[MUD-Dev] [DGN] The psychology of random numbers

ceo ceo at grexengine.com
Sat Jan 17 00:46:40 New Zealand Daylight Time 2004


Ted L. Chen wrote:
> On Jan 8 2004, Sean Kelly wrote:

>> I'd argue that we first need to determine that these are the
>> player expectations before managing them becomes an issue.  Are
>> there games where players have argued "but I should have won, my
>> strength was 5 points higher!?"

> The most uncluttered example I can think of is the game RISK.
> Invade a 3 army territory with 6 pieces and you'd think you'd win.
> Experienced players know better than to rely on this assumption
> since the 3 defenders might easily pick off the 6 pieces.  But
> what about novice players?  They're the ones to most likely
> complain, but generally do keep it in check since they do realize
> they're novices.

IME, this (the process of discovering / confirming the realities of
6v3 in RISK) is the source of 99% of the enjoyment from Risk as a
game (at least for adults / anyone who's played it often enough that
the shallow strategies available for the overall game are all
well-known and well-practised).

I.e. the drama of the small defenders against the big attackers, and
the nerve-wracking series of dice rolls to see what happens. A
single attack can be like an epic story in itself - especially when
the province is critical (e.g. the attacker needs just this one to
both complete a continent AND seal his borders...), although
sometimes it's more interesting when a huge army (at very low
probability) is completely wasted in a totally irrelevant
province. It's funny, anyway :).

N.B. I am, of course, one of those on this list who takes great
umbrage at any attempt to dumb-down MMOG's simply because learning
in games is one of the things I enjoy most; so I *like* a game where
I completely misinterpret and get smacked-down, and enjoy sticking
with the game long enough to work it out; this comes perilously
close to griefing at times (because the better you are at this, the
more you tend towards exploitative gameplay; you have to keep some
perspective to stop yourself from blindly exploiting things the
games designers / general population didn't intend to be
exploited...). There's been some recent discussion in this area in a
game I play at the moment, where deliberate griefers and
well-meaning GoP'ers had found and were using the same key
exploit. The most interesting thing was the way that the same
exploit was re-interpreted depending upon the perceived intentions
of the exploiter...in the end, some design changes were created to
make the exploit harder to achieve - but no less successful - and
others added to make it "slower" to mature (but again, no less
effective compared to the rest of the game) and so less appealing to
short-termist griefers.

P.S. It's worth mentioning that I usually play RISK with very old
friends, with people I've known for two decades, and there are some
very deep-seated historical emotional relationships there (for the
game); we all know each other well, and bear sometimes bitter
memories of various
losses/betrayals/victories/dancing-on-the-graves-of-each-other's-troops. We
sometimes have periods of agreeing to play "anything but" risk
simply to avoid the escalating levels of schadenfreude,
peer-pressure, and general lord-of-the-flies behaviour. It's fun,
but only in small doses :). So...I suspect the level of drama I'm
used to is unusually high :).

Adam M
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