Friday, September 30, 2011

MMO Recruiting

I woke up this morning to two different emails from MMORPGs that I used to play. Both emails were espousing the new features recently added to the games. I wonder about the timing that caused them both to arrive at the same time. Is it just that they want to send out emails on Friday so that people think to use their spare weekend time coming back to the games?

One of the emails came from Final Fantasy XI. They've raised the level cap again and redid a few zones to provide higher level monsters. (Technical issues surrounding the PlayStation 2 apparently prevent them from adding new zones to the game.) I still want to play this game but recruiting up enough people to actually play with proved problematic. And unlike joining a new game (like Glitch, say) there's not a lot of opportunities to find people to play with, either. Most people returning to FFXI now will want to play to the new level cap (95). I have no ability to interact with those people in any real manner. So despite new stuff going on this email did nothing for me. The things that drove me away from playing in the second place still exist. (I left the first time because all my friends played WoW. That problem has since been solved.)

The other came from City of Heroes. I never actually played the original game but I did play City of Villains for a month and those game have since been fully integrated, I think. The reason I quit that game was a sort of combination of the reasons I'm not playing FFXI. I was already playing an MMO (WoW) and therefore didn't really have a lot of time to put into CoV. I didn't know anyone who played except for my brother, and often if we were both going to play a game it was going to be WoW anyway. I wasn't playing enough to justify paying a second monthly fee so I cancelled after my free month was up. I really liked my character, though. I was Oroku Saki and led a pack of ninjas called The Foot Clan. It was awesome!

The City of Heroes email was heralding the switch of CoH from a subscription based system to a free to play system with an item shop. Apparently because I played for that earlier month my account gets some sort of bonus in the free to play land. (I can join guilds, send private messages, and send in game mail.) It looks like anyone new who pays any amount of money ever also gets those same bonuses, which is nice. This switch does solve my initial problem. I didn't think I was going to play enough to justify paying, but now that it's free I can log in and tool around as the Shredder every now and then without feeling bad about it. Having to install the client is going to be annoying (why can't it be in a web browser like Glitch?) but I think I'll give it an install tomorrow and see. It's also quite conceivable that this change will actually bring new players to the game, giving people for my low level villain to group with.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


Yesterday Tobold posted about a 'non-violent' MMO that had just launched named Glitch. He made reference to A Tale in the Desert which is a game I recall briefly trying and liking but not really playing for some reason. At any rate, I figured I'd give it a go and see what it was like. I went to the website and applied for an account which seemed a little weird. More than a day later I got an email with a link to create the account. I'm not sure why they're throttling account creation so hard but I logged on this evening regardless.

The first thing that jumped out at me is there's no client. It's contained entirely within a web browser window, and it's very slick. I've definitely experienced worse controls in a 'real' game client.

Gameplay itself feels a lot like a Facebook game. I have an energy bar and I spend energy as I go things in the world. It's not entirely clear what the ultimate goal is but so far there has been a steady stream of quests showing me how different things work. Mostly I'm just gathering random stuff from things I can interact with. (Squeeze a chicken? Get some grain! Nibble a pig? Get some meat! (It doesn't say the meat is bacon but we all know it is. And hence I am spending a lot of time tracking down pigs and nibbling on them!)

The game has a research/skill tree that works a lot like Eve. Start a skill researching and after X amount of time it will finish. You don't need to be logged in to the game for the research to function. It looks like you can change the skill you're researching without even going into the game itself as there's a webpage with the tech tree. (My hope is this page doesn't require Flash and that I can therefore learn skills while at work.) Unfortunately it seems they didn't learn from Eve when it comes to skills that reduce the cost of other skills... I'm currently learning the skill 'Better Learning 1' which reduces the cost of all other skills by 2%. It only takes 30 minutes to learn so it's going to pay itself off in 25 hours. Especially when that 25 hours can tick down while I'm not in the game it seems like an absolute must have. It even has a minor secondary effect! (Though the way they word it, the minor effect is the main ability and the 2% cost reduction is the tacked on part...) It's also a pre-requisite for teleportation, penpersonship, and bureaucratic arts. I don't know what those do, but teleportation sounds awesome so it's all the more reason to grab this skill.

Whoever wrote the quests has a quirky sense of humour. My current quest is called 'Happy Endings For All!' and it entails getting some butterfly lotion and then massaging 7 different butterflies. (You can gather milk from butterflies but only if you massage them first...)

I don't know if this game will be a keeper or not but not needing to install a client and having numbers to make bigger is certainly enough to get me started. Running out of energy may drive me away, but we'll see.

And as an added bonus, when you exit the game the following message pops up... "WAIT! You were just about to win the game!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Kill Things and Eat Them!

Armed with my Java transformation program I set off last night in search of power and tasty things to eat. The going was very rough at the start. I had a sequence of meat I wanted to eat in order to turn my starting goblins into higher level monsters but the problem is the monsters I wanted to eat were only found in the hardest dungeon I have access to, and themselves are substantially stronger than goblins are. My red bull was good enough to take them out but he could only attack 10 times before having to run back to the inn. Also, his progression path involved moving to a substantially worse level 1 monster before I could jump to level 2. And the first thing the goblins turned into at level 2 was actually worse than a goblin!

I made substantial use of save states and knowledge that the random number generator isn't random at all to learn how many rounds it would take to run from each fight. I also would go to a different level of the castle if I wasn't getting any good fights since there are different fights on each level. After several runs back to town (I remade the Bung character 3 times as he kept dying while other monsters were powering up) I eventually got to the point where all my characters were leveled up above 20 maximum health. Above and beyond remaking the Bung character I suffered two other deaths to leveled up monsters. (If any character dies three time they're gone for good.) One was even on my main character which is unfortunate.

On the plus side once I got my team up to level 3 I became essentially invincible. Most monsters attack me for 0 damage and my team tends to have 50+ actions they can take between trips to an inn instead of 10 like my red bull started with. They also kill enemies in 1 attack total instead of needing 5 or 6 attacks from my team. So while it started off rather painfully it's actually become a lot easier to level up as I've gotten better.

I was thinking earlier that I wanted to level a little bit and then would probably get bored of grinding and work on the plot. Having worked at it a little bit now I'm pretty sure I now want to just twink up as high as I can possibly get and then move on. Unlike leveling in most games it's actually getting easier and faster to level up on low level monsters than it would be on appropriate level monsters. Until I reach a point where I can't level on the trash in this castle I'm probably going to stay there... When I stopped playing last night my levels were 10, 6, 6, 4!

One interesting thing was that at level 6 I turned into a mosquito and it was an unbelievable beating compared to anything I'd been previously. Clearly whoever was in charge of monster design at Square has visited Riverview!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Modulated Xecti Disruptor

It's time for the next temporary mission in the chain! The energy and experience remain the same as always, 55 experience for 25 energy. This time you need to do it 90 times before you get a reward and you can get the reward a total of 4 times.

What do you get for your 2250 energy? You get an interesting ship module. It's size 15 for 40 cloak and 20 attack. For an attack module that's a really inefficient ratio but it's pretty decent for cloak. And since it's a mission reward the upkeep is going to be substantially lower than top-end guns so pretty much everyone should get all 4 of these as soon as they can. You often want to have the most attack possible at any given time and this module just makes the number bigger, space inefficient though it may be.

You're actually better off getting tactical officers instead of decks to put this on if you value the cloak at nothing, so maybe this isn't so hot? Well, it turns out there is an added twist. If your race is Zolazin or if your class is spy or hacker then the cloak bonus is doubled. And if your race is Konqul or Drannik or if your class is raider then the attack bonus is doubled. Pull that off and this becomes much better than tactical officers.

Right now I'm none of those things. (I'm a Mylarai miner.) So is this module actually worth putting on? For 15 rank points I can get the deck space to put this on or I can get 30 tactical officers. So is the 40 cloak worth giving up on 10 attack? I'm not sure it is. I do eventually intend on switching my race back to Konqul at some point, so I will want to have these on hand at the very least. So I'm going to get them for the future and will probably decide at some point that the cloak is good enough to make space for these.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mystic Warlords of Ka'a!

A new game has hit Facebook very recently (I think within the last hour) and I'm already hooked. It's a game derived from an episode of the funniest show on television: The Big Bang Theory. In one of the earlier episodes the gang is playing what seems to be a card/board game called Mystic Warlords of Ka'a. Raj wants to win a local tournament and is trying to find a way to get Sheldon (who is awesome at the game) to team up with him. The hook ends up being WHEATOOOOOON!!! and is the episode which brings Wil Wheaton to the show as a sporadically recurring nemesis for Sheldon.

The game showed off in the show seemed to be little more than players playing cards with ludicrous names until someone won. There seemed to be some hierarchy for what cards beat which other cards but they didn't flesh anything out beyond the fact that enchanted bunny was really bad.

The game on Facebook shares a name, and it shares some characters from the show, and a primary mechanic is that you play ludicrously named cards back and forth until someone wins. They added on a concept of life totals, and a sub-game with combat that reminds me a lot of the Facebook game The Warlords in that you randomly get cards in play and they attack according to a predefined AI with no player input. The also turned it from a card/board game into a full on CCG where you build your own deck. One of the promotional quest cards you can earn? Enchanted bunny!

I was hoping the game would just be a marketing engine for CBS and the tv show (seems like a great use of funds would be to hire a couple co-op students and have them churn something like this out) but unfortunately it seems to be taking the standard path of a Facebook game. You get a limited number of actions which recharge over time and you can pay some real money to get more actions. Because it's a CCG you can also pay money for more cards to build stronger decks.

I'm going to play it for a while for sure, if only because it's themed on The Big Bang Theory and (like most people who would read this) I strongly identify with one of the characters on the show. I don't intend on shelling out cash for a marketing tool, but I will be part of the marketing engine itself by posting about it... Go play the game! Send me some free gifts and I'll send some back!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fantasy Football

Perhaps the most normal 'game' I play is fantasy football. All around North America you'll find business people wasting away hours of potentially productive working hours trying to build optimal teams of players and then they'll be glued to the television every Sunday cheering on their adopted players. I don't care at all how the St Louis Rams fare each week, but I really cared when their top running back went down with an injury as he is on my team. In previous years I've had Aaron Rodgers as my fantasy quarterback so I've taken a liking to the Green Bay Packers. This week, however, my opponent had Rodgers on his team. And thus I was in a situation where I wanted the Packers to do well since I've started liking them but I really needed Rodgers to have a bad game... (He had a good game and my starting quarterback broke his hand. Unlucky for me!)

It gets me wondering though, is this good for the game? Without fantasy football I'm not sure I'd care enough to watch the games. I read an online Detroit newspaper (because I'm a Red Wings hockey fan) and through that have learned a lot about the Lions. Without fantasy football I would probably just end up cheering for the Lions since they're the team I know the most about but the reason for liking them is very arbitrary. (Bob Probert was a Red Wing in NHLPA '93 and I needed a team with a good fighter to beat my friend Matt after school...) Is fantasy football actually any worse of a reason to arbitrarily care about games?

At any rate, now that Vick has a broken hand I'm almost certainly going to have to start Stafford going forward. So I'll be cheering for the Lions for two arbitrary reasons now! (Three actually, since I have a little wager going with Randrew saying the Lions will make the play-offs...) Go Lions!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dynasty Hockey Leagues

I have now played my way through a full league in the Facebook game Dynasty Hockey. They managed to stick to their guns as far as having any given match only impact one person's stats which is a little unfortunate, but they also made it so cherry-picking weak matches isn't really feasible which is nice.

Basically how it works is there are two phases to a league. The first phase lasts 3 days and you can play 60 games total. There are 32 teams in the league and you can play each other team at most 3 times. So each team has 93 possible games of which they should play 60. Cherry-picking the weaker targets still exists here since the top 12 teams should all end up playing the same 60 games. But now it isn't good enough to merely be able to beat 10% of teams since if you're not in the top 12 of your league you'll actually have a harder schedule. (You can't play against yourself but everyone else can!) So there's real incentive to be good instead of just good enough. Also, other than advancing to the play-offs there is no reward for winning. Every game you play is worth 5 RP (game currency) regardless on if you win or lose, so even the bad teams are encouraged to play their 60 games and maybe get lucky.

The teams are split into 8 divisions of 4 and after the 3 days are up the top 2 in each division advance to the 'play-offs' while the bottom 2 get to play in a consolation play-off. This means that while 16 teams advance it isn't guaranteed to be the best 16 teams. A weaker team can get lucky with division placement and be able to squeak into the play-offs. The 3rd best team could even fail to qualify!

The play-offs are a 1 day event where you get to play 15 games and can play each team at most once. Since there are only 15 opponents you 'have' to play everyone once. Again, playing a game is worth 5 RP regardless on win or lose. Finishing with a better record gets you more cash and a better draft pick for a new player. (I ended up with the 4th pick in my draft and was able to snag the favourite player from my youth: Sergei Fedorov!) I ended up only playing 14 games in my play-off due to the way tiebreakers worked. (I was pretty much guaranteed to lose and the first tiebreaker is goal differential. I figured it was worth not earning the 5 RP to make an extra $2M bucks.

Everyone who makes the play-offs gets promoted to the next tier of league. The top 2 players in the consolation bracket also get the promotion so even if you were in a brutal division you can keep advancing. (You just earn less money and a worse draft pick.)

I wish there was a way to actually impact your opponent's record other than by making your team be hard to beat, but given that restriction this system actually seems pretty good. The final stage where you simply can't be the best without beating the best is nice. Multiple people could end up undefeated at 15-0 which is a little weird, but then the goal differential comes in and over 15 games it seems pretty likely that the 'better' 15-0 team will have the higher goal differential. And if they don't? Well, they only lose $2M and a slot in the draft.

One thing that does disappoint me is I'm unable to put together the Russian Five line. Not because the players don't exist in the game (they all do) but because the game has slotted all of Fedorov, Larionov, and Kozlov as centers. The glut at center for the Red Wings is really sad for me since I can only have 3 centers on my team. Clearly two have to be Fedorov and Yzerman but who gets to be the third? I currently have Datsyuk and Delvecchio and will need to toss one of them aside should I get a chance to draft Stevie Y.

Friday, September 23, 2011

League of Legends: Cloth Armor vs Vampiric Scepter vs Dagger

This week brings the champion Xin Zhao to the free slate in League of Legends and he's a hero I've been meaning to try for awhile. He's another hero that works well in the jungle to start. He has more burst damage than Amumu so he's better earlier with ganks but his ultimate isn't as game changing. Still, it's a change of pace and often Amumu gets banned and I need to play someone else anyway.

I've been reading a few guides for Xin recently and they've been split on if you should start with a cloth armor or a vampiric scepter. No one has yet suggested starting with a dagger but they all use some attack speed runes so I thought it might be worth looking into.

Xin's passive is an ability which heals him every 3 times he attacks. It's this ability which really lends itself to jungling and it would seem that attacking more often would proc the heal more often and that should be good. At level 1 with no attack speed buff he attacks .658 times per second. So he'll attack three times in 4.56 seconds. The heal is for 25, so he'd have passive healing of 5.48 per second. Dagger increases attack speed by 15%, so instead he'd be attacking .757 times per second, which is three times in 3.96 seconds. 6.31 healing per second, so the boost would be .83 healing per second. I also get to pick up a healing potion with the dagger, so I get 200 extra healing.

Vampiric Scepter is a flat 12% lifesteal. After accounting for talents and enemy armor I was attacking for 57 per swing at first level. That's 6.84 healing per swing, or 4.5 healing per second. That's substantially more than the dagger! (To be fair, the dagger does kill the monsters faster too, but not nearly enough faster to make up this gap.) Dagger really should be thrown out I guess.

How about cloth armor? It's sheer mitigation so we'd need to know how much damage was coming in to figure out exactly what it does. The monsters I fight at level 1 are golems which attack for 65 damage with .613 swings per second. Cloth armor adds on 18 armor, taking me from 41 to 59 armor. Without the cloth armor the golem swings for 65*(100/141)*.613=28.26 damage per second. With the cloth armor it swings for 65*(100/159)*.613=25.06 damage per second, which is a reduction of 3.2 damage per second.

So, the cloth armor prevents less damage than the vampiric scepter heals, assuming we're just fighting one golem forever. This isn't accurate though. There are two golems at a spawn point (though I kill the first one in a few seconds thanks to smite) so it is pretty accurate for level 1. But at level 2 I go off and fight some wraiths. This adds 2.5% to my attack speed and 3.1 to my damage which brings the scepter up to leeching 4.85 per second. Big wraith attacks for 60 every .638 seconds. (26.4 dps or 23.5 dps, so a savings of 2.9 dps.) Little wraith attacks for 35 every .638 seconds. (15.4 dps or 13.7 dps, so a savings of 1.7 dps.)

The wraith camp has the big wraith and 3 little wraiths. The scepter is better with 2 little wraiths up and the armor is better with 3 or more alive.

Of course, this has ignored two very important factors. I can buy 5 potions with the cloth armor for an extra 1000 health, while I can buy 0 with the scepter. It also ignores the fact that I have 2 abilities at this point. One increases the damage I do for 3 swings, stuns a mob, and gives me essentially a free swing with proper timing. The other passively increases my attack speed by a whopping 20% and can be activated for another 20% attack speed and cooldown reduction on my first ability. Both of these increase the power of the scepter. The first actually decreases the power of the armor by preventing the monster from attacking!

Looking at the numbers I'm thinking that the armor is generally better (I certainly won't switch to using a scepter on Amumu, for example) but for Xin Zhao in particular I think it's a lot closer. The healing potions probably put the armor a little ahead but the fact is drinking those 5 potions will throw 175 bucks down the drain while going with the scepter will bank that cash. (The first item I build actually uses both as raw materials so I'm going to buy both a scepter and an armor pretty quickly.) So, I think the scepter is the way to go.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Repairing

I got to thinking today... What actually impacts the cost to repair your ship? I'm planning on looking into how to defend a base and knowing the costs of repairing will help with that. I had a few ideas that I wanted to test...

  • Does it matter what modules you have equipped?
  • Does it matter what modules you have to pay upkeep on?
  • Does it matter how much damage is being repaired?
  • If so, is it by sheer quantity or by percentage of your max?
The first was easy to test. Take some damage, look at the repair cost, then put on a scan module. The repair cost didn't change. So, what you have equipped doesn't matter.

The second was also easy. I had a broken scan module in my inventory. I repaired it and the repair cost went up. So, what you have to pay upkeep on impacts the cost of repairing.

The third and fourth required a little manipulation but wasn't very hard. I played around a little bit by unequipping some hull modules and making note of how much it cost to repair each amount. It definitely varied as I changed the amount repaired and it turned out to vary exactly by percentage of hull repaired. In fact, the amount it cost to repair was UPKEEP/6*percentage_repaired.

I guess this wasn't all that much of a mystery and it didn't really take long to work out, but I wanted to know and now I do. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rock Out!

Yesterday was Duncan's birthday, and he had a little shin-dig at a downtown Mexican bar. There were plently of board games going on (I played That's Life, Bohnanza, and King of Tokyo.) It was a good time, and Duncan is old.

At one point the song 'Crazy on You' by Heart came on. Duncan and I both broke out playing the air guitar hero to the song. Heart is one of my favourite bands, Crazy on You is one of their best songs, and the intro is simply insane.

Andrew discovered that Blockbuster shifted their going out of business sales to the next level and wanted to go on an adventure at lunch to the nearby location. They'd been picked pretty clean, but I did find a couple of very cheap games I wanted to have. Guitar Hero: Smash Hits and Band Hero! Crazy on You doesn't seem to be in either one (I actually have Guitar Hero II which has it so that's ok) but it does have Barracuda.

On top of that I picked up a copy of The Usual Suspects which is a movie I thought was awesome when I saw it at movie night in university and figured I should give it another spin. Then Andrew pointed out the movie The Running Man and lamented that he didn't have anyone to watch it with. I shrugged because I'd never heard of the movie and he told me he thought I'd really like it. I then vaguely remembered Sky referencing it in passing when he posted about Hunger Games yesterday... (Turns out he was talking about the book, not the movie.) At any rate, for $3 I was willing to give it a spin since Hunger Games is the best book series I've read and Andrew says I'm sure to like this movie...

At any rate, it's time to rock out and then maybe watch a movie! (Or play League of Legends...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Next Level Card Games

The other day I went poking around in my 'followers' list, found someone I didn't recognize, and then poked around in the list of blogs that person follows. One of the blogs contained within is a relatively new blog that talks about playing card/board games. So not full on CCGs like Magic and not full on board games like Le Havre but those that combine the two like Dominion. He has some strategy posts, some informative posts, and some tournament recap posts. Apparently he was at WBC this year filming some of the games! (Race for the Galaxy, Seven Wonders, maybe Dominion?) Reading his blog is what prompted me to play Tichu after the King of Tokyo tournament last week.

It's worth checking out if you like card/board games.

Next Level Card Games

Monday, September 19, 2011

Dynasty Hockey

I've recently started playing a new Facebook game, Dynasty Hockey. It's a typical Facebook game in the sense that you have a recharging set of actions you're allowed to take, you get bonuses if your friends play, and you can spend real money to just be better. The reason this game is interesting is you're building a hockey team out of current and historic hockey players.

The gameplay itself is a little on the weak side. Your recharging action is to play a game against another team, but the game is completely simulated. Your team faces their team, some goals are scored, and somebody wins. If you win you get a big bonus (two types of in game currency and the ability to buy a new player for your team), if you lose you get a consolation prize (20% of the in game currency you would have won, no new players). The person you play against has no change in their stats at all. It's as if you didn't do anything to them at all, win or lose, so other players are more like random NPCs than they are actual pvp opponents.

In and of itself that might not be so bad, but the problem is you get a list of 20 potential opponents and their approximate stats. Since there's no benefit to choosing the difficult game, a huge difference in the reward if you win, and a limited number of games you can play it should be pretty obvious that you want to cherry-pick the weak games and avoid playing anyone who might beat you. And since the game doesn't track how often you get challenged there's no punishment for being a bad team. As long as you can beat the truly terrible teams you're doing ok.

I just finished off the leveling aspect of the game and have moved into a league which provides a drastically smaller pool of opponents. Presumably we're going to play down to the end so if I want to win the league I'll need to be the best team of the 32 who signed up as opposed to just being good enough to beat the bottom 5-10% of players at any given level. (My record was 672-30 when I hit max level and if I was to start over I bet I could get there in more like 670-0. Most of my losses were in exhibition games that didn't use my game action number up and I now know how to properly spend the in game currencies.)

I want to see how this league thing plays out but mostly I'm just sticking around in the hopes of getting a chance to sign Gordie Howe. I already have Vladimir Konstantinov and Alex Delvecchio from Red Wings teams of the past!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Monster Program

After several nights of putting in a couple hours work I finally have a working Java program to determine monster transitions. There's no UI at the moment and everything ends up hardcoded but I start with two sets of monsters: my party and the monsters I can run into in random encounters before the 3rd boss fight. I then do a couple nested loops where I try to eat everything with all of my monsters and then try to eat everything with everything that I turned into in the first step. Repeat until I run out of things to turn to.

You may recall I'd found a couple ways to turn into a level 2 monster (but that wasn't enough to beat the 3rd boss) and I was hoping to find a way to get a little higher so I could beat him up. It turns out that shouldn't be a problem since it seems like I can actually get all the way to level 13 just on the random junk I can fight at the start of the game. (Max level is 14!) This sounds like the equivalent of punching myself in the face for 50 hours before moving beyond the first zone in Final Fantasy II... Who knows if I'll actually try to get that high or if I'll settle for being good enough to beat the 3rd boss...

I'm a little annoyed it took me this long to get the program done. I ended up pretty much having to write all my classes twice because I'm terrible. I wrote all my race classes before testing anything so when it turned out Java doesn't handle overloaded functions like I thought it would I had to start over from scratch. (Java chooses which overloaded function to use at compile time instead of at run time so my plan of having each monster family with a transform function for each family of meat didn't work. I ended up having to run a huge if-else section with instanceof checks.) But if I'd done any proof of concept testing (or wrote tests first) I'd have caught the issue right off the hop and saved several hours. Oh well!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

NHL 12

I've always enjoyed playing console hockey games. When I was in Junior High I used to play console hockey practically every day after school with my friend Matt. We'd play NHLPA '93 on the SNES or NHL '94 on the Sega Genesis or some weird monster hockey game. Or golf... After that I stopped playing hockey games. Not so much because I didn't want to play them as much as when I moved to university I couldn't exactly afford to buy a lot of games and besides my roommates had copious amounts of RPGs to play. (I seem to recall starcitygames sending Josh a rather large number of RPGs. And Tekken.) A few years ago I picked up NHL '09 for the 360 and played a few seasons of their 'Be A Pro' mode where you start in the minor leagues and work your way up to being a star. The catch was you actually only ever controlled your named character. When your shift was done you got to sit on the bench and watch your team play without you. Take a penalty? That's two minutes where you don't get to play. Get in a fight? Five minutes (or more) of spectating. It was a fun enough game.

NHL '12 was announced and the cool thing they added this time around was 'legends of hockey' where they added in 9 retired hockey legends to the game. I'm not sure what criteria they used to pick their legends but three of the nine were Red Wings at some point in their career and I really want to play with Gordie Howe. So I decided I'd probably pick this version up.

The rest of the Blockbusters in Canada are going out of business and I ended up at one of the stores last week. (The subway was shut down and I knew there was one nearby so I figured I'd go browse for a while instead of taking a guaranteed to be packed bus.) Lo and behold they had copies of NHL '12 for sale with the standard 15% 'going out of business' discount and I couldn't say no!

I brought the game home and discovered that legend mode actually starts off locked. You can play with Jeremy Roenick if you want but you can't play with anyone else until you play the game a bunch as your own pro and unlock some achievements. How annoying... So I've started a new pro but it feels a lot like NHL '09 so I'm a little disappointed thus far.

One thing that did change is goaltender interference. Typically in hockey games the goalie is sacred and you simply can't interact with him at all. Way back in the NHLPA '93 days the goalie was a tower of power. If any skater ran into him the skater fell down without moving the goalie and probably got a penalty in the process. In NHL '12 the goalies are pretty flimsy. (There's an achievement for knocking someone's helmet off... I got it by plowing into a goalie.) Do this during the play and you're getting a penalty for sure. Do it after the whistle? Woohaa! Suck it, goalie! You can knock him flying and it seems like you won't get a penalty 90% of the time. It's that other 10% which is annoying... I can see always giving a penalty for it (since in real hockey you probably get suspended for doing some of the things I do) or I can see not coding it into the game at all. But letting me knock the goalie flying after the whistle and only rarely giving a penalty for it just seems cruel. Of course I'm going to do it, beating up the goalie is awesome!

I'm not sure that I'm going to actually play enough to unlock Gordie Howe mode, and that makes me very sad. He's the reason I bought the game in the first place, I shouldn't have to play hundreds or thousands of games before I can play as him.

Friday, September 16, 2011

FNMs in Toronto

My previous post about my feelings about FNM made their way to Mike Turian, the man in charge of the new system at Wizards. (Thanks Matt!) He didn't reveal any information about anyone in particular but he did make it clear that playing in 2 FNMs each week is both plausible and viable. He had a thread on his Facebook wall with some comments from very people. One where I was called out for failing to address being able to play in multiple FNMs (I thought I covered that it could happen but I didn't analyze what would happen if I played in multiple FNMs myself) and one from someone else encouraging people to recruit heavily for their FNM in order to raise free participation points.

Ok, so multiple FNMs seems to be the way to go if the goal is to make the championship. (The standings have updated and now two people are on top with 108 points!) I'm still not sure that's even something I really want to work at, but I thought it would be worth looking into to see what it would take if I did want to. I started by clicking on the 'find events' tab on the points site and filtering for stores around my postal code which hold FNMs. Then I went to each of the stores (some of which are actually in other cities and impossible to get to after work) listed there and went to their webpages to find what the details of their events were, listed below: (note, some stores didn't have a web page and I'm not one for calling people unless I have to...)

Friendly Troll - Standard - Friday, 7-11pm
Friendly Troll - Standard - Saturday, 3-9pm (!?!)
Hairy T North - Standard - Friday, 6:30pm
401 Games - Draft - Friday, 6pm
Dueling Grounds - Standard - Friday, 6:30pm
Dollys - Draft - Friday, 6pm
Legend's Warehouse - Unspecified - Friday, 6pm
Heavy Support - Draft - Friday, 6:30pm
Heroes World - Draft - Friday, 5:30pm

The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that one of the FNMs is actually on Saturday! This doesn't sound like Friday, or like night, but I could definitely see how I could have a shot at 100 points in a week if I was able to play 6 rounds of standard on Saturday to go along with a draft on Friday. I've never really played much FNM (that whole sitting on rating thing coupled with not enjoying being around people in general) but holding it on a Saturday didn't really seem ok to me. I searched for the FNM rules and the very last one is that it has to be held on a Friday. Huh. I figured I'd ask Mr Turian about it to see if maybe that was how playing in two events was happening and he said it wasn't allowed. So much for that.

So as things stand, I don't have a way to get this done. Of course, I could take the advice of the other person and work on building up a community of people looking to start a second FNM later in the day. Find a store willing to run an FNM at 5:30 and then another at 11pm, say. Then find enough people to show up to each one to bump up the participation points. It wouldn't happen right away but it's certainly plausible to get it set up for next year. Maybe even for Nationals qualifying season.

Alternatively, set one up to start at like 1pm, then one at 7pm. Or maybe the best of all worlds and set one up at 1pm, one at 6pm, and one at 11pm. 15 rounds of Magic every Friday and an awful lot of points on a weekly basis...

Of course there are all kinds of problems with those plans. I work a full time job, for one, so starting at 1pm just couldn't work for me. I could split my vacation up and take a half day off each week, maybe, but that only gets me to 20 weeks (and that's assuming I skip WBC which is _not_ happening). I might have been able to organize such a thing 13 years ago in New Brunswick where I actually knew the people who owned the card stores and knew the players in the area but as it stands now I don't know anyone who works in a store or really any of the current players. That doesn't make it impossible, it just makes it harder... And why put in a bunch of work trying to organize strangers when I could just go home and play Final Fantasy?

I'm also not sure I have it in me to keep at it for 52 straight weeks. I'd certainly be up to draft twice every Friday every week, that's not a problem at all... It's going out in public and being around people week after week. Do I really trust myself to get on the bus after work every Friday and not just audible into playing League of Legends? Heck, I could just go draft on Magic Online with awesome music on and probably be happier.

So, could someone in Toronto make it to the FNM championship? Unless I'm missing something pretty substantial, no. Not as things stand. Could the community here develop into one which could qualify someone in the future? I think so, if people were really willing to work at it. Am I willing to work at it? No. When they announce where Nationals is next year and how exactly to qualify I'll revisit the topic but for now I think I'm going to tag out. I may well go back to FNM every now and then (especially when Innistrad comes out!) but not with the goal of earning enough planeswalker points to qualify for anything since it really is out of reach for now. (And I guess when you're taking 48 people total from across the US and Canada it's bound to be a little out of reach no matter how things are set up!)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Xecti Pathway Detector

A couple days late, but there's a new temporary mission up in Galaxy Legion. It has the now-standard experience to energy ratio of 55 for 25. It takes 60 completions to get the reward and you can get 15 of them. The reward is pretty unique this time around as it is a trap.

Traps are an interesting mechanic in the game. You can set a trap on your ship or on a planet and it stays there until a timer runs out or it gets triggered. Then it does something and disappears. A typical example is a trap you set on your ship that lasts a week and then if someone attacks you there's a chance they'll get debuffed to be unable to participate in combat for an hour. (They can use a null fuse artifact to remove it or wait out the hour.) This is a nice effect in that it may stop them from killing you but it doesn't really do much. But I get like 10 of them a week, so it's ok that it doesn't have a big impact since I can keep using it for a minor impact.

Having a trap be a mission reward is a bit different. I get 10 of the other trap every week without doing anything except have some artifact generating planets. I have to spend 1500 energy to get this trap and I can only get 15 of them so it better be pretty powerful and unique. Fortunately this one is. It's game altering! For one thing it lasts a year. So they're not expecting it to get triggered very often. You use it on a planet and it triggers if someone successfully obtains a scan of your planet. It doesn't matter how they learn about your planet, but when they do the trap triggers. You get immediately told that the planet was scanned, you get told by whom, and they can't share the planet with anyone for a day.

Without this artifact you can't really know if someone finds your planet until they attack it. (There is an artifact you can use which will tell you how many other people have found your planet but you don't know when to use them. If you're paranoid you may be using them every few days on your best planets but there's always going to be windows where people could find your planet and attack it.) Now you can sleep comfortably at night knowing that there's no way someone has found your planet without your knowledge. And if someone should ever find it they can't bring in help to attack it. Worst case scenario they can try to take it over alone and take one shot at the invasion.

I'm not even sure they'll get told when they hit it. If they don't then you're even safer since they probably won't even take their one shot until you get online yourself. Even if they do you're still pretty well off. One person may have a 5% or 10% chance to take over my best planet. 60 people with a 5% shot? They're over 95% to take it. That's a really substantial improvement and I get a full day to deal with the problem. (Probably I get Honest Bung to find a planet flux and just flux it away.)

So it's good, but you only get 15 of them. It feels like you should only use them on particularly good planets and save a few to retrap a planet that does get scanned. If you did the previous temp mission that put a lot of passive cloak and defense on a planet then it makes a great target for the trap (if there's no defense on the planet you still get notified when someone finds it but they get to take a 90% stab at it). So I think the planet needs to be so good you're willing to put up at least a nominal defense to use the trap. Personally I only have one planet good enough to do that (though I may build an awesome demon planet with my Mylarai racial) and  only did the mission 3 times. I figure I won't need more than that until the mission comes back around and I can grab more if I need them then. But I absolutely had to get a couple to really lock the door on my best planet.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

King of Tokyo Results

On Monday I headed down to Snakes & Lattes to play in their tournament for King of Tokyo. They've apparently acquired the adjacent store and have been working to use that store to expand their space. They held the tournament in the new store which was a pretty sweet space.

I think they had around 24-25 people and played mostly 5 player games. 3 rounds, cut to top 5 for a final table. I hadn't really played before and decide to go with a brawling strategy. Getting points seemed pretty random and smashing faces seemed really awesome so I went for it. It turns out that's not a very good plan at all. I eliminated many people in the 3 tournament games I played, and never died myself, but someone always managed to score enough points to win.

I played most of a game before the tournament in a teaching game for a new player and also played a game during the finals. I've come to the conclusion that trying to kill everyone is not very feasible. The problems with trying to kill people is you can't choose who you attack unless you try to attack everyone at once. But in order to do that you first have to let everyone else attack you AND you can no longer use the healing result on the dice. Maybe it's better in a smaller player game but in a 5 player game it really felt like everyone was just rolling for very random points while doing enough damage to anyone who thought about being aggressive to shut them down.

People seemed to _really_ like the game. People were talking about how it's in their top 5 of greatest games of all time. I'm not a fan. The fact that you often can't make use of any of your rolls makes it feel really hard to control what's going on. Contrasted with Roll Through The Ages, for example, where the faces all do different things but they almost always do _something_ so no matter what you roll you can make some choices and further your board position.

The turnout was really varied, too. There was a 7 year old kid and a large number (for a board game tournament, anyway) of cute young women. Everyone seemed to be having fun despite all the randomness and the fact that there's a lot of attacking going on. (I could have imagined people getting really bitter when I kept re-rolling points in order to try to eliminate them from the game but no one seemed to mind.) I was pretty much playing kingmaker by eliminating a couple people who were trying for points each game. But since I wasn't actually choosing who to attack it doesn't seem as bad, I guess... It helps that the flavour of the game is large monsters brawling each other!

After the tournament I hung out for another hour and a half and taught Tichu to Duncan and a couple other guys from the tournament. It's been a long time since I'd played that game and enjoyed playing it more than King of Tokyo. A good evening in all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Preliminary Planeswalker Points

Magic tournaments get reported whenever the tournament organizers get around to sending the information in. On Sunday there were no FNM events reported from last week but several were entered on Monday. So there is some data available to look at in terms of what's going on at FNMs around the world. My FNM has not yet been reported so I'm currently listed with 0 FNM points this season but I know from doing the math myself that I should get 42 points and that's the most I could have picked up at 401's FNM since I won every round. Note that I have no way of knowing what percentage of events have been reported on thus far and there could be substantially more people ahead of me but as we'll see that doesn't matter even a little bit.

The first thing I noticed is the worldwide listing only lists the top 500 people. Currently in 500th place? Someone with 54 points. Note that this is 12 points more than I could possibly have earned. The likely way of getting to 54 points is 5 match wins and 3 participation points. That only needs 32 people which isn't that unreasonable. I can imagine there being a large number of FNM's which get at least 32 people and run 5 rounds. Unless there are draws mucking things up there's guaranteed to be at least one person at every such FNM to pick up 54 points. This bodes poorly for my chances of getting more points then they do over a year but it's still possible. If the winners of those events keep rotating a lot and I always win my event I can see passing some of them.

But 54 points is currently in 500th place. Who's in first? A gent by the name of Giuseppe Splendori who somehow managed to get 99 points! FNM is run with a 3x multiplier which means he pulled in 33 normal points. How is that even possible? My best guess would be 6 participation points (requires 256-511 people) and 9 match wins. 6 rounds, cut to top 8, win the whole thing? But that doesn't work because you'd need more than 6 rounds with 256 people. Maybe they just play 9 rounds of swiss in a 256 person event? That's essentially the same as a day at a Grand Prix!

I was reading a thread on mtgontario about the new system where Dedly Edly complained that stores can actually run two FNM events each day. Let's assume this Giuseppe guy played in 2 events. Then his 6 participation points could have come from a pair of 32 person events. If they play 5 rounds at each of them then he just needed to go 5-0 at one and 4-1 at the other. That's not terribly unlikely.

How about if he managed to find 3 events to play in by running around town? Then he could get his 6 participation points from 3 16-31 player events. Play 3 rounds at each event and he just needs to go undefeated in the 9 rounds. That might sound harsh but I could easily imagine it happening if there were 3 such events to play in. Draft would probably take too long but I could see pounding out 9 rounds of constructed with a small number of players.

Ok, but that's one guy doing crazy things... How about the rest of the people near the top? 2nd place has 93 points. 3rd place has 93 points. 4th through 10th all have 90 points! This is clearly not just an aberration somewhere, this sort of thing is happening all over the place and these people have access to many, many more points than I do.

Filtering for just players in Canada gets me the leader at a mere 72 points. That could easily be 7 match wins and 3 participation points. 32 people, 4 rounds, cut to top 8 could set that up. That doesn't even seem like an unlikely tournament format, especially for constructed. But people playing in that format can earn 30 points more than I can.

Let's look at the points potential for a few different tournament set-ups. First up, the event I played in. With 25 people and 4 rounds there are 25*2=50 participation points going around. 13 matches each round could mean a total of 52 winners for 156 winning points. Triple it all and you've got a total of 618 points to go around with a minimum of 6 points, a maximum of 42 points, and an average of 24.72 points.

Now take a 32 person event with 4 rounds, cut to top 8. There are 32*3=96 participation points. 16 matches each round with 7 more in the top 8 means 71 winners for 213 winning points. Tripled the event generates 927 points with a minimum of 9 points, a maximum of 72 points, and an average of 28.97 points.

How about some of Giuseppe's possible events? A single 256 man, 9 round event? It generates 256*6=1536 participation points. With 128 matches each round there are 1152 winners for 3456 winning points. Overall the event generates 14976 points with a minimum of 18, a maximum of 99, and an average of 58.5 points.

How about 2 different 32 man, 5 round events? They'd generate 32*6=192 participation points. The 160 matches would have 480 winning points. Overall it would only generate 2016 total points. The minimum would remain 18 points, the maximum goes up to 102, and the average would actually spike up to 63 points.

3 events with 16 people and 3 rounds each? 16*6=96 participation points. 8 matches per round, 9 rounds total is 72 winners and 216 winning points. Overall we're down to 936 total points which is pretty close to my event. But the minimum is doubles to 18, the maximum is almost tripled to 99, and the average is back to 58.5.

So if someone can manage to find events at all capable of generating Giuseppe's total then I'm screwed. The average player in his events makes way more than my possible maximum. This is obscene. Consistent very high finishes might enable me to overcome the difference between a max-42 point event and a max-54 point event. There's no way it can overcome the difference between a max-42 point event and a max-99 point event. Any thoughts I may have had about making it to the FNM championship are shot, and they're shot for almost everyone in the world. If you don't have a local store or group of stores willing to run FNM events all day every Friday you simply have no chance.

As far as competitive goes the standings are currently dominated by people who played in the recent Pro Tour. This is not surprising to me in the slightest. Many of those people will already have invitations from their pro player club level and therefore won't hurt someone who may be trying to grind their way into events, but the FNM structure certainly will. My confidence in being able to grind points into Nationals next year is dropping rapidly. Maybe I need to find a new FNM that plays lots of rounds? But even then I don't know where I'd find time to play in them. I have to work a full day on Fridays...

But how could it be fixed? For competitive I'm not sure that it can. I expect it'll mostly just reward the people who go to all the GPs and such anyway (thought if someone can rake in close to 100 points every week at FNM they'll be in a good way regardless). But for the FNM championships I feel like something really needs to be done. The average player in Giuseppe's area will earn 2.5 times a many points as someone in Toronto who plays at 401. It's inconceivable that anyone from 401 could make it to the championship no matter how often they play or how much they win. This seems like a real problem to me but I think there are ways to fix the system. Some potential options...

  • Restrict the definition of an FNM for the purposes of this championship. Only count the first 'FNM' a player plays in each week, for example.
  • Force all FNMs to cut to top 8, or prevent any of them from cutting to top 8. Alternatively let people keep doing what they want but score the top 8 as a different 1x event thereby removing them from the FNM ranking list.
  • Count a draft as a round that everybody won. Or maybe even that they all drew. It's a little silly that I'm spending more time and money to play 4 rounds than constructed people spend to play 5 rounds and yet I get fewer points.
  • Do something about participation points and number of rounds. Letting people play in more rounds while scooping up more bonus points just for showing up seems like a little much. I can see wanting to reward bigger events but when you make the reward substantial you marginalize everyone who doesn't play in a big event. Possibly have participation points based on size of event vs number of rounds so a shorter event gives more participation points?

Monday, September 12, 2011

King of Tokyo Tournament

Snakes & Lattes is holding a tournament for the new game, King of Tokyo, today at 6pm. I'm planning on heading down and giving it a spin despite barely knowing how to play and with no expectation that I could win. (See, I play games for fun, honest!) King of Tokyo came out this year and is riding the wave of 'dice games' that have seen success recently. It is designed by Richard Garfield which is a good indicator that the game should be fun.

Now, I've always had a thing for rolling dice. I played an awful lot of Titan in my 20's and a lot of that was the desire to attack with a serpent. (Serpents tended to only hit on a 6 but you got to roll EIGHTEEN dice when you attacked!) From Kismet and Yahtzee through triple-WotC and into the more recent dice games like To Court The King, Ra Dice, and Roll Through The Ages... I love rolling dice.

King of Tokyo doesn't disappoint in that aspect since on your turn you roll six dice and can re-roll any number of those dice twice. It's not quite attacking with a serpent but you can roll eighteen dice on your turn if you want. Instead of rolling normal d6s you roll special dice with weird symbols on them that let you either score points, accumulate power-ups, deal damage, or heal damage. I have no idea what the best plan of attack is and I have hopes that it depends on what the rest of the table is doing. I think you probably want to be doing things they aren't doing. Unfortunately since you're rolling dice with very different possible results it seems like you can't actually plan on doing something specific...

The interesting twist to this game compared to other dice games is there's actually two ways to win. In pretty much every other dice game you're just playing solitaire. Sure, there are some interactions, but you're all just racing to get the most points in the same ways that everyone else is scoring points. King of Tokyo has a standard 'first to 20 points wins' goal but it also features player elimination. You have a fixed amount of health (one of the die faces will heal you) and if you run out you're eliminated. Be the last player standing and you win! This means that accumulating points is good if you can both get to 20 first and survive long enough to get there... But otherwise they're pretty much worthless. If you're trying to just kill everybody then buying powerups and doing damage seem like the ways to go.

Player elimination is a mechanic that has pretty much been eliminated from games I play, and with good reason. Telling someone who made a mistake early that they can't win anymore is one thing, telling them they need to sit and watch for an hour is something else entirely. I don't get to play Titan anymore since if people are going to drive an hour to get to my place they're going to want to play games the whole time. Not some of the time and then just watch for most of the time. I worry that it makes King of Tokyo fun while you're playing and a bit of a bore after you lose which is not good, but maybe the interesting tension in game of the two winning conditions makes up for it.

I'm not sure if the game will work well as a tournament game because of the player elimination. But I guess I normally play games really fast and finish before everyone else does so I have waiting around built in to tournaments anyway...

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Level Eight

We hit level eight last week which brings with it more choices. At level eight you get to raise two of your stats by one point each and you get an additional feat.

Stats in 4th edition are very streamlined. The only time a stat up matters is when you hit a new even number. Going from 20 wisdom to 21 wisdom, for example, has no impact at all on the game. Well, it gets you that little bit closer to 22 wisdom... The highest you could have gotten a stat at level 4 (where we started) is 21 and my entire party took 21 in their primary stat. Except me! That 21st point was really expensive and I was able to get a bunch of other stats instead which made me better from levels 4 to 7. Now that we're level 8 I'm going to be substantially worse! (Oh well!) Clearly I need to put one of the stats into wisdom so that I'll be a lot better next time I gain a stat. But what do I do with my second stat-up?

I have 3 relevant stats. Wisdom adds to my chance to hit, the damage I do, the amount I heal, my will defense, and every skill I've trained. It's awesome. My second stat is intelligence which adds to my reflex defense, my armour class, and modifies some of my abilities. (It will add one to the damage of my primary attack and will add one to the temporary health I dish out every time I summon my pet.) My only other relevant stat is constitution which adds to my fortitude defense, my maximum health, the amount I get healed when I spend a surge, and my number of surges. It can also impact some of my abilities though I haven't taken any that care at this point.

Wisdom I should raise every chance I get now that the cost is identical. But what about choosing between int and con? Int seems a fair bit better than con, but having more health is a real thing. If neither was going to get to an even number or if they both would then int seems right. Right now, however, I have 18 int and 13 con. Putting the point into int does nothing for the time being. Putting it into con has a big impact. I even managed to get knocked out last session so being tougher seems like it could be really good. I'm probably again giving up long term benefit for short term gain but hey, I'm living in the now baby!

The other thing I get is a feat. At this point I've taken all of the really good feats and am left picking between a bunch of merely good stuff. Probably the most powerful feat that remains is to add +1 to hit from an exotic implement, but I only actually attack in maybe half of the rounds. (My standard at-will attack gives someone else an attack.) There are a bunch of feats which add to my defenses which all seem fine. I could get +5 to initiative in a few different ways. Going before the enemies seems pretty strong and all, but less so for me. My standard attack requires a friend to be in range of an enemy and if I'm going first that isn't going to be the case. When I roll high I often find myself delaying until later on in the fight anyway.

It turns out that there's a feat which lets you pick up a 'skill power'. Sky is going to want me to take the perception ability which retroactively turns an attack from targeting AC to one which targets reflex. If you're paying enough attention to enemy defenses you're bound to get a free hit every combat out of this which is very powerful. But I don't want to need to worry about likely enemy defenses. I spend enough time making people better as it is... There was another option that intrigued me. It doesn't fall into the 'powerful' category at all, but it does seem interesting and fun. And plays very well with how I tend to play my character. It's an insight skill ability which is an immediate interrupt. (Important since I make use of all of my actions every turn.) The trigger is when an enemy within 5 squares of me moves voluntarily. The result? I get to shift half my movement speed for free.

This seems like it could do a lot of different interesting things for me. First and foremost if an enemy runs up to punch me when I'm weak I can run for cover. Maybe I can get out of range of their attack entirely. Maybe I just get beside the tank and they won't want to attack me anymore. I never want to move (I spend my move actions as minor actions to get more shields up) and this might give me the positioning advantage I need without having to spend an action on it. I can also envision getting to block someone's movement if we're fighting in a tight spot and prevent them from getting at a weak teammate. Maybe I can get into a good flanking position.

It might turn out to not be very useful and then I'll just swap it out for something else. Part of me now wants to look through all the other skill powers to see if I want to train up different skills to get something else!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

FNM Draft 1

Yesterday I headed out to the first FNM of the new Planeswalker Points season. I went to 401 Games which holds a draft for their FNM. At first I worried I'd made a mistake since the room was looking like it was going to be both crowded and sweltering again but once FNM started they kicked all the Yugioh dudes out of the room. Coupled with the extra air conditioner they installed it actually worked out ok.

They ended up getting 25 people and from what I gather that number was not what one would call massively increased. I talked to my opponents after the matches and it seemed like no one really understood the new system or even cared. There was a story about how some dude who used to sit on his rating had come out of the woodwork to play this week; I have to assume it was about me.

At any rate, 25 people meant 2 tables of 8 and a table of 9. I was in the 9, and in fact was stuck out on the end of the table which made for a lot of forced movement when people were getting out for land.

My first pack had 3 realistic choices in it. Jace's archivist which can be a certifiable bomb, gideon's lawkeeper which is an excellent one drop, and chandra's outrage which is a great burn spell. I've become convinced that red is the best colour in M12 and I also believe chandra's outrage is by far the best common in the set. If you manage to hit a 1 drop, a 2 drop, a 3 drop, and then burn out their blocker on turn 4 with an outrage you're pretty much guaranteed to win. It kills pretty much every card in the format too, missing only a kicked Al Gore and the green basilisk at common. My second pack didn't really have anything good in red, sadly. I want to play mono if I can so I took a very questionable card, goblin bangchucker. There was a discussion about that card on Matt V's Facebook wall a couple weeks ago and someone suggested it wasn't bad if you had some toughness boosting enchantments. I decided to try it out, especially since it was going to let me cut red hard. The next guy might think bangchucker is good and that red is open if I pass it! Third pick the only red card was a goblin warpaint. The very card I need to get the bangchucker running! Fourth pick there were no red cards at all. On the plus side there was a thran golem who likes that I'm playing warpaint...

The next few packs had no red cards either. I took a griffin rider to open up a second colour. Then I got an auramancer who fits into my warpaint plan... I rounded out pack one with a goblin anarchist, a  fiery hellhound and 2 more griffin riders. So my deck after pack one is a good removal spell, a couple ok red dorks, and a bunch of very questionable cards.

Pack 2 the only red card of note is a shock. Shock is ok, but there was also a serra angel and I decided I wasn't going to get any red cards in pack 3 so mono was right out and serra is pretty sweet. The next pack along had a chandra's phoenix and an overrun. I might have taken overrun over phoenix if I could throw my white away but with the serra I figured to stick to my guns and take the phoenix. The rest of the packs in pack 2 provided only a roc egg for playable white cards. On the plus side the heavy cutting of red in pack 1 worked out as I got hooked up. I got all 3 of the bloodthirst dudes (berserker, ogre, Al Gore) along with a 7th pick chandra's outrage, a slaughter cry, an act of treason and a fling. I also got a second warpaint.

Going into pack 3 I have a serra, an auramancer, and 3 griffin riders. Those guys are not playable with my 0 griffins! My opener has no decent red cards at all but it does have a stormfront pegasus. It isn't a griffin but it does beat down nicely so I run with it. I get a goblin fireslinger pick 2 and a crimson mage 4th or so. No other red cards at all. The white cards, on the other hand, weren't stopping. I got 2 more stormfront pegasus, 2 assault griffin, and a griffin sentinel. I also got a divine favor at some point to go with the bangchucker plan.

As I was building my deck it became clear that I had way more cards than I needed. I could easily cut out either the griffin rider plan or the bangchucker plan. Bangchucker seems terrible and I decided 3 griffins would be enough, so this is what I ended up with...

9 mountain
8 plains
1 goblin fireslinger
1 goblin arsonist
3 griffin rider
3 stormfront pegasus
1 crimson mage
1 stormfront berserker
1 roc egg
1 chandra's phoenix
1 griffin sentinel
1 blood ogre
2 assault griffin
1 gorehorn minotaur
1 serra angel
1 fling
1 act of treason
1 slaughter cry
2 chandra's outrage

I decided my deck was super aggressive flyer beatdown and that roc egg would make for a decent blocker in a race situation and played it over an 18th land. My deck is soooo cheap that 18 lands seemed really excessive. Maybe I should have gone down to 16 even but the colour mix was a little rough and I wanted to be able to hit outrage for sure.

Round One

My opponent is the guy drafting to my right. He is unsurprisingly playing red and is also playing black. We do a bunch of early trading in game 1 and when the smoke clears he has a fireslinger, a scepter of empires and 8 land. I have only 5 land and therefore have 3 more spells which happen to be dudes which are beating him down faster than his pingers can beat me down.

I decide red/black is likely to have enough removal to deal with the griffin riders and side them out. I bring in a warpaint, an auramancer, and a divine favor for them. Game 2 goes similarly to game 1. Some early trades and eventually I end up with a divine favored, blood thirsted berserker getting in for 4 a turn.

Round Two

My opponent this round is relatively new to Magic and hadn't hit the point in learning strategy to realize that you should save your instants for when they're best. He had a jade mage and would make tokens in his main phase, for example. He cast a turn to frog at one point for no game effect. (I think he thought it was a permanent change.) He won the first round with a deck sporting the green and blue mages, frost titan, and two overruns! I got very fast draws against him and really just ran him over with an army of 4/4 flyers in both games as my griffin riders got turned on.

Round Three

I don't remember much about this match. I know chandra's phoenix came home for a lot of damage and got recurred when I burned a creature with chandra's outrage. My opponent was not playing real removal so I did not side out my griffin riders. (He was playing pacifism, and in game 1 he pacified a griffin and then got beaten up by some griffin riders.) I won in two games.

Round Four

Game 1 I'm on the play and start with a pegasus on turn 2. He plays a looter. I beat for 2 and play a griffin rider. He loots and plays an aether adept, bouncing my pegasus. I draw and my hand is now another griffin rider, the pegasus, a slaughter cry, and a stormblood berserker. For some reason I decide to take a risk and beat in with my rider. The plan being if he blocks with his 2/2 I'll be able to kill it with slaughter cry and if he doesn't I get to play a 3/3 and a 2/1. He blocks, I use slaughter cry, and say go. He then beats with the looter and plays Al Gore. I rip an assault griffin and get in with my newly beefed up rider for 4. He cracks back for 5 and plays a belltower sphinx. This shuts down my 4/4 and is too big for my outrage if I ever draw it. I play my 2-drops and say go. He swings with Al Gore. If he has a removal spell I have no good blocks. But I can't afford to just take it over and over and have nothing in my hand or even in my deck to deal with it. I decided to double block with my two 4/4s. He has shock for the assault griffin. I draw and decide to scoop rather than prolong the agony.

If I don't attack on turn 4 and instead just play out a 2/1 and a second griffin rider then I think I win for sure. He can't attack for free with the looter so he can't get out Al Gore. (I think I trade my pegasus for the adept if it attacks, I definitely trade a rider for looter if it does.) I'll keep slaughter cry in hand to use on his 2/5 flyer as well. I didn't know I was going to rip a griffin, but when I did I definitely blow him out if it turns on a pair of 4/4s on turn 5.

He has removal, so I take out the riders. I decide that the looter is too big a problem and bring in the bangchuckers too. I go all the way and bring in 2 warpaint, 1 divine favor, 1 auramancer, 1 bangchucker, 1 thran golem. I take out the three griffin riders, the roc egg, the slaughter cry, and a mountain. Go big or go home!

Game 2 he has a fast start and is beating me down. I have my fireslinger which is slowly whittling him away and also have a pegasus. He plays the 2/5 on turn 5 which is again going to shut me down. On turn 6 he attacks with it, putting me down to almost dead, and plays a chasm drake. Unfortunately for him he is only at 12 and that isn't enough to deal with my 1/1 and my 2/1. End of turn I outrage the new creature, knocking him to 10. I pick him to 9. I warpaint up the pegasus and hit him down to 5. I fling the pegasus at him to 1. And then ping with the fireslinger for the last point.

Game 3 I stall on lands which is pretty bad for me since I also draw a lot of my expensive stuff. The only thing keeping me alive is my griffin sentinel enchanted with warpaint. He has his 2/5 flyer again along with a 2/4 ground dude so we're actually playing a long game without much attacking. I do have fireslinger again who is slowly killing my opponent. He eventually plays out TWO solemn simulacrums and then a jace's archivist. I'm still stuck on 3 land with a full hand so the archivist is probably going to end the game in his favour... But I draw a 2nd mountain on my turn and kill it with an outrage. He ends up bouncing my griffin to get rid of the warpaint but I get my serra out and draw my second warpaint. That's enough to attack through the 2/5 flyer and I have fling to finish it but I'm worried his last card is a counterspell so I just wait and attack for the win the next turn.

4-0 matches, 8-1 games. My deck worked exactly as I was hoping it would. Play some cheap dudes, beat my opponent up, use outrage to blow the game out. Prizes ended up being store credit divided evenly among anyone who went 3-1 or better so there was no monetary benefit for going 4-0. I did get more planeswalker points though! I also got an FNM foil for being 1st overall. Only having 25 people meant 2 participation points so I got a total of 42 points. I wonder if that could possibly be enough... Only being 4 rounds, being small, and not having a top 8 could be too much to overcome...

Friday, September 09, 2011

Planeswalker Points: Examples

I got two comments to yesterday's post which both said pretty much the same thing. My brother commented on Facebook that the new system pretty much destroys any chance he has of qualifying for anything on 'rating' anymore. He'd qualified for a few Nationals and a Pro Tour or two, I think, on rating a few years ago. Now that isn't an option at all. He works shift-work so he has to miss at least half of the Friday Night Magic events and they're just worth too many points. Sthenno commented that he thought the FNM multiplier was going to be a problem since it's likely to bring all the wanna-be and up-and-coming pros out of the woodwork and decasualify the experience for new players.

My gut feeling is that they're both right. FNM in particular is likely to get swarmed by people who are trying to grind out points. They're going to be there for the points, not the fun, and that will likely hurt the experience for newer players. I for one rearranged my schedule at work so I can head down to 401 for their FNM event. I'm not convinced this is something I'm willing to commit to every week for a year but it's a possibility and I definitely need to get started right away if it's going to happen. The FNM at 401 is draft so I don't even need to scramble cards for a deck or anything.

I changed my DCI password yesterday and was able to head in and check on exactly where I earned all of my lifetime points. The way you earn points was applied retroactively the same way it will be applied now so the historical information should be relevant to the current situation. I figured it could be useful to take a look at how I'd actually earned points in the past to shed some light on where points are actually going to come from.

Friday Night Magic - FNM actually only makes up 1.8% of my total points but I've actually rarely attended FNM. In fact I've played in 6 of them ever. 2 were in Moncton, 1 was in Toronto, 3 were in Waterloo. I actually earned the most participation points out in Moncton which was a bit of a surprise. Both of the ones there got enough people to be worth 2 points just for showing up. 2 of the 3 from Waterloo and the 1 in Toronto were only worth 1 participation point. I imagine this is because there was one place to go for FNM in Moncton and there are several in Waterloo and Toronto so the players end up more spread out in the bigger cities. Pretty much all of these were 10 years ago though... I went 4-1 in one of them for a whopping 42 PWPs but mostly I was sub-500 and only getting around 20. I think if I actually cared I could likely expect to pull off a 3-2 record every week on average, and assuming 2 participation points that would get me 1716 FNM points across a year and 572 in a 4-month block.

Random Events - I'm lumping all x1 events in this chunk. For the most part these were sealeds or drafts held at prereleases. One was a grinder for Nats. These end up being worth not very much at all since they tend to small numbers of entries and rounds. 8-man drafts seemed like a great source of potential points (you could probably play 6 of them per day at Nationals if you weren't in the main event) but the most you can earn is 10 and a full half of the players will only get a single point. The most I ever earned from a random event was 17 when I went 4-0-1 in a 91 player prerelease sealed.

Regionals - One of the times I qualified for Nationals came when I made the semis at a Regionals event. I went 5-0-2 in the swiss and then 1-1 in the playoffs for a total of 6-1-2 and 120 points. This actually wasn't my most points earned at a Regionals since the year before I managed to turn my 0-2:pool start into a 7-2 finish. There were 233 people at the Regionals in Ontario compared to the 73 in New Brunswick (I flew out to 'visit family' and qualify for Nationals in a much smaller event) which was worth an extra 1 participation point. But with the 5x multiplier that was 5 more points and I also got 5 extra points from 1 win vs 2 ties for a total of 130 points. Even in my Turkish Prison Regionals I went 2-5 for 50 points.

Provincial Champs - I only played in these once, when they were 2-headed giant sealed. I teamed up with Jer and we managed a 4-3 finish with terrible cards. That was worth a mere 32 points. (2x multiplier)

Grand Prix Trial - These also seem to have a 3x multiplier like FNM. I've somehow only played in two GPTs in my life. I won one of them (3-2 followed by 3-0) for 60 points. I went 4-2 in the other, failed to make top 8 on breakers, but still got 45 points for my time. Even more than playing in FNM every week it seems like finding GPTs will be key. They have the same multiplier but attract more players and have more rounds.

Grand Prix - These are HUGE! I've played in 7 GPs in my life with very mixed results. I managed to go 0-1 drop at a GP in Montreal in 2001. That was worth 48 points. Just showing up and failing to win anything at all was better than my best FNM. The biggest GP I played in was in Toronto last year. It had 1361 players and was worth a full 64 points just for showing up. Looking at the breakdown for this event also reveals something interesting... I had a bye (from rating) and that bye counts as a win for points. 24 more points just for having a bye. So I could have signed up and dropped after round 1 and pulled in 88 points for my bus fare. I actually did a good deal better than that and ended the day at 6-3. I needed one more win to make day 2, but it was still worth 208 points. Yes, playing in one GP and not even making day 2 would be better than going 3-2 in a month and a half of FNMs. My total GP point earnings were {48, 120, 128, 160, 208, 248, 256}. The 256 is from when Jer, Adam, and I went 8-2-1 and came 8th in Pittsburgh. The 248 was a mediocre finish in a block constructed GP where I made day 2. (Boosted by the 3 byes I earned at the GPT I won!) I finished 8-6 for 248 points.

Pro Tour Qualifier - These make up the biggest chunk of my points and come in at almost 30% of my lifetime total. I've played in 29 of these, again with varying degrees of success. My lowest total comes from a PTQ in Moncton where I went 0-1 drop for a total of 15 points. It was sealed, my deck was bad, and I was sitting on my rating. Excluding those events where I dropped after 3 or fewer rounds to protect my rating I ended up with an average of 77 points. Winning even just 3 rounds was worth 60 or 65 points. On 5 occasions I got over 100 points out of a PTQ. In each case I'd made top 8. {5-1-2 for 105 points, 6-2-0 for 105 points, 6-1-1 for 110 points, 7-1-1 for 125 points, 7-1-1 for 125 points} If you're trying to grind up points for something it stands to reason that hitting all the PTQs you can is important.

Pro Tour - The most important things in terms of getting points. It took 29 PTQs to make up 30% of my points. 5 PTs make up 17% and I've never done well enough to make money. My lowest total from a PT is 144 points when I Blame Bung managed a dismal 2-4 record. Twice I managed a mediocre 3-3 record for 180 points. (In Kobe I even managed to start 0-3 and then got a 36 point bye.) My better totals were 324 from a 7-4 record with I Blame Bung and 336 points with a 7-6-1 record on my own. Making day 2 of a PT and doing merely ok is worth pretty much the same amount as 3 months of FNMing.

Nationals Grinder - For some reason the first grinder I played was treated as a random 1x event. The second grinder I played a few years later was a 5x event. And when you're talking about byes being worth weird points these things are single elimination brackets so they held one round with a few people to cut to a power of 2. This event in particular had 66 entrants so they actually gave out 62 byes in the first round. I forget the reason why (maybe someone dropped) but I actually ended up with a round 2 bye as well. 3 real rounds later and I was qualified for Nationals. I'd also 'earned' 95 points. 20 just for showing up, 15 for each bye and 15 for each real win!

Nationals - Talk about your cash cow! You're guaranteed at least 12 rounds just for showing up and with an 8x multiplier you're in for some real loving. In earlier years they hadn't figured out mixed events yet so they actually registered Nationals as 3 different tournaments. One tournament for the first 3 rounds of standard, one tournament for the next 6 rounds of draft, and one tournament for the last 3 rounds of standard. This meant three times the participation bonus! 88 points one year just for showing up. This year showing up was only worth 40 points. My lowest value from Nationals was 176 from a 5-5-1 record. My highest was 264 from a 7-4-1 record though that was also the year with the 88 participation points. Cutting those away my real highest was 248 from a 9-4 record.

What does that all mean? Well, hitting all the FNMs is a good start (and needed if you want to make it to the FNM Championship) but it's not going to be nearly enough. In many of the above events I'd dropped before the end result which cost me points but there's now no reason to do so. I don't have a rating to protect and in fact I have a lot to gain by just winning rounds. One of my best point results came from a Regionals where I started 0-2 and had no chance to make top 8. I ended up 16th after rattling off 7 straight wins but in terms of points earned those 7 wins were just as valuable as any other 7 wins. More even, since it was a 5x event!

Yesterday I was thinking hitting random events around town every day was going to be important. I'm now not as sure. Traveling to a GP seems like a much bigger deal. One GP is probably going to be worth 3 weeks worth of random events. Of course if you're already hitting all the GPs then adding on random events is only going to help your cause. (I now wonder what multiplier the big SCG events are going to have...)

Needing a high number of points to get free byes at GPs and then having those free byes turn into free points in the next season seems a little crazy. It really feels like someone who is just grinding out the GPs is going to get a decent boost out of that. Of course I can understand why they'd want to give a boost to the people traveling all over the place to their GP events so it doesn't seem terrible.

I worry that a lot of the free invites they're going to be giving out are going to go to people who won PTQs in the previous season. Doing well at a PTQ is worth a lot of points. Just going to that PT is worth a lot of points. A lot of points that someone who didn't qualify for the event simply can't get... But on the other hand that's pretty much how my brother got his rating high enough to qualify for things. Some low rated scrub who manages to go 7-6-1 at a PT (like I did in 2000) actually got an insane boost in rating and that boost carried over for more than just 4 months. If I didn't go to LA that year and do as well as I did then I probably don't qualify for 5 of the Nationals I've played in! My rating going into the PTQ I won was 1648. It was 1889 after the PT. Maybe it would have caught up anyway but LA was a definitely boost.

(Looking at it now I actually went up a lot at Nationals this year. I started at 1939 and ended at 2009. It's a shame rating won't mean anything anymore since I'm up to 23rd in Canada.)

Living in an area without access to high multiplier events like PTQs and GPTs is going to be a real detriment. I don't think they get PTQs out in the maritimes anymore so I doubt we'll see anyone from out there qualify for Nationals going forward except for via Regionals...

I have also heard that some stores can run more than one FNM each week. Some stores do a full top 8 and others just award prizes after X rounds. I think 401 only runs one FNM and doesn't do a top 8 which may actually mean I can't qualify for the FNM Championship playing at their store. I figure it will be worth seeing the results after they get posted up to see where I'd stand if I'd gone undefeated today and...

I am also curious to see if FNM attendance sees a huge spike this week. And if that growth is going to be sustainable or not.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Planeswalker Points

Earlier this week Wizards implemented a massive change to their sanctioned play rating system. They'd established the old system, I believe, 15 years ago. They've been tinkering with it recently but I guess it became clear to them that it simply wasn't accomplishing what they now wanted it to accomplish.

The old system was a standard ELO system like they use in chess. Each player has a rating and when two players face each other you can work out the odds of each player winning. Then after the match you see what actually happened and adjust each player's rating accordingly. The winner would always trend upwards but if he as expected to win the gain would be smaller than if he pulled off an 'upset'. The loser would always loss the opposite amount which kept the system zero-sum.

The system works really well for chess which is entirely skill based and where working out the odds of success seems like something that could actually be done reasonably. With Magic it doesn't really work that way. Over the long run the randomness would even out but the problem was your rating could swing wildly one way or the other with a particularly lucky or unlucky event. There was just too much volatility involved to make ratings a true indicator of skill the way it can be in chess.

Another issue with the old system is the way event invitations and byes were handled. I kept getting invited to Nationals based on rating year after year because my rating ended up being pretty high when I pretty much stopped playing Magic 6 years ago. Maybe my rating is where it should be and I deserved to be considered one of the top players in Canada still. More likely my true rating should have been substantially lower but it never got a chance to fall since I didn't play anymore. I'd like to think if I still played a lot and put in a lot of practice that I could be a top player but realistically World of Warcraft took that away.

Even if I had been playing a lot of Magic (on Magic Online, say, or just testing constructed with a team) I wouldn't have wanted to play in events. I was close to the Nationals invite mark as it was (tied for last place invitation in 2011, 2009, and 2007 I think?) and couldn't afford to lose even a single rating point. Playing random sanctioned matches simply couldn't help and could really hurt a lot. It was a high risk, low reward scenario. Maybe playing in a PTQ would be worth the risk, but maybe not. Certainly something like FNM or a random GP trial would be right out.

The new system is designed to deal with both of those problems. It no longer even claims to measure player skill, instead tracking participation as a primary factor. You can no longer lose anything by playing a match against anyone at all. How did they do this?

Each event type gets assigned a multiplier (x1 for a prerelease, x3 for FNM, x8 for Nationals, x12 for the Pro Tour, etc...) and then you earn 3 times the multiplier for each win and 1 times the multiplier for each draw. You also get some extra points just for showing up based on the number of entrants. You can't lose points in any way, shape, or form other than when a season resets (at which point everyone loses everything).

It doesn't matter how much better I may be than Joe Schmoe. As long as he actually shows up and plays in tournaments he's going to have more points than I do if I just sit at home and play WoW. If I want to get points I need to actually go out and play too. (And then presumably I'll earn more than he does since I'll get more winning points to go with the participating points.) Not playing to sit on your rating is a thing of the past for sure!

How does qualifying for events go now? What do I need to do to make sure I can keep getting invited to Nationals? It turns out they're making a few different buckets for these points.

You have a lifetime total which gets accumulated over your entire career. It's retroactive and will include all forms of sanctioned play. It will even include casual pick-up games if you bother to get them reported in. Want some points? Have some! They're free! They also don't seem to do anything at all except make a number bigger. (I'm level 38 out of a maximum of 50!)

You have a competitive total which gets reset every 4 months. Everything you play in except casual matches and Worlds contributes to this number. After the 4 months are up they lock in the totals, use those to hand out invitations and byes to any Pro Tours, Grand Prix, or Nationals in the next 4 months, and then wipe the slate clean. For the PT they give the top 5 uninvited finishers in each region an invite and flight, and then they give the top 65 uninvited finishers in the world an invite and flight. You can also get an invite by winning a PTQ, having a high Pro Club level, or by being in the Hall of Fame. Grand Prix byes are simpler. Top 300 in the world get 3 byes. Top 2000 get 2 byes. Top 15000 get 1 bye. Nationals invitation rules are actually not yet determined, but will care about the season which takes place from Dec 26th, 2011 to Apr 1st, 2012. (Which is actually not 4 months... I guess the seasons run 4 months, 3 months, 5 months?)

You have a Friday Night Magic total which seems to reset once a year. Only points earned at FNM go in this bucket. Wizards is going to hold an FNM championship for 100 people based on this point total (top 48 from North America) which I believe comes with a flight to wherever they end up holding it which seems pretty neat.

You have a professional total which only counts points earned at PT, GP, and Worlds. It resets once a year and is used solely to invite players to Worlds. Exactly how that works has yet to be determined just like the Nationals info.

How does this impact me and qualifying for Nationals? Well, it seems like if I want to play in Nationals again I need to start playing Magic 8 months before the event instead of 2 weeks before the event. This certainly will cause me to be better prepared for the constructed portion! I also like how you get a free flight if you qualify for the Pro Tour on planeswalker points. It certainly makes me want to at least look into when different events are held in the Toronto area. It's entirely possible I could find some sort of tournament after work each day which seems like it would give quite an advantage to someone living in a big city. Though I suppose a smaller town could just have one store run an event every day if there was demand for it. The multiplier on a random sanctioned tournament is low (x1) but it could really add up.

I really like the look of the cards being spoiled for the new set. Maybe I'll play some Magic this season and see what kind of numbers get put up...

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Damage Formula?

People on the message boards keep coming up with guesses as to what the damage formula is in Galaxy Legion. I care what the formula is because I want to be able to establish precisely what will happen when I add on specific amounts of extra attack. When, if ever, will it be better for leveling to spend my rank points on tactical officers instead of engineers, for example. Or exactly what impact switching to the Konqul or Drannik races will have.

The developer gave a hint early on that the formula wasn't just simple subtraction or anything and used a combination of a tanh function, a random factor, and the size of the ship being attacked. People have narrowed the likely formula down to the following:

dam = tanh(A*R/(5*D))*C

A = attacker's attack stat
R = some random factor
D = defender's defense stat
C = damage cap (2.5*rank for NPCs, MAX(decks/2, rank+19) for PCs)

It's not clear what the random factor is, or even where it should be in the formula. I've tracked 1180 shots against NPCs and it looks like R varies between .6 and 1.66 or so, with a single weird outlier at 2.1. Scan doesn't seem to impact the damage done to NPCs at all. It averages right around 1.01 and occurs more often around that point. Is is a sine wave? A normal distribution? I don't know!

What I care about most is how changing A changes the damage done. The random factor can be considered as a constant here since as far as I know it is fixed on any individual shot.

d/dA(dam) = d/dA(tanh(A*R/(5*D))*C) = C*R/(5*D)*sech^2(A*R/(5*D))

sech is a function that varies from 0 to 1. All of A, R, and D are positive so sech^2(A*R/5*D) is going to be strictly decreasing and is going to come awfully close to 0 when AR/5D gets into the 4-5 range.

As an example lets take a look at a typical NPC boss that seems to be cropping up a lot recently: lazuli fabrication plant. This guy has 2500 defense, a damage cap of 775, and 45000 health. 3 people can get rewards for him so I tend to do around 15000 damage to him. My buffed attack is 3678. Plugging this stuff into the formula above gets us:

d/dA(dam) = 775*R/(5*2500)*sech^2(3678*R/(5*2500))

Which for typical and extreme values of R gives us:

d/dA(dam){R=.6} = .036
d/dA(dam){R=1.01} = .057
d/dA(dam){R=1.66} = .082

dam{R=.6} = 135
dam{R=1.01} = 224
dam{R=1.66} = 351

To do my 15000 damage I need 67 'average' shots. Each shot costs 5 energy and I could, when I spend rank points, get 5 attack instead of that 5 energy. Adding 5 to my attack would increase my damage on every average shot by .285. So in order to break even on energy against this guy I would need to be taking average shots at him 786 times per level.

There are a few problems with that. For one, this boss is near optimal for adding attack, I think. He has a reasonably high defense and he has enough health that I'm less likely to get hurt by rounding issues. To explain what I mean about that, take a look at the flimsiest NPC that I can spawn, the sha'din charger. When I last attacked him (he levels as I do so things change a little) his stats were 1120 defense, 1400 health, damage cap of 815. My attack at the time was 4438. So for him...

d/dA(dam) = 815*R/(5*1120)*sech^2(4438*R/(5*1120))

Which for typical and extreme values of R gives us:

d/dA(dam){R=.6} = .070
d/dA(dam){R=1.01} = .082
d/dA(dam){R=1.66} = .061

dam{R=.6} = 361
dam{R=1.01} = 541
dam{R=1.66} = 706

I find it interesting that if I roll high on the random number roll here the impact of more attack is actually decreased. A high roll edges me closer and closer to the 4-5 range of X where sech^2x trends to 0, so even though I'm multiplying by a bigger external factor out front with the higher R it gets overshadowed by the much smaller sech^2 factor. Do note that I was Konqul at the time with a 20% bonus to my attack, and probably had used a limited attack buff as well.

I almost always killed these guys in 3 shots. On one occasion I did manage to kill one in 2 shots. But in general it feels like adding on an extra couple damage isn't going to be able to bring me down from 3 shots to 2 shots and therefore any actual 'gain' is completely wasted as overkill. I'd need to know the distribution of R to work out how many shots I could expect to save but I'm pretty confident it wouldn't ever overpower the impact of just having more energy to shoot with.

Of course I'm actually somewhere between these two extremes. I kill some chargers. I kill some boss refineries. If I was fighting exclusively bosses then going with more attack makes sense for now. But since I'm fighting a lot of lesser guys and spending an awful lot of energy on missions instead of fighting it makes sense to keep pounding away at engineers.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Third Boss: Time To Scum

I spent a good chunk of yesterday turning what I learned about the monster leveling system into an Excel spreadsheet that would help me know what to eat. I built all the transitions and monster stats into the sheet and set it up so I could input my current four monster races and the meat I could possibly eat. It then spits out what race the monsters would turn into, what tier of monsters those would be, and the change in stats. I figured this would be good enough and started wandering around fighting things and trying to do the early plot.

I made it to the first boss, a p-frog, and managed to beat him with only two deaths. Fortunately for me one of the surviving members of my party was able to eat his meat and turn into a tier 2 monster. (An oni, I believe.) The oni is substantially stronger and tougher than the rest of my party. (My red bull hits about as hard but only has 10 uses of his only attack before I have to rest in an inn which is a bit of a problem when you're killing everything you run into to see if it'll drop meat.)

I made it to the second boss, a human something, and managed to beat him with two more deaths. (If a character dies 3 times they're permanently dead which is an interesting mechanic. Interesting in that I should probably immediately re-roll those characters. Only I can't because one was my main character and it's simply game over if he dies twice... I can farm up a lot of gold to buy extra hearts, I guess, though restarting from scratch is probably faster.) He was tough, but having an oni meant I could pull it off.

I did the third castle and it didn't really have a boss. I returned to the town to cash in my quest items from each castle for what I was hoping would be a big reward. My reward turned out to be a boss fight, and I hadn't thought to rest in the inn or even save before starting the fight... I did save in the fight so I could try it a few times. The results of my tries were that he one-shots most of my team (everyone but the oni who dies in 2 or 3 hits) and my whole team combined did about 10% of his health in a round. Yeah, there's no way that math ever adds up to a kill.

I was hoping to get a chance to wander around and fool around a bit before the game decided to get hard but clearly that isn't the case. I did learn some things from yesterday's adventures though. Monsters can make no use of loot and little use of money. I can buy and use healing potions which is nice if I'm not constantly transforming. If I fought a bunch my tier 1 dudes would end up running out of attacks, especially my red bull. This makes me think I should start checking if I want to eat the meat before fighting any fights and run away if I wouldn't. This goes against my typical RPG plan of killing everything in sight but when fighting only hurts me and can't have any benefit... Probably not right to fight.

I also need to build up my guys to the highest tier I can ASAP. My spreadsheet as currently configured is only looking ahead one step each time... What am I, what will I turn into after this fight. Instead I think I need to plot out chains of progressions based off of the enemies I can currently run into in random encounters. On one try I did manage to make a slime which is tier 2 but I got wiped out shortly thereafter by an unexpected boss fight. So clearly there is a way to get to tier 2 with the random encounters that exist, I just need to figure out what that is and then farm for it.

I'm thinking a spreadsheet may be the wrong way to go. Possibly I should just write a java program to do it...