Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Japan Only Games

Yesterday I discovered that Theatrhythm is currently only slated for release in Japan. I want to include it in my marathon but it isn't available in my language or continent. It got me thinking... Are there other games on my list which were only ever released in Japan? It turns out the answer is yes. A surprising number of games (mostly from the Chocobo series) were only sold in Japan. Many of those were put out for mobile phones and weren't even on any console at all. While I can hold out hope that Theatrhythm will still get ported to the NA region there's no chance that any of those older games are going to make it.

The first time I did a Final Fantasy marathon I played just the core games in the series, but at that time FFIII had only ever been released in Japan. I played it by finding a fan translated rom for the game and playing it in an emulator. Not exactly on the up and up, I know, but I didn't really see a viable other choice. If they'd released the game over here I would have bought it for sure. (And once they did release it on the DS I did just that!)

I'm still several games away from needing to make a decision but I'm wondering if I can do the same thing with some of these more obscure games. Are there emulators for Japanese mobile phones? Did someone bother to translate Choco-Mate? How about "Dragon Quest & Final Fantasy in Itadaki Street Special" which is apparently a Monopoly spin-off! What about the 3DS? Do emulators for it exist? Can my computer run them if they do? All things to look into as I move forward!

If it turns out they aren't available I won't be too disappointed. I'm unlikely to 'finish' Final Fantasy XI, for example. I probably won't even play FFXIV at all. The Chocobo game on Facebook is not great (though I may try it again in a few months to see if they've made any improvements) so I'll probably skip it. If I end up not playing the Chocobo Dice game it really won't be the end of the world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

I was updating my list of all Final Fantasy related games yesterday and noticed a new game that's coming out in February of 2012: Theatrhythm! The name is a portmanteau of theatre and rhythm and the game appears to be a 'tap the touch screen' game in the style of Elite Beat Agents or Beatmania.

The interesting twist? All the music in the game is from the Final Fantasy series. 50+ songs, apparently! Each of the 13 core games will have at least three songs. One for battle, one for an event (like the dance scene in FFVIII), and one for the field. The following trailer shows a bunch of clips of each of the three types. Including One Winged Angel!

Now for the bad news... It's currently only slated for release in Japan. Square-Enix did trademark the name in the US so there is some hope that they'll announce an English version of the game in the future but for now my hopes were merely raised and then dashed on the rocks.

I entertained the idea of importing a copy of the game from Japan. It's a music game so I can't imagine the language of the game really mattering all that much. Unfortunately it turns out Nintendo put region locks on the 3DS. Even if I had a copy of the Japanese game I wouldn't be able to play it unless I also had a 3DS from Japan. I really want to play this game but I don't know that I want to play it so badly that buying a second 3DS makes sense. Probably I'm just going to have to be patient and hope they release it over here since it seems awesome.

Monday, November 28, 2011


I went through my drafted posts list today and found this from last November. I guess I never found a conclusion but I found it interesting upon rereading it so I'm going to try to finish it off... For reference it's talking about a day of board games that took place at Duncan's right after his kitten got spayed.

An interesting situation came up in a game of Puerto Rico on the weekend that I wanted to talk about to go over decision making in general and my dislike for Puerto Rico as a game in particular but the more I thought over the ideas in my head (I have a hard time falling asleep...) the more I decided the whole situation was just a symptom of an entirely different issue worth discussing. I turned to Google to do some background research but couldn't find anyone saying anything about it. I'm thinking it's likely I just don't know what to search for but maybe there's a void here.

What am I talking about? The term I've heard used to describe it is 'Popeing', but Google's definition of that term is not what I'm talking about. (While intriguing it is not the sort of thing I want to see happen with the Puerto Rico players...) It's the act of saying things while playing a game in an attempt to convince your opponents that someone else is winning. The goal is to convince the other players to take actions to restrict that opponent instead of actions to restrict you thereby increasing the odds you'll win the game.

The primary example, to me, is Settlers of Catan.Watch a game of Settlers and wait for someone to roll a 7. If you play with people who are anything like the people I play games with you should immediately hear three people point out the 'obvious' hex on which to place the robber. You'll also notice that none of those three people pointed to a hex adjacent to their own settlements. (And, as a result, the three 'obvious' hexes are at least two and sometimes three distinct hexes.) If you're playing with really aggressive people here they'll even bribe you to take their suggestion. "I'll give you a sheep if you don't hit me." "I won't use my soldier to put it back on your land if you hit Sky." etc...

Why did people pick the hexes they did?

Well, some people just want to increase their own position in an absolute sense and therefore just want you to hit anybody that isn't them. Maybe they're trying to protect the only brick card in their hand and bribing you with extra sheep will further their position. Maybe they desperately need wheat and don't want the robber on their wheat square. Maybe they just don't like getting attacked.

Others will try to work out who's currently leading and want you to hit them to bring them back to the pack. Deny them a card from hand and a good production square and maybe there's time for the rest of you to catch up.

Some will try to figure who's their biggest competition and campaign to hurt them. This is similar to above in terms of the actual pitch but the reasoning behind them is different and it can be hard to distinguish between the two at the table. (Do I want you to hit Sky because if you don't he's going to win or do I want you to hit Sky because if you do I will win... My pitch is the same either way but in the first case you actually may want to hit Sky and in the second you actually probably should hit me.)

Some just bring outside grudges into the game. (Sky drank the last Coke so I want to punish him.)

Maybe someone in your group just wins a lot so you want to hit them so they don't win this time. (Robb is winning! Let's get him!)

Sometimes people even try to look at things objectively from your point of view. Yeah, I'm winning, you really should hit me. More likely if we're preparing for a tournament of some kind but sometimes just the beauty of a perfectly played game is more important than winning by any means.

Personally I like to talk a fair bit during games because I like to learn how to play games better and part of that is finding out why other people are doing what they're doing. If I make a suggestion that I think is right and it gets justifiably shot down then I can use that information to potentially revise what I think is right in the future. I want to win too, and mostly I want to win against optimal opponent play and not because they threw me the game, but I do get sucked into Popeing for the sake of winning sometimes. (Which, admittedly, can make it hard for people to work out my motivations at any given time.) When I make helpful suggestions I do try to point out if it's also very good for me to do it, though with destructive suggestions that's less likely. (For example, at the start of our Le Havre game I mentioned a plan I saw used at WBC that seemed to work ok, but I mentioned it after I had already set up to take advantage of it myself if someone did it. Aidan took that plan but I did point out it was good for me too if he did it, as I got to build the marketplace with wood since he took bucks and didn't buy it.)

The important thing to consider though is what does Popeing actually accomplish? If you're playing with new or impressionable players then often a game will come down to who Popes more. Stay silent in a game of Settlers with 2 new players and a shark and you'll lose practically every time. They'll get lopsided trades and you won't since they'll butt in with helpful advice to torpedo your scams but will succeed in their own scams if you're silent. The robber will live on your land. They'll build to the hexes you want. You'll need some pretty good dice to overcome those sorts of handicaps.

If you're playing a game with experts then it mostly just adds noise and length to the game. Assuming everyone is Popeing non-stop then chances are the optimal move will get iterated over and you just need to find brain time to spend on finding it and filtering out the other comments.

But if you're playing a game with experts and some people Pope and some don't the Popers still get an advantage. Now on your turn you have as options to consider all moves you thought up yourself and all moves that hurt Sky. If Sky isn't Popeing back then sometimes you'll fail to consider the move that hurts me but you'll never fail to consider the move that hurts Sky. This has to put Sky at a disadvantage compared to me unless you're perfect at iterating all your possible moves or vindictively attack the Poper. (And if your goal is winning you're not likely to do that!)

Now, I don't remember all the details of the games last year but I distinctly remember we played a 4 player game of Puerto Rico. Sky and I both got off to an early lead (maybe we bought the harbors?) and immediately started pointing fingers at each other. Duncan looked like he had a decent building strategy going on and Pounder was saying he'd already lost. His position certainly looked pretty bad. But then as the game progressed we stopped considering how our moves would affect Pounder. One particular example involved the trading house having 3 goods in it. Either Sky or myself could have solo-sold something cheap but doing so wasn't going to hurt the other one. So Pounder got to solo-sell coffee. Needless to say, Pounder ended up winning the game handily.

Which is why I don't like playing Puerto Rico very much. The game is all about benefiting from the actions other people take. When Popeing plays a major role in the game everything changes. It turns into a game of convincing the other players to vote you the winner.

Three years ago I won the WBC Puerto Rico tournament. There wasn't any Popeing in any of the games except for the final. All of my elimination games were very close and all came down to one of the players choosing who was going to win on the final turn. My opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals didn't try to sway the play in their favour, and neither did I. In both cases I remember looking at the opponent and shrugging as we waited for another player to pick the winner. The finals was a little different. There was one instance of Popeing, and it was actually from a player directed at himself. He managed to convince himself that I was winning and that he should take a move that was really bad for himself in order to hurt me. It turns out if he just takes his best play he wins the game! But denying me my best move (and letting me take my second best move) was enough for me to make up the gap.

Two years ago I also played in the PR tournament and came (tied for) last in all my games. I don't think I played particularly worse in those games but the opponents sat down with the advance knowledge that I'd won the year before. I really dislike Popeing with strangers so I once again didn't take part but the other players were all over making sure I couldn't do anything. One game I started off well with an early coffee and the other players conspired to give another player the money to build coffee, called settler so he could get a coffee plantation, mayored to turn it on, and crafted a second time so he could have coffee to sell before I could.

I liked the game when it was about finding the best action to take for your self. I liked it when it was about setting up to take advantage of other people's best actions. I hate it when it's all about convincing other people to do what you want with words.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dissidia: Final Fantasy Intro

One of interesting aspects of running Final Fantasy music playlists is I sometimes come across music I haven't heard before because it's from a game I haven't played. This clip started with some speech which got me curious enough to alt-tab over to Chrome and check out the video in Youtube. Apparently it's the intro to the Dissidia Final Fantasy game that came out in 2009. I don't know much about it except it pits one hero from each of the main Final Fantasy games against the end bosses of the games. It's a PSP game and this video is the first thing that has ever made me want to own a PSP...

Check this video out. I love the little onion knight dude from FFIII. My favourite part though is probably Squall dueling with Sephiroth. I was actually yelling at the screen when it looked like Terra was going into a morph animation but I think it was just spells landing near her.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Innistrad Draft 2

Typically when I'm going to do a draft write-up I decide before the draft that I'm going to do one. I don't draft any differently than I normally would but the idea is to not cherry pick drafts that make me look good or which seem interesting. Sometimes drafts are just normal things where I lose in the first round and I want to show them too.

This draft is not one of those. Matt commented on yesterday's draft that he thought the deck was fun and full of powerful cards. At the time he made that comment I was in the middle of another draft that had a deck that was even more fun and had way more powerful cards. It had some really crazy plays so I figured I'd write it up for today. At one point my opponent complained that my first 3 spells were rares and told me to stop playing rares. I told him I still had more to come. (I had 2 more in hand at the time and topdecked another the next turn.)

Buckle up and enjoy the wild ride!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Innistrad Draft 1

Magic Online is running three PTQs for Honolulu this weekend. One Friday, one Saturday, one Sunday. I managed to sleep through the start of the Friday one but I'm going to give the Saturday one a shot. I figured I should play a bit with the interface and such, so I did a draft today. Here's what happened! (This was a 4-3-2-2 draft, for reference.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: The Good!

Most of my posts about Final Fantasy Legend II have been rather negative thus far. You might get the impression that I hate the game, and I would understand thinking that way, but I really don't. It has some good parts to it and some bad parts to it and I've mostly felt like discussing the bad parts. Today, let's talk good stuff.

I really enjoy combat with mutants. My mutant right now has the following possible actions:
  • Cast a big damage spell that hits all the enemies. (15 times between rests.)
  • Cast a big damage spell that hits one group of enemies. (15 times between rests.)
  • Cast a bid damage spell that hits one group of enemies with a different element. (15 times between rests.)
  • Attack for mediocre damage with a weapon that breaks after 50 uses total.
Depending on how many fights I'm going to do between rests I need to spend some time on anemic beatdown but it turns out that's ok. FFLII uses the same sort of idea behind gaining stats as FFII did only it seems to be actually random here instead of terribly abusive in FFII. The mediocre weapon I'm using is agility based, so if I attack with it I have a chance to gain an agility stat. (Casting a spell gives a chance to gain a mana stat.) Agility is used for all sorts of things and I want to level it up so I'm pretty happy spending the easier random encounters swinging.

The random encounters are really unbalanced in terms of difficulty. Sometimes I fight one dude. Sometimes I fight three groups of three dudes. This could be terrible, but just getting into fights can proc stat ups for my human and mutant so I don't mind the small fights. My robots are built pretty much full on defense so I don't die to the 9-pulls, my mutant can kill most of them with one spell, and I get a lot of gold to spend on powering up my robots so I don't mind the big fights either.

The story is interesting thus far. It's still not clear why I'm doing what I'm doing other than I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps and gather magi. The game uses the same world make-up as the original FFL with a tower in the middle connecting a series of very different worlds. It's a neat way to make sense of having a desert dungeon, and a water dungeon, and a giant town, and so on. Often in games like this they're all crammed onto the same world and it doesn't really make a lot of sense but I find it works here. (The random barriers preventing entry to the next world until I get enough magi don't make sense... How can anyone else advance between worlds when you need every single magi on the planet to open the door? I have it all!)

I fixed my sound problem by muting the emulator entirely. I now run a youtube playlist of music from a different Final Fantasy game while I'm playing.

I like that it has three saved game slots. Now that I've hooked an xBox 360 controller up to my laptop and use it to control the game it's annoying to use the emulator save states function. I can save everywhere that isn't in a fight do so I don't feel the need to save state at all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: Consumables

Lots of games have consumable items in them. Final Fantasy III actually had a really wide variety of consumable items in it. You had items you could use in combat to cast an attack spell on an enemy. You had items you could use in combat to cast a buff spell on yourself. Bows permanently used arrows. If you had a ninja you could turn all of your weapons into consumable attack spells. Then you had the standard suite of restorative items. Potions to restore health. Antidotes to cure poison. Eyedrops for blind. There were individual items to cure stone, cursed, mini, and frog. There were elixirs to restore health and mana. Phoenix downs to bring people back to life. Some of these items could be purchased in town but most you had to find in treasure chests and there were a limited number of them in the game.

I hated it! Having a limited number of phoenix downs put a lot of pressure on me to not lose people in combat in the early game since I was only going to be able to bring them back to life 43 times over the course of the entire game. (Well, eventually you learn a raise spell so you only need to burn a phoenix down on the healer or in a rough boss fight.) I used a few of the attack spell items on the first couple bosses (until I was able to change jobs) and I used a bunch of buff items on the final boss fight but for the most part they went completely unused. Why? Because maybe there was going to be a better time to use them later! If I could find a way to win without using them I should do that instead of using up a permanently limited resource.

As another example, Rikku from Final Fantasy X should have been my favourite character. I've always loved thieves and she had the steal command. She plays with machines. She's hot. And yet I never really put her in my party. Why? Because her ultimate revolved around using consumables. In many cases mix was stupidly overpowered but I didn't want to use it because it might 'waste' precious consumable resources. (And besides, Khimari needed experience.)

Final Fantasy Legend II is unfortunately annoying me in a similar way. Practically everything a human can do is consumable! With monsters I had a limited number of uses for each ability but if I rested in an inn they all came back. With robots I can equip items which have their number of uses halved but then get refreshed when I rest in an inn. My mutant can learn abilities and they come back when I rest just like monsters abilities did. But if I use weapons, spellbooks, or shields on either the human or the mutant the use is permanent. I was so annoyed when I found out that sleeping in the inn didn't refresh the number of uses on my cure spell.

Ok, fine... I should just buy lots of spare weapons and spells then. Unfortunately both gold and inventory space are very limited. I have 2 robots in my party and they aren't equipped in the best stuff I can buy from the store so I can turn cash into power there.

I don't know... I feel like if I just had to pay to repair my weapons when I slept at the inn I'd be happier. Then I wouldn't have to micromanage my inventory to make sure I had enough swords to keep fighting. I know this would remove the limited use nature of loot found in dungeons so it would be a power level change to the game but I'm pretty sure I'd be ok with that. (You could also assign a huge repair cost to end game loot.)

At one point I had to go back down to the starting world in order to save an NPC friend. And then my good sword broke. I could buy a new one from the item shop... On the previous world. If I wanted to buy something from my current world I had to downgrade. Now, my character ended up still killing enemies in one attack with the worse sword so it wasn't actually a big deal but it was a little annoying.

I have found one way to cheese the system a little. If I wear a sword down to almost broken I can then equip it on one of my robots. Then when I sleep in the inn it gets restored! The designers of the game thought of this and added in a penalty to make this hurt a little... When your robot unequips an item it immediately loses half of its current uses. Coupled with the fact that the number of maximum uses is cut in half when the robot puts it on and you're only able to recharge an item to 25% of its normal base. 12 uses of my good sword is better than nothing though, so I've been doing it. And feeling a little dirty in the process.

The only exception to the whole halving thing is with martial arts attacks which actually get more powerful the fewer charges remain on them. (My first thought was to have a robot put on and take off a punch to power it up for my human but it turns out that doesn't work.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pie Rule

I just read the rules for a new (to me) game on Yucata: ConHex. The game itself looks to be an interesting 2-player abstract game but what really caught my eye was the rule they use to start the game. They call it the pie rule because it's how you get siblings to split a piece of cake and I guess cake and pie are synonymous.

The first player makes whatever move he wants. (Typically in an abstract game going first is a big advantage. Think tic-tac-toe and the middle square if that game wasn't a guaranteed draw.) Then the second player can either take a normal turn or he can remove the first player's piece and replace it with his own.

There may still be an advantage to going first (or to going second) so there's still some 'luck of the draw' going on but assuming both players know what they're doing that advantage is going to be minimized. The guy going first can't risk taking the 'best' spot since he'll just end up giving it to his opponent. It depends on the specific game but it's entirely possible that he can't risk taking the 'worst' spot either since it may be a negative EV play and his opponent will just let him keep it. So ideally he's going to find a move as close to even as possible...

If the game has a full spectrum of plays from good to bad then it also adds in predicting how likely your opponent is to swap. If you think he'll swap more often than he should then you can pick a worse starting spot expecting him to switch in. If you think he'll swap less often than he should then you can carve out a better starting position for yourself.

Even if it doesn't, and any opening move is good, there's still going to be a worst spot and you can force your opponent to swap into it. This at least helps deal with an unbalanced starting position!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Art of War

If you're like me you've thought about what your life would be like if you were born in another time. Clearly they didn't have VBA scripts to write in 500 BC, after all, so I'd have to have some other way to make a living. Would I be a farmer? A miscellaneous grunt in some army? Would I die of malnutrition at a young age? Would, as my name suggests, I be the page for some gallant knight? (With my luck I'd probably be the guy in charge of knocking the coconuts against each other.)

I just finished reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War (yay free books on the Kobo!) and I now know what I should be if I'm transplanted way back in time... A military strategist! I'm sure it's just a result of playing so many board and video wargames but the themes discussed in the book just made complete sense. Information is powerful. Spreading misinformation is really powerful. Make sure you have a food plan. Be nice with the people you conquered. Letting a dragon get into the volcano means you lose. High ground is awesome. Flooding the enemy out is hard. Setting stuff on fire is scary. Your boss can set the overall goals but you have complete control of what your men do. There is such thing as acceptable losses.

Ok, that dragon part is just from Titan and not from the book. 

The book actually reminded me a lot of the game Romance of the Three Kingdoms III for the SNES. I didn't own the game, but I rented it probably a dozen times. An interesting aspect of that game was that you had individual saved games (which would generally be saved over by the time I re-rented it) but you also had an overall metagame where you could build leaders and they carried over between games. So each time I would rent the game I'd add more and more people to this overall pool of dudes who would show up randomly in games. I like the idea that some guy who rented the game could have Nick Page show up to his empire and ask for a job.

In the game you started from an individual city and built up an army under a few leaders who had their own strengths and weaknesses. You had to keep the people of your city happy while at the same time making them pay you taxes in gold and food. Then you could go out invading in a series of tactical battles. One of the coolest parts was one of your leaders could challenge another leader to a single combat duel in combat as his action instead of making a normal attack. If they declined then their army lost some morale and might run away. If they accepted then maybe one of you would die. Often you'd just wound them and the enemy side would lose all the units under his control. Then at the end of the fight you could try to recruit him (and his units) to join your team. 

Maybe you let him keep his units and fight the next battle with him... And then maybe he switches loyalties and goes back to the other team! Alternatively you could send a leader off as a spy to join another empire... if you ended up in a fight with that empire, and they were using your leader... He could switch sides! Very 'Art of War'esque.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: Music

Over the last week I've been on a bit of a Final Fantasy music kick. I spent Wednesday listening to stuff from Final Fantasy VIII, Thursday on stuff from Final Fantasy VI, and Friday from stuff from Final Fantasy VII. It's all great music! I could listen to One Winged Angel on repeat forever without getting bored.

The music from Final Fantasy VI is probably the best total collection of music from a video game. Every character/town has their own music and hearing any of those songs again immediately evoked memories of the game. I _really_ want to play that game again after listening to the music.

I wish I could say the same about the music in Final Fantasy Legend II, but I can't. I actually find when I'm playing that I need to take my headphones off lest I get a headache from the music. I don't know if it's because the music itself is lower quality, or if it's because the Gameboy only had 4-bit sound instead of the 16-bit sound on the SNES. Maybe the emulator I'm using is screwing with it in some way. But it's coming across as being very tinny and annoying instead of awesome like I'm used to which is keeping me from just sitting down and playing the game for a long period of time at once.

One nice thing I noticed today while I was playing is it comes through in stereo with different sounds playing in each ear.

Here's a sample of the music, this from inside the tower that bridges the gap between different worlds.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

League of Legends: Getting Better?

I was watching some of the games on MLG today and chatting with Robb about them. Nasus (the hero I've been playing a lot recently) was featured in one of the games on the winning team and Robb asked me how long it takes me to farm my Q ability up to +300 damage. (Each time you kill something with the ability it gains a permanent 3 damage for the rest of the game.) I said I didn't know and Robb said it would be a good way to compare with the pros and measure improvement.

Now, it turns out I'd recently downloaded a program called LoLReplay. League of Legends by default doesn't save your games to allow you to replay them but this program runs in the background while you play recording things and then lets you replay them. I hadn't actually replayed any games but I'd been saving them just in case I wanted to look at them later. And now I do!

20 minutes in - 94 creep kills, +189 on Q
game end - 35:32 minutes, 136 creep kills, +273 on Q

Now the game we were watched at MLG had 3 players on each team around 150 creep kills at the 20 minute mark. So I was running at about 60% of a good player in terms of creep kills. I don't know about Q levels since there was no Nasus in that game and there's no way to check unless the observers in the game make a point of checking. They did once during the one game with a Nasus but it isn't up on VOD yet so I can't replay it to check. I think he was at +432 about 40 minutes in?

At any rate, I now have something specific to work on. I'm going to play games as Nasus, record them, and then check on my CS and Q values to try to get better. In the short term focusing on that one thing may well make me worse but it should be a long term gain, I hope!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Vendoring Scanners vs Rebuying

I recently capped out my first research tree in Galaxy Legion. I now have access to the top tier (and very expensive) scanning module. I spent a week saving up the cash to build them and went on a scanning spree today. I found a handful of good planets but not nearly enough to satisfy my need for more stuff. I'm going to have to scan again once I collect enough star chart purgers...

Up to this point I've always vendored my scanners as soon as I finished a scanning run for a few reasons...

  • I'm not terribly patient (though I am more patient than Andrew) and am typically broke after buying the scanners. I'd have found a bunch of new planets and want to colonize them and selling the scanners would give cash to immediately get an extra planet or two.
  • I was very unlikely to scan again until after researching even better scanners. So the current ones would be obsolete...
  • Scanners have a fairly hefty upkeep cost and storing them in my cargo hold for a long time may not be very efficient.

However, a couple things have now changed. I can't get better scanners so what I have now won't become obsolete ever. I have a 15% reduction in upkeep cost which prolongs how long I can store them without losing money in the process. Planets are starting to get pretty expensive to take and develop but I can still take probably 3 more planets right now if I sell off the scanners.

Should I keep the scanners around as an investment in the future? How often do I need to scan to make it worth storing them? What are the numbers here? (All numbers are per scanner. I can use 5 at a time so quintuple these to get the total costs.)

Initial cost - 6490M
Upkeep cost - 208M
Resell value - 2450M
Repair cost - 4900M

I currently have the scanners purchased and equipped. Going forward my options are either to sell them off right now and rebuy the next time I want to scan or I can unequip them (triggering 10% of a repair) and pay upkeep on them every day until I use them again. So next time I scan I can either pay:

initial - resell = 4040M


.1*repair + x*upkeep = 490M+208xM  (where x is number of days between scanning runs)

The breakeven point here is going to be:

4040M = 490M+208xM
x = 3550M/208M = 17.1 days

Now, you expect to get one of each artifact per day for every 4000 artifact points you make per hour. I'm a little over 8000 now, so I should be getting 2 star chart purgers per day. This means at the breakeven point I'll be able to find 34 new planets. Today I scanned up 95 new planets and only found a few that were really good so I'm probably going to want to get more than 34 planets from my next run...

So either I need to wait more than 17 days between scanning runs or I'm going to have to get more star chart purgers from the bad experience repeatable mission.

It is also important to note that if I sell off the scanners I have now I get to make immediate use of that cash. So even if I was planning on scanning again in 17 days I'm going to be better off vendoring the scanners and rebuying them.

I thought I was going to be convincing myself to hold on to these things but I've managed to do the opposite. Well, I think I may have convinced myself to do the star chart purger mission... But even if I do that I'm not going to scan again soon enough to justify holding on to the scanners. Time to vendor them!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Major League Gaming: Providence

Tomorrow marks the start of the final event of the 2011 MLG Pro Circuit season. On top of the standard Starcraft 2, Halo, and Call of Duty events they're also bringing back League of Legends. Ask and you shall receive, right? Well, turns out not so much, since they're going to be using an older patch so none of the new changes are going to be in the game. It's still going to be a dozen or so high level games which I really enjoy watching.

I was thinking about going to TabsCon this Saturday and play some board games but instead I'm going to just stay home and watch people playing video games on the internet. I have a premium account on the MLG website so I get to watch their bonus streams and everything in higher quality. It's pretty sweet, and I actually know in advance that it's happening so I should be able to start watching from the start. I really want to watch the LoL games but I'm also looking forward to the Starcraft 2 games. And I may even watch some Halo if nothing else is streaming!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

League of Legends: New Masteries

Monday brought some major changes to League of Legends. They completely revamped all three of the mastery trees and also massively tweaked the power level of most of the summoner spells. They also added a new champion and did a bunch of minor power level tweaks to existing champions. You now ban 6 champions in a draft instead of 4. In short, a lot of things have suddenly changed.

The biggest change by far is the new mastery trees. I feel like I've lived through this process a couple of times in the past with World of Warcraft. Some of the old masteries were _really_ bad and you only took them if you needed to get deeper in the tree or if you didn't really consider what it actually did. (One in particular was a 1% increase to your health and mana regen. Annie, for example, has .55 health regen per 5 seconds, so an extra 1% meant you regen one whole health every 15 minutes.) There were masteries that buffed specific summoner spells, often deep in a tree, so if you wanted to buff a specific spell you often had no real choice as far as what tree you wanted to be. Support characters who wanted to buff clairvoyance, for example, had to go full utility. The old damage tree had a lot of masteries which buffed physical attacks and not very many that buffed magic attacks so if you were a damage dealing caster you tended to avoid putting more than 9 points into the damage tree which just seemed odd.

All those problems were fixed in the revamp. Now it seems like almost every mastery has a legitimate impact on something. The new health regen mastery? A flat 1 health per 5 seconds. 180 times as good as the old mastery? Yeah, something was wrong before. They took all of the old summoner skill masteries, stuck them together, and put them at the bottom of the tree. The utility mastery now buffs teleport, clarity, flash, promote, and clairvoyance. For one point. At the first tier of the tree. So you can feel free to go into whatever tree you want and still get the buffs for your two chosen summoner spells. They added a bunch of caster masteries to the damage tree.

There are still some stinkers. They actually still have a percentage regen boost still, though it is up to 3% per point instead of 3% for 3 points. Still seems sketchy. You can snag an extra 40 experience per enemy champion kill/assist, or an extra 24 gold per enemy champion kill/assist. These seem really underwhelming. One enemy dork unit is worth 59 experience and 25 gold base (both go up as time progresses) so those masteries basically make killing a hero worse than killing a creep... But on the plus side none of these masteries are in 'must take' positions. (The old regen boost mastery was on the first tier of the tree and many heroes had to put points into it for lack of other options. 1 health every 15 minutes is better than nothing at all...)

There are also some interesting new masteries. You can do 10 extra damage to towers and you can reduce nearby tower armor by 10. These both seem like they could make games end faster by allowing for quicker pushing. There's one that increases the sight range of your wards which seems pretty sweet if you're actually good and using wards.

Overall it feels like the power level was really ratcheted up across the board. I played 5 games last night with the new stuff and it really felt like stuff was just dying faster. Except for the game where I put all my points into defense where it seemed like I was invincible. I was up over 4k health when I used to barely break 2k. I'm interested to watch some pro level games with the new stuff to see how things play out amongst people who are really good at the game.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Agricola Tournament Results

I headed down to the Snakes & Lattes Agricola tournament yesterday after work. They ended up playing 4 player games, not 5 player games, which was both good and bad. It was good in that I prefer to play 4 player games, and that the tables they have are dimensioned well for 4 players, and the games are just faster. It was bad in that we had more first round winners and fewer spots in the final.

Yesterday I mentioned that ideally I'd want the games to go fast in order to squeeze an extra round it but it turned out that really wouldn't have been feasible. I'd forgot just how slow some people can be, especially in a more casual setting. My game was the first one finished and the estimation was that there'd be another hour before the slower table would finish up. (I used that time to get a burger from Hero Burger.) S&L runs these tournaments more as a way to have fun and encourage people to show up than they do to actually determine a champion and I completely understand the logic which is why I'm not surprised or disappointed that some games are just way slower than others. But an extension of that is cramming more rounds in can't work.

They ended up with 7 tables with a cut to top 4. The idea was just to advance the top 4 scores which ended up with an interesting dilemna... The first and third best scores came from the same table. Do you advance people with wins first (with total points as tiebreaker) or do you advance people with total points first (with wins as tiebreaker)? In general I think you should advance winners and in this format for Agricola in particular I think you have to advance winners. The order of the actions and the cards dealt to each player are a big deal in terms of total points available at the table.

To makes things more complicated the 4th and 5th best scores were a tie. So if you do include the guy who came 2nd at his table you then need to break that tie in some previously undefined way. (Flip a coin? Play a 5 player final?) They ended up excluding the guy who came 2nd at his table which I think made sense.

I ended up winning my table in a fairly low scoring game. (43-41-23-21) Family growth came up at the last available time and we ate a lot of animals. And by we I mostly mean me. I ended up building up to a size 5 house pretty quickly and got family growth on turns 8, 10, and 11. I ended up scoring a lot of animal points with 8 sheep, 3 boars, and 4 cattle.

43 was the highest winning score when my game ended as we were the first game done, but after 4 games were finished I was in 4th. 53-44-44-43. The last table was the aforementioned table with the best and third best scores so I got bumped out. Oh well. I probably could have squeezed another point out somehow but it would have been easier with a different board setup!

A bunch of people started up second games of Agricola afterwards just for fun but I didn't get a spot in any of those games. Instead I learned a new game with Sara and Duncan. Kingdom Builder from the designer of Dominion. It felt like a game with a low amount of strategy where you mostly just flip up a card and make the 'obvious' choice. Not a terrible game but I wouldn't really recommend it to anyone who likes to make relevant choices as they play a game. I suppose it might actually be a decent game for older children?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Agricola Tournament

Snakes & Lattes is holding another after work tournament later today and the game of choice is going to be Agricola. This is by far the longest and most complex game they've run a tournament for thus far. (Previous tournaments have been for Dominion, Settlers, Ticket To Ride, Carcassonne, Seven Wonders, King of Tokyo, and Puerto Rico.)

I really like Agricola and will use almost any excuse to play the game so I'm certainly going but I have reservations about the tournament format. Agricola is a long game and it's not going to start until after 6 so there's really not enough time to play 3 games. So there's going to be 2 games, and there's 27 people registered so far. The game plays at most 5 to a table... How do you determine a winner?

You could play two rounds of random pairings and hope to only have one person win two games, but that doesn't seem great. Agricola has a high skill threshold so I would imagine there would be multiple two game winners.

You could pair the winners up against each other in some manner but since there are going to be at least 6 winners how do you divide them up? 3 winners playing 3-player games with two people winning the tournament? 3 winners playing 5-player games with some spoilers with the hopes that exactly one table has a double winner?

Put 5 winners at one table and declare the winner of that game to be the overall winner? Has the advantage that you should get a 'good' final table and an undisputed champion. Has the disadvantage that someone who won their first game actually can't win the tournament.

How would you even pick the 5 who advance? Highest score? Largest margin of victory? Largest percentage of second place's score? Largest percentage of the points at your table? None of those options are very good in Agricola since the games play out very differently based on the cards dealt to each player.

Highest score in particular has problems since a game with a lot of food generating cards rates to eat fewer animals/vegetables and therefore should just have more points scored in it than a game where people get most of their food by eating points. It's the same sort of problem that Dominion has with comparing scores between games.

That said, I don't know what I'd do if I was making the decision. (And I don't currently know what decision has been made!) Ideally I'd want to have the games go really fast so there'd be time to play a third game for the 'top five' after two preliminary games with some non-perfect but reasonable way of breaking ties to determine the top five. Possibly you could fix the cards for each seat of the first game to try to deal with the variation from cards and then use largest percentage of points at your table to determine the finalists.

I wouldn't go with a plan that didn't result in a final table. One of the things I like about board game tournaments is the (generally) high quality play that exists at that final game. It's one of the reasons I think the World Boardgaming Championships is so awesome and why the Great Canadian Board Game Blitz is, while fun, not as awesome. I knew when I walked away with 3rd place in Le Havre that I'd gone up against the best and legitimately didn't deserve to win. This year when I came 3rd at the GCBGB (both the Toronto one and the Fan eXpo one) I didn't play a single game against the people ahead of me. Was I better that day than they were? I don't know! I didn't get the opportunity to find out.

At any rate I enjoy playing Agricola so I'm going to go and have fun building an awesome farm.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: Magi Variance

I acquired my first set of magi last night and was disappointed to find that the game wouldn't tell me what they did. They were named power, speed, and mana so my first guess would be that they buffed strength, agility, and mana but it didn't seem to modify the actual stats. I did notice that the person who equipped speed went from doing about 15 damage per swing with an agility weapon to 170 damage per swing which is a pretty ridiculous boost. I decided I wanted to know what they did so I risked that an FAQ would tell me where to find them all and checked out what they did.

I ended up being disappointed for a second time since it seems there aren't actually 77 unique magi in the game. At least the descriptions of what they do only listed 15 different ones so either there's a whole bunch of placeholders or there are a bunch of duplicates. That my magi inventory list gives a quantity certainly implies the latter.

I am enjoying combat and watching my characters get better by doing things. My mutant has spells that hit all the enemies for more than their max health which is a little overpowered but he's slow and goes last so the human gets to skill up too so it's all good.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"ELO Hell"

I've been playing a lot of League of Legends recently and have been having a pretty frustrating time with it. I keep ending up in games that aren't actual games. One of the people playing will get frustrated with the game and stop trying. They'll disconnect, or they'll just walk away, or they'll buy 'stupid' items and commit suicide over and over. Maybe we had a chance to win, maybe we didn't... But after they give up we really have no shot.

League of Legends does its matchups by Elo rating. The idea is that you have a rating which represents how good you are and then you get to play with other people at about your same skill level. This should result in even matches. The system was first used in chess, where you actually could predict win-loss records fairly accurately. Chess is entirely skill based and is a 1 on 1 game, after all. People could get better, or worse, over time. They could have good days or bad days. Their rating would change, but it would eventually settle where it 'should'. League of Legends is a 5 on 5 game. Individual skill is certainly important but who your teammates are and how they work together are very important as well.

The problem is, how do you establish what someone's rating should be? In both chess and League of Legends your first few games are actually worth more points. The idea being to ratchet you into proper position quickly and then scale things down to reduce fluctuations from a couple individual games. It makes sense, on the surface, and works quite well for chess. In League of Legends, however, it doesn't seem as useful. The problem is it puts a huge amount of importance on those first couple games. And then you get matched up with people who 'deserve' to have ratings around where you ended up.

For example, last season when I first started playing ranked games I got lucky. I don't remember the specifics behind it but I ended up going 9-1 in my initial placement matches. By default you start at 1200 but with such a great record in the games that really mattered my rating came out around 1450. I went on to finish around .500 (where everyone should end up if they play enough games since eventually you're bound to end up playing against people as good as you) with a rating near 1300 and a max of 1512. I'm not awesome at the game (I make some bad decisions and my ping is mediocre) but I had fun. I don't recall having too many matches with people who just give up at the first sign of a struggle since those people by and large lose more than they win (since they turn some maybe-wins into auto-losses with the way they behave) and just can't sustain a rating that high.

This season things went differently. I'd stopped playing for a couple months and came back right at the rating reset. I didn't get lucky this time and actually started off something like 2-8. Here my rating came out closer to 1100 after the placement matches and has since tumbled to 1001. My win percentage post placement matches this season is actually pretty comparable to last season. A little under .500. But it's been less fun. The problem is I routinely end up in games with people who don't care.

Maybe I'm not good enough at the game and my rating deserves to by this low. I'm actually ok with that. If I was able to have close and fun games with people around my skill level I'd be having fun. But people who just give up isn't fun. Even the games that I win aren't a lot of fun since generally speaking the other team is playing so badly and someone gave up over there instead.

I had one game today where someone 'called' during the draft that he wanted to jungle Warwick. This was after I'd already picked a jungler. Someone else on the team then picked Warwick. So he flat out said in chat he was going to make us lose. He said if someone didn't dodge the game we were all going to lose. (Dodging the game counts as a loss for the person who did it, I think, so no one wants to do so.) Someone did, and I ended up on a team with the same guy. This time I picked a non-jungler since I had an idea how unstable the guy was. He got his Warwick and we ended up winning the game.

He was a decent player and I bet if he'd cared enough to try the first time around we'd have had a good chance of winning that game too. But he was willing to throw away 40 minutes of his life and a chance at a win in order to punish the guy who took Warwick on him.

How can the system accurately get people to their proper ratings when guys like him exist? When he gets his way his team probably wins. When he doesn't it definitely loses. I don't want him on my team or on the enemy team.

I donno what to do. I like playing the game when it's actually a decent game. But at this rating those seem a lot rarer than they did last season when I was 400 points higher. Part of me actually wants to create a new account and level up from scratch just to get another shot at those 10 placement games. (I'd probably need to go 30-0 from here to get to the point I was at after starting 9-1 last season.)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Extracted Lithovoric Stem

The new mission this biweek is actually incredibly similar to the last one. The last one gave a building worth 10% more research points, this one gives a building worth 10% more mining points. The only difference is this one costs 125 less energy up front but requires you to kill an NPC. It probably takes less energy to kill the NPC and you do get some bonus experience for killing the NPC but basically they're about the same idea.

I wanted to get all of the research one and I think mining points are a little better than research are at this point in time so I wanted to get all of these ones, too. So I did.

Now I can only hope that in two weeks I get to get 10% more artifact points on my 15 best planets...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Perfectly Logical Beings

The pirate puzzle that's been discussed here the last few days came from a book about preparing for a programming interview. After explaining the solution to the puzzle the author then goes on a little rant about 'perfectly logical beings'. The puzzle didn't explicitly state that's what the pirates were (one of the tricks the interviewer might throw at you is leaving that information to you to derive) but in puzzle terms it was pretty clear regardless. The whole greedy, logical thing and all.

Perfectly logical beings don't make sense in the real world. Their inputs and outputs can all be precisely determined in a relatively easy manner once you figure out the trick to the puzzle. Real people are much more complicated, though I must admit I am quite intrigued to learn more about what Danielle was talking about in the Facebook thread with regards to actually working those sorts of things out in a non-puzzle sense.

Daniel and Sthenno both brought up what would happen if pirate E broke ranks and voted against the solution 1-0-1-0-98 even though we 'proved' that it's in his best interest to vote yes. In the real world maybe E can do that. He may have some input that we didn't think to account for (maybe he truly thinks one is the loneliest number and would have voted for any split that got him a non-one number) which causes him to behave what we perceive to be 'irrationally'. I'm sure he has a good explanation for what he did. But that would make him a real, complicated person and not a perfectly logical being.

So what happens in the puzzle when E breaks rank? He doesn't. The puzzle world simply doesn't work that way. The puzzle is a little logic problem designed to be solved in a reasonably short period of time with very limited information. Especially in an interview situation you may win bonus points with the interview by thinking 'outside the box' and giving the pirates backstories that cause weird votes. Maybe you'll just make the interviewer annoyed and lose the job. Who knows!

Sthenno also said he'd better hope I'm not actually dividing pirate plunder with him in this way since I'm going to die if I do. Now, I like my friends from University and all but there's no way I'm ever going to let them vote on if I get to live or die. (Can you imagine betting your life that you know how Bung is going to act in any given situation?) But I do play a lot of board games where this sort of decision can come up... Take El Grande, for example. You draft actions in that game. Some actions really impact board position. Other actions moderately impact board position and score points. Often the situation comes up where you can take the point scoring action or you can 'move the king' and set up the point scoring action to be really good for you. The trick is convincing the next guy to score points for you! (He can take the action but not activate it if he thinks it's going to be 'too good' for you.) Is a 10-2-0-0-0 split good enough? 10-4-0-0-0? 6-8-4-0-0? It depends on who you're playing with and the state of the board. Games like that (Modern Art, Dominant Species, and even Carcassonne) are all about putting yourself in a position where other people will score you points but you can't make it so they're only scoring you points or they won't do it.

But I digress. I've put a lot of thought into what happens when E isn't actually a perfectly logical being so I might as well say what I'd do in B's shoes. Here's what I believe to be true...

  • D wants to get down to 2 people at this point and likely thinks she can capitalize on E's apparent randomness to get all the loot. She's probably voting against anything I propose and is definitely voting against anything C proposes after I die.
  • I don't trust E. For all I know he just likes to see people die and would even vote against a split giving him all the loot. Who needs cash when you can have blood?
  • Death is now a very real option for me. 
  • Death is also a very real option for C. I probably need his vote to not die, but the trick is he probably needs my vote for him to not die as well. Unless he's willing to bargain with E he needs my split to pass.
I've gone back and forth in my head about what I'd actually do. My first guy feeling was actually to propose 0-0-0-100. That's right, all the loot to me. I'd be banking on the fact that C trusts E as much as I do and that he realizes voting against my split means he dies too.

Then I thought that the life of a pirate probably isn't what I want out of life and I just want to survive. The best way to do that is the 0-0-100-0 split. C can have all the loot and we both get to live. I'm guaranteed to survive this time! (I know C isn't a lunatic since he did actually vote for 1 coin when A offered it.)

But then I'm thinking of the ultimatum game... I don't really want to make C angry. It may well go against all that greed stands for, but E threw greed out the window when he killed off A. So rather than make C an offer he simply can't refuse (0-0-100-0) I'm going to make him one he shouldn't refuse. 0-0-50-50. And then we stop sailing around with E.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Ultimatum Game Results

Today I was planning on looking at the 'solution' to the ultimatum game and how it relates to what happens in the pirate puzzle if the last pirate breaks form. Unfortunately I'm not a good enough/fast enough writer to find a way to pull those two things together and this post was just looking like a big wall of unrelated text. So I'm going to split things into two and delay talking about crazy pirates for another day.

Yesterday I mentioned the Ultimatum Game where Alice is asked to divide $100 between herself and Bob. Bob then votes on the split and either the split carries or you both get nothing. If we all behaved like the puzzle pirates from two days ago then the correct split would be 99-1 and the stranger might be sad but would surely accept. One dollar is better than no dollars, after all.

It turns out in reality people aren't perfectly logical beings. I haven't been able to find actual data from most of the experiments which were run, only summaries from people who may or may not know what they're talking about. But it seems like in general Alice seems to offer much closer to a fair split, and with good reason. Bob frequently rejects splits which he views as being unfair. Apparently when you get into the $80-$20 split range more than 70% of splits are rejected.

I was talking about this with Andrew yesterday and he said that it's an interesting thought experiment while not much is on the line but if you were splitting up, say, $100k then all of a sudden the $20k seems like it should get taken more often, right? It turns out researchers thought of this too and ran the experiments with huge sums of money. To do so they went to a less developed country and started offering large sums of local currency. I found one study that took place in north-eastern India. The average yearly income in those villages was reported to be around 17k rupees and they were offering 20k in their highest stakes experiment. So they were giving these people more than a yearly salary in one game! They mucked with the experiment a little by straight up telling their Alice's that the optimal strategy is to offer as little as possible to Bob while having Bob still say yes. (They did this because they were trying to test how Bob played the game, not how Alice played the game, and all previous experiments were plagued with too many high offers. It turns out people just play nice too often!)

They succeeded in lowering the average offer significantly with those instructions. They also succeeded in showing that once you start offering a huge amount of money the behaviour changes.  When they were splitting up 200 rupees a full 50% of Bob's said no to offers under 10% of the pot. When splitting 20000 rupees only 5% did. It's hard to say no to a month's worth of money even when you know someone is 'screwing' you by taking 12 months himself. (Also of interest as the stakes got higher Alice would take a bigger chunk for herself. I guess the thinking is that if Bob is pretty much guaranteed to take a month's salary there's no point in giving him even more than that, right?)

A very interesting result came from an experiment done in New Guinea. Apparently the culture there is based on reciprocity. (As Sheldon would say, "You haven't given me a gift, you've given me an obligation!") There Alice would sometimes offer Bob more than half of the money. And Bob would say no!

So it turns out game theory doesn't really apply to a lot of these situations. There's something more at work than just maximizing incoming money. The concept of fairness was brought up a lot in the articles I was reading. Or maybe it's not a stranger and you realize you actually have to live with them going forward so you're better off giving them a 'fairer' shake so they're not bitter at you forever. It seems like the psychoeconomists are looking into it still. I find it interesting, anyway.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Monopoly, Ultimatums, and Logical Pirates

Yesterday's puzzle got a couple correct answers in the comments of both the blog and on the Facebook notes thread. (I should really search harder for a solution which would allow combining both sources of comments...) There was also some good discussion about what would happen if one of the pirates wasn't a "perfectly logical being" which is actually where I was planning on heading with tomorrow's post. So I'm going to essentially ignore that for now but will be returning soon. Today I'm going to provide a tangentially related anecdote, the game theory "game" that sparked my remembrance of that puzzle, and the solution for those who may not read comments.

Last month was Monopoly at McDonalds. I was out eating lunch there with Andrew and he pulled Park Place off of his drink. If you collect both Park Place and Boardwalk you win a cool million dollars. The conversation turned to what would happen if I had Boardwalk on my drink. Andrew seemed to assume it was a given that we'd just split it and take $500k each. But part of me is thinking that Boardwalk is more likely to be the rare one so my expected value in terms of sheer money would be to reject that offer and just buy some more drinks in the hopes of getting a Park Place of my own. (Or to haggle him down to a better split I guess.) But in reality the marginal utility of the extra $100k between $500k and $600k isn't all that much and certainly isn't worth any strife that might be caused by making such demands from a friend. So if I'd had Boardwalk I'm sure we would have just taken $500k each and been ecstatic.

I wanted to continue the thought experiment though, so I asked Andrew what he'd do if a random dude had walked up to him and offered to buy Park Place off of him. What values would he accept? (Clearly he'd sell it to me for $500k, so what about the random dude?) The conclusion Andrew came to was he simply wouldn't sell it to a random dude no matter what the price was. The thing is we don't know which piece is actually worth the million bucks. One of Boardwalk and Park Place is worth almost a million dollars and the other is practically worthless. (It has some value to the owner of the real piece but is worth nothing to everyone else.) So if some guy showed up and offered a large amount of money then the odds are he's trying to scam Andrew out of the real piece. $50k sounds great but there's no way a stranger with the real piece is paying that much for the common one was his argument. After all, the stranger could just go buy 30 drinks, get 60 pieces, and almost certainly get his million bucks. If the stranger was offering a low amount of money (say, $50) then Andrew still wouldn't take it. Even though the stranger is probably just trying to save himself from buying 30 drinks there's a small chance he'd be trying to pull a fast one and it wouldn't be worth the risk.

Personally I like the idea of getting $50 for my worthless piece of paper, though I think what I'd do is try to find a second person in the restaurant with a Park Place and try to haggle the stranger to buy them both for $100. I don't think the stranger is scamming me at all but I will admit it would be a huge blow to my sanity if I sold it to him and it turned out to be the real piece and I probably wouldn't be willing to take that risk either. (Mostly I don't think it would ever happen at all. I know if I thought I had the winner I wouldn't advertise it in a room full of strangers. I'd quietly go home, hide the winner, and then just eat at McDonalds for a while.)

Which brings us to the 'game' I only just found out about earlier this week in my reading... The Ultimatum Game. The basic idea of the game is a random dude (probably in a top hat with a handlebar moustache) is going around making the following proposal to two strangers (in this case referred to as Alice and Bob.):

Alice is given $100 dollars and is told to split that money up into two piles. One pile for herself and the other pile for Bob. Then Bob gets to vote on the split. He can either vote for the split in which case Alice and Bob walk away with some cash. Or he can vote against the split in which case our moustachioed hero takes his money back. Either way the game is over. Alice and Bob can't negotiate over the split or communicate in any way. Alice makes a split and then Bob decides whether to take it or not.

So the question is, if you're Alice what split do you propose? If you're Bob what splits do you accept?

Now, the solution to yesterday's puzzle.

The trick to this puzzle is to find the base case and figure out what happens. Then work your way backwards until you end up at the current case. Since you only need half of the votes to pass a proposal the base case is when there are two pirates left since whatever is proposed is guaranteed to pass. (Obviously you vote for your own split since otherwise you're dead.) I'm going to break form from how everyone else labeled the pirates and assert that the pirates are, in reverse order of seniority, E-D-C-B-A.

Two pirates alive (E & D): D knows that whatever he proposes will pass and she's greedy so she offers a 0-100 split. It passes and D is rich!

Three pirates alive (E, D, & C): C knows that if his proposal gets shot down that the split will be 0-100. He also knows that he just needs one other vote in order to have his proposal pass. He needs to bribe E or D to vote with him. Clearly he can't bribe D to vote with him since D is already going to get all the money if C loses. On the other hand E is going to get absolutely nothing if this vote fails. One coin is better than no coins, after all, so C proposes a 1-0-99 split. E is logical and greedy and knows it isn't getting any better so he has to accept.

Four pirates alive (E, D, C, & B): B knows that if his proposal gets shot down that the split will be 1-0-99. He also knows he needs just one vote in order to win. The big loser is the last split was D. She has visions of coming home with all the coins way back in the base case but she now knows that's a pipe dream. She's going to get nothing if B dies. B knows that D knows this and once again one coin is better than no coins. His proposed split is 0-1-0-99 and it passes.

Five pirates alive (E, D, C, B, & A): I hope the pattern is becoming clear. A knows she needs to get 2 more votes and she knows that if she dies the split will be 0-1-0-99. The two easiest people for her to bribe and going to be E and C since they'll be getting nothing if A dies. So A proposes a split of 1-0-1-0-98 and walks away with most of the loot.

As Snuggles might say, "It's good to be captain!"

Monday, November 07, 2011

Greedy Logical Pirates

Here's a little logic puzzle from a book my old roommate Blake gave me many years ago. I really liked this one when I read it (I believe I've told it to a few people over the years) and I've been doing some other reading recently that reminded me of it. Can you figure it out?

There are five pirates who discover some buried treasure on an island. There are 100 gold coins and they need to divide the coins up amongst themselves. The way their pirate code works is the lead pirate proposes a split of the coins and then all the pirates vote on that proposal. If at least half the pirates vote YEA then that split carries and they move on with their plundering lives with their new booty. Otherwise they execute the lead pirate and start over from the top with the next pirate in line making a proposal.

The pirates are all greedy, logical, and don't want to die. You're the lead pirate. What split do you propose? Why?

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Solo Crayon Rails

NickCon was this weekend and we played games of Titan, Thunderstone, and Dominant Species. Dave got eliminated early from the Titan game and decided that since crayon rails is really a lot like solitaire anyway that he'd just play a single player game and count how many turns it took him to win. (46 turns in the new Eurorails.) He also played a game of Innovation with Pounder after he died from Titan as well.

We got to talking afterwards about what sort of rules should be used in a single player crayon rails game. I was a little concerned that you wouldn't get enough calamities to simulate a 'real' game and suggested flipping up 3 more cards for every card you use yourself. Robb pointed out since this always happens after a delivery it won't hurt as much as it 'should'. When Dave was playing he was just setting aside a dollar for each turn so he could count them up afterwards but Robb suggested setting aside the top card of the deck each turn. This causes calamities to happen between your turns some of the time and causes no more bookkeeping since you need to count turns taken anyway. So as long as you're getting a reasonable number of flips compared to a normal game this seems like a pretty good solution.

We did some napkin math and it seemed like it should work out pretty well to get the same number of card draws as in a 4 player game. The lack of anyone else building track you need to build around, that no one can grab your extra loads, and that no one can build ferries/chunnels on you does still make the game 'easier' than a normal game but it should be a lot shorter and still pretty fun.

We also decided rather arbitrarily that you're not allowed to cycle your hand and need to just run with the cards you draw. I'm not sure how I really feel about that in retrospect but it seems like a reasonable handicap to make up for the lack of interaction with other players.

I'm going to give it a shot sometime this week I think and see if I can't beat Dave's score.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: Item Shops

I made it to the first town (it was quite trivial to do so since they give you an NPC to help clear out the first dungeon and he was awesome) and checked out the item shops. There are no stat boosting potions around and coupled with the fact my human randomly gained some stats in the first dungeon, well, I'm pretty sure they work more like mutants than humans of the first game.

I also found out the game doesn't tell me what the gear in the shops actually do. Is a given weapon or armor an upgrade? I have no way of knowing without buying it and trying it on. I don't like this sort of mechanic so I've decided to find an item listing online from which to shop. I'm still intending on finding the magi on my own if I can, but looking up an item list is just going to save me time and/or money. Or sanity.

I'm a little sad that the human mechanic changed between games but on the plus side that means more money to buy twinky gear for my robots!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Ready Player One

A little while ago I went downtown to play boardgames with Duncan and Sara. While waiting in line at Hero Burger Duncan told me about a book he saw about a treasure hunt where you had to play Joust at some point. It sounded interesting but faded from my mind in short order. I was in the middle of reading the 5th book in the Game of Thrones after which I had Whipping Girl to read. And then I got to Final Fantasy III and stopped reading on the bus while I played that.

Tuesday I finished off Whipping Girl and had run out of stuff to read on my Kobo. So I went on a minor shopping spree in the Kobo store. I downloaded a bunch of old books that are free (Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland, The Art of War, Around the World in 80 Days, Moby Dick) and bought a book I'd heard good things about: World War Z. I did a google search for 'novel with Joust' and a couple entries down the list was an article about Ernest Cline playing Joust and talking about his novel Ready Player One. So I bought it, too.

Wednesday I started reading it and Thursday night I'd finished it off. I don't actually know how long it is (one of the 'features' of using an e-reader is every book looks to be the same size) but the book definitely had a hold of me and wouldn't let me do anything else except keep reading. It's got the perfect treasure hunt themes going on. Some puzzles I worked out before the characters, some I worked out incorrectly, and others I just had to keep reading to find out what was going on.

The basic idea to the book is it's the future and people can jack into a virtual reality MMO. The rich dude who coded the MMO dies and leaves his vast fortune to whoever can solve his treasure hunt within the MMO. He hid all the clues and puzzles in stuff he really liked from his youth which just happened to be the 80s. So a lot of the book is constant nostalgic throwbacks to movies, games, television, and music from the 80s.

I'm a big fan of the 80s so if that's all it was I'd probably still enjoy reading it. But the hunt and the story surrounding it are also gripping. It reminded me a lot of the first Hunger Games book with a lot of reveling in the 80s thrown in.

At the end the author mentions how he hopes people will want to explore some of these games and movies from the 80s as a result of reading the book. So today I went searching for Zork which is a game I've never had a chance to play. It turns out the publisher actually released the first three Zork games for free, so I downloaded the first one and have already gotten stuck. Boo!

At any rate, you need to go read this book. Go!

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II: A Plot Hook!

One of the things that sort of bothered me about The Final Fantasy Legend was that I didn't really know who I was or what I was doing. There didn't seem to be any character backstory going on and I didn't know why I was trying to get access to this big locked tower. I suspect some of that stuff was found in the manual which I didn't have. (I recall the Final Fantasy IV manual having a lot of character stuff and a walkthrough of the first few plot points to get you started.)

Final Fantasy Legend II started off with a little introductory cutscene where my father tucked me into bed and then jumped out the window to go adventuring. I grew up and wanted to follow in his footsteps. (I swear this introductory plot hook is used in a lot of games but at least it's something!) It was a little odd since I'm a robot and I can't see why I need to go to bed at all let alone why I was shown as a child but whatever...

He also gave me a piece of magi which seem to be a bunch of quasi-powerful items you can collect over the course of the game. The one he gave me tells me how many other magi are nearby which is pretty useful since I don't plan on looking up an FAQ on where they all are. I believe an NPC told me there are 63 of them in the game which is quite a number of things to go collect. It reminds me a bit of The 7th Saga crossed with Suikoden and I definitely want to go catch them all.

I've done a few fights and it looked like my human was actually leveling up the same way as mutants did in the last game: random stat ups after a fight. I have yet to find an item shop to see if they removed stat potions from the game entirely. If they did then I guess the difference between humans and mutants is that mutants learn spells at random?

Wednesday, November 02, 2011


My sister recently asked how I was playing all these Final Fantasy games. For the most part I own the original games on the original consoles which is where I expect to play them but the earlier games are a little too old for me. I never had a Game Boy, for example, which makes it very hard to have the original Final Fantasy Legend games just lying around. So I did the easy thing, did a quick Google search, and downloaded a GB emulator (Visual Boy) and the roms for the three Legends games. The first one I played in the emulator with the keyboard but for this second one I've hooked an xBox 360 controller up to my computer and am playing with it which just seems better.

But here's the thing... I never paid Square for these games. Even if I wanted to right now it's pretty infeasible. FFL2 looks to be running well over $100 used and I can't even play it on my current Nintendo handheld since the 3DS isn't backwards compatible that far back. And even if I did find someone selling this stuff Square wouldn't see a cent of the money. They have released new versions of them, but only in Japan. Now I'm not opposed to playing games in Japanese but for the first time playing a game? Will be a lot more fun in a language I can read.

Am I a bad person? If I had an easy and reasonable way to pay Square and get a copy of the game I'd absolutely do so. I don't know that I have a moral obligation to pay some dude who's unaffiliated with the company to get a second-hand copy of a 20 year old game. I like collecting cool games so I could see buying a copy sometime if I find one at a decent price but I still wouldn't be able to play it. I don't see how having a second-hand copy would change the moral issue of playing on an emulator.

I'm against software piracy in general. When I wanted to play xCom recently I went and bought it again on Steam despite having owned the game as a teenager. Because it was only $5 it was easier to buy it again than try to find a virus free pirated copy. But if it wasn't on Steam? I'd have risked it and gone searching. But a new game which I could very reasonably go buy? I would never pirate it.

Maybe this makes me a hypocrite. I'm pretty comfortable with the lines I've drawn, though. Port some games to the 3DS virtual console and make it easy for people to buy your old stuff, Square!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Today's post is going to be a bit of a deviation from normal. It has pretty much nothing to do with games or gaming systems in any way. There are a few numbers that have been crunched by professionals but by and large this is more of a life post than a gaming post. But the topic is pretty important so it's probably worth reading on.

Today is the 1st of November which is the start of the event known as Movember where men around the world grow moustaches for men's health in general though by and large it's known for revolving around prostate cancer in particular. I was tangentially involved in 2008 through a group at work. I grew a moustache and was in the group pictures but didn't really advertise what was going on or really look into anything at all. In other years I either already had a moustache I didn't want to get rid of or had just gotten rid of one and didn't want it back so I'd stayed away.

This year I figured I'd sign up again. I haven't been approached at work so I've just signed up on my own. I'm actually opposed to a social system which requires charities so I'm not going to encourage anyone to donate money to anyone. Instead I figured I'd go after the awareness point of view and try to actually learn some things and share the results. My idea before I actually did any research was to use this as a catalyst to actually find a doctor and get tested but as we shall see that's not actually going to happen. I should really point out that I'm not a doctor and have no medical training at all. I've done some reading on various websites found via a google search for prostate cancer and from links off of the site. So don't take anything I say as a diagnosis or a recommendation for a course of action. You should seek a professional if you have a need for consultation. I'm just trying to summarize the information available on the web and try to trick some people into reading it. Lots more after the jump!