Yeah apparently I have a well worn ass pillow from all the buttkicking my posterior region takes when playing many online games. Its interesting though that when given a choice between being on a winning team, or being on a losing team... I'll almost always choose the losing team. It started back with Warhawk where if the teams were unbalanced in any way, it used to result in what was often termed a base rape. The losing team was usually pushed back to their home base and would spawn with a pistol and a knife, only to be greeted by the winning team parked there with tanks, mines, flamethrowers, warhawks and the dreaded tow missile. I found that it was incredibly boring and felt very unsporting to be killing the other team as they spawned and before they could even make a run for a better weapon. I used to switch teams and try and sneak out of the home base to take another base as a spawn point. It was simply more exciting to be on the losing team - to have that sense of desperation against overwhelming enemy odds.
I was in the first phase of the MAG beta and like most others, I quickly figured out that the SVER faction was going to be overpowered. They had wonderful spray and pray guns that more easily got headshots, their maps were the best for defence and they got to attack weak maps held by Raven and Valor. This resulted in most of the better players going to SVER quite early in the game - so I chose Raven as my faction (and later switched to Valor when Raven stopped playing the Domination mode). I like being on a team where a win is rare and when there is a win, it feels earned. I also don't like spawn camping the opposing team... and again, this is something that pretty much has to be done on SVER as everyone else does it and otherwise you're simply sitting at your bunker picking your nose with nothing to do.
Game balance is difficult and some games do it better than others. In Modern Warfare 3, I've noticed that the servers seems to pretty automatically balance the teams based on how you did in the previous game... unless you are just joining the game, or are in a group (it keeps groups together). There are even modes that don't allow groups, so the balancing is even better in those modes. Games like Killzone 3 on the other hand, don't seem to get it at all. Often when joining a game I'll be put on a team of 5 other people... versus a team of 2. Why the hell didn't the game automatically put me on that 2 person team? I haven't yet figured out how to switch teams, though the option was there in Killzone 2, but it certainly is NOT an obvious option in the most recent iteration of the game. Then again, they also switched from a server browser to the dreaded matchmaking system and I've let my complaints about matchmaking be known already... it generally sucks.
The most fun I ever had in an online game was during the Warhawk tournament. Our team came up against a MUCH stronger team that quickly decimated us. We were spawning on a home base on a cliff and pretty much being killed by mines, grenades and tanks as we spawned. We eventually came up with what we called the "lemming" strategy. Rather than try and fight (which was impossible), or rage quit (which is unsporting)... we had a contest as to who could make the run to the cliff face and actually manage to suicide themselves - it at least deprived the enemy of an easy kill. Suicide wasn't a guarantee as sometimes we survived the fall... but we only counted our suicides. We actually started to laugh and have some fun amidst the brutal slaughter. We learned from that game too. Later in the tournament when we came up against a much weaker team, we pulled back after gaining a numerical win. Once there was no way the other team could win the game, we pulled back from their base. If we did go into their base, we went in with knives only. We let them take another base and have a bit of a comeback. They knew what we had done, and as the team leader, I received a note from their team leader after the game thanking us. What we learned from that first game was dignity in defeat and grace in winning.
My ass is sore from all the buttkicking... but mostly it's my own fault. I could use my SVER alt account and play for the stronger team, but frankly I feel much more satisfaction and a greater sense of victory by killing that one guy who has killed me 10 times in a row, rather than killing some other guy 10 times in a row. I wish developers understood this concept though. Too often in games they give team advantages to the winning team. In MAG, the winning team gets a shorter cool down period between strikes... which ensures that the losing team can barely make it out of their spawn before dying from constant air strikes. In Warhawk, the winning team that owned all the bases (yes, all your base are belong to us) got all the assets those bases spawned... including tanks, mines, jeeps and planes. Starhawk looks to be somewhat the same with the use of rift energy giving the ability to spawn assets - and the winning team members will have MUCH more rift energy than any losing team. I have to wonder what these devs are thinking. Were they taking steroids and having manly dreams of crushing and obliterating the opposition in a hail of overpowered explosions? Apparently they never gave consideration to how boring this is. They never considered that maybe they'd be the frustrated obliteratee, barely able to spawn before dying. Games are fun when they're challenging. Any team advantages should automatically go to the losing team. It creates that word so often missing in games - balance. Balanced games offer an actual challenge which gamers thrive on, and there is a more real sense of winning or losing. Homefront had the right idea. If you were on a killstreak, you became marked with a "wanted" status. Opposing team members could see you marked on the minimap and an XP bonus was given for taking you out. I think players were initially nervous about this concept, but they quickly realized that having a 3 star wanted status was much more of a rush than getting the kills. THIS is the concept that needs to be in newer games. It's a real shame that Homefront used the dreaded matchmaking system for getting into games... because their matchmaking didn't work and apparently I was the ugly girl that nobody wanted to dance with... as I sat for 20 minutes or more waiting for a game to launch, and it wouldn't let me launch with my friends.
Sportsmanship is dying, and many kids are being raised to think that a win is more important than a challenge, but developers can do a lot to keep the concept of sportsmanship alive by integrating it directly into the game rather than relying on human nature. Sportsmanship is "fairness" or "equity". There is no fairness in giving advantages to a winning team. I find it interesting that some games even integrate poor sportsmanship into their games with things like taunts. In Uncharted's online multiplayer mode there is a "pump taunt" where the other player thrusts their hips at the person they killed. It might be funny the first time it's seen, but the reality is that it's just poor sportsmanship. It's a shame that devs don't give out an XP bonus to players who switch teams mid-game to a losing team with fewer players. It's a shame that minor team enhancements like better protection of spawning areas aren't automatically given to a losing team. Personal performance in games is recognized and rewarded and that's fine, but any team based rewards should seek to encourage sportsmanship by making the game more equitable. A "good game" isn't a game that you won... it's a game where either team could have won - where you actually had to fight for your victory.
In the meantime though, I guess I'll just keep playing for the underdog... and I'll keep my ass pillow fluffed. Having my ass kicked is just far more fun than losing my personal sense of sportsmanship by spawn camping an opposing team. It's frustrating being on a losing team... but at least it's not boring!
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Captain of the Zanarkand Abes 1