10/24/2011 MM: "Ten Things Every Game Needs, Part 1"

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This thread is for discussion of this week's Making Magic, which goes live Monday morning on magicthegathering.com.
This feels more like a one-parter to me, but still, iteresting concept. 

Also, you like public speaking? I'm not sure I believe that... Wink 
I'm a huge fan of the game deisgn articles so the more the better.

Plus I also like them since I can shair them with my other friends even if they don't play MTG since the concepts all apply for what ever games they may be playing. 
As someone in the game industry who has read a book or two discussing the exact definition of a game, I think your definition is too narrow.

#1) A goal or goals: (how do they win?)

Plenty of games have no win condition.  Ring around the rosie, for instance.  The Sims, for instance.  The game "Flower", for instance.

#2) Rules

Agree.

(Well...if you really stretch it, there might be exceptions for spontaneous play here; like...is peakaboo a game?  It's certainly a form of play between two people.  But what are the rules of peakaboo?)

But in terms of an assignment you can have graded by your teacher: yes, definitely have rules.

#3) Interaction: (Encourage players to react to each other)

I can point out a big flaw with this while staying entirely in the realm of competitive gaming.  There are still Pac Man and Donkey Kong tournaments that happen in 2011.  People do "speed runs" for nearly every electronic game ever made.  Going non-electronic, Solitare remains a popular way to use a deck of cards, and recognized by Vegas.

And a lot of these have thriving communities.  This is in spite of the fact that there's no screwing your opponent.  All that matters is your own performance.

#4) A Catch-Up Feature:

Good ol Mario-Kart rubber banding negative feedback loops.

Not all games have them; in fact, some games, like Starcraft, focus on exactly the opposite: positive feedback loops--where once you're ahead you can get more resources and get even further ahead.  This works in the case of Starcraft, because you can always "scoop"; you type in "gg", quit out, and go to the next game.

#5: Inertia: (push the game to end; keep games shorter)
 
Only important in a player vs player game.

(But within the context of pvp games...yeah, I think you might just be flat-out correct in this case.  I can think of several games that fail to do this, and every case I can think of is clearly a mistake.  Monopoly the way most people play it.  SSBB making it rarely profitable to attack).

Cats land on their feet. Toast lands peanut butter side down. A cat with toast strapped to its back will hover above the ground in a state of quantum indecision.

metroid: True, people do do speed runs, and it's a thriving community, but I'd argue that the entire universe of serious speedrunners is perhaps comparable to *just* players of Magic: The Gathering.  That said...  obviously single-player games, especially electronic video games, have their place.  I'd argue that since Donkey Kong was deisnged as a single-player game, it's getting its interaction element with the "board" or the AI.  Cooperative board games like Pandemic or Arkham Horrror might be a better "counterexample," where the interaction is mostly with the system itself as players work together.  I think MaRo's point is that games that don't have a single-player "foe" to interact with but rely strictly on multiplayer that feature no interaction are bad.  Two players speedrunning Castlevania are both fighting (= interacting with) ghouls and vampires.  Two Magic players with pure combo decks aren't doing anything very interesting - they're just in their own room with a clock.  (At best, one combo player says "I have only a 10% chance of going off with my Storm deck this turn but I *know* he will combo me out next turn from his board so let's give it a shot now anyway.")

As for #4, I think you are required by law to link this:
www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2008/4/25/
That said, while Blue Shells are too inelegant, I do agree with MaRo's point.  I play Euro board games which tend to be rather unforgiving of a slow start, and there definitely have come points where you're stuck with "I have 0% chance of winning, but if I leave now the game will be ruined."  This isn't all that fun (although it does make victories more rewarding).  I'd argue that such a catch-up feature is more required in 3+ player games, as in 2 player games there's certainly a quick concession if it's obvious one side is in a dominant position.
I was sufficiently impressed by metroidcomposite's post that I thought I'd expand on it in some places.  Namely, with regard to idea number four, the catch-up feature.  It's probably the least necessary of the five ideas mentioned thus far, and also the one that Magic in particular actually fails pretty miserably at in one important regard.

The idea that most games do or should have a catch-up feature is, I suspect a fairly modern one.  Think of any classic game -- chess, poker, checkers, go, cribbage, ping-pong, you name it.  None of those games mentioned have a catch-up feature, and most of them go the opposite route.  Chess is a particularly good example, to the extent that the loss of a single piece can often result in an immediate and justifiable resignation.  That hasn't stopped people from playing the game in well over half a millenium.  A game can obviously be quite fun for a great many people without any sort of catch-up feature at all.

Poker is another example of a game that goes in the opposite direction, as is pretty much any betting-based zero-sum game.  Once you start winning in poker, you're more likely to keep winning than otherwise.  Namely, once you've won a significant fraction of your opponent's chips, it becomes even easier to win the rest, as you can make bets that your opponent(s) just can't afford to match regardless of the strength of their hand.  Of course to be fair poker does have a catch-up mechanism of sorts, since as long as you still have a significant number of chips left there's always the possibility that you win a big pot.  Note, however, that this so-called catch-up mechanism actually gets weaker the farther you fall behind.  It's stronger when you're at parity than when you're behind, and it's even stronger when you're ahead than when you're at parity.

Now to take the discussion to Magic: although the chance to draw a powerful spell off the top at just the right moment does exist and functions as intended in the course of a "normal" game, Magic's catch-up feature fails at one important junction.  Namely, regarding mana screw.  During this most important time for a catch-up feature to be active, it completely breaks down.  When stalled out on two lands is not the time that anyone wants to draw that six-mana bomb.  The time when the game most needs a catch-up feature is the time that the catch-up feature not only fails to apply but in fact actively works against the player.
Great Galendo: Disagree on mana screw "completely breaking down" Magic's catch-up nature.  Catch-up is more than just "draw high mana spells;" it means "with random card draw, one player can draw the 'right' cards he needs while the other player draws dead."  In the case of mana-screw, it's not game-over at all; you can rip 2 lands off the top your next turns and get right back in it, while your opponent keeps drawing useless lands and gets mana flooded.  Or you might draw cheap spells that you can cast that are perfect for the situation - 2 casting cost walls in a Limited match, perhaps.  Mana screw isn't cause for immediate concession, unlike throwing away a bishop for nothing in moderate-skill and above chess.
#1:  Besides the exceptions MetroidComposite pointed out, there's another huge one: Roleplaying Games (and no I don't mean Final Fantasy, or even Dungeons and Dragons, I mean games that were designed specifically for roleplay rather than as an elaboration on a tactical miniatures battle or a single-player video game).  When a bunch of people get together to play something like Vampire: the Masquerade (which is directly responsible for the "colon-the" in "Magic: the Gathering"), with few exceptions, none of the players is attempting to "win"; they just want to play.  I even consider it valid to play Magic in this fashion, being the radical-leftist Timmy that I am; I'm more interested in watching cards interact in amusing ways than I am in proving that I can most quickly or most unstoppably reduce an opponent's life total to zero.  So it's perfectly possible for a game to have no goal, or at least a fluid and nebulous goal like "have fun", rather than anything structure-forcing.
#2:  No real argument here.  I could repeat my points from #1 but they are less obviously true with respect to rules than to victory; rules ought ideally to be flexible, but ambiguity doesn't accomplish that.
#3:  "Self-selection also means that players will tend to play against players who share their vision of how the game should be increasing the chances that all parties have a good gaming experience."  This is very true, but unfortunately not enough so.  I have had little luck finding people to play the versions of Magic I want to play, even ones as official as Duel Decks or Archenemy, let alone my stranger semi-freeform variants or my general desire to ban strategies I find unreasonable or unfun.  Ultimately you can't self-select too much without ending up eliminating all your possibilities (a fact I've often bemoaned with reference to dating as well).  It'd be nice if there was enough of everything to go around, but there isn't.
#4:  Again, no argument.  If you can't catch up, the game should be over, officially as well as otherwise.  But that said....
#5:  ....I cannot disagree enough with this point.  Magic these days is a game that almost always ends on turns 3-5, and that is why I have stopped playing it.  It's too fast, too unforgiving of stumbles; shuffling is a waste of time when the game ends so soon.  In most cases you know you've lost the minute you draw a crap hand and need to Paris-mulligan, leaving you with fewer cards than your opponent; exceptions are so rare they're barely worth bothering with.  No, faster is not always better for games.  Sure, if the players lose interest halfway through the game, that's bad; but if the game ends while they still want it to continue, that's just as bad, because now they have to go all the way back to the beginning and start over if they want to continue the experience.  Oh, and also, "The mana system works such that as you get to the late game you have the ability to play larger and more powerful spells. The game will end because these spells are big enough to make it end." Except that powerful spells are almost always rare and many players don't have enough of them to make a game end.  When I first played "Elves versus Goblins", both decks got out a ton of dudes and then the two massive armies just sat there, neither one able to blink, because there weren't enough cards in the decks that could break a stailmate.  It's too easy for one or both of the decks in the game to just plain not contain any cards that will achieve victory, especially since the more game-breaking a spell is in the late game, the more likely it is to be a dead draw which makes you lose early on.  (Things like kicker and +1/+1 counter growth do help a lot with that problem though.)
My New Phyrexia Writing Credits My M12 Writing Credits
As far as the benefit of the rest of Magic is concerned, gold cards in Legends were executed perfectly. They got all the excitement a designer could hope out of a splashy new mechanic without using up any of the valuable design space. Truly amazing. --Aaron Forsythe's Random Card Comment on Kei Takahashi
Two players speedrunning Castlevania are both fighting (= interacting with) ghouls and vampires.



Yeah, I don't really buy NPC interactions as being what Maro was talking about (any more than a combo deck interacting with its own combo pieces is the kind of interaction Maro was talking about).  Or: consider VVVVVV speedruns, where there literally are no enemies to interact with, just spikes and moving spikes.  I don't really feel like speedrunning Castlevania is all that fundamentally different from speedrunning VVVVVV.

I'm inclined to point to the third chapter of Sheri Graner-Ray's Gender Inclusive Game Design where she talks about direct competition vs indirect competition.  (It's a book about gender, so the rest of the chapter starts talking about which gender is statistically more likely to prefer which type of competition).  But ignoring the gender stuff, there is a very strong argument for some audiences prefering indirect competition.  Would Audiosurf be a better game if you only played it in a versus mode and could mess up each other's tracks?  My inclination is no--or at least changing the game like this would alienate a lot of its current fans.

Cats land on their feet. Toast lands peanut butter side down. A cat with toast strapped to its back will hover above the ground in a state of quantum indecision.

The idea that most games do or should have a catch-up feature is, I suspect a fairly modern one.  Think of any classic game -- chess, poker, checkers, go, cribbage, ping-pong, you name it.  None of those games mentioned have a catch-up feature, and most of them go the opposite route.  Chess is a particularly good example, to the extent that the loss of a single piece can often result in an immediate and justifiable resignation.  That hasn't stopped people from playing the game in well over half a millenium.  A game can obviously be quite fun for a great many people without any sort of catch-up feature at all.

Poker is another example of a game that goes in the opposite direction, as is pretty much any betting-based zero-sum game.  Once you start winning in poker, you're more likely to keep winning than otherwise.  Namely, once you've won a significant fraction of your opponent's chips, it becomes even easier to win the rest, as you can make bets that your opponent(s) just can't afford to match regardless of the strength of their hand.  Of course to be fair poker does have a catch-up mechanism of sorts, since as long as you still have a significant number of chips left there's always the possibility that you win a big pot.  Note, however, that this so-called catch-up mechanism actually gets weaker the farther you fall behind.  It's stronger when you're at parity than when you're behind, and it's even stronger when you're ahead than when you're at parity.


Catch-up mechanisms don't necessarily need to be negative feedback loops; in fact, MaRo didn't mention negative feedback loops at all in the article.  You don't need to have a great chance of winning to make a bad position worth playing, but you need to have some chance of winning.  Most games are going to have some game states that are unwinnable or nearly unwinnable.  However, a game that reaches such states too often and too early, or drags them out for too long, is not going to be fun.
#4) A Catch-Up Feature:

Good ol Mario-Kart rubber banding negative feedback loops.

Not all games have them; in fact, some games, like Starcraft, focus on exactly the opposite: positive feedback loops--where once you're ahead you can get more resources and get even further ahead.  This works in the case of Starcraft, because you can always "scoop"; you type in "gg", quit out, and go to the next game.



I don't think this is really accurate. Starcraft has enough different strategies that even if you're behind on resources, you could focus on a counter to your opponents' units, and if they haven't anticipated that, you could make gains disproportionate to the resources invested. Or even if the opponent is ahead, you could still make massive gains by a sneaky drop into the back of their base or suchlike.

I've seen 3v3 games where one team loses two players turned around by the third player having superior unit upgrades, army composition, and micromanagement skills. Catchups are definitely possible.

The thing is, almost every game needs some kind of positive feedback loop, otherwise there's no benefit to getting ahead during the mid-game at all. Virtually all games with a resource management element have you aiming to get enough resources to somehow acquire a building or what-have-you that will increase your resource income. That's a positive feedback loop - but that's what the game is about. It doesn't mean comeback is impossible.

The interesting thing about the Starcraft vs Magic comparison is that when a Starcraft player makes a comeback, it's mainly due to their skill, and a little bit of mistake on the opponent's part. When a Magic player makes a comeback, it's usually due to their good luck and the opponent's bad luck, usually involving numbers of lands drawn. And while I do appreciate that the random factor leads to memorable moments and stories, I dispute that it's valuable enough to make up for all the thousands of games where one player never gets to play due to mana screw.

Roll on the day when every card can be played as a basic land.



That said, I enjoyed the game-design musings and I'm looking forward to the second half. 
Good article, very fun to read!

I have been thinking about a game we have been playing a lot lately, which is unexpectedly fun, even though the interaction between players (which was point 3 on the list) is VERY minimal. It's called "Keltis".
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keltis

*The only "goal" of the game is to have more points than everybody else when the game ends.

And pretty much the only ways players interact with each other are:
*Racing to "diamonds" on the board that can be picked up to get additional points.
and:
*Ending the game. The game ends when a certain number of Pieces reach a certain area on the board. So as the game  approaches it's end you always have check how far the other players are and think about whether you will be able to complete your plans before the game comes to an end.

(oh, and you can pick up cards that other players have discarded, but just like the up-pick-able diamonds, this will not influence your decision-making process very much, usually.)

So, what fascinates me about the game is that players only interact very indirectly, and still, it's enough to make it a fun experience.
I recommend the game *g*
my new deck: Bears with Weapons

#1) A Goal or Goals.


While for the most part this is sensible, as it has already been stated, "winning the game" is not necessarily the goal that is needed. Making the case for sandbox and cooperative games of all kinds with no clear "finish line", such as tabletop role-playing games and MMOs, perhaps it is better to think about player goals as simple rewards for actions.

In D&D, for example, even when we have a clear end goal (aka the final boss) most of the time the players are dealing with minor goals and obstacles. For instance: "survive this battle", "upgrade your armor", or "finally get that shiny new spell". In these cases, the goal isn't to end the game but just to take it one step further.

Now, I must say that any game that is competitive in nature, rather than cooperative as my previous examples, yes, there must be a clear goal or finish line. You can't very well compete against another player if it isn't clear what exactly you are competing for. In that regard, the article is spot on, though it does seem that MaRo forgot to mention that not all games are competitive in nature.

#2) Rules.


Yes, this is pretty clear. Though again, it need not be as structured for other types of play. The other night we were playing a homebrew RPG made by one of our guys. As players, the only rules we really had were: "Take turns during combat" and "Roll a d20 when the DM calls for it". That was it.

When DMing for younger kids, they find it fascinating just as they would in a game of "let's pretend" where almost anything is possible. The rules for them almost don't exist and yet they handle themselves just fine.

Again, this is not for the case of competitive games (which MaRo could clear up at one point in the article).

#4) A Catch-Up Feature.


Well, this is certainly the one up for debate the most. A strong catch-up feature can make the weaker player want to keep playing, but it can frustrate the stronger player seeing how all their skill is for nothing in the face of dumb luck.

In the case of Magic, a comeback can feel terrible for both players. If the player who fell behind got a string of good draws while the other player land-flooded, it doesn't really feel like a win  for anybody.
This is where comparisons begin to get made against other games where any catch-up is done through player skill rather than random chance or dumb luck.

In a party game like Mario-Kart, the leading player practically ceases to be rewarded and is actively punished for being in the lead. A string of items tossed all together can send the leading player back to 5th place. This frustrates skilled players to no end as all their skill is useless.

This isn't to say that there shouldn't be a catch-up feature at all, even though there are perfectly fine games that don't have one. Most fighting games or shooting, for example, don't really give anything to the player trailing behind and the outcome of the game is usually very clear be the time the game is half-way through.
But that aside, there are clearly two options here: Either have a catch-up feature or make it easy to end the game when the loosing player sees a 0% chance of winning.

In the case of Magic, the sad fact is that for all the play skill and deck composition in the world, you can still win or loose based on the dumb luck of the draw. As much as I love MTG, this here is one of the things that still ruins the fun for me at times.
Loosing due to dumb luck feels terrible, but winning due to dumb luck doesn't feel much better either. Neither of those feel "earned" on either side.

If anyone has any examples of skill based catch-up systems, please tell.

#5) Inertia.


This is a rather interesting idea. Should the players either come to a standstill or should they become inactive, something external should continue to bring the game to a close (again, only in the case of competitive games).

The only thing I would have to add to this would be, in the case where it isn't something obvious like a time limit countdown, is that it should be seamless in the normal game play. In games like chess, the simple fact that a player must make a move and cannot simply keep still is what keeps the game moving toward resolution and prevents standstills. If the board state keeps changing, then resolution is inevitable.

I believe in this case that "doing nothing" should rarely be an option. If you have to do "something" then no matter if the action benefits you or not, it still moves the game closer to a close.

In the case of Magic, sure, there is plenty of inertia built into the game. At the very least, there are rules that handle an infinitely stalled game, bringing it to a close (like drawing from an empty deck). Still though, I do feel it is better when a game forces a player to "do something" rather than "just wait".
As someone in the game industry who has read a book or two discussing the exact definition of a game, I think your definition is too narrow.

#1) A goal or goals: (how do they win?)

Plenty of games have no win condition.  Ring around the rosie, for instance.  The Sims, for instance.


I'm not sure I'd consider Ring Around The Rosie a "game" so much as "a poem children recite while holding hands"--it's as much of a game as the Our Father is.  I think Will Wright has gone on record as saying that SimCity is more of a toy than a game, so I'm sure The Sims would fall into the same category.  I'm not too familiar with Flower, though.

#1:  Besides the exceptions MetroidComposite pointed out, there's another huge one: Roleplaying Games (and no I don't mean Final Fantasy, or even Dungeons and Dragons, I mean games that were designed specifically for roleplay rather than as an elaboration on a tactical miniatures battle or a single-player video game)....I even consider it valid to play Magic in this fashion, being the radical-leftist Timmy that I am; I'm more interested in watching cards interact in amusing ways than I am in proving that I can most quickly or most unstoppably reduce an opponent's life total to zero.  So it's perfectly possible for a game to have no goal, or at least a fluid and nebulous goal like "have fun", rather than anything structure-forcing.


It's interesting that you bring up the TJS psychographics, since as I read this part of Rosewater's article I was thinking, "Aha!  So Spike is right after all!"  =P  I don't think that Rosewater means to say that roleplaying games cannot be fun experiences, but I think he needed to exclude them from the discussion because they're not the kind of games he's talking about.  After all, he is a game designer; "structure-forcing" is what he does for a living.

#2) Rules

Well...if you really stretch it, there might be exceptions for spontaneous play here; like...is peakaboo a game?  It's certainly a form of play between two people.  But what are the rules of peakaboo?


Again, I think you're finding fault with Rosewater's definition by bringing up examples of things that are not games.  The whole point of Rosewater's definition is to distinguish between "games" and "spontaneous play," so it doesn't make sense to bring up forms of spontaneous play as counterexamples.  Even then, peekaboo still has procedural rules (e.g., you can't play it with your eyes uncovered the whole time) despite not having a win condition.

#3) Interaction: (Encourage players to react to each other)

I can point out a big flaw with this while staying entirely in the realm of competitive gaming.  There are still Pac Man and Donkey Kong tournaments that happen in 2011.  People do "speed runs" for nearly every electronic game ever made.  Going non-electronic, Solitare remains a popular way to use a deck of cards, and recognized by Vegas.

And a lot of these have thriving communities.  This is in spite of the fact that there's no screwing your opponent.  All that matters is your own performance.


You raise an interesting point here.  I think SnowFire's idea that single-player games get their interaction element with the board or AI is a valid interpretation.  Another way to look at the interaction element is as a contest between the player and the game designer, as David Sirlin wrote in one of his articles: "Part of the magic of DKC2 is the way all these secrets are hidden. The highest compliment I can give the game is to say that I felt every DK coin was placed by a single intelligence--by one person. As the game progressed, I came to know how he thought and what he'd be likely to do. In essence, the game was felt not like an action game of me versus the computer, but a strategy game of me versus the designer."

However, Rosewater already did address the issue of single-player games in his article: "Computers and hand-held devices have made it easier and easier to play games solo. The reason that traditional gaming is still popular is that it has one huge advantage: face-to-face interaction."  Probably what he should have done was label the third point "Challenge" and then talk about how social interaction is one method a game designer can use to provide challenge.

#3:  "Self-selection also means that players will tend to play against players who share their vision of how the game should be increasing the chances that all parties have a good gaming experience."  This is very true, but unfortunately not enough so.  I have had little luck finding people to play the versions of Magic I want to play, even ones as official as Duel Decks or Archenemy, let alone my stranger semi-freeform variants or my general desire to ban strategies I find unreasonable or unfun.  Ultimately you can't self-select too much without ending up eliminating all your possibilities (a fact I've often bemoaned with reference to dating as well).  It'd be nice if there was enough of everything to go around, but there isn't.


Well put!

#4) A Catch-Up Feature:

Good ol Mario-Kart rubber banding negative feedback loops.

Not all games have them; in fact, some games, like Starcraft, focus on exactly the opposite: positive feedback loops--where once you're ahead you can get more resources and get even further ahead.  This works in the case of Starcraft, because you can always "scoop"; you type in "gg", quit out, and go to the next game.


I agree with you here; obviously there are games without catch-up features, so catch-up features aren't a requirement for a game.  The_Great_Galendo is correct in saying that the presence of catch-up features is "probably the least necessary of the five ideas mentioned thus far, and also the one that Magic in particular actually fails pretty miserably at in one important regard." I would, however, argue that the way a game implements its catch-up features is an indication of how well-designed it is.  Just because classic games don't have them doesn't mean they're not a good idea.  (Sirlin has also written about catch-up features--using StarCraft, chess, and Mario Kart as examples--except he uses the terms "slippery slope" and "perpetual comeback" instead of positive and negative feedback.)

The thing is, almost every game needs some kind of positive feedback loop, otherwise there's no benefit to getting ahead during the mid-game at all. Virtually all games with a resource management element have you aiming to get enough resources to somehow acquire a building or what-have-you that will increase your resource income. That's a positive feedback loop - but that's what the game is about. It doesn't mean comeback is impossible.


Sirlin says something similar to this.  Games may feature positive or negative feedback to varying degrees.  His example is Street Fighter, which is generally neutral with respect to feedback (taking damage doesn't give you an advantage or disadvantage), but has situations where a player can generate minor amounts of positive feedback.  Knocking an opponent down or blocking an attack may give one player some benefit, but the benefit is temporary and cannot magnify into an insurmountable advantage.

The interesting thing about the Starcraft vs Magic comparison is that when a Starcraft player makes a comeback, it's mainly due to their skill, and a little bit of mistake on the opponent's part. When a Magic player makes a comeback, it's usually due to their good luck and the opponent's bad luck, usually involving numbers of lands drawn. And while I do appreciate that the random factor leads to memorable moments and stories, I dispute that it's valuable enough to make up for all the thousands of games where one player never gets to play due to mana screw.


Well put.  This is the major reason Magic is poorly designed with respect to the catch-up feature element.

In a party game like Mario-Kart, the leading player practically ceases to be rewarded and is actively punished for being in the lead. A string of items tossed all together can send the leading player back to 5th place. This frustrates skilled players to no end as all their skill is useless.


Well, you have to keep in mind that there are different rules depending on which version of Mario Kart you're playing.  I think Mario Kart Wii is the worst of the series in terms of how it implements its comeback feature.  Blue shells do often feel like a punishment for being in the lead.  Other times, the leading player gets so far ahead that there's nothing anyone can do to catch up--the second place racer might get a red shell here and there, but the lead racer can just hold a set of triple bananas behind to block.  Mario Kart: Double Dash was the best implementation in my opinion, since blocking attacks always required some amount of effort from the lead player.  You can't hold items behind you, so you're forced to time your block.

#5: Inertia: (push the game to end; keep games shorter)
 
Only important in a player vs player game.


I think it's important in all games, not just player vs player games.  It's just that for single-player games (say, RPGs for example), the game length is expected to be longer.  A 40-hour RPG might be okay, but a 40-hour game of Magic would be ridiculous.

I'm inclined to point to the third chapter of Sheri Graner-Ray's Gender Inclusive Game Design where she talks about direct competition vs indirect competition.  (It's a book about gender, so the rest of the chapter starts talking about which gender is statistically more likely to prefer which type of competition).  But ignoring the gender stuff, there is a very strong argument for some audiences prefering indirect competition.  Would Audiosurf be a better game if you only played it in a versus mode and could mess up each other's tracks?  My inclination is no--or at least changing the game like this would alienate a lot of its current fans.


Direct vs indirect competition sounds interesting; I'll have to look into that concept.  To answer your question, though, I don't think that changing a game's mode of competition from indirect to direct would necessarily make it better or worse; it would just make it more or less appealing to particular audiences, like you said.  However, I'm not so sure that transitioning the other way (from direct to indirect competition) would work as well.  If the goal of the game is direct competition--and Magic is such a game, as Rosewater indicated with his first point--then such a transition would essentially destroy the game.

Getting back to that point about speedrun communities, I'm reminded of Mario Kart Wii's different online competition modes.  You can of course compete in a direct race where you can mess up or be messed up by your opponents, but you can also compete in time trials.  However, in the time trial mode there's an option to compete against a "rival ghost"--the recorded performance of an opponent which is just slightly better than your best time.  This feature makes time trials, which are normally indirect competition, feel more like direct competition, and Mario Kart Wii was the first time I ever bothered to pay attention to the time trial mode at all.  It's very fun, and sometimes you can pick up new techniques by watching your rival ghosts!
There a lot of different needs for solitary games, two player games and multiplayer games. Obviously Rosewater only talks about two player games. So talking about sims, audiosurf etc doesn't really make sense as they are not two player games in that sense.

Going through his list:

1: While i believe it is important to have a certain goal or more, I also believe that a good game should have more than one way to achive the goal and/or subgoals which allows you to play the same game more than once.

2: I can't imagine a game without rules, so lets just say that rules are important for a game. The problem with rules are often that they are too complicated, or in other words: it takes too long time to get into the game, and this really applies to magic. In magic we have 7 different cardtypes (tribal doesn't matter, and enchantments and artifacts are the same, planeswalkers are complicated but rare enough not to matter much, creatures have much intuitiveness working for them as they are complicated too, and then we sorceries and instants and lands.) we have a specific turn order, a way a card is build up, five zones and then we have a magic language that is somewhat intuitive with the exception of keywords. This is a lot of things to get into for a new player and then we are not even talking about the more advanced rules.

3: Interaction is a very good way to get some randomness and skill into a game, whether you competing with or against each other doesn't matter.

4: This is actually a very complex thing and i believe there is some truth to it, eventhough some games are great without it (it seems).

5: I can't agree more in this, While the best games are often long games, the worst games are the longest where people don't want to play anymore or the ones that stop before the game really starts. it is generally uninteresting to play a game that takes more time to set up and put away. (i don't think magic at it's current have a problem with this)
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Good discussion so far, and I loved the article. I mostly try to make ed games, and tried to capture my connections on my blog here: bit.ly/p05bY6

It's also interesting to me how many of these things magic does well, and how much of that is just due to it being a randomized card game. The Spike demographic would seem to push it towards chess-like determinism, which works against 3, 4 and 5.

I like how the diversity of player goals (1) lends itself to the longterm health of the game.
One of my favorite games, Boggle, is multiplayer and contains no interactions with the other players. So throw point three out the window.


And point four is just... no. A game certainly can have a catch-up feature, but "must"? Of course not. And it's not just "serious" contests of skill like Chess, but casual games like Monopoly that eschew such a thing and are still very successful.
While Monopoly is not a good example of modern game design, it does have catch-up elements.  In 2-player Monopoly, there's straight luck - if you avoid your opponent's monopolies and he/she hits yours, you might be able to force them to start mortgaging stuff.  (It's a weak element, though, admittedly, once you fall behind you tend to stay behind.)  In 4+ player Monopoly, Game Theory is in full effect since it's a game with free trading.  If two players have set up monopolies and two haven't, then the two people on the "outs" have an incentive to get back in the game with favorable trades they wouldn't make to someone threatening to win - say, trading each other properties such that they both have monopolies as well.
Very fun article it seems, considering we're all itching to discuss it further.

Adorable daughter, by the way. I'm sure you like to show off your kids to everybody and get a compliment or two x).

 
Now, on to a piece of business. I think we need to fix MtG a bit according to those rules.


Interactivity

The problem is the interactivity, I feel we're losing it. It's getting more and more difficult to compete with aggro because control and ramp has had very powerful powercreep to play with.

There are small spells and big spells, and both have gotten stronger. But if each has gotten a 20% increase, then a "1 power" spell becomes 1.2 and "6 Power" becomes 7.2. Perhaps what I'm thinking is 1 drops became more powerful than old 1 drops but 6 drops became more powerful than old 7 drops! Both incidently have received the same increase, but the larger the spells, the more the increase affects it.

The Effect

Anyway, it's just not that favorable as it was piloting pure aggro vs. pure control or ramp in the past. The last couple of years in T2 has some huge tourny numbers to Control (Blue is excessively good at finding these powercreep spells and killing them as well), Ramp (it can speed up, mana-wise, to drop the new powercreep), and even combo (Deceiver Twin and Valakut).

All three of these enemies detracted from interaction. Control just stalls until playing huge threats aggro can't deal with or hope to beat. Ramp is similar except it drops in the unstoppable even earlier. And the combos mentioned just simply deny everybody else any way of dealing with them.

Afterword: Anybody Remember Baneslayer Angel?

So I think we need to bring the big spells down a level. Baneslayer Angel was a massive boon for Control in it's day of... 2 years ago? Yet it was honestly so much easier compete with on an interactive level for an Aggro player.

Compare having to overrun Baneslayer or tapping it down or shooting it for 5... to getting dudes eaten by 6/6 Titans, getting walled by the infinitely stocked Consecrated Sphinx, outright resigning to having no way to get past Wurmcoil Engine, and of course instantly losing to the resolution of certain Praetors.
First off, good article.  I like the insights in the discussion as well.

One Idea about this rule; which has had some discussion:




#4) A Catch-Up Feature



There needs to be a way for players that have fallen behind to catch up. A game becomes frustrating if a player feels like he or she has no chance to win.


I think magic does this well overall.  It is more of a discussion of the "skill" and "luck" balance in the game.  Magic has both of these elements in its "catch-up" functions, in a ratio which I believe is good for the overall health of the game. 

The "skill" part... build a good deck, use the cards you presently have to win the game, know your opponents weaknesses, mulligan correctly, play a best of three games match (this slows luck down )  These are all parts of the game that rewards skill.  Overall, skill does reward “spikes” in magic; they will win far more often based on their skills; especially against players of a lower skill level.   


The "luck" part...  This is what many new, casual, or part-time  player needs.  This is what keeps new blood flowing into magic.  One luck win every once in a while gives many magic players the thrill that keeps them in the game.  One win over a highly skilled player, once in a while, is fantastic for them.  They have a chance!  It keeps them coming back prereleases, liking the game etc.  Yes, this directly costs the “skill” based players, but is very needed boost for a large section of the player base. 


In magic --think a prerelease, because it represents more of magic’s true financial base--  the skilled players still win the thing, and the unskilled players get a few anecdotal wins that keep them coming.  It’s a win-win balance for the game overall.


I have been to a chess tournament twice; and I will not go back.  I don’t want to spend lots of time honing my skills enough to win, and I do not like going to events where I lose every game I play.  Yes, the skilled based player have the advantage, and they have the room to themselves.   


 


One of my favorite games, Boggle, is multiplayer and contains no interactions with the other players. So throw point three out the window.


I don't know what version of Boggle you play, but for me the competition is the point of the game. My wife and I play Boggle a lot, but you only score for words you find that the other player(s) don't. So we're always competing to find the good words that the other player doesn't. The payoff of the 3 tense minutes staring and writing is during the scoring phase, when you laugh in appreciation of the words the other players found you didn't, and bask smugly about the words you found that the other players didn't. I can't see the point in playing Boggle without the scoring, the competition, the interaction.
While Monopoly is not a good example of modern game design, it does have catch-up elements.  In 2-player Monopoly, there's straight luck - if you avoid your opponent's monopolies and he/she hits yours, you might be able to force them to start mortgaging stuff.  (It's a weak element, though, admittedly, once you fall behind you tend to stay behind.)  In 4+ player Monopoly, Game Theory is in full effect since it's a game with free trading.  If two players have set up monopolies and two haven't, then the two people on the "outs" have an incentive to get back in the game with favorable trades they wouldn't make to someone threatening to win - say, trading each other properties such that they both have monopolies as well.


Monopoly isn't even a new game, it is a remake of Matador.
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To everyone saying that a "catch-up feature" isn't necessary in games:

Here's my take on what MaRo was saying. Playing a competitive game is only fun if you have a chance to win. This is true before you even start, but remains consistently true throughout the entire play experience. If, at any moment, your chance of winning drops to 0% (or, as MaRo mentions, your perception of your chance at winning is 0%) then the game should end. Yes, concessions allow this to be left up to the players, but a game is stronger when the rules themselves are able to recognize a pre-determined victory and end at that point, or to avoid such a no-win scenario from ever occuring until the finish.

A catch-up feature doesn't have to be dumb luck, nor does it have to be a method of punishing the leading player. It doesn't even have to be a catch-up feature (poor choice of name for this feature on Mark's part, in my opinion). It just has to be a possibility, however remote, that a come-from-behind victory can occur. The game doesn't necessarily have to have a feature that allows/forces this come-from-behind victory; the game simply has to have a potential route to such a come-back.

Racing games: Rubber-banding is one way, but it is the poorest implementation. The best "catch-up feature" in racing games is an unavoidable part of the genre: the very same tactics the leading player used to get into the lead. Shaving corners, properly managing speed at various points, etc. are all "catch-up features" in racing games. This genre is the best example of catch-up features, since every mechanic of the genre acts as one.
Luck games: This is the form into which falls Magic. There is the ever-present possibility of getting the perfect draw to get you back into the game. It's an adrenaline rush every time you partake of the random element, because there's the chance that randomness will smile on you and not on your opponent.
Fighting games: Most fighting games have some block or counter-attack feature, which means that, no matter how low on health you are compared to your opponent, you have the chance to avoid all further damage and whittle down his/her health to zero. Magic has some elements of this in that you can chump block with small creatures, stalling until you can get the card you need to turn the game around.
Strategy games: Chess, Starcraft, even Monopoly to some extent, are strategy games. The catch-up feature is the depth of strategies the game allows. If you fall behind using one strategy, you can change tactics to better counter your opponent's strategy, and thus catch up. Magic has some elements of this, through Sideboards and general hoser cards.
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One of my favorite games, Boggle, is multiplayer and contains no interactions with the other players. So throw point three out the window.


I don't know what version of Boggle you play, but for me the competition is the point of the game. My wife and I play Boggle a lot, but you only score for words you find that the other player(s) don't. So we're always competing to find the good words that the other player doesn't. The payoff of the 3 tense minutes staring and writing is during the scoring phase, when you laugh in appreciation of the words the other players found you didn't, and bask smugly about the words you found that the other players didn't. I can't see the point in playing Boggle without the scoring, the competition, the interaction.


I agree about playing for the competition, but based on Maro's description there's more to "interaction" than comparing point totals at the end of a round:

There needs to be some aspect of the game that encourages the players to react to one another. What does your game do to make the players interact?

Boggle doesn't have that. You can't see the opponent's words during the round so you can't react at all. There's strategy, perhaps, in choosing which words to write down (if you can't manage to write everything you find), but that is different than "interaction" as I interpret it.



I want to nit-pick and say that every game has a target demographic.  "Stick Needles in your Face" is never going to be popular, but will always have a niche following.


And at this point I feel almost like a troll.  Fun article, I look forward to the second part.

Great Galendo: Disagree on mana screw "completely breaking down" Magic's catch-up nature.  Catch-up is more than just "draw high mana spells;" it means "with random card draw, one player can draw the 'right' cards he needs while the other player draws dead."  In the case of mana-screw, it's not game-over at all; you can rip 2 lands off the top your next turns and get right back in it, while your opponent keeps drawing useless lands and gets mana flooded.  Or you might draw cheap spells that you can cast that are perfect for the situation - 2 casting cost walls in a Limited match, perhaps.  Mana screw isn't cause for immediate concession, unlike throwing away a bishop for nothing in moderate-skill and above chess.



This basically makes saying "this game has a catch-up feature" indistingishable from saying "there is some non-zero probability that I lose", which I don't think is what MaRo meant.  I mean, basically any game that isn't technically over still has at least some miniscule chance for a losing player to make a comeback.  Even in chess, theoretically, I could blunder away my queen early and eventually come back to win, but no one would consider chess to have a catch-up feature built into the game.
The Spike demographic would seem to push it towards chess-like determinism, which works against 3, 4 and 5.


But the non-Spike demographics push against 1, 2, and 5.  (I'm not entirely sure how you're interpreting 5; it seems to me that Spike would want to end the game quickly once he has an advantage, whereas Timmy and Johnny would want to give their opponents time to develop their positions.)

To everyone saying that a "catch-up feature" isn't necessary in games:

Here's my take on what MaRo was saying. Playing a competitive game is only fun if you have a chance to win. This is true before you even start, but remains consistently true throughout the entire play experience. If, at any moment, your chance of winning drops to 0% (or, as MaRo mentions, your perception of your chance at winning is 0%) then the game should end. Yes, concessions allow this to be left up to the players, but a game is stronger when the rules themselves are able to recognize a pre-determined victory and end at that point, or to avoid such a no-win scenario from ever occuring until the finish.


I agree with this--especially the part about how rules should prevent no-win scenarios from occuring until the finish.  It's not that catch-up features are required for a game to exist; it's that catch-up features are required for games to be fun or interesting.  I suppose one way to look at the catch-up feature is as a subset of the interaction element: if I put my opponent in a position where he or she can't catch up, then I've essentially removed my opponent's ability to interact with the game.  Arguably, the game ceases to be a game at that point, so I can see how catch-up features could be considered necessary in games.

A catch-up feature doesn't have to be dumb luck, nor does it have to be a method of punishing the leading player. It doesn't even have to be a catch-up feature (poor choice of name for this feature on Mark's part, in my opinion). It just has to be a possibility, however remote, that a come-from-behind victory can occur. The game doesn't necessarily have to have a feature that allows/forces this come-from-behind victory; the game simply has to have a potential route to such a come-back.


I agree that the catch-up feature doesn't have to be dumb luck or punishment for the lead player.  How a game implements its catch-up feature is an indication of how well designed it is.  But if not Rosewater's "catch-up feature" or Sirlin's "perpetual comeback," what would you call this property of games: "potential comeback?"

Racing games: Rubber-banding is one way, but it is the poorest implementation. The best "catch-up feature" in racing games is an unavoidable part of the genre: the very same tactics the leading player used to get into the lead. Shaving corners, properly managing speed at various points, etc. are all "catch-up features" in racing games. This genre is the best example of catch-up features, since every mechanic of the genre acts as one.


The problem with considering this the best potential comeback feature is that it's something all players have access to regardless of their positions.  If I fall behind in the race, I can catch up by shaving corners...but the leading player can just maintain the lead by also shaving corners.  And if I'm behind to begin with, the leading player is most likely better than I am at shaving corners, so how am I supposed to catch up?  The_Great_Galendo expressed this well by pointing out that "there is some non-zero probability that I lose" is not the same as "this game has a catch-up feature."

Luck games: This is the form into which falls Magic. There is the ever-present possibility of getting the perfect draw to get you back into the game. It's an adrenaline rush every time you partake of the random element, because there's the chance that randomness will smile on you and not on your opponent.


Right, this is the category into which Magic falls, but I think it's the worst implementation of potential comeback.  Like "corner-shaving" in racing games, luck doesn't favor the underdog any more than it does the lead player.  When I'm already behind, I feel even worse every time I draw a card that can't help me.  And no matter how good my luck is, I can't draw a card that's not in my deck to begin with.  If I'm playing Mono-Black Rogues, there's nothing in my deck that can help me get rid of an opponent's Bitterblossom.

Fighting games: Most fighting games have some block or counter-attack feature, which means that, no matter how low on health you are compared to your opponent, you have the chance to avoid all further damage and whittle down his/her health to zero. Magic has some elements of this in that you can chump block with small creatures, stalling until you can get the card you need to turn the game around.


It's interesting that when you look at fighting games this way, they seem similar to how you described racing games--the best catch-up feature is to just play better than your opponent.  I think the difference is that in fighting games your goal is generally to deal the same amount of damage regardless of how well your opponent is playing; in racing games your goal is to be faster than your opponent, which obviously becomes more or less difficult depending on how well your opponent is playing.  If I'm trying to catch up in a fighting game, I just have to play well regardless of what's happened earlier, but if I'm trying to catch up in a racing game, I actually have to play better than my opponent in order to catch up.

Sirlin mentions how fighting games where you can ring out the opponent essentially give both players a way to make an instant comeback.  No matter how far behind you are in damage, you can always ring the opponent out.  Magic has this property to the extent that it has alternate win conditions.

Strategy games: Chess, Starcraft, even Monopoly to some extent, are strategy games. The catch-up feature is the depth of strategies the game allows. If you fall behind using one strategy, you can change tactics to better counter your opponent's strategy, and thus catch up. Magic has some elements of this, through Sideboards and general hoser cards.


It seems to me that this element is present more in the deckbuilding aspect of Magic than in the deckplaying aspect.  Like I mentioned earlier, I can't randomly draw a card that isn't in my deck; I can't sideboard in a card that isn't in my sideboard, either.

One of my favorite games, Boggle, is multiplayer and contains no interactions with the other players. So throw point three out the window.


I don't know what version of Boggle you play, but for me the competition is the point of the game...I can't see the point in playing Boggle without the scoring, the competition, the interaction.


I agree about playing for the competition, but based on Maro's description there's more to "interaction" than comparing point totals at the end of a round:  "There needs to be some aspect of the game that encourages the players to react to one another. What does your game do to make the players interact?"

Boggle doesn't have that. You can't see the opponent's words during the round so you can't react at all. There's strategy, perhaps, in choosing which words to write down (if you can't manage to write everything you find), but that is different than "interaction" as I interpret it.


Right.  Interaction and competition aren't the same thing.  As metroidcomposite mentioned, there's direct competition and indirect competition.  Competition with interaction is direct, and competition without interaction is indirect (at least the way I understand it).

I want to nit-pick and say that every game has a target demographic.  "Stick Needles in your Face" is never going to be popular, but will always have a niche following.


LOL.
I think MaRo should've used one of his other sayings too, "know the box before you think outside of it". Sure there are many games that don't follow a number of these rules (in some cases it depends on the definition of 'game' whether those games are actually games), but these are something like a default, something most games will have and a good place to start to build something solid if you have no idea where to begin.  
But if not Rosewater's "catch-up feature" or Sirlin's "perpetual comeback," what would you call this property of games: "potential comeback?"

Potential comeback works for me. Or, for a more layman's terms approach, the "not out of the game yet" feature.

The problem with considering this the best potential comeback feature is that it's something all players have access to regardless of their positions.  If I fall behind in the race, I can catch up by shaving corners...but the leading player can just maintain the lead by also shaving corners.  And if I'm behind to begin with, the leading player is most likely better than I am at shaving corners, so how am I supposed to catch up?  The_Great_Galendo expressed this well by pointing out that "there is some non-zero probability that I lose" is not the same as "this game has a catch-up feature."

I merely meant it's the best in that it's the most well-implemented into the game's mechanics. Every single game mechanic acts as a potential comeback feature.
I'm not sure I agree with you and The_Great_Galendo here, though. Sure, "non-zero probability to lose" is not the same as "catch-up feature", but I don't believe catch-up features themselves are the requirement, so much as the ever-present, albeit small, chance to win from any game state.
Yes, the "catch-up features" in racing games can also be used by the leading player, and the leading player in most situations is better at using them, since he used them to get into the lead. However, like a lot of people have posted before, games do have to reward skill, else there's not much point in playing them skillfully. I'm not arguing that such skill intensive games are for everyone, but I am arguing that they do fit Mark's intended condition of "having a catch-up feature". You've not technically lost until the game's actually over, for at any given point the current leading player could make a mistake and you could capitalize on it. Not everyone's definition of fun, but that's why different games have different target audiences

Regarding 'luck games':
Right, this is the category into which Magic falls, but I think it's the worst implementation of potential comeback.

Agreed. It neither gives the underdog an edge, nor is fun when you DO gain a victory in this manner, since it wasn't your doing so much as a lucky break.

Regarding 'strategy games':
It seems to me that this element is present more in the deckbuilding aspect of Magic than in the deckplaying aspect.  Like I mentioned earlier, I can't randomly draw a card that isn't in my deck; I can't sideboard in a card that isn't in my sideboard, either.

Deck-building is as big a part, maybe moreso, of Magic as actually playing the game, for some people (such as Johnnies).
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The catchup feature is necessary because otherwise there's no point in having an endgame. The losing player would just resign midway and you would not be able to get the satisfaction of actually defeating the enemy.

While this isn't problematic to a lot of competitive players, it does take all the fun out of it for the beginner who's really looking forward to finally checkmating the enemy's king, and no beginners = dead community.

I agree that rubberbanding and luck-based comebacks are lame, but that doesn't mean recovery should be completely impossible.
A catch-up feature works best when it rewards skill, when making an extraordinary move ahead from out of nowhere actually comes from extraordinarily skillful play. A lot of people tout randomized gameplay as a good equalizer, but it's entirely possible for an equalizer to equalize opportunity instead of results. The difference is that equal results keep the game running for its own sake, while equal opportunity accomplishes this while also preserving the main goal of game balance, which is rewarding how good you are at the game. A lot of games piss people off with the former, so they begin to associate catch-up features with hand-holding "everybody wins" game design, while in reality a well-implemented one can go completely unnoticed because the people who are clearly best at the game keep winning.

Remember: anything can be done badly, and anything that can be will be. That doesn't make it a bad idea.
The catchup feature is necessary because otherwise there's no point in having an endgame. The losing player would just resign midway and you would not be able to get the satisfaction of actually defeating the enemy.

A win is a win.
Why continue doing anything once success becomes imposible?

Because some things are worth completing, even if it's losing.

There's always the possibility in something like chess that your opponent will do some inexplicable series of blunders that suddenly hands you the game. That's still a "catch-up feature" that's built in to games - it's not over until you fulfill the terms of victory, no matter how far you're ahead.

Ring around the rosie is an interesting example, because I'd agree that it's not really a game - but I'd argue that it still incorporates pretty much everything but the catch-up feature. The goal is to, well, dance around in a circle while singing...and then fall down. If you don't do that correctly, you kind of screw everybody else up, too, so in a sense it's a group "game". The rules are...you go in the same direction as everybody else, you hold hands, you sing along in the same key and tempo...and then everybody falls down. You're doing it with people in a way that's obviously interactive, and the song determines the progression of the "game".
Catch-up features part III:
Great Galendo, there's "non-zero" and then there's "enough to make the game worth playing."  A magic game where one person opens with a mulligan to 4 is played at a significant handicap - but it is absolutely worth playing in a tournament.  A game between equally skilled players can still be won despite a 3-card deficit.  However, a rook-odds game of chess requires a titanic skill gap to really be worth playing.  A local chess tourney winner vs. a grandmaster starting without a rook is probably a good game, for example.  (Any competent chess player is going to play very conservatively and try to force a bunch of trades in such a situation, so the grandmaster will need to do something sneaky while keeping the position as complex as possible.)

More generally: The trick is to have some unknowns in the game to keep uncertainty up (often luck, but also hidden information) while still rewarding skill.  To change gears completely, look at games where the "inertia" element ending the game is a clock.  The catch-up element there is high-risk, high-reward "hope to get lucky" plays.  In American football, start throwing more often in the 4th quarter, and then switch into Hail Mary long-passes as it gets really late and onside kicks.  In soccer, overload on offense, leaving only a few back at midfield, to try and force something through - late enough, even the goalkeeper can come out of the box.  In general such risky manuevers still reward skill, so they're interesting.  They also mean that the game has to get pretty far out of reach before the fans start leaving the stadium due to losing hope - a 3 goal / 21 point lead or the like.

Going back to normal games, StarCraft has little direct luck but compensates with hidden information.  If a player gets an advantage on the other player, the losing player can still mix things up and try to come back with an unexpected strategy that isn't countered correctly.  Thus, unlike chess's perfect information, a handicap doesn't mean "insta-concede," although StarCraft handicaps are less forgiving than Magic ones assuming players of equal skill level.  (This is also why PvP and ZvZ are the most frustrating matchups in SC2: a single mistake spirals out of control into a loss fastest in these matches, and comeback options are limited since you tend to get your army / base killed very shortly after you screw up.)
The catchup feature is necessary because otherwise there's no point in having an endgame. The losing player would just resign midway and you would not be able to get the satisfaction of actually defeating the enemy.

A win is a win.
Why continue doing anything once success becomes imposible?



Exactly my point, how would a lack of comeback benefit anybody? The loser would feel bad if he doesn't quit when he knows he definitely lost, as you said. If he does resign midway, the winner will feel cheated. That player signed up to achieve X, but is told that doing something significantly less than X is enough. An example of that would be you trying to win with Helix Pinnacle. Would it be satisfying to put like 40 or so counters on the card and suddenly the opponent just says "gg" and scoop? Sure, you won, but would you get to say "I beat someone with Helix Pinnacle"? Can you say that? Maybe he had a Leave No Trace, or he could have killed you before you got to 100, but decided his time is better spent elsewhere? Does it really satisfy you that you've built halfway through a game, only that before you've even made your flashy moves, your opponent suddenly decides the game's not worth playing and resigns? The satisfacition you get is just not the same as actually dealing the killing blow.

If I may quote: "There's no point if nobody saw that you won."
So, you're a sore winner, huh?
Very few Magic players are as incessantly annoying as the one who whines when he wins: "You can't quit! I haven't done my cool thing yet!"
I noticed this in new players I play against: they are very surprised when someone scoops before the 'game is over'. We hardened players do it all the time, but at a basic level, it is more satisfying to keep going until the official end.

Btw, from MaRo's twitter:



Re: My article today. It's an article about the basics. Yes, there are exceptions, but you don't teach cubism in Into to Art.


So, you're a sore winner, huh?
Very few Magic players are as incessantly annoying as the one who whines when he wins: "You can't quit! I haven't done my cool thing yet!"



No, but if my opponent shows signs of resigning, I'd give him a few openings so he'd continue on.

Casual games are all about what you can accomplish. Otherwise, you beat your friend once, big deal.

This doesn't apply to tourneys though, I don't care how I win in those.
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