Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Your mother!"

In this week's lecture we learnt about the intricacies of multiplayer gaming and the often unusual interactions that take place between human allies and opponents. Amongst the various activities, some mentioned at some point already in this blog, there were two interactions that stood out for me from the 'Actors + Counteractors' list. These were the actions of taunting/luring and forcing a player to do something detrimental or forbidden (seduction). While these two may have common links, they are something that really only applies to action between human beings, even in a virtual world.

Taunting, luring and/or falling for one's bluff is an interesting game mechanic that cannot really be applied to the methodical precision that an artificially intelligent opponent would possess. Part of taunting or luring is having your enemy know their mistake when it's too late to react or stop. Taunting can happen in many games, from my experience, alot of the time in multiplayer FPS games to enrage or frustrate your opponent (all in fair sport though). The psychological effects of taunting can be seen to be beneficial, if not to simply increase the fun factor of playing.

Below: TF2 - Pyro taunts

Luring on the other hand is a little more complicated. To lure implies that you have some sort of negative affect attached to a desired position or entity in a game. This could be vital strategic ground in an RTS such as Starcraft or Dawn of War, or simply a necessary corner to traverse in TF2 in which an engineer has parked a lvl 3 sentry. Luring sometimes may even involve taunting, irritating an opponent with small arms fire, provoking their interest in your demise and disregarding any potential threats. It is often considered that the Zerg race in Starcraft and the Necrons in Dawn of War are the epitomy of Lure and Ambush game play styles.

Below: Starcraft 2 - Zerg Assault in progress

Bluffing is again different. Without talking about card games and other such game types where honesty is involved, the mechanic of bluffing in many video games is particularly rare. I don't just mean running around a corner, only to jump out again in their faces, as such an action can be seen as beneficial maneouvre. Where actual bluffing is concerned, you are opening yourself up to potential threat or harm by performing it. Something like staying stealthed or shadowmelded around a BG flag in WoW, or feigning a fear/drain/heal are typical examples of bluffs that open you to harm if you don't manage them correctly (or indeed if they don't fall for them).

Forcing detrimental, negative or even forbidden play is also a different ball game. In football, if your defense or pressure is good enough, you could force the enemy team into making the mistake of performing long or risky passes in order to get around you. This sort of gameplay element can be translated into many games, such as applying pressure in WoW's Arena (forcing cooldowns) or simply bugging a resource collector in an RTS like Red Alert. Such tactics may force an opponent into a more defensive state, pulling back and restricting offensive forces and abilities and opening up weakness for you to exploit.

Most of these actions are performed unconciously by the player/s of many games.

So what does this mean for games design and our game? While our game does not directly have many avenues for taunting or luring, bluffing and forcing are possibilities when you consider the style of play involved. Disabling a ramp only to basically make it again in your next turn could force a friend or foe to do undesirable moves that could work in your favour. Pretending to aprroach and engage an enemy force could create tension as a player summons strength to the area, and relief or frustration when you simply move past him or her unconcerned.

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