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Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: September 12, 2019, 04:55:49 pm »
Why does Dominion draw to 5, instead of to 4 or 6?

2
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: August 27, 2019, 08:15:45 pm »
Rosewater talks a lot about market research and focus groups. In Drive to Work 333, he describes some of the starter questions he asks: "how do you feel about X", where X can be important mechanics of a block, overall flavor, or certain defining cards. (This episode is not too worthwhile.) At the end of a focus group, the question asked is, "Would you buy this product", as a more-objective overall indicator of performance, even as a Yes/No single bit of information. Their market research isn't very sophisticated, but its sheer volume creates significant and valuable information.

You don't have focus groups, but you do a lot of playtesting. Players usually don't bring up things until prompted. Even when asked Rosewater-style questions, they're not coherent in expressing their underlying emotions. For example, people might dislike attacks, or enjoy certain feelings like going infinite, or feel that complexity is too much, or feel discouraged by certain choices required of them. But they'll usually point to some concrete and specific symptom rather than the underlying true issue.
Usually, starter questions reveal an initial symptom. Then careful followup questions guide players to discover the core issue, helping them realize why they feel a certain way. After they realize the source of their feelings, they can then tell that insight to the interviewer.

What starter questions are useful in finding the initial indication of an issue, when players may not understand it or be able to articulate it? Followup questions are easy and situation-specific, but I find that the initial discovery of those issues is the hard part, so my question focuses on starter questions.

Example: Magic's market research found a pattern that players don't like downsides on large creatures. Individual players point out specific cards they don't like, usually as vague feelings, but can't express why they feel that way. Then Magic connected the dots and found the underlying pattern. (I'm simplifying; the pairs are more subtle than just "large creatures", and some types of downsides are ok.)

3
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: August 26, 2019, 09:44:49 pm »
You mean drafting e.g. Magic. "Drafting games" are games where you draft all game, like Greed; when the drafting is done the game is over.
You are right. I was not aware of Greed's mechanic.

For me the purpose of choices is to have a fun game. You can only maximize one variable; I am maximizing fun. I don't need to teach anyone anything, or simulate the experience of learning, or any such thing. Fun.
My "learning" comes from my analysis of the word "fun"; I'll provide a more careful description. If you look at things that are fun vs not fun, I think it comes close to "players have fun when something improves the way their minds organize things. Like realizing something new that matters, or a worldview-changing experience". I haven't seen examples that contradict this definition. Non-interactive things are fun too: books, movies, music, art, humor. A game has choices, which allows the realizations to be tailored to that person's individual profile.

The only reason to use this definition is if it allows us to analyze what is fun vs not fun. I hope it captures the behavior in a clearly understandable way. I'm also looking for better ways to think about fun, and ways to describe it more clearly.

Here's an example of fun:
Quote from: Rosewater
In 2007, I attended the World Championship. One of my responsibilities was to play in a free-for-all multiplayer game and subtly show off a preview card from an upcoming set that no one knew I had in my deck. That card was Chameleon Colossus, and I wasn't particularly subtle...doubling its power eight times, I attacked with my Chameleon Colossus for 27,648 damage and gained 55,296 life.
A game designer shows up in your game, uses a card that doesn't even exist yet, creates a giant creature, and steamrolls everyone with it. All these things are new and unusual experiences, changing how people's minds organize things and the world - showing them something they didn't expect. So we expect it to be extremely fun. If Rosewater repeated it 10 minutes later, the impact of the fun would be way smaller, because the changes in everyone's minds have already happened. It won't change anyone's mental organization much further than it already did.

For me, Spike is not a relevant factor period. I just never think about the Magic psychographs when working on a game.
That's a very interesting perspective, and I think an ideal one. (Yes, I want to be that kind of designer too.) I think the reason you don't take Rosewater's psychographics seriously is that his psychographics are not totally correct, so they have unusual bits that don't make sense. Instead, I'll redefine them. Vorthos is part of Timmy. Melvin fits along with Timmy and Spike. Johnny doesn't exist; he is a different dimension and partially applies to all three. Here's the correct psychographics:
Timmy wants to have fun. Anything which shows him something fun is great.
Melvin wants to have fun, just like Timmy. But his learning is from inside, not outside. He figures out the solution, instead of the solution being presented to him. The realization is introspective. (Comparison: Timmy can have fun netdecking, but Melvin will have fun with deck creation.)
Spike wants to prove to others how great he is. Any effects on himself are a byproduct and not the direct cause - he might value winning, but only in the sense that it makes other people realize how great he is. Everything is in the eyes of others, and how he estimates others will see him. He may even take actions that reduce his chances of winning if he thinks it will improve how others view him, because winning is not the direct goal.* "Stuck in the Middle with Bruce" described seeing it happen:

Quote from: approximate
He claims innocence by being unaware. While he may have had his head buried in the sand, Bruce had his eyes wide open...I'm referring to plays that you make that you know are incorrect. I'm talking about finding an excuse to lose. Ah there is no problem losing when you have a good excuse. Heck when you are all set with a battery of excuses it is so much easier to swallow the bitter pill of defeat.

Why care about psychographics? Because people are linear combinations of these three. In particular, the fact that Spike is such an extreme caricature doesn't affect the analysis; there's no threshold at which any of the Spike effects disappear. Everyone has a proportion of that extreme caricature. If someone is 10% Spike, he will have 10% of Spike's consequential properties - his low proportion of Spike-ness doesn't make him immune to Spike-related feelings. That makes it useful to extract the Spike-ness from him and analyze it separately. Spike is a consequence of how human friend selection works, although that's going out of scope for game-design discussion.

Why do I think your perspective on not designing for Spike is an ideal one? Because designing for Spike creates unpleasant design choices. I design for Spike for business purposes; I want a larger audience. To illustrate, one type of Spike exists on forums: in an internet argument, Spike will pick over small grammar and wording mistakes, argue over definitions, and argue over what everyone exactly said. He wants to win the argument and prove to others that he is better than his opponent. Discovering anything is not his main goal. He will spend many pages arguing about pointless minutia, and others will say, "why the fuck did you waste so much time on that", but it makes perfect sense to Spike. (If you see people like that on this forum, they are also purchasing and playing your game.)

Or think about Sirlin: his Playing to Win article wants to show others how he is better than the common house-rules crowd. In public self-descriptions, he hypes up his own games as receiving recognition beyond what they actually received, projecting himself as a genius designer. He didn't credit Matthan, because he wants to be respected as Puzzle Strike's sole creator. Sirlin has a strong Spike component. Whether his Matthan gambit was successful is separate from what his intention was. (I think it worked. People are rarely aware of the history behind Puzzle Strike; Steam reviews don't mention it.) So then, should Sirlin feel ashamed about stealing from Matthan? (Ok, he was caught.) But he probably sees credit-stealing as humanizable, because he views things through a Spike lens. Thinking that others are like him, he expects them to empathize with his action. That's why he feels less shame about being caught than someone less Spikey would.

Spike also gets in the way of Timmy. Spike is partially the cause of time overruns - long after Spike has a reasonable decision, he wants to double check and triple check everything to maximize his chances of winning. Timmy will say, "this is boring" and play quickly, so the stopwatch is not for him; it's for Spike. Online, at least. In person, friends can leave Spike out of the next game. But it's helpful to have some in-game mechanism that reduces it.

Johnny is for choices made from a huge selection, culling out many useless options to find the right one. Anti-Johnny is for choices made from a tiny selection, making accurate estimations better than others. In Magic, this usually manifests in a deck-origination vs piloting split. As an example of why my definition is more accurate, Gifts UngivenCabal Therapy feels closer to Johnny than anti-Johnny, despite being piloting. It gives that same freedom and will evoke that same feeling. Johnny and anti-Johnny are dimensions of all three of Timmy, Melvin, and Spike.

Making a game "deep" is trivial. It's never a focus for me because I can always get as much of that as I want.
I have trouble doing so. One obstacle to depth is randomness: in a random event, connections are no longer clear in the before and after, creating a barrier to learning. I've never played Ascension, so let's pretend my following description of it is true, even if it isn't. In Ascension, random events happen regularly. Nobody is able to predict the future very well, so when players make decisions, their future performance is not connected to their past in any clear way. After a game ends, how should they change their behavior? They don't know. Even though there is certainly room for them to improve their decisions, they are not able to, and hence the game is not deep. The depth is there, but they can't achieve it, so it effectively doesn't exist. Poker is like this: depth is there, but learning is slow, and many people stop learning before they hit the maximum.
How to solve the randomness obstacle and improve depth? One way is to unrandomize. Flip future cards upside-down. Instead of seeing the next 6 cards in the Ascension buy-pile, now they see 30. (Ignore the massive reading problem this creates, for now.)
And it creates a triviality problem: depth only matters for ways that people care about. This same unrandomization technique applies to many games. For example, in a card game, you can make everyone turn three cards face-up from their library each turn. They only learn 3 new cards per draw, solving the reading problem. When stuff happens in late game, they can trace consequences back to previous bad choices, since the information is available. But players start thinking, "this is just a memorization game where people compete to see how many increasingly trivial and irrelevant things they can keep in mind, who cares about that?", and it's not deep in a way anyone likes.

A really good game like Go manages to create depth in a way that people can keep improving; in addition, players continue to care about what they are learning. But I've never designed anything as good as Go.

After unrandomization, the read-many-things problem can often be solved. But it's hard to create depth in a way that people think, "this type of depth matters". Often designers veer into the "this game is deep because people can't keep 100 things in their head, and they need to" territory. Or veer into "this game is deep because people can't add 100 numbers". Or "people can't read 100 things quickly". Different players care about different things too. Clicking quickly on pixels sounds like stupid-type depth to many players, but other players like FPS games and Osu. The type of depth players care about is significantly influenced by how it's framed within theming and drama.

As an actual illustration, imagine if Dominion used 10 cards the first game, then added another 10 cards the next game, 20 total. Then every game, rotate out the most stale 10 cards and add in 10 more cards, so it stays at 20 until the group breaks up. Whether Dominion works with 20 cards is not my point, I have no idea if it does (I haven't played Dominion either). But note what happened - the "I don't want to read 20 cards" problem has been solved - they're still only reading 10 cards at a time. But now we have the "players don't like needing to keep 20 cards in their heads" problem. Maybe some do.

Another illustration is graveyards. After playing a card, it goes in your graveyard instead of being shuffled back into your deck. Only when the draw pile empties is the graveyard shuffled in. This improves consistency and creates depth, but counting and remembering cards in graveyards is "stupid-depth" for many players. The main benefit is really the consistency. (And also, the fact that constant deck shuffling is not possible. Bags and videogames can continuously shuffle, but things in bags have limited text and art.)

I do think you need to sometimes push stuff in the players' faces that they want to be there but might miss. There were all those people who tried Temporum, didn't change history, and then said, "well changing history was sure nothing." The box doesn't include a good player to show you how they make out from changing history. So it wasn't enough that it had strategic value; it was too subtle for some players (and could have been less subtle).
Wow, that theme is great. I thought you sucked at theming but now I completely changed my mind. Temporum's theme is really well-chosen, and is still strong even as a theme chosen before mechanic.

I agree, it's not nice when the player just doesn't see something. Rosewater told a story about Magic:
Quote from: Rosewater approximately (details modified)
During the first such playtest, we noticed that when players got an Eldrazi out, they wouldn't attack with it. R&D had quickly realized the power of the annihilator mechanic, but the less experienced players didn't seem to feel safe throwing their giant creatures into the fray.
We took notes and talked about it, but changed nothing. The next playtest the same thing happened, and the playtest after that... we added the text "CARDNAME attacks each turn if able." Once players saw how much damage the Eldrazi did when they attacked, hopefully that would encourage them to attack with the other Eldrazi.
Basically, when players don't realize something, the designer forces them to do it and see the fun. It's hard to predict when this is needed without newcomer playtesting. Magic's huge financial base really helps them here.

Healing is a personal example: after playing 5 games of Magic, I didn't yet realize that late game I would have sufficient mana to do whatever I wanted. So if I had spare mana to heal and nothing else to do: I would heal. It didn't cross my mind that there was even the decision to be made, of delaying my heal to obscure the opponent's reach. Someone had to tell me. So my judgment was, "healing is trivial". But I was wrong. It looks nice after I learned it, but if I hadn't learned it, I would still keep thinking, "it's trivial".

In this day and age, it's "What they did before, helping them evaluate whether they made the right decision." Yes I am actually correcting you there.
Sure. I don't follow that for my own writing, but I understand both the cultural context and the linguistic context of your choice. You're not wrong. Related is my preference for writing "publically" and singular "data" despite them not being common. I switch some of these choices depending on the audience I'm writing for. I keep Spike strictly masculine because he is strongly associated with negative connotations; this is from awareness of a cultural context. Otherwise, I often switch between random he and she for uncertain third parties.

It's not great to have decisions where players don't have a basis for deciding what to do, yes. It's also bad if they can "do the math," and you end up just sitting there doing the math all game. You want choices that are clear in how they matter but still don't let you easily tell what's better.
This relates to the "I don't want to add 100 numbers" type of depth. Unrandomizing things makes connections clearer, but the created depth should be interesting, not pointless math. (I heard that Mage Knight is like this.)

I suspect he was just talking about how you want players to get to ease into the game. If you read a card a turn for 8 turns, at that point you've read 8 cards, and it's way less demanding of the player than reading 8 cards turn one.
Thanks, that fits in with "clock time between information and the choice given...to digest this information and form good decisions." But your perspective is better, because the player sees interactions play out to help make a better choice, not just spending time internally introspecting on the choice.

Here's my next question.
Quote from: Donald X
if players are taken out of the bidding by say winning an auction, they will get screwed over by the other players turning out to undervalue things; ideally good players can stay in the auction as long as possible
I played a multiplayer game called Offworld Trading Company. In this game, there are exclusive locations, each accommodating one player only, and some locations are better. Players choose exclusive locations, one at a time, so later choosers get locked out of the best locations. To determine the choosing order, an auction system is used: a clock ticks down saying "if you choose now, you will get $X debt", and X ticks down over time. Players decided how much debt each choice was worth, then pressed the "choose now" button when it was worth it. The final chooser got 0 debt, to remove collusion between the final two players. However, the issue you described came up: players only have the ability to influence one of the auction slots, and then were taken out of the auction.

The model can be summarized as: many options, players bid on the privilege of choosing first, then on the privilege of choosing second, etc. What auction systems improve on the one described, of bidding one at a time for each successive slot? (Such as reversing choice order, or bidding on differences between choice prices instead of absolute choice prices.) How do I make the most confident (best) price-estimator arbitrage his estimate against others, to give more input on prices? This was a major problem in Offworld, that new players did not know how to value things, lacked confidence in their estimates, and hence felt shut out from the very beginning. Offworld's designer Soren Johnson originally had an exploration mechanic to replace this auction one. However, the competitive community strongly advocated for the auction mechanic, so Soren removed the exploration mechanic, leaving new players in the dirt. The experienced players had no issue with auctions, and Soren had no ability to receive feedback from newcomers (they weren't in his Discord), so this caused problems that he could not see. The exploration mechanic was terrible, but it was more newbie-friendly.

*Note that winning tournaments for prize money is also desired. But we'll accept Rosewater's definition of a game as including no real-world consequences. I think it's a very accurate definition.

4
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: August 25, 2019, 04:04:04 pm »
I don't see what I would get out of secretly moving a card from your deck to your discard. I don't flip over cards just to flip them over; I look at the card and care what it is. Just moving the card isn't harmful enough to be an attack or penalty, or beneficial enough to be a bonus. It's busywork. I think it would feel like busywork; not an attack or benefit, but stupid. In Magic e.g. "put the top card of your library on the bottom" (if it goes to your graveyard, we'll know what it is) would be completely meaningless. Okay sometimes you'd have some information about your deck order, but aside from that, it's just shuffling a shuffled deck.

Tribute isn't self-milling; you do it to your opponents! Lots of cards can flip over your opponents' cards; what was special about Tribute was that it didn't say "attack" on it, and people didn't like that they couldn't Moat it. This is why Chariot Race doesn't discard the opponent's card (which some people then dislike for different reasons).
You're correct that it's a pointless mechanic. I'm interested in how players respond because it helps me understand the overall design space. Some of the ideas I'll mention will be quite bad, but illustrative of concepts. Your comment that "it would feel like busywork; not an attack or benefit, but stupid" is perfect.

I didn't realize that players disliked Tribute because of the lack of the "Attack" word on it; thanks for that insight.

Here's my next question.
Quote from: approximately Rosewater
Start the game with a few easy options and slowly raise the number of choices as the game progresses.
In particular, Mark says that that a game's first few choices should be easy. We can look at how other games handle it.

Heroes of the Storm, a multiplayer action game: your actions at the beginning of the game make little difference. Respawns are instant, so killing your opponents barely matters, and dying also barely matters. You can't push towers or affect the board meaningfully. Early game is like warmup.
Dream Quest, a single-player deck-building game: equipment you pick up early can't be removed easily. That means early equipment decisions will clog your run later. So early decisions matter as much as late decisions.
Drafting games: all deck decisions are made up front before the game starts. The performance of your deck is mostly decided early.

Consider the balance between early/late decisions as a general concept, untied to the specifics of these examples. If early decisions are easy to make, it reduces the impact of those decisions. Should the consequences of early decisions weigh the same as late decisions, or should early decisions be weighted less? What about how obvious those choices should be? What are the underlying things that Rosewater sees, that make him feel his statement is correct?

(Let's pretend that early/late weighting, or early/late obviousness of choices, is a tunable knob that doesn't affect anything else in the game. For example, early decisions having outsize impact is an unavoidable downside of drafting games. It can't be changed without fundamentally altering the nature of the game, but we could close our eyes and pretend it can!)

Scumming is a consequence of early decisions mattering, but it can sometimes be solved, so let's ignore it. For example, if you are playing a multiplayer physical board game and you do poorly early, you won't flip the board and reset the game. Your friends would be mad at you.

As for what counts as early vs late, clock time seems like the most logical scale, since it's the scale on which you think and interact, as long as there is zero downtime.

One aspect I considered for this problem was Spike. If Spike fucked up early, then he will be suffering for the rest of the game and will want to flip the table. He doesn't care how fun the flavor is and how great the building-up feels. He wants to win, and feeling like a loser for a long time will make him miserable, and he wants it to end quickly. (You prefer to make games that avoid this problem. But let's assume the person is hyper-competitive; he will quit playing and find another game if he thinks he's losing, no matter what.)

However, Spike may not be the relevant factor that matters for early/late. In designing which choices are worthwhile to have in a game, my document states:
Quote
The purpose of choices is to promote learning. You make a choice and then receive feedback on that choice, learning about the quality of your decision.
If choices are too obvious, then you already know the right decision and so you don't learn.
If choices are confusing or nonintuitive, with unclear connection between the choice and the consequence, then it's hard to evaluate your decision.
The player should make a decision whose correct answer is not obvious, and should be able to relate future consequences to that decision. A decision being high-impact will make the connection between consequences and decision easier to see, but the impact is otherwise not important. What's important is the clarity of the connection.

The player judges quality of a presented choice by how much he expects it to teach him about something he cares about. Obvious choices will teach him nothing, and meaningless choices will also teach him nothing (or nothing that he cares about).
He may perceive an obvious correct answer, and later discover his "obvious" answer was wrong. This is a strong and excellent learning event, but it requires that later discovery to happen. Otherwise, his initial judgment of obviousness, and hence uninterestingness, will stand. (See: healing)
Note that if connections are clear, the player will learn very fast. That's good if you have lots of things to teach the player. If you run out of teachable things because the player has learned everything, the game becomes dead.
Teaching everything in a short time is not a good thing for a designer, even if it delivers all the same learning value in a shorter time. Because player perception of what they learned is not decided by how much they learned, but how much time they spent learning. So stretching out the learning is useful in tricking players to see a game as "deep".
Having fewer choices makes them more obvious and less confusing (by eliminating ones that the player shouldn't consider).
In particular, as the game progresses, the player should have some feeling of how the ongoing events are related to what he did before, helping him evaluate whether he made the right decision. If a choice is a black box, then the game designer should remove that choice. Is this the correct framework in which to evaluate why Rosewater wants early decisions to be more obvious? How come early choices require different treatment from late ones? Perhaps because they affect more duration of the game, and hence require a clearer connection between the choice and its consequences?

Perhaps the correct framework is instead clock time between information and the choice given. For example, in Heroes of the Storm, playing a new character is like a large burst of information. Then, you need some time to digest this information and form good decisions. Early/late weighting is a true tunable knob for Heroes that doesn't affect any other aspect of the game. So its early game being a warmup is a conscious decision by the game's designers, and they feel it's best this way. Its early decisions are not "easy" so much as "unimpactful". The connections are still clear, but they don't matter for victory.

5
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: August 25, 2019, 02:25:43 am »
I don't try to have scapegoats. I try to make it fun to lose; if it's fun to lose I'm set, I don't need to add more wrinkles there, e.g. making sure you feel like you could win, or a scapegoat. This is one of those cases where I cite Scrabble. You can start a game of Scrabble knowing that the other player will beat you, that they are simply better at anagramming than you are, and still have fun. You can blame your draw in Scrabble, if it's close, but when they beat you up, man, you know, they were just better. And that's fine, it doesn't make the game no fun. It's not something that needs fixing in Scrabble (what needs fixing is downtime, and people have fixed it, e.g. with Boggle, which provides no scapegoat at all).

I would not cite mana screw as serving an important scapegoat role in Magic either. You can always blame all the other aspects of your draw, e.g. drawing early-game cards late and vice-versa. Mana screw is one of the two giant flaws Magic has (the other is that the rules are too complex).  When e.g. Mark says how great mana screw is for Magic, he's either towing the company line, or suffering from Stockholm syndrome. Mana screw is: sometimes you don't get to play. In 1993 that was not unusual; these days we know that games are better when everyone gets to play. It's not some impossible dream; there are tons of games now where you always get to play.

I think people get way angrier about online games than real-life games. A huge difference is that you're up against friends irl, and often strangers online. But well, if people complaining online is toxic, then all those communities are toxic; there will always be something to complain about. The players are all humans.
You are correct about mana screw being a flaw; I just wanted to cite a concrete example of something being scapegoated. (The cognitive bias underlying Mark's perspective is that he's invested in it. It's post-purchase rationalization, but with 20 years of design replacing the purchase.)

Scrabble is a different effect. Using Mark's language, it is a Timmy experience. Even if you lose a game of Magic, it might be fun if you got to build a 200/200 creature (a fun experience!). But Spike will be unhappy. Scapegoats are for Spike. Timmy doesn't need scapegoats, and a game creating its value through Timmy things will have no trouble with losing. Here's an example similar to Scrabble: people don't mind losing Oregon Trail or wargames, because they have no mechanics anyway and it's all about the experience. Another example is Monopoly:
Quote
Monopoly has no mechanics. And usually no winners or losers either - the game drags on and everyone quits. But it's still a strong Timmy experience because of the theme and story.

Creating good Timmy experiences is quite hard though. Some Spike action is helpful in supplementing the shortfalls that a design will inevitably have.

Here's another question:
Quote from: One of the MTG designers in one of their Designer search competitions
Players hate self-milling, and they will hate this. As one of many examples, look how little Arc-Slogger is worth compared to how powerful he is. Just stop submitting it - everyone
...
As it turns out, players generally hate hate hate self-milling so much that we would never actually do that

You found a similar effect with Tribute.

Quote from: Vaccarino
Some people feel like it's attacking them, since it can flip over good cards; I think it tends to help as much as hurt, but so what, I don't need people to feel bad over a non-attack
Logically, it makes no difference when something is milled - they just draw the card below that. But people hate milling anyway because of loss aversion. They weigh the loss of a discarded good card far higher than the benefit of a discarded bad card. So even though their emotional reaction makes no logical sense, they can't help it anyway.

The natural thought experiment is: suppose the milled card was face down, so they don't see which card was milled. I think this wouldn't create the impression of an attack. Is that true? Do you have experience with cards in either Dominion or other games that have this face-down-mill effect? How do players react to them? (Face down mill isn't possible for Tribute because of cheating issues.)

6
Dominion General Discussion / Re: Interview with Donald X.
« on: August 25, 2019, 01:08:41 am »
I have questions but no Dominion-related ones. If you like them, I will continue posting more. (I'll just post more after each is answered, as long as people continue to benefit.)

Quote from: Mark Rosewater (approximately)
Mana screw is a great scapegoat. In fact, one of the best roles that it serves, is if you want to blame your game on your mana, you can. Even if it has nothing to do with your mana. Someone would come up to a player after they’re done and go “How’d it go?” So much of the time they would just say “Oh, I got bad mana or bad draws". But I watched the match. They didn’t have bad mana or they didn’t have bad draws. They just lost. They made bad decisions or whatever. But it’s a nice excuse that anybody can give. And that is important.
Let's focus on the notion of a scapegoat. When someone wins, they want to feel it's fair and they won against a good opponent. When someone loses, they want to believe that RNG screwed them over and nothing is their fault. These two needs create tension. So in a game with public and private information, someone's disadvantages should all be private information and his advantages should all be public. (This is for ideal scapegoat design, ignoring all other considerations.) So a player sees all the things screwing him over and goes, "wow, I'm so unlucky". But he doesn't see the things screwing his opponent over, only the ways his opponent got lucky. He has the perfect scapegoat.

The one consideration I have with this model is, someone sees all the crappy stuff happening to him and so after he loses a game, he wants to complain about it big time. Because nobody knows his suffering, and he needs to let everyone know that he is actually a great player who is just very unlucky. If I make him keep his mouth shut (such as disconnecting him from his opponent after the match ends), will he explode with resentment? Or if I don't make him keep his mouth shut, will his complaining undermine the feeling of victory that his opponent has? Will it create toxicity in the community if everyone is constantly complaining about how unlucky they all are and how their match records don't reflect their greatness?

Also, should the scapegoat be easy to summarize and communicate? (For example, a simple thing like mana screw is easily described to other people, such that the listener might believe it's a valid excuse.) Or, should the scapegoat be a complex mishmash of hard-to-summarize interactions, such that even if he tries to complain, his complaints won't be believable or communicable? (For example, if pieces can form sets of many combos, such as in Big 2, missing combo pieces aren't describable except by the general notion of "bad draws". A better player might find valid combos anyway, but this player hasn't found the combos he's looking for so it's legitimate for him to complain that combo pieces are missing.)

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