What’s Wrong With “Fail States”?

What’s wrong with the term fail state?

It’s attached to the definition of game for many people, and it doesn’t mean anything real, so it causes semantic fuckery when people try to argue about what constitutes a “fail state” and whether a given game has one.

So what counts as a “fail state”?

Here’s an obvious one most people will agree with, game over. Meaning you reset the whole game, do it over from the beginning. You’ve lost the entire game. It’s all over. Multiplayer games have this as well. You can see this in tetris, contra, street fighter, and a bunch of others. Kind of went the way of the dinosaur except for short games and multiplayer. Continue reading

Deep Mind on Starcraft 2: Competitive AI in Real-Time

What do you thinik of Blizzard’s collaboration with Google to developing sophisticated Starcraft 2 AI using Google’s Deep Mind?

I’m looking forward to it. I’m excited as hell. However I think they should try a version where they train it with the visuals on a 250ms delay, because unlike chess, this is a realtime game. Humans realistically operate with a delay between when something actually occurs, and when it reaches our brains. An AI playing a realtime game can frequently employ strategies that are not only better than human ones, but which are literally impossible for humans. My classic example is SFA Akuma, which will walk up to you, and if you press a button, shoryuken, if you block, throw, and if you shoryuken, block you and punish. It destroys the RPS loops that define the game. It’s effectively not even playing the same game arguably.

The AI in Starcraft itself is already way better than any human player (just way stupider), with up to 3000 APM depending on what it’s doing. It can operate every unit individually if it wants to, using units like Ghosts to hard counter mech builds with the lockdown ability fired from every ghost individually onto each individual unit, when in real starcraft, ghosts are practically useless because no human player can possibly micro like that.

You’ll notice that the lockdown ability didn’t return in starcraft 2 where ability units like the high templar are rigged to only have 1 unit cast the relevant ability when multiple of the same unit are selected, because it would have made the above tactic really really easy.

The point is, in realtime games, unlike turn based games like Go, computers are frequently able to beat humans in simple ways that don’t really reflect the way the game is normally played. A 250ms delay might produce something that looks more like optimal human play rather than play that is borderline rigged cheating.

Like, we want AI to beat us in playing roughly the same game we’re playing, ostensibly, but if you remove this human limitation, then it’s like you’re effectively playing poker without hiding your hand, not very interesting.

Why Controllers Suck at FPS Games

Why do you strongly dislike using controllers for first-person shooters? What exactly is wrong with using a controller as opposed to a mouse and keyboard? While I’m at it, what do you even think about console shooters (shooters made strictly for controllers).

Basically, unlike fighting games, controllers are a completely inarguably inferior method of control for first person shooter games. In fighting games, and a lot of other (digital input) genres, using a controller over another input method is usually a matter of preference. In first person shooters (and RTS), mice are the best way to control the game, period. Continue reading

Literally What Does “Pretentious” Mean?

How would you describe something as pretentious and how would you define it? Could you give an example in the context of a show/film as well as the context of a game?

There’s a simple definition if you google it actually: “Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.”

This is pretentious. This is attempting to show that the game The Last of Us has a greater cultural value than it actually possesses. Continue reading

Game Addiction

What do you think of articles like this comparing videogames to drugs? http://nypost.com/2016/08/27/its-digital-heroin-how-screens-turn-kids-into-psychotic-junkies/

Not totally wrong. I think saying it’s like Cocaine is an exaggeration. If you’re familiar with Cocaine, it blocks dopamine receptors, meaning that dopamine gets stuck percolating in the brain. Videogames trigger strong dopamine reactions, so yeah, from brain scans you’re going to have similar results. It’s not literally a drug, but it can be addicting like one. Continue reading

All About Mobile Gaming Monetization

Is mobile gaming similar to old school arcade in the sense of monetization models and game design?

Not really. Old school arcade games ask you for money for a chance to play, and to try again from where you lost. Mobile games don’t ask for an up-front fee, and usually allow you to pay for a powerup that makes the game easier to complete, or introduce waiting elements that take several hours to complete, but allow you to pay not to wait.

This page has a list of in-app purchases for one of the most popular freemium games. You need gems to buy more than two builder’s huts, and those control the rate of construction for everything in the game. Paying gems also speeds up their building progress. And they can also be used to speed up a ton of other things.

Candy Crush works pretty similarly to arcades in that it offers extra tries for cash, except that extra tries come for free every 30 minutes, and they have a ton of other powerups that make levels easier.

Like, this stuff is basically pay to win, pay for a competitive advantage over other players. There was a case recently of the highest paying customers of Modern War basically holding the game hostage to get them to change how powerful some of the in-app purchases were after being nerfed.

Reading this article on candy crush actually makes me slightly worried about my dad who plays the game.

Of course these payment plans are very deliberately chosen to make it seem less like you’re paying to win, they’re just a powerup. They’re chosen to deliberately foster habit building, by making you come back to the game after a regular amount of time. You’re given freebies to get the foot in the door, and lead into the shop to train you in purchasing for real.

Good arcade games never did all this. Of course you do get examples like prize grabbers which are basically kiddie gambling (and penny slot machines which are the exact equivalent of this in real gambling, letting you pay a ton of pennies all at once from a credit-card-like card that holds your money to get a bunch of bonuses).

Most arcade games asked for a credit to be able to play the game AT ALL, up front, and never let you pay for bonuses. At best you’d be able to credit feed to continue where you lost, though many games let the operators disable this function (not that they did). In Japan there is apparently a cultural custom of never continuing, so as to not hold up the next person in line (or there is if icyclam’s arcade culture post is to be believed). I take not-continuing to be the correct way to play arcade games, because it’s the only sane way to have any type of difficulty.