Matt Chat 36: Starcraft and the RTS Genre

Matt Barton's picture

In this week's episode, I review Blizzard's 1998 masterpiece Starcraft, widely considered the best real-time strategy game ever made.

I imagined a few people might respond to my claims that most people online are jerks, but all I can say is that's my perceived experience. In reality, there are probably mostly good people online, but they tend to get overshadowed by the cretins, and if a "good guy" is just standing around as jerkwads trash the noobs--how "good" is he, anyway? I've never had much patience for either behavior, and that's probably why I don't last long in online games.

As I mentioned in the video, I was easily able to meet a friendly player who gave me lots of tips and talked to me about why he liked the game. However, the first time I played, it was with a group of jerks. They kept calling me "noob" and one of my own teammates attacked and killed me while the others encouraged him. I was having trouble figuring out how to use the chat function, but it's probably a blessing I didn't communicate with them. If that had been my first and only experience, I wouldn't have played it again. In general, though, I just haven't been at all, and I mean *at all*, impressed with the maturity and pleasantness of online gaming. It feels like most of the time I'm playing with very badly behaved kids. I suspect a lot of my impatience might stem from my job as a professor; if you had to deal with that kind of behavior on a daily basis, you sure as hell wouldn't want to throw yourself into it during your free time.

Only very rarely do I find the sort of folks I'd like to hang out with in real life when I'm playing online games. That's another reason I'm sad that we've never been able to assemble any kind of online group here at AA; I'm sure I'd like that much better than playing with random strangers. I remember a few weeks ago someone here had made a comment about how we should be lucky AA is as small and intimate as it is--at first I thought, nah, I'd still rather have a few hundred more members and a lot more participation. But if that "participation" amounted to the kind of trash I see in online games, then I should be careful what I wish for. I would 1000 times rather have a forum with 5-6 good folks than 500-600 kids who couldn't write a coherent sentence (in any language, mind you) and whose "mommies" had never so much as raised their voice (except to apologize that the grocery store ran out of their favorite juice box). Heheh...Yeah, I'm becoming an old fogey before my time.

I apologize for the boring still shot for this video. I still haven't mastered the art of timing the video in such a way as to get decent still shots for the video links, and all three were just like this. Grrr...It's definitely one of Youtube's big limitations (other services I've used will let you choose from a much wider series of thumbnails or upload your own!).

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Rowdy Rob
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RTS Games

Great video as always, Matt.

I spent a great deal of time playing "Starcraft" back in the day. Never completed it, but I had fun.

The problem with RTS games I have is that THEY ALL SEEM TO BE THE SAME. A different graphics set and plot, maybe, but I quickly grew tired of the genre. Which is weird, because I still enjoy FPS games and other "generic" genres.

One great thing about Starcraft (and as a consequence, every other RTS) is the feeling of "I better have everything in place, quick, before the enemy attacks." There's the suspense of not knowing what the enemy is up to, and are they going to pop up when you least expect it, and so forth.

Unlike an action-oriented game, though, if you fail at winning a level in an RTS, you must spend another hour or so to give it another go. After many "failed" hours, I lost interest. RTS games lack the quick thrill of an action game, the "try another path" approach of RPG's, and the immersion factor of a first-person shooter. As a modern version of "Chess," though, I can see a great appeal to matching wits with another human opponent in an online session, though, as long as the opponent isn't a jerk.

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Mark Vergeer
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Online gaming

Online gaming to me is only fun with people I know - or know something about - online gaming with complete strangers is a no go area for me. I've tried it several times and it wasn't a pleasant experience. It's either rude and obnoxious kids or rude and obnoxious adults. As an experiment I was once rude and obnoxious too and within an hour I actually accumulated quite a following - of minions? - that grew and grew whenever I verbally destroyed yet another player who was there just to play a game. I was lousy at the FPS game but the minions chose to protect me for whatever insane reason. I was appalled and intrigued at the same time. As this is excellent testing ground for social experiments and researching ' human ' behaviours. But it really made me sick and after that I turned off the game and never went into its multiplayer mode again with strangers.

The 360 Live experience is the same way and online gaming with friends is a lot more fun than with strangers.

The only way I can actually enjoy online gaming anonymously is on the Wii or the DS when Human interaction is limited to the avatar on screen and the moves you make. No communicating in the mean time.

I'd say that with any environment where people get to interact socially but can remain anonymous to some degree, in some it just brings out the maladaptive immature personality traits allowing them to be jerks, obnoxious and rude without personally facing the direct consequences:
- online gamine
- online chatting/messaging/forums
- traffic
- living in a city with millions of anonymous folk as your neighbors - you need to be anonymous to survive in a city, the brain doesn't copy otherwise.

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Matt Barton
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Wow, great response, Mark.

Wow, great response, Mark. Lots of food for thought there.

I've often thought this question as well. Why are so many people you meet in online games such total jerks? At first blush, your answer might be to internalize--"Well, it can't possibly be that all those people are jerks; it must be me." Yet, time and time again, I run into good folks who have similar experiences.

A few explanations I've come up with over the years...One, most people you meet online are decent people. However, you don't tend to notice or remember "decent people" nearly as well as the person who causes you pain or anguish. Thus, you can drive 90 miles in peaceful traffic, but if you get run off the road by a single idiotic driver, you're liable to say something like "The people in this state drive like nuts!!!" or some such. In other words, you're making a hasty generalization. I'd say that jerky behavior is compounded by the fact that these people generally WANT the attention, and being obnoxious and rude is a cheap way to get it. New players (noobs) are typically easy targets, since they are still learning the game and probably insecure about their performance anyway.

I've also noticed a pattern in many of the people I know who hate online gaming, but who love other types of gaming. I won't name names, but it seems to be that folks who have "big personalities," or leadership qualities--who generally work hard on their image and public persona--tend to hate them. I think this is because no matter how popular or well-respected you are outside that game, inside the game you're just another noob. You're expected to give up your own ideas about how to play the game as "noobish" and learn to imitate the current champs (down to the precise set of gear and battle strategies!). Furthermore, the aspects that make you popular on the outside--good speaking skills, witty persona, etc.--are detrimental in the game. No one wants to hear your jokes, stories, thoughts, or experience your personality (try it and see how long it takes someone to tell you to shut up and everyone else agree with him). They just want you to execute a precise sequence of actions over and over and over again. You're a cog, so get over it and shut up. My response to that is--oh, hellz naw!

I eventually learned what it would take to become an accepted member of the WOW community--quiet, obedient, always on, generous with loot, and very knowledgeable of whatever role you've taken on. That last bit doesn't amount to "critical thinking" in the least. It amounts to going online (or studying your fellow raid members like yourself) and getting whatever set of equipment is the best (this can take weeks or even months of hard work--work, not play.) Then you must watch videos of a dungeon or raid over and over again, studying every detail of the "pattern" and "boss fight" so that nothing will be unexpected. In short, you're trying to make it as much a rote operation as possible.

To me, it'd be like sitting down with a dungeon master before a session and grilling him on every last detail of a dungeon *before* you enter. Who are the bosses? Where are they? What are their patterns? What's the easiest and fastest--most efficient--way to get in and out of this dungeon with the best loot? Oh, and *stop the chatter, everyone*--this is serious business. To be fair, the guy who keeps calling everyone a " gay $@$ $!!$-tard" is permitted to speak, because he's so funny, hahahaha. But everyone else shut up.

Does *that* sound like fun to you???

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Bill Loguidice
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Ever watch "The Guild",

Ever watch "The Guild", Matt? It's a very effective skewering (with some love thrown in) of experiences like WoW.

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Mark Vergeer
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The Guild
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Ever watch "The Guild", Matt? It's a very effective skewering (with some love thrown in) of experiences like WoW.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

That's a hilarious show ! Don't pay for it on Xbox Live you're better of watching it on Youtube!

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Bill Loguidice
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They're free
Mark Vergeer wrote:
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Ever watch "The Guild", Matt? It's a very effective skewering (with some love thrown in) of experiences like WoW.

That's a hilarious show ! Don't pay for it on Xbox Live you're better of watching it on Youtube!

Both the HD and SD episodes are 100% free to Xbox Live members. I believe Sprint sponsors them.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

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Gashead
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Online experiences

I am really sorry to read your experiences of online gaming. I know we have had similar discussions before and to be honest my experience is completely the opposite. I only play online games in the main and whilst you get the occasion idiot in online chat I find the communities to be largely helpful and friendly. Having said that I don't play WoW and I wonder if that is partly responsible for the bad reputation that online gaming has.

I would encourage anyone who would like a positive online experience to play Everquest, Everquest 2 or Lotro. I have found that most of the gamers are mature in age and attitude and I have never had any serious problems.

In terms of the Matt Chat, I too have never played Starcraft but I did play Warcraft (and Dune 2 for that matter). Another great entertaining video, Matt. I have to admit that I wouldn't play a RTS online as mentioned below it is a bit like chess. Like chess you have to expend so much mental energy in playing it if I ended up losing it just wouldn't be fun! Also the games take a long time to play, so again you could invest an hour or so in a game and lose. This contrasts with an FPS where on dying you just respawn and start again immediately. Whilst I may be a fairly poor FPS gamer I still find it enjoyable as 'losing' a life has such little impact on the overall experience. Plus it helps to have fairly low expectations as long as I can finish half way up the scoreboard or at least not last I'm having fun!!

Mark Vergeer
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No they're not
Bill Loguidice wrote:
Mark Vergeer wrote:
Bill Loguidice wrote:

Ever watch "The Guild", Matt? It's a very effective skewering (with some love thrown in) of experiences like WoW.

That's a hilarious show ! Don't pay for it on Xbox Live you're better of watching it on Youtube!

Both the HD and SD episodes are 100% free to Xbox Live members. I believe Sprint sponsors them.

No they're not! Sprint doesn't sponsor them on Dutch soil. Here we have to pay.

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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Bill Loguidice
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Exactly. The Guild is free

Exactly. The Guild is free in the US (North America?) on XBLA.

They also sell the seasons on DVD, and apparently they're big sellers. Frankly, I don't know how they fill up a disc with relatively few minutes of content, but I don't own any of them to know.

Books!
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.
[About Me]

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Mark Vergeer
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Good response Matt!
Matt Barton wrote:

Wow, great response, Mark. Lots of food for thought there....

A few explanations I've come up with over the years...One, most people you meet online are decent people. However, you don't tend to notice or remember "decent people" nearly as well as the person who causes you pain or anguish. Thus, you can drive 90 miles in peaceful traffic, but if you get run off the road by a single idiotic driver, you're liable to say something like "The people in this state drive like nuts!!!" or some such. In other words, you're making a hasty generalization. I'd say that jerky behavior is compounded by the fact that these people generally WANT the attention, and being obnoxious and rude is a cheap way to get it. New players (noobs) are typically easy targets, since they are still learning the game and probably insecure about their performance anyway.

Indeed one tends to remember the people who stand out in the wrong way.

Matt Barton wrote:

I've also noticed a pattern in many of the people I know who hate online gaming, but who love other types of gaming. I won't name names, but it seems to be that folks who have "big personalities," or leadership qualities--who generally work hard on their image and public persona--tend to hate them. I think this is because no matter how popular or well-respected you are outside that game, inside the game you're just another noob. You're expected to give up your own ideas about how to play the game as "noobish" and learn to imitate the current champs (down to the precise set of gear and battle strategies!). Furthermore, the aspects that make you popular on the outside--good speaking skills, witty persona, etc.--are detrimental in the game. No one wants to hear your jokes, stories, thoughts, or experience your personality (try it and see how long it takes someone to tell you to shut up and everyone else agree with him). They just want you to execute a precise sequence of actions over and over and over again. You're a cog, so get over it and shut up. My response to that is--oh, hellz naw!

Having my big personality crushed within mere seconds is something I'd rather not endure :P But my ego isn't that big....
Now beginning as a noob and getting teased a little (in a humorous way) about being a noob is okay with me but people being downright horrible, and I mean real terrible isn't my cuppa tea. If you join bash other noobs in a horrible witty intelligent yet crushing way people tend to forget you're a noob and you earn ' respect ' or whatever is used in the game. Executing precise sequences of actions and being increasingly good at them can be good fun - even when you have a nice conversation on the side. But the whole experience can be very shallow, too shallow...

Matt Barton wrote:

I eventually learned what it would take to become an accepted member of the WOW community--quiet, obedient, always on, generous with loot, and very knowledgeable of whatever role you've taken on. That last bit doesn't amount to "critical thinking" in the least. It amounts to going online (or studying your fellow raid members like yourself) and getting whatever set of equipment is the best (this can take weeks or even months of hard work--work, not play.) Then you must watch videos of a dungeon or raid over and over again, studying every detail of the "pattern" and "boss fight" so that nothing will be unexpected. In short, you're trying to make it as much a rote operation as possible.

Not my cuppa tea again.... it's too much like work, studying behaviour. It can be good fun though for others. If there's more of a quest and intrinsic storyline you get to experience with a group of friends talking about what you experience solving problems and puzzles in the mean time is something that suits me way better than just being obedient and leveling up.

Matt Barton wrote:

To me, it'd be like sitting down with a dungeon master before a session and grilling him on every last detail of a dungeon *before* you enter. Who are the bosses? Where are they? What are their patterns? What's the easiest and fastest--most efficient--way to get in and out of this dungeon with the best loot? Oh, and *stop the chatter, everyone*--this is serious business. To be fair, the guy who keeps calling everyone a " gay $@$ $!!$-tard" is permitted to speak, because he's so funny, hahahaha. But everyone else shut up.

Does *that* sound like fun to you???

I'm off for a quick round of Dangerous Seed on the Megadrive..... ouch I which it's all in boxes :P

PS3: MarkVergeer | Xbox 360: Lactobacillus P | Wii: 8151 3435 8469 3138
Armchair arcade Editor | Pixellator | www.markvergeer.nl

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