Paper, Rock, Scissors

I’ve heard it said on this forum that a balanced “rock, paper, scissors” approach is less fun, and that an unbalanced approach is better, and I’m trying to wrap my mind around this. Here’s the scenario:

We have three strategies, A, B, and C. A beats B, B beats C, and C beats A. It costs about the same amount to implement all three strategies, so, perhaps A(3) beats B(5), B(5) beats C(1), and C(1) beats A(3). (That’s three of A, 5 of B, and 1 of C). So A(3), B(5), and C(1) all cost the about the same in term of resources.) This would seem logical to me, and this I understand.

But lets say that B(5) costs twice as much as C(1) and A(3). I can’t see this as being fair, yet if I understand correctly, this is what is considered “more interesting”, despite it’s obvious lack of balance. Have I got this right? Which way is GSB actually using?


I think the point is that playing Rock, Paper, Scissors isn’t really very fun.

If each strategy archetype was exactly as good as each other, and the game was just a question of picking the one that beats the one your opponent chose… Then you’d be playing a prettier version of RPS.

One thing that is fun about strategy games, is trying to piece together strategies that are improvements over your previous ones. An example of this, is that I glean some enjoyment from testing ship designs and modules to understand the game better, and try to find which things are stronger than the others. Part of my motivation is to uproot anything blatantly imbalanced so the developer can fix it (i.e. Howitzer being dramatically inferior to the Cruiser Laser,) and part of it is just to try to eke that little bit of extra performance out of my designs, by helping to identify what are the best items for each role I need.

But I don’t think that argument against balancing really has much milage. Once a game gets as complex as something like GSB, the RPS analogy starts to get pretty weak, as the relationships between the multitude of different ships/modules/tactics gets more complex. It’s only really as simple as RPS when you pit single-design fleets against each other.

I do think it’s true that the game doesn’t have to be ‘perfectly’ balanced (in fact, I think that would be an impossible target.) I do think that parts of the game that are grossly imbalanced should be subject to balancing… The challenge is spotting where that is actually the case.

Some are easy - like weapons modules or ships hulls that are inferior to another module in every way.

Some are less obvious, and tricker to fix, like ‘really fast fighters are too hard to kill’.

Some are deceptive - I recall many threads complaining that plasma weapons were overpowered. What was actually the case, was that plasma weapons were a powerfull counter to the way most people were playing - fleets with mixed weapons, but only one engine… Of course the long ranged weapons are going to be very powerful against slow fleets… But as soon as ships with 2 engines or more show up, suddenly plasma starts looking like a pretty poor option. Imagine if it had been ‘balanced’ to make it weaker? Another deceptive one is ‘engines need to be more powerfull’. They’re already powerfull, because the short ranged weapons deal such vastly superior damage per second compared to the long range weapons. If engines got better, then all the weapons would need rebalancing too, and in a bad way - they’d need to be more similar… But I’m digressing from the question.

Most importantly though… And really, this is the most fundamentally crucial thing I’ll say in this post, the rest was just fluff. It’s Rock, Paper, Scissors. Not Paper, Rock, Scissors. Heretic!


specifiy “fun” and “better”…

to me, it isn’t fun when every second fleet i encounter is plasma- or rocketspam without engines. and which then gets beaten by a single squadron of fighters…
since this is only exploiting of some obvious game weaknesses.

as you might notice, even the “better” argument is debatable when it gets easily beaten by the perfect counter, as dogthinker said.
but yes, this leads to exact rock-paper-scissors, and i guess it is just not possible to create a perfectly balanced game. even starcraft needed approximately 352647 patches and is still rock-paper-scissors.
but there are worse ones out there than gsb… :slight_smile:

and when it ever will become possible in the future to play directly against other players, i just won’t play against such opponents that can only have fun when winning.
but it’s nice to have a rating for the challenges. with 5 gold stars and zero red, i can guess what awaits me…


Well, this is just a problem of people posting bad challenges. Lots of people thought plasma was awesome, so they spammed it… It’s definately not a flaw in the game that a fleet equipped with no anti-fighter capability (such as a fleet with nothing but plasma cannons) gets beaten by a single fighter. That’s a flaw in the ‘programming’ of the challenger that thought their plasma-only fleet made for a tough opponent.

Well, when you find a challenge you like, take note of the name of the player that posted it. Sort the challenge list by name and try their other ones. For example, I worked my way through all of Corbeau’s challenges last week.

You can also send challenges to an individual (make sure you get the capitalisation right!) although a lot of people don’t seem to notice their personal challenges (I check mine regularly, on the off chance someone had something they thought I specifically might like.)

It’d be nice if we could filter the list by name (it’s a real pain scrolling through.) It’d also be nice if capitalisation didn’t affect the order, it’s a pain remembering who uses caps, and who has lowercase names.

Things are what they are, there’s not necessarily some cosmic scheme that’s decreed That A Must Lose To The B Which Loses To The C. One weapon or AI tweak later and B may very well disappear from use entirely. Roll with it.

In the context of these arguments “rock paper scissors” is used as a derogatory term for overly hard counters. Scissors always beats paper, there’s not room for a concept of a soft counter like paper pulp or armored paper.

Ahh, I wasn’t familiar with that use of the term. Yeah. Frigates fall so easily to rocket fighters, and rocket fighters are so useless for any other purpose… That’d be an example of an extremely ‘hard’ counter. Whether that’s a bad thing or not, could be debated for a long time.

XD armored paper… Just think about that…

I always prefer “soft counters”, like 1 paper beats 1 rock but maybe 3 rocks beats 1 paper. My favorite RTS of all time (Battle for Middle Earth 2) was like this. (Incidentally, I’ve played a lot of RTSs and BFME2 is by far the best for 1v1 gameplay, in my opinion.)

For example, maybe 1 point defense should always fully counter 1 missile launcher. Perhaps even 2 missile launchers. But 3 missile launchers should overpower the point defense.

Where I think GSB goes wrong sometimes is that paper is technically the counter for rock, but sometimes 1 rock beats 1 paper anyway. e.g., I don’t think 1 point defense beats 1 missile launcher even though that’s its only purpose. That would be an interesting test:
5 missile launchers
3 missile launchers and 2 point defense

I’ll bet on the 5 missile launcher ship winning, all else being equal.

If you use a scrambler, though, I’d bet on the ship with the scramblers.

And of course sometimes it’s not very clear cut anyway. Like missile launchers aren’t really the “rock” to anyone’s “scissors”. I guess you could say that missiles are the counter to fleets that are too slow and too low on defense but it’s going to be hard to put numbers on that. The key to weapon balance isn’t necessarily “paper, rock, scissors” but rather, tradeoffs. The tradeoff for missiles is that they’re weak (sort of) against scramblers. The tradeoff of the Cruiser Laser is that you’ll get blown up by longer range weapons before you can start shooting. The tradeoff of plasma is that they miss a lot against fast frigates. But tradeoffs are arbitrary and it may take some work to get them balanced.