War – Good or Bad?

Human history is littered with war. Ever since people could fashion tools they also made weapons. A more cynical person would tell you that war is the world’s oldest industry, but regardless of opinion we can all agree that the capacity for war is in human nature.

Many of the most interesting periods in history were in times of war. Many popular games and movies also strongly feature conflict and warfare. Surely war is interesting? and perhaps we could go so far as to say that the fantasy of war is fun?

Let me state clearly, I think actual war is a horrible thing. I am happy that countries now put a lot of effort into beating each other in sports rather than raising weapons – such as Pakistan beating India in the ICC Championship (Cricket) recently. I also think that virtual wars through games are fun since no one is getting killed…

Perhaps there is something else to consider in all of this. What if it’s not as simple as a headshot and a teabagging? What about the months of effort new players put in to grow their GCL? Even large established players stocked with credits would take weeks to respawn a new empire (more like months with these tick times amirite!?). The initial selection of a room, meeting and befriending/conquering neighbors, selecting just the right rooms to claim and perhaps even lovingly laying-out every structure with its own special click… It’s understandable that being comprehensively defeated can cause more anguish than just a respawn in a First Person Shooter game.

So what is the answer here? Having been in the Screeps world for more than a year now I can confidently say that many players will leave the game after their first wipe, perhaps as many as 2 out of 3 players won’t make it past their first spawn. I haven’t collected statistics on this one, but being wiped is probably a point where a new player will evaluate if they like the game or not. If not, I think there’s more to it that just being wiped, after all it’s probably just a few rooms they’ve lost and they could probably stand to refactor their code (RCL7 is probably the leading culprit in triggering refactors). The point is, new players can probably take the wipe easier since they’re learning and have less invested, but many leave because they just don’t fancy the game.

What about the person who has already respawned 5 times (like me) and been playing for 6+ months? Screeps Scripts normally get ‘feature complete’ at that point, with SK harvesting, power farming, and hopefully some automated defense. This person has done the refactors, grown their empire, and established themselves as a presence in the game. They might even be eyeing the leaderboards or part of an alliance with it’s own plans. Depending on the person, having your empire raised could definitely feel very personal.

Finally, what about the other fate which regularly occurs? Zombies… and not the fight for your life kind. Boredom with the game, taking a break, waiting for power creeps (oh they may as well leave the game amirite!?). A lack of enthusiasm for the game which befalls those who have no challengers, something which I have certainly felt at times. For me, engaging in the community and seeing my numbers on leader boards is enough to keep me checking in. But for war, when my empire and my fellow alliance member’s empires are at stake? Put the kettle on!, who put chocolate on my keyboard?, and what’s going on with my portals?!

Yet war without good sportsmanship just amounts to that kid on Halo who just “knows” the respawn timer on the rocket launcher, seems to be killing you as creatively (and nonchalantly) as possible, and screams into his headset violently as his avatar teabags your corpse wildly. Call me crazy, but you start a game with “GL HF” and you finish it with a “GG”. War can be fun, and war can give you inspiration to code up some whacky and awesome things, but only if it remains civil. Hurt feelings hurt, and since this is all virtual anyway, isn’t that what we should be conscious of in our conflicts?

Offering the new player advice on their defense and some resources to respawn with, setting some rules of engagement with another respected player you’re engaging, or even rousing a zombie player back into the game. These all come with war, and they can all be great… can’t they?

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