A secret of game-fu

Last night I utterly trounced three opponents at the slick new Fantasy Flight reissue of a classic interstellar trade and exploration game, Merchants of Venus. My end score was nearly three times that of the runner-up, and I had acquired so many fame points (which each become 10 victory points at game end) that we ran out of fame tokens.

One of the other players half-humorously protested that I had gotten incredibly lucky. “Nonsense”, I said, “it was planning”. He sputtered that I had frequently had the victory conditions for lucrative missions apparently drop in my lap. Which was true, and he was right to view those individual occurrences as luck. But it was also true that I planned my way to victory.

I made chance work for me. Pay attention, because I am about to reveal why there is a large class of games (notably pick-up-and-carry games like Empire Builder, network-building games like Power Grid, and more generally games with a large variety of paths to the win condition) at which I am extremely difficult to beat. The technique is replicable.

I have a rule: when in doubt, play to maximize the breadth of your option tree. Actually, you should often choose option-maximizing moves over moves with a slightly higher immediate payoff, especially early in the game and most especially if the effect of investing in options is cumulative.

This rule has many consequences. In pick-up-and-carry games, it means that given any choice in the matter you want to start by deploying or moving your train or spaceship or whatever to the center of the board. You minimize your expected distance over the set of all possible randomly-chosen destinations that way. You give yourself the best possible chance to “get lucky” by finding a fattest possible contract or trade opportunity that you can deliver in minimum time.

More generally, in games with multiple paths to victory, open as many of those paths as you can. And heavily favor moves that help you explore the possibilities faster than your opponents. In Empire Builder, buy the faster train as soon as possible. In Merchants of Venus, the first ship upgrade I bought was better engines.

In games with an exploration mechanic, like Merchants of Venus or Eclipse, push it hard in the early game. Again, the payoff here is that you’re generating options for yourself. This effect is particularly strong in Merchants of Venus because on a first-contact planetfall you get to do two buys and sells with the natives rather than the normal one – you have that much better a chance of a trade good you previously bought on spec being highly valuable, or of picking up a spec load that will pay off large at your next first contact. (Of course, when this happens, it looks like luck.)

Look for other ways to broaden your option tree. In the Merchants of Venus game one of my other early purchases was a second mission-card slot. From early in the game to shortly before the end, this meant I had a choice of two missions to work on rather than just the one other players were pursuing. So of course I fulfilled them more often! It looked like I was getting lucky; what I was actually doing was maximizing the number of possible ways I could get lucky.

In network-building games like Power Grid and Empire Builder, bias towards moves that make your network closer to a minimal spanning tree for all destinations of interest – that is, accept somewat lower immediate payoffs and/or higher costs for building such links. This maximizes your chances of being able to reach anywhere quickly in the later game.

Power Grid is an instructive example of a game with positional, network-building strategy in which maximizing your option tree can also be done in some ways that aren’t at all positional. One relatively obvious one is to buy hybrid plants, which increase your options for both price-taking in the fuel market and (less obviously) manipulating it.

Another one is to be willing to pay what you have to to get a game-ender plant (a 5 or 6) within the first few rounds, even if it means you don’t get to build cities in that turn and your revenue doesn’t go up. The real payoff here is being able to sit out several auction rounds while other players are scrambling for plant capacity to match their city-building. Their options are narrow in each round; yours aren’t – you can pile up money or opportunistically grab only the most efficient plant buys as they go by.

I rely particularly heavily on the latter tactic. I made the national Power Grid finals with it this year.

If you are in a game where other opponents can directly mess with you, maximizing your option tree also makes it more difficult for them to correctly predict which countermoves will damage you the most. And even if they close off one tactical path, you’ll have others. More generally, you may overwhelm their capacity to model your behavior, so the game looks to them like constant surprises with you coming at them from very direction at once. Weak players often fail a morale check in this situation and become even weaker.

(This happened last night – one total morale collapse and one partial out of three opponents. Unsurprisingly to me, the third guy, the one with the most sitzfleisch, came in second.)

Afterwards, they think you “got lucky”. This is an illusion they foist on themselves through picking a single path to victory and working it as hard as possible. Because this makes their range of usable lucky breaks smaller and less likely to occur, they overestimate the element of chance in your victory – they judge it by how lucky they would have had to be to win by a similar margin.

And why am I OK with telling you this secret? Because ha ha, Grasshopper, I have other secrets. Perhaps I will share some of them in future posts.

Categorized as General


    1. >This seems like a good strategy for many endeavors in life–not just games.

      Shhhh! They were supposed to figure that out for themselves.

  1. >Shhhh! They were supposed to figure that out for themselves.

    uh, Maybe I am missing something, but I figured you didn’t mention that due to it’s obviousness?

    As a rule though there is luck that just happens (rare), and luck that shouldn’t be called that because the person positioned themselves directly in its path. Neither one will help the idiot / lazy / incompetent, and the competent turns the first into the second.

    — Foo Quuxman

  2. This also applies to other games that are not pick-up-and-carry or network-building games. Race For the Galaxy comes immediately to mind, especially if you are playing with all three extensions.

    The total number of cards in RftG with 3 extension packs becomes so high that you cannot pick a single strategy and stick with it, because even if your initial hand completely supports that strategy you may never get the key cards needed to win.

    For example, suppose that one of the goals is 6+ military and you have the option of starting with New Sparta as your homeworld and Space Marines in your hand. This make end up working well, but because military worlds are much less common than non-military worlds you find yourself halfway through the game with hardly any of them passing through your hand. You need to be flexible enough to switch strategies based on what you do get.

    Interesting, I found that when I first started playing RftG with no expansions and no experience, I won most of the time. However, as my husband gained experience and as the expansions increased the complexity of possible winning paths, I won less and less often and now probably win about 50% of the time. Further, it was usually him, not me, that first discovered a new possible winning strategy based on new cards from a recently-added expansion. On the other hand, I was quick to notice his tactics and adopt them.

    There’s a definite lesson in this for me…

  3. I haven’t played any of these games, but you suggest that leaving multiple paths to victory open is a beneficial strategy.

    Mainstream business strategy suggests that victory (long-term above-market profits) comes from making a choice and sticking to it – a business must say no to some opportunities.

    There’s no obvious reason why winning strategies in these different areas should be the same, but it’s an interesting contrast anyway. Perhaps the key differences are co-ordination and opportunity cost?

    1. >Perhaps the key differences are co-ordination and opportunity cost?

      I think that’s exactly right. The higher the cost of failed experiments is, the less attractive “broaden your option tree” will look.

  4. I’m curious to know if any of you play Minecraft. Reason I’m wondering is because in Minecraft, you can do literally anything and there are no inherent win conditions. You can set any win conditions you like in challenge matches and time trials (i.e. mine diamonds, kill a ghast, kill the End Dragon, build a house/town/city with certain specifications, collect all the wood types, build a certain redstone contraption, etc..) It would be especially interesting if you get to just free play for some time (even just a few minutes) before the challenge is issued. Eric, I think you would do really well.

    One of the things that also serves very well is to know the game. Read the manual, study the wiki, find out what all the different options are. If you know the mechanics of the game (in Minecraft, redstone circuits have a massive boatload of both intended and unintended mechanics it helps to be an IEEE member ahead of time to learn!) you have a massive headstart on ritualists who focus only on the aspects of the game that they are comfortable with (for example, don’t expect _me_ to win any redstone-related contests, lol.)


  5. >Perhaps the key differences are co-ordination and opportunity cost?

    I think that’s exactly right. The higher the cost of failed experiments is, the less attractive “broaden your option tree” will look.

    I think the heuristic of broadening option trees is the missing (or at least unarticulated) piece of Eric Ries’s “lean” strategy of running frequent, short, cheap experiments and being willing to examine even the most obvious of assumptions (e.g., product feature X is a must-have before launch). Those two pieces together seem to form a solid zeroth-level strategy for any endeavor that relies on acquiring knowledge, whether about the desires of other people, properties of systems or physical objects, or simply future events.

    Of course, applied to a society as a whole it suggests (what horror!) localized decisionmaking and experimentation…

  6. @James

    Leaving multiple paths open and sticking to one choice are not mutually exclusive, you need that bloody-minded persistence to get to your goal in the face of difficulties; but if you hit a scrith wall you *have* to be able to move sideways or even abandon the original borehole completely to try something else.

    Also note that the extrapolated opportunity cost for the things Eric sites are effectively negative:
    Faster Vehicle
    Exploration leading to double the number of trades for the same opp. cost
    Double mission slot (haven’t played these games either so I don’t quite understand this one)

    But I am sure that Eric can tease out the explanations and implications far better that I can.

    — Foo Quuxmann

    1. >Also note that the extrapolated opportunity cost for the things Eric sites are effectively negative:

      Not necessarily. The opportunity cost could be positive (i.e. bad) if there were competing capital goods with a higher ROI (to borrow Garret’s way of framing it).

  7. Crap, 3 more posts, that’s what I get for not refreshing the page before posting.

    ESR, since Terry mentioned Minecraft I may as well point you towards Dwarf Fortress, no it is not open source and the interface is about as orthogonal as a thrice dammed warp storm but it’s otherwise just about the perfect hackerly game.

    — Foo Quuxmann

    1. >but it’s otherwise just about the perfect hackerly game.

      Never played either Dwarf Fortress or Minecraft. Last thing I need in my life is yet another time sink…

  8. In other words, you can convert some short term revenue (turn, resource, etc) into a long-term asset (capital). Just as long as the ROI is worthwhile, depending upon the expect time for the game to last, you can use basic economic and business principles in order to win.

  9. At last an email announcing a new post on Armed and Dangerous! I was sure we’d get updates about the heroic Freedom Fighters of Gaza firing rockets from behind their women and children at Israeli women and children. Preferably just before of after school. I was slightly disappointed to find it was all about the Merchants of Venus. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always following the progress of trade in the Solar System with considerable interest. But still, I’d have preferred some guns and politics this time.

  10. @Eric: being open-ended, Turing-complete games, I do _not_ recommend you play either Dwarf Fortress or Minecraft. Time ‘sink’ is not enough to describe the vortex that will suck away at your time.

  11. I think the flip side of this is to be ready to double down on a single path once that seems optimal – no need to keep all options open for the entire game, especially for games where there are mutually reinforcing benefits for sticking to a particular set of options. Don’t pick a specific strategy before the game starts.

    And always remember: “There is no such thing as luck, only adequate and inadequate preparation to cope with a statistical universe.” — Heinlein, “Have Space Suit, Will Travel”

  12. @szg

    He has pretty much said he isn’t making any more politics posts for the foreseeable future, though how he can be so… certain about the outcome is difficult for me to divine.


    But if eric did take up the pick he might be the first person to build an entire fortress entirely in candyland!

    — Foo Quuxman

  13. This is reminding me of Waitzman’s The Art of Learning— he mentions his strong preference for adding chaos to difficult situations in chess and push-hands, but there’s also the alternative for people of a different temperament of python-like constriction of one’s opponent’s choices.

    Being a python might be more difficult in games that involve more than two players.

  14. >>I have a rule: when in doubt, play to maximize the breadth of your option tree.

    Sounds like Paul Graham’s alternative career advice, written for a graduation speech he never got to deliver:

    “The world changes fast, and the rate at which it changes is itself speeding up. In such a world it’s not a good idea to have fixed plans…I think the solution is to work in the other direction. Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.” An applied example might be “…college freshman deciding whether to major in math or economics. Well, math will give you more options: you can go into almost any field from math. If you major in math it will be easy to get into grad school in economics, but if you major in economics it will be hard to get into grad school in math.” (http://www.paulgraham.com/hs.html)

    It occurs to me that there are interesting intersections between Graham’s essay and Eric’s post on Generative Science. Studying the most fundamental and highly generative sciences seems like a kick-ass way of maximizing useful option-trees.

    1. >Sounds like Paul Graham’s alternative career advice, written for a graduation speech he never got to deliver:

      I am never much surprised when it turns out Paul and I have been thinking in parallel. I doubt he is either.

  15. I think popular games tend to underrepresent the real-world importance of specialization. Few games have mechanics that parallel the real-world advantages of specialization in any natural way. E.g., in the real world, even after you semispecialize in, e.g., engineering, it’d be a long, expensive process for an engineering generalist organization to tool up to compete with Schlumberger in oilfield services or Toyota in reliable affordable mass production. Few games have mechanics that give anything like this kind of gritty detailed specialization as an emergent property. The Dwarf Fortress ruleset, and perhaps the rulesets of some Civilization variants, have enough nontrivial resource allocation choices (and synergies between them) to perhaps begin to allow something like this. Specialization tradeoffs still don’t really show up all that strongly in those games, but they might be more visible if you tweaked the victory conditions. Even then, though, they’re more than an order of magnitude away from beginning to suggest how many optimization tweaks go into building an organization that, e.g., delivers groceries as cheaply as Wal-Mart. And those games are exceptions; the more usual case is that games may enforce some crude arbitrary specialization choices (e.g. healers vs. tanks in WoW), but consider emergent specialization to be un-fun and thus tweak the rules to eliminate it (e.g., lots of WoW rules to allow swapping equipment and talents and stuff to avoid people getting frustrated by falling into a single specialization).

    That said, I think humans do tend to underestimate the importance of flexibility in the real world, and games do have something to teach about it. I am reasonably good at the game of Go (rated 4 dan in the American Go Association, which makes me maybe 80th percentile among people who are motivated enough to travel to the week-long national annual tournament). Go is a game of perfect information and no luck, like Chess, so flexibility in play is probably much less important than flexibility in real life decisions. Even so, flexibility in play is rather important to strong play, enough that Go players in the West have borrowed a technical vocabulary from Japanese to talk about it. (We use some Japanese words like “aji”, and other painfully literal translations like “thick” and “thin” and “light” and “heavy”.) And this flexibility is something that people at, say, the 40th percentile in strength pretty consistently underappreciate, to the extent that they may even make strong statements about the importance of making moves that follow a consistent plan. Sometimes the same fellow who likes to lecture his fellow players on the importance of following a plan may even be the same one who marvels about how often the strong player’s stones turn out to be in a useful place even after variations so long and bizarre that the strong player certainly couldn’t’ve planned them out. There’s a lesson in there for those that can see.

  16. I also play go, though I’m definitely not as strong a player. There’s something I’ve been trying to overcome for a long time, and I think I’m finally getting a handle on it.

    Go players have to learn to, for lack of a better phrase, live with ambiguity. You have to learn when things are settled *enough*, and leave them that way. Move on to something more profitable elsewhere. Leave the potential (aji) in place and come back later. There’s a phrase ‘aji keshi’ which is very important, and is a huge BAD- it means to destroy potential. You usually wind up doing that by fixating on one thing or one area and trying too hard to do some specific thing *then and there* before conditions are favorable.

    Even stones that look dead can serve a purpose, you can use them to multiply the force of an attack (they’re still there on the board and can do things, or threaten to do things, until they’re physically removed). You have to be flexible enough to know what stones to keep, and what stones to profitably let serve their purpose.

    I don’t even want to think about what a ‘single path to victory’ player would make of a ko fight. Even ‘losing’ one can win you a game.

    1. >I also play go, though I’m definitely not as strong a player.

      I’m a duffer at go. By choice…I’m pretty sure I could get good at it, but that would require that I let it eat my life.

      Beautiful game, though.

    1. >you must suck at chess.

      Actually I thought I was pretty good at it in my teens, but it’s been decades since I played a game. Then my first month in college I went to the chess club and got my butt handed to me by a skinny adenoidal 14-year old Russian prodigy, who told me I was probably about a 1300 player so dismissively that I thought that was lower than dirt. I was somewhat traumatized (I had a teenager’s ego then and had thought myself skillful enough to be proud of it) and this incident put me off chess.

      Years later I found out there are tournament players rated less than 1300 – it’s about twice the rating of the average USCF member, not expert but not sucky either. But by the time I realized that I was years out of chess practice and playing other wargames instead.

      Maybe I should have known better. My father taught me to play, and when we were living in Venezuela in the early 1960s he regularly played chess with someone he described as a “Venezuelan grand master” – by the timing, probably László Tapasztó Binet. I don’t imagine he won many games, but I doubt you can hold the interest of a grand master even as sparring partner if you’re not pretty good … and by the time I was about 16 I was occasionally winning our games.

      Yes, my father had a genius-grade intellect. Made growing up around him complicated, especially after it began to dawn on both of us that I might be the brighter of the two…

  17. I think your succinct statement of this principle just helped me go up a level in chess. I’ve wiped the floor with the computer 3 games in a row on a level where my prior win percentage was 1/3. Interesting …

    1. >I think your succinct statement of this principle just helped me go up a level in chess.

      That’s plausible. Many gameplaying AIs are like weak human players in their tendency to over-focus and cope poorly with an opponent who’s deliberately making the possibility fanout wider, though they of course don’t suffer morale collapses.

  18. I have a rule: when in doubt, play to maximize the breadth of your option tree. Actually, you should often choose option-maximizing moves over moves with a slightly higher immediate payoff, especially early in the game and most especially if the effect of investing in options is cumulative.

    “Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    1. >“Opportunities multiply as they are seized.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War

      Oooooh. I didn’t know that quote. I like it. Yes. he’s talking about the same thing I was. Across 2.5 millennia…

  19. I don’t know whether board games have the same problem as computer strategy games… have you encountered it?

    When I sit down to play say Medieval – Total War 2, I am not interested in winning it and the kind of insane expansion that requires – I love Venice, but a Venice the size of half of Europe, which is required for winning, is an abomination. I am just interested in the simulation, immersion, in the general feeling of running a medieval country, maybe some slight expansion here and there. (Of course then I should choose something that does not have “Total War” in title… but the competitor games are not so spectacular and immersive.)

    But if I don’t push it, some other computer player will, and then my nice small to mid-sized Venetian empire is easily crushed by a France or HRE bloated to the size of half of Europe.

    Therefore I have to care about winning, and then the problem is that every abstraction is leaking, I mean the game rules, the simulation here, so if I want to optimize my strategy to the game rules, I end up with strategies that have nothing to do with historical realism.

    Then the whole immersion breaks down.

    Even worse, for real immersion what we need is not as much realism but “novelism” or “movie-ism”, simulating not real life, as real life was never a game, but a messy, gritty thing + boring micromanagement, but it should simulate novels and movies. For example in the first years of the WW2 Germans were not even fully motorized, infantry riding on confiscated horse carriages… but of course in a game I want tanks and blitzkrieg, as this is the movie-realism. In the medieval times, the average army was probably ragtag, but in a game playing France all I want is knights, as it is the movie-novel thing. This makes it immersive.

    At any rate, regardless of we are talking realism or movie-ism, something of this sort is needed for immersion, and given that all game rules must be leaky abstractions, optimizing for winning, optimizing for the game rules ends up with weird solutions that break immersion.

    How do you solve this problem, if it is a problem for you?

  20. >This seems like a good strategy for many endeavors in life–not just games.

    And this why I regret becoming a narrow specialist (Navision ERP expert) instead of a generalist like an accountant, construction engineer or like general Java programmer. I could choose where I want to live, that choice would also include small towns with cheap property. Now I have to live in big cities where even apartments cost a lot.

    Of course, given the well-known advantages of the division of labor, everybody will specialize sooner or later. It is plain simply not possible to be productive i.e. well-paid by any other way.

  21. Got a question:

    As previously mentioned in a past thread, I mostly play Civ II. I run it in this “little” windows 98SE vm that I cart around with me. It’s kinda handy, I can play it on Linux, MacOS, Windows doesn’t matter.

    But, after something like 14 years playing it off and on, I would like something else.

    So what out there is good that I can keep in a smallish VM or can run on Linux, Windows or Mac?

    I literally know *nothing* about computer games. Literally the only game I’ve ever bought was Half Life. I played HL/Counter Strike/DoD for about 3-4 years until the game box I had melted down and I went to Baghdad (those two events are not causally linked). Including that episode my computer gaming since the mid 90s is Civ, Civ II and Solitare.

  22. noone did react on your opponent’s reactions, it seems. Though they are common. People who don’t know the game seem to see success as a mic of magic & blind luck. Whatever the game : go, programming, operation flashpoint…..

    10 years ago, I did spend a lot of time training operation flashpoint – that is, fighting against the best(and getting my ass kicked rather often). After 6 months, I could rival on some specific maps with some of the best players. Then, once, I saw a game with 3 members of a new clan waiting for opponents. My clan was not online yet(I’m french, & they were mostly east-coast americans, they usually came later). With 2 other guys, we took the challenge.

    While promised “hell” by those newcomers, we did reduce them into shambles. they were proud of their training, but had never faced true humas players, only AI. And you don’t fight humans the same way. They left shouting at us as “cheaters”. That’s standard : they had done a lot of work(bad work, but they didn’t know it), and therefore were frustrated by their ass being kicked anyways, as the noobies they still were.

    And when Eric said the less complaining guy was second, that’s where he wants to go, I think(if I’m wrong, of course, correct me) :
    (1)with more talent comes more perception of your own limits.
    (2)with more perception of your own limits, you get better quicker.

    Though I don’t know if (1) always comes before (2).

  23. There’s a corollary to this rule (its… converse?); if you encounter an opponent who seems consistently lucky, he is likely maximizing some non-explicit resource you do not perceive, and you should think hard (or ask him!) to determine what that is.

  24. Thanks for this post, it was very interesting.

    I used to play against some very competent board and war gamers with a not so enviable win-loss record usually coming in as the very distant 2nd.

    As noted, psychology plays a very important part in these multiplayer strategy games…the morale loss and mental folding that occurs is pretty gruesome in such a gaming group dynamic. You also often get interesting behavior where the outmatched players feed on each other rather than attempting to win. That’s often part of why the victory is so lopsided.

    I recall one game where the overwhelmingly dominant player had selected a position with fewer early game options (WWII Russia) and I deliberately made decisions and deals to improve the odds that he’d lose, confident I could beat the Axis players anyway. My Axis counterparts made short term beneficial deals with him to let him have sufficient early game breathing room and simply crush everyone in the mid to late game. They simply didn’t believe that there was any way to beat him and made short term accommodations to maximize the probability of “winning” 2nd place.

    Needless to say, that from that point forward I only played on HIS side. That made things even more lopsided and I wondered why they even bothered to play.

    The obvious corollary is that if you are the weak player ruthlessly eliminate opportunity for the strong player especially if you only have to pay 1 for 1 (even if he gets positional advantage…he’s going to get that anyway). Additional options/complexity is simply more things for him to beat you over the head with. Don’t play optional rules or expansions. Always start in later rather than early scenarios when possible. Historical mistakes (that he wont make) are already baked into the starting positions. With less time for strategy to develop you are on a much more level playing field.

  25. @Billy Oblivion re: Civ2.
    I used to play an awful lot of Civ2 (on and off). I don’t any more, FreeCiv is much better than it used to be, and is better than Civ2 (and now I don’t have to mess about with Wine). There are more options for general play than Civ2 (only problem appears to be much fewer scenarios). Give it a shot, it’ll work everywhere, and is designed for network play if you are into that sort of thing.

    @svg re:war crimes.
    I bet you already have your mind made up about the situation, and so why do you need someone to either, re-enforce your point of view, or else, say something that will give you something to rail against? I mean, if you are like most people, it’s not like you’ll change your mind just because of a blog post (no matter how well thought out or whatever).
    Personally I call for a pox on both their houses, and wish to see both sides (rather the leaders of both sides, who, unlike the plebs, get to make the decisions) lined against the wall and shot. For war crimes you understand, and not because I happen to find their politics despicable, their lies contemptible, and the individuals otherwise rage inducing.
    Umm, am I talking about USA politics, UK politics or what? I think I lost track, but it does seem to apply equally well….

  26. And of course I didn’t go and say thanks for the interesting post. With regards the idea’s applicability to real life, it’s actually something I’ve been thinking about rather a lot these last few days. Keeping my options open, but also finding paths that I want to take and maximise opportunities. It’s the classic, “what do I want to do if I grow up” question. (Be rich is of course the normal answer, but unfortunately there aren’t that many job opportunities for people like me in that field.) It doesn’t seem to matter that I’m already old enough to meant to know what I want to do -_-

    @Billy Oblivion re: Civ2.
    Also check out Battle for Westnoth, Enigma and the many other games available from your Linux distro. Most of them will also be multi-platform as well.

  27. Let’s not even get me started on open-source gaming… the closed-source Rome: Total War was so good that I saw an educational TV series simulating Alexander the Great’s battles with it. And some historians decided it is not realistic enough so they made the Europa Barbarorum mod which is so damn realistic that different Hellenistic armies yell in different accents of Ancient Greek, how cool is that? But their investment of labor will worth nothing in the long run because the vendor will not update the core engine for the future levels of graphics etc. this wonderful work will be basically lost. If only it was replaced with an open-source engine updated forever… but the open-source gaming world is making stuff with the 2D graphics of 1992 Amiga 500 games, and no offense, ESR, but it includes Wesnoth. (Or it did when I saw it 3 years ago.) If it is not full 3D you are not even trying to compete.

    On the plus side, this was always the strange way how open source worked and it did lead to spectacular results before. The Microsoft way is design the UI then fill it with content. It always looks OK, but really buggy at first, and in subsequent versions it gets stabler. The Linux way is like mplayer, for years it is ugly command line stuff, stable and all the core is well-done but hard to use, then somebody decides to put a good GUI on it and suddenly it is awesome because its virtues are now actually exposed. Maybe the same will happen to gaming. Maybe someone will put 3D models in Wesnoth and we all will be blown away.

  28. Have you read Taleb’s ‘Antifragility’ yet? Maximizing options is one of his key points…

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