Opaque Mistakes Breed Frustration
Posted by A Green Mushroom [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 8 October 2011, 7:03 am

Recently I’ve been playing two separate games which go by the names of Starcraft 2 and League of Legends. Both games are highly competitive. Both pit players against each other in deadly head to head combat. And, without a doubt, both are ruthlessly brutal to new players. Yet, only one of them frustrates me beyond belief.

League of Legends.

It’s interesting that two games which are so competitively similar can affect me in two vastly different ways. So why is that? I believe the key lies in how information comes across, or does not come across, to the player. Starcraft 2 is very transparent, while League of Legends is extremely opaque.

In Starcraft 2 most information is telegraphed to the player. It’s pretty obvious to anyone that an army with 30 units is better than an army with 15. While unit composition can muddy the water of army size comparisons, most of the time, it still takes a miracle to beat an army twice the size of yours. This transparency also extends to game wins and loses. Most of the time I can tell you why I won or lost a match of Starcraft 2. (“My macro was just horrible.” “I could have microed that battle so much better.” “If only I had scouted that tech switch sooner.”) It’s this information that allows me to improve my play, and it’s this information that helps me see that a loss was my fault. I lost because I did something wrong and I could have played better and actually won.

This is where League of Legends fails. It’s like a stone faced royal guard, just too damn opaque. In League of Legends it’s incredibly hard to tell how strong your opponent is. All you can tell at a glance is how much health someone has. You can’t know for certain how much damage they can dish out or if they run faster than you, or how much armor they currently have. So, when I die over and over again to a player, I couldn’t tell you why. It’s even worse when that player has seemingly less health than me(the most visible stat in the game), shouldn’t I be stronger? Am I just playing bad? Did I not level fast enough? Did I buy the wrong items? I don’t know. All I know is that I keep dieing and it sure as hell doesn’t feel like my fault. That champion must be unbalance, and overpowered. There’s seemingly nothing at all that I can do to win.

And when I’m powerless to do anything, I get frustrated.

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