Appraising the Art of Combat pt.10
Monday, January 24, 2011 at 8:37PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Combat, Learning, Motivation, & The Mind, Metagame, Skill, Zelda

Sometimes I play games to get tournament ready as quickly as possible. I search for powerful techniques and practice effective strategies to give me the edge in competition. But for Zelda: Spirit Tracks battle (STbattle), I started playing because the game looked neat. So I wasn't looking for the game to sustain the riggers of tournament play. As I continued to play, I got better naturally. Regardless of my how seriously I took the game, as I improved I questioned the gameplay balance. As I developed the metagame, different elements of the combat seemed overpowered or useless at different periods. For example, bombs were hard to use at first. Or items were difficult to counter. But now I realize that understanding the balance, interplay barriers,  and nuances of combat depends on understanding how all the design parts come together emergently. The best way to convey my developmental process is to detail the metagame.

Zelda history = Zelda metagame?


From wikipedia...

metagame is a broad term usually used to define any strategy, action or method used in a game which transcends a prescribed ruleset, uses external factors to affect the game, or goes beyond the supposed limits or environment set by the game. Another definition refers to the game universe outside of the game itself. In simple terms, using out-of-game information, or resources, to affect one's in-game decisions


 This definition encompasses a lot of different concepts including... 


Because gameplay is the focus of the Critical-Gaming blog, by default I use the term "metagame" with a gameplay focus. I use it to mean the evolution of strategies and trends that mainly revolve around counters and interplay barriers. 


Recall my article series title Eureka and the Unintuitive (particularly part.4). Think of coming into a full understanding of STbattle combat as having a Eureka moment where all the complexities listed in the previous post paint a perfect picture of next-level play. To reach this Eureka, I have to understand how the parts work together emergently. This mainly involves figuring out what counters what (interplay) and how these layers of counters stack up in a hierarchy. Understanding each counter can only be contextualized or created from the appropriate conceptual platform (i.e. you can only figure out that a move works as a counter when you're looking for a counter for a specific situation). 

It's just like when I played soccer as a kid. My dad, who was my coach, would always stress that I work independently on my techniques like wall passes, ball handling, and chip shots. As a kid, I never understood why I should work on these things. When I got on the field, I was faster than everyone else, I could score, and I had limitless energy. In other words, in the game there was no opponent to force me into a situation where I would need those techniques/counters. Without experiencing such pressured situations, I couldn't grasp the function of those techniques. Why change if you have the dominant strategy? 

Nooo. Red Link! Why?


So to put the combat of Zelda Spirit Tracks battle into perspective I will try to convey the metagame of interplay barriers based on my experience with the game. In developmental/chronological order:


I tried to get video of a 4-for-all I played last weekend, but I was unsuccessful. The DS is so hard to film when you're playing it. I will continue to try and get video of our next-level gameplay. In the meantime, don't underestimate the multiplayer of any game. Even if the game breaks down at a competitive level, reaching the breaking point is worth the trip. 

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