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Ideafest: What do you think of RPS?

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EpicGollum1499
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What's your opinion on RPS mechanisms in games? Is this a mechanism that is too commonly used? What game aspects do you think it works the best with, mechanically and thematically? (e.g. RPS in combat, RPS in auctions, etc...) Whatever you think of Rock, Paper, Scissors, put it down.

Kroz1776
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Link

In this thread we talk about our opinions of RPS mechanics. http://www.bgdf.com/node/13523

Despot9
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Its a tool like any other.

Its a tool like any other. Its all in how you use it. The cheap and dirty route of A > B > C > A in which each always beats whatever is to its right a bit boring. Better I think if the advantage each has isn't clear cut. i.e. > doesn't mean autowin or +1 against.

Thinking in terms of a wargame it could be that A is faster than B so it can out maneuver it; B might have better range than C so it can keep its distance pick off units; C could just be really cheap to allowing a player produce tons of them and crowd the field for A, cutting A mobility.

For Auctions... Again, its how you use it. I don't think you should go with A > B > C > A. But maybe A > B > C where A is the hardest to acquire resource, and C is the easiest. Then if biding isn't limited to one thing at a time the player with more total resources (i.e. lots of C) may not win any of the bids that a player bids A on, but they can get a shotgun approach, bidding on everything that the other players can't. Effectively allowing C to beat A, just not directly.

Ultimately every strategy should have a counter and thinking in terms of RPS as a base line can help insure thats true. But it shouldn't be something you hit the player over the head with.

Procylon
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Rock, Paper, Scissors is a

Rock, Paper, Scissors is a tool used to simplify a system. You might simplify a system because either A, you don't want your players to use much brain power/time in your game, or B, you don't want players to use much brain power/time on that particular system.

Sometimes simplifying one mechanic to put more focus on other mechanics is the best route.

I have been working on dual interlocking RPS combat system that goes: A>B>C>D>E>F>A with A=D B=E C=F

Essentially 3 offense stats that relate to 3 defense stats. Each offense is strong a defense, equal a defense, and weak a defense.

The stats are color coded and I am hoping to fit a small color/symbol wheel on the cards that makes comparisons quick and easy without taking too long to learn. My biggest (graphic) design challenge with that is getting a rainbow color wheel to fit on every card in the game in a way that doesn't overpower the graphic feel of the card it is on while also being big enough to read and colorful enough to quickly convey what stats a card has.

JewellGames
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Yomi

I think Yomi handles RPS brilliantly using an AB > C > D > AB system and where ABCD all offer unique bonuses when played.

pelle
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I don't think there is any

I don't think there is any valid reason to consider RPS in game design, but I ranted enough about that in that other thread already linked to above.

Kroz1776
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Clarification

pelle wrote:
I don't think there is any valid reason to consider RPS in game design, but I ranted enough about that in that other thread already linked to above.

And just to clarify, we both talked about RPS in the strictest sense that A will always beat B will always beat C. For instance, Age of Empires, Hoplites beat cavalry beats archers beats hoplites.

pelle
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Kroz1776 wrote:pelle wrote:I

Kroz1776 wrote:
pelle wrote:
I don't think there is any valid reason to consider RPS in game design, but I ranted enough about that in that other thread already linked to above.

And just to clarify, we both talked about RPS in the strictest sense that A will always beat B will always beat C. For instance, Age of Empires, Hoplites beat cavalry beats archers beats hoplites.

No, I talk about any mechanic based on designing from the perspective of "I need A to be good at beating B, B to be good at beating C, C to be good at beating A" no matter if that means automatic wins or some +X % artificial bonus for that unit, or any other mechanic derived from that idea.

X3M
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What I think about RPS? I

What I think about RPS?

I love it. No matter if it is artificial or mechanical. Without it, the game simply wouldn't work for me. Or it has to be a really good game like chess.
RISK is a game without RPS, I hate it since there is almost no tactics/strategy for my feel.

A given would be that the RPS is well balanced for a game.
Perfect balance is not obtainable. Unless each piece is worth the same.
But you can get close to it.

Procylon
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If you are talking about an

pelle wrote:
Kroz1776 wrote:
pelle wrote:
I don't think there is any valid reason to consider RPS in game design, but I ranted enough about that in that other thread already linked to above.

And just to clarify, we both talked about RPS in the strictest sense that A will always beat B will always beat C. For instance, Age of Empires, Hoplites beat cavalry beats archers beats hoplites.

No, I talk about any mechanic based on designing from the perspective of "I need A to be good at beating B, B to be good at beating C, C to be good at beating A" no matter if that means automatic wins or some +X % artificial bonus for that unit, or any other mechanic derived from that idea.

If you are talking about an entire unit class that always beats another unit class, simply because it was destined by RPS to win, then yes I agree.

But you don't have to go all or nothing.

Why do you think RPS is so common in real life situations? You can make a random, unbiased decision in 2 seconds. Who gets the last slice of pizza? Roshambo!

Speed and simplicity.

Why does Magic the Gathering have only Power and Toughness, which is arguably simpler than RPS? Because the rest of the game is so complex that if you had to perform actions/calculations more complicated than a quick number comparison, the game complexity would quickly get out of hand. Or at least more than it already does.

Just because you use RPS, or a derivative thereof, doesn't mean it has to overpower or define your game. Supporting subsystems are the perfect place for a well known mechanic that simplifies and speeds up aspects of your design.

vonklaude
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EpicGollum1499 wrote:What's

EpicGollum1499 wrote:
What's your opinion on RPS mechanisms in games? Is this a mechanism that is too commonly used? What game aspects do you think it works the best with, mechanically and thematically? (e.g. RPS in combat, RPS in auctions, etc...) Whatever you think of Rock, Paper, Scissors, put it down.

It is odd to discuss RPS in 'too commonly used' terms, seeing as it is one of the pillar mechanics of boardgames. Not liking it is a bit like not liking multiplication or division: one very well may dislike those things, but they will continue to be fundamental nevertheless.

RPS is a powerful way to create a non-trivial matrix of decisions. Under classic RPS it is impossible to do better than draw against good old random, but good old random is seldom played and thus strategies emerge to win over the odds. And RPS is readily distorted to feed into those strategies. Taking the Yumi example above, AB > C > D > AB means that playing randomly won't help us because we'd lose over the odds to a player who simply played 'always choose D'. Therefore we need a meta-strategy. If he will 'always choose D' I'd better go with 'mostly C'. Mostly C protects itself against the obvious counter of 'never D' by sometimes switching.

RPS also fixes a really basic problem in boardgame mechanics which I dub the biggest-number problem. Imagine I deal out cards numbered 1-9. You get the 1 and the 2. And I get the 8 and the 9. Good luck beating me with your 1 or 2. That's a rather uninteresting situation. But if I add an RPS component so you have 1A and 2C and I have 8C and 9D (continuing with AB > C > D > AB) then things become more interesting. Things needn't be black and white. It may be that trumping (playing paper to rock) gives a bonus, or it could be a straight win, or some relationships might be straight win relationships and others bonus. Say A gives a straight win over C. While B gives a bonus. Again, this nuances the arrangement to add interest. Either way, it stops being true that drawing 8 and 9 is always better than drawing 1 and 2, and out players will need to develop meta-strategies to play well.

RPS is a very flexible, powerful tool. You see it in top ranking boardgames from Dune to Mage Knight. And of course many card games. You see it in videogames. There is a reason it is used in all those places.

pelle
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RPS is for abstracts only

If you are into abstracts, sure consider RPS. I don't play abstracts anyway. If your game has a theme, make units that fit the theme, and make sure all units are useful for something or otherwise improve the game (eg it could be included just to add chrome, or because it is a game about history and that unit happened to be there historically). At no point in a non-abstract game do I see a reason to consider RPS unless I want the game to feel more abstract. RPS is fundamentally abstract and not tied to almost any theme.

As I said above though, you are likely to end up with a RPS-like situation anyway, because otherwise the game has many units that are not very useful, and probably not very much fit the theme anyway. Because in history (and presumably in fantasy/scifi worlds as well) units are created to be useful for something, including often countering some specific type of enemy unit, so if you just stay true to the theme all will be alright, and the game will not have a funny abstract after-taste from a designer forcing RPS-rules on players.

RPS tends to make decisions less interesting too. In reality it is never as simple as unit X beating Y beating Z beating X, because there are so many other things involved than just the types of units, so a single-minded focus on making a unit beat some other does not help.

Example 1: In reality, and in a well-designed thematic wargame, infantry are sometimes useful to destroy tanks, sometimes not, depending on many different variables (eg terrain, range, perhaps the facing of the tank, visibility). In a RPS-designed game the designer will have already made the decisions about this for the player, that either tanks are superior to infantry or the other way around, and the game is less interesting (and more abstract). You can take any other two unit types really and this applies as well.

Example 2: I don't include cavalry because I have to have a unit to counter the enemy artillery. I include cavalry for other reasons, like it being there in the historic army, or because they are useful for scouting/screening, or because (in some themes) they have their uses at a battlefield in some specific situations. The fact that they in some terrain and some situations will also be useful to a player for destroying enemy artillery is just a derived characteristic from the capabilities given to cavalry because it is cavalry. The cavalry in the game is not designed with the main goal of being useful against artillery (and definitely will not have an explicit +50% against artillery bonus...) because that is just one of many possible uses. This makes cavalry more interesting and multi-dimensional.

EDIT: Actually, giving this some thought, in the name of sensible abstractions I don't mind rules that sometimes give some types of units a bonus against some other types, as long as it doesn't scream of designer trying to force artificial cycles into the game system for the sake of there being cycles. You can't have RPS in mind and add modifiers to complete a cycle.

Focusing on making each unit good at beating some other specific unit is the wrong way around. That one unit ends up better than some other unit, in some situations, is something that comes from other rules, not the other way around.

Notice that while my examples are historic, I want my fantasy/scifi games to make sense as well, and RPS doesn't make that likely.

Kroz1776
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For Example

Spearmen having a bonus against cavalry doesn't shoe-horn it into that role in many games. Many games they're just as effective against infantry, it's just that they do better against cavalry. Does that mean that's the only role they play? No...but then if cavalry are able to hit spearmen in the flanks, then spearmen shouldn't be able to still beat cavalry.

pelle
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Sure, if there is a valid

Sure, if there is a valid reason for spearmen to be effective against cavalry, that can be a solution, but that is different from going looking for some unit bonus to complete an artificial RPS-cycle.

What if there is no unit that has a bonus against spearmen? So what? You can balance the game anyway. There doesn't have to be a specific unit better at that specific task. A player can always counter spearmen by throwing enough cavalry at them or whatever. Having units without obvious counter-units makes the game more, not less, interesting to play. A game is about so much more than unit-relatiohships, and players should be encouraged, not discouraged, from using combinations or formations, terrain, timing, feints etc to get tactical advantages, not just think about phony what-unit-counters-what-other-unit connections.

Kroz1776
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Full on RPS

Yes, giving unit bonuses to a few units is very different than making it a complete circle so that every unit has a hard counter. Giving only a couple units those bonuses because it's just those two, it doesn't confine them to one role.

X3M
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Please do keep in mind that

Please do keep in mind that real life situations have natural RPS systems as well.

Some games try to copy these RPS systems. But since games are limited, they simply use modifiers to copy the real life. Yet they want to keep it a game. I love how WW2 has influenced the C&C games. But you are discussing ancient war.

So my example here is that in those times: spear man had the "range" (50 cm more) to deal with knights (on horses) more efficiently. For every spear man, 2 knights might fall. The exact numbers should be found in history books. While normal footmen could deal with these spear men. Again a 2 against 1 situation. And the knights where extra effective against the footmen. All 3 had these effects by short difference in distance and angle of attack. Since they all 3 are mostly melee units in the (board)games. Well, that extra range or angle wont help. You want to copy the real life example, by adding modifiers. Each could get a 50% bonus. And the game copies the real life "natural" situation by an "unnatural" bonus.
That is why most games had these RPS systems in the first place. Not for the game, but for copying reality.

However, and Pelle might agree. Adding something different, like the 'first strike' rule that is also used in MtG. But than situation specific. Spear men not only against Knights have first strike, but against any cavalry in general. Can get the RPS job done as well.

And while we are on it. In my field of work. There is a RPS system which involves putting out different kind of fires. Think about that for a minute. :) If you are interested in details for a firemen game. Please ask.

vonklaude
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RPS is a basic and important

It's worth stressing in answer to the OP that RPS is a basic and important game mechanic. One can play with RPS for its own sake because it gives rise to challenging strategising and meta-strategising. More deeply, mechanics like RPS define what game making is about. All games are bounded by concepts such as abstraction and simulation. Wholly simulation is not a game. But wholly abstract can be.

Players visibly enjoy an RPS cycle for its own sake, of course, but the RPS cycle also serves as a useful reminder. The most interesting play is generally afforded when no one strategy beats all others. Taking a look at the cycle and completing it ensures one has prevented that. It need not be direct or heavy-handed in implementation, but it is RPS in other garb.

RPS also makes sense to players. It can succinctly express the idea that some things are natural counters to others. It is the case that mongoose trumps snake, for instance. We could invest a lot of money making spear better than horse though integrating a physics engine or giving boardgame players a hefty set of rules to cover their interactions, but if the upshot in our conflict resolution loop is that the spears come out with a flat 10% force ratio advantage then we shouldn't ignore the chance to cheaply deliver our design objective.

Pelle makes clear that his interest is non-abstract games and so long as I understand him correctly is comfortable with emergent RPS. He just doesn't like it engineered too directly or heavily into an historical simulation. (I think he may be thinking in particular about videogames there however since I would say that all game mechanics are approximations and especially so in boardgames!) In the real world we neither control fleets of spaceships nor ancient armies (sadly) but I think I know what he means. Unit valuations should be more emergent in an historical simulation; without losing sight of the important lessons RPS teaches. And when not aiming for historical simulation, or in some kinds of historical simulation (especially boardgames rather than videogames) it's a significant and enjoyable mechanic.

Kroz1776
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A Horse! A Horse! My Post for a Horse!

X3M wrote:
Please do keep in mind that real life situations have natural RPS systems as well.

Some games try to copy these RPS systems. But since games are limited, they simply use modifiers to copy the real life. Yet they want to keep it a game. I love how WW2 has influenced the C&C games. But you are discussing ancient war.

So my example here is that in those times: spear man had the "range" (50 cm more) to deal with knights (on horses) more efficiently. For every spear man, 2 knights might fall. The exact numbers should be found in history books. While normal footmen could deal with these spear men. Again a 2 against 1 situation. And the knights where extra effective against the footmen. All 3 had these effects by short difference in distance and angle of attack. Since they all 3 are mostly melee units in the (board)games. Well, that extra range or angle wont help. You want to copy the real life example, by adding modifiers. Each could get a 50% bonus. And the game copies the real life "natural" situation by an "unnatural" bonus.
That is why most games had these RPS systems in the first place. Not for the game, but for copying reality.

However, and Pelle might agree. Adding something different, like the 'first strike' rule that is also used in MtG. But than situation specific. Spear men not only against Knights have first strike, but against any cavalry in general. Can get the RPS job done as well.

And while we are on it. In my field of work. There is a RPS system which involves putting out different kind of fires. Think about that for a minute. :) If you are interested in details for a firemen game. Please ask.

This runs into problems though when there are times when footmen stood up to the Knights and actually beat them, or when cavalry were able to rout spear armed infantry. The problem isn't with bonuses vs other troops per say. It is in the design that makes things set in concrete. If I had a game where every time an equal strength spearmen vs an equal strength mounted unit, the spearmen triumphed, this isn't good. There should always be a way for someone to beat their counter as was done in real life many times. So Anti-Tank guns were a menace to tanks during WWII, but many tankers were able to beat them anyways. The point is to allow flexibility. When you slap into a war game especially, a mechanic of win/lose no matter what you do, it just sits wrong with me.

For example, in Heroscape, there are certain squads & heroes that are very good. They can do many different things a commander might need them to do, then there are figures that can perform a couple of functions well, and then there are those that can really only do one thing really well. In the end, the versatile squads/heroes are the dominant ones even though there are specialist heroes/squads that can do that one job better. What if I built a lot of knights and we march out only to find he built tons of spearmen...woops, I'm screwed. It shouldn't be that way...sure it may be a bit harder, but you don't have the doom of a guaranteed loss hovering over your head. The Total War games do a good job of this. Sure spearmen might have a bonus against cavalry, but my Knights are still gonna pwn them in a charge if they aren't ready, and heck sometimes they still do when the are ready.

I doubt that the Kill ratio was 2:1 in the favor of spearmen during the medieval period. If that were so, then those darn pesky French K-nig-its wouldn't have a strange urge to charge down anything without a horse.

X3M
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Well, ancient warfare went a

Well, ancient warfare went a little bit different then modern warfare.

Modern warfare has much more the effects of weapon effectiveness then in ancient warfare. This due to fire rate, range of all weapons (free target choice), real difference in numbers or strength and the kinectic impact effects on these numbers or strength. Each unit shoots until the target is dead, then continuous to another. There is almost no other way than to copy this with simple bonuses.

Ancient warfare had mostly "melee" weaponry. And thus the game creators of these days fail to understand that ancient warfare went differently than modern warfare. Back to my example of the spearmen, knights and footmen. The spearmen 1:2 ratio is actually based on a 1 on 1 fight. The spear man kills a knight, but by doing so is vulnerable to another knight. So 1 versus 2 actually ends up in only 1 dead amongst the knights, but the spearman is also dead. No matter how big the armies are, if both sides have the same amount of units, the spearmen win by 1 survivor. And if it is 1 spearman against 1000 knights. 1 knight will bite the dust.

That is why terrain is so important in those "ancient" games. So is flanking. Those are the tactical advantages that increase the spearmen effectiveness. Divide and Conquer if you know the basics. And the army commanders of those times did know how to do that. Thus resulting in history lessons where on average spearmen where lets say 30% better then knights. In our games, we simply think we have to add this 30%. Which copies realities effectiveness. But not the mechanic in a whole.

Thus instead of saying a bonus of 30%. You could simply say, spear man beats knight by first strike but is occupied by that moment and vulnerable to all other units, including knights.

For abusing the effects of the spear men is by reducing the enemies army into chunks by all means necessary:
Here are 3 examples
- Flanking (the second knight isn't facing the spear man and misses his chance to kill him).
- Alerting (a spear man is alerted by a knight, wants to kill the knight, but he backs off. Thus another knight can take down the spear man)
- Chokepoints (only 1 (or a few) knight(s) can get through at a time, the spear man might already be ready for the next.

So, RPS in a sense, but not overpowering unless... you use terrain and tactics. But the question is, how to implement terrain then? I only know that the simulation works when you have about 20 units on a whole map, where every field can hold only 1 unit, and each unit has several facing points. Not for huge armies. For that people use 30%.

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