Tuesday, August 05, 2008

The best of the best

Above: You're the best around/Nothing's gonna ever keep you down

Got some good comments on yesterday's post about Geometry Wars 2 high scores, which led to some further thoughts on the subject.

One thing that amazes me about almost every high score list is the distribution of scores. I don't know if they tend to fall exactly along a bell curve, but it seems like it. The bulk of the point totals always seem to be within shouting distance of one another. The very best players, though, are operating on another level entirely.

Look at the leaderboards for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock on the Xbox 360.* Your top 5 scores on campaign mode, expert difficulty:

1. vipen -- 706,651,708
2. ecartman33 -- 637,281,856
3. Shattered121 -- 612,228,928
4. Lexomatico -- 595,959,234
5. Eldar5150 -- 557,842,830

The difference between the best Guitar Hero III player and the fifth-best Guitar Hero III player is nearly 150 million points! Another way to put it: the top player, vipen, is more than 20% better than the fifth, Eldar5150.

The scores keep dropping from there, but they flatten out quickly. Look at how much further down the list you have to go to mark each subsequent 150 million-point increment.

1. vipen -- 706,651,708
5. Eldar5150 -- 557,842,830
23. XISXISXIS -- 407,726,029
204. uberpwnzn00bs -- 257,721,386
3,314. Just Lucky -- 107,720,493

Now here's the really crazy thing. Judging by that short list above, you'd think that Just Lucky was no great shakes as a Guitar Hero player. He's barely 1/7 as good as the best player. If this were a head-to-head competition, it'd be a bigger blowout than Super Bowl XXIV.

This is a game that has sold millions of copies. The high score list for campaign mode, expert difficulty, on the Xbox 360 version of Guitar Hero III likely contains hundreds of thousands of names. Just Lucky is most likely in the top 1 or 2% of all players, without even factoring in the people who only play on lower difficulty settings, and don't qualify for the expert list. In all probability, Just Lucky rates even more highly than that. He's one of the best in the world. But he's not within striking distance of the number-one guy.

I bring this up because it's inspiring and discouraging at the same time. Let's be honest: Your odds of being the best at a videogame are about equal to your chances of winning a gold medal at the Olympics. Sure, someone has to do it, but six billion others won't. Only a handful can compete. Why should you even try?

Because it's astonishing, the heights to which we can aspire. People have been motivated throughout our history by the notion that certain feats, however unlikely, were still somehow possible. I see someone scoring over 700 million points in Guitar Hero and I think to myself -- wow, I didn't even know the mountain went up that high.

*Caveat lector: Those scores were all accurate via the Guitar Hero website at the time of this posting, but when I went into the game itself to see if I could get a sense of how long the score lists are, they seemed completely different. Some of the same names were on there, but it was difficult to corroborate the lists. But since I'd already written 99% of the post, well, here you go.


Tyler said...

Keep in mind that hacking high score lists is a hobby for some people. Don't know if that's the case for your example, but I don't usually trust them.

John Harney said...

Caveat lector aside, a really fascinating post. Great work!

Mitch Krpata said...

Tyler, the possibility crossed my mind. I certainly hope it's not true, but it could be. And the "career mode," as opposed to "campaign," showed a much more equitable distribution, as far as I could tell.

MostEmailedNews.com said...

The question is what does vipen do besides play guitar hero..

- T


Omari Akil said...

There again, even mostemailednew.com shares my mentality...But strangely after a quick check on Xbox.com I can't find a profile for vipen or ecartmam33. Cant say that for Shattered121 who has definitely crushed GH3 and racked up almost every single player achievement and most of the multiplayer.

Mitch Krpata said...

Omari, when I was checking the leaderboards through Xbox Live, I did see someone with the word "vipen" in their name, but there was a second word in the name as well. I don't remember what it was offhand. It's possible that the web leaderboards have some glitches of their own.