Tobold's Blog
Friday, June 10, 2016
Perfectionist vs. good enough

I'm having trouble recently finding a nice new tactical or strategy game I like. I've been trying a bunch, both on Steam and the Apple app store, but repeatedly stumbled upon the same problem: Scripted situations where you are expected to find the one perfect solution. It is not that I can't find that solution, it is usually possible with a few tries. But I don't enjoy that sort of gameplay. For me finding the perfect solution, the one perfect sequence of moves, is the gameplay of a puzzle game, not a tactical or strategy game. I prefer tactical games like XCOM 2, where the situation is at least partially randomized, there isn't one scripted perfect sequence of moves, and your goal is to achieve a "good enough" result, e.g. fulfilling the victory conditions with no soldiers dead.

To some extent that reflects a wider outlook on life of mine: I am not a perfectionist. I am a believer in the Pareto rule, which says that 80% of the task takes 20% of the time, and the remaining 20% take 80%. Which means that if you have a reasonable idea of what "good enough" is, you can achieve far more work by not pushing every task to 100% perfection. Often enough the last bits of perfection go unnoticed, unappreciated, but took you most of your time.

Where perfectionist games annoy me is that most of there time there is only one perfect sequence of moves to achieve the perfect result. The "good enough" result can be achieved by more different ways, which allows me to *play*, as opposed to *work*. So I hate it when my reward for finishing a scenario depends on having done that one perfect sequence, because I'm getting punished for wanting to try out different approaches instead of the one that the devs planned. Furthermore I have a sneaking suspicion that this requirement for perfection is a cheap trick: If the player needs to play the same scenario repeatedly until perfection, the devs have to create fewer scenarios.

Have you considered Total War: Warhammer? It's the latest release in the Total War collection but the first that's set in a fantasy world.
Total War: Warhammer is on my Steam wishlist. I'll buy it at a sale, but I wouldn't pay full price for it. Creative Assembly has a long history of Total War games that have an above average number of bugs, and a below average AI. If they fixed both of those, I'd pay full price for their games.
Have you finished Xcom 2? Do you recommend it?

I have never seen you talk about Paradox games I think, what is your take on them? I have spent a lot of time on Europa Universalis 2, 3 and 4 and like them all a lot. Maybe the new Hearts of Iron 4 is something you could consider picking up?
And again a chance to plug the Shadowrun games by HBS :-) should be clear by now that I love them.

Not only is your combat style different when you put different teams together but many of the missions in Hong Kong can be completed without violence at all. Also some missions let you choose between factions or if you're tough enough just fight everyone.

There are some points were a perfect answer leads to a karma point or two more, but you'd have to look them up before playing the mission. Too few points to really matter.
Wasteland 2 is free to play this weekend and the entire series is on sale. I believe you can pick up 2 and all the DLC for $20. Give it a shot.
I think it's less of a "trick" in the sense of cutting down on development costs, but more a natural result of having a less demanding audience, both on the devs and themselves.

AI can easily be made more difficult without giving it unfair advantages by, say, giving it a buffer of the player's previous actions and making decisions based on known patterns, but the audience that wants that is very small. For most people, the "real game" can only be played against another human; for the rest, it's much more difficult to create a good-enough strategy and execute it at a high-enough level to beat the AI—especially an adaptive AI—than to find the one-and-only strategy that anyone can pull off. Can't alienate the bottom line.

Design-wise, it's a step up compared to the older standard of letting the AI downright cheat and ignore some mechanics altogether, and when done well, can make the player discover solutions that may have never come up when left on their own. In most cases, it's still possible to use your solution, but it's so much more difficult that it's easier to find the dev-given perfect solution.
Have you played Renowned Explorers: International Soceity?

Has a really nice blend of overarching node map (think FTL) with a strategic turn based encounter/combat system.

Each game is five locations that you explore to achieve a "high score". They run a weekly community challenge as well which is what keeps me engaged (create a team using a rule set and post your score).

The "best" players get scores over 11k, I sit at around 6k having improved from 4k. Put 60 hours in and still having a blast.

Pretty cheap, $20 on steam i think or you can get a key from one of the key-reseller sites if you are that way inclined.

100% recommended and I think you would love it.
Yes, I played it. But just two or three times before I found it a bit too repetitive. Funnily enough a game with "explorer" in the name is more apt for achievers who want to maximize their score than for explorers.
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