Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by vladikus »

What amusing replies. I've never seen such a display of personal philosophy when it comes to games. But really, I have no opinion.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by baruk »

I played a game last year called Urban Rivals - one of those CCG inspired strategy games. A feature of note was that, depending on which "room" you played in, you could play with or without the random element. Here is a snippet of an interesting discussion I had about it, which seems relevant to the luck topic:
I think an element of luck is necessary as it adds some variety to the game. Having both luck and skill-based rooms is preferable to having all rooms of the same type.
Luck adds some "fuzziness" to fight results. In the "pure skill" form of the game, a 51% to 49% advantage in attack is as decisive a victory as 99% to 1%. In the "luck-based" version, the chance of victory is based on the ratio of attack points. This leads to slightly different strategies - winning by a small margin in each fight is the most efficient way to win in the skill-only game, but may easily backfire when luck is involved. With luck, you increase overall chance of winning when the advantage in individual fights is more comprehensive.
I wouldn't say one form of the game is better than the other, but they each offer something different.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Hushpuppy »

I've been following this tread for a little bit, and I'm interested to discover not only that the outcome of *any* of my games may be dependent upon luck- but I've learned that there's no such thing as pseudo-random numbers (drat, I *knew* my Computer Science education was worthless!).

Ok, I'm kind of kidding regarding the first part: I do have a sense of "luck", and I know people who I would call lucky and others who I might call unlucky. I consider myself lucky because I live in the US of A, have a nice family, a lot of opportunities, good job, all that stuff.

But intellectually, I know there's no such thing as luck. Instead, there is and always will be probability. As a matter of fact, I believe in probability so much so that I will risk my very life, the life of my wife, and the life of my daughter on it. Every time we take a trip we're in some danger of accident, but I'm counting on NOT rolling snake eyes- or, in the case of air travel, probably closer to like rolling 2 dozen 1's at once on the dice. The chance of any of us dying in a car wreck is pretty low. The chance of any of us dying in a plane wreck is even lower. But I can tell you, that on any given day, the chance of somebody somewhere dying in a car wreck is fantastic. And in any given year, the chance of somebody somewhere dying in a plane wreck is, as well. I *know* it will happen, because of the probabilities. I can call the poor souls on the short end of the stick "unlucky" if I want, but it's certainly going to happen to someone- because of the laws of probability.

What does this have to do with Wesnoth? Because in any sort of strategy game that includes a "luck" factor, you're really playing with probabilities. And game after game, the person who
  • Understands the rules.
    Understands the units (including how each one benefits from terrain and other modifiers).
    Understands probability.
    Can strategize creatively.
Is going to usually win. But if they can do all those things but in a game they take their level-3 mage leader and pit him against a level 2 elf unit, with a 62% chance to kill, and a 9% chance to die, and they end up killing the mage and losing the game- well, I say, I hope they were fully prepared to toss the game away based on a 91% probability of success- because if you play Wesnoth enough, you ARE going to see situations where you're going to come up on the 9% side of things.

To me, luck in Wesnoth is not too much a part of the game. I'm always mindful of probability, and I include it as just another factor to manage whenever I play. That's all it boils down to, as far as I'm concerned: another factor to manage. The cool thing about it- what makes it manageable- is you know exactly where the numbers lie and you can then make your decisions. You just can't control the actual toss of the virtual die.

I think it's much more realistic; it represents- as I think others have said- situations that are simply not under your control. I mean, look at real warfare. When the French battled the English longbowmen during the 100 years' war did they say, "Ya know- any one of our knights cost us many francs to equip and field, and has spent years practicing for war. He could slaughter 10 of your archers without breaking a sweat. So for you to beat our army of fabulous knights with your paltry archers and such is just not RIGHT!"? I think some did, but as we know the English were not inclined to roll over for them.

Please forgive my sloppy portrayal of history, if you could, and understand that there are many factors that come into play during a battle, and having, say, one of your best figures slaughtered by a group of peasants is simply something that could and would occur in real life. So it should occur in Wesnoth. One needs to either be willing to accept that, or not put that figure at any risk whatsoever.

And, if that's still unacceptable to you, I recommend that the developers of Wesnoth create a "Peace Corps" faction, where all the figures who object to the risks of war go to bring good schools and better hospitals to the Orc and the Undead factions.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Turuk »

Ah necromancy. Though the Peace Corps idea is hilarious, as I am not sure what undead would do with a hospital. Recruit from the morgue? :lol2:
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Death »

Wow. Interesting thread.

Luck is a very misunderstood concept and oft misused term. When people talk about changing the RNG in Wesnoth, the issue is about how much the game's portrayal of randomness should match a player's intuition about expected results.

Think about playing a game where you see a 60% chance to hit. I'm not sure how the actual Wesnoth RNG is set up, but just suppose that means that out of any string of attacks (ie. H M M H H H=Hit M= Miss), you will eventually see that roughly 60% of the results are hits, and roughly 40% are misses.

But at what point should you start seeing 60%? Over the course of a few attacks? A few games? 100 games? 10,000,000,000 games, where you could see streaks of 50 hits at 10% or 50 misses at 90%?

Take a look at if you haven't already. They use an interesting system where the to-hit probability varies as a unit is hit or missed by an attack. This pretty much forces a unit that has 70% blocking to get hit at least, or around 30% of the time. The result? Just that 30%-40%-50% chance to-hit means that in 10 consecutive attacks the player will most likely hit the unit 3, 4, or 5 times (without knowing beforehand, of course, how the sequence of hits/misses will go, hence it does not take away, for instance, the need to contingency plan/adjust for bad bouts of luck).

Does this make tacticsarena less random than Wesnoth? NO. But it does make the game more intuitive, which is what I think most people confuse with less random.

As for how where the intuition level for those % numbers should be set, personally, I'm strongly in favor of not having to play 10,000 games, many with streaks of "good" or "bad" luck, just to get the gist of a unit. In fact, I think it's best for the development of new players who have the potential to develop into good/great players to not have to grapple with seemingly unreliable numbers (60%? 80%? 40%?) before they can figure out the rest of the play.

Finally, too much hoopla is being made about the so-called ability to adapt your play to wild bouts of luck. From what I've seen, once a game has reached a pivotal point, the point-of-no-return, that game is over. There are no comebacks.

It is true that players have and will blow an advantage due to stupid play. These players are stupid, and should be recognized as such. Just because a sound player may battle back from bad luck, thanks to grievous errors by their opponent, does not make them particularly skillful. They did not win out of any ingenious counterattack, merely they won because, ironically, they got lucky.

Also, I noticed the topic of "players with equal skill" come up here, and a little more needs to be said.

The idea of "players with equal skill" is coherent, but it would probably be better stated "players of equal knowledge of the game" or "equal sufficiency" or something like that.

Admittedly, there isn't actually any "skill" to speak of in playing Wesnoth. Click on Unit to select. Click on Hex to Move/attack.

A game of Wesnoth is a battle of smarts, and most people use "skill" to mean the tactical proficiency of the players.

A battle in Wesnoth between two players of equal skill is a battle between two players that know all of the same things. Game mechanics: Unit strengths/weaknesses; recruitment costs/upkeep; movement/ZoC; etc. Tactics: How/when to use Time of Day; How to use/attack/defend on terrain; which units to attack with, in what order; etc., etc. Strategy: whether or not to attack; which villages to go for, when to recruit blah blah blah

There's a whole heckuva lot I'm leaving out that I'm sure players can know (what units are good against what, when to get what units against what etc. etc., stuff keeps coming to mind). But the point is, ESPECIALLY for a turn-based game like Wesnoth, it is not at all incoherent to have to players of equal "skill."

So then someone asked the question, what would decide a game between two players of equal skill? I figure it comes down to three options:

One - "Luck," ie. an inevitable confrontation shifts one way or the other, and merely the state of the RNG decides which way; the rest of the game a prolonging of the inevitable.

Two - "Rock-paper-scissors," in other words despite all the attempts at balancing, maybe a perfectly played undead just beats a perfectly played northerners.

Three - "Draw." This is the most interesting option, I think, because honestly I don't think most people have even seen anything close enough to imagine what such an epic draw would look like. Remember that two players of 'equal skill' don't necessarily have the same playing style, or even the same opening. In fact, I think (I could be wrong about this, but that) Wesnoth allows for a far more interesting battle out of different openings than, say, chess (where with two phenomenal players, one opening might just beat another).

A Draw could be anything from an all-out stalemate to a whirlwind battle that - and here's the kicker - STILL ISN'T DECIDED. This is the battle with no point-of-no-return, but with plenty of action. This is something that is (maybe?) possible with Wesnoth.

Anyway, for further consideration, go wikipedia Myth 2: Soulblighter for an example of a game that involves skill, but where two teams of "equal skill" could easily clash to markedly interesting results. I could write probably libraries on all this fun stuff, but I think I'll stop here.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by ilor »

Wow, just wow. I don't even know where to start. You'd really save time, and wouldn't have to necro a thread, if you just have filled out . The double post was a nice touch, too.

The chance to hit in wesnoth, is, *GASP*, the chance each individual attack has of hitting. Meaning, there's a virtual dice roll and if the number is below the threshold, it's a hit. Nothing else. It's simple. You advocate a convoluted system where the to-hit chance would be basically a lie because the actual chance of hitting would depend on god knows how many previous attacks of who knows what. Yeah, more intuitive.

(hint: if a "60% to-hit" _guarantees_ you hit around 6 of 10 tries and never get 0 hits, it's not a 60% to hit chance on every attack, and it gets progressively less random and more confusing)

Also, you get the gist of a unit by looking at the damage types and defence ratings. No need to play 1000s of games.

As to the skill part, great, now go tell the chess players that they have no skill to speak of too, because it's all about picking up a piece and moving it somewhere else. Or go, where you pick stones out of a jar and put them on a board and the rules are simple enough to allow a five year old kid to play.

I'm for locking this.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Soliton »

Death wrote:Finally, too much hoopla is being made about the so-called ability to adapt your play to wild bouts of luck. From what I've seen, once a game has reached a pivotal point, the point-of-no-return, that game is over. There are no comebacks.
So there are no comebacks after the point-of-no-return? Surprising...
Death wrote:It is true that players have and will blow an advantage due to stupid play. These players are stupid, and should be recognized as such. Just because a sound player may battle back from bad luck, thanks to grievous errors by their opponent, does not make them particularly skillful. They did not win out of any ingenious counterattack, merely they won because, ironically, they got lucky.
Unlike those wins were the opponent made no mistakes and you just played better.. in a balanced game... oh, wait.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Doc Paterson »

ilor wrote:
I'm for locking this.
Yes, I think this thread is somewhat of a Dunce Magnet. It should probably still be stickied, because the initial posts were useful and informative.

I'm locking it, but any dev who really, really wants to unlock it should do so.
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Re: Luck in Wesnoth: Rationale

Post by Jetrel »

Fosprey wrote:In fact, i would be told , like you somehow say. "the game is sometimes unfair because is designed to be so because it's not really relevant who the winner is" then i would't have a problem. But is the persistent people that states that the game is fair and the best player wins always or almost always (something like 95% or more) that i dislike, and the main reason i complain.
Do the luck makes the game more fun and intersting in some parts? maybe. But you are sacrifing competitive fairness.
If that's what you want, then fine.
It's a game design decision you made.

Here's an interesting hypothesis:
Maybe it makes the competition better, because it fuzzes the line between good and bad players. In highly deterministic games, there's really not much point in playing if there's any difference in the skill levels between players, because you know what's going to happen (barring any of what baseball would call "an error" - someone making a dramatic gaffe unbecoming of their expected skill.).

In wesnoth, the randomness turns this dividing "line" between game outcomes, into a dividing "margin" - it establishes a "delta value" which, if both players are in, the game could swing either way. Compared with chess, much more imbalanced matches in wesnoth are still worth playing, because they aren't absolutely preordained outcomes.

I actually have little-to-no interest in playing competitive chess for precisely this reason.
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