The Kobayashi Maru – No-Win Scenarios in Games – Extra Credits

Published by Jan Heaney on

The Kobayashi Maru – No-Win Scenarios in Games – Extra Credits


If you would all be so kind to quickly follow me down this rabbit hole real quick: Picture yourself trying to kill a few minutes in a waiting room, so you pull out your phone or laptop and open up Solitaire. Now, in that moment, do you start to feel like Captain Kirk? [cat meows] Well, you should. Because just like the infamous Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek, there’s a chance, right now, that you’ve been dealt a hand that is entirely unwinnable. So, let’s take a second and examine something that we often take for granted when we sit down to play a game: the idea that it can be won. [INTRO] Recently, our illustrious EC streamer, Will, has been playing a lot of Slay the Spire at Ascension 20 over on our Twitch channel, which you totally should go check out via the link below after the episode because it’s fun as heck. And he’s been musing a fair bit over the way that the game makes itself harder and whether or not all of those increases in difficulty makes some runs of the game unwinnable. Is it possible that, from before you begin your first fight, you’re doomed to failure? And if so, does that make the game any less worth playing? Now, before we dive in, let’s go over some terminology, just to be sure that we’re all using the same words to describe the same phenomena. When I say a game is “unwinnable”, I mean that there is no set of player-generated moves and randomness that will allow the player to achieve victory. No matter what you do, no matter how many times you reload and try, you won’t be able to win. It’s pretty easy to establish; you can end up in an unwinnable state in the middle of a game of Solitaire or Spire, and we can also work backwards from there to show that it’s possible, no matter what set of moves you make, that you’ll end up in a similar or even identical position, and be doomed. In the case of Solitaire, the randomness is locked in once you shuffle and deal the tableau of cards onto the table. And from the very beginning of any hand of Klondike, the most popular form of Solitaire in the US and Canada, there’s a 21% chance that the game isn’t winnable. No matter what series of moves you make, you can’t fulfill the victory conditions by placing all the cards in rank order in their suited piles. And Slay the Spire is actually kind of the same. Though it’s harder to see in Spire, every possible move is determined before you start. This is also, of course, a problem unique to randomly generated games, because if we could test each and every seed or position during the design process, it would be possible to eliminate this fear entirely. But, that’s never really gonna happen because the very strength of randomly generated content is that it lets designers gain an extraordinary amount of possibilities without doing a ton of manually checked work. So with all that said, is this the problem that even needs to be solved? Is the possibility of us not being able to win really ruining our enjoyment of games that rely on randomness to generate a scenario for us to play though? Well… I don’t think so. Though, to be fair, I don’t know if that’s the right question that I just asked myself, because games with no-win situations, like Solitaire, are enjoyed by a ton of people some of whom might not even know that unwinnable deals even exist. So, rather than debate the validity of doomed scenarios in games, I think it would be much more interesting to take a look at the different ways we as players can approach this kind of loss. And we’re going to do that by boldly going back to a place we visited before the intro, because one possible philosophy that is applicable here is given to us by Captain Kirk, and another one by Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Kirk rejects the notion that there is such thing as a no-win scenario. Therefore, when running the star fleet test simulation, the Kobayashi Maru, where he’s forced into choosing to go on a rescue mission designed for him to have no winnable outcome, he simply hacks the test and changes the situation for the better in order to fit and to “prove” his outlook is correct. But, looking past whether or not you think that might be cheating, does this outlook really teach us anything? If our approach to losing is changing the conditions of the game or the test, do we really learn anything from our struggle? Sure, we accomplished something that looks like a win, but then we’re no longer playing the same game that we were when we started. Plus, you know, if Kirk had been in that scenario IRL, his crew and all the folks he was trying to rescue would’ve been super dead. A different outlook is one outlined by Jean-Luc PIcard in the Next Generation episode Peak Performance. Lieutenant Commander Data, an android, begins to doubt his abilities following a loss in a strategy game to a much more experienced player. When Captain Picard tells Data, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness, that is life”, what he’s saying here is that we need to be able to accept that some challenges are beyond our reach and that losing to them doesn’t define us. What matters is that we’ve tested ourself against the challenge, and as long as we’ve learned something from that loss, it isn’t a wasted experience. Okay, but fun Star Trek examples aside, in both games and life, we’re going to encounter situations where we just can’t win. In games, you have the option to step away, to restart and try again from a fresh save if you need to. If you stick with a no-win scenario, however, you might learn something about yourself that you can use in your life. You can begin to understand what happens when you’re confronted with something that’s out of your control, because in life, sometimes you’re going to lose, no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try. And while sometimes it’s not fair, you can’t let that define you. So that ability to predict how we’ll feel, how we’ll react to those situations, should be the real lesson that we’re after when we take on challenges that we know can’t be won. Thanks for indulging us in this little roundabout discussion to get to a sort of life lesson! That was fun! But what do you think about no-win scenarios? Is their existence in games a hindrance, an opportunity for personal reflection, or something else entirely? Let us know in the comments section below. Oh, and one last thing: if you’re interested in talking more about Spire, winnable games, or learning from failure, then may I suggest you go over and ENGAGE with us over on Twitch? Trek puns for days! We’ll play Slay the Spire Monday through Thursday mornings from 8 to around noon Pacific Standard Time. Lately, he’s been working on his Ascension 20 heart streaks, playing mods, and using the game as a gateway to talk about game design. So if that sounds up your alley, beam on over and say hi via the link in the description below! And be sure to tell Will [Spire puns] See you next week. [OUTRO]


100 Comments

Extra Credits · October 9, 2019 at 12:32 am

Is it okay to have no win scenarios designed into your game? Are they a hindrance to the game or an opportunity for self-reflection? Or are they something else entirely? And do you consider yourself more of a Captain Kirk or a Captain Picard?

Eric Hardy · October 10, 2019 at 12:21 pm

My stance is, in solo-games do what makes you happy. In multi-player games, learn the lesson and move forward.

This made me think of Xcom or fire emblem and how many people (myself included) will just reload an old save specifically because there was a choice we made earlier that doomed a beloved squad mate. The grief I feel at their permanent loss is too much for me, and will often make me less productive outside of the game while I wonder how I could’ve saved them.

Such a moral failure, even if it is unpreventable, is so deeply wounding to me that I am unable to both apply the lesson and enjoy the game in solo experiences. It just haunts me for the rest of the game.

Eduardo Silveira · October 10, 2019 at 12:31 pm

Interesting

Yalkın ÇIRAK · October 10, 2019 at 12:45 pm

I can't believe you didn't mention dwarf fortress. But good video nonetheless

Black Steel Kita · October 10, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Failing because human limits were not taken into consideration? Bad. Failing because some narrative contrivance like the infamous "just talk" issue? Also Bad. No one wants to lose cause the game was made improperly, and no one wants a plot driven by characters making moronic decisions, i'm sure many people have rolled their eyes as the player character bumbles along, completely oblivious to something so abundantly obvious that it's a wonder they haven't died because they forgot how to breathe or eat. (like a veteran warrior being unable to even slightly predict what is obviously an ambush, or taking absolutely no precautions against even simple setbacks, like forgetting to buy potions, walking in a wide open area with little to no cover, or not looking where they're walking)

Kageetai · October 10, 2019 at 1:16 pm

Basically a lesson in the fundamentals of Stoicism

dracone · October 10, 2019 at 1:25 pm

This made me think of Role Playing Games, in particular, player types. Now, with RPGs, there is no objectively "wrong" way to play the game, mostly because you "win" by just engaging with the game and players, but there are player archetypes that are known for ruining the enjoyment of players at the table, when the RPG is tabletop, the archetypes are a bit different for MMORPGs, which I'm not all that well-informed on when it comes to player archetypes. The first, and most obvious, archetype that's known for ruining the enjoyment at the table is the Rules Lawyer, Puffin Forest did a video on this archetype a while back that I recommend you check out, now all archetypes can be penitentially broken down into further sub-archetypes, I'm going to on about what most people probably think of when you saw "Rules Lawyer" to keep things simple, a Rules Lawyer, for most players, means a player that will argue and haggle that they should be able to do things because the way the rules of the game are written doesn't cover their specific circumstance that their character should be allowed to do things the anyone else who looks at the situation objectively would say "yeah, no, that is not happening" and will continue to try and argue and haggle every single time they want something to potentially give their character some kind of statistical advantage, these sorts of players ruin the enjoyment of the game the obvious reason of slowing the game down for everyone else just so they can argue with the GM/DM or other players that are there for their own reasons to try and escape the world for a bit; now, to be fair, there are some "Rules Lawyer"s that don't do this, they just want everyone to follow the rules as written becasue for some reason they think strict adherence to the rules of the game optimizes the fun for everyone at the table, these sorts of players can usually be appealed to with genuine logic and after things are explained to them a bit they usually tone down the rheteric about not having fun because you aren't following the rules.

Next, we have the Power Gamer, these players do everything can to optimize their stats to better utilize their role, which is usually a combat-oriented character, chances are these sorts of players are either playing to win for whatever reason or are just a Wargamer that ended up at an RPer table; these sorts fo players usually tend to be disruptive towards other players and the GM/DM outside of combat encounters with statements about how they just want to kill things, and that's fine but it's important to explain to them combat is only just one component of the game and by focusing on that one aspect of the game they are potentially ruining the fun for other people at the table, the funny thing about Power Gamers that they usually do want everyone at the table to have fun as well but don't realize their idea of fun isn't the same as other people at the table.

 Next, we have the Metagamer. This archetype is a bit of an oddball when compared to other archetypes, mostly because they use information from outside the game or their character's knowledge. Usually, this archetype is just someone using outside information to give them and/or the party an edge they normally wouldn't have, but that's only in the case of less experienced metagamers or metagamers that want to rush through the story for whatever reason; metagamers can actually optimize the fun of other people at the table by looking at the situation and the characters they have access to and then leaning into something about their character or encouraging another character with a few gentle prods to lean into some aspect of their character. Due to this, Metagamers have a more nebulous reputation at game tables than most of the other archetypes.

There are others, but those are the kind I'm aware of that can potentially ruin the enjoyment of the game. Among others, you also have the Murder Hobo, which is a player that basically goes around killing almost everything, this one is a bit more minor because you can have entire parties of Murder Hobos, which means the only having their enjoyment ruined is usually the one playing the game. My point is that there are numerous playstyles, and not any of them is "wrong" per se but often times certain playstyles aren't compatible with the table you are trying to play at, when that happens you either leave of your own volition or are kicked from the table if you are continually ruining the enjoyment of the rest of the table.

thomas solberg · October 10, 2019 at 1:28 pm

I like games like that. It's just like life. . . You can do everything right and still lose or it just gets harder until you die.

ThatGuy Man · October 10, 2019 at 1:31 pm

“A strange game, the only winning move is not to play”

BrutishDandy · October 10, 2019 at 1:42 pm

A STRANGE GAME.
THE ONLY WINNING MOVE IS NOT TO PLAY.

Torbjörn Hagenstam · October 10, 2019 at 1:47 pm

Some games doesn't even have a win-scenario, like most versions of Tetris

Doesn't mean they are without value

Elafi Milo · October 10, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Kirk's hacking the Kobayashi Maru is completely in-character. Throughout the Original Series, Kirk again and again turns himself or the situations he's in around so that they're winnable, where formerly they weren't.

Picard's method is better from a personal growth standpoint, because it's important to accept that you can't be perfect all the time and that's normal. But, and no shade on Picard because I love him too, Kirk's never-say-die scrappiness seems like it'd be effectual for more kinds of situations.

But the two methods just point to the different kinds of people they are. And we all know they both succeed in their aims the vast majority of the time.

jonskowitz · October 10, 2019 at 1:54 pm

I play, "Pixel Dungeon"
Do I even need to continue?

Gunrunner Gaming · October 10, 2019 at 2:05 pm

OW quickplay, as a Support main….

Fighting_Hussar · October 10, 2019 at 2:18 pm

There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it's just a matter of finding it. – Jean-Luc Picard

Ethan Solano · October 10, 2019 at 2:40 pm

I like the potential of considering no-win situations in linear story-driven games to get an emotional impact. Kind of like the ending of the first red dead redemption, except if you can find a way to stretch the concept out further.

Mark Weaver · October 10, 2019 at 2:43 pm

People interested in this might enjoy the Brandon Sanderson short story Firstborn.

silentpaw · October 10, 2019 at 2:47 pm

This reminds me of the old text-based game Thy Dungeonman

You enter the room, you see ye flask
**Get ye Flask
You can't get ye flask!

common viewer · October 10, 2019 at 2:52 pm

"If you can't find a way to win, then change your definition of what it means to win." Good words to live by in order to adapt to circumstances.

Aecius the Philosopher · October 10, 2019 at 3:40 pm

So what you're saying is that we should all play Dwarf Fortress?

Trine Axelsen · October 10, 2019 at 3:47 pm

Gotta admit, I just think no-win scenarios are annoying and wastes of time in games. I don't really think it's particularly deep to be dealt a no-win deck in solitaire. You don't learn anything when you've just lost from the start, because then it's really not about learning the game or getting better at it, it's just dumb luck.

Tushar Sinha · October 10, 2019 at 3:52 pm

3:56 – Captain Jean-Luc Picard would never, ever, *ever*, drink tea with the teabag still in the cup. C'mon guys. C'mon.

Jelle D van Rinsum · October 10, 2019 at 3:59 pm

Some games start off with an unwinnable fight against the Big Bad, both to establish how much of a badass he is, and to set the stage for the player to start the game from. This sort of qualifies as a no-win scenario that serves a good purpose. But recently, a friend of mine told me about a game where that first unwinnable fight is actually winnable (but it is apparently very, very, very hard). I like the idea, because as a player I'm sort of programmed now to accept (and expect) such fights to be unwinnable, but the thought that it might just be possible does appeal to my inner Kirk.

thechucknorrisofNSMB · October 10, 2019 at 4:00 pm

My take is that a randomly generated unwinnable setup is only disappointing if you're trying to make a robot that plays the game or an otherwise completely optimal strategy.

Paola Mirabello · October 10, 2019 at 4:02 pm

My parents LOVE Star Treck sooooo… I may let my parents watch this episode😂

Neonsilver13 · October 10, 2019 at 4:05 pm

A no win scenario is alright. In most cases the only way to notice that would be to reload the game to earlier stages and try again every possible move, which is something very few would do.
That said I have a dislike for moments in a game where you are supposed to lose to progress the story, but the fight is designed in a way that makes you feel you could win it. Making you restart it again and again and just getting frustrated or waste a lot of valuable items on it.

In the end it comes down to wether or not the game is designed in a way that you always feel like you accomplished something, no matter if you lose or not.

ArmchairGravy · October 10, 2019 at 4:06 pm

As an older gamer I ran across this with multiplayer twitch shooters. I just don't have the reaction time any more. I adapted my game play and studied maps and how combat flows through them. I was then called a hacker because I knew where the bottlenecks were and was able to exploit those to the detriment of my opponents. Sure, there are no-win scenarios, but make sure you don't confuse them with can-be-winnables.

MumboJ · October 10, 2019 at 4:11 pm

This is why I don't play solitaire.
You might say, "the only winning move is not to play".

Anju Maaka · October 10, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Games are meant for entertainment. So long as you enjoy the journey, the goal doesn't matter.

Kiarean · October 10, 2019 at 4:16 pm

No win scenarios are useful to hone your ability to recognize a no win scenario and walk away. In these cases skill could be measured in how early a player can recognize it as a no win scenario, since the earlier one can do so the less time they waste on it.

ChaddyFantome · October 10, 2019 at 4:20 pm

Been trying to tell ppl who complain about breeding in Pokemon about this. They often use the theoretical possibility of being RNG screwed during breeding as justification for hacking.
Too many ppl see anything less than perfect IVs as a fail, when the reality is this mentality only exists because it is self perpetuated.

kingster C. · October 10, 2019 at 4:34 pm

Mario maker, I think I'm done here.

The Mighty PALADIN · October 10, 2019 at 4:39 pm

back in the 80s, most of the games were unwinnable. I still spent hours playing space invaders, Pac man, and Galaga. Pac man was so hard to win that no one won it until after the year 2000, and most people had no idea it could be won (I read about it on Cracked.com) Our goal wasn't to win but to do better than we did last time, to beat our high score. In the end we always got killed.

pocketmarrow · October 10, 2019 at 4:46 pm

This is tricky cause cause while no win situations are certainly an opportunity for self reflection and personal growth I think the amount of people who're actually experience that without going in knowing it's a no win scenario are in the minority. Think much more often these scenarios inspire frustration and undermine confidence. Sure there are also those who tough it out and feel more accomplished for it but they were likely already the types inclined toward that to begin with. Definitely a grey area.

Personally I think people would probably re-load more often when confronted with solvable challenges if they knew there were no win scenarios and a lot of people would just not invest time in the game at all but it also feels like maybe they should have the right to know and make an informed decision on how to spend their time. Feels like an ignorance is bliss but at what cost type scenario.

Kaitensatsuma · October 10, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Ah, The Item World in some of the Disgaea games.

Spawn Point in a corner, walled off, can't stack or throw to get around the walls…no Gency Exit items.

F****

lHikariAnkoku · October 10, 2019 at 4:55 pm

99.99% of all LoL players (or just online players in general) need to watch this.

Martin Drkoš · October 10, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Depending on the app it might be possible that a Solitaire game won't deal an unwinnable game. Just like you never hit a mine with your first click in Minesweeper.

Jason Frank · October 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Haha. I once tried to play a game of solitaire that was not only unwinnable, it was completely unplayable. There was not one move that could be made from the outset.

Sid Nolan97 · October 10, 2019 at 5:13 pm

I don't think being unwinable makes the game bad as long as it is signalled to the player that they may not be able to win, no matter what happens. Having sid that, it is perfectly fine to not enjoy a game that is not 'bad', and not play it because of this.

Erdrick The Hero · October 10, 2019 at 5:14 pm

Itadaki Street Special (Fortune Street Special), a Japanese-only video-board-game for PS2, can present completely unwinnable scenarios in it's single player (VS CPU) mode. The RNG is rather linear and even if you were to use save states in an emulator, there are very, very few opportunities to change the outcome of events. The only way to affect the generator is when choosing between forks in the current game board's path, or if a chance card moves players around the board. As such, about 80% (speaking from personal experience and testing) of all games involving only a single human player are unwinnable from the start. A bit disheartening considering I can't convince anyone I know to play a Japanese game with me.

MerlinCross · October 10, 2019 at 5:27 pm

I don't mind unwinnable scenarios in games but they have to be quick enough. Slay the Spire, a dungeon run in Darkest Dungeon, a spawn of Risk of Rain; faster instances of "you die". Getting 20 hours into a game to realize "Whelp I'm dead" doesn't feel very fair to have to possibly restart from the very beginning. Even Solitaire takes about an hour.

William John Goodwater II · October 10, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I mean I like Klondike. (although I usually play 1 draw and always winnable shuffles.)

Bronze Dog · October 10, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Sometimes I will change goals within an unwinnable game.

Martins · October 10, 2019 at 5:53 pm

Thats called arcade game

Jonathan Zobel · October 10, 2019 at 5:57 pm

Unwinable situations? I am a supervisor at a gas station and I deal with them all the time. I always tell my cashiers that there will be times that even though they do everything right a customer will still be mad at them. It's just a part of life.

Allan Johansen · October 10, 2019 at 6:14 pm

What's the point of an unwinnable game? Casual players will be driven away. And even hardcore players will eventually leave as they realise that no matter how good they get, they're still not going to win.

Keep in mind that there's a huge difference between games and real life. Sure, sometimes life deals you a really bad hand, and dealing with such adversity helps define who you are. Games, on the other hand, are played for the fun and / or challenge, and very few players are amused by an unwinnable game.

Look, for example, at a game like World of Tanks / Warships. Those games are truly rage inducing as you can quite often find yourself in an unwinnable game. Placed at the bottom of a bad team, all you can do is to rage in chat, no action that you do will change anything.

Order of Azarath · October 10, 2019 at 6:22 pm

No-win scenarios, are you talking about Ornstein and Smough? :/

Cross Van Dust · October 10, 2019 at 7:30 pm

The truth is… The game was rigged from the start

escher10000 · October 10, 2019 at 7:54 pm

The image with the camper with bed roll looked really weird until I realized I had stopped noticing none of the characters have necks.

Alex Young · October 10, 2019 at 8:02 pm

Looking forward to the Star Trek Online Kobayashi Maru event coming up, wonder will this be captured in the gameplay.

Tidal E · October 10, 2019 at 8:23 pm

Unwinnable scenarios? Unless you're pretty good, that may happen in Iron Man runs of the average Fire Emblem game.

James Petts · October 10, 2019 at 8:33 pm

What does the animator have against necks?

Diego Lamanya · October 10, 2019 at 8:34 pm

Did you really just start by saying : would you be so kind to? that sounds like: would you kindly? are you brainwashing us extra credits?

Julian Goulette · October 10, 2019 at 9:01 pm

"A Strange Game, The Only Winning Move Is Not To Play."

jerry stickman · October 10, 2019 at 9:06 pm

Here before the 1000th video!

Landon J · October 10, 2019 at 10:11 pm

What kinds of things can a game do to encourage you to reflect on – and learn something from – an unwinnable scenario, rather than throw your controller and quit?

DariusQ · October 10, 2019 at 10:43 pm

In the case of games, the player typically doesn't know for sure whether or not they are facing the no-win scenario. The solution to the problem may just be very challenging. Some people give up before they've even really tried, but those who apply themselves to testing new ideas are the ones who will find answers the rest of us would never have even contemplated. We call that 'learning', which is it's own reward.

Martin Lyne · October 10, 2019 at 10:48 pm

[_Jay Bauman disliked this_]

James Cain · October 10, 2019 at 11:04 pm

One positive side of no-win scenarios is that you can at least see how far you'll get before the loss. From that viewpoint, you can at least say you're winning something.

TBC-x · October 10, 2019 at 11:16 pm

The best reward in Solitaire is the bouncing decks animation. All games are pretty short and there is very little backtracking (cycling the deck 3? times). Winning many times in a row is dice roll. Losing is a minor setback just a click or two away from new deck. The most important thing IMO is that you won't get overfed with wins.

kaygirl10101 · October 10, 2019 at 11:27 pm

I turn "always winnable" on when I play solitaire just to have the game not feel like a waste of time.

ike eki · October 11, 2019 at 1:10 am

good ideas to think about

Able Reason · October 11, 2019 at 1:22 am

This phenomenon exists in most games.

If the player lacks knowledge/mastery of a Cerain move or abilty ehich is necessary in order to beat an encounter. They are doomed to fail from the start.

But the failure is a lesson. As the player learns that he needs to change something/improve.

Or if you get 3 crits or 3/misses in a row. All your gameplay and skill might not matter.

the base situation is very similar.

Marcus Mysteriously · October 11, 2019 at 2:15 am

Faust: Can you show me…Red gold that runs Quicksilver-like through the hand it's in?
A game at which men never win? … a maiden who, while on my breast, will with my neighbor ogle and conspire? …
Mephistopheles. Such a commission frights me not;

Such treasures I can serve to you.

Melted Cheese · October 11, 2019 at 3:27 am

Call of Duty Zombies. It’s a no win scenario every time and I’ll never get tired of playing

Bui Doi · October 11, 2019 at 4:05 am

Most trading card games like Magic the gathering, based on the deck match up, it's fairly frequent to play your hand perfectly and lose.

Justin Smith · October 11, 2019 at 4:17 am

you can win the Kobayashi Maru, the mission as stated is to save the crew of said ship, not commit genocide on klingons, all you would have to do is fly by the ship and quickly lower shields and beam the crew or at least the most one can do in one fly be beaming then raise shields and GTFO, the only way to lose the mission is to be so bloodthirsty and or so bigoted as to fight to the death.

Adam · October 11, 2019 at 5:47 am

I would call this more of a non-problem in slay the spire. Good twitch streamers who keep track of their slay the spire runs say they have about 95%+ win rate. For every 5 seeds a regular player "cannot win", there is 4 ways a good player can consistently win.

Laura Marschmallow · October 11, 2019 at 5:48 am

Now I feel kinda terrible for using the "rewind" option in "Legend of Zelda, a Link to the Past" för the switch retro simulator so much.

RonnocFroop · October 11, 2019 at 5:50 am

I don't think unwinnable scenarios are inherently bad, but you should try to mark them as such.  The worst thing you can do is create a scenario that seems only maybe winnable, where you've already shown there are unwinnable scenarios, and where there are much in the way of consequences for losing winnable scenarios (I'm looking at you, Neptunia).  All that does is frustrate players and makes them either try way too hard when they can't win, or give up whenever things get tough.

Lex Hover · October 11, 2019 at 6:06 am

A mild tangent of un-winable as well as lose scenarios:
One of the great things about games is the immense toolbox of learning, iterating, and problem solving we learn along the way. As stated we will face situations beyond the game where we can't or don't get to "win." If we were to omit the cases of un-winable scenarios from our games we would lose much of the lessons we can learn within the categories I previously listed. Games can and do teach analysis of systems and by having un-winable situations we are able to learn to identify when those systems align to create a situation we can't solve at no fault of our own.

berges104 · October 11, 2019 at 6:19 am

"When the walls fell"

Roy Wolfe · October 11, 2019 at 7:15 am

Darmok and Jalad on the ocean. Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel.

nero wulfee92 · October 11, 2019 at 7:27 am

"Losing is Fun!" – Dwarf Fortress

YunaKozue · October 11, 2019 at 7:40 am

In one dragon quest i played you had to fight your teacher. But there was no way for you to win. This fight however became an important plot pint later on and so its still not useless or just frustrating. I served a purpose.

Mark Chimes · October 11, 2019 at 9:12 am

What about Tetris etc.?

I guess the difference is in those cases it's made clear from the start that you can't win- and it's not like you can sometimes win and sometimes not, but you don't know.

JerehmiaBoaz · October 11, 2019 at 9:24 am

Yes kids, life is a Kobayashi Maru scenario where believing in an afterlife is the captain Kirk solution and stoicism is the captain Picard solution. These are by no means the only solutions to life's RNG giving you a bad deal though, personally I'd like to see a captain who laughs at the gods and embraces absurdism.

Nemenoth · October 11, 2019 at 9:41 am

That's reminds me of "The Game" thank you, I lose again…

suicune2001 · October 11, 2019 at 10:30 am

LOL! I love all the Star Trek reference. Darmok was one of my favorite episodes.

yugytomm · October 11, 2019 at 10:45 am

Unwinnable scenarios are just unexcusable bad game design. Even procedurally generated levels could be checked whether they are winnable under ideal conditions.

ThePiiX · October 11, 2019 at 10:58 am

I thought this video was about "no win scenarios" situations in narratives video games like Wolfenstein, Divinity or Fable and how they are designed… too bad. Good video though

friedpinnapple · October 11, 2019 at 11:28 am

Hahaha Zoey panicking over her red shirt.

Epic Mustache · October 11, 2019 at 3:19 pm

When I subbed to EC years ago, I was excited to learn more about game design and how to make my unprofessional games more than "set turrets. Shoot AI ".

Since then, I've found an enjoyment for WWII stories, I've learned mythos and history of cultures I've never visited, and and delved into the idea of psychology and it's effect on gaming.

This video sounds like an intro to philosophy if I've ever heard one.

Jesse King · October 11, 2019 at 5:22 pm

I love randomly generated games that have the potential for 'No Win' scenarios, as long as they aren't toooo common, of course. What I'm really looking for as a gamer are those RNG's that occasionally generate the 'sweet spot' of that session that seems almost unbeatable, but which through pluck, determination and cleverness, I manage to beat anyway. Followed by a session of personal back-patting that should result in severe shoulder dislocation. Likewise those sessions that I just barely lose, when I really know I could have beaten them if only I had only seen that obvious opening or correct move in hindsight.

And those sessions where I just get unfairly creamed? Well, I can always blame those on the RNG and move on to the next session! 😀

Semmelein · October 11, 2019 at 5:31 pm

I never lose. I either win or learn.

Pamela Rocksteady · October 11, 2019 at 6:36 pm

Wish this was a longer episode. There's a lot to unpack here

Stink simply stink · October 11, 2019 at 9:50 pm

I once opened up solitare where i could do literally nothing… i was saddened

Tails Doll Incorporeider · October 12, 2019 at 2:18 am

I completely agree. Nothing is a bigger no-win situation than being Extra Credits trying to please everyone, so they know what they're saying

Fae-Ray Anthem · October 12, 2019 at 2:22 am

run across a demon who is technically invincible in world of warcraft (you needed a quest item to undo invincibility)
Create a winning scenario by kiting him into a player city to do perpetual battle with another invincible character
*Coincidentally someone finds out the small amount of damage generated by their taunt ability loops around all the npc's technicality and results in a slow but assured death.

Michael MAnville · October 12, 2019 at 2:50 am

Non-scripted no win scenarios are bad.

Michael Murphy · October 12, 2019 at 3:39 am

Well that's deep and difficult to unpack

Ren the Seer · October 12, 2019 at 6:41 am

I’ve really needed to hear this episode. I’ve had to confront a failing in my life situation I considered un-winnable. I did not expect this episode to provide an insight that was uplifting and true. Thank you Extra Credits.

Duchess Van Hoof · October 12, 2019 at 7:20 am

Can you do an episode about the Kobayashi Maru more specifically?

freeNode5 · October 12, 2019 at 8:20 am

When doing random generations, it's possible sometimes to design your algorithms based on the idea of either working backwards from and endpoint or defining a set of constraints on how far the deviations can stray from an initial known path to success. One example, the classic NxM sliding-tile puzzle can often have its tiles placed into an unsolvable pattern. But if you start with the solution and scramble using randomized user-choices, you know the outcome is solvable. Another example is how 2d level maps are often algorithmically expanded atop a fixed set of connected ends/points. Substituting straight paths for detours, or adding other branches to explore wont prevent the user from reaching the goals you started with.

marsgreekgod · October 12, 2019 at 9:14 am

I don't think any seed in slay the spire can't be beaten if you have knowedge of what's coming

Shine Thief · October 12, 2019 at 9:25 am

A no win is something like a Runabout fighting a fleet of Cardasian Warbirds. What Kirk did in my opinion is the same as hacking the simulation to give yourself a fleet of Glalatic class war ships.
Sure Kirk won on his third attempt but he only won because (though his cheating) gained information he shouldn't have known.

ogi nedew · October 12, 2019 at 9:48 am

OMG, so relatable. My solitare like always deals me unwinable hands.

CoxTH · October 12, 2019 at 10:29 am

I think it's okay to have no-win scenarios in your game as long as: The player isn't aware that it's a no-win scenario and there's no way to save-scum the game. Because if the player is able to jump back to a save and try over and over and then loses over and over again, that's when frustration kicks in.

vazak11 · October 12, 2019 at 11:08 am

That was neat!

iamthinking2202 _ · October 12, 2019 at 11:27 am

And here I am at the start thinking about Steins;Gate and Gold Experience Requiem

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