This era also witnesses the dawning of the "No Bleeping Way Game," where you are playing out a "season" against the computer and doing a little too well, so the computer gets ticked and make sure there is no bleeping way you are winning the next game — dropped passes, improbable kick returns, random fumbles and so on. God, I hate the No Bleeping Way Game.
A hypothetical: You're playing Madden NFL
. Your team is up by 13, there's three and a half minutes left until the end of the game, and you have the ball. Your victory is assured, right?
Wrong, because suddenly the AI is twice as fast as you, knows what play you're going to run, and shuts down your offense, forcing you to punt - or, worse, your running back with a high "Hands" rating fumbles the ball, or an AI defensive back makes a miracle interception. On their drive, the AI marches down-field with no difficulty by completing several consecutive bombs, scoring an easy touchdown. Rinse and repeat, and before you know it you've lost what you thought was a safe lead. The video game has just experienced a Miracle Rally
Why does this happen? The further you stretch a rubber band, the harder it pulls. It's the same idea here. Basically, the better you are doing at a game, the harder the game gets in order to continue to present a challenge. This isn't just the idea of making the game harder and harder as you progress farther and farther, this means that the level you're on right now
will, for seemingly no reason, ramp up its difficulty if it thinks you're doing too well. This may, in some cases, be coupled with the computer actually cheating
, rather than just getting better.
Of course, to be fair, this sometimes happens in reverse
, with the AI easing up when winning to give you a chance to come back, stealing any satisfaction the player might gain from "victory." The classic example is a racing game in which opponents never gain a substantial lead on slow players but cling to the tails of even super-humanly skilled players, creating the impression of the AI's car being attached to yours by a literal rubber band. Sometimes gamers notice proof of rubber band AI (particularly in Mario Kart
-style racing games) when their actual racing time in seconds when they take 1st place may be the same or similar when they race the exact same track and take as low as 6th place. Even though the times were the same, the racer's rank can fluctuate wildly due to rubber banding competitors.
Also seen in a few RPGs
, where enemies are adjusted according to your character's levels, which can make any non-levelable stuff (like items) useless pretty quick. This is sometimes referred to as "punishing you for your experience." See Empty Levels
and Level Scaling
The Other Wiki
has a comprehensive article
about Rubberband AI.
The reverse version of this trope is an Unstable Equilibrium
. The trope also mixes with Do Well, But Not Perfect
, where players in games with rubber band AI seem to be punished for simply being too good and aren't supposed to win that way.
Compare Dynamic Difficulty
. May also overlap with (or even result in) Fake Difficulty
. When a game allows human players in on it, it's a Comeback Mechanic
. Games that give you an easy race or level after a particularly difficult Boss (or vice-versa) do not count.
- Ōkami features a bonus mission where you can race a character through a forest maze. Your opponent is much faster than you if you decide to take the normal route, so you must exploit every possible shortcut on the course in order to stay ahead. However, the race is split into three areas with load screens in between. If you were losing at the end of a section, the opponent will be far ahead of you at the beginning of the next section. If you were winning, no matter how far ahead you were, the opponent will suddenly be racing neck and neck with you in the next section. This leaves very little room for mistakes on any part of the course.
Beat 'em Up
- Magazine ads for the Genesis Jurassic Park game claimed that as you played better, the dinosaurs would get smarter. It didn't seem to make much difference in the game, unless you count the raptors occasionally ducking your shots as getting smarter.
- In Capcom brawler God Hand, enemies can "level up" depending on how well the player continues attacking and dodging counterattacks successfully, increasing in speed and strength. On the flip side, they de-level if the player gets smacked around too much or uses the "grovel" God Reel technique.
- There is an indicator on the side of the screen which shows you what "level" you're on. The more enemies you beat at a high level, the larger the money bonus at the end of the stage.
- The arcade version of Turtles in Time adjusts the number of enemies that appear according to how well you're doing (e.g. if you got through three stages without losing a life they're everywhere, but if you had to spend several quarters it's much more lenient).
- In Guilty Gear Isuka, the higher the level you get at Arcade, the faster and more powerful the opponents become. Sometimes they will even run towards you while you perform a special move, only to suddenly show up right behind you, making you completely miss them.
- Def Jam: Fight For NY was notorious for this. Get the computer into a corner, and suddenly the AI shoots up two or three difficulty levels, reversing and countering every single move you make.
- Actually all of AKI's wrestling-games had this. In the N64-games opponents started countering anything reliably once close to losing. While it might seem that was meant to reflect the comeback-effect from wrestling, it doesn't work the same way for the player.
- Some WWE wrestling games have this. Play without a loss for too long and the player will eventually be presented with a match where victory is impossible. The Rubber Band AI has snapped so far that enemy players will be completely immune to attacks and able to win via submission or escaping the cage without any problems. In some games the computer will cheat, by making the player so weak that a single hit will make the player unable to get up for long enough that the computer escapes.
- Of course, that's pretty close to how things work in the source material.
- In Mortal Kombat Deadly Alliance, persistent victory results in harder and harder difficulty. The difficulty is TOLD to the player in a % stat on the lower right of the screen. The stat will lower itself back to "beatable" when the player loses.
- In Mortal Kombat 9, opponents in both Ladder and Story will ease up on repeated tries, even bosses. If you can't beat Shao Kahn on Medium, he'll eventually reduce himself to doing a lot of taunts around the 4th attempt.
- Many of the Soul Series games did this... Arcade mode of Soul Calibur II would CRUSH you if you got 2-0 victories 3 or more times in a row. I remember being hit by Ivy's various uber moves 4 times in a direct row, when most players have to practice for 3 hours to work out one of those moves. Cervantes's various teleport-jump moves would work constantly, and he'd use them constantly, when they only worked about 1/3 of the time for me, with minimum effectiveness. Case of The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard, too.
- In 3, this is really noticeable in the battle theater (a mode where 2 AI opponents fight each other), if you watch it a lot (it is quite addictive with custom characters), you will get used to seeing 1 narrow match, followed by the loser being a Perfect Play A.I. to the previous winner and a narrow 3rd match
- Speaking of Ivy's Ubers, Summon Suffering seemed specifically designed to enable this and The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard. In practice, this move was so ridiculously difficult to pull off that even doing so in practice mode was difficult. Doing one in the heat of battle was impractical at best, while computer controlled Ivy would pull it off while obviously not requiring the time or movement that the move needed.
- It's actually meant to be a reward to a technical player because each input only has to be performed within 50 frames of the last, so that a skilled Ivy player can go through an entire attack routine and Summon suffering seemingly out of nowhere because of the frame delay available between each input. While this doesn't mean the AI doesn't cheat it out, it also means that it's actually terribly easy to pull off the input on a joystick, as you can rapidly rotate the stick a few times and press the attack buttons, pulling off the attack flawlessly through input attrition.
- Summon Suffering is the move that's so hard to perform that there's an achievement just for pulling it off.
- Soul Calibur V seems to be an especially shameless offender for this trope, even for the Soul Series. Almost universally, the AI will act borderline catatonic for the first round or two, but once you start to pull ahead, it goes completely berserk and juggles you around the arena with reflexes and coordination that would shame the most skilled human player. Worse still, if you're still losing by round three, the game will take pity on you and behave like a drooling idiot, walking right up to you and lowering its guard.
- The Tekken games also do this. Win a certain amount of matches (sometimes as little as two, though your streak can be as high as twenty) and the game seemingly becomes a gambling machine, setting itself to win no matter what you do.
- SmackDown vs. Raw 2010 has the rubber band snap completely upon getting a finisher. The game crashing to prevent it from being used is not unheard of, but the opponent will usually run away like a wimp, reverse everything thrown at them, prevent you from getting a hit in, it doesn't matter what it has to do to stop the finisher from being used.
- 2011 does the same thing until the opponent has taken a certain amount of damage, even on normal. While it is easy to get a finisher(or even a signature) early on in the match it doesn't mean the move will connect. This is in line with actual WWE programing though where wrestlers will attempt their finisher early and have it reversed if their opponent "sees it coming" or what have you.
- Another Truth in Television in that in actual WWE matches, opponents will bail out of the ring early if their opponent is rolling enough to try their finisher in the opening minutes of a match to regather themselves.
- SiN Episodes was released with a much-touted dynamic difficulty system — kill the enemies too quickly and they'd send more next time, get too many headshots and the next group will wear helmets, etc. Unfortunately, encounters that were supposed to be easier or harder were counted in this, resulting in situations that a hard encounter would be made virtually impossible due to how quickly you dispatched an easy one.
- The original Unreal Tournament had this with the final boss, a 1v1 to 15 kills. The boss would start at an AI level matching the difficulty you were playing on, and every time you killed him, he'd pop up a skill level. Thus, getting a killing spree was a very bad idea, as the boss would be up at Godlike skill in no time, and even when he got back down to your level after getting a killing spree on you, he'd be loaded with every weapon and full armor, while you'd have nothing because you just respawned. However, the converse is true too: every time you die, he goes back down one, to a minimum of where he started.
- Left 4 Dead has this, thanks to the AI Director. If the group is doing very well, there will be less pills and med kits to find (not counting the ones in the safe room and the finales) and special infected will spawn at a more frequent rate. Also, a Tank is likely to appear if the group is playing too well and there's usually a high chance that after you killed a Tank, the director will spawn a Boomer, Smoker, and Hunter right after that to make sure you don't have it easy. Naturally, if the team is doing poorly, there will be more health items to find and enemy count is lessened somewhat. On Expert, the director will punish you every step of the way if you even spend as much as 10 seconds in one area.
- It should be noted that in the case of Left 4 Dead, this is seen as a good thing and generally works very well.
- Inversely, in Left 4 Dead 2 the director HATES YOU and revels in your misery.
- The game tries to discourage players separating from the group, by becoming cheaper and cheaper as a player survives longer on their own. Before long, a Smoker will spawn on the roof within 5 seconds of you looking the other way and tag you with an auto-targeting hose from 30 feet, requiring assistance from another survivor to free you. Or a Charger will show up as you reload and swerve to hit you as you try to dodge, or a Jockey will actually dodge your sights so it can jump on your head. When it says "stay with your friends to survive", the game is not kidding.
- This actually spawned the meme of Karma Charger, which came from the habit of chargers conveniently spawning and punting a player halfway across the map if they leave their group. While any infected can do this, Chargers are the hardest of them to kill, and cannot be pushed off other survivors and must be killed.
- Karma Charger actually appears whenever the team is making a dickish move, at least as per the meme. One of the most obvious ones is teamkilling.
- Canary Mary from Banjo-Tooie is a particularly bad example of this in her appearance in Cloud Cuckooland. You have to race her four times for Jiggies or Cheato Pages. The race is done by simply hitting the A button; the faster you press, the faster you go. The first three times, you can Button Mash your way to victory, no sweat. The fourth time, she employs Rubber Band AI, so if you mash the A button, you will lose. The trick is to stay just a little behind her for the entire race until the very end, but good luck figuring that out on your own, especially given that she's very beatable the first three times.
- Actually, it is possible to beat her by button mashing, if you mash, pause, mash, etc. until you win.
- Practically the only way that has been 100% proven to beat her is to have a N64 controller that is equipped with a Turbo button.
- While not nearly as infamous, and not predicated on button-mashing, the second Boggy Race in the original Banjo-Kazooie also featured this. If the player is simply running at full speed the entire race, what can happen is that you'll seem to blaze ahead for a sizable lead, only for Boggy to suddenly gain a huge surge of speed and pass you, almost invariably on the final stretch where it's too late to do anything about it. Similar to Canary Mary, the best strategy is to lag behind for most of the race, then pass him on the final stretch.
- In the Mega Man Zero games, the difficulty increases or decreases depending on your rank. This combined with the games' Fake Difficulty makes it seem as though the ranking/difficulty system in question is the games' way of "taking pity" on the less experienced players; something that some of those players may take as an insult.
- Worst case scenario: those players may see the system as the games' way of telling them that they "suck".
- Want more? Get a low Rank or Escape a mission in Zero 1 and you'll get a silly codename.
- It gets worse: In the second and third games, you don't get all the unlockables unless you manage to maintain at least an A rank.
- Sonic Generations (for the 3DS at least) have you race against Metal Sonic, Shadow and Silver. You'd think Rubber Band AI would be put in so you couldn't just boost your way to victory. But it works more in the favor of the AI. Metal Sonic and Shadow boost right behind you, even if you left them in the dust 3 seconds ago. If they collide with you (and they will), you'll take damage and fall behind. And did I mention both characters boost FASTER than the "World's Fastest Hedgehog"?
- Oh, even better. Silver teleports. And throws boxes at you. The only way to actually win one is to Boost yourself. BUT, Boost works differently in the 3DS version, meaning it doesn't last 5 seconds without proper (read: little) usage. The fever gauge works badly too.
- On the console versions, however, you fight them instead. And it's MUCH easier.
- Freeware game I Wanna Be The Boshy has a particularly unforgiving one in Sonic the Hedgehog. It is only at the start of his second phase, but one slip up will kill you, and it only gets worse when bombs start falling on you. Fortunately if you can survive this, the rest of the fight is (relatively) easy. Still, that one little section makes this That One Boss when the whole thing is already That One Game
- The Puyo Puyo GBA game's first level's opponent always gangs up on you with garbage late in the level and just as you think you're doing good.
- Exocubes is a match-3 game, where you can freely move blocks within a column, but needed to prevent them from touching the bottom (aside from a clear causing blocks to hit the bottom, but you had to wait when said blocks get "scanned"). The row generation based on how well you perform. If you performed well enough to clear a significant portion of the board, you could potentially fail that level faster than simply waiting. Even when a set of blocks in the process of being cleared touches the bottom of the screen.
- Prevalent on GameTek versions of Jeopardy! where if you go too far ahead of your AI opponent(s), they will suddenly start buzzing in faster than you and providing all the correct responses. Earlier versions allow you to ring in as soon as the clue is exposed, meaning the computer will buzz in before you have the chance to read the clue.
- The SNES version deserves a special mention. The AI opponents in this version buzz in on the first possible frame, meaning even if you play it frame-perfect on a tool-assisted emulator, the computer will still ring in before you. In a sense, the game cheats so hard that out-cheating it is impossible.
- Homeworld 2 is notorious in some circles for doing this trope badly. Each level's enemy fleet is based solely on the makeup of your fleet as you start the level. This has the obvious abuse potential of selling all or most of your fleet at the end of each level, leaving you with enough resources to buy a new fleet in the next level capable of defeating the much weaker enemy fleet.
- What is truly bad however, is how far this over-adjusts the enemy, especially towards the last missions. If the player has a cap-sized fleet, in one mission, the enemy might as well destroy what the player is to protect before his heavy ships are even in firing range, and even then, are badly outnumbered, without the targets hp getting adjusted at all; a later mission lets the enemy start with as much as seven battle cruisers, while the player is capped at two ...
- This would be more threatening if they didn't attack one at a time with minimal support.
- Sierra's outer space RTS Outpost 2 features this not only with enemy AI, but also with your population. You can opt to research items that improve the quality of life in the colony, however by doing so, the colony knows it exists and demands that you meet their needs. If you research any weapons systems, unless the enemy already has them, the computer will start attacking your base. You could say researching anything that remotely deals with these two aspects aren't worth researching.
- In the unconventional strategy game Multiwinia, being behind other players gives you a better chance to receive powerups and faster unit spawning. The maximum spawn bonus can be set anywhere between 0 and 90%.
- In 8Realms, barbarian hordes attack players with a scaling frequency depending on how far into the game they've progressed.
- AI War Fleet Command gleefully uses this as its core mechanic, with careful manipulation being the player's best strategy. The AI is content to ignore you and only send small raiding parties into your systems as long as you don't attack crucial AI installations like their command centres. If you go and make a nuisance of yourself by methodically conquering every AI system like you would in other RTS games, you'll make great progress - right until the AI sends an unstoppable wave of doom your way, swats your fleet aside, destroys your stations and you lose. More adept players try and obfuscate their progress by leaving any planet alone that neither threatens them nor contains something truly valuable. In many games of 80 planets, only 20 or so are ever conquered by the player while they build up their forces for a lightning-quick attack on the two AI home stations to win the game.
Shoot 'em Up
- In Final Fantasy VII, Bizarro∙ & Safer∙Sephiroth's stats are based on a ton of variables, one of which is your party members' levels. Having all of your characters at level 99 makes Safer one of the strongest final bosses in the series, only surpassed by Orphan. Of course, by that point, you probably have Knights of the Round...
- Final Fantasy VIII. However, since the ability to draw magic and junction it to your stats was technically separate from the Character Levels gained from actual battling, it was very easy to unbalance the game with some ingenuity.
- The combat level of enemies was determined by the levels based off your active party members. Predictably, the game is not even remotely difficult in this case. But for most bosses, they have a level cap.
- Of course, the first-time players and people who didn't know how to exploit the system were horrendously screwed. Normal enemies became insanely powerful, and Bonus Boss Omega Weapon was nigh-unstoppable at level 100 (and the game would cheat and punch Omega up ten or so levels if the character average was 90 or so).
- Depending on the version, Omega Weapon might be at Level 100 regardless of what your actual average level is. It can be at any level in the PC version.
- In Final Fantasy X there is a blitzball tournament that you play as part of the plot, and while this troper can't prove it, he has always felt the AI is unbalanced in that game in order to let the AI win. It is devilishly difficult to get the ball, trivially easy to lose it, and even high percentage shots will fail with a frequency that belies statistical probability. The best way to win is go for an early score then abuse the back of the net glitch to wait out the rest of the match.
- Even if you have gotten the Jecht Shot from successfully completing the previous scene's minigame, it's still fairly tough. Of course, now you can knock out at the most two guards on defense against your shot and it DOES have a considerable amount of time before it becomes inaccurate.
- The Wanted Battles in Skies of Arcadia are adjusted based on your characters' levels, so that putting them off will result in horrendously difficult battles when you try to go back for them, to the point where many are much easier if you're at a lower level. Quite literally punishing you for every experience point you dared to gain.
- The fishing Mini-Game in the FATE series adjusts its required reaction time based on how fast the player is. It is believed to shoot for a 50% success rate.
- Chrono Trigger had a bizarre little racing minigame in the ruins of the Bad Future. Your opponent is almost literally attached to you with a rubber band: if you're in the lead, he'll pull forward, if you're in the back, you'll pull forward. Aside from a few boosts, you have no control over your acceleration, and the only means of control you have over your place in the race is to block your opponent from passing you (which pushes him back, after which he springs forward to try again). Of course, since the rubber banding works both ways, you don't really have to do a thing until just before the finish line, unless you're trying to win the items awarded for staying ahead of him for large portions of the race.
- Many games in the SaGa series — especially Romancing SaGa — are open-ended titles where the player can go anywhere at anytime, so random monsters are designed to suit the party's power level at all times.
- In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, enemies would get better weapons and armor as you leveled up. It got a bit silly late-game however, when common highway bandits wore the best light armor available. If they can afford that, why are they highwaymen?
- One aspect worth mentioning which does not level with you in the game are AI allies. Thus, quests where you get others to help you in a fight are much easier at low levels, while doing the same quests on high levels would get your allies killed instantly.
- Pokémon is absolutely insane about this when it comes to the post-game battle tournaments. The higher your win streak, the deeper the AI will sink. Fully expect to have your 95% accuracy moves miss virtually all of the time, while your opponent's 30% accuracy Horn Drill almost never will; feel free to note that their Pokemon have abilities that cannot be accessed in-game and possibly be hacked with moves and stats; watch in despair as they predict your switches with uncanny accuracy.
- In Shoot Em Ups, which don't feature a player going up against apparently identical computer opponents, the feature where the machine becomes more efficient if the player does better is known as "rank" and is often an expected part of the game.
- The Shoot Em Up Warning Forever is based off this trope, being nothing but a Boss Rush with the boss changing depending on how you beat it the last time, how well the different weapons worked against you, how fast you beat it, etc.
- Rank was designed originally to avoid Unstable Equilibrium. When they started putting powerups into shooters, you'd get to the point where it was easy with the powerups, but impossible without them. So someone came up with the bright idea of making the enemies more aggressive if you powered up, so they would still be a threat to your powered ship, and then when you died, they would go back down to normal so you had a chance at recovery. Before, they instead had to balance the enemy power to what you'd have if you didn't die, meaning that if you die once you might as well restart. Hence, rank. This is not usually considered a bad thing, as making recovery from death impossible is considered worse. The real hate is only when it ratchets up too much when you powerup, meaning that not powering up in the first place was preferable. Fortunately this is rare, but see Battle Garegga below.
- Battle Garegga is a particularly guilty offender. You have to keep your shot power and number of Attack Drones low for the first five stages, as well as limit your shooting and avoid collecting excess powerups. Failure to do so would make enemies more durable and shoot more bullets, items fall off the screen faster, and overall make the game nearly impossible to survive.
- Raizing games are designed to punish the player for playing them wrong. In this case, you are supposed to play the game for score, to give you extra lives so you could die more often to lower the rank. Fortunately, most of them aren't that bad... Battle Bakraid actually lets you beat it by playing the game traditionally for survival.
- In the arcade Lethal Enforcers, enemies started out taking a long time to shoot you, then gradually getting faster and faster until you'd need truly superhuman reflexes to get them in time, slowing down only after you took a hit. Lethal Enforcers II was even worse. This was removed from the SNES port, and the PSX port resolved the issue by fixing everyone at a ridiculously fast level.
- There is a minor version of this in the Crimson Skies PC game. Even if you are flying a much faster plane than your computer opponent, you can't fly 'away' from them. You will get a certain distance ahead, but even if you are pulling 400 mph and they are doing 150, as soon as you turn around, they are right there in your face.
- Wing Commander had a "dynamic difficulty" system that scaled the enemy's abilities based on how well the player was doing. It did not, however, change the wingman's performance or take it into account. So if for some reason the wingman was doing poorly (making the mission hard to start with), and the player pulled off a miraculous save, things got a whole lot worse for the player. And wingman.
- The difficulty of mission-related enemies in the X-Universe games scales with your combat rank. The enemies don't get any smarter, they just start building battleships.
- Perhaps the most noticeable example is the Madden NFL games, which are often accused of featuring an "AI catch-up mode", in which opposing teams inexplicably become drastically more potent in the final minutes of a close game, often to the point where preventing them from completing long bombs and scoring touchdowns seems like an impossible task (sometimes called "Robo QB"). Some Madden players, however, dispute the existence of Rubber Band A.I. in the game, arguing that this is more likely the perception of players who are unable to adjust to the AI's late-game all-out offensive strategy. It may also be possible that the difficulty level may have something to do with it.
- In most cases, the AI level of rubberbanding is directly related to the difficulty level, particularly in EA Sports games. On the easiest difficulty level, the AI doesn't rubberband at all: the same tactics, the same plays, over and over. As difficulty level goes up, so does the degree of rubberbanding: on the highest difficulty level, as soon as the player reaches anything approaching a lead, the AI responds aggressively to shut down any hope of winning...much like what sports teams do in real life. The rubberbanding does not work in the opposite direction, however. The AI just goes back to the normal difficulty.
- NBA 2k and NBA Live actually have this as a feature, Clutch Factor and CPU Assistance respectively. It does work both ways, though. Doesn't make it any less irritating to see Kobe Bryant missing clutch layup after clutch layup.
- Truth in real life for that last one after game 7 of the 2010 NBA finals, where Kobe shot a horrible 6-for-24 in the biggest game of his career.
- The original NBA Jam would frequently job you out of victories with miraculous, last-second, full-court shots. It got to the point where a two-point lead with just seconds to play was an almost certain loss if the computer got the last shot. The player had a similar ability, but not nearly to the same extent as the computer.
- This feature is called "computer assistance" and is also on in human versus human matches. A full court shot for the tie or for the win has over a 70% chance of going in, ALWAYS. Unless you use the "no cpu assistance" code.
- The NFL Blitz series is infamous for rubberband AI too. Again, it's always active against the CPU, but can be turned off with a code against a human. Manifests usually through fumbles and cheap interceptions, or people just magically blowing past blockers and sacking you.
- In Blitz, Points after Touchdown are fully automatic; you choose it and the game says "It's Good!"... but it might turn out to be "No Good!" if you were too far in the lead.
- The arcade game Pigskin: 621 A.D. (released as Jerry Glanville's Pigskin Footbrawl on the Sega Genesis) is a game vaguely reminiscent of rugby and American football, though set in the Middle Ages. You could punch other players out, or get into a brawl (read: two characters collide and turn into a dust cloud) on the field. If one side is losing badly, the crowd starts chanting, "Send in the troll!" At which point a big green troll enters the field for the losing side. He's immune to the game's weapons and much more difficult to knock down. If the fortunes reverse and the losing team starts winning, a troll can come in for the opposite side as well, to even things up.
- Still, win or lose it was a fun game, trolls notwithstanding..
- Then of course, if one team is truly getting a spanking? Simple, TROLL BOWL!!! Every player is swapped out for invincible, immortal Trolls!
- The otherwise superb Tiger Woods PGA Tour series uses this heavily in career mode. Shoot well under par, and computer opponents will put up absurdly good scores on the next round. Play poorly, and they'll all post mediocre scores. As a result, the easiest way to win tournaments is to Do Well, But Not Perfect the first two days so the computer will hover around par, and then step on the gas in the later rounds.
- Just like Tiger. Hmm.
- Only not really. Tiger often destroys his opponents in the first (and or second) round and then sits back shooting rounds of 70.
- Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES was pretty open about featuring the Simmons effect ("computer is pissed") manifestation of Rubberband AI. The more consecutive games you won in season mode, the more difficult the AI would become until it eventually entered what modders call "juice mode". In juice mode, every opposing RB is nearly at Bo Jackson's skill level, and the defense will either anticipate your play, sack you with no resistance, or intercept your weak passes about ten thousand times as frequently as they did in the 1st game of the season. Experienced Tecmo-ers learned to intentionally tank the final game of the regular season in order to tone the AI down to easy levels for the playoffs. Funnily enough, this ends up being like real-life NFL teams learned to do this in the 2000s, benching their key players for the last week of the regular season to avoid injury and give everyone a week off).
- UFC Undisputed did this in the career mode. The title fights were significantly harder than the regular bouts
Wide Open Sandbox
- The multiplayer game M.U.L.E. will inflict whichever player currently has the highest score with with bad "random" events, while whoever is bringing up the rear will only have good things happen to them.
- At least, that's the way it's supposed to work. Leading players can still receive good random events, but it's true that when there is a bad event during production, it ALWAYS hits the lead player. Also, whoever is in the lead loses the tie, barring racial exceptions, like the long-necked one always winning ties in land auctions.
- Common in X-COM games and its Spiritual Successors. The better you are at handling terror sites, shooting down UFOs, putting alien bases out of commission, and keeping your sponsors happy, the angrier the aliens will be. This may range from them sending more ships to annoy your sponsors, sending bigger ships for tasks that they usually do with smaller ships, down to trying to attack your bases.
- A racing sequence early on in The Saboteur uses rubber-banding very, very obviously: The developers intended for the player to feel like they were steadily progressing from last place to second throughout the race, but the result is that for the first lap of the race, the player becomes perpetually stuck in 8th place, until the second lap when the other racers suddenly start driving much slower and the player can catch up and move up to 4th place for the rest of the lap, etc.
Non-video game examples:
- Many chess programs have an option to match the player's strength. This is probably done with rubberband AI: If the program estimates being ahead, it eases on its calculations, and if it estimates being behind, it calculates more aggressively. When properly implemented, it can work pretty well.
- For various reasons, the producers of The Amazing Race create what are known as "bunching points" or "equalizers," usually involving operating hours of businesses or transport schedules, so that no team gets too far ahead or behind: Logistically, it's easier to keep the crew in a single country at a time and you don't want to tie up locals in assisting/judging tasks for days on end. Dramatically, having wins or losses be a Foregone Conclusion every week is boring. The one season they didn't set up these equalizers, two teams got so far ahead on leg 9, that it was impossible for the other teams to catch up, and the next three legs before the finale were pretty much pointless.
- Teal'c faces a Rubberband AI in an episode of Stargate SG-1 - every time it looks like he's winning, the game throws in a new twist. New twists include more enemies (and making those enemies tougher by making the usual method of killing them ineffective and giving one of them the power to turn invisible), and having NPCs who are supposed to be on Teal'c's side suddenly turn on him at the worst possible moment.
- Used frequently in The Hunger Games, where the sadistic game makers will introduce disasters to the arena whenever the tributes aren't fighting each other. Katniss even makes her plans around such events, basing her decisions to move or not on how many days it's been since a kill and whether the audience will be bored enough for a pull on the rubberband.
- This can actually happen in the real world, in certain economic systems. There, it's called the "ratchet effect", and the AI is your competitors or some third-party agency. A good example: In the former USSR, the planning agency would reward the enterprises that made more than their quota. However, they'd base the next quota upon how well the enterprise did, so the harder you worked, the worse it got. The right strategy, of course, was to produce ever so slightly more than the quota.
- For publicly traded companies, stock analysts' quarterly earnings forecasts work much the same way. A company that misses the forecast by even a trivial sum loses market value, but beating the forecast by a wide margin raises next quarter's forecast.
- In Macro-Economics, there is a concept called the Catch-Up Effect where poorer nations will have Real GDP growth rates at something like 9.5% or even 10%, that leads to the country overall moving towards a first world economy status at a faster rate, than those countries closer to that status than itself. However that also means that when it screws up and you get high inflation rates or even hyperinflation, which pretty much means the currency will lose something like 10% of its value in an hour, Zimbabwe being the best example at the moment with the treasury releasing a $100 Billion Zimbabwean Dollar note which will expire on December 31 2008 (notes traditionally don't expire they just don't get replaced), which ironically will lead to further devaluing of the Zimbabwean Dollar.
- And you white collar workers thought you were safe? There is a theory — The Peter Principle — that if you show competence in a position, you will be promoted to a new one. If you keep getting good at these new positions you'll get assigned to higher ones. The resultant effect is that a person will keep getting promoted until they reach a position they are incompetent in.
- A similar problem is when a higher power allocates a budget to your service. If you're under-budget at the end of the term, some managers will "reward" your service by cutting the surplus from next term's budget, so people usually waste company money on trivialities to prevent this.
- This is the standard operating procedure for the U.S. Federal Government. This is made worse by the fact that most departments far overestimate what their budgets will be since they are usually given less than what they ask for. But they usually still end up with more than they need.
- Real Life example: Most tournament bowling leagues impose handicaps that are inversely proportional to a player's average, so if you play poorly, you still stand a good chance against a much better opponent, so long as you play better than your average. Likewise, if you are a very good player, your chances of losing to a beginner aren't too bad either, particularly if you don't play as well as you normally do on that round.
- Of course, like in any other game with Rubber Band AI, you can abuse the system. This is sandbagging. The essence of sandbagging is to win small and lose big. Once it is clear that your team is not going to win this time after handicap, then it is in your best interest to tank every shot. When victory seems possible, then it is in your best interest to keep it close, so as not to raise your handicap too much. The natural tendency of players to give up when they know they can't win doesn't help matters, so accusations are difficult to prove. The only sure way to spot one is if a team continues to win small and lose big. In theory anyone who would want to sandbag should move to a scratch league, but there are plenty who know they aren't good enough to get the money in one, but who can sandbag and get away with it in a money handicap league.
- In team sports, when one team gets a significant (but not insurmountable) lead, the trailing team will often come to dominate the course of play, due to both teams playing to the score: the leading team goes into a defensive shell, while the trailing team attacks desperately to try to even the score.
- The Old World of Darkness games had something like this at one point. Success of an action was determined by rolling a number of dice corresponding to one's skill. Rolls higher than a target number were successes, lower were failures, and 1's cancelled out successes. Having more 1's than successes constituted a botch, in which the action not only failed, but led to disastrous consequences. A character with more dice, constituting more experience and power, would therefore be more likely to spectacularly fail than an inexperienced one. This was thankfully revised in later editions, to where a botch also required that no successes at all had been rolled. A simple example follows. Say you have a difficulty 7 roll, where 7 or greater is a success. With one die, your odds of a botch are 1 in 10 if you don't get to reroll your 10. Odds of success are 4 in 10. If you are rolling two dice, then there are 100 possible outcomes. ELEVEN of them are botches, for 11/100. (11,12,13,14,15,16,21,31,41,51,61) However, 56 of them are successes, for 23/50 chance of success. The chance of success went up 16%, but the chance of a botch went up 1%. The effect of rerolling 10s is really hard to calculate, but at higher difficulties, it was not enough to make up for it.
- And the New World of Darkness discarded the "botch" rule for just that reason. "Dramatic Failure" requires that penalties completely erase your dice pool, and that you roll a 1 on the "chance die" you get instead (which only succeeds on a 10). Instead of "The better you are, the harder you fall", it becomes "If things go against you, you're going to suffer".
- Shadowrun mirrors the World of Darkness system considerably (Shadowrun, however, uses standard six-sided dice rather than ten-siders). Earlier editions, you rolled dice so as to get at least a target number (if it's more than 6, you had to roll for 6's and then reroll to add onto their total, hoping to eventually reach the number), and 1s were always considered a fail. The 4th Edition changed it so that "hit" was simply anything at least a 5 and you tried to get a requisite number. 1s are still bad as a majority of 1s results in a "glitch", a setback that occurs even if you succeed (unless of course, you roll a majority of 1s and no "hits": the dreaded "critical glitch").