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Dealing With Fairness and Balance In Video Games 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-balanced-when-i-always-win dept.
MarkN writes "Video games are subject to a number of balance issues from which traditional games have largely stayed free. It can be hard finding players of comparable skill-level to create even match-ups, diverse gameplay options can quickly become irrelevant if someone finds a broken feature that beats everything else, and some online games make your ability to play competitively a question of how much time and money you've invested in a game, rather than the skill you possess. In this article, I talk about some of the issues relating to fairness and balance in games, in terms of the factors and strategies under the player's control, the game's role in potentially handicapping players, and the role a community of gamers plays in setting standards for how games are to be played. What are your thoughts on managing a 'fair and balanced' gaming experience?"
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Dealing With Fairness and Balance In Video Games

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  • by BadAnalogyGuy (945258) <BadAnalogyGuy@gmail.com> on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:05AM (#27164043)

    I had the chance to play Bobby Fischer at chess once. He kicked my ass around the block.

    Then he called me a fucking dirty Jew.

    Which was weird, because I'm not Jewish.

    Thinking about it now, I probably shouldn't have thought I could play chess with him.

    Back in the real world where playing video games cost a quarter or two, sometimes you only got to play 3 rounds of Street Fighter 2 because the other guy was master of Guile's Sonic Boom/Spinning upside-down kick combo. These days, you just disconnect and go find another game to join. Back then you risked cold hard cash every time you went in to play.

  • by jandersen (462034) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:08AM (#27164065)

    I don't agree with the article about the expectation of fairness in games vs real life. I think in both cases what we really want is to know the rules, so we have a chance of following them and making it through.

    In games I simply want things to be moderately predictable - so that with experience I can become better. And then I want variation; it gets pretty tedious if it is always just the same few things you do, like just killing monsters.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't agree with the article about the expectation of fairness in games vs real life. I think in both cases what we really want is to know the rules, so we have a chance of following them and making it through.

      Now you know how people who run small businesses feel when the government changes tax policy every 4-8 years.

    • by Admiral Ag (829695) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @09:57AM (#27166105)

      The real life comparison is important, since a lot of the unfairness in online social gaming occurs because of the anonymity and the ability of people to create new accounts to bypass handicapping systems. In Warhawk, people were creating new accounts simply in order to enter noob servers and stomp people. That's silly and self defeating, especially for a game with a small playerbase.

      If you want online gaming to be fair, then it will have to be fair the same way sports are fair, by rigorous policing of permitted equipment and making sure folks karma follows them around.

      Fairness in design is much less of a problem in most games.

  • That's easy (Score:3, Funny)

    by metamechanical (545566) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:09AM (#27164077)
    That's easy! Just get the ones published by Fox News!
  • Bland Games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by squoozer (730327) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:11AM (#27164087)

    Please excuse me widening the discussion but... I play quite a few RTS games and I've noticed that over the last few years the various different playable races in those games have tended to become very similar in ability.

    It used to be the case that in an RTS there were generally one or two races that were slightly better than the others but now they are very well balanced. The problem is that they have balanced the races by making them all the same and thus removing one of the most interesting aspects of the genre.

    In AOE II for example you could pit a strong ranged race against a strong close combat race and have a damn good game with each side trying to lure the other into traps that play to their strength. By AOE III every race was damn near the same.

    Ah well, maybe one day someone will have the courage / time to properly balance a game again. Oh and, get off my lawn you kids.

    • Re:Bland Games (Score:5, Insightful)

      by N1AK (864906) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:30AM (#27164555) Homepage
      You are exactly right that tight 'game balance' tends to lead to blander options.

      I have seen this in miniature wargaming as well as in computer gaming. But what is really interesting is that even when races aren't perfectly balanced they can still balance well in a competitive environment. In StarCraft the Terrans were seen as being the weakest race, Lim Yo-Hwan then built a reputation as arguably the best SC player while playing as Terrans.

      This is what players refer to when they talk of meta-gaming, which is players gaming the game. If I know that Snipers are the best weapon in Halo 3 and that players will go for them and practice with them more than other weapons then it makes sense for me to learn anti-sniper tactics. Very quickly Sniping will become balanced (or even disadvantaged) because you are playing a strat that everyone has trained to beat.
      • yes, happened ages ago in Total Annihilation, where for some time the flea rush made the online game a constant boring frustration. After some month of play, better defending strategies come out and flea spammer were constantly being beaten in 1v1 games.

        you have game imbalance, which is having a side materially stronger then the other, and this could be avoided, and then strategic imbalance which is inevitable and difficult to prevent, because gamers try to game the system at their advantage, discovering
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Even Starcraft, a game that is remarkably balanced, isn't fully so. Because the races are so different, there are many situations that give the enemy the upper hand. This is why the professional players in Korea do not play on Blizzard's maps, but specially crafted ones to make sure that the playing field is as fair as possible.

        Blizzard's own maps are terribly imbalanced, and in this day and age with the knowledge players have, there is no way a fair game can be played on any of them. Maps with ledges ove
      • by numbski (515011)

        Well, that's the crux of it, now isn't it?

        Online Football is my game of choice, and I tend to play All Pro Football 2K8 more than anything else.

        The game expects you to make your own team, and you get to pick 11 "stars" for your team, and everyone else is "average". So right off the start, you are balanced with everyone else in that regard.

        Of course, balance goes right out the window - everyone immediately goes looking for the "best" stars, and those are the only ones you ever see online. Jerry Rice is eas

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Shin-LaC (1333529)

      Ah well, maybe one day someone will have the courage / time to properly balance a game again.

      I hear Blizzard is working on StarCraft 2.

      • My thoughts exactly. And after a few years of patching after release, it will hopefully be as balanced as its predecessor.
    • World of Warcraft underwent this with the new expansion. Nearly every class now duplicates each other with mostly flavor changes. Under their mantra of "bring the player not the class" they have excused themselves from having to balance unique class abilities by simply making them all have the same end result if not mechanics.

      What should we expect? Schools are dumbing down education for lackluster students and teachers, why not extend it to games? Fairness is the new buzzword for "your playing with peop

    • Off Balance sometimes gives you a better edge. For the people who were really into improving their Game would actually choose the weaker players and actually use their brain more to win. I remember a while back when I was big in Star Craft, and I am in No way a big gamer, I was working with a friend on Protoss Probe warfare against other people one line sending all they got to us. I found that we could be quite competitive (and annoying a lot of people greatly) when we got it right. Enough distraction and

    • I don't necessarily agree with you about AOE III. Granted, I've never played AOE II, but I've found that even though all the races share a number of units they all have unique ones that lend themselves to different strategies. And the shared units have different strengths that really come out in the later units with upgrades. If I remember correctly for instance the Russian Veteran Musketeer has fewer hp than a basic British one. I enjoy it, although in some ways it is taking a cheap route in that most of t
    • by Draek (916851)

      Then play a better RTS. I'd recommend any from the Total War series, haven't played Empire yet but the rest certainly have well defined 'races', much moreso than AoE1 last time I played it.

      Another suggestion could be LotR: Battle for Middle-Earth 2, not only does it have different races requiring different focus each, but even different philosophies between the 'good' and the 'evil' races, the former having fewer but stronger units, and the latter requiring large numbers with support from their at times ove

      • by Cederic (9623)

        I'd hold off Empire until/unless they fix the bugs in it.

        By 'bug' I mean that game managed to blue-screen my laptop last night. First piece of software to do that for two years.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I've noticed that over the last few years the various different playable races in those games have tended to become very similar in ability.

      It used to be the case that in an RTS there were generally one or two races that were slightly better than the others but now they are very well balanced. The problem is that they have balanced the races by making them all the same and thus removing one of the most interesting aspects of the genre.

      "Become"? If you've seen the genre back in the days when it was still called "C&C clones", you'd know that it was the initial state of affairs. Most had factions with units differing almost or only in appearance, with exactly the same movement speed & damage output - just because it always was the easiest way to "balance" things. Better RTS games of old did have some variety, but even so the unit rankings were always parallel (e.g. in Warcraft II, Paladins and Ogres were different, but they were cle

    • This is one of the reasons I think Sins of a Solar Empire [sinsofasolarempire.com] looks interesting. One of the key parts of the game is different races with very different abilities.

      Haven't had a chance to play it yet (so little time for gaming anymore...), but I'm definitely going to make time for this one. Might be worth a peek if you're into space based RTS's.

  • Quake Live (Score:5, Interesting)

    by n3tcat (664243) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:14AM (#27164109) Homepage

    Quake Live does a great thing by having you go up against a bot, and then determines your level of skill from that and then emphasizes those servers which are taylored to your skill level when you look through the server browser.

    Of course you see people who play outside their skill level, but for the most part you are surrounded by people who play on your level.

  • The summary contradicts itself: Either it is balanced or your skill decides whether you are successful. If someone just is better at the game through sheer talent, how could this ever be balanced. And should it be?

    Now balancing the avatars is another matter. If there is a glitch or a combo move that just pwns everyone, then that is a game imbalance. So you can own my ass using three moves from Guile? Well, nice for you, but I can play all the other characters and have fun. You will always win, but don't exp

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @06:18AM (#27164135)

    Making it 'fair and balanced' can be fun (handicapping in golf or go), but in most cases it just makes a video game crappy.

    Back in the days of Rainbow Six (yes, and now you can get off my lawn) I created an online ranking system based off of chess' scoring system. This worked great for the players and teams, as you didn't really have to find people on your own skill level to have something to gain.

    If I (a mediocre chess player) were to play the reigning world champion of chess, he'd stand to gain maybe 1 point in his ranking by winning (I'd lose 1 I think), but if I were to win, I'd gain upwards of 24 or 32 points (and he'd lose a lot of points). This scoring system makes it worthwile for the best player to avoid drawing or losing to a less skilled player.

    We did get a few complaints about the scoring, because the "best" players were used to them being unable to lose their top spot without losing to #2, where as with this system, someone could overtake them simply by winning lots and lots of games against less skilled players/teams. This has the upside of enticing people to play more, and not just by cherry picking from the top 10. Any adversary is okay, as it gives you a chance to win more points.

    See more on the Wiki page [wikipedia.org]

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by protodevilin (1304731)

      A similar ranking system is now utilized in Street Fighter IV's online matches. Battle Points are earned for each victory you attain, but the amount of points awarded is relative to the points you already have vs. the points your defeated opponent has. So if you have 2000 Battle Points, and you crush a n00b with only 172 points, you are rewarded with maybe 2 or 3 BP (which the loser forfeits in turn). On the other hand, if you were to lose against that same n00b, you'd probably get 120 points slashed fro

    • Back in the days of Rainbow Six (yes, and now you can get off my lawn)

      Hello youngster. Back in the days of MUD, we already learned that balance does not exist as a stable concept. Balance is rebalancing, constantly. Big games need Balance Arches or Gods, or in normal words, balance management.

  • Video games are subject to a number of balance issues from which traditional games have largely stayed free. It can be hard finding players of comparable skill-level to create even match-ups, [...]

    Author obviously never played basketball with his friends.

    [...] diverse gameplay options can quickly become irrelevant if someone finds a broken feature that beats everything else [...]

    You mean this [wikipedia.org]?

    [...] and some online games make your ability to play competitively a question of how much time and money you've

  • Natural Selection (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plams (744927) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:27AM (#27164527) Homepage

    Natural Selection [wikipedia.org] had success in balancing itself by inviting diversity among its players. The marine team has chain of command - it allows less experienced players to be effective by following orders. On the alien team every player is equal. Both teams need strategic thinkers and good shooters. It leads to a enjoyable game for a larger spread of personality and experience level compared to, say, Counterstrike.

  • I tell my kids (Score:2, Insightful)

    by m0s3m8n (1335861)
    At least once a week I tell my nine year old twins "the world is not fair". Seems appropriate here.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:49AM (#27164679)

    Many games offer a seemingly large freedom when creating your character, playset or play style, but eventually you find out that only a very narrowly defined path leads to success. Take WoW. You can, in theory, create almost limitless variants of skill point distribution, yet only a handful "work". For some classes, it's basically set in stone that you have this or that distribution, depending on whether you want to go against other players or some large raid encounter.

    In other games, too, you are limited to a narrow set of viable choices. TFA uses beat 'em ups as an example where you can only pick a handful, or even only one, character to succeed, the others being basically fluff.

    It's also not really "balanced" when you're basically forced to play by a certain strategy because all the others simply do not work. If you play an MMO and your class excels in mezzing, it ruins your class if mezzing is simply unnecessary, no matter how much you excel in it. Instead, you have to rely on your other spells which are maybe (in the end, when the devs heard enough whining and don't want to "break" the game for the others and make mezzing important) even as strong as the ones of another class, yet an important part of your character, maybe the reason why you chose it in the first place, becomes completely obsolete.

    This can actually break a game. For a player, or for all.

    Imagine an MMO where healing becomes obsolete because items became so powerful that nothing (short of a player wielded weapon) can harm a tank. Dedicated healer classes would certainly feel unbalanced and "useless". Now, instead of making healers important again, they're giving a boost to their damage spell lines and are told to behave like offensive casters. That's not what I made. I made a healer. If I wanted a damage caster, I would have made one.

    Thus "balancing" a game may actually ruin it, when it is done without first considering what the player actually wants...

    • by jgtg32a (1173373)
      Let me guess you play a Priest?
      • playED. Past tense.

        Add that the game became trivially easy, with AoE taunts for tanks and "spam-this-til-you-drop" healing routines, and the damagemeter being the only measure to any other classes' value (Stun? Mez? CC? Whazzat? Some new drop?), and you have the perfect mix if you want me to leave your game.

        • by jgtg32a (1173373)
          But I was right, it was a priest?
          • Yes. I quitted the first time before the first expansion was out, even back then it was basically a fairly skill-less game. When I returned to see what I described above, it made me requit almost immediately.

            I still weep for the days of "old school" DAoC and AO.

    • If you play an MMO and your class excels in mezzing, it ruins your class if mezzing is simply unnecessary, no matter how much you excel in it. Instead, you have to rely on your other spells which are maybe (in the end, when the devs heard enough whining and don't want to "break" the game for the others and make mezzing important) even as strong as the ones of another class, yet an important part of your character, maybe the reason why you chose it in the first place, becomes completely obsolete.

      Sounds like Mesmers in Guild Wars PvE :)
      They tear stuff up in PvP though (which I don't play. :P )

      • That can be actually fine if, and only if, this can be known by the player before starting the game.

        Infiltrators in DAoC were known to perform rather poorly in PvE but they were the maybe single most deadly class in PvP. They were also announced as such and Infis got used to it. You didn't want to play PvP mostly, you didn't make an Infi. Case closed.

        What irks me is when a character class gets redefined in the middle of the game. When either your class gets "revamped" to become something it was never meant

      • by Creepy (93888)

        You obviously haven't played high end PvE in Guild Wars - Mesmers are the easiest way to find parties in the Deep [wikia.com], Urgoz's lair [wikia.com] (though Monk is good there, too, which is what I've run there), and for a long time Slaver's Exile, but that has shifted more to 3/4 man Assassin and Ranger groups. I actually don't play much high end, but I'm in a guild with people that do and they talk about it incessantly (and I do listen in on our ventrilo channel quite a bit, even though most of my gaming time is dedicated to

        • You obviously haven't played high end PvE in Guild Wars - Mesmers are the easiest way to find parties in the Deep [wikia.com], Urgoz's lair [wikia.com] (though Monk is good there, too, which is what I've run there), and for a long time Slaver's Exile, but that has shifted more to 3/4 man Assassin and Ranger groups.

          Not as my Mesmer, no. I should be clearing Frost Gate with her this weekend (Made her to play GW with my girlfriend who is a complete MMO newbie, so we have to do prophesies... I hate prophesies).

          But what use to mesmers have in high end, besides the current flavor of the month (i.e. Cryway?) I'd like to know because Lindsey has gone a bit mad with the nerfbat the past few months (apparently she dislikes the idea of secondary classes being useful?)

          I actually don't play much high end, but I'm in a guild with people that do and they talk about it incessantly (and I do listen in on our ventrilo channel quite a bit, even though most of my gaming time is dedicated to Empire: Total War and Fallout 3).

          In fact, the three classes that most people consider the worst for PvE (Assassins, Mesmers, and Paragons) are in the most demand in high end PvE - Assassins for permaform (permanent shadowform which is immunity to all damage), Mesmers for Cry of Pain spamming (armor ignoring, interrupting damage), and paragons for massive armor and damage reduction buffs (in fact, many people in my guild still consider Imbagon the only good Paragon build).

          My guild has recently gotten bitten by the Paraway bug. It's

          • by Creepy (93888)

            Actually, it's the Guild Wars Live Team [guildwars.com] with the nerf bat (Linsey is only one member of that), so you can't blame her for everything - it's not like the Izzy days. I still am waiting for them to make skills like Magnetic Aura and Swirling Aura useful (Magnetic is used in raptor baby farming sometimes, but generally it's awful), but I don't think it'll ever happen. Even my 'in' to ANet isn't much help since he won't talk shop unless we're discussing shader tech (which we do occasionally).

            Pretty much all bu

    • by mkiwi (585287)

      I quit playing WoW during the first expansion. I was a restoration druid, which was great when the game started, but other classes (paladin) got upgrades so that people had a natural bias to prefer them.

      The other problem was that there was no gear to be had for restoration druids. Compared to the stuff a priest or paladin could get, it became a seriously neglected class. Try finding a socketed leather item with high-level bonuses... not much there.
      In terms of leather vs cloth, Priests have spells to make

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 12, 2009 @08:17AM (#27164889)

    Okay, I'm sorry, but people throw around the word "skill" as though it is some special property that people either have or do not.

    In fact, skill is the totality of what you need to be able to do to compete. In Darwinist terms, it is synonymous with fitness. Fitness, as a term, does not specify exactly what makes one fit; this is specific to each individual case, and is derived directly and in all cases from the conditions.

    There are several methods by which one develops "skill", and they might or might not apply to a give game.

    1. Skill is representative of reflexes. This is rare for most games; it usually is only true when the game is new and no-one really knows anything about it. In these cases, reflexes appear to be the same as skill because they represent an advantage that only one player possesses. Over time, other advantages usually develop to the point where reflexes alone do not represent (much of) an advantage by itself (but is a considerable edge for those who possess other advantages).

    2. Skill is representative of time. This is the most common, because almost all humans are capable of both learning and adapting, and so in most cases practice results in elevated mastery. In almost every game, time spend playing is the single biggest advantage that one can have.

    3. Skill is representative of money. This mostly used to apply in the days of coin-op arcade games, and is more of a derived skill representation as it enhances the advantage of reflexes by limiting the possibility of time. Those with money could get time to develop their reflexes; those without money had no time to practice and could get no advantage over reflexes alone. Money as a representation of skill is however making a comeback, with paid-for exclusive downloadable content starting to represent real advantages such as better weapons or earlier access to new maps.

    4. Skill is representative of knowledge/intelligence. This is in many ways derived from time, but also somewhat independent of it insofar as an individual's natural pattern-matching and information processing and memory potential is concerned. This allows one to discover and or apply complex strategies or unusual rules to a competition, in their own favor. This is in many ways diluted over time, as information becomes disseminated.

    Most games represent several values; Fighters and shooters represent skill mostly as Reflexes in the early days, but mostly Time at later stages of it's lifetime (some fighters can also significantly represent skill as knowledge/intelligence where long combo chains and complex moves are particularly important, or detailed knowledge of spawn times and map layouts). MMOs mostly represent skill as Time, but also Money (to varying degrees depending on many factors, and usually mostly in the early days). RPGs usually represent skill as Time and also in many cases significantly represent skill as knowledge/intelligence; on the other hand, Reflexes typically mean nothing at all. And so on. Other classes of advantages representative of skill exists, but are minor and mostly derived from the above.

    Sorry to all of the elitists who decry modern games as overflowing with noobs who can't press buttons fast enough/aim their mouse precise enough, but "skill" doesn't just mean that. Almost all advantages come back mostly to time, and all are - in principle - subservient to it. If you say that you're skilled at a game, but don't really mean that you've simply played it a lot, then what you're really saying is that your advantage is likely to be temporary, unless you put time in.

    • by brkello (642429)
      I think the "time" argument works more for MMOs than FPS's. At some point, time between two people becomes irrelevant, both people have played so much that they have seen it all or enough to be considered equal. At that point it goes back to who has better reflexes and had a better shot.

      I have always had fairly decent reflexes and can pretty much hop in to any FPS and by the end of the day be top on the server. I haven't put in the time others have, but I still can beat them. So I think your definition
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Draek (916851)

      2. Skill is representative of time. This is the most common, because almost all humans are capable of both learning and adapting, and so in most cases practice results in elevated mastery. In almost every game, time spend playing is the single biggest advantage that one can have.

      Wrong. Because all humans are capable of learning and adapting, practice on competitive games only gives you a temporary edge against newbies, nothing more.

      My personal take on it is the old adage, "know yourself, know your enemy and you shall have a thousand victories", and the most common mistake by unskilled players is assuming either is constant. On TF2 for instance, playing as engineer requires not only knowledge of the map itself (which is a factor of playing time), but also knowing where to place sent

    • by Arterion (941661)

      Money can also play a part in having a faster computer or faster internet connection, which can be a very significant advantage in computer games.

  • Wow, I really have been programmed. As soon as I read "Fairness and Balance" I began wondering about liberal indoctrination.

    I think it would also explain why I'm compelled to scream, "someday you will realize who your god really is" every time someone says the word China. Now I have this urge to buy a sniper rifle.

  • I don't understand why the author thinks these issues are specific to video games.

    It can be hard finding players of comparable skill-level to create even match-ups

    ...like it can be with any face-to-face game. In fact, video games make this vastly easier by allowing you to play with anyone across the world, instead of being limited to the set of people who can physically hook up with you.

    diverse gameplay options can quickly become irrelevant if someone finds a broken feature that beats everything else

    ...just like in any board game, where one of the primary design trade-offs is to balance the various options available to the players, such that a variety of different strategies become viable, without a

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      some online games make your ability to play competitively a question of how much time and money you've invested in a game, rather than the skill you possess

      ...just like Magic the Gathering, or any other collectible card game, where the amount of money you have spent on your deck directly influences the options available to you in-game.

      Which is why I don't ever get the rule against proxy cards - proxy cards level the playing field because those who can't afford the best, can still use the best. The rare exp

  • Seriously what's it with the disconnecting after a lost game?

    It happens in 90% of my Street Fighter IV games on PSN. Even if those guys played and won multiple games in a row against me, most disconnect after only one lost game, some even after one lost round.

    Do these people have no balls? Pathetic.

    • by genner (694963)

      Seriously what's it with the disconnecting after a lost game?

      It happens in 90% of my Street Fighter IV games on PSN. Even if those guys played and won multiple games in a row against me, most disconnect after only one lost game, some even after one lost round.

      Do these people have no balls? Pathetic.

      I get this all the time too. People only seem to care about their rank.

      • by MadMoses (151207)

        Then why do they do it in "Player Matches" (these are non-ranked, correct me if I'm wrong)?

        • by genner (694963)

          Then why do they do it in "Player Matches" (these are non-ranked, correct me if I'm wrong)?

          If people disconnect from non-ranked matches I just assume they're sick of loosing to me.

    • by Draek (916851)

      Perhaps they're trying to simulate the arcade experience, where no matters how many wins you had, if you lost even once you had to insert another quarter and most people took that as a "you've been here way too much, kiddo, go home" reminder :)

  • The Fox is in the henhouse?

    Golf (a game I hate, thanks to working at a golf course as a teenager), has an easy answer - handicapping.

    Back when I played Quake (yeah, I'm old, shut up, kid) online the problem was LPBs - Low Ping Bastards. If you were on dialup playing against someone with DSL or a T-1, you had no chance.

    I got around this by what some may consider cheating - the use of varying skins. Now, there was a one-pixel skin (Called the "invisible man" IIRC) that I refused to use, because it was cheatin

    • The problem with the speed throttling to the lowest active player is that within the first week, you'll start seeing speed griefers who will willingly overload their connection with 50 active bittorrent streams in order to bring down every other player to 1 second and higher ping times. Say goodbye to playing your game with any decent kind of speed ever again!

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        Yes, that was the argument then, and I was won over by it then. I finally got DSL when it was available in my area, and then cable.

    • by Creepy (93888)

      Golf (a game I hate, thanks to working at a golf course as a teenager), has an easy answer - handicapping.

      heh - you too? My first job was working a golf course with a membership fee that was about 10x what I made that summer. My memory of it was constantly getting stiffed for tips by rich geezers (and stuffy waitresses when I worked the restaurant). In fact, the only place I got tipped well was the bar, and that was only for a short time after I turned 18 (which happened just before school started - and let's just say working until 4AM on [Saturday and] Sunday and reeking of smoke and needing to leave for hi

      • by mcgrew (92797)

        You were lucky, I did hard, manual labor. Moving the holes, cutting and laying sod, sifting dirt, mowing, stuff like that. I HATED the suicide clutch on the greens mower. I decided if anybody had to work that damned hard for me to play a stupid game, I didn't want anything to do with it.

  • The old school says you play hard and work hard while you're playing. You endure thousands of defeats until you gain the skill necessary to do well.

    The new school is some 13 year old kid who plays for 9 hours a day and calls you a noob. Hence we now have things like quake-live's skill testing and Left 4 Dead's Director(who isn't always fair).

    I like the idea of the old school, and I'm old enough to be a member, but I can't play for 9 hours a day like I used to do. Skill matching is good, but may ensure yo

  • One interesting aspect of trying to make a game fair and balance is that rewards for beating content in large groups is left up to the groups to hand out.

    In world of warcraft you have 10 to 25 people killing bosses that give 3-4 rewards and they have to decide on a way to handle it. In theory enough items should drop over time that everyone will get the items they need. But people fight to get the best items and over time that becomes the items that everyone wants.

    Players have designed many systems of han

  • Didn't RTFA (this is /. after all), but this reminds me of a list I developed defining what is not fair PvP. And if it's not fair PvP I don't really consider it PvP at all (more like bullying at that point).

    Also, since there seems to be some confusion about the definition of skill as seen in above comment, I'm using the commonly understood definition of : Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience. Experience being PLAYER experience, NOT the player's g

  • You can try to make the playing field as level as possible, but eventually someone will find a way to give themselves an advantage.

    Why shouldn't a player be awarded for their superior skills? Anyone who wants to be as good as that player is welcome to practice and do all the research they can to improve themselves.

    I get my ass handed to me fairly consistently in Street Fighter 4. I expect that will probably always be the case, because I don't have the time or inclination to get good at the game. And sometim

  • The MS Trueskill system used in Halo 3 was concieved to create as fair a match as possible. On the surface the theory is very sound and the system is quite good. Unfortunately, it was ultimately broken my MS's oversights in marketing and misreading the intent of it's audience. The system is based on how "certain" it is of a persons rank. Losing games would make it more "certain" a person was that level. Meaning after a person starts breaking even in the W/L column, the system cements their rank there,
  • by Paul Fernhout (109597) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @01:33PM (#27169665) Homepage

    This article just assumes games should be competitive. There are cooperative games. The Wii is pioneering more such cooperative games. Here is a general site on the topic of cooperative computer games:
        http://www.co-optimus.com/ [co-optimus.com]

    There are even cooperative board games:
        http://www.familypastimes.com/ [familypastimes.com]

    One great thing about cooperative games is that they make it easy for players of different skill levels to play together.

    From Alfie Kohn's book, "No Contest: The Case Against Competition":
        http://www.amazon.com/No-Contest-Case-Against-Competition/dp/0395631254 [amazon.com]
    "Contending that competition in all areas -- school, family, sports and business -- is destructive, and that success so achieved is at the expense of another's failure, Kohn, a correspondent for USA Today, advocates a restructuring of our institutions to replace competition with cooperation. He persuasively demonstrates how the ingrained American myth that competition is the only normal and desirable way of life -- from Little Leagues to the presidency -- is counterproductive, personally and for the national economy, and how psychologically it poisons relationships, fosters anxiety and takes the fun out of work and play. He charges that competition is a learned phenomenon and denies that it builds character and self-esteem. Kohn's measures to encourage cooperation in lieu of competition include promoting noncompetitive games, eliminating scholastic grades and substitution of mutual security for national security. ... In closely reasoned argument he shows that, while competition is deeply ingrained, it is also inherently destructive, especially where self-esteem is contingent on winning at the expense of others."

    So, there are other ways to have more fun.
        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=cooperative+games [google.com]

  • As someone who does this for a living, I always feel like fairness, balance, and skill are just tools. The thing that really matters is player psychology. The game doesn't actually have to really be fair or balanced. It just has to *feel* fair and balanced to the player.

    Skill and balance are a means to that end, but I don't think they should be the primary focus.

    It's tempting to think just making it perfectly balanced will make it fun, but that's only part of it. If the player experience isn't considere

  • The author makes a distinction between playing for fun and playing to win as if they are mutually exclusive. In reality, it is most certainly possible to play for fun AND play to win, and I believe that should be the target of game design.

    I believe the best way to deal with balance and fairness is to make a game with balance, as in players of equal skill have an equal chance of winning, and depth, meaning there are many valid and usable options available to the player at any point throughout the game. I

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