Tag Archives: Gaming

Concepts In Gaming – The Myth of Balance


Time to sink our collective teeth into another of the meaty topics related to gaming. Whether you lean more towards the tabletop world or the virtual world there is an often quoted and talked about concept that has the potential to construct a perfect storm of CAPS LOCK fury and ‘Rage of the Nerd’ (TM). Any game that has more than one player in it strives for this singular achievement of gaming, as the title of this post has already not very subtly alluded to, that principle is balance.

This really is the holy grail of gaming, to have a game perfectly poised so that anything can defeat anything else and it just comes down to the player at the end of the day. What I am going to say is that right up front this is a crock! That’s right, I’m flinging poo at the punters again, not only did I decry Comp the other day but here I am now saying that balance in both tabletop games and online virtual environments is nigh unachievable. We here at 6 Inch Move don’t shy away from the big topics for you to enjoy at home or on the road. Obviously this is a viewpoint that I am going to have to back up. Luckily I have a good number of words left to try to achieve that, so, please stick with me and we’ll see where we end up.

Without the rose-tinted glasses of hindsight I doubt that we can ever come up with a game that was perfectly balanced (other than the original Starcraft, but I am not counting that as we are dealing with tabletop games and MMOs primarily). Both of these spheres have things in common, both tend to go with players on two sides, and each side will have access to various classes/races/armies or whatever. With tabletop gaming you have an army list to pick your units from, this leads to a whole host of different combinations that can be taken, especially when you throw in options for different magic items and upgrades that can alter how your army performs. In MMOs there are race/class combinations as well as differences in gear levels. Now, for MMOs balance is an argument that is almost universally attributed to the PvP environment, the reason I bring tabletop gaming up as well is that, in essence, this is also a PvP arena, one person or a team against another person or team. If one person finds it hard to beat another there can often times be a whine associated with it. Now, I’m not going to tar everyone with the same brush, it is normally the vocal minority that you hear about, they are the ones that are complaining after all and in our hyper-connected Internet world we hear about these things through the communities we associate with.

For wargaming there is an expectation that each army be balanced against all others, that there is no significant advantage gained by taking one army over another. However, if you consider the amount of variety available balancing each and every possible combination is next to impossible. Personally I don’t think any combo is unbeatable, you may have to come with up some inventive tactics or strategies and shy away from that one favourite unit you have in order to overcome something you struggle against. Sure I can understand the argument that if you bring an all-comers list you should have a good chance of beating your opponent but there will always be bad match ups. This happens in real life as well, some forces are better equipped than others yet they have stood up and made an accounting greater than they should have. The same can be true of our war games.

In an MMO environment I am even more dead set that balance is something that should not really even be considered. If I run around as a Holy Priest for instance, why should I be entitled to think that I can beat any pure DPS class or tank? I CHOSE to heal my team mates, it is their job to protect me so I can protect them. In one way the balance comes from the team and any team that has damage dealing and healing should steam roll any other team that is missing one or the other. I took a lowbie character into a Warsong Gulch match a few months back and we were faced with a team of 8 or 9 Hunters. In the 11-19 bracket that meant we just go walked all over because we couldn’t match their damage output and we had next to no healers (I myself was a Hunter on the side getting pwned). With WoW as a specific case I don’t think the classes are balanced around PvP anyway, more that they are looked at in PvE and PvP is just an addition. There was a lot of this in SWG too, PvP was a pretty big part of the game with the Galactic Civil War period, yet anyone that played a class that could attack the Mind pool of player was pretty much guaranteed to win.

If the only thing to happen was a one vs one then the game could strive to achieve a certain balance, but each person would have to have the same abilities and the same core design to allow only player skill to show through. In order to make an engaging game you lose this aspect, especially when other players are brought into the mix. Sure it can be frustrating to get absolutely spanked in a situation where you have no chance of doing anything else but everytime some people band together and start using teamwork things get a lot better. There is much more to a game than one thing being able to beat another or even the Starcraft like Rock, Paper, Scissors (Lizard, Spock). Balance is an unachievable Holy Grail in an environment that almost discounts balance at its heart. Sometimes you will win, sometimes you lose, this is a life principle and rather than just whining about we lost and such and such an army or class is broken we should suck it up, look at what we did and what happened and try to learn from that. Afterall, retreating from a fight is not always a sign of cowardice, feigned flight can be a strategy in and of itself and while you are alive you have a chance to fight back.

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A Wild Tabletop Game Appears – GW Competitors, I Choose You!


Last night I got a call from Servitob and was asked to come and help give a demo of Firestorm Armada to a chap considering diving into the Storm Zone. So it was I packaged up all my gear and made the drive over to his house picking up Gribblin along the way. Even though I had planned to spend my time sat at home painting my Haradrim it was nice to get to have a game of Firestorm for the evening and it was a close game. By then end all that was left was a heavily damaged Dindrenzi Battleship supported by two undamaged Cruisers beating on the Terran Battleship that was also starting to take damage. Servitob conceded at the end of turn  7 but it really was a game where out fortunes went back and forth as to who was holding the upper hand.

However, this isn’t a post about Firestorm, that was just a pre-amble to what I have been trying to come up with the words for over the majority of this week. There should be no surprise that personally I am unconvinced by the new version of Warhammer Fantasy and that all of us here feel a great sense of excitement about War of the Ring. Odd how two games from the same company can bring about such different emotions. I know there are a lot of people out there in Internet land that cannot stand 40k, I happen to find it an interesting and fun game, this may depend on the environment in which you play it though. My friends and I enjoy chilling out and playing with each other, we don’t take the super competitive armies nor do we go to tournaments.

From this I have been wondering about how people decide on which games they will play. For many years now GW has not been the main player, there are a number of viable competitors exciting the market, I’ve had the fortune to play a number of these and some I’ve looked into but never took off. Sure I’ve gone through a large part of my adult life with no one to play with (yeah, I know, /violin) but since getting in with my current pals we do play some games and not others. Firstly, I think I should make a list with all the games I’ve spent money on getting the rules and/or models for in the not too distant past;

  • Warhammer Fantasy
  • Warhammer 40,000
  • War of the Ring
  • Warmachine
  • Hordes
  • Infinity
  • Secrets of the Third Reich
  • Malifaux
  • Sphere Wars
  • Necromunda
  • Confrontation
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Magic: The Gathering
  • LOTR: CCG
  • Uncharted Seas
  • Firestorm Armada
  • World of Warcraft: TCG

That’s a lot of stuff that has come around, far more than any of us could actually get around to gaming with, yet as I have said in previous posts I am a sucker for fantasy worlds. Some of these games all I ever got was the rules, some of them have good models, some of them don’t. I like the rules for Secrets of the Third Reich but the models are hideous. So, let’s put up another list of the games that are really the ones that our group will be playing in the foreseeable future;

  • Warhammer 40,000
  • War of the Ring
  • Malifaux
  • Warmachine
  • Firestorm Armada
  • Dungeons and Dragons

This is still quite a long list, Warhammer Fantasy may pop back in there later but at the moment I have little inclination to get the new rules and finish off my High Elves. But, how did we come to the conclusion that this is what we would be playing. Well, a large part of it is what people are willing to spend their money on, a lot of the games listed at the top I guess most of our group has never even heard of. I am always looking through gaming forums and spotting what is new and if the models are good (we bought stuff for Sphere Wars from Salute just because the models were really awesome, I don’t see us playing it ever if I’m honest with everything else happening). Warhammer 40,000 is a long time favourite of the group, it’s what we started playing together and we all have armies for it. War of the Ring is obviously the newbie for us but it looks a solid rule set and we are all really excited by it, more so than anything else for a while. Warmachine is throw back to our individual gaming days as we all have models for this game already, we’ve had a couple of games of Mk2 and people are keen to keep it around to play now and again.

Malifaux is awesome, currently there are only myself and nBreaker playing it, but I love the Fate Deck mechanic and the game is a lot of fun, it is quick to play and is different from the other games that we play, hence it stays. Firestorm allows us to take a break from normal gaming as it is a completely different setting, we all really enjoy it so again, it stays. D&D got a resurgence after we tried 4th Ed at Salute, Servitob is currently DMing a campaign and I think we are almost at the end of his current set of prepared stuff. It tends to be a quite light-hearted game (we are currently running through a mine that has a beholder as the foreman who has a magical hat which allows him to look human for public appearances) and expands the gaming circle to include Mrs Servitob playing her emo Wizard.

So, we have a broad range of games that are across genres and settings, each has a rich universe to enjoy and allows us to test our grey matter against one another. But with all the other games out there how many do you feel comfortable playing, how often do you get to play them all and how do you decide which ones are keepers and which drift into obscurity?

Computer Games – Now With Added War Crimes


I know what you’re thinking. “Does this guy have anything to do other than sit online blogging?” Well, sure but sometimes you need to get things aired and there is no better medium for finding people who are willing to agree and disagree with you than the highways and byways of the Interwebz.

Therefore, I’d like to direct your collective attentions here. This has the potential to be a highly charged topic. I know this isn’t specifically a video games blog but  every single contributor here spends time playing them and as it’s our blog we’ll damn well post what we want! So, perhaps a civilised discussion about this then?

To be honest, it may be perceived that I have a bias as I’m sitting in the video game playing community side of things, I don’t own Modern Warfare 2, nor do I plan to. However, we see more and more in the media an attack upon video games as a form of entertainment. Just like rock n’ roll in the 50’s we have a new media being accused of the corruption of our youth. I’d like to think by now that humanity would have caught up with that people are free to make their own choices and sometimes they choose badly. This is nothing new but as society has aged and grown we have now entered this amazing era where someone else is to blame. Your kid goes out and tries to car jack some dude on the street? Must be GTA IV’s fault, after all, he’s been playing that for weeks.

Well, perhaps your 13-year-old shouldn’t be playing a game that is rated 18, you could also do some crazy thing like interact with your kids rather than let a console do the job of raising them… outlandish idea I know, I fully expect to be burnt at the stake for such radical and dangerous thinking. However, let’s have a proper look at just what the article linked to is saying.

War crimes are capable of being committed in computer games. You could argue that regular crimes are committed in computer games all the time and yet not all gamers are repeat offending compulsive criminals. I’ve pickpocketed stuff on my Rogue in Warcraft but have never lifted anything (nor tried it) from an actual person. We could also look at real warfare, war itself is a brutal act of destruction and invariably good does not come out of it. I’m not going to go into history and pick specific examples of anything but I do not believe that war is good, we consider ourselves an enlightened species yet we still fight each other over perceived differences. Being able to commit war crimes in a computer game is, to me, no different from the often seen lack of regard for the so-called rules by many parties engaged in armed conflicts. If you want to show through a media such as the computer the true decisions that are faced by a man on the ground then obviously they are doing a grand job. It is even possible that if certain acts are performed covertly enough or with enough like-minded individuals that in real life it is possible to get away with these things. There are many armed forces around the world today that are committing what are defined as war crimes and yet we get all hissy over a game that allows someone to make those choices. Yes, perhaps there could be some repercussions from those choices (more traditionally RPG territory though) but you tend to find that it is only the west that really and truly abides by these conventions in the conflicts going on in the world today.

Now, is this really about war crimes or, more likely, just another attack at the video games industry to create sensational headlines that will help to sell copy? I’ll leave that to your judgement. However, not everyone that plays these games is a sociopath. In RPGs that allow you to take different moral routes I will often play through at least twice in order to experience both sets of outcomes, I personally find it a lot harder to go through the bad as opposed to taking the good. Yet, in video game land, I can be an uncaring, insensitive person without having to face the consequences myself, however, the character inevitably does. Is it really any different than reading certain works of fiction that portray these kinds of things, or watching a movie?

Yet, while these kinds of media are accepted as soon as something appears in a video game everyone is up in arms. Perhaps this is due to the fact that video games are so prevalent in our homes that society feels compelled to yet again cry out with “won’t someone think of the children” well, in my opinion the person that should be thinking of the children are the parents and they should exercise discretion about the media that their offspring are subjected to. This may not be the preferred method of parenting these days but I think we can all see the consequences of that right now.

I imagine this story will have its moment in the sun and then vanish into the ether alongside all the other “computer games will bring about the apocalypse” style stories. I’m just stunned by the fact that people are bemoaning that a game allows you to commit war crimes (something that isn’t new to video games) when so many real life armies flaunt these “rules” anyway. If everyone agreed and fought the same way, then perhaps they’d have a case, by something that is supposed to represent the real world being labelled as bad because it does a good job of mirroring real life… well, I have no coherent answer to that.

Getting Excited by a New Project


As has been mentioned on these boards before I am an extremely slow painter. Not only that but I am beset by a fickleness that is well documented in my MMO playing. No matter what game I play I am normally accompanied by a horde of alts. I have already described the pernicious disease that is New Army Syndrome and therefore you can imagine how my normal whimsy can sometimes mutate into “super-whimsy”(TM). Now, my purpose today is not to talk about my many and varied idiosyncrasies nor my inherent psychological instability but more of a time when cosmic forces align to somehow influence us beyond our normal ken.

Over the past few days I am feeling something that I don’t think I have felt in quite a long time. I actually do quite enjoy painting and sometimes hold myself back from doing it more often, hence the consternation of my venerable gaming brethren who are often heard to lament the fact that nothing I have is actually fully painted. However, I believe that sometimes these things are down to motivation and if you do things right, well, in my case it may be that miracles can happen. I haven’t had a fully painted army since I was in my teenage years and that’s quite a time ago now, obviously this needs rectifying. I have finally come up with a project that is enthusing me. I have plans, actual proper plans for getting things done, I have an army list that I am super excited and happy about. I believe that I know what I am doing and for the first time in as long as I can remember I want to throw down this army on the tabletop as 100% painted! A tall order no doubt considering my notoriously slow style. This is going to happen and I reckon it’s also going to look half decent. I refer you back a couple sentences to where I refer to that fact that I have PLANS!!! Yes, plans! As a part of this I need to further motivate myself so that I do not just let things flag, this army list is not going to drop down until I have painted it, hence a second level of motivation here so, I can publically declare that I will not play a proper game of Warhammer Fantasy until I have put the finishing touches to this army. I am a grown man, it’s time that I did actually have something like this to be proud of and I reckon I finally have the excitement and drive to do it.

No doubt the people in my playing circle will also be super excited to see this. Gribblin might feel annoyed that he is robbed of his regular opponent but with nBreaker and another addition to our circle I can try to lend my talents to teaching them the game while I see them enjoying themselves and thus driving my desire to play even more and increasing the chances I have of being forced to complete my pledge. I reckon that this is the only way I have of getting something full painted. I need to do it. I can still partake of Uncharted Seas and I plan too, but the fun we’ve recently been having with Warhammer I don’t want to miss out on and I am going to do this. Motivating myself in this fashion coupled with the fact that I am actually excited about this list I hope that things combine into a successful implementation.

So Interwebz, have you ever been in the same boat as this? Do you often find yourself fighting the drudgery and need something fresh to inspire you? Or are you all top-notch people who paint everything as soon as you have it and get it on the table?

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments section, which might be easier.)

 

The Legend of The Girl Gamer


Once upon a time, when mud was fashionable and petrol was cheap there was a girl gamer.  Nah, just kidding, petrol has never been cheap.  Come to think of it, has there ever been a proper girl gamer?  I don’t really know.  By proper I don’t just mean someone who games occasionally, or is in the business due to other family members.  I mean my wife has gamed and painted stuff but I would never call her a gamer.  When I get excited about games she gives me a little patronizing ‘That’s nice dear’ and lets me get on with it.  She’s even been into a few Games Workshop stores but that still doesn’t make her a gamer.  A gamer is probably someone who actually has a big bunch of models strewn about the place and would combust (as the theory goes) if they ever actually got them all painted.

Now in the past I have seen some of these elusive girl gamers.  I have even been in clubs who have female members.  One of them was actually very good at gaming.  If you go to any of the big tournaments you will always see the odd one or two in amongst the beer guts and sweaty neckbeards.  It is still a massively male dominated hobby.

Now I have some ideas as to why that may be…  Young boys often get given some military themed dolls as toys.  Toy plastic soldiers, GI Joes, and Action Man (who could pwn all the GI Joes with his badass scars, buzzcut and one glance of his moving eagle eye stare).  Naturally these toys lend themselves well to playing war.  Get a stick, hide in some mud, put a headband on and spend the day pretending you are Rambo deep behind enemy lines.  Avoiding your neighbours (the enemy) until you and your mates are in position to complete your dangerous mission of stuffing grass into the washing on the line in number 3’s garden without being seen or taken prisoner.  Other popular toys for boys include model kits.  No other toy has the anarchic possibilities of a Revell Mirage 2000 jet fighter.  Firstly, there’s glue that makes you dizzy if you sniff it.  You can stick things to other things, curtains, carpets, the dog.  You can stick your fingers together and spend hours of fun peeling it off.  Then theres the paint.  Paint your jet, and your face, and your door.  Practise your mad graffitti skills before you are old enough to buy spray paint.  Once your model is complete you can spend hours running around going ‘Neeeeaaaaaaawwwwwwooooooooo’, jet in hand as you buzz your mum and practise strafing runs on your sister’s Barbie dolls.

Anyway, boys grow up, they get jobs and disposable income, but are too old to run around outside and too respectable to make machine gun noises while pointing a stick at next door’s cat.  So they combine all of their childhood hobbies and begin gaming.  Many people begin gaming in their childhood, but the difference I’ve found as an adult gamer is that when I get beaten by a twelve year old I can simply just buy an upgrade for my force, new model or whatever, and continue to do so until victory is mine.  Take that, youngsters.

So how do girls get into gaming?  Why do they do it and are there truly any hardcore girl gamers?