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12/22/2003

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Exick

I have to agree with you there. I haven't yet had the experience of being booted for being a level 1 player (yes, I suck and no, I'm not getting any better) but I would surely be pissed if it were to happen. Let's remember this is still a video game not a pissing contest.

That being said, Crimson Skies is my favorite online gaming experience ever. I have to admit, I'm not much of an online gamer. I've played Counterstrike and other online FPS games of the same ilk, but I was never into them. I haven't yet ventured into the realm of persistent MMOGs, but I probably will soon. Crimson Skies, though, is a game I can see myself playing every day. I'm terrible at it, but the leaderboard doesn't concern me and I have tons of fun anyway. I'm sure there are many elitists playing the game just like any other game, but there are also plenty of people who are willing to help out new players and give advice to those who want to get better.

crankyuser

Limiting games by skill level is game-specific. While not every game has it, I'm in favor of it because it defaults to keeping advanced and novice players separate and not frustrated. I think it can be built into QuickMatch, as well anything else the designers and developers want to put in. For an example from your article, language preference -- while not yet a common filter criteria -- could be defaulted from your Xbox dashboard settings.

One thing you didn't mention was griefing, where some players actively harass other players. This is fine for players that enjoy that sort of thing, but you want to keep them away from the normal players. Crimson Skies (and Rainbow Six 3) use a variant of Elo ranking, where everyone has a default rank and move up or down based on who they beat, and the relative dis/advantage they had. Designers can make it such that griefers go below a certain threshold under the default rank, keeping new players coming in at the ground floor away from the people in the grease trap. Complementing mechanisms need to be devised for those who want to climb out of said grease trap, of course.

Cog

I agree. The idea of these players seeing CS as a pissing contest is just crazy. Althought, I must ask how old do you think these people are? I'd be greatly interested in the avg. of people playing Xbox Live. Consider that it may be some 14yr old - yes, he will attempt to keep his rank on the CS boards. Now, if we pose the same situation with a 25yr old.... Well, he/she has problems and needs to get out more often.

san

Cog, well the unfortunate thing is that the majority of "Ace-Kickers", using the timbre of their voices as a guide, are adults, say, 20 years of age or older. Most of the kids just play. The young guys babble incessantly about which rooms the girls are playing in, or other kids squawk and make annoying noises, but you can always mute them. Typically they just play.

I agree with Exick that Crimson Skies is my all-time favorite online gaming experience. I really love it. But the pissing contest is driving me crazy. I almost lost it this afternoon when I was playing in a star and four-dot only room without realizing -- I just went in via Quickmatch; I lost a match and my rating dropped to three dots and the host kicked me. I jumped back in; he kicked me again. So I jumped back in again and asked What the? That's when the host -- easily in his mid-20s -- told me I wasn't welcome unless I had four-dots or higher. Not only is the rank-based kicking ridiculous, kicking me after I lost a rank level in one of his matches is like taking your poker winnings from a friendly game without giving the other players the chance to even things out. Needless to say I chewed him a new orifice.

New Skies players *can* judge whether or not they want to play in a room based upon the skill level of the other players in a room -- which is handy for someone who wants to learn without getting slaughtered. And high-skill only matches can be configured by reserving all slots for friends and then inviting only your star-wielding buddies in. It's the idea of paying for the game and paying for the service, yet I am denied access to the public games by a cabal of, let's face it, assholes.

Target has KOTOR on sale for $30 this week and I may just go get that and give myself a Crimson Skies break until I am sufficiently at peace with the ill-mannered rabble.

gamegeek

The reverse can also be true. I've been known to set up servers and not allow anybody OVER 3 dots to join. That way us low-skill players get a chance to have some fun...

san

GG: Unfortunately, that's about the only viable alternative at this point: monopolizing against the monopoly. As for me, I'd just as soon play anyone; win or lose it's still much fun.

The other thing I forgot to note is that the Ace-Kickers don't even attempt a polite request to find another game, they just kick. In your situation, met with such a request, an alternative would be for a high-ranked player to pick a weak plane if he still wished to join in.

Avenging Dentist

My friends and I have played Crimson Skies on Live quite a bit, and (barring a bad day or so) we have a star ranking on it. Still, there are other stars in the game who absolutely decimate us. Though it's not very polite, I can see why these folks might kick lower-ranking players. If they can wipe the floor with people of the same ranking (i.e. my friends and I), then playing against a bunch of one- or two-dots would be like target practice.

I'm not entirely sure of the experiences you have, but my experience with the stars in Live would suggest that a good portion of them who kick lower-ranking players do so because they want a challenge in the game.

Still, I do like your counter-suggestion of having the elitist stars befriending each other, since it makes things easier for everyone involved.

caninusrule

I play an awful lot of Socom 2 which has fast become my favorite online console game. It has a similar ranking system (based on opponent ability) but the pass/fail test thankfully happens before your in a room and ungratefully booted. It's a tad different situation because Sony is running the servers...and it's free. Luckily there's usually about 20,000 people a night signed on at least, so diversity of playing levels is easy to come by. While climbing or maintaining rank can become a priority for some, I agree with the above post that levelling the playing skill of those involved can make for a more challenging and enjoyable game experience. To that end, Socom provides rooms for ONLY certain ranks, mixed rooms and user created rooms which have options based on the whim of the maker.

While I don't worry much about changing my online esteem factor, haha, I do like a nice competitive game. Socom which is a chesslike shooter is most enjoyable when everyone meets at a similar level of familiarity, if not execution.

All that said, I can see this being a larger issue with my Xbox Live games which I play more infrequently and typically have less participation. The fact that almost all games are hosted by a private individual also skews the control structure of the network.

bwallach

This isn't anything new. I remember back in the Mplayer and heat.net days this kind of stuff was rampent. We called it padding. They'd sit in the rooms and padd each other to high ranks. Which defeats the purpose of having a rank system in the first place.

To me it seems like alot of ego is playing into things like this.

crankyuser

You can't effectively pad with Elo ranking, as it depends on the relative difference between players. If we're the same rank you won't really progress much, compared to if we beat better players. Here's the math Crimson used:

((Target's Score 10,000) / (Shooter's Score 10,000)) * 100

san

Caninus: I'd argue that you're paying for Socom 2, as well, except the cost is rolled into development overhead of the game and you pay at retail rather than by subscription. That being said, though, I don't have anything against skill-based ranking. Indeed, as you wrote, it's favorable in maintaining a fun experience for those who are just flat-out wizards, those who can play 24/7 until they might as well be wizards, or those who merely look forward to a few hours a week. Socom 2 seems to have planned quite well for that.

Dentist: But I think the skill ranking system in Skies doesn't function well enough to use as a filter for players in public rooms. For example, I waffle between a one-dot and four-dot, hovering at three most of the time. Yet as of last night, I was ranked #142 on the dogfight leader board. I haven't written home to my mother about it yet, but it's a pretty good rank. (I've also heard people say that if it's a game with me in it, it's a "good game"; but they may more likely be referring to the fact that I play for fun, am amiable and joke around about things like bad games, getting stalked by the same player over and over, etc.) There are stars who can just obliterate me -- and everyone else in the room -- with a 25 kill win and one -- or none! -- in the death column.

However, in my experience, the vast majority of stars I can run a good game against and often beat -- even in smaller rooms. And I've been in 90% star rooms where two-dots and even some one-dots will give everyone a run for their money. Consistently. Of course, their kill/death ratio isn't fantastic, hence no star; but kill/death ratios have a nominal spread in almost any game, stars or no, with a few at the top, a few at the bottom, and a large cluster in the middle. I see a lot of stars who can indeed beat two-dots regularly but they can hardly mop the floor with them.

That's not to completely discredit your argument: as a two-dot, one time when I was in a Quickmatch room [or band camp -- oh what a terrible joke; but it takes you back a few years, doesn't it?] that ended up all stars and the host said "No offense martin [my tag] but I've got a room full of stars and would like to have a high-skill game, so if you if you don't mind could you find another game for now?" I'd agree with you that that guy was surely just looking for a better chance of a competitive match. And on another occasion, after arguing with the host that despite my dot rank I was above 150 on the leader board, I got kicked anyway. I ran into him in a later game, he said he'd looked me up, apologized for kicking me and said that he hadn't realized, but kicking based on skill ranks probably wasn't the best idea, after all. It also surely helped that I beat him thrice over in that later game.

Most intriuging about this discussion is how it relates to the recent topic of online "worlds", specifically regarding The Sims Online and EA's terminating the account of someone blogging about his experiences there. The designers develop the software that creates online existence, publishers market it, players play it, but all or none of them may particularly like what goes down when real human beings interact with each other. Forgive the impersonalized cultural slight, but paraphrasing Kingsley Amis from Stanley and the Women, "There's both good and bad in all sorts. You know, like the Germans."

Avenging Dentist

San: I can see your point. I haven't run into any of these situations personally, but I'd be naive if I thought that all of them were good-natured. People on Live aren't necessarily polite about things, and I'm sure a few stars kick lower ranks because they're afraid of losing to them. I think the biggest problem here is the overcompetitiveness, as you said. The only way I can think of to help fix this is to add the ability for hosts to restrict entry by ranking, so that people can have competitive games if they want.

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