Tuesday, April 27, 2010

holistic game update analysis

That title makes this look academic as fuck. Let me ponder this whilst stroking my beard.

This is another post inspired by Starcraft 2; specifically, this unbelievably nerdragey post on the TeamLiquid forums.

For those not versed in competitive Starcraft, a bit of background: the engine for the game had a lot of bugs and quirks to it, and similar to how speedruns and tool-assisted videos for old video games are a nearly incomprehensible barrage of bug abuses and engine tricks, high-level Starcraft play involves the abuse of the way that movement and attack animations in the game work as a fundamental part of it. It's essentially a shitload of arcane busywork that almost no one could figure out on their own that allows certain units to operate at around twice their intended effectiveness. Obviously, the fact that these bugs aren't present in Starcraft 2 sends Brood War players into a tizzy. This isn't a unique phenomenon.

In any game, whenever something is updated, certain hardcore players immediately focus on what cannot be done any more, such as the removal of damage on the stack. Removing anything that could previously be done (usually backed up by an example of a cool play the old system allowed) is immediately thought of as BAD, and therefore the new update/new game as BAD. Instead, players should look at both games in their entirety, rather than thinking of the older system as the norm and the new one as a deviation from it.

Similarly, the loss of something skill-testing is not necessarily a bad thing. Sure, yes, it's incredibly special that it took you four years to perfect Mutalisk micro or how batch effects worked, but that difficulty doesn't make it a good system. Quite the opposite, in fact; chances are, there's absolutely no reason for such a high learning curve to be needed. No one wants to have to multiply random sequences of ten-digit numbers in their head before declaring an attack on turn three of a Limited game, despite how skill-testing it would be. It's just busywork.

New game systems, even if they're simpler, can still be good.

This has been part two of my series of strategy-less articles while I'm too broke to play tournament Magic.


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