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Subject: How often should you lose a co-op game? rss

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Philip Becker
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A friend and I are co-designing a co-op dungeon delve game. And I know our balance is getting close to where we want it because we've lost our last two play tests.
Has anyone else been involved in play testing co-op games? How often should you lose? I feel like as the designers we have a slight advantage since we designed the system, so I imagine that if we win 90% of the time, new players would win less often. Is that okay?
 
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Joe Salamone
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I would be more likely to play a co-op that is very hard to win than one where I might win 50% - 90% of the time. I think it makes the victories sweeter when they are tougher to attain. If I could conquer a co-op most of the time, I would probably lose interest.
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Michael Bonet
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If I remember correctly from my interviews with Matt Leacock, the ratio was around 60/40 (win/lose) though you could probably invert that ratio without any loss of players (40 win/60 lose). I like a difficult co-op, one that beats the crap out of you. If the game is too easy, why would I play it again? If it is too hard, then why am I wasting my time?

Good luck.
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Holger Doessing
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This also depends on game length. If the game is short (like Pandemic) I'm okay with losing a lot. If the game is longer and more involved I want to stare into the abyss throughout the game and win by a hair around half the time.
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Michael W.
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For me a win percentage of 25% to 33% is the sweet spot. It's a challenge to win the game though not frustrating.
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C Bazler
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For me, a 40-50% win ratio is perfect. Any harder/easier than that and I start to get frustrated/lose interest.

After 5-6 plays each, I've still never even come close to winning Ghost Stories or Friday, and I haven't had the urge to return to them in a long while.
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Michael Bonet
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cbazler wrote:
For me, a 40-50% win ratio is perfect. Any harder/easier than that and I start to get frustrated/lose interest.

After 5-6 plays each, I've still never even come close to winning Ghost Stories or Friday, and I haven't had the urge to return to them in a long while.


Ghost Stories is even more difficult on the iOS, and I've never won the game in real life.
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Mark Langford
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It also depends on how skilfully you play it......whistle
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Santiago Eximeno
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For me, 30% win ratio is ok. And it's bettter if I can set difficult in game (for example in Flash Point: Fire Rescue).
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Travis Hill
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Hornauer wrote:
For me a win percentage of 25% to 33% is the sweet spot. It's a challenge to win the game though not frustrating.


This!
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Rob Harper
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I'd argue that the overall win:lose ratio isn't all that important.

What I would like to see is a game that initially you lose, but within a play or two you get to the point where you are seeing ways to improve your play.

Over the next X plays you progress to the point where most of the time you are losing, but "just need one more turn", and maybe occasionally get a win.

Then eventually you get to a point where you win more often than not, but then are able to change a setting to move up a difficulty level and have to learn more tricks to get back to the winning ways.

For me, the speed at which you progress from mostly losing to mostly winning is the critical parameter. How you tune this will probably be tricky, and different curves would be good for different groups.
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Kevin Salch
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I think 2 things.
One a pure win/loss ratio from 33-> 60 %

But I want to feel like it was close when I lose/win. Occasionally, being stomped by the game is OK. But I want to feel like, "if only..." we could have won. In Flashpoint for example, We rescued 6 out of 7 when the building collapses. (this is better than we rescued all 10 with no danger.

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Christine Biancheria
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Hornauer wrote:
For me a win percentage of 25% to 33% is the sweet spot. It's a challenge to win the game though not frustrating.


Agreed
 
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Caroline Berg
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For me, I prefer to lose more than I win. When my win ratio creeps into 90% I'm disappointed. It's no longer a challenge, and I prefer to be challenged by my games.

So add me to the group that enjoys a 25%-40% win ratio.

I also like to feel it was close when I win/lose. Though I don't mind being stopped some of the time.
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J C Lawrence
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While I don't play co-ops, as a one-time Dwarf Fortress player I prefer games I always lose, games in which it is impossible to win; the only question is how long I can hold off the darkness.
 
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Andrew Walters
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You should almost definitely lose the first time you play. Nothing chills me on a solitaire/coop more than winning the first time. If you're always going to win it's just a thing to do, not a game. If there's skill involved there should be a learning curve, right? So you should lose at first and after win just under half.

Best is to have a simple system to adjust the difficulty...
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Daniel Kearns
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In co-ops, losing should be a learning experience. You should be able to look back, see what went wrong and make adjustments. If you can do this, losing becomes winning because you still feel like you've made progress.

This is what killed Ghost Stories for me. I would lose, not learn anything useful and not improve. Although I played appx 6 times on the table and appx 12 times on the iPad, I never felt like there was any progress.

Maybe lack of progress is enitrely on me or maybe the system is too random or maybe the system is too opaque. Whatever the case, I'm not a fan.

I feel that if you're setting the game state to ensure a 50% loss rate, all you're doing is ensuring that the decisions of the players don't really matter.
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Jonathan Villemure
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In my view, a perfect co-op game would let you win at least 50% of the time, but then it would also have optional objectives that would result in different levels of victory, so you could have some kind of rating for your performance : Failed, Good, Excellent, Perfect.

That way, the group would have to chose between triggering the end game with a plain victory or continue pushing for additional objectives at the risk of failing the mission altogether.

I'm still waiting for that game...
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Thomas Lajeunesse
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polyobsessive wrote:
I'd argue that the overall win:lose ratio isn't all that important.

What I would like to see is a game that initially you lose, but within a play or two you get to the point where you are seeing ways to improve your play.

Over the next X plays you progress to the point where most of the time you are losing, but "just need one more turn", and maybe occasionally get a win.

Then eventually you get to a point where you win more often than not, but then are able to change a setting to move up a difficulty level and have to learn more tricks to get back to the winning ways.

For me, the speed at which you progress from mostly losing to mostly winning is the critical parameter. How you tune this will probably be tricky, and different curves would be good for different groups.

Exactly.

The three things for maintaining interest in a cooperative game are :

1. Can I see ways to improve my results ? And I don't talk about getting better dice results or card draw, but things in my strategy as a player that I can do better ? Like some typical mistakes I made that I can understand not to repeat ? Or a knowledge of the game universe that could reveal profitable (a good example of this is in Arkham Horror when you get to finally understand that all the areas for portal appearances are not equivalent, since there is not the same number of cards for them in the deck...)

2. Do I feel some hope that I could manage a victory ? If the game just tramples me, I may be too discouraged to want to try again. But if I get the feeling that it was out of my reach by just a few turns / cards / points / whatever, then I will definitely come back to it.

3. And yes, there is this ratio issue. The game needs not to be beatable every time once you got the hang of it. Having several levers to tweak the difficulty is a good way to allow for further challenges. As for the ratio itself, I would say it depends on the public the game is intended for. For gamers, it must be below 50% win, maybe between 25%-33%. For lighter players, it should probably be nearer to this 50% limit.

But the thing is : you can never be sure if players will understand the mechanics for winning. For instance I've often heard people saying that Ghost Stories is too hard, that they never get to win, even in standard mode... My ratio is now maybe around 66% wins in this mode, and I don't think of me as a master genius. I just found some tactics that seemed appropriate...
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Craig C
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dkearns wrote:
In co-ops, losing should be a learning experience. You should be able to look back, see what went wrong and make adjustments. If you can do this, losing becomes winning because you still feel like you've made progress.


A couple people have mentioned this, and it echoes my thoughts on it: a percentage isn't as important as being able to tell why you lost, and have an idea what you could do differently to have a better shot at winning next time.

If the game is set up so a good strategy (the exact game will determine which strategies are good/bad) will get a win, but perhaps makes it difficult for players to spot what that good strategy is, at least initially, then it's a well-balanced co-op.

Even better, if the game has conditions that require changing the strategy on the fly, and doesn't allow the players to see the pattern to victory from the outset, it'll be engaging, win or lose.

Pandemic is a challenging game, but it also has the capability to have a mahjonng-like card setup that makes it impossible to win (doesn't happen often, but my wife and I had a perfect storm of 3-cube locations and card flips that resulted in 8 outbreaks before she'd taken her second turn), so it's probably more important your game avoids situations like that than it has a certain win percentage.
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Bill Eldard
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Duncan wrote:
polyobsessive wrote:
I'd argue that the overall win:lose ratio isn't all that important.

What I would like to see is a game that initially you lose, but within a play or two you get to the point where you are seeing ways to improve your play.

Over the next X plays you progress to the point where most of the time you are losing, but "just need one more turn", and maybe occasionally get a win.

Then eventually you get to a point where you win more often than not, but then are able to change a setting to move up a difficulty level and have to learn more tricks to get back to the winning ways.

For me, the speed at which you progress from mostly losing to mostly winning is the critical parameter. How you tune this will probably be tricky, and different curves would be good for different groups.

Exactly.

The three things for maintaining interest in a cooperative game are :

1. Can I see ways to improve my results ? And I don't talk about getting better dice results or card draw, but things in my strategy as a player that I can do better ? Like some typical mistakes I made that I can understand not to repeat ? Or a knowledge of the game universe that could reveal profitable (a good example of this is in Arkham Horror when you get to finally understand that all the areas for portal appearances are not equivalent, since there is not the same number of cards for them in the deck...)

2. Do I feel some hope that I could manage a victory ? If the game just tramples me, I may be too discouraged to want to try again. But if I get the feeling that it was out of my reach by just a few turns / cards / points / whatever, then I will definitely come back to it.

3. And yes, there is this ratio issue. The game needs not to be beatable every time once you got the hang of it. Having several levers to tweak the difficulty is a good way to allow for further challenges. As for the ratio itself, I would say it depends on the public the game is intended for. For gamers, it must be below 50% win, maybe between 25%-33%. For lighter players, it should probably be nearer to this 50% limit.

But the thing is : you can never be sure if players will understand the mechanics for winning. For instance I've often heard people saying that Ghost Stories is too hard, that they never get to win, even in standard mode... My ratio is now maybe around 66% wins in this mode, and I don't think of me as a master genius. I just found some tactics that seemed appropriate...


And for us, the theme also plays into the ratio. Our first co-op was Knizia's Lord of the Rings, which I think we won once in a dozen tries. But that was in keeping with the hobbits' impossible quest in the triology. We do much better with Shadows over Camelot, Flash Point: Fire Rescue, and Pandemic, where winning once every 12 times would be too frustrating.

Generally, I'm comfortable with the 25-40% range for wins.
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David Janik-Jones
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dkearns wrote:
In co-ops, losing should be a learning experience. You should be able to look back, see what went wrong and make adjustments. If you can do this, losing becomes winning because you still feel like you've made progress.

This is what killed Ghost Stories for me. I would lose, not learn anything useful and not improve. Although I played appx 6 times on the table and appx 12 times on the iPad, I never felt like there was any progress.

This. I felt after about 10-15 games of Ghost Stories I was doing nothing but hitting myself in the face with a brick. Won't ever play it again.

I have a wider range for my win-loss ratio than others have I think ... for wins as low as 25% and as high as 70% ... depending on what I'm in the mood for. Those won't be in the same game, probably. But I like a wide range of games from light to heavy so expect the same ranges of difficulty from different co-ops. Again, it depends on what game I'm in the mood for.

The question is also discussed by designers of computer games in terms of how to best balance and create reward and punishment mechanisms to make sure people keep playing.
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Silver Robert
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About 75%, after I've played the game a dozen times. It doesn't mean that the wins should be easy, I should have to snatch them from the jaws of defeat. Anything lower than that when I'm experienced and I start to think there's less strategy to the game and more of a luckfest.

The thing is, I don't know how you can extract any meaningful information from the reported values. Different people have different skill levels and 50% win ratio could mean Pandemic with 4 epidemic cards to one person or 6 epidemic cards to someone else. Without a frame of reference I'm not sure how to make the answers here useful.
 
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Nat Levan
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I see it in thirds. You should win about 1/3, Lose by a lot about 1/3, and the remaining 1/3 you should almost win.
The "almost win" category is the most important. If you feel like you're constantly banging your head against the wall, it's no fun. And it's no fun if you feel like the wall isn't there either.
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Lucas Smith
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clearclaw wrote:
While I don't play co-ops, as a one-time Dwarf Fortress player I prefer games I always lose, games in which it is impossible to win; the only question is how long I can hold off the darkness.

Interesting.
I am not a coop player either, but I can imagine that unwinnable games might be a little frustrating for the average audience.
(allthough some gamers might enjoy exactly that and that's fully ok.)
 
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