Monday, August 15, 2016

Star Wars Rebellion: Opposing Odds

I have become slightly obsessed with a board game that Adam taught me before WBC this year: Star Wars Rebellion. It's an asymmetric card driven 2 player wargame with a great theme. The game starts a little before the original Star Wars trilogy and goes through all three movies. One player is the rebel alliance which is trying to convince the galaxy to go into full on rebellion. The other player is the empire which is trying to find the hidden rebel base and eliminate them.

Even though the mechanics are basically the same for each side they play very differently which makes the game particularly interesting for me. Ostensibly the game is about the empire trying to find the rebel base so you'd think the rebels would have a game based on staying hidden, but that's really not the case. The length of the game depends on how many objectives the rebels can manage to achieve so really the rebels are trying to score as many objective points as they can while hoping the game mechanics keep their base safe. But then the empire could focus on denying objective points and just assume they'll stumble into the base eventually... But that probably means giving up on outproducing the rebels militarily, so then the rebels could just try to earn extra time with military actions...

As an aside, each game round you get to take one action per leader and generally speaking each side has the same number of leaders, and that number increases as the game gets longer. So on the first turn each side takes 4 actions but by turn 5 each side is taking 8 actions. Often you can spend a leader to try to counter the opponent's action instead of taking one of your own, but that's guaranteeing you lose an action to just have a chance of costing them an action. So unless the action you're giving up isn't very important or the odds are very good it just doesn't feel very good to do it.

One thing I found while playing as the rebels was there were two actions I wanted to take every single turn if I could. I always wanted to make an alliance with a region (which lets you produce units and is a criteria of many missions) and I always wanted to do some spy work to manipulate the objective deck. This lets you draw two cards and put one on top and one on the bottom, which accomplishes two things... It lets you end up with objectives you're likely to succeed at based on the current game state by burying hard ones and it lets you draw cards from the bottom of the deck. (The deck is pseudorandom in the sense that there are 3 tiers of 5 cards each, and the lower tier cards are just better.) But even though those actions seemed critical to my game plan regardless of the game state, my opponent would almost never contest them. And then when I finally played a game as the empire I kept finding other things to do instead of contesting those actions, even though I know how valuable those actions are for the other side.

This leaves me with a bit of an issue. Are all my actions as the empire equally valuable? Is my evaluation of how useful those two actions are for the rebels off? Are the odds of succeeding at an opposition really bad? Unless one of those three things are true I really need to change my empire strategy to put a premium on opposing those two actions.

I think it's pretty clear the first statement is false. All empire actions are not equally valuable. Each card can only be played once per turn, and each fleet can only be moved once per turn. Different actions will change in value based on the game state, so I'm not saying different actions are strictly superior or anything. But I am saying that on a given turn you will have an action that is worth less than another.

How about the odds of opposing an action? The way that works is all missions have an associated stat and each player rolls a die for each point their leaders have in that stat. So Chewbacca is really good at opposing a punching mission (he has 3 points in punching) but really bad at everything else (he has 0 points in the others). A die is worth 0, 0, 1, 1, 1, or 2 successes. The player who took the action needs more successes in order to have the action happen. Note that this means the opposer wins ties, and with small numbers of dice and small values on those dice, ties will actually happen pretty often. Andrew was saying he thought that meant even numbers of dice would be 60-40 but my intuition has that as being too favorable for the initial actor. Which means opposing would really be something worth considering! But let's work out the actual odds for differing numbers of dice...

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 67% 89% 96% 99% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
1 31% 61% 80% 91% 96% 98% 99% 100% 100% 100%
2 13% 36% 58% 75% 87% 93% 97% 98% 99% 100%
3 5% 19% 38% 57% 72% 83% 91% 95% 97% 99%
4 2% 10% 23% 40% 56% 70% 81% 88% 93% 96%
5 1% 5% 13% 26% 41% 56% 69% 79% 87% 92%
6 0% 2% 7% 16% 28% 42% 55% 67% 77% 85%
7 0% 1% 4% 9% 18% 30% 42% 55% 66% 76%
8 0% 0% 2% 5% 11% 20% 31% 43% 55% 66%
9 0% 0% 1% 3% 7% 13% 22% 32% 43% 54%
10 0% 0% 0% 1% 4% 8% 14% 23% 33% 44%

What we have here is a table with the number of dice being rolled by the initial actor across the top and the number of dice being rolled by the opposer down the left. Typically you'd be looking at numbers between 0 and 3 but occasionally there will be lots of leaders in one spot working on a single action (trying to turn Luke to the Dark Side, for example). It turns out Andrew's initial guess was actually pretty good, with a 60-40 split when you're rolling 4 against 4, but at lower numbers of dice it gets better for the opposer at even strength.

Throwing a leader in just to 'make them roll' (an unopposed action doesn't have to roll dice) feels like it doesn't make much sense at anything except maybe 1v0. In that 1v0 case you're basically getting a third of an action. Is your worst action that bad? I doubt it, but I guess it might be. But if you have a good leader back then going in 1v2 is 87% of an action. Is your worst action worth 87% of their action? Yeah, yeah, that seems pretty good. I like 1v3 and 2v3 also. So leaving a good symbol leader back feels like something I need to encorporate more into my game.

What about trying to capture a leader? The empire can lock a leader up with a card that requires only a single punch symbol to start up. Capturing a leader means they can't take actions again until they get saved and opens up some powerful torture related actions for the empire, so it's pretty powerful. It's non-trivial to rescue a leader, but even if the rebels have one of the 3 cards that do it and succeed in it on the next turn, you're looking at a 1v0 roll being 2/3rds of costing them 2 actions and 1/3rd of doing nothing. That's going to cost them more actions than the one you're spending, so a 1v0 roll actually feels pretty good. You don't want even dice numbers being rolled, but any positive number of dice is probably a good idea.

The last thing to consider is some of the cards get 2 guaranteed successes if the correct leader runs the action. How good is that in terms of the odds?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
1 94% 98% 99% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
2 71% 86% 94% 97% 99% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100%
3 46% 67% 81% 90% 95% 98% 99% 99% 100% 100%
4 26% 46% 64% 78% 87% 93% 96% 98% 99% 100%
5 14% 29% 47% 63% 75% 85% 91% 95% 97% 98%
6 7% 17% 32% 47% 62% 74% 83% 89% 93% 96%
7 3% 10% 20% 33% 47% 61% 72% 81% 88% 92%
8 1% 5% 12% 22% 34% 47% 60% 71% 79% 86%
9 1% 3% 7% 14% 24% 35% 48% 59% 70% 78%
10 0% 1% 4% 9% 16% 25% 36% 48% 59% 69%

Opposing these cards is a lot worse. You need to roll 2 extra dice on opposition to barely get better than 50-50. Now, some of these character specific action cards are so powerful you may want to take your 31% chance at stopping them (10v10 with +2, like when the Emperor is trying to turn Luke to the Dark Side) but in general, getting 2 free successes is pretty absurd for the odds.

What does this all mean? I think I need to try opposing more actions!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

On Deserving Success

A while ago Wil Wheaton made a blog post talking about some things he's been doing to try to be happier with his life. There's one quote that I felt particularly drawn to: "I’m not that great and I don’t deserve to feel good about myself." I can't say I've ever really thought things through in those terms, but I definitely feel like I've never really put in the effort to deserve happiness. Which is a little weird, since I'm a pretty vocal advocate of things like a minimum income provided by the government because everyone deserves a base level of happiness without being forced into slavery to the rich. But it does exist. The logic goes that I don't deserve to be successful, so I don't do what it would take to be successful, so I'm not successful, so I feel more like I don't deserve to be successful. It's a bad spiral.

I've been putting in a lot of time recently being more consistent with streaming. I've gone weeks where I averaged more than 12 hours a day streaming. I think I've only gone one 'day' without streaming at all in months, where I use 'day' loosely as a period of time where I'm awake. I've had multiple ask about donating to the stream, and plenty of people offer suggestions on how to make things higher quality.

And yet, I haven't even updated my profile on Twitch since last April. There are tons of little things I could be doing to make progress on being successful. But I haven't done them. I sometimes think about doing them, but then I just stream something instead, or play an idle clicker game.

I do actually think just streaming things has helped a lot. I used to break into a sweat just having a single viewer show up and chat, but now I can hold multiple broken conversations at once without freaking out. I've settled into a comfortable pattern, which is fine enough, but if progress is going to be made I need to actually make an effort to do so.

Even though I don't think I deserve it.

What I need to do is pretend I do deserve to be successful, and then take steps towards making it happen. So I'm going to make a list of things that I need to do. Small things, sure, but slowly chunking through a list of small things will eventually get to a good spot, without being too overwhelming at any given time. And hopefully without breaking the facade of pretending to deserve it.

{As an aside, Wil just made a 6 month progress report on the things he's working on. I created this post right after he initially made his post, which means I've wasted 6 months without putting in very much work. No surprise then that my stream really hasn't grown very much since then, huh?}

  • Set up a green screen.
  • Write a more detailed 'About Me' profile.
  • Buy a scissors boom for my mic.
  • Sell my old Magic cards.
  • File taxes.
  • Get a chat bot for my stream.
  • Write a better chat bot, or modify one.
  • Set up a stream schedule.
  • Stick to said schedule.
  • Set up a streaming related email address.
  • Set up a Paypal account.
  • Set up donations.
  • Work on developing and implementing more board gaming streams.
  • Buy a better video card.
  • Buy a solid state drive.
  • A better 'break' screen.
  • Generic layout for 4x3 games.
  • Generic layout for 16x9 games.
  • An offline screen.
  • A better stream profile header.
  • Verify Youtube account.
  • Set up a time each week to make highlights/export to Youtube.
  • Join a streaming team?
  • Restart SNES Saturday.
  • Come up with a cute/cool/catchy name for viewers/supporters.
  • Configure a Discord server.
  • Investigate small business loans/subsidies.
  • Define rules for chat.
  • Figure out what to do about chat mods.
  • Decide on a hair style.
  • Get hair cut/shave.
  • Exercise more than not at all.
  • Investigate lighting/lenses to reduce glare on my glasses on camera.
  • Figure out how to mix sounds so I'm not streaming everything I hear.
  • Curate a playlist of 'go fast' songs.
  • And one of 'not blocked' songs.
  • And one of 'non-lyrical background' songs.
  • And one of just plain awesome songs.
  • Make a better 'games I play' profile section.
  • Hook up my SNES to my capture card.
  • Possibly get a powered splitter for the SNES.
  • Figure out how to make my new headphones not cause pain when they press into my glasses.
  • Find something I'm willing to drink while streaming that isn't pop.
More to be added later, I'm sure, but that's a start. Some of those I've somehow managed to get done in the last 6 months, but actually not very many of them. My birthday is on Sunday and I'd like to do something special (24 hour stream or something maybe) but I need to get some more of this stuff done first. Especially setting up the ability to accept donations since if I'm going to be a busker I really do need to get a guitar case open on the sidewalk.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Path of Exile: Talisman Crushing

The current temporary league running in Path of Exile is called the Talisman league, and the new mechanic added for it is the addition of a new item type: the talisman. You can equip a talisman into the neck slot instead of an amulet. They have the twist that they're all corrupted, so you can't craft them in any way, but their implicit property is selected from a new pool of properties which are way more powerful than the normal amulet implicit properties.

These properties are divided out into 3 different tiers of talismans. The first tier are found sporadically on monsters out in the wild. There are also altars that can spawn which allow you to crush 5 tier 1 talismans into a tier 2 talisman. Or 5 tier 2 talismans into a tier 3 talisman. Or 5 tier 3 talismans into a portal to a challenge boss fight. Kill that boss and scoop up a tier 4 talisman which has two implicit properties!

The level of the resulting talisman is based on the average level of the talismans used as input, with a twist. The highest level one is worth 50% more than it should be worth, and the lowest level one is worth 50% less than it should be worth.

There's a challenge for killing the boss while the boss is at least level 80. The easiest way to make sure this happens is to just use 125 talismans which are all level 80. But that requires killing things in tier 11 maps at the very lowest. Is there a way to abuse the weird averaging to cut down on the number of 80+ talismans I need to find to do this challenge? One talisman is going to be the lowest tier 1 of the lowest tier 2 of the lowest tier 3. That means it's only going to be worth 1/8th as much as a true average talisman. One talisman is going to be the highest tier 1 of the highest tier 2 of the highest tier 3. It's going to be worth 27/8th as much as an average talisman, or 27 times as much as the lowest.

There's also the question of rounding... How does it work? Does a talisman remember decimal points, or is it rounded at each step of crushing? And is it rounded up, down, or properly?

If there is no rounding things are pretty straightforward. Getting a single higher level talisman is worth a ton. An 81 talisman lets your lowest level talisman fall all the way to 53! Unfortunately only one talisman can get such a big benefit. Here's a breakdown of the 125 talismans and how many points they could be worth:

Points Quantity
1 1
2 9
3 3
4 27
6 18
8 27
9 3
12 27
18 9
27 1

I guess the way to think about it is you can earn points for each talisman above level 80 that you can spend to offset some underleveled talismans. The really common situations are going to be trading 12 points for 4 pointers, so assuming you can get a decent selection of 81s you can afford thrice as many 79s, or an equal number of 77s, or any such combination. But it feels like you really don't want to be using too many very low level ones. You get a lot of 79s, but once you dip down even lower you're paying a lot of points.

Can we actually discount rounding? How can we find out? I guess it's time for some quick testing...

Ok, things are now clear. I crushed 8 talismans (7 sets of tier 1s, 1 set of turn 2s) and things followed very simple rules. Rounding happens the way it should and decimals are not carried over.

This means you can gain or lose some levels depending on how you crush. Ideally you want to always be creating a level X.5 talisman, so it gets rounded up to X+1. Stay away from creating an X.4 talisman.

Adding on to the stuff above, we can shave off a full 5 levels from each 'lowest' talisman in a given transaction and end up in the same spot for free. Or a couple levels off of one of the middle talismans. And since the effects bubble forward, you can actually end up shaving an awful lot off of the talismans that get crushed into the lowest tier 3 talisman.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Awesome Games Done Quick 2016

It's that time of year again! The nice speedrunning people are putting on their annual January event to raise money for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. It's brought my own streaming down to a minimum as I'd rather watch the awesomeness live than play my own games.

I wrote about the blindfolded Punch Out runs from two years ago, and how intense they were to watch. I just watched a run that made me feel a very similar way. There's a roguelike game called Crypt of the Necrodancer where a song plays and you need to take actions on the beats of the song, and only on those beats. Fail and you take a point of damage. I watched Ike play it a while ago and it's really hard!

There's a challenge character where you only have 1 health, so if you take damage for any reason you're dead. Also you can't get a better weapon than the base dagger.

There's a challenge character where you die if you ever pick up money. Every monster you kill drops money, so you can't ever walk into a square where you've killed an enemy.

There's a challenge character where everything moves at double speed. (Interestingly, the character is genderqueer, which I think may be the first time I've seen that particular characteristic used as anything other than 'comic' relief.)

Then there's a challenge character which combines all of the aspects of the previous three challenges. Move at double speed, with a terrible weapon, and die if you ever pick up gold or take damage or miss a beat... The developer didn't know if anyone could ever beat the mode. Apparently to date only 10 people have ever beat it. One of them was at AGDQ, and he actually managed to do it. It is so absolutely ludicrous and had me completely riveted.

Go check the marathon out. There's bound to be more awesome stuff! (Like, apparently, a blindfolded Punch-Out race!)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Path of Exile: Patch 2.1

I haven't played Path of Exile since September 2014 when I hurt my wrist playing the game. I was really pushing to try to win a t-shirt and ended up putting too much strain on my wrist. This apparently combined with anxiety issues (presumably about becoming homeless) to make my hand go numb. But that issue got dealt with via drugs and I've been pretty capable of streaming games for 12+ hours a day without hurting my wrist. I definitely don't want to play super hardcore to win a t-shirt or anything, but I think I can play the game again without hurting myself.

There have been a lot of patches in the last 15 months, with a big one launching today. So many things have changed in the game, and they sound really, really good. Standard things like a new act, tons of new items, better balance... But also some other cool stuff...

An item filter so you can write a text file to alter what loot you see on the ground. You can change font sizes, colours, and add sound effects!

An experience per hour meter!

Revamped map system which keeps all the cool things with end game maps while extending and enhancing things to make them better for more casual play. Map pools are easier to build up at lower levels, and harder at very high levels, but the high maps are worth it.

A card collecting system to trade cards for loot at a vendor, so you can farm specific areas to get specific useful unique items.

Skill gems you can get from quests are sold from vendors so you don't need to create alts or store tons of gems in a guild bank anymore!

Even more customization in the sphere grid system, with new jewels you can stick in the grid!

Integration with Twitch so stream chat is a channel in the game client!

It remains to be seen how good this stuff actually is, but I have really high hopes. I don't intend on playing nearly as much as I used to, but maybe if they still have races and stuff I can get into streaming it... We'll see!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Frankenstein: Master of Death

Every now and then I look on Steam for the absolute cheapest game. If it has Steam cards and looks vaguely interesting I tend to pick it up in the hopes I'll eventually play it. Frankenstein: Master of Death is a game that was on sale for 16 cents a couple weeks ago and said it was a 'hidden object' game. I enjoyed playing a 'hidden object' game on Facebook but eventually got put off by the free to play business model... So I thought putting up 16 cents for a game without those annoying paywalls was a worthy risk.

It ended up being more of a point and click adventure game in the sense that you had to find keys that fight the right doors to progress through the plot. Finding the keys was pretty trivial; remembering where the lock was happened to be a little annoying. Only occasionally did you get into a 'hidden object' minigame and those only ever had a fixed 12 things to find. Not the best offering for someone who just wanted to click on a bunch of hidden objects.

Ultimately I beat the game in a little under 3 hours. I wouldn't say it was the most fun I ever had playing a game, but it was reasonably fun. I had to leave the game running in order to collect up the Steam cards that came with it (they added in a refund option to return a game with under 2 hours played so now cards won't drop until you've clocked at least 2 hours in a game) and ended up selling the cards off for 26 cents after Steam fees.

All told I made 10 cents and got to play a decent enough game. I'm not sure it was actually an optimal use of my time, so maybe buying the cheapest game on Steam is actually not a very good idea...

On the plus side, it is now the second game in which I've earned 100% of the achievements. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hearthstone Ranked Prizes

My brother came over for supper a week or so ago and in the course of conversation let me know that Blizzard apparently added minor prizes to the constructed system. The higher up the ladder you get, the more free stuff they throw at you. The free stuff really isn't very much, but it's more than the absolutely nothing you used to go. (You get one golden common at rank 20, with increments of 5 extra dust per rank most of the time, with sometimes extra cards thrown in instead.) The biggest jump is at rank 5 where you go from getting 2 golden commons and a golden rare to getting 2 golden commons and a golden epic. Not a huge deal, but it is a bunch of free cards and since they're all golden they're worth more if you want to blow them up for dust in order to help put together other decks.

I haven't played constructed in an awfully long time, since I grinded up to Legend a couple of times at the start of the year. But I figured I like free stuff, and I wanted to stream more Hearthstone anyway, so I played for a few hours on the 21st and then a little bit yesterday and today. I was learning patron when I last played and the newest set didn't seem to change anything for that deck so it seemed like the thing to try out as I went to scoop up some free stuff.

When I last hit Legend it took me 148 games to go from 25 stars to 71 stars, which is where rank 5 kicks in. This month it took me 47 games to go from 1 star to 71 stars. That's a whole heck of a lot faster! I was winning around 52-54% of my games back then. This time I won a little over 87% of my games. There are likely a few reasons for this difference. Patron warrior is a much better deck than mech mage used to be. I started much later in the month, so the people I played against at each rank rated to be a fair bit worse this time around. Perhaps most importantly the metagame shifted and a new paladin has emerged that is terribly positioned against patron warrior. I don't know if it beats other things, but it sure can't beat me!

I'm still not sure I really know how to play the deck well. I am getting a better feel for things just through practice, and it definitely makes me think I'd need to invest a lot of time into constructed to actually have a shot at doing well in tournaments. And that would also require way more cards than I currently have... Which means more drafting?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Diablo III: Season 4

The next season of Diablo III starts in less than an hour, and it's looking pretty sweet. They put out a new patch this week to use in the new season and it has a ton of interesting changes! The biggest one is the addition of a new 'cube' with powerful new recipes. It lets you reroll legendary items to get better stats, or trade in an extra copy of a set item for a different piece of the set, or convert a rare item to a legendary. You can swap gem types, or crafting material types. You can remove the level requirement from an item to really power level an alt. But the best part is you can destroy legendary items and then equip 3 of their passive abilities onto your character! One of the constraints to builds in the past was which slots you could get passives from while maintaining overpowered set bonuses... Now those options have multiplied! So many more builds should become playable as a result!

On top of that they've added in higher difficulty levels (useful since the previous highest difficulty for the base game was massively eclipsed by the greater rifts)! New items! Quality of life changes to crafting and rifting!

On the downside they decided to put crowd control (CC) caps back in. This was part of the initial game and it sucked since you couldn't permanently CC hard enemies which meant everyone had to build to be invincible. Eventually they decided that was a bad idea and took the cap out. Now they put it back in and I'm not sure why. On the plus side it came with massive damage nerfs across the board to enemies so maybe they've decided everyone needs to be invincible again but actually made that feasible this time? I guess the setup where every group needed a CC bot that did no damage was pretty bad too. So if everyone can mostly survive just fine with the damage nerfs and you can use short bursts of CC to help against bursty monsters or something that could be good.

I tried out my old crusader on the highest difficulty just to see what it was like. He was built to infinitely CC things, and couldn't anymore, so that sucked. On the plus side I was able to kill all the monsters in torment X. I died to most of the blue packs. But my build was undoubtedly bad now, and I had none of the new cube bonuses, and I wasn't tip-top as it was, so the new difficulties are probably just fine.

All in all I'm pretty pumped to get playing Diablo III again. This version of the game is probably going to be the best one yet, and that's really sweet.