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What is an "NPE?"

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What is an Negative Play Experience? I keep seeing it thrown around all over the place but I haven't found a definition explicit nor can I formulate one from context clues. So far it seems to be used when a new meta list is discovered that is a solid all comers type, when someone's list is hard countered, losing, noob stomping, something about thematic lists being beaten by optimized lists, and some other minor things here and there. Its use, to me, has started coming off as "Thing(s) that I don't like" label in lieu of explanation why or how.

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39 minutes ago, Redd9 said:

Its use, to me, has started coming off as "Thing(s) that I don't like" label in lieu of explanation why or how.

That's certainly how it gets used. 

Which, broadly speaking, is what it is. The closest thing to a definition I've ever seen is here

"Negative Play Experience (NPE) is when playing a game frustrates or bores one or both players. NPEs are thought to prevent new players from fully entering the game and leading to existing players abandoning the game."

The key thing being that you're losing (generally) but that you don't feel anything you do is achieving anything. Exactly what causes this will vary wildly from player to player and situation to situation - so someone running away from you for 75% of the game in a faster ship after securing a single early kill might qualify, or a list which can reliably generate 24?cb=2018090502523424?cb=20180905025234 against every attack against a squad of 2-dice primary fighters (like a TIE swarm). 

Basically, it's generally used for any situation where you feel like you've found yourself stuck on the wrong end of a scissors-paper-stone matchup and have lost at the list-building, rather than gameplay, stage.

 

 

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It is also used for lists that win against all comers, with no clear counter - like the 1.0 Fenn/Kanan/Maul build that wrecked face near the end - or that fundamentally break some aspects of the game in order to gain an overwhelming advantage - like the Tripsilons list did. Or, lists that are negatively meta warping.

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There isn’t an easy or universal definition or explanation.  I use NPE in a rather specific sense, and in a completely different way than, for example, having a bad game where I get stomped.

An NPE is, to me, a game where your agency as a player is taken from you.  This is totally fine in moderation and is a part of game design, but when no choice I make can have a meaningful impact on the game and it essentially reduces me to relying on luck while my opponent still has agency, that’s an NPE.

Here’s a theoretical example, because I honestly haven’t had an NPE in 2.0.  I haven’t faced Quad Phantoms, but I imagine that would qualify.  4 ships with strong offense, strong defense, strong repositioning and the ability to mitigate luck in some way through the use of Juke reduces my half of the game to guessing and rolling dice.

In 1.0 it was triple torpedo Jumpmasters.  I was going to lose a ship or maybe even 2 in the first salvo, and there was literally nothing I could do about it.

NPEs to me are differentiated from stuff like optimized lists or hard counters.  Those are just good lists or a bad matchup.

I’m going to use another example, this time from 40k, since that’s what I played during my X-Wing hiatus.  I have a pretty substantial army of Imperial Knights.  I love knights, I love small model count armies, I love the lore and the models.  Now, if you don’t know 40k, especially the latest edition, there is A LOT in the game that really can’t kill a knight.  Massed heavy weapons can do it, but knights have their own weakness.  They can’t handle hordes and their objective game is objectively garbage.  That being said, while in competitive play (and 40k competitive play is its own dumpster fire) pure knights really aren’t that bad, in casual games it’s a bloodbath.  A non-optimal list will likely get slaughtered wholesale by whatever random collection of giant stompy robots I decided to put on the table.  That’s an NPE.  And also, coincidentally, why I still keep some space marines around, to play casual games where both people will have fun.

Also, your opponent’s attitude goes a long way towards preventing an NPE, but that’s a topic for another novel of a post.

TL;DR: it depends.

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Posted (edited)

Long time lurker, first time poster, because this is a question I actually know the answer to.

A 'Negative Play Experience' is, by definition, a game effect which reduces the number of meaningful decisions that either player can make. It has nothing to do with power levels or how enjoyable a game is, at least not directly.

They are effects that narrow the scope of the game, remove interesting decisions and hurt player engagement. If you've ever found yourself thinking 'huh, ok then - nothing I could have done about that', the odds are you've been on the receiving end of one. 

My favourite example of positive / negative play experiences will always be the weapons in Halo, which (regardless of how you feel about Halo multiplayer) were extremely well designed to be engaging to use, and to have used against you. Somebody coming at you with a rocket launcher is a positive play experience, as there are many ways you can react to the situation. The rocket travels slowly, so a long range kill is unlikely. At short range, you can melee, grenade, and time your jumps so that you aren't hit, except by a deserving skill shot. You are on the back foot, but the game has opened up several different options in terms of counter-play, which is the key. Compare this to getting sniped from across the map in a Battlefield type game. Your options for counter-play are few to none, which is why getting sniped is often so frustrating and can break your immersion.

Another great example is the design of turrets in 1e (NPE) vs 2e (PPE). In 1e, they removed the potential for arc dodging (let's ignore autothrusters) and put many ships on a damage timer, forcing you down a certain tactical route. In second edition, the changes actually turned turrets in to an engaging game element that adds meaningful decisions for both players, in the form of considering arcs and actions. I'm not bashing 1e turrets here, but by this definition I would consider them to be an NPE, though not a severe one.

1e Kylo Ren in to blinded pilot was also the definition of an NPE.

Whereas a negative play experience asks you to accept consequences and move on without necessarily having learned anything, a positive play experience asks you what your response will be, and leaves you feeling engaged.

As a side note, it's also completely possible to have an underpowered NPE. The term is most often used for broken or overpowered combos, but as tripsilons showed us, a combo doesn't need to be winning tournaments left and right to need addressing as an NPE.

Edited by ShgrizzX
Typo

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, FatherTurin said:

Now, if you don’t know 40k, especially the latest edition, there is A LOT in the game that really can’t kill a knight.  Massed heavy weapons can do it, but knights have their own weakness.  They can’t handle hordes and their objective game is objectively garbage.  That being said, while in competitive play (and 40k competitive play is its own dumpster fire) pure knights really aren’t that bad, in casual games it’s a bloodbath

Which is why in competetive games, it tends to be a superheavy detachment of knights (the most expensive IMPERIAL unit with awesome but command point-hungry stratagems) and a battalion detachment of guard (the most cost-effective way for IMPERIAL armies to generate command points due to cheap, expendable troops and command-point recycling relics and warlord traits). Neither is bad on their own but allowing you to take the one to feed the other creates a big problem.

But whilst that's a hyper-competitive list for tournaments, I agree that the 'I'm wasting my time being here'situation tends to revolve around finding yourself facing an entire army with not a single model below T8, Sv3+, essentially meaning that every model in a squad not carrying a heavy weapon gets instantly demoted to the status of "extra wound for the weapons specialist".

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, Magnus Grendel said:

Which is why in competetive games, it tends to be a superheavy detachment of knights (the most expensive IMPERIAL unit with awesome but command point-hungry stratagems) and a battalion detachment of guard (the most cost-effective way for IMPERIAL armies to generate command points due to cheap, expendable troops and command-point recycling relics and warlord traits). Neither is bad on their own but allowing you to take the one to feed the other creates a big problem.

But whilst that's a hyper-competitive list for tournaments, I agree that the 'I'm wasting my time being here'situation tends to revolve around finding yourself facing an entire army with not a single model below T8, Sv3+, essentially meaning that every model in a squad not carrying a heavy weapon gets instantly demoted to the status of "extra wound for the weapons specialist".

 

Don’t forget my warlord with a 4++, and stratagems that let it go to a 3++ and ignore lowered stats due to damage.

So...yeah, I acknowledge that I’m “that guy” and why I keep a spare army (or play X-Wing).

Edit: I’ve also been on the receiving end.  In a massive 10,000 point 6 player game, the other side had first turn and every single superheavy (knights, shadowswords and a titan) singled out my knights and eliminated most of them at the top of turn one.  Putting down my models to pick them up 10 minutes later is not fun, and why I always give my opponents in casual games a choice: “I’d like to play my knights, but I can also play Custodes or Marines if you want.”  I also make it abundantly clear that I don’t do mixed lists, with the sole exception of the occasional assassin.  The mixed lists are worse (although Custodes can also be rough, especially against new players).

Edited by FatherTurin

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, FatherTurin said:

Don’t forget my warlord with a 4++, and stratagems that let it go to a 3++ and ignore lowered stats due to damage.

So...yeah, I acknowledge that I’m “that guy” and why I keep a spare army (or play X-Wing).

Right, but - again - that's a scissors-paper-stone thing. NPE is - in my experience - not out-and-out invincible but "the matchup we played meant I could do nothing meaningful".

Both are just as unpleasant - if you've got a 'fluffy' marine infantry army with a handful of heavy weapons you'll have about as much fun facing Imperial Knights as you would in 4th edition playing the WD300 "Movie Marines", but the difference (whilst it doesn't make that specific game any more fun) is that there are lists which will be just as unfair on the knights; generally those which go: 

"I have moved 30+models with an 'Objective Secured' equivalent rule a 6+ ignore wound roll within 6" of every objective on the board. I'm now going to go get a coffee, enjoy the rest of the game, tell me when I need to make saving throws...."

 

Edited by Magnus Grendel

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Posted (edited)

I would also like to suggest an NPE is when the player across from me starts getting very upset at their list, or their dice, or their flying (albeit it seems like people don't recognize this as causing some of their issues) to the point where they become aggressive. It is very uncomfortable and all of a sudden I don't want my Protorps to hit because then they might smash a ship with their fist.

Especially when it is a casual game.

Edited by Skitch_

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To get off 40k and circle back to X-Wing, it’s all about the social contract inherent in any game of this nature.

If I am playing in a tournament, or playing with the express understanding that the game is practice for a tournament and list testing, I have a different level of expectations.  The only NPE in those scenarios could be derived from my opponent’s attitude.  Otherwise I expect to fly against top notch lists.  I won’t complain or even comment on a NPE, and even if I get tabled early and feel like it was what would be an NPE in a casual game, I try and contain my salt or try not to come off as a sore loser.  

In a casual game however, just...don’t be a ****.  We know your quad phantoms will beat my random jank that I threw together for fun, you win, can we play another game now?

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52 minutes ago, FatherTurin said:

NPEs to me are differentiated from stuff like optimized lists or hard counters.  Those are just good lists or a bad matchup.

I would consider counters that way, but hard counters as NPE.  To me, counters shift the balance a little depending on match-up, but a hard counter completely shuts down a list.

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Posted (edited)
18 minutes ago, JJ48 said:

I would consider counters that way, but hard counters as NPE.  To me, counters shift the balance a little depending on match-up, but a hard counter completely shuts down a list.

And this is where it starts to get more nuanced.  If I run into a hard counter in a tournament, thems the breaks.  If it happens more or less by accident in a casual game, I will play a few rounds to see if it really is a hard counter (it doesn’t seem like there are many of those in 2.0), and if it is, bring it up to my opponent and see if they are cool with me conceding and playing games with different squads.  It’s an NPE, but it’s a resolvable scenario.

If it’s a “casual” game and someone brought or put together a hard counter specifically to play my list?  Yeah, that’s an NPE.  I would scoop and play a different game, possibly against a different opponent, and if that’s not gonna happen, I’m just gonna go home and play spider man or battlefront or something.  I have limited free time for this stuff, and I’m not gonna let an unfun situation continue or sour my mood.

Edit: nothing I’ve said is meant to imply that you can’t have an NPE in a tournament, you absolutely can (and in all likelihood at some point you will), I just go in with the expectations that it’s likely, and I try not to dwell on it when it happens.  I really only play in tournaments because it’s a guaranteed number of games I get to play.

Edited by FatherTurin

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I think Han with Kanan, R2 D2 crew and Inertial Dampeners are going to be the next big NPE. You have to cover so many spots just to have a chance to block him, they can dial in what ever they want, dont like it? Just ID it, lose a shield, might get it back with R2 if your shieldless. 

You can do your best to block him, but you virtually never ever can. Kanan can make his hard stops white. 

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"N.P.E." has, like all other words, had an ever-evolving meaning.  Think of "awesome."  It once meant that sublime and overwhelming feeling someone in the presence of the Divine would experience, but now it's used in contexts like "We'll meet there at 7"  "Awesome, see ya then!"


In its most current and contemporary usages, N.P.E. means "Non-moving Phantoms Everywhere," in reference to the tendency of top-tables at Extended events to have a severe over-abundance of fotressing quad TIE Phantoms.

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By coincidence, I have this article ready

https://greendragoon.home.blog/2019/04/18/npe-the-logic-of-strategy-and-x-wing/

From it:

what is an NPE?

An NPE is when playing a game frustrates or bores at least one player involved. However, the way the term is used here on the FFG forums often convey a different meaning: a collectively shared negative play experience, a type of card, pilot or list that several people experience as “not fun”.

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Some folks have already hit on it-- I don't have any agency as a player. I haven't brought a hard counter for what is across from me so I lose badly. Games where variance on my end needs to be enormously in my favor while at the same time on his end needs to be enormously disfavorable and that only makes it sort of a game. 

Yes, some of that is on me sometimes-- make better lists or build better decks. Sometimes it is not. Such as in the case of things like that Triple Upsilon Hyper-space tracking list. Those are separate things from the person across from you being unpleasant to play against. I don't expect the designers to protect me from running into an unpleasant opponent or my own bad decisions. I do expect them to do their best to make the game fair. 

I don't mind losing. I do mind feeling like I shouldn't have bothered playing. Hopefully in those why-did-I-bother situations, I know when the NPE is on my own decisions and am gracious in defeat and when the NPE is on a failure of the design and am constructive in critique. 

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In my opinion NPE is reserved for broken mechanics.  I don't mind hard counters that's part of the game and I don't expect my opponents to be concerned with how much fun I'm having. 

A good example would be captain nym pre genius nerf thinking about it still drives me up the wall.   At initiative 10 he could bump a ship drop a bomb and be safe from that bomb.  It was just easy mode.  Our store tournaments never recovered from that debacle. 

So far 2.0 has done a good job addressing issues by adjusting points and slots when necessary.  

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1 minute ago, Frimmel said:

 I do expect them to do their best to make the game fair.


Though, some people have advanced the idea that the only way to have a "fair" game like X-Wing (or any game with multiple factions and options) is to have a reasonable spread of Rocks, Papers, and Scissors, and then hope that they achieve some sort of equilibrium balance out in the wild.

If this is true, though, it seems to imply any given individual match-up runs the risks of the Rock-Paper-Scissor dynamic innately advantaging/disadvantaging the two players.

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