Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing



  • @ganymede said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    Frankly, I like FS3 because the experts don't always win. I can't tell you how many times I saw Spectre missing or not damaging Cylons, and Trash Panda miraculously made it through a frontal assault. It does what Faraday wants it to: simulate a modern combat situation. And it does it really well.

    Yeah, same. If anything, FS3 tends to make lower-skilled characters more effective than a lot of systems (thereby kind of massaging the difference between them and higher-skilled/more veteran characters, which is a frustration other players have with it, but that's not the complaint).

    This sort of gets at...how much is a dice system responsible for making players feel validated and important to the story? And this is not a minor thing. This is maybe the most important responsibility a GM has. But it's always going to be about a player's feelings, what they want (and don't always communicate wanting particularly well), and how well or how poorly an ST is balancing their stories and doing plots that a variety of types can be involved in. Players also have to be honest with themselves about what they want to play and...play that thing (as the game allows). But, hopefully, we don't only feel validated when we get a critical success.


  • Pitcrew

    @wretched said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    @the-sands But that's the entire reason modifiers exist in nWoD. For situational advantages/disadvantages. They would still have the same dice pool for treating a gunshot wound, for the reasons I previously mentioned, but a test on the subject matter that the int 5 guy never actually went to school on, I would most definitely say he would take a -modifier for. That's not the ST being a dick, that's just looking at the situation and going 'yeah that is probably a factor in this roll' the same as doing parkour in an arena evenly coated with crisco.

    @Wretched is being more generous than I would be here, I was was running a tabletop or a scene and the Int 5 Med ! guy was wanting to do much beyond first aid stuff I would just tell them with medicine one your character lacks the knowledge and move on.


  • Pitcrew

    @ganymede said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    Actually, you're the one that brought it up. Unless I'm misreading things, your criticism prior to Faraday's last was that FS3 hurts your RP because you like playing lesser-experienced PCs and growing them over time. This implies that you have an issue with the progression in FS3.

    You are misreading things and pretty severely if you think think

    @kitteh said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    some people like playing lesser experienced characters and growing them

    is equivalent to:

    @faraday said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    if your goal is to come in at poor and get to Expert in 6 months

    Because it's not. One is a straw man meant to characterize me as unreasonable. 'You like yours and I like mine' is fine, but 'you want something silly and I'm not catering to you' is nasty, and frankly it dispels some of the great respect I had for her. Lots of people have expressed similar feelings in this thread. She doesn't have to accept them, but she shouldn't belittle them.

    (I'm aware CoD handles XP differently)


  • Coder

    @kitteh I stated earlier in the thread that FS3 allows you to go from Everyman to Good in 6 months. To get to Great is another 4 months after that. Like @Ganymede, I thought you were complaining that these 10 months to get to Great was too slow, so I picked the atbitrary comparison of 6 months. It was not my intention to belittle anyone and I’m sorry if it came across that way.

    Incidentally the system imposes no special restrictions on the transition from Good to Great. If T8S does so, that’s a house rule I have no control over.


  • Politics

    @kitteh

    I don't think what you want is unreasonable, but what Faraday said, word for word, is correct and accurate.

    FS3 isn't very good if you want to go from novice to expert in 6 months. At least, that's your and Faraday's opinion. You can go from Fair to Great in 7 months, if I'm not mistaken, in skills, while bumping an attribute during the same period is possible. That's +3 dice to what was once, what, a 4 or 5 dice pool? That's not bad. Trash Panda has become a very-violent Trash Panda in her lifespan as a result.

    And you do have an issue with progression, right? Specifically, you have an issue with how slow the progression is in FS3. This is a reasonable issue to have, but if you do have that issue, then nothing I said in response was incorrect either.

    As Faraday said, this is built into the system. It is, if you want to call it so, a system flaw. If you run your own game with FS3 (which I might do, later), then you can change this by halving the time between XP raises and increasing how much XP you get every week, etc. I don't think that'd be too difficult.

    So, maybe I am misreading things, because I don't see an pejorative invective in pointing out a system's limitations, as written. All the more reason to, as said in a different thread, re-configure an RPG to satisfy a particular game's needs.


  • Pitcrew

    @three-eyed-crow said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    This sort of gets at...how much is a dice system responsible for making players feel validated and important to the story? And this is not a minor thing. This is maybe the most important responsibility a GM has.

    I would disagree with this statement completely, to me it is not the responsibility for the GM to do anything by be fair and upfront. For example if i am running a heavy combat plot to mention that so people can make a decision about participating. Or if it is something investigation heavy mention that etc.
    If a runner says hey this will be fight-y I don't think they have any obligation to throw in something to let a non-fighty person have a moment to shine. I also do thing that if a plot is billed as an investigation the GM should though in a combat just because a tank showed up and wanted someone to punch.
    No one feeling of validation is ever anyone else's responsibility especially not in a game.


  • Pitcrew

    @ganymede I have an issue, yes, but not just with 'how long to get from X to Y' but with the entire min-max vs. rounded character that has been covered in the thread. I was referencing that whole discussion, and its not an FS3-only thing so it's not like I'm hating on her specifically. But trying to reduce the argument to one aspect in extreme (noob to expert) seems deceptive.

    @faraday Cool. Maybe the XP rates are OKish, at this point I struggle to remember the exact #s/levels and what I was trying to get to. I do think you underestimate the impact of the whole thing, the dice, the psychology of just being worse at everything (both when you start and later on despite your growth) and not having your own thing, etc.

    BSG has a lot of the rookies (and I don't think I was even a rookie) being cool, but I felt it was hard to get there on your game. One hyper min-maxed guy having as many kills as the entire rest of the wing, getting all of one (that didn't involve a creeper cheating on my 'behalf') my entire time, just feeling like a joke with a hard time contributing, etc. Maybe its just a disconnect with the dice and fiction or something, or I was just especially awful, I don't know. It wasn't the only (or even the biggest) problem but it didn't help things.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    Incidentally the system imposes no special restrictions on the transition from Good to Great. If T8S does so, that’s a house rule I have no control over.

    T8S doesn't have a particular house rule on this. Staff does look a little closer at skills at Great and above in Chargen. I can't speak to the particular situation, because I don't honestly remember who @kitteh apped, but we usually suggest ways to tweak the BG if we don't think that it justifies having a Great or higher. Occasionally someone will come in with a particularly young character looking to have several skills at Great or above and we ask them to lower one or two.

    As @Ganymede said, it's trivially easy for even a non-coder like myself to tweak the XP costs, XP rate, and cooldown time on skill raises. This is one of the awesome things about Ares--very configurable with limited code knowledge.

    @kitteh has a very good point though that the mechanical success of a character can have a major impact on the happiness of the player, particularly if the player sees them as having a level of skill that the dice don't seem to agree with (whether due to sheeted skills or just how the dice fall). I tend to be of a similar type of player--if I've got a character who is "supposed" to be exceptionally good at something, I feel the failures a lot harder than I feel the successes. That's just game theory though... we as humans remember and fear failure a lot more than we remember and celebrate success.

    That being said, I think my character got a single on-screen kill in like... the last 6 missions he was on, and he has pretty good stats. It was totally frustrating, especially watching other characters soar ahead of him. But it totally happens. Not just a "low skills" thing, just a luck-of-the-dice thing. Which doesn't, of course, make it any easier.


  • Coder

    @kitteh We can certainly disagree on how things should be - and I did make some tweaks to combat (armor wasn't working quite right) and XP costs after you left. But regardless, I meant no offense.

    Back to the original topic though.... I mean, what others have said is factually accurate about systems in general (and FS3 in particular):

    • Having a linear chargen cost system and exponential XP system absolutely encourages people to start off as awesome as they wish to be, since it'll be hard to raise later.
    • If left unchecked by other means, this can lead to ludicrous min-maxing. (On the flip side, there are countless ways to check this: staff review, skill package minimums like the BSGU 'basic training' skills, mandatory background skills, maximum limits on points spent on certain skills, limits on specialty skills, just to name a few).
    • You can't do the prototypical "hero's journey" trope where you go from zero to hero in a short timespan with most exponential XP costs.
    • The person who starts off ahead (re: higher XP value because they bought skills up higher) will always be ahead.
    • It's important to set expectations so players aren't disappointed.

    @seraphim73 said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    It was totally frustrating, especially watching other characters soar ahead of him. But it totally happens. Not just a "low skills" thing, just a luck-of-the-dice thing. Which doesn't, of course, make it any easier.

    Yeah honestly from what I saw behind the curtains - some people just had crappy luck. Which comes down to what someone said a few posts ago... how much responsibility does the GM have to make the players feel like they're playing up to their skills, as opposed to just saying: "Ah, well, them's the breaks, the dice hate you tonight." I mean, I know the latter was more my experience in tabletop RPGs. I try to err more on the side of story in games but as long as there's automated dice involved, there's really only so much you can do.


  • Pitcrew

    @Seraphim73 I don't think it was so much an issue of a house rule or wanting a skill high (I did want some skills high, because I've learned how FS3 works, but that was a separate thing), but rather a skill at... whatever the highest value was before you actually got to the limited skills you could only have a couple of? It was weird because that value was pretty low compared to the average PC and it felt odd to have to fight over it. Doubly so when you have so many points its hard not to have everything pretty high.

    But yeah I do think the dice-vs.-expectations thing can be tricky to manage. When you have highly min-maxed people... doing predictably, consistently well, 'oh they really don't have much of an advantage' is unsatisfying to hear whether its true or not. Maybe it's only 17% (or whatever) but when you roll as often as you do in FS3 I do think that stuff adds up. It's fine to let the super-leet be leet, but if you're gonna design the game that way you probably want to create alternate lower-stakes things the 'mere mortals' can do so they can actually feel like they're part of things and not irrelevant spectators to the cool people.

    @faraday I'd honestly say one area where most games fails is the last of your bullet points. Our gaming culture has a vague stigma min-maxing in a general sense, despite so many players honestly liking it or simply being used to doing it. So when it's an expected part of a game system, that should be stated clearly. The worst thing is feeling like you're going to be screwed either way, you ask for too much and staff calls you a twink, or you ask too little and have a character worth half the XP of the rest of the players.

    This isn't aimed at you or even the FS3-verse. If WoD games are OK with you doing 5 1 1 and spending your first few XP turning those 1s into 2s they need to say that.


  • Pitcrew

    @thatguythere Replied to you over here since people have requested repeatedly to move this conversation from this thread: http://musoapbox.net/topic/2121/skills-and-fluff-in-wod/4


  • Pitcrew

    @d-bone said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    @insomniac7809 The Sherlocke holmes analogy fails a little bit because there is also Watson, who is the lens with which the book exists.. and is receiving training basically from Holmes throughout the entire series.. even if he never really gets any better. That isn't to say that Watson is the protagonist, but the trope exists in the literature.

    There is the first movie sure for batman, but then you can have your deathstroke.. you know where batman meets super batman? And Batman has to learn to be a better batman to beat super batman?

    The problem with your comparison to Han is that like.. character growth can occur both in a skill level, but also emotionally as well. Character development is a sign of character depth, in your Han analogy, Han doesn't grow as a thief, but he grows as a person. He goes against his princples of money first and goes back to save luke, and more.

    See, though, like you said--Watson doesn't really get to be a better detective, he has to get by as merely a lady-killing doctor army veteran/bumbling comic relief sidekick/source of unresolved sexual tension (pick as appropriate for given media).

    Batman has had a few stories where he has to become better at being Batman (because 89 years of comics, written fiction, television, video games, and movies have had Batman doing basically everything at some point), but usually he doesn't buy up his Batman skills, he just has to figure out a way to out-Batman Bane or Deathstroke.

    Han becomes a better person, but that's not the sort of thing that needs to be reflected with RPG mechanics. (It could be, but it doesn't have to.)

    The thing where someone needs to training montage their way to the peak, or go from zero to hero, is definitely a thing in a certain kind of fiction. It's not the be all or end all by any stretch, even of genre fiction, and development as a person isn't the same thing as developing skill slots.

    It's just really, really uncommon for RPGs, where character capability improvement is taken as one of the cornerstones of the game. And I wonder how much of that would change if people could app the Man With No Name at chargen, instead of apping Dave the Moderately Skilled Gunfighter and building him up over time. Or if the raising of stats is something that really draws people to the games.


  • Coder

    @kitteh said in Game Design: Avoiding Min-Maxing:

    But yeah I do think the dice-vs.-expectations thing can be tricky to manage. When you have highly min-maxed people... doing predictably, consistently well, 'oh they really don't have much of an advantage' is unsatisfying to hear whether its true or not. Maybe it's only 17% (or whatever) but when you roll as often as you do in FS3 I do think that stuff adds up. It's fine to let the super-leet be leet, but if you're gonna design the game that way you probably want to create alternate lower-stakes things the 'mere mortals' can do so they can actually feel like they're part of things and not irrelevant spectators to the cool people.

    But, see.... I really don't mean to piss you off or disregard your feelings, but your opinion seems to be the minority there from all the feedback I've received. That doesn't mean your experiences aren't valid just.... no system can please everyone.

    There are plenty of people who didn't have maxed-out stats at all who did perfectly well in combat, both on the marine side and the pilot side. AND there were several people who actually did have maxed-out (or nearly so) stats who were often griping about feeling "useless" just because they didn't get any kills or didn't do much damage in a couple missions. It was definitely more common on the pilot side because of the kill board, because there IS an IC competitiveness among pilots.

    So yeah... perceived performance versus expected performance is definitely a valid issue for game systems to address, but... how? Short of dispensing with dice entirely and just leaving it up to skill vs skill... what on earth are you supposed to do? (Serious question.)

    ETA: To clarify - I'm not saying nobody complains about FS3. Lordy do they. But "the newbie can't hold their own against the vets" is really just not a complaint I've received repeatedly.


  • Pitcrew

    @faraday I don't know what to tell you. You 'don't want to piss me off' but you seem to take every opportunity to make this more contentious and/or personal. You espouse a 'different strokes' stance (which is fine) and yet seem incredibly unwilling to let even subjective experiences of the game system (not even your game) go unchallenged. And then there's the whole painting me as unreasonable thing.

    I was talking about FS3 generally (and WoD!) to begin with, which includes a ton of games. It wasn't remotely BSGU specific. It still really isn't, other than examples that I can only really draw from your game because they happened to happen there. I was echoing an opinion widely expressed here.

    My comments regarding sucking there I acknowledge are subjective, although they're based on events that were absolutely happening at the time (a min-maxer dominating, me literally only getting one legit kill ever). I'm not making those things up.

    If my factual observations mean nothing because you saw other things at other times, OK. If my subjective feelings mean nothing to you because they differ from your peer group input, OK. Reality check, though: unhappy people often don't leave comments, they just ghost. I've only ended up discussing any of this because it's come up in these threads.

    I still really dislike the CG/XP disparity. You don't care. Cool.


  • Coder

    @kitteh I'm going out of my way to disagree politely, and the response is to accuse me of making it contentious and personal and painting you as unreasonable. Fine, whatever. I'm done trying to express an opinion.