Shenanigans vs Stable Strategy

Playing SSF4 online a bunch, I’m seeing a lot of this. I see a lot of players who are downright doomed never to improve. Whats worse, I sometimes lose to these players! Thats a bittersweet thing, but it’s something I have to accept. The difference comes to trying to win with stable strategy vs tryin g to win with shenanigans. The goal of stable strategy is to try and develop habits and techniques that will potentionally be able to win in any situation. Shenanigans on the other hand is doing what would normally be incredibly stupid stuff. In SSF4, Ken doing his fierce DP over and over again, T.Hawk spamming dive and spinning 360s every possible moment. In Starcraft it’s like 2 pooling as Zerg and rushing every game. None of these tactics are ‘good’, but they can win from time to time against bad players. In games like SSF4 which are populated by bad players, they can win a LOT……. up to a point.

Now, it’s hard to explain to someone who wins like this that it’s a totally awful idea. I mean, they’re winning! Thats the point, right? Well yes and no. I could win a 100% of the time against my cat by pressing jab all day. The idea is to be able to win against the best opponents possible, as consistently as possible. Shenanigans can win because they are unexpected, or the player doesn’t know the counter (usually easy) or can’t effectively punish it with their level of knowledge… but once one plays against a sufficiently skilled opponent, the Shenanigans are no longer not effective, THEY ARE DETRIMENTAL. You give up so much, for such an easily counterable strategy. You are merely led on by those who do not understand the tactic. You write off your losses, focusing on your wins…. But you will never catch up to the players who beat you with that mentality. They practically have you beaten forever until you change your game at a fundamental level.

Shenanigans have their uses (though rarely are they the same shenanigans the player is using currently, but thats another story). Sometimes it’s good to throw something wacky out there to catch someone off guard. The problem for these low level players is that not only is shenanigans their ‘plan A”………… There is no ‘plan B’. Thats it — beat their trick and they flail in panic. Sometimes its hard to tell — sometimes you can throw out tons of shenanigans and actually beat a player better than you occasionally…. but for what? You are throwing your win to the random number god. Sometimes you get lucky with your BS, other times (most of the time) he’ll just punish you. I get this with a lot of people I play with. I will lose to them occasionally, but they will mostly be in a spot where they will have little luck improving. It’s useful for me, because I can use this to clear how to properly deal with such nonsense and move on eventually…. The player will likely be stuck where he was though, making tiny improvements at best. Instead, they should be developing solid, safe and consistent play while not being deterred when they lose. Switching to that style may represent an actual increase in loses at first, but the rewards are CONSTANT wins and the ability to beat much stronger opponents. It also leads to near limitless improvement!

Moral of the story: Don’t cheese your wins until your good enough to realize how cheesy your cheese is. Otherwise you’ll confuse ‘cheese’ with something more substantial. Besides, when you get better you’ll learn about some HIGH LEVEL CHEESE you can use occasionally and that cheese is just soooo much more taster. So go read up on your game and try and find the best way to improve!

Why I hate Left 4 Dead

Someone left a comment asking me why I hated Left 4 Dead. I was going to link him to my article on the subject, but noticed it wasn’t there anymore. Weird! So I’m reposting it, unedited, from a mirror I found at gamejolt. I didn’t necessarily wanna drag the issue back up, but I don’t wanna leave a hole in my post library.

This is how most my dates start.

This is how most my dates start.

More hating on Valve! This is sort of like the the Blazblue post. I need something I can link too every time someone is shocked that I hate the L4D series. Let me preface this a bit… I think Blazblue is like, objectively pretty shitty in it’s design. L4D on the other had is just one big, clever illusion. It is well designed in a sense, but the game is extremely shallow. So all that said, you shouldn’t feel bad for liking L4D (or even Blazblue, though you should at least acknowledge it’s gaping flaws).

The game is artificial. I often say I hate the game, to which people reply “Well you must not like team work!” or something (sometimes they accuse me of not liking fun, which is more accurate in general, though L4D bores me to tears). I always found this funny because -there is no real team work in L4D-. This is color by numbers team work. Why do you pick your friend up? Because when you get pounced or hurt, you need your friends to keep you from dying. You pick him up because you are incomplete. It doesn’t just benefit you and your team to pick him up — it is critical to your survival. The game has a gun to your head and is saying ‘pick up your team mates because if you have no team you will abruptly die to some special infected.”

Maybe one of the best things to result from L4D

Maybe one of the best things to result from L4D

Now sure, this is ‘team work’. You are working and doing so as a team, but you are mostly just going through the motions. It is team work in the same way patty cake is team work. You follow a series of almost immutable rules. Move as a group, pick up friends, jump at the same time, focus fire the tank — whatever, pretty much. Variating from any of these is practically suicide. Now I can play TF2 which we jokingly call ‘personal glory fortress’, but team work, while optional, is highly rewarded and takes actual skill and coordination. The team work angle in L4D is pretty much a farce. Special Infected in verses takes team work, but thats it — incidently, thats the only time I ever actually enjoyed the game.

The other thing people state is ‘hey it’s co-op!’ — well, I hate co-op. Doesn’t make co-op bad, but I can dismiss this point personally. This is partially why I think the game succeeds (mixed with zombie romance) with most people.

This is how most of my dates end

This is how most of my dates end

So besides the lack of team work, what else is wrong? Well, the game is secretly DEVOID OF GAMEPLAY. People will lol and laugh when they beat a zombie to death with a bowling pin, but thats not really ‘gameplay’. Aesthetics and visercial feel matter, but lets be realistic. Thats not properly ‘gameplay’, those things need to be supported by gameplay… and the gameplay in L4D is a watered down Doom. You run around with hit scan weapons and shoot mostly harmless targets. Occasionally a SI drops down and hits someone then you kill him because he has no control over his character. Great. To make it worse, due to the above mentioned rules above, you can’t do anything but follow the predefined routine. No running off rambo style to slaughter zombies unless you wanna endanger your team. Single player is stuffy and dull. I never once feared death because it was so out of my hand. I was relying on 3 outher human beings for my mere survival and the SI can come down so hard and fast that death often came out of nowhere. I suppose some found this to be ‘tense’, but that just made me ‘zzzzz’. So little at stake, so little control, so little options, so little in the terms of interesting weapons.

You know whats a better co-op game where you fight hordes of the undead? Doom. Don’t wanna play Doom? Serious Sam. Interesting weapons and enemies and a sense of overwhelmingness! Sounds good to me!

Everything ever crafted by man has a Touhou crossover

Everything ever crafted by man has a Touhou crossover

So anyways I said the SI are fun, but only SOMEWHAT. See, they’re horridly designed, especially the first batch. With the first batch, everything but the Boomer was pretty much dead after they hit a target. After that, wait 30 seconds. You’re basically a bomb. L4D2 does this a little better with the SPitter and Jockey (The charger has L4D1 syndrome and is just a hunter that doesn’t jump in practice)… and why is it like this? Well, so yopu just can’t totally out skill the humans and flat out kill them. AWESOME. I’m just a MOOK. I’m actually kinda okay with being a mook, but I am NOT okay with waiting 30 seconds between each uneventful death.

So yeah. Not much gameplay. For the most part you can’t even be good at the game. The skill is in being the least bad. Between co-op, zombies and good presentation, people get into it. People also get into it because honestly, they enjoy being tricked. When you look at the teamwork objectify, it’s laughable, but for the average player it makes them feel like hot shit. One thing I noticed is every group of players who play L4D seem to think that their little group is the best. Why wouldn’t they? They get to stomp random teams and feel like they’re helping each other the whole time. Theres also a general lack of accountability. Lose as the SI? Oh well, SI always lose (unless you’re doing comp L4D which I can’t even begin to speak about), no harm there. If you, win, you’re awesome. If you lose as humans, you have 3 other humans to blame. Even if you don’t blame them, you can laugh it off and not be bothered — its just how the game works. Sometimes you’ll randomly die. The only thing to be afraid of is just flat out fucking up.

So yeah, I fucking hate the game. You’re not a bad person for liking it, but your experience is mostly artifical. But hey, no harm in liking dumb, shallow games, I play horrific fighting games all the time my self…. just don’t tell me theres any real gameplay in the game. Just say you like co-op and zombies and be done with it.

TF2 updates are awful so I wrote Robin Walker.

Subject: I hurd u like Diablo so I put bad drops in your fps so you could… something while you something. TLDR: Your updates suck.

Mr. Walker, why are the community weapons so retarded? Diablo-esque stat-line, uninteresting items? No thanks. Man, remember that game? With the well defined, unique, immutable classes, the crisp, consistent and sophisticated art style and the wonderful adherence to minimalism? Jesus christ, what happened? Do you guys even know what you originally made? Did you not realize how BRILLIANT that was, so you just kept smearing monkey feces all over it because ‘moar are better’?

To be fair, the official updates have been sophisticated and while they detract from the trim, lean design of the original release, they do add real, new gameplay at the cost of less elegance. But now we got these shitty, worthless items mucking things up. They complicate the game WITHOUT MAKING IT A BETTER GAME. Were you guys always secretly hack game designers, strung along by some other forces working at valve, or did you slowly drift into hat-induced madness?

And still, the drop system. Oh wow, lets make a system of inconsistent reward! People like that, right? They play WoW! But lets design it with such little feedback that the only people who get that slot machine rush are the PEOPLE WHO ARE IDLING. We will then fix this system with an awful crafting system that is useless for anything but hat generation and then vaguely fix the crafting system by making obvious changes that could have been made at any time!

You guys are ridiculous. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish you’d STOP updating the game after the engineer update. Clearly you no longer have the game design sense to make smart, intelligent games and if you’re just going to shit on what used to be this games wonderfully elegant game, I’d rather you just stop doing anything but bug fixes.

In short, stop being awful. You guys are awful. Please stop.

Art: Naomi Vos Cruz – A Barren Path

Despite my best efforts, I can only draw women! Anyways if anyone is waiting for Brave Earth’s release (Sometime before the universe suffers from heat death), the below has some spoilers — but really who cares? So as usual, DA post biography.

So here we got Naomi Vos Cruz, walking toward a undescript, old fortress. Naomi is a young Astorian Paladin, belonging to the Sacred Order of Saint Alistair — an order of mostly females. Naomi is friendly and outgoing, through tends to have a temper when pressed. Over time, the typical naivity associated with Paladins faded away, leaving a somewhat jaded young woman who could better percieve the shades of gray between good in Evil. When confronted by actual evil, Naomi acts with brutal decisiveness and is not against fighting dirty if necessary for the greater good.

Naomi’s combat skills are highly regarded. While not as high as many other in the order by status, she is one of the most respected by merit. She is agile and atheletic, while possesing the strength to wield a bastard sword one handed with a shield. Her magical skills are highly focused on combat — healing and other clerical skills are highly lacking. Instead, Naomi can wield holy energy as an offensive, explosive force. She can also use that energy to further increase her speed and strength. She is also particularly skilled in magically destroying the undead. Despite all this, Naomi started out as an unremarkable warrior, who entered the order through birth and, in dangerous situations, was often seen as a burden to her brother who did all her could to protect her. This likely acted as the motivation for her rapid improvement.

Naomi is socialable and charasmatic. She tends to be a community figure where she is positioned (like many of the female Alistarian Paladins), though due to her combat skills she is not often positioned in places where this is necessary. She enjoys make-up and prefers to look well made and groomed in public, doing so even it is not necessary or even appropriate. Naomi will socially drink (through with very strict moderation) and socialize with townfolks at the local taverns. She also has an intense love of fruit, which she seems to eat constantly in public. Despite her outgoing characteristics, she is quite private. She keeps most of her feelings to her self and usually vents through writing and reading poetry. She doesn’t show it to anyone though — it’s probably pretty bad.

She is noted for her intense and bitter rivalry with Cassara, who killed her older brother and fellow Paladin. Naomi remains in constant inner conflict over her brother, whom Cassara casts casts aspersons of guilty upon for various crimes. The mixture of Naomi’s loyalty to her brother and Cassara’s antagonistic personality has led to Naomi’s absolute hatred for her, despite them often working toward the same goals. Cassara on the other hand, despite Naomi’s growing skill, merely precieves her as a naive brat anda nuisance.

Despite being a Paladin, Naomi’s faith is also not quite in tact. While the existance of higher powers are obvious in a world of spirts and magic, the teachings and scriptures of her church do not seem to line up with reality in her mind. Combined with the panthiestic nature of the priest, Father Maynard (Slash), has led to her merely possessing a deistic view. Despite this she still is able to weild her holy powers, which furthers her shakey faith. Naomi remains in the church more due to it’s ability to allow her to help the most people, rather than for it’s exact tenets. She also is highly distrusting of the upper clergy. She her self is also suspected by the church, and she suspects that her usefulness as a warrior is the only reason she is kept around.