It’s no secret that I play a lot of competitive first-person shooter games. While I vary in skill from an absolute noob to top of the leaderboards depending on the game and match I play, I do play a fair share of competitive games. Often times these become my podcast games, where I just mindlessly shoot things while hearing about video games, history, or forgotten TV shows. And yet, I seem to do okay most of the time with not that much focus.
However, there’s one particular quirk about these kind of games that bothers me. One that’s been set in stone since the early days of online deathmatching with Doom and Quake almost 30 years ago. Something that has become more of a problem in recent years: Unbalanced teams.
We’ve all likely had those kind of experiences, the ones where you realize the other team is just too good, and there’s no way in hell a victory is on the horizon. You get fragged frequently, oftentimes by people with reflexes so sharp that you’d swear they’re hopped up on amphetamines. You may get a lucky frag or two, get a “comeback” medal, but it’s not enough. The game ends with an outright blowout: 100-48.
Sometimes when players see the writing on the wall, they’ll bounce out of the game mid-match, forfeiting an XP bonus for staying with the match, ending up with a game that ends up being 6 vs 3, making it more lopsided and unbalanced, even as new players join in to make it balanced again. Back in the day you’d see players swapped over to the other team to try to balance things, but not anymore. Once a team’s in a game, that team’s set in stone until the game ends.
For some, it’s discouraging. It feels like one’s skills are inadequate enough to play these games. It demoralizes the player, so they may not give their best. Thus when the odds are stacked against your team, and they know the other team’s filled with the kind of player that’s likely doing sick YouTube frag videos, it just stops being a fun experience.
Granted, some games like Call of Duty have made it so if you joined a losing game in progress that it doesn’t count as a loss against you, but it’s a patchwork solution to a bigger problem. Even recent elements like Skill-Based Matchmaking, which has become sort of a bane to some high-level players, can only do so much to help out games that are clearly favoring one team.
I’ve thought about this problem for a while. While I am not a game designer – I tried that in community college and it went over my head so much that one of our team members, a person with Actual Gamedev Skills and is likely in the industry nowadays, had to bail us out of our final class project – I am familiar with some of the tenets of game design that I think I can make an idea to resolve this. I’ve called it the “Mercy Rule.” It’s not a catchy title, but I think it works in theory.
How does the “Mercy Rule” work? Well, if there’s a large score discrepancy between two teams, the game ends early, regardless of time or frag limit. The winner is immediately decided, XP is rewarded, and everyone’s moved back to the lobby. A fairly simple rule that I think could make a slight difference in terms of multiplayer gaming. Letting games end early with this new Mercy Rule could make a difference when it comes to gameplay. It means matches don’t drag along to the finish line, games finish quicker, and there’s more incentive to stick around rather than ragequit, especially if there’s some extra incentive like bonus XP or something.Continue reading…