Victory Points

Victory Points

Not all victories are created equal. In some cases, what the game considers a victory is at odds with how you might actually want to play.

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A very nice read.
I can very much relate to setting your own conditions for a "victory" in a game. So much so that you knowlingly screw yourself over through playing. Were all the choices I made in the Mass effect games good ones, correct ones or even useful ones? Nope, but setting my own goals for when playing is essential for my enjoyment, even though the sometimes coicide with "absolute victory through any means possible".

Thank you for sharing.

The pictured game is ridiculously fun. Funny enough, my friends and I always try to see how badly we can make someone else lose as opposed to actually trying to win. In one of the games, I had been successfully routed, but I still gained material and passed it on to one of my friends that was trying to route the person that routed me. So much fun was had.

This is very true. I know I often behave differently with certain victory conditions than I would otherwise. I remember playing Age of Empires II and enjoying my defensive, economic empire when several of my opponents started building wonders, which made me sad because I had to alter my play style to prevent myself from losing.

Victory conditions aren't the only things that affect my play style... if there are extra bonuses or items the player can miss during a normal play though and can't go back later for, I end up using a guide throughout the game, which I don't enjoy as much as playing the game and then looking up the extra stuff when I've finished. Most recently, Fallout: New Vegas did this to me with its' skill books. I have to prevent myself from putting too many points into skills until I pick up all the books, which actually ruins my fun somewhat, but I'm too much of a min-maxer to avoid doing it.

I had a conversation about this with my old end group when talking about my new end group (I was visiting home and had lunch and a round of board games with them).

I told them how the new group had gone several weeks without combat encounters and it was all about role playing, that they were involved with the story rather than hunting loot or trying to extort all the NPC's. Old groups reply: 'it's like they are trying to play for fun rather than playing to win, what a concept.'

Marshall Lemon:
Victory Points

Not all victories are created equal. In some cases, what the game considers a victory is at odds with how you might actually want to play.

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Great article, and something I've also been thinking a lot about lately--particularly as it relates to the love-hate relationship the gaming world has with sandbox games.

When people talk about sandbox games as being "too open," and how they "have no clue what to do"--often a complaint made about Minecraft--it comes down to not having explicit victory conditions. Yet when those conditions are provided in games, many people often find themselves dissatisfied.

Too many times, when an open game starts to assign victory conditions, they undo a lot of their own work. For instance, when you became aware of the conditions in Civ, suddenly a handful of game mechanics were of no use to you. The victory conditions undermined the game's own depth and scope.

There's a parallel to this in the educational world: standardized testing. As teachers, we hate it just as much as the students do, and for one very important reason above all: the test is the curriculum, in practice if not name. Since the test is the victory condition, it rigidly prioritizes all the behaviors leading up to (or away from) it.

Concepts in education like "differentiated instruction" or "multiple intelligences" or "differing paths to success" are completely undermined by standardized testing (thus standardized interpretation of the results). As a result, we alienate a lot of our students and devalue a lot of valuable learning activities.

I think it's the responsibility of a game to provide victory conditions. It's just better that they provide a variety of them. Allow for multiple paths to success/victory in your game world. And then, the hard part: ensure that no one set of victory conditions is given greater weight than the others.

Take online FPS games, for instance--if the scoreboard makes a bigger deal out of kill count than mission objectives (if applicable), that's going to weight "random killing" over "completing the task" or even "playing a support class that helps us complete the task." Basically, the game becomes everyone running around as the front-line soldier (for quick kills) or the sniper (for a high kill-death ratio).

Tabletop RPGs, to my mind, are still the best at providing multiple paths to victory, serving the widest variety of playstyles. And this is because they are not truly finished games. They are tool kits. If this project doesn't require a hammer, ditch the hammer. If you're not concerned with position and attacks-of-opportunity? Leave 'em out. If you want to play the campaign straight out of the book? Do it! But if you just want to steal a few elements here and there...

Provide a variety of tools to your players. Provide them reasons to use them, though not necessarily all at once. Provide some examples and recommendations, especially for those who need the guidance. And then leave them room to assign their own weight and value to each aspect of the experience.

It's really as simple as two people playing basketball and saying, "Okay, last time we played first to ten. Before that, we played for the most baskets in 3 minutes. This time, let's see who can make a shot from farther away..." Each variation emphasizes a totally different aspect of the game, and the game in no way acts to invalidate that emphasis.

i play to survive and if winning is what is required then i am fine! I never play minecraft to survive and to build... hmm i guess winning just comes second to me.

Marshall, thank you for enunciating what many of us have felt for years; our satisfaction from games is often of our own making rather than achieved by adhering to the 'victory conditions' as laid down in the rules.

For instance, for FPS games I've always been obsessed with getting a good kill-to-death ratio rather than making the most kills - that's just how I discern making the most worthy and satisfying contribution to the game.

In the case of strategy games, such as Civilisation and the Total War series most of the enjoyment comes from "up in my head" so to speak. I get satifaction from imagining all the hustle and bustle in my growing towns, how bad-ass my assassins and spies would be creeping around and bumping one another off, the grim expressions on the faces of my troops as they prepare to defend Sheffield against a horde of Mayans three times greater in number - these can't be counted amongst victory 'conditions', they're the heroic and defining points of your nation's survival!!!

I hear you on the Civilization 5 thing. I once tried to disable all the victory conditions, but when I launched the game it still forced the Conquest (kill-everyone) victory condition. It made all the AIs extremely hostile and warlike. Sadness.

Also, one game in early pre-alpha development of note: http://projectzomboid.com/blog/
In Project Zomboid, the goal is your death. There's no avoiding it. All you can do is see how long you can postpone the inevitable; how you spend your final days in a zombie apocalypse.

Yeah, with the Civilization thing, I usually get by this by ignoring the victory conditions. I'll probably lose in the end, but I have fun doing it.

It makes it work more like Dwarf Fortress, where I just keep playing until the goblin hordes (or in this case other countries) finally win it all.

I've been exactly where you are, my admiration for the Civilization series being in the ability to simulate a nation itself, not in the numerically valued, competitive aspect of it. I always worried myself more over creating a nation I would like to live in as opposed to a nation that would win the game. Some components of the game were in juxtaposition to my own personal goal.

However, I've come to a different conclusion than you on the matter. Personally I found that the victory objectives weren't really necessary, they were an option. Not every nation needs to be the greatest in the world. A wonderful TED speech about the idea of soft power.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiTrl0W1QrM

So when the game ends, and my nation isn't in first, I've got little issue with the score. I know my nation did well.

When I was a kid, I rarely won games. Winning meant finishing them, and finishing them meant there was no more game. I hated that.
Now it's a bit different, but still, some games could use a mode that goes "No victory. I just want to play forever". It doesn't prevent a whole bunch of achievements from existing, rewarding different types of play. And it doesn't mean "no victory" mode is the only mode that should exist, either. You can easily imagine it just being one of the options.

Game design is a tricky thing. You see, these victory condition thingies exist because that's how the game is meant to be played. Your examples show this brilliantly. If you play Zombies!!! as you would play Settlers, you'll bring the game to a standstill. And if you play Settles as you wold Zombies!!!, you'll bring about the apocalypse. Victory conditions exist to show the most fun way to play the game, and reward those who play that way so that the game is kept at the most fun.

The problem, of course, happens when devs don't know how their games play. Victory conditions should essentially assist the underlying rules, but sometimes a dev tries to do something different and fails to communicate this through gameplay and game rules, so they tack on victory conditions that are at odds with the game.

I've been playing a lot of TF2 lately for some strange and unfathomable reason and it has a nice middle ground: achievements. I was looking at the achievement list and it struck me that only half are the usual fare you find in achievements, which are either 'do something awesome that's quite hard to do' or 'just play the game normally, but like for a long time'. The other half are things that are good to do in the game but that might not come easily to new players. So in trying to do the achievements, the new player becomes better. If they don't want to, nothing lost.

i agree with you on this. i always disable victories i dont like (shuttle and diplomatic one) and then develop my own way setting my own goals and ignoring the victory. if i meet any of the "games" victory condition i jut keep on playing till i meet my own victory. i keep the cultural victory in due to the fact that otherwise the AI gets untraditionally aggressive.
what the key to FUN in civilization is is difficulty levels. if you find yourself leading the world in every aspect and able to conquer it all you are playing too low. bring difficulty a few notches up and youll find yourself having trouble handing your 3 neighbours and by raising this challenge the game becomes very fun to play rather than " counting turns till the end". still i think civilization is a series lacking a lot fo things and Shogun beats them, but thats my opinion.

Then again i was always my own man. i would create my own maps and my own goals in games that allowed that rather than play the campaign. i always set my own boundaries, like i had once set a pistol only challenge in a game that would normally go with machine-guns. did it, was fun, probably more fun than playing the "normal" way.

Nice read. Personally I turn off the timed victory on my Civ games so I can enjoy the game wihout having to worry about winning by 2050.

Regarding Civilisation V, I'm still having fun with that - playing through various times and trying to be historically accurate, so far with little success. Victory conditions can be what you want to get out of the game. Your balanced "eutopic" civilisation that did not bow to any of the five victory conditions and as a result, when you came to the "end", you rushed for one hundred turns to grind out a victory.

I've played Civilsation for the irony at times, with putting the French in space, fighting as the Aztecs, that have taken up their ancestral homeland in Germany and moving in to various large cities as Genghis Khan, without destroying them. I've looked at things and thought that as some of the nations, it is easy to get a victory of some description, so why not be ironic and try for the much more difficult one? The French Space victory was one such occurence, as was a cultural victory by the Aztecs.

I've not played Call of Duty so much, so I'll glaze over the top of that. Zombies!!! however is a game that I have spent ages playing, along with "The Great Brain Robbery", by Cheapass Games - both of which have a similar theme. In TGBR, you need to get to the front of the train, having the biggest brain, i.e. the highest IQ rating and bring the train to a stop. There are other zombies (players) as well with the same goal and they will try and rip your brain out of your head, to stop you. You can brain passengers and get their skills, but it's down to chance and the fact that if you've insulted the players in the wrong way, you're going to be going home with an empty head or Government Cheese. With Zombies!!!, I've learned that two player teams seems to be the prder of play to start with, then as the kill counts rise, someone from the team goes rogue and all hell breaks loose. Usually by that point, I've lost most of my kills, by being mutilated, but I keep trying, nonetheless. A game that I believe I am still yet to win.

Settlers of Catan is a fantastic game based on chance and as a result, you will be hoping and praying that your tactics of monopolising the mountains does not backfire, otherwise you will be building very sturdy roads for the next few hundred turns. Competitively building the longest road is a great way to get two victory points, but to ensure that you're not going to see it broken by someone hungry for the resources you've built next to can be tricky, as I've seen the longest road turn into two shorter, pointless roads and a player's aspirations go down the swanny. He shouldn't have blocked my access to the wood on a 9, should he?

With victory conditions at a premium, I feel that I must mention Arkham Horror, where you must work as a team to try and get to the goal. With a friendship group like I have, this can prove tricky, as we constantly seem willing to screw one another over, but at the second group, we have done our best to keep things going and while we were all devoured by Nyarlathotep in the end, we had a damned good game. A shame really that our physical investigators couldn't hit the broad side of a banjo and the investigative characters seemed to be good at all of the combat, but kept going insane.

The key to victory in Arkham Horror is defending the Hospital and Asylum. *sigh*

this has nothing to do with Catan ... i have a sad. [i heart catan]

interesting perspective at least ... i suppose ... civ never really gave me much excitement so. shrug

A great article, and interesting that you found similar issues with Civ V as those which have stopped me really enjoying any Civ games.

Mount and Blade is a fascinating alternative for me - it's much more a sandbox world with no clearly defined victory conditions. There are six perpetually warring kingdoms, there's continual trade, there are ever-present bandits and lords and villages and whatnot, and you make your own way however you like. I've found it a wonderful change of pace.

The Random One:
I've been playing a lot of TF2 lately for some strange and unfathomable reason and it has a nice middle ground: achievements. ...in trying to do the achievements, the new player becomes better.

I had a similar experience with Alien Swarm (a free coop arcade-style game on Steam). There were achievements for killing enough bugs with each of the different weapons, and obsessive completionist that I am (when I'm enjoying a game, anyway), I went for all the different achievements. Which actually meant that I got a lot more fun out of the game, as I ended up using all the different weapons available and needing to learn how to adapt my play style for each.

I've since found the same thing in many games: having a goal like "get 25 headshots" or "set 20 enemies on fire" means that you try something which you may otherwise not have discovered, and in so doing hava a lot more fun.

I was pleased that they mentioned the Zombies!!! game personally. I have that game sitting on my game shelf, collecting dust because I haz nobody to play it with. :(

Aenir:
I hear you on the Civilization 5 thing. I once tried to disable all the victory conditions, but when I launched the game it still forced the Conquest (kill-everyone) victory condition. It made all the AIs extremely hostile and warlike. Sadness.

Also, one game in early pre-alpha development of note: http://projectzomboid.com/blog/
In Project Zomboid, the goal is your death. There's no avoiding it. All you can do is see how long you can postpone the inevitable; how you spend your final days in a zombie apocalypse.

This. Game. Is. Awesome.

Seriously, thanks for posting it up here. Been playing it for a while now and am loving it. Am annoyed by the bugs though in it but I'm tempted to buy the alpha version now and keep up with it. Seriously though, annoying bug is what caused me to quit the demo. When your wife called you upstairs while making soup, I was sure to turn the oven off, then went back up to listen, came back down to finish cooking, and the moment I turned the oven on, everything caught on fire. I wasn't too happy about that.

Aside from that though, I can see a future version of this being great fun. I actually got really engaged by it, something a lot of other games have failed to do for me recently.

Now this is an article I found very interested in...and agree witha great deal.

Dastardly made a good point about tabletop RPGs not having this problem--this is due to them having the singular advantage of the players and GM as a group choosing what sort of 'victory condition' they want, and letting it shape how things play, instead of a computer game that gets railroaded into a set of fixed conditions chosen by the programmer.

Someone else mentioned a 'No victory' mode. Personally, I'd rather see a slight variant on that--rather than no victory conditions at all, keep the conditions in (especially in games like Civ, where the AI apparently picks a condition to work for, and runs a strategy based on meeting that condition), but edit it so that the part of the code that checks if any of these conditions have actually been *met* is bypassed. I wonder if Civ5 could be hacked that way, actually--that way you could have one AI working for a cultural victory, another working towards technology, and what have you, instead of the 'Everyone gets hostile toward everyone else' that results from having nothing but the 'default' last-survivor victory.

Great and insightful article, I agree mostly. "Official" victory goals don't have to matter if you don't want them to, especially with sandbox-level player freedom. However, playing to win and playing for fun can be the same thing.

Hitman Dread:
I've been exactly where you are, my admiration for the Civilization series being in the ability to simulate a nation itself, not in the numerically valued, competitive aspect of it. I always worried myself more over creating a nation I would like to live in as opposed to a nation that would win the game. Some components of the game were in juxtaposition to my own personal goal.

I find Civilisation isn't a very good nation sim, really. I have too much of an eye for detail to be satisfied with the nation-building aspect. Rather, the strategy is what keeps me interested. It's a stimulating challenge to play on each successive difficulty.

 

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