FAF should handle contributions better and be less resistant to change

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I wouldn’t want more random dudes put in balance team because of how balance team works. If some role existed where people can take part in balance discussions, make PRs, and so on while not actually being the voting body on the decisions then I’d be more comfortable with broader membership. Since that doesn’t exist I don’t want random dudes swaying votes when they don’t understand the game fully. Yes, I don’t consider 1.6k a mark of game understanding.

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Didn't we just have such a thread, was even from you, too. https://forum.faforever.com/topic/4735/resistance-to-change-vs-what-s-best-for-the-game-community

You just added some more points about things that don't really have much to do with that overall topic.

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That thread focused specifically on resistance to change regarding FAF's balancing and was somewhat of a precursor to this one. That thread actually resulted in some positive changes with improved awareness and communication regarding the balance team's limitations and how people can help, and as a result, I made some PR's for sparkies and kennels that were/will be merged. I hope this thread will also reach positive conclusions. The ideas can come from constructive discussions/whomever suggests them. For example, I like the idea of adding non-voting members to the balance team, where they can still participate in discussions and help out, even if they don't get to vote. I think there's merit to adding something like that to the balance team as well as something similar for the matchmaker team. That could also help lessen the barrier to getting new members for both teams, as potential members can also be tested out a bit and learn some from the team, without impacting team votes unless/until they've proved themselves enough to become full-fledged voting members.

waiting for a mapgen-only TMM queue and Godot

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Maps have a much greater impact on the gameplay than balance or game patches do, but there is pretty much zero barrier to entry. For this reason, I really do not want many new maps, especially from new mappers. I don't want to play a game where the majority of my gameplay is dictated by some random dude that started mapping last week. From my perspective there does seem to be quite a lot of newish maps put in the matchmaker pools already.

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There may be a very low barrier to uploading new maps to the vault, but there is a relatively high barrier to a map being used in the matchmaker. For perspective, fewer than 2% of FAF's maps were used in ladder in all of 2021, meanwhile several 'classic' maps were used in 5+ ladder pools each in 2021. Rest assured, no one is suggesting your gameplay be dictated by some random dude that started mapping last week. The matchmaker team has standards that cover maps' gameplay, variance, aesthetics, technical details, etc. If anything, the standards applied to new maps are higher than the standards applied to old maps, which are sometimes grandfathered in. That being said, if you want higher quality maps, please give mappers more constructive feedback with details in places such as the #mapping-general channel of the FAF Discord. Many mappers desire more helpful feedback; some even actively request and seek out more constructive feedback and often still don't get enough.

waiting for a mapgen-only TMM queue and Godot

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There was a thread recently where the balance team asked for help:
https://forum.faforever.com/topic/4953/looking-for-balance-testers
I'm not sure how many replies were serious, because they won't get avatars for this.
Those 1.6k+ people could certainly help there.

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Is this topic only about game code? FAF is more than that and I can't really apply this to the rest.

"Nerds have a really complicated relationship with change: Change is awesome when WE'RE the ones doing it. As soon as change is coming from outside of us it becomes untrustworthy and it threatens what we think of is the familiar."
– Benno Rice

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@blackyps said in FAF should handle contributions better and be less resistant to change:

There was a thread recently where the balance team asked for help:
https://forum.faforever.com/topic/4953/looking-for-balance-testers
I'm not sure how many replies were serious, because they won't get avatars for this.
Those 1.6k+ people could certainly help there.

Why would they not? Even just the role description as it stands is more involved than ice testing yet that was given an avatar.

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@brutus5000 said in FAF should handle contributions better and be less resistant to change:

Is this topic only about game code?

No, this topic is about several things as detailed in the OP. There are many things that it isn't about though. For example, I've had much less exposure to the areas you focus on, Brutus, but FWIW, I don't have any complaints about how you handle things in your areas, and I'm looking forward to your progress with ICE : )

waiting for a mapgen-only TMM queue and Godot

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I may get some flak for this especially considering how old the game is, and keep in mind this is all just my opinion but honestly FAF feels kind of stale. New maps, new updates, new mods, new anything, they all come at a snails pace. Balance changes especially. And at the risk of sounding like an idiot as again this is just opinion, the balance team being made up of pretty much just the top players and being fairly resistant to even minor changes just smells like fear of change to me. I have no doubt top players could adjust to changes made, but sometimes it feels they just don't want to bother.

IMO, balance changes shouldn't just be made to balance the game better but to also shake things up and change the meta once in a while. Make different strategies viable and old ones less viable. Shit, take it a step further and add/remove units or even buildings once in a while. It's not like there aren't a bunch of mods for inspiration already. Shit, do it on a different branch. Name it FAF Fluid or something and let people host customs with a separate rating for this mode. Idc.

So many of us having been playing almost the same maps for a decade and half, and there's still people afraid of new maps? Like what? It's rare to find new good maps. If anything, the MM pools should feature way more new maps. Shit, start a council of new maps or something. A group of players willing to go find new maps and play them to test for viability and then submit them to the map pool team. It's something even I'd be willing to do because I'm honestly tired of playing the same maps over and over again. Mapgen has been a godsend in that regard, but even mapgen needs work.

I'm kind of just rambling, but the jist of it is that I wish there were more changes made more often to FAF, even just for testing purposes. And it's disheartening to see the amount of work someone like Penguin puts in that doesn't even get merged. It makes someone like me who's thought of contributing many times before definitely not even want to bother. And of course I don't mean any of this to insult anyone, I know all the contributors do it all for free and Jip especially puts a lot of his own time into it which I'm sure we all appreciate. But I'm with Penguin when I say FAF could be a lot better than what it is if contributing and making changes was easier.

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Why would they not? Even just the role description as it stands is more involved than ice testing yet that was given an avatar.

Let's rephrase that to "Afaik it was not planned to give them avatars for this." But I am not responsible for avatar decisions, so I am the wrong person to talk to about this.

I wanted to highlight the already available possibilities to help the balance team to speed things up.

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The notion of balance changes being necessary to change the game is a false dichotomy when compared to other games. People always seem to fail to acknowledge how impactful maps are in determining meta and how difficult it is to just make 50 new, decent maps.

You can’t just go and make a balance change (see: the thread about ACU oc’ing underwater) that can undermine a decade’s worth of commonly played maps under the guise that some mappers may or may not make up for the change in the upcoming decade. Likewise, making changes built to intentionally force maps like dual gap or astro to be more dynamic are a fool’s errand because people can freely go and make dual gap^2 to revert to the safety those maps originally gave.

“just put in new maps” - most new maps are terrible. Sorry, that’s the reality of it. You don’t get many new maps in matchmakers because there might be 2 or 3 viable, decent new maps each month at best.

If FAF started adding random new units “for fun” in default balance I’ll get tumors and stop playing normal games. I cannot comprehend the issue of stale meta when dudes can play 50 entirely different maps with entirely different metas in 10 entirely different ways on each respective map. If you reduce yourself to playing 1 map in 1 way, the stale meta is your fault really. Even sentons develops random meta improvements through no real adjustment to balance: see beach walking mid.

All I care about balance-wise is making sure every faction doesn’t have a clown roster of noob traps and making sure the game generally has a healthy progression on maps that are defined as “decent benchmarks.” The meta whatever comes down to the mappers and players.

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@snugglefox If people want to shake things up in terms of balance, make a balance mod and then host a cash money tourney for it. You can find ways to bring more of the community onboard like having 1 tourney with no rating limits and another tourney with rating limits so that lower-rated players can participate.

If you want a better balance mod, host a cash money competition for the best balance mod submission, then draw from the submissions to make a great balance mod. I'm thinking you would need some sort of theme in order to encourage coherent submissions, e.g. "faster gameplay faster battles units hit harder"

If there's no interest from the community to do this on their own, why should anyone expect FAF admins to do it?

Even without cash money prizes (or with very small amounts of money), if you can get a big caster to promise to cast the games, that might be enough incentive for people to choose to play in the tourney. Or arrange for other rewards like "a lesson from Tagada"

Avatars could also be a good reward but you should probably have a successful contest first before asking FAF admins to commit to providing that

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This is less a response to Penguin and more a post about how FAF works:

Generally on FAF you need to have 3 things happen in order to implement a change.

  1. Get consensus for the change. Make a post on the forums, collect evidence to support the change, convince existing members of the relevant team, persuade people that your change is better than the status quo.
  2. Implement it. Sit down and do the work or wait for someone else to. There are a lot of interconnected parts of FAF and actually getting changes made is time consuming.
  3. Test it. Lots of changes on FAF can have unintended consequences, balance changes can impact the game in unforeseen ways unless tested carefully. Introducing breaking software bugs can be worse for the player experience than if no change had been made at all.

Each step can require significant amounts of volunteer time and energy depending on the scale of the change. There's also the risk that if you implement a change before getting consensus for it that it will be rejected by the team. Of course this process would be much smoother if each team had better planning and communication, but guess what? That requires even more volunteer manpower and that is the driving constraint on all change already. I know balance team has many ideas that are currently waiting in each bin. It's been pointed out above that Tagada recently took the initiative to recruit more balance testers to help with some of the issues stuck in bin #3.

As far as avatars go, as much as I am the "avatar guy" as Tournament Team Lead (which is somewhat unclear but I'm just going with it), if someone wants to make an avatar to give out for balance team testers, just go for it. Contributor avatars are a totally reasonable thing to hand out.

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@arma473

I don't think having to pay money and organize tournies is a reasonable enough solution for the issues related to slow balance change. If someone wants to do that, they're welcome to, but expecting people to do that as the solution seems unreasonable, nor would it sufficiently solve that issue imo if someone actually did that...

I would've made a balance mod ages ago if I thought there was a sufficiently viable solution there; I have the coding abilities, the desire, and the relevant game knowledge to be capable of such a thing. However, I have not done so because trying to host it would result in drastically slower fill times with a lot more lobby-sim and a lot fewer games. Even if it was ranked, regardless of the quantity and quality of the changes, it would take significantly longer to fill than a regular game would. Featured mods like phantom and nomads are the exceptions. Less-established sim mods for a competitive FAF game often take ridiculously long to fill in my experience, as they're unfamiliar and competitive players normally play ranked, while sim mods are often unranked/filtered from view via client option/automatically disregarded by many players/etc.

Maybe someone has a bright idea that would change this. For example, I would totally be up for managing a featured mod that I could customize the balance of with input from others. I actually requested to do that in the past, but iirc, that was rejected largely due to a desire to reduce rather than increase use of the featured mod system. Maybe there is some alternative solution that involves changes to how games are shown in the client that would allow select/ranked sim mods to be displayed similarly to how featured mods are or something.... I'm open to ideas : )

waiting for a mapgen-only TMM queue and Godot

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Making mods is historically not a realistic solution. Making mods ranked is likewise not a realistic solution. Really arma’s idea is the most practical as, beyond tournaments, equilibrium essentially saw zero play outside of random dudes playing solo sandbox or 3 hour in house games even though it has a ton of effort and eventually was ranked.

Reality is that FAF doesn’t have a playerbase large enough to support a ton of different mods being played much. The ones that are interested in some balance mod are gonna be a subgroup of the subgroup that are competitive yet want to play different things. These guys tend to already be decently high rated (at least 1.2k if not higher) and are already entering the “difficult to find a game” rating. So that means these mods just die and function more as proof of concepts for default faf or an exercise of fun for the modder themselves.

The exception of decently played mods I would say are phantom and nomads. Phantom avoids the issue by resolving the problem of a different subgroup (making ffa actually viable rather than being a balance mod). While nomads is more an exception that proves the rule by having a ton of other external support through the years and “cool factor” that most balance mods simply won’t reach. And if they do reach it, the “cool factor” is just going to be too exotic for default balance and it defeats the purpose of this whole idea of “alternate balance” and instead just becomes a different game to appeal to a wider subgroup.

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Arma reccomodation is basically exactly what I did with SCTA tbf. And results of those games, while not intended when I started, I know some of the TA Memes in SCTA have been discussed in Balance Team.

I’m a shitty 1k Global. Any balance or gameplay suggestions should be understood or taken as such.

Project Head and current Owner/Manager of SCTA Project