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Old 09-01-2007, 12:23 PM   #1
Milawe
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Power Gamers

Every game has its power gamers. These are the people who figure out ways to optimize every command you ever created in order to level in whatever ways possible. It really doesn't matter what type of game you run, you still always get powergamers. They totally know how to game your system.

MANY games try to balance according to their powergamers, and others have come up with different ways to level the playing field. Most of the methods they use take out the element of skill and substitute sheer time involvement.

Are power gamers really a problem? Is it really the best solution to try to balance your system based on the power gamers?

In my opinion, the biggest damage that a power gamer does to your system is that they often create a sense of hopelessness in your more average players, and this is going to be the majority of your players. These players, who strive to keep up and simply can't, begin to feel as if they're 1) not good players or 2) are missing some sort of "hack" that they believe the power gamers are using. What's worse is when your power gamers band together to form some sort of "elite" organization and end up controlling certain resources in your game. It can be pretty crippling for your other players and for the game as a whole.

I, however, do not believe in balancing by nerfing power gamers. That always ends up making certain aspects of your game a sheer grind or simply too difficult for the average gamer. Besides, I'm not sure there are ever effective ways of truly slowing down a power gamer unless you completely take skill and min/maxing out of the game. At that point, you really don't have much of a game.

Any thoughts? What kind of power gamers have you had to deal with? Do they cause problems, or are they an asset in your community?
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Old 09-01-2007, 01:46 PM   #2
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Re: Power Gamers

I don't believe that power gamers are always a bad thing. They can definitely be helpful, both to staff and to players. They bring a sense of continuity due to their regular and involved type of play. Due to their time investment, they tend to be very loyal (which can be a double-edged sword). Of course, there are definitely the bad kinds too, who enjoy lording over others and rubbing their superiority in the face of other players.

I think that how you deal with this is in the game design itself. Player Killing is a major factor, since this is the most obvious way for a player to show their superiority over another player, by killing them (potentially repeatedly), humiliating them, forcing them to submit and admit their weakness or be killed more. We believe that this is enough of a factor that on Karinth, we only have consent-based (duels and arena) PK. You can't just go up and start hacking at someone. Of course this has its drawbacks, it takes away the adrenalin rush that some players live for, and so on. On the other hand, some people won't play a game that has PK, so how you handle this really is an integral part of the game and affects players greatly.

In addition, you can determine what rewards are out there for long-time players. Maybe it doesn't take long to max your level, but for example there are many dragons for high level players to slay in groups. That makes things more inclusive, while still creating repeatable challenges that are meaningful. If your game is the kind where one high level player isn't that special by himself, but can be a part of great things, then you take away some of that desire to crush other players, since they are needed. Of course, that makes it harder to be a lone wolf, so again, choices.

Basically, I think the game design will determine mostly how attractive your game is to power gamers, and what type (good or bad). If your game design encourages solo play, grinding and difficult leveling, ruthlessness, domination of others - then that's the kind of player you're going to end up with, like it or not. I think that making things more time consuming, which is something people often look to first, makes it worse - because then, the devoted power gamer is the only kind of player who could ever be somebody in that kind of game, and the casual gamer can never reach that level. If you're determined to eliminate them (not saying you should or shouldn't), I'd recommend the opposite way of making things a lot faster, yet opening up challenges of different kinds, that discourage the "me first" style of gameplay.
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Old 09-01-2007, 05:14 PM   #3
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Re: Power Gamers

I think of myself as more a "grinder" than a power gamer as I'm willing to put in the same time investment as a power gamer, but I'm not good at "min-maxing" and it will take me longer to get to a certain point in calendar time (the same number of game hours, just spread out). Personally, I think I'd like a game where I could just level forever and there'd be harder mobs for me to keep leveling on with no end game. My mud isn't like this, but it has a lot of "extra" levels when you reach the max mortal level. I've learned two things in 4 years of running a mud:

1. The majority of players seem to want an end game. To me, the extra levels were the "end game", but to many it just means a bunch more levels to "grind" through to get to the "end". As players are now actually get through all the levels, I now have the challenge of finding new things for these players (either power gamers or players like myself). Personally, I'd love have more levels for my character that is at the "end", but I don't know if that is the right thing to do. I've put both more levels and some other ideas up for a vote to my players, too early to see how that will turn out.

2. All slowing down power gamers does is hurt casual players. If I could turn the clock back 4 years, I'd get rid of the "hour penalty" that is built into ROM. It's frustrating for new players and they either end up leaving, or spend time doing the minimum amount of activity allowed to gain hours. Also, someone who has spent time getting resources with an alt can still level pretty fast with low hours if they really want to.
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Old 09-01-2007, 05:39 PM   #4
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Cool Re: Power Gamers

Because NW was set up to be severely Roleplay Enforced and to grant roleplayers extensive advantages, we have many unique ways of dealing power players. But, I won't give away the secrets here, you will have to play to find out! ;-P
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Old 09-01-2007, 05:57 PM   #5
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Re: Power Gamers

Power-gaming is just another way of gaming. Some people enjoy roleplay most, some enjoy exploring, others like developing their character to the fullest extent they can. The only time I think it's really an issue is when they're using exploits or loopholes to do it. You can argue that power-gamers as a group may have a tendency to "lord it" over the poor saps who don't measure up to their power, but I don't see it as any different to the group of "hardcore roleplayers" who turn their nose up at other peoples attempts to roleplay. As long as there are things to be good at, you're going to get groups of people who are elitist and overbearing when they're considered among "the best". It's simply a fact of any competitive endeavour and repeats itself in all of them. I've met power-gamers who were excellent players and didn't have a bad attitude, and I've met roleplayers I wouldn't go anywhere near because their whole "I'm so much better at this than you" attitude bugs the hell out of me.

If you really think that power-gaming is a problem in your own game (not aiming this at anyone specific, just a general thought) then surely you can make changes to your system to help avoid it. Personally I think it's just another way of playing a game and should be taken into account and catered for rather than saying "This is wrong" but then it depends entirely on how you want your game to be played.
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Old 09-01-2007, 06:05 PM   #6
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Re: Power Gamers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mina View Post
In my opinion, the biggest damage that a power gamer does to your system is that they often create a sense of hopelessness in your more average players, and this is going to be the majority of your players. These players, who strive to keep up and simply can't, begin to feel as if they're 1) not good players or 2) are missing some sort of "hack" that they believe the power gamers are using.
Just to quote this and repsond to this specific point, I would argue that the sense of "hopelessness" you mention the more average players feel is their own problem. I find it incredulous these days that people can't seem to grasp the idea that someone may be better than them than something, despite the fact it's as true in gaming as in every other facet of life. Any competitive activity is going to end up with some people who are better than the others, and there's no shame in coming second to someone who's just plain better than you.

As an example, I love to compose music. I realise I'm not the best in the world at it, and I even have friends who are better trained or naturally talented at it than I am. As long as they don't try and put on an elitist attitude towards me, I fail to see why them being better than me is a bad thing. Everyone has limits, but the way people talk these days you'd think that anyone can do anything if only they had the same opportunities. It's just not true. Some people are better at things than others and always will be.
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Old 09-01-2007, 06:18 PM   #7
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Re: Power Gamers

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Originally Posted by Xerihae View Post
Power-gaming is just another way of gaming. Some people enjoy roleplay most, some enjoy exploring, others like developing their character to the fullest extent they can.
Speaking as a player, I'm a "power gamer" all the way. I might not hunt down the absolute best eq I can get right away or find the optimum way to progress at any given point in time, but I'll find a routine for my level I'm comfortable with and go at it relentlessly.

Speaking as an admin, no matter what your game mechanics are, some people will optimize and some won't. I've found a good approach is to accept the grind for what it is but add plenty of entertaining distractions along the way. Sometimes global and sometimes separated into groups of more closely matched players so that even newcomers can compete at something.

Some people will slog away and ignore the distractions and level faster. Others will take part in them all and enjoy them. Which of the two would argue they are getting the most out of the game? If I have been successful, they both would.
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Old 09-01-2007, 08:17 PM   #8
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Re: Power Gamers

It depends on what the game is for how a power gamer is defined, and if power gaming is bad.

If you accept a 'traditional' MUSH definition where 'power gaming' is forcing things on other in a scene without rolling the dice/consent/whatever the local standards are, then power gaming is a really bad thing that needs squelched as often as possible.

This discussion seems to be focusing on another kind of power gaming, however, and I think 'power gamer' in this context is better called an 'optimizer.' That is to say, someone who has studied a skill/equipment system to optimize. Min/max is somewhat similar to this.

If a game is RP Optional/No RP, then I see little issue with min/maxing or optimizing. Someone pays the price for their (poor) stats; reaps the rewards of their good choices mechanically. This is really a function of skill, just when the 'skill' is the ability to plan a character's stats out rather than tactical combat decisions.

In a game that is based heavily on playing a role, however, there can be problems with this kind of outlook.
  1. What level of skills are 'realistic and/or appropriate' for PCs to have in the setting?
  2. What is to be done if these standards are not met by a single player?
  3. What happens when these standards are not met by the playerbase in general?
  4. Is skill inflation a problem?
  5. Are most skills useful?
Point being that for games with a good amount of RP action, the optimization question is suddenly a bigger matter than mechanics, which can be solved, in many ways, by game god fiat.
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Old 09-01-2007, 08:41 PM   #9
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Re: Power Gamers

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2. All slowing down power gamers does is hurt casual players.
I couldn't agree more with this statement. You see it occurring over and over in games, though, where the admins are so hell bent on crushing the power gamers that they crush everyone else along with it. Are power gamers really so bad that they need to be slowed down? If not, then why do these gaming companies keep doing it? I'm really not talking about bug fixes or tweaking powers to work like you intend them to do so.

Quote:
Just to quote this and repsond to this specific point, I would argue that the sense of "hopelessness" you mention the more average players feel is their own problem.
I couldn't agree with you more, Xerihae, but unfortunately, if enough people feel it, it affects your game. The fact is that our societies are so hell bent on being "equal" that they've tossed "liberty" to the side. You've heard about children playing sports where no one "keeps score", and it's all for the "love of the game"? I've always believed that MU* societies are a magnified reflection of real life. This is something that games MUST deal with in order to survive in today's social climate. I, for one, like to reward skill over time, but some of the most popular games out there (namely WoW) completely reward time over skill. Regardless of whether or not it is the player's problem, it soon becomes an administrator's problem unless you take WoW's complete hands-off approach. I believe most MU*s, however, have very involved administrators. That's one of our pluses.

My husband and I usually power game as a team which means we're min/maxing two characters to compliment each other and maximize advancement speed. Most developers cannot prepare for something like this because most games MUST be solo friendly. I'm all for power gamers, but they can affect your game in a very negative manner. They are definitely worse for some games than other games.

Power gaming doesn't have to be about levels, though. It can be about all sorts of things: crafting, RP, clans, PK, etc. If you've never met an RP power gamer, be VERY glad, especially if it's a mud where you can earn RP points. They're enough to make you cry.

Last edited by Milawe : 09-01-2007 at 08:41 PM. Reason: Changed a squiggly to a closed bracket
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Old 09-01-2007, 08:44 PM   #10
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Re: Power Gamers

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Originally Posted by Mina View Post
In my opinion, the biggest damage that a power gamer does to your system is that they often create a sense of hopelessness in your more average players, and this is going to be the majority of your players.
Currently my mud only has power players, and given the complexity of most areas there's a huge knowledge gap between them and newbies, which I guess is quite discouraging.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mina View Post
Any thoughts? What kind of power gamers have you had to deal with? Do they cause problems, or are they an asset in your community?
WoW sort of deals with this problem by giving people who login infrequently a bonus to their exp gains.

I've always been the bug abusing type of power player. The best way imo to deal with those is snooping/logging them and fixing the features they're taking advantage of.

Bored pkillers slaying newbies can be another big issue, this is mostly a game design issue with newbies being too easy to find.

Botters are a problem as well, deleting their pfiles generally works to discourage them, especially if you wait a while with doing so to make sure they become emotionally involved with their characters. Warning them and minor punishments just result in better bots or people botting when they know you're asleep or at work.

The zombies are annoying as well, they play like people who bot but aren't actually botting, so you waste a lot of time making sure they're playing manually. Some pattern recognition routines might come in handy for those.
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Old 09-01-2007, 08:49 PM   #11
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Re: Power Gamers

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WoW sort of deals with this problem by giving people who login infrequently a bonus to their exp gains.
Well, we all pretty much know that you can get to 1 to 70 with your eyes closed. WoW is not exactly a difficult game to play. Rest xp is kind of a joke, but it's the end game gear where you REALLY get the whole time over skill factor.

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Botters are a problem as well, deleting their pfiles generally works to discourage them, especially if you wait a while with doing so to make sure they become emotionally involved with their characters. Warning them and minor punishments just result in better bots or people botting when they know you're asleep or at work.
Botters are a whole other problem, I think. Botting isn't power gaming, it's just writing a program to game the system. I don't even think I classify botting as playing.
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Old 09-02-2007, 12:58 AM   #12
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Re: Power Gamers

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Originally Posted by Mina View Post
Botters are a whole other problem, I think. Botting isn't power gaming, it's just writing a program to game the system. I don't even think I classify botting as playing.
I have to laugh at botting on a text game especially if it is RP enforced. Another reason why professional staff and crew are sometimes important when it comes to a controlled gaming environment. It would be very very hard to bot NW without one of the staff ending your career before it started.
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Old 09-02-2007, 01:35 AM   #13
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Re: Power Gamers

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I have to laugh at botting on a text game especially if it is RP enforced. Another reason why professional staff and crew are sometimes important when it comes to a controlled gaming environment. It would be very very hard to bot NW without one of the staff ending your career before it started.
We just busted a bot 2 nights ago, and we (the admins) basically had nothing to do with catching the person. Every time someone runs a bot, they get caught specifically because of the RP nature of Threshold. Invariably, someone walks up to someone, tries to RP with them, and is confused when the person does not respond at all. This is such weird behavior that it quickly draws the attention of a lot of people, who then report the bot.

It is pretty funny, really.

But I agree that botting and powergaming are really not similar things at all. Botters are cheaters. Powergamers are very often people who just love delving into the minutiae of the game's mechanics and strategies to maximize their own efficiency at playing it.

In fact, many powergamers tend to be some of your most loyal and rules obeying players. To get ahead by cheating is "lame", and just shows that person wasn't smart enough or skilled enough to succeed through skill, analysis of game mechanics, and clever play. In other words, to cheat is to admit defeat.

There are even RP powergamers who figure out ways to "borg the RP" side of the game as well. They figure out ways to most efficiently spend time RPing with as many interesting people as they can. They engineer ways to get involved in as many interesting RP situations as possible. RP Powergamers are a pretty interesting lot as well. Fortunately, they do not present the same game balance problems as typical powergamers.

Last edited by Threshold : 09-02-2007 at 02:08 AM.
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Old 09-02-2007, 09:49 AM   #14
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Re: Power Gamers

Powergamers, botters, multiplayers, playerkillers, hack-n-slashers, roleplayers...

Every mudder has different preferences. A "cheater" or "problem player" is simply someone who's preferences don't mesh with those of the mud owner - but with so many muds out there, such definitions are subjective at best.

Last week I busted a roleplaying ring on my mud - they were hiding out in an abandoned temple, discussing some IC plot. Fortunately one of my multiplaying botters noticed them when going over his logs of the previous night, and reported them for cheating.
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Old 09-02-2007, 09:51 AM   #15
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Re: Power Gamers

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We just busted a bot 2 nights ago, and we (the admins) basically had nothing to do with catching the person. Every time someone runs a bot, they get caught specifically because of the RP nature of Threshold. Invariably, someone walks up to someone, tries to RP with them, and is confused when the person does not respond at all. This is such weird behavior that it quickly draws the attention of a lot of people, who then report the bot.
Yup. Enforced RP and/or the ability to kill another player without their consent does wonders for keeping botting down. We have both and occasionally see it, but it's generally a newer player who often claims it was legal and normal activity on their previous game, and they didn't read our rules. Sometimes they end up reporting themselves by complaining that someone killed them while they were AFK/idle.

Quote:
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But I agree that botting and powergaming are really not similar things at all. Botters are cheaters. Powergamers are very often people who just love delving into the minutiae of the game's mechanics and strategies to maximize their own efficiency at playing it.
Botting isn't cheating on many games. If the game allows or encourages it, your powergamer archetypes will seek to set up increasingly efficient bots.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
There are even RP powergamers who figure out ways to "borg the RP" side of the game as well. They figure out ways to most efficiently spend time RPing with as many interesting people as they can. They engineer ways to get involved in as many interesting RP situations as possible. RP Powergamers are a pretty interesting lot as well. Fortunately, they do not present the same game balance problems as typical powergamers.
I agree-- one of our running jokes on staff are the players who have entire written/played roles aimed at a specific RP reward that they've seen given out to other players previously. We're very careful about feeding that beast with the desired reward, lest that turn into the only kind of RP we see. It's much more fun to see people doing something original.
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Old 09-02-2007, 04:33 PM   #16
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Re: Power Gamers

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Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Powergamers, botters, multiplayers, playerkillers, hack-n-slashers, roleplayers...

Every mudder has different preferences. A "cheater" or "problem player" is simply someone who's preferences don't mesh with those of the mud owner - but with so many muds out there, such definitions are subjective at best.
I'm not sure that most people define power gamers as cheaters. Power gamers often operate well within the realms of a game's rules, design, and "intent". They just dominate the gameplay in a way that most game designers never imagined. This can have a negative result on the rest of the player base, and oftentimes, that is what causes admins/devs to react negatively to power gamers.

Power gamers also aren't necessarily a negative or a problem player. They're often extremely supportive to the games they play since they love playing it so much they completely min/max every option they have on it. Oftentimes, power gamers know how to use the abilities on a specific game better than the coders know how to use it. It's simply because they optimize it during gameplay, which can often be very different than how a coder/developer imagined the power being used.

Botting usually involves a computer playing a character with the person far away from the screen. I'm not sure that I would lump the two in the same category. Your definition here assumes that the power gamer is a negative force in a game (along with whatever else the admin has decided is negative, of course). I'm not sure they are.
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Old 09-02-2007, 04:38 PM   #17
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Re: Power Gamers

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Botting isn't cheating on many games. If the game allows or encourages it, your powergamer archetypes will seek to set up increasingly efficient bots.
I don't think I've ever seen an example of this unless it's flat out designed into the game itself. (Fairy Land allows you to leave the computer while your character continues to do the last button you pushed.) What kind of games actually encourage botting and why? It doesn't make any sense to me to make computers play each other unless it's some sort of coding test. If I were to play a multiplayer-game, I would want to play with live people. I know that Final Fantasy X had a HUGE botting issue that made players quit in droves. It's why I decided that game was not for me. They spent most of their time breaking bots. The same thing with WoW. They spend a ton of time breaking fishing bots, and fishing isn't that major in WoW.

I'm very interested in the idea that people will make games that actually encourage botting and what the game design idea is behind it. Is it simply to allow people to test their coding powers against each other? If that's what the game is about, then I'm not sure that I would automatically classify the botter as a "power gamer". It seems then that they're just doing what the game intended for them to do in the manner in which they were intended to do it.

Last edited by Milawe : 09-02-2007 at 04:39 PM. Reason: Bad sentence structure. Didn't make sense.
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Old 09-02-2007, 06:07 PM   #18
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Re: Power Gamers

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Originally Posted by Valg View Post
Sometimes they end up reporting themselves by complaining that someone killed them while they were AFK/idle.
Hahahaha. That's funny.


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Botting isn't cheating on many games. If the game allows or encourages it, your powergamer archetypes will seek to set up increasingly efficient bots.
Botting seems to be one of those universal no-nos. Are there any major games that allow botting? I know I sure wouldn't be interested in that. I don't want the skill/challenge focus to be on writing the best bot.

But getting back to Mina's original topic:

As a game designer, I think it is really easy to get sucked into obsessing over the results your powergamers generate. Their advancement speed, their ability to make money, etc. can look really gross to a developer, and entice them to implement nerfs to clamp down on it. The problem is, this tends to have only a minor effect on the powergamer (they find a new way to succeeed), while it can have a huge negative effect on normal players.

After a few cycles of this, your game can become extremely difficult on average players, or even worse, tedious.

I think this is a very hard temptation to resist, and you see new developers make this mistake repeatedly. MMOs made by a new developer almost always have this problem, because their devs don't bother to play other MMOs, and thus their lack of experience as player AND developer gets exposed.
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Old 09-02-2007, 06:34 PM   #19
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Re: Power Gamers

I have a mixed relationship with power gamers. They're useful because they bring to light the ways the system can be pushed to absurdity, and because I want to have a complex system with emergent behaviors rather than one where I've nailed down all of the five possible things you can do with it, I need them to do so. It's hard on them when a trail of nerfs follows them around, though, and their morale loss hurts the social atmosphere. They didn't spend all that time minmaxing their character so they could help me rebalance the game, they spent it because they wanted to be the ultra cool dude of super powerfulness forever.

Too bad about that.

I only pay attention to botting when poorly-written bots start making trouble. We used to forbid botting, but the trend over the years has been away from policies that require someone to play cop all the time. I have no use for playing cop and I have little use for assistance from the sort of personalities that playing cop appeals to. Now, I basically figure that if bots and tickers prosper, that's the fault of the game design, which needs to be reworked to reward people who actually play.
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Old 09-02-2007, 06:38 PM   #20
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Re: Power Gamers

Quote:
Originally Posted by Threshold View Post
In fact, many powergamers tend to be some of your most loyal and rules obeying players. To get ahead by cheating is "lame", and just shows that person wasn't smart enough or skilled enough to succeed through skill, analysis of game mechanics, and clever play. In other words, to cheat is to admit defeat.
Any sufficiently advanced power gaming is indistinguishable from cheating. Naturally the have nots dislike the cheaters, either because they're cowards and don't dare taking the same risks, or because they lack the intelligence to find the most well hidden loopholes in the game. To cheat or not to cheat, that's the question.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KaVir View Post
Last week I busted a roleplaying ring on my mud - they were hiding out in an abandoned temple, discussing some IC plot. Fortunately one of my multiplaying botters noticed them when going over his logs of the previous night, and reported them for cheating.
Nice move, those damned roleplayers tend to ruin the unique atmosphere hack 'n slash muds work so hard on to maintain.
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