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Playing to Win, Part 1

I wrote this article many years ago. It was so widely quoted and valuable to so many that I spent two years writing the book Playing to Win. The book is far more polished than these articles, better organized, and covers many, many additional topics not found on my site. If you have any interest in the process of self-improvement through competitive games, the book will serve you better than the articles.

Playing to Win, Part 1

Playing to win is the most important and most widely misunderstood concept in all of competitive games. The sad irony is that those who do not already understand the implications I'm about to spell out will probably not believe them to be true at all. In fact, if I were to send this article back in time to my earlier self, even I would not believe it. Apparently, these concepts are something one must come to learn through experience, though I hope at least some of you will take my word for it.

Introducing...the Scrub

In the world of Street Fighter competition, there is a word for players who aren't good: "scrub." Everyone begins as a scrub---it takes time to learn the game to get to a point where you know what you're doing. There is the mistaken notion, though, that by merely continuing to play or "learn" the game, that one can become a top player. In reality, the "scrub" has many more mental obstacles to overcome than anything actually going on during the game. The scrub has lost the game even before it starts. He's lost the game before he's chosen his character. He's lost the game even before the decision of which game is to be played has been made. His problem? He does not play to win.

Historical Scrub: Neville Chamberlain. He didn't even try to win, instead offering "appeasement" to Hitler. (Caution: not serious historical commentary.)The scrub would take great issue with this statement for he usually believes that he is playing to win, but he is bound up by an intricate construct of fictitious rules that prevent him from ever truly competing. These made-up rules vary from game to game, of course, but their character remains constant. In Street Fighter, for example, the scrub labels a wide variety of tactics and situations "cheap." So-called "cheapness" is truly the mantra of the scrub. Performing a throw on someone often called cheap. A throw is a special kind of move that grabs an opponent and damages him, even when the opponent is defending against all other kinds of attacks. The entire purpose of the throw is to be able to damage an opponent who sits and blocks and doesn't attack. As far as the game is concerned, throwing is an integral part of the design--it's meant to be there--yet the scrub has constructed his own set of principles in his mind that state he should be totally impervious to all attacks while blocking. The scrub thinks of blocking as a kind of magic shield which will protect him indefinitely. Why? Exploring the reasoning is futile since the notion is ridiculous from the start.

You're not going to see a classic scrub throw his opponent 5 times in a row. But why not? What if doing so is strategically the sequence of moves that optimize his chances of winning? Here we've encountered our first clash: the scrub is only willing to play to win within his own made-up mental set of rules. These rules can be staggeringly arbitrary. If you beat a scrub by throwing projectile attacks at him, keeping your distance and preventing him from getting near you...that's cheap. If you throw him repeatedly, that's cheap, too. We've covered that one. If you sit in block for 50 seconds doing no moves, that's cheap. Nearly anything you do that ends up making you win is a prime candidate for being called cheap.

Doing one move or sequence over and over and over is another great way to get called cheap. This goes right to the heart of the matter: why can the scrub not defeat something so obvious and telegraphed as a single move done over and over? Is he such a poor player that he can't counter that move? And if the move is, for whatever reason, extremely difficult to counter, then wouldn't I be a fool for not using that move? The first step in becoming a top player is the realization that playing to win means doing whatever most increases your chances of winning. The game knows no rules of "honor" or of "cheapness." The game only knows winning and losing.

A common call of the scrub is to cry that the kind of play in which ones tries to win at all costs is "boring" or "not fun." Let's consider two groups of players: a group of good players and a group of scrubs. The scrubs will play "for fun" and not explore the extremities of the game. They won't find the most effective tactics and abuse them mercilessly. The good players will. The good players will find incredibly overpowering tactics and patterns. As they play the game more, they'll be forced to find counters to those tactics. The vast majority of tactics that at first appear unbeatable end up having counters, though they are often quite esoteric and difficult to discover. The counter tactic prevents the first player from doing the tactic, but the first player can then use a counter to the counter. The second player is now afraid to use his counter and he's again vulnerable to the original overpowering tactic. (See my article on Yomi layer 3 for much more on that.)

Notice that the good players are reaching higher and higher levels of play. They found the "cheap stuff" and abused it. They know how to stop the cheap stuff. They know how to stop the other guy from stopping it so they can keep doing it. And as is quite common in competitive games, many new tactics will later be discovered that make the original cheap tactic look wholesome and fair. Often in fighting games, one character will have something so good it's unfair. Fine, let him have that. As time goes on, it will be discovered that other characters have even more powerful and unfair tactics. Each player will attempt to steer the game in the direction of his own advantages, much how grandmaster chess players attempt to steer opponents into situations in which their opponents are weak.

Historical Scrubs: The British Redcoats. The ultimate example of being too bound up by rules to actually fight. They fought "honorably" in a row. (Caution: not serious historical commentary.). Let's return to the group of scrubs. They don't know the first thing about all the depth I've been talking about. Their argument is basically that ignorantly mashing buttons with little regard to actual strategy is more "fun." Superficially, their argument does at least look true, since often their games will be more "wet and wild" than games between the experts, which are usually more controlled and refined. But any close examination will reveal that the experts are having a great deal of fun on a higher level than the scrub can even imagine. Throwing together some circus act of a win isn't nearly as satisfying as reading your opponent's mind to such a degree that you can counter his ever move, even his every counter.

Can you imagine what will happen when the two groups of players meet? The experts will absolutely destroy the scrubs with any number of tactics they've either never seen, or never been truly forced to counter. This is because the scrubs have not been playing the same game. The experts were playing the actual game while the scrubs were playing their own homemade variant with restricting, unwritten rules.

The scrub has still more crutches. He talks a great deal about "skill" and how he has skill whereas other players--very much including the ones who beat him flat out--do not have skill. The confusion here is what "skill" actually is. In Street Fighter, scrubs often cling to combos as a measure of skill. A combo is sequence of moves that are unblockable if the first move hits. Combos can be very elaborate and very difficult to pull off. But single moves can also take "skill," according to the scrub. The "dragon punch" or "uppercut" in Street Fighter is performed by holding the joystick toward the opponent, then down, then diagonally down and toward as the player presses a punch button. This movement must be completed within a fraction of a second, and though there is leeway, it must be executed fairly accurately. Ask any scrub and they will tell you that a dragon punch is a "skill move." Just last week I played a scrub who was actually quite good. That is, he knew the rules of the game well, he knew the character matchups well, and he knew what to do in most situations. But his web of mental rules kept him from truly playing to win. He cried cheap as I beat him with "no skill moves" while he performed many difficult dragon punches. He cried cheap when I threw him 5 times in a row asking, "is that all you know how to do? throw?" I gave him the best advice he could ever hear. I told him, "Play to win, not to do ˜difficult moves.'" This was a big moment in that scrub's life. He could either write his losses off and continue living in his mental prison, or analyze why he lost, shed his rules, and reach the next level of play.

I've never been to a tournament where there was a prize for the winner and another prize for the player who did many difficult moves. I've also never seen a prize for a player who played "in an innovative way." Many scrubs have strong ties to "innovation." They say "that guy didn't do anything new, so he is no good." Or "person x invented that technique and person y just stole it." Well, person y might be 100 times better than person x, but that doesn't seem to matter. When person y wins the tournament and person x is a forgotten footnote, what will the scrub say? That person y has "no skill" of course.

Depth in Games

Scrub of the Future: Captain Kathryn Janeway. Voyager would have been home ages ago if it weren't for her silly rules. (Caution: Voyager is a bad show.)

I've talked about how the expert player is not bound by rules of "honor" or "cheapness" and simply plays to maximize his chances of winning. When he plays against other such players, "game theory" emerges. If the game is a good one, it will become deeper and deeper and more strategic. Poorly designed games will become shallower and shallower. This is the difference between a game that lasts years (StarCraft, Street Fighter) versus one that quickly becomes boring (I won't name any names). The point is that if a game becomes "no fun" at high levels of play, then it's the game's fault, not the player's. Unfortunately, a game becoming less fun because it's poorly designed and you just losing because you're a scrub kind of look alike. You'll have to play some top players and do some soul searching to decide which is which. But if it really is the game's fault, there are plenty of other games that are excellent at a high level of play. For games that truly aren't good at a high level, the only winning move is not to play.

Boundaries of Playing to Win

There is a gray area here I feel I should point out. If an expert does anything he can to win, then does he exploit bugs in the game? The answer is a resounding yes...but not all bugs. There is a large class of bugs in video games that players don't even view as bugs. In Marvel vs. Capcom 2, for example, Iceman can launch his opponent into the air, follow him, do a few hits, then combo into his super move. During the super move he falls down below his opponent, so only about half of his super will connect. The Iceman player can use a trick, though. Just before doing the super, he can do another move, an icebeam, and cancel that move into the super. There's a bug here which causes Iceman to fall during his super at the much slower rate of his icebeam. The player actually cancels the icebeam as soon as possible--optimally as soon as 1/60th of a second after it begins. The whole point is to make Iceman fall slower during his super so he gets more hits. Is it a bug? I'm sure it is. It looks like a programming oversight to me. Would an expert player use this? Of course.

The iceman example is relatively tame. In Street Fighter Alpha2, there's a bug in which you can land the most powerful move in the game (a Custom Combo or "CC") on the opponent, even when he should be able to block it. A bug? Yes. Does it help you win? Yes. This technique became the dominant tactic of the game. The gameplay evolved around this, play went on, new strategies were developed. Those who cried cheap were simply left behind to play their own homemade version of the game with made-up rules. The one we all played had unblockable CCs, and it went on to be a great game.

But there is a limit. There is a point when the bug becomes too much. In tournaments, bugs that turn the game off, or freeze it indefinitely, or remove one of the characters from the playfield permanently are banned. Bugs so extreme that they stop gameplay are considered unfair even by non-scrubs. As are techniques that can only be performed on, say, the player-1 side of the game. Tricks in fighting games that are side-dependent (that is, they can only be performed by the 2nd player or only by the first player) are sometimes not allowed in tournaments simply because both players don't have equal access to the trick--not because the tricks are too powerful.

There are some limits to playing to win. Not sure if this is one of them.Here's an example that shows what kind of power level is past the limit even of Playing to Win. Many versions of Street Fighter have secret characters that are only accessible through a code. Sometimes these characters are good, sometimes they're not. Occasionally, the secret characters are the best in the game, as in Marvel vs. Capcom. Big deal. That's the way that game is. Live with it. But the first version of Street Fighter to ever have a secret character was Super Turbo Street Fighter with its untouchably good Akuma. Most characters in that game cannot beat Akuma. I don't mean it's a tough match--I mean they cannot ever, ever, ever, ever win. Akuma is "broken" in that his air fireball move is something the game simply wasn't designed to handle. He's miles above the other characters, and is therefore banned in all US tournaments. But every game has a "best character" and those characters are never banned. They're just part of the game...except in Super Turbo. It's extreme examples like this that even amongst the top players, and even something that isn't a bug, but was put in on purpose by the game designers, the community as a whole has unanimously decided to make the rule: "don't play Akuma in serious matches."

Sometimes players from other gaming communities don't understand the Akuma example. "Would not a truly committed player play Akuma anyway?" they ask. Akuma is a boss character, never meant to be played on even ground with the other characters. He's only accessible via an annoying, long code. Akuma is not like a tower in an RTS that is accidentally too powerful or a gun in an FPS that does too much damage. Akuma is a god-mode that can't coexist with the rest of the game. In this extreme case, the community's only choices were to ban or to abandon the game because of a secret character that takes really long to even select. They chose to ban the secret character and play the remaining good game. If you are playing to win, you should play the game everyone else is playing, not the home-made Akuma vs. Akuma game that no one plays.

My Attitude and Adenosine Triphosphate

I've been talking down to the scrub a lot in this article. I'd like to say for the record that I'm not calling the scrub stupid, nor did I even coin that term in the first place. I'm not saying he can never improve. I am saying that he's naive and that he'll be trapped in scrubdom, whether he realizes it or not, as long as he chooses to live in the mental construct of rules he himself constructed. Is it harsh to call scrubs naive? After all, the vast majority of the world is scrubs. I'd say by the definition I've classified 99.9% of the world's population as scrubs. Seriously. All that means is that 99.9% of the world doesn't know what it's like to play competitive games on a high level. It means that they are naive of these concepts. I really have no trouble saying that since we're talking about experience-driven knowledge here that most people on Earth happen not to have. I also know that 99.9% of the world (including me) doesn't know how the citric acid cycle and cellular respiration create approximately 30 ATP molecules per cycle. It's specialized knowledge of which I am unaware, just as many are unaware of competitive games.

Not everyone has to know every subject. This chart is for biologists and Playing to Win is for those who want to win tournaments.

In the end, playing to win ends up accomplishing much more than just winning. Playing to win is how one improves. Continuous self-improvement is what all of this is really about, anyway. I submit that ultimate goal of the "playing to win" mindset is ironically not just to win...but to improve. So practice, improve, play with discipline, and Play to Win.


References (144)

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Reader Comments (308)

This is truly an article that should most deffinitly be reffered to every egotistical Gunz player(s) whom get mad at people who do not choose to play exactly as they do, and look outside of the box.

January 23, 2009 | Unregistered Commenter[A]laa

The asserted distinction between scrub rules and the "no Akuma" rule seems arbitrary. Just like the scrubs, the high-level players have come up with a rule outside of the rules of the game based on nothing but their subjective perception that it unbalances the game. It is higher-level scrubbery but scrubbery nonetheless.

Edited by Sirlin: Nope, you have missed the point entirely. Akuma is not like another weapon in an FPS or another character in a fighting game. He is a secret boss character who is not on the regular selection screen. It takes a code to get to him. He was designed to be like 100x better than all other characters and he obviously is. It's not arbitrary AT ALL to single him out. It's like a drawer full of various sizes of screws except there's also an elephant in the drawer. It's very, very easy to see he not the same kind of thing than the other things in the drawer. Also, it's not even really subjective that he ruins the game. He has about 4 different ways of winning matches 100%, such as inescapable lockdowns with repeated red fireballs where the opponent can literally let go of the joystick and walk away, but his character is still stuck in blockstun, unable to move for the entire match.

So in short, you have no idea what you're talking about, but like most people on the internet, you decide to say something anyway. Akuma is good example and included him very much on purpose.

January 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJorsh

Sirlin, about the response to Jorsh, I read and admire almost everything you write, but the Akuma rule surely is a little shot in the foot IMO as well.

I know how overpowering he is, and you and the other tops know it too, like the SSBB community "knows" a lot about how to redesign their game and, oh, I digress... The point is that, like yourself said, and paraphrasing, there are plenty of other good games out there, so why play one that is broken by default? In japanese tourneys you may face Akumas. On-line and at the arcades you WILL face Akumas. Akuma is just a part of the game. True, he ruins the game. Well, too bad, ST sucks. We can all play HF, HDRemix, MvC2, GG, VF and a bunch of other interesting fghting games instead of that.

All IMO of course. No need to be agressive (I've been sensing a less kind Sirlin lately, even against people who aren't trolling or hating, like the guy above)

January 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPower

Power: You just don't get it. It's not about me being kind or unkind, I'm just pointing out that you don't get it. Akuma in ST is not analogous to any character in Smash. Akuma in ST is an intentionally overpowered boss character that does not even normally appear on the character select screen. I played in arcades for a decade. Did I face Akuma? No. I played in Japan. Did I face Akuma? No. Akuma is not considered "part of the game" by anyone at all except for people on the internet who do not play the game at all. It's unfortunate that such a simple example is so hard to understand.

January 29, 2009 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Yeah, Sirlin, nobody gets it but you. Eliminating Akuma is an arbitrary rule, it just so happens to blow your little theory out of the water, so the best you can do is say "Nope, you just don't get it". What happened to "it's part of the game, deal with it"? I guess that no longer applies because it undermines your original position?

The only thing that's unfortunate is your inability to grasp such an obvious contradiction. "Play to win, but not if it means using Akuma!! Glitches and bugs, yes!! Akuma, no!!"

Yeah, totally not arbitrary. You're a joke, is your "book" this hilarious? Does it contain as much hypocritical nonsense?

Edited by Sirlin: Obvious troll doesn't deserve a response. Obvious troll doesn't know what is obvious, either.

January 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSeipher05

That's the best you have? No actual response to the lunacy of saying UNINTENTIONAL features (like bugs and glitches) are ok and elite-level gaming, but an INTENDED feature (like Akuma) isn't, and furthermore, that his banning isn't arbitrary or following some "nonsensical internal code of honor"?

Three posters have all brought up this glaringly obvious contradiction, and your response has been:

- Nope, you don't get it
- You just don't understand
- Obvious troll is obvious

Why is using "esoteric and obscure" button combinations / series of actions ok, but entering a code to get a character not? Let me guess, you got your rear handed to you by Akuma a few times, and all your little button combo's didn't work, so he became chearp, right?

Just brilliant, I see now why your "book" is free. Obvious fool is obvious. Obvious fool can't form reply. Obvious fool is sad.

January 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSeipher05

Seipher05: There is no reason to answer you because you don't want the answer. You're just a jackass who has come here to hate, a person with no idea what he is talking about but wants to disagree for the sake of it. Rather than abuse the shroud of anonymity, please provide your real name, age, city, educational background, and profession if you wish to post further. You know all that information about me.

The question about Akuma in ST has been asked and answered over and over and over and over for years here. I will answer it one more time in case a regular person stops by and needs to know (as opposed to whatever Seipher05 is).

First, know that I gave the example of Akuma very much on purpose. When you hear a rule (such as don't ban things unless you need to) I think it's helpful to see just how far something has to go for that rule to break. Akuma is that example. Your understanding of the concept of banning is greater if you know the Akuma example than if you don't. The confusion apparently is related to two issues: 1) how broken is Akuma and 2) if he is as broken as stated, then what to do about it?

Anyone who has even played ST is not confused at all about 1. There is a strange manufactured fantasy-land created by internet denizens who have never even seen the game though. To set things straight, we have to know what things are like other things. Let's compare Akuma in ST to some other things:

Is Akuma like the best character in Virtua Fighter? No.
Is Akuma like the best character in Tekken? No.
Is Akuma like the best character in Smash Bros. Brawl? No. (And yes I am fully aware of how bad MetaKnight is.)
Is Akuma like the Valle-custom-combo glitch in SF Alpha 2? (The most powerful tactic in the game.) No.
Is Akuma like the Juggernaut glitch in Marvel vs. Capcom 2?
Is Akuma like crouch-cancel infinite combos in SF Alpha 3? No.
Is Akuma like the "diamond trick" in Puzzle Fighter? No.
Is Akuma like the best weapon in Counter-Strike? No.
Is Akuma like the best race in StarCraft? No.

I could go for a long time but maybe you're starting to get the idea. He is not like any of those things. Why is he not like them? Every game has a best character, that is no crime. Valle CC's change the way SF Alpha 2 is played, but so what? The diamond trick changes the way Puzzle Fighter is payed, but so what? Infinite combos in SF Alpha 3 don't even occur every match, or even close to it. Being the best X in a game does not put you in ST Akuma territory. Being a glitch that's really powerful also doesn't put you in that category. You need much, much more to be similar to ST Akuma.

Something that is like ST Akuma would be playing Starcraft with infinite resources turned on for you. I'm not joking, that is similar to ST Akuma.

It isn't just that Akuma has a favorable matchup against all characters. It's that he has 10-0 matchups against all characters (some generous Japanese rate all his matchups as only 9-1, but really that's too generous). Akuma is not some accident of a move being too good, he was designed on purpose to be totally unfair and not fit into the rest of the game. So he is completely unlike a weapon in a first person shooter that happens to be too good. To just name one (of many!) things he can routinely do, he can lock you down with red fireballs in a way that you can let go of the joystick because you're character is stuck in blockstun for the entire round. Akuma removes the gameplay in the game.

So what do we do about this situation? There is another point of confusion here that comes from people who don't know anything about the game. Perhaps you picture a game dominated by Akuma (maybe the game you play is dominated by something too good also) and you wonder why bother banning him. Why not just abandon the game? There are other good games and also who knows if the game without Akuma is good? Maybe it's bad for some other reason?

None of that is correct. That is not how the situation actually is in the real world. Players were not aware that Akuma even existed for a long time. I don't remember how long, but I'll say at least a year. This was the hot tournament game and played extensively at a very competitive level. There was no Akuma, no even knew he was selectable. The game was great and tournament players liked it a lot.

Next, Akuma was discovered. Using an annoying and time-consuming code, you can pick him. That part alone meant people didn't even like picking him, but whatever. We basically immediately discovered he was a boss character not meant to fit into the game. Red fireball lockdown, air fireball that most of the cast has no answer for at all, invulnerable sweeps, invulnerable hurricane kick, etc. Again, this was not like a best character in other games, it was obviously a boss character that beat the cast somewhere between 9-1 and 10-0.

Is it possible that really Akuma was fair though? Lots of glitches and overpowered things look unfair, but turn out to be ok. Yes most things are like that, and that was my main point about banning in the book Playing to Win. And I wanted to show a case that was sooooooooooo extreme, that it's the very unusual case where the thing really is too good. As I've also mentioned, he is only soft-banned in Japan, so you can still pick him and get booed or whatever. Did it turn out that really there are counters for him and he fits into the game after all? No, it turns out exactly as expected that he can't really be beat if a someone half-decent picks him.

So what to do? It is NOT the case that we would get a totally new game by banning him, possibly one that is broken for another reason. The case is that we continue to play the game we always played. We already know the game is fine without him because the default game doesn't have him, as far as SF players are concerned. He was a novelty found long after the game's release and correctly identified as game-breaking in the same way that an infinite resources hack in StarCraft would be.

January 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterSirlin

But all you're doing is invoking a matter of scale - the reasons you are giving are basically the same as ones a scrub would give 'it's too cheap', 'you can't counter it', etc.

January 31, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Jack, the hour is late to be explaining this even further. Again, the point is that most things you think are "too cheap" in a game are not too cheap if you actually understood the game better. So why is Akuma NOT LIKE THAT? He is not like that--he is a very unusual example--because he actually is basically unbeatable and ruins everything. Do you see the difference? The usual case is that the claim is made that something breaks the game. The unusual Akuma case is that the thing is like playing Starcraft with infinite resources versus someone who has to play regular.

It's not "scrubby" to say that Akuma is the extreme case that dominates the entire game 10-0 and removes the gameplay. It's the actual truth of the matter. Is that clear yet?

January 31, 2009 | Registered CommenterSirlin

Hmmmm. Interesting that I agree with Sirlin on this issue. There are certain cases where a specific charater/race/class/weapon is obscenely broken and needs to be banned. So the question becomes this: Are the reasons for banning that element arbitrary? Sirlin is attempting (and, IMO, succeeding) to make the case that Akuma represents one of these obscenely broken parts of a game.

Let me give an example. Playing with Akuma is the equivalent of playing chess where one player gets a normal set-up while the other gets 3 extra rows of pawns. That match-up is effectively unwinnable by the player with the normal set-up. For those of you who play RTS's, this would be like taking a faction's best character, quadrupling its hp, quartering its cost, doubling its firepower and range, and then making the faction that has it start with 10x resources. In the second age. With triple starting villagers.

Every game has elements that give an advantage to one player or another... even chess (black pieces or white). The advantage may be effectively negligible (chess), or it may be significant (Age of Empires 3). The key is that most of those advantages have counters and are counters. When, however, an element counters everything and then has no counters of its own, that element must be removed. Not removing it makes the game stale.

This is one advantage that multiplayer online and miniatures games have. They can be updated whenever a flaw in the design is discovered. Star Wars Miniatures, which I currently play, is going through a period where certain pieces are dominating the game. This happens every set. However, no piece has yet been banned, simply because counters are either introduced or discovered. There was one piece that was released in the second set, but was considered to be crap until about the 6th set, simply because it was a viable counter to certain dominant elements of the game.

For some people, there is an element of enjoyment in discovering, countering, and recountering the dominant elements of the game. This is not an issue. The issue occurs when that ceases to be possible because one element of the game is simply too dominant.

So really, the rule is not arbitrary at all. It can generally be summed up this way: "When one element of the game is so powerful as to preclude counters and dominate not just some, or even most, but rather all of the other elements, that element should be removed from the game (banned or nerfed)."

February 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterS1AL

This reminds me very much of the phenomenon of crackpottery one sees in the sciences (and other domains) -- the scrub (or crackpot) is trying to make authoritative claims about a subject in which 'e has very little knowledge and experience. And this is often accompanied with a lack of appreciation for just how deep the knowledge and experience of an expert can be, or of the entire expert community -- e.g. they don't see the difference between an intuitive claim based on limited experience and the conclusion of many man-hours of research, experimentation, and analysis performed by the expert community.

Incidentally, Sirlin -- in the text of the article, you define a "scrub" as simply being someone who isn't good at a game. But then you further equate scrub with being the type of person who cries "cheap" or what-not; that seems incongruous to me.

Or are you making a subtle point that someone who 'plays to win' is automatically good at any game?

February 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHurkyl

Superficially speaking (pardon the alliteration), I kind of understand what the "Pro-Akumas" are arguing here, the developers included a virtually unstoppable force in the game and its up to the player to deal with it. But in the end I have to agree with Sirlin, particularly when it comes to the fireball lockdown. Imagine for instance, you use an in game code for, lets just say Megaman, that allows you to permanently freeze all onscreen enemies so you can pick them off at your leisure. The enemies complete/total/absolute vulnerability would effectively "remove the gameplay from the game," which is the cardinal sin of any game (especially competition based games). Now say that you wanted to make a claim to a record speed run in Megaman but you used the cheat. Should the record stand? Hell no! Why? Because you "removed the gameplay from the game."

February 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I just want to say this is a great article and i totaly agree.

February 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPete

I was on xbox live today with a friend and he told me about this. I would like to say i totally agree with this article whereas im an avid lover of all fighting games. I can definately relate to your examples of a scrub, because of the obsessive complaining i hear all the time in xbox live matches. I'm a believer in not just getting on the controller and mashing buttons but coming up with crushes, tech-traps and various set-ups to confuse your opponent into doing things that they are not accustomed to and maybe even simplifying an attack plan to attain victory thus reitterating your "play to win" title for this article, so i can further appreciate the insight this article had to offer. Thank you

February 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFreeze

While I agree with most of your original post, I can also understand where some of the "hypocrite" posts are basing their accusations from:

These quotes in particular:

"Is it a bug? I'm sure it is. It looks like a programming oversight to me. Would an expert player use this? Of course."

"A bug? Yes. Does it help you win? Yes. This technique became the dominant tactic of the game. The gameplay evolved around this, play went on, new strategies were developed. Those who cried cheap were simply left behind to play their own homemade version of the game with made-up rules."

seem to be the same as:

"Akuma in ST is an intentionally overpowered boss character that does not even normally appear on the character select screen." <-- (sounds like a bug to me)

"Using an annoying and time-consuming code, you can pick him." <--- (seems like a programming oversight..)

In the case of:

"It's not "scrubby" to say that Akuma is the extreme case that dominates the entire game 10-0 and removes the gameplay. It's the actual truth of the matter."

This statement does not appear to be true as you yourself said

"he is only soft-banned in Japan" (which I assume means still accepted although frowned upon)
"(some generous Japanese rate all his matchups as only 9-1, but really that's too generous)"

To me this sounds like he has been beaten which means he is not unbeatable. This doesn't sound like the gameplay is removed, just highly altered. With gameplay still possible, (albeit difficult) one could think this falls under the realm of exploitable bugs.

I think these are the primary statements people are drawing their calls for hypocrisy from.

I do think that about this phrase:

"It's extreme examples like this that even amongst the top players, and even something that isn't a bug, but was put in on purpose by the game designers, the community as a whole has unanimously decided to make the rule: "don't play Akuma in serious matches."

It is out of respect of your fellow gamers that you would not choose the character even if a rule was not enforced, though this would break the exploiting of bugs for an advantage that seems to be condoned in the article.

I am not trying to point fingers or call out anyone, just trying to help show the train of thought that can occur from this reading. Maybe it will help someone find a good way to explain so that others can understand.

Anyways, good article, I learned something about myself from it.

- Sskar

February 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSskar

If there are glitches or cheats in a game, that aren't supposed to be there, there should be a patch or update to remove them; like double shot in halo 2. It ruins the balance the designer built into the game. Also, anyone who thinks halo 3 isn't well designed and fully capable of being played on an elite level where all things can be countered and all situations can be won by either player or team obviously suck at the game and haven't played enough to figure out all the nuances. The sword is not cheap, the sniper rifle is not cheap, it just changes how you have to go about trying to kill the player holding those weapons. Not to mention there's at least always two of them. Not to mention a simple shield or grenade, when used accurately with perfect timing, can counter almost anything.

February 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterhrel

There are many games, where play at the top level is teeming with arbitrary rules which you seem to be calling "scrub rules".

I can only speak about Age of Empires 2, where it goes like this...
*) When the randomly generated map is clearly favouring one player, the game is often restarted
*) On certain maps, certain civilisations are often banned, because they are so clearly the best that they end up killing variety
*) On most maps, players must both use the same civilisation
*) On certain maps, attacking before a certain time is usually banned (Nomad, where you start with so little, that the game could be decided in 2 minutes if players were aggressive immediately)
*) On certain maps, stealing other person's game and sheep is usually banned

Amongst rookies, there are generally much less rules of this kind. So where do you take your confidence in such an "obvious" separation between scrubby arbitrary rules and non-scrubby non-arbitrary rules, I do not know.

I remember in a serious match with a $4K prize for the first place, between the very two best players ever (L_Clan_Chris), when one player couldn't find one of his boar (which you use to gather food quickly) his opponent offered to also forfeit one boar to balance the game. He refused the offer but still. The player who offered to forfeit a boar, was and still is one of the very best, if not *the* best player of AoC, ever. By your "theory" it seems that he is a scrub?

It is one thing to play just to win, and it is another to play to win *because you were better than the other player, and not because you were luckier or in a better situation*. The latter, is not "scrubby", it is the highest form of sportsmanship, something you hope to see at the top competition of most games of intellect, something that deserves respect.

If a charachter, or weapon, or civilisation, or technique or whatever, is clearly better than all others, and I don't mean on a complete other level like Akuma, still possible to beat just clearly better (say 7:3), so that it would be self-restrictive to choose anything else, whereas all the other choices are much closer, it still makes sense to ban such a clear best choice. It doesn't have to be Akuma to justify a ban. It just has to make competitive play less rich. There is rarely such a clear distinction like Akuma though, it all comes down to extent and personal opinion.

True "scrub rules" are those that due to lack of understanding do not realise that the rule isn't actually making the game any richer (like the no-throwing rule, which is only making the game less rich) or just aren't trying to favour competitiveness to begin with I guess.

And there is nothing wrong with being a scrub. I am a scrub at everything I have ever done. Someone that refuses to admit that he sucks despite massive evidence on the contrary, is not a scrub, but an idiot.

February 18, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Heh, very interesting article :) I usually try to avoid being "one trick pony" that uses one skill that I know my opponent can't defend against. Or resort to that tactic if everything else fails :D

That being said I guess I'm a scrub.

On to the Akuma issue. Maybe it was explained and I just didn't get it - where do you draw the line between scrub imaginary rules and pro imaginary rules? (it is the same thing, as much as you want to deny it and say "You don't get it", that Akuma rule IS made up. Just by pros, not scrubs) :) To the point where game becomes unfair? Scrubs think it's unfair to play outside their imaginary rules too. Seems very confusing and inconsistent.

Would the game still be unfair if both players used Akuma? My guess is it would not.. since you'd have the same bag o' tricks on both sides. As you said yourself - "Tricks in fighting games that are side-dependent (that is, they can only be performed by the 2nd player or only by the first player)".

Probably the game with 2 Akumas would be "boring" and "not fun", which iirc defines why scrubs have their set of rules :D

I guess what I'm getting at is - pros are basically the same as scrubs. Just like an evolved version of them.

P.S. I already noticed from the first couple of posters that talking to you is like to the wall (no offense), so I don't expect a reply worth reading, I just wanted to drop my 2 cents on the matter :)

February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterScrub

The "No Akuma" rule is not arbitrary. and it is not subjective.

Lets say in a game with 30 characters character #6 has significantly more strengths and less weaknesses than everyone else. In this situation the creators failed at making a balanced game.

Lets say there is a game with 30 characters that is suprisingly well balanced, each one has been played by a tournament winning player... This game has 30 characters, but Akuma is character #31, he is an EASTER EGG, a CHEAT-CODE... It wasn't even intended to be fair

You are a scrub if you made your own little false presumption about Sirlins post before reading it and considering it.

Maybe he shouldnt have mentioned it, but a good persuasive writer will say in their writing "This is what a lot of people will say is wrong about this article, and this is why they are wrong."

he did it crisp concise and objective

If he was subjective he would have said something like "MY OLDER BROTHER BEATS ME EVERY TIME WITH AKUMA"
I don't need to explain why someone saying this is a scrub

He was objective because he said Akuma is broken, and then he said why he was broken, but he was intended to be broken, and he wasn't supposed to be considered a character.

This is an OBJECTIVE difference between Akuma, and the top tier characters in other fighter games

Good job with the article dude... a great read.

February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWat?

to answer a couple questions so some other better person doesn't have to:

anon's AoE questions: Some of those rules border on scrubby, particularly attacking before a certain time and stealing people's game. Those are hard to enforce within the game, making them kind of hard to justify banning. But really the problem seems to lie in the venue. Shouldn't the AoE community make their own competition maps that are more or less fair and interesting rather than relying on random maps? It seems like either the game forces map randomization, which makes it horrible for competition, or the players prefer it, which seems odd. I would not agree that AoE was a good competitive game given the context you've provided. The other things, like banning certain factions and forcing each player to play the same faction seems okay if the game isn't balanced across factions and you guys really want to see it played competitively. However, the number of rules you've provided imply to me that really the game probably isn't that good for competition and the community should probably play some other RTS.

Scrub: You're wrong, so I'll explain. The big reason why scrubs are scrubs is because they discourage playing with strong strategies because they have trouble beating them. The issue here is that there is probably a counter to these strategies, and the scrubs are just too lame to find them. Rather than adapt, and improve their game to the next level, they cry 'cheap' and try to ban the tactic. On the other hand, expert players have played the hell out of the game and have distilled the game's strategies down to a science. They know very well what beats what to a much much larger degree than the scrubs ever could.

Looking at the Akuma issue, Akuma is very very powerful, to be sure, but the pros have played him enough to know that the tools he brings to the table, mainly his air fireballs, crazy invulerable normals, dizzy immunity etc etc. are not something that the game was meant to handle. Even still, his ban would not be warranted except that there is a ton of data to back up the claim that Akuma degrades the game to just Akuma versus Akuma play and even moreso, that it degrades to mostly air fireball wars without either player being able to really get inside. SF2 is a 15 year old game and there is a lot of data to back this claim up.

So looking at something on a comparable note, HDR Akuma is also very powerful, but is 'rebalanced.' Still, he is widely considered to be the best character in the game and many feel he degenerates the game even in his rebalanced state. Despite high level play by pro players, Akuma will probably not be banned at Evolution this year - there's not enough data, despite the pros knowing very well what to look for.

The difference is that the pros can say, "well Akuma has X Y and Z." Then they go through the cast and ask, "how does each character deal with X Y Z?" A scrub would not do that sort of detailed analysis, because that is the definition of a scrub.

I'm not even a particularly good player at any game, but 'scrub' is the worst insult to call a serious player - because it implies that they aren't a serious player, and they aren't thinking about how they play.

As a side note for scrubby, the SC4 tournament at PAX last year banned Algol (the boss character) even though he's maybe A tier at best, simply because they thought his projectiles were something the game couldn't handle. FRIENDS DON'T LET FRIENDS MAKE SCRUBBY RULES.

February 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAuspice

"Those are hard to enforce within the game, making them kind of hard to justify banning.´"
I forgot to mention that AoE2 has a "record game" feature. All matches that have been played you get to see on your own computer, using a file per match that is a few hundred kilobytes when zipped. So they are not hard to enforce.

"The other things, like banning certain factions and forcing each player to play the same faction seems okay if the game isn't balanced across factions and you guys really want to see it played competitively."
But from the article, it appears to me that Sirlin would not agree with this. He only seems to accept banning Akumas. I don't see the reasoning behind that. What is wrong with making additional rules in agreement between the competitors, if it is widely percieved more fun, varied, balanced or whatnot? Why do you have to abandon the game immediately if it is not perfect without additional agreed rules? Sirlin seems to think that agreed rules instantly ruin the competition. No they do not. They just do not. They are a bit of a hassle, and it would obviously be better if they weren't required, but by no means are they inevitably a party-killer, they are totally fine and normal. Perhaps they deter players with less impressive social intelligence and self-control, but that is hardly the end of the world. I agree that the rule must be clear to state and 99% enforcable. But if that requirement is filled, there is nothing wrong with additional rules that improve the gameplay.

Shouldn't the AoE community make their own competition maps that are more or less fair and interesting rather than relying on random maps? It seems like either the game forces map randomization, which makes it horrible for competition, or the players prefer it, which seems odd.
90% of the time random maps are balanced. Random > non-random. Random maps work very well.

However, the number of rules you've provided imply to me that really the game probably isn't that good for competition and the community should probably play some other RTS.
I am sorry, but what you are saying now, is just LUDICROUS. It is thoroughly, utterly, absolutely ridiculous. For the life of me I cannot even begin to explain how, you just go think about it a little.

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

Regarding "only banning Akumas" I'm pretty sure that Sirlin has different views, but I think there is some stretch where he'd probably say "I don't agree with it, but it seems like a reasonably sound decision." He doesn't complain about most Type 2 card bans in MtG for instance, and a lot of them are done mostly because banning the cards in question creates larger deck diversity rather than completely dominating the meta. Maybe he does disagree but I dunno, maybe he can post on it.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure by the way you defend your game of choice (AoE) that you can't imagine being wrong in your opinions about it, and only posted here to validate them. Or maybe you posted looking for an argument? I dunno.

If you have to keep match replays just to make sure that someone didn't kill someone's boar or somesuch, that's probably a sign of a scrubby rule. Looking at a game like Starcraft where you can screw with the opponent's economy and it is a completely valid tactic, this rule seems extremely scrubby by comparison. If the game isn't intended to be played where both players do everything in their power to win (within the game), it is probably not a good game for competition. If you can't see that, I don't know what else to say.

The rule about certain factions not being allowed is probably okay, at least on the surface. You can really ban any specific entity in the game that you want - say if you wanted a MvC2 without the top 8 characters, you could realistically do that although you'd be playing some unusual variant of the game. Whether or not that's actually ideal is open to debate but at least we're talking about banning discrete entities here and not something like "you cannot attack enemy resource gatherers."

Also, random maps are universally worse for competitive play. I have a fairly high degree of certainty that the '90% of the time it's balanced' does not take into account very small aspects of terrain that could be abused that are not present for both sides, but honestly I cannot say that 100% for certain. I do know that a random map generator would be a complete disaster 100% of the time in any other real-time strategy game so I can only make the assumption that AoE and its sequels follow the same basic design structure. In fact, random maps are pretty much universally bad regardless of game. I've played numerous competitive games ranging from shooters to fighters to strategy games to simulations, and literally every time a random map feature has been used in competition, someone has been horribly screwed by it. The only way that a random map feature could produce an actually balanced map is if the map did not matter at all, which is most likely not the case.

February 21, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAuspice

"If you have to keep match replays just to make sure that someone didn't kill someone's boar or somesuch, that's probably a sign of a scrubby rule."

No you don't "need" to keep match replays just to make sure that rules weren't broken. There is very rarely fuss about rules, I have not seen any seriously good AoC player ever complain about rules or attempt to break them. He would immediately get ridiculed by the community. Why do you assume that rules are so difficult to keep?

Anyway, my point is, why is it scrubby? What is there scrubby about it? The community likes these rules, they don't harm competition in the slightest, what is your (and I assume Sirlin's) problem with these rules? Many semi-professional gamers who have made tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars playing computer games competitively keep coming back to this 10 year old game because they like it best. If you call them "scrubby", then this term just loses its meaning.

By the way, recorded games are one of the main reasons why AoC is so good for a competitive game. For an AoC fan, watching recs of matches between top players is the same as it is for a football fan to watch football matches between top teams. The matches with several K of $$$ for the winner, are actually played without live audience. But the recs are uploaded after the match, and then thousands of people download them and view in their own computer.

"Regarding "only banning Akumas" I'm pretty sure that Sirlin has different views, but I think there is some stretch where he'd probably say "I don't agree with it, but it seems like a reasonably sound decision." He doesn't complain about most Type 2 card bans in MtG for instance, and a lot of them are done mostly because banning the cards in question creates larger deck diversity rather than completely dominating the meta. Maybe he does disagree but I dunno, maybe he can post on it."

Well, it really seems to me that he states quite clearly in the article, that something needs to "stop gameplay completely" for banning to be "non-scrubby". Also, he opposes Akuma to a "gun that does too much damage, or a tower that is too powerful". No, Akuma is precisely a gun that does too much damage, or a tower that is too powerful. It is simply, that the extent of this being "too powerful" is exteremely large in case of Akuma. But it doesn't have to be that large to justify banning. It just has to be "large enough". What exactly is large enough, is a matter of personal preference, and a subject of dispute. But it doesn't need to be close to Akuma, for the vast majority of players to reach consensus.

Akuma is not an elephant in a drawer filled with screwdrivers, it is an enormous screwdriver in a drawer filled with mostly medium-sized, some small and some just large screwdrivers. It may have an unusual uncomfortable pink manatee-shaped handle with a penis drawn on its back, but in the end it is still a screwdriver. I agree that due to the simply outrageous size, and I guess partially the weird handle, it is pretty effortless to single him out. But it doesn't have to be that large for singling out to make sense, nor is the weird handle necessary for it. What is necessary, is that the screwdriver has big enough size difference to beat all other screwdrivers into submission.

Maybe I am getting the wrong impression from the article, I don't know, that is just how it appeared to me.

And this from the article:
"I've talked about how the expert player is not bound by rules of "honor" or "cheapness" and simply plays to maximize his chances of winning."
is also not really true. Being bound by rules of honor or cheapness has nothing to do with wether we're dealing with expert or not. Like I brought an example of one of the best AoC players ever being "honorable" and he is exactly like that as a person overall, but he IS an expert, and it doesn't make sense to call him scrubby. What makes rules of honor and cheapness scrubby, is when they aren't *actually* rules of honor and cheapness. Like that "no-throwing" rule. There is nothing cheap about throwing someone 5 times in a row, it is scrubby to think that it is cheap. But when something TRULY is cheap, like a gun that just *is* way too powerful (and again I don't mean Akuma too powerful... just powerful enough to harm gameplay), there is nothing scrubby about banning it.

One thing that needs attention is that often, when there's a gun that is way too powerful... Banning it will leave us with the second next powerful gun that is now way too powerful. And so on. This is when the game is too shallow to be played competetively as Sirlin mentions. But I am of course defending cases when other than the first banned gun (and once again, not Akuma... just a too poweful gun), the game is balanced. Or when a boring exploit is banned, the rest of the game is good. Etc. Which there are plenty.

"Also, random maps are universally worse for competitive play. I have a fairly high degree of certainty that the '90% of the time it's balanced' does not take into account very small aspects of terrain that could be abused that are not present for both sides"

Of course it is rarely *COMPLETELY* balanced. But it is vast majority of the time balanced enough, that it is possible to just "live with it" as Sirlin likes to put it. (Say, if the game would be 50/50 in case of a completely balanced map, random map rarely shifts it worse than 60/40. Also, matches usually feature several maps, usually 5 or 7 in final stages of tournaments. I guess if it was just one map, then random map wouldn't be so good.) A small luck factor is OK. I find it surprising that you that seem to be hating all these scrubby rules, mind luck factor so much.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure by the way you defend your game of choice (AoE) that you can't imagine being wrong in your opinions about it, and only posted here to validate them. Or maybe you posted looking for an argument? I dunno.


I thought of an easy explanation of why that comment of yours was so ridiculous.

It is essientially the same as saying, that Starcraft is a crappy scrubby game and that the community should play something else.

Do you get it now?

I guess I have to admit, that claiming the same about AoC is not quite *as* cosmically ludicrous, but it sure is comparable. Infinity divided by ten is still infinity.


Obviously this play to win thing is an interesting article that raises many very good points that I agree with 100%, otherwise I probably wouldn't be commenting so much, but some of the claims that Sirlin (and now you Auspice) have made, I do not agree with and I have just posted what seem to me valid arguments. If you're not interested in replying to them, I can live with it. I have written my posts mostly out of the pleasure of thinking about game psychology and game design and putting my thinking into words.

I fear this whole long-winded argument is staring to get derailed badly, so I'll try to put down as concisely as possible my reaction to the article and resulting feedback in attempt to explain what I'm blabbing about to begin with.
Here are the main points under discussion the way I see them.

*) It is not possible to become truly good at a game, without playing it for one paramount purpose: to win.
- Agree 100%. The basic human (and especially male) desire for victory, is the only thing that would realistically motivate the player to dedicate himself so deeply to the game, that he would put 100% of his capability into it. This is why I will never be truly good at any game, I never play anything to win.

*) Players that do not play to win (scrubs), often clutter the game with rules that do not make it competitively more enjoyable, while erroneously thinking, that these rules *DO* make it competitively more enjoyable, due to lack of understanding of the game. Which they ironically lack because they don't play it to win.
- Agree 100%. From a competition perspective... The "no throwing" rule actually only makes the game less rich. The "flashy combos only" rule actually only makes the game less rich. The "no running away and hiding" rule actually makes the game less rich (unless it's a broken game to begin with). These rules are OK if you are just playing for casual fun and know it, but it is disappointing when people do not realise that they hurt the competitive form of the game, or worse, insist that they make it better.

*) In the beginning of the competitive realm upon release of the game, some techniques are erroneously thought to be "unbeatable", due to lack of research in the game mechanics. As competition grinds its cogwheels, new "unbeatable" techniques continuously evolve that replace the previous ones in a beautiful long process that explores the strategic landscape of the game.
- Very good point, and for me the best part of the article, something that I had not fully realised myself.

+ a few other side points were nice.

And now the things that I read from the article or from between the lines that I reacted against.

?) Exploits have to be pretty outrageous and break the gameplay pretty bad to allow banning them to be "non-scrubby".
- I do not agree. The only requirement past possibility to enforce, is that the majority of the players must agree that the ban makes competitive play richer. I guess with a good explanation of how and why, but competitive players would not accept anything less anyway. Luckily I had an example up my sleeve, although that shouldn't have been necessary. Sometimes additional rules remove possibility of a truly boring match. Sometimes rules may be added even just temporarily to create variety. Whatever. I do not care how scrubby the rule seems to YOU, the burden of proof lies on YOU to show why it IS scrubby, not on me or the community to show why it isn't. If you personally are annoyed by the rule, that doesn't make it scrubby. Even when something that is banned for being overpowered turns out to be not overpowered as the strategies develop, that doesn't necessarily mean the original ban was "scrubby". It was scrubby if it was rushed, if all the better players kept saying "just wait and a counter will be found" but the majority of players ignored the experts' advice (which I suspect was the case in whatever example that was mentioned). But if long time had passed without major change and it really was impossible to come to any other conclusion than it being overpowered and clearly harmful of gameplay at the time... it would have been unreasonable to not ban it. Because *at that time* the truth was, that it *was* overpowered, and harmful of gameplay. Banning access to the highest known peak only causes the other peaks to be found quicker.

?) When the game is not perfect without many additional agreements between the players, then it is instantly "broken" and does not allow for good competition.
I do not agree. The additional rules make a bit of a hassle, and it would be more comfortable if they weren't required, but agreed rules between players do not hurt the competition, they only deter people who do not subjectively like these rules, which there does not inevitably have to be many.

?) Abiding rules of "honour" and "cheapness" harm the competitiveness of the game (and the player's potential?).
Nope. Let me put it this way. It is scrubby to consider endless throwing "cheap". But once you consider somethign cheap, it is NOT scrubby to object it. Simply in good games, cheapness doesn't even exist that much.

Sometimes, cheapness does exist. Let's try to bring an example of football. I think, that most people will agree it would be a better game, if we could somehow eliminate all the acting and unverifiable intentional fouls. It is not scrubby, to consider it cheap, it truly is making the game less rich. Sadly, we cannot enforce a ban on this. So we will just have to live with it. Even so, there are some players, among the top, that quite clearly do not engage in these "cheap" tactics nearly as much as many others. Simply because of personal rules of "honour". Are these players scrubby?

If there is something that you personally consider cheap, but really noone else does... I mean when you're a proved expert... It's not scrubby either. It's just unfortunate for you. It would be unreasonable to demand other players to share your opinion though. Try to play the game everyone else is playing, or abide by your personal rule, neither is scrubby either.

?) Playing to win is in any way superior to playing for fun.
lol. No, just if you play for fun you should understand and accept that you will never be nearly as good as when you played to win, and you will never enjoy true competition in the game. If that's fine with you though... By all means, have fun.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

I don't understand how someone can question the akuma ban.

I am playing starcraft competitive and aware of cheap things (in this game there are so called cheese builds, which usually give a chance of winning based on the defender's scouting(which can depend on luck in the case of 4 player maps) and the defender's original build order, thus giving 50/50 chance of winning unrelated to skill. Akuma isn't like this)

Also I don't know how random maps can be better than normal maps which are designed to be balanced and which will be changed with new maps also designed to be balanced for the sake variety.

If you have random map on, you give an advantage to one of the players right away.
It's like gambling in the beginning of a football match to see which team how many players can use.
Yea, the law of big numbers in statistics says that the average of a probability variable (in this case, the map balance) goes to the expected value which is 50/50 in our case, after a huge number of experiments, but still this won't happen in a "short" series, e.g. best of five or best of 3 match.

Yet, I don't know AoE too well and maybe the advantages are very little what you can get from the random terrain. Maybe I am overestimating the importance of this.

Starcraft became balanced with the well designed maps.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterfreelander

Well the matter of the fact is, whole competitive AoE2 community has always unanimously agreed to use random maps, I have never even heard of any complaints about it (I mean when there have been complaints, they have been rather that the random map generator should be more balanced, which it definitely has become since first release of AoE2, but never has anyone expressed wish for pre-made maps) and it has never even occurred to me that there is something wrong with the idea of using random maps. So yes you are probably overestimating the importance of this. Unfortunately I don't know much about Starcraft so I cannot compare. But the comfortable endless variety that arises from random maps is apparently well worth the small luck factor it causes.

February 22, 2009 | Unregistered Commenteranon

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