Game Development Reference
Unfortunately, not all games can be griefer-proofed from the inside.
These games need a final line of defense in the form of policing mechan-
ics like voting systems or game moderators. Policing systems are messy
and inelegant—voting requires players to break from gameplay to regulate
their own experience, and paying moderators costs developers money. But
when used as a last line of defense, they can save a game that would other-
wise degenerate into a quagmire of blocked doorways, ignored objectives,
and Internet shock photos.
One special kind of divergent goal is the one that appears because of large
skill differentials among players. When one player is an expert and an-
other is a beginner, bad things can happen.
The unskilled player's goal is to learn the game and not be pressured
too much. The skilled player's goal is to play and win a deep, skill-stretching
game. The gap between these goals can cause conflicts that are unpleasant
from both sides. The unskilled player gets pressured and insulted. The
skilled player is either bored from playing against a terrible opponent, or
annoyed at his useless teammate.
The problem is extremely common because it appears anywhere play-
ers are interdependent and success depends on skill. Left 4 Dead , StarCraft
II team battles, and Call of Duty: Black Ops ' Nazi Zombies mode are all
great designs, and all suffer from skill differentials.
There are a number of ways to reduce the impact of skill differentials.
The first few are all about shrinking the skill differential itself.
Obviously a simple, elegant design is the best baseline way of shrink-
ing skill differentials. A game that is easy to pick up will get players past
the skill barrier faster, making them less likely to annoy experts and get
kicked from games.
Another way to shrink skill differentials is to create a matchmaking
algorithm that matches players of similar skill levels. The system keeps
track of each player's experience level and win rate. When a player searches
for a game it puts him together with others with similar records. This solu-
tion is conceptually simple, but in practice, designing and engineering
these systems to work well can be a massive challenge.
There are also structural solutions. Massively multiplayer games like
World of Warcraft are set up so that players can play solo the first several
hours without pressure from others, and then choose to group up later
after they've learned the basics. This means that complete newcomers are
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