A game where the best way to get better is by playing.

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by ratxt1, Apr 13, 2012.

  1. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    Training tips. Even ignoring crap like RUNFASTERWITHKNIFE, a total rookie can benefit from stuff like being told to lead the opponent a bit, "try playing X portion of the single player a billionty times so you get used to skill Y", or something as generic as "That weapon sucks, don't bother".
  2. Fenrir

    Fenrir Well-Known Member

    I don't think I agree with any of those examples.

    Leading the opponent as a concept is trivial. You'll figure it out in the first ten minutes of playing so it's basically irrelevant. How much to lead the opponent with each weapon in every one of a billion circumstances is something you can only learn through practice and something you can only really learn in actual games against human opponents (with their unpredictable movements).

    I can't think of a lot of FPS games in which there's a section of the single player experience that teaches you better than playing in actual games against humans will. I guess rocket jumping in quake and it's derivatives would count. But again this is not a skill that requires a great deal of practice. A player will have this down very quickly and then the more important questions of when and where to rocket jump will take precedence. Which can only be learned in game.

    "That weapon sucks": again, this is largely trivial. If you can't figure out a weapon is worthless in five games of CoD there is something wrong with your brain. In theory being told this information will save you time but the amount of time saved is pretty negligible.

    Plus all of this information could potentially be false. Based on personal preference of just poor game understanding among the community. For instance, I prefer the AK-47 in CoD although it's not considered that strong. Also for instance, many fighting game characters who've been decried as low tier only to prove themselves to be very strong, like, half the freaking cast of HD-remix.
  3. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    I think you overestimate how quickly people come to the right conclusions unaided. Given that Jaina's free this week, I'd bet that over 50% of people playing her are handling wound purchases wrong (be it never buying wounds, or buying too many). I've seen people buy three wounds across the first three turns. I still regularly come across people using Safe Keeping to pick up loads of 1-gems.

    I'd been playing Street Fighter in various incarnations for probably 10 years before I learned why jumping is bad. I have plenty of friends who play fighting games and can't do fireballs or DPs, much less consider things like frame traps or option selects (which aren't actually conceptually difficult to grasp).
  4. Fenrir

    Fenrir Well-Known Member

    Those are different games. What to buy in puzzle strike is a very complicated decision and Street Fighter is hugely deep and complicated. I was referring only to those features of first person shooters which, yeah, I think most players can grok them pretty easily. All of my friends can't do a QCF in Street Fighter either (in fact they seem vaguely angry at the game for making the DP motion so hard) but they've figured out the best guns in the cod multiplayer within a couple of days without fail. They've learned the best routes around the maps not long after that. And all of this they figure out by playing the game. Never by running around empty maps or training against bots that don't fire back, they learn against real people because that is best.

    In fairness I think that their are probably FPS games in which single player, training mode stuff would be useful. It might even be way MORE useful in terms of improving as a player than playing actual matches (like your first hundred hours in fighting games). Like a game where headshots are super valuable and aiming is hard would reward spending time just practicing aiming. In much the same way that SFIV requires you to practice links. Most FPS's right now though have tones of auto-aim or forgiving aiming. CoD has so much auto-aim on console that it's an actual hindrance.
  5. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    This actually raises a good point, Fps games often have a solid 1p mode that helps you learn the game, as do RTS games... But fighting games so far never really got a good 1p mode.... Jump ultimate stars, dissidia and brawl are the only games I know with tolerable 1p modes. I hear good things about blazblue... But since I've read good visual novels it doesn't compare well at all....

    But I digress, my real point is how do you make a good engaging 1p experience for a fighting game?
  6. Bucky

    Bucky Well-Known Member

    Curious - which of brawl's 1p modes are you talking about? The beat-em-up main campaign, the classic modes from Melee, or the event matches? The various modes span 3 different genres even though they use the same engine.

    Just going off my own experience and intuition, I'd say a combination of at least two of:
    *AI behavior that displays human-like behavior biases (e.g. weak learning, 15+ frame reaction times)
    *Good pacing
    *A session forms a dramatic arc (related to pacing)
    *Significant variety within a session
    *Structured in a way that highlights techniques that would be harder to pick up in multiplayer
  7. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    Sorry, I should have been more specific, Subspace I'm referring too, the other 1p modes really feel like just 'arcade mode with a twist.' Not that Subspace was great by any means, but it is one of the more solid demonstrations of a 1p mode, although it helped greatly that Smashes conventions are more on the platformer side of things.
  8. Warskull

    Warskull Active Member

    At this point, the single player doesn't help you learn very much in most FPS games. Maybe if you have never played an FPS before, but most gamers have. CoD's single player isn't going to teach a player anything. It just gives them a safe environment to figure out there preferred key mappings. Most FPS games have 1-2 unique mechanics that you have to learn and that is it. Some gamers just prefer single player experiences and won't touch multiplayer only games. Thus including a mediocre campaign can sell more copies.

    In an FPS the amount of out of time you learn out of game is very small compared to the amount of time you learn in game. A friend recently picked up Tribes: Ascend, he never played a Tribes game before. The out of game education consisted of "Sentinel is the sniper class, unlock that first and snipe people trying to steal our flag. Hold space while going downhills to ski." He was then in game and learning by doing.

    Yes, there are people who play with a bad gun for a long time. That is due to some other factor such as stubborness, an unwillingness to learn, or a desire to be unique (by using the gun no one uses.) Someone who mains Dan in Street Fighter probably isn't doing it because they are incapable of figuring out Dan is bad.

    FPS games have very direct learning and are easy for people to pick up. People know fairly quick when a weapon is better and usually some form of scrubiness is behind why they don't use it.

    At the highest levels there is map theory, tracking item/power-up respawn, ect. However that is so far above the head of a learning player, they don't need to worry about it. Learning to track the megahealth and quad damage in quake won't do a thing for a player who hasn't yet learned how to shoot and move.

    If you want a game where there is nothing to learn outside of the game, that is basically a boring FPS game where everyone is the same class with only one gun in the game.

    Don't forget players are capable of learning all that information in game reasonably themselves. Usually the only arcane knowledge in FPS games are engine glitches (like circle jumping, bunny hopping, skiing in tribes 1.)
    Leartes likes this.
  9. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    ... I think you are underestimating the importance of learning conventions... I still struggle to play most FPS games remotely well, mainly because I have no interest in them outside of portal (which doesn't really count), so I usually end up being thrust into a multiplayer mode whenever I end up playing them, and suck. However, I do know that I'll be able to hone those generic skills in a (assuming the game is good) well designed way. 1p modes are very important for accessibility, because even if you aren't teaching the player a lot you are getting them used to the mechanics within the game. And you are doing this in a 'safe' fun way.

    This isn't as important for FPS games anymore because everyone basically knows how they work, but everyone basically knows how they work because there are some great overall experiences outside the multiplayer in those genres. Where as in fighters only really offer multi player, and it's a great experience, but... Either we need more good entry points into the genre and it's conventions, or we need something that actually has content for people to genuinely enjoy by themselves.

    Thinking a little more, the Soul Cal games actually did a decent job of this didn't they, 3 and 4 anyway...
  10. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    None of the things described are conceptually difficult. Yes, buying is a complicated decision, but "You sometimes buy wounds as Jaina" is not. Street Fighter is hugely deep, but "Hit these two buttons as the same time and the game will automatically do what's best" is not an inherently complicated idea. They are very easy to grok, but also very easy to overlook.

    Setting those aside, you're still missing my point. I never stated that the FPS tips were things that people would never arrive at themselves. All I said was the learning process is accelerated. It may take 10 minutes to learn to lead the target, and only 10 seconds when someone tells you. It may take just a couple days to try out all the weapons and decide which ones suck, but only minutes to read up on what is good and why.

    I'll repeat: Self learning is mostly trial and error. One of the biggest ways external input helps is by cutting down on the amount of error it takes you to reach a given conclusion.
    zem likes this.
  11. Leartes

    Leartes Well-Known Member

    I guess you get thrown into multiplayer playing with friends and/or doing LANs or something like that. I can imagine it being boring and frustrating, especially if the others are better. On the other hand I'm not sure if you'd learn faster in a 1p mode as fps-singleplayer usually teaches a lot of wrong moves and habits to the player. After playing 100 hours singleplayer you'd most likely invest a lot of the following hours to unlearn stuff and learn proper multiplayer moves.
    I think for many people it is faster to go the frustrating way of multiplayer only. Now "best" is vague for you it could mean more fun and longer, for others it might mean fast and frustrating.

    You'll have to try out all weapons anyway even if someone tells you that some suck. You just never arrive at a good level of understanding the game if you only rely on third hand information. Then anything like leading, aiming for the head, crouching while shooting (or jumping depending on the game) is fastest if someone just tells you. It just doesn't account for a large amount of time. The time it takes from learning quake to become good at it is long and learning basic stuff takes a short amount of time anyway.
    Obviously here the "better" is not strictly better by only playing, it is more of a soft better. Most of the time playing improves skill most.
  12. Hamvvar

    Hamvvar Member

    I've been following this conversation and it's very stimulating, it's reminded me of something that might not be exactly what the topic is speaking on but still seems relevant, i.e. a game where the best way to learn the game is to play it.

    I'm sure most of you watched that awesome egoraptor video about Megaman X, and he describes how the structure of the game itself teaches the game (i think he called it conveyance?). Of course MMX is a strictly single player experience, but the principles still could be somehow transferable. It also made me wonder about that concept translating to tabletop or card games. If you've never had any instruction or read anything about chess (for example) you'd have no idea where to begin.
  13. sloppyJoe

    sloppyJoe Member

    Regarding FPSes there is one element which has been largely ignored in this discussion, which is also a main mechanic in the genre (and thus a rather important skill): Controlling the camera/Aiming.

    The obvious answer is "EVERYBODY knows how to aim/control the camera", however, they don't. Movement in 3 dimensions and also controlling the camera at the same time is a very foreign concept for most people. My girlfriend struggles immensely with it, usually ending up either not doing it or overcompensating.

    Obviously, you could spend your time getting shot in CS while you learn how to move and control the camera, but chances are you'd never be motivated long enough to actually learn it well enough to have any fun while playing and thus never really bothering with the game.

    I think you're underestimating just how much you've learned as a gamer by playing for 1-2-5-10-20 years, and how heavily "core" games depend on those skills.
    Remy77077 and link6616 like this.
  14. link6616

    link6616 Well-Known Member

    EXACTLY. It was my recent attempts to go play FPSs that I finally realised how terrible many games are to learn for many people, and much in other games i take the conventions I understand for granted. And I think it's a really easy trap to fall into.
    Remy77077 likes this.
  15. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    A good "question" (prompting statement?)! The truth is a little disappointing though...

    Being a singleplayer game is a BIG DEAL when it comes to this sort of teaching. First, a single player game doesn't have to teach you the best way to play. It has to teach you a way to play the game good enough to get through the game. Secondly, single player games can afford to be a lot simpler, on average, than multiplayer games. Those that are not simpler need to leverage manuals or tutorials to give you the basics. On a third level, even if you could indicate what buttons you should press, the knowledge of the community will soon surpass anything the game was designed to teach you. Also fourth, you can experiment in a single player game, but in a multiplayer game a human being walks up and rips off your limbs and fucks your torso before you hit a button. :|

    So what do you do? Well, usually not much, but there are situations where you can help the player. FPSs are good at this. The core gameplay is pretty universal across games, so you don't need to teach that. But when it comes to multiplayer modes, good level design can help new players navigate maps easier, notice which base they're in or show them whether or not an object (Say a flag) is important. If you design an FPS well (early TF2, for example) you can make it so most new players can know where to be and who to shoot. They won't know all their character abilities or the exact function of the game mode, but they can 'play'.

    Conversely you have Tribes Ascend, that does wonders at teaching you all the wrong things in a game that is already really fucking hard to learn. You get accolades for 'llama grabbing' -- grabbing the flag at low speeds -- something you should almost never do. What message does this send the player? Or the generator room being the easiest place to accrue points, despite it being a low priority area. This creates situations where tons of new players defense the generator for no reason. And why wouldn't they? Doing that gives them a higher score! How could you even expect them to know better without them reading something or being told?

    I think avoiding situations like that are more important than actually teaching. Most people are better at learning then they're given credit for. People pick up new games and learn them all the time... but when you teach the wrong thing, well.... people are good at learning! And they'll learn that negative behavior!

    In short, teaching real, competitive multiplayer games in game is VERY HARD and you can only do so much. But more importantly, you can screw up real easily and teach bad things and avoiding that is even more important then naturally teaching good things.
    Targie and link6616 like this.
  16. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    I'll repeat again: All I said was that external input accelerates the learning process. I never said that external input removes the need for firsthand experience entirely. I never said that external input accounts for a large amount of time, nor that the that the rate of acquisition from external input is always a vast improvement over independent learning. For the most part, you're arguing here against claims I never made.

    I will however, dispute your last sentence. I would instead argue that the vast majority of people hit skill plateaus, and that solo play is one of the least effective methods of resuming progress.
  17. Leartes

    Leartes Well-Known Member

    What do you mean by solo-play? Single-player or playing ffa with unkown opponents or playing with a random team?
    I agree if you ment that playing together with teammates you know and talking about your play usually improves your skill faster than playing with randoms.
    I'd count that as playing and not as training outside the real game, so it is not problem.
  18. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    More to add about Hamvvar's statement after thinking about it a bit...

    It actually is amazing how much some of these games do teach, leveraging our knowledge of previous video game quotes. If you pull out something that looks like a rocket launcher, you're probably going to be pretty sure that it is, in fact, a rocket launcher and it does, in fact, have splash damage. In weird cases, say, Unreal's Flak gun, we can see really quickly that it's not the hitscan shotgun we'd be used to in other FPSs, just from the effects. It makes sure you see the big huge flak bullets so you can be clear what the weapon is and better learn how to use it. But if you go to say, Counter Strike, you get situations where nothing is shown to the player and there is little ways to tell one automatic rifle from another without reading online or fucking around.

    Even in fighting games (though this requires one to be way more fluent in fighting games), using the common tropes of a genre, we can quickly identify good anti airs and crossups and pokes. Other time, moves and their uses seem utterly arbitrary, but we can still communicate a lot of stuff by the visual components of a move, weapon, or character and we do this in games already with varying levels of success.

    In a lot of ways this might all seem super simple and not useful because it's so obvious, but it is something you can really screw up. Just having moves that reflect their hit boxes and weapons with behaviors that hint at their strengths and weaknesses can help a lot and there is still a ton of room for improvement.
  19. sloppyJoe

    sloppyJoe Member

    There are no better examples of that than shotguns. Shite at range deadliest close up, in every single game. Even to the point that "zombies are to be shot in the head, with a shotgun" is a "universal" truth. Then again, that's kind of how real shotguns work in reality …
  20. Kayin

    Kayin Well-Known Member

    Well really, the best way to teach a player how to do something is call on reality. If a game is abstract, you have no idea what an object does, outside of some visual hints you might be able to draw upon. If you present a player with a jeep, on the other hand, they will have some idea about what to expect. If you put a turret on the back, then they also can suspect that a friend can hop on as well. We all know rockets fly and make explosions.

    So yes, that's kind of how they work in real life, but that's also a reaaaaaaally great way to communicate information to the player.
    link6616 likes this.
  21. infernovia

    infernovia Well-Known Member

    Yeah, this is one of the things pointed out by Brian Reynolds when he was talking about Alpha Century, they didn't realize how hard it would be to create a game that is based on the future. Where you can't draw on the "schoolhouse rock" version of history like they could with Civilization. That is essentially why they implemented a narration to the single player: to teach the mechanics and effects to the player in a way that clicked to the player's senses.
  22. Delha

    Delha Active Member

    Yes, I meant pretty much exactly what you said as far as solo-play is concerned.

    Where we part views is on playing with actual teammates. The reason it's so much better than being with randoms is precisely because you don't "just play". It's pretty unreasonable to imagine a group of teammates NOT sharing information with each other. There's inevitably going to be cases of "here, do it this way" or "oh yeah, I deal with that class/character/etc by doing X". It's the same mechanic as reading up online, only better, since you actually get to ask questions and talk out the details of what you're being taught.
  23. Coffee

    Coffee Active Member

    One thing I noticed (in a more conscious manner anyway) sometime ago is the different kinds of learning some Magic decks took.
    There are decks like Cloudpost Control or Infect that you can pretty much play "prima vista", basically look through the deck once and then start to play relying on your common sense and not fail horribly. There are intricacies there, but most of it is just judging the situation and responding in a common sense way.

    Then there's decks like Storm Combo where you need to hit "training mode" to play against a dummy a bunch 0f times just to learn what kinds of hands are even keepable and to learn lines of play. Quite noninteractive stuff, but learning to pilot these decks is often fun because the things they do are absurd and feel very broken. It's a nice reward to see 20 goblins on the board turn 2 as a result of playing some Solitaire, fun to see if you can squeeze just that last bit of juice out of your pile of cards. Just how broken can you get?

    The last category are insane synergy cocktails like Elves (Legacy), Pattern-Rector (Highlander) or Tortured Existence decks (Pauper). With these you want to go through a few common interactions between your cards perhaps, but they're basically impossible to goldfish due to the absurd amount of interactions. The deck is, in short, a puzzle. A puzzle that needs the context of a gamestate to begin to be comprehended. The only real way to properly pilot these is to just play a ton of real games and start to develop a very specialized kind of intuition for what works. I know I've piloted the Pattern-Rector deck for years and every so often find some neat little trick I had completely glossed over previously.

    I've also just recently started playing Street Fighter and analogues could perhaps be drawn to things like gross spacing (rather intuitive for the most part unless you encounter stupid moves like Cody's EX Ruffian (in AE anyway) whose graphics are completely misleading). It's something you can mostly figure out via common sense. Then you have things like learning to play proper footsies. Some training mode, yes, but mostly just a lot of real (perhaps somewhat practice-oriented) play with other people to get used to the nuances of the character's normals. Generally speaking relatively fun stuff to do.

    Then to the infamous training mode. I've found that at least for me there is an odd sweet spot where some practice feels good - practicing some stupid link that was thrown there for the sake of it (hello AAB being difficult) is annoying, as is doing canned things like Ryu's SRK FADC U1. It's something that is very hard for a beginner, and also very binary. No degrees of success there.

    The thing that is fun, on the other hand, is just learning things like Akuma's bread and butter close fierce, light tatsu into either shoryuken or a sweep combo, or proper jumpin followups and the like. I think a big part of it is that it doesn't feel like it was made difficult just for the hell of it, that it is actually achievable quite quickly (you then spend more time making it consistent), and that degrees of success are very possible - close fierce is good, close fierce into tatsu is something you want to do. Being a part of the way through is better. The canned intentionally difficult fadc combo actually leaves you in some ways much worse off if you whiff it, which discourages trying to land it in a match if you're unsure. Not to mention the low(ish considering it's an ultra) damage from the ultra makes it feel bland instead of exciting and ridiculous, which is the feel things like Oni's and Evil Ryu's ridiculous combo strings have.

    This is actually one gripe that makes things like Larva Injects much, much more infuriating than they otherwise are: That they were intentionally being made to be a colossal pain.

    So, what to take from the above ramble I guess:
    Good kind of learning is ideally some combination contested, analogue, logical and broken-feeling.
    It should ideally not be difficult just for the sake of making something difficult. And if it is something stupidly difficult, it might be a good idea to provide an altenate solution for dealing with a problem.
    A brilliant example is Marine splitting in Starcraft (2) - it is most definitely contested by the opponent, you can improve fluidly at it, unclumping troops vs. AoE is a very logical thing to do, and in addition to constantly increasing efficiency there is an ultimate reward that feels very wrong in an exhilarating way - you can win against banelings with just Marines. If you do not want to put in the time MarineKing put in to achieve that, you can deal with the banelings by using tanks - a unit that requires a completely different skill set to utilize, yet one that has many of the aforementioned good characteristics itself.

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