Apr 09

Applying Scarcity To Skill Specialization


This piece was originally posted almost two years ago on the FM-Britain forums. I believe it still applies today in Football Manager Live and explains a very fundamental point with any zero-sum game.

I believe the skills have direct game theory implications. Although I don’t consider myself an expert on the exact nuances of this higher math, my poker-playing experience with game theory concepts I think relate to this discussion.

In a situation where the same decision by any participant results in anything but the same outcome, an advantage is seen.

In poker this is typically called “getting the best of it” where both the wagers of you & you opponent match, yet probability-wise, one of you will win more often than eachother. This also comes into effect more on point where your action frequency (like bluffing) on a level that an opponent’s decision made 100% of the time results in a profit. (but we’ll leave the poker talk for another day for now)

The skills represent this concept – the higher level you have in each compared to your opponents gives you an advantage. For example, having 4 star crossing coaching while another has only 1 star boosts your squad’s attribute 15% more than his. Although some of the skills may not appear as tangible as this (like scouting) the fact still remains the same.

Taking this concept even further – the more skills that are shared between participants (most amount of that is) then the less valuable the skill is as a whole. Take for instance the above example: we have determined that the first user has a significant advantage over others that do not have that skill. What if everyone in the GW had 4 star crossing coaching? In effect then it would render no one at an advantage in that area. Everyone’s players will excel at a 20% boosted rate in crossing.

Let’s now look at this from another angle using extreme sides of the spectrum. What if you were the only user out of 1000 that had 4 star crossing? While a 5% extra boost in one attribute it may seem insignificant, according to game theory concepts, you have rendered any “decision” by all of your opponents futile as your result will always have a positive result. In this case, a “typical” crossing stat for most of the GW is 10 (as an example), while your players will be at 10.5. (5% more)

On the opposite side, what if you were the only user out of 1000 that DIDN’T have 4 star crossing? While the above situation is true that game theory states that your “decision” will be at a negative against all opponents, an interesting thing happens when applying the value of the skill to the equation. (remember as I showed before the fact that a skill’ s value goes down as more participants have it) Using the same example – a “typical” crossing stat for JUST YOU is 10 while almost a thousand users (the rest of the GW) will be at 10.5.

You can probably see the overriding fact by now. It incorporates another concept typically used in economics – scarcity (supply & demand) If you had to put a dollar amount on the crossing skill itself, what would it be worth in the first example? Well, being that you would be the only person with players boosted in crossing, it would make them a scarce commodity, hence the ability to demand top price for it. In the second example, everyone but you has the skill. That means there are MANY players with the same level of crossing… you may not be able to create them though, but it’s an abundant commodity. (“a dime a dozen” as people say)

Combining these concepts and looking at it as a mathematical proof, this “proves” the theorem that skills are directly relative in value to the amount of users that possess them. Therefore, learning a skill that 10% of the GW has is more valuable than learning one that almost everyone has.

I have to reiterate the fact though that this is only based on game theory. I am aware that skills are interdependent and other factors may have to be considered in determining the “true” value of each skill. Some effect the gameplay more than others based on your own variables. (such as physio skills when you have equal cover in all positions, hence not a high care whether starters get injured)

Try to absorb this in without your head exploding and share your thoughts…

Written By Jordan Cooper
A moderator on GW Fowler and a co-founder of Gameworld One.Com, he has hosted/produced the Get Sacked! podcast for nearly two years providing humor and strategical insight to all about the FM series.
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