This will be a short rant because I am drunk and incoherent. Osamu edit this in the morning.

It’s extremely often I read about discussions of various mahjong clients/software, and someone will come out of nowhere and say “but it doesn’t have ________!”

As a normal player who has never even considered programming a mahjong client or software in my life, I am as harsh a critic as any, perhaps even more so than the various people still playing single hand rounds for money on mahjongtime. But people whining because the client of your choice does not allow you to open riichi/ron on concealed kan for kokushi/insert annoying variant here never fails to annoy me.

When something is all well and good, nobody will ever say one word, and yet a little mistake here and there will get people falling over each other to point it out. There seems to be a vocal minority on the internet who favour a mahjong client being a complete simulation of a real life mahjong game. By this I mean they want the freedom to do anything, unfettered by normal constraints of reason and logic. Riichi without being in tenpai? Random chombos? Access to every single ruleset ever played in the history of mankind? A button to flip the table over in a drunken rage? This can be a good thing. It can also be a very, very bad thing.

I believe that willfully allowing people to make mistakes – and here I mean complete howlers – is not the way to go for a mahjong client. Why do I say so? Simple –

It is not fun.

Believe it or not, people play games for fun. There are many ways of defining ‘fun’, but I doubt a single one of them involves making an accidental error that may cost you real money on some online gaming clients. Making stupid mistakes is not an enjoyable experience, for both the person doing it and the other players involved in the game. Therefore, when you remove this possibility, people will have a better chance of enjoying their mahjong experience.

Last year, feeling burned out after grinding a little on tenhou, I wrote up a mahjong variant for my friends to try. The premise was simple, and elegant. Basically you play to be the first to win X (a recommended default is 3) games. When you win a game, you roll a 20-sided die, and a random penalty is applied to you according to the number you rolled. Penalties were more or less of equal severity and included ones like:

– for the first 3 turns you must discard the tile you drew (tsumokiri)
– you cannot ron on anyone except the point leader (or anyone if you are leading)
– ryanhan shibari (ron or tsumo on a 2han+ hand only)
– no yakuhai allowed in your hand

The design was easy to implement, elegant and simple. It was not difficult, unfair, imbalanced (in fact it was extremely balanced due to the reverse slippery slope effect) and it looked very interesting for something cooked up in minutes.

We only ever played it once.

It was not fun.

Discarding the first 3 tiles I drew was not fun. Being in furiten later because of that was even more frustrating. Not being able to call some tiles or to grab a win was not enjoyable. In a game where trying to control your hand normally is like trying to drive a truck with your teeth, having more and more options taken away was like having them pulled out one by one by a 7-year-old with rusty pliers. Even the schadenfreude aspect of it all wasn’t enough to make the game palatable. I believe that on a scale from bingo to go, mahjong is probably at the very edge of the playable range on the random side of things. I do think this is the reason Wizards removed mana burn in MTG as well.

The reason I am recalling this uninteresting anecdote is because I can sort of visualize some semblance of a link here with the issue at hand. If you can’t, you haven’t had enough to drink. People play games for fun. Being told “too bad, you made a mistake, you can’t win” is never fun. Also I don’t mind laughing openly at anyone who protests with any argument related to “skill”.

On another unrelated note, our top secret discussion group always struggles with definitions for certain game concepts. At the moment we are trying to define “luck” in mahjong. Perhaps we’re thinking too much, but it’s harder than you might think.

8 thoughts on “EZmodo

  1. Sounds like an interesting variant. I know our mahjong club experiments with a lot of fukumoto’s stuff.

    Also the big thing that I can not get over on online is that there is no cheating. As such a huge part of the game it is too bad you really can’t implement it online. I mean it’s nice in theory to play online but a lot of real execution is impossible.

    What I really find kind of sad is people who only play on such clients and then don’t know that the rules are so radically different depending on where you play.

  2. >In a game where trying to control your hand normally is like trying to drive a truck with your teeth, having more and more options taken away was like having them pulled out one by one by a 7-year-old with rusty pliers.

    I just really really love reading TACOS’ rants.

    Going back to the point, yeah, well, people like to complain anyway. Complaining about the ability or inability to do something is part of the “fun” for some people.

  3. I guess luck in mahjong would be the rate of favourable or easy decisions to unfavourable or difficult decisions given to you, and skill would be the tendency to make the correct decisions. Choosing between tsumoing that Kokushi or passing? You’re lucky. Choosing between cutting the 5m against that riichi for a tanyao tenpai or throwing your hand to pieces? Unlucky.

  4. This. Is the very essence of Touhou Unreal Mahjong. Being the victim of Cirno’s 强制ツモ切り is certainly unpleasant, furiten and all. (But look what your character can do too! Draw the dora tile for the next 3 turns! No one can ron from your discards for the next 3 turns! Your next 6 discards are face-down, after which, upon the 7th discards, you flip them all up! Etc etc etc.)

  5. Except that I do like Touhou Unreal Mahjong. It’s fun because you can control these abilities and apply them on others. Even if they are used on you in return, it’s a positive kind of fun because of the way most players perceive the game. Everyone has abilities to use, and it’s your choice whom to use them on. Even if you are horrible at mahjong or are way behind, you can still use your ability! Awesome!

    The game I described is negative fun because you bring these calamities upon yourself. By winning, which is supposed to feel good normally. As a result, when you lose you feel bad, and when you win you feel bad. Awful.

  6. It’s not like I can be easily influenced, but upon reading TACOS’ post I’ve been playing Touhou Gensou Maajan all week…

    I don’t think what you described are “calamities” really. If you’re going to play like this in ippan 一般, since in there it’s all BS anyway, you might as well add restrictions to yourself for the sake of practice. I wouldn’t use the people in ippan for anything other than a non-serious game. I think “you cannot ron on anyone except the point leader (or anyone if you are leading)” proves to be a great training, especially for people who are too much afraid to let the “ron” button pass, even when last by 20k in oorasu.

    Still, I wouldn’t waste my time for a whole hanchan like this. A few tonpuusen with self-restrictions would prove to be useful.

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