Archive for October, 2017

Player interaction and fights in ut4 duel

Gametypes in arenafps games are item driven. This means that the items form the game and player interaction is dictated by items. We will start at the beginning and explain how this works before going further. Items in these gametype are resources and generally consist of armor, health, weapons, ammo and powerups. These pickups are scattered around the map players compete on and have a predefined respawn time after they are taken. Respawn is the act of the item reappearing on the map so it can be picked up again. Deathmatch is the base gametype in arenafps and has existed since quake1. This gametype is likely where the arenafps moniker of likely originates. Deathmatch can be played with two teams and is referred to as Team Deathmatch (TDM). 4v4 and 2v2 are common player numbers for TDM. The goal of deathmatch is to score the highest number of kills (frags) – suicides subtract a point.

Gametypes that were added after deathmatch, such as capture the flag(CTF) remain item driven but hapopularve additional objectives. In these other non-kill based scoring gametypes items dictate when players can attack with a higher likely hood of winning. Quite often items are overlooked in these other, non-deathmatch gametypes which is why they are worth mentioning. Items could almost be considered the objective rather than killing as they enable killing at a greater efficiency.

Overview of items

As previously mentioned items are resources in standard arena fps DM based gametypes. A player who has more resources has a better chance of winning a game. Players who collect items will have more health, more armor and more weapon options available. Basic health packs will heal a player to their base health which is usually 100. Armor adds a layer on top of health allowing players to take more damage, generally splitting damage between health and armor. Armor is one of the large player interaction drivers.

If a player has enough health to use the armor they have equipped then their stack is the sum of both. In cases where a player has low health and high armor it becomes more difficult to ascertain their exact stack at a glance. When armor has 50% absorption damage is distributed 1:1 health:armor. When absorption is 66.6..% damage is distributed 1:2 and when armor has an absorption of 75% damage is distributed 1:3. The shield belt in Unreal Tournament provides 100% absorption, protecting the players health pool until the belt is depleted. Absorption % does not play a large part in armor “strength” provided it is 50% or above, the absorption does change player behavior and overall macro movement of players but not the the amount of health available from armor unless the % is very low or the amount of health available >100 is large.

Weapons are important because they open up positioning options and provide utility along with raw killing power. Weapon options vary widely as they have different fire modes in arenafps compared to modern shooters. These fire modes can open up more efficient engagements at different ranges and with good weapons selection as well as appropriate positioning players can gain a large advantage over their opponent.

Items are removed from the map when they are picked up and respawn a set time after. Keeping track of this time is referred to as timing. This cycle of pickup and respawning sets the pace and tempo of the game and dictates where and what players want to be doing at a given point in time. Think of this as the overall macro of a game, it is one of the last skills a player will learn. When better players tell new players to “learn to time” this is actually what the end point is. The flow of the game around the map. This document will primarily be concerned with duel as it relies heaviest on a well thought out item setup, it also breaks the earliest if the setup is poorly thought out.

Items as player interaction drivers

The assumption from this point onwards is that making players fight often is good.

Because items are resources and raise the chance of winning they cause players to move around maps in somewhat predictable manner. That is provided players understand that items are important and can follow the flow around the map – see previous note about being a “late to learn” skill. Players move around the map and fight over resources. New players may simply get a weapon and start trying to shoot their opponents. Intermediate players may understand their stack but not their opponents. Larger items are more sought after and are more likely to generate fights between players who want the pickup. Items and thus resources are limited by their respawn time. The respawn time also dictates how often part of a map could be used and maps are setup in a manner to facilitate interesting fights around larger items.

Smaller items help move players around the map and also provide sound cues to indicate where they are. Maps are often also designed so these items are not easily defensible, offering a large advantage to a player who simply arrives first(?). Players gain an advantage from picking up items and can then kill their opponent more efficiently (weapons) or have more effective health through health and armor. This allows players to deal less damage over the course of an encounter and come out ahead. For example in a situation where two players trade shots a player with 100health will die before their opponent with 200 health.

Control, stacking and denial

In Unreal Tournament duel the primary interaction driver is armor. The larger armors have the strongest pull on players as they provide the largest benefit – these are usually the shieldbelt (150a) and the vest (100a). During a duel players want to take items to buff themselves as well as deny the pickup to their opponent. This is commonly referred to as stacking – and total player health/armor numbers referred to as stack or their stack. The goal is usually to have as much stack differential – difference in stack as possible.

At the start of a game large items may be split and players may have similar stack, however as time passes, damage is dealt or players die one will come to have control. Map control. Item control. However you choose to spin it. Once one player establishes control they have a significant resource advantage and able to refresh their armor and health each time a major item spawns. This player is referred to as the in control player. The player without access to the higher value items and without stack is called the out of control player.

Player behavior is heavily dictated by their stack and their level of control. When players pickup items they take note of the time on the game clock then return to the area to pick it up again once the respawn time has passed. The player with control tries to keep the advantage for as long as possible and the player out of control works on gathering smaller resources before fighting (contesting) a larger item. This slow build for out of control sets how long the player in control has an advantage. Historically this advantage is permanent in Unreal Tournament provided control is maintained. There is no way for a player to slow stack to match the in control player.

The most popular article on this site is related primarily to Unreal Tournaments lacking out of control play. The premise is that ut does not offer enough for the in control player to do while also hamstringing the out of control player too heavily. Since writing that piece it has occurred that while the system is flawed for out of control play it works as an interaction driver very well. The interaction driver aspect is one of the reasons why a quakelive armor transplant is not suggested often on this site and why I have not backed suggestions that are not fully thought through. At a basic level simply copying quakelive armor is unlikely to work because there are other factors at play in the game that help make it the game it is. Armorware demonstrate this. As does the “new” nerfed base armor system. Both “break” surprisingly quickly.

Trade off potential gain for stacking or denial.

Large vs small items. Mega+ RA vs YA. Belt+100a vs 50a.

The size and importance of items determines the level of commitment a player will make. The amount of benefit (you/them) an item gives also determines the level of player commitment. For example when both players have no armor the 100a pickup is beneficial to both. When one player has 100a the item is still important to deny from the opponent in order to maintain stack advantage. However when both players have the item or the same amount of high armor neither needs to take the pickup until they suffer damage. It could be said that taking the item in these situations is bad as the larger pickups tends to put the player in a disadvantageous position, risking the stack they have. This depends on the map but is an acceptable rule of thumb when discussing the ideas. At this point players no longer need to contest items. A player no longer needs to make the dangerous trip to the belt on deck, or the 100a area on asdf, because it does not benefit them and it will no longer benefit their opponent.

Depending on the score line players can simply turtle up, possibly with a retreat line to resources. This idea can be extended further. In the current UT4 system a player on 100/75 is unlikely to commit to a fight at a large armor when they can take a small one elsewhere to get to 100/100. Unless their opponent is running all items this is easy. Likewise, even at the smaller armors the player does not need to commit heavily if their opponent is there before them as the gain is minimal. They may wish to use this opportunity to put damage on their opponent.

Another example of items that players may not want to commit to is the thigh pads on dm-deck16][ in ut99. This is because the item itself is in a precarious position in an area of the map the in control player is likely to be. By attempting to take the thighpads the out of control player is allowing damage. The risk:reward is very low. Larger items demand conflict and fighting over while smaller ones can be ceded or avoided at lower loss/gain.

By thinking about this we can understand how armor limits player interaction via “full” stack. This was not the case in previous titles when a player had control (UT2003 aside) as they always had belt+100a to work with at all times while the out of control player always had less. Because of this the in control player always wanted to deny the belt+100a. In older titles “control” was not belt only or 100a only. It must be both large items on a map in order to keep the requirement of picking up the items.

Items as an interaction driver and level of commitment related to their relative sizes. Once we understand control and denial and reasons for why players seek to pickup items we can see how different items have different values. Players either want to stack themselves or limit their opponent’s resources through denial. These are the primary reason why players fight over pickups. These are the primary reasons players fight in duel. This dynamic/macro is the game.

A player can lose a fight at an item and not get the pickup but the fight can still be beneficial because the damage helps keep their opponents stack lower than if they did not contest. Note this does not mean dying, just losing the fight and backing off. In Unreal Tournament the time at which you deal damage in relation to items spawns is important. Using the UT99 armor system as an example which has similarities to all the UT titles, with the exceptions being 2k3 (stacking) and current ut4 (stacking) and ut4 armorware. Dealing of damage is somewhat backwards if items are the reasons players fight as the optimum time to deal damage is after pickups. This is because 100-150 armor damage dealt before large primary armors that cause fights will be refreshed. This is due to the maximum armor vs pickup values. In order to deal effective damage that is lasting a player needs to hit their opponent after he picks up the armor, this way he is at a lower armor value going into the next large spawn, provided this is not refreshed on the 50a/25a.

It is “backwards” because while fights are setup at an armor the most beneficial time to damage the in control opponent and risk your lower stack is after they have taken the pickup. This sets your opponent at a lower total going into the next item spawn.

For the out of control player contesting is questionable as you need to deal >armor value worth of damage in order for it not to be refreshed. Using the “old” ut4 system If a player is on 100/150 and take direct rocket(100) just before picking the 100a they will be on 60/150. If the 150 was belt they will be on 100/150(50b/100a).

This is not the case in quakelive as the armors do not max out/almost max out armor in one pickup so players are less likely to be at full stack. In UT this is backwards to what should occur and helps to make fighting at armors less appealing. With the UT system it cannot change as the items are large and stack to max very quickly. This is a feature of Unreal Tournament duel and a contributing factor to why in control is strong while having strong interaction drivers but at the same time is why interaction drivers can break.

For example a player locking down the two largest pickups in all existing games will have an advantage over their opponent at all times and in order to continue this advantage they need to keep taking the belt + 100a. Their opponent has no way to stack armor as the pickup behavior in older titles does not allow this. However they know exactly where their opponent will be due to the strong requirement to keep picking the belt + 100a up. This leads to the player being able to contest an item reliably.

Note that this may sound like it is going against the previously linked popular article, however that still stands – in control does not have a large time spend and out of control does not have a way to stack. What does exist is the requirement for the in control player to take items. Once the out of control player gets the 100a due to mistakes on the in control players part they are free to do what they like. We have reached the point of reduced interaction incentive.

A note on personal vs enemy stack

Both your stack and your opponents stack are a consideration for what resources players want to take and deny. Your stack is a consideration for obvious reasons – do you need armor? Do you need to risk your stack for more armor? Can you stack more in a less dangerous manner? Eg taking the 50a to go from 100a to 150a rather than contesting the belt or 100a for an additional 50a. Your opponents stack is less obvious and enemy stack estimation plays an important role here. How much does your opponent have – if you are full/high and they are full/high then contesting or committing to a fight is not required as the benefit from the pickup will be minimal for either player.

A note on weapon stay off as interaction drivers.

Beyond armor Unreal Tournament 4 weapons behave in a similar manner to small armors, or armors that will only give players a small boost – the aforementioned 50a instead of belt/100a scenario. Players are unlikely to commit to a fight over a weapon since their stack/life is more valuable than the potential benefits of a weapon. Weapons are a one way street per life, once they have picked up a weapon the player has it till death. Because of this players can opt to avoid conflict at weapons and return later. Even in 2k4 where weapon denial was potentially important there are very few examples of players actually fighting over the weapons (LG/shock). On top of this there were few examples of players running hard control on LG/shock. Once again this is because players are not going to commit to a fight for just a weapon, in a game where the weapons are all quite strong.

Weapons were timed as major part of the game in quakeworld TDM but no other arenafps that I am aware of. This dynamic is less interesting for duel/1v1 because it creates a situation where you need a weapon in order to contest a weapon that you need. Once you have a weapon you do not need to revisit it unless you wish to deny or if it is the only ammo source on the map.

Resources cap out, armor/health system break player interaction leading to less fighting.

Resources are the reason players fight and when resources are not required players should no longer be fighting over pickups. This goes beyond the individual player needing it as denial is very important. Once both players have a decent armor stack they should be less willing to risk themselves for large pickups where fights will usually occur. For example using armorware (max 150) a player on 125armor no longer needs to contest the belt or the 100a as the 25a or 50a is sufficient to cap out, provided their opponent also has decently high armor. If we were to have a scenario where player A has 150a from contol and player B has 100a from smaller pickups over a longer time period neither player needs the large pickups anymore. This leads to a less focused game and makes players harder to predict as fights are not setup by items. If there is score differential in this situation then the leading player can turtle up and play defensively.

Why is mega is good for duel in quake

The mega in quake makes the above scenario impossible and makes sure there is always an item that both players want. A single pickup for a different resource ensures there will always be at least one pickup both players want. Both want it when neither has it in order to stack. The player that got the last spawn wants it to deny, even if they have not taken damage. The player that did not get it last spawn wants it to stack. Both of these will occur every spawn because it is unique, there is no other way to gain health over 100. +5h bubbles are rare in ql duel and do not change player behavior in relation to the mega. This is without taking health decay into account, which further amplify the in control players want for the item. This is where decay makes sense, unlike armor where once a player caps out they only need +25 every 25 seconds to stay at max stack. A single pickup on a longish (35s) respawn means that even without damage the player will want to take it.

In base ut4 the belt is trying to take the place of the mega by being the only “overheal” item available. However its long spawn combined with its low benefit (+50 instead of +100) mean it is ineffective at being a large driver in the same way as mega.

Fortnite Streaming/Gameplay Analysis Take 1

Fortnite BR is a departure from my usual quake/ut content. It is my first taste of the genre because the underlying games are not that interesting to me. Fortnite got my attention because of the art style and more arcadey combat so have been playing it since it was added to the base game. It is now free which has resulted in quite an active playerbase, very good for Australia/oceania as we now have our own servers and active community, which is important to me as playing with lag is not interesting. Have plans for a BR as a gametype article at some point but for now.. A streamer called Rhinocrunch seems decent at the game and has been trying to get a solo squad win – queue as solo in squad without checking fill.

Towards the end he sums up the reason he lost:
“I don’t know what I could have done, Its like RNG. If I would have just had, maybe, more shields and more meds, I think I would have been alright, honestly.”

If you have read my content you probably understand my stance on this, even though I have not written specifically about it. Decision making and playing a +ve game over relying on aim. A huge part of this is knowing when to be aggressive and when not to be aggressive, I am talking it. Lets look at this guys video and see if we can work out where he went wrong. Jumping into the action at 12:26 after he cleans up in the spawn town and proceeds towards the circle. Timestamp 12:25.

I have watched a few of his clips on youtube and not seen him mention “My primary goal is to play aggressively”. The below is based on the assumption that his goal is to win.

12:25 – After leaving the landing zone town with a fistfull of excellent weapons (Purple scoped AR, Blue AR, Blue GL) he comes across two players at reasonably long range. They are unaware that he is watching them and decides to fire on their position from long range, in the open with his scoped AR. If the goal is to win this is a questionable decision. Firstly it is a 2v1 encounter in a location where you cannot “cut” one of the players off from the other to kill. At a basic level it is a open shooting gallery where you are hedging your accuracy+weapons vs their accuracy+weapons, but there are two players, so even if their aim is less than yours, the amount lower it needs to be in order for you to roll them is significant.

Continuing a fight, even in a 1v1 encounter after missing the initial shots as you lose the element of surprise and opening damage. The fight changes from you dealing opening damage (ahead on damage) and then a kill (perhaps with damage taken) to trade damage from the same health points.

So the taking of this fight is questionable. If the fight setup was different perhaps it would have been acceptable. At a closer range the initial shots have more chance (easier to aim, less effected by spread vs target size, maybe damage falloff?) to down one of the targets, leaving you in a 1v1 with the remaining player. You could also say that he missed his initial shots but with the moving targets we were looking at the maximum effective range of the weapon he had equipped so were less likely to take them down quickly.

Allowing the enemy players to return fire rather than high tailing it after whiffing his initial shots was a mistake if shields were super important, or at all in my opinion. The 2v1 odds as mentioned before are quite bad in a direct conflict type scenario like this. At this point of the game it is unlikely that you will stumble upon extra shield potions, so conserving what you have is a great idea. Taking that bullet and burning the shield potion was a bad move. Rhino is obviously aware that shields are important as his closing remarks focus on them.

fortnite BR

So after reviewing how could we play this with a better outcome? The first is to simply avoid the conflict itself – go west around the hill and closer to Retail Row, before heading towards the circle again. If engaging is the goal, and there are arguments for/against this, then moving to the house on the hill before engaging is probably the best option, which is what Rhino ended up doing. He got two knock downs while taking more damage. This would put you closer (more reliable first kill) to the two enemy players while also taking you away from the open area which was key to them hitting your shield the first time. So if this had been the first choice he would have preserved the shield while also engaging from a less vulnerable position that was closer to the enemy players.

Sure, if you picked up 2-3 shield pots you could take more encounters, but you did not pick them up and playing to what you are dealt is important. Most people, myself included can stand to look at their decision making and polish their game from that perspective rather than writing losses off to RNG, bad team mates and the like. Not to say all situations are winable but approaching them from the best direction for what you want to accomplish is important.

Edit : About a day after posting this it dawned on me that more needed to be added in relation to RNG. This comment could also be phrased as “If I had hit those initial shots then I would have gone much better”. And this is correct, however the goal is to hone ones decision making and positioning in order to lower random or less reliable aspects of a game. Blaming aim or not hitting shots is similar to this. Of course there are bad situations (like the end of the video) where you are in a terrible location and have very little choice in the matter, but this is not what we are talking about. Yet even in those situations one could review a game and go “well maybe if I did X things would have turned out different”. Where X is not “If I had hit 12 headshots in a row”