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AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

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AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

Post  Master Knight DH on Wed Nov 30, 2016 3:44 pm

A problem I have consistently seen with the Advance Wars communities is all the hostility toward each other. Even as the whole collective scene manages to end up dying, they see fit to keep up the infighting. Why does this happen?

By the looks of things, there's a reddit thread, ironically by one of the clearly more unrepentant people, that brings up what causes the Broken Base:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/5f7j44/complexifying_the_game_specializing_stat_bonuses/dajogww/

So what's my theory? Simple: playstyles.

One side has the people who prefer Days of Ruin style. These people are who I am bringing up first. Anybody who is familiar with Smash Bros. communities would know these types: hyperaggressive players who want everything to be overpowered, ban or mock anything that could make their games more vibrant, and simply think being abrasive, insensitive, and devoid of empathy is just part of the video gaming culture. That thread I linked to? It couldn't be a better example of what I'm talking about, as the guy in question claims that AWBW map makers are bad at their job and looks down on them as overly defensive types. What a surprise that this exists:
http://forums.warsworldnews.com/viewtopic.php?t=13109

The hyperaggressive gameplay alone warrants being brought up. It creates pessimism, because suddenly too many things either suck or are "just decent" (read: overpowered) so whole games succumb to stagnation. This punishes playing by heart because any attempts to try out new things just get silenced by the inevitable imbalances. Funny how Pac-Man became popular by appealing to females instead of giving into filth. And I'm going to clarify that that article is among the first results of Googling "Pac-Man" + appeal, which I was searching for in trying to write my analysis of the seemingly simplistic muncher's design in Super Smash Bros. 4. Oh but wait, Pac-Man shouldn't have been in Smash 4 in place of Lloyd from Tales of Symphonia. He sucks! Yeah, watch this:


(And for the record, the lack of Bonus Fruit or Hydrant is intentional. It's actually habitual at this point I do that, but either of them would provide me significant tools for staying away from full Limit Cloud anyway.)

You see the problem with these stubbornly apathetic people: that to them, ideas are just a dime a dozen that come from idiots, not individual concepts that would likely benefit from TLC, when they have massive egos to begin with.

With the Days of Ruin people, they believe that for example maps should be 2 base rather than 3 base, which has the problem that the FTA Counter typically involves the expo base. That's a fine example of them being hyperaggressive, simply because they disregard the reason maps would be 3 base. The Chessboard remark for justifying allowing the Black Bomb in Dual Strike matches also adds to this by making this scream neo-teenager thought process. I actually understand and to an extent advocate things like Chess 2's Midline Invasion Rule which comes to mind, but when designing a game, such things have to be understood well and checked for probably obvious abuses to make sure they don't overstep their bounds. Hyperaggressive players don't care and so in later iterations of a franchise, the items responsible for abuse get nerfed too horribly without some welcome accommodating rebalances to avoid castrated gameplay.

In my points against the AWBW map makers themselves, I'm really just playing devil's advocate more than anything, because I do very much believe that too much offense suffocates creativity rather than actually bolster it. Too much offense favors cavemen and bullies, and that's not something we want in ANY game that isn't meant to be easy, let alone a strategy game. It's too little offense, the exact opposite problem, that becomes the concern, though it does let me better answer Qs from anybody who thinks I'm being hypocritical.

There are two key points to wanting offense in a game: vigor and adaptability. Good offense means everybody wants to attack into each other frequently enough instead of just turtle and never find themselves needing to overcome adversity. There's a reason I would get interested in games like Battalion Wars and Kingdom Rush simply due to their basic gameplay concepts that involve micromanagement. For the record, both are very easily at their best when they balance between working with the given core mechanic and avoiding overreliance on it, and plenty of games out there have suffered surprising shallowness for failing to do the latter.

I am remembering as I write this whole thing that the AWBW map makers do realize that things like infantry spam can get problematic, so they definitely care. I think the big issue is execution. The most blatant is how HQ positioning is often handled: the HQ exists to provide an instant win condition that would stop slow bleeding games and camping. I don't think it's been easy to remember because the cart games themselves barely even make use of the HQ and tend to make it too easy to guard. Even so, however, this sort of thing in tandem with the desire for chessboard positions (although I think the Black Bomb has legitimate balance problems anyway) has me wonder if AWBW map makers are as cautious as I myself can get.

You see where I get going with this and what I end up seeing: the people who are like the AWBW map makers are traditionalists, while the Days of Ruin crowd are into the here-and-now, and it reflects on the given playstyles. Both have their strengths, but both have their clear weaknesses as well, even running significant risk of overfavoring something degenerate: important armors being automatic in the case of the former, and don't get hit logic being taken too far and suffocating character choice by ruining defensive power for the latter.

For designing future maps or even future games, I implore the designers to ask themselves this: what options will actually require the most thought to use with any efficiency? Anything that allows free damage, such as projectiles, is right out. For AW maps, the answer is likely the Anti-Air Tank, which has to fear its hard counter being less expensive while it hits only specific if otherwise threatening enough things. In most games, it is guaranteed the answer is standard anti-armor, which has to worry about its low range and likely some other reason an otherwise obvious answer to anything plated could get passed up. The answer to my question is ultimately variable, but generally is, as I point out, something technical that runs minimized risk of breaking the game and its selling points, which would have rewarding its efficient usage and overcoming clear weaknesses by giving it enough useful power actually help the game along.

At the very least, exposing the more consistent design flaws would help anything following in Shattered Throne's footsteps. Also, I do get that people are different, but there are consistent patterns, ones that better understood could help the communities evolve better.
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Re: AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

Post  ichbinsehselber on Wed Nov 30, 2016 4:39 pm

You wrote so much, it is hard to take everything into account in my reply. So I just want to say my 5 cents:

It is important to distinguish between community issues and discussion about content.

1.) There should be a space (e.g. this forum) to discuss content issues like several of the points you mention in your text (map design, balancing etc.)
2.) People should be aware that this is a game and disagreeing should not be the same as pointing guns at the person.
3.) Aggressiveness IN-GAME is ok but it is a game and a symbolic hand shake would be nice at the end of a game.

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Re: AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

Post  Master Knight DH on Wed Nov 30, 2016 6:54 pm

I personally think that a key portion of the way communities behave tend to happen because of the way a metagame develops. There's a reason I linked to the Pac-Man article. Pac was conceptualized because arcades were sicksack places before due to being so focused on testosterone, and his designer wanted to change that. Okay, so he wanted to appeal to women, but even so, the point is that a gaming community can be significantly affected by its games' core design.

Not everybody is what at least becomes a stereotype in their community, of course, but it would certainly help to try to make sure to prove that much.
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Re: AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

Post  Xmo5 on Mon Dec 05, 2016 10:31 am

Very interesting read, for sure. I can certainly see how the AWBW meta could be overly defensive, but it's difficult to balance in practice. You need enough shielding to allow for arties (or any vulnerable unit) to have a safe spot in the battle, but it needs to be open enough that the shielding is limited and strategic, such that you have to out-think your opponent's moves to be effective with it. While this all sounds good, execution can be difficult so maps don't always come out that way, even if they're designed to.

I also think that it's a very tricky balancing act, and leaning toward the AWBW side of the meta (perhaps too defensive) is a safer pick. I think the dropoff is much steeper in gameplay if you make it too offensive vs if you make it equivalently too defensive. Overly offensive gameplay (such as you see with high funds:base ratio) becomes a slug fest, devoid of strategy, while the drawback of overly defensive is hindered strategic possibilities and a potentially longer game. For average players, myself included, hindered strategy doesn't significantly impact outcome or enjoyment because they simply aren't good enough to reap the benefits of high-level strategy. They would, however, notice the difference if you gave them an equivalently offensive map, I believe. What might be ideally strategic for you might feel too exposed or offensive in play style to an average player because they (again, myself included) lack the ability to develop an effective formation under those circumstances. Not to say that we should ignore the idea altogether but, to generalize the situation grossly, I think this might be a big part of why many of the AWBW maps look the way they do: they need to appeal to a wide range of skills and yet still incorporate strategy to the degree that this constraint permits. Why would most map designers risk making a map too offensive and losing virtually all (AWBW) playability when they can be a bit more conservative and know that, at worst, they'll sacrifice a bit of strategy in exchange for a larger target audience?

Same goes for HQs: I'd argue that it's safer to leave them less exposed, when in doubt. If the HQs are too exposed, the battle can be too rushed and anticlimactic, without any real strategic combat forming. Everyone races to the exposed HQ so that's where all the combat and resources go. If they're not as exposed, you at least get (all else being equal) a solid gameplay until one player gives. The HQ capture is not necessary to achieve victory on a well-designed map as a simple income disparity will make the win certain enough. In short: Yes, exposed HQs can be great for driving solid gameplay and avoiding prolonged battles, but the same can be achieved through other means and exposing the HQ too much is a far greater detriment to gameplay than having an uncapturable HQ.

Just my thoughts on the matter. I enjoy reading your analyses, even if I don't always get a chance to comment. It's nice to see someone having the discussion- this is what our community needs!

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Re: AW communities Broken Base - my hunch

Post  Iordor on Mon Jan 09, 2017 10:34 pm

In turn based games you need urgency to force decisions otherwise the game will lead to stagnation because it is almost impossible to gain an edge without it. Chess has the middle four squares (similar to cities in AW) that when are taken over give a huge advantage of position and attack possibility to the beholder.

It should be noted that AW is not a grand-strategy game, but a tactical-strategy game. Hard calculations and decisive actions are what separate this genre and makes it fun and action packed - heck they even give you super powers to make these things more explosive.
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