Video Game Theory

In some computer games, there is something Cheng would call the uppie trap. Basically, this involves a weak spot in the computer-controlled opposition’s armor. For example, a spot you can shoot from where the enemy will never return fire, or a strategy that will always score a touchdown against an opponent.

This system essentially changes the game from one of player vs. computer to one of player vs. designer. In my opinion, this is more interesting and more challenging; can you outsmart the person who built the game?

Uppie traps often come from deeper principles that are more generally applicable to other games. For example, in Baldur’s Gate II, one very useful strategy is to launch area attacks before you see the enemy. In general, monsters won’t acknowledge your existence until they’re in your site range. While this would seem to be specific to this game (it wouldn’t work in Diablo, for instance (update: actually, it does sometimes)), it does extend to a general idea. Each individual enemy does not have its own intelligence; the programmer has to compromise and decide what gets processing time. Thus, in any game, there is always the possibility of discovering blind spots; areas where processing has been avoided. In future entries we’ll cross apply this principle.