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Hax In Pokemon Battles

Discussion in 'Smogon's Greatest Hits' started by X-Act, Mar 12, 2009.

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  1. X-Act

    X-Act np: Biffy Clyro - Shock Shock
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    Smogon and the competitive Pokemon community as a whole has always had one common enemy: hax. We have gone so far as to implement clauses and bans to mitigate the effects of luck on the outcomes of games. However, our best efforts thus far have failed to make hax an issue of the past.

    Because of this, I've been trying to tackle this discrepancy recently, proposing to a few people on irc an objective, mathematical formula that could be used to significantly increase the probability that the battle outcome is deemed "more fair." Essentially, this formula would be applied at the end of a normal battle and its outcome would be used to determine the winner. Yes, fainting your opponents six Pokemon ends the battle, but this would not necessarily guarantee the win when using this formula. The formula would play a role in determining the winner and finalise the outcome as a "win" or "loss".

    There is one problem: I haven't finalised this formula yet, as I'm not entirely sure that it works as we wish. However, I have already shown the prototype model of this mathematical system to Caelum and DougJustDoug, and they told me that this endeavour is by no means fruitless. Because I'm not completely satisfied with the formula, however, I cannot say that this formula is ready to be used; this is actually one of the reasons why I'm posting it here: to get opinions from you Policy Reviewers. The other, more important, reason why I decided to post this all the same is that I'll be having a break from Smogon due to my upcoming marriage next month, and I thought that it wouldn't make sense to let this wait until after my marriage.

    So here is what I thought about, so far. As people are probably aware, Prof. Glickman, the inventor of the Glicko and Glicko-2 systems, wrote a formula that gives us the probability that a person with rating R1 and deviation RD1 beats a person with rating R2 and deviation RD2. For posterity, it is repeated here:
    Code:
    Prob_Win = 1 / (1 + 10^(-g * (R1 - R2) / 400))
     
    where g = 1 / sqrt(1 + 3 * (ln(10))^2 * (RD1^2 + RD2^2) / (400*pi)^2)
    and pi is the usual pi (approx. 3.14159)
    Now if Prob_Win is large, 0.8 for instance, and the player won, then the win is more probable that it was on merit and not on hax. Conversely, if it is small, say 0.2, and the player won, then the win is more probable that it is due to hax. Thus, Prob_Win is a measure of 'hax' in the sense that it is inversely proportional to 'hax' - the higher it is, the less 'hax' there was likely to be in the battle. Formally:

    Code:
    Hax = k / Prob_Win
    where k is a constant that needs to be determined.

    The problem is how to find this constant k. I have tried to write a formula for k in terms of three other variables.

    The first one is L, which is defined to be the total health lost during the battle as a fraction of the team health. Of course, this would be 1 (or 100%) for the opponent that lost the battle; thus L would only make sense for the player that won. The lower L is, the lower the amount of hax in the game - hence L is directly proportional to Hax.

    The second variable is 'a', the total number of Pokemon that are still alive at the end of the battle. As before, this would only make sense for the player that won, since 'a' for the losing player would always be zero. For this variable, the higher 'a' is, the lower the amount of hax in the game - hence 'a' is inversely proportional to hax. We normalise the value of 'a' here by dividing it by 6, so that if all the winning team's Pokemon are still alive by the end, then 'a' would be equal to 1.

    The third variable is p, the number of Pokemon that were used in the battle. Yet again, this variable would not be very interesting for the losing player as it would always be 6 for him or her. If the winning player didn't use all his six Pokemon in the battle, the battle is assumed to have had less hax. Thus, the smaller p is, the less hax there was, and hence p is directly proportional to hax. Again, we divide p by 6 to normalise the value of p so that it is a number between 0 and 1.

    As a prototype to my system, I suggested k to be equal to the following:

    Code:
    k = L * p / a
    and hence we have

    Code:
    Hax = (L * p) / (Prob_Win * a)
    If Hax is higher than some threshold value, then the game is deemed to have had too much hax, and hence the opposing player would get the win instead. I tried this threshold value to be equal to 2, and it seemed to work okay.

    However, I'm not at all sure if this formula is correct, or even if the variables I'm using are even relevant to hax. And this is where YOU guys come in. I need your help to specifically improve the above formula. In particular:
    • Are my assumptions about p, L and a correct?
    • Is my threshold value of 2 fine, or should it be lowered or increased even higher?
    • Should there be other factors in the formula that influence the amount of hax present in the battle?
    Please do fill me in with your help. The people that play relatively frequently have the power to help me more than the others, since they obviously would experience hax more. Please don't just assume that I'm right just because I said it here - as a person who hasn't played much competitive Pokemon for a long time, I'm sure that I can be enlightened further about this matter.

    A final disclaimer. Because of my imminent marriage, I will probably not be able to monitor this thread as much as I would like. For that reason, I will be keeping contact with Caelum via e-mail over the coming weeks to bring me up to speed on what's going on in this thread, and he might even post in my place about updates and developments to the formula.
  2. LonelyNess

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    I feel like those variables really have nothing to do with the amount of "hax" that took place in a match. Take for example, variable a. Just because the winner didn't have to use all six Pokemon against an opponent, doesn't mean that the battle had less hax. Quite the contrary, actually, it can sometimes be MORE indicative of hax. Maybe Salamence got a timely critical hit at the beginning of the game on a Pokemon that should have been able to stop it easily and the opponent had nothing left for it, resulting in a 6-0 sweep where only one Pokemon was revealed on the winner's side. I just don't see how number of Pokemon being revealed has anything to do with how much luck intervened in the battle. L and p have similar problems in that they are really not related to how much luck actually occurred in the battle.

    If we were to actually attempt to quantify how much hax happened in the battle, it would have to include number of secondary effects as a ratio of how many turns took place in the battle (since as the number of turns increases, as would the amount of secondary effects that happened). This number could then be divided by the probability of winning to determine whether or not the amount of "hax" involved was too great for the winning side. Although this still doesn't take care of "unneeded" hax like getting critical hits on a Pokemon that was OHKOd anyway, or Paralyzing something on the switch-in that is slower anyway, lacks priority, and is 2HKOd by the attack. These may be luck based occurrences, but they will have absolutely no bearing in who actually won the battle.

    Lastly, I find the thought of the player whoever downed the last Pokemon not winning a bit... wrong. A player fainting all six Pokemon of the opponent's team should be the only thing that matters. It's almost as if this is punishing people for having a low rating (also, what about people who don't "have" ratings under GLIXARE because their deviation is too low?). Just because people have a low rating, doesn't mean that they can't have an intense, hardfought, close battle that comes down right to the end. But according to those variables, if a lower ranked player fights to the end, revealing 6 Pokemon, fainting 5 of his own, and only has 1 HP on the last one, it must have been due to hax... which is just not true. I don't believe that you can quantify how much meaningful hax happened in a battle, and even if you could, I don't like the idea of whoever fainted the last Pokemon not winning because he had "too much" hax.
  3. reachzero

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    I agree with LonelyNess that the formula needs some tweaking. Critical hits and secondary effects make up the vast majority of "hax" that takes place in a battle, so I'd like to see the formula reflect this. Perhaps it could account for the probability of critical hits and factor in the number of criticial hits that actually occured in the battle (adjusting for high-crit moves like Stone Edge and Super Luck if possible)? Likewise, perhaps it could account for unusual numbers of secondary effects, factoring in Serene Grace? I dont' so much mind changing the outcome of "extreme" games, where one player scores five critical hits against the other. As long as this only effects the rare insane cases of hax, I'm fine with it.
  4. Ancien Régime

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    In regards to "unneeded" hax, one could always determine how much a move would have done, determine whether the pokemon being hit was within a given range of HP (maybe within the middle 50% of HP ranges that a given move would KO at without the CH), and then that would not be counted. However, it could be very complicated to code for.

    I don't think it would affect the "outcome" of a battle, but it could neutralize the effect of a loss, in that, if there is a sizable "hax" difference (one player got 15% more hax than the other), then the battle is thrown out, and it doesn't count in the ratings.
  5. Lemmiwinks MkII

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    Well I'm not as mathematically inclined as you, X-Act, but I have a few qualitative points I'd like to make.

    First of all, you have to be very careful about what you define to be unfair hax. For instance, I'm currently using a Super Luck Honchkrow on my UU team. Now the reason I chose that ability was because I expect it to help me win more often than going without. After all, when consistently throwing out Night Slashes with a 25% crit rate you should expect to hax your opponent from time to time. That's an extreme example, but the same applies when taking into account hax items, 30% status chance over 10%, Serene Grace, all high crit rate moves etc. My point being, luck is a big a part of the game, and any system that takes hax into account needs to take caution with what it considers to be unfair or just plain expected.

    Secondly, I don't know about you guys, but when less than 100% accuracy moves miss I do NOT consider that to be unfair hax in any way, no matter how unlikely the overall probabilities are. These are high-risk, high-reward moves for a reason, and if we end up with a system where we end up attaching a reward element to the negative part of the risk as well as the positive, I just don't see that being healthy for the metagame at all. I mean, you could end up with someone spamming moves like Dynamicpunch, Zap Cannon, Grasswhistle, Thunder, Blizzard etc over their less powerful but more reliable counterparts. If he/she manages to hit almost all of the time with these moves in any given battle, the chance of victory is obviously much higher as the gamble has paid off. But naturally there will be times when most of them miss and a loss naturally results. Should that be taken into account as a possible reward when considering hax? I don't think so. I wouldn't know where to begin for considering which extreme is more worthy of consideration.

    Now those points aren't exactly related to X-Act's formula, but after having a quick look at it, I have to agree with LonelyNess. It doesn't seem right. It seems to punish lesser ranked players for winning close battles, whilst completely ignoring the more extreme end where just one or two Pokemon appear and hax everything in sight? That's what it seems like to me. If I've misinterpreted please let me know.
  6. darkie

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    Something like burns / paralysis / freeze from moves like Flamethrower et al should definitely be calculated in the formula. I'm not sure if Doug can extricate these happenings from the log, but I'm sure we can ask him (or he himself can answer if he sees this!).
  7. Kristoph

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    I disagree with this idea at its very core, so I don't really feel the need to get into specifics regarding the formula and whatnot. I just think the entire concept of changing the outcome of a game as luck-based as pokemon based on... luck... is awful.

    And I'm not saying that simply because "hax is part of the game." I think that's actually a cop-out in some ways, and suggests that "well sure I'd rather be playing chess instead, but this is Pokemon and Pokemon has hax so I just deal with it!" Yes, hax is a part of the game, yes, it's something people should accept, but I'm getting the feeling that most people who agree with that are doing so rather resignedly and that's disappointing. I personally feel that "unneeded hax" is perfectly relevant to the strategy of Pokemon, and that removing it, or punishing players for being rewarded with it, does alter the game in a meaningful way besides "wow I feel so free without having to worry about those stupid Jirachi flinches!"

    Basically, it isn't just a matter of "oh gay I would have won but the one instance I couldn't possibly prepare for destroyed my strategy, why does this exist!?" Even "3 flinches and a CH???" instances still serve a purpose, and that purpose is to force players to adapt during a match in a (in some cases hugely) disadvantageous situation. It sounds laughable and "learn 2 adapt!!!" has kind of lost its meaning since the Garchomp days, but it's true; if I'm put into a nearly hopeless position based on something I had practically no way to prepare for, and I win anyway, that's testing my team and my playing style in a way that is potentially entirely different than if I just executed my strategy "as planned" against a player of relatively equal ability. And as much as it can suck to lose to something stupid you can't do anything about, that's something easily accounted for by simply placing less value on each individual win or loss, something that's been mentioned in these discussions time in and time out. "Hax," even in its extreme forms, brings something to the game that is very difficult if not impossible to otherwise replicate, and I think people undervalue or completely ignore the fact that "oh great how will I get around Swampert now" might be just the sort of thing that we want people to be saying every once in a while, whether it influences their team-building or battling decisions moving forward. And while I do mean that "might" somewhat literally, I very seriously doubt that this is a factor we can or should feel comfortable with potentially damaging or removing, just so our top players can remain a bit more consistent.
  8. Ancien Régime

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    Your post makes no sense.

    Losing to random luck is just that - random. Are you telling me that in a game of 6 pokemon and 24 moves, and 50+ available "OU" pokemon and 50 more viable "Non-OU" pokemon, the team builder must ALSO prepare for instances of random luck that he has no control over?

    Theoretically, Scarf Jirachi can flinch Magnezone to death without Magnezone getting a hit in. Magnezone was Jirachi's counter. How would one adapt to that? Obviously that's an extreme case. But you are arguing that losing a game that is supposedly a test of skill to factors that are 100% unalterable by skill is acceptable in a competitive game. I disagree, and thus think a method of removing the influence of luck from pokemon, while it may be imperfect, is a highly laudable goal.
  9. Kristoph

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    What is that supposed to mean? You play the rest of the game from the disadvantage and try to regain control through smart decisions. I'm not saying you have to "magically adapt your way into Magnezone not dying," that's obviously absurd; I'm saying that "ok, I'm now at a huge disadvantage through no fault of my own, let's look at what my options are" becomes a factor when the unavoidable does happen, and it brings another element to the game (one that is somewhat emulated by fighting game tournaments that employ a "counterpicking" system).
  10. Ancien Régime

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    And why should just that be "accepted" as "part of the game"? How does having to work from huge disadvantages not caused by your play or decision-making help the game or make it better competitively?

    Also, please explain this:

    Why do we want this? Just because? Why does this random element have to be introduced into the game?

    Why should random chance be affecting team-building decisions? In fact, how can you make battling or team-building decisions based on random chance?
  11. Kristoph

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    Because it is part of the game. I thought everyone already accepted that and I'm confused as to why they're still playing if they haven't.

    Not that I haven't explained this before, but it's testing players in ways that they won't ordinarily be tested if every aspect of their strategy is up to them; if we're more rigorously testing certain skills, or introducing new scenarios altogether, that's certainly "changing" the game, if not deepening or at least "broadening" it (but "changing" is enough for me to resist the implementation of X-act's formula anyway).

    If player X and player Y both have a dominant strategy that wrecks everyone on the ladder, but player X loses whenever his most important pokemon gets frozen, CH'd, flinched, or "10% status'd" while player Y can generally just brute force "play" his way to a victory a respectable percentage of the time, I think that's an example of an important distinction between a "good" player and a "better" one.
  12. Ancien Régime

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    Why bother with tiering then? Or banning certain moves? Why even have a standard tier? The carts have tiers, should we adhere to those? Anything about the game we currently seek to modify is not "part of the game", and thus, we should not be forced to accept it.

    Let's introduce a 1% chance that a pokemon on each side of the field will randomly faint, regardless of the situation, each turn. That certainly tests players in ways that they would not be if every aspect of their strategy was up to them.

    All competitive games must emphasize skill to their furthest possible extent, even if they're "luck-based" - otherwise they cease to be competitive.
  13. LonelyNess

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    However, just because a game may have a bit of luck in it, doesn't mean that the winner should be punished for getting luck.
    In Texas Hold 'Em, you could be the worst player ever, and still end up with all the chips in a tournament. It doesn't matter that you got 50 great hands in a row and that the "good" players got shit that they couldn't even "play well" out of. All that matters is who ended up with the chips, or in the case of Pokemon, who fainted the opponent's 6 Pokemon first.

    You don't penalize a bad poker player that wins through good hands by taking his money away, and you don't penalize a Pokemon player who gets a bit of one-sided luck by taking his win away. And just because we don't penalize, doesn't mean that competetiveness ceases to exist.
  14. Kristoph

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    But we do, because most pokemon players realize what kind of game they're playing. A simple change in mindset almost entirely dispels any "problems" hax causes to some players in the first place: "stop caring about each individual match." If people would drop the idea that "if I'm better, I should win 100% of the time" they'd realize that they're probably gaining more than they lose if 3% of their matches end in something ridiculous. Obviously this is not helped along by tournaments typically being single elimination and whatnot, but maybe we should be focusing on things like that instead of trying to change how the game works on a fundamental level.

    This is the second time you've used the word "introduce," and I'm really wondering why. I never said that hax in Pokemon is the "best" way to gain this kind of effect, nor do I advocate introducing any more than we already have. This is something that is quite literally a part of the game, and it certainly has a number of meaningful, strategic implications; how would it be acceptable for us to restrict them when such a ridiculously simplistic solution is available ("stop caring about each individual match")?

    This makes absolutely no sense to me. What exactly are you saying? because until then I guess I just agree with what LN said.
  15. Cathy

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    Blame Game is right.

    The game is the final arbiter of who won. Introducing criteria other than who won to decide the winner is pretty bad and unnecessary. Chance elements will already balance themselves out in the long term.

    Furthermore, since this programme is based on ratings, it gives one player going into the battle a material advantage -- as in, if all the moves and random procs and teams stayed the same, but the identities of the players changed, the outcome of the battle could be different. This is fundamentally anti-competitive.

    This idea has the potential to render pokemon completely unplayable. I don't know if I can overstate just how bad of an idea this is.
  16. Amazing Ampharos

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    I ordinarily wouldn't post, but this sort of idea is especially bad. There are a lot of theoretical and practical reasons for this.

    The biggest theoretical problem is that it ignores the simple reality. If you lose a competitive game, ever, you deserved to lose. If you didn't deserve to lose, you wouldn't have. The Pokemon community has always struggled with this concept, but if you actually want the game to be serious, it's just not up for debate. I understand Pokemon has a fairly high degree of variance in any given game that could let the less skilled player win, but that doesn't matter. The game itself defines the winners, and you can only try to improve yourself and win more on the long term. Redefining winning (especially in a way that rewards material advantages!) is a disaster in itself. What you are doing is taking the philosophy of the typical scrub (I lost but I have more skill!) and applying it to the game in general... Non-scrubs define skill and winning on the game's terms; why would you ever contest something like this that the game defines for you?

    Yeah, the material advantage thing needs addressing. Basically, if I have a really low rating and you have a really high one, it's a lot harder for me to win. I have to win by a big margin to win which, ironically, is only likely to happen if I get a lot of luck. It also favors suboptimal moves like using Softboiled with Blissey when I could kill with Seismic Toss because I want to have a greater percentage of my health left when I win or not switching in my best Pokemon for a situation since I haven't used him yet. Note again that it's all one directional. If we set two players of equal real skill but different ratings (for whatever reason) against each other, the one with the higher rating will win more often and thus have an ever growing rating while the other will suffer an ever falling rating as they play. I could spell it out more, but it should just be obvious to everyone how this is really awful.

    If none of this is convincing, just consider the political implications. Do you know what chaos will ensue as soon as a bunch of randoms win matches and get told "you actually lost because you haxed too much"? Even a more moderate (but still awful) "it doesn't count as much because you haxed too much" is absurd and will result in the biggest mess you'll have ever seen. For the sake of keeping order and not causing every unknown player to quit in rage, I suggest you drop this idea immediately and never consider it or anything even remotely like it ever again.
  17. Tangerine

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    I think this is very interesting, as I have mentioned over IRC, but as it currently stands, I'm not too sure about the current formula.

    The purpose of any rating system is to rate the player's skill. The current rating system definitely does not consider this at all - while win is a win, how well you win matters. The current formulas don't have this at all. I think this is a noble endeavor and I'd love to help out tweak some stuff but sad that I'm too busy at the moment (I haven't posted in stark in a while x_x).
  18. Kevin Garrett

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    The same applies to losses. I have had countless battles where I have all of the necessary tools to win in my team and hax ruins my game plan. Let's say I have Celebi Calm Minding up against a Sub Petaya Empoleon and it gets a critical hit just when I have enough SpD to easily take a +2 Ice Beam before the Petaya Berry activates. At that point, it's not a matter of making smart decisions. It's a matter of how I lost when I should have won. I think this formula has potential, but I would like to know what can be done to lessen the influence pointless hax has on the outcome. If a move will knock a Pokemon out regardless of a critical hit, then the quality of the win shouldn't be any less, correct?
  19. AvatarST

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    I don't really play a lot these days, except a couple of random games here and there under an alt, but I feel this is a big enough deal to make me post.

    Personally, I think if we implement something like this, we'll break the spirit of the game entirely. How can we even call it a pokémon sim anymore if we don't follow the most basic of the rules in pokémon: whoever faints the opponent's pokémon first wins?
  20. Blue Kirby

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    I think it is indeed possible that this idea has merit, although I think it does need a bit of refinement before we can even think about putting the idea to the masses (although I guess that's already happening, heh). As it is, it just seems like a way to "right" a wrong that has always been apart of the game. Who are we to decide what flies and what doesn't in this regard?

    I am interested in one thing, however - how exactly do you differentiate between different types of hax? How do you measure it? Is a critical hit more "haxy" than Thunderbolt getting that paralysis as a side effect?
  21. Jumpman16

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    That's one of the reasons I myself am a bit skeptical about this, but the more I think about it the more I think there's likely a keen mathematical equation that can quantify that kind of hax. X-Act's formula for OU contains part that most of us still don't fully understand, but there is a reason he is a math professor and his ideas and insight on issues like this are extremely valuable.

    So at any rate, we are striving towards another crucial goal in competitive pokemon by considering this, and that's always a good thing even if the process may initially falter.
  22. Lee

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    That was my first thought when I read this. This is perhaps the most ambitious proposal we've had in Policy Review and I love the fact that we're not afraid to think outside the box. Good work, X-Act.

    Having said that, I'm reluctant to advocate the use of this formula at the moment. I guess I'm just an old-school Pokemaniac and would rather our metagame kept the basic feel of an in-game battle and I fear that altering a game mechanic as basic and consistent as a win condition is going to take us further away from that then any of our previous endeavors.

    I wonder if this formula would directly effect the team-building process? I'm no Maths expert (I failed high school math :( ) but am I right in assuming that players are penalised based on how many Pokemon they have left at the end of the battle? With that in mind, I'd expect to see a lot less suicide leads/Explosion users as throwing away a Pokemon like that could bite you in the ass at the end of the battle when the formula gets involved. Likewise, I'd expect players to shun fast, fragile sweepers in exchange for slow, bulky Pokemon who are a lot more likely to be alive at the end of the battle. I could see the metagame becoming a lot more stall-orientated and I don't think it's fair for the formula to give an advantage to one specific play style over another.

    It might be interesting to hold a tournament with this formula in place but for the moment, I'm reluctant to say the least.

    Anyway, I realise you were asking for help moreso than opinions/theorymon and I'd love to help but since I am mathematically constipated I'm just gonna quote this specific part of your post to bring a little more attention to it.

    It would be nice if some of our mathematicians could answer these questions so X-Act has something to read during his honeymoon. ^_^
  23. Stallion

    Stallion I get so much action, my name should be a verb
    is a Battle Server Moderator Alumnusis a Past WCoP Winner

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    As many people may know, I am a very anti-hax player, having lost to it many a time. I want pokemon to be as skill based as possible, so I am a huge supporter of this idea. The bolded statement is what I'm concerned about, how does the formula determine what types of hax could potentially be game changing as opposed to what doesn't matter? For example, if a vital pokemon of yours is critically hit, could the formula assess how much damage that said pokemon could do to the opposing team? I don't know much about formula's of this complexity, but I have faith in X-Act's ability as a mathematician, and once any potential problems are ironed out I'm a huge supporter of this.
  24. Syberia

    Syberia [custom user title]
    is a Pre-Contributor

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    I'm going to play devil's advocate here because as much as I hate losing to "hax," I feel that, in a way, attempting to counter it through the use of a formula puts the game even more outside the control of the players. You cannot control how much you hax your opponent any more than they hax you, so really this just shifts things away from losing because you got haxed to losing because you got lucky, without doing anything to really solve the problem, if one even exists. In other words, instead of a good player losing because their opponent got lucky, all this proposal would seem to do is make a good player lose because they got lucky. Players should not be penalized beyond what the game already does for things that happen beyond their control, and in a very real sense all this system does is reverses luck. It's still luck, because it happens whether or not you want it to.

    That being said, if you do decide to implement this, I agree with pretty much everything LonelyNess said. If you're going to count the amount of "hax" that occurred, count the amount of hax that occurred. It's easy enough to go through the log and pick out the number of hax occurrences, so there's no need to base things on peoples' ratings and other seemingly irrelevant qualifications, as at the end of the day, someone low-ranked can beat someone high-ranked because of a team match-up or, simply, because they played better.

    The proposal in its current form would also seem to favor stall teams over full-out offensive ones, as the former tend to win with more pokemon left, while the latter often squeak out 1-0 or 2-0 victories. I would also argue that it's fundamentally altering the way winners and losers are chosen, which is part of the game's mechanics (the person with a nonzero number of pokemon left wins), so "it's not pokemon" any more than removing critical hits "is not pokemon."
  25. Ancien Régime

    Ancien Régime capitalism delenda est
    is a Team Rater Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

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    I'd throw out the "number of pokemon left" thing entirely; I'm not sure how it relates to hax; there are a lot of other competitive factors that can affect the "final score".
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