Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
This is how we play rock-paper-scissors. Since both players throw at
the same time, neither one has time to use the other's move in making his
own decision, even if one throws a few milliseconds earlier.
infoRmation BalanCe Case stuDy: PokeR
The history of poker is a perfect example of a design process swinging
back and forth through different types of information balance.
The first version of poker was almost purely a game of chance. Four
players anted up, and then each drew five cards from a 20-card deck. Each
player bet once, and hands were shown. If you had a good hand, you might
bet high. If not, you would either fold or try to bluff.
Old poker was information-starved. It lacked complex decisions be-
cause there wasn't enough data to think on. Each player knew only the
contents of his own hand and the bets that had been made so far. With
just one betting round, this isn't enough information to form coherent
strategies. So the game had a low skill ceiling because it was almost totally
random.
The Mississippi riverboat hustlers who played the game wanted it to
support a higher skill level so that they could fleece the tourists without
resorting to risky cheating methods. So they redesigned the game.
The first change was the switch to the 52-card English deck instead
of the old 20-card deck. Thirty-two additional cards vastly increased the
number of possible hands. That change alone, however, would have just
made the game even more information-starved since it increased the
number of possible hands without giving any more information to distin-
guish them. The more important change was the introduction of multiple
draw and betting rounds. Instead of placing one nearly blind bet, play now
went around the table several times. On their respective turns, each player
could throw away cards he didn't want and draw new ones to replace them.
Then, the player could either fold or bet whatever amount he wished.
This multiround structure added a tremendous amount of informa-
tion to the game. Now, players could respond to one another's draws and
bets across betting rounds. By watching how someone drew and bet, they
could figure out what the other player was holding. This style of poker
survives today in the form of draw poker .
But even draw poker is still heavily luck-based. It's not as blind as old
poker, but still leads to a lot of guessing and hoping. So the game kept
evolving.
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