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Offline bvanevery

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external metrics
« on: February 07, 2018, 01:11:32 AM »
I run a venerable game design mailing list, called gamedesign-l on Yahoo!  (remember them?)  It's been pretty quiet in recent years but today I decided to post this, more or less.  Different intro for a different audience.

I have been refining the art of the After Action Report.  The writing ritual causes me to play much longer games, spread out over many days.  The need / desire to output my results to some imagined other player, whether there actually are any or not, holds my attention span longer than the game otherwise would.  Although to be sure, if the game goes somewhere tedious I've seen 1000 times already, I quit.  Frankly a lot of my AARs have been fairly abrupt as to when they end, considering the amount of work that's gone into writing them.

A representative sample would be my AAR "slow transporting".  Notable about this one is it's the 1st time I've made a serious effort to include screenshots.  Generally I take them when there's something worth taking them of.  That tends to trigger a writeup of the game so far.

This game is unusual in that the money grubbing Morganites have been allowed to grow without challenge on the opposite side of a Huge map from me.  Even if had previously wanted to invade them, it was logistically infeasible because I had the Believers as my next door neighbor.  Although I've been routing the Believers for many hours of play now, I'm still not done liquidating their empire and they still haven't surrendered.  We are in the late Fusion Power era and I expect that one of us will discover Quantum Power reasonably soon.

The power graph claims that we're currently even with each other.  However Morgan keeps getting techs before I do, and keeps building various Secret Projects before I get any chance to.  We both have Free Market economies and he feels Magnanimously towards me.  We used to be allies at one point but he went his own way after awhile.  I have refrained from stealing techs from him because (1) it's tedious to push my Cruiser Probe Teams all the way across the ocean to get to him, (2) I don't really need another war when I still need to force the surrender of the Believers, and to wipe out the Caretakers, (3) even if I did declare a war, I wouldn't actually be able to get to him for some time because of sheer land mass in my way, and (4) perhaps I don't need a war with Morgan to win this game?

And so, Morgan has become an "external metric" by which to rate how well I'm doing at empire expansion.  It's the AI running unfettered, pretty much the best case for how rapidly it could grow.  Well I have to say on the tech front, it expands rapidly enough.  It beats me to completing Secret Projects.  To be sure, I occasionally finish one myself that he doesn't research.  Occasionally I research some tech belatedly and build one right out from under his nose, that he was near to finishing himself.  But I'd say in these Secret Project footraces, he seems to be winning them 3 times out of 4.

Visually my empire looks fine.  My civilization is fairly circular around my capitol, leading to increased efficiency.  I've grabbed the Monsoon Jungle from Miriam and have all kinds of good land.  I've recently even nudged ahead of Morgan in population, which is saying a lot considering that he has The Cloudbase Academy and The Cloning Vats.  That's a free aerospace complex in every one of his cities, and he's built plenty of sky hydroponics labs to feed his people.  The Vats cause population growth every turn as long as food is available; consider it "maximum possible growth".  Yet, recently I've pulled slightly ahead, because my conventional infrastructure is that good.  So I'm doing something right.

The reason I've written this up, is I'm given to wonder how long an external metric remains compelling.  Do I even believe the AI has to "honestly" earn its advances?  Perhaps it just cheats?  Perhaps it was given some ridiculous resource advantages that I've never quite grasped or drilled down on, in all these years of playing SMAC?  Am I engaged in a mindless ritual of "performance" that doesn't really matter, because the external metric is ill formed?  Am I proving that my human attention span can outlast a computer's attention span, if only I can run my mouth about the game every so often to another human being?  If this were a series of disconnected games instead of 1 very long game, would I care differently about any of it?

In competitive play the external metric is other humans.  I'm inclined to think the psychology of that is different.  At what point does one cease to care about beating another human, or a computer?  Different thresholds and conditions for each I think.

Offline Unorthodox

Re: external metrics
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2018, 03:06:25 AM »
In competitive play the external metric is other humans.  I'm inclined to think the psychology of that is different.  At what point does one cease to care about beating another human, or a computer?  Different thresholds and conditions for each I think.

VERY RARELY do I play 'to beat' anyone/any computer. 

This, perhaps ironically, makes me somewhat difficult to play against as I rarely advertise my actual goal while everyone else is playing to win.  (and hilarity ensues even when I DO advertise my goal, as people tend to think I'm just trying to distract from actually playing to win.)

So, I can't really help you with the psychology of normal people.  I'd much rather role-play something, even in a loss, than 'play to win'. 

I do remember the game that "broke" me.  Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. 

While I'd cultivated a very strong outsider mentality in real life, up to that point, I had never expressed it in a game before.  Or perhaps never been ALLOWED to express it, I'm not entirely sure on that.   

Anyhow, my playthrough started fairly normal, and I was trying to win and do everything 'right'.  But, try as I might, that little meter off to the side of the screen just kept inching further and further downward.  I remember the moment I just decided the hell with it, not worried about 'winning' any longer, I set out to become as evil as possible.  I'm quite proud of unlocking the 'worst' ending in that one, actually. 

Offline bvanevery

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Re: external metrics
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2018, 03:33:50 AM »
It sounds like that game had scope for some degree of narrativist play.  SMAC has some scope for that as well, although I find that when I've played the game as long as I have, I'm mainly only interested in the gamist aspects of it.  I have an internal vision of what it means to be Yang in my mind, as you might guess from the fact that I sport the Hive's logo as my forum avatar.  But as I have that image in my mind, I don't find much need to try to express it in the game.  I have contemplated what it would mean to express it "properly" in a game, say of my own design.  King of Dragon Pass is the game that gets closest to narrativist play IMO.  That reminds me, need to check on the status of their current (and much later) project Six Ages.  Seems they're now in beta.


Offline Unorthodox

Re: external metrics
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2018, 02:00:21 PM »
I find ways to role play inside games that don't have it though.

Most famously, perhaps, is the three mercenary teams spread across several Civilization (3 and 4) demo games.  Competitive games, I formed teams specifically dedicated not to winning, but rather to being in it for the money.  Of course, this tended to anger teams in it to win it when we actually played as if we were just in it for the money and accepted contracts against them even if it "wasn't in our best interest".  We'd been paid.  Period. 

Back in my days playing Diablo II competitively, I earned my name by doing things that were totally off the wall.  Not "the best" way to play specific characters, but stupid narratives I'd design to fit a theme in my mind.  Thus I'd have this off the wall javelin amazon in the top 10 on the ladder with hundreds of bow amazons, for instance.  And it wasn't even using the lightning. 

Granted, a lot of that interest was forces outside the game, talking with others about the game, designing builds.  Outside metrics. 

In fact, Civilization 3 is directly responsible for my leaving Diablo II.  The outside metric of the demogames overpowered Diablo II's outside metrics.  The games on their own merit, I'd prefer Diablo II.  But the more interactive nature of the demogames in Civilization were more fun. 

Perhaps understandably, Civ V and VI making those kinds of demogames impossible has directly resulted in my total disinterest in the series.  I never particularly cared about the GAMES, just the interactions they allowed.  SMAC is the same for me.  It's only interesting to me so far as I have interactions with folks completely outside the game.   

Offline bvanevery

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Re: external metrics
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2018, 03:24:49 PM »
I find ways to role play inside games that don't have it though.

I'm not so interested in that as a game designer, because a player such as yourself can / will do it with anything.  It's about their own imagination, not about whatever work I do to actually make a game.  Famously, I've had nasty words with early fans of Minecraft Alpha.  I remember some whippersnapper telling me I "wasn't creative enough" to play a game like Minecraft.  As if it was the 1st Builder game that ever came out!  I had played far better, in terms of the game designer actually making an effort to accommodate and incentivize Builder play mechanics.  I agreed with detractors, that the only thing worth doing in Minecraft Alpha was griefing.  Like floods or lava flows destroying everything and whatnot.

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We'd been paid.  Period. 

Did anyone try to, and succeed, in putting your mercenary organization out of business?  Meaning, by killing all of you?  If they did it fairly readily because you were putting energy into "role playing" and not personal defense, then you're not actually playing the role of a mercenary.  Mercs are generally in it for the money, and to stay alive to use the money.  In the words of Han Solo, "What good's a reward if you ain't around to use it?"  A merc isn't interested in suicide missions.  Nor do I find it reasonable that a mercenary organization would just belly up itself.  Yes it could just be a temporary organizational front for individual interests, but why should such fronts rationally exist, on an equal power basis with emerging civilizations in human history?  That's like in an era of Musketeers, declaring "well I've got food replicators and lasers so I don't have to worry about survival, pew pew pew!"  There's definitely a role playing case to be made for "goofy play", where the character is just whatever you felt like doing at the time.

Gamist = would be concerned with whether you used the game's rules correctly or optimally
Narrativist = would be concerned with whether you produced interesting dramatic results
Simulationist = would be concerned with whether you actually behaved as a mercenary would (per above)

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In fact, Civilization 3 is directly responsible for my leaving Diablo II.  The outside metric of the demogames overpowered Diablo II's outside metrics.  The games on their own merit, I'd prefer Diablo II.  But the more interactive nature of the demogames in Civilization were more fun. 

In part because you had more scope for creatively annoying others, bordering on griefing them?

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Perhaps understandably, Civ V and VI making those kinds of demogames impossible has directly resulted in my total disinterest in the series.

I'll be honest: I have no idea what a demogame even is.  Civ II and SMAC taught me that playing games in this genre with other players is temporal suicide.  Do you mean, the demo of the game is stripped down and of limited duration, and can be played multiplayer?

Offline Unorthodox

Re: external metrics
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2018, 05:36:24 PM »
I find ways to role play inside games that don't have it though.

I'm not so interested in that as a game designer, because a player such as yourself can / will do it with anything.  It's about their own imagination, not about whatever work I do to actually make a game.  Famously, I've had nasty words with early fans of Minecraft Alpha.  I remember some whippersnapper telling me I "wasn't creative enough" to play a game like Minecraft.  As if it was the 1st Builder game that ever came out!  I had played far better, in terms of the game designer actually making an effort to accommodate and incentivize Builder play mechanics.  I agreed with detractors, that the only thing worth doing in Minecraft Alpha was griefing.  Like floods or lava flows destroying everything and whatnot.

Which is why I said in the beginning I don't know how much help I'd be.  But, freedom to let me DO anything is something some games attempt to allow. 

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Did anyone try to, and succeed, in putting your mercenary organization out of business?  Meaning, by killing all of you?  If they did it fairly readily because you were putting energy into "role playing" and not personal defense, then you're not actually playing the role of a mercenary.  Mercs are generally in it for the money, and to stay alive to use the money.  In the words of Han Solo, "What good's a reward if you ain't around to use it?"  A merc isn't interested in suicide missions.  Nor do I find it reasonable that a mercenary organization would just belly up itself.  Yes it could just be a temporary organizational front for individual interests, but why should such fronts rationally exist, on an equal power basis with emerging civilizations in human history?  That's like in an era of Musketeers, declaring "well I've got food replicators and lasers so I don't have to worry about survival, pew pew pew!"  There's definitely a role playing case to be made for "goofy play", where the character is just whatever you felt like doing at the time.

Gamist = would be concerned with whether you used the game's rules correctly or optimally
Narrativist = would be concerned with whether you produced interesting dramatic results
Simulationist = would be concerned with whether you actually behaved as a mercenary would (per above)

We actually had posted a set of rules we would follow, and did religiously, though the rules changed between the three games played.  (learning and all). 

Anyhow, brief history of Team Merc:

Civ 3 MZO demogame.  Forum dead, lost to time, sorry.  I formed Team Merc with a set of previous enemies from other games on the concept.  An IRL lawyer, accountant, and contractor.  Various other folks joined as well, but the three of us formed the rules. 

Long story short, we had one goal:  To be hired in every war fought within the game.  We had various rules on how much things cost and how they delivered, etc. 

First war of the game.  The French team (actual IRL french, can't remember who they played) attacked our northern neighbors, who hired us to help in defense.  Since the game allowed, this took the form of us 'gifting' them units while they 'gifted' us cash in return.  After France won, they were clearly the top dog in the game by all the grafts.  They took exception to us settling a city on what they deemed 'their' land (though neither of our borders had ever touched it), and decided to 'put us out of business'.  We were, after all, the weakest team by all the graphs. 

What was not apparent by the graphs is we had planned from turn one to make loads of cheap units and upgrade them later, thus our technological slacking was by design, and playing a game purposely ignoring city improvements and building units.  Loads of units. 

2 turns after they invaded, we simply bought the needed tech and upgraded the entire army, shooting from the worst military to more than double the strength of the best.  We also more or less ignored their invading forces and instead went on coastal pillaging in their core, choosing to raze towns and sell the slaves, since we were not in the business of invading or holding ground. 

Through this we simply kept a tab on how much money they owed us as the war went on.  Each unit had a price, the more they fought, the more in debt they got.  And we recouped money for sacking cities and selling slaves.  This is totally against game theory, and not the 'smart' way to play.  They eventually agreed to our price and we had peace, they even hired us to fight alongside them the next war. 

Merc 2:  Civ 4.  Almost identical situation.  Team one assumed an agreement to trade technology 20 turns from now meant we wouldn't allow our units to be hired to attack them now.  Meanwhile team 2 ran out of money and was pissed when we hired to team 1 after the initial invasion.  Teams 1 and 2 decided to join forces and end us. 

Mass upgrade again.  More or less ignore the invading force and outflank them, keeping a running sheet of debt. 

Merc team 3. 

Team 1 decides to end us straight away.  And it goes south in a hurry.  (again, a team focused on unit production is devilishly tricky to kill when you are trying to win and thus need to do city stuff as well)  However, they are deeply indebted to us, but too far away to really deal with.  A choking strategy is employed. 

Team 2, seeing a weak team 1 decides to take advantage of the situation.  Team 1 agrees to our price and hires us to attack/flank team 2.  All hilarity ensues with team 2 getting angry that we'd swiftly made peace, and Team 1 being angry we didn't provide more than terms units they paid for when the war was still going south for them. 

Teams 1 and 2 agree to terminate us.  Scorched earth and heavy pop rushing not only made invading us less than desirable (and is not good practice in general when trying to win the game, but we'd do anything to stay alive), but provided us an effective counter attack that resulted in our only losing one city before turning the war in our favor.  I ignored the defending army of both teams, flanked them, and began my raising of cities behind the lines (yes I have a theme).  Unfortunately this game ended soon after as an unmet continent of 5 teams had already resulted in only one left. 

Point was, we had written out exactly what would happen in all the cases. 

You could search Apolyton's archives for Team Mercenary, some of the last two might still be there. 


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In fact, Civilization 3 is directly responsible for my leaving Diablo II.  The outside metric of the demogames overpowered Diablo II's outside metrics.  The games on their own merit, I'd prefer Diablo II.  But the more interactive nature of the demogames in Civilization were more fun. 

In part because you had more scope for creatively annoying others, bordering on griefing them?

I do not play to grief and don't purposely set out to annoy.  Actually I played as a PKK in diablo when I chose to get involved in PVP.  It's just playing cooperatively with dozens to hundreds of people is much more fun than games of up to 8.  The iron civver tournament, for example was riotous fun as the goals of each round tended to shift.  Several times I was forced to play for SCORE of all things. 

We even had a survival game going at one point (succession game where next player is voted on specifically for roleplaying reasons, NOT in game ones) 

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Perhaps understandably, Civ V and VI making those kinds of demogames impossible has directly resulted in my total disinterest in the series.

I'll be honest: I have no idea what a demogame even is.  Civ II and SMAC taught me that playing games in this genre with other players is temporal suicide.  Do you mean, the demo of the game is stripped down and of limited duration, and can be played multiplayer?

Democracy game.  Temporal suicide.  They tend to last months to years.  Teams of players vote on actions, a player is designated to play those actions.  They can be vs AI, or groups of teams vs each other.  Asynchronous multiplayer is required.  The stripped down condensed BS is what we got in V and VI.   

« Last Edit: February 07, 2018, 05:59:28 PM by Unorthodox »

Offline bvanevery

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Re: external metrics
« Reply #6 on: February 24, 2018, 06:33:26 AM »
Somehow I missed this reply a few weeks back.

2 turns after they invaded, we simply bought the needed tech and upgraded the entire army, shooting from the worst military to more than double the strength of the best.

That's a pure Gamist approach to playing.  The rules say you can do it, so you do it.  It's anti-Simulationist, as no real world army could ever perform such a feat.  However a real army could certainly use deception to make itself look weak, with strong units hidden somewhere.  There are no mechanisms in Civ for doing that though.  Too easy to get info on what the opponents have.

I'm surprised that your strategy was as effective as it was.  It sounds like the other players overpaid for the privilege of your services.  They think they're gaining an advantage, but they're just giving you economic lifeblood and weakening themselves.  If nobody bought your services, I doubt you would have had the resources to sustain your enterprises.  Your faction is, in essence, parasitic.


Offline E_T

Re: external metrics
« Reply #7 on: February 24, 2018, 05:45:03 PM »
Ahh, Team Pirate....   ARRR ye maties....
Three time Hugo Award Winning http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php
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Offline Geo

Re: external metrics
« Reply #8 on: February 24, 2018, 06:55:59 PM »
Ahh, Team Pirate....   ARRR ye maties....

In SMACX? I remember puttin' them to rest with our Cyber Units. ;)

Offline E_T

Re: external metrics
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2018, 03:23:06 AM »
IIRC, CIV4:BTS
Three time Hugo Award Winning http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php
Worship the Comic here
Get your schlock mercenary fix here

Offline Geo

Re: external metrics
« Reply #10 on: February 25, 2018, 08:00:21 AM »
The CIV demogame team I participated in back then got killed early on.

 

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