[MUD-Dev] Skill vs Knowledge (was: Re: Brand Loyalty)

ceo ceo at grexengine.com
Wed Feb 12 19:25:56 New Zealand Daylight Time 2003

Caliban Tiresias Darklock wrote:
> From: "adam" <ceo at grexengine.com>
>> Caliban Tiresias Darklock wrote:

>> If you examine the behaviour of a Quake (just because its so well
>> documented, in terms of skill etc) player, the most "skillful"
>> players use "player knowledge" as their main tool.

> That's not skill. Skill is the ability to jump through a window,
> fire three shotgun shells accurately at a moving target while you
> fall, then run off through a nearby door.

> If you take the player who memorised respawn order and weapon
> locations, and the player who can reliably jump-fire-and-run, and
> you drop them into a level neither of them has ever seen
> before... who do you think will win?  

But if you go and meet some top Quake players, you'll find that the
ones who merely have great co-ordination are stuck forever in
second-place (figuratively speaking), no matter what level they
play. They are NOT the champions; they compete at the top level, but
don't win against the best.

c.f. sirlin.net - I believe I've posted the URL before, but here it
is again:


(author is a world-champion games player; the articles he writes are
insightful and quite amusing). Not intended as being directly
applicable to this conversation, but a related viewpoint (quoted
from above link):

    "...The scrub has still more crutches. He talks a great deal
    about 'skill' and how he has skill whereas other players'very
    much including the ones who beat him flat out'do not have
    skill. The confusion here is what 'skill' actually is. In Street
    Fighter, ...  movement must be completed within a fraction of a
    second, and though there is leeway, it must be executed fairly
    accurately. Ask any scrub and they will tell you that a dragon
    punch is a 'skill move.'

    Just last week I played a scrub who was actually quite
    good. That is, he knew the rules of the game well, he knew the
    character matchups well, and he knew what to do in most
    situations. ... He cried cheap as I beat him with 'no skill
    moves' while he performed many difficult dragon punches. He
    cried cheap when I threw him 5 times in a row asking, 'is that
    all you know how to do? throw?"

    (another one of the Sirlin articles details how the author won
    the East Coast Championship against a player with better
    hand-eye skills - see the excerpt at the bottom of this email).

In the example you give, whenever I've had the opportunity to see it
played out in real life (by two otherwise approximately equally
skilled players), during the first few minutes its generally blind
luck who does best at any given moment: the player in the lead swaps
frequently (without any level knowledge, even the person with the
best reactions in the world gets shot in the back, dropped down an
invisible hole, etc).

Five minutes later, the player used to using knowledge and tactical
reasoning is whipping their opponent - although there is a gradual
handover from "random frags" to "skill-induced frags". You can
quantify this by the way the "frag ratio" gradually becomes more and
more consistent and stable. Indeed, it often appears that one player
"accelerates" away from the other in terms of score - all that is
really happening is that the effectiveness of knowledge doesn't
become a stable quantity for as much as ten minutes (the better the
player is at using knowledge, the less time it takes for their
knowledge to reach a plateau of effectiveness).

> Skill works in *every* level. Knowledge works in one.

I fear you over-simplify; knowledge most definitely works in every
level - it just takes a while to "acclimatise" to the level. What
you say makes perfect sense, if you believe that the Knowledge of
every other level ever played has no beneficial effect on playing a
new one.

If that were the case, it would take the knowledgeable player hours
to really start winning, not minutes. In fact, most good players
have a library of environment-based tactics, and whilst playing a
new level they will look out for patterns in the layout that give
them ideas for which of their library of tactics to try in this

The acclimatisation time is mostly spent discovering which of those
patterns were faux-amis, and modifying them to suit the
peculiarities unique to this level.

Adam M



The article is about Sun Tzu's theories applied to winning games;
but towards the end contains this excerpt:

  "...The tournament was called the East Coast Championships 4, or
  ECC4. I had won the Street Fighter Alpha2 portion of the ECC3
  tournament, so I felt a lot of pressure to win again. I made it to
  the finals where I faced veteran player Thao Duong. Thao plays
  only one character (Chun Li), and he's incredibly robotic, meaning
  he executes moves perfectly and rarely makes mistakes.

  I was undefeated in the tournament so far, and Thao had one loss
  (it was double elimination). This means Thao had to beat me 4 out
  of 7 games to be even with me, and another set of 4 out of 7 to
  win. I only had to win one set of 4 out of 7 to win.

  I started by playing Zangief, my secret counter to Chun Li. Since
  it's widely believed Chun Li totally destroys Zangief (but not
  mine!), it would be a flashy way to win. Whether it was my year of
  no practice or Thao's playing or Chun Li's dominance of the game I
  can't be sure - but Zangief was not up to the task that day. No
  problem, since I would switch to my standard Chun Li killer:
  Ryu. I scraped together a win or two, but again my lack of
  practice was showing and Thao won by greater and greater
  margins. I then realized the horror of what I would have to do,
  and what I would become somewhat famous for in the Street Fighter
  community. I realized that the only remaining character I could
  reasonably play in a tournament was Rose, and furthermore that
  Rose, though very good against most characters, really only has
  one move against Chun Li: low strong.  Rose (left) does "low
  strong" to Chun Li (right). In the Street Fighter world, "low
  strong" and "Sirlin" are synonyms.

  And this is where Sun Tzu comes in. My use of Rose's low strong
  move is both a method of winning before fighting and of
  waiting. The low strong is an uninspiring little punch that
  doesn't have all that much range, but it has amazing priority to
  beat other attacks. It's also incredibly fast, allowing Rose to do
  multiple low strongs in a row with only the tiniest of gaps.

  The low strong was my brick wall - my first test. The only problem
  is that there was no second test. And worse yet, there really
  wasn't much 'actual fighting' in store for Thao should he get past
  my 'trick.' I could only hope that he'd fumble in trying to get
  around it, and even become frustrated enough to make mistakes. In
  retrospect, this is not the best approach to take against the
  robotic master of move execution himself, but it's still
  preferable to no strategy at all, which was my alternative.
  I low stronged my little heart out. Probably over 90% of my moves
  were low strong, done at a very particular range, and with a
  particular pattern of timing that I dare not reveal. (Ha!) I had
  infinite patience to low strong forever, forcing Thao to defeat
  this trick. If he could beat it, we would then have to actually
  play, and at that point surely he would win. But fortunately, he
  never did beat it: he fought it head on. At times, he would decide
  not to attack, not to beat against a brick wall. I used that
  opportunity to get at the optimal range (which is one pixel
  farther from him than the range of my low strong). From this
  range, I continued to low strong forever. I wasn't winning by
  that, but I wasn't losing. Even the robotic Thao would eventually
  tire and attack, even if at the wrong times, out of annoyance or
  desperation. Spectators reported that I did an amazing 18
  consecutive low strongs without either myself or Thao doing any
  other moves...."

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