, just pointing out that levels and even score aren't everything in LoL.

2) LoL doesn't hide the information like WoT, so the toddler comparison doesn't apply. Every player can see if someone has less gold than the support at the end of the game. Everyone can see exactly how much damage everyone did and see how well each player performed etc. Even the hidden normal game ELO can be accessed using external software. Even in game you would instantly notice if your attacks did less damage than they should.

And of course there are the ranked games, where you clearly see if you're the lowest ranked player.

I think if you gave LoL a try you would add it to the list with Eve and chess. I've tried most of DotA style games, including DotA2 and nothing is as fun and engaging as LoL. A bit of advice - play on EU-West instead of East, even if you're closer to East geographically.

Alrenous said...

"Even worse: what if the item-droprates are adjusted to give an OK item every day and a great one every week, regardless of how many hours you play a week and what kind of monsters you kill? I mean such system would make the casual motivated and prevent the HC from getting BiS and leaving."

Anecdotally, they already do this. Except it's not every week, its some number of months.

I would play D2 in spurts. After a hiatus, I was repeatedly surprised by my amazing luck - the same day, something great would drop and I'd immediately put it on. Often, nothing else that good would drop until after my next hiatus.

The same thing has happened to me in WoW too.

Guthammer said...

Gelvon,

A chi squared test of your performance gives a 99.9+% that going 5 and 5 is pure statistical noise.

Anonymous said...

Alrenous: No, D2 didn't work this way. And D2 is VERY well researched game (basically all code was dissected by modders/gamers).

I am afraid D3 won't be as good as D2 precisely because D2 was very unique - it's item system is in my opinion (and to my limited knowledge) the best one in existence. Mostly because Diablo 2 items feature one unique behavior not commonly found elsewhere - "items are not equal". What I mean is that you can have 2 unique weapons - for example Stormlashes - and both are different (stats varying depending on base item roll and then unique statistics roll).

But to the topic - there is always hope. People playing games are not helpless victims of gaming companies - check "Kickstart" and "Legend of Grimrock" - the meaning of this is that gamers can decide WHAT games they want to play and influence developers to start creating those. And "niche" game doesn't equal "nonprofitable".

- nekomancer

Happy Forum said...

There's Starcraft I/II, though that might not be everyone's cup of tea.

On the topic of League of Legends, one thing LoL does that fits your hypothesis very well is that it has a lower skill cap than DotA in the sense that there's less too do.

DotA allows MUCH more impactful decision making because item choices are more varied and have special effects. Also, hero skills can change significantly in mana cost as they are leveled, and you can play "mindgames" juking people through the fores, to name a few.

LoL skips all of these things. Juking is more about character abilities, skill costs don't really change much, and item selection is nearly cookie cutter.

This works out extremely well for LoL because of "streamers." Since LoL is so much more formulaic than DotA, when people watch "pro" streams, they see a lot of familiarity in the pro's actions.

Of course, pro play is much more refined and there are subtle things going on, but to the average player it looks like something they could do.

This, compounded with LoL's general ease to learn, is why it's such a popular game.

p.s. Ranked mode in LoL has visible Elo if you're over 1200 (average) rating, I think. So people that are playing to win can see and compare their score, where as people under average Elo have it hidden.

Anonymous said...

Kristopher is correct for small games, but probably not for "AAA" games. MMOs are mature; Blizzard has set the bar quite high. So it takes 50-100 million or more to make a AAA MMO or MMO-lobby. How many organizations have that much money but lack the market research skills to figure out what an insignificant number of players are hardcore.

Now is a good time for indie games and some of the Kickstarter projects may actually happen. You can't expect a niche movie to have a blockbuster budget. You can't expect a mass market AAA game to have a niche mindset or a niche game to have the resources and budget of large game companies. But if you play an expensive mass market game and expect it to be hardcore, then you are as big of a moron as any Gevlon has featured.

Kristopher said...

Anon23:43: I disagree. Blizz has been making WoW into easy-mode since the middle or WotLK.

We'll see if this trend continues in Mists.

Goodmongo said...

Here was my point about fun. WOT was fun right up to the point that you found them 'adjusting' the results. See it was fun but now its not? The only thing that changed was you finding out they mess with some stats. But the mechanics and the game didn't change only your knowledge about the internals of the game.

Anonymous said...

Been playing Diablo 3 beta, have completed it several times (atleast once with each class). The first kill of beta's 'last boss' gives nearly always 2 rare items. Have killed it several times both as first kill and as 'farm kill' and have never got even single rare item on farm kills. Atleast this is a way to control loot to give some for everyone and not 'too much' for the 'high achievers'.

Anonymous said...

@Goodmongo

That because Gevlon's fun was probably not winning but winning with belief that he did so because he/his team outmanouvered the enemy from the very begining.

Ask yourself this: Would you play WoT if you would be informed beforehand that your wins will not be based on your skill but based on how much you should in order to not make others feel bad about themselves? Im sure as hell would be interested in that

Perhpas it might sound laughable but even gamers have aspirations in their hobby.

Goodmongo said...

@Anonymous at 15:17 April 22. In many games we can set the difficulty level or even go god mode on PC's. Winning is not what makes it fun. The mechanics of the game make it fun.

If you were a chess master and played Class C players and won all the time would that be fun? Now maybe you are right and fun for Gevlon is just about winning. but that still doesn't change the fact that WOT was fun right up till the time he thinks he found that WOT 'cheats'. Which BTW hasn't been proven just implied with some circumstantial evidence behind it.

Dzonatan said...

@Goodmongo

Single player experiences and multiplayer experiences are two completly seperate things basing on two completly seperate rule sets. Dont compare them on fun... the fun in them is fundamentaly different.

Also once agian... what your fun is not someone else's fun. Maybe I dont find game mechanics fun but winning fun? What now? Your statement is now invalid.

Relativity... look it up.

If I were a chess master and played Class C players and won all the time that be fun for me.

Also fun is not the main focus problem here. It's the potential that from the very beggining WoT was a lottery but made you believe it was a skilled game... that's lying... that's decieving... regardless if I had fun during it or not... lying is wrong if you cant conceal it well enough.

Imagine having a girlfriend who cheats on you untill you find out. She pulls off the same logic you show back at you:

Untill you found it out you had fun anyway so why care now?

See where I'm going with this?

Goodmongo said...

@Dzonatan I know fun is different for different people. I said that in my post.

But beating up on much lower rated players would be boring to me. I mean would you really have fun playing basketball against 5 year olds since you would be winning? I guess to each their own.

Anonymous said...

@Goodmongo

To each their own indeed... You might question how ambitious someone fun is but you should not ever deny them their option or soap anyone's eyes with fake promises of supposed competition which in reality is nothing more than complex slot machine.