Sunday, March 13, 2011

Why I Hate My Job

It is not that I don't like tier lists. On the contrary I think they are good for promoting good, healthy competition. Every game is a chance to find a new strategy that proves the old theories wrong. The problem is that some people hold tier lists almost as law. That is, tier lists have a tendency to cause tourney-fag syndrome:

Warning: This picture is really fucking huge.

I mean holy fuck, how many caveats and exceptions do you need to have? 16 stages are banned by this list in Melee. Isn't that, like, 3/4's of all the games stages or something!? There are only two ways to get into a situation like this:

1. The game is inherently flawed.
2. The players are unimaginative and probably shouldn't be conducting exercises in game theory.

SSB is a successful series. Flawed games do not become successful in tournaments and competition, so SSB can't be inherently flawed, or at least not so flawed that 75% of the playing fields are unplayable. Therefore the flaw must lie in the fan base. Just from my chair here vaguely recalling this game, I can tell you how to avoid the speed problem on Hyrule Temple: Don't lose! One of Sun Tzu's first teachings is that the combatant under the most pressure to perform also has the most incentive to win, and will fight more vigorously as a result.  The stakes are higher for the slower character, and since many of them are more powerful to begin with there's a pretty big incentive to go straight for the high damage moves. Only in the most extreme cases can the situation be truly unwinnable.


Now what does any of this have to do with Advance Wars? Well, how long were Tags and Force Ranks written off as broken mechanics in AWDS? Actually let me put that another way: In most Advance Wars circles Tags and Force Ranks are written off. The thing is, if you combine the two as far as potential gameplay goes you're writing off over 10,000 possible player combinations in favor of just 27. That's not unimaginative, that's just pure willful ignorance.

AWBW's gotten us into the habit of thinking Advance Wars has an inviolable balance that cannot be questioned. Of course, anyone who remembers Grimm vs Grit knows that there are always new loopholes in the so-called balance if one knows where and how to look. One of the main reasons I started the Tag Tier project was for this exact purpose: finding new things we haven't thought of. And with all the possible combinations, my "intellectual fellows" have left us with a lot of discoveries to take the credit for.

The old theory with regard to Tags almost always felt as if only one side was assumed to actually be tagging. Why? Who the hell really knows, but that's probably why people got scared of them. Of course, aside from the fact that we now know some Tags to be weaker than some COs, with over 300 combinations just in this area you are rarely ever going to see a Tag vs CO match.

Same thing goes for Force Ranks really. Even though they haven't been tested yet, it's silly to think that only one CO or Tag is going to have them once in play. (Although honestly... I'm probably never going to get around to testing all 10,000 combinations. XD)

Just something to think about. Balance isn't static. Even the oldest standing tier list can change if someone gets creative. Just think outside of the box and don't take people like me at our word... unless of course my word disproves your word. ;)

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