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Three Moves Ahead Episode 10 – Multiplayer Rambling

April 28th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 30 Comments · Podcast, Three Moves Ahead


A disorganized and rambling panel deals with multiplayer gaming in general and some war stories is specific. Bruce and Tom give the not-so-secret history of Tom vs Bruce. Julian sings the praises of the Gamers With Jobs community. Troy explains how he and Bruce used to spend lazy Sunday mornings.

And Tom outs himself as a cheater. A dirty, no good, cheater.

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The Story of the Crispy Gamer Fiasco
Quarter to Three
Gamers With Jobs
Bruce’s Escapist Article on doctors and gaming


30 Comments so far ↓

  • James Allen

    I haven’t had near the problems with joining Demigod games as you guys have; maybe it’s because I do random skirmishes instead of custom games against people I actually know. Having no friends does have its benefits.

  • Troy

    Skirmishes are easier for the network since it just scans for someone you can connect with. But since, as we say on the show, playing with friends is always better, custom matches are how I would prefer to play.

  • James Allen

    Well, now there is no excuse for it not working. Stardock keeps saying that it will be fixed soon…it will be fixed soon…it will be fixed soon. If I were having significant problems, I probably would have moved on by now. Apparently, they are putting up proxy servers that might/should allieviate the remaining issues. But we shall see. Too bad there are so many problems, since the game is quite awesome.

  • James Allen

    Rails Across America is awesome, by the way.

  • James Allen

    Demigod update:
    “This week we’re going to try to release a public beta version on Wednesday for those people who want to help us see if the update resolves their problem”
    And in the future I will try to consolidate my posts. :)

  • Tim McDonald

    I suspect I’m going to get a reputation as defending Stardock here, but most of their patches have had an impact. By and large each patch is cutting down the number of people who’re having difficulties, so far as I can see. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still having a fair few issues, but I’m half-convinced that a combination of my ISP and router, because I have issues with everything.

    And yes, custom games can be a bitch. I suppose I’m willing to wait because I don’t have that much time to play Demigod right now anyway.

    Will listen to podcast later :p

  • George

    Great Podcast like always. But please: don’t pick on Tom Chick for his coffee. I would be very thankful to get offered some good coffee by Mr. Chick. He is a real gentleman. I am serious here. In your position I would try to think about a way how to thank him.

    cheers, George

  • Troy

    Tom is a great guy and a good friend, but offering us coffee when he is three time zones away is just cruel. Especially when he brags about how good it is.

  • Matt S

    Not to be too cynical, though while I believe the patches are helping, to an extent the problem is also curing itself in an unfortunate fashion.

    More people are becoming fed up… the more problematic one’s setup, the less likely they are to put up with the continued problems. Not only does this select in favor of easier connections, but the I’ve seen the recent trend of automatching favoring 2v2 matchups (rather than the more problematic high volume affairs).

    So, matchmaking can solve itself, patch or no, when only 2 people who can connect under the system want to play at a time… The launch of demigod was unfortunate and to some extent irreversible damage has set in.

  • Troy

    This is my big fear, Matt, that the connection issues will drive people away from what is the best multiplayer experiences in years when you can get it to work.

  • Tim McDonald

    I’m equally afraid of that, which is probably why I champion the damn thing every opportunity I get.

  • Lizard Dude

    The coffee thing is currently stale and unfunny. This is the point where the weak drop the gag and the strong keep it up until it breaks through the Ridiculousness Barrier and loops back to hilarious.

  • spelk

    What I want to know is does Tom do decaff?

    Theres an interesting article on the network/connections problem

    Ultimately they should use the Impulse infrastructure and community options they already have in place to make the multiplayer of the game more reliable.

    Do we think these early multiplayer problems will hinder Demigod’s take up and longevity?

  • Vendolis

    Thanks for bringing Brettspielwelt up. I am german and like to play board games with old budys that are scattered across europ this is a very nice platform to try.
    And nice to mention Acricola all the time, did not even know they had a english translation to the game. It very nice, though sometimes a little autistic (as a lot of complex games get when you have to think too much about your turn). But my gf likes it cause of the little sheeps, pigs and cows. (The 2nd edition has them modeled from wood, first I think had only round stones there)

  • Ian Bowes

    To continue with the Multiplayer rambling, I totally agree that the quality of your online play regardless of game is mainly down to your relationship with the people in your play community. On Xbox Live it didn’t take too many “pickup” games for me to switch on the comms setting that only allows you to hear and communicate with players on your friends list. If you are not in a gaming community and all you have is gaming with strangers it is a desperate option, but it is by far inferior to playing with people who you have some connection with. For one thing, theres just no debriefing or feedback based on your play, and conquests or defeats are impersonal and bitter. These “out of game” communities, can exist in a number of forms, such as the more insular single game groups who come together and form up out of necessity to play a specific game online. Many MMO guilds come under this variety, and players come in all vibrant and enthusiastic and as the longer lasting appeal of the game wanes, the community degrades until all you have left are the focussed hard core devotees of the game. What I feel works better are the multi-game communities that hold themselves up as a gaming “home” of sorts, where you come together, meet and interact with the players first, and then play together a number of gaming pursuits. You build a much stronger bond with these players, because its not the game that drives the community, its the players themselves. The only downside is that because you have a number of different games on the go, your player base for each game is watered down to some extent, or can get ‘spread too thin’ across the breadth of games that are fostered by the community. I am in a number of multi-gaming communities that span different platforms and areas of interest, such as MMO’s and console gaming, and it is often the “out of game” experiences (meta-game experiences?) that enhances and adds more quality to the multiplayer gaming itself. As an aging gamer myself, I begin to look for communities that not only support how I want to play, but also understands the real life commitments I have in balancing a family and a job and other responsibilities against my playtime. A community sympathetic and considerate to its members play styles, and one that actually “cares” about its members is truly the holy grail of online gaming. And it is a far cry from joining up with strangers and hearing the white noise racket and abuse of the wired up gaming world unfiltered.

  • spelk

    Bah, I’ve been “outed” by my own incompetance.. the name should have been ‘spelk’.. and I should have really put some paragraph breaks in there, but I suppose you did want some ramblings..

  • Troy

    Hey, I agree with you, Lizard Dude. But I can’t stop Tom from making an idiot of himself.

    I’m not even sure it qualified as a gag.

  • Blue Guyute

    What I want to know is why Tom is making espresso for himslef and only offfering up a cup of coffee. Seems a bit selfish to me, get with offering the good stuff Tom. ;)

  • George (Stuttgart)

    looking forward to Zombies vs. Plants … after reading the EDGE review, I jumped on the hype train and pre-ordered it on steam for 10$… now you have to confirm, that it is at least worth 10 $


  • Howard

    I’m about half way through the podcast, I love the stuff you guys talk about; Tom I can’t help but anticipate and chuckle every time you offer coffee.

    As you prolly read after the podcast Wardell has commented on the piracy of demigod in his forums http://forums.demigodthegame.com/349758. I don’t think he’s going to leave the path off the light for the darkness of DRM. He knows that DRM hurts the customers more than the pirates and is looking out for us and ignoring the pirates.

  • Joseph T.

    Oh, I went and posted this on the wrong comment section. Apologies!

    Concerning Dawn of War 2 in Episode 10 and Tom’s match against a high ranked player, the matchmaking uses a system called “Trueskill” which tries to gauge your ability by initially matching you up against opponents of varying proficiency rather than just every fresh-eyed new player. Ideally once Trueskill finds your niche then matches can be consistently challenging but within your realm of capability. I hope this bit of information finds its way onto the podcast.

  • Troy

    Not a problem! The conversation is already happening in more than one place. One more never hurts.

  • Tom Chick

    Blue, I have *never* offered anyone a “cup of coffee”. That would be simply pedestrian. The offer is for “a coffee”, which is how you reference a shot of espresso when you’re among people who may not realize they like espresso because they’ve never had a good shot pulled for them. That is the courtesy I extend these guys, who seem to think it’s a joke. If I were less of a gentlemen, I would have long since left them to their unrefined beverages. I can only imagine they’re drinking American beers. Lite American beers.

  • Troy

    Light American beer? What type of pedestrian lager swilling rube do you take me for?

    Julian, though…

  • Alan Au

    Last I checked, Company of Heroes lets you play single-player as long as you have the disc in the drive. Of course, anybody who bought the game via Steam is out of luck.

    As for that PBEM game of Civ 4, I was 40 turns away from a cultural victory, assuming the tech leader didn’t manage to overrun me with riflemen in the meantime. So yeah, 3 more months of taking turns.

  • M.S. Smith

    I can think of some solitary multi-player games; most strategy games where you’re not playing with friends.

    As you all spoke about quite a bit, it really isn’t fun to play with complete strangers. But while everyone seemed to agree that it is because most strangers are assholes, I disagree. I think its not fun because most of those strangers are barely there at all.

    Take Dawn Of War II as an example. If I jump into one of those woefully unbalanced ranked games, I’m lucky if I get so much as a “Good luck!” out of the other player. More often than not the game is played in silence. Yes, I’m playing against another player, but given that the other player doesn’t want to give any indiciation that they’re there, does it really matter? It feels like the first school dance; everyone knows that its supposed to be a social event, but still the boys and girls sit quietly on their sides of the room, unsure who should make the first move and what is expected of them.

    And while its easy to point fingers at the communities, I think we need to point fingers at the game developers as well. Multi-player strategy seems to assume that if you group 3 players together and don’t allow them to kill each other, then they’re a team. But that isn’t the case at all. To use Dawn Of War II as an example again, there is nothing about the game that demands interaction between players besides winning. But winning is a distant goal. Everyone knows what they’re supposed to do it but everyone has their own ideas about how. Usually no one talks until one side starts losing, and then the chat just consists of players blaming each other for their team’s impending doom. But is this really surprising? There is no need for constant interaction between players. In fact, the maps encourage players to spread out into their own lanes of combat, interacting as little as possible. If they group together or join forces, it simply opens up capture points to attack.

    Its really time for some new ideas about how to get players to interact. The whole concept of teamplay via lumping players into groups was a big deal ten years ago, but by now its a old hat. Its time for something fresh to come along.

  • Alonzo

    Great podcast as always guys, just a comment on the next one:

    If you’re going to discuss Tower Defence games I hope at least one have you have played the multiplayer TD maps on either Starcraft or Warcraft 3 as they have a massively different dynamic to the stale and boring single-player Tower Defence games that are everywhere these days. It probably won’t affect your opinion of Platns vs Zombies if you haven’t, but a the discussion would be incomplete without it.

    I’ve no idea what the ‘big’ multiplayer TD maps would be atm, but it was always WinterTD (the classic) and Warhammer40k TD when I played Warcraft 3 a few years back.

    Hope that was helpful a little, look forward to the show.

  • James Allen

    That’s one siginifcant difference between Demigod and Dawn of War II: the maps in DoW2 emphasize disjointed movement because of the numerous control points scattered all over the map and the quick nature of capturing them due to the lack of defenses. Demigod emphasizes working together and using skills together because of the use of non-trivial defenses, even if you are working together with the automated reinforcements.

  • Jam3

    Just listened to the podcast and have some comments about the Demigod discussion. Supreme Commander still has the same problems with multiplayer as Demigod does. I play with the GWJ folks and have brought up the ire i feel about GPG making the same mistake twice. And to be clear the problem is peer to peer over client/server.

    Not enough funds for a server sounds like a lame excuse that a long while ago found its way into deployment after an unfortunate network developer heard a someone in finance wishing to get rid of server costs and mentioned peer to peer. I am also pretty sure their using default directplay/winsock instead of doing something more elaborate like creating there own p2p mechanism like relic (which still has its problems but is at least more stable). This means that the connection manager is essentially everyone in the p2p rings windows kernel, different versions of windows, service packs, etc and you get all sorts of problems. Would be interesting to see some tests of everyone running identical windows versions and trying to play (identical as in clones).

    The concept of a “connection manager” as I listed above is important. In a database, webserver, or other servers there is an intelligent process that is managing the list of everyone connected to it. There is an entire paradigm in client/server topology called N-tier which in its three tier form essentially puts the connection manager on its hardware(or instance). In other words the major problem with p2p for gaming is that you have made every client a “connection manager”, this is simply bad design. And throwing good dollars after bad design will lose the developers alot more money than piracy. In other words Brad, i love ya, but when you have poor design don’t go blaming pirates.

    Also there seems to be a direct correlation to the number of players. I have been playing demigod since release and it has always been able to handle up tp 5 players pretty reliably, first few patches got it to 6 occasionally, and the last few patches 8 rarely. So if you guys want to play play 2v2 games.

    You do need to focus in on the problem and thats choosing a p2p model this model is just plain wrong for multiplayer games over the internet unless your willing to write the connection layer yourself (which is bad from a performance standpoint building the connection layer into the application layer). Companies need to figure out how to afford and manage servers for the games they release or simply not release multiplayer games that say they support more than 4 players.

    And for Demigod thats the ultimate kicker the game design itself is dependant in a game on the number of players in a game. the synergies between demigods matters and is quite different from a 2v2 against a 4v4. This didnt matter as much in Supreme Commander since the sides where mostly symetric. So not only does the network topology design hurt even playing the game it hurts the gameplay system itself.

  • Blue Guyute

    Ah…Gottcha Tom. I assume you use only fair trade shade grown beans.

    If you saw the sun fields of Cost Rica I assure you you would never allow that to pass your lips again.