On The Hidden Nicknames

Posted by lerio2 February 5, 2020 in CritiquePatches and Hotfixes

                Patch 5.1. for the Season 20 has introduced a new change: opponent nickname on Pro Ladder is no more visible during the match, including the final result screen. In this article we will try to identify problems which lead to this solution, discuss their relevance and solvability, and finally assess how these are addressed in the current patch.

The Problems

Queue Sniping

                Every streamer sharing his gameplay with the playing audience does it on the risk of being queue-sniped. Queue-sniping means 1) adjusting own deck to the streamer’s deck and then 2) starting lobby exactly at the same moment. Both parts are unavoidable without time-delayed stream.

Full Sniping

                By full sniping we mean watching streamer playing against us to gain some kind of advantage. Full sniping is viewed as much worse than queue-sniping, especially the first part. Cheater could search opponent on the streaming platform and using secondary account snipe all the possible information. Such behavior could be stopped by hiding streamer nickname during play on ladder. Having said that, people aiming at getting advantage by rules violation would be able to watch few main streamers, and very likely find the right one.

                Full-sniping is almost always made on the top of the queue sniping. This makes cheating not only more certain and efficient, but also harder to detect, as the cheater is not jumping channel from channel, as one of the very few viewers. Also, the streamers with a broad audience are the safest targets.

                While hiding the nicknames could help the smaller streamers to some extent, it does not really protect the main streamers. Mutual hiding could even be to their disadvantage, as the same countering card could be played multiple times by the same player.

Wintrading

                No real need for explanation – two players fix match result. The only way to prevent this completely is to make them unable to identify each other during the ranked match. It is hardly possible, unless the playerbase is very big, which is not true in the case of Gwent . Wintraders could queue at the same time, sharing information about their skins, titles, avatars, shouts at the game beginning and other characteristic features. Or even watch each other playing via Discord etc. Unless wintraders spill the beans, wintrading could only be proven indirectly, via statistics and suspicious plays.

The Relevance

                We do not believe that problems shown above are really a big issue in Gwent. These are intrinsic to CCG games in general, and hardly could be prevented. The pro scene after all will always rely on the fidelity of players and nothing could prevent cheating.

The Assessment

Anti-bamboozle Feedback

        The decks which would never find its way to the tournament play, because of relying strictly on the lack of information, are commonly called ‘clownery’. There are two main branches of ‘clownery’:

  • Memery – relies on making untypical deck, realizing paradoxical idea or using forgotten cards. Meme decks usually has low impact on high level gameplay.
  • Bamboozlers – decks aiming at exploiting natural and logical ways of play in order to get advantage.

The second class is widely recognized as harmful to Gwent as a mind game and joyless to play against. Weak players often raise an argument that playing against every possible card and strategy is more skillful than a contest between two well-known meta decks. The truth is strictly converse: perfect knowledge of opponent deck enables high-level optimization and correct, active play in R2. On the other hand, playing against bamboozler, player must make decisions which are strictly suboptimal against logical meta builds, probably game losing.

        The impact of bamboozlers was limited by anti-bamboozle feedback: player using bamboozlers (or any unskillful means of achieving victory) was identified by name, which helped well-oriented players to use bamboozler disadvantages against its author. We believe anti-bamboozle feedback is a very positive effect, and it is player responsibility to win by skill rather than bamboozling other players.

        Hiding nicknames in theory vanishes anti-bamboozle feedback. In practice, the feedback is much weaker, but still exists, as the player could be identified by prestige, range, skins, play time… Collecting such information is very out-of-the-game, but gives significant practical advantage nevertheless. This is in contradiction with the second point presented below.

Espionage Factor

                Hiding nicknames was meant to prevent the players playing original decks from being quickly recognized by the others and to reduce out-of-the-game information impact. As was shown, in the current form the effect is exactly opposite – even more nonsense information is required for the competitive advantage.

Counterespionage

                What is even more peculiar now, in order to achieve competitive advantage, pro player needs to take counterespionage measures. Change avatar and title often. Play at different hours. Doing so, player could still be recognized by range and prestige. Having prestige and rank uncommon for pro ladder becomes then a reasonable disadvantage, which was not present before hiding nicknames.

Exciting Duels

                Playing against known opponent could often be exciting. Finding team mate on ladder results very rarely in wintrading, but very often in kind rivalry. Similarly playing against big name or Gwent hero is especially exciting and gives extra trigger to do your best. It is even more important for streaming, where betting on the winner before the game is important factor.

Summary

                We are definitely unsatisfied with the hidden nicknames policy and we believe it will have negative impact on the game. We are surprised by this change which is against the will of the vast majority of players contesting Top16 of Pro Ladder.

Written by lerio2

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