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Handicaps! Do you use 'em? [roundtable]
I am a huge, huge, huge believer in competitive handicaps. They make competitive games more exciting and engaging for all parties involved.

Multiplayer games are the best thing ever, but only when all players are near the same skill level. However, that has been, in my experience (casuals, kids), an exceedingly rare scenario. Hence the popularity of socialist games like Mario Party, Mario Kart, and Wii Sports. Some would throw Smash in there, but I'm not so sure. Unlike in a traditional fighter, button-mashing does NOT get you very far in Smash (unless you main Cheapachu). However, Smash does have some nice handicapping features.

So have you guys utilized them when playing with... the less abled? What are your thoughts on handicapping features, in general?

Have you ever enabled steering assist in Mario Kart DX? Do you feel that the lack of manual handicapping options handicapped the appeal and sales of ARMS?? Are you, like me, LONGING for stock handicaps in Smash, as well as the ability to set a starting handicap while set to Auto Handicapping???

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Posted: 12/29/18, 22:50:33  - Edited by 
 on: 12/29/18, 23:00:00
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For me, I just implement the handicap via my playstyle to keep things fun for everyone, and I hope others will do the same. If I am better than everyone else, I will power-slide less (MK) or use more grabs than smash attacks (SB). I will lose a bunch of the time so others have the opportunity to win. I find this more fun than crippling myself with a forced handicap, because a forced handicap is not much fun for me, where as willingly adjusting how I play is more palatable. I'll also gauge the ability of other players and if one is a higher level I'll try to compete with them more than those who are new or lack skill at the game. I did this a lot in (real life) tennis when I used to play with friends, too. It almost becomes a game in itself, see if you can play so it looks like you're giving it 100% when your level is really only at 70. :)

I had one friend who I was better than in Smash Brothers (I think it was Melee, back then) and he KNEW when I was going 100% vs. 70 and he would get SO PISSED when he knew I threw a match or wasn't going all out. So for him I usually adjusted to either honing my hide-my-level skill or I'd just go all out most of the time vs. him because he wanted that, even if it meant I won most of the time.

EDIT: But to another point, I love the auto-steering in Mario Kart and such. That's amazing. It lets people who are not gamers feel good, and I'm all for it! I don't think it makes things "more fair" because frankly you're unlikely to win even if you let the game help in that case, but it makes it more fun for everyone, so I'm all for it. I guess I prefer handicaps that help another player vs. hinder someone who is already skilled.
Posted: 12/30/18, 03:15:17  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/18, 03:16:48
@J.K. Riki
Hmm, that's an interesting perspective. It's completely the opposite of mine. If a game has no handicapping features, I WILL try to induce some sort of self-handicapping, like not moving for the first 7 seconds of a Spelunky Deathmatch, not being able to shoot arrows in Towerfall when I'm ahead, fighting 1 vs 2 in Duck Game, giving up half a lap in Mario Kart, or, like... playing with my left hand (not very fun, btw).

But I hate sandbagging, because it isn't really engaging for me at all, and putting on an act would feel condescending to me. Trying to win against my nephews in Smash with, like, a 125% handicap is a genuine struggle. And it's exciting for each of us, because we're all giving our best, and it often comes down to the wire.

I'll only sandbag with, like, toddler-age kids. Ideally, the act of playing a game is so fun that they don't really care what place they finish in, but there are a lot of competitive kids these days! And pretending to lose in Mario Kart is still more fun than freaking Candy Land.

I dunno. Anecdotally, very few people use Auto Handicapping in Smash, but I honestly can't understand why one would ever want to have it disabled. It continually regulates your gaming session to give everybody an equal chance. No one can get complacent and bored, and everyone has the chance to be a hero. But, yeah, it isn't the default setting and people seldom enable it.

Mario Kart is smart for defaulting to the more socialist item distribution. Imagine how much appeal and accessibility that series would lose if it defaulted to green shells and banana peels only, or even no items. Would anybody want that? It would be a travesty!!
Posted: 12/30/18, 04:21:49  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/18, 05:23:19
One easy trick I've learned from playing Smash with my cousins these past few days: just switch it to Timed mode. Then everyone gets to play the whole time, and you still get to have fun seeing how high of a score you can get. I like JKR's method too, sometimes you've gotta not go all-out against the person you're playing with. That doesn't have to not be fun either, it gives you a chance to experiment with wonkier playstyles that you're not good at!

Whether or not you use a handicap and what type of handicap you use is all apart of being playful. Sometimes a dad wrestling with his kid is gonna let the kid "beat him," sometimes the dad will just lift the kid up to show off the immense power difference and make him laugh, sometimes you devolve into tickling, whatever. Play it by ear!

Jordan Peterson says that big rats have to let small rats win at least a third of the time or the small rats will get discouraged and stop playing altogether; so it is with humans. That's why multiplayer games are interesting, they're so meta!
Posted: 12/30/18, 04:37:07
Oh, and when I play half-court basketball with my nephews, I draw an arc (with varying radius, depending on the age of the nephew) around the hoop. I am neither allowed to shoot from inside the semi-circle nor to actively defend outside of it.

But I can still leap into the circle for a long scoop or leap out to pack them! It's fun.

But what if you're playing against adult friends?

Also, did your cousins not care that they never won?

Are you opposed to the idea of using the in-game handicap?
Posted: 12/30/18, 05:35:14  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/18, 19:28:48
I guess it depends on who you play with and what they want. Personally I'd rather lose a lot than use handicaps, because at least in the first scenario I might win SOMETIMES, while in the latter a win holds no meaning for me.

I don't mind stuff that helps balance things out a bit though. One reason I couldn't get into the super realistic NASCAR game Rob made us all try out is once you are a little bit behind you're just done. There is no real way to catch up. Mario Kart will cheese it a bit for people in the back with items to at least give you a shot.

I guess for me that is where the tension comes from. Do I at least feel like I have a shot at a win? Even if I am a little bit behind?
Posted: 12/30/18, 17:45:54  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/18, 17:50:39
Another reason why racing sims suck! (Reason the first: braking.) Most arcade racing games have a catch-up function that boosts the speed of trailing players. Blur actually has a fantastic suite of handicapping options. You can even pick different classes of car and adjust the level of catch up. Great game. It's basically Mario Kart with real cars. Whither, arcade racing??

Anyway, your second paragraph kind of contradicts your first. In fact, I started thinking more about this topic after your Smash party!

With certain handicapping systems, I can see what you're saying, but Smash's Auto Handicap function is brilliant! If you get skunked, it will make you stronger, and, as you improve, it will regulate you back down. After a couple of matches, it should settle at an even matchup (assuming the players can generally avoid Self-Destructs).

People complain about coins in MK8, but you wouldn't want to play a Mario Kart where the first place player had an equal chance of getting Invincibility Stars and Bullet Bills, right?
Posted: 12/30/18, 19:26:50
Anand said:

I dunno. Anecdotally, very few people use Auto Handicapping in Smash, but I honestly can't understand why one would ever want to have it disabled. It continually regulates your gaming session to give everybody an equal chance. No one can get complacent and bored, and everyone has the chance to be a hero. But, yeah, it isn't the default setting and people seldom enable it.

Well without getting metaphysical and diving into some weird hardcore philosophy, to me auto-handicap makes it so you're never playing "Real" Smash Brothers. By that I mean I wouldn't know if I was winning because I was improving or if I was winning because it just so happened that the game let me win, in a sense. It's actually one of the things I DON'T like about the Spirits in Ultimate (which overall I love, just this one thing). If I can't beat whatever level without a "better" spirit (be it ability or just power level) I feel like I didn't actually win. Sure I can Giant+Metal cheap my way to victory or whatever, but that doesn't feel like I'm really playing. Plus I wouldn't know if I could hold my own against someone if the handicaps were totally off or not. I wouldn't have a good judgment of Reality because there would be stuff in the background basically altering reality.

Odd, I suppose. But I think similar to what @Zero said above. A win with handicap doesn't feel like a win to me anymore, and honestly a loss feels almost cheap too. I'd be mad that I didn't technically LOSE, but was beaten because someone else got free proverbial Points added to their score.

Side note, today I told my friend who just got a Switch for Christmas about the auto-drive in Mario Kart because he is going to play with some kids later and he was thrilled. It's a great feature, because then all the kids can play even the youngest who would never be able to handle staying on the track. Big win there. :)
Posted: 12/31/18, 00:03:58  - Edited by 
 on: 12/31/18, 00:04:34
@J.K. Riki
Yeah, I have used Steering Correction quite a bit for guests in MK8DX. And I use the Auto Acceleration, because why not? It's awesome. Auto Accel should be standard. Kirby knows what's up.

(The UI for enabling them is kind of tricky, though. Especially in 4-Player Tabletop Mode.)

I don't like cheesing the Spirits fights, either. In fact, I've started giving myself a disadvantage. You get way more money! Money for buying more music!

You can eventually tell when you'd be able to hang in Smash, though, because your handicap would drop to zero. Or your opponent's might even start growing!

There's definitely something to be said for pure competition. Personally, I don't mind scrubbing it up until I improve at a multiplayer game. I just don't enjoy steamrolling people or rolling over for them. And I don't want to discourage them, because then they might stop playing!
Posted: 12/31/18, 00:51:16  - Edited by 
 on: 12/31/18, 00:52:48
When it comes to MARIO Kart, I too have used the Auto Accelerate and the Steering Correction for my five year old. When we play Smash Iíll turn it on for playing with him. However, thatís mostly the limit of when Iíll use it, unless I talk someone into playing that never has before. That said, I think both games have implemented handicapping extremely well.

When my brother was down for Christmas I got him into Smash for a bit. After winning the first several games I snuggly asked him if he wanted me to turn on handicapping. The look he gave me was priceless. I though he might roundhouse kick me there on the spot.

When he went to the restroom I changed the rule set to high items and turned everything off except for the motion sensor bombs. I picked Snake as my character and proceeded to make him flashback to his worst memories of Goldeneye. For the sake of our relationship I had to turn it back to standard rules after a few rounds.
Posted: 12/31/18, 15:54:59
In the case of Smash Brothers specifically, I've used the handicap option only to set up a special type of match. For example, setting everyone to 300% damage to play Super Sudden Death, or playing a 2v2 where one player on each team starts with high damage. I've never used it for the intent of actually handicapping someone compared to the rest.

Otherwise, no, that isn't the kind of stuff I use in games. If I have to, I'll just make sure I'm not playing my best to give others chances. This can be pretty easy to cover in a game like Mario Kart, where it's believable that I didn't see or wasn't able to avoid an item attack, for example. Mario Party games allow you to set how many stars that players start with, and no one has ever wanted to use that feature because "it feels like cheating." People usually just want to play the game as it's meant to be played, so that they can learn the "right" way to do it.

That said, the one accessibility feature lots of people liked to use was the automatic drift option in Mario Kart Wii. I think this is a good option because it doesn't necessarily give anyone an advantage, just makes the game easier to control. Something about holding a button to turn better, as well as performing a short hop before the drift, is something that inexperienced players struggle with.
Posted: 12/31/18, 20:52:57
@Anand Nah because in the second part if I pull off a win I still earned it on some level. Like you don't ACTUALLY cheese it from last to first in Mario Kart often, usually you have to race well the whole time to pull off first.
Posted: 01/01/19, 09:25:46  - Edited by 
 on: 01/01/19, 09:26:24
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