I appreciate that the powers at Stardock are not even thinking about the GC2 Metaverse at this stage, but I would like to
get in early to provoke some thinking after my experiences playing GC over the past couple of years. Historically, the
Metaverse design changed over that time and I think that created some significant consequences for the playing group. It
would be nice if we could have a debate about these kind of issues so I thought I would start the ball rolling. I think the
Metaverse was a critical feature of establishing a long term gaming community and it is definately worth the effort to
discuss and analyse.
The first design change was the alteration of the scoring from a linear progression to an exponential one. Higher Mpts/game
were awarded for playing at higher levels, but Masochistic difficulty scored a LITTLE higher than Crippling. A change took
place to an exponential scoring system where Maso difficulty was awarded a GREAT deal more than the next lowest level. For
players who were committed to the Metaverse competition, there was only one logical response: everyone started to play at
that level. The Strategy Forum blossomed to create set plays to win at Maso and the pressure was felt all over. A number of
players, who were not comfortable at that level, stopped or reduced playing, as they could no longer see any value in
playing given scores at anything less than Maso were of any value to their Metaverse and Empire scores.
Stardock's response, quite reasonably, was to suggest that they expected the players at the top of the tree to be
submitting at the hardest level. Fair enough - although it forced the playing group down a narrow alleyway when you take
into account the other design issues: weighting the different types of victories (military, alliance etc) and capping the
maximum score. Neither in itself is critical, but the effects are seen clearly in today's GC Metaverse: look at the top of
the board, and all you will see are 60,000 pt Maso Alliance victories. The best players are forced down an ever narrowing
street to keep their positions atop the tree, and lesser players are potentially discouraged from participating. Is there a
way to construct a Metaverse that provides challenge and a sense of achievement to ALL, regardless of playing skill?
A common response is: "play the game, not the Metaverse". Can't we do both? Playing the Metaverse, especially as a member of an Empire, is the one facet of the game that has kept me around for so long, and I think that applies to many gamers. Playing the Metaverse is a hell of a lot of fun - we should try hard to give that to everyone, regardless of skill level.
The problem is deciding how a player completing games at say, Simple, can possibly 'deserve' to stand beside a Maso player
at the top of the table. It is a problem of perception, as well as of scoring formula. Many players have, in other threads on the GC boards, suggested a variety of weighting combinations to overcome this.
My feeling is that no weighting system, no matter how complicated, can overcome the 'quality vs. quantity' component of
gameplay. Even if one were to give a Normal victory one point, and a Maso victory 100 points, they could still conceivably stand next to each other on the table if the Normal player put in enough games. Seeing Simple, Tough and Maso players on the same board compares apples with oranges with pears. These players are all playing very different games.
I don't expect a ladder for each difficulty level in the game; I though it might be possible to coalesce them in the
following manner (the boxing analogy is purely illustrative):
cakewalk + simple + beginner = "Flyweight"
normal + tough + challenging = "Middleweight"
crippling + painful = "Heavyweight"
maso = "Superheavyweight"
The beginner might work their way up through the flyweight division, perhaps winning that and advancing to middleweight (at
any stage, when desired). If desired and good enough, they could even take their turn at the heavyweight division, which
would attract the most prestige. If you just wanted to make a career out of being the flyweight Metaverse champion, you
could just do that happily without comparison to the middle- and heavyweights.
Also, your score at heavyweight would not be affected by the time you had put in as a flyweight - scores in each division
should be UTTERLY independent, calculated only on the basis of the number of games you have scored in THAT division. You could always go back to flyweight and experiment with strategies without disturbing your heavyweight rating.
This only has relevance for those players wishing to submit to the Metaverse. The GAME remains unchanged - only the
processing of scores submitted to the Meta is different. Empire scoring would remain an aggregate, unchanged from the
current system. Accessing the metaverse might show you the top three from each division, and clicking on the relevant
division would take you to a continuous list for that division in the same way the main list does now.
Trying to account for difficulty levels in aggregate empire scoring gets back to weighting formulae, and I reckon that's
something of a dead end, as it will never solve the 'quantity vs. quality' issue. It might be possible to weight the scoring in each division and say that for empire scoring:
flyweight scores x 0.6
middleweight scores x 0.8
heavyweight scores x 1.0
superheavyweight scores x 1.2
...equals a player's overall contribution to their empire on the empire tables.
I'd be interested in any reflections from Stradock or GC players - I think GC2 represents a real chance to evolve a
different kind of "online gaming" experience and we should grasp it with both hands!