Multiplayer game balancing through game side cheating

As a game design concept, would it be outrageous to consider giving hidden advantages to a losing team (or a player doing poorly) in a competitive multiplayer game? It’s been done with AI in racing games for ages, but I haven’t heard of it being used in actual player vs player games.

Imagine a multiplayer shooter, where players are rated by how well they’re doing and based on this rating, they either receive a subtle accuracy penalty or an aim-bot effect.

  • Players who are doing well probably won’t get too frustrated, because they have to be doing well to get the penalty and can chalk it up to being unlucky.

  • Players who are average won’t have anything to really notice, so they won’t care.

  • Players who are doing poorly, will now have an easier time and are less likely to rage-quit the game.

  • The outcome of games is more balanced, matchmaking (if it exists) doesn’t have to be as good.

And if we’re going into the being an evil manipulative game developer territory, I’m sure you could gather enough data to find out in which circumstances to give players buffs, so that they’re more likely to buy new skins for weapons or characters. (ie. playing the first 2-3 rounds with a new character, they get a buff, because that means they’re more likely to buy a new skin for it)

I can’t think of any reasons not to use something like this, as long as you keep it subtle enough to be undetectable by players. Depending on the game, could be done in a number of ways as well, giving players higher average damage rolls, increasing trigger rate of random chance effects, slightly tighter bullet spread in shooters or anything with even a hint of randomness.

So what’s the thinking on this? Is it morally questionable? Is it a good/bad idea? Am I behind the curve and do games do that already?

Yeah why not, Its been done before… As regards a good idea? I think so, as long as its offered as a choice. Dear Gamer, do you want to join a competitive server or a casual / friendly server etc etc. I like it as a concept, because the thing that makes online games rubbish are newbies getting creamed. It gets boring real quick when match making pairs novices with gamers that get to play this all day (because someone else pays the rent etc). But hey they get to think they’re gods, so that’s ok. :stuck_out_tongue:

if there is game currency, you should also take 60% from the best players and redistribute it to the noob players after every 12 games.

Why hide it? If the algorithm has any meaningful impact on the game then the players will notice it anyway and use it to their advantage.

Escort PVP missions is a great example of trying to balance the game. In the beginning the attackers spawn near the objective but as the game progress they move further away from their spawn point while the defenders get a shorter distance.

Thinking you’re doing better yourself probably makes you feel better than the game saying “Hey, we know you kinda suck, so we gave you buffs so you won’t cry too much about it.”

It’s like when PUBG mobile had you play your first few matches against bots without telling you that they’re bots. Everyone who played it thought “I’m so good at the game, I should play more. This is great.” And those bots were really bad and really obvious, but they still fooled a lot of people.

If it’s something more subtle, more difficult to just go and test, like a bullet spread increase when you’re doing really well, most people aren’t going to stop what they’re doing and start checking whether or not there’s any change to it. But even a slight change can have a huge impact on who wins a gunfight. You could obfuscate the manipulation by only applying them during more intense gameplay moments, so they’re nearly impossible to test. It is absolutely possible to make it reasonably undetectable.

It could also be based on long term account performance rather than how well you do in a specific match. Making novice players/accounts do better and make them more likely to invest more time into the game. There’s a huge number of practical applications for doing something like this, retaining more players initially, reducing the amount of people who leave because they’re doing poorly, increasing the time and monetary investment in the game by those players.

I’ll be the first to admit, it sounds kinda shady and not necessarily something players would want, but I have no doubt that it would be very effective at achieving it’s goals.