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Will some extremely bad luck costing the game make the game mechanism being considered as broken?

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fayinsky
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I'm currently doing some solo-playtesting of my WIP "Virus Micro-War" which is a two-player game. I just encountered a situation where one of the players lost the game simply because the dice roll hated him from the beginning.

The game itself is about virus trying to infect a cell and replicate itself. Cell on the other hand will try to recognise viral infection so that it can enter antiviral state to defend itself. But for cell to respond to viral infection, it has to first detect foreign materials' presence, which is mimicked in game by cell and virus each rolling 2 d6 and finding matching pairs (51.39%). Each round cell can perform such action at most 3 times trying to detect viral infection. And it takes about 3~4 rounds afterwards to enter antiviral state. Virus, if completely ignores cell's immune response, can replicate and release enough virions in 7 rounds. So normally cell can enter antiviral state way before virus finishes its replication if virus decides to do nothing to stop it.

Here's the problem: During the first 2 rounds (3 actions each round), cell failed to detect viral infection every single time (6 times in a row) without any interference by virus. And thus virus can just replicate itself knowing that cell will never be able to stop him in time. The probability of this to happen is merely 1.32% but it happened... So, will the mechanism of viral infection detection be considered broken or is 1.32% still acceptable?

Thanks for your input!

Toa Lewa
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Spend All Actions at Once

Hi Fayinsky,

Here's what I would do. I understand that the chance of losing the game due to pure luck is small, but it is going to really turn off any players that have it happen to them. If you see it as an issue, I would do something to prevent it from happening.

Maybe you could add a rule where virus detection is automatic if you spend all three actions towards detection (as long as it doesn't break the game). While you may want the game to be more random, some players may prefer spending all their actions at once to secure a certain outcome and give up the versatility of attempting three different actions. If you choose to go this route, I think it should be an all or nothing approach. What I mean by this is, you can't roll your first two actions and fail, and just spend the last action and get an automatic success. You would have to say at the beginning of the turn, I spend all three actions now to detect the virus.

This might not be what you are looking for, but those are just my two cents.

fayinsky
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Hi Toa Lewa, I do see it as

Hi Toa Lewa,

I do see it as an issue and tried to create an option that can make the randomness go away by paying extra price. Your proposed method is so far one of the best options I have on the table. The only thing I need to deal with now (other than making sure it does not break the game) is that I need to find a biological reference to validate such an action. After all I'm designing an educational game, and I want to make every action, token, and other game component a reflection of cell-virus interaction in real world.

Time for me to dig into some virology books to find an explanation :) Your 2 cents worth a lot to me :D

Many thanks,
fayinsky

radioactivemouse
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Playtesting

In your case, there's an impasse on whether or not to adjust the game balance according to feel or adjust the game balance according to strict numbers.

Ultimately, you want your players to be interested in the world of cells and no one is really going to get the game and believe that everything that happens in the game happens in real life. You want to simulate the process, not mimic it exactly.

That's is why it's called a game.

With that said, I'd change it. What initial game designs don't account for and what play testing does is that it takes into account the human element. If it happens 1.32% of the time, it will happen more often than you think. Theoretically, if 10 people play tested solo, then there should be a 10% chance that one of them will encounter the problem. If 100 people played, 1 person WILL get it...statistically. If that series of events will make it discouraging for the player, then change it.

Even big games like Call of Duty get people to believe that they can go into a war and do well, but in reality no one gets shot and recovers 10 seconds later.

I had this issue with my game. I knew there was a very small chance that a certain combination of cards could result in a one-hit-kill. I didn't think the chances of that happening would occur, but it did. Because it did, I changed it. Of course you can't account for every single instance, but you playtest, iterate, playtest, iterate, etc. until you feel it's right.

Good luck on your design!

Soulfinger
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fayinsky wrote:After all I'm

fayinsky wrote:
After all I'm designing an educational game, and I want to make every action, token, and other game component a reflection of cell-virus interaction in real world.

Maybe it is just that your earlier description was a simplification of actual play, but I don't see how what you described reflects real world immunology. I get the impression that your individual cells are attempting to defend themselves on an innate level, but the actual interplay would be much more complex, assuming at least that you are accounting for an adaptive immune response in something like a human being.

That said, the advantage you may want to give the host cell player would be an immunological memory that facilitates a stronger end-game. Alternately, if you are just doing an organism with an innate immune system, you could juggle the odds some by defining the interplay between the PRRs and PAMPs. You have 12 different sorts of TLR to play around with, especially if you don't mind including bacteria as antagonists.

drktron
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If a luck-driven mechanic is

If a luck-driven mechanic is causing a problem, often the solution is to allow a player to mitigate the luck.

Perhaps players could have cards or tokens that they can spend to allow for extra re-rolls or changing a roll up or down by 1, turn the die to its opposite side or whatever. You could call them Complement cards or cytokines or whatever is thematically fitting. You could make them a limited one time use resource or something players could purchase during the game.

Good luck, I hope this helps.

fayinsky
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Thank you all! Didn't expect this many replies :p

Thank you all for reading my vague description of the problem and providing such great responses from it! I'm impressed by BGDF again! (Well, it happened many times before already)

radioactivemouse wrote:

You want to simulate the process, not mimic it exactly.

That's is why it's called a game.

With that said, I'd change it. What initial game designs don't account for and what play testing does is that it takes into account the human element. If it happens 1.32% of the time, it will happen more often than you think. Theoretically, if 10 people play tested solo, then there should be a 10% chance that one of them will encounter the problem. If 100 people played, 1 person WILL get it...statistically. If that series of events will make it discouraging for the player, then change it.


I agree 100% of what you said here and I'm working on finding a solution to ensure that cell can have a sure way to remove randomness during this specific process.

Soulfinger wrote:

Maybe it is just that your earlier description was a simplification of actual play, but I don't see how what you described reflects real world immunology. I get the impression that your individual cells are attempting to defend themselves on an innate level, but the actual interplay would be much more complex, assuming at least that you are accounting for an adaptive immune response in something like a human being.

That said, the advantage you may want to give the host cell player would be an immunological memory that facilitates a stronger end-game. Alternately, if you are just doing an organism with an innate immune system, you could juggle the odds some by defining the interplay between the PRRs and PAMPs. You have 12 different sorts of TLR to play around with, especially if you don't mind including bacteria as antagonists.


I apologise that I misled you with the phrase "cell's immune response", where "immune" shouldn't be there in the first place. There are two limitations that I placed on the game design: (1) It is educational, which means that many concepts need to be delivered in individual cards so that I can include some descriptions and images explaining those concepts; (2) I want it to be pocket-size rather than a big-box game. With those two limitations in place, I think it is impossible to include immune system as a whole but a very small fraction of innate immune system.

You're right that cell is attempting to defend itself alone at the moment. It all starts with Pattern Recognition Receptors (PRR) identifying pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), which leads to Interferon (IFN) production enhancement. Produced IFNs can then kick cell into antiviral state so that it can start upregulating certain antiviral proteins that I choose to be included in the game (5 of them so far). I purposely ignored other types of cytokines and antiviral proteins so that I could keep the game small, but I'm not so sure if that is the right design choice any more... (PLEASE HELP...)

drktron wrote:

Perhaps players could have cards or tokens that they can spend to allow for extra re-rolls or changing a roll up or down by 1, turn the die to its opposite side or whatever. You could call them Complement cards or cytokines or whatever is thematically fitting. You could make them a limited one time use resource or something players could purchase during the game.

Thanks for the advice. I'm currently also exploiting the option of introducing Antiviral Drugs to stimulate cell's antiviral behaviours. Those are some great abilities that can be attached to individual drugs.

lordhoban
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Bad luck happens when you

Bad luck happens when you introduce any game based heavily on a die roll. Anybody who has played games extensively knows that you can just go on a bad streak, just as you can go on a good streak. This is acceptable, for the most part. I've had games where I couldn't do jack because of bad dice rolls, but if they are a really good game, that's ok. It happens, and it wasn't like I lost because of what I did.

That is part and parcel to dealing with completely random elements. I like the idea that you can go all in, to counteract this, as mentioned in an idea above.

In my own game design, I've gravitated as much away from random elements as I can, but games without randomness in them, tend to lack variety. If you are trying to make Chess, everything is foreseeable, if you can look ahead enough in the possibilities of the game. But you are always going to have just chess. If that's what you want, fine, but Chess also has great strategic depth to it. That's how it can get around not having variety in the game itself... but a little Knightmare Chess, though, adding a little chaos to a great game, can add a lot of fun.

I like having meaningful choices. Randomness provides the playing field, but I like having options for how to manage that randomness, so it doesn't quite kill you if you say, get some bad rolls.

For example. Customizable/Trading Card Games. You build your deck in a way to combat the randomness that comes from what you draw during the game. But what if you just keep drawing poorly? Something like Magic, basically means, you are screwed. There is no way to counter a bad draw (because you only draw 1 card a turn, unless you have an effect that says otherwise). Something like Star Wars, though, the decipher based one, you can recover by focusing on drawing up your cards instead of playing cards. You can either use your 'activated cards' to pay costs for cards in your hand, or draw those activated cards into your hand. It may take you a bit longer to set up, but you still have a chance of pulling out the game if you put together a good enough deck.

Anyway, good luck with your game design. I just wanted to add my thoughts on randomness, I hope they provide food for thought.

let-off studios
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Another Example

Another example of how this is solved is the heavily-luck-dependent ZOMBIES!!! game. It depends almost entirely on the die rolls a player will make.

When attacking a zombie, a player can add 1 to the number rolled by using a Bullet Token. There's no limit to the number of Bullet Tokens a player can carry, and Bullet Tokens can be replenished by exploring buildings and the various locations scattered across the game tiles. It's also easy to pick them up, as instead of having to spend actions to collect them, the player simply moves into a space that has Bullet Token(s) in it.

Additionally, there are cards a player can collect that allow extra dice to be rolled (and they choose which result to use), extra rerolls of dice, and so on.

Long story short, there are thematically-linked methods of mitigating the luck involved in a game that's so heavily-dependent on dice rolls.

Best of success to you!

Jarec
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If the game is quick and

If the game is quick and simple, losing by bad luck is OK. If it's longer and players have invested more time and thought process, it might be damn disheartening to lose to a couple of snake eyes.

adversitygames
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Couple of other ways of

Couple of other ways of managing luck-based stuff:

1. Increase the chance of success with each consecutive attempt (I don't if this is analogous to anything involved in virus detection, but it would be cool if it is). Until after so many attempts it becomes guaranteed.
Then you're guaranteed to succeed eventually and the randomness is in how many attempts it takes. So supposing a 1/6 chance of success on the first try, and increases by 1/6 for each try, your possible range of number of attempts required to succeed in searching is 1...6 rather than 1...infinite.

2. Alternatively, make the odds of repeated failure lower. I play a lot of wargames where dice affect everything and you can just lose by rolling bad - but you have to roll REALLY bad and a LOT of times. I think 1.3% is too big of a chance to just lose because of the dice.

It's also worth considering this from the other side - if the detection attempts succeed first time, every time, will the defending player always win because of that run of luck? If so, it's worth fixing that too.

fayinsky
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Update

So many inspiring ideas. Thank you all for your input!

My current method of coping with the "super bad luck" issue is as follows:
When cell is trying to detect viral presence, it has three options.
a. spend 1 action point* - virus rolls a d6 and then cell rolls a d6. If cell d6 >= virus d6, cell detects viral presence
b. spend 2 action points - virus rolls a d6 and then cell rolls 2 d6. If at least one of cell d6 is no less then virus d6, cell detects viral presence
c. spend 3 action points - Cell can detect viral presence for 100%.
*Each round cell has 3 action points in total.

Therefore, without viral interference, the success rate for cell to detect viral presence is now 58.33%/74.54%/100% when spending 1/2/3 action point(s).

The reason for me to go down with this road right now is that it does not require me to introduce new elements/components to my current game design.

Any thoughts?

Toa Lewa
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Opinions

fayinsky wrote:
My current method of coping with the "super bad luck" issue is as follows:
When cell is trying to detect viral presence, it has three options.
a. spend 1 action point* - virus rolls a d6 and then cell rolls a d6. If cell d6 >= virus d6, cell detects viral presence
b. spend 2 action points - virus rolls a d6 and then cell rolls 2 d6. If at least one of cell d6 is no less then virus d6, cell detects viral presence
c. spend 3 action points - Cell can detect viral presence for 100%.
*Each round cell has 3 action points in total.

Therefore, without viral interference, the success rate for cell to detect viral presence is now 58.33%/74.54%/100% when spending 1/2/3 action point(s).


Fayinsky,

I like it. I think having three different options is nice and will appeal to different player styles. Some will probably take the riskier route, while other will likely just go with the "sure thing". Having a middle ground option for detecting viruses is nice as well.

I do have one question. Can other actions be taken before the virus is detected, or must a cell detect a virus before any other actions are available? I'm mainly asking this because not being able to perform other actions would probably add a lot of incentive to getting the detect virus phase out of the way. As such, people may choose to go with the %100 detection route much more often. If you can do other defensive actions or such while working on detecting the virus, I don't think you will have a problem.

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