osu! history lesson

Personal History

I got into this game by my friend (the same friend who introduced me to pen spinning) in January of 2015. They told me about it, but I only downloaded the game but never bothered to open it. After a while of them pestering me to play we decided to play multiplayer together and it was a rather... bizarre game to play; a game that I've never really experienced before. But it was fun, and boy was it addicting. I remember downloading maps way past my league but I loved listening to the music so I kept on playing them over and over again regardless of my performance. In fact, there was a substantial skill gap between 4 star and 5 star maps which I didn't realize because of this, which is rather funny looking back at it.

I also played in arguably the golden years of the osu! community, with all of the well-known players still fighting for #1, and a legendary top player being unbanned after a heated re-appeal. It was fun, it was exciting, and the competition was tense. Since there were only a few maps where you could farm off ranks, I believe that the ranks were fairly accurate in depicting player skill in the era of 2015-2016.

My fast progress in the ranks didn't start until around Summer 2016, where I started adopting the "pls enjoy game" philosophy trumpeted by many people in the community. I just played for the sake of playing and I didn't care about my ranks, which ironically caused a great jump in the leaderboards. From Summer 2016 to Summer 2017 I went from rank #15000 all the way to rank #1700. Doesn't sound impressive really, but the skill gap between #15000 and #1700 was around 5 times as more as the skill gap between #100000 and #15000, which is absolutely ridiculous.

Mapping Shift and Encroaching Boredom

By around Summer 2017 I was bored. Map makers started creating mapsets whose sole purpose is to exploit the ranking system and to jump the leaderboards with minimal effort. Doesn't sound inherently bad until you realize that these maps were basically the same. Same patterns, same jumpy crap at the climax of the song, and same payoff. It was cookie-cutter, it was boring, it was unoriginal, and most importantly it was no longer fun. The competition of the game was killed because no longer was it about getting a score on the "hardest maps" like in 2015-2016, but rather it became a competition as to who "farmed the most maps." Rank was no longer indicative of player skill, but it represented how much a player exploited the ranking system for their position.

Because of this mapping shift, many top players starting from the end of 2016 and onwards started quitting the game out of boredom or simply moving on with life. And if they didn't quit, they would not be holding high positions in the leaderboard anymore due to this "ranking inflation." Top player Cookiezi (now called "nathan on osu" as of writing this) is now out of the top 10, despite being hailed as #1 by a majority of players from his pure skill alone. Simply put, the maps which are eligible for ranking players on the leaderboards were not challenging enough for the top players of the game, which inevitably killed a lot of people's competitive spirit.

And this is why "rank decay" (or gradual loss of ranks due to inactivity) was prominent during 2017, and now is still going in 2019 from what I've read from the subreddit. Every day you would lose ranks ranging from the hundreds to even the thousands, which is very much discouraging considering that new "farm maps" were being spit out on a weekly basis, further inflating the leaderboards. It has even gotten to the point where multiplayer lobbies can consist of rank #15000 players destroying my #1700 rank butt, whilst my #1700 rank self managed to consistently beat even those in the top 800. Rank didn't even matter at this point, because the consistency of high-level plays dominated regardless of the number displayed next to your name. There are often tournament players who despite their rank managed to destroy their higher-ranked competitors. It was a rather amusing thing to watch when those steamrolls inevitably did happen.

Well, I guess that is enough history. After all of this I quit the game because I simply enjoyed school more than the game funnily enough. Also, the stress and adrenaline that I would get was too much for me to handle from just a mere game, so I decided to move on to more calming and valuable hobbies.