The first of, perhaps, many thoughts on democracy in games.
This is also a ninja deadly cross-post.
The above piece ranges all over the place, and it's fairly old, but the key point at the beginning is that the community destroyed master of orion 3 via external pressure executed without any position of authority. Voices are enough to confuse an issue. Even if they don't have direct authority.
However, on the flip side of that is the confusion that arises in any case where there are no clear winners or losers (for instance, in this election). While, as a premise, two roughly equal options are presented to an audience, and the normally decisive human nature will split down the middle. When the margin for a 'win' is 50%+-5, then you can be confident that no real choice is taking place, or else, that neither choice is clearly 'better' to an average group of people (again, for instance, in the election).
There are times when 50% is intended, but doesn't actually pan out where you see an intriguing kind of emphasis on aesthetics. For example, in a lower population of horde vs alliance in some wow servers, though the two sides are morally equivalent. But, in a morally equivalent world, there is a bias toward the familiar, so the side with an abundance of human-like creatures wins out over the side with more unusual appearances.
But that's not really the point; the point should be that, in these undifferentiable environments, a basic instinct of humanity to compete and war comes into play. We share the competitive urge as realized in coordinated violence with chimps and bonobos (though bonobos compete internally only with sex, they are still extrovertedly violent, and eat other monkies--and chimps will happily break up into group in order to attack and kill one another, in a manner similar to humans with no other more immediate survival concerns pressuring cooperation). It's an outgrowth of male competition such as stags butting heads, just taken to the next logical level based on our highly social tendencies. Obviously, our tendency in this regard doesn't excuse war, and certainly a world without destructive widespread violence is not only possible but to be preferred-especially in a world where video games and team sports provide a legitimate outlet for these urges.
To swing past the election topic long enough to pick up the health bonus, here, though, the issue is in a split contest, all kinds of innate human tendencies come into play in an interesting way. For example, what is, in the abstract, a couple years ago, simply an intriguing question (what candidates will be running?) becomes increasingly a cause for open animosity between people, and steadily more psychotic attitudes. Two basically equal choices, for practical purposes, become two strikingly different choices, where one is a pillar of pure light, and the other is a herald of utter doom. I'm, of course, talking about the Lakers and the Celtics.
However, when the nearly sexual tension of the contest is released in the final contest or measurement, then, oddly, this tremendous force of hostility and anger disperses extremely quickly, along with the concomitant abject loyalty. By the time the next season looms large, these feelings are dispersed and nearly dormant. But, come kickoff on opening day, and the populace renews its vigorous differentiation of otherwise undifferentiable entities.
In a game, this is ultimately expressed in Red and Blue, where your hatred for that filthy color in opposition to your own, pure and vivid hue climaxes quickly in the course of a match, and you may find your brain doing a somersault shortly thereafter trying to realize and assimilate the fact that you are playing as the other color, this round.
Ultimately there is a disunion, here, between two functionally interconnected concepts. First, that team sports involve participation and a personal stake in the outcome, and, second, that in an environment with equal choices, there is a need for rising tension and release.
WHO:AR (heathenese: WAR) has a system in place taking the concept of seasonal contests determined by player interaction to a logical conclusion, of sorts. By taking and sacking the city of the enemy faction, you are voting with your kraul blade as to the righteousness of your own side. However, these are empty victories which do not connect with the purpose of competition in the first place.
There is a release and cooperative refractory period after a contest because contests are meant to select. Leadership, tactics, the strong, or merely the most virile male with which to lie. That period in between is where the interesting variations that inform the *next* contest and provide the element of genuine uncertainty that fuels the cycle come from. In a sense this pattern is in place with developers and fans of products, but in a tremendously disconnected way. In another sense, it's in place with purveyors of persistent worlds (which will include evolving competitive games such as counterstrike, UT, Quake, ET, or any of the myraid others), but with no relevant feedback along the channel of desire.
Let me parse that a bit. But I need to put an anecdote in here, first.
When I was fairly young, my father started playing historical wargames with me. It was a great way to have fun and learn something, and it presented something fundamental to the genre of gaming which, for whatever reason, is not present in sports to any great degree, at least in an overt way: unequal contests. Sure, in sports, unequal circumstances happen. Someone is injured, or has more natural talent. They may arrive at the field tired, or have had to travel further. Perhaps the crowd is hostile or friendly. Perhaps they aren't used to the heat or cold. But regardless, the basic game, and the rules of that game are meant to be equal. Rigidly defined as equal even, and perhaps, especially in cases where they aren't. But when playing these wargames, that is seldom the case. History is not a series of equal contests determined by straightforward superiority in technique. It is a messy collission of circumstance, temporary advantage, and social upheaval in which, for example, the Greek Phalanx--bastion of the honorable warrior, transitions to become a useless military appendage without a concept of combined arms to support it. In the fading era of the phalanx, the vaunted Spartans had their ass annihilated by skirmishers out of formation throwing javelins. Sucks to be archaic. Obviously, the phalanx went on to have use as heavy infantry as a part of a more complete army with cavalry, archers, and so forth in Alexander's army (and subsequently other field armies). This kind of change recurred in the american revolution, where skirmishers were more highly effective than disciplined formations. Napoleons columns were, in a sense a combination of those tactics, but, ultimately, they weren't a silver bullet either. Assuming, in this metaphor, that the Duke of Wellington was a werewolf. Which would be a great premise for a prequel to Operation Darkness.
The uneven contest is something that I really enjoy. Playing americans against germans in WWII should be a difficult proposition. The german equipment was universally superior at first. The way these games worked, first of all, they set up your expectations. So if a contest was unequal, then it was presented that way. Second, the actual victory conditions were set to the scenario. You weren't expected to *win* when you were overwhelmed. You were expected to hold on as long as possible, or retreat in good order while controlling your losses. In 1776 (a game about the american revolution), I spent much of my time with Washington's army hopping in canoes, fleeing down river, and staying away from British forces, until I could scrape together a sufficient force and supplies to briefly capture a garrison-depleted Saratoga. Which I promptly abandoned when my supplies ran out. This is an interesting scenario that I don't get to play out in our sportslike competitive multiplayer video games.
Marvel Nemesis is one of my favorite fighting games of all time for this very reason. Rather than cop-out on the premise of the superhero, and make superman functionally equivalent to batman (Bullshit!), they made the more powerful heroes literally more powerful, and represented that power in game in a relevant, yet unpredictable way. Because of this inequality, it became a real badge of pride to put up a good fight as, say, wolverine, against, for instance, Storm. To me, the fact that there were various non-canon characters no one had heard of before was irrelevant. I want to play as a super hero. If it's not a popular one, that doesn't matter--it's not like the endless catalogues of the major publishing houses are filled with gold. What was even more satisfying was something like a spiderman vs venom contest, where venom was literally stronger, and spiderman was literally faster, and there wasn't this forced equality between them, like there are in many games (Ryu, Ken). I also liked that it wasn't an annoying morass of combos and insane inputs that I had to memorize--the controls were fairly simple and the fight was locked in between the fighters.
In any case, there are more intriguing scenarios to be had out there, and people do enjoy them. For instance, defending a keep in DAOC seems popular, and assaulting well defended forts in Planetside wasn't 'unbalanced'. It was an interesting challenge. ET and RtCW as well as quake wars are all based on unequal competitions with expectations set up to make relevant and achievable goals for both sides.
So this is what's missing from persistent games.
An electoral input from the community realized via in-game behaviors more explicitly having an outcome in development of content. Rather than seeing that people are too effective with flamethrowers, and making them less effective, the answer is to give the people with flamethrowers flamethrower related technology that improves that imbalance, and, conversely, to give the losing side, anti-flamethrower advantages, to simulate a genuine reaction to a genuine tactic. There is no Platonic perfect 'chair' of a flamethrower floating in the mind's eye of the universe. Let's make that thing ridiculous, and make the lead up to every patch a clamor from the denizens of the game to advance *their* preferred tactic or method, so that in the electoral orgasm of patch notes, they can see which side was victorious and how it will dominate the landscape of the refractory period.
The rabid community in WoW shouldn't be given equality. They should be given inequality and a shifting war which changes the way the sides play based on what those sides *do*. More warlocks on horde? Maybe the horde are going to the dark side. Maybe they are running some different instances and getting some different gear that gives them an unfair advantage, but, in response, the priest and paladins on alliance step up to exploit demonic weaknesses. Or maybe they fight fire with fire, and both factions succumb to the dark side. Holy spec is no longer viable because the taint of shadow becomes an endemic part of the universe.
As it stands, it's an audience non-participation proposition. We await the next set of changes and improvements designed to make everything equally enticing. Striving to make it impossible to identify with your side or its struggle, and calling into question the validity of the entire exercise.
like the election.
back to the news...