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Rock Paper Scissors - A Method for Competitive Game Play Design
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Rock Paper Scissors - A Method for Competitive Game Play Design

January 23, 2007 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next
RPS, Signals, and Separation of Signal and Attack - Where We End Up

Now there is no longer an exact end strategy, but rather a more abstract strategy. The following are a few strategies which can develop (keep in mind these are only a few of the many that can develop at this skill level):

  • The defender cannot rely on initial signals to counter the attack. He must hesitate and attempt to predict or detect when the attacker will commit to an actual attack.

  • The attacker realizes that the defender tends to hesitate so he strikes preemptively (without faking) destroying the defender's ability to rely on hesitation.

  • The defender cannot rely on signals so he attacks while the attacker is "faking".

  • The defender realizes that the attacker's ability to separate signal from attack is reduced when the attacker is placed under stress. Therefore, he can also create signals which may cause the attacker to evaluate whether the signal will actually be followed by an attack. This will reduce the effectiveness of the attacker in separating signal from attack.

The Nintendo game Super Smash Bros. Melee is a great example of an RPS system with signals and separation of signal and attack. The RPS system is present in the the strengths and weaknesses of attacks. Shields block most attacks and give the opportunity for counter attack. Throws can penetrate shields but require the attacker to stand close to the defender (at least for most characters). The proximity requirement (and the speed for some characters) of throws give the defender the opportunity to preemptively attack with faster attacks.

Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. Melee

Signals are present mainly by positioning. All attacks have a defined area of effect relative to the attacker. Some attacks can only connect directly above or below the character, while some in front or behind.

Learning the speed and area of effect for attacks is the first step in recognizing signals. The second is to learn the most common uses of each attack. For example, jumping in the air and pressing down and A with Link causes him to perform a lethal downward thrust with his sword. This attack is one of Link's most powerful. If an attacker playing as Link is in the air above a defender, it is likely he will attack with the downward thrust. This is a signal which can be reacted to with a shield, roll, dodge, or upward attack.

Of course, these signals are not completely tied to attacks. Players are free to fall downward as Link without performing the downward thrust. Instead an attacker can fake his opponent by performing a second air jump or air dodge. If the defender reacts to the signal by attacking with an upward attack, the attacker's fake is successful and he can take advantage of the opening the fake has created.

It is difficult for a player to keep track of all signals and behavior patterns of his opponent, especially when he is attempting to attack, throw false signals, and take advantage of openings. To be effective, the player must develop patterns. This is a natural technique for managing complex tasks, and without patterns players would be overwhelmed with decisions.

However, any pattern can be detected by the opponent and reacted to. Therefore, the challenge for players is to reduce their predictability by quickly establishing patterns which are effective, but changing the patterns as soon as the opponent has identified them. Although rather abstract we can reach the following conclusion: The end strategy of a Rock Paper Scissors game with detectable signals which can separated from the attack is to be adaptive and to recognize opponents' patterns quickly.

Let's Get Practical

As an example, consider the sport of soccer. This sport follows the design patterns described above.

The players experiment with the game. They learn how to attack each other.

To begin, imagine a young child just learning how to play soccer. At this point, he is experimenting with the game and learning the attacks. Of course, in soccer, players rarely attack each other directly. I use the word "attack" more loosely to mean an offensive maneuver. This could mean dribbling the ball, passing, or shooting at the goal.

The players realize that each attack has a counter attack or defense.

The realization that each attack has an effective counter attack or defense is rather evident, and children learn this quickly. If an attacker has the ball and is dribbling it toward the goal, a defense that is effective 100% of the time is to simply take the ball from the attacker. This requires the defender's feet to be in the right place at a given time. If the attacker moves the ball to the right, then the defender must react and move in the same direction to stop the ball.

One player may find one attack which is effective against his opponent.

As children learn the game, they develop attacks which they find to be most effective. This could mean always moving to the right to avoid defenders or kicking only with the left foot.

After numerous attacks, the defender will recognize a signal for the attack.

A perceptive player or coach will recognize patterns in opponents and react to them. Knowing that an attacker will always move to the right when approaching a defender results in a very successful defense.

By recognizing the signal and knowing the counter attack or defense, the defending player is able to react to the attack and stop the attacker.

Having the knowledge that your opponent will always perform a particular attack gives the defender an upper hand. With this knowledge, any attack in soccer can be stopped.

The attacker realizes that the defender has detected a pattern, so he performs a different attack.

If a particular player always performs the same move and is continually stopped, he will eventually try something new. Rather than always shooting at the goal from the same spot, a player may try passing the ball to a teammate or shooting from a different spot on the field.

Of course, soccer is generally not this controlled, but this is quite likely in a video game.

The defender learns the signals for other attacks and is able to effectively counter them.

Players eventually learn to read the body movements of other players and are able to predict where the player will move. If the player leans or turns a certain way this is a signal that he will move in a particular direction. Being able to read your opponent is critical to stopping him.

The attacker realizes that the defender is reacting to his signals, and with the knowledge that signals can be separated from attacks, he attempts to "fake" his opponent.

Attackers learn to perform fakes with their body and ball maneuvers which can trick defenders. A player may sweep his foot to the left, barely missing the ball, but tricking the defender to move that direction. He then is able to push off of that foot and move to the right with the ball, effectively avoiding the defender and continuing down the field.

If the defender is conditioned to react to the signal the fake will be successful, and the attacker will be able to take advantage of his opponent's conditioning.

Since experienced players have played soccer for a long time, they tend to make an association between particular body motions and resulting attacks. If an attacker can give the right signals to a defender he can effectively "fake" the defender.

The defender realizes that the attacker can separate his signal from his attack, and cannot rely purely on reaction to defend against attacks.

Defenders can no longer rely on initial signals as it is possible that a skilled attacker may be performing a "fake". Therefore, the defender must rethink his strategy and react dynamically to the situation rather than following a set pattern.

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

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