Play to win: how to win in games and what you need to know about professional players in GameDev [part 1]
Once upon a time, my friends and I played Starcraft on a dialup modem. I often lost until I read a phrase on one of the BBS that changed everything. The principle is very simple: the one who constantly attacks wins in real-time strategies. It was necessary to learn to think in terms of the constant creation of threats.
Why am I doing this. There is such a man - David Sirlin . Esportsman, Street Fighter Champion, game designer, desktop gamer, eSports coach. He has a whole theory on how to train and play to win. Universal, applicable to all games. Below are the main points of the first part and my comments. It will be interesting to read about the main things from the book both from the point of view of GameDev (in particular - balancing), and simply through life.
Why play to win?
David answers this question very simply. Victory is the only measurable result of the game. Like running - you can run for pleasure, you can run for training, you can run from someone. But only the result shows whether it is good or bad. If the distance is shortened, you win every day. If you win the 100 meters - you have achieved the result. If you run away from the evil Vasya - this is a one hundred percent victory. So, rivalry games are good with instant feedback. Your position in comparison with other players - this is the feedback.
David believes that everything that does not bring you closer to victory is counterproductive. In our board games, this is perhaps one of the most important points. The fact is that, sitting down at a table, a company simply cannot enter the game as independent players. There will definitely be Anya, who is sleeping with Boris (and they will most likely play as allies). There will be Zinovy, whom no one in the company knows, and therefore they are all wetting him.
We have a simple rule: “Who brings relationships from life to the game is a fool. Those who transfer relationships from game to life are doubly a fool. ” That is, only measurable indicators of victory are evaluated inside the game. But, of course, this approach is not so real in the usual "kitchen" companies.
What is a game at all?
A game is a set of rules. Since the main conflict is being built between you and other players, it is important that if not all players agree on the rules, it cannot be said that they play the same game. The rules point to the boundaries of gaming reality. They say which actions are allowed, which are prohibited. Then David talks about the lamers as they are. They create their own rules and live by them. For example, they simply come to a wild fury when David wins the fighting game only by a chain of identical throws in a row. Works? Yes. Effectively? Yes. Is it a shame? And how. Is there a rule that prohibits the use of the same movement indefinitely? Not. Victory.
By the way, this means that you need to provide for this in development - if suddenly a very effective strategy is not spectacular and easy to play, it can cause resentment.
When does the pleasure of a competitive game appear?
When a worthy opponent appears. If you find a beginner and do it, this is not a game. When the master finds you and washes his hands in a walk - this is not a game. But when it becomes possible to compete on an equal footing, and the result is not known in advance - this is like a dialogue on an equal footing. At this moment, the most interesting thing happens.
How to choose a game?
David believes that a game must meet three important criteria:
- Players must be equal before starting. He means the confidentiality of information, but since then the donat problem has arisen brightly - and I would add that a good game is one where your in-game resources like money do not give an advantage. Chess with the ability to buy a couple more pieces or upgrade pawns would be weird.
- The game should not be random - the learning curve should be such that interest is maintained as it develops. If you play Russian roulette, the preparation does not change the result. The advantage of the players should be the ability to play harder when possible to reveal the mechanics or with purely intellectual superiority (or dexterity, for example). When a number of board games were made tournament games, the DCI League (a major gaming magazine) was formed. So, the rules had to be redone to avoid strong chance and dexterity - league rules meant only an intellectual duel.
- You must have access to good opponents. First weak, then medium - and then to the masters. There is no such problem online, but at the time of David in a hall with arcade machines it could be difficult. Learning to defeat everyone in the area, it was easy to snatch in the first round of a normal tournament. By the way, at first he advises playing with beginners in order to feel the taste of victories and progress, but to train seriously - only on the masters. The main principle is not that you should wait for the opponent’s stupid mistake, but you should act aggressively, putting him at a disadvantage.
The main question is whether to use bugs to win. David's answer is yes, if the bugs equally affect the two players. Equally - this is when, for example, due to a specific feature of the fighting engine, a fighter is invulnerable at some particular moment of the reception. Not the same - this is when you can do something, and the screen of the second player goes blank.
There are two types of games in terms of preparation. Old condos suggested a very in-depth study of the platform, since there were simply no patches for them (it’s hard to patch a cartridge on Sege). They passed lengthy tests, and everything that went to the stores was no longer a bug, but a feature. On the other hand, the Internet has allowed the release of raw products with consistently reissued patches and constant rebalancing.
The most interesting kind of patch is the establishment of certain tournament rules. For example, for Startup tournaments, we removed one of the strongest project cards from the deck - this is just a subspecies of such a patch.
David talks about the difference between good and bad prohibitions. For example, there is a shooter, and everyone in it campers (because it’s close to the optimal strategy). It is easy to prohibit camping automatically - just merge players who within 3 minutes do not move more than 15 meters. Since before that it was optimal, now the optimal strategy will be as close as possible to the forbidden one. That is, camping for 2 minutes 59 seconds, and then dash to a new position. There will always be players who will use tactics that are close to prohibited, so it’s very important not to introduce bans on such “fuzzy” concepts, but to create conditions so that optimal tactics are different. On the other hand, there are games that imply clear prohibitions. For example, in MTG you can disable a specific card. It is easy to verify, it is very specific. A hasty ban is a method of lamers, first you need to understand if there is a counter-tactic to use not the most obvious moments of the game. Many "ultimate tactics" after the tournament are not viable.
In Japan, there is a very interesting story with fighting games. In Street Fighter Super Turbo there is such a character - Akuma. The fact is that one of its tricks was not conceived by the developers, but the engine allows it to be done. In practice, this means that there is a tactic that gives a clear advantage to the professional. With proper training, this fighter is impossible to beat. Not “hard”, but impossible. This character was banned from questioning in tournaments in the USA without question. But in Japan there is no official ban on it. Here is what David writes: “All the best players know that Akuma is a powerful character, so it’s better not to use him, since he destroys a beautiful game, so there is an unwritten rule not to use this character in tournaments. There are a small number of people who still choose Akuma for playing tournaments, but the best players never do. Usually weak players try their hand at playing with this powerful character and lose, which is humiliating and shameful. ”
In this regard, the history of the development of chess is interesting. Chess is generally a good game to study - it is very discrete, players in close conditions at the initial stage (only someone goes first), a good long learning curve. So, in addition to the especially well-known patch of the elephant, so that it would go diagonally to any number of cells, and not exactly three, there were many small changes. Particularly noteworthy is the ban on vertical castling and the ban on turning a pawn into an opponent’s piece. Try to appreciate the tenacity of those who used it.
We have posted several chapters of the original . The book is in the public domain with a free-to-read license, the translation will also be:
- An introduction to what games are; why is it all; why hitting a lying body is dishonest, but effective and safe.
- How to start - how to choose a game, what you need to know about the environment, what basic skills are needed, with whom to play.
- About the lamer - about who it is, what weak players have barriers in their heads, how to lose and what to do if the lamer beat you.
- About prohibitions, patches and balancing .
- UPD: a fresh chapter on fraudulent methods (cheats) .
And we continue about two more chapters a week, plus there you can subscribe to the following. Well, and if it’s interesting, I’ll continue the most useful squeezes with comments here. Because in some places I want to argue, in some places - to supplement with modern data, and in some places - just to emphasize how cool. Further, David talks about the types of players, how to deal with each, and the things that are not always obvious why tournament organizers benefit from strong players playing with weak ones. Interesting preparation strategies, a description of the threat creation paradigms on the example of different games such as fighting games and the first Starcraft.
Who wants to find a Russian book about "Play for Victory" - see G. Kasparov's "Unlimited Duel", there is a very beautiful, intense and useful description of the tournament with Karpov.