Single Player Competitions

6th April 2006


In a previous post entitled Define a Great SP Player I discussed what skill set a good SP player needed. I didn’t provide the definitive answer but I at least started the discussion. As with many other posts the idea kept bouncing around in my head until another thought popped up.


I don’t play MP games but I do appreciate the attraction they have for millions of players. At its simplest is the idea of competing against other humans. Sports and other games are no different in this regard. We try to beat the other player or players through the use of skills, strengths, abilities etc.

In these types of games we have a clear winner, the person that is still standing or the one with the most points etc. This makes competitions a natural extension of the game.

Personal Aside

I personally don’t like competing. The simple reason is this: I HATE LOSING. Now, we often hear professional sportsman and women say this in interviews but I think they are wrong. What they really mean is I LOVE WINNING. Admittedly some do say this but not many.
“What makes you such an expert?” I can hear you ask. Well for me it’s very simple: If you really hate losing don’t play. I hate losing so much that I would rather not play than lose. Sounds stupid? Well maybe it is but that’s how I feel. Now this next part might sound even stranger but I generally only do things where I cannot win. For example I will run up a mountain and try and beat my best time. As I get older this becomes harder and harder, meaning there’s no disappointment in not beating it. I expect to lose.

This could be one reason why I enjoy playing SP games; the concept of winner and loser is completely different. You could argue that if you don’t complete the game then you have lost but I think it’s quite rare for a player to not finish a game because they can’t. More likely, in my case anyway, that they stop because they are bored. Finishing a game on the easy level should be possible for anybody!

Back to the Subject Under Discussion

My point is that there seemed to be a lot of MP tournaments and competitions but nothing to judge SP players. How do we decide how an SP player compares with his contemporaries? Remember we have discussed the skill set required by SP players but not how they actually compare with each other?

Quick Disclaimer!
Now, I have never paid much attention to the World Cyber Games or other similar competitions so I may be talking a load of rubbish. Another thing is that although I own over 60 SP FPS titles I have currently played only a handful of them, so again some of the ideas I express later on may in fact have been used.

The Question

All these thoughts eventually led to this question:
“How we could measure a player’s ability within the framework of an SP game.”

Of course I have a suggested answer, you decide whether you think it’s good or not. I will present the solution and then discuss the process I used to arrive at it.

My Solution

Players compete in a normal tournament structure. That is they play matches “Against” one other player and the winner goes through to the next round.
Each “match” consists of various “sets”. Some possibilities are listed below.

  • Set 1 is simply a speed run. Get from point A to point B as fast as possible. Both players play at the same time on different computers. They are playing the same map but are not IN the same map. They have 3 attempts to get their best time. If they die that counts as one attempt.
  • Set 2 consists of killing ALL the enemies. Again this could be a timed event or perhaps the number or shots fired. The fewer shots the better.
  • Set 3 consists of puzzle solving. First player to solve the puzzle or puzzles wins.
  • Set 4 consists of find the hidden items. Cleverly hidden collectable items are available over the map and the player has to find them. This could either be timed or first to collect the all the items wins.
  • Set 5 consists of one large map with a combination of the above ideas. This would probably be points based. Points for each shot fired, points for time taken, points for dying, points for collecting item, points for reaching the objective etc etc.

At no time is one player directly competing against another. They are simply playing the same maps at the same time. There are many possible options regarding these Sets and how the players interact with each other. One idea I had was to have the players actually in the same map but separated by a transparent partition. (The map would be a mirror image I.E. symmetrical) This means they can see each other but are not affecting the outcome of the other player’s result. This may add a little pressure! Another idea is to have the other player’s position clearly marked on their map. Again creating some pressure.

The next point is that every map is completely new to every player. This means the maps must be produced “On the day” by expert designers. This is to ensure that no player has an advantage over the others. A separate competition would be run at the same time regarding the map design. Players would vote for their favourite maps etc.

I am currently working on a small project where I compare the rules and design of “Real World” sports and see how they can be applied to SP games. Some of these concepts can be applied to this topic. For example the glass partition simulates the idea of Match Play in golf.

Lastly there are many different game types for MP games; DM Team DM, CTF, Assault, Onslaught and Objective/mission based etc etc. But how many different game types are there for SP games? Sure there are a few different playing styles, for example stealth, but everything seemed to be all about reaching a goal or point. Another project I am working on is researching the different types of SP levels and categorising them into different areas. For example one “Set” could be a defence of a doorway. Each player starts with the same resources, weapons, shields, and ammo etc, and the loser is the first player to have their entrance compromised by the enemy. I remember very similar levels in Chaser and Unreal 2.

Thinking Behind the Concept

It was clear to me that the two players cannot directly compete against each other. They have to be playing SP maps and levels. You could simply have a hundred players who start a game on a set level and the first to finish is the winner. But that’s no fun to watch.
There has to be drama and excitement. That is why Tennis scoring is so good. It creates tension, for the players and the spectators, at various points during the game. Also the winner is not the player with the most points but the player who won the important points!
Also I felt that it was important that the maps were completely new to every player. Why? Because that’s what happens when you first play an SP game. Of course you can replay the level as many times as you want but it is always the first time that really counts.
Each set is designed to test a different skill, maybe even combinations of skills. This means that if a player has a particular weakness then they may still be able to win the tournament. For example “Set” 1 measure movement and jump skills. The levels would be specifically designed to test these skills and it may contain moving belts, difficult to reach ledges etc.


I feel that there are many possibilities for the actual details of the competition. I also believe it would be interesting to watch. There’s little doubt that it would take a lot of work to organise but I also think that you would attract a completely different type of player and consequently open up new marketing and promotional opportunities.
If I win the lottery I promise to organise this for PlanetPhillip readers. WOW how I would love to do something like this. Who’s with me?

1 Comment

  1. el_espaniol

    As always, all we see a pretty good insights and new ideas and concepts for all sp gamers…Hope PP will win a lottery for a lot of fun of all us…^_^…!!!

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