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Subject: Strategy vs. loophole rss

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Tuomas Korppi
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In an another thread thread there seems to be attitude that playing a game with a strategy that is not the intended way to play a game constitutes exploiting a loophole, which is unethical. I strongly disagree with this, because in my opinion it is a benchmark of a good game that it allows strategical development beyond the intentions of the game designer.

To me, this is obvious. Namely otherwise you would be allowed to use only those strategies that the game designer had in mind. Hence, the game designer is by default the best possible player of the game. If you beat him, you obviously use something he did not have in mind, which by the view I'm critisising, constitutes cheating.

If we look at the history of strategically rich games such as chess or go, the game design came first, and the strategical development only later. For example, the guy who devised the rules of modern chess, did not know modern opening theory. It came later. However, these later developments in chess strategy are not loopholes, but they are the very thing that prove that chess is strategically rich enough to allow international competition.

EDIT: More poetically, we could think of games as the children of the game designer. When the players develop strategies beyond the intentions of the game designer, the children grow into adults. If a game does not allow such a development of strategies, the game remains as a child.
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Jason Hinchliffe
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
In an another thread thread there seems to be attitude that playing a game with a strategy that is not the intended way to play a game constitutes exploiting a loophole, which is unethical. I strongly disagree with this, because in my opinion it is a benchmark of a good game that it allows strategical development beyond the intentions of the game designer.

To me, this is obvious. Namely otherwise you would be allowed to use only those strategies that the game designer had in mind. Hence, the game designer is by default the best possible player of the game. If you beat him, you obviously use something he did not have in mind, which by the view I'm critisising, constitutes cheating.

If we look at the history of strategically rich games such as chess or go, the game design came first, and the strategical development only later. For example, the guy who devised the rules of modern chess, did not know modern opening theory. It came later. However, these later developments in chess strategy are not loopholes, but they are the very thing that prove that chess is strategically rich enough to allow international competition.


I think a well designed rule set is emergent. It creates a palette from which to choose and blend colours so to speak. However, there is a very distinct line between emergent gameplay, and a broken loophole the designer (and playtesters) failed to see.

A good example is Panic Station. The designer, and playtsters, failed to notice, that there was a statistically better than 50% chance based on the rules as written, that if the players simply did nothing but explore, they could win the game without there ever being an infected player.

This, of course, is light years outside the "spirit of the game" because you WANT someone to be infected for it to be any fun. However, it is within the rules, and by playing this way, you can game the game to win. This was not something that was intended by the designer, but clearly not in a positive way.

So, I submit, there is a distinction that needs to be recognized.

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Stefan D
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it is a benchmark of a good game that it allows strategical development beyond the intentions of the game designer.

That happens in most good games without the exploitation of loopholes, Tactics evolve.

Loopholes are exploits, and more often than not ones that actually break games.

So whilst not explicitly against the rules is never the less using a technique that (again, if if its a loophole) can usually lead to a significant advantage whilst not actually playing the game.

Then again you have exploits that aren't loopholes that transcend intentional strategy that also break games.
(Few acres of snow and the Halifax hammer comes to mind)

IMHO abusing loopholes and exploits more often than not ruins the fun of the game being played (as usually it becomes a race to exploit a loophole.. or you are using it against someone who doesn't know it which makes you kinda douchy)

Obviously not all exploits and loopholes fall into this category. but personally I just don't think its cricket.
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Gruhm Axebattler
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Gruhm is failing to see distinction. "Gaming the game" is same as "doing the thing that makes you most likely to win" which is what good strategy mean. Good strategy exist outside of game. Game is rules, strategy are rule manipopulation.

Edit: Gruhm am also curious. Do you believe players should intentionally make poor plays just to avoid "exploitation" in their strategy? Someone who am new to game may not know of strategy, but they won't learn to be good at the game if they keep playing players who are intentionally bad.
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Tuomas Korppi
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I can see the distinction between a rich strategical world and a single, easily applicable too good strategy, which both are usually not intended by the designer. If we so wish, we can call the latter a loophole. However, I do not think that exploiting a loophole (in this sense) is unethical. In my opinion, it does not ruin the game, but rather reveals that the game was not good to begin with.
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Chris Ferejohn
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I expect it's fairly situational. While what you are saying about Chess, Go, etc. is certainly valid, there are also situations where someone is exploiting a poorly worded or thought-out rule to create a dominant strategy. This is not 'maturing' the game, it is breaking it.
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Chris Ferejohn
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
I can see the distinction between a rich strategical world and a single, easily applicable too good strategy, which both are usually not intended by the designer. If we so wish, we can call the latter a loophole. However, I do not think that exploiting a loophole (in this sense) is unethical. In my opinion, it does not ruin the game, but rather reveals that the game was not good to begin with.


I'd say it revealed that the game had a loophole - it doesn't necessarily invalidate the entire design.
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Stefan D
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Gruhm wrote:
Gruhm is failing to see distinction. "Gaming the game" is same as "doing the thing that makes you most likely to win" which is what good strategy mean. Good strategy exist outside of game. Game is rules, strategy are rule manipopulation.

Edit: Gruhm am also curious. Do you believe players should intentionally make poor plays just to avoid "exploitation" in their strategy? Someone who am new to game may not know of strategy, but they won't learn to be good at the game if they keep playing players who are intentionally bad.


There is a difference between solid strategies and one/two game breaking strategies.

If you have players just racing to be the first to exploit one particular loophole/exploit or if it really easy for someone to do it.. where is the fun in playing the game?

You aren't playing a game, or playing the people playing the game really. In Chess you play the player.

As ive said there are small loopholes which can be fine, but in many cases loopholes and exploits can be pretty game breaking.
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Gruhm Axebattler
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Jetpac wrote:
If you have players just racing to be the first to exploit one particular loophole/exploit or if it really easy for someone to do it.. where is the fun in playing the game?
Gruhm think two things. First if game not fun the game aint good. Why defend bad games? Secondly, if game are having game breaking mechanics the game is broken, not the player choosing to use mechanics. Players can't break games, they just discover how broken game can be.
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My favorite golf course in my home town - they were hosting a college championship one year and one team figured out that on a certain par 5, they could just ignore the layout of the fairway, and instead tee off at a completely different angle, land in a relatively safe spot, and get to the green in 2 strokes much easier than if they played the hole the way it was designed. They didn't leave the course to do so, and they suffered no penalty to do so.

Strategy or loophole?

(PS - the course planted a tree to block the "alternative" route shortly after the championship)
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Stefan D
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Gruhm wrote:
Gruhm think two things. First if game not fun the game aint good. Why defend bad games? Secondly, if game are having game breaking mechanics the game is broken, not the player choosing to use mechanics. Players can't break games, they just discover how broken game can be.


Of course you are right its the game broken not the players.. but the players make the choices to exploit the design errors.

Games can still be fun even if there is a game breaker in there. The solution is just to house rule not to use it in the spirit of enjoying the game.

Again for example a few acres of snow. Fun game. Halifax hammer pretty much breaks it.
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Stefan D
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Both. I think small loopholes/exploits can be fine. Its the game breakers that are the problems (which unfortunately many loopholes and exploits can turn out to be).

 
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Tuomas Korppi
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Jetpac wrote:

Games can still be fun even if there is a game breaker in there. The solution is just to house rule not to use it in the spirit of enjoying the game.


I think that a good ruleset is such that it is possible to mechanically check whether a move is valid, and the line between an allowed and a prohibited play is sharp. If you just ban a strategy, you lose these characteristics. (For example, it may be possible to play something vaguely resembling the banned strategy. How close to the banned strategy you are allowed to go?)

I am not against house ruling to fix loopholes. However, the fix should make the unwanted strategy a bad strategy - not a banned one.
 
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Simon Lundström
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If the purpose of the game is ONLY to WIN (and I have full respect for people playing like that, even if I don't myself), then all possible loopholes are absolutely fine tactics.

I play a lot of games that would be exquisitely boring if played only to win. Both board and video.

Edit: typo.
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David Sevier
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Depends on the loophole. If it is simply a poorly worded rule or an omission, then I would ay that it is up to the players to determine how they want to play the game.

For example, last night I was playing Betrayal at House on the Hill with some friends. We had a haunt where we activated a statue that needed to stop the traitor. We couldn't find any rules that mentioned whether or not the statue could explore rooms, be effected by events, or the like. After pondering a bit, we decided that the game would be broken if we could do that so we ruled that it could only go to explored rooms.

Was the game broken? It could have been, had we decided to play that way. But we decided to play the game in the spirit of competition and not exploit a vague rule set.
 
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cferejohn wrote:
I expect it's fairly situational. While what you are saying about Chess, Go, etc. is certainly valid, there are also situations where someone is exploiting a poorly worded or thought-out rule to create a dominant strategy. This is not 'maturing' the game, it is breaking it.


Couldn't agree with you more!
 
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Steven
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
In an another thread thread there seems to be attitude that playing a game with a strategy that is not the intended way to play a game constitutes exploiting a loophole, which is unethical. I strongly disagree with this, because in my opinion it is a benchmark of a good game that it allows strategical development beyond the intentions of the game designer.

To me, this is obvious. Namely otherwise you would be allowed to use only those strategies that the game designer had in mind. Hence, the game designer is by default the best possible player of the game. If you beat him, you obviously use something he did not have in mind, which by the view I'm critisising, constitutes cheating.

If we look at the history of strategically rich games such as chess or go, the game design came first, and the strategical development only later. For example, the guy who devised the rules of modern chess, did not know modern opening theory. It came later. However, these later developments in chess strategy are not loopholes, but they are the very thing that prove that chess is strategically rich enough to allow international competition.


I assume you are refering to this thread, Olympics and Cheating?.

I have a feeling the disagreement, found in that thread (and this one) is a subtle one. Something on what is the difference between a game vs a sport. Are there philosophical differences where in one view, in a "game", where attempting to push the boundaries of the rules to your advantage might be acceptable, while in another, in a "sport", it might be frowned upon?
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Tuomas Korppi
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SW_Cygnus wrote:


I assume you are refering to this thread, Olympics and Cheating?.


Yes.

Quote:

I have a feeling the disagreement, found in that thread (and this one) is a subtle one. Something on what is the difference between a game vs a sport. Are there philosophical differences where in one view, in a "game", where attempting to push the boundaries of the rules to your advantage might be acceptable, while in another, in a "sport", it might be frowned upon?


In my personal opinion, there's one difference. Board games are played in a closed, mathematical "micro world", which allows them have mathematically exact rules. Sports happen in the real world, which means that they must have more inexact rules. For example, in soccer it is IMO ok to prohibit intentional physical hurting (what's the correct English word for breaking bones and such?) of the opponents.

However, it is my personal opinion that this kind of banning intentions should be kept to the bare minimum, and for example banning intentional losing is not necessitated by the game happening in the physical world. (The same losing strategy could be used for example in a mathematically exactly defined chess tournament, if it used the same tournament format)

However, sports have also other rules that ban intentions in a way that I deem inappropriate. For example, in Snooker you must make your best effort to hit the target ball even if some other play would be more beneficial.
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Philip Thomas
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Loopholes are closed by changing the rules. This can be done with house rules or officially with errata, living rules, etc. etc, but is done outside of playing the game. If you can't close the loophole efficiently by changing the rules, because that would destroy some other desirable feature of the game, maybe it isn't a loophole at all- maybe it is a strategy.

Strategies are countered by developing other strategies. This is done within the game. If there is no counter to a strategy, maybe it isn't a strategy at all- maybe it is a loophole.
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Stefan D
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SW_Cygnus wrote:

I have a feeling the disagreement, found in that thread (and this one) is a subtle one. Something on what is the difference between a game vs a sport. Are there philosophical differences where in one view, in a "game", where attempting to push the boundaries of the rules to your advantage might be acceptable, while in another, in a "sport", it might be frowned upon?


That my friend... is an extremely astute observation.
With me definitely coming in as a sportsman to that argument i can see that distinction now!
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Steven
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Punainen Nörtti wrote:
In my personal opinion, there's one difference. Board games are played in a closed, mathematical "micro world", which allows them have mathematically exact rules. Sports happen in the real world, which means that they must have more inexact rules. For example, in soccer it is IMO ok to prohibit intentional physical hurting (what's the correct English word for breaking bones and such?) of the opponents.

However, it is my personal opinion that this kind of banning intentions should be kept to the bare minimum, and for example banning intentional losing is not necessitated by the game happening in the physical world. (The same losing strategy could be used for example in a mathematically exactly defined chess tournament, if it used the same tournament format)

However, sports have also other rules that ban intentions in a way that I deem inappropriate. For example, in Snooker you must make your best effort to hit the target ball even if some other play would be more beneficial.


First let me open this by saying that I love board games and playing them... before I type this:

I have a feeling, that the "micro world" you describe could also be defined as an abstracted inhuman world and that there is a difference between a pure strategy/mathmetical/abstracted game and... to be frank a human or physical game. I guess that is where I am trying to show that there may be different ideals between what some are seeing as a game and others are seeing a sport (and visa versa!).

In a physical game, or sport, you are typically looking for "pure" physical skill outcomes, which is the ideal. Which is why sports enhancing drugs are considered cheating and why gambling, or throwing games is banned. I am struggling to articulate this, as you can imagine, but I think that is where the disagreement regarding "loopholes" and "cheating" is stemming from.

Its simply a whole different philosophical outlook. Having played sports in high school and college, its a very different mindset than when playing board games.

I am not arguing that you are wrong and they are right, just that in different arenas, there can be very different outlooks are what is considered correct play and what is not.
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Stefan D
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I think you are spot on.
 
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The attitude from that other thread represents people I would not wish to play with. The thrill of a competitive game is that everyone agrees to a set of rules, then everyone tries to exploit those rules to the best of their ability. Creativity and decision making is involved here. Without it, you are not really making choices. Just like in black jack, there is always an optimal correct move. If you memorize all the correct moves, then you aren't really playing the game, you are following a recipe. A good game should encourage players to make decisions. To take advantage of the rules to best suit their goals. If a loophole is in the game to exploit, it not only is ethical to exploit it, but it should be exploited. The exception is when everyone realizes that such a loophole ruins the fun of all players at the table. In which case, they should all agree before the game starts, to a house rule that addresses the game-spoiling-loophole. A loophole not addressed before gameplay starts, should not be "fixed" in the middle of a game. And if the fix of the loophole takes away all player choice, or makes there be one optimal path, the game has other problems too. Note: I am not saying all games with loopholes would offer no decision making if that loophole were removed. I'm saying it is a choice if it exists. There is also the chance that the rules and/or strategies aren't understood by the players if they perceive this.
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Games break when an interesting decision between the subset of answers that the designer knew of is answered by an uninteresting, mechanical answer that is not part the subset of answers that the designer knew of which leads to best play, making the decision meaningless.

In sports, a tournament breaks when it eliminates the incentive to win any particular match.
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Benjamin Maggi
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No rulebook for any game I have ever read has prohibited taking a crowbar to your opponent's head during a game, yet doing so would clearly give the attacker an advantage.

Aside from any legal issues involved, would doing so be considered "exploiting a loophole?"
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