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Why players ruined  Modern Warfare  for themselves
Why players ruined Modern Warfare for themselves
November 15, 2012 | By Staff

November 15, 2012 | By Staff
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    22 comments
More: Console/PC, Design



"The 'nade spamming' meme was the perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances," writes consultant Nils Pihl, in a new feature which gets to the heart of precisely how players ruin games for themselves.

In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, there was a critical flaw in Crossfire, one of the game's maps. Players could lob grenades over a wall at the start of the match, scoring instant kills.

Once this idea was found, it replicated -- and couldn't be stamped out, writes consultant Nils Pihl.

"There was a good statistical likelihood that an enemy would be on the other side, and chance would determine if you got a 'free' point or not. The combination of predetermined starting points and insufficient obstacles between the teams had allowed one creative player to get a stylish kill."

"The problem was that the meme was easy to copy, without requiring any particular skill at all," Pihl writes.

"Random interval reward schedules can be incredibly addictive. The fact that you didn't know if you would hit an enemy or not turned throwing the grenade into highly addictive gambling scenario. All you had to wager was a cheap grenade, and you could win very desirable points in exchange. It was a meme that was easy to copy because it was so easy to observe and understand the required actions, it was fairly successful at a low cost, and it was very addictive."

In his feature, Pihl goes into great depth about exactly how and why the players ruined the game for themselves, and writes about how game rules have unintended consequences.

He also contrasts Modern Warfare's problem against how Blizzard tunes StarCraft II to mitigate dominant strategies. He describes the cycle of discovery of memes -- and the imposition of new rules by players -- on multiplayer games. You can read it now on Gamasutra.


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Comments


Brian Pace
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All this time I though 'nade spamming' meme was a joke on how the single player AI would constantly bombard you with grenades.

Nils Pihl
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Hehe, interesting thought! That might well be how the meme got started.

Even if it was a joke, the way to understand the behavior is the same: The combination of memes and game theory is a fantastic way to unravel player behavior.

Wylie Garvin
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Okay, I take issue with the claim that "the players ruined the game for themselves". The players are just min-maxing, which you as a game designer *have to assume they will do*. This really appears to be a failure of level design. Why are the initial spawn points placed so that you can conveniently lob grenades into the other team's spawn area? Fail!

Just look at the MMO space. Leveling up in games like Everquest and DAoC were a boring grind, because standing there killing 300 rats in a row *gave better experience* than doing anything more interesting (such as running around doing quests). With World of Warcraft, Blizzard fixed this problem--they made sure that running around doing quests was the fastest way to actually level up. Result: players run around doing quests, instead of standing in one place getting bored out of their skulls.

A lot of players are achiever-types (especially multiplayer FPS players). You know they will min-max even when its detrimental to their own enjoyment of the game, and you have to design for that.

Nils Pihl
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Wylie, read the full article and I think you'll find that we are in agreement.

We have to understand that if the optimal winning strategy is not the same as the desired behavior, we'll have a problem.

I agree with you fully that we game designers must keep these things mind, and I also agree with you that MW nade spamming could be seen as a problem of level design.

Where I disagree is that saying that it is a failure of level design implies that the solution would have been better level design. There are other solutions to the problem.

Nils Pihl
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-error-

Raymond Ortgiesen
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Why couldn't you just update the map? Valve frequently changes maps in response to problems like this in TF2. Is it for a technical reason?

Nils Pihl
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I can't speak for them, but my guess would be that it was a cost/benefit issue. In the AAA arena you don't always aim for being the most popular game for 5 years. I bet the people behind COD were already well on their way with the sequel...

Depending on your game and level architecture, updating a map might not be the cheapest option available to you. I still maintain that there are other possible solutions to the problem.

Raymond Ortgiesen
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Fair enough! There probably wasn't anybody left working on the game by the time this meme was popular enough to be noticeable.

Andrew Wallace
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Also, updating an Xbox game through Live is a much more involved process than someone at Valve updating through Steam.

Andreas Ahlborn
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If it would be a technical problem to update a Multimayer Map on xbox-Live, why can Bioware do it, and Infinity Ward can not? The Mass Effect Multiplayer has a laughable player base compared to call of duty, but when Bioware got more and more complaints that one of the maps was essentially flawed and allowed farming they changed its layout with a patch. This happened despite Bioware making no money with their mappacks (they are giving it away for free) and CoD overpricing their mappacks.

Bret Dunham
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Updating PC maps = free. Updating xbox game requires that you pay MS first. So yes, they can update the maps but generally chose not to. And fixing the nade issue would be easy fix. Any junior level designer can address that.

Nils Pihl
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-error-

TC Weidner
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I never understood predetermined starting points or respawn points. Randomization solves many many problems.

But as for "some" gamers ruining it for others in these FPS. I have to agree. Hacks using Aimbots are a reason I find little fun in this public PC server games, and companies unwillingness to really address it, but that is a whole other discussion.

Nils Pihl
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COD maps were a bit too small to have random spawn points, but other games have successfully implemented randomization. Wanting random spawn points definitely puts a lot of pressure on the level designer, but it could well be worth the effort.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Nils Pihl
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@Joshua

You'll have to go back in time and look at old games. Games like Quake and UT would respawn you at random places, for one, but that might not be what you are looking for.

Ghost Recon was a team-based tactical shooter that had four spawn points per map, which was enough to keep the game from getting repetitive, imo. The teams would be randomly assigned a spawn point (provided you hadn't turned random spawn points off), and the first couple of seconds/minutes (depending on map size and design) of the game was about figuring out where the enemy team was.

[User Banned]
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Luis Guimaraes
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It's still widely used, Joshua.

[User Banned]
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[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Nils Pihl
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I can't seem to reply to your comment, Joshua... Gamasutra is timing out. Trying again:

Tetris is not that interesting from a meme point of view, being a single player game with no built-in way of observing the behaviors of others.

[User Banned]
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