I am sure quite a few of you have been playing the WW2 Relic RTS game ‘Company of Heroes’ stated t by many to be the best RTS game to date (though probably Supreme Commander will replace CoH in this respect).
Whilst Relic have produced a great title they have yet again balls up the multiplayer experience leaving some lessons to be learned by other developers. I’ll go into the specifics in a bit but to broadly summarise their mistakes CoH essentially has a stats system and game mechanics which allows players to completely take the piss if they choose. This has resulted in the multiplayer game being plagued with lame players who take more pleasure from disrupting games than playing them properly or with any intention to win.
The actual game itself can be very enjoyable online, it’s well balanced the graphics and gameplay are all really good. This accounts for about 25% of games if you are lucky, the other 75% of games players quit, drop, kick, go afk, play like an ass deliberately, turn on their teamates etc etc. Now this isn’t uncommon for most games though CoH does seem to take it to new extremes, but what really does your head in is the how the stats system will seemingly reward this type of lame gameplay which encourages more players to do it!
For example you can be playing 1 vs 1, get kicked by your opponent and they gain a win whilst you register a loss. Players on the verge of defeat might drop from a game by deliberately disconnecting their Internet connection or closing CoH from task manager with similar results!
Lessons for SoaSE (learned from CoH):
1. Only the host or game initiator should be able to kick another player so there is no ambiguity who is responsible for doing so.
2. If a player is kicked the game should inform the other players exactly what has happened i.e. ‘Player xyz has kicked player abc’.
3. If a player is kicked no stats should be recorded for the game, no-one wins, no-one loses.
4. If a player quits or drops in the first 2mins of a game, no stats should be recorded for that game, no-one wins, no-one loses. So if your team mate is behaving like an ass you can go find another game.
5. In CoH your stats and rank do not necessarily coincide, so a lvl1 player may well be stronger than a lvl9 player which completely makes a mockery of the rank system.
6. Stats which show players losses encourage smurf activity to a great extent, a far better way of doing things in my opinion would be to display only the number of victories a player has, and to preserve those stats between profiles. So this gives players the freedom to change their names, it doesn’t hinder or embarrass them by displaying their number of losses, but it does mean they cannot hide their experience to create a stacked team. You rank or level should be determined by your success and not hindered by your defeats, so if you beat some higher ranking players that should boost your own rank and the 10 games you lost last week whilst learning the game are forgotten, kind of like a sliding window of performance.
One thing Relic has done right is provide an email address for an admin team to deal with abusive, disruptive and cheating players. I have used it twice already and they have responded to my emails both times which is reassuring.