Runaway

This post has a good explanation of long-term design issues in Ingress, similar to the ones that sunk Shadowbane.

In board game circles it’s referred to as the “runaway leader” effect – winning makes it easier and easier to keep winning. It has a few advantages – it is a more intrinsically realistic dynamic. There are some games, like Monopoly, in which a runaway leader taking over is the entire point of the game in the first place. However, runaway leader positive feedback loops are not viewed as good design for longer games because players tend to dislike games where the outcome is decided very early on but they are obliged to keep playing. While nobody is actually obliged to play Ingress, player attrition rarely helps with the underlying balance issues. Note that a game having a runaway leader effect doesn’t mean that a team in a weaker position cannot ever achieve victories – it just means that the odds are heavily stacked against them.

Like Shadowbane, Ingress is not asymmetric, so the rules are not tilted against either side, but the mechanics do make it easier for the winners to keep winning, which tends to have the effect of driving out the losing team and reducing the influx of new players (on either side, because winning unopposed on an empty field in a virtual world gets boring quickly).

I am debating whether I am interested in continuing to play. I live and work in one of those heavily dominated areas, so if I want a competitive environment, I need to drive an hour away. And people who have farmed in the non-competitive environments do that same drive with their farmed gear.

The rumored third faction only makes the runaway leader effect worse unless there is reason to unite against the winning team. MU in Ingress is like PPT in Guild Wars 2: territorial control is all that matters for the scoreboard.

: Zubon

While the rules of Ingress are balanced, the flavor text spurs the current imbalance towards the Resistance. Oddly, the linked post has a commenter who says this is a good thing because it keeps the game competitive. I’m not sure that person understands what “competitive” means.

4 thoughts on “Runaway

  1. Jeromai

    Even a reason to unite against the winning team does not stop the runaway leader effect. It just transfers it.

    (One only needs to look at the NA T1 WvW scoreboard to see what is happening. Coverage wars is being attacked the only way it can be attacked. Morale. Which I’ve always maintained is an important underlying factor in WvW, along with politics and all the other historical/real-world simliarities.)

    There’s going to be one losing team in any PvP environment. Prolonging their torment has somehow been seen as an acceptable thing since the ingress of certain RTS games that focused on resource/supply accumulation,

    I felt it in Natural Selection, an RTS inspired FPS, where a team that scores its second base and holds it for long enough means it’s pretty much “gg” but the cleanup is still yet to happen. You can feel it in MOBA games and so on.

    Not sure why more games don’t just offer an out for the loser to quickly resign and begin a new rematch, but I never claimed to be very attracted to PvP. Maybe allowing the winner to indulge in bullying is part of the appeal?

    Reply
    1. Silvanis

      If you let someone just resign, then many will do so at the first sign of trouble. Imagine playing LoL where the first tower to go down determines who wins the game, regardless of other factors. Or a capture the flag match that the “losing” side abandons when someone GRABS the flag. Bailing at the first sign of trouble in a team game screws the team, even if the situation was salvagable.

      You can say “oh, don’t allow leaving until X condition” but that X is really hard to define in a way that’s satisfying.

      The team vote to forfeit seems to be the best compromise, but that tends to lead to the initiator of the vote to stop trying.

      Reply
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