Sunday, July 31, 2011

WBC 2011 - Day -1

Saturday was travel day down to WBC. I finished packing when Pounder and Robb arrived and headed out. An hour later I discovered I once again forgot my laptop power cord which will cut down on my computer usage. I am writing this from Robb's laptop. Maybe I will be able to keep posting every day. Maybe not. Maybe my 3DS will work as a portable blog poster; I will try that tomorrow probably.

At any rate we got near Burlington with no problem but then discovered the entire QEW West was closed down at the Skyway due to a woman being killed on the road earlier that morning. The nice radio let us know that there was no good way to keep going west. And since the road we were on was pretty much stopped there wasn't really a good way to go any direction. Robb ended up using Google Maps on Pounder's phone to find a series of backroads through Burlington and Hamilton that eventually got us to the 403 and around the bridges.

The wait at the border when we finally got there was really short, likely because no one could get to it from Toronto all day. All told it took something like 5 hours to get from my place to the US, and when you consider we didn't stop for food is pretty comparable to the 6 hours it took last year.

We stopped in Buffalo to eat and ended up eating at a little Chinese food place where the only one who spoke any English was the 13 year old boy. We eventually persuaded them to let us use their little bathroom in back in exchange for eating there. I had chicken fried rice and enjoyed it. As we were eating the boy came up to us and asked us to verify his scratch and win lottery ticket which was in English. They'd won $300.

We ended up getting in to Lancaster around 11pm again, ate a second time, and then went to bed without playing any games. Next year the plan is to leave at 7am in the hopes of avoiding terrible traffic!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend

I sadly have not yet found the inclination to finish Final Fantasy II, and I am leaving for WBC very shortly. As such I will be away from my PS2 (and therefore my FFII saved game) for 9 days. Probably I'm going to be spending all of my time playing board games but I decided to download the ROMs for the Game Boy Final Fantasy Legend games and will by giving them a spin. Probably in the car ride if I can figure out how to get power from Pounder's car but we'll see. I'm also taking along Final Fantasy III for my DS and may get started on that too. I'm so close to being done FFII and it feels like cheating to move on before I finish but I promise I'll plow through it when I get back. Honest!

I booted up the ROM and it looks like I'm going on a one man adventure to paradise. The first thing I get to do is pick my race. I've decided since I've never played this game before I'm going to try to raw dog it as much as I can without information so I have no basis for making this decision at all. I can be human (male or female), mutant (male or female), clipper, redbull, wererat, or zombie. I'd like to get some wings, so I'm going with redbull. I only get 4 characters for my name, so I'm Nick instead of Ziggyny in this game.

The first NPC I find tells me I should go to the guild and recruit more members to my party. I have different race options for this guy. The humans and mutants remain but now I can have a lizard, a skeleton, an albatross, or a goblin. There's clearly a right choice here... I'm going to name him Sam. It seems I can get a total of 4 characters and the last 3 have the same race choices. I add on a goblin named Bung and a lizard named Tom. Bung has higher stats but has half the health Tom does. Nick has the most stats and thrice the health, I'm guessing because he was my main guy. Or maybe redbulls are just awesome. Sam seems bad as his only high stat is agility and that never does anything in old games but we'll see.

Next up, ye olde item shoppe. It turns out I start with no money so this little side trip isn't much use, but there is an intriguing item on the list... I always thought money couldn't buy me love but it looks like I was wrong...

Combat seems to function in a Pokemonesque fashion. All of my characters have an ability they can use and a number beside it which counts down when I use it. I'd guess that's how many times I can use the ability before needing to rest. Nick only has a 10 on horn which doesn't bode well for grinding up levels. (I don't know if I need to grind up levels or not but it seems to be the thing to do in Final Fantasy in general so it feels like a safe assumption.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Rank Points

Each time you level up in Galaxy Legion you get 5 points to spend upgrading your ship in some way. There are 6 different things you can spend these points on and unlike most Facebook games there isn't a strictly correct choice between them. There are a couple duds but there are 3 top tier choices that lead to different play styles. You can get cargo space, ship size, attack, defense, energy, or research.

Cargo space increases the size of your cargo hold by 5. This lets you hold 5 extra artifacts, or 50 extra minerals, or extra modules you aren't actually equipping on your ship. In some games this would be a good way to increase your income (in the game Gazillionaire how much money you could make was directly related with how much cargo space you had) but that isn't the case in Galaxy Legion. The mineral system is a way to seamlessly increase income as you level up and to give slight discounts on purchases to people who plan far enough ahead but having more cargo space really just means less button clicks for minerals. Being able to carry around extra stuff provides some level of flexibility but it's not that impactful. Cargo space is the sort of thing where you _need_ enough to store a basic amount of stuff and any beyond that is just convenience. There are two different artifacts that increase your cargo space as well as some mission rewards that do so as well so you're not stuck buying it with rank points. I suspect everyone who starts out spends a few points here to get up to a decent size but it's not something you're going to sink all your points in. Unless you're Honest Bung and are trying to corner the market on everything...

Ship size increases the size of your ship by 1. Ship size does two things: it increases the amount of damage you take in combat and it lets you equip more stuff. There's a plethora of random modules you can earn from missions and from killing NPCs that you'll want to equip on your ship. As you research better stuff in the different research trees you'll find that the size of those modules also gets bigger as well. Until you get to a very high level you'll always be able to get some benefit from more ship size as there's bound to be something you don't have space for right now. Focusing on ship size is a very strong strategy, and is the one recommended by many veterans on the forums and the wiki. It's important to note that having a bigger ship doesn't really make you much better at any specific task but lets you be more versatile and do lots of things with the same ship setup. (I can equip all of my scanners with my ship, doubling its size wouldn't make me any better at scanning but would let me keep guns or armor equipped while scanning.) There is an artifact you can get with artifact points to increase this value as well along with a few NPC drops. One downside to ship size is if you're really into raiding disabled ships. Success chance there is based on crew size, which is the next 4 categories combined. Spending your points here instead of on one of them will make you worse at raiding.

Tactical officers give you 2 more attack. Note that very quickly you'll have weapons with a better space to damage ratio than 2 to 1, so getting ship size is better than getting tactical officers while you still have more guns to put on. Once all your guns are on, though, tactical officers is the only way to get more attack. Want to be the best planet invader around? You need tactical officers. Want to do the most damage possible to other players in pvp? You need tactical officers. Pvp in this game tends to center around people near your level and someone who has tactical officers has a huge advantage in those situations. They'll tend to have a smaller ship so they'll take less damage and deal more because they have a higher attack. There is no other recurring way to get tactical officers than by spending rank points. (And there are ways to lose them! You start with 5 and I'm down to 3. I think Mike has none at all.)

Helmsmen give you 2 more defense. This sounds analogous to attack but it's actually a lot worse for a few reasons. Attack is useful in planet invasions, ship defense is worthless. Attack increases the damage you do which decreases the amount of energy you need to spend to kill enemies. Defense decreases the damage you take but you have many ways to heal to full with the press of a button (and some cash) so it doesn't really do a lot. Stacking on more health can be just as effective (or even more so) though I don't really think either is very good. Defense certainly has a place in reducing how often you need to repair but the key is you never need to max out your defense. Getting more ship size so you can equip more defenses is probably a better way to go. And finally there is actually an artifact that gives you 3 helmsmen so even if you felt like you needed a little more defense you're going to get it for free eventually.

Engineers give you 2 more max energy. Max energy is relevant when you're away from the game for a long time (so it has time to charge to full) or when you level (you get reset to full energy) or when you use an item which restores your energy to full (you get one of these once a week or so). Having more energy means you get to do more things. You can shoot at enemies more frequently. You can complete missions faster, getting the rewards faster. You also just flat out level faster as well. Leveling up gives you more planets to colonize which increases your income, artifacts, or research. It also puts you into pvp combat with higher level people and your ship rates to just be worse than theirs. Personally I decided artifacts were awesome when I started playing so I've put a premium on leveling up and therefore have spent most of my rank points here. I definitely level faster than most anyone else but am pretty bad at pvp. Fortunately if they aren't online I can just shoot them a lot of times if I really want to shoot them, and I can afford to do that since I have a lot of energy. I figure I make 284 energy per hour. 51 of that is from my constant charge from relays. 22 of that is from ship modules that add max energy. The remaining 201 comes from my 1935 engineers. (The effect they have compounds on itself. I level faster because I have more max energy and because my energy refreshes when I level I get my bigger energy pool more often.) This makes me feel like I need to keep spending all my points on engineers even though my ship is starting to get awfully cramped. There is no recurring way to get more engineers other than with rank points.

Spending a point on scientists give you 3 research per hour. I really don't know how to compare this to the other options. More research lets you get better ship modules, though you will need more ship size to make proper use of them. You can get a new planet every 4 levels and my typical research planet is worth 150 research per hour. Spending 4 levels worth of rank points will get you 60 research per hour. The big thing, I think, is eventually you cap out on research when you've researched everything in the game. All the other options (well, except maybe cargo space) keep providing their benefit over the whole game. The research seems like it will eventually tail off and you'll wish you had anything else. Possibly you could forgo ever colonizing research planets and just get artifacts and mining but I don't know that you'd really find enough good artifact planets to make that work out. Also, you can get an artifact with artifact points to get these.

Most people will focus on one of ship size, attack, or energy. I started off with a ship size focus but once my ship got big enough to hold all my guns I switched to energy and never looked back. I think that was the right plan for my style of play where I just want to get my numbers bigger. I level faster than I would under another plan and I get to complete more missions. I also focused heavily on artifact planets which has let me make up the gaps from having a relatively small ship size. (Artifact points can permanently increase max health, defense, ship size, cargo space, research, and give you more rank points.) But just because this was the right plan for me doesn't make it the strictly right plan which makes me happy with the game design. Someone who focuses on attack will have a different experience than I but they'll really get to blow dudes up which probably makes them happiest.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fan exPo 2011 Costume Update

The number one need for a red mage costume was going to be an awesome red fedora. I did a little searching and posted a picture of one on Facebook which prompted a friend of my sister's to ask where I got the picture because she wanted to get the hat just to wear. Now, I really like hats, but pretty much all my hats are dark/dull colours. My Waluigi hat from last year is pretty much the only vibrant one and I haven't worn that except as part of a costume. I decided that even if I don't dress up as a red mage I want to have an awesome red hat anyway. So I bought one online. I probably should have gone up a size but it fits reasonably well and definitely fits into the category of awesome:

On the topic of awesome red hats my sister commented about an iconic character with an awesome red hat. Carmen Sandiego. Now that I have the hat in my possession I have to say it is the perfect Carmen Sandiego hat, but unfortunately I don't think I have the legs to pull that off. Maybe a Carman Sandiego?

Continuing on the hat theme I came up with an awesome idea that would only work as a duo costume: White Spy and Black Spy from Spy vs Spy. Spy vs Spy 2 was one of my favourite Commodore 64 games when I was a kid. Hiding pieces of a nuclear missile in quicksand, building hanging traps out of vines, digging holes with the shovel and covering them with twigs... It was amazing.

Or how about Dick Tracy? He had a cool hat. A quick search shows that 'The Brow' had a red fedora though he seems like quite the jerk. 

Another idea I had while rewatching the Trogdor video was that I think I could pull off Homestar Runner, though again it would be best in conjunction with someone playing the part of Strongbad.

I leave for the World Boardgaming Championships in 2 days and will put off decisions about costumes and Magic decks until after I get back, but in case I happen across some bits on my travels I think I've narrowed my likely costume down to either red mage or Deckard Cain. I will need either:

- huge white feather, red mask, red cloak, red jacket/sweater/shirt/band uniform, black/white pants, black/brown/red boots
- grey robe, gnarled walking stick, book on a strap, sandals

I figure an outing to a Value Village should probably provide useful items for at least one costume. And maybe some cheap board games...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Magic: Deck Decision?

Last weekend saw two more countries hold their national tournaments. Australia and France have now thrown their hats into the ring along with Japan and the overall results are interesting. A rough compilation of the top 8 decks from those events:

4 Hawkward
4 Mono-Red
3 Valakut
2 Caw-Blade
2 RUG Pod/Twin
2 Vampires
2 UB Control
1 Elves
1 UW Control
1 UWG Birthing Pod
1 Caw-Go
1 GW Aggro (w/ pod)

So it looks like 14 aggro decks, 5 combo decks, 3 control decks and 2 midrange decks. A wide variety of different deck types within those archetypes (the hawkward and mono-red decks may have 4 top 8s each but they varied drastically from deck to deck). Really what it looks like is the format is reasonably wide open and there's nothing truly degenerate going on, at least to this point.

What does this mean? Well, in an open format I think the most important thing is to play a deck you know how to play. I was at my best in constructed back during the Modo alpha and beta tests when I played an obscene amount. Psychatog and I go way back. So if I had any experience with any of these decks at all I should probably go with it. Alas, I don't. So what next?

In general I think it's stronger to be asking the questions and not trying to answer them. (Hence why the aggro decks are well represented.) But I've never really enjoyed that style. Throw out some cards and hope they kill you with as little interaction as possible? That's not fun. It might be winning, though. The idea of beating down with an army of 3/4 ornithopters does have some appeal...

Another alternative when the field is wide open is taking an off-beat tact. There was a deck in the Australia nationals that featured a card called Mass Polymorph. It's like the original Polymorph but you hit all your creatures in play instead of just one. So you play with a lot of mana acceleration and some token creatures and then suddenly have many unfathomable monsters in play. It also plays that gigantic 15/15 flying dude I posted about last week, though the odds of actually hard casting it seem even lower in this deck. It looks fun and it definitely seems like it asks questions that people couldn't possibly have answers for since no one else is asking them.

Similarly, the elf deck seems insane. It plays terrible creatures that wouldn't even make the cut in draft but it plays a lot of them in a real hurry. It has access to some really powerful sideboard options and it beats down in a little bit of an odd manner. I am a fan of odd...

That being said, one of the decks from Australia that actually did well (2 people in top 8 including the winner and another guy in 9th) calls out to me as being awesome. I mentioned in my first post about standard with M12 that I really liked the idea of Birthing Pod. Here's a birthing pod deck which just includes a mostly unrelated 2 card combo on the side. A lot of decks are focused around winning with those two cards but haven't seemed to do well since it seems like there are a lot of good answers running around. But having them as an aside in a different deck, where both cards actually fit in ok on their own, seems really strong. If you happen to be in a position to combo out without them having an answer you can. If they have the answers you play your real game and win some other way. It's sweet! For reference, the cards in question:

The combo involves putting the red enchantment on the blue creature. You can then tap the creature to put a copy into play that has haste. When the copy comes into play you can untap one of your permanents. Like, say, the enchanted creature. Tap it again to put another copy into play. Repeat until you have an arbitrarily large number of 1/4 haste creatures and then attack with them all. Victory!

Now, birthing pod lets you sac a creature to get a slightly more expensive one for free. Since you lose the old creature you typically want to be using creatures with comes into play abilities so you still have some of the power from the original creature lying around. Splinter twin goes very well with creatures like that even if it doesn't instantly win you the game. You can also sacrifice the copies to your birthing pod to get real creatures. On the other hand the exarch isn't great on its own but at the very worst you can use it to untap the birthing pod to sacrifice it immediately which lets you jump from 2 mana to 4 in one go. Also, birthing pod can ramp into the exarch when you have drawn a splinter twin already giving more chances to put the combo together in a hurry.

I saw a version which cut the birthing pods and went more heavily into land destruction (one of the comes into play creatures can destroy a land) which is tempting too, but birthing pod just seems too awesome. At any rate, I think I've found a deck I want to play around with, so I should look into getting some of these cards on Magic Online to play with after WBC next week.

Monday, July 25, 2011

WBC 2011 Scheduler

Last night I finally finished manipulating this year's WBC schedule to fit into my spreadsheet from last year. In the process I came up with some ideas to make it more efficient which I might try to add in sometime this week. I'll probably end up changing my plan around a bit as I tinker with it more, but here's what I came up with last night for my WBC plan (click to enlarge):

One big difference from last year is I hardly had any demos I wanted to attend last year. There's a whole bunch I'd like to check out this year but couldn't actually find room for many of them. The only ones I actually found room for were Founding Fathers and Samarkand. (And Empire Builder since there was nothing else at that time and I want to get an idea for how they play at WBC.) Due to my complete inability to comprehend web pages it looks like I might not have a team this year making it so I can't pick Empire Builder as my team game to follow through on my threat from last year. (I'd actually decided to switch into Le Havre anyway, but whatever.) I did stick a game of Empire Builder in there.

I put in one of the Wits & Wagers games and the other only conflicts with the Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation finals which are pretty unlikely anyway so I may try to do both this year. I missed out on both last year and was sad.

Last year I commented that I was cocky to schedule 4 finals. This year I scheduled 5! It turns out they're the same 4 as last year along with Ra! Dice. I didn't even play one of those 4 games last year and only made one of the finals. I did make a different finals. So, yeah, planning for finals is not exactly the most useful thing in the world. But it's still fun to do!

Liar's Dice is again left off since it again conflicts with the Vegas Showdown finals. I didn't even make the Vegas Showdown semis last year, but I blame picking it as my team game for that. Maybe this year I'll have better luck.

I really wanted to learn one of the football games they play at WBC but couldn't fit them in. I should really look into what I have to drop to get that to happen. I used to play a strategic football game as a little kid and remember liking it despite not really understanding the strategy behind actual football. Now I do, kinda!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Galaxy Legion: All Modules

I took a journey through the wiki today and made a list of every module I could find that you could build on your ship. The question being, of course, just how big does my ship have to be before I actually suffer losses by not having access to every module in the game. (Because I vendored one, for example.) People often say that equipping the very high end researched stuff is impractical because the upkeep costs are ludicrous. I don't know that I believe that, but I made two lists: one using all the top tier stuff and one using the penultimate tier stuff. The space taken by everything I could find is therefore either 4381 or 4094.

Currently I have 679 deck space and get an extra 1 deck every 11.6 hours. If I wanted to I could also get 5 more every level, and I level in actually around that same frequency. (Though if I started spending my level up bonus on decks instead of engineers that rate would certainly fall.)

Assuming I don't spend level ups on deck I will max out in 1789 days, or 1651 days.

Assuming I do spend level ups on deck and somehow keep the same pace I will max out in 298 days, or 275 days.

I'm going to continue to increase my artifact points per hour number so my rate will pick up as time goes on also. If I was willing to level up on deck it's actual conceivable I might max out. If I don't, well, I just don't see it happening. Also consider that the game keeps adding in more and more new modules and it's quite possible I'll just never get to max ever without buying more decks which is something I'm convinced I don't really want to do.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Ship-Bot Frequency

The only way I'm increasing my ship size at the moment is via artifact points. One artifact, the ship-bot, increases your ship size by 2. Assuming each artifact has equal odds of being chosen (I've seen some distributions from people who tracked what they got and it seemed pretty even) how many artifact points does it take to get a ship-bot? 

The average cost for an artifact is 1596 and there are 60 different ones. As such it seems reasonable to assume that for every 95750 artifact points earned you'll get 2 decks. (It's actually better than this since one of the artifacts costs 20000 and you can remove it from the list of options by hitting the button with fewer than 20000 points stored up. 

I make 4135 artifact points per hour so I can expect to get 1 deck space every 11.6 hours. Now I just need to figure out how much deck space I need for all the modules in the known universe!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Kronyn Anomaly Engine

Another two weeks have passed and it's time to take a look at the next mission in the temporary chain. Every mission in the chain thus far has had rewards I've really wanted to get so I had high hopes for this next one. Unfortunately it doesn't immediately pop out at me as being fantastic. The mission can be done 4 times, costs 2250 energy per completion, and is worth 2.2 xp per energy. The reward is a ship module:

size 10: 40 defense, 25 cloak

As it stands right now I'm using standard defense modules which are size 42 for 126 defense. Clearly getting these new modules is better than what I'm using now since all 4 of them would take less space, have more defense, and give some cloak for free. On the other hand defense isn't a huge priority for me right now as evidenced by the fact I'm using such bad defense modules in the first place. I'm using 2 standard defense modules right now for a total of 84 space for 252 defense, but if I spent a bunch of research I could put on 60 space for 250 defense (44 hours of research) or 84 space for 478 defense (504 hours of research). I have no intention of doing even that much research anytime soon.

Similarly for cloak I don't even equip a single standard cloaking module most of the time. I can certainly do better than a 10 for 25 ratio if I ever do decide to put on some cloak to go hacking. I may well research better cloaking in the near future but my reason for doing so would be to get better planet cloak buildings, not better ship cloak modules.

I could get them and turn them into complex tech parts but the energy cost to do so is high compared to killing the NPC referred to yesterday so I don't think I want to get them for that reason. Eventually my ship size will be big enough to just have them equipped all the time for small gains (I should work out when that eventually will be) so I probably want to keep the option around to pick them up. But I don't think it's worth grabbing them during this temporary window. I'm going to have to wait months before I can do the prerequisite chain (500 flux probes) but since I don't really want them before then anyway I should be ok leaving them be and spending the 9000 energy on other stuff in the meantime.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Complex Tech Parts

There was a thread on the Galaxy Legion forums asking about vendoring a ship part that came from a mission reward. This mission reward in particular is distinct. Normally you can only equip a set number of an item (2 cloaking devices, say) and the way you get more cloak is to research bigger cloaking devices. This mission reward adds to your cloak but doesn't take up any such slot. You can use it and it doesn't impact your ability to use any other cloaking device. (Well, it occupies space on your ship so there is a cost to use it, but you can unequip it and store it in your cargo hold if you don't want it on right now.) Eventually you will research substantially larger and substantially more efficient cloak modules so the question was at what tech level he should consider vendoring this minor cloak module.

There are two ways you can sell the module. If you've ever used it and it's in your ship as a module then you get a trivial amount of money for it. For reference I make 7731 times that much money per hour. Eventually your ship will be big enough to hold everything possible so the small amount of cloak has some benefit. The very small amount of cash really has none at all. So the answer if you'd ever equipped the module is that it's never right to sell it.

The second way is to sell it before you ever use it. In that case you get a different type of currency: complex tech parts. This is a reasonably rare currency with a few important uses. It's used in a mission chain with some pretty great rewards. It can be used to build some ship modules. And perhaps most importantly it can be used to upgrade a legion base. The bigger the base the more production everyone in the legion gets every day so upgrading the base is quite useful. Eventually your ship will be big enough to use every module you get but the bigger base helps you get to that point faster.

I made the point that I wish I'd sold off my mission reward for the complex tech parts because I wanted to upgrade my base and felt that was better than having access to a little more cloak in the long run. Most people disputed this claim (they're higher level so they both have more room for the cloak module, have more sources of complex tech parts, and likely have full legions and therefore need fewer parts per player to upgrade their base). One argument was interesting. Their claim was you could get enough parts by killing some NPCs which were recently added to the game to get all the parts you could need. This is interesting since that NPC seemed really bad to kill to me, but I realized I haven't really looked at it in detail.

When we upgraded our base to level 3 it took 250 tech parts. Andrew and I got most of those by doing a mission and vendoring the reward. (This reward was a planet attack building and doesn't really have any marginal benefit regardless.) To get up to level 4 it will take an extra 4750 tech parts. That specific mission only can be done 5 times so we weren't going to get 4750 parts from that alone. Mostly we've just ignored the need to get tech parts and have sat at a size 3 base for a long time.

I thought it might be enlightening to compare that mission to killing the tech part NPC to see how they compare to each other. Clearly we were willing to do the mission for tech parts to upgrade the base so if they're even comparable then killing the NPCs probably makes sense too, right?

At any rate, the mission took 1225 energy, rewarded 2710.5 experience, and gave 28.5 tech parts. Per tech part you're spending 43 energy and getting a 2.21 experience per energy ratio.

The NPC takes 55 energy, rewards 135.5 experience, and gives 1.5 tech parts. Per tech part you're spending 37 energy and getting a 2.46 experience per energy ratio.

The NPC is just better than the mission in this comparison. Killing an NPC also spawns a new NPC which might have fantastic rewards. Doing the mission gives you a mission complete which can give a minor reward. The mission only gives 142.5 tech parts total. The NPC can give an unlimited amount but you're restricted by how many spawn. It certainly seems to be a good long term solution to the tech part problem.

I still think I'd vendor the minor cloak module if I got the chance again, but it no longer seems as critical to do so. Taking out the NPCs when they spawn seems like a reasonable line of action instead.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fan eXpo 2011 Update

A minor correction to my post about a costume for Fan eXpo. I mentioned it was hard to top last year's guests in terms of awesomeness because Shatner was in attendance last year. They just added him to the guest list for this year, too! Sunday only, but Captain Kirk is back in town!

Also, I bought a pretty sweet red fedora online. I haven't commited to red mage yet, but I hope it's pretty sweet.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Magic: Super Fatty!

Last weekend marked the release of the M12 set. It was also Japanese Nationals, and apparently the set was legal for their event. This is a little odd to me since back in my day they'd actually give you time to possibly acquire cards before making the sets legal but it seems times have changed. The top 8 was very interesting. The winner actually played 4 Ornithopters! I'm going to look into his deck more closely in the future and may end up going with the explosive beatdown option but there was another deck spotlighted in the coverage which just blew my mind.

What!?! There are 15 drops now? It sounds like the guy who played it came 2nd at the most recent Pro Tour and started 4-0 in constructed. His drafts didn't go so hot and he ended up dropping after losing the first standard round after the drafts. If there's one thing I like, it's ludicrously huge creatures! The coverage included a feature match with the deck in round 3 which was interesting and helped clear up a little bit how a different fatty functioned...

What in the world do you target with this? Are you supposed to blow up your own lands? His lands? (Obviously if he has a planeswalker you blow that up.) In the feature match it seemed like Toshiyuki was most targeting his opponent's lands, but he was playing Valakut and therefore land count was a big deal for him.

7 creatures in the deck combined for 78 power! Those are some truly huge men! And definitely very tempting...

Monday, July 18, 2011

Magic: The Price of Cards

The internet is starting to fill up with M12 standard deck lists. Until some major events happen there's no knowing what's actually ok and what's complete jank but seeing a bunch of decklists at least gets the brain churning again. I keep seeing decks and thinking 'wow, that's awesome!' and I'm sure a lot of that stuff just doesn't work well enough. (I have a feeling the birthing pod deck from last week might be one of those.) 

I saw one deck today that seemed really awesome. Lots of planeswalkers coupled with an armageddon + wrath combination card! If you stay alive long enough you basically reset the game with you having planeswalkers and them having nothing at all. Super cool! Super powerful! has some sort of database querying going on where it pulls up prices for each of the cards in the deck, and that's where I found this particular deck. I don't really have any cards, either online or offline, and my go to for borrowing cards also stopped playing. So to really practice up I'm probably going to have to buy the deck online and in card form. The 'high' price for this deck? $679.22. What!?! Double that and I'd need to come third to break even. I can probably resell the cards after the event for a reasonable fraction of the price (except the Noble Hierarch's I had to buy 2 years ago say I'm too lazy to do so) but that's still an awful lot. I wish there was a deck rental service...

To be clear, I want to win and I am certainly willing to pay what it costs to have the best deck for me. If Jace wasn't banned and I needed 4 to compete I'd buy 4 of them. But this format is pretty wide open and the planeswalker deck mentioned above might not even be a top tier deck. It certainly isn't the clear best. I think I can safely fail to practice with it, pick a cheaper but still awesome option, and be satisfied.

I also stumbled into a comparatively cheap deck that seemed pretty sweet. It runs 11 creatures and 21 pieces of equipment. One of the creatures is Kemba, who gives you a 2/2 during your upkeep for each equipment card on her. Most of the price of this deck is lands which rate to be useful in the future assuming I start actually playing again. It may 'just' put dudes into play and attack with them, but at least it can put lots of dudes into play at once. I'll take any chance to bust out the Bob Probert card as a token!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dead Rising 2: Morality

I've made it to the final fight in Dead Rising 2 and the plot was interesting though short. It's obviously just there to force you to kill a lot of zombies all over the place which is fine. There was a twist near the end that I saw coming a mile away. At any rate, there's an interesting morality play going on in the story along the lines of 'the good of the many vs the good of the few'.

The basic idea is there's a disease that turns people into zombies. Get bit by a zombie and you'll turn into one yourself in a short period of time. There is a drug you can take which keeps you from turning into a zombie, for one day. So if you get bit you need a shot every day for the rest of your life. That's fine. The tricky part is in order to make the drug you need to gather materials from zombies. But if everyone who gets bit uses the drug then there are no more zombies. So there's no more drug. So everyone who is infected turns into a zombie, biting lots of people. Now we have new infected people and new zombies for drugs.

This seems to be a bad cycle. If you don't have a source of the drug then everyone who gets bit will turn into a zombie. What else can be done? You could kill everyone who gets bit before they turn into a zombie, and if you manage to get them all then you might be able to wipe out the disease. Lots of people are infected though, so this would essentially amount to killing an awful lot of people, many of them supposedly important to society. What happened in the game is they intentionally infected a city and then farmed the new zombies for drugs to use on previously infected people.

Would you kill off a city filled with people you don't know in order to keep yourself (or someone you loved) alive? How about to make a lot of money selling the drug? The main character's daughter is infected and needs the drug and he gets outraged when he finds out the current outbreak was intentional to generate the drug to keep people, including his daughter, alive. But what can he do? Let her turn into a zombie? Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one?

It sounds terrible, but I think I might be one the side of the bad guys here. Forcing a contained outbreak to generate the drug keeps a lot of people alive. We're trading some lives for others and it's terrible to need to make that choice, but some set of people is going to die no matter what we do...

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Ocarina of Time: Thoughts

I recently completed the normal mode version of Ocarina of Time on the 3DS. It is definitely a good game, though the controls seem a little outdated. I can remember when Z-targeting came out and how it was a big deal. It switched to L-targeting on the 3DS but it's essentially the same thing. It works (aiming at moving targets is annoying; there's a reason I don't really play first person shooters) but it doesn't feel right. It breaks immersion. I'm a dude with a sword and a shield and I get jumped by 2 were-wolves. If I manage to target one of them then suddenly his friend backs off? Me and my target do a little dance to the death that I can't possibly lose if I'm semi competent and then his friend starts in. Having him targeted and using my shield makes me practically invincible.

The game had lots of great dungeons with interesting puzzles to figure out. Boss fights tended to be very gimmicky and were often trivial if you could get the camera to show you the boss (and therefore lock on with L-targeting) and very hard if you couldn't. I died quite a few times to being unable to make the camera do what I wanted it to do. (It didn't help that I had just played Dead Rising 2 which has an entirely different camera scheme and that you start off in OoT with 3 health. By the end of the game I was both more used to the eccentricites of the camera and had 56 health plus 50% damage absorption.

I enjoyed playing the game, and will likely play through on the Master Quest difficulty at some point, but it didn't make it up into the best game of all time category for me. Maybe I'm just a 16 bit kinda guy, but Link to the Past had lots of cool dungeons and interesting puzzles and gimmicky boss fights. It didn't have an annoying camera to control. So it still comes out ahead in my book. I should probably hunt down an emulator version of the initial one and give it a spin. (I have the NES cartridge on my floor but my NES doesn't work. Maybe I should fix it instead.)

Perhaps the most telling aspect is that I would play the game for 45 minutes on the way to work, and for 45 minutes on the way home, but wouldn't just sit around and play it at home. I'd much rather bust out some League of Legends or Final Fantasy II. (Though the latter is not because it's a better game but because I really want to get to FFVI!) Yesterday I started reading a book on the bus, and I ended up spending about 6 hours last night reading it, and 2 more this morning. I only really stopped to write this, and because I need to shower and clean up for D&D in a couple hours. But the book, which is easy to read on the bus, snared me and forced me to keep reading it. Ocarina of Time wasn't able to do that.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Standard with M12

M12 is released today and I started looking around the internet for any insights into what the new Standard format was going to look like. I found a few articles from people who didn't really seem to know what they were talking about who gave a bunch of decklists that had never been tested. Not great, but many of them at least explained how these decks could fight existing decks. Wizards recently banned two cards from Standard so it's not like there's a lot of pre-M12 data either, but I did get a rough idea about what to expect.

Standard actually sounds like it will be reasonably robust. You have a few aggressive decks (including red burn), a control deck, and a couple combo decks. Aidan advised I should look at playing red burn spells since it should be pretty good and fairly easy for someone out of the game for 2 years to pick up. Sound logic, and one I applied in the 2007 Nationals. Problem is, I don't actually like playing burn. When I don't like playing something I tend to just play it worse. Or so I was thinking today, and I thought it might be interesting to look at my past records to see how things panned out. Hurray for Wizards having complete match histories!

2002 - Psychatog Control - 4-2  (3-2-1 limited)
2003 - Wake Combo - 2-3  (4-1-1 limited)
2004 - WUR Obliterate Control - 4-1-1  (3-3 limited)
2006 - RU Land Destruction - 4-3  (5-1 limited, including 3-0 with a land destruction draft)
2007 - RB burn - 3-3  (4-2 limited)
2009 - GWU Exalted - 2-3  (4-2 limited)

History certainly indicates that when I play control I do well, and when I don't I don't. Part of that is probably also that those tended to be the decks I actually practiced a lot with, and it's the deck type I'm most comfortable with. Even back to the days of Turkish Prison, though it didn't have a very good record. I don't think I should write burn off just yet, but it just isn't my style.

I will say that when I saw the M12 list the first card that jumped out at me was the rishadan airship reprint, but that was more for nostalgia. The actual card that excited me for constructed was actually mana leak. I love cheap counters and will be looking for a good control or aggro-control deck using it to try out.

I did find an article with a very interesting 'combo' deck in it. It's a deck list that was actually played in a 'Magic-League' event, which I may need to look into for practice. At any rate, it all centers around one little card: Birthing Pod. It costs 3{GP} ({GP} will represent a green phyrexian mana, so it can be paid with G or with 2 life) and is an artifact with an activated ability: 1{GP}{T}, Sac a creature: Tutor for a creature that costs 1 more mana and put it into play. Play only as a sorcery.

I see that and I think wow. I love creatures but just attacking with them is so boring. The general idea of building a deck around the birthing pod seems to be to have all mana costs covered with creatures that have good comes into play abilities. Eventually you end up with a bunch of good effects and a huge fatty that you go to town with. You have to make choices about what to go get at each stage so there's lots of skill involved. I like it! As an added twist this deck also has an infinite life combo built into it, and the ability to make an infinitely sized trampler. Infinity is a number I can get behind. (Are they still making me say arbitrarily large? Do I have to pick a specific life total still?)

Hopefully more people will play actual events now that the set is out and there will be some real decklists showing up so I can do more thinking. And hopefully the deck that appeals to me is cheap since I don't have any cards. 8P

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Final Fantasy II: Leviathan!

I recently scored my crystal rod and got on a boat to head towards the tower containing Ultima. On the way I had to pass through a 1 square wide gap in the mountains and wouldn't you know it, I ran into a whirlpool! It turned out Leviathan was attacking and he swallowed me whole.

I awoke to find my 4th party member was missing. "Where's Leila?" *shrug* And then we moved on with out lives. No searching around for her. Just head off to continue our quest. Eventually we run into another dude who is looking for Ultima and decide to bring him along. After all, we need a 4th party member what with Leila presumably dead. When Josef got rolled over by a rock at least my party seemed to care that he was gone. Here we seem pretty oblivious to the loss of Leila.

At any rate I'm now 12:05 into the game.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

League of Legends: Aegis of Protection

There's an item in League of Legends that is my targeted first real item when I'm playing a tank. It's the Aegis of Protection and it provides health, armor, and magic resistance all at once. On top of that it has an aura which gives armor and magic resistance to your allies as well. It's relatively cheap and I've felt it's been effective thus far, but has it? On occasion I've played with teammates who have yelled at me for wasting my time buying it. One guy yesterday went so far as to tell me I couldn't possibly tank with it. My general thought behind wanting it is it's good when they're attacking me since it makes me a lot tougher, and it's good if they're not attacking me since it lets me mitigate damage going to my team. But is it economical? If it turns out to just be a lot worse than a warmog maybe I should start skipping it. So let's take a look at how good it is...

As my baseline I'm going to look at the level 11 stats for Amumu. I'm going to pretend I already have a philosopher's stone and some go fast boots. I have 1408 health, 60 armor, and 36 magic resistance. The Aegis is made out of:

Ruby Crystal - 180 hp for 475g
Null-Magic Mantle - 24 mr for 400g
Cloth Armor - 18 ar for 300g
Pattern - 270 hp, 18 ac, 24 mr + aura (12 ac, 15mr, 8 attack damage) for 750g more

Giving all EH values as straight physical and then straight magic we have:

base - 2252.8 / 1914.88
ruby - 2540.8 / 2159.68 for 475g
mantle - 2252.8 / 2252.8 for 400g
cloth - 2605.24 / 1914.88 for 300g
aegis - 3188.2 / 2936.5 for 1925g
warmog - 4444.8 / 3434.6 for 3000g
force - 2252.8 / 2984.96 for 2610g
thornmail - 3660.8 / 1914.88 for 2000g
sunfire - 3808.9 / 2526.88 for 2610g
aegis aura only - 2421.76 / 2126.08 for 1925g

What is our gain for each item for every 100g spent?

ruby - 60.6 / 51.5
mantle - 0 / 84.48
cloth - 117.48 / 0
aegis - 48.6 / 53.1
warmog - 73.1 / 50.7
force - 0 / 41.0
thornmail - 70.4 / 0
sunfire - 59.6 / 23.4
aegis aura only - 8.78 / 11.0

It's important to point out you can only have 6 items total, so looking at that chart and thinking you should just stack cloth armors won't work. You'd spend 1800g total doing so and then go home. The aegis aura is not as good as I thought it was going to be, but it does give extra damage to your team as well and actually does something if the enemies are smart enough to not attack you. (The alternative is to build enough damage oriented items to convince them to attack you because you're a threat but Amumu in particular doesn't really have any decent options to do that.) I'm a little surprised that it's more efficient than both warmog and force of nature in terms of efficiently mitigating magic damage, though they both come with a lot of health regen as well which isn't accounted for here. One other option for making them want to kill you is the sunfire cape. It deals damage to everyone who stands near you and is ok at bulking up too. At least if the enemies have lots of physical damage dealers.

Seeing that cloth armor wins out helps explain why junglers seem to always take it and 5 potions. The potions add on 1200 more health and the armor is just great at mitigating creep damage. It also goes into the aegis which has been a reason I build it, too.

Looking at the numbers it seems like the aegis isn't just the best thing but it is very solid. Against teams smart enough to avoid attacking you it seems like a very good thing to have. And if they do like to attack me? I'm building warmog next and good luck to them!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fan eXpo 2011 Costume

Fan eXpo is a huge geek convention that happens in downtown Toronto at the end of August. It’s a combination convention which mashes together Comics, Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming into one large crazy event. I’m intending to attend this year for a few reasons:
  • There’s a cool board game tournament of which I am defending champion.
  • Awesome celebrity guests. (Uhura, Hercules, Faith from Buffy, Starbuck, Deanna Troi, C-3P0... Ok, not nearly as awesome as last year but it's really hard to top Kirk and Spike.)
  • An excuse to dress up like an idiot and maybe not look like an idiot!
It’s the last part that’s of concern here today. Last year I solicited costume ideas via Facebook and asked for feedback in a post very similar to this one. I ended up going as Waluigi and thought the costume worked out pretty well. Some people had no idea who I was but they were all people who didn't know Waluigi at all. Last year I had a handlebar moustache which I decided had to be the focus of my costume. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Dings!

Prior to our last session we'd managed to level up to level 5 which meant the addition of a new daily power. I wasn't terribly excited by any of my choices and got convinced to take an ability which allows 2 of my allies to make an immediate free charge for an extra d10 damage. It also gives them +2 to their attack and damage rolls for the rest of the fight while charging. Coupled with a magic item I found on the list which prevents charges from granting opportunity attacks and on paper this seems like a lot of damage. There's a barbarian and a knight in the party and they both get to make real attacks while charging, and the barbarian gets to make a free charge after killing someone. This means the +2 to hit and damage could really add up to an awful lot over the course of a fight.

We did some fights that night. The first one was pretty easy and even though I saw an ok spot to use the ability I wanted to save it since it was a daily. Then we did a series of fairly rough fights and I was going to use it the first time I could ever give both people a free charge that they could use. It never came up. One of the characters is the tank so he's trying to stand beside all enemies if he can. The other reduces his own ac when he attacks so he wants to stand near the tank for protection. And is therefore also near all the enemies. It doesn't help that we're fighting in an underground maze and often have the entire width of the hall (a whole 1 or 2 squares) filled with dudes so there's no path for charging. Also they're both smelly dwarves who move slow.

I had visions of the ability being awesome, but those visions generally involved the two fighters standing 4 squares apart, each fighting a guy, and charging back and forth between the two enemies. This is certainly the way to maximize the power from my daily but it's just not how we want to be fighting. We also have a rogue in the group and he wants to be nearby to get combat advantage. We want to focus down one guy at a time. Sure, we want to run up to the casters or the archers and beat them up but the team can do that anyway without my daily helping out. (Also with all our eggs in the 'charge a lot' basket the monsters can take positions to make charging worse.) Probably the best actual use would be when I go first in a fight, and there are monsters within 5 squares of the melee, and I get them to go in and attack. Problem is, my initiative bonus is abysmally bad and I tend to go last in the fight. Beating the monsters has been really unlikely thus far. I guess I could hold onto the daily and use it the first fight I roll high on, but then I'm just making one fight easier and I don't get to pick which one.

We ended up actually leveling at the end of that session too, up to level 6. This gave me a new feat and a new utility power, and there was one that actually combos very well with the charging daily... Minor action to shift all allies beside my pet and myself 5 squares. Assuming I can squeeze my pet in beside both melee I can send them to good charge locations and send them in for the extra 2d10 damage. It combos so well I can't imagine keeping the charge daily without also taking the shift daily. But is the shift utility daily overshadowed by anything else? It turns out there are lots of options that excite me here.

As an encounter minor action I can give 2 people saving throws. This seems like really great utility and being an encounter power it will get a lot more use. However it turns out there's a feat I can take which gives everyone targeted by any of my healing powers a saving throw too, and I have a lot of those I can toss out if I really need to generate a saving throw right now.

As a daily minor action I can give someone a healing surge + d6 and anyone beside my pet for the rest of the fight can't grant combat advantage. Now, my level 2 utility gives someone a healing surgeless heal and I don't think I've ever needed to use it yet. I like having it sitting in my pocket in case it's needed (and it's a standard action so it's worse than this) but it doesn't seem critical. Possibly I could take this and swap out for a different level 2 utility.

There's a daily minor action which heals my team for d6 each and lets people use second winds as minor actions. If my team wasn't half smelly dwarf then this seems like it could be really good. As is, not as exciting.

And finally there's the one that really excites me as something I hope to never use but will be completely game changing if it happens. A daily interrupt that triggers on my getting knocked down to 0 health. It lets every ally within 10 squares spend a healing surge (which I think should bring other knocked out people back to life) and gives them +2 to hit the guy who knocked me out for a turn. If I die first this seems a little weak, but if we're ever actually going to lose a fight this seems like it could really turn the tide. It could be in the neighbourhood of 55 healing, 0-3 saving throws, 0-3 recoveries from knock out, and some bonus damage. People keep talking about how the final fight in the module is brutally powerful and it seems like everything else is doable as is. So if my goal is to set up to beat the final boss then I want the most game changing abilities to use in that fight. I can't see it getting more game changing than this. (The healing will be even more in the final fight since I imagine we'll gain another level or two and maybe I'll even get a better healing neck.)

By that logic shouldn't I keep the swingiest level 5 daily, too? Maybe the charge power is hard to set up but when it really counts can't I rely on my teammates to do what it takes to spread out at the start so they can get their permanent +2 to hit and damage? It really depends on the specifics of that fight. If there are a bunch of powerful dudes all willing to stand a few spaces apart so they can be pinballed around, yes. If it's just one huge dude then there's a daily power I could take to give a permanent +2 to hit one guy. Or I could take a power that blinds him. Maybe the penultimate fight will be tricky and I'll want a different daily for that fight. It's hard to say. But for now I think I want to try something else out. I spent a day looking at my Sir Charge-A-Lot card and being sad that I couldn't use it. I'm not going to look at the death trigger ability and long to get to use it. I'm going to be happy it's there. But it does fill the same safety blanket role as my old level 2 utility, so I'm going to try changing that too:

level 2 utility daily minor - create a 121 square zone filled with spirits for the whole fight, all allies get +1 to hit when standing in the zone
level 5 daily standard - nuke a 9 square zone for a bunch of damage and slide things 5 spaces, I get to slide 6 spaces before or after attacking (I never move as it is, so having a way to move might do something!).
level 6 utility daily interrupt - heal everyone when I die

Sunday, July 10, 2011

League of Legends: Defensive Rune Values

Back when I played World of Warcraft I used to normalize stats based on how much you'd get of a stat from the same quality gem. It wouldn't be fair to compare stamina to dodge at a one for one ratio since you actually got 50% more stamina for the same cost. Earlier I compared health to magic resistance in League of Legends, but I did so with end game gear. How would things change if I went to a scale actually useful at the start of the game? How good are each of the best defensive runes compared to each other? Let's look at how good each rune would be for my level 1 Amumu with a 1/15/11 talent build.

I start with 568 health, 27 armor, and 52 magic resistance. So the increase in effective health for one more health against physical damage is 1.27 and for magic damage is 1.52. The increase from one more armor against physical damage is 5.68. The increase from one more magic resist against magic damage is 5.68. So, what runes can we get?

red: .97 MR, .91AR, 3.47hp  - vs physical: hp = 4.4069, ar = 5.1688  - vs magical: hp = 5.2744, mr = 5.5096
yellow: .74 MR, 1.41AR, 5.35hp = vs physical: hp = 6.7945, ar = 8.0088  - vs magical: hp = 8.132, mr = 4.2032
blue: 1.49MR, .7AR, 2.67hp - vs physical: hp = 3.3909, ar = 3.976  - vs magical: hp = 4.0584, mr = 8.4632

Almost across the board mitigation fares better in these comparisons. There are some important caveats to remember, though. Resistance only affects one type of damage, against a balanced team you're likely to take a roughly even split of damage. Even still, blue MR seems really good compared to the other two options but the rest could go either way. If you're jungling the monsters do predominantly physical damage so extra armor is hot. And healing does exist in the game. If you're jungling you'll typically drink around 8 healing potions before even running into an enemy hero. That's 1600 extra health that isn't accounted for in the formulae above and makes both resistance stats better than health for sure.

This makes me wonder a little about the previous comparison. It could just be that Force of Nature is a bad MR item. Maybe Warmog's Armour is an absurdly good max health item. (I have been building both on Amumu recently to pretty good effect.)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Collapse of the Prerelease

I can still remember my first Magic prerelease. It was February 6th, 1999. I was living in Waterloo and a group of strange, large men invited me to go on a road trip to Toronto to play in the Urza's Legacy prerelease. We could crash in Jer's parent's basement, they said. According to my DCI rating summary I'd played in all of one sanctioned event before this, a PTQ where I managed to go 0-2-1, getting my second loss from one Ken Rosevear. I was a wild man, so I went along.

The event was held in a massive hall with hundreds of people in attendance. They ran one huge sealed deck event to kick things off (I went 1-1 drop) with a lot of side events over the course of the day. I remember getting into a triple Legacy draft where I ended up with _five_ rancors. I was mono-green with random dudes, treetop villages, and a lot of +2/+0 and trample going on. I can recall activating treetop village, casting 2 rancors on it, and getting in for 7 on multiple occasions. Apparently I played Gab Tsang, Byung Chun, and Allen Pengelly beating all three of them. It was glorious. I then played in two other drafts before we left. I remember it being a great time - a little packed in the hall maybe - but a lot of fun.

Prereleases evolved over time. They stopped running one monolithic tournament with everyone in it and started running many smaller tournaments over the course of the day. Once 32 or 64 people signed up they started a sealed tournament for them. They innovated the 'team sealed' format which became my favourite format of all time. The first time I played it was at the very next prerelease, for Urza's Destiny. I teamed up with Jer and Tom P to form a very silly team. Tom wore a crazy orange BOO! hat and I was wearing a rubber camel puppet (his name was Camel and he loved Jer). Jer was just made fun of by all passersby for associating with such lunatics. The format didn't allow sideboards so I played, I think, 6 different runes of protection. I had an academy rector but I think we left him on the bench. At any rate, a ton of fun.

Today was the M12 prerelease. I'm trying to get ready for Nationals next month so I wanted to get some practice in with the new set. Apparently we'll be drafting a core set at Nationals. I went to look for where the prerelease was going to be held only to find they don't hold big events anymore. I'm not sure why, but they're letting individual stores run events instead of just having a single big one. I guess this will help people in Waterloo, for example, since they won't have to drive for over an hour and crash at Jer's parent's place. I went to the Wizard's site and found a location for an event. The first one on the list was at 401 Games, and I know where that is, so that's where I went. Here's what they had on their website:

401 Games will be hosting 2 Magic 2012 Pre-Release Events, one on Saturday, July 9th and one on Sunday, July 10th.
Both events will start at 12 Noon.
We will be limiting the numbers of players for each event to 64.
We will not be doing prereg for this event so i you want to get one of the FOIL promo cards get here early. :)

I didn't exactly get there early, but I was there at 11:40. There was a big line-up to sign up, but when I got to the front and paid there was no indication we were over capacity. I went to look at their board games (I ended up buying Roll Through the Ages and the new Eurorails) as more and more people lined up to sign up. Eventually someone in charge said something about finding a place to sit, anywhere. So I went hunting only to find every seat in the place was filled. The normal game room was filled with people sitting at the tables and there were probably a dozen people standing in the aisle. (It didn't smell great.) I couldn't find a seat so I at least found a quiet corner to stand in. Then one of the guys in charge came upstairs and said they had more people sign up than they could fit in, so if anyone wanted to drop they're give them their product, along with some extra stuff if they'd just leave. (2 boosters from the previous block and a deck box, I think.) Some people got up to take advantage of that 'great offer' (the prize pool was 2 boosters of M12 per person so the store probably made out by pawning off 2 older packs instead of M12 packs) and I slipped into a vacated seat before other people standing around figured out what was going on.

Now every 5-10 minutes someone would come upstairs, look in the room, and mutter about how all the seats were filled. About 50 minutes after the scheduled start time they finally came up and posted seating assignments for deck building. I thought that's why were finding a seat in the first place. No, it turns out we were finding seats because they simply didn't know how many seats they had, or people they had, and decided the solution was to play musical chairs until everyone magically had a seat. I was assigned a seat in the same room for deck building. My card pool seemed really, really bad. A couple decent cards in each of red, white, blue, and black but no real substance. My green, however, had 21 cards. 20 of which were playable, including a guy who's power and toughness are equal to the number of forests you have in play. I did have a rampant growth and an 'any mana' artifact so I could splash if I wanted to. Turned out my best splash card was going to be either gravedigger or merfolk looter so I just played the green horn (gain a life when anyone casts a green spell) and went mono.

My first round pairing was also in the same room. By now, having cleared out all the people who were just standing around, the room was becoming reasonable to sit in. I was paired up with a pretty girl who was also just getting back into Magic after a break and was also disappointed that they'd changed prerelease formats. Her deck had 2 sengir vampires and a serra angel but she only drew 1 of them total over the match and I had a spider which kills a flyer when he comes into play to deal with it. I won one game with a 7/7 trampler and one game with a 9/9 untargetable. It was a fun game.

Round two I'm paired at a table that's not in the upstairs room. In fact, it's not even a table. I'm playing on the store counter, without a seat. And with a match going on less than a foot behind me, so I had no room at all. And if anyone wanted to leave? I had to actually walk away from my game to make room. My opponent was playing with a lot of unblockable creatures and played a planeswalker both games. Unsurprisingly, I lost.

Now, if I knew I'd be able to play in the 'nice' room upstairs I would have kept playing. But facing the prospect of having to cram into the ground floor (no AC) on makeshift tables (or even a non-table) I had to drop. I didn't think my sanity could handle being crammed into a pile of loud, sweaty men.

I believe they ended up taking money from like 90 people, with something like 78 actually playing. Now, when I read on the website that they're capping it at 64 so you should get there early I'd think they'd actually turn away person 65. Not take their money, try to bribe people to leave, and then make everyone have a bad experience dealing with the overflow. I guess it's good for them that they got extra business and maybe at a younger age I'd have been willing to put up with the heat, and the noise, and the smell, and the crampedness. But I just couldn't handle it today. I was going to go back tomorrow too, but now I'm not.

I want a big prerelease in a nice venue with actual drafts, team tournaments, and the like. I want it to feel like a big important event and not just a bunch of people cramming into a tiny store. I guess I'll have to put off experiencing M12 until it comes out online. At least there I can be sure that I won't have a large man sneeze on me because I'm forced to stand in his personal space in order to play a game.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Kronyn Evac Pod

Another 2 weeks, another new temporary mission in Galaxy Legion. This time around we have a mission which costs 25 energy and is worth 55 experience, just like the last 2. This one has to be done only 50 times to get the reward and you can get 10 of them total. The reward is a one-shot artifact which you can use to permanently add 15 scientists to your crew. Then if you have at least 5 planets with a x1.25 or better research multiplier you get an extra 15 scientists for a total of 30. Anyone who has been playing the game for any reasonable length of time should hit that mark easily (and if you don't you should hold on to the artifacts until you do, and you should join the Team Comf legion and we'll share appropriate planets to colonize so you can get there). So, for 1250 you can get 30 scientists. Is that good?

Well, when the Kronyn Datacube came out I decided it was worth 18.5 research per hour for me, and cost 2000 energy to get. I decided it was awesome and made sure I got all 6 of them. This is 30 research per hour and costs 1250. By being scientists and not a buff to a planet it also makes you better at raiding and is less vulnerable to loss (the buffed planet could be conquered, you can't lose the crew in any meaningful fashion). It's fantastically good. I've been focusing on completing the Octafari chain to get some of the later rewards but I am absolutely stopping to pick up all 10 of these new artifacts. For lower ranked people they're even better since the 300 research will be a larger piece of their pie than it is for mine. Definitely go get these!

Remember, if you don't get this done in the next 2 weeks you're stuck waiting for 500 flux probes to do the first mission. That's not happening anytime soon, so if you want 300 more research per hour you need to get it now.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Final Fantasy II: Approaching Ultima

I just plowed through the tropical island dungeon in FFII to obtain the black mask. Along with the white mask I earned from liberating Fynn I'm now set to go unlock Ultima, the supposed best spell in the game. Supposedly in the NES version the spell was rather bugged. It was the best spell at level 1 compared to other level 1 spells but didn't scale properly at all and ended up sucking at high levels compared to other high level spells. Since you get it near the end of the game and it's a pain to level, and you probably already leveled something else... It's not great. Supposedly how it was supposed to work was it scaled based on the levels of all your other skills/spells or something. The site I found didn't go into any details, and it didn't specify if it worked better in the PSX version or just in even further versions.

I did a little testing to verify the revelation from earlier and it seems to hold water. The first cast of esuna in a fight was getting me 6 esuna xp, future casts were just getting 1. So in the tropical island dungeon I started every fight with an esuna and a berserk to level those spells. Woo!

At any rate, I'm now 10:41 into the game.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

X-Com: Autocannon

The internet said it would be good to buy autocannons for all of my dudes. I decided to give it a try and outfitted my army solely with auto-cannons. (Well, and one girl with a rocket launcher.) It turns out most of my guys could barely move with an auto-cannon and I had a hard time actually going anywhere. Eventually the enemies swarmed in and my guys couldn't react in time to support each other and I got wiped out. Not technically game over but it might as well have been. It's a little laggy in the emulator so maybe it's going to go back in the vault for now...

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Cheating AIs: X-Com

I got the urge yesterday while watching Independence Day to play X-Com: Ufo Defense. I've never actually completed this game and not having done so bothers me. It's a pretty hard game but it's not impossible by any stretch. I started a new game up last night and ran into the cheating AI on the very first fight which was frustrating.

The game has two main parts to it. The first is a city building, tech researching, money making game on a map of Earth. Sometimes some alien UFOs fly by your radar stations and you can send a ship out to shoot them down. Or sometimes the aliens just land to pick up some cows or terrorize a city. Once the aliens are actually on the ground you can send a troop transport to go engage them in a turn based battle. The game simulates day and night, so it's possible this turn based battle will take place in the dark. This drastically reduces how far you can see for both you and the aliens. However, once one of your guys can see an alien the rest can shoot at him regardless of distance. That's a little weird, but I guess they didn't want to worry about adding ranges to all the weapons and deciding what happens when a laser beam travels beyond max distance. At the end of turn you lose these established locks on the aliens though, so if they manage to kill your scout on their turn you'll need to move someone else forward to see them again.

If it worked both ways that would be fine. Unfortunately the aliens cheat. They need to actually see your guys before they can shoot them just like you do, but they don't lose their target lock at end of turn. The higher the difficulty, the longer they can still see you. This can set up some absurd scenarios. If the aliens have one guy who can see into your ship at the start of the map you'd be in serious trouble. Every alien unit can now shoot at all of your guys for turns and turns. Snipers can be really hard to find and destroy since they can attack you from huge distances, well out of your line of sight (especially at night). Later on in the game you fight aliens that can cast mind control spells through walls. Some grunt saw you 3 turns ago? Legal target for mind control from the other side of the zone! There's also a weapon that's essentially a remote control rocket launcher which you can program 9 waypoints into so it can move around corners and down elevators. These can be huge problems and a lot of the micromanagement of later combats is making sure you can't get screwed too badly by these things if the AI decides to actually abuse the powers it has. (Often it doesn't with the rocket launchers. The mind control it will abuse all day long.)

What happened yesterday is I did a fight at night because I was afraid the site would despawn if I waited for day. One of my guys caught a glimpse of an alien right at the edge of her movement. She shot at him and missed. Then on his turn he took off in the other direction. Do I chase? If so I need to run across an open zone where the enemies can see me and take attacks of opportunity on me and I can't fight back until I get in range. I ended up running 3 guys in the direction of the 'hidden' alien and managed to kill it after losing only 1 to attacks of opportunity. He sucked anyway, so not a big deal, just annoying.

Like in most games I don't know how you would fix it though. It's a brutally powerful advantage (let me control the aliens and Byung control the humans and I'd crush him) but the AI just isn't good enough to abuse it properly. Maybe forcing me to have all my guys immune to mind control (hire hundreds of dudes, train them in psionics, and fire any with weak psi abilities) is a reasonable price to pay to have an AI that scales somewhat?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Happy Fourth of July!

The Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world said in one voice:

We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish, without a fight!
We're going to live on!
We're going to survive!
Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Final Fantasy II: A Revelation!

Last week I was playing some FFII before our D&D session and was talking with Sky about the mechanics of the game. I mentioned that I didn't quite understand how many times you needed to use an ability but that it seemed like I had to use it at least as many times as I had levels in the skill before I could start gaining any experience at all. Then yesterday I was doing some unrelated reading about what certain spells did and stumbled across the actual formula for how you earn experience.

xp = Rank + Uses + Modifier - Level

Uses is how many times you use the spell and level is your current level in the skill. So I was right that it got harder to gain experience as you got higher in level and that spamming the ability in a specific fight would increase how much you earned once you started learning. The other two parts are the really interesting ones. Modifier depends on the type of ability being used. Weapons get +1, spells get +3, evade chance gets -2, magic defense gets +5. Rank is where it gets really new to me. Each fight is assigned a rank based on the easiest monster in the fight.

This means it's actually easier to gain experience in skills if you're fighting harder monsters, so fighting imps outside the starting town isn't necessarily the best plan anymore. For the base stats (strength, intelligence, spirit, agility, endurance, magic, hp, mp) it doesn't matter. But if you're trying to skill up spells, weapons, or defense rolls it totally matters where you're fighting. A typical fight I'm running into now is rank 5 instead of rank 1, so if I cast my level 2 Esuna spell once I'll actually gain 7 experience as opposed to 3. And if I spam it I'm only adding on one more experience per cast. So what I should probably start doing, if I want to level up spells, is to just find the hardest zone I can find and cast spells exactly once.

I want to be able to remove stone from my party (I almost lost when I came up against some monsters that breathed stone and they took out 3 people) so I need to skill up Esuna. Knowing this I think I'm going to just start casting it once a fight and get it up in a shorter period of time than just spamming it constantly for one fight.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Through The Ages Online

Through The Ages: A Story of Civilization is a board game which simulates the video game series, Civilization. (Which itself simulated the board game, Civilization.) It's a fun, if lengthy, board game which abstracts away most of the city micromanagement of the computer game. Instead you have a finite number of actions to take each turn which you use to build up resources and score points. You have food, production, and research. You use the food to make workers, then you use the production to turn your workers into buildings which make more resources or into military units which can help you attack other players.

Robb showed me a website which allows you to play the game online. Many online board game sites are set up such that you play in real time as though you were all around a table. This one is different. Because most actions require no immediate response from other players you're able to log in, play a turn, and then wait for the next player to come play. It seems like it will take an awfully long time to finish a game but at the same time it won't take up too much time in any given sitting.

Anyone up for a game?

Friday, July 01, 2011

State of the Blog

It's been a little over a year since I started posting again. At the time my goals were to try to be interesting to people I know now, people I used to know, and people I don't even know at all. Especially to future me. I didn't want to feel obligated to post every day because I worried that doing so would cause missing one day to throw everything off the rails. How have I done? What's worked, and what hasn't?

Well, in the last year I've made 311 posts. From the time I started using bridge hands to post every day I ended up with 300 posts in 319 days. Pretty much the entire missed section came from missing one day due to internet outage and then letting everything get thrown off the rails. So on the one hand, failure there. But on the other, I did come back on the rails eventually and made a pretty good run of it. Clearly I'm not going to change myself and screwing up will cost me. But I have managed to make posting a part of my daily routine which I'm going to call a win.

Before I came back I had a total of 2 comments. Since then I've had 313. 311 of which have been in the last year. So, exactly 1 comment per post on average. This excludes spam which Blogger has done a very good job of filtering out. 266 such spam has been caught. As far as where the comments have come from, almost exclusively from my current friends. A couple from my family. Strangers, not so much. So, I may have managed to become interesting to people I know, but not to people I don't. At least, not enough to convince them to post.

Blogger does track page hits to specific posts, though. Sadly, it only lets me track by day, week, month, or all-time. I'd like a year option, but for today at least the all-time option will work. My number one most viewed post is Archaeology Rare Items which is a list of drops from a World of Warcraft profession that I couldn't find anywhere else. Apparently quite a few other people couldn't find one either, as it's gotten 3627 hits. That number isn't actually very big all things considered but it does show some strangers have found their way here.

The next highest is 10-Man Heroic Chimaeron Timings which is my proudest post. It goes into specific detail about the mechanics of a World of Warcraft fight and explains why a specific strategy makes sense. I've looked in on the stats tab in Blogger every now and then and periodically I'll get a bunch of traffic from a guild's forums. Different guilds each time. Mostly they're private forums so I can't take a look on the discussion but one time it was public. It started as a debate on how to do the fight. Eventually someone linked my post, they tried it, and it worked. If I have one regret about quitting World of Warcraft it's that I can't make posts like this one now.

The third one surprised me a lot. Fan eXpo 2010 Costume. I can't actually explain this one. The 8th most frequent search term to find my blog is Snidely Whiplash so I have to assume those people ended up at my costume page and ended up disappointed with what they found.

The top ten is rounded out by a bunch of posts about earning realm firsts achievements in World of Warcraft, the second archaeology post, the Nintendo 3DS SD card post, a post about playfair ciphers, and by a very recent post about a Galaxy Legion item.

I mentioned search terms above. Along with Snidely is kronyn datacube (the Galaxy Legion item) and 8 different searches related to archaeology.

How about actual content? 131 of the last 300 posts were bridge hands. I had a couple complaints that people didn't find them very interesting. I also had some people who said they liked them, and they got a lot of comments. I recently re-read every post from the last year, except I skipped a lot of the bridge posts. Don't get me wrong, I liked doing them at the time and liked reading some of them recently. There were just too many of them. I think I may try to bring them back in a little easier to read format or maybe just more spread out.

Possibly the solution is to split off and make a sub-blog for bridge posts? There is a bit of a precedent here since I did make a sub-blog for Star Trek which fell apart when my computer died. I want to resurrect that, I want posting there to count as posting once per day, and I really don't think merging it into here makes any sense at all. Maybe there's a way to make a super-blog which would just compile posts from a bunch of different sub-blogs? This is something I need to look into...

Re-reading the last year of posts also brought to my attention some follow-up posts that just never got written.  Now at least I have a list of things that fell aside. I also expect to do some M12 drafts in a month or two to prepare for Nationals.

All in all I'm pretty happy with the way things have gone here in the last year. I should try find a way to grow and evolve the site, of course, but if I can just manage to keep up as the last year as gone then I'll be content.