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Balancing for player skill

Discussion in 'Access Guide to the Human Sphere' started by Superfluid, Jan 14, 2018.

  1. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    My intent (lol) here isn't too jump on Pstorm but to discuss a point he made in the intent thread, and I didn't want to continue to noisy up that thread with ancillary points (which I'm prone to do).
    So this quote.
    I will say this quote worries me a little.

    My thoughts are that Games should endeavour to balance against player skill where possible. If the game is unbalanced at the point where someone playing close to optimally with regards to millimetres of unit placement, that worries me. If a unit or faction is only balanced If the player is expected to bungle a few positions during the game then I would suggest that is poor balance.

    Do you balance for the pros that will put the time in to make no positional mistakes and unbalance the game for the masses or balance for clumsy people like me and allow certain factions to gain unfair edges at high levels of play?

    I would say playing with intent reduces that gap somewhat and makes the game easier to balance. If the designers know that all units are going to be pushed to closer to the maximum output they can balance around that, otherwise they have noisy playtest data to pick through to balance their gargantuan game.

    Thoughts ?
     
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  2. ijw

    ijw Wargaming Trader, Freelance Editor (UK)
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    I suspect he's referring to game balance in terms of multiple AROs etc. and not player skill.

    It's very noticeable that metas which use infinitely-fine pie slicing have drastically different opinions of offensive vs defensive power than metas which don't use it, where you can stack up a couple of ARO shots against someone coming round a corner.
     
  3. Plebian

    Plebian Well-Known Member

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    A hypothetical meta that used "play by gotcha" (which I have never encountered after playing literally thousands of games all around the world) would not magically have more aros. I would just take much more time moving my models and ensure that I garner the same amount of aros I would if I was playing by intent. The two play methods differ only in the one requires sharp eyesight, steady hands and a complete lack of anything resembling sportsmanship. The end result will be the exact same.

    That being said, I highly value defensive pieces. In my list building video I generally recommend taking as many or more defensive pieces as offensive pieces. This would remain consistent regardless of whether I am allowed a laser line or whether my opponent sticks his fingers in his ears when I ask him public information.
     
  4. TriggerPuller9000

    TriggerPuller9000 Poverty Orde Wingate

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    When you say "balance against player skill," do you mean that experienced players and novice players should have an equal chance of winning? Because that sounds a lot like, "everybody gets a trophy" and gives people no incentive to improve their game.
     
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  5. regelridderen

    regelridderen Dismember

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    I think, you’re asking for the impossible. Like demanding of chess, that a beginner should be able to defeat a grand Master. If you know and understand the implikations of the rules in minute detail, you’re at a natural advantage to defeat a lesser proficient opponent, practice makes perfect. Why even play a tactical game, if it isn’t a point to pit your wits against an opponent?

    If you’re getting beat up, and don’t like it. Play the game, that really matters; make your models look amazing and outshine your opponent even in Death.
     
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  6. psychoticstorm

    psychoticstorm Aleph's rogue child
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    Correct, if a player has perfect placement many things change and many things are elevated in potential, low B weapons are not much of a disadvantage if you can guarantee 100% of the time you can only get ARO from a single enemy model.

    It is the same with people playing in a really dense terrain and arguing that flamers and chain rifles are overpowered.
     
  7. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    Ha, so I actually had a paragraph in my original post to account for this but I removed it for brevity :)

    I would expect a scrub like me to lose to a pro player through metrics other than precise model placement, such as strategic decision making. I don't believe it possible to balance the game so that all players have equal chances against each other, nor do i think that is even a desirable outcome. At that point you're just coin flipping right?

    All competitive games have to balance for skill, Street Fighter, Overwatch, Magic the Gathering, World of Warcraft, CounterStrike, everything.

    Say you have a character in a fighting game that has an arbitrary power level of 100 and is a very easy character to play so that 90% of your playerbase can get maximum utility of his kit. Then you have a character that has a powerlevel of 120, but is very hard so that only 5% of your playerbase can get maximum utility of his kit and everyone else performs quite poorly with him. Casual players that utilize the easier character will beat casual players that pick the harder character. However those casuals that play with the easier character will always lose to the pro players who pick the more difficult character purely because he is absurdly more powerful when used optimally. No E-Sport or competitive game wants to see their top players using 1 specific character/faction because it destroys the effort they put into diversifying their roster and flies in the face of a balanced game.

    This is a difficult issue to resolve, either the hard character needs to be made easier, the easy character needs more nuance and thought to play or the harder character needs a nerf. Designers struggle with this endlessly, asymmetric balance is tricky.

    My point is that even if the characters power levels were balanced, the game being played will still have enough inherent room for strategy that the better player will win nearly every time anyway. This is very true for Infinity where the possible game states spiral outwards in every direction and there are a lot of opportunities to make strategic and tactical errors.

    Coming back around to my original point is that softening what is considered a 'placement error' removes a 'skill test' required to compete. There is still an inconsiderable amount of skill in playing Infinity consistently well that this wouldn't affect top players but would help lower tier players play with units closer to how the designer has balanced them.

    I also don't believe that More Skilltests = Better Game. I think very few of us would like to play Infinity if you had to flick models into position a la Subbuteo but it would indeed be an additional skill test.

    The more skill tests you add in the less specifically you are testing against any one of them. It's like chess boxing. Would you rather be playing chess or boxing? I mean that is a very extreme example, so I don't expect you to take that very seriously but this is my broadly my line of thinking.
     
    #7 Superfluid, Jan 14, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2018
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  8. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    Please read my last post to Triggerpuller, I think I might have not been clear in my original post :)

    (also 'putting a model so it's position accurately represents my tactical intent' is not in and of itself a tactical consideration. You know what you want to happen, the tactics have been decided before you start to move models)
     
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  9. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    Yeah, you got it.

    I would say that even in my meta where we play intent we do have to admit when you can't avoid multiple aros. Units stacked on multiple heights and behind each other, or close enough to directly behind each other are granted simultaneous reactions.
     
  10. Magonus

    Magonus Well-Known Member

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    This is weak. The two main guys I learned Infinity with, one a commercial welder, the other a biochemist, were near perfect at eyeballing ranges. When I was new, I thought they were lucky in shootouts. I realized later of course that they were not "lucky", they were skilled at taking advantage of their spatial reasoning skill.

    How I adapted was to also learn to do this. I did not adapt by prohibiting them from using their talents. I now have the highest win rate of anyone I play with, winning 9/10 games for the past 2 years. I am not interested in undercutting anything about player skill. Competitive games will always result in unequal outcomes. Otherwise we may as well remove the human element, and watch RNG simulations.

    No thanks. "Intent" is for sloppy players, or for players who want an competitive edge against the reactive player in the active turn but want to rationalize it as "fairness", or for players who just haven't tried RAW and never learned to play without the safety bumpers of "intent".
     
  11. Mahtamori

    Mahtamori Well-Known Member

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    It really is about deciding what the game's difficulty should be about. Want to make the game more difficult? Write in the rules that the first player who touches ground with their right foot loses. Sounds ridiculous? Get better balance. Git gud. When I learned the game I'd get fatigued in my left foot, but I got stronger and can now outlast my opponents and win a lot more, you also learn a lot of small tricks like often leaning your shoulders on things.
    So, for some games pre-measuring was introduced because they made the decision that the game's difficulty and focus shouldn't be about being good at eye-balling distances, but that the focus should be about decision-making in the game and as such both players should have access to the full information on the table. It is a compelling argument for removing certain skills from a game, and there are more similarities that can be used as examples.

    @Magonus you seem to have fundamentally misunderstood what we mean with intent. That's okay, you don't have to understand it to like the way you're currently playing. Just... keep that in mind when judging other people's skill?
     
  12. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    Spatial reasoning is one thing, and I feel that its a really easy thing for nearly everyone to learn and to check. There is also an expectation that you aren't supposed to know the outcome before you check. Also the range bands we are talking about are 8" divisions which means you have huge margins of error.

    You move units in very deliberate ways to take advantage of huge range bands. The fact that it takes at least a full order for a regular 4-4 trooper to close a whole band is telling.

    With pie slicing or precise corner placement you are talking millimeters or less that result in an incredibly different outcome with extra unintended AROs, instead of a slight modifier on a rangeband.

    Anyway, you've distracted me from my original point. IMO Theoretically possible movements (going to this corner to see one guy and back) shouldn't be a a skill test because it makes the game harder to balance.
     
  13. psychoticstorm

    psychoticstorm Aleph's rogue child
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    please keep the discussion civil, thanks.
     
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  14. Todd

    Todd Well-Known Member

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    The intent debate permeates all! :smilingimp:
     
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  15. psychoticstorm

    psychoticstorm Aleph's rogue child
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    It is a derived thread, makes sense.
     
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  16. Magonus

    Magonus Well-Known Member

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    Your original point was that "Games should endeavour to balance against player skill where possible". No, this is absolutely contrary to the purpose of a game that you play with other people. That core idea here is the same reason why Asians are held back in American universities due to their "unfair" skill in STEM disciplines.

    When you play against someone, you do not merely play for fun, but also to find out whether you are "the best". The best, meaning, skilled. This is why parents cheer for their well-performing children at football games. If the score was meant to be even, we would cheer at a tie. Without skill as the primary deciding factor, it is merely a game of chance. This is why we all grow bored of Candyland and Chutes 'n' Ladders, why we all despise adults with gambling addictions.

    Now, you also teach your children to be the sort of person with whom it is fun to play whether you win or lose. But in my experience, "intent" play, which I do not misunderstand, and have played myself, exists primarily to service the active player at the expense of the reactive player. I have played for enough years by the book (that is, by what is on the table as far as possible [since skills like Climbing Plus and cartwheeling models may require mental bookkeeping for placement]) to understand that playing by intent makes you sloppy. It also forces players to maintain an extra layer of memory on lanes of LoF, since you inevitably have to remember the various relative positions of models in spite of their actual positions.

    So don't do it. You may ask, "Well, what's to stop me from wasting time fiddling with lasers and silhouettes to find the perfect spot?" That's sportsmanship. So you don't do that either.

    You play to win, but you also play so that your opponent wants to play with you again. You don't need to balance for player skill when playing a game. Skill, whether cognitive or physical, is the point.
     
  17. Hecaton

    Hecaton EI Anger Translator

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    No it doesn't. Intent play actually involved placing miniatures at a point where there LoF is accurate to what the player decides, it just figures out what that point is before the order is declared (as per the Blue Box on p. 61 of the English rules). To be frank, if Infinity suddenly cares about fractions of a millimeter being decisive in games, it's turned into a much shittier game, considering that that's well within the margin of error for, say, bumping a model accidentally. If a model hiding behind cover gets bumped to where another model can see it, do you "play it as it lands?" You better not, because that's ridiculous.
     
  18. Superfluid

    Superfluid Welcome to Svalarheima

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    I would have quote the whole thing but this site doesn't like that on mobile :)

    I still feel like I'm not explaining my thoughts well enough. Balancing a game with the extremities of potential player skill is not the same as flattening the depth of a game so that any schmo off the street can play competently against the top ten. It is so that assuming optimal play that the units and factions still resemble some sort of balance. If one faction has some skill intensive pieces that If used right overshadow every other faction, then that's an issue as players wanting to win will gravitate to that faction and to play anything else is to put yourself at a disadvantage. A varied metagame is a healthy metagame.

    I'm not advocating for you to be able to bring a garbage list and compete with a well thought out one , meta lists will never go away. Which is broadly fine because it means that you see archetypes and can balance factions against archetype match ups.

    My original concern was that Pstorm (who I appreciate is not a designer for cb) said that it is possible for intent play to unit and weapon skew power levels thus creating an unbalanced game. Like you say , skewing in favour of active turn over reactive turn.

    My thought is that that optimal play is possible within the rules so the games units and rules should be balanced with that in mind.

    And the closer to the theoretical 'perfect balance' point we get the more that player skill and strategy is the only remaining factor in determining the winner. Less a little bit of dice variance ;)
     
    #18 Superfluid, Jan 15, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2018
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  19. Hecaton

    Hecaton EI Anger Translator

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    Wait, this is BS too. A better analogy, with respect to science, is giving everyone a calculator, instead of requiring everybody to do all their rote calculations by hand. Anyone who actually works in science obviously uses far more advanced tools than simple calculators, at some point... but the point is to skip the parts of the activity that are merely rote. That's the same reason one uses intent and laser guides etc when playing Infinity, so it's about the decisions one makes rather than whether or not a random floor vibration shifted their models .18 mm.
     
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  20. psychoticstorm

    psychoticstorm Aleph's rogue child
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    There is no perfect analogy and analogies tent to be subjective anyway, so they are kinda pointless, but I would appreciate if the tone of discussion was toned down.
     
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