Characteristics of Multiplayer GamesLessons from the World of Paper Gaming K. Robert Gutschera Senior Game Designer, The Amazing Society GDC March 2009 Joint work with Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias
Multiplayer Gaming • Here, 3+ players • Sports, card games, board games as well as computer games • Such games share common problems – and solutions.
Overview • Races and Brawls • Player Elimination • Interaction • Politics and Kingmaking • Races and Brawls, redux • Some Solutions
Multiplayer/Multisided • 2-sided team games are structurally like 2-player games. • We’re interested in games with 3 or more sides. • Typically, but not necessarily (e.g. DaoC PvP), with 1 player per side.
Some Definitions • Orthogame — A game with rules that result in a ranking or weighting of the players (time, score, winners or losers). • Orthochallenge — A one-player orthogame.
Two Types of Multiplayer Games Two basic ways to build a multiplayer game: glue together… … orthochallenges, to get a race. … 2-player orthogames, to get a brawl.
Player Elimination Two basic types: • Strict: you’re out (but game continues). • Logical: you’ve got no chance to win (but you’re still playing). Basic problem: what to do with eliminated player?
Elimination Trilemma Designer faces a choice between: • Strict elimination (but then eliminated players are sad). • Logical elimination (maybe still sad, and causing trouble as well). • Everyone has a chance until the end (but then all but the last part of the game may be meaningless).
Interactivity:Friend or Foe? Players can interact with: • the computer • one other player(i.e. 2-player game) • several other players(i.e. multiplayer game) We’re interested in (c). If a player can choose who they interact with, we call it targeted interaction. So what’s wrong with that?!
Limited Interactivity in Classic Games Classic multiplayer games have fairly limited interactivity: • footrace • Chinese checkers • poker Why are there so few highly interactive classic games?
Model Game:The Chip-taking Game Each player begins with 10 chips. On his turn, a player may destroy 1 chip of any other player. Winner is last person left with any chips. • Hard to understand game state • Not much fun • Many multiplayer games are this game in disguise Is A really winning here?
Politics in Games Politics: when players make targeted decisions for reasons other than their own in-game benefit. • Not politics: I attack you because I need your clay. • Politics: I attack you at random, or because I don’t like your shirt. • Political problems happen when a game has: • 3 or more sides • Strong interactivity • Targeted interactivity • Lack of incentives to choose one target over another
Common Political Behaviors — 1 • Pick on the leader • Try to appear non-threatening • Wait for others to fight it out • Cajole, whine, beg • Revenge and the threat of revenge
Common Political Behaviors — 2 • Explain to victim why your choice was “fair” • Convince aggressor to find a different victim • Hope someone else will “fall on grenade” • With no chance to win, pick someone and help him win (“kingmaking”)
Kingmaking When a player who can’t win decides the winner of the game. • Disliked: Politics “in the extreme”. • Hard to design out: If a player is logically eliminated, what prevents them from targeting arbitrarily?
Model Game:The Balloon-popping Game A, B, and C simultaneously throw a dart at each other’s balloons, hit chance 60%, 50%, and 40% (respectively). • You’d expect B and C to “gang up on the leader” A. • In this case, B wins 19% of the time. • But if B targets C instead, B’s win chance goes up to 23%! Picking on the leader isn’t always as rational as it appears.
The Good Side of Politics Mostly bad, but some good: • Some players enjoy it • Chance for low-skilled players to compete • Exciting to the end • Can be fun to watch (e.g. Survivor)
What’s So Bad about Politics? In extreme cases: • Tends to overwrite all other game mechanics • Discourages players from acquiring skill: being good just gets you picked on, so why bother?
Model Game:Chip-taking Chess The multiplayer chip-taking game, but each time play a game of chess. Kill 2 chips if you win, 1 if you lose. • Game has all the skill of chess, but it’s not relevant: Kasparov does not win this game! • This behavior is general: any game with skill in the mechanics but too much politics can end up here. +
Intended Audience and Multiplayer Issues Casual • Less accepting of player elimination. • More accepting of politics. Hardcore • More accepting of player elimination. • Less accepting of politics.
Races and Brawls, redux (These aren’t absolutes, but tendencies — what problems to watch out for based on fundamental game type.) How do races compare to brawls in terms of these multiplayer game characteristics?
Solving Multiplayer Problems Basic Principle: Think about the underlying game type. Maybe change it: • Go to 2-sided team. • Use temporary teams (mafia, WoW battlegrounds). • Switch from brawl to race or vice-versa. Or keep it, but tweak….
Tweaking Races and Brawls Depending on the basic underlying type, different tweaks are needed: • Races need guns.(e.g. Mario Kart) • Brawls need limits.(e.g. Rise of Nations)
Controlling Player Elimination Some strategies: • Give losing players a reasonable chance to win (not so easy!) • Quickly convert logically elim. to strictly elim. • “Eliminate the winners” (e.g. footrace, Old Maid) • Be short! • Have a score that matters
Controlling Politics Some strategies: • Limit overall interactivity (e.g. choose race over brawl) • Limit targeting • Allow targeting, but give reasons for preferring one target over another • Give rewards for player elimination
Controlling Kingmaking Some strategies: • Target preferences won’t work • Hard limits on targeting still will • Strictly eliminate players • Limit the power of losing players
If you don’t want a chip-taking game… … don’t let your game turn into one! Questions? email: firstname.lastname@example.org