In offline competitions we need more goals instead of rules, but some rules are necessary

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At the moment we have some discussions in the STOT [1] which are interesting for all kind of offline tournaments I think.

When we played Lethal Xccess, one of the technical best shooters on the Atari ST, we had the question if it’s allowed to cheat by typing a code to get autofire. This question was heavily discusses, but the question consist of two questions that have to be discussed standalone.

Is it allowed to cheat in a offline competition?
The answer could only be “No”. Cause it’s a competition, and therefor the scores has to be comparable. So one question  is answered and one is left.
No! Another question would be: “Why people like to cheat”. so we keep this question for later.

Is it allowed to use autofire?
At the beginning of the discussing I had the opinion, that autofire is only another way to cheat, but during the discussion I changed my opinion. That’s what discussions are good for.
Depending on the joystick you use, some games could really hurt your fingers or your hand, so using autofire, if the joystick offers it, is not cheating but a convenience. So this question could be answered: Yes autofire is allowed.

When I talked with Cyclone, the artist and level designer of Lethal Xcess, he said, that the autofire cheat let the game be much easier, cause this high frequency of shooting is not possible if you shoot manually. I also like to add, that the game has some autofire weapons, so that collecting a autofire extra is part of the level design.

Why people like to cheat?
To answer the question, let’s rewrite the question to: “Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?”.

Why people are motivated to participate in a retro offline competition?
From my experiences with the “Abbuc Bundesliga” (Atari 8 Bit offline competition), various Atari Age HSC’s, the STOT and some party competitions I discovered these motivations:

a) people who like to have a challenge. It’s a challenge trying to come as far as possible in the game or even do a play through.
b) people who like competition. It’s a challenge to win or even to pass by some other players
c) people liked the game that is played in the past a lot. So they are motivated to play it again, and then post one or sometimes more scores.
d) people like to enjoy some minutes playing on their ST.

The gaming industry like to categorize gamers into “hardcore gamers” and “casual gamers”. I don’t like these words, cause they were invented when I played my Atari already for 10 years or longer.
So I would like to categorize motivations a) and b) as “Challengers”, while motivation c) and d) could be called “Fans”.

Now I like to ask the following questions: “Are these enough motivations to keep an offline competition alive?

Are these enough motivations to keep a offline competition alive?
a) b) I would count myself into this category and so I say “yes”.
c) these kind of people are hard to motivate to join a competition regular, its great when they do, but as we all know, time is a valuable good, things happen in Real Life could be more important.
d) the way we did the competition so far is really not that motivating for these kind of people.
They always end at the lower places in the table, and in the end the table is what’s left of a round, so I could understand, that after a while they loose the motivation to participate.

So we need new motivations, cause a gaming competition need both groups of players Challengers and Fans.

What new motivations  could  we add?
1) Difficulty bonus
Some games offers the functionality to choose the difficulty of the game. So far, we had to look for a challenging difficulty, so in Super Cars 2 for example we chose “medium”. In  the future, we could set some bonus at the beginning. If you play difficulty “medium”, you get double score and if you play “hard” you get tripple score.

2) Medals of Honor
So far you get the Atari Gaming Activist Medal for participating 24 times (A season has 24 rounds). We also have the Atari Gaming Master medal. You get this medal for earning
192 points (If you would win all rounds you could earn 192 points a season).
Now after 3 years we only give away 3 times the Atari Gaming Master and 7 times the Atari Gaming Activist. So my suggestion will be to do some these changes:

  • Participate 10 times to earn a Atari Gaming Activist medal
  • Earn 100 points to become a Atari Gaming Master

3) Solved a level medal
Another motivation could be to set some more game specific goals at the beginning of a round. The easiest would be to say, that for each level a player solve he earns a “Solve a level in the STOT” medal.
If a game has really easy levels like for example Bubble+ the goals would be to solve 5 levels or something like that.  It’s also possible to give a ways the medal in “Gold”,”Silver”, “Bronze” depending on the chosen difficulty (easy, advanced,hard – if available of course)

What else?
I thought about new tables like A “Fans” table and a “Callengers” table, but I don’t think we really need this, same with a own table for the earned “Solved a level in the STOT” medals, cause this would look more or less the same as the existing one.

Publishing scores and medals to the rest of the world is a nice thing. If you play with a Xbox 360 or a PS3 today, you could post your successes to Facebook and maybe also somewhere else.
I like to have something like that as well. Technically it’s more or less already existing. We have a blog for the STOT. When somebody post a score together with a picture, the organizers are able to recognize that the given goals are fulfilled and they could do a new post to announce the giveaway of the medal(s). This post will be automatically posted to a Facebook page, and
there a player could share them with his friends.

My Conclusion

  • Entering cheats in offline competitions is not allowed cause the scores aren’t comparable
  • Using autofire is allowed, you only need a joystick that offers that functionality
  • We need new motivations for Callengers and Fans.
  • Difficulty is a chance for more motivation, but has to be mentioned in the post
  • Medals should be archived earlier
  • Medals for solved levels would be a nice addition
  • We don’t need more tables
  • It’s possible to post awards to Facebook

I would be glad, if all people who like playing ST Games use this article to discuss the conclusions and of course they are welcome in the STOT or any other offline competition

Christos’ views on the subject:
One thing our readers should know is that ThorN and I have  different opinions about how STOT should advance. It is with that synthesis of views that we made STOT what it is now (and we feel it’s very good too😉 ).

There are two goals in STOT:

  • to promote Atari ST gaming
  • and more importantly to have fun with our old machines.

I am in total agreement with ThorN that we need to make STOT more fun for all types of players and that we should be more generous with our awards. A game can provide all sorts of challenges and we should take advantage of them. So expect lots more surprises🙂.

However I don’t think that allowing people to choose their own difficulty setting is a very good move. Though it has its merits and it will allow people to enjoy more of the game it effectively creates a premier league and a second division if you excuse the football analogy. Also we introduce a mathematic formula to count points and if that’s simple enough as it should be it creates problems. What if “Normal” isn’t twice as hard as “Easy” but only by a small margin? What if easy is too easy making the game boring? Should we then change the formula to suit each game and doesn’t that make things overly complex?

We are looking forward to your input in the comments section below. Maybe you can give us an idea we haven’t thought..🙂


Links:
1. STOT at atari-forum.com

5 Responses to “In offline competitions we need more goals instead of rules, but some rules are necessary”

  1. Xerus Says:

    More rules = less readability.
    I think we must, for each round, outset giving the rules (eg level of difficulty) and gives a more precise time line (dead line).
    For autofire, it’s a large debate.
    It is easier to shoot quickly with a PAD against a navigator or speedking for example. It will be difficult to have the same basic fairness for everyone.
    If we allow the autofire (it doesn’t bother me) I just hope everyone can have acces at this help because otherwise there will be an imbalance.

    By cons I think the save state should be banned (even for training), those who play on a real ST can’t do that.

    The cadence is maybe too high to have regular players, there are maybe too many games in a season.
    And we should regularly update the scores on the first post for each round.

  2. marakatti Says:

    First of all, it’s nice to have conversation about this subject which seems to have raised quite a few passionate comments. It just shows that people are interested in this kind of competition. It may also be because the current rules might be a bit more oriented for “hardcore” gamers than the rest of us.
    To be honest, I do play all the games from STOT rounds, but have to admit that my scores are usually not worth posting mainly because I don’t have enough free time to practice the game.

    Some thoughts from a games fan angle:

    Autofire
    I think it should be allowed. It’s more like an accessory than a way to cheat, just something the hardware manufacturers invented decades ago.

    Save states
    Being a father of two kids, this is something that is valuable for me. I can’t expect to sit next to my computer for hours trying to finish a game. It’s always someone needing something within next 15 minutes which makes impossible to play many levels in a row.

    Announcing a new round
    When the new round is announced, please give a clear rules in the first post (difficulty levels, continues yes/no, number of lifes etc…) and also exact time when the round ends. It reduces complaining and lets everyone start right away.
    It’s annoying to start playing a game and getting a nice score just to notice that the score is not allowed because some of the settings were wrong.

    Bonuses
    Maybe we could learn something from the retro-compilations for last and latest generations of consoles. Usually there’s some goals set in them (earning certain amount of points etc.) to receive something nice.

    Which gave me idea of this….

    Extra minigame for people in a rush
    How about this: Every time a new round is announced let’s make a miniround along it. Just set some simple goals from the first level(s) of the game, a lap time on certain track if it’s a racing game, how many points can be collected in 3 minutes or something like that. Who collects most of these goals or is fastest gets a podium places. No need to make a score chart, just give a nice prize at the end of the season for the one who gets most podium places.
    Might get more people interested when they don’t have that much time or skill to play full game.

    I guess it’s just a matter what kind of audience STOT is trying to reach?

    With too strict restrictions it goes towards gamers who likes a tough challenge.
    It’s fine, but the only question is: is there enough ST-gamers who are up to the challenge and still have plenty of free time to try to get best out of each game. And when they have the time, do they choose ST over the new hardware, games and online capabilities?

    Or is the majority the ones reaching their 40’s, who had their ST’s whe they were young, now have wife and kids and still love to use their ST’s or emulation, but only have limited amount of time.

    For the latter, it’s sometimes a bit hard to support STOT when the score is nowhere near competitive when the gap between “real” gamers and rest of us is so big.

    But I think we all agree that STOT really deserves to survive and have more players for each round. With some finetuning it’s still possible🙂

    Cheers,
    Marakatti from Atarimania

  3. CJ Says:

    Xerus Said:
    “By cons I think the save state should be banned (even for training), those who play on a real ST can’t do that.”

    They can if they use the ULS patched version of a game and it supports save states. But then you have the issue of people on Falcons/MSTE/TT running with cache on or 16/32Mhz… giving them a more fluid gameplay.

    Oh noes! More Dillema!

  4. ggn Says:

    Ok, a quick summation of my thoughts follows:

    Autofire: Totally wrong. And if your joystick is weird and your thumb hurts after a while then, well, you just have to get a better joystick, don’t you? Also, me and sh3 discussed this matter with a few people at Outline 2010 and all agreed with my thoughts.

    About setting alternative goals for a STOT round: I posted some ideas last year here: http://dbug.kicks-ass.net/dbugforums/cgi-bin/yabb2/YaBB.pl?num=1241333071

  5. ThorN Says:

    Great discussion so far, plenty of good things already said. Let’s see if some more to come. Will do a first summary next Monday

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