Letting Your Friends Win

We’ve all been there, purposely playing badly so that our friend wins. It’s not out of pity or leading them into a false sense of security so we can batter them later, it is about letting them in to a world we want them to have fun in.

Of course I never tell them I am over braking or wild firing on purpose, that would spoil the illusion. But I know that if I played as well as I could every game, some of my friends would never play with me. I want my friends to be able to get the same enjoyment out of winning a multiplayer death match as I do, and unfortunately it is not possible in most games without me missing a button press or two. I’m sure many of us have been doing this for years, and sometimes those friends are lured in enough that they will keep playing with us and eventually become a real challenge. However I am getting fed up of having to play nice just so my friends can play against me.

It is nice to see games are finally recognising that not everyone playing will be of the same ability but that should not exclude them from the party. Sports such as golf offer a handicap by which two players can play one another on a more balanced playing field and I think it is something games should look to adopt more.

EA’s ‘all play’ would seemingly be a great solution for allowing a hardcore gaming FIFA fan to play against a dad who found Sensible Soccer too complicated back in the day. The idea on the Wii is that the user can define their level of involvement. You can choose to have access to all the game’s controls and complications or play a stripped back version where you may only be shaking the remote to pass and shoot while the AI judges where the players should go and what the best option really is. Another fantastic example is Guitar Hero’s scaling difficulty, allowing someone who isn’t so good (ie me!) to play against an expert guitar shredder and have a meaningful and close competition.

Some could argue that it is almost cheating to allow the computer to aid you, or penalise you to make it easier for the other person to win. I would argue that I would rather have the choice to have a competitive experience with anyone of any skill level than be forced to play beneath my ability simply because the game does not allow for a handicap.

Perhaps I am wrong and perhaps you like to trounce all comers…I just know if I tried to do that my second controller would probably end up gathering dust.

Anyone got any other good examples of games which allow for skill balancing in multiplayer? Or some ideas for how else it could be done?