Deceptive Honesty

Honesty can be an amazing tactic in Town of Salem. No one sees it coming. Almost every time I have gotten lynched as Jester, I told people I was Jester. “Surely no one would admit to that, he’s just trying to avoid getting lynched!”

When people expect lies, truth is a great way to trick them. That works well with people playing one level of recursion below you. The problem is people playing two levels below: they don’t know enough to be bluffed or double-bluffed. This leads to the common and exciting dynamic, “is this person playing dumb or actually stupid?”

: Zubon

Metaphors for Gaming, Metaphors for Life

Plugging in a USB drive the right way on the first try feels like an accomplishment. There are only two ways to do it, but it feels like I am scoring below 50%.

Part of the problem is when it takes three tries. I try to plug in the drive, flip it over, try to plug in the drive, and flip it back over. I had it right the first time, I was just a couple millimeters off where I needed to be.

Other times I realize that is not a USB slot.

: Zubon

Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

In one of my favorite analogue RPG’s, Nobilis, there is a heaven and hell. Heaven is a place of stark, clean beauty. Rarely are souls allowed in heaven because most are not banally pure. Hell is a place of dirt and passion. Everybody is allowed! It’s the Jackson Pollock blender of creation. Of course, the dilemma in the game is which is better.

It’s a bit waxing, in a poetic and philosophical sense, to bring this high ideal to the living document of MMO’s and online games, but the pale reflection appeared to gleam a bit more this weekend. Would you rather have cold, perfect beauty or dynamic imperfection? Continue reading Bad, Exciting Changes: Weekend Events

Leavers and Balance

For Chaos games, assuming leavers are random (not quite true), game balance should not be affected. The effect is the same as have a game with fewer players. Even if the roles are unique, there is no practical difference between a role that was not picked and a role that suicides. It feels different, but the odds are the same. Similarly, if you held a raffle and randomly picked some losers before picking a winner, it would feel like those people were cheated, but picking WINNER, LOSER, LOSER gives the same odds as LOSER, LOSER, WINNER, or picking 3 and then picking which of those 3 is WINNER.

Quitting in Chaos games looks pretty close to random. I have seen just about every role quit, from Mayor to Werewolf. Some people hate town, some people hate neutrals, or they hate particular roles like Medium or Disguiser. The only real worry is snowballing suicides, say if one Mafia quits so another quits so… The same can happen when Town loses a few important unique roles early.

But still, you’re a jerk if you force 14 people who signed up for a 15-player game to play a 14-player game. 1 isn’t a big deal, but it feels like it is rarely 1, so those 3 jerks just forced a 12-player game on everyone else.

In the standard game, leavers are less innocuous, and therefore more problematic. Every role is random in all/any. Roles are added in a particular order in the standard game, so a planned 12-player game is not just a 15-player game with 3 random roles removed. Also the roles are almost entirely fixed, so one missing role gives a lot more information than it would in Chaos.

: Zubon

Leavers and F2P

Playing Town of Salem, I am constantly annoyed by suicides, i.e. people quitting the game. They don’t like their role, they started without time, they anything — I’m alt-tabbed and typing this now from a game that has had 4/15 people quit so far. It adds quite a bit to the randomness when one team suddenly loses several members, which can snowball. No one cares if a neutral benign role leaves, but everyone is cheated of a decent game when one side is hamstrung. I’ve seen other perversities like a 3-arsonist game where they would have won pretty handily had not one of the arsonists quit on day 1. Even worse is when an important, unique role is AFK; I have had two games with AFK mafiosos so the Mafia just could not do anything. And then town is hamstrung when people quit after dying, given that town can have a rezzing role.

But Town of Salem is also free to play. I want there to be some disincentive to ruin the game for others, but what are you going to do, ban a F2P account that someone can re-create in a minute or two? Ooh, you wiped out their cosmetics. That is hardly a speed bump for the sort of jerk who doesn’t care about ruining others’ fun, to say nothing of the actively griefing troll. I am interested in ranked play, where those players tend to fall out as they cannot rise in the ranks, but ELO is broken and most of the roles do not appear in ranked play.

Having real costs in a game is a useful thing just because it imposes costs. If there is no cost for bad behavior, you are free to impose costs on others.

: Zubon

“Harbingers of Failure”

Admit it, you know some of these gamers and might keep a couple in your feed as negative indicators:

We show that some customers, whom we call ‘Harbingers’ of failure, systematically purchase new products that flop. Their early adoption of a new product is a strong signal that a product will fail – the more they buy, the less likely the product will succeed.
— Eric Anderson, Song Lin, Duncan Simester, and Catherine Tucker, “Harbingers of Failure”

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution, where a commenter says:

My wife thought I should open my own market research firm where I’d be proprietor, sole employee, and entire sample size. Big companies would show me mockups of products they were considering launching, and if I’d say “I’d buy that!” then they’d cancel the program, fire the guy who came up with idea, and bury the mockup at Yucca Mountain under concrete and steel.

: Zubon

Town of Salem Team Balance

Still playing Town of Salem. I have switched to the Chaos – Any/All game because it is the only way to consistently see all the roles. The problem is that it really does mean any/all chaos, so the game might be randomly unwinnable for one team or another. Not technically unwinnable, but practically so.

If the town has less than half the population, the town loses. It is not technically impossible for the town to win, given good luck and/or incompetent opponents, but I have yet to see the town win with less than half the population. I have been in a game with only 3 people in the Town. Being mayor of a three-person town is just waiting to die. Other times, the town will get a stack of roles that cannot synergize or help find the Mafia, like 3 mediums and 3 transporters. A 2-person mafia is also likely to lose, but I have seen them pull it out occasionally. A game with 3 serial killers and/or arsonists is going to be rough for anyone except the neutrals.

The standard game uses a standard set of roles to better ensure a balanced game, but you lose out on variability and seeing all the game has to offer. You will never see about half the roles in the standard game. Chaos takes that to the other extreme. There needs to be a balance with variation but constraints on randomness. Maybe make some of these official?

: Zubon