David Sirlin on playing to win, game balance and more. (Podcast.)


Long-time lurker here (pre-09 under a different name).

Anyway, I’ve done an in-depth interview with David Sirlin on playing to win, game balance, psychology and more. We also discuss his Yomi game and other things he’s working on.

Of course we touch on fighting games, but we do talk about other genres, particularly shooters. I hope this was the right place to post; the general discussion forum seemed a bit too general for it. (It had anime, dating and music threads etc.)

You can listen to the show here:


It’s an hour plus, so it really is deeper than most interviews. Sirlin has said it might be the best interview he’s ever done, but of course that’s for you to decide. It’s certainly a good chance to cement your opinion of him. :wink:


Can you post the list of questions so we can jump to specific parts?

Edit: You talked about the misconception of “tier whoring” as playing to win which is pretty important.
Picking a top tier isn’t playing to win- That won’t get you the best results.
Instead you need to pick a character that together with your play style will get the best results, and that character may not be top tier, but you’ll still do better with it than with the top tier.
This should be explained better in text and be a sticky in the newbie dojo IMO.


Hi Tataki,

Sorry, but the interview wasn’t structured that way. However it’s a good idea, so I’ll try to do that for future shows.

If it helps I’m sure the words ‘deep’ and ‘one hour plus’, make it sound really dry and heavy. But actually it’s quite easy to listen to. It’s more of a conversation; there’s a good vibe, I crack jokes and challenge him and so on. I always try to make our shows fun and meaty at the same time.


Something like this, maybe?

'Playing to win isn’t about picking the character with the best overall match-ups. Instead, it’s picking the character you’re best with, whatever their tier."


It’s not that. It’s just that I don’t want to hear again about things he already explained in the past.

Too bad you didn’t talk more about the role types of characters that are needed in a SF type of FG but instead you went on to talking about other genres.

I don’t know if “you’re best with” can replace the “getting you the best results” part.
You could be a beast with Bonerine and mediocre with Sentinel, and still get better results with Sentinel.


did sirlin even play a shooter at any point can someone confirm/deny


Yeah, that was on my list of things to potentially talk about. Of course Sirlin has had massive exposure in the fighting game community, but amongst other gamers I don’t think that’s true. When I look at the FG world, of course the character archetypes are interesting. But beyond that, what does he have to say that’s relevant to all gamers? Playing to win and game balancing seemed to be the ones that really stuck out.

It’s entirely possible he’ll be on the show again, so I wouldn’t rule out that deeper, FG only, discussion out.


All the talk about FPSs in the interview was based on how Halo developers are planning the weapons for the competitive game, according to their own explanation.




Yeah, he clearly wasn’t an FPS fan. But it’s those gamers, perhaps more than anyone, that need to learn about playing to win. FG fans, generally, know what they’re signing up for. It’s one-on-one, any mistakes are largely going to be your own.

Of course the matches are mostly anonymous, but’s heightened for FPSs where one’s part of a team. A lot of players will just bail if it starts going badly. It’s kind of weak.


uh well maybe he should talk about good fpses then whats his fuckin problem so rude…


I’m confused; I made the comments, just now, about FPSs players needing to learn how to play to win more than FGers. Sirlin didn’t. He’s forthright on some issues, but not really rude. I think some of the stuff he talks about is going to lend itself to people getting pissed off, whether it’s intended or not. Have you actually listened to the show?


people still care about what he thinks?




no one cares what het hinks its just real entertaining to watch someone make an embarrassing spectacle out fo themsleves


Damn that’s some entitlement.


i could care less about your stupid picture


His interview with Arcade Hustler was actually really good though. I thought he would act pretentious but he actually said a lot of good shit in those interviews.


Just because you may not like him as a person doesn’t automatically invalidate the points he raises.

His writing is one thing - his choice of language is a little stilted in places, and he tends to use a very inadvertantly codescending tone in his attempts at being clear (sort of like a kindegarden teacher from hell) - but detach that from the points he makes and they’re all, for the most part, fundamentally sound.

He takes a lot of Game Theory 101 stuff and puts it into terms that, while not always perfect, at least are a lot more accessible than terms like “normal form” and “zero-sum”. I’m not aware of anyone else who’s even really trying to do this, at least not with such a fighter-heavy flavor.

He’s sorta like that dorky kid in your Math class who can manage to say “two plus two equals four” in such a way that you can’t help but grit your teeth in disgust, but the kid still makes for a more learningful study buddy than nearly anyone else in the class.


As I said in the original post, I wasn’t sure if this was the right place to mention the show. If consensus is that GD is better, then any mods do feel free to move.