Remove Exploits

I worship Mark Nau. I remember watching him and Chris Busse play Gauntlet: they used a strategy where one person got behind a wall near the monsters, acting as a sort of magnet to pin them there while the other player went in the corridor and was ignored even though he was picking the monsters off. "This is called tooling the AI," Mark said.

Lots of games have "Tool the AI" strategies. In the first Age of Empires the path finding wasn't all that; you could create a field of blocks outside your village and when the enemy stormed your walls they would get confused and slowed by the blocks while you picked them off with your archers and priests.

A naive game designer might think that strategies where you can exploit bad AI qualifies as good game design: after all, it's fun to discover these exploits, it's 'strategy'. Also, the player feels like he's getting away with something, he's found another way to be a Hero. People even complain when an exploit is removed from a game. "But I liked that strategy."

And sometimes you may discover that when you remove all the "Tool the AI" strategy there's not a whole lot left to the game. (Gauntlet Legends, perhaps?)

There are two problems with an exploit:

- if your game is a sim, it can blow the simulation (the rocket jump of Quake and hopping from wall mine to wall mine in Deus Ex ruin the realism/immersion of what you're doing)

- an exploit, if it's good enough, will become the dominant strategy. In a solitaire game, if you find a dominant strategy that is good enough, you will use it until you get bored.


Rocket jumping in Quake is difficult, so I don't think it counts as an exploit. (Agreed. -Jamie) Moreover, it is one of the things that makes the game more like a game, and blessedly less like a simulation. Rocket jumping is one of Quake's OrthogonalElements, especially in Quake 3 multiplayer. (Disagree. It's an emergent strategy that comes from combining two orthogonal elements: the explosive damage of the rocket launcher with jumping. An element is something you consciously put in. -Jamie)

So I stress the difference between an exploit, which allows the player to utilize a design flaw, and an emergent property of the game environment, which can be taken advantage of, but only by skilled players, and not in a boring, repetitive way.

And then there is the massive gray area where purposeful designs lead to boring, repetitive behaviour anyway, like the Diablo trick of loading up on loot, teleporting back to town to sell it and restock on health, going back to the dungeon, etc. etc.

I think it will be inevitable that stupid A.I. gets taken advantage of, so a significant corollary of this rule is "make good A.I.".

There's also "Degenerate Decks" in Magic. These are decks that can win in a single play. (Or, two plays.) To prevent this, there are lists of cards that can't be used with other cards, etc., etc.,.

We should call it a DegenerateStrategy?. The "cure" is "RemoveExploits." These kinds of things can happen when you rely on EmergentStrategies. -- LionKimbro