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Glitching, sportsmanship and the hermeneutics of gameplay -Masta - Jun 17 08:26pm
In this article I will conduct an examination of the various appeals to sportsmanship and fair-play within in-game JKA communities, with special emphasis on the controversial issue of glitching aka poke/spin, and will try to outline a possible way of dealing with such issues from the viewpoint of an ethically conscious player.

The role of the discourse community in shaping the ethical dimension of games

Online discussions, usually through the medium of the internet forum, serve to a large degree to determine and police what accounts as acceptable in-game behaviour for the larger community. This is made possible by what I will call the two-sided ethical dimension of games, which is a feature of the intra-mechanical as well as extra-mechanical rules of a game.

Let me explain. The ethical dimension of a game is defined as the framework that requires players to adopt certain particular techniques within a rule-based system in order to play a game and be successful at it. Considering this from a purely intra-mechanical standpoint, i.e. from the rules and properties of a game that are programmed for by the developers, it can be said that the point of gameplay is the exploration of the ethical dimension of a game by means of testing the very limits of the rules that are established by the developers.

There is an obvious problem with this, since it does not take the extra-mechanical rules into account, i.e. the rules that online gamers have to explore, negotiate and discuss with one another based on the one absolutely guaranteed rule of gaming: whatever a player can do in the environment of the game is permitted.

Playing a tactic such as prematurely quitting the game shortly before your opponent scores a kill so as to avoid a loss on one's record, as it was a very common and widespread practice in the ranking system of BWN, is itself a bit more complicated when there are consequences for such actions outside of the immediate gaming environment: all of a sudden, in order to be successful at the game, a player not only has to face the challenge of analysing complex game mechanics, but also of understanding the sophisticated social system that accompanies a game, i.e. a community that follows rules and norms that may be unfamiliar to the player.

Within that environment, the medium of the online forum aids in determining what makes for fair and acceptable behaviour, but it also helps to define the very boundaries of what is ethical in a virtual environment where testing the limits of the rules is to be expected. Especially in communities focused on competition like gaming leagues, the idea of sportsmanship gains in importance and appeal.

The problem of sportsmanship

What exactly is understood under the term 'sportsmanship' though? Sportsmanship can be seen as a composition of partly written conventions and partly unwritten local norms shared by all participants of a given competitive event, serving as a guide to good conduct. It is a conceptualized system of rules that governs extra-mechanical gameplay, rather than the intra-mechanical rules that define victory conditions as such. Acceptable behaviour is thus guided by formal and informal fair-play, something that is impossible to be fully enforced and so the choice of remaining within the formulated expectations is to a large degree voluntary, requiring the players involved to police their own emotions and strategies.

These adopted norms and conventions are not solely intended for the involved participants, but also, in their most general formulations, for society at large, and tend to reflect behavioural norms that convey a certain ethical and sometimes even moral sense of duty and self-discipline that is desirable in society.

Sportsmanship as a system of rules governing competitive events usually supercedes rules of everyday life and so the rules governing online gameplay similarly define a new reality governed partly by the developer's moral system and partly by the discourse community of the players. We could say that playing multiplayer games involves a continuous engagement with and development of an 'interpretive community'.

In such interpretive communities, as has been mentioned, forums are used to determine and enforce acceptable online behaviour for a given game, debating things like glitches, hacks, cheats and deciding what to do about them. Through this process of interpreting in-game phenomena, players become actively engaged in establishing what counts as reasonable behaviour, and therefore what the notion of sportsmanship entails, by creating local norms through debate and community consensus.

The resulting consensus may be publicly enforced through the development of formal rules that penalize unsportsmanlike behaviour, as is most evident in the set of rules that constitute competitive events like tournaments or leagues (ESL), or through certain global changes to the mods that are required for league-play, like in the case of BWN. The rules therefore, by serving as a guideline to sanctioning unacceptable behaviour, directly enforce the dominant notions of sportsmanship that emerge out of the interpretive community. It is of note that the rules-system of the ESL bases some of its sanctions directly on the rule of 'sportsmanship' itself, penalizing such behaviour like flaming, excessive avoidance of contact and certain other forms of extra-mechanical norm violations.

The pressure to win publicly, especially within more competitive communities, may result in the players stretching the rules: in the physical world, athletes may feign injuries so as to get a timeout or even intentionally foul one another. Likewise, a stretching of what is acceptable gameplay can occur in the realm of virtual competition, where, for example, gamers may try to focus on exploiting certain programming weaknesses that do not neatly fit into preconceived categories of glitching and exploiting. The intense exploration of the limits of the gaming world may therefore lead to the discovery of exactly those programming weaknesses that are in need of being interpreted by the wider community.

If the programming weakness itself is to be proclaimed as a glitch and its use penalized within certain communities or if the exploit is to become accepted and integrated as a part of the normal experience of playing the game is solely and utterly a question that can only be answered through community consensus. Because each and every player, being part of an interpretive community, helps to establish what is deemed acceptable behaviour, he therefore helps to determine what qualifies as sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike as well.

This leads to some obvious problems. Glitches and programming weaknesses that are accepted and allowed by the majority of leagues, players and communities may still retain a certain degree of controversy in specific other communities and may directly defy the established standards of sportsmanship for certain other players.

What notion of sportsmanship is right though? What interpretation of in-game mechanics can claim to be correct and more appropriate than any of the other available ones?

The hermeneutics of gameplay

Many arguments have been made to answer this question concerning the validity of specific interpretations. One line of thought bases its claim on the distinction between casual and competitive play, arguing that since the essence of all intra-mechanical conflict in multiplayer games is competition, the logical resolution of that conflict is the act of winning. This line of thought concludes by appealing to the authority of popular gaming leagues, saying that if there is any particular community that understands how a game is to be played, then it has to be a competitive one.

This is certainly correct if the intra-mechanical conflict inherent to multiplayer games is approached from the standpoint of a competitive player. However, there is more to multiplayer gaming than that, and casual players will undoubtedly be left feeling unsatisfied with such an admittedly somewhat circular argument regarding the truth value of the competitive approach to gaming.

Instead, we have to recognize that the experience of playing a multiplayer game is an ethical one and that the games themselves can be seen as ethical objects, ones that take player-to-player relations seriously: the way that players relate to one another, the way they compete and how they determine the validity of their actions in the gaming world are all crucial factors based on the design of the game. In multiplayer, game design is therefore extremely relevant in shaping the ethical experience of a player.

Players can only interact with one another by means of design, and so the game design itself shapes at least partially the moral agency of those players. However, players obviously do not have to follow blindly the instructions, goals and mechanics that the programming affords them - they are empowered agents that can embrace or reject certain particular strategies, for example, if they feel these strategies to be contrary to their values as players or as human beings. This ethical empowerment has to be situated in the context of the importance of game design in shaping the multiplayer experience: players create their own ethical values oriented by and around the game design itself, which can exert a great influence on the ethical nature of the game as experienced by the player.

In fact, players themselves are virtuous beings and apply their ethical reasoning when immersed in the gaming world. This is made evident by the fact that when poke was first introduced to the world of JKA, players showed exactly how this process of ethical reflection takes place: they are faced with a happenstance in the game design that collides with what they consider the best way of playing the game and therefore deem it contrary to their own values as players to use those techniques.

Those values are usually shared by a variety of players within the overall community and tend to foster the development of social sub-communities like clans and leagues. Gaming leagues like the ESL are a perfect example of a congregation of players who value a certain particular kind of gaming experience - namely the experience of competition. ESL's quite elaborate rules-system aims to maximize the competitive aspects of the game by encouraging sportsmanship, fair-play and placing certain restrictions on the possible behaviours, strategies and anti-competitive tactics that players could adopt to gain personal advantages over their opponents or disrupt the enjoyable gaming experience of everyone involved.

Although gaming leagues obviously tend to focus on competition, clans are free to embody and represent a broader variety of possible value systems. This may include clans that focus less on skill and more on attitude, clans that focus on casual play or that, as I have mentioned, disregard the use of certain strategies. Those examples show that players do reflect ethically on the consequences of design and therefore act as moral agents.

Therefore, considering the notion of games as ethical objects and the players as virtuous beings, it becomes obvious why and how players, despite being constrained by the game design, are able to interpret the gaming world in ways that can radically differ from the intra-mechanical premises set forth by the developers. This is what lies at the heart of the roleplaying experience - communities can focus on interpreting games in ways that do not follow directly from the game mechanics afforded by the programming. We could even go so far as to say that communities that focus on roleplaying are playing an altogether different kind of game than communities that focus on competition.

The question now turns away from asking whether the game that is played is more 'correct' or 'right' than any of the other ones, and more towards the question of what kind of game actually is to be played. This kind of question, however, is obviously impossible to answer from a completely unbiased, "objective" viewpoint, since the decision to play a certain particular game is largely based on taste, personal expectations, aspirations and the personal engagement with the ethical dimension of gameplay. An "objective", unbiased person lacks all of these things by definition and therefore cannot be used as a way of answering such a question.

With different games based on different interpretive communities come different notions of acceptable behaviour and therefore different ideas about fairness and sportsmanship. What does this mean for the player? How is one to navigate the multi-layered world of gaming, if it involves people and communities that radically differ in their choices as to what games are to be played?

I would like to outline a few ideas concerning those questions in the following section of this article.

Skill revisited: a phronetic outline

I would argue that, strictly speaking, skill is an incomplete method of evaluating the overall excellence of a player. Just as the total amount of kills scored by a certain player in a game of 4vs4 TFFA is only a crude indicator of the players overall capabilities, so too is skill itself an imperfect indicator of the players overall excellence. That is because skill only results from the successful resolution of intra-mechanical conflict, which is important, but does not take the social, extra-mechanical nature of gaming into account.

The best possible player is therefore not someone who just merely wins the most, but someone who is also capable of adapting his behaviour to the situation at hand. The excellent player is not guided by the promise of victory, but by the "how" of achieving that victory: he will win by playing virtuously, using his "ludic prudence" to weight strategies as they come and choose the best and most appropriate ones for the given situation.

The best strategies necessarily include the player reflecting on the extra-mechanical properties of his situation as well: what are the rules on this server? Against whom am I playing? What is expected from me? What is the most rational thing to do in this case? How am I to react and speak to that person?

However, there does seem to be a curious correlation between the excellence of a player and his or her skill in playing the game. The vast majority of the most skilful of JKA players are also nice people who are almost never prone to flaming, griefing or unsportsmanlike behaviour. This is because true excellence, which necessarily includes a very high skill level, comes about through the cultivation of goods that are "internal" to a given practice.

The devotion to JKA, which leads to such factors like the emphasis on personal improvement over merely "winning", the emphasis on individual skill and teamwork over points and scores, the emphasis on such virtues like perseverance etc., can lead to excellence in skill. It can also lead to such goods like fame and authority. Here, being excellent at "sabering" (in JKA) is a good that is "internal" to the practice of playing JKA, whereas being famous or in a place of authority is a good that is "external" to the practice of playing JKA. You can be famous and wield authority without ever having played the game, but you cannot be good at sabering (in JKA) outside of the context of having played JKA. The danger here lies in confusing the internal goods with the external goods. Focusing on external goods leads away from the centrality of virtue, feeds the ego, makes people more prone to unsportsmanlike behaviour and is ultimately self-destructive, whereas focusing on internal goods leads to excellence.

Therefore, for an individual to be virtuous from the perspective of the overall practice of playing JKA, it is of importance that he focus on the personal devotion to the game and thus on the cultivation of goods that are internal to the practice of playing JKA, rather than on the accumulation of such (external) goods like fame and authority.

However, a JKA player does not exist in vacuo: the very nature of multiplayer gaming is defined as a socially established cooperative human activity. This is why excellence has an extra-mechanical component to it. The ability to play incredibly well has to be recognized as merely a part of the entire practice of playing JKA, which is necessarily social in nature. Therefore, manifesting true excellence consists of the ability to recognize each unique and concrete situation for what it is and what kind of action it calls for, and, as Confucius would say, “overcoming the self and returning to propriety”, that is, recognizing how the individual's skill fits in with the broader social nature of playing JKA.

Excellent play does not only involve success in both the intra- and extra-mechanical aspects of the game, but, especially for me, there is also an aesthetic subtlety at work here. Whenever play is elevated into excellence, it becomes beautiful - almost akin to an artform. Because indeed, to close with the words of Nietzsche, "when power becometh gracious and descendeth into the visible--I call such condescension, beauty."

Thanks for reading.

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Comments
Jan 20 2011 11:17pm

3th
 - Retired
 3th

and this is why Masta will always be a badass :D
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Sep 27 2010 06:30am

n00b
 - Student
 n00b

You could of just summed that all up with "Be Nice" to others playing with you. Listen, help, and don't be a butt.
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Jun 28 2010 11:43am

Piccolo
 - Student
 Piccolo

Okay so I read between the lines and I got to say: Man that's a lot of text! ;D Anyway, regarding the glitches/exploits in JKA: My opinion is that using poke is part of the game. Each person develops his own fighting style and I don't think it's fair to judge them; it is true that using the so called "exploits" gives you a small advantage but you're not unbeatable. You can defeat an "exploiter" using a clean style (and yes, extensions are part of the clean style in my opinion, others may not agree).
I'm not sure how on-topic I've been with this post but I felt the need to post something so ...
Good job on the article GERMasta (as always) :P

This comment was edited by Piccolo on Jun 28 2010 11:44am.

Jun 23 2010 06:48am

Xorb
 - Student
 Xorb

Ah, well, I meant more of like poke, strafe tricks, kartwheelz, and game play exploits t ......I have never actually heard of ''Q3infoboom exploits'', but server crashing is ftl. I may have heard of the hilt thing, making your saber longer or something, and that's pretty much cheating to use that in matches or even pug.
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Cleaning out scum and villainy . . . one wretched hive at a time.



Jun 21 2010 08:12pm

Masta
 - Jedi Instructor
 Masta

Hey Xorb, thanks for the comment.

What you called "exploring glitches" I basically termed "exploring gameplay", since there doesn't seem to be a difference between either of them, because, as I mentioned, what a glitch is depends on who you're asking.

In either case, I cannot say that I agree with you about "not fitting in anywhere else" if you as a player limit yourself to "the features of the game you (and your community) infer were intended by the designers". Take the ESL for example: that is an interpretive community that recognizes certain things (poke) as legit and genuine parts of the game, but they do recognize certain other phenomena as genuine glitches, with the most obvious examples being the hilt and q3infoboom exploits. They are disallowed and their use is being punished severely. I'm not sure, but I find it hard to see what they might be missing out on by disallowing server crashing exploits like the q3infoboom one, but that might be a question of taste and interpretation. Hm..

But I do agree that players that limit themselves solely and utterly to the ESL do 'miss out' on certain things though - but that depends on what kind of players we're talking about. I mean, they basically do miss out on the various other ways of playing the game, i.e. socializing or roleplaying on some JA+ server. However, that obviously depends if the players value such experiences to begin with - if they do not, they aren't going to miss out on much. If they do value them, however, I do not see why they wouldn't be able to 'fit in' with communities that focus on playing the game in such a way, especially since the players value such experiences.
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Jun 21 2010 07:21pm

Xorb
 - Student
 Xorb

wow, that's allot of text.

I would argue that without glitching, jka would be dead right now. I have been on servers recently where people spend hours ''exploring'' glitches, trying to sneak into walls, strafe jump (Q3 glitch) over huge distances or at great speeds, or refining pokes and spins. In fact, there are really cool maps out there that were designed to require glitching to overcome most obstacles.

True, communities can decide what they want in their game play. Fair enough. (I recently heard a fairly popular community now discourages fanning....wtf). But if you limit your mindset and just explore the features of the game you (and your community) infer were intended by the designers, you'll be missing out and you won't quite fit in anywhere else.
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Cleaning out scum and villainy . . . one wretched hive at a time.



Jun 20 2010 04:18pm

Eckyman
 - Student
 Eckyman

Quote:
I think we pretty much agree with one another.


Definitely. I must apologise if I seemed to be arguing against any of your points. I was treating this as more of a discussion than a debate really.

I realise I have rambled off the main topic somewhat, and with the years this game has been around the discussion on glitches/exploits will have done the rounds so many times it's probably beyond old news at this point - anything I add to the discussion will have already been done to death I imagine. I find your points on 'player excellence' and sportsmanship very interesting though. It's something I give thought to whenever I see anyone glitching or exploiting in any game/system and have discussed a little on my own blog in the past.

Great article, enjoyed reading it and the following discussion :) good stuff.
_______________
Padawan of Xanatos "You never say, "I'm gonna fight you, Steve." You just smile and act natural, and then you sucker-punch him." - Steve Zissou

Jun 19 2010 09:02pm

Masta
 - Jedi Instructor
 Masta

I think we pretty much agree with one another. In fact, there's hardly anything I can add to what you said.

One thing maybe as it relates to the ESL:

Quote:
That way the league can make a statement that the use of pokes is considered a glitch yet teams can decide amongst themselves before matches on the use of it. At least that way poke teams can play poke teams and non-pokers can play non-pokers?

That's fair and definitely possible in theory, but hardly anyone plays without poke anymore (or doesn't accept it as a genuine part of the game now). Nonetheless, the same idea about having teams decide certain things between one another before an official ESL match finds expression in other ways: for example, players that are new to a team are usually barred from participating in any team related matches for a week, but that rule can be somewhat circumvented if the other team allows the new player to participate. I've seen that happen quite often back when I was actively playing in the ESL. So yeah, it's the same principle applied in a different way.
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Find out more about the Jedi Academy Aurochs here and more about Masta here!
Married to Kain.


Jun 19 2010 07:29pm

Eckyman
 - Student
 Eckyman

Quote:
I don't see how that would gimp the game at all.


Sorry, I think I may have given the impression I thought the game would actually be gimped if these matters were fixed. I mentioned that and other points more as a point of discussion really.

Quote:
The developers can get involved, of course, most obviously through patching the game, but they can also get involved by proclaiming something a glitch without being able to patch it, e.g. because of insufficient funds or whatever. In the first case, everyone has to abide, no matter if they like to or not, whereas the second case is a bit more interesting: the devs, although authoritative figures, are a mere part of the overall community. This, however, means that the players that make up the community are not bound by the word of the developers.


Interesting point. At least if the developers made an official statement that it is considered glitching, it would at least carry more weight. While not bound by the word of the dev's it would at least settle the issue one way or another.

Back when we used to play Socom 2 & 3 (Playstation 2) as a clan in the European Socom League and GameBattles, a community agreement was made to not use grenade launchers in matches. As there was no respawn in a round, a player could equip a nade launcher and fire from their start point on some maps taking out an entire enemy team winning the round. I doubt the developers intended for this to be the case in competitive play but as a result of poor map design in some areas it was more than possible. This was discussed within the community and added to the agreed rules.

My example is a little different though. The PS2 game could not be patched to change this issue and so the community had to take matters into their own hands. Likewise with the poke, there was no official word from the Socom developers on the subject and I guess you could argue it is not their place to say. At the end of the day, beyond the single and standard out-of-the-box multiplayer game, any third party 'league' set up is technically an extra use of the product not intended by the developer. Any rules for competitive play should be enforced by the league organisers and not developers. If they were to weigh in on the subject, they would be inundated with requests to patch this or that as a result of a third party competitive leagues.

The closest example I can give is in Battlefield Bad Company 2 competitive play. In the GameBattles leagues, when we signed up the issue of mortar use in Rush mode was being heavily discussed. In rush the objective is to blow up the enemies M-Com stations (kinda look like crates basically) with C4 explosives planted close up. These crates are sometimes placed in buildings. Bad Company 2 has destructive buildings which can be taken out with mortar strikes. If the building falls, the M-Com station is destroyed enabling teams to bypass getting up close to plant C4 giving a safe way to win matches with little you can do in defence. No official word from developers, yet the ability to patch the issue exists on modern consoles. Again, the community has to solve the issue in a rules discussion.

Quote:
I mean, just imagine Raven making an official statement in regard to poke in JKA, proclaiming it a glitch and saying it shoudln't be used. Can you imagine the ESL leagues disallowing poke in that case?


While I don't know the ins and outs of the ESL, other third party leagues have shown it is possible for issues to be 'solved' by the players and league staff without a patch or developer intervention so I don't see why it could not be the case here. Enforcing them is a little harder obviously but not impossible with demo's/video capture, and player involvement. Going back to my Socom example, even though the league had deemed the use of nade launchers 'unfair', teams were still allowed to agree amongst themselves before matches if they were to be used. Perhaps that could be an option used here. That way the league can make a statement that the use of pokes is considered a glitch yet teams can decide amongst themselves before matches on the use of it. At least that way poke teams can play poke teams and non-pokers can play non-pokers? Again I really don't know enough on the situation so all I can do is compare with my own experience here.
_______________
Padawan of Xanatos "You never say, "I'm gonna fight you, Steve." You just smile and act natural, and then you sucker-punch him." - Steve Zissou

This comment was edited by Eckyman on Jun 19 2010 07:30pm.

Jun 19 2010 08:07am

Masta
 - Jedi Instructor
 Masta

I agree with you about providing players with a world inwhich they can create their own values and play with avatars that represent radically different characters. I don't have a problem with that - I think that's actually the right way to go. To not PK other players, i.e. teammates or low level players etc., won't be a choice if the developers don't even allow PvP combat. Good actions require choice.

Quote:
Not only that, but where do you draw the line on what an exploit actually is outside of the obvious stuff?


I'll quote the article on that one, since I answered it there:

Quote:
If the programming weakness itself is to be proclaimed as a glitch and its use penalized within certain communities or if the exploit is to become accepted and integrated as a part of the normal experience of playing the game is solely and utterly a question that can only be answered through community consensus. Because each and every player, being part of an interpretive community, helps to establish what is deemed acceptable behaviour, he therefore helps to determine what qualifies as sportsmanlike and unsportsmanlike as well.


So really, it's up to the community! The developers can get involved, of course, most obviously through patching the game, but they can also get involved by proclaiming something a glitch without being able to patch it, e.g. because of insufficient funds or whatever. In the first case, everyone has to abide, no matter if they like to or not, whereas the second case is a bit more interesting: the devs, although authoritative figures, are a mere part of the overall community. This, however, means that the players that make up the community are not bound by the word of the developers.

I mean, just imagine Raven making an official statement in regard to poke in JKA, proclaiming it a glitch and saying it shoudln't be used. Can you imagine the ESL leagues disallowing poke in that case?

Quote:
Going back to JK, to patch out poke, or wiggle.. how do you go about something like that?

That doesn't seem too difficult, although I clearly haven't put much thought into it: cap the maximum amount of damage that one swing can do and make it equivalent or a bit greater than the amount of damage that this particular swing is doing on average.

I don't see how that would gimp the game at all. Combos involve multiple swings, parries are swings on their own etc., they just won't be able to insta you. The game would be less random as a result.
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This comment was edited by Masta on Jun 19 2010 08:09am.

Jun 18 2010 10:18pm

Eckyman
 - Student
 Eckyman

Quote:
If a game has been explored so thoroughly that it falls victim to tactics that the developers never would have thought of and which seem to imbalance the gameplay to such a degree, then we're talking about a genuine flaw in design here. That's ok, because no game is ever perfect, let alone one that focuses so much on its MP component - this is why patches are crucial in determining the overall long-term quality of a game.


Well, this is very true and a great example of 'emergent gameplay' backfiring to a degree.

Taking JK for example. At it's core the saber system is fairly simple. Left will swing left, right will swing right etc. No fancy button combo's just movement and aiming. Obviously mastering it takes time, but from a design aspect it's not too complicated. It's these kinds of systems in the right setting that can create some truly excellent, dynamic gaming moments. The ability to form your own style of fighting to a degree in JK is such an example. It's certainly the most intriguing aspect of the game to me as each fight can be a little different and most tactics seem to have an equal counter.

The other side to it is, with that kind of freedom players will find ways to break things... All the time.

As you say, this exposes a genuine flaw in design that should be patched. But then how do you go about patching something like poke in this game? Not only that, but where do you draw the line on what an exploit actually is outside of the obvious stuff?

Lets say... wiggling the mouse to get multiple hits on one swing. In the infinitely unlikely event you ever found yourself not only in possession of a saber, but fighting for your life with it. Would you wiggle the blade as you swung it towards your opponent to maximise damage? Or attempt to fight cleanly, with solid strikes? In reality, many opponents would fight unfairly as we all know. In a fistfight, a groin kick is only a broken nose away after all. It makes sense that some saber combatants would find ways to get two hits in one strike if they fight dirty. It's not fair but real life does reflect this.

Should you patch out the ability for people to be cheap in a game that at it's core strives to provide players with a free fighting system to use as they please? Even if that means being cheap? I don't approve or particularly disapprove of 'cheap' tactics in games but it certainly raise some interesting discussions.

Going off on a tangent but still on sort of the same lines. Look at EVE. The game mechanics in place encourage player driven content and emergent gameplay. From the miners, to the crafters making ships, all the way up the lines to the large scale conflicts over ownership of areas of space. The same mechanics in place however give players the ability to game the system. To manipulate large groups of players. To sabotage, grief, scam, and generally wind up anyone you want. To patch out these 'issues' would not only take away valuable assets to players using them for the 'right' reasons, but would take something away from the game itself as it strives to be a minor reflection of reality, complete with all the good and bad things that can happen.

Going back to JK, to patch out poke, or wiggle.. how do you go about something like that? Do you lower damages when the mouse is moving over a certain speed? Do you make only the entry/exit saber wounds cause damage? How does this affect combos, timing, parries? Will it adversely affect players who use the system fairly? Not only that, but as I mentioned earlier.. if you remove these aspects from a game that strives to provide a free flowing fighting system, do you in fact take something away from the appeal of the game by removing the freedom to fight cheaply?

I guess it comes down to.. Do you patch and risk gimping the saber system, or do you hope players will follow some code of 'honour/ethics' laid out by the community/clans?
_______________
Padawan of Xanatos "You never say, "I'm gonna fight you, Steve." You just smile and act natural, and then you sucker-punch him." - Steve Zissou

Jun 18 2010 05:33pm

Masta
 - Jedi Instructor
 Masta

I appreciate your comment, Eckyman. One thing that you mentioned I find especially interesting:

Quote:
Not strictly against the rules, but when you throw out tactics and strategy for a mindless zergfest, how much of the game you were playing actually remains? How long can you zerg without getting bored of not even having to think much about your own actions?


If a game has been explored so thoroughly that it falls victim to tactics that the developers never would have thought of and which seem to imbalance the gameplay to such a degree, then we're talking about a genuine flaw in design here. That's ok, because no game is ever perfect, let alone one that focuses so much on its MP component - this is why patches are crucial in determining the overall long-term quality of a game.

Think Starcraft, for example, which still gets the occasional patch even after about 12 years of retail. And with a game that receives as that much support, none of the factions are overpowered, none of the units are completely useless. If you compare that to Zero Hour though, where China INF and USA AIR have (or used to have, at least) significant imbalances, the difference that patching makes becomes especially obvious.
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Find out more about the Jedi Academy Aurochs here and more about Masta here!
Married to Kain.


Jun 18 2010 04:48pm

Eckyman
 - Student
 Eckyman

Interesting read. It's something I've given a bit of thought to in the past.

Having played in the same clan/gaming community for the last 6 years, I've seen a few dodgy players come and go that stretched game rules beyond what I would call acceptable. I accept that what may be dodgy to me is perfectly fine to others but we still try and weed those players out of the community. Not to be nasty, simply because we don't play that way and if you want to, there are plenty of clans who don't mind that stuff. While you can’t be too strict about it, I've found it only needs one person to act like an asshat to brand your entire clan as asshats. The actions of one can take the actions of many to put right again, if at all. Something you don't want if you expect any respect from a gaming community.

Personally, although I have competed competitively across a few FPS games, I maintain the attitude that if I'm beaten, I'm beaten. I try to take it as a learning experience and adapt for next time. Sure if I get thrashed I'll maybe get frustrated, but I won’t use underhanded tacs to gain a competitive advantage.

Now, if I'm playing with friends, and the atmosphere is a little more relaxed, then maybe I'll stretch my rules a little. Even though grenade launchers were very frowned on in competitive socom play, in a closed room with friends we used to light the place up with nade launchers and think nothing of it - as long as everyone agreed to use them.

I largely think community and current company dictate a large part of in-game actions for a lot of players.

Say here for example. I hope to play here for some time so it's in my best interests to adhere to the rules in place. For someone who just drops in at random, has no interest in a long term commitment and is only looking for a quick game, the rules will seem to be less important to that player and he/she may act up a little more.

I guess what I'm getting at is the more you think of the community, the more likely you are to try and promote your name as a fair player. You gain friends faster and overall the playing experience becomes a lot nicer, or so I have found. Winning/losing is a by-product in my opinion. If I can be known as someone who plays fair, but perhaps loses more than he wins... that's enough for me. Not to say I wouldn't like more wins of course ;) but ultimately it's less of a factor to me.

Of course the flipside is there will always be players that want to win as a primary factor and will stretch the boundaries of the rules a little more to achieve this. If they are not really bothered about making friends, or being part of a larger community, chances are you will see the rules stretched more than is acceptable. There will always be the argument that if it's possible to do in-game then it's a valid tactic. Well this is true, but only in the same way as it's a valid tactic to show up to a knife fight with a Katana when the other guy has a pen knife.

This brings me to another point. Something I learnt from playing Warcraft. Many players simply want the fastest win with the least amount of effort. This was a big problem in Warcraft that kicked in around the first expansion. When people realised that you could clear a dungeon and pick up loot a lot quicker with a tank that could handle large groups of mobs at once, that was how everyone wanted it. Suddenly tanks that were better at smaller groups or single targets were being left out. Damage classes that handled crowd control and single target damage found themselves passed over for a class that could do Area of Effect attacks allowing them to burn down groups of mobs faster.

This trivialised a lot of content to be easier than intended. Exploiting? Well not really, but certainly stacking the odds in your favour beyond what would be considered normal.

Now, my opinion on the validity of this is neither here nor there, my point is more that some players will always look for the shortest route to get to the destination. If that means structuring a group around the ability to kill multiple enemies at once, or wobbling the mouse around to score multiple hits with a saber that you normally wouldn't, eventually it will become the norm for players.

Warhammer online would have been a great game had it not been for the players never ending search for the most efficient way to earn as much rewards for as little input. What started as a very tactical game, with a large group splitting down into factions, flanking, ambushes, attacking from multiple angles to scatter the defences... soon boiled down to simply getting as many players on one side as possible and zerging everything. Not strictly against the rules, but when you throw out tactics and strategy for a mindless zergfest, how much of the game you were playing actually remains? How long can you zerg without getting bored of not even having to think much about your own actions?

Similarly I feel the same in JKA. Sure I've twisted the odd saber strike, or tried to wiggle my mouse on an aerial (just made me feel queasy tho lol) from time to time if people are not taking it seriously. But to rely only on those tactics kind of seems like ripping two thirds of the game out and just spamming the same glitchy moves to win.

I often wonder is there any value in winning if it is achieved only via a dodgy fashion? TBH I don’t have enough experience with this game to comment much on the matter.

EDIT: Sry for the long reply lol, got carried away on that one

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Padawan of Xanatos "You never say, "I'm gonna fight you, Steve." You just smile and act natural, and then you sucker-punch him." - Steve Zissou

This comment was edited by Eckyman on Jun 18 2010 04:51pm.

Jun 18 2010 08:11am

Masta
 - Jedi Instructor
 Masta

Apologies for the ugly format. I don't have the means to fix the spaces.
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Find out more about the Jedi Academy Aurochs here and more about Masta here!
Married to Kain.


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