Powerful Game Tactics

You’ll never see veterans using it, because there are far more powerful tactics available to you once You know what you’re doing, but you will occasionally see new players take a veteran out with this underslung grenade launcher. As Much as you see people complain about the Noobtube in forums, without this device, Call of Duty would not be the massive success it is today. You’d instead, have a small community of veterans. Just churning through new players at an alarming rate. Just crushing each noob who dared to show their face in multiplayer. All those new players would quickly get discouraged and quit, never sticking around long enough to actually be able to compete. Which would leave the game a ghost town, or at best, a refuge for a very small group of dedicated players. So whether they realize it or not even the most skilled players who never use the noob Tube benefit from it being in the game? Alright, so hopefully that clears up what balancing for skill is, and why it’s so important. But just in case you’re not sold on it yet, Let’s talk about what can happen when you don’t balance for skill. Often tactics or moves with a high skill to power ratio, Can become First Order Optimal Strategies, or as I prefer to call them, F.O.O.S. strategies. These are ways to play a game that aren’t actually Optimal, but are so much more powerful than the other things you could do at that point in your progression Either in the game or as a player, that you simply use that tactic over and over again. Imagine, just playing Street Fighter on easy, and hundred hand slapping your way through everything. It may not be the most powerful Technique by a long shot, but it’s all you’re ever going to need. Well, while these F.O.O.S. strategies seem really handy to the player, They become very problematic if you don’t think about them  as a designer.

You see very often when designers don’t balance for skill, you’ll find that players tend to latch on to a F.O.O.S. strategy, and execute it over and over until the strategy, no longer works for them. And, this could be perfectly okay, great even. The player feels powerful They feel like they’ve understood something fundamental about the game, and they’re excited about the game in general. But, the point where that strategy no longer works for them, has to come early enough in the experience. All too often, because they haven’t thought this through thoroughly, the designer will put in a batch of other techniques and strategies that are slightly more powerful, but require a lot more skill to perform And they’ll simply expect the player to keep climbing up this power ladder because, clearly ability B Is indisputably stronger than ability A. They’ll expect the player to abandon their F.O.O.S. strategy as soon as a more powerful option comes along. But this is of course, a fallacy. If ability B is 10% stronger than ability A, but three times harder to execute. Then, ability B is only better if you’re a machine. This leads to players blindly continuing to do the easier tactic, for as long as it’s effective, Which leads to one of two unfortunate results, A, the player eventually quits, because the game becomes routine and they never Experience any of the depth the game truly had to offer. Or B, the player eventually gives up, because by the time their F.O.O.S. strategy Is no longer effective, there’s a great deal of skill that the designer expected them to pick up, that they never did. Because they haven’t been progressing the way the designer intended, they eventually run into a brick wall of a difficulty spike, and end up dropping the game or resenting it for its perceived  jump in difficulty. A great example of this, was in the early days of starcraft.

When Zerg Rushing was first discovered, It was a way simpler tactic to execute than anything else of equivalent power, So, a sizable portion of the online community jumped on the bandwagon and learned to rush. Their rankings shot upward, and they considered themselves to be pretty good players. Unfortunately when the Zerg Rush was later nerfed, none of these players had any of the skills they needed to pivot to a new strategy. So, many of them watched their rankings plummet, and they gave up on the game. They had never been forced to find a new strategy somewhere along that path, which meant that all of the depth the game provided was lost on them. And they quit when they hit a brick wall. Good designers find ways to reward players for deviating from that F.O.O.S. strategy, and present them with challenges which, while not requiring a substantially greater level of skill, does require a new tactic from the player. So when you’re playing through a game and find yourself using the same tactic over and over again, think about its skill to power relationship and whether it’s a F.O.O.S. strategy or simply something to get you over that initial hump, before the designers wean you off of it. Might change how you play. See you next week. (Music)

 

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