Tobold's Blog
Friday, December 08, 2017
 
Quitting early

I still play a lot of Magic Duels, still nearly exclusively against the AI. It is in the nature of that game that there is a certain randomness which is independent of your skill in building decks or playing the game. Sometimes you don't draw enough land, or draw the wrong color of land, and sometimes you draw too many lands and no spells to cast. Sometimes you draw exactly the right mana and spells of the right cost to play with that mana and start the game perfectly. The same is true for your AI opponent. Thus sometimes you get in a situation where your AI opponent had a perfect hand and is playing creature after creature, while either don't have the mana or the spells to do anything much to stop him. After a few turns you already know that you will lose. Knowing that the AI opponent won't be offended, I frequently quit in situations like that.

One of the reasons why I don't like playing Magic Duels in PvP mode is that some people think that this behavior is also okay if you play against a human opponent. And I disagree with that. Imagine a sports event where one team decides to give up at half time and not to play the second half of the game, because the first half makes it near certain that they lost anyway. That would be completely unacceptable behavior is sports. Because winning is not the only thing a match is about, it is also about playing. In Magic a human opponent who has set up a great attack doesn't just want to get a quick and easy win by the other guy conceding, he wants to play out the game until that win. Quitting early is impolite towards that other guy, provided that he isn't an AI who doesn't really mind.

A lot of games these days have no penalties at all for quitting. To some extent that is due to the problem that half of all players lose in a PvP game, so games have tried to hide that fact by rewarding the loser a bit and the winner a bit more. And you don't want a disconnect being interpreted by the game as toxic player behavior and punishing that player by a lot. However that does end up in a situation where quitting early in a game which you aren't clearly winning might actually be the best strategy. Because games are frequently set up in a way where you can immediately start the next game, and staying until the end of a game when the rewards for losing slowly and quitting early are the same is a waste of time you could have spent winning the next game.

I remember a lot of people in the early days of internet gaming enthusing about the internet bringing people from all over the world together. But somehow that ended up with dehumanizing our human opponents: Many people don't think of their human opponents as real people any more, but consider them to be more or less equal to an AI opponent. People who would never cheat in a board game with friends around a table do cheat in multiplayer video games. They don't even consider whether their opponent might quite like to play a game until the actual win condition, but quit early in order to earn rewards in the next game faster. And game design frequently encourages that sort of behavior. Players end up being content in a game for which the devs were too lazy to program an AI. And somehow between all these developments we lost a bit of humanity.

Comments:
I strongly disagree. I would never want to force someone to stay in a game where the outcome has already been decided, where a real-life event has come up requiring their attention, or where they are just no longer having fun. If someone needs the emotional satisfaction of playing out a grand attack, the AI is perfect for that sort of thing.
 
I think that you are failing to consider a few things. The foremost of which is that while some may consider it poor sportsmanship to to quit early, it is likely far poorer sportsmanship to force your opponent to sit there helpless while you beat them.

Consider a control deck in Magic, or one of the prison combo decks of old. They can set up a situation where it will take them many turns to win, but victory is certain. In these situations, is it reasonable to enslave your opponent and force them to let you grind them down? Surely not.

As much as you may wish to execute your huge attack, they likely wish even more not to sit idly by and have to suffer it. So whenever this argument crops up, it always seems to me to be far more toxic than simply leaving a game that has largely ceased to be a game, and is merely an exercise in watching a player in a powerful position punish a player in a weaker position.

The sports comparison is also somewhat unpersuasive,as there are many differences. One of those is that most team sports are designed with spectators in mind - particularly at a high level. So while it may be unsportsmanlike to rob all of those viewers of a full game, that comparison at best only applies to high level E-Sports in digital card games.

There may also be an argument to be made regarding the opportunity cost (most sporting events are single ticket items, you don't just immediately move on to your next match). I'm not sure this is the most important distinction, but it's worth throwing in.

There is also the notion of culture. Much of Magic culture in particular has grown out of the tournament scene, even amongst those who never go to tournaments. And one of those is the idea that rather than being unsportsmanlike, and early concession is actually the more sportsmanlike decision. This is because it provides more time for the remaining games (less time for a draw), as well as potentially a longer break between rounds for both players. This is why there are strict rules against stalling, but no punishments for hasty play. Respecting your opponent's time is held as a much higher ideal than letting him bash your face with a large creature.
 
As others have mentioned conceding in Magic is a standard response to being in an unwinnable game state. If I know that nothing I can draw from my deck will save me from defeat, the only reason to play on is to see what other cards the opponent might have in his/her deck so you are better prepared for game 2. The suggestion that it is unsportsmanlike to concede a game would bewilder a tournament Magic player.

Part of playing Magic seriously is knowing that you can't win all games and sometimes luck will triumph skill. You don't dwell on it but simply move on the next game.
 
But that is mostly valid for tournament Magic. I don't believe that the majority of people playing an online computer version of Magic are playing at tournament level or with tournament attitudes. If sitting face to face at a table with an opponent I would at the very least ask him whether it is okay to concede.
 
That doesn't really answer the problem of it being problematic to force your opponent to watch you beat him. When I sit down to play a game and when that game is functionally over because I have such a commanding position, why should I get the right to force my opponent to watch me execute the final moves while he is powerless to stop it?
 
I would say the majority of early quits are not in the "I'm powerless, so I quit" category. It's more like "I'm slightly behind, and pulling a win out of this would be a bit of a slog". People on the internet are not very patient these days.
 
Are you familiar with the expression "throwing in the towel"?
 
I don't think you can compare the damage a boxer would take when not throwing in the towel with the "pain" of playing a few more minutes. If quitting has absolutely no negative effect, why don't I just quit every time I don't start the game with a perfect hand?
 
Perhaps what is needed in games like Magic is an AI that would seamlessly step in and take over the conceding player's deck and hand. Perhaps a simple dialogue box saying "Player X has left the game. Would you like to accept his forfeit or finish the game against the AI?". Maybe an option to always finish the game against the AI is needed for those who always want to do so.
 
The old Magic Duels did just that. The new Magic Arena apparently is pure PvP with no AI mode, so probably doesn't have that functionality.

Note that I have seen that "quit early, quit often" in other online PvP games than Magic.
 
@Tobold

So what does this say about trying to put in the effort to get better cards by which to build better decks?

Does it not beg the question about the psychological reasons behind why people quit a game they "think" they are losing? I mean, people wouldn't even take the time to engage in a match if they had reason to believe they wouldn't be competitive, right? Is it a matter of the matchmaking system the game uses, or is the game design itself somehow affecting a players confidence level prior to participating? From what you wrote in your post it seems like there is a huge disconnect between what a player faces against an AI opponent, versus what they face when playing against an actual human.
 
I remember reading a design diary article about manascrew on MtG official site. I can't find the link right now, but it had a phrase very close to: "sometimes you just get no lands. Well, in such cases there's not much you can do".

This is when developers themselves confess their game system doesn't work. They confess that their system has theoretical possibility of an outcome that cannot be influenced by the players at all. What's the point of playing that instead of good 'ol coinflips?
This is when I left and never came back.

For me it's not the question of "would I make my opponent stay when the game is decided", the question is "would I even play a game that can be decided before the last round". It ain't no good design at all, and I'd just look for systems that do not have such problems.
 
@Tobold: pro chess games almost never reach an actual checkmate, they are conceded.
 
I've been playing Elder Scrolls Legends, and I find very few problems in this regard. Most games are played to a finish, and concessions are visibly legitimate to both parties as a rule. Obviously a control deck that has gotten a lock is more likely to see a concession, compared to an aggro deck which is probably going to finish the game on the next turn anyway if the opponent has no answers!

I hardly ever see people conceding just because the odds are poor.

One feature of the game that might help in this regard is the daily quests which often ask players to attack the opponent or silence a creature N times for a gold reward. When they play on, they are at least often working towards completing one or more of these.

As Gevlon says, concession is the norm in chess (and not just for pros in tournaments).
 
This strikes me as something that could be solved with a little game design and semantical differentiation:

If a player hits the “concede” or “resign” button, they’re willingly conceding the match as lost, regardless of when they chose to do so. They should get marked up for a loss on their record and get no rewards for not sticking it out till the bitter end. The bonus is that they don’t have to suffer a long drawn out loss and start a fresh new match more quickly. The winner gets all the standard rewards and a win on their record.

If the player spends the time to lose graciously, then they get the standard little dribble of consolation prize rewards.

If the player just quits and disconnects, then they rack up some kind of dishonor penalty that eventually slows down their time to get a new match quickly. This doesn’t penalize people with one-off legitimate connection issues too much (and if they’re constantly falling off an online game they have no business joining matches until their connection stabilizes), while eventually impeding the habitual quitter.

At the same time, the autonomy of choice is still with the losing player to take whatever action is least painful - at no time does fhe winning player get to bully/dominate the loser in a helpless situation.
 
Ehh...

1) In games with ladders/rankings, the win matters, not fully executing some grand design.
2) In a casual game, why would someone keep playing if it's no longer fun?
3) Preventing concessions is impossible either way, as players could just skip their turn/play badly on purpose, etc.

If you desire a game in which people do not concede early, the obvious solution would be to construct/play one in which the outcome is never a forgone conclusion. How many Monopoly or Risk games are played to the bitter end? Compare that to perhaps a FPS where it's at least conceivable you might be able to get a headshot or something.
 
Consider this: the opponent who concedes does not only save his/her time, but also yours.
 
So why do we all still bother playing? Let’s all just determine the outcome of any game by coin toss, and save everybody a lot of time!
 
The key fact is that the concession is coming after it becomes unlikely/impossible to win. If you want to reduce people quitting, reduce the number of assured fail states. I mean, who benefits from forgone conclusions? It's like a Civilization match where you know you'll win, but it'll take another 50 turns to make it official.
 
I remember the ruckus on early-internet chess sites. The chess communities were completely unprepared for players going to extreme lengths to avoid defeats that reduced their ELO. Reaching mid-game was a rarity. As soon as someone fell behind they would start stalling, spamming draw requests and faking disconnects. The optimal strategy for maxing ELO was to void/fake-quit early-and-often rather than play a challenging game one would probably lose.
That is the problem. If the optimal reward strategy is not aligned with the optimal gg-strategy you'll get lots of games that are not enjoyable as people farm matches to get their reward.
 
One of Magic's core rules states that a player can concede the game at any time and immediately leave the game. It is also the ONLY rule that takes priority over any card text. There are very good reasons for this, most of which have already been stated by previous commenters.
 
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