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One-Liner: At Any Cost on Game and Player

One-Liner: At Any Cost

Michael Ubaldi  //  June 5, 2010

Is winning more important than the spirit of the game?


ust before I logged into MekTek's servers for a few multiplayer sessions of MechWarrior 4: Mercenaries, I checked MekTek's forums and found a thread titled "Unwritten Rules in MechWarrior."

What, asked the author, goes against the spirit of a game that embraces a cynical, mechanized 31st century? Two answers emerged.

The first: all's fair even in pretend war, so any winning tactic may be used, including: "legging," or aiming exclusively for an enemy 'Mech's legs to disable it; "poptarting," or launching straight up on jets from behind an obstruction to fire all weapons before dropping down behind cover again; or the oddly malign "stripping and leaving," which consists of carefully disarming an opponent, possibly "legging" his armored vehicle, and then leaving the player to restlessly spectate.

The second answer: Mercenaries, a game, should be fun, and sportsmanship demands some dignity be shown to others with whom you really aren't engaging in hostilities.

In Counter-Strike, there is "bunny-hopping." In Halo there is — righteously, perhaps, used to be — the "Noob Combo." In Chromehounds there was the "Double-Double." Clever and icily pragmatic players capitalize on game mechanics to develop a single design or tactic intended to win at a game as simply and consistently as possible.

As it happens, players on the MechWarrior server I joined soon after didn't try any of these gambits. I haven't had so much fun in weeks.

And I think that repetitive, expedient victories are hollow. What about you?

Ed Kirchgessner // June 6, 2010 // 2:53 PM

A few days back, a teenage adversary in a MW2 match identified me as a "camper" — the map was 'Skidrow,' and I'd holed myself up on the second story of the building overlooking the parking lot/loading dock in the map's NE corner. I wouldn't consider defending a fortified position to be a cheap tactic, but plenty of gamers (ahem... Halo fans) would beg to differ.

There are plenty of cases where exploitation does seem cheap — Chromehounds' double-double mechs seem the perfect example. However, I think it's important to separate tactics that may be frustrating from those which are downright game-breaking. The next time a "camper" ruins your day in MW2, do what I do: stop whining and get behind them ;)

Michael Ubaldi // June 7, 2010 // 4:36 PM

An interesting and fairly recent development on this phenomenon occurred in World of Warcraft last year. I didn't pay attention to it at the time because I rarely played player-versus-player battlegrounds, but it's a masterstroke of subtle balancing on the part of Blizzard.

Previously, battlegrounds didn't provide XP, so a small group of players would play "twinks," or characters set at the highest level in a bracket to dominate the field in a manner indistinguishable from griefing. Last fall, battlegrounds began providing XP — rendering it impossible to maintain a level for long unless XP were turned off, in which case the twink would be consigned to a special queue filled with, you guessed it, other twinks.


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