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schlach's Journal: Five Colors 7

Journal by schlach

[Editor's Note: posted a second ago, in response to the Superbowl discussion.]

Wow, who would have thought that there'd be a moderated discussion of football on slashdot... What's next? Maxim magazine reviewing computer games?

Seriously though, I was at a hockey game last week and witnessed the same phenemenon - "There are no good calls that don't go in your favor." Every time your guys trip, you're glad when the ref doesn't call it. Every time one of their guys trips your guys, you scream bloody murder, and if the ref doesn't see it then you invite him to join the game, or offer to buy his seeing-eye dog ice-skates, etc.

Their goalie blocked one of our shots, and one of the guys with me, an Aussie watching his first game, cheered. I said, "Don't cheer, that was their play." And he said, "It was a good play. Hockey was the winner." And that blew my mind, it sounded so foreign. Hard to imagine an American fan cheering for Hockey rather than a specific team.

So I was thinking about this, after the game. If we Americans have such an 'Us vs. Them' mindset in our sports, is it a condition of our cultural environment, or is our enjoyment of the sports conditioning us to perceive other conflicts in the same 'Us vs. Them' mindset? Or is it just part of the same mix of people->culture->people?

Specifically, why don't we have any sports/games with more than two teams? Does anyone else, for that matter? What is it that prevents us from being able to invent interesting games that perceive conflict in more than an 'Us vs. Them' fashion?

I remember WoTC back in the day (dating myself) publishing different variants for their Magic card game that were quite interesting, the best of which was the 'Five Color' game. I've never heard the mechanics of a good 5-team game described anywhere else, so I will describe it as the Five Color game.

5 teams are logically arranged in a pentagon. From the top, clockwise, we find White, Blue, Black, Red, and Green. The object of the game is to destroy the teams positioned 'across' from you, ie not next to you on the pentagon. The teams next to you are potentially your allies, not for any high reason, just because you happen to share an enemy. Additionally, your other ally is your ally's other enemy. Tricky.

The additional level of depth and strategy required adds an entirely new enjoyment to the game. You know every alliance is going to be betrayed at some point, it's in calculating the exact moment of betrayal that rewards the winner. It forces the player to be aware of conflicts happening between entirely other teams, and how to use those conflicts to perhaps set your enemies against themselves, or gain an ally. It forces strategy to become sophisticated in ways that calling a football game a chess-match doesn't even come close to.

And the interesting question would be, if America's favorite sports became 5-color games, would we see a corresponding increase in the sophistication with which we perceive international affairs?

I throw it out for conversation. (And secretly I hope that a few mod-makers (or budding sport-inventors) are inspired. I'd love to go hack WarCraft2 to make it support larger maps and a 5-color match up, or making a TF mod for such a game (maybe when TF2 comes out *chuckle*). Or maybe someday my internationally-savvy children will teach their old man how to play '5-color ball'... )

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Five Colors

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  • Specifically, why don't we have any sports/games with more than two teams?

    Well, there's sex of course.

    Serriously though, several authors have discussed this (under names like "dichotomy forcing" and "dumbbell theories"). It seems to be a fairly basic human trait, to see all issues as "black or white" at first glance, and only pick up shades and nuances later. I'd guess that, as games can be seen as simplifications of the real-world, building in the good-guys/bad-guys assumption is pretty natural.

    As a game designer I tend to avoid it since there are logistic problems. Monopoly, for example, can survive the loss of a player (e.g. someone gets bored or has to leave) better than chess can. Even solitaire is better if you view your target as "minimizing the number of players who get frustrated when someone quits."

    -- MarkusQ

    P.S. I also notice that you implicitly use "us vs. them" thinking when you assume that this behaviour is somehow an "American" trait.

    • Well, there's sex of course.

      Right... "male", "female", and "other". Mooo =p

      As a game designer I tend to avoid it since there are logistic problems.

      Well, going back to TF, those games definitely survived the loss of players because they could just fill more on a public game. That would be a little more difficult in a 5-color game, since the idea is that someone is directing strategy for your team; it's more complicated than just respawning and shooting the other color. But it would still be perfectly feasible with clan games, which already have a chain of command, and a committment from the players for the duration. Same with organized sporting events, or war2 games among friends.

      I hadn't thought about it from a logistics point of view though, or what happens in pick-up games when people quit. IIRC, I only ever got to play about five or six 5-color games of Magic, because we could never get the people together... =)

      It seems to be a fairly basic human trait, to see all issues as "black or white" at first glance, and only pick up shades and nuances later.

      So do you think a popular 5-color game would alter this behavior, or that a game that was contrary to this behavior would never become popular?

      P.S. I also notice that you implicitly use "us vs. them" thinking when you assume that this behaviour is somehow an "American" trait.

      Yes, and I'm American. Aha! =)
  • Someone in Germany has invented rules for playing chess with three players [3schach.de]. The site is available in German only, but even if you don't speak German, you might be interested in taking a look at the prototypes [3schach.de] he built for a 3-dimensional chess board.

    • Dude, that totally blew my mind.

      Even if you use the Iii COLOR SCHACH boards for playing, then the mental conception of the Iii COLOR SCHACH mechanism helps you of analyzing the produced chess shapes better. The danger to confound during the execution of a course lady and king wing is reduced clearly. Now, since I know, how the Iii COLOR mechanism looks, I play dearest again on Iii COLOR boards, because this play way corresponds rather to the chess tradition, evenly straight because one up in the brain the three frames to a whole build itself must.

      The combination of trippy "chess-space" prototypes and the crazy english speak courtesy of the babelfish, along with having SCHACH be one letter off my own name, completed the image of the surreal. I am Mr. Sparkle.

      There was a comment [slashdot.org]to my non-journal post [slashdot.org]:
      There is a game with more than an us vs them mentality. If you've ever played an online free-for-all game in Warcraft 3 you know what I'm talking about. It's one of the hardest variations you can play on battle.net.

      To which I said [slashdot.org]:
      See, I'm not sure. 3 player FFA has been around for a while. I remember playing war2 that way. But I don't think it changes the way you think about the game - everything bad that happens to your opponents is good, everything bad that happens to you is bad.


      I thought about 3-team before settling on 5-color. Trying to play 5-color like a FFA is only going to get you knocked out first. A 3-team tournament-situation would probably always dictate a logical alliance. Two of the teams would recognize which competitor they could least afford to let win, destroy him first in hardly-competitive two-on-one play, and then duke it out between themselves. First it's Us vs. Them, and second it's Us vs. Them. I skipped over 4 players, since that would probably end up in 2v2 alliances (or worse, 3v1), and when I got to 5 I remembered the old Magic Five Color game.

      The set up would largely prevent the "which competitor can we underdogs least afford to let win" scenario. If that competitor is one of your allies, you would probably be unwilling to team up against him, since you would be depriving yourself of his strength. This leaves his enemies to team up against him... which really shouldn't be that surprising. Of course, you would probably rather destroy him than let him win, so at some point when your mutual foe is almost vanquished, you might betray him. But perhaps he's already anticipated this, and his other ally and he have already almost destroyed your last ally, leaving you powerless to prevent them from overwhelming you...

      anyway I digress. But 5-Color is a truly interesting playing experience that FFA doesn't measure up against. In War3, is it possible to set the winning conditions for a player as the elimination of two other players? If so, you could easily set up a 5-color game, and I would love to play one.

      Ah, document-version concurrency issues on slashdot. Well, the other discussion will be dead in a day or two, so I'll try to keep it in my journal.

      I think that Five-Color has advantages over three. I can see how 5-color would lend itself to TeamFortress, or War2/3/Starcraft, or any game with some amount of resources that must be budgeted between destroying your enemies, protecting your allies, and destroying your allies, but I have no idea how it would work with chess (or football). Wish the SCHACH guy had an english translation... My guess would be that it would be fairly hard to adapt most 1-on-1 games to the format; you'd have to specifically engineer games that would make sense with five teams.
  • I'm sure multi-team games have been attempted before, and every time, they never get off the ground. It's probably always going to be this way.

    For example, lets say you had 3 teams of 3 people each in Warcraft III. What's the first thing that usually happens? 2 teams temporarly ally in some form to defeat the third team. Then once again, it becomes the 2 team, us-vs-them situation.

    However, mutli-player everyone against everyone games tend to work very well. Magic was a great example. I've played some basketball games that use 3 or more people who are all against each other, and they're a blast. And of course, we can't forget the classic free for alls in Doom and Quake.

    Its sad that there isn't any 3 team sports games It'd sure be a blast to watch three football or basketball teams go at it. But unfortunately, I'm sure its been tried hundreds of times before, only to have it fail.

    As for your Aussie friend making you wonder if Americans have this us vs. them attitude. I dunno, I think this Aussie was a very rare type of sports fan. All my non-American friends tell stories of how their sports events are just like ours. Us vs. them to the death! Hehehe. Except for Japenese Sumo of course. Heck, from what I've heard, international soccer fans are far more vicious than American sports fans are. You never see Brazilian soccer fans cheering for other players when they make a good play. =)

    • For example, lets say you had 3 teams of 3 people each in Warcraft III. What's the first thing that usually happens? 2 teams temporarly ally in some form to defeat the third team. Then once again, it becomes the 2 team, us-vs-them situation.

      Check out my other comment [slashdot.org], above.

      So the cool thing about 5-color as an alternative to the 3-team FFA is that it prevents you from employing this strategy. Two teams cannot ally to vanquish everyone else in the same way, because the game is over as soon as one of them eliminates both of their enemies. It would be pretty complicated even to get a game down to two players, though not impossible.

      I think this Aussie was a very rare type of sports fan.

      That's possible. I don't think the viewpoint is exclusive to Americans, I just think it's easily identifiable in Americans, because I see them every day =)
  • IIRC has a game of 'football' with four or five? teams. (It's been awhile since I read it.) With magic, giant bugs and dragons to ride and other crazy stuff. Not quite NFL, but an interesting/entertaining read.

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