Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

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Stephanie
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Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Stephanie » April 6th, 2011, 2:16 pm

Hello,

I first played Wesnoth several years ago, and have just gotten back into it, so I guess you could say that I am a long time lurker, first time poster.

I like the game, but there's one frustrating thing that has prompted me to post here. The game's difficulty seems balanced with the assumption that the player will saveload extensively. Obviously, there are HUGE differences in difficulty between not saveloading at all, saveloading only to turn 1 a few times throughout a campaign, saveloading to turn 1 many times in each scenario, saveloading mid-scenario, and saveloading between each and every attack. If campaigns stated what degree of saveloading they were designed for, I wouldn't have a problem with this. But, nowhere in the Wesnoth documentation is saveloading even mentioned. I would like to propose that (1) a section on saveloading be added to the documentation under the getting started section, with the statement that players are discouraged from doing this, and (2) the official campaigns should be balanced with the assumption that players will never load a prior state and will start the entire campaign over if they lose. The default option should be to delete old savegames whenever a new one is generated. Is there really much challenge to the game when you can simply retry Valley of Death 100 times until you win? I argue not, and that that should be the official standard. Or, at the very least, that there should be SOME official standard.

Anonymissimus, with 1361 posts, wrote in a topic regarding the difficulty of reliably getting Simyr in HttT: "After lots of trials I made it... but my subjective feeling is that I was incredibly lucky."

I think zookeeper really hits the nail on the head with his statements in this thread:
http://forums.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=15223

So, here's a challenge that I want to put to the experts out there: Start HttT five times, and get Simyr in at least three. You don't have to do anything beyond that, but two restrictions that I'll give you is that (1) you can't saveload, even between scenarios--one play-through, that's it. And (2) you cannot make an attack with Konrad, Haldiel, or Delfador if they would have more than a 10% chance of dying, or leave them open to a counterattack in which they could die.

tl;dr: HttT is too hard to beat without cheating. Fix it, or prove me wrong.

[EDIT] Max has pointed out that the manual does include a section discussing the loading of old save games, in section 3.2.

Also, an older topic regarding this issue can be found here: http://forums.wesnoth.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19070
Last edited by Stephanie on April 8th, 2011, 9:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Caphriel
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Caphriel » April 6th, 2011, 2:48 pm

Stephanie wrote:The default option should be to delete old savegames whenever a new one is generated. Is there really much challenge to the game when you can simply retry Valley of Death 100 times until you win? I argue not, and that that should be the official standard. Or, at the very least, that there should be SOME official standard.
Why? Why should the default setting be something that would frustrate some players? Why does the game need some official standard at all? Why can't you just not load your own games if you don't want to?

Also, did you read that thread started by zookeeper that you linked, in which several players respond that they had done it on hard?

The general sense I'm getting from your post is, "The game is too hard for me, please make it easier so I can play the way I want to play." There are certainly players who have completed HttT with the restrictions you mention, or even more restrictive ones. If you feel that the game is balanced to require you to load saved games extensively in order to succeed, perhaps you should try playing on an easier difficulty level. What difficulty are you playing HttT on?
Last edited by Caphriel on April 6th, 2011, 2:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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zookeeper
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by zookeeper » April 6th, 2011, 2:51 pm

Stephanie wrote:I like the game, but there's one frustrating thing that has prompted me to post here. The game's difficulty seems balanced with the assumption that the player will saveload extensively.
Which difficulty level? Pretty much all the campaigns are balanced so that they're doable on normal difficulty without mid-scenario saveloading, assuming that you don't stumble on unforeseeable nasty surprises (which are considered scenario design problems and should be fixed). Most scenarios of most campaigns are likewise doable even on hard, although you're also expected to take especially good care of your carryover gold and units. Still, it's of course entirely possible to get very unlucky and lose because of it from time to time.

As for an official saveload standard, there isn't one. If you enjoy saveloading, then feel free to saveload as much as you want. If you want to limit your saveloading, then do so. There's no reason to prevent people from using the style they prefer. The most common saveload limitation people impose on themselves is no mid-scenario saveloading; if you lose, you'll just restart the scenario. Personally, I also load if I make an overly silly tactical blunder and notice it immediately, or if I get extremely unlucky and then lose someone too important. Or I might simply backtrack a large number of turns instead of restarting the entire scenario.

Anyway, no one considers restarting scenarios to be cheating or saveloading and I don't see any reason to try to guarantee campaigns to be doable on the hardest difficulty and without any restarts while collecting every bonus there is (such as Simyr).
Stephanie wrote:tl;dr: HttT is too hard to beat without cheating. Fix it, or prove me wrong.
I'd suggest looking here. If some campaign (such as HttT) is doable with such heavy restrictions, then it pretty surely is doable without them as well. I don't know the saveload habits of everyone who has posted an achievement in that thread, but I think they're usually done using very little mid-scenario saveloading or none at all.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Anonymissimus » April 6th, 2011, 5:18 pm

Stephanie wrote:So, here's a challenge that I want to put to the experts out there: Start HttT five times, and get Simyr in at least three. You don't have to do anything beyond that, but two restrictions that I'll give you is that (1) you can't saveload, even between scenarios--one play-through, that's it. And (2) you cannot make an attack with Konrad, Haldiel, or Delfador if they would have more than a 10% chance of dying, or leave them open to a counterattack in which they could die.

tl;dr: HttT is too hard to beat without cheating. Fix it, or prove me wrong.
Couldn't have said it better. ;) I would need several days for sure.

My playing style is to allow multiple saveload at turn 1 (for getting the traits I want for a specific unit which I level afterwards). I could just have restarted the scenario instead. And I aim for losing only cannonfodder units (level 1 (or 0) and not loyal and not one which I plan to level). I can beat HttT until "A choice must be made" (That's where I usually stop.) with loosing 1-2 non-loyal non-level 1 units, but with multiple restarts of some scenarios (Blackwater Port being the worst). (In Bay of Pearls I tend to loose 1-2 loyal merman too, but there are more than needed of them...)

The general problem is that playing on HARD with mid-scenario saveloading is easier than playing on EASY without mid-scenario saveloading.

I think there is however a way to detect at least mid-scenario saveloading (to get better die rolls) of posted replays (if no replay, I don't believe it anyway): The luck statistics must be roughly +-0 in the end; it's what I experience in practically all of my replays (It seems that in a scenario replay the luck stats are only for that scenario, not the complete campaign.) This can't detect mid-scenario saveloading which did not affect die rolls but only strategy instead however.

EDIT
Caphriel wrote:What difficulty are you playing HttT on?
Not to offend you - but this question reveals something... Since we're talking about Simyr here the prerequisite for the whole thread is of course that we're on the hardest difficulty. Simyr in HttT can only be acquired on HARD. Thus you don't seem to have a lot experience playing HttT. :P
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Caphriel » April 6th, 2011, 6:18 pm

I don't play campaigns at all anymore :whistle: I beat most of the at-the-time mainline campaigns years ago, but these days I don't find campaigning interesting. I never went for all the secrets, or completing them with special restrictions. I've never really made any secret of the fact that I'm not much of a campaigner, either. So no, no offense taken.

From my perspective, the complaint reduces thus: There are some players for whom the existing campaigns on hard are insufficient challenge. There are some players for whom the existing campaigns are quite challenging. Why should the developers make a choice about how the players choose to play? If someone wants to play on a harder difficulty than they are capable of, why shouldn't they be permitted to load their game repeatedly? But if someone wants to play on a harder difficulty than they are capable of, and feel that repeated loading is the only way to do that, why should the campaign be made easier to enable that?

My point was just that if the OP wasn't playing on easy/normal, then perhaps he or she should be. I was, perhaps somewhat rudely (for which I apologize), calling the OP's skill at the game into question when compared with people who are posting on in the campaign challenges threads. The tone of the initial post ("I can't beat the campaign on the hardest difficulty and complete all the bonus objectives, so it's too hard!") rubbed me the wrong way :(

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by HomerJ » April 6th, 2011, 6:44 pm

May I toss in at this point that Simyr is in no way vital for winning the campaign. It's more like the easter-egg Berserker. So, making a point with exactly this example is not the best way to go.
I believe the campaigns should be balanced so that you can win them. Neither should it be considered for balance that every single unit can be discovered, every single objective completed, no unit lost, etc.
stephanie wrote:So, here's a challenge that I want to put to the experts out there: Start HttT five times, and get Simyr in at least three. You don't have to do anything beyond that, but two restrictions that I'll give you is that (1) you can't saveload, even between scenarios--one play-through, that's it. And (2) you cannot make an attack with Konrad, Haldiel, or Delfador if they would have more than a 10% chance of dying, or leave them open to a counterattack in which they could die.
I am all ears when it comes to challenges. Hmm... I never got the loyal knight before... hmmm... :hmm:


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Stephanie
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Stephanie » April 6th, 2011, 6:53 pm

Caphriel wrote:Why does the game need some official standard at all? Why can't you just not load your own games if you don't want to?
It's not about what the players choose to do. You're right, players can choose to play the game however they wish. Without explicitly stating exactly what does, and what doesn't constitute cheating, the rules of the game become unclear. Can I honestly say that I have finished a campaign if I had to saveload once? Twice? Ten times? A hundred times? What's the acceptable cutoff? I suppose players can think of it like a score, and try to beat their best (lowest) number of saveloads, or try challenges like the ones on zookeeper's thread. An official standard would be a nice goalpost for new players, but it isn't necessary to enjoy the game.

The real problem, like I said in my opening post, is that the game is, or at least seems to be, DESIGNED with saveloading in mind. Is it even possible to beat HttT on hard without saveloading at all? Ignoring the extra bonuses and allowing the loss of loyal units, is there a single player in the world who is skilled enough to finish the campaign from beginning to end without reloading a previous state? If so, then I am simply not good enough at the game and need to practice. If not, then a strong case can be made for reducing the game's difficulty.
Caphriel wrote:Also, did you read that thread started by zookeeper that you linked, in which several players respond that they had done it on hard?
Yes, I read the whole thread. Players said they had done it on hard, but not without unusually good luck.
Caphriel wrote:The general sense I'm getting from your post is, "The game is too hard for me, please make it easier so I can play the way I want to play."
No, that's not what I am saying. I am saying that campaigns should not be designed with the mindset: "Since the players are just going to saveload anyway, I need to make this campaign extra hard to offset that advantage." A campaign that is challenging if you allow saveloading becomes impossible in practice for those that don't saveload. Good strategy can overcome superior numbers, but there comes a point where even a hypothetical perfect AI with infinite computational power will have less than a 50% chance of winning. An elvish fighter surrounded on 6 sides by orcish warlords is going to die, even if you play perfectly, unless you saveload billions of times. My thesis is that above average luck should not be REQUIRED to finish a campaign. I conjecture that HttT on hard requires above average luck.
Caphriel wrote:There are certainly players who have completed HttT with the restrictions you mention, or even more restrictive ones.
I would like to see the replay.
Caphriel wrote:If you feel that the game is balanced to require you to load saved games extensively in order to succeed, perhaps you should try playing on an easier difficulty level.
Perhaps. Maybe the answer for me is to just admit that hard difficulty requires saveloading, and stick to playing normal difficulty without saveloading. However, I think that playing a long campaign without saveloading will often require more skill than playing individual scenarios over and over again at a harder difficulty until you get lucky enough to win.

But that's just my opinion. I'm not here to give orders to the game's developers, just to pitch in my two cents. And my two cents are that at least one player (the hypothetical best Wesnoth player in the world) should be able to reliably complete all the official campaigns on hard difficulty without saveloading.
Caphriel wrote:What difficulty are you playing HttT on?
Hard. I had been playing on medium difficulty and going for no lost units (no "cannon fodder" tactics), but was dismayed at how often I had to saveload, so I started playing on hard with the restrictions that I can't saveload AT ALL (if I lose, I start all over again at Elves Besieged) and I can't lose any loyal units (makes BoP nearly impossible without a shyde), and have to get all loyal units, including Moremirmu and Simyr. I'd settle for just being able to finish HttT on hard without saveloads, loyals be damned, but I'm not willing to compromise on saveloads.
zookeeper wrote:Anyway, no one considers restarting scenarios to be cheating or saveloading...
This contradicts what you said in the topic I linked earlier:
zookeeper wrote:I didn't even touch those no-losses things, since I have no doubt in my mind that those are only accomplished by abusing saveload, even if not mid-scenario saveloading.
Maybe your opinion has changed over the last four years? Also, if it's not possible to get Simyr without "abusing saveload" (to use a phrase from your above quote) then why is it even an objective? To have an objective in HttT that can only be accomplished with saveloading, is, IMO, an endorsement of cheating. Again, my two cents, to each her own.

I may not be the best Wesnoth player, but I like to think I'm at least reasonably good. I've beaten Super Meat Boy and have made it to the top of the 1v1 diamond ladder in Starcraft 2, so I'm not one to shy away from a good challenge. If you can beat HttT on hard without any saveloads at least half the time, I'd like to see your replays.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Caphriel » April 6th, 2011, 7:16 pm

Stephanie wrote:Can I honestly say that I have finished a campaign if I had to saveload once? Twice? Ten times? A hundred times? What's the acceptable cutoff?
This is entirely subjective, and may be the source of a communications disconnect. You can honestly say that you have finished a campaign if you feel that you have finished it. If that means completing it on hard without losing any loyal units and completing every optional objective, then you've set yourself a very high goal. But if someone chooses to play by modifying the scenario files or using debug mode, then they can also honestly say that they have finished the campaign. I think an official standard would be bad, because it would require someone (the developer of the campaign) to make arbitrary decisions about how their campaign ought to be played. This may be normal for other games, but one of the nice things about Wesnoth is that people can play it however they want to without the game telling them that they're playing wrong.

A useful analogy here may be arcade games. Your "no loading your game" philosophy is comparable to the idea of making 1-credit runs of a game, and starting over every time you fail. This is a perfectly valid way to play a game, but it's not for everyone. Should the game tell someone who uses a few continues that they shouldn't feel good about winning? Because that sounds like what you're proposing.
Stephanie wrote:And my two cents are that at least one player (the hypothetical best Wesnoth player in the world) should be able to reliably complete all the official campaigns on hard difficulty without saveloading.
I frankly disagree with this, but that's a matter of what "hard" means. To me, hard means that even the best player should fail often. To continue the 1C run analogy, I don't think bullet hell players would want the hardest difficulty of their games to be reliably completable on the hardest difficulty no matter how good the player.

The fact that you consistently refer to "saveloading" as "cheating" indicates that you have a certain expectation of the way the game ought to be played, and a bias against recognizing the validity of playing other ways.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Mountain_King » April 6th, 2011, 7:24 pm

This guy is completing all mainline campaigns on hard with no save-loading. He's done almost all of them, leaving feedback on every scenario. Idk if he's done heir to the throne yet, but considering that NR is much harder than HttT, there's a pretty good chance.
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Gambit » April 6th, 2011, 7:28 pm

I don't understand. If hard is too hard for you without cheating, then it's too hard for you. That's not a balance issue. It's the whole point of having a hard difficulty level.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Velensk » April 6th, 2011, 7:56 pm

I have already gotten through HTTT without saveloading or retrying any scenarios. I can't say anything about attacking with Konrad/Defaldor without a chance to kill and I didn't save the replays but if you'll take my word for it you will already have the majority of your challenge complete. EDIT: I do not however particularly have the patience to do it five times, it's too long and easy.

I don't know who Simyr is though.
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by zookeeper » April 6th, 2011, 8:19 pm

Stephanie wrote:
zookeeper wrote:Anyway, no one considers restarting scenarios to be cheating or saveloading...
This contradicts what you said in the topic I linked earlier:
zookeeper wrote:I didn't even touch those no-losses things, since I have no doubt in my mind that those are only accomplished by abusing saveload, even if not mid-scenario saveloading.
What? No it doesn't. No-losses means that you restart the scenario if any unit of yours dies. That has nothing to do with whether restarting scenarios is considered to be cheating or saveloading.
Stephanie wrote:Maybe your opinion has changed over the last four years? Also, if it's not possible to get Simyr without "abusing saveload" (to use a phrase from your above quote) then why is it even an objective? To have an objective in HttT that can only be accomplished with saveloading, is, IMO, an endorsement of cheating. Again, my two cents, to each her own.

I may not be the best Wesnoth player, but I like to think I'm at least reasonably good. I've beaten Super Meat Boy and have made it to the top of the 1v1 diamond ladder in Starcraft 2, so I'm not one to shy away from a good challenge. If you can beat HttT on hard without any saveloads at least half the time, I'd like to see your replays.
Please first tell what you mean by saveloading, as I don't know if you're still counting restarting the scenario to be saveloading or not. If you do, then yes, most campaigns aren't doable without saveloading or good luck. If you don't, then no, most campaigns are doable without saveloading or good luck.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by Velensk » April 6th, 2011, 8:29 pm

Well, the thing is that the longer/more difficult a campaign is, the greater the chances of getting a truly horrible string of bad luck gets (and those can kill you no matter how many strings of 'good luck' you've gotten. Not a lot you can do about that.

I'd contend though, that HttT is easy enough that the string of bad luck you'd need to be in any danger of losing it if you were playing carefully would be so ridicules that you'd not be in much real danger on normal difficulty.

It's still far to long for me to want to play it 5 times in a row to find out.
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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by The Black Sword » April 6th, 2011, 8:58 pm

I'm pretty sure I can beat all the campaigns on hard without any saveloading(including start of scenario loading which is personally where my limit usually is) and I'm definetly sure I can beat HTTT that way.

I can't remember this Simyr fellow though so I can't really speak about him.

The exception would be the more RPG-centric campaigns where bad luck can have a bigger influence but I can't really think on any mainline ones off the top of my head, maybe UTBS. In campaigns with bigger battles though the chances and effect of bad luck is minised and I reckon I could do it at least 9 times out of 10.

I would note though that I have played all the campaigns before. I remember on my first run through of some campaigns(those I played when I was around my current skill level, obviously ignoring the ones I played as a noob :P ) I might have had to reload to the start of the scenario if a combination of bad strategy and bad luck hit me. Now though I'll have a pretty good idea what to do from last time.

If it helps any I find my campaign play is often really good after playing multiplayer for a bit. For a little while I can carry over the excessive thinking from multiplayer into the campaign and play really well. If I'm playing campaigns for a long period though I begin to get a bit bored/distracted and start making silly mistakes.

In summary, I don't think wesnoth should promote a saveloading count because I don't think it's needed. If people play at the appropriate difficulty level then it should be challenging without the need for saveloading and if you're good enough you can beat the hardest difficulty levels without doing so.

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Re: Cheating, difficulty, and a challenge to expert players.

Post by monochromatic » April 6th, 2011, 10:10 pm

FYI Simyr is the loyal knight one gains if they kill the orc leader in Blackwater Port. On Hard of course.
@OP Don't complain and play an easier level. When I was still playing extensively I finished about 1/3 of HttT on Hard with only Elvish Scouts, with no save-loading (though I did load saves 10 turns back if I felt I needed to redo a section but didn't feel like playing from the opening again). I'll give you the saves if you want, I'll just need to dig, as it was a while ago..

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