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Discussion: Learning Curves and Game Complexity


cleverpun

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I recently tried playing Android: Netrunner (an old CCG revived as a board game). The gist of the game is that one player plays a corporation trying to protect their assets, and the other player is a hacker trying to break through the corporations defenses and steal said assets.

 

The idea of the game is fine, and it plays well, but it has a massive learning curve. Not only is there the mechanics of it (multiplied by two since each side plays differently and uses different terminology), but there is also the interaction with other players (bluffing/reading is important since defenses and assets are hidden until interacted with), and the large pool of cards/deckbuilding options.

 

So here's my question; at what point does a steep learning curve run into diminishing returns? Having more mechanics makes a game richer, but also makes it take longer to become good at the game. It also makes teaching and learning it a more frustrating experience.

 

A high learning curve can be mitigated somewhat by the community or the publisher providing resources to ease the player in, of course, but that can only go so far.

 

As title, discuss freely.

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This is why me gusta TF2.

The learning curve is not steep at all, anybody can walk in the game and learn the basics within about 2-3 hours of gameplay.

But the learning curve  is what I would say long. There are so many different mechanics that aren't essential, but definitely step up how well you do in the game.

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i dont think a steep learning curve is good in most games. i feel a game like counter-strike, for instance, that has a steady learning curve is beneficial to most games. it shouldn't be a chore to learn a game or get better at it.

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Personally, I believe learning curves are steeped too high when people who are new to a game can't pick it up and play it decently. If there's a tutorial in a game that's very in-depth, but only explains bits and pieces to win a game, it's not a very great tutorial. Take, for example, the TF2 tutorials. The TF2 tutorials shows how to play 3 classes effectively and what the basic movements are to maneuver around the battlefield. However, it doesn't go in-depth to rocket jumping, sticky jumping, and falloff damage. Along with this, it completely neglects classes that have attributes unique to the specific class, and people must learn what each class does specifically through gameplay. For example, I see many people say, "Wait, you can reflect projectiles as Pyro?",  "How do I Ubercharge as Medic?", and even "How is that Heavy spinning without firing? Is he out of ammo?". Only through tool-tips and getting dominated by other players does it show how core game mechanics work.

 

On the other hand, if a game has simple controls such as point-and-click or utilizing only a few buttons buttons (WASD and Left and/or Right mouse click is most common), I feel a game doesn't have too much of a learning curve then as game mechanics aren't too hidden as only a few hidden strategies can be amounted from this. I'll put out a good example in my opinion: Gunpoint. Gunpoint utilizes a left-click for jumping (with charge time and height the longer it is held) and WASD for movement, along with Right-Click for a pistol (once you unlock it) and C/Middle Mouse for Crosslinks. From there, you can create deadly combos with just your mouse, so it simultaneously changes from action to strategy at the same time. 

 

What I'm trying to get at here is that if a game has very complicated mechanics, a tutorial should at least be offered to the player so they can pick it up easily if it's the first time they ever played a game in that series or genre at that. However, if a game is relatively simple and can be picked up by even those who don't play video games, then its learning curve is fine as there will always be new ways to create new strategies, be it by versing the CPU or even other players.

 

P.S. Metas in games are another thing, however, and can only be compromised by either learning the meta or finding the counter to it.

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i dont think a steep learning curve is good in most games. i feel a game like counter-strike, for instance, that has a steady learning curve is beneficial to most games. it shouldn't be a chore to learn a game or get better at it.

Counter Strike is an odd example: it has a high skill floor (minimum skill requirement), and this is as much a result of the playerbase being so old as the game itself.

 

I personally dislike games like that (that's why I didn't really play my copy of CS:S much). I hear CSGO has a lot of matchmaking tiers to help alleviate this, but its still a fundamentally difficult game to learn.

 

words

I think that having simpler mechanics doesn't necessarily create a smooth learning curve. Take Chess for an example: the mechanics and rules are incredibly simple, but it still has an abundance of strategies and counter-strategies (and, generally, getting good at chess comes from practicing and memorizing as many of those strategies as possible).

 

Yes, ideally a game should have intuitive mechanics and controls, but those don't guarantee a smooth learning experience.

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This is why me gusta TF2.

The learning curve is not steep at all, anybody can walk in the game and learn the basics within about 2-3 hours of gameplay.

But the learning curve  is what I would say long. There are so many different mechanics that aren't essential, but definitely step up how well you do in the game.

What you said is kind of contradicting, not steep learning curve, and long learning curve are pretty much the same.  I think TF2 has a gigantic learning curve.  This is why we have a whole entire F2P stereotype that fits every noob who joins tf2.  They're REALLY bad at first, 2 - 3 hours isn't going to help that too much.  Overtime you slowly get better and better and better at the game, and it truly does take a REALLY long time to "master" the game.  Even then, there isn't really a definition of that, there's no skill cap.  Even players with 1000 hours on a single class can be crushed by people who have 2000 hours on that class.  That's what I really love about TF2, it's hard to get bored of a game when there's always more practice to be done :D (even though I suck at tf2, I just haven't gotten bored of it during the small amount of hours I've played it) 

 

Edit: I meant to relate this response to the OP question too.  TF2 definitely is a good example of a game with a giant learning curve.  I am actually surprised at how it has become so popular when it's so unfriendly to new users with the learning curve.  I remember the first time I played tf2 I thought it was hard and weird and didn't play again until a year after that. (but I had only played on a low gravity, instant spawn, mario kart server on that first time)

 

I think this goes to show that almost any game can have a steep learning curve and still be wildly popular.  TF2 definitely wouldn't have so many long-term fans if it didn't have such a big learning curve.  Or else veteran players would get bored and have nothing new to try and learn.  I'm not sure why this is.  In my mind it's logical that a game with basically no learning curve (like some phone apps) would be more popular... but maybe it's our obsession with trying to fully understand and master unknown things that keeps us playing games with huge learning curves from the start.

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By learning curve do you mean knowing the game meta? or actually learning the base of a complex game?

 

A lot of people enjoy learning a game because they go through the experience of playing it the first time, it has a certain appeal that you won't ever experience it again.

 

The limit is when you find it a chore to learn everything in the game in order to play it properly, its the job of the creator to find that limit and make it work their way and add to it in order to make it enjoyable.

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While learning curves are good, there's a certain line where it becomes too much for the casual gamer. Games like TF2 are very easy to pick up, and you can be fairly good at the game without investing too much time-yet at the same time, if you want to become *really* good, then you have the option of investing more hours to develop even further.

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if a game has many stuff and a lot of new patches, it has a higher learning curve and keeps players entertained. take league and dota for examples.

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By learning curve do you mean knowing the game meta? or actually learning the base of a complex game?

I consider a learning curve to include all parts of learning the game. I think knowing and responding to a game's meta is usually the top part of the learning curve, whereas the base mechanics are the lower part.

 

Of course, that's not always the case, depending on the game.

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I think it has a lot to do with cost/benefit. If a game is brain-dead simple then doing it well cannot be rewarding. On the other hand, if you are on the hard road to mastering a game and you can see yourself improving, then it will be greatly enjoyable to preform at the new level and also encourage you to go further.

 

I.e: The cost of learning a hard game has great benefit (it's fun) when you succeed

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In my uneducated opinion, an ideal learning curve should look something like this:

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It can be very discouraging to new players when the game they enter has a high skill requirement right off the bat. For the first few matches, a novice player might be a bit clueless, but they'll pretty soon figure out the basic mechanics of the game. Once the player has learned the ropes of their game, as long as they keep playing, they'll probably learn intermediate mechanics on their own too. However, in order to truly be an expert at the game, the players must learn every single mechanic at their disposal and how to execute them in the best way possible - something much more difficult and requiring much more work then the intermediate-level skills they learned earlier.

 

I think TF2 is a fantastic example of this kind of curve. Although we frequently mock F2P players for failing to understand how to play the game, they'll figure it out eventually, and do pretty well in pubs. The intermediate level of players would probably be the kinds of people that consistently topscore in pubs and maybe tried competitive for a season but never really got into it. In order to be a successful competitive player you really have to put a lot of time and dedication, learn every trick and skill of your class, and overall just put a lot of elbow grease into it.

 

Once again, I've done no research on any of this stuff, so if you think I'm wrong, please say so.

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It highly depends. If you're talking multiplayer games like tf2 or cs:go then in my opinion the very basics should be easy and getting really good takes a lot of skill. Because in the end all you do in shooters is left click on enemies to kill them.

 

But single player strategy games like Europa Universalis and Crusader Kings 2 are incredibly hard to learn. I've played around 400 hours of eu and sort of understand most of it. I've got a pretty good clue of how ck2 works but I've played the game for 1000 hours. And I don't mind that at all, it makes it so that you stay interested in the game. They're also damn hard games

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Again i love tf2 for this reason. You could invite some buddies who have never played on and pub with them, and still have a whale of a time

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