World RPS Bullboard

Public Bullboard => Strategy Discussion => Topic started by: martinburley on March 08, 2007, 05:33:23 AM

Title: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: martinburley on March 08, 2007, 05:33:23 AM
In The Official RPS Strategy Guide, this is how the World RPS Society's resistance to balanced multi-throw variations such as RPS Spock Lizard is explained:

Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard is one of the more recent developments in five-throw games, and to its credit it has the necessary internal symmetry to make for a playable game. However, due to the unnecessary complexity of the game, the World RPS Society continues to outlaw its use by card-carrying members.

This brief summary leaves out an important point. Yes, RPS-5+ variations (i.e. 5 or more throw options) are more complex in that they have more throws, and the number of outcomes increases even faster. (There are 25 outcomes for RPS-5 compared to 9 for standard RPS, for example.) Absolutely, the entirely unnecessary confusion and difficulties these variations introduce as far as being able to quickly and accurately call throws and fouls is concerned makes refereeing competitive matches a nightmare. And certainly, if you go much past RPS-5, it's hard for players to remember what beats what even in slower-paced friendly matches. I totally agree that the above points are already reason enough for the WRPSS to refuse to condone RPS-5+ variations.

However, from a gameplay point of view, there's another, arguably more compelling reason why these games are currently, and should forever remain out of favour with the World RPS Society and amongst RPS players in general: not that they are too complex, but that they aren't complex enough.

What nonsense is this? I hear you cry. Well, to see my point, think of RPS as a game of three elements. Not Rock, Paper and Scissors, though; instead, consider the three results: Win, Lose and Draw.

In the (hypothetical) case of a match between two purely random players, we expect each result 1/3 of the time for standard RPS. There's a pleasing symmetry to this, whereas for RPS-5, we expect to see draws only 20% of the time, compared to 40% for wins and for losses. The percentage of draws decreases even further for larger variants - 4% for RPS-25, for example.

Now, the practical-minded might claim that this is a good thing. If you're playing a lightning or best-of-three match to make a decision, draws slow you down. So what's wrong with fewer draws?

Well, firstly, the above point is pretty silly. It's not like a best-of-three match takes very long for standard RPS. Even with a few draws, you can finish in under a minute. Standard RPS doesn't have too many draws. The real question is whether RPS-5+ has too few. And from a strategy/gameplay perspective, the answer is surely, yes.

When there are three possible outcomes, there are three possible patterns to spot. You can see how a player responds to a win, to a draw, and to a loss. Does he switch up after a win? Does she repeat her throw after a draw? Does he switch back to Rock after he loses?

In many matches, these patterns are the key ones to look out for. It's usually more useful to know what an opponent will do after drawing, compared to knowing what he or she will do after throwing Rock, just because there's more likely to be a significant pattern to exploit.

With RPS-5+, it's more like there are only two main outcomes, with the occasional draw. This means there are fewer patterns to spot. Knowing how your opponent responds to draws (or how you yourself do) simply doesn't matter as much, since draws occur more rarely in these variations. As a result, RPS-5+ is, in a very real sense, a less complex game than standard RPS. (It's also worth adding that, since RPS-5+ matches have fewer draws, there tend to be fewer throws per match, meaning that there's less opportunity for the players to detect and exploit patterns in their opponents' play, to set traps, and to deploy gamesmanship and other meta-strategies. Again, this limits the amount of skill in RPS-5+ matches compared with standard RPS.)

Finally, put yourself in the position of a player during the game. With RPS-5+, between fairly evenly-matched players, play consists of wins and losses, with a few draws in the mix. One player might score a run of wins, or have to stay calm during a run of consecutive losses. But rarely will there be a string of draws.

With standard RPS, how much richer the gameplay is! We will still see runs of wins and losses. But in addition, the players have to cope with 'mirror play', where they keep drawing throw after throw. Mirror play is actually a great proof of how big a part results play in the gameplay of RPS. When you're locked in mirror play with your opponent, what do you focus on more? How she will respond to the string of draws, or how she will respond to the string of (for example) Rocks? Usually, it's going to be more important to know what she does after several draws than what she does after several Rocks.

Mirror play also adds to the richness of the game due to its strategic importance; it's a key point in the match - the players are locked into the same thought patterns, and each is trying to gain the upper hand. The next point becomes very significant to both players - I'm sure we've all seen matches where a player who loses the next point after a bout of mirror play quickly slumps to defeat thereafter, his spirit shattered. In RPS-5+, winning and losing points simply doesn't matter as much, because it happens more often.

Spectators, too, love mirror play, recognising and appreciating the added tension it introduces, especially if it's already a close-fought match. With RPS-5+, periods of mirror play are few and far between. Spectators become bored when wins and losses predominate too much. It's useful to compare RPS with tennis: watching RPS-5+ is like watching a tennis match between two big servers. Ace, fault, ace, ace, fault, double fault... hardly the height of skill and finesse. Standard RPS opens up the potential for exciting rallies, like those between Federer and Murray. Just as the skill and spectacle of tennis is diminished when players serve too fast to allow for rallies, so too, the skill and spectacle of RPS is diminished when there are too many throws to allow for mirror play.

So, the next time someone tries to tell you that Rock Paper Scissors Spock Lizard is a legitimate variation because it's 'balanced' or 'symmetrical', remind them that RPS is a game with three outcomes. Only when all three outcomes are equal is the game truly balanced. Three-way symmetry is needed for the deepest gameplay. That doesn't come with 5-, 7-, or 25-throw variations, with their paucity of drawing opportunities. It doesn't come with 1- or 2-throw variations, where draws become inevitable at the expense of wins and losses. True balance is achieved only in the variation we all know and love - standard RPS.

Rock, Paper, Scissors. Win, Lose, Draw.

Perfectly deep, deeply perfect. 
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: deepthought on March 08, 2007, 09:44:31 AM
I approve of this thread as "appropriately deep, but not too deep"

It makes sense to me.  The more limited the options, the more intense and absolute the victory.  It's like two fighters bound together in a knife fight... yep, exatcly like that.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on April 21, 2008, 09:46:14 PM
One variation with enough draws, but not too complex is one with 4 choices:rock, paper, scissors, and sideways paper. Sideways paper beats scissors by jamming it, loses to rock by getting crushed, and ties with paper because(do you really need an explanation why).
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Franklint on April 22, 2008, 03:07:50 AM
Agreed, deepthought. A great thread exposing more problems with any variations that incorporate more throws than the holy trinity.

srn: I have prepared a table showing the outcomes of a game of RPSSP (Rock Paper Scissors Sideways Paper). In the table, the letter at the junction of two throws indicates the winning throw in the situation.

      R   P   S   SP
R    X   P   R    R
P    P   X   S    X
S   R   S   X    SP
SP  R  X   SP   X

Here are the total number of wins for each throw.
R: 4
P: 2
S: 2

Seems a tad unfair to me. Have I made a mistake?

Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Master Roshambollah on April 22, 2008, 08:45:43 AM
Nice work, Franklint!  This can count as this week's homework assignment absolutely nothing.

Creating a table to illustrate a point is always worthwhile.  In this case, you showed that one throw has a statistical advantage over the others.  One point you don't mention, that's even worse, is that there are now TWO throws that tie with paper!  This would tilt the playing field too far in favor of players adept in the Hagi Naktrah.  While "weighted rps" is of interest to the economist, it has no use in the modern sport.

Plus, this new throw is little more than "vertical paper" in "sideways paper"'s clothing.  Even the WRPSS and USARPS, despite their many differences, agree on the vertical paper issue.  As for me, I'm softening on the subject in my old age.  Having studied RPS in Japan and noticed not only vertical but also diagonal paper, I feel it more comes down to intent. 

In any case, well done Franklint.  Your closing statement "Have I made a mistake?" shows the great advances you have made from being a "suckhole" to being an "asshole."  I, for one, think it's a hell of an improvement.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on April 22, 2008, 05:56:07 PM
You have made one mistake. You doubled each number of wins by looking at it from both sides of the chart. it's actually

rock:2 wins 1 tie 1 loss
paper:1 win 2 ties 1 loss
scissors:1 win 2 losses 1 tie
sideways paper:1 win 2 ties 1 loss

as you can see, of coarse it isn't mathematically balanced, but it is strategically. And I know vertical or sideways paper(use them interchangably) are usually considered "exceptionally bad form", but it this variation they(it) are(is) a completely different throw.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Master Roshambollah on April 22, 2008, 07:49:54 PM
My point.  So what happens to scissors?  Who would play a throw that loses more often than it wins?  Other than Urbanus, of course...
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on April 23, 2008, 12:22:42 AM
Someone who expected paper and knew only scissors could beat paper. And the urbanus defense is quite strategic and tactical, except for its lack of any strategy or tactic or anything remotely strategic or good in any way, but other than that it almost never always works.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Fisted Sophist on April 24, 2008, 12:24:53 PM
I realize that I'm a little late to the party, but let me give the official Theoretical Throws Bureau endorsement to Martin and his solid, well-thought post.  This is exactly the sort of refutation of the flaws of "non-RPS" games that we love to add to our arsenal at the Bureau.  Keep up the good work!

Fisted Sophist
National Executive, Theoretical Throws Bureau
"Rock still beats scissors."
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on May 05, 2008, 08:13:55 PM
Flaws of non rps games?! What about the flaws of rps itself? Analyze and argue endlessly debate.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Franklint on May 05, 2008, 09:21:11 PM
Flaws of non rps games?!
Yes. There are many, one of which has come to the board's attention through martinburley's post in this thread.

What about the flaws of rps itself?
Such as?

Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on May 05, 2008, 09:36:39 PM
Too much balance perhaps?
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: Franklint on May 05, 2008, 10:01:00 PM
With that attitude, RPS is clearly not the game for you.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on May 05, 2008, 10:31:15 PM
Flint, you're just trying to eliminate the competition. If you can't handle constructive criticism, you probably can't handle whatever I would have said next in this post either. As I was saying, too much balance perhaps?
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: martinburley on May 06, 2008, 03:12:42 PM
A wise man (;u=3) once said, about RPS, "The game is simple. It's the gamesmanship that makes it complex."

RPS variants like Spock-Lizard, or variants which award more points for winning with certain throws, introduce imbalance into the structure of the game.

Pure RPS appears, on the surface, to be perfectly balanced. But is this, as you suggest, too balanced? No, far from it. Because the art of RPS is in creating and discovering imbalance in the game play, not in the game structure.

You can create imbalance through gamesmanship and tactical play . If you throw Rock five times in a row, your opponent may start to assign more weight to Paper when he decides his next throw. You've created an imbalance. If you tell your opponent, "Don't throw Scissors!" this also is likely to create an imbalance. Of course, different people react differently, so part of the skill is knowing which way this particular opponent is likely to tilt, and how best to prod them to evoke the desired response.

You can also discover imbalance arising naturally in the gameplay. The simplest such imbalance is the fact that Rock is slightly easier to throw than the other two throws, so tends to be thrown slightly more often by novices or when players are under pressure. There's also a common imbalance from the fact that many players feel Rock is the 'strongest' throw. And other imbalances arise from time to time. For example, after your opponent throws two Scissors, the memory of throwing those Scissors may tilt him towards switching rather than repeating for a third time.

It's precisely because the structure of RPS is perfectly poised that the imbalances stirred up during the gameplay are all the more satisfying, for both the players and the spectators.

RPS is the lake in which the players see their own reflections. The smoother the water, the more they see. 
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on May 06, 2008, 05:50:28 PM
Very true, martin. Also, what about making both players suffer a penalty(such as mutual loss) if they tie with paper or scissors. That is an interesting variation. The first throw is the only "too balanced" one, but then I suppose throwing spaz for intel(and subterfuge) would fix that.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: yanis on May 11, 2008, 02:47:36 PM
Thank you, Master Roshambollah and R Cohrs for the nice words.

My apologies for the use of non-srn347 grammar, I did not know my grammar was being audited and even so, I choose not over extend myself on this topic.

When I said "I believe it depends on what your playing." I was simply trying to convey the fact that the initial question you asked cannot be answered unless specific variables are put into place. Such as: Are you playing street RPS, tournament rules, bastardized rules, how many battles must be won to win the war and so on.
Title: Re: RPS Spock Lizard
Post by: srn347 on May 11, 2008, 04:27:41 PM
Oh, that's different. How about best 2 out of 3.