Friday, March 14, 2014

Winning When You Lose

I originally had a different topic for today, but I think I'm going to save that for Monday. Instead I want to talk about something that Titanfall does really well, which is making it possible to feel like you've won when you just lost the encounter. I also want to talk about ways this can apply to your own game.

How It Works
Titanfall is, when you strip away the giant robots and free running, a fairly generic, if fun, multiplayer FPS. The game modes can be anything from Capture and Hold to Capture the Flag to Team Deathmatch. Doesn't matter. What does matter is that after the game is over a kind of bonus round starts. In the bonus players on both teams are given 1 life and told one of two things. The losing team is told to get to the extraction point for evac. The winning team is told to try and prevent the survivors from escaping. From there, the race is on.

Now, what's really cool here is that it is kind of like a double or nothing feeling. You can get absolutely stomped in the game but when you make it to the evac shuttle and it escapes you feel like you won. Best part is, the other team also feels like they won, but only because they actually did. Conversely though the opposite happens when the winning team takes out the evac shuttle. They win and the losing team still lost. The winning team gets to feel better about their victory being complete, but it doesn't really add much to the chagrin on the losing side.

It is kind of cool, and some of the fire fights and hero moments you can get while running for the evac shuttle are just plain awesome.

Why It Works
Why does this work? Well because while the word "DEFEAT" does show up on your screen when you lose, it is quickly replaced with the new objective of secure the evac point and escape. Furthermore, the tension is thicker here. You can't respawn so if you lose you are actually out of the game and get to watch the last few moments of play tick down as a spectator. This gives the race to evac a rush which, when you make it into the shuttle feels amazing and not just for the +200xp you get for doing it. It also gives you the sense of continuation. This battle was lost, but the war goes on and you're still alive to fight for it.

In Our Own Games...
Applying this to a table top game is a bit hard, but it mostly - as a concept - has to do with playing with the end game. Giving the PCs a chance to snatch a victory, some victory if not THE victory they wanted, out of the jaws of their own defeat is good. Giving them a chance to complete a victory can also be huge.

How you do this really depends on your game. For a military space opera it could be as simple as "you lost this fight, but managed to make it back to the evac shuttle which gives you a successful encounter for more XP." For a super hero game it could be saving civilians even though the villain still blows up town hall. In a fantasy game it could be escaping the wizard's tower after it starts crumbling to pieces with the death of the wizard herself.

The way you do it is up to you. It is one of those things that can be a bit too nuanced to really give a general feel. Just keep the idea in mind. After all, nothing can keep the fun going at the table when even with defeat the PCs all feel like they've still won.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good topic that I can't say I was focused on. It's timely cuz my players are in the middle of a tough encounter that threatens the party. Hm. Maybe a party evac is literally what we'd be talking about here.