Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

28 November, 2009

Player perceptions about your game
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 3:29 AM

There is often a divide between perception and reality, especially in online games. For individuals, perception is reality. The way players perceive your game will be reality to them, despite whatever models you have that demonstrate that the player’s perceptions are wrong. People don’t like to hear that they are wrong even in the best of times, and when they feel your system just screwed over their enjoyment, they’re going to be even less impressed.

I want to take a look at some reasons why I think that player perceptions vary so much with reality.

Yes, sometimes developers are wrong

Of course, it goes without saying that sometimes developer perception doesn’t match reality, either. Sometimes a carefully designed and implemented system has a subtle bug that makes that system do something unexpected. Or, perhaps the developers take some shortcuts while testing and didn’t know that some previous step along the way wasn’t working as intended. This is especially true of systems with a random element, where the behavior isn’t entirely predictable, where proper testing may be beyond the resources available to an independent game developer.

For this post, I’ll do the developer thing and assume the developer is right and the player perceptions are not matching reality. In reality, always double-check your work.

A mind is a terrible thing

If you read much about the studies of the human mind, you’ll find that for the most part, people are terrible at some pretty basic things. For example, most people are terrible at understanding probability. The classic example is how an event has a “one in a million chance of happening to someone today”, it’ll happen about 6,700 times according to current population estimates; not exactly as rare as it might first sound. People are also have a hard time grasping very large numbers. how many people do you know who could continue this series: million, billion, trillion, …. Probably engineers and game developers are the few that might be able do it without reference.

We also have a lot of perceptive “blind spots”, also known as biases. One of the most famous is confirmation bias, where most people tend to notice data that confirms their own opinions more readily than data which contracts it. (I believe this is the current basis of the U.S. political system.) A variation is when you form a conclusion based on a few data points then focus more on data that supports this conclusion. If you have had bad experiences with drivers from a specific state or country, for example, you’re more likely to notice when you have a problem on the road with someone else from that same state or country.

There is also the plain old personal bias, where someone willingly adjusts data (or simply lies with statistics) to support their position.

Perception in action

The reason I’m writing about this topic is a rather entertaining post by Melmoth over at Killed in a Smiling Accident about developers plotting ways to annoy players. (Note that despite having a mustache, I don’t often twirl it and laugh manically.) The issue at hand is a few monsters in LotRO that have speed-affecting effects that last for a while. Melmoth wonders if the evil developers didn’t put this in the game intentionally to slow players down. To be honest, I’ve found that these abilities are really annoying, too.

Note that Melmoth is a fairly intelligent person (or script able to write intelligent and creative posts and comments). Like many players, I don’t think Melmoth is stupid or unperceptive, I think that he does not look at mechanics from a game designer’s point of view; not surprising since he’s not a game designer as far as I can tell. I do highly recommend reading Killed in a Smiling Accident. The authors there can write entertaining stuff (or, at the very least, the scripts are showing us what life will be like once the robotic overlords take over the world and enslave us all).

I left a comment on the site giving a few possible design-related reasons why designers my intentionally put a movement slowing ability right as a monster dies. Not being one of the designers, I can’t say how accurate these are. I won’t go into details about the design justification in this post, either. I want to focus on the perception Melmoth had that these abilities seemed to happen frequently near the end of combat.

Going to the dogs

So, the first step to see if developers are truly diabolical is to do some research. A lot of this is going to be LotRO-specific. I won’t go into a lot of detail about the game mechanics, so if you just want to see the results go to the next heading. LotRO players and game designers might find this interesting, though. If you want to know more about the game mechanics, there are plenty of guides online.

I took a level 26 minstrel (happen to be the character I had parked in the location) outside the town of Esteldin in the North Downs. There I fought Wargs just to the west of Esteldin, which were approximately the same level as my character. This is not a scientific study, exactly, but I tried a few things.

First, I fought them normally. For a solo Minstrel, this means going to War-speech and nuking the crap out of the enemy, finishing up with a few weapon strikes at the end. Often my initial attacks would stun the enemy, allowing me to finish it entirely without getting close. I noticed that most of the time they didn’t get the run speed debuff off on me. They did apply a wound-based damage over time and a fear-based damage over time on me often. It seemed that I’d get one of these debuffs in a fight, near the end.

Second, I prolonged the fight by not using my big attacks to start, meaning that there was no chance for the enemy to be stunned. Obviously a lot more enemies closed to melee range. Not surprisingly, I found that I would get one or two DoTs or debuffs most fights.

Finally, I engaged the enemy and simply turned my back to it while not being in War-speech. I healed myself when necessary, but I let the monster just beat on me. Obviously I got a lot of the debuffs and DoTs, but here’s the interesting part: I got the run speed debuff even when the enemy had nearly no health missing, meaning it was not near the end of the combat.

What I believe is happening is that the Warg has a random chance each hit to do a debuff or DoT. If the random chance is selected, it chooses from one of the possible afflictions and applies it to the character. I’m not sure if the chance to trigger an affliction is dependent on health left or not. At the very least, the code is not designed to only put he affliction on near the end.

The debuff only lasted about a minute, less than the two minutes that Melmoth wrote (but still rather annoying). Now, this is just one enemy in a game full of enemies that do this, so I can’t guarantee that all monsters act exactly the same. But, it provides some fuel for our discussion.

Why it appears to be at the end

So, why was Melmoth sure that these afflictions were only applied at the end of a combat? One key element here is that the Warg debuff requires the enemy to be within melee distance. If Melmoth is playing a character that has ranged attacks, the monster will only be within range near the end of the combat, and thus can only apply the debuff during that time.

Another possibility is related to perception. Melmoth noticed that the debuff lasts longer than combat with the enemy does. He notices this more when the debuff is applied near the end of the combat. If the Warg has a uniform chance to apply the debuff during the combat, then the debuff will be applied during the last half of combat (nearer the end) half of the time. The half the time the debuff is applied near the end are noticed more due to confirmation bias.

And, to show that it’s not just Melmoth’s fault: it could be an (unintended) consequence of some other mechanic. Perhaps enemies get an increased chance to trigger special attacks as they get more wounded, or as time progresses in combat. Perhaps enemies will do special attacks more frequently in response to player special attacks, and Melmoth’s character has more special attacks at the end.

What a developer should do

As I said above, perception is reality. Even if the fault lies with Melmoth, a good developer should take the player’s perceptions into consideration as the design evolves. Let’s assume that this is not a desired perception, what can a developer do to change it? The important thing to do is to decide what the design goals are for these debuffs. I’ll assume the primary reason is to add an element of unpredictability to the encounter by giving an affliction that changes the encounter. The run speed debuff makes it harder to run away from an enemy, so the player has to come up with other ways to survive a potentially fatal encounter, or start running early.

The first option is to give players a way to counteract it. If I hate the run speed debuff, I should have some way to avoid it. There is a way to remove the wound-based debuff in the form of potions, but it costs money and inventory space. Some classes can avoid the debuff by killing from a distance and/or having an ability to heal wounds, but not all classes have this option. I actually tried to counteract this by increasing my character’s wound defense, but I found this to have very little effect in practice.

The second option is to make sure the code does not have a system that makes these affects appear more frequently at the end of the encounter. This only serves to annoy the classes that do not enjoy powerful ranged attacks or the ability to heal. In fact, it might be better to increase the chance that the effect happens at the beginning so that it can have a meaningful impact on the encounter itself. The debuff should not last significantly past the end of the encounter.

Again, the important thing here is to make sure the design supports the design goal.

So, what do you think? How can this type of system be made more fun for players? Or is it something that will always be an annoyance?

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  1. I think I shouldn’t read great posts before I’ve had enough caffeine to be coherent.

    I also think “perception in action” should be required reading for any MMO player who ever wants to comment on any forum or blog, anywhere, ever. I do expect, however, that swine will fly first.

    Comment by Ysharros — 28 November, 2009 @ 6:52 AM

  2. It’ll give you wrinkles

    [...] and mostly unrelated but not least, take a look at another great post from the other side of the fence over at Brian “Psychochild” Green’s place. (My [...]

    Pingback by Stylish Corpse — 28 November, 2009 @ 7:10 AM

  3. “How can this type of system be made more fun for players?”

    I guess first by keeping in mind how players perceive these debuffs and knowing that some debuffs are better than others. I think by now we’ve generally established that debuffs or conditions that remove player control of their avatars (ex. Mind Control) are generally Bad(tm) and should be avoided altogether or used very sparingly. I’d classify reduced speed bugs as a much softer flavor of this, just based on its level of annoyance (if you went to a dungeon in which every single enemy hit you with a speed debuff we’re getting close to essentially saying “I can’t control my avatar the way I’m used to, period”).

    Curious thing though: I’ve seen that players tolerate better an attack speed reduction buff than a movement speed reduction buff. Same reason why stuns on player characters are generally short (5 seconds tops and that’s pushing it, I think).

    From what I’ve observed loss of control debuffs are the heavy ones to be avoided, while others like DoT debuffs (even if they’re murderous), attack speed debuffs, increased vulnerability to any element, etc… are lighter and much better tolerated.

    There’s something about not being in complete control (usually movement control) of an avatar that just royally ticks players off.

    Comment by Julian — 28 November, 2009 @ 9:10 AM

  4. I would like to test this, and I remember being crippled a lot in the North Downs. But with level 60 I cannot check if and how I could have avoided the debuff at level 20+, unfortunately.

    I can add another example of effects that are not nearly as dangerous as players make them sound to be: Warlock Fear in WoW. It takes away control of the Avatar, which is dangerous as you usually get dotted up and shot at in the meantime. But it breaks on damage and does not last that long.
    But in the end it is/was more annoying than really dangerous. But it has almost become a meme that Warlocks are imba because of fear. Even after it got nerfed several times for years by now. It is not even a shade of what it once was by now.

    Another example: Things that do not annoy anyone except those on the receiving end. In this case Warlocks vs Rogues. Cloak of Shadows. “Instantly removes all existing harmful spell effects and increases your chance to resist all spells by 90% for 5 sec. Does not remove effects that prevent you from using Cloak of Shadows.”

    Things changed a lot by now, but this spell caused Warlocks who got all dots removed and the target fear immune a lot of problems and caused a lot of hate. I still wonder how so many Rogues could argue this ability was fine, because that was all the time they needed to have a guaranteed kill. OK, this example probably mixes perception with bias. ;) Probably also biased on my perception, as I played a Warlock. ;)

    Julian is absolutely right, players can bear a 25% weapon speed reduction infintely better than a mere 15% movement speed reduction.

    But how to avoid such issues? Think of “Radiance” in LOTRO – in Mirkwood they changed it a bit so that players now do not cower as much as before if they have very low radiance. People are basically paralyzed in this state which is annoying and potentially deadly.

    I think these effects have their place, but devs need to be more aware of the effects. Making an area full of stun effects causing mobs can quickly cause players to hate the area and, if possible, go elsewhere.

    The best idea for designing mobs with annoying abilities might be to give players a clue, like the mob preparing to do a special attack, that they now should interrupt the mob, turn around (to avoid a blinding flash), or run away. This gives players a feeling of control and probably even of satisfaction if they can “clobber” the annoying Warg in the Teeth before he can snare them. :)

    Comment by Longasc — 28 November, 2009 @ 10:23 AM

  5. The debuff only lasted about a minute, less than the two minutes that Melmoth wrote (but still rather annoying).

    It used to be longer. The one-minute debuff is the toned-down version.

    An obvious solution would be to make it a debuff to in-combat run speed, since they separate in- and out-of-combat run speeds. They did something similar to the Moria countdown debuffs: they only stun/hurt/whatever you if you are in-combat when the countdown expires.

    Comment by Zubon — 28 November, 2009 @ 2:10 PM

  6. Think of a piece of music. For example Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. Now pick a note, the best note in the piece.

    Well it’s an energetic and vibrant piece of music so you would probably pick a loud note.

    Now imagine if you took that note, the best note in the piece, and simply repeated it over and over a thousand times.

    Would that improve the music? Of course not.

    A MMO like a piece of music is made up of elements that players have varying feelings about. If every part of your game is greeted with passive acceptance you’ve probably made a dull game.

    Now possibly whenever Lotro players have a struggle they may say at least it’s not as bad as those bloody wargs. I know my friends and I often said at least it’s not as bad as those bloody murlocs when we were levelling up in 2005-6.

    A game needs something for everything else to be “at least it’s not as bad as that” from.

    Otherwise you may as well just give people a thousand Onyxias to kill in a big field.

    Comment by Stabs — 28 November, 2009 @ 2:15 PM

  7. Indeed, my facts and figures were a little off kilter with this one. The debuff that is two minutes long is one of the fear debuffs that reduces stats, so that was incorrect.

    As for the Crippled debuff not being near the end of combat, that appears to be technically true, although as always with these things it’s a little more complicated. The wargs I had in my mind when I wrote the post (and I really should probably take the time to test these things again to remove any perception element that has crept in since I originally observed the phenomena, but when Madam Muse strikes I tend to just roll with it) are the Dire Wargs which are just east of Esteldin. They seem to apply the debuff very regularly – my estimate is that it’s a 75% chance per combat – and during the fight the debuff was observed to appear most often when they were at around half health, about 300 or so out of 750ish hit points. However, this was on my Warden who is very slow to whittle down the health of these creatures. When I first observed the issue I was on my Champion and therefore a fight a) lasted less time and b) I had bigger hitting abilities that usually took big chunks off of a mob’s health at a time, but I usually only had the Fervor to activate these about half way through combat, which might explain the perception somewhat.

    I haven’t been back to test the slugs just north of Buckland. I’m almost adamant in my mind that they cast their AoE slime snare at the end of combat, so I’ll have to head back some time and test out whether that is true or indeed my perception of it has been tainted.

    Concerning the wargs: I do indeed think that the issue is tainted by my perception of the event, more specifically that I didn’t test it thoroughly with different class combinations. However, of the thirty second debuff, no less than fifteen seconds of it was left on my Warden at any point after combat had finished. Fifteen seconds seems like a very long time when you’re trying to progress across open ground to the next mob, say. At a guess I’d say it was more like twenty seconds on average for my Champion.

    I like to think that, as with many of my posts, the thoughts about the issue still stand even if exaggeration, artistic license or just my poor memory may have twisted the facts a little. The issue, or perception thereof, still exists and I feel that others will know what I mean, and thus strict accuracy is sacrificed somewhat in aid of entertainment value, which for me is the more important part of the post; there are a lot of very serious, very spreadsheety blog pundits out there, and I’d rather put my point across with a smile, even if it is a little bit flawed.

    Splendid post; I’ll try to make sure that our Captcha program isn’t rude to you the next time you visit.

    Comment by Melmoth — 28 November, 2009 @ 2:20 PM

  8. The worst of the debuffs to my mind is the accuracy debuff which makes you miss all the time. All it does is drag combat out, it doesn’t make things more difficult or more interesting. The worst I remember were the 30 min disease debuffs you used to get in Stratholme (WoW). They had the side effect of preventing you from being healed, either by spells or by bandages or food. So if you didn’t have someone with you who could remove diseases, you were stuffed. (There were some potions that could but they weren’t crafted ones, they were drops.)

    But a lot of these debuffs are there for reasons of immersion. It is kind of cool if you get injured in a fight and actually see your character limping on screen. That’s why it has to come near the end, otherwise you’d never get to see the change of gait.

    I can think of way more annoying things ;)

    Comment by Spinks — 28 November, 2009 @ 3:17 PM

  9. Eh, lol, perception is reality et al:P, but never forget to balance that with you can’t please everyone.

    Comment by Sang — 28 November, 2009 @ 4:43 PM

  10. “We also have a lot of perceptive “blind spots”, also known as biases. One of the most famous is confirmation bias, where most people tend to notice data that confirms their own opinions more readily than data which contracts it.”

    Yeah, I’ve tried to explain that to a few different MMO communities. On top of that, many are very willing to accept a bit of rumor or other form of info as “data” without verifying it.

    It leads to many misconceptions, in my opinion. Especially when you talk more specifically about forum conversations, and in-particular raiding(among many others). I’ve seen hundreds of players over the last 2+ yrs lay out pages of “data” and many other like minded accept it, confirm it, and go on as though it’s real and the way things are.

    Comment by Jeremy S. — 28 November, 2009 @ 8:26 PM

  11. Julian wrote:
    I guess first by keeping in mind how players perceive these debuffs and knowing that some debuffs are better than others.

    I think part of the issue is the feedback of the debuff. Loss of control has unmistakable feedback. Reduced movement speed has some feedback in the form of frustrating players trying to get to the next goal. Attack speed debuff is often not noticeable in a combat where you’re distracted by your life bar, the life bar of others, the movement of enemies, watching your cooldowns, etc.

    Zubon wrote:
    An obvious solution would be to make it a debuff to in-combat run speed, since they separate in- and out-of-combat run speeds.

    Interesting, but I think you’d have issues about immersion and verisimilitude. Why does the gushing Warg bite on my leg only bother me when someone else intends to strike me in combat? How much do we just accept this is a game, and how much do we accept that this is an attempt to allow people to live a life in a beloved fantasy setting?

    Stabs wrote:
    know my friends and I often said at least it’s not as bad as those bloody murlocs when we were levelling up in 2005-6.

    I think you’re exactly right. In a comment to Melmoth’s post, I point out that this is a shared experience for people. People who have played LotRO know about the damned wars. (Another shared experience are the pigs in the game, if you’ve paid attention.) In WoW, you have the Murlocs that had similarly annoying mechanic: they had a large “social aggro” radius. And that annoying yell. :P

    Melmoth wrote:
    The issue, or perception thereof, still exists and I feel that others will know what I mean, and thus strict accuracy is sacrificed somewhat in aid of entertainment value, which for me is the more important part of the post.

    I enjoy your posts tremendously. As I said, I recommend people read your blog for that entertainment value. I just thought you had an interesting perspective from a player’s point of view. My blog, which tries to focus more on developer perspectives, was an attempt to show how a player’s perception could be addressed. I think there is a real issue here, and a good developer should work to get to the meaning underneath.

    Sang wrote:
    …never forget to balance that with you can’t please everyone.

    Amen, my friend. ;)

    Comment by Psychochild — 28 November, 2009 @ 8:35 PM

  12. I think there is a real issue here, and a good developer should work to get to the meaning underneath.

    As I mentioned at the end of my post, I’d be genuinely interested to know what the original intent of the Turbine developers was. I think that without that information serious analysis is somewhat limited, although I think you’ve made some excellent points in your post, as always.

    In fact I think this ties in to your idea of perception: the fact is that it’s very hard to ‘scientifically’ analyse game mechanics when you can only observe one side of the experiment; as your other commenters have already mentioned, there’s lots of analysis of figures from combat logs and such, and players believe they can derive the full story, but I think that without knowing the intent of the developers, it’s hard to make an entirely balanced and fair assessment, and therefore such discussion is inevitably going to have an element of bias towards the players’ point of view.

    Comment by Melmoth — 29 November, 2009 @ 1:02 AM

  13. You know, the run speed debuffs on things like wargs ARE definitely annoying. But my thought is, “Aren’t they supposed to be?”.

    Aren’t wargs something you should strive to avoid in Middle Earth, rather than wade into with joy? And if it makes you have second thoughts about running through a group of them on foot or horseback, isn’t that also a good thing?

    Based on my (far too) many years as a tabletop player (remember I’m 3000 years old), the GM’s job is to annoy the players, to give them bruises and broken arms and the like.

    Now, you have to also make it fun for them to overcome all that stuff and get the bad guy. And tabletop really doesn’t ever have grinding for achievements, or at least it shouldn’t.

    Comment by Toldain — 29 November, 2009 @ 5:51 PM

  14. Forget annoying, if we go by lore Wargs are supposed to be deadly to 99% of Middle Earth’s population. ;)

    See this is another subliminal one. People would have taken much better a warg that rips them to shreds every time than the one that merely hits them with a movement speed debuff every time :)

    Comment by Julian — 30 November, 2009 @ 7:01 AM

  15. Interesting, but I think you’d have issues about immersion and verisimilitude. Why does the gushing Warg bite on my leg only bother me when someone else intends to strike me in combat? How much do we just accept this is a game, and how much do we accept that this is an attempt to allow people to live a life in a beloved fantasy setting?

    We seem to have accepted that poison cures itself if no one else intends to strike you and that seismic vibrations go away the same way. Maybe it is just in Moria that hostile intent affects ontological inertia.

    Comment by Zubon — 30 November, 2009 @ 7:51 AM

  16. Back in the day I used to do rather a lot of testing of LotRO mechanics, and I can attest that a) debuffs and special abilities are randomized, b) they do not come more frequently at the end of combat, and c) they are not triggered by player character state (e.g. low health). It’s an issue of salience; we notice things more when they stick out against the environment. People rarely notice run-speed debuffs while in combat in LotRO, because combat in LotRO is largely stationary. This leads to the mistaken impression that the effect is linked to the end of combat, or is more likely near the end of combat, or is triggered by the player being wounded (which happens more often at the end of combat).

    Toldain said, “Aren’t wargs something you should strive to avoid in Middle Earth” Well, surely they are, but no moreso than the majority of the things we fight. Should we fear wargs more than drakes? More than trolls? More than spectres? More than huorns?

    Comment by foolsage — 30 November, 2009 @ 1:26 PM

  17. This is quite possibly my favorite article in a long time. I’ve given the perception speech to guild officers probably 100 times. Trying to convince them that perception trumps reality can be hard. Even I forget that sometimes when I’m making decisions. Facts rarely do much to dissuade belief and I think this is a great example. Developers should be more concerned with player perceptions than reality.

    In an unrelated note, my perception of you has increased by the fact you have a mustache. I did not know this and assumed otherwise! A mustache means serious business (and according to some research a salary increase of 2 to 5%).

    Finally, I have to agree that Wargs are the most annoying basic mob in any MMO I’ve ever played. Being snared each fight was a significant annoyance. Run speed is a sensitive topic.

    Comment by Ferrel — 2 December, 2009 @ 10:05 AM

  18. Perception is definitely one of those powerful things that when two people, or parties, are thinking opposite things, something is going to go deeply wrong.

    I’ve faced challenges like that in my work in which we build one thing but actually the client wants something totally different. Not the same as in the MMORPG world, I know, but the sentiments are similar :)

    Ultimately I guess all you can do is open up the channels of communication as much as possible.

    Comment by We Fly Spitfires — 2 December, 2009 @ 3:13 PM

  19. The problem though is that most players simply will not view mobs experimentally. They are not going to run tests on them to see just how frequently they use what move and when it occurs, like you did Brian. Their experience is much more personal and anecdotal, and they simply wont approach the game that way.

    Most players will approach an encounter with their own personal style, and judge the mob on how it react to it. If the mob is radically opposed to that style to the point of difficulty, very few players will change tactics or adjust on the fly. There may be several reasons for that:

    1. It takes much more skill. With tigers in FFXI, they use a very nasty paralize aoe debuff. The frontline is at the mercy of the healers skill in removing that, and its not easy to constantly do so while keeping the tank alive. Result is even despite tigers being not hard to fight and with profitable drops, no one bothers.

    2. It may take too much change. In FFXI again theorectically samurai or dancers can tank in experience, but few players are fluid enough to adapt in terms of gear cost or playstyle change.

    3. We play to relax. Think of MMOs like chess. Many people never dig deep and memorize openings, or engage deep enough to the game beyond their own likes.

    I think that means you guys as designers may need to realize that bias is not negative in this, but how we engage the game, and more a consequence of lack of information, involvement, or perspective. The designer’s point of the warg may be to make it more involving because it has a chance to movement debuff you and prevent you from getting away. He may very well have designed it to be random, and it probably occurs infrequently. But very few of us will test it or fight enough wargs to see that-most of that info is hidden, and we just remember based on our own limited experience.

    Comment by Dblade — 3 December, 2009 @ 2:30 PM

  20. A couple of quick, late-breaking comments….

    We Fly Spitfires: “Ultimately I guess all you can do is open up the channels of communication as much as possible.”

    Dblade: “But very few of us will test it or fight enough wargs to see that-most of that info is hidden, and we just remember based on our own limited experience.”

    I think these comments get to the heart of “perception vs. reality” from a design standpoint: without transparency into the decision-making process, people will simply make up stories to explain the behaviors they perceive.

    There’s a particularly vivid example of this in Robert Axelrod’s “The Evolution of Cooperation.” The strategy that performs best over time is “Tit For Tat”: I start out being nice to you; after that, what you do to me this turn, I do to you next turn.

    One of the reasons why this simple strategy performs so well over time is precisely because it’s simple enough to be comprehensible. Players know what to expect because they can see and understand the rules. That engenders trust.

    When instead the decision-making process of some actor is so complex as to be incomprehensible — or is deliberately hidden — then people will invent personally satisfying explanations for any (perceived) negative behaviors by that actor. And those explanations can range from sheer randomness (rand()) to incompetence (bugs by lazy programmers) to deliberate malice (“the devs hate my class!”).

    So my advice to game designers is to think very carefully about information hiding. There may be situations where it’s useful to deliberately obfuscate decision-making internals. The advantages may outweigh the potential PR problems of false perceptions caused by a lack of transparency to the rules of the game… but that should be a conscious design choice, not a default condition.

    Comment by Bart Stewart — 16 December, 2009 @ 4:12 PM

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