Observations on forming an operational team for Armagetron.

LAUNCHING TEAMWORK

All of the observations about the game, player journey, tournament is great, but so what?

Well, what if we do something like the equivalent of the launch in Fort? We align to one objective, we grind, and then split up to do different tasks. Form a team of committed individuals. Some of us are interested in attack (new player engagement), others more in defence (tech admin), and there are folks like me who really shouldn’t be on the grid because my skills aren’t up to it, but I do offer something strategic. I facilitate pretty well.

If we get a team of 6 or so folks who are game, what are the rules of engagement?

No negative

Everyone’s contribution is good, otherwise they wouldn’t contribute it. There is a tendency to respond to statement A with not-A but B. The ‘not-A’ implies opposite. This opposite is a veto. And when a group of people (or a company) need to get things done, the power of veto is usually restricted from lower levels of hierarchy so that the executive’s decisions can be actioned. Since we do not have an ‘executive’, the power veto in a collective is the common cause for lack of movement by the collective. The way around this is to acknowledge that there is A, and there is B, and there are a whole bunch of other perceptions, evaluations, and observations. Our action are tied to those observations. Thus, we must be very careful about avoiding oppositional state mentally, so that we can clarify what our options of action are, and then prioritise them.

Experimental

Social evidence by giving it a go. We give the suggestions a go in the most appropriate order, and we see what the result is. The ladle is an example of this. People said it could not work because ‘you can’t trust the players’. I went ahead anyway (which is rare for me) and enough players made it happen. The evidence of the happening, the first ladle, was enough for people to repeat it. It is not the core structure of the ladle technically that is important, it is the collective of participants who make it happen which is important. The social result. So, we need to be committed to the social result.
Degree of commitment. This one is tricky. My suggestion is 1 million player tournament. It is a beyond realistic objective, which means that if it happens, it is because of actions beyond my capacity or practical reach. And, I would guess, beyond the locus of control of the team, and thus necessarily invites the active participation of others. In fact, I think if we stick to self-organised principles, it depends on the 1 million players. We are just facilitating. To commit to 1 million players, we need a time reference. I think this time-reference should be decided by people who are interested in it. In fact, setting the time-reference (3 months, 6 months, 1 year), defines the team. The commitment is to see it through. The time-reference needs to be appropriate so that it inspires action from the get-go. If it is too long (10 years) nobody will do anything. If it is too short (a week), it just can’t happen. Things need to be put in place, and, because of the nature of human beings, it takes time to internalise some things, and produce the right social parameters for it to feasibly grow to 1 million by itself.

Minimal Viable Social Event

(Compare to Minimal Viable Product.) The team is not organising a 1 million tournament. The team is aiming to create a critical social effect, that because of its self-organised operations, ‘inevitably’ grows to 1 million players. The core machinery for running tronic ladle needs to be upgraded for tronic bowl, catering for 1000 players. That must involve a process by which the 100 players who play ladle do something beyond playing in the tournament, or the current social practices to become part of a team (practice, turn up on time). It must involve some kind of ‘engagement’ or ‘invitation’ protocol.

Observation on the tournament based on Armagetron.

1M PLAYER COMPETITION

I documented this fairly well back in 2006. Needs upgrading. Basically, 1,000,000 players who organise themselves over a few hours to determine the winning team. ‘Entry fee’ of $1, means $1 million prizemoney distributed to players (about half), admin officials for trusted servers, developers and retrospective payments to originators (the other half). I can see these games being played weekly. For us to be playing 1 million tournaments weekly, there’s probably a larger player base capable or willing to play monthly, perhaps 10 million.

Yes, big numbers.

Player Rating

The current system for setting up games is Pickup through Discord channel. There’s an algorithm which seeds players in order to make the teams balanced.

A simple system involves calculating a player Rating based on their position in Tronic tournaments. On the old forums some players added a record of their Ladle and other wins in their signature.

Could placement in the ladle derive a value. Like seeding. The lower the better. Getting to the finals is 1, semis 2, etc. The idea is to make it scalable. As new players enter and ladle increases, so the rarity of Q1 increases, and ratings increase to Q10 with around 1k players, Q20 with 1m players. (Based on teams of 8, I don’t know base 6 off-hand).

 

 

 

PLAYER JOURNEY

Observations on getting on the grid, the player journey, for the game Armagetron.

Barriers to Entry

Far too many barriers to entry: join discord, learn pickup script, use defunct user to authenticate; then when joining server, authenticate — not through in-game menu but through code in chat (not console).
Ideally, a new person downloads the game, hits multiplayer, picks a server on the list, and default is they are on the grid. Currently, a player joins as spectator, in fact all settings are from the Ladle tournaments, to ensure orderliness of play. But not appropriate to give new people the experience of play. Probably best to create grid if first player, spectator if anyone is on the server playing already.

Team Green Room

I like the idea of a green room, which Discord currently operates. Put yourself in a random team, or a private clan green room. Once team is formed, you are pulled from wherever and materialise on the grid. On the server list.

How-To Videos

We need to smooth this out. We may also wish to consider promotional material, how-to videos. I’d rather it is easy, just folks sharing. A little more like twitch videos than ‘promotional’ videos. More like podcasts.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

Observations on playing the game of Armagetron.

Game Balance: Individual-Team

Balance between individual and team. Because there is no ‘ball’ which introduces a certain degree of chaos, everything is exact and fully determined by players. Their skill level is phenomenal. A player likened it to fencing. There is teamwork, but it is often a match between individual players.

Evolution of the Game.

I listened to a  blogpost  (45 mins in) where another person returning to the game from ten years ago, Concord, predicted the next evolution of the game is double-teaming or triple-teaming. I had thought more would evolve, but apart from holes, double-defence, plugs, which I was present to in 2009, perhaps only bottles have appeared, a variation of plug.

Heroes

Had the idea of players choosing a setting which linked rubber, acceleration, speed. The idea is to have different types of bikes. Those who wanted to be faster and play ‘at a distance’ versus mazers who perform intricate close-range sumo. The game tends to the latter.

Defence

Watching 100th Ladle from 2015, and recently backed up by watching interminable 1v1 sumo. I like a challenging 1v1, but with the skill levels of players the drama is stretched out too much.

(mute sound)
 

Defence might be altered. Shorter tail length. Someone suggested getting rid of tail shrink, I’m not sure what that it is. To increase the chances of cuts. The only sure-fire way of gaining advantage is holing. Hard to crack a reasonable defence. Shrinking takes too long.

01


Fortress Gameplay

02


Player Journey UX

03


Tournament Development

04


launching globally

I returned to an old game I began playing in 2006: Armagetron Advanced. Amazing. Beautiful mechanics. I thought it was the virtual equivalent to football, minimal team game with the potential of becoming as popular. A dynamic version of Go, ‘the surrounding game’. The genius solution of solving the problem of ping with ‘rubber’ and acceleration. Two teams, two zones. Minimally, two keys to play, left and right.

Joined a game, 6v6, and felt the thrill once again. Incredible mazing skill of other players. I was certainly the worst player there. I am a nervous player. Too sensitive. Panic is my general response, and my brain just can’t send the appropriate signals to the fingers fast enough. As I like to say, I have hooves not hands.

I conceived the basic structure of a tournament back in 2006, and it was initially rejected by the leading players/coders at the time. However, I went ahead and created a wiki and invited people on the forum, and with the goodwill of players, it proved to work. The core process was improved by careful administration by a number of active players, and the Tronic Ladle successfully ran monthly for a decade.

When I returned to the game in 2009, I suggested we needed to take the game forward collectively. The next film version of Tron was in the works, and I thought there was an opportunity to not only get more players, but also promote the movie. My call to action was ignored. The powerful contingent were worried that it might attract the ire of Disney and close down our little indie operation. Meanwhile I was invited to join a team, Plus, and some of us (Sinewav, Concord, Compugene, spring to mind) tried to move the game forwards by producing promotional video content, blog posts, and so on. Compugene had a similar idea to me which was to get Arma in schools. In fact, I managed to get my school to set up a discrete server (facilitated by Z-man), and the result was explosive. Yes, there was a ban on its use during school hours; and the tough learning curve of grinding for launch as lone users joining a fortress match online, turned out to be the most powerful teamwork learning activity for a group in person I have implemented as an educator. I also see it as an excellent portal to coding, from entering consol commands to alter game visuals, to writing patches for an open source ecosystems.

  

Full-stack playing.

David Pinto

Returning to the game now, there is a small group of what I would call elite players, people committed to playing, similar to when I returned briefly in 2016. The tournament is now played as a round-robin, because the number of teams are small. It shouldn’t really be called the Tronic Ladle since it doesn’t conform to the Tronic progression; a Tronic Cup with 1 million players won’t be run as a round-robin.

Beyond reaffirming how brilliant the game design is and recounting a little history, the following posts records my observations as I return to the game at four levels. These four levels are all about player engagement. Under the hood technical levels, client code, server code, internet protocols, are only touched upon in relation to player engagement. Four levels: playing the game itself, the player journey to get onto the grid (especially from non-player), the requirements for a tournament hosting 1 million players, and how we go about doing it (forming an open team).

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