Game theory is a field of mathematics that “attempts to mathematically capture behavior in strategic situations, in which an individual’s success in making choices depends on the choices of others” (Wikipedia). It’s a relatively simple model for making optimal decisions and predicting the behavior of others. A lot of times while playing, I often wonder why players behave the way they do and whether they make the best decisions. For example, I hear all the time in Arathi Basin that if we currently control 3 nodes, we should just defend them, as we only need 3 to win. However, in Warsong, once we cap the flag once, I don’t hear any suggestions that we should just defend until time runs out. These seem like very similar strategies, and I’m curious if they are truly similar and good strategies. As such, I’ve decided to explore how game theory can be applied to World of Warcraft, beginning with battlegrounds.
First, lets get some game theory basics out of the way. In game theory, the principle object we are dealing with is games. The “game” we are talking about here is not World of Warcraft, but rather a meta-game, such as deciding which node to attack in Eye of the Storm. Anything that we consider a “game” needs three components:
- “Players“, which is an decision-making entity. It could be all 80 players in a full Alterac Valley, or it could be the 2 teams in Warsong Gulch.
- “Strategies“, which are choices for each player to make. Each player must have the ability to make decisions, even if they are bad decisions. Decisions could be sending 11 players to the flag in Eye of the Storm if our player is a team, or walking into the enemy’s flag room is our player is a single person.
- “Payoffs“, or the ultimate rewards (or repercussions) for your strategies subject to all other player’s strategies. For example, heading to the center of Eye of the Storm and attempting to capture the flag could have several payoffs: earning a flag capture worth perhaps 100 points if enough players decide to help you, having no net effect if enough players from each faction are in the center, or wasting your time and possibly losing a node if the enemy attacks your bases.
That last description is a little vague, so lets jump into how we actually analyse something and get into examples.