The Philosophy, Art, and Social Influence of games
vic oakland
8-bit
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by vic oakland Sun Sep 29, 2013 6:06 pm

Charlie Brown v Lucy: the PES / Winning Eleven "scripting" debate and what it tells us about gaming addiction

As long as there have been people writing online about PES / Winning Eleven soccer games, there have been online debates about whether the PES games are scripted, and, if so, how much. I think the answer to the question tells us alot about gaming and games, especially given how addictive the PES series is, so forgive my extended exploration of this topic under the theory heading.

First off, to keep things short, my answer/theory is simple: the COM undoubtedly cheats in Master League, and Pro Evolution games are heavily handicapped at times, but the important thing is to understand how this works. Many folks, in my view, misunderstand how the game is scripted (ie. by altering player stat levels), and so the debate gets skewed and distracts from a really interesting discussion of why and how this game holds such obsessive interest despite "treating the player so poorly."

The best analogy I can make to help understand PES scripting is the "Age of Empires" counter example. When enemy forces meet in Age of Empires (or most any RTS) the power of the forces (their assigned stats) are fixed. The AI will conduct a battle between the two sides, but unless one or the other opponent is very effectively micro-managing the battle (ie. overriding the COM AI with micro commands to take advantage of terrain, combined forces, etc.), the side with the better forces and more appropriate stats will always win. That's because in Age of Empires a unit with a given set of upgrades has exactly the same stats as any equivalent unit with the same upgrades. If that were not true, the game, which is set to reward resource management, map strategy and mixed forces gameplay, would be infuriating and obviously unfair to play.

That's NOT TRUE, however, for PES / Winning Eleven games. At any given time, in any given match, the stats for a given player are both in flux and may have additionally been pre-set at the beginning of the match away from their "stated levels," as well. On top of this, the AI does run specific scripted actions that impact gameplay and which a human player cannot interrupt. Both of these combine to make PES seem both to play "normally" and deliver weighted outcomes on the fly.

A human-controlled defender, for example, with a balance of 85 out of 100, may have had that stat set downward by 15 points due to a handicap assigned by the COM to the human team at the beginning of the match, and additonally, might, during the course of a match have that relative number reduced further due to the COM team's player receiving a bonus of 15 points of balance during specific moments of the match (ie. the opening/closing minutes, or the minutes following a goal, etc.). So, in a battle between the defender (with an erstwhile 85 balance, but really 70) and the COM forward (nominally 80 balance, but really now 95) the COM forward bowls the human defender over (despite that player performing reliably for many games previous), wins a header and scores a goal that may look "scripted" but is really more of a "highly probable" outcome based on the changes to the underlying stats.

Additionally, the COM winger who supplied the pass for the header may have executed a three-second, scripted "mazy run" preceding the cross which was uninterruptable by the human player, and was in fact a straight up script. If the human player tried to interrupt the run, call additional players into close proximity to steal the ball or otherwise directly impact the "mazy run"...well, that's the point, for those three seconds nothing can happen, and depending on the alignment of the human controlled players it is "highly probable" that the winger will unleash a killer pass at the end of that mazy run or be well positioned to take advantage of a hole in the human defense when gameplay returns to normal.

In sum, my theory is that Winning Eleven/Pro Evo games use stat manipulation and discrete, scripted COM actions to create the high likelihood that the COM will succeed / Human player will fail in given circumstances. On the upside this is done to heighten challenge, create addictive, unpredictable gameplay and more "realistic" season outcomes in human vs. COM gameplay. What makes this conversation difficult is that the more the human player succeeds (ie. wins successive matches, especially at higher gameplay levels), the more extreme the scripting, so the gameplay changes vary. Not all players will experience the most extreme levels of stat manipulation and gameplay manipulation and this creates subjective impressions with regard to the level to which the game "cheats." Further, like any button pressing game, players skilled at executing nimble and well-timed combos will also experience fewer issues since scoring goals, even if in more challenging circumstances, will come easier.

My experience indicates that PES AI uses these methods to handicap gameplay:

    1. Changing the overall underlying stat levels in a given match by changing basic stat settings (usually decreased passing, balance, teamwork, technique, shooting, etc. for the human player)
    2. At various points during gameplay changing stat levels upwards for a given team, usually at the begining or end of a half or immediately after a goal
    3. Running brief, scripted individual COM actions that tend to advantage the COM and prevent any human player intervention
    4. Punishing human attempts to use sprinting/rapid directional changes intended to defeat the COM's tilt by accelerating overall gameplay in response
    5. At its most extreme, creating a "directional effect" which makes it almost impossible to kick the ball with power upfield in one direction, while conversely creating massive power/speed for balls passed or shot in the opposite direction. This final effect almost makes the game unplayable and is the source of crazy goalmouth scrambles in which the ball seems to roll by force of gravity into the human player's goal. This effect, however, can also be used against the COM.

Why is this interesting? I think this is relevant because for most players, this scripting and stat manipulation has the effect of creating varied gameplay that tends to mimic the narrative of a sports season and actually makes for a cool game. If stats were done like Age of Empires, then higher stats would always win, and in a sports game that would be boring, if fun for a brief while. Since most players aren't trying to win every single game, it works out okay for many. Sometimes otherwise great teams have a bad day. Sometimes, teams that are down and out make "miraculous" comebacks. But most of the time the game plays fairly closely to the stats that the player can see listed (and hardcore players meticulously obsess over). When the game is "on," it delivers an addictive mix of genres, that rewards both planning, strategy and real time execution over the course of an unpredictable season.

Of course, this stat manipulation, in particular the handicapping of human team players, can also make the game feel cheap and infuriating. Nothing feels worse than building and training a player to fill a role, and having them simply seem unable to move or pass, or to have one's whole team unable to perform even simple tasks without stumbling. What this creates is a sense that the team the player builds in Master League mode is a kind of "RPG-like" group up against the odds where one is constantly recruiting and honing the skills of the ensemble.

In effect, Winning Eleven/PES Master League mode (which is a multi-season, 80 hour+ time commitment) is an RPG (non game time player recruitment and training) mixed with RTS and fighting game components (match time), during the course of which extreme handicapping of gameplay is subtly (and sometimes not to subtly) deployed by the COM to both keep things interesting and the human player hooked. Like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, Lucy is always there to pull it away at the last minute.

I think it is without question that PES, like many other similar games, is heavily "scripted" so that the COM has a "high probability" of getting a win, especially in given matches that the human player needs to acheive an objective. Players focused on the RPG component will be most frustrated, while those who see it more as a rhythm/timing/button pressing game will be less so, especially if they know how to play.

In fact, unless you are enormously adept at and patient with the RTS and reflex components of the game and know how to approach them, it is almost impossible to beat the game on highest difficulty without accepting the humiliating, infuriating and perhaps controller destroying losses that the COM unfairly dishes out along the way. Of course, having lost a match or two...the gameplay then sadistically resets to more neutral levels and returns to being quite fun. And despite all this players keep coming back.

PES is undoubtedly rigged, in my view. In that, it's not unlike most games.

Who knows, maybe that fact, combined with the illusion of such granular control and customization, is what makes the game so addictive? Kind of like Charlie kicking the football with Lucy?
Last edited by vic oakland on Sun Sep 29, 2013 11:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
tintinmayo
24-bit
 
Posts: 121
Joined: Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:28 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by tintinmayo Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:27 pm

is it like the rubber banding mechanics for a lot of racing games?
vic oakland
8-bit
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by vic oakland Sun Sep 29, 2013 8:35 pm

tintinmayo wrote:is it like the rubber banding mechanics for a lot of racing games?


I'm not sure since most racing games I've played leave the player's ability to drive alone...and only hinder or help the COM opponents.

Psychologically it feels most like the rubber band mechanics in, say NBA Street or SSX. But even then, it's hard to say that your ability to move or pass has suddenly decreased in those games like in Pro Evo.

That's the shocker. The game is addictive and yet the better you are at the game, the more frequently and extremely it shackles you.
User avatar
Erik_Twice
Next-Gen
 
Posts: 6252
Joined: Fri Mar 27, 2009 10:22 am
Location: Madrid, Spain

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by Erik_Twice Mon Sep 30, 2013 7:36 am

I would argue that many video games are, indeed, "rigged". Rubberbanding, AI advantages, lying statistics and rank are all common.

Where are you going with this? Honest question.
Looking for a cool game? Find it in my blog!
Latest post: Often, games must be difficult
http://eriktwice.com/
User avatar
Sload Soap
Next-Gen
 
Posts: 1887
Joined: Mon Aug 12, 2013 4:43 pm
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by Sload Soap Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:44 am

Are you sure you don't just suck?

But seriously,you can stymie the effects of PES's cheating AI, especially in master league, by having a captain with a high "teamwork" stat.
But yeah overall I agree, the game does manipulate the "maths" as it were to create challenge. Better than FIFA stunting the controls to make challenge though.
User avatar
BoringSupreez
Next-Gen
 
Posts: 9740
Joined: Wed Feb 11, 2009 10:09 pm
Location: Tokyo

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by BoringSupreez Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:12 am

General_Norris wrote:I would argue that many video games are, indeed, "rigged". Rubberbanding, AI advantages, lying statistics and rank are all common.

Civilization, Age of Empires, and StarCraft all let the AI cheat to certain extents IIRC. Most games that don't let you kill your enemies really quick (like an FPS) give the AI "unfair" advantages to even the playing field against a human mind.
prfsnl_gmr wrote:There is nothing feigned about it. What I wrote is a display of actual moral superiority.
vic oakland
8-bit
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by vic oakland Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:54 pm

General_Norris wrote:I would argue that many video games are, indeed, "rigged". Rubberbanding, AI advantages, lying statistics and rank are all common.

Where are you going with this? Honest question.


On the simplest level, I'm trying to explore how games "cheat" because what's most important seems to me to be HOW we experience the cheating as part of the game experience.

Ie. It seems to me like we can really like, or perhaps be really addicted to, this experience of subtle cheating. Ie. games can easily cheat by brute force..but then they are less fun.

With less obvious ways of cheating...ie. PES / Winning Eleven's stat manipulation....we tend to think that there's some way that we can use our agency to escape the trap, and that's ADDICTIVE, it's basic human problem solving, a primal urge.

What's important then is what's in our head, our imaginations as gamers, as we experience the cheating.

That's how this relates to game theory and culture.
vic oakland
8-bit
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by vic oakland Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:04 pm

Sload Soap wrote:Are you sure you don't just suck?

But seriously,you can stymie the effects of PES's cheating AI, especially in master league, by having a captain with a high "teamwork" stat.
But yeah overall I agree, the game does manipulate the "maths" as it were to create challenge. Better than FIFA stunting the controls to make challenge though.


I've had an undefeated season in PES5 Master League on Extreme...but that took me a lot of coming back to the game from time to time to see if it was possible. It is.

Some of the cheating I encountered was hilarious at some points. Almost like a wind blowing the ball in the wrong direction...and defenders and goalies practically throwing the ball into my own goal. :evil:
vic oakland
8-bit
 
Posts: 46
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:38 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by vic oakland Mon Sep 30, 2013 3:10 pm

BoringSupreez wrote:
General_Norris wrote:I would argue that many video games are, indeed, "rigged". Rubberbanding, AI advantages, lying statistics and rank are all common.

Civilization, Age of Empires, and StarCraft all let the AI cheat to certain extents IIRC. Most games that don't let you kill your enemies really quick (like an FPS) give the AI "unfair" advantages to even the playing field against a human mind.


At least in Age of Empires and Starcraft isn't that through giving the COM players resource and build bonuses and not through giving their units better stats?

ie. The COM will get more and better units sooner than you, but in a like versus like battle the stats are not manipulated. ie. 10 zerglings and 10 zerglings will most likely fight to a tie whoever is controlling them.
Hatta
Next-Gen
 
Posts: 4030
Joined: Tue May 06, 2008 8:33 pm

Re: Charlie Brown v Lucy: Winning Eleven "scripting" debate

by Hatta Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:23 pm

RTSs also cheat by giving the AI perfect knowledge of everything everywhere at all times. e.g. It takes me time to find all my idle villagers and assign them new tasks. The AI can do it instantly.

I would tend to prefer games where AI is separate from game mechanics to avoid this kind of cheating. Chess is a great example. The AI has exactly as much information as you do, and follows all the same rules. More games should be like that.
We are prepared to live in the plain and die in the plain!
Return to Games As Culture

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest