Friday, June 18, 2010

Solve the Game

I’ve started playing a Facebook game called Backyard Monsters. It’s a fun game. You build a base by harvesting sticks and stones to build buildings, and defenses like turrets and cannons. Then you harvest Goo to make Monsters to attack other peoples bases. If you are successful, you can loot their sticks and stones and goo.
The game has been fun, but recently I’ve discovered that some players have done a little number crunching, calculating Monster Health, Tower Health and Attack Speed and other variables. These guys pounded on their spreadsheets and came up with the ‘ideal’ base design. Now if I had done that, I’d keep the secret to myself and dominate the game. But these guys published their findings on the official forums. Now as I get to a higher and higher level in the game, I see more and more people copying this design. It makes your base nigh impregnable unless your opponent throws wave after wave of monsters at you, depleting his Goo resource in the process.
I think it’s a danger in any strategy game. The game is not so much won, as it is solved. Now the developers are working on ways to break this strategy so that it isn’t ‘the way’ to go.
I see something similar in the development of WoW. The players crunch the numbers and come up with the ‘ideal’ spec, or the ‘ideal’ spell rotation. Then we get what amounts to the solution key in the form of Boss Kill videos via Tankspot and the like.
The Developers try to mix things up and change some of variables each patch, and then change all the variables in an Expansion. WoW adds the added element of execution, but in many ways the game is solved, more than won.
For players, it can become a difficult decision. If you don’t use the ‘ideal’ base layout, you’ll have your resources farmed all day long. If you don’t use the ‘ideal’ talent spec, or spell rotation, or Boss strategy, you’ll get kicked from groups as a ‘noob’. But somehow I think we’ve lost something along the way. Our games our solved now, not won through our own trial and error.


Tord said...

Ties in somewhat to what I read about the new "medium" glyphs that are intended to give people that chance of adding different flavours to their specc.
Before I continue I must say that I am not an experienced raider, so if my thoughts below are already covered, don´t flame me too hard ;)

Why not add more random events to bosses? I have a feeling, that seems to correlate with your post, that WoW is too there-is-one-solution. By adding random elements players would have to work on their skill as a player and a team. They´d need to react to events as opposed to figuring out the one boss mechanic. These semi-random events need to be controlled so that only events solvable by the current group/raid is thrown at the players. More fun = win?

Salt said...

The solution to 'solving' a game, is usually to include some kind of paper-rock-scissors, so that you can have a foil to each defense, and a defense for each foil. It might have to be more complex than just three elements, but anything is better than creating a 'win' button.

Nyss said...

Its funny how Tord's disclaimer addresses the exact situation you described near the end of the post.

I liked the idea, especially the bit about the random events being based on the raid's composition.

In my opinion, yes, more fun = win.

Frankerson P said...

You're so right with this. I HATE that I 'have' to use a particular build in WoW. It was so much more fun in the beginning when nobody cared much about it and I could pick something and just worry about playing the game.

I have a lot more fun playing Torchlight because it's just me and I can pick the talents I want and no one is there waiting to judge me for it. :)

Anonymous said...

I feel like this is how the "Explorer" play type beats the game. I'd much rather be the first one to understand hard mode bosses than have only done them.