The not particularly wise crowd.
Russell Degnan

(via Crooked Timber) This game of Massively Multi-player Online Pong must be one of the most brilliant ideas ever. Each plaey is represented by a dot, that fades with inactivity, but otherwise contributes to the placement of that player's team pong paddle.

In theory, while a single player is limited by their concentration and ability to pick the bounce of the ball, multiple players averaging their guesses should be able to make good decisions, averaging each other out. In the screen capture below, the blue team manages this pretty well. A couple of players are in lala land, but the paddle is almost perfectly placed.

But the orange team demonstrates the problem with having very few players, and moreover, of so many people having no idea. Rallies do occur, and sometimes they are even good, but to consistently win, you actually need to think tactically about the current skill level of your teammates and balance your skill against their chronic inability. Consider the common mistakes:

Mistake #1 - Out of control newbies To be fair, there are no instructions, but with only a few players on your team, the appearance of someone new, fumbling around with no idea what side they are on, nor even how to play just makes things random. Play for a while and you'll realise that most points are scored in a batch while one team loses its collective plot.
Solution: Wait, or quit.

Mistake #2 - Mouse goes down. Paddle goes down Once they've worked out who they are, the next thing newbies do is move their mouse like its a joystick, down for down, up for up, and over-shooting the spot by miles. Get two of them and the paddle starts lurching like up and down like its drunk.
Solution: Compensate by averaging how wrong they'll be against your own position. However, since you can't be sure they haven't worked out their problem you need to do this as late as possible.

Mistake #3 - Over-correction Once enough people work out the paddle is the average position, you can get a rally going. Except for one problem. As the ball gets nearer, if it is going to miss the paddle, everyone colletively decides to pull it into place. You then get to watch it sail past where it is supposed to be.
Solution: Either don't move, or move just a tad and count on everyone else to, or move the other way, and hope the rest of your team isn't also anti-correcting.

Mistake #4 - The skewed centre Because most players are in the middle, when the ball is near the edge the laggards keep the paddle in the centre, even as everyone else moves towards the edge.
Solution: Over-correct, since there is room outside the edge, you get to be the person pulling it right across. Or the person who pulled it too far.

Mistake #5 - That bounced a lot! For some reason people are genuinely hopeless at working out where the ball will be when it rebounds off the edge a few times.
Solution: Get in the right position and hope people follow. Then correct. This is actually the one time where the crowd is wiser -- since a certain percentage would be wrong otherwise -- but it also creates an uneven, shaky, emergent position for the paddle that shows that, while the crowd is collectively wise, it is definitely individually stupid.

Which all makes for an interesting game. Because to win you need to second guess, not your opponent, but your not entirely random, but otherwise silent teammates.

Frivolous Pastimes 4th March, 2006 00:59:38   [#] 


The not particularly wise crowd.
Player in la-la land? that'd be me. I was always hopeless at sport... dreaming on the outfield at softball, LOOK OUT! aaargh!...
Helen  7th March, 2006 16:41:45