Saturday, October 18, 2014

Strategies In Gaming - The Helpful, The Woeful and The Random

Sometimes it takes strategy to make the winning play.

Links of Interest:
Strategy Video Game
Baseball Tiebreaking Rule

If there is one element of a video game that I love to discuss, it would be the strategic element. Whether I am playing a game that puts a heavy emphasis on the use of strategies or if strategies are just in the background of a game that relies on other elements, I can't deny how influential the development of strategies are in video games. Gamers in general differ from each other when it comes to how they approach a game, They will play games differently and they will value certain aspects of a game differently. Gamers will prefer certain items of an Inventory Menu over others and they will customize how they want to tackle obstacles, racetracks or game boards.

Gamers who are pure strategists will analyze and dissect even the more simplistic features of a video game and they will want to keep pounding away at the features that puzzle them the most. There will be points in levels where gamers will scratch their heads and wonder why they can't get past those points. The initial strategy to use, the one the game openly provides you as you play, may not be the one that suits you as a player because sometimes you will use that initial strategy and it just won't work for you. Not that there's anything wrong with the initial strategy, but the fact is that not all gamers will be able to execute initial strategies 100%.

Basically strategies are often developed on the fly once the player reacts to certain events that occur in a game. There are many of us who experiment from time to time and there are many of us who will come up with ideas that we are skeptical about at first, but then we find out they were the best ideas to implement. The classic board game of Chess requires players to think many moves ahead and consider the possible outcomes that come with the strategies they go to battle with. How a player uses a piece to attack his or her opponent's army depends on that player's self-made goals.

"What part of my opponent's army will I attack? Which piece or pieces do I want to take away from my opponent first? Which parts of the board do I want to claim? How should I string my moves together?"

Sometimes strategies that are developed by players need to be developed under the consideration of the rules of play. Some video games require the players to do different things, and even by a level-by-level basis, players are not always being assigned to achieve the same objective. The strategies you develop will be based around the objectives and around the rules that prevent you from doing some things that you would like your character to do.

For example, you approach a bridge that's about to collapse and if you don't cross that bridge in time, you will fall into the river. Your objective is to collect an all important ruby that your opponent's army is protecting and the rules state that you need to address the obstacle and not cheat around that obstacle. In other words, you can't hop into a riverboat and get across the river or else obtaining the reward wouldn't be as satisfying considering the rules. You have to come up with a strategy to cross the bridge by utilizing the bridge.

What is a strategy? A plan of attack, a plan of defense, a plan of counterattack or even a plan of just "We'll wait and see what happens." A strategy is something you form because you are intending to come up with the best response for an action that is taken by your opponent or by the game's system. There are a few video games where you can get away with not having a solid, concrete strategy partly because there is no need for a strategy. However, there are a few video games where you will be exposed for not developing a strategy and you will lose often because of that inaction.

Example - RPG

While I am not fond of digging into this genre very often, I do know that RPG's implement spots in their realm where players have to develop strategies in order to overcome various obstacles such as boss battles, character challenges (as in a new character will pop up and challenge the player's party), puzzles, quick time events, etc. RPG's do rely on strategic elements and I do appreciate that staple of the genre.

Example - Real-Time Strategy Game

Real-Time Strategy games (or RTS's for short) are another example. Strategy is part of this genre's name, so clearly strategy is used in this genre. Implementing your points of attack, developing schemes, pushing forward or pulling back the pawns that you control in this kind of game, and how to use certain departments of your inventory provide the structure of Real-Time Strategy games. The intense occurrences aren't as much of a key thing in this genre as opposed to the actions that are taken to get to those points.

Example - 4X Game

What about 4X? Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate? Players are bound to come up with strategies in this genre as well. Even though it isn't so much talked about, the 4X genre is fascinating when you look at the genre's key ingredients. Players explore through small and large maps to get a better understanding of what their gaming world is like. Players then expand their territories, making settlements wherever they please whether by negotiating or by force... You know? "THIS MEANS WAR!" *cue dramatic music*

Also exploiting the surroundings wouldn't hurt either in 4X.  Players collect items of interest, resources that they feel are valuable, and they will come up with creative ways to enhance the usage of these items. Utilization is very key in many games that involve extensive Inventory Menus, and in 4X this is definitely the case. You want to improve on what is given to you with this Exploit feature, and yes, strategies are developed even with the smallest of items.

Exterminate? This part is simple in 4X. Attack and eliminate any rivals that get in your way. You are in it to win it and you will not allow an opposing player to stomp on your parade and take parts of your territory. The territory that you have is so precious to you, and you will do everything to protect your land. If you have defend your turf through battle, then so be it. The best strategy is sometimes to just wing it like MacGyver and plow right through a foe. Hey, this has happened to me in other gaming genres!

Now why did I show a link to a baseball report? Well, consider the source material. It talks about an independent baseball league introducing a new rule to the historic game. From the 11th inning on in the case of an extra inning ballgame, a runner will be put on 2nd base automatically to begin the inning for the offense. We can really call this a strategy on the part of the baseball league for trying to come up with a way to shorten extra inning ballgames. With mumblings of there needing to be ways to develop faster flows to a baseball game, you could say this would be one way of doing so. Sudden rule changes in video games do force players to adjust their strategies to accommodate the new situations, similar to a new baseball rule implementation.

Strategy isn't everything in video games but it is a unique and useful tool if players ever get in a pickle. Strategies map out possible results for players and they present a structure for players to follow. Picking up on the tendencies of opposing players or enemy AI can lead to different strategies, and as we have seen in the history of video games, developing strategies can have a positive impact on how much a gamer replays a game.

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