Recently I’ve seen an alarming trend popping up on GR.org and in the two RTS games I play (Command & Conquer 3 and COH). Random people that play the game seem to think everyone wants to hear their ideas on how to make the game better, usually by suggesting balance changes. The problem with a random player trying to solve a balance problem is he does not have a solid understanding of the game. Therefore, he is unlikely to realize the implications of his proposed changes. Having a random player try and fix what is wrong about the British faction is like a random guy on the street trying to propose ideas on how to cure herpes. Obviously in the real world no one would care what a random guy has to say about such a complex problem, but the same random guy thinks that online, we do care about his opinions on balance.
I believe that to propose a solution to a complex problem you should have sufficient experience in the area the problem exists in. I also believe that this statement is true both in terms of scientific study in real life, and to serious study of complex games such as COH. Obviously advancing human knowledge in the fields of science is more important than advancing it in computer games played for fun, however the rules of credibility apply in both. In real life a scientist proves he is credible by proposing a hypothesis, testing it via experimentation, and then forming a conclusion. After that, other scientists look over his work and make sure they can replicate it and form the same conclusions. They author articles in peer-reviewed journals that report their results and back it up with data.
In the realm of video games, a player proves he is credible by exploiting his knowledge of the game to defeat other players. The previous statement is especially true if both players disagree on a fact of the game, such as “strategy X is unbeatable.” A player trying to prove his hypothesis that strategy X is in fact beaten by counter Y will play against the player saying strategy X is unbeatable. The game then decides the winner. A player’s skill can obviously skew the results of the experiment, however in COH player skill at a high level does not come from micro, and instead comes from knowledge of the game and how it is played, making reasonable experiments possible. It is quite rare that there is such an unbeatable strategy. Usually comes down to players knowing the few situations in which counter y works against strategy X. If both players understand the situations in which both strategies win, the object of the game for both players becomes about making the situation that favors them happen. From then on, the game is decided by many factors (usually mind games) and to explain them would be beyond the scope of this post. The point is the game can be used to test hypothesis and theories and will reliably present data through wins and losses.
For further evidence to support my argument that random people should not propose ideas on how to fix problems they don’t know much about, I looked to the field of science. The scientific community has largely adopted a peer review system for determining what information should be published in its journals (their equivalent of forums). The peer review system ensures that bad information is not published and distributed and that the author of whatever information submitted is credible. Authors without sufficient experience or knowledge to write about a topic won’t get published, it’s that simple.
I believe that forums such as GR.org should allow all players to post opinions on balance, their moderators are limiting free speech enough as it is. But in the same way free speech works in real life, I wouldn’t want to encourage a guy running around yelling racist remarks. Ultimately it comes down to this: when a guy makes a statement about COH, all I want is a little credibility, please.