Thursday, September 16, 2010

When to type out

In martial arts competitions people tap out by tapping a limb against the mat to indicate that they give up.  Usually they do this if they are hurt or are in a lock they aren't getting out of, and almost always when they do it they have 100% lost the match and are in danger of being badly hurt.  When playing Starcraft 2 things are very different because type out instead of tap out.  The situation is very analogous, but instead of tapping a limb against the mat you type "gg" (Good Game) and quit the match, and you do it when you are convinced you can't win.  I was playing some matches yesterday and found it intriguing to consider exactly how people choose when to give up.

One opponent I played against went for an early air attack, (Void Ray) clearly investing a lot of resources hoping I would have no answer to it.  I figured out his plan quickly just by seeing how his base was set up and smashed his first air assault easily, losing almost nothing.  He immediately typed out and left the game.  I wonder a lot about that since none of my forces were anywhere near his base and even if the troops I had built at that point could beat him he did have quite a while to live and could have made a decent go of getting back into it.  To be fair I figure my chances of winning at the point where he quit were easily higher than 90% but still, to quit when you have a solid base going and your opponent has not attacked at all seems strange to me.  As a counterexample I played a game a week ago or so where my opponent ended up trapped on an island base and everything else of his on the map was destroyed.  It was abundantly clear that I could take my time, mine out the entire map and go smash him whenever I felt like it but he absolutely refused to give up.  He kept on trying to drop a few guys back onto the main map and make some buildings and each time I walked over and crushed him.  I ended up having to chase all of the buildings he made all over the map as he desperately tried to live as long as possible even with literally zero hope of victory.

So why do some people type out as soon as anything goes wrong and some others stick it out to the very end?  I personally only type out once my army is destroyed and my opponent's army is smashing my base, when I truly know he can go make himself a sandwich and I still cannot come back to win.  Do people who leave right away tend to be those with short fuses and control issues, the sorts of people who rage when things go wrong in general?  I tend to figure that staying in the game longer and fighting it out would be correlated with patience and control, and I find that those who stick it out to the end tend to be enjoyable people to chat with as they aren't raging mad at whatever tactic it is that defeated them.  I wonder sometimes when I see professional match replays and one of the players quits when the game is far from done, at a point where I think they are at a disadvantage but I cannot see the necessity for quitting.  I would figure that professionals would stick it out to the end since the stakes are much higher, but that is not the case.  Perhaps their abilities are so much greater than mine that they know when their chance of victory has gone to nothing even if lesser players cannot tell.  I know that is true for chess or go where masters would stand up and say player X has won but two lesser players could sit down and have a very good match from that point; this could be true of Starcraft 2 as well.


  1. Something Day 9 talks about is that when you've totally won a game in a tournament, it is to your advantage to bide your time and let your opponent play for as long as possible. It is mentally exhausting to try to come back from a big deficit and mentally relaxing to macro up a giant army and easily push over every expansion your opponent tries to make. You are trying to tire them out for next game, and I think that's why sometimes pros quit when you think they shouldn't, it's because the slim chance they have to win isn't worth what it would cost them.

    But even pros get frustrated and quit in a rage sometimes. I suspect your void ray opponent quit because he just doesn't know how to play the game at all. There are a lot of people who really don't know how to play even high up on the ladder. They know how to do a build order that often wins in the first 8-9 minutes and that is all. So they try it, if it doesn't work they quit and try again.

  2. I think part of it is to consider what they're trying to get out of their evening of playing StarCraft 2. What utility function are they trying to maximize?

    - Their win ratio? If so then they need to stay in the 5% win games and try to eek them out.
    - Their rating? The void ray rusher undoubtedly has fast games when he wins, so by playing it out against you he likely throws away another full game. So he can either take a 5% chance at 10 points with a 95% chance at -10 points or a 50% chance at 10 points and a 50% chance at -20 points. (Assuming he has a bonus pool, anyway.) So he's looking at EV -9 for staying and EV -5 for quitting. Things look even better for quitting if he assumes he's good enough to win more than half his games against random opponents or if he thinks you were favoured in your match going in.
    - Their fun? I can see the guy who refused to give up having fun trying to come back from the "unwinnable". Why else would people throw themselves at Yogg-0 or 4 insane AIs?
    - Their learning? Maybe he's trying to perfect the void ray rush and already learned what he wanted to learn from your match. Sure, he may learn something tangentially relevant if he plays it out but he could go try the same thing again against someone else to use what he already learned.

    Of course, I'm sure a lot of the time it is just random rage quitting. Especially if they lost to something they perceive as 'imbalanced'. Nerf marines!

  3. Bah, I had 8 marines but they don't beat void rays, the rays just retreat. 8 marines + 2 vikings on the other hand gives void rays a good old fashioned curbstomp.

    He walled in right away so I just assumed he was going void ray and rushed to vikings to smash him, turns out I was right. Toss seem to only go 4 warp gate push, void ray rush or cannon rush so a walled in front tells you everything you need to know.

  4. Andrew used to leave chess boards set up around the house (mostly in his room) and only of my goals was to figure out who resigned. My correct guessing percentage was maybe 75-80%.

    I've become more willing to give up in board games the past few years. I've realized that I strongly prefer to play a new game than to fight from an "unwinable" position, and I prefer taking my victory and moving on in games which I'm winning. The fact that the void ray rusher's base was strong and you didn't have an army to attack it, would have been a reason for me to scoop. The game is probably over, but it will take a pretty long time to play out the rest.