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  1. #1

    The Benefit and Downfall of Team Based Entertainment

    Rusty told me there needs to be some more posts in here, so here we go! I wanted to share my general thoughts about NS2. I'm new to the community here and I wanted to extend my thanks again to Rusty, Tor, and all of the other DMD players I've interacted with. You guys are pretty cool, but I'm probably going to put NS2 down for awhile since it's really lost its appeal to me.

    A bit about myself; I've been playing computer games for a long ass time and I've never been super good at any of them, but I do have a keen sense for game balance and mechanics. I was the head of the development team for The Trenches, a WWI Half Life first person shooter modification released during the final years of Half Life 1 that saw pretty solid success. We were featured in multiple print and electronic magazines and had a player base as high as 10,000 at one time I think, if you combine everyone that ever played. I've also been involved in various other game communities to varying degrees, but I have always been a decidedly casual player. I'm also a veteran of the original Natural Selection.

    I was not part of the NS2 community from the beginning since my computer couldn't handle it. For whatever reason though, the community seems to be skewed right now. I was having a discussion with Tor and I've told Rusty before that as a casual player, I feel like there's no place for me in this game. I am very competitive by nature so I do enjoy having that little push element to a game. However, I am involved in a lot of other hobbies so I'm not going to be practicing my NS2 skills by doing drills, I'm not going to memorize specific tech tree build orders for Commanding, and I'm not going to know precisely how much damage one gun will do to one alien at X time. As a result, I'm semi useful in a game. I can follow orders but I'm almost always going to lose a 1 on 1 against a "good" player. If I'm a Marine, I have a very low chance at killing an upper life form by myself. There are skilled Lerks and Fades that I cannot hit at all. This sort of confines my useful play to the bigger servers like Apherox, but those games are generally deficient on teamwork and are skewed way in the other direction; there's no team work at all.

    What I don't get is how the concept if skill is valued in the game. To me, it seems mostly like K ratio and Hive stat score or NS2 Stats score. Some people are actually legit, but there's also a huge amount of people that are trying to improve their score by constantly stacking games. I made my decision tonight to give up trying to get anywhere with Hive stats because personally, I try to jump on the team with less players. Why does it have less players? Usually because that team is losing and people left. It's not unusual for me to have 10+ game losing streaks, which is not fun because it's not like they're CLOSE losses, it's usually an absolute stomp. I finally made it above 1,000 points a few days ago but now I'm back in the mid 800s. Well, I gave it the college try.

    So the real topic I wanted to pitch is the unique aspect of NS2 and other non-traditional games that require a high degree of teamwork. Teamwork in most traditional games is not really required, or happens indirectly and fluidly. In a 64 player Battlefield 4 server, there might be some loose amount of 'teamwork' in terms of players congregating towards an area together. In CounterStrike there might be players trying to coordinate to plant a bomb. But really, the majority of first person shooters out there are labeled as team games but succeed as games that focus on the individual and occur in a team, multiplayer setting. Many games are little more than a deathmatch with some objectives thrown in, where the only "team" element is that you see people that you can't kill and get points from. This seems to be the strong point and the demise of team games, including NS2.

    In NS2, your success from a competitive point of view, and your enjoyment from a recreational point of view, are directly tied to the performance and disposition of your team. I used to play a lot of Battlefield 2 and Battlefield 2142, and sometimes I had some really fun games on servers where my team was getting absolutely destroyed because I could still get a lot of kills and do damage as an individual player or with a small squad of friends. NS2 is different. For the most part, it's not fun to play on a team that's getting destroyed. The game will be fun to participants if they are on a team that is dominating, but not to a team that can't get out of their own base. The skill disparity in a given game may be so apparent that within 2 minutes, you know the game is over but you can't concede. Short of throwing a Hail Mary play (which happens from time to time), you just sit around and get messed up for another 5 minutes while people get testy with each other about it. If you were an up and coming competitive player, it wouldn't encourage you to even play this game because you're going down in Hive stats score and your kill to death ratio is going to suffer. NS2 seems to be an inherently competition friendly game, but that invites all of the other typical downfalls of competitions. People will have a natural proclivity to join with people they think are their skill level, AND/OR they will be encouraged to join a team with better players to benefit from their success. Similarly, people will want to intentionally avoid placing themselves in a disadvantageous position. Given the choice, most people would rather run around and bite at or shoot things rather than get spawn killed for 5 minutes.

    I don't think it's really the "fault" of anything, but a combination of the current player demographic and it's dramatic skew and lack of newer players combined with a system that seems to reward stacking, early quitting, etc seems to be counterproductive to most game's goal: to maintain a player base, to take on a certain amount of new players ever year, and to remain relevant for as long as possible. If there aren't new people filling the competitive ranks to play at lower divisions or skill levels, at some point in time, the highest levels will just die out from a combined lack of support, interest, and new blood. The original Natural Selection had a much more diverse player base (numerically and in terms fo skill level) and also had integrated Siege mode and Combat mode. I only know a bit about the combat fiasco on NS2, but on the original mod it was a great way to introduce casual players into the mix and give them somewhere to play. To be blunt, it also kept people primarily interested in team deathmatch style gameplay OUT of the team play servers. They realized that shooting things immediately was more fun than standing around and building things and listening to the Commander, so it helped filter out player goals.

    So I'd like to hear people's thoughts, especially those of you who have been playing this game for a long time. How has the player demographic and skill representation changed over time? Do you think NS2's competitive oriented background lends itself to inherent problems that preclude participation from non-competitive players? Are glazed donuts better than frosted donuts?

  2. #2
    Administrator Rusty's Avatar

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    Aug 2013

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