On Balance: Credibility, please

My fellow Americans, we need to buff British artillery and nerf the Pershing again. Really.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.

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13 Responses to On Balance: Credibility, please

  1. Kersal says:

    In the last Beta playtest a lot of casual gamer joined in the last days, posting a lot of *suggestions* about changes on balance. At the end, on the final release, no one of this *suggestions* was taken. This means that even the developers understand the difference between casual gamers and skilled player.

  2. If some random guy posts a bad idea, that’s fine with me. But when he insists he’s right and that better and more experienced players are wrong, and gets nasty about it, THAT becomes annoying.

  3. Jamin says:

    Nice job surprise.

  4. daeyeth says:

    “I believe that forums such as GR.org should allow all players to post opinions on balance”

    Huh? Where are you getting this from? Point me to the thread. Anyone can post anything on whatever balance they want, though we would strongly prefer it be in the balance forum. And we lock some balance threads because they degenerate into “Commandos are OP!” – “Uh, no, ACs are OP”. First, these two statements have nothing to do with each other but ppl seem to saying things like that negate what the other person just said. Second, this just goes back-and-forth with no one conceding any ground or even listening to each other for that matter. Eventually, someone’s feelings get butt hurt and flaming escalates.

    How are we limiting free speech? It’s our site, our house, our rules. When you step into our house, you give away your rights and you play by our rules. I’d like to hope that we have sensible, logical rules that don’t seem too crazy to follow.

  5. daeyeth says:

    I jumped the gun a little there because your bolded ending statement jumped out at me. I agree with most of what you said.

  6. Speaking just for me, I think GR mods are generally on target. They have shut down threads before that I thought were fairly harmless, however the overall strictness seriously deters retarded posts.

    You just don’t see as many retarded posts started on GR.org as you do in other forums for gaming communities, such as the Street Fighter games (Shoryuken.com).

  7. 13laded says:

    Hrhr!

    An article saying what we’ve been saying for years 😛 Now I can just link people instead of having to write it out for every irritating thread.

  8. 12azor says:

    Noobs shouldn’t be allowed to give opinions on balance as they don’t play the same game – they play a far inferior game and the game would become more balance for them if they simply practised and got better.

    However, given the logically progression of the ideas in this article Surprise I would argue that the balance team at Relic shouldn’t really be allowed to venture opinions on balance =/.

  9. Razor that is absolutely true, however the only problem is getting that message across to noobs who won’t listen and who are too arrogant. You can’t just prevent them from posting balance opinions (based on what? an arbitrary win/loss ratio?), you can only hope their opinions will be debunked and rejected. Which is what happens, usually.

    Remember too that few people become really, really good at the game, where skill balances a lot of things out.

    Relic, like most game companies, would prefer to make the game “balanced” for the largest demographic of paying gamers. That would not be people as good as you or Surprise.

    But mercifully, this largest demographic is also quite a bit better than many of the random noobs that have been screaming balance ideas lately. We can hope for the best.

  10. surpriseprime says:

    I believe that if a game is balanced at the top, you won’t have problems with balance at a lower level, people just need to be more familiar with the game and its balanced for them too.

  11. Logabob says:

    I’ve posted some n00b threads before, unbeknowst of my own stupidity (I am a n00b and I don’t deny it). I got what I deserved, but I still see posts like these appearing every now and then…

    This should slink it’s way over to GR in some way.

  12. Blitz says:

    not much can be done…

    good article surprise

  13. jodonnell says:

    Great editorial, I agree completely. It’s actually for this reason that I wish high level players would post more frequently on balance threads – I can understand that these players have seen the same balance threads recur over and over, and get the feeling there is no point arguing at another noob brick wall. However, I think it’s important for high levels to weigh in at least occasionally, lest they cede the argument entirely to said noobs. Top players have a lot of credibility and can powerfully shift the momentum of an argument – Sepha’s post on Strafing Runs a while back very much brought the issue front and center, because he has enough credibility that he can shape the perceptions of the masses. A top player explaining why something is balanced and does not need to be fixed (or vice versa) might help quell the “chattering class” on GR.

    Or, of course, that could all be a pipe dream.

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