Trying to make a custom map in Minecraft appears to be the 2nd most popular thing among geek culture – probably because it is the easiest alternative to actually learning a programming language and making proper games (which, not surprisingly, comes in 1st) – and like a majority of the millions of people who have bought Minecraft (including me!) my friend has made a custom map.
Fortunately, I can safely say his custom map is better then average, in fact, it seems pretty fun, but there was one big boo-boo that me, the annoying and often slightly obnoxious person who thinks he knows how to make games, felt obliged to point out:
The map is a PvP map, designed to be played on a big PvP server with 32 a side, most maps on the server are often very similar, with swarms of people building walkways and tunnels and pummeling each other with TNT in a giant orgy of death.
Here’s how nearly every map on the server was designed:
First, put in two cores, one for each team, players must try to destroy their opponents core while protecting their own. These focus points act as seemingly attractive women in the death orgy, vortexes that drag the battle toward them.
Then add two fresh spawns, these are the doors through which the participants of either team can enter the blasphemous erotica pit, ready and eager in their togas.
Finally, a dabbling of chests filled with Viagra and recreational devices so as the keep the event interesting.
And let simmer for three minutes.
And viola, one vomit inducing stew of disgust that is enough to make an ancient Greek gag!
And most of the maps layouts are the same, the blue teams spawn and core close together at one end, and the red spawn and core at the other, this is not done because the people making the maps have no imagination, this is done because it is the ONLY WAY THAT WORKS.
My friend however, had made his map in a different way, grouping both spawns together at one end and both cores at the other, this, to me, seemed the equivalent of abducting someone and operating on them so instead of the messy layout that their face had before, their eyes are now neatly arranged on the left side and their ears on the right.
And me, being the aforementioned big-headed moron decided it would be a good idea to point that out.
You see, by doing that you have made the game easily winnable by the first team to trap the other team in a spawn kill, and the crap loads of cool weapons and armor didn’t help prevent that. Putting the spawns together meant spawn killing was easy and having the cores far away made them impossible to defend if you were being spawn killed. Basically it makes the game really really volatile.
Volatility is a term I came up with to describe the runaway effect that a lot of games have, I.E. In Star Wars Battlefront (Which I consider one of the best shooters ever made ever): Each army has a garrison number, every troop killed causes that garrison number to go down, and the lower your garrison number the less concentrated your troops are in the arena, making it easier for the enemy to kill more of your troops and so you garrison drops down faster and faster. Like a ball on the peak of a hill, once it starts going down one side it picks up more and more steam and is harder and harder to push back up, the volatility determines the steepness of the hill, high volatility is like a ball on a mountain, low like a ball on an only slightly curved plain, my friends ball was balanced on a pin.
Now, different games have different levels of this, Pong has none, Risk has lots, Uno is an example of a game with negative volatility, (A ball in a bowl, if you will) In Uno, the less cards you have the harder it is to lose cards. Games with slightly more then 0V are mostly dependent on skill, the further up or down you do from that the less it becomes about skill and the more about luck.
Why the tactics level peaks at slightly MORE then 0 is the same reason why games have high volatility in the first place, not because that is accidental (although high-V does have the benefit of making it easier for new players by putting emphasis on chance, more on that later) but because it is a necessity. Think of all the things associated with strategy games and you’ll find that most of them are about winning an advantage over your opponent, taking out his queen to weaken him or taking control over some important minerals to strengthen yourself, strategy games RELY on volatility to be interesting, even if that means it gets pretty boring once you know you’re going down.
Additional V’s also come as a consequence of fun, lots of things that make games fun are also things that give you an advantage over your opponent, adding power weapons that people must fight over adds enjoyment at the sacrifice of making that hill steeper. These things, once again, rely on volatility, if they didn’t give you an advantage over your opponent no one would go for them, and by giving you an advantage it makes it easier to gain more advantages. When you battle your opponent in a PvP match you are being a mild tactician as well, aiming your TNT cannon at the opponents loot chest in the hope of destroying their valuable stocks of Viagra and thereby making it harder for them to continue to operate in the orgy. (You thought I’d finished with that metaphor, didn’t you?) Without volatility the soul of the game would be gone and you’d be left with a bunch of sleeping naked people not seething like a school of fish but stacked like dead sardines.
But to much volatility is like a poison, it sucks out all the skill and decreases the game time. Matches may only take a few seconds in a game with V’s in the hundreds, all it takes is a gentle push to get that ball rolling, a game with an excessively huge number would be totally dependent on the immediate actions of each player, those actions would spell out the rest of the game, and because luck takes prominence in little time while skill takes prominence over long matches, the game is primarily down to chance.
Starving a game of V’s also causes problems, without the aforementioned tactics games feel stupid, there’s nothing to fight over just mindless playing, you can create tactics without volatility, but it is hard. Fifa, for example, has a low volatility but is still engaging, and has a vague amount of strategy to it, but it may be considered that if you count each time you nearly score as a point, then scoring one point makes it harder for your opponent to score another point because they have to get the ball all the other way to the other goal. Hence why football games often have a lot of near misses by one team until the ball goes over to the other side of the pitch then a lot of near misses are made there and so on.
Putting things far in the negative simply makes a game impossible, this MAY be useful if you wanted to have a continuous battle (like the war in WoW), in which no one side will ever gain power over the other. Interestingly, negative volatility brings back chance in a similar way to positive, but not to as great an extent, as luck comes back into play in ensuring that final push.
Volatility really only applies to battle games, games in which it is either player v player or player v AI, and therefore can be properly won or lost. Most other games, if extended to fit this analogy, would come out as negative V because the levels get progressively harder. However, it does raise some good questions in game design, do you want high V or low V? Or no V’s at all? Or negative V’s! All of this is stuff you should ask yourself before designing a custom map in Minecraft or just a battle game level in general.
Keep the death orgy rolling people.
Have an opinion? For gods sake don’t hold it in! Let me know in the comments.
Also, does anyone have a reliable way to actually measure volatility? That way we can give a V rating to everything!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joseph, or Lawsome, as the internet folk call him. He spends a lot of time making games, most of which fall apart or don’t work and are never published, but the few that survive can be found on his account at Yoyogames http://sandbox.yoyogames.com/users/Lawsome1997. He mainly enjoys writing about game theory but you’ll see him do a few reviews. He avoids games that look generic and would rather play something original than something fun. He has strong opinions on games and can hold his own in an argument, if you tell him that COD MW3 is the best game ever he may bite your head off.