Good Decisions, Good Outcomes

We have discussed repeatedly over the past year that fun games let you make meaningful choices. David Henderson comments on a recent, high-profile football game and the distinction between decisions and outcomes.

Usually, the best strategic choice is the one with the highest expected value (probability of outcome times value of outcome). People frequently look at solely the outcome and then attribute it to the decision, whether or not the outcome was a likely result of that decision. Winning the lottery is a good outcome for you, but playing the lottery is almost never a good decision because the cost of a ticket is more than (odds of winning) times (value from winning); depending on how you estimate taxes, inflation, and the chance of splitting the prize, the Powerball even-odds point is around $1 billion.

I have mixed feelings about games where you make good decisions and lose. This is not the case of single-player games scripted to be perverse, where what looks like the right choice is a trap or all choices are traps. I am thinking of multiplayer games that are anything less than 100% strategy with all information known in advance. We want some unknowns, and making decisions in the face of unknowns means occasionally things come down against you. When the odds are 50-50 and you lose a coin flip, yeah, that happens all the time. When you win unless you lose 5 coin flips in a row, that still happens 3% of the time. I like to think of myself as comfortable with probability and true randomness, but having a 97% chance to win and still losing through no fault of your own is really frustrating. It is absolutely necessary that players lose 3% of 97% chances, but it is still really frustrating.

It is frustrating on another level when people celebrate those 3%s as great victories, rather than blind luck. Don’t get me wrong, if you are in a position where your only chance to win is five coin flips in a row and playing conservatively guarantees a safe loss, take that chance. High variance solutions can be your friend, and even if you lose that game (as you most likely will), it was still the right decision. But if you started with equal odds and fell into a situation where you needed five-in-a-row to win, you probably made some bad decisions along the way. And if you are that guy who immediately set up a five-in-a-row situation to win immediately or quit immediately, you are what is wrong with online gaming.

Celebrate your victories, but also celebrate good decisions, whether or not they lead to victory in that particular case.

: Zubon

It’s a different sort of unsatisfying if the game comes down to a coin flip.

Perspective

I sometimes find it helpful to make explicit the “imaginary” in front of something from a game when speaking aloud. “I’m upset because the imaginary zombie bit my imaginary warrior.” “Curses, someone else was willing to pay more imaginary gold for that imaginary sword on the imaginary auction house than I was!”

Your loved ones are sometimes worried that you forget that whole “it’s just a game” thing when the game affects you emotionally. And let’s be honest, sometimes you can use the reminder. This will reassure them that you are aware that you are reacting to an imaginary wizard’s struggles with an imaginary rock monster.

Although some people will be even more worried when you acknowledge that things are imaginary but still react to them.

: Zubon

Sky Saga First [Alpha] Impressions

I would never have known about Sky Saga if it wasn’t for the rage-induced community support group that the Windborne game’s Steam forums had become. Sky Saga was suggested by one player as an ointment to the afterglow of the production-stilled Windborne. I checked out Sky Saga’s website. Someone on Twitter also mentioned to me it was guided, similar to HQM Minecraft or Windborne’s quests.

The suggestion to try Sky Saga was enough to sign up for the “alpha”, which is fairly open. The servers are open right now for a limited time, and I was able to play around over the weekend to get a feel for the game. Continue reading Sky Saga First [Alpha] Impressions

Card City Nights

Card City Nights is frequently entertaining but I am not sure I would go so far as “good.” It is an interesting take on collectible card games with simple mechanics and an emphasis on strategic placement of cards. The difficulty is “trivially easy” until the beyond-Psychonauts difficulty spike for the end of the game. I played the PC version, which is an unusually good iWhatever port, a technical gem amidst the many sloppy ports.
Continue reading Card City Nights

Summarizing F2P

“There might be a first rush, and then the contributions wind down.”
Tobold

Starting monetization schemes has been exceedingly profitable, such as the money that flooded into Team Fortress 2 when its item shop opened, LotRO’s huge surge when it went F2P (even subscriptions went up),or many sites, games, and causes that make an initial appeal for money. If this is your first time being given the opportunity to pay for something you like and support, many people will. If it is no longer an “opportunity” but an attempt to build on ongoing revenue stream, that pent up demand reaches a much lower level quickly.

: Zubon

MMO “Journalism” Middle-Ground

Syp writes a pretty good bit on the similarities and differences on bloggers and journalists. This comes in the wake of Massively’s death and the phoenix rise of Massively OP (Kickstarter 100%+ funded!) when many are asking do we even need MMO journalists? Syp writes:

So I see press as being more focused on delivering news and opinion content and being as inclusive as possible with the genre, while also having a higher standard of quality and editorial oversight.  However, there is one even greater reason why press is important, which is that it aids in giving the MMO industry/games industry legitimacy.

I think this is pretty correct on average. Bloggers are often times just musing. They often shoot from the hip (‘cus cowboys). But then, I’ve seen blog posts that are so hyperfocused that an MMO professional journalist simply wouldn’t have the time or knowledge for. Syp himself plays a half-dozen MMOs at a time. Continue reading MMO “Journalism” Middle-Ground

Making Money

I have been quiet on the blogging front, so I should appreciate Tobold picking up the “business of games” beat I have favored. He has recent posts explaining that someone has to pay for games and more money attracts more investment. While you personally might prefer to get more game for less money, the MMO gaming niche only gets increased resources when investors see money to be made there. For-profit games need to show a profit.

We have previously discussed the business model Tobold discusses under “Keeping the Lights On.” Players (and consumers generally) are more sensitive to changes in price than in quality or quantity, so over time you get less game in your game and more add-ons, and wow was the Elder Scrolls IV horse armor imbroglio nine years ago already? I actively dislike the nickel-and-dime model and avoid rewarding it, but I have more money now than when I started gaming and I understand why it happens on both the supply and demand sides.

I want good value. I want to reward it. Sometime, we need to sit down and work out how to make sure we are assigning more of our time and money to their best valued uses. I liked Orcs Must Die! more than Dungeon Defenders, but I spent more time on the latter due to the game structures and internal incentives. My Settlers of Catan board was a much better investment than my LotRO lifetime account.

: Zubon

Good Decisions, Good Outcomes

We have discussed repeatedly over the past year that fun games let you make meaningful decisions. David Henderson comments on a recent football game and the distinction between decisions and outcomes.

Usually, the best choice is the one with the highest expected value (probability of outcome times value of outcome). People frequently look at solely the outcome and then attribute it to the decision, whether or not the outcome was a likely result of that decision. Winning the lottery is a good outcome for you, but playing the lottery is almost never a good decision because the cost of a ticket is more than (odds of winning) times (value from winning); depending on how you estimate taxes, inflation, and the chance of splitting the prize, the Powerball even-odds point is around $1 billion.

I have mixed feelings about games where you make good decisions and lose. This is not the case of single-player games scripted to be perverse, where what looks like the right choice is a trap or all choices are traps. I am thinking of multiplayer games that are anything less than 100% strategy with all information known in advance. We want some unknowns, and making decisions in the face of unknowns means occasionally things come down against you. When the odds are 50-50 and you lose a coin flip, yeah, that happens all the time. When you win unless you lose 5 coin flips in a row, that still happens 3% of the time. I like to think of myself as comfortable with probability and true randomness, but having a 97% chance to win and still losing through no fault of your own is really frustrating. It is absolutely necessary that players lose 3% of 97% chances, but it is still really frustrating.

It is frustrating on another level when people celebrate those 3%s as great victories, rather than blind luck. Don’t get me wrong, if you are in a position where your only chance to win is five coin flips in a row and playing conservatively guarantees a safe loss, take that chance. High variance solutions can be your friend, and even if you lose that game (as you most likely will), it was the right decision. But if you started with equal odds and fell into a situation where you needed five-in-a-row to win, you probably made some bad decisions along the way. And if you are that guy who immediately set up a five-in-a-row situation to win immediately or quit immediately, you are what is wrong with online gaming.

Celebrate your victories, but also celebrate good decisions, whether or not they lead to victory in that particular case.

: Zubon

Ripples from Things

I still don’t know how to think of Massively’s closing. I am actually more upset at Joystiq’s closing because that feels like an institution going down the drain. Massively’s closing feels like… well that caravan of gypsies will find a new home. Massively never felt like it owed allegiance to anybody, and except for their snide remarks at AOL’s stinginess, it appeared independently run. Syp writes a Goodbye from his close perspective.

I’ve always had a spot for Massively. Two good friends started there (they are now at ArenaNet). I really liked when years ago they were plugging MMO bloggers. That apparently turned to some MMO blogger material theft, which left a sour taste in Keen and Syncaine’s mouths. Continue reading Ripples from Things