Issue #2: Commonly overlooked design mistakes

Briefings of the present, #1

As I anticipated in the first issue, this weblog will alternate stories of the past, briefings of the present, and glimpses from the future… this is a bit of a mix between the first two!

Commonly overlooked design mistakes

Over the years, every time I had a promising inspiration, I was wise enough to write it down and keep it safe… this turns out to be hugely useful every time I start a new project!

In 2016 I wrote down a document containing some of the most commonly overlooked design mistakes, with some possible solutions. The goal was to do everything I could to avoid them in my own designs, and I diligently applied them to OMCT.

This is the story about those mistakes…

Problem A: Shady loopholes

Sometimes your game attempts to prevent your Users from doing something… but the Users find a way to do it regardless.

There are cases where it is possible to fix this loophole, however there are also cases where you don’t have such a luxury: maybe the exploit is part of a feature you want to keep, and there are no good ways to prevent Users from using it improperly…

Multiple Teams, an old problem

In OMFB (the old Ork Manager) there was such a problem: Users could create multiple accounts, giving them access to more professional Teams than they could have had otherwise, letting them earn much more Gold than the others.

There were some provisions to alleviate this problem, but it wasn’t an easy one, and I redesigned the Conference structure multiple times to fight this.

With OMCT, having had that experience, I think I got it right from the start.

Solution 1: “The Void”

One possible solution for the shady loopholes is to make them useless. That is: allow Users to do it, but make it so it’s completely pointless to do.

This won’t prevent them from doing it anyway, of course, but since there’s no point, there’s no harm.

Level-0 Brawlers

Ork Manager featured one of these fixes almost from the very beginning: creating level-0 Brawlers was free, there was no limit at all.

Thus, while you could have created more Teams in order to create more Brawlers, that wouldn’t have been profitable anyway: you didn’t need more Teams to do that, and everyone could freely create them anyway!

Solution 2: “The Water”

Another (somewhat similar but still distinct) solution, is to explicitly allow the final goal of the loophole to be performed. This way they will still obtain what they wanted, but in a direct, more easily trackable way.

Of course, you should take care that the design of the whole game can safely support such a thing: there are never easy solutions, everything can impact everything else

Keep in mind that even in this case, someone might decide to use the loophole anyway: if that happens, you should investigate, trying to understand why are they doing that. Maybe they are doing it wrong and aren’t profiting from doing so, but maybe you did it wrong, and using the loophole is still better than your watery solution.

Multiple Teams

Here’s how I mostly fixed the multiple Teams problem in OMCT – this was the result of several progressive attempts during the course of OMFB.

  1. In order to sign a Team in the main Conference, Users have to pay a fee every season, for every Team.
  2. There is no limit on how many Teams from the same User can take part in a single League.
  3. In the Feeder (the entry, lower-level, League), there still are some limits, though.

Having to pay a fee for every Team means that there’s no reason to create fake User accounts: you can already create as many Teams as you want with your real User… and every Team will have to pay.

One of the problems in OMFB was that initially there was a limit of 1 Team per User in every League, including the top-level League, so creating multiple Users would have allowed you to bypass this limit… removing this limit, the benefit of doing such a thing vanished.

Why bother?

Someone might be wondering why bother doing all these things just to prevent Users from multi-accounting… well, if creating fake accounts gives you an advantage over other Users, then it’s bad design and should be fixed; if it’s not, the “rational” and “optimal” choices are to do that… flooding your server with crap.

“Mostly” fixed? What about the Feeder?

That’s a good point. Given that the Feeder is the entry point for Teams newly signed into a Conference, this means that for every season, you can only sign-in 1 new Team… and if you want to sign more than 1… you might want to create a fake User.

So why did I do that? Simple… because it’s an alpha, there aren’t many Users, and the likelihood of someone doing such a thing unnoticed is not terribly high. I will likely remove this limit quite soon, since it’s no longer needed.

Enough for now…

We’ll talk about more problems and solutions another time… meanwhile, the first User who happens to read this will be able to claim the following code! 7813-8608-1907

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