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Skill-based vs. Stakes-based competition: Do we need a different mindset?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Fenn, Jun 19, 2014.

  1. Fenn

    Fenn

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    I'd like to gather some opinions on a topic that I think is very relevant to Mario Kart 8, specifically with the competitive community. I've been thinking a lot on this, and I believe an adjustment in mindset within this community could go a long way to extending the longevity of the competitive scene.

    To avoid confusion and derailing, let me define my two terms:

    Skill-based competition seeks to measure skill. Participants who engage in skill-based competitions aim to prove to their opponents that they are superior at whatever event or activity the competition involves. The ideal skill-based competition is one where the most talented and competent team or individual wins every time, and the results of said competition can be used as an accurate relative measure of competency amongst the participants. External rewards may be put in place, but the ultimate goal of skill-based competition is to prove one's ability.

    Examples:
    - professional sports
    - board games like chess
    - video games such as Starcraft, Street Fighter, etc.

    Stakes-based competition places the external reward for victory as the center of attention, rather than the participants. The use of the word "competition" means that the participants must be capable of influencing their chances of success in a predictable way (if not it would just be gambling!). However, stakes-based competition does not need to be an accurate indicator of skill. In fact, an added randomness factor often adds to the enjoyment of stakes-based competition. The presence of a desired reward naturally inspires a play-to-win mentality, while the unpredictability prevents struggling participants from giving up.

    Examples:
    - professional poker
    - game shows such as Wheel of Fortune
    - trading card games

    Tell me, after reading these two definitions, which one does your typical game of Mario Kart sound like to you? There's no right answer, to be honest, since everyone has their own idea of what Mario Kart means to them. For me, it lands far to the stakes-based side of the spectrum. Whether you treat Mario Kart as a skill-based or stakes-based competition (or neither), I'd argue you can't ignore the traits it shares with the stakes-based examples I've listed.

    Which leads me to my main point: if Mario Kart has more in common with poker and Wheel of Fortune than it does chess or Starcraft, why do we as competitive-minded gamers keep trying to play it like the latter?

    I partially blame Nintendo. The use of a VR system for online worldwide races implies that individual races can be used as a barometer of a player's skill. This is simply not true. You cannot say anything about a person's success based on their position in a single race. But, you could also argue that without VR, there would be nothing at stake, thus stakes-based racing would be equally impossible without VR. So while Nintendo certainly could have come up with a better system for creating incentives for winning, the blame can't be solely on Ninty.

    I pin the rest of the issue on the fact that Mario Kart is simply a rarity in the gaming world. The vast majority of competitive games are either definitively skill-based (shooters, sim and arcade racers, RTS and strategy games) or not intended for competitive play at all (single player games, party games, alternative genres). Mario Kart is one of a few outliers that fit into neither category: not nearly deterministic enough to be a skill-based competition, but far from being a game whose outcomes are out of the player's control.

    Therefore, I have a proposition for anyone who has made it this far through my rambling. Give stakes-based competition a shot. Next time you pick up your controller and boot up MK8, go in with the mindset of a stakes-based competitor: "I'm going to give myself the very best chance to win, let the pieces fall where they will, and savor the competition either way." Start thinking of ways that clan competition might incorporate a stakes-based approach.

    If enough players can embrace this method, we might be able to move past all the complaints about imperfect balance and squeeze as much competition out of this game as possible.
     
  2. Maru

    Maru Zura

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    People make this game to be a glory hunt because they think the game is entirely skill-based and it's their ultimate chance to shine once and for all, free of luck and free of cheats. While this may be true, others may disagree with the preceding thesis that the item system ultimately killed the competitive viability of this game. If the previous thesis is set aside, then the game should be entirely stakes-based as it is.

    Each and every time I've played this game, although it has not been too much, I probably have not seen the game as skill-based because of course the item system fucks you over if you say, get a single coin in first and the guy in 2nd has three reds to fire at will, I just keep scratching my head at the fact that this is constantly left out when people argue that the game should indeed be taken into a skill-based competition and 100% of the time. If you truly believe this, it's that simple, just use the no-items option for wars. Then front-running will be all the more encouraged at its best.

    It also seems that wars are just about scoring high, not having fun; the game in my opinion, should be about having fun, but you look at the rest of the world who plays this game and they probably don't even know what the fuck a clan war is. I don't speak for those who "suck at this game" but it really takes the game and let alone the franchise into an entirely different context. I am for one, not bashing competitive Mario Kart, but I am simply advocating that if we did use stakes-based mentalities like OP is advocating for, wars would go by smoothly, and significantly less drama would result as an aftermath. Once again, this game is made out to be by the majority as nothing but a glory hunt because it's a far more "skill-based" game than both MKW and MK7 alike. If I were to be overly egotistical and disparaging about how I truly feel, it would be like getting overly competitive about Mario Party. I generally see the two franchises as similar forms of enjoyment, but of course, since Mario Kart has an FPS vibe to it if taken a little more seriously than your other party game, it unfortunately is skill-based after all to many.

    I'm no one to talk the objective way of playing this game though, as I'm just stating a humbly outspoken two cents, nothing more.
     
  3. PhoenixRiku

    PhoenixRiku

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    1. Very few people think it is entirely skill based, people complaining about the game twist "driving takes more skill in this game" into "this game is only skill"

    2. The argument skill isn't in this game is dumb, because that implies there are certain people who get lucky 99% of the time since they do well every race. It is a more skilled driving based Mario Kart with luck in items, much like every Mario Kart not sure why it has to be one or the other.

    3. You are saying people that war aren't having fun? There is such a thing as competition being more fun than casual gaming for people. No one would play a game they hated on their free time. For a lot of people this is the only competitive community they play in, they don't understand how light of drama, and how much less competitive this scene is than most. The issue right now is, this community is built off a previous one where people had "names" in the community so that mixes with the people who are having success currently thinking they have a gift of MK8 because they are performing in first 3 weeks. Not discrediting those for learning the game fast, just saying a lot of this "glory hunting" you are talking about is from a mix of old "names" and new "names" that really haven't been fully earned yet colliding into a large cluster.

    4. People seem to forget MKW didn't start out with a clan or competitive scene. They are saying this will for sure die out since not as big as MKW... At 3 weeks old MK8's scene is a hell lot larger than MKW's at 3 weeks. All it takes is for new people to show up like we all did in MKW.

    5. Negative attitudes about the game. We get there are complaints. Posting the same complaint for 3 weeks straight is pretty much screaming people want to start a mob or a riot or something dumb. You voiced your complaints good, now stop trying to make other people hate the game because it isn't what you wanted it to be. The difference between promoting the game and trashing the game is, the latter hurts the community. If you don't care about the community then leave it, don't stay and constantly gripe about the game this community is centered around. I mean if you actually hate the community then complaining is what you want to be doing, but I don't think most of the people complaining are doing it because they want the community to decline.

    This isn't directed at any one in particular I just read the first 2 posts and posted my thoughts about stuff brought up.
     
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  4. Maru

    Maru Zura

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    Fair enough. I agree that all Mario Karts are different, and the item potluck system isn't of course any similar to what we've seen in the past. The third point is probably although implicitly directed at myself, and you're probably right in which it channels itself into the fourth point. No one can at first control their skill, but people can indeed control their patience with the game. The game is fun, and it probably is one of the best Mario Karts I've personally seen in a while (I hated Mario Kart 7, ironically), and I'm definitely all for making a difference here, but sometimes I have to be honest in what I say, and I can't really talk out of my utmost sentiments if I'm going to make a point, especially if the game isn't perfect as of course, it never was meant to be in the first place.

    Skill and stakes can work if people can agree to have the best of both worlds, but of course it seems rather blurred if people just want it one way or the other. There is a chance for both to even be happening at this moment that I'm missing out on, but of course I don't have your empiricism through the first three weeks of Kart 8, so yeah.
     
  5. Fenn

    Fenn

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    Sorry for the late reply, I'll see what I can address, although it will be hard since I'm not sure which points address my post.

    1. Yes, and this post addresses those players. If you recognize this fact and don't let it ruin the game for you, this article isn't really relevant to you.

    2. I wasn't arguing that skill isn't in the game. I'm just arguing that any single race in Mario Kart is not an accurate measurement of a player's skill, because there is also a significant luck factor.

    3. I really don't know about the war community; I'm making assumptions based on what I can gather from the forums. If people weren't having fun in wars they wouldn't be participating in them! But there's a question I see on all Mario Karts forums a lot that can ususally be paraphrased to "is Mario Kart balances/skill-based enough to be competitive?" The point I was trying to make with this article is that strong balance should not be a requirement for playing Mario Kart competitively.

    4. I didn't address this so I assume you're referring to the other post.

    5. Also not something I addressed, but to put it simply, everything in moderation. If you have issues with the game, I don't have an issue with voicing them. But yeah, when people flip out and get personally outrages at a freaking video game, it's embarrassing and makes it very hard to take them seriously. So I agree with you.
     
  6. Momo

    Momo Banned ;_;

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    I think a problem of making this game competitive is balance. I do not mean item balance, that luck thing shows who is skilled over time like that other thread that gave the poker example. Skilled people will use their items better so when they get the triple reds, the skilled person would use them better then that spammer.

    But the balance issue I have is stuff like babies vs heavy weight, karts vs inward, if this game was truly competitive, each group would have advantages and disadvantages. But that is not what MK8 i. Mk8 is a firehopping morton in pipeframe on slicks filed day. How can you call a game competitive when there is only "one way of doing things right"?
     
  7. Fenn

    Fenn

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    I don't consider this an aspect of competitive play. Wherever concrete choices with guaranteed advantages/disadvantages is present, the competitive community will find a way to "optimize" their decisions.

    To make an analogy, would professional sports be any less competitive if players found the "ideal" or "absolute best" pair of cleats? Nope. Once it became public knowledge which was the best, everyone would use them, which levels the playing field and makes skill and luck the determining factors in crowning a victor.

    The way I see it, any competitive game that includes customization will go down one of three paths at the highest level of competing:

    1. Imbalance: One set of choices gives a distinct, proven advantage over all other choices, so everyone uses that one. The playing field is even, and the game remains competitive, but the community becomes severed by varying beliefs on the definition of "fair". Example: Funky Kong + Flame Runner in Mario Kart Wii.

    2. Stale Balance: No set of choices has a distinct advantage over another. Thus, the choices have no real impact on competitive play. The playing field is even, and the game remains competitive, but dull for those who enjoy meaningful choice. Example: equipment in Role Playing Games that grants utterly insignificant stat boosts.

    3. Conditional Imbalance: Some sets of choices give a distinct, proven advantage, based on conditions outside of the players direct control. This is the most common type of balance found, usually because it is often confused for a type of "balance" when viewed in comparison to options 1 and 2. This can often diminish the competitive value of a game. Examples: character match-ups or stage advantages in fighting games.

    There is a fourth type of balance, Ideal Balance, where the advantage given by a set of customization choices gives an advantage based primarily on the player's actions and decisions during the game. It is extremely rare for this to be done right, because of how many variables must be accounted for by the developers. Many franchises spanning multiple titles strive for this type of balance, but never quite reach it.


    TL;DR Having one combination dominate all others does not reduce a games competitive value. However, having combos give advantages based on factors outside the players control, like course selection, does.
     
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  8. Momo

    Momo Banned ;_;

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    If you have different combinations e good, then you have more people able to be competitive. Like pretend bikes was even ith karts, with the people that are good with them or lets say average, the average bikers could compete with average kart drivers. But with the way it is now, only the top bikers can compete with somewhat good people with karts and still a it short on top. What about people that only want to use midweights or babies? so on? Having a different bathingsuit to have less water Resistance or what you said "cleats" is not the same as a character pick in a game. What happened if "mini turo" really meant something? Then you would have baby racers that could add extra drifts that heavy's can't do be more competitive. Different people are good with different things.
     
  9. Rookie

    Rookie

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    Balance doesn't take competitive value out of a game. It's just a completely different complaint / issue. Competitive deals with doing everything you can to win, so using the best set up is only natural in order to increase your chance of winning.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Mario Kart is both skill based and stakes based.

    Each individual race is stakes basked, but each group of outcomes of 20+ or so races would normally be skill based
     
  10. Momo

    Momo Banned ;_;

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    Please read what I said again because you are missing what I am saying...

    When you have sports, team sports people are good at different things, like having a goalie, having someone good on defense, someone good at scoring. With games having good balance means you can be good at different things if game has good balance. You do not find it dumb that the speed stat is all that matters? How come there is no good way of being competitive of having a combo around doing mimi turbos well? So there is less people that can be in the competitive just because the best is only being good at one thing. It is like having a sport where all you need is a good scorer, screw having a good defense. What I mean is with the game this way is you have less people being competitive because they have the talent in what is "best" leaving out people good with babies because mini turbo is not good enough. same with bike and kart.

    that is why item balance does not matter, and what I said why character balance matters.
     
  11. Rookie

    Rookie

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    I clearly read what you wrote. I just disagree.

    Sports do have multiple roles. Mario Kart 8 does not. It's how the game plays. Everyone on a team must frontrun, if you don't like it, well too bad. There is nothing stopping you from using baby characters still too. It's just not optimal.

    Having no character balance =/= uncompetitive though.

    I looked up the definition of competitiveness:

    Definition of competitive (adj)
    Bing Dictionary
    • com·pet·i·tive
    • [ kəm péttətiv ]
    1. involving attempt to win: involving or decided by competition
    2. wanting to beat others: inclined toward wanting to achieve more than others
    3. better than competition: as good as or slightly better than others because of being good value or worth more
    Note that it focuses on doing on anything you can to beat others. If a sport like soccer involves defensive players, offensive players, and a goalie to give the best possible results, that's what you gotta do to be competitive. In MK8, the competitive side is going with an approach of having everyone trying to frontrun. This means that everyone should use the optimal combos for wifi to give the best chances for winning.

    It seems that you're using the definition as competitive to mean something like there needs to be variety in a team, when that's not the case. It's a completely different thing.

    I don't think speed should be the main thing that matters, but that's how it is. So I go with what I think is the best.
     
  12. Fenn

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    Hey Momo, I think you have an interesting point. Before we keep arguing, can you give me a precise definition of what you think "competitive" means? And if you had to rate how competitive a game is on a 1-10 scale, what factors would you consider?

    Also, I would like to point out that there are sports where only one thing matters. In Olympic sprinting, speed is the only thing that matters. And yet, is it competitive enough to be in the Olympics!
     
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  13. Novak

    Novak heirik

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    I felt like this thread was going to be an argument for trying out frantic mode in wars; stakes-based competition seems to advocate for trying it out at least.
     
  14. PhoenixRiku

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    Balance doesn't make games competitive or not. I honestly cannot think of a competitively successful game where everything is viable at the highest level of play. Yes you can use things, you can use lightweights in this game, but it is just statistically weaker. Call of Duty games, you can use any weapon, but really if you aren't using one of these 3 weapons you are weaker. MOBA's there are certain champions/heroes that are strong on the current patch.

    Balance just adds diversity not competitiveness.

    I mean this in terms of balance in vehicles or characters, not item balance. Obviously something like that isn't diversity.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2014
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  15. Daisy-Fan

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    My problem is with the item balance in general. i can be 1st place in good scenario if anything is all right and outrun everyone, but the RNG of Coins is getting out of hands most of the time. am always end up getting coins in a no matter way.
     
  16. Fenn

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    I'm not sure the concept actually advocates Frantic Mode. The normal mode already includes an element of luck and Frantic Mode simply alters the skill-to-luck ratio. It's a matter of personal taste what kind of skill-luck ratio a stakes-based competitor prefers.

    That being said, it does suggest that Frantic Mode could be an equally viable option for competitive play.

    Agreed!

    I've argued in other threads that moderate imbalance of customization choices is arguably better than near-perfect balance. Imbalance presents players with an ad hoc handicapping system. If you want to play to win, you choose from the best options. If you are playing against players of lesser ability, there are weaker options available to you that you can choose in order to keep the game challenging for everyone.

    This is a perfect example of the point I am trying to make. Based on this post, you play Mario Kart as a skills-based competition. You want the race results to be a reliable indicator of pure skill, but is Mario Kart really intended for this kind of competition?
     
  17. Daisy-Fan

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    am just started to get in for comps, Overall i dont believe Mario Kart meant for Comps. Except MKDS,it was pretty much a good one, it was just like the melee but a la Mario kart if you ever seen or played. yet am just against the idea of putting the 1st in a defenseless situation. maybe i need to play some tourney fm a bit too.
     
  18. Fenn

    Fenn

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    I bolded what I think is the most important sentence of your comment. This is very much an example of a skills-based competitive mindset. Which, I may add, is a perfectly reasonable mentality to have! However, thinking this way appears to make it difficult for you to enjoy competition in Mario Kart, as my original post suggests it would.

    If you tried changing your mindset when you played as I suggested at the end of my first post, perhaps this would not be as much of an issue for you?
     

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