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[SUGGESTION] Making Vanilla more enjoyable for Newbies

#1
TL;DR: promote usage of cl_handicap as "official" "ethical playing" policy, show handicap setting on scoreboard and implement a mechanism to deal with ELO calculation

With all the discussion about why there are so few new players that actually stay in order to learn the game (leading to yet another balance fight involving ethics and politics and whatnot), I decided to toss in something that I have been tinkering around with in my mind for quite some time already now.

I do enjoy this game as it is very much, and changing this game to meet the expectations of players that don't like this game as it is would most probably make it a game that I do not any more enjoy very much. In my opinion, we should focus on the newcomers that would actually enjoy this game as well but get turned away by the high skill discrepancies between them and any semi-experienced player. The frustration of not getting a single kill and/or constantly dying before even realizing at what spot of a map you are can indeed be a challenge to endure. I myself have made the experience of emptying ffa servers even if I tried not to take any megas or only use one weapon or even play slap only. All of these self-imposed handicaps did in the end not reliably prevent me from winning while the handicap was very well perceivable to everyone and interpreted at times as mocking or trolling.

So I started setting a handicap for myself whenever playing FFA, and adjusted the handicap so I end up in the middle of the scoreboard. Ever since I did that I was playing nicely at full force on FFA servers, surviving and scoring proved to be challenging again and I was having a lot of fun while being able to make the game more interesting for the other players as well by simply adding to the player count. This is why I would like to promote this very neat feature that Xonotic offers for ages already.

For everyone that didn't know, you can set your handicap (it's a client side setting) by issuing
Code:
cl_handicap <value>
in console, whereas the <value> defines the factor by which damage you receive gets multiplied and damage you deal gets reduced. I use values between 1.3 and 2. As it is a client side setting, you'll need to report it to the server after setting it by doing
Code:
sendcvar cl_handicap <value>
For obvious reasons values below 1 are not interpreted by the game :o)

I would like to have this feature become part of the playing ethics for experienced players. I believe that anyone that cares enough about the game to actually learn how to master it (at least to a reasonable extent) will also care about the community, which is one of the key "selling" points of Xonotic imho. It should be self-explanatory that by performing a one-man raid on public FFAs you are harming the community by turning away potential new members. On the other hand we need more players to populate servers in order to attract new players. By setting a handicap, experienced players can enjoy challenging FFA matches while at the same time having the opportunity to support the community:
  • by helping to populate servers
  • by demonstrating movment techniques literally en-passant
  • by stirring other player's interest in gameplay mechanics simply by utilizing them
  • by answering questions
  • by representing Xonotic community as respectful and friendly
Now I am aware that many advanced players are closely monitoring the size of their ELO. Setting a handicap could have a severe impact on your ELO of course, as you perform significantly worse (that's the whole point, isn't it). I would suggest to acknowledge handicap settings for ELO calculation in some sort. I don't know if it is actually possible but if it isn't or if it is too complicated we can always just automatically disable ELO tracking for handicapped players.

In order to make setting a handicap more rewarding for the player's EGO, we could implement a handicap column in the scoreboard that shows the current handicap of a player. Maybe we can even introduce certain ranking badges that get shown next to the player's name in the game or on the scoreboard depending on the handicap the player used - some fancy icons that cannot be replicated by the player name configuration. All of this could also help generating interest in the handicap system and skill levels in general.

What do you people think of this idea?
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#2
So, if I understand well, some newbie servers would have this feature enabled by default?
In that case, yes, I guess that would be fair to disable any tracking/ranking. But, to juge one's abilities, that could be interesting maybe to calculate its handicap depending on its ELO ranking (automatically)?
My point is that, on servers like that, the best you are, the worst your handicap would be. But it does not change your stats, so it's fair to play.
Of course "classic" ranked servers would disable this.
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#3
The main problem is the skillcap. A handicap for good players is the best solution and not change the gameplay.
A Implementation in the ELO Ranking system could be done, so nobody has to worry about ranking.
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#4
(09-04-2017, 05:18 AM)Lyberta Wrote: Or maybe just make a mutator that adds handicap to players who dominate, like 1st place with 5 frag lead. Should be extremely easy to do.

Would be extremely interesting as well, but it should use more than just the current game's rank, I think. Maybe stats like raw damage-per-second, general accuracy and other instant player stats would be necessary for a fair handicap calculation (for the current game played).
Anyway, we might need to take into account the gametype, so ELO is not that representative of one's skill.
But we got access to the leaderboard for each of them, which could be weighted and used in the calculation.
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#5
Just for a better understanding: this is NOT about configuring a server so it forces a handicap upon dominant players. I was trying to point out that dominating players should be given incentives to set a handicap out of their own choice because
  1. it shows good manners and earns you respect,
  2. no one thinks you're actually playing that bad for real as everybody can see you set a handicap, and
  3. this doesn't make you lose ELO anyway.
It shouldn't be server controlled or forced imho but more of a general best practice sort of thing for experienced community members. Hence my hint to an "ethical playing" policy. Of course no one is expecting experienced players to handicap themselves in pickup matches Xo) Showing the handicap in the scoreboard would be something that should be activated by default in future versions of Xonotic whenever a handicap has been used, that's how I meant the suggestion to be.
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#6
Is there any information backing up the idea that people are leaving because of (not just the existence of) massive point differences? If that is the problem why now as opposed to every other time beforehand?
The playerbase could be declining because of the game getting stale. E.g my POV, the big difference 0.8.2 made is that my server doesn't have to upload git csprogs per new client anymore i.e most if not all of the changes were present for months beforehand. The new maps Erbium was around for a while (2015) and Geoplanetary is even older, leaving Boil as the main new thing.
And the very different game types (onslaught, assault) are almost never played because there's barely a map pool for them and the usual Duel, 2v2, DM maps can't be re-used for them.
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#7
Unfortunately, releases don't have much of an impact on most servers, since they use Git, and so have had the new features for months. This also has an effect on players, who think the release was tiny (whereas in reality, 0.8.2 was one of our bigger releases).

I don't believe that is a factor anyway - If massive game changing releases are the only thing keeping a game alive, it is effectively dead.



Maybe we'd be better off asking ourselves why we aren't playing right now... The answer would be far more accurate than throwing wild guesses at the game's balance and casual friendliness.
If that answer happens to be "because nobody else is", then I wonder how many people share that answer? Probably more than enough to fill multiple servers.
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#8
(09-04-2017, 11:38 PM)Mario Wrote: I don't believe that is a factor anyway - If massive game changing releases are the only thing keeping a game alive, it is effectively dead.
Tbh this is how games normally keep their playerbases alive. MMO's or other F2P games will get update patches or expansions.

I'm not playing right now. Because I was playing earlier.
http://stats.xonotic.org/server/6459
But I'm getting to the point FFA DM isn't exciting for me to play, but it tends to be the staple game type that pubs vote for.
And I'd like to play non-insta CTF sometime where the maps aren't big open areas, biased for controlling Vortex.
And some of the usual playing buddies are in Texas, and they were busy being hurricaned.
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#9
(09-04-2017, 10:29 PM)Antares* Wrote: Is there any information backing up the idea that people are leaving because of (not just the existence of) massive point differences? If that is the problem why now as opposed to every other time beforehand?
It of course is an assumption, but as the same experience has repeated itself often enough for me even though I played blaster only or similar, I think it's a valid assumption.

I play frequently now on WTWRP Deathmatch server and ever since I started using cl_handicap, the experience of players leaving the match in bunches has not repeated itself.

And yes, we should be more on the servers ourselves. I try my best. But my point remains, I know I don't care about my ELO ranking so I can use cl_handicap and lose matches all the time and don't even have to tell other people about me playing with handicap. But given how serious many players take their ELO I figure it can help encourage others to use cl_handicap if it would automatically disable stats tracking and other players can see the value of the handicap.

I wish more experienced players would comment on this as the idea of using cl_handicap in FFAs is exclusively directed at them.
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#10
(09-05-2017, 04:14 AM)Halogene Wrote:
(09-04-2017, 10:29 PM)Antares* Wrote: Is there any information backing up the idea that people are leaving because of (not just the existence of) massive point differences? If that is the problem why now as opposed to every other time beforehand?
It of course is an assumption, but as the same experience has repeated itself often enough for me even though I played blaster only or similar, I think it's a valid assumption.

I play frequently now on WTWRP Deathmatch server and ever since I started using cl_handicap, the experience of players leaving the match in bunches has not repeated itself.

And yes, we should be more on the servers ourselves. I try my best. But my point remains, I know I don't care about my ELO ranking so I can use cl_handicap and lose matches all the time and don't even have to tell other people about me playing with handicap. But given how serious many players take their ELO I figure it can help encourage others to use cl_handicap if it would automatically disable stats tracking and other players can see the value of the handicap.

I wish more experienced players would comment on this as the idea of using cl_handicap in FFAs is exclusively directed at them.

Doesn't have to be an ELO thing, can just be a "It's really not especially fun to hit a really great midair for 20 damage" thing, and it really does have to be adjusted that wildly (or more so) for some of the skillgaps in game currently (at which point it becomes obvious to the new player in the same way as allslaps and not grabbing megas). While this is potentially a good holdover until a better solution is achieved, I don't think it's viable as a long-term solution.

The real issue is that new players, and a lot of casuals for that matter, don't understand how Xonotic is played. Ant and I watch players who have been dumping time into the game for months who just spawn with shotgun, maybe pickup 1 weapon and whatever shards are in their path, and then charge in. They rarely pickup megas, and they don't circlejump or rampjump (which are the two important movement mechanics for non-CTS play, and are even used for nodmg shortcuts in official maps)

Some of this stuff can be helped somewhat with new maps, like how Antares' map has taught some people the importance of rampjumping, but for the most part this is going to involve taking a serious look at the new player experience in Xonotic.
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#11
Well I think it is a great idea. But to make it happen, we need to do something with the ELO calculation.
Especially, that when you play with the handicap (which you actually devised yourself, it would boost your ELO if you play lower skilled players with the handicap set to 1 (at least if I understand the principle behind ELO a bit).
This could also work in duels in my opinion. Especially when the handicap the player is using is also shown in the scoreboard.
I like the idea, as winning games with great figures does not only chase away new players, also skilled players get bored of the challenge being too easy.
Thumbs up!!

Kwakkie
[Image: 39855.png]
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#12
You don't *have* to completely disable Elo, though that might be the most straightforward way to approach this feature. One could scale the Elo predictions according to the level of handicap.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#13
Well as soon as you get MORE ELO when using handicap, people will start abusing it. So we will have to deal with changing handicap values during a game, which will be unreasonably complex to deal with from a calculation perspective. The easiest way to go (if handicap can actually be considered for ELO calculation) would be to register games always with the lowest handicap setting used during a game. That way a player can not gain more ELO than actually deserved, only less - but that would then be avoidable and his own decision.
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#14
I'm fine w/ disabling it for handicap-enabled players. However, I'd prefer that this not fully disable ALL stats tracking for the player at the same time. 

I'd like to make the stats submission algorithm handicap-aware and exclude the players *only from Elo points eligibility* who have it enabled. All other stats (kills, deaths, wins, accuracy, etc...) should be captured and associated with the player's record as usual. As of now there is no way to do that, as there is no option that tells XonStat to "do everything BUT Elo for me". For that we'd have to have a player level event in playerstats.qc that sends me a flag. Something like "e handicap 1" in the POST body.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#15
Never heard about cl_handicap, what a fantastic cvar. Can the servers force this on certain players? Cause right now there some servers which ban players in advance, in order to protect newer players. Excluding handicapped games from ELO might motivate elo whores junkies, but this can be also misused to boost elo, by enabling  handicap on games which are basically lost (so the loss doesn't cause ELO reduction).
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#16
Boom - we're working on how the mechanics of it will work. Mario has created a branch for me to test with and I'll put it through its paces. Ideally the handicap status should be collected at the very beginning of the match and cannot be changed midway through. 

There's some other things to consider as well (preventing flip-flopping too frequently, as one example), but I think the core idea is sound.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#17
GREAT to hear you guys are trtying this out!
Thx for the effort Mario and Antibody.

Kwakkie
[Image: 39855.png]
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#18
(09-05-2017, 11:21 AM)Beemann Wrote: The real issue is that new players, and a lot of casuals for that matter, don't understand how Xonotic is played. Ant and I watch players who have been dumping time into the game for months who just spawn with shotgun, maybe pickup 1 weapon and whatever shards are in their path, and then charge in. They rarely pickup megas, and they don't circlejump or rampjump (which are the two important movement mechanics for non-CTS play, and are even used for nodmg shortcuts in official maps)
This is exactly how i feel. The fact that DM is the default gamemode doesn't help. It feels like you can win by trying to kill as much as possible but in fact you're just a frag farm for the people who know what they're doing.

On public DM servers everybody just attacks, attacks and attacks. Even some the people who have been playing for a long time. One of them spawns in the same room as me, I point my nex at him and wait what happens and he charges me with shotgun. WTF. I have quad and people still run towards me and try to attack. WTF

I wish xonstats showed the kill matrix because my guess is that winners in DM get most of their kills from newbies and avoid each other. There's no point in fighting strong players, you're just wasting time when you can be spawnkilling slow noobs.

The handicap is *much* better than nothing but it's a really bolted on / last resort kind of solution.
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#19
I can look into showing the frag matrix in stats.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#20
(09-26-2017, 12:56 PM)Antibody Wrote: I can look into showing the frag matrix in stats.


Since you are more apt to respond on the forums than IRC. I'll ask again,
For players who have quit the game (inactive for x months), what is their win:loss ratio?
For players who currently play the game (last played the game x days ago), what is their win:loss ratio?
For the same conditions above, what is their k:d?
i.e is the low player population of long term or short term, or both, retention issues?

Aggregating above information, what is the hypothetical minimum win:loss ratio that keeps players engaged with the game? What about k;d, same conditions applied.


(09-25-2017, 04:17 PM)martin-t Wrote: I wish xonstats showed the kill matrix because my guess is that winners in DM get most of their kills from newbies and avoid each other. There's no point in fighting strong players, you're just wasting time when you can be spawnkilling slow noobs.
I also have an issue with FFA/Deathmatch being the "default" mode because it's a poor mode to get started on (reasons stated before). Not only is it the default mode, it also is the menu vote bound to the 1 key on votable servers (I put TDM as the first vote option and it becomes a little more popular).

While I don't have the stats to back up the assertions (and I've tried downloading a db snapshot of XonStats).
Assume that Xonotic has a low playing population because new players are losing too often to remain engaged e.g behavioral psychology pins 1:3 as the minimum win:loss rate for the worst player to remain playing the game as opposed to quitting.

    - FFA/Deathmatch is x number of players with only 1 winner, the rest, x-1  being losers.

Mathematically, the mode generates more losers per match than it would team-based modes e.g CTF or Team Deathmatch. Because the frags have to come from somewhere, there's going to be a similar situation where one or few players have a k:d above 1, and the rest beneath.

However, the playing community culture that Xonotic faces is that teams have to be balanced otherwise people play free-for-all. So the team mode has to be popular enough (instagib or vehicles) to have enough players on both teams where a slightly larger team doesn't make too big a difference, or it needs bots to fill in.

However the bots are dumb and more likely a liability because the settings in bots.txt makes them dumb (and barely anyone bothers with it) and a large portion of Xonotic's content is borrowed from custom maps from Quake mapping community so the bots aren't even waypointed.
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#21
I was using my "xonotic" subdomain to host a server for an event. I've reverted it back to what it was before (plain HTTP server). This snapshot link should do the trick.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#22
(09-26-2017, 08:23 PM)Lyberta Wrote: Yeah, default should be TDM or even CTF with a few bots per team. That's how it is in Red Eclipse and it helps a lot.

The shotgun charge can now be fixed with random start weapons.

You're missing the point for the mention of "shotgun charging". They shouldn't be charging off spawn to begin with; however they do so because:
  • It's a viable tactic in crowded FFA (e.g 5+ players in map designed for Duel or 2v2) sessions where there aren't enough pick ups for players and there's a good chance a nearby player is low enough to get finished off by a shotgun
  • It's a viable tactic in Overkill because the shotgun's damage in that mod is 170'ish at close range.
  • It's a viable tactic in modern shooters because it is conventionally the gun that deals a lot of damage.
The shotgun is just an exceptionally poor choice.
Random start weapons adds unfairness and can give a poor impression of the game.
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#23
(09-27-2017, 04:55 AM)Lyberta Wrote:
(09-26-2017, 08:57 PM)Antares* Wrote: Random start weapons adds unfairness and can give a poor impression of the game.

Random start weapons make the game easier and give more chances to score frags.

You shouldn't compromise fairness for ease.
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#24
I'm a bit unclear as to what DM being the "default" actually means. Are we talking about what UI items are actually highlighted when someone goes to the "create" tab, the order of the items in the gametype voting screens, or something else entirely? If we can be more specific about what we think needs changing I'd be happy to create an issue on Gitlab for it or put it to a team vote.
asyyy^ | are you releated to chuck norris?
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#25
Could I remind everyone that this thread is NOT about changing any defaults in the game and especially not about forcing anything like a handicap onto skilled players but rather about the idea that we could develop a sort of FFA playing etiquette for skilled players by (officially) encouraging the use of handicap in FFA games on a strictly volountary basis? This includes actually promoting the use of handicap by skilled players (as quite some people were asking me "what do you mean, handicap, what does it do") and reducing the bar to actually use it by making elo consider the handicap or at least disregard scores. I'm not against forcing dynamic handicap on dedicated newbie servers but would strongly object to it for normal ffa servers (and of course it wouldn't make any sense whatsoever for pickup servers).
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