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[PATV] Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - Extra Credits Season 5, Ep. 13: Counter Play



  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    @Titanium Dragon

    Imo, the best and most fun games come from where two equally matched competitors vie for victory. But in standard internet play you're unlikely to be equally matched without some sort of matchmaking system working it out for you.

    In the case where you are worse than the other team, then you're screwed and probably not going to have much fun. Best thing to do is try and learn.

    But when you're competing against less skilled players, you can choose to not annihilate the other team, and try to get closer to an ideal and close matched game.

    Yeah, playing down is a bad idea. Playing poorly will make you sloppy. But what I was originally thinking of in the previous post was using some weapon/class/character/mechanic that you're less good at or less effective with, and try to win with that. There's no reason why you can't be learning to utilise some mechanic you're not familiar whilst still running a close game with a less skilled opponent, and it makes the game more fun for both of you. The only disadvantage may be getting rusty with your primary playstyle, but you should still be practicing that on more skilled opponents anyway.

    Also, I don't think that the correct response to a broken mechanic is to not play the game.

    Playing to win suggests that you should exploit every mechanic and if that makes the game unfun because of uncounterable techniques, then so be it. Personally, I'd be trying to find the fun in the game by ignoring the uncounterable techniques and exploring everything else. If the vast majority of these are fun, then there is good reason to expend effort trying to get the community to do the same and to continue playing in spite of the bad mechanics. If not, then moving on is really the only thing to do.

    This being said, I doubt that many multiplayer games have come out with good counterplay built in to all its mechanics off the bat. And to stop playing games just because the developers haven't nailed it quite yet seems a bit shortsighted. Of course, there's always the question of whether abusing the mechanic in question wherever possible or decrying it sends the stronger message to the devs. But you've got to live with it and try to make your fun around it until any fix comes along.

    discrider on
  • dinonickdinonick Registered User new member
    what about abilities that annoy the hell out of people who dont know how to get around them but people who do can win every time
    an example of that is the hardlight shield in halo 4 multiplayer. ive been using it alot and ive figured out how to counter when someone is using it on me or how to protect myself when someone is using the same counter against me (in a nutshell, grenades or jumping. its easier said than done.) but what i was thinking of was if only a small percentage of players knew how to counter something like that then they would feel , as scw55 said below, intellectually superior when you successfully beat them. im not sure were im going with this but it was a thought that came to mind during the vid

  • EgregionEgregion Registered User new member
    i love all the people talking about league negatively when they admit to having not played for at least a year. the game has changed considerably, and at this point, the game is more dynamic than ever. go back a play a couple of games before you start talking it down.

    also, @meiam you mention that older champions are being rendered obsolete by newer champs. with this i am torn; your example of anivia isn't a good example because she is still a highly coveted pick in pretty much all of the pro tournaments. however, if you had said something like akali, i would agree with you. it seems that the assassin meta has fallen out (with the exception of evelynn), so champions like akali, kha'zix, master yi, and even fiora don't have much of a place in the game at least in the professional scene (solo queue you can get away with anything). hopefully all of the item reworks will change this, but i don't know if this is a problem with counters or this is a matter of efficiency. but the fact that old champions and new champions alike are picked in competitive goes a long way to disproving your statement.

  • SteevesSteeves Registered User regular
    Good episode as always, but I have to agree with the people saying this isn't particularly new. For example, I'm sure that Day9's talked about it in some of his more general dailies.

    I wish I could figure out how to find the daily; anybody smarter who knows what I'm talking about? He often cites sources for things like that.

  • Radian AngleRadian Angle Registered User regular
    The sniper isn't a perfect example, think of the nuzzle flash they give off its not much but its enough that someone could play as a counter-sniper, something which I actually enjoy a lot.

  • TheySlashThemTheySlashThem Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    I don't know why it automatically posted "type your comment here"

    TheySlashThem on
  • TheySlashThemTheySlashThem Registered User regular
    The sniper isn't a perfect example, think of the nuzzle flash they give off its not much but its enough that someone could play as a counter-sniper, something which I actually enjoy a lot.

    If the best, or even the only, solution to an enemy sniper is "another sniper", something is very, very, very wrong.

  • AncientSparkAncientSpark Registered User new member
    edited November 2012
    smrts wrote: »
    You often talk about MTG in explaining game mechanics and I don't know if you keep up with new sets, but the Infect mechanic represents a failure in counter play.
    it combines 2 older abilities that of Wither, and dealing damage in poison counters.
    this is a failure because there's no way around it Infect changes the starting life of the player it's being used against to 10. I have been exaggerated by this mechanic and know people who will quit a game as soon as they see an opponent with an Infect deck.
    me, I've taken to shaming tactics, I tell the person that if they insist on playing with that deck I will never view them as an equal.

    @smrts You're pretty heavily misrepresenting infect as a mechanic. You see, the ability for infect to pierce lifegain is actually a NEW counterplay. Whereas damage would be countered by a DECKBUILDING counterplay (inserting lifegain), Infect is countered by a IN-GAME counter-play, by deciding how much you're willing to risk infect damage with knowledge of how much pump your opponent has in their deck. While this is somewhat present with normal damage, it's much more relevant with infect because pump spells are actually a threat, while still being entirely signalled (mana open).

    This was the same argument that people tried to levy against Split Second, that taking away the ability to respond to the spell would take away counterplay. But the same thing applied, it not just took away spell responses, but added a different dimension on counterplay. Suddenly, you had to decide how much you were willing to commit on your turn to a play rather than mindlessly leaving instant spells to their last moment. Lets face it, everyone plays their instants at the last possible moment and if there is no decision to be made, then there's no counterplay. Forcing opponents to think about when to play their spells made games a hella of a lot more interesting.

    Furthermore, there is additional counterplay forced onto the Infect mechanic by how it's designed. The main one is that all the Infect creatures are very very overcosted in terms of Power/Toughness. This means that even if you're running a deck that is not inherently defensive, normal creatures can dominate Infect creatures in straight creature combat. This means that even an inherently aggressive deck can counterplay vs an Infect deck they normally wouldn't be able to race. Do you think that you can outrace Infect at 20 Life? 10 Life? 5 Life? Should you leave creatures back, knowing that you can prevent opponents from attacking without problem, but giving the Infect player more chance to play pump spells? Are there conditions where you will plain lose if you attempt to all-in them? If you're running removal, how greedy are you willing to be with regards to counter pump spells with removal? If I have a Lightning Bolt and the opponent has 2 Green Mana open, do I attempt to Lightning Bolt in response to a first pump spell knowing that if the opponent has a second pump spell will totally screw me?

    Plus, if you think that getting lucky with how you build your deck is counterplay (your lifegain argument, since you'd normally not put lifegain in a deck), then you're flat wrong. In actual defined metas, this might be counterplay because there's actually something to read and figure out. In more casual environments like you seem to be in, it's plain luck if you happen to run into a deck where your lifegain is relevant, since there's no way to know who you're facing a lot. Besides, if you're looking to counter Infect with your deckbuilding, there are many many other solutions rather than lifegain (non-toughness dependent removal is the biggest counter, as you can gain card advantage off of removing in response to pump and you can also strand punp spells by removing all their threats, who are all limited in number and extremely vulnerable).

    Finally, as personal opinion, I'd argue that lifegain is probably one of the WORST mechanics ever, which is partly why I'm fine with infect. Disregarding the argument above (which is already an inherent problem with lifegain as a counterplay mechanic), when you play lifegain, you don't make decisions. All it is is "I play a lifegain card/I dump any mana I have remaining into lifegain." The opponent goes "Am I an aggressive/life-dependent combo deck? If yes, I lose because you've probably built your deck in a way that I can't win lategame and you've seriously delayed the game. If no, I win because lifegain is a useless ass mechanic outside of the one corner case and so you've just wasted a bunch of cards, thus giving me card advantage." There's no decisions involved! You'd probably know this if you attempted to play against the infamous MartyrProc deck, which established control of the game through dumping massive amounts of mana into lifegain through the combo of Proclamation of Rebirth and Martyr of Sands. Playing against that deck was MISERABLE, because once it started up, there was nothing you could do to stop it...but at the same time, you couldn't concede because you technically could still win if you got hella lucky and their one win condition was on the bottom of their deck. It wasn't like a normal control deck where you could easily read the writing on the wall and approximately know how many answers they had in their hand, and thus just concede normally. If anything, I'm glad that infect pierces lifegain, because it destroys what's otherwise a mechanic that's either too good or too bad, but never interesting. (And Wizards actually was glad for this too, that's why there's a lot better lifegain than normal in SoM block, because they didn't have to design around how MISERABLE lifegain was now that there was a good counter to it for tournament/limited play).

    A last note: Trying to shame people from playing decks is a pretty scumbag tactic. It's not their fault if you don't know how to play versus a mechanic, that's a deficiency in YOUR skills. It's like if I make a mistake but blame everyone else around for it, you know what I'm saying? If you don't like a mechanic, just straight flat-out say "I don't like this mechanic/I don't enjoy playing against this deck, can you play a different deck?" Being honest is infinitely better than trying to guilt trip people.

    AncientSpark on
  • [Hades][Hades] Registered User new member
    Hello there, While I believe that the games you mentioned offers some degree of counter-play , I don't think they fully use it. I also disagree about the sniping complain unless is a map design/weapon balance issue.

    If we talk about FPS counter-play we can consider Red Orchestra 2 as an excellent exponent. If, for example, the enemy is sniping your spawn 250m away, you could ask to your SL for a smoke grenade, run , crouch and/or flank the sniper, suppress him using a LMG , cover in a building , or just call the arty (a waste but whatever). These options ,I understand that are considered gun-play, map design and gun balance do work against all the classes in the game, more or less effectively depending on the situation you are in.

    Another genre that applies counter-play heavily are fighting games. Most of the AAA games of said genre are balanced heavily , since a single broken character ruins everything, using the frames of every move/character to balance it.
    A good example in this case, and my all time favorite fighting game is Last Blade 1&2 .

  • WUAWUA Registered User regular
    Flabbergasted that no one has mentioned stuns in MMO PVP.

  • wullailwullail Registered User new member
    edited November 2012
    is there any way to watch this without the advert?....whatever blip advertising is doing just gives me a blank grey box in the middle of the 'screen' and that's it....

    wullail on
  • Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon Registered User regular

    Firstly, no. People talk about it a lot. The reason why they're saying research more is that ALL of the major people who actually talk about game design have spoken about it. Its not "few people talk about it" - Sirlin talks about it. Mark Rosewater talks about it. You'll find this everywhere. It just shows that they didn't do their research, because even a cursory look at game design stuff would show reams of stuff on the subject matter.

    Regarding the rest of your post:

    Playing to win isn't about fairness, but as Sirlin himself says, if a game can be won because there is something in it which is completely uncounterable (i.e. one thing always wins, or similar degenerate scenarios), then it means that it is very likely a lousy game and not worthy of continued attention. Once you've proven that a game is broken in this manner, then it means you just move on as a player. Playing to win is a player philosophy; it is not about how you design games.

    From the perspective of game design, it is thus very important to make sure that potential for Yomi exists and that your game is not degenerate. If the game is degenerate, people will take advantage and your game will fall apart if it is a competitive multiplayer game (and to a lesser degree even if it isn't).

    Sirlin's game design principles for competitive play are all about enabling Yomi.

    The truth is that there are actually only a relatively small number of very good competitive games. Ever wonder why, despite hundreds of fighting games having come into existence, only a handful of franchises have very large communities that exist for long periods of time? That's because there are very few fighting games with sufficient depth, balance, and diversity to sustain communities. Super Street Fighter 2 has outlasted dozens of other games.

    THIS IS NOT A FLAW OF PLAYING TO WIN. This entirely - 100% - game designers being bad at their jobs. The reason so many games have a few god tier characters and a bunch of junk is this very reason. I don't know the exact threshhold for number of viable characters a fighting game needs to have to be "good", but I suspect the number is somewhere around 8 or so. The fact that so many people fall short of even that threshhold says a lot about how hard it is to do things right. Looking at games like SSF2, or the later installments of the SSB games, or the Guilty Gear games, they are outliers in the number of viable characters that they have - and lo and behold they actually have managed to keep gaming communities alive for a long period of time.

    Moreover, I note that you are making the mistake made by many scrubs that playing to win isn't fun. Playing to win is tons of fun. Its not actually about the prizes, and the fact that you think it is shows you just don't understand what playing to win is really about.

    If you make a bad game, then people will call you out for it. And that's precisely what people who play to win do. They want to have fun, and if your game doesn't allow for an interesting competitive environment despite claims to the contrary, of course they'll complain.


    For all the complaints, the actual problem with LoL isn't balance, but rather lack of diversity. There are a lot of characters, but the game is fundamentally very similar from game to game, as there is only one map and while the tactics may differ, strategy is essentially set in stone - there is really only one strategy for the game. Its all about the same thing every single game, and that wears on you after a while.

    Yeah, Dominion is different, and plays well, but while Dominion is much more "mix it up" than the standard game, and requires a lot more on the fly decision making which has actual impact, it still has some of the same issues of repetition as the base game does. It is a step in the right direction, but a lot of the other flaws of DOTA clones hold it back.


    A good matchmaking system is pretty much essential to any online competitive game nowadays. Once people started implementing them, everyone had to, because they're just so useful.

    When you're competing against less skilled players, the best thing to do is to end the match quickly so you can move on to a better game which will actually be interesting for both teams. And typically speaking, you just won't know that the opponents are bad until you're past the point where you're making the sorts of decisions that you're talking about, so the "should do X" thing is irrelevant.

    Additionally, it is actually dangerous to practice with such things against bad players, as strategies and tactics that shouldn't work often do against poor players. Sirlin talks about "walls" in his book Playing to Win, and walls are most effective against bad players - which can mislead you into thinking that they are viable against good ones, when they almost never are. If you play with "bad characters" its actually best to play with them against good players so that you are playing "for real" and actually learn how to play them properly. Even if they are bad, it will teach you more than by playing them against baddies.

    And yes, actually, the correct way to deal with broken games is to not play them, if your goal is to play them competitively (and honestly in general). And you don't ever have to deal with broken games; you can choose to do other things. You shouldn't just yell that something is broken (and indeed, this is the cry ofthe scrub; you will find terrible players who will whine about things being broken, when all they really mean is "I am terrible at this game, and they are beating me with this") - indeed, the way you prove something is broken is by trying to beat it and exploiting it as much as possible. Very often, things that are "broken" are very betable. But there are many times that they aren't, and the game really is garbage. Once you've determined whether it is garbage, or whether it is really beatable, you have your answer. If it is broken, and they do fix it, then maybe the game is worth trying again. But if it is broken and you know the game is garbage, then setting it down is the right thing to do - you have better things to do with your time.


    Infect isn't a broken mechanic. It is a powerful mechanic with pump effects, but that's pretty much the idea behind it anyway. Infect is a combo deck, and its actually quite easy to beat because of how many ways there are of stopping a creature from killing you in Magic.

    It isn't the best mechanic ever (it is pretty straightforward in what it does, and there isn't anything terribly clever about it) but its not affinity or dredge by any means.

    I will also note that, as a general rule, lifegain is bad for this very reason - there are a lot of situations in which gaining life just isn't useful, as all it does is slow death, not cause you to win.

    Last I checked, infect wasn't dominating the tournament scenes, so yeah, it isn't overpowered. If you are losing to it constantly, it means you to reanalyze what you're doing. If you hate it so much its pretty trivial to build a deck that beats it.


    Split Second does nothing to force you to play instants at any particular time (you can just react with a split second spell anyway). Split second itself was actually an answer, not a question, mostly - the purpose of split second was to prevent someone from countering the spell, regenerating their creature, pumping it, whatever - when you cast a spell with Split Second, it always resolved. The reason this isn't a problem is because the counter to people playing cards with split second was to not play the cards that it was answering in the first place - if your deck doesn't have any creatures that regenerate, or doesn't have counterspells or buffs, then your opponent is overpaying for their spells, as cards with split second were universally overcosted (because they had to pay extra for Split Second, which is only situationally usefuL) or very narrow in their functionality. It wasn't a problem because most spells resolve without incident anyway, and having uncounterable answers isn't really a problem - none of the split second effects could win the game on their own, with the exception of Sudden Shock, which was horribly inefficient at 2 mana for 2 damage, which can't even kill a good percentage of creatures.

  • ombra88ombra88 Registered User new member
    Will there ever be episodes in which you don't bring up the amazing progressive design of League of Legends, Halo, Call of Duty and their very in-depth and complex multiplayer metagame or mechanics?

    What I ask is, will you ever consider using actual competitive videogames to get your points across, or does it have to be games specifically designed to work at low-level casual pub play?

  • omgomgomgdomgomgomgd Registered User new member
    I would have to disagree with almost everything in this. Counter-play does not make a game good, at least with the definition that has been given to it. Counter strike, according to you (ironically) has bad counter play, but its many versions are still some of the most popular multiplayer PC titles.

    I'd like to introduce you to a concept called overdesign. LoL/other MOBAs, CoD, and most modern games suffer from this. Instead of focusing on a single mechanic and perfecting that, an overdesigned game has too many 'valid but not meaningful' choices that players can make.

    This trend needs to stop, because it's actually sucking depth away from games, making anything a player chooses valid means that anything a player does is relatively as effective as the most effective choice. That is a terrible way to design a game, quite honestly. I don't want to sound elitist saying this, but if someone has put much more time into a game, and know all the little things about playing it, it makes sense that they should be able to perform ungodly well, instead of having they system hold them back by providing near-optimal play to players who don't have a hundredth of the skill that player has.

    You claim counter-play adds depth, but I only see it get sucked away, or moved into areas that are not the core of what the game is.

    I'd say counterstrike is a really well designed game. In the time when there were mostly fast-paced shooters, they made a slow-paced shooter, which most of (at the time) did very poorly. Why? Because none of the other slow-paced shooters at the time had the same level of refinement to the one system that made up 90% of the gameplay- shooting. Sure, there were nades, smokes, and flashbangs, and those added a layer of depth, but they didn't detract from the core of the game.

    Shooting was the primary way to 'win'. Focusing on one aspect made the game much stronger, they could create refined shooting mechanics that can be mastered to provide a large advantage to those who mastered the mechanics behind the shooting. They didn't have much extra 'stuff' besides guns. In CoD, they've added tons and tons and tons of extra things. To a certain point, those added depth, yes, but it's easy to see that CoD is not a deeper game than CounterStrike, despite having more Counter-Play. Counter-Play does not create depth, especially when a game that has counter play is chronically overdesigned.

  • EubanksEubanks Registered User new member
    Saying League isn't a competitive game doesn't somehow make that true. Its beaten out SC&SC2 as the most played game in South Korea and its the most played PC game world wide now. Its finals for its championship match in its season that just ended was the most watched esports game of all time. Hate it on if you want, that is obviously your choice, but if you aren't actually going to say anything about why you choose to do that, then you aren't ever going to get any closer to making a point.

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    @Titanium Dragon

    Matchmaking is great. But it doesn't resolve practical issues such as specific server preferences or ping. As such, because I live in Australia and play mostly FPSes, I am probably going to have to play with mixed skill level servers indefinitely due to the high number of players required or allowed in a team combined with the generally much lower total player count and because I don't want my net drained by random server connections.

    Also, ending games early rarely solves anything (at least in an FPS), as it leads into the next map in rotation with the same players, and picking another server just reassigns you with another mixed bag.

    So as I said, the most fun thing to do in this case is to practice some other skill which you're not proficient in, so the other team has a chance. Constantly milling the same players isn't fun.

    Alternatively, you can stop pubstaring and go competitive, which is also good fun.

    Also, ideally every game should be offering unique experiences imo. If they're not, then you can easily switch out for one that's not broken. But if they are, then you have to figure out if the bad mechanics outweigh the good before straight ragequitting.

  • tumtum42tumtum42 Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    I stopped the video at "counter play" league of legends does not offer counter play.
    I won't go deep into this because they never read the comments here as far as i know

    now hes referencing world of tanks that game is sooo stupidly imba -.- do you even do any research?

    as far it being more popular than sc2 its because they pump money into their "esports" which is really their marketing fund most of the money they would allocate to marketing gos to "esports"
    because the idea you could live off playing a video game is something gamers really liked D3 proved that with its stupidly high sales.
    league became really popular in korea when they announced the huge ass amount of money they were putting into "esports" season 2

    tumtum42 on
  • iradeliradel Registered User new member
    Are you kidding me? Tom Cadwell invented counters? A gameplay device that has been around since boardgames, was invented by a developer from a company that is incapable of balancing their own game. League of Legends isn't even the first game to do this. Icefrog has been balancing Defense of the Ancients like this since Guinsoo handed the map off to him and LoL was still being developed. Tom Cadwell shouldn't be giving design talks, Icefrog should. And before people pull the "LoL is biggest PC game" card, WC DotA game clients report more yearly games played in China alone than LoL does for the entire world. Warcraft 3 is still the most played online game on earth.

    Even your sniper analogy is antiquated because Battlefield 3 fixed it with scope glares already. Yes, there are games that screw it up, but that doesn't discount every other game ever.

    RTS games are the oldest videogame example I can think of. Age of Empires has been using the "Archer -> Infantry -> Cavalry -> Archer" counter system since its inception.

  • hoopla993hoopla993 Registered User new member

    I have a few issues with your argument.

    First off, no one claimed that Tom Cadwell invented the Counter Play system. What they said in the video was that, to their knowledge at the time of writing this video, Tom Cadwell was the first person to formally write and explain what the Counter Play system is. It was never claimed to be a new idea or mechanic, but rather an understated game mechanic which no one had ever truly formalized and discussed in great detail.

    Secondly, League of Legends was never once claimed to be the first game to feature the Counter Play system. It was merely used as an example of what a good Counter Play system can be; a game mechanic in which two players fight, with one player coming up victorious of the other, and both players enjoying the experience on the whole because of skill and thought both players had placed into their strategy. On a side note, what does a game's popularity on a global scale have to do with the gameplay and mechanics that make a game fun to play?

    Finally, I'm willing to argue that the sniper analogy stands up great in the context that it was used. I agree that scope glares are a step in the right direction for solving the Counter Play issue, but they most certainly do not solve the underlying problem. There is still not much strategy or depth to sniping players from across the map, and there isn't much players being sniped can do to fend off snipers' attacks. In the end, you have one player feeling successful for taking down an enemy player, and another player to feels cheated a death because they could not fight off the sniper in some way.

  • Kered13Kered13 Registered User regular
    edited November 2012
    A good example of bad counter-play: The Sandman in TF2. This scout items reduces your maximum HP, and gives you the ability to hit a baseball at an opponent, which will stun them if it connects. The weapon is balanced fine and fun to use, but it's hated by many people because being stunned, with nothing to do in response, is frustrating. Since releasing the Sandman, Valve hasn't released any similar weapons.

    @omgomgomgd But counter-strike does have counter-play. If the enemy team is sniping, you can counter with smokes and flashbangs.

    You're argument about overdesign is also misdirected. What you are trying to say is that if every choice in a game is a valid choice, then the game is flawed. This is correct, but you're also suggesting that the solution is to have only one correct choice. But that is also bad game design. Once you know what the one correct choice is, you've solved the game and everything else is boring, repetitive, and easy. A good game needs to have multiple valid choices, but there must also be bad choices so that the good choices are not immediately obvious. A good example of this is Starcraft (either one). There are many, many possible build orders, but the vast majority are crap. But there are still scores of valid build orders to find, learn, and choose from. And then when you know your choice, you have to figure out what build your opponent has chosen, and you have to know how to adapt to that, and how to adapt to his response, etc. etc. The huge number of correct choices ensure that no two games are the same, while the even larger number of incorrect choices ensures that players must be intelligent in order to win.

    @iradel: Counters and counter-play are not the same thing. Counters can be part of counter-play, but they do not guarantee it. Naive counters just lead to rock-paper-scissors, which has no counter-play (there is no counter to the "pick randomly" strategy).

    Kered13 on
  • Titanium DragonTitanium Dragon Registered User regular

    Yes, but the problem is you always have to ask yourself the following question:

    Is something popular on its own merits, or has it been "grandfathered in"?

    Counterstrike is nothing special. Were it made today, it wouldn't be important. Its continued popularity is due to it being one of the first good multiplayer FPS on the computer, and being very popular at the time. Counterstrike has been riding on that ever since, and as it has a large number of people playing it, it is easy to join a game of it randomly. It is a part of gaming culture, but Counterstrike is not good on its own merits.

    This is actually a very common phenomenon. World of Warcraft is not the best MMO ever, but because it became wildly popular at one point, it has maintained a very large player base long after the subscription model disintegrated - MMOs just can't charge subscriptions anymore, it just doesn't work at this point because there is too much competition. WoW still has them not because it is amazing, but because it has a huge player base, and the social aspect of it keeps them playing. Once WoW falls below a certain critical mass of players, the only thing that is special about it - the community - will disappear, and that will be the end of it.

    PvP is another example - if it started today, the webcomic would not be nearly as popular as it is.

    Many things coast on being very popular at one point, even if they are no longer the best. But new things have to mostly compete on their own merits - yeah, Valve can remake Counterstrike, and Nintendo can remake Mario, but YOU can't.

    Making all options valid is always good design; the hard part is making sure that all options are valid. Indeed, an invalid option actively makes the game worse, because it wastes development time and it hurts new players - it is a trap, and traps are always bad game design.

    If you have "mastered" a game and still lose to new players, then you haven't mastered the game or the game isn't deep.

    Counterstrike isn't a well designed game - it is actually a pretty badly designed game. A number of levels are outright bad, the hostage mode makes shooting hostages an optimal strategy, many levels are too easy to defend, AWPs are terrible because they further exaggerate the terribleness of a lot of the map designs by making them into unfun shooting galleries, losing punishes your team, making it even more likely to lose in the next round, and so on.


    You're completely wrong, as Sirlin will tell you. If a choice is bad, then it is fat, and it needs to be cut. Making things non-obvious is actually horrible game design, and is an example of a trap, and traps are to be avoided.

    Starcraft is actually a really bad example, because a lot of that early game stuff is tedious memorization and not really very interesting from a competitive standpoint - you just memorize the best openings. While there IS some fun in figuring them out, ultimately they are unfun because really, only a few people figure them out then everyone copies them, so there is no discovery at that point. Starcraft cannot eliminate it, however, because you actually literally start playing from the first moment, and it is indeed possible to choose to go pure aggro and do a 6 pool or whatever and attack right off the bat, before they're ready to fight back, which forces players to build some early game defense and not go pure economy, thus increasing play diversity. But at the very least your workers at the start should automatically start mining minerals. Starcraft may be a competitive game, but it isn't very well optimized, and in some ways is intentionally poorly optimized to artifically inflate the rewards of a high APM.

  • RatherDashing89RatherDashing89 Registered User regular
    I think most people here are misunderstanding the concept being presented here. The video is not talking about the existence of counters or RPS mechanics. That has existed forever, and everyone knows about it. The concept here is about making countering fun and engaging, and thinking about that while you design the initial ability, not while designing counter-abilities in a later patch.
    As a couple people have mentioned in passing, I'll use the example of rogues in WoW. Historically rogues were either the burst-damage ambush class or the stun-lock class, depending on your spec. And they have gone up and down from being overpowered to underpowered throughout WoW's lifespan. Yet rogues have always been the first class to be accused of being overpowered, because while they have counters, they don't have fun or engaging counters. A rogue stun-locker is not guaranteed to win. But one of two things will happen--their predetermined series of abilities will successfully lock down the opponent and win them the fight, or it will not and they will die. Neither way is engaging for either side. It's not fun to be stunlocked because I can't get out of it, and it's not fun just to turn around and two-shot them if their stun misses. And the ways to counter that class, such as having a class with high enough armor or health to withstand it, or choosing talents that reduce stun duration, aren't engaging at all. You either have the scissors to beat the paper or you don't.
    Now, WoW goes through periods of being more or less balanced. But even when rogues have been balanced, they've always seemed imbalanced because there wasn't counter-play. That's the difference between balance and counter-play. It's not just about providing ways to deal with certain powerful moves. It's about making doing that challenging and fun, so you feel like you overcame the obstacle through strategy and skill, not just picking the right class or weapon to beat another class or weapon.

  • BemaniAKBemaniAK Registered User regular
    Crediting Riot for this is flat out wrong, I'm sure I don't have to explain the fact that LoL is a much shallower version of Dota, take Blitzcrank's hookshot for example, it's the exact same as Pudge's Hook, but with one big difference: Blitzcrank can only hook enemy units, Pudge can hook any living unit on the map, including enemy heroes and creeps, his own creeps, and even his ally heroes.
    Not only does this make it more interesting during the laning phase, because now both last hitting and denying leaves more holes for pudge to hook through, but now during teamfights and ganks, in the middle of nowhere, the enemy, pudge, and now even pudge's allies are all thinking about the hook, the enemy is trying to stay in between pudge and his ally, the ally is trying not to block the hook and pudge is trying to hook at the perfect moment during an escape.
    Of course Tom will never mention this if he does an hour-long talk about it, because Riot are all in denial that LoL was designed to be Dota for CoD kiddies.

  • Kered13Kered13 Registered User regular
    @Titanium Dragon: I don't think you understand how build orders work. Yes, you memorize them, and the execution can be pretty tedious. But they add enormous depth to the game. Build orders in Starcraft are the exact same as Chess openings. I don't think you'll find any Chess masters who think the opening phase is "not very interesting". With your build order you choose a strategy to start with: Am I going to be aggressive, or defensive? What tech path will I pursue? And then you observe what your opponent has chosen and respond.

    A quick example from a ZvP game I played today: At the start I considered doing an economic 6 pool, the aggressive rush puts your opponent on the defensive, but then you immediately expand your economy behind it. But since it was a four player map (meaning I did't know where my opponent started), I instead decided for a standard fast expand. Then I scouted my opponent building proxy gateways. I immediately cancelled my expansion, built defenses, and stopped building my economy so I could get more zerglings out. This shut down his rush, allowing me to go back to building my economy, expanding, and then pushing back.

    This quick game, which was decided primarily on build orders, demonstrates the two important parts of build orders: Choosing what strategy (broadly speaking) you want to take, and then responding to your opponent's choice. This is a perfect example of play and counter-play. Despite being a mechanically very easy game, it was fun to play because I was responding to my opponent's action, and he lost, because he failed to respond correctly to mine (once I cancelled my expansion, he should have stopped putting money into the rush and expanded himself).

    A competitive SC player must know several build orders, to allow him to adapt to difference maps, matchups, and opponents, and to prevent himself from becoming predictable. He must then know many more build orders that his opponent might use against him, so that he can respond correctly.

    I do agree on some of the interface issues you mentioned though. Your workers should start mining immediately, with an additional worker queued up (if you don't want it, you could cancel it before it would make a difference). I would also like for inject larva, chrono boost, and drop mule to be auto-castable, and a scatter button might be nice, but most of the interface is actually pretty well optimized. You can effectively control a large army and produce units at the same time without being a 400 APM Korean. Especially compared to Brood Wars, it's a huge improvement. But this is getting off topic.

    On Sirlin: I don't think he would say that all bad choices should be cut. Taken to it's extreme, that would lead to an entirely linear game. Likewise if all choices are obvious (unless your game is focused purely on execution, in a game like DDR, the correct choice is always obvious, and the challenge is in correctly executing that choice). But even in most fighting games and FPS games, choice is still a pretty important factor, there are obviously bad choices, and several possible good choices, but the best choices are usually not obvious. If a choice is always (or almost always) bad, then yeah, it should be cut. But giving the player options that are only useful in some situations, and leaving it up to the player's experience and knowledge to decide when to use that option, is fine and in fact good design, I think.

  • AurichAurich ArizonaRegistered User regular
    It is a bit interesting that he used the example of a sniper having a blast ruining everyone's day, and then cited the use of the sniper tank as a good thing. Yes, the latter needed a spotter and therefor had a more obvious counter to play for the sniper's prey, but then I'm sure hypothetical first example had some sort of counter as well. The question there is how to decide when you have a counter that's meant to be challenging and when you have a group of players that are basically doing it wrong.

  • bloxingtonbloxington Registered User new member
    This concept is ancient to anyone involved with the fighting game community. While this line of thinking is essential to quality design, and I do believe it's great you're drawing attention to it, the concept of designing around counters is so far from a new idea that crediting this dude seems absurd.

  • RatherDashing89RatherDashing89 Registered User regular
    Counter. Play.
    The episode is NOT about the concept of counters. It's about the concept of a counter being FUN. Rock paper scissors is not fun. "They have this class so I pick that class" is not fun. It's about making every ability fun for the user and for the victim. It's not saying give the victim a chance to beat the user, that's obvious. It's saying that whether the victim has the paper to the user's rock or not, the victim will have fun. Even if the victim still dies, a well-designed ability will have given him a chance to respond and overcome the situation. Instead of thinking, "that was cheap", he'll be thinking, "I should have done x or y, I'll make sure to do that next time."

  • bloxingtonbloxington Registered User new member
    Right, but what I said was "designing around counters". I'm not talking about a simple countering move, or character. The "pick this character, beat that character", notion I believe you're referring to is something found in either bad fighting games, or low level play of quality fighters. But I'm not referring to that. I was referring to what in the video the EC team labels, "counter play".

    There have been numerous articles on SRK over the years by people like Maj and Seth Killian that touch on this topic. Most of these articles/essays deal with the concept from the standpoint of someone playing a completed game, rather than designing one. However, the point is still the same. Quality balance isn't created by simply ensuring that each character has a unique weakness to a character or tactic. That line of thinking is shallow, and it creates shallow play.

    Every dev I've talked to in the indie fighting game scene thinks about this concept of "counter play". It's about giving each character a diverse toolset to cope with the inherent problems with their archetype. The complexity and difficulty of design comes in balancing it over multiple characters. It's a big reason why Mike Z only put eight characters into Skullgirls. It's tricky to have a deep and rewarding competitive game with a large cast. But if you do it well, you get Street Fighter 4. If done poorly, you get something like Smash Bros. Brawl.

  • RatherDashing89RatherDashing89 Registered User regular
    Mmk, I get what you're saying. I think it's a bit unfair to expect EC to be versed on every conversation out there, especially in such communities as the indie fighting scene (which I now for the first time know exists! :P ) I'm sure it's got to be frustrating that EC doesn't seem to cover fighting games, at all, when they talk about balance so much. If they respond to emails maybe it'd be worth asking them to bring in a guest to talk about them.

    Hearing the word counter and Super Smash Bros used in the same paragraph gives me horrible flashbacks of playing against Ike and Marth... though in Brawl's defense it's not really trying to be competitive, and at least when you get owned it's not quite as disabling (Meta Knight and Smash Balls aside) as getting juggled in a game like Soul Calibur.

  • pyrokitsune777pyrokitsune777 Registered User new member
    My personal favorite multiplayer game was Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (and the original MW). I rank those two games miles above Battlefield because of their level design and how it complemented the basic class system they implemented. One of the common stratagems for playing a sniper or a support class was to camp in a given area and wait for enemies to blunder into your killzone. But what I often saw few people do was locate a better path to counter the camper. Unlike battlefield's expansive maps, CoD relied on medium sized maps that had multiple pathways to any given area.

    In order to effectively camp on say Carnival, you either stationed yourself near the Merry-Go-Round or refuse area behind the Funhouse. These areas had clear sight lines for a Heavy to sit and watch for scouts or soldiers that might be freshly spawned and planning to use the path to push an advance. Problem is while watching those areas you can't ensure that someone won't run through the courtyard and catch you in the back. Alternatively, the scrap area behind the Funhouse has an upper entrance from the Funhouse, the Funhouse back entrance, the concession stand gate, and the roller coaster house. Each one of those is spaced so that you can only focus on one or two at a time.

    I'll admit this doesn't hold for all the levels and I never tried any of those elements in a Hardcore match so these rules may or may not apply but I think CoD MW and MW2 are a fair example of Counter Play in a multiplayer shooter.

  • elheberelheber Registered User regular
    bloxington, I'd have to disagree "counter play" has been a longstanding or well-known design concept. Surely the concept of counters for balance and counters to add strategic, and thus, more enjoyable elements have been around, yes. But whet EC is talking about is designing a the tools of a single side (Player 1) to be fun for the other (Player 2) without any regards to balance or special tool for the other.

    One immediate example that comes to mind is the Sniper Rifle in Team Fortress Classic. Unlike traditional sniper rifles in FPS games which are basically point-and-click, this one had a laser dot visible to enemies (among other neat differences). Forget the concept of balance for a moment, or any specific weapon/tool enemies could use to counter snipers... instead, the simple fact that there was a visible enemy sniper dot meant you now had something to hide or run away from. It's undoubtedly more fun, as a sniper, trying to hide your laser dot in creative ways. Likewise, as the victim, it was more fun trying to evade this bright red representation of a sniper bullet. Like a cat chasing a laser light, but in reverse.

    The key isn't necessarily adding strategy or counters to certain items. They key is adding _enjoyment_ for the player not using a particular item. Whatever Player 1 is using, let Player 2 play with it too. If Player 1 has a rocket launcher, let Player 2 rocket surf.

  • ArchedgarArchedgar Registered User new member
    I was somewhat disappointed that the Extra Credits crew didn't also mention the debacle that Tom's ideology triggered.

    Counter play = "Anti Fun" = HORRIBLE balancing decisions.

    The concept of "Anti Fun" will be the death of competitive multiplayer games, especially MOBAs.

  • The Elven JediThe Elven Jedi Registered User regular

    Examples of "horrible balancing decisions" include:.....

    and wasn't this entire episode about how counter play is, ahem, the counter to anti-fun gameplay?

  • skellyton22skellyton22 Registered User regular
    edited February 2014

    skellyton22 on
  • skellyton22skellyton22 Registered User regular
    I also play Ez in LOL and want to play LOL now.

  • PantherraPantherra Registered User regular
    Did Tom ever do a full talk about this yet? I'd be very interested to hear what all he has to say about this.

  • SewblonSewblon Registered User regular
    @Archedgar Has anyone actually argued for "Anti Fun" in any serious context?

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