Monday, December 31, 2012

The Amazing Race: Canada

I was watching the final game of the NFL regular season on tv last night when a very interesting commercial came on. It would seem that after 12 years and 21 seasons on US tv the reality show The Amazing Race is finally coming to Canada. They're changing things up by containing the entire thing within Canada itself and not traveling all over the world. I would imagine the primary reason for doing this is to keep costs down but I figure Canada is a pretty good country for traveling around in given how big it is and how many diverse climates exist.

Applications are now up on the CTV website. From the reading I've done it looks like any Canadian (or permanent resident) who is over 19 years old is eligible. Since it's all within Canada you don't need a passport. You need to be willing to block off a month this spring (you need to be 19 by April 1st so I'd guess it starts after that date). You need to be physically and mentally fit enough to race around the country and do all kinds of crazy things. You need to submit an application by the end of February. Oh, and you need a teammate.

It seems like you're allowed to submit as many different teams as you want, though the FAQ is certainly worded in such a way as to make it seem like doing so won't really help your chances. They want the show to be about relationships and racing so they want interesting teams. Now, I must confess that despite really liking the show the few times I watched it I never really went out of my way to find out when it was on. So I don't know if awkward smart guy with an awful lot of quirks is something that they'd find interesting enough. But I do know I want to give this a try if at all possible.

So... Anyone want to bugger off work for a month and go on a cross country adventure? I'd say the odds of getting on are pretty slim but we should be able to figure out some way to game the system! The prize is still unknown but is undoubtedly a reasonable chunk of cash. Oh, and a chance to be awesome. Who doesn't want to be awesome?

Friday, December 28, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Mini-Games

When someone asks me what actually links the Final Fantasy games together I tend to answer with a list of similarities. Turn based combat systems. Magic. Summoned monsters. An epic storyline. A guy named Cid. Chocobos. Challenge bosses. Side quests. Mini-games. Magical crystals. The same sets of spells. While playing Final Fantasy VII recently I've been thinking about the mini-games part and how there seemed to be an awful lot of them. And then I tried to think of mini-games from any other game I've played so far in this marathon and only managed to think of a single one: the sliding tile puzzle in the original Final Fantasy which was more easter egg than legitimate mini-game. (It turns out there's a memory game easter egg in FFII as well?) Maybe you could count the battle arena and the multi-party Mog combat in FFVI but those feel more like extensions of the regular combat system than an actual mini-game.

Why would that be? I think mini-games are a fundamental aspect of Final Fantasy games but they didn't even exist at all until FFVII? What happened? I think the big revolution that let them start happening was the switch by Square from the Nintendo series of consoles to the CD based PlayStation. The Nintendo 64 (the comparable system at the time) had a cartridge size from 4MB to 64MB. A CD for the PS could hold 700MB and games could easily span multiple CDs. FFVII came on 3 disks. FFVIII and FFIX each had 4 disks. You can have a lot more stuff over 2800MB than you can have crammed into 4MB. This is what made the awesome FMV sequences possible but I'm thinking it's also what allowed mini-games to flourish as well. FFII was going to be ported from Japan to the US but they couldn't find space in an NES cartridge to fit an English translation. They were having to rewrite from scratch when the project was cancelled in order to do FFIV instead. I can't imagine them finding space on the FFVI cartridge to fit in a snowboarding mini-game when they couldn't find space to include vocals for their opera scene.

FFVII has been absolutely inundated with mini-games. It certainly helps that there's an actual arcade in the game that could be used as a logical place to replay the mini-games but it's felt like I couldn't go a dungeon or two without hitting one. Snowboarding, motorcycle combat, attack subs, rock-paper-scissors boxing, basketball, whatever the heck Mog House is, tactical combat at Fort Condor, triangulation digging, a shooter roller coaster, the battle arena, and most importantly chocobo raising/racing. On top of that there's a ton of one-shot mini-games where you have to press buttons at the right time in the right sequence. Also body heat management, kicking barrels at Aeris, a lot of the cross-dressing stuff, the Shinra parade, and CPR.

The sheer number of such mini-games has felt a little jarring at times, especially compared to the none at all from previous games, but they give a ton of diversions along the way. I'm on disk 3 and close to finishing the game except I haven't done anything with chocobo racing or the battle arena. I haven't yet decided if I want to just go kill Sephiroth soon or if I want to do the chocobo stuff first. I've raised a gold chocobo in the past so I don't feel a pressing need to do it, but I remember it being fun...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: More Awesome Cutscenes

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, I didn't recall ever being terribly impressed with the FMV scenes in Final Fantasy VII in previous plays. Be it some function of playing it after FFVIII, or playing it after FFX, or initially playing it on a really old CRT tv I just never got what other people would get excited about. But man, playing it on the PSP has been pretty awesome. The screen resolution is apparently only 480x272 and a whopping 4.3 inches but the videos come out without any pixelation or anything.

I just watched a couple FMVs in sequence near the end of disk 2 which were pretty amazing. The music in the second one was really great at setting the mood, too. They're so good I wanted to share them here, though it turned out when finding them on youtube that the picture quality isn't quite as impressive. But still pretty great and worth watching.

For those who may not have played the game, and who don't mind spoilers from a 16 year old game, or who may just need a refresher...

There are 4 main groups in the game. My party is a group of eco-terrorists trying to save the planet from a corporation (Shinra) which is making a profit by mining the life force out of the planet. Sephiroth is an alien zombie thing which is trying to merge himself with the life force of the planet in an attempt to become super powerful. In order to do that he's summoned a giant meteor to plow into the planet which the intention of making the planet gather a ton of life force in one spot to heal the wound. Shinra is fighting Sephiroth because his plan will wipe them out. We're fighting both of them because they're both killing the planet. The fourth group is the planet itself which has summoned up some ancient robot weapon things to defend itself from Shinra and Sephiroth. But it's not really sentient so it doesn't know we're trying to help it out so we end up having to fight these weapons too.

This scene comes about right after my party wounded Diamond Weapon, the giant robot thing that was trying to destroy the Shinra capital. Meanwhile the Shinra people have cobbled together a huge weapon and intend to shoot Sephiroth with it...

We head off to check out Sephiroth now that his big shield thing got blasted away when we get some bad news... With the Shinra president dead his underlings have started to do crazy things. One of them has decided to help Sephiroth out by shooting more lifeforce at him from the cannon which hasn't had time to cool down. It's going to overload and blow up the city killing a ton of people. We want to go in and stop this from happening but another underling would rather let Hojo destroy the city and kill us himself than let us through. So we've got our work cut out for us getting in... The result? We're going to parachute in! (This video is longer than just the parachute bit, I couldn't find a good video with just the jump lead-in.)

I don't really understand how either Red XIII or Cait Sith can use a parachute, but whatever. Suspension of disbelief!

These videos are one thing that really makes FFVII stand out from the rest of the games I've played thus far.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blood Bowl: Line Up And Punch?

I've noticed that there's a tendency in Blood Bowl games for the players to ultimately end up lined up beside each other ready for a shoving match. Often it seems like one team or the other fails a roll on their turn (either by missing a dodge away from the line-up or by rolling skulls in a hit of their own) with disastrous consequences. Snuggles scored a touchdown against me yesterday when I failed a 1 in 6 chance near the start of my turn 3 turns in a row. Robb keeps getting a third of his team casualtied out on dodge rolls. I figure there's got to be a better way to go about doing things and wanted to really look at the turnover chances of different actions dealing with a line brawl.

Dodge away (2 agility, no dodge skill) - 1 in 2 chance of a turnover.
Dodge away (2 agility, dodge skill) - 1 in 4 chance of a turnover.
Dodge away (3 agility, no dodge skill) - 1 in 3 chance of a turnover.
Dodge away (3 agility, dodge skill) - 1 in 9 chance of a turnover.
Dodge away (4 agility, no dodge skill) - 1 in 6 chance of a turnover.
Dodge away (4 agility, dodge skill) - 1 in 36 chance of a turnover.
Punch (no block skill, 1 die block) - 1 in 3 chance of a turnover.
Punch (block skill, 1 die block) - 1 in 6 chance of a turnover.

Punch (no block skill, 1 die block, reroll available) - 1 in 9 chance of a turnover.
Punch (block skill, 1 die block, reroll available) - 1 in 36 chance of a turnover.

Punch (no block skill, 2 die block) - 1 in 9 chance of a turnover.

Punch (block skill, 2 die block) - 1 in 36 chance of a turnover.

Punch (no block skill, 2 die block, reroll available) - 1 in 81 chance of a turnover.
Punch (block skill, 2 die block, reroll available) - 1 in 1296 chance of a turnover.
Punch (no block skill, 3 die block) - 1 in 27 chance of a turnover.
Punch (block skill, 3 die block) - 1 in 216 chance of a turnover.
Punch (no block skill, 3 die block, reroll available) - 1 in 729 chance of a turnover.
Punch (block skill, 3 die block) - 1 in 46656 chance of a turnover.
Stand still - no chance of a turnover.

What if you stand still? What are your chances of getting knocked down on the opposing punch?

2 die, no block, no dodge, opponent no block - 5 in 9
2 die, no block, no dodge, opponent block - 3 in 4
2 die, no block, dodge, opponent no block - 11 in 36
2 die, no block, dodge, opponent block - 5 in 9
2 die, block, no dodge, opponent no block - 5 in 9
2 die, block, no dodge, opponent block - 5 in 9
2 die, block, dodge, opponent no block - 11 in 36
2 die, block, dodge, opponent block - 11 in 36
1 die, no block, no dodge, opponent no block - 1 in 3
1 die, no block, no dodge, opponent block - 1 in 2
1 die, no block, dodge, opponent no block - 1 in 6
1 die, no block, dodge, opponent block - 1 in 3
1 die, block, no dodge, opponent no block - 1 in 3
1 die, block, no dodge, opponent block - 1 in 3
1 die, block, dodge, opponent no block - 1 in 6
1 die, block, dodge, opponent block - 1 in 6

If they have a 2 die block lined up already without needing to move anyone, without block, and you have 3 agility without dodge then dodging away causes your guy to go down 1 in 3 times. Just standing around causes him to go down 5 in 9 times, or almost twice as often. But you need to consider that forcing them to throw that block gives them a 1 in 9 chance themselves of generating a turnover (or using up a reroll) and uses up their own guy's turn when he might well have had something better to do. If it's only a 1 die block then you have the same odds of falling down either way but give your opponent a free 1 in 3 chance of falling down themselves. Or you make them dedicate a second guy to coming over and thugging you just to get back to the first case.

If it's a 1 die situation then you may be better off throwing a punch yourself. Certainly compared to dodging away you have the same fail chances and a different (and probably better) positive result (you knock him over as opposed to you running away). 

Guys with 4 agility have a much better set of options. 1 in 6 to dodge away is a lot safer than 5 in 9 on a return punch. Especially when you assume that 4 agility guys will tend to have less armour and be more likely to have the dodge skill and you can see where dodging away can be a good plan. Even then, if you make enough 1 in 6 rolls you will get your turnover so you should take any 'free' actions first just in case.

The block skill numbers on throwing 2 die blocks are pretty huge. I have a chaos team I play in a public league and I find I'm constantly falling over. I only have a 1 in 9 chance to fall down but I built the team with only 1 reroll and often found myself throwing 6+ punches in a turn. I'm going to fall over a lot with this plan. Just getting block on some guys (or buying more rerolls) will go a long way to how good a line brawl is for my chaos team. 

These numbers in particular are why dwarves are so ridiculous at low levels. They have block on pretty much the whole team. They have tackle on pretty much the whole team (negating opposing dodge skills which both means the dwarf blocks are better and the enemy dodge aways are worse) so they present enemy teams with two losing options when they engage in a line brawl. Either you dodge away (causing lots of turnovers) or you stand still (causing lots of safe thuggings) or you try to fight back (dwarves have high armour so they don't mind getting punched as much as other people). Eventually the other teams will get more block themselves and negate some of that early advantage. They'll also buy more rerolls to allow for more dodge aways or riskier blocks. 

I wonder if the solution with the faster, squishier teams is to not line guys up near the line of scrimmage? Try to spread the play out over a larger area to try to keep the line brawl from developing? You're going to give up the guys on the line of scrimmage but maybe that's a small price to pay?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Morph

I've reached the point in the game where I've acquired the submarine and can go exploring the ocean floor. One of the things down there is an airship containing powerful monsters which are the primary way to completely twinking out your party. Each of the monsters that can spawn down there can be killed with the morph skill (does 1/8th attack damage but if it gets the killing blow the monster turns into an item) to obtain stat sources. Drinking these sources is the way to max out your stats. I vaguely recall finding this place the first time I played the game way back in the day and then just sitting around morphing them for days until I was awesome. I get drawn to being awesome so I found myself doing that on the bus yesterday despite it being pretty difficult at this point in time. (Pretty sure last time I did it was later in the game so I was higher level.) Of course, it's one of those things where the more I do it the faster it will become since Yuffie will start hitting harder with her morph and everyone will be higher level so they'll have and easier time surviving the brutal enemies.

I'm pretty sure going to find Yuffie's ultimate weapon would be a good idea since it does a bunch of bonus damage that I think works with morph. (Turns out it's actually in the sunken plane... I guess I missed a room or something and need to head back!) But beyond that, I was wondering if there's anything else really worth morphing. I morphed pretty much everything I could the first time I played (including killing Sephiroth solely with morph damage... He didn't turn into anything which made me really sad. Come on, Square... Turn him into a potion or something!) but that gets tedious. I want to skip that tedium by using the power of the internets...

Unfortunately the internets are failing me here. Surprisingly it would seem no one has bothered to make and analyze a list of morphable items. I did find what purports to be a list of items and I guess I can go through the list to see if any of them are interesting...

Escort Guard - interesting armour item with 6 linked slots and good elemental defenses, morphed from iron man who appears to only exist during the end game sequence
Guard Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 4 monsters (in Mount Corel, Gelnika, Mideel, or the final dungeon)
Guide Book - used to get the underwater materia and morphed in the underwater tunnel which I've already passed and therefore might not be able to get? Apparently it might also spawn in the battle arena?
Luck Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 1 monster (Gelnika)
Magic Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 2 monsters (Temple of the Ancients, Gelnika)
Mind Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 3 monsters (Whirlwind Mazex2, Gelnika)
Power Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 3 monsters (Gongag Reactor, Mount Nibel, Gelnika)
Ribbon - makes you immune to negative status conditions, can be morphed from Master Tonberry in the final dungeon
Speed Source - gives you 1 permanent stat increase, can be morphed from 1 monster (Gelnika)

So really it looks like morphing isn't much use except maybe at the end of the game to finish up some gear, to make killing emerald weapon easier, and to twink out your stats. So I'm not missing much, except that thing I probably already missed. Oh well! Tomorrow on the way to work I'm definitely going back to see how I missed Yuffie's ultimate weapon and then probably morph some dudes. Or maybe I'll just continue the plot because I've already done the morphing a ton of dudes thing in the past? I donno.

Monday, December 24, 2012

League of Legends: Penetration Changes

I played a ranked 3v3 game on the weekend with Robb and Adam that really got me thinking. The other team played 3 spell damage based champions. This feels wrong on the surface for a couple of reasons... The first being that typically melee bruisers dominate the map and they didn't have any at all. The second is they all did the same type of damage. As such our team could get away with ignoring armour and focus entirely on magic resistance as a defensive stat. They ended up blowing us apart. We stacked magic resist (maybe not as early as we should have, but we definitely had a lot by the end) but they stacked spell penetration and it really seemed to do quite a job on us. I did some rough napkin math after the game and thought my MR of around 150 was cut down to around 50 with the items they bought. That's a lot like not having any MR at all!

The season 3 changes made resists more expensive to buy and changed the way penetration stacking worked. Did those two changes combine in such a way to make it impossible to actually build defensively? Would we have been better off stacking health? Should we have ignored defenses entirely and just hoped we could burst them out before they could burst us out? We did have Kayle on the team so it's plausible that we could have glass cannoned them out. I want to look more into how penetration is set up now to get some answers...

Enemy Rumble:
8.55 magic pen from runes
8% magic pen from masteries
15 magic pen from blackfire torch
35% magic pen from void staff

Enemy Diana:
8.55 magic pen from runes
8% magic pen from masteries
15 magic pen from blackfire torch
15 magic pen from sorcerer's shoes
35% magic pen from void staff

I had 173 magic resist at the end of the game if my wit's end was stacked up. With the new way of calculating penetration, and using Diana as she had the most in this game... My actual magic resist against her was 173*(1-.43)-38.55=60. Under the old way it would have been (173-38.55)*(1-.43)=77. A difference of 17 which doesn't sound that huge, but it works out to about 11% more damage taken.

What about if I'd gone for health instead? 130 of my magic resist came from items bought more or less solely for the magic resist. Without those I would have had 43 magic resist. Under the new way of calculating penetration that would leave me with 43*(1-.43)-38.55= -14, except the formula has a cap of 0 for magic penetration. So I would have had 0. For reference, under the old way I would have had (43-38.55)*(1-.43)=2.5 magic resistance.

I have to spitball an amount of health here, but I figure I spent 7350G on the magic resist items and could have bought something like 1550 more health with an overlord's bloodmail, phage, and rylai's. That's only 6820 but it's close enough. In the actual game I had 2400 health (with 300 from my magic resist items), so I could have gone up to 3650 health. 60 magic resist means I take 62.5% damage from magic sources, so my actual EH would have been 3840. With the health items I would have been at 3650 EH. Unfortunately the blackfire torch also does a magic damage dot and scales based on my max health so even if they'd been about even it would have been worse to stack health. That said, focusing a good chunk of my money on either health or magic resist has about the same impact on surviving, and neither one would have been good enough in the actual game as it turned out. Magic resist was still better than health even with some of the magic penetration wasted in the health build by dropping me below 0.

Ignoring any defensive stats at all and going full glass cannon would have meant I'd die very quickly. I'd have had 0 magic resist and only 2100 health. Maybe this would have been a reasonable plan against a single target team but having melee bruisers against Rumble/Diana/Alistar meant bad things with all the AE damage they did. I don't know that we could have bursted them out even if we'd skipped defensive stats, especially since they had 2.5s immunities from items themselves.

So maybe it was a team comp failure? I donno. We'd just won a game pretty handily with the same setup, but they were playing a typical setup with Olaf/Rengar/Chogath. Maybe we could have won if we'd played tighter? One thing that is pretty clear to me though is stacking a damage type is not the end of the world anymore. At least with magic damage there's more than enough good penetration items around (they didn't even buy abyssal scepter) to completely negate any threat of stacking magic resist.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Blood Bowl: Mini-League

Earlier this week 4 of us started up a short league in the Blood Bowl client. We each made a starting team at TR 1000 and the game automatically builds a double round robin schedule with a cut to a final game. So each team gets to play 6 or 7 games and then we're done. What happens at that point is up in the air. We could run it back. We could start new teams. We could call it a day. The bottom line is it's fun to play games and this gives some structure and an obvious goal without actually tying up too much time.

What are the consequences of playing such a short schedule? Well, leveling up seems fairly rare. In general it can take a lot of games to level up some of the players on your team and you're not going to get those games in. So ideally you want to play a team which has good default guys. As Duncan commented on an earlier post chaos teams can turn into real monsters with enough play... They have access to mutation skills and you can build some pretty sick dudes. But if you aren't going to gain many levels they're just going to be a bunch of mediocre thugs with absolutely no ability to play football. Similarly you're not going to earn enough money to buy a full roster of awesome dudes so some of the more expensive teams aren't going to have time to come into their own.

Another consequence is winning matters a lot more. We all want to win in general, but in a long league format sometimes you're happier just skilling up some dudes and surviving. In a format where half the teams don't make the play-offs and there is no long term? Just win, baby. Again, this means a team with some ability to play actual football should be a plus.

Dying matters less. With the new loaner system the game gives you enough dudes to field 11 guys. So while I'm still sad that one of my players died in game 1 and two more suffered permanent injuries in game 3 it isn't the end of the world. My team is still playable with a bunch of loaners. In a long term open league I'd probably have started a new team after that first game since losing an 80k guy off the hop is crippling in the long term. But here I'll just run with a loaner dude on the front lines and be ok. I'll whine about it, of course, but the team can play on. You get loaned a lineman so this means it seems like you want a team with good linemen. Getting a free halfling is pretty pathetic. Getting a free 70k dwarf or elf seems a-ok.

Inflicting damage on a future opponent, oddly enough, matters more. Especially if you know you're playing the same team two weeks in a row... After my game with Sceadeau was getting out of reach you better believe I was trying to foul his skilled-up players in an attempt to knock them out for the next game!

I ended up playing a dark elf team in this short league. I figured I was happy getting free 70k linemen when guys went down. I figured they'd have a decent shot of pulling out wins with crazy passing plays if it came down to it. I hoped having 8 armour would be enough to stop complete blow-outs. I wanted to get better with agility teams. Perhaps most importantly I had a good theme lined up for a dark elf team (I started one in the open league but it had a bunch of guys die in the first 2 games so I deleted them). I figured deep space is pretty dark, so my team is the Deep Space Elves, named after characters from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Elim Garak, my assassin, got killed in the very first game. Poor guy. Odo, my runner, is leading the league in running yards, passing yards, catches, and touchdowns. The team is only 2-2 and I'm catching brutal game losing mistakes before I make them... And then making them anyway. Eventually I'll get the discipline to actually skip stupid actions that I know are stupid!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Upcoming EdX Courses

Back at the start of this year I posted about the free debut online course from MitX: Electrical Engineering. I started in on it, got bogged down a bit, and ultimately stopped paying attention to it. The bottom line was that while I found it interesting enough it didn't really seem to be going anywhere useful for me. I didn't really have the prereq knowledge and ended up in a position where I'd need to do a lot of catch-up work in order to keep up with stuff I didn't really care about. And I'd have rather played League of Legends anyway.

Regardless of how I did it seems the trial course actually worked out well for them. So much so that more US Universities have joined in and formed a coalition of sorts: edX. I'd stopped paying attention, though I believe they've run at least one semester since the trial. It looks like this coming online semester will at least have courses from MIT, Harvard, and Berkeley. I just got an email (presumably harvested from the EE course I started) urging me to check out these courses and to spread the word about them.

Well, while EE was only a minor interest of mine there are actually two courses this time around that I'm really interested in. Heck, reading my old post I even wrote that the sort of courses I would want to take started with 'statistical modeling and quantum physics'. Well, the courses this time around include an intro stats course and an intro quantum computing course. I feel like I'm probably beyond an intro course in either subject but it has been many years since I was a student myself so it can't hurt. And hopefully this time around the topics are interesting enough to actually prompt me into finishing the courses!

At any rate, it's a free service and all they asked in return was to tell my friends about the course offerings. Well, considering yourselves told. And if you happen to have an interest in stats or quantum physics we can be online classmates! Woo?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Curse Ring

I just stumbled across an item in Final Fantasy VII called the curse ring. I'd been working on turning the cursed shield in Final Fantasy VI into the paladin shield but didn't quite get it done. So I was wondering if this item would work the same way and, if so, if I should be working to uncurse it. It turns out to not be something you can uncurse. Instead it's an accessory that adds a massive amount to all stats but inflicts you with death sentence at the start of every fight.

Fortunately it seems there are a few ways to deal with death sentence. I guess the easiest is to just win the fight before it kills you which is great for random encounters but not so much for boss fights. Then you could always just die and cast life on the person in a long fight but that seems dangerous and costs you your limit meter. Apparently there's a blue magic spell 'death force' that makes you immune to death for the rest of the fight. I haven't learned that (I haven't learned very much at all in fact) but it could be useful. Finally you can use the 'added effect' materia and Odin/destruct in armour to give the person immunity to death permanently. That seems like the best way to go, but I don't think I've picked up an added effect materia at this point. Where would I find one of those?

Turns out it can only be found in the cave of gi way back in cosmo canyon. Huh. I wonder if I can still get in there to pick up the treasure I somehow missed the first time around. I did just get the airship so I guess it's easy enough to find out! Definitely my goal for the bus tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

World of Warcraft Recap

My brother recently commented on an old post about challenge mode dungeons in World of Warcraft. How are we fairing, is there room for him, etc... Unfortunately it turned out that we didn't really get up to the critical mass required in order to really work at them. We had 5 people in guild who were interested in running them and 1 person out of guild. One of those 5 people had the gall to have a baby shortly after Mists launched which took him out of commission after a few challenge runs. At that point we were down to needing all 5 people to show up at the same time, when the out of guild person wasn't raiding. We tried scheduling specific times to get together but at least one person would end up missing out. Personally I'd gotten burned out trying to get the realm first pandaren ambassador achievement (eventually I spent a weekend playing boardgames with Sara and Duncan, realized I was having way more fun not grinding dailies, and gave up) and stopped logging in except to check on challenge dungeon scheduled times.

I logged in today to check on things and we do still have the realm record in Siege of Niuzao Temple which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the state of challenge modes on Vek.

At any rate, I definitely had fun when the expansion first launched and I put in a fair amount of time playing the game. But as far as sustainable fun I needed there to be more people playing. With 2 or 3 more people interested in running challenge modes I feel like we'd have had several runs a week and would have something interesting to work at. Grinding dailies, not so interesting, especially when I have no reason to want the rewards from doing so. I went in and cancelled my account today but it still has a lot of time left on it. Maybe I'll play around with Pokemon some more at some point but right now I'd rather play Blood Bowl with 1 other person or League of Legends with 2-4 other people.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Blood Bowl: Mighty Blow

I've been reading a few Blood Bowl articles recently that go over popular choices for skill ups for different players. One trend I've noticed is pretty much every strength eligible player is expected to take some combination of guard/mighty blow/block depending on starting skills. Most non-strength players are expected to take guard/mighty blow on doubles. I've taken a lot of guard on my dwarf team and been pretty happy with it, but I only have one mighty blow dude. It seems pretty good, but I was wondering exactly how good it actually is...

Back in the day mighty blow used to add one to both your armour and injury rolls any time you hit someone. Now it only works on blocks, and you can only use one of the +1s, not both. So you only get the injury bonus if you would have penetrated their armour without the mighty blow bonus. Those seem like reasonable nerfs, but what does it end up coming in at power-wise?

Once again it depends on the starting armour of the player hit. I'm going to ignore what it takes to knock the guy over in the first place and just look at the end result if they happen to get knocked down. There are two relevant numbers, I think... Odds of getting at least a KO (important for thugging teams that need a clearer field to score in the second half) and odds of actually inflicting a casualty (important for leveling up, clearing the field, and inflicting permanent damage on the enemy).


Those are actually some pretty substantial gains! You more than double your odds of both KOing or casualtying an orc. The percentage boost isn't as big against an elf but the raw increase is even bigger. I guess if I'd stopped to really think about it I should have expected it to be such a big deal. You're only adding 1, but it's a pretty relevant one. Expanding the casualty range from 10-12 to 9-12 takes your hits from 6 in 36 to 10 in 36 alone! Then when you consider that you're adding a whole armour band in at 6 in 36 and you can see where the gains are coming from. Heck, on the armour 10 dudes that extra band is as big as the old one alone! (3 in 36 of rolling a 10 versus 3 in 36 of rolling 11 or 12.)

I'm now questioning how many guards I've taken on my dwarves... The linemen should have it first, but I also put it onto my troll slayers (who both remain level 2) and probably should have gone with mighty blow there. Especially since with dauntless they tend to go after the high armour targets and the odds of taking one of those out really go up with mighty blow. I was thinking my dwarves were done getting ready for the league (there's an initial salary cap) but I think it might be worth trying to squeeze out another level or two on some guys and pick up some mighty blows.

What about finding a team that starts with a bunch of mighty blow? That could be useful... 

Goblins have 2 trolls.
Halflings have 2 trees. 
Ogres have 6 ogres.
Orcs have 1 troll.
Skaven have 1 rat ogre.
Undead have 2 mummys.
Wood elves have 1 tree.

Most of these teams have mostly terrible dudes (goblins, halflings, and snotlings are all strength 1 or 2) or can only get 1 guy with drawbacks along with mighty blow. I kinda want to try ogres out even though they have truly terrible snotlings who only have 1 strength and don't have tackle zones for dodging. Having 6 big dudes with mighty blow could be a real problem for limited roster teams to deal with. 

Another thing to consider is teams that can pick up mighty blow on lots of dudes thanks to having access to strength skills. Chaos and dwarves are the only two with pretty much full strength access. Nurgle teams have 9 dudes who can access strength skills which is pretty good, though they all need to pick up block as well. Really, dwarves seem like the way to go. If only they were better at playing football!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Blood Bowl: Unbalanced Teams

One of the things I love doing with games is finding ways to be overpowered. Kill hundreds of monsters in an underwater submarine with the morph ability in order to max out my stats? I'm in! Working to refine the optimal British play in A Few Acres of Snow was a ton of fun and something I'm pretty proud of. So it should have come as a surprised to no one when I went over the linemen for every Blood Bowl team to try to find the best ones earlier this week. The conclusion I came up with is that the price of block compared to other stats was too low and that I should play the dwarf team or the norse team. I have since played a few games with both teams and have really liked having block all over the place. I'm still learning small scale tactics so my win-loss record has been pretty poor but my guys have been surviving and I've been having fun.

I did an unrelated web search yesterday in an attempt to figure how the game ranks teams in the league. I never did find the answer to that question but I did stumble across a page for someone who posted guidelines for designing your own teams by building your own players. He went over a bunch of rules for how to make sure your invented team wasn't underpowered or overpowered. Most of the rules he gave have been followed by the published teams but he listed a few exceptions where some players are too good or too bad for their cost.

In the category of too bad for their cost we have halflings, hobgoblins, and the amazon thrower. Halflings are very cheap but what you get for that small price isn't justified. They really do need an extra movement or armour to justify their cost. Halflings and hobgoblins were apparently intentionally overcosted just to be mean. The amazon thrower pays too much for pass in what was probably an accident. But you're only paying a little extra and only on one or two players so it's not really terrible.

In the category of too good you have dwarves, norse, undead, and high elves. Dwarves and norse are too good because it turns out block on their linemen doesn't cost enough. Hurray for my guess! Undead were too good because zombies only cost 30k when this guy wrote his webpage. They cost 40k now which brings them more in line. I was thinking zombies looked pretty sweet as it was... For 30k that would be ridiculous! High elves have one undercosted roster player (the catcher) and they changed the team at some point to allow 4 catchers. 8/3/4/7 catch for 90k seems pretty good.

Once I saw that he was listing undercosted teams I figured I'd give the best ones a spin... Turns out I already am! Block is so good and not costed enough on the dwarf/norse linemen for whatever reason. A quick search for norse linemen online turned up a guy actually suggesting you fire any lineman that gained 3 levels without getting a good level roll. Because they already have block so you don't need 3 more normal skills! Seems like a decent way to keep your team value low. I don't currently have to worry about that since only one of my guys has a level so far. I need to get some more games in with them this weekend to see if I can't rectify that situation.

One issue is that they both play similar games. They're not trying to play football so much as they're trying to beat people up and score when convenient. Maybe I should try a 4 catcher high elf team or something... Maybe some dirty skavens!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

League of Legends: Balance Patch

To no one's surprise it turns out that changing all the items, masteries, summoners, and runes resulted in some things being too good. Riot has said they want to give people more time to play around with things to see how things shake up but they are going to nerf some of the particularly brutal offenders. The patch notes can be found here.

In particular they're nerfing the new black cleaver item, Teemo, Rengar, Zyra, and Diana. I'm happy to see all of those changes. The idea that just stacking black cleavers was a good plan is just jarring for this game where they tend to make the good things unique to force you to buy 6 different items. Well, it's worse and some of it's power is unique so that objective is probably accomplished!

They're also changing the way you capture altars on the 3v3 map. Now you'll be able to interrupt people by doing damage to them instead of having to go stand on top of them. This is a buff to ranged attackers and a nerf to melee bruisers, albeit small, which I am in favour of. I like that someone like Ezreal will be able to shoot someone on the altar to stop the capture. Before he'd have to go stand beside the melee bruiser and that isn't going to end well for Ezreal!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blood Bowl Manager

Blood Bowl Manager is an interesting stand alone program Sceadeau linked me to which basically works as a log parser for online Blood Bowl games. It then spits out a bunch of interesting stats and saves all the information online. If you're really into things you can even download logs for other people's games and replay them in the client. That's not really something I've been terribly interested in doing thus far but I can see using it in scheduled league play to scout out the opposition. That it's an option at all is pretty sweet, though.

One thing that shows up in the stat recaps in the manager is a 'chance' stat associated with each type of die roll. It can be positive or negative and my guess was that it shows how lucky or unlucky you were in terms of what you were trying to roll vs what you actually rolled. The first example we saw is shown in the screenshot below:

You may need to enlarge the picture to see. I was the Elveseseses team and I rolled 1d6 28 times in the match against Sceadeau. My distribution of rolls was pretty much as smooth as you could expect but my chance number comes in at -8.57. Sceadeau on the other hand rolled very much on the high end of the spectrum and his chance number was 10.26. My theory at the time was that the chance number being negative was indicating that even though my rolls were average when they came up wasn't optimal for me. If I needed a 4, I rolled a 3. If I needed a 2, I rolled a 6. That sort of thing. So while the end result in a 'snake and ladders' world view where only the sum matters would be about average it was actually bad for me in a Blood Bowl action sense. I want to put that theory to the test though, so I'm going to break down those 28 rolls according to what I needed to roll to see...

Need At LeastQuantityNumber of FailuresEV(Failures)

So on the 28 rolls I actually took I expected to fail 9 of them and actually failed 11 of them. I was making relatively high percentage plays (I needed 2+ or 3+ on most of those rolls) so with my average distribution of results it should have been pretty good for me. But I only hit exactly the number I needed 3 times out of 28. So I was getting lots of overshooting and undershooting which resulted in fewer successes than expected. 

I still don't know precisely what the chance number means (the help files are in French and I couldn't find any relevant information on the program forums) but I do feel like my intuition for what it should mean was about right. My number was negative because I failed more often than I 'should' have. But that's what small numbers of dice are going to do for you!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blood Bowl: Linemen

Yesterday when thinking about if I wanted to be fouling with my halfling team I started thinking about the relative value of linemen between the different teams. Halflings are super cheap so I'm more than happy to trade them off for other players but some of the other teams don't have any cheap players. Losing even one of them early can really reduce the power of your team, at least in the early going when you only have 11 players on your roster. This point came home even more last night as I played two games (one with a wood elf team, one with a dwarf team) where my team got completely obliterated. And I don't just mean on the scoreboard...

The first action in my elf game was for John's necromancer team to break one of my linemen's hip. I used my apothecary to save him but that was only a temporary reprieve. By the end of the game I'd suffered 2 deaths, 4 serious injuries, and 2 more badly hurts. I still managed to score twice because wood elves are good at football but not having any guys on the field for most of the game meant I couldn't stop him from scoring either. Saddened that so many of my guys got taken out I made a dwarf team (they have high armour and good skills though are also really expensive) and went to fight Sceadeau's undead team. It went a little better, but not a whole lot. Pretty early on I suffered two permanent injuries and ended up down in guys again. I inflicted some back but most of his team has regeneration and those rolls came home to save his guys. (I killed one of his mummy's on turn 1 but he regenerated... Boo!) I ended up not scoring, or even getting much xp, and no one leveled up.

I deleted the team since losing a strength and an agility while not making any money or gaining any levels meant the team was actually worse than a starting team. I'm considering deleting the elf team as well since it is likely also worse than a starting wood elf team. (They only have an armour loss, a movement loss, and a niggling injury but are down to only 9 people without money to replace the dead ones... And no good skill ups.)

What I found striking is how many casualties the wood elves and dwarves suffered compared to my halflings. It's not just that I care more about a 70k elf or dwarf than I do a 30k halfling... It's not just that injured halflings just get replaced from my infinite money, though that helps. It's that my halflings simply haven't suffered that many casualties over 4 games. I definitely went a couple games without even using my halfling apothecary! I suspect part of this is small numbers of dice coming home but I think there might actually be other things at work... Halfings have low strength, low armour, and have a negative 'extra squishy' ability but they might actually be harder to seriously hurt. I want to take a look...

I'm only playing low level games for now so most of the people swinging at me don't have good attacking skills. In particular it seems very few people have either block or tackle. Assuming every attack is a 2-dice attack without those skills...

Halfling - 11/36 to get knocked down, 21/36 to penetrate armour, 1/6 to get a casualty, 1/3 to have a casualty be a permanent injury... Works out to a little less than 1% on any given block to seriously injure a halfling.
Wood Elf - 5/9 to get knocked down, 15/36 to penetrate armour, 1/6 to get a casualty, 1/3 to have a casualty be a permanent injury... Works out to a little less than 1.3% on any given block to seriously injure a wood elf.
Dwarf - 5/9 to get knocked down, 1/6 to penetrate armour, 1/6 to get a casualty, 1/3 to have a casualty be a permanent injury... Works out to a little more than half a percent to seriously injure a dwarf.
Halfling (hit by a dwarf with block/tackle) - 3/4 to get knocked down, 21/36 to penetrate armour, 1/6 to get a casualty, 1/3 to have a casualty be a permanent injury... A little over 2.4% to take a serious injury.

Consider that halflings cost less than half what a wood elf or dwarf cost and they're a lot more cost efficient in terms of not taking a serious injury. There's also the fact you'll be fielding a team of 11 guys for most of the game which isn't the case for the more expensive teams. I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that a short handed team takes more hits and gives out fewer hits. A couple of my halfling games were against Randy's elf team and I did a reasonable job of keeping some of his guys off the field. That probably has a lot to do with my feelings that the halflings took fewer hits. Halflings also don't have any incentive to stay beside other people in a slug fest. Stunty meant even when surrounded they could at least try to run away. When my elves fell behind in people they just got surrounded and couldn't escape. All they could do is die.

Another thing to keep in mind is that halflings are way more likely to get knocked out or suffer a non-serious casualty due to the way stunty works. So it's not all sunshine and roses for them. And they suck, let's not forget that.

At any rate, losing 70k worth of value when a lineman goes down is painful. But having my linemen be complete trash in combat and in football is also painful. I think I want to find a team somewhere in the middle. Where it isn't really bad to lose a couple of your linemen but where they can still help you play the game. There are 21 different teams now... One of them is bound to have reasonable dudes!

Amazon - 50k for 6/3/3/7 dodge
Chaos - 60k for 6/3/3/8 horns
Chaos Dwarf - 40k for 6/3/3/7
Dark Elf - 70k for 6/3/4/8
Dwarf - 70k for 4/3/2/9 block, tackle, thick skull
Elf - 60k for 6/3/4/7
Goblins - 40k for 6/2/3/7 dodge, right stuff, stunty
Halflings - 30k for 5/2/3/6 dodge, right stuff, stunty
High Elf - 70k for 6/3/4/8
Human - 50k for 6/3/3/8
Khemri - 40k for 5/3/2/7 regeneration, thick skull
Lizardman - 60k for 8/2/3/7 dodge, stunty
Necromantic - 40k for 4/3/2/8 regeneration
Norse - 50k for 6/3/3/7 block
Nurgle - 40k for 5/3/3/8 decay, nurgle's rot
Ogre - 20k for 5/1/3/5 dodge, right stuff, side step, stunty, titchy
Orc - 50k for 5/3/3/9
Skaven - 50k for 7/3/3/7
Undead - 40k for 5/3/2/7 regeneration, thick skull
Vampire - 40k for 6/3/3/7
Wood Elf - 70k for 7/3/4/7

Ok, so it looks like in general there's a nice formula going around. One movement is worth the same as one armour and costs an extra 10k. The 4th point of agility is worth 20k. Block is worth 10k. Dodge is worth 10k. Horns, somehow, are worth 10k. Tackle and 20k are worth losing an agility. Stunty and 10k are worth losing a strength. Unless you're a halfling in which case you get to lose an extra armour for funsies. Right stuff is completely free (presumably the team pays extra for the throw teammate ability). Side step and titchy appear to be worth your second strength. Thick skull is free. Regeneration and 10k are worth losing an agility. Decay and nurgle's rot offset each other in terms of cost.

As a thought experiment, given the choice, would I rather have block, dodge, a movement, or an armour? For my generic dorks I'm pretty sure the answer is block. It gives you more acceptable rolls when throwing a lot of hits on the line. It protects you from some incoming attacks. It can't be countered as easily as dodge. Dodge is very good when you're trying to evade tackle zones and play football and such but you don't really need an entire team dedicated to playing football. Some of your guys can just stand around and thug. Block is the best for that. Armour is probably a close second. Being able to move fast is good and all but, again, your whole team doesn't need to move fast. Let your specialty players move fast. Let your core dudes just stand around and be tough.

Unfortunately there are only two options to get block on your linemen. One is the dwarf team which has the most expensive linemen of them all. The other is the norse team. They only have 7 armour which is pretty low but they do come in at 50k which feels like it's probably a good sweet spot. That's enough money to be buying some reasonable stats but not so much that it's crippling for a starting team to lose one early.

If I choose to ignore block it seems like dropping an agility makes a ton of sense. Regular dudes don't dodge away that much and every lineman that lost an agility gained a defensive ability. Either regeneration, thick skull, really high armour, or a combination. Paying 40k for a zombie just seems like a great deal.

I think I may try putting a norse team together to see how it works. I may also try to tough out a few early games with a dwarf team to see if I can make enough money to buy a couple bench players. Dwarves seem really good when you reach the point where losing one isn't a huge impact on your bottom line. The rest of the team isn't very good at football so they may not be my style of team but it's probably worth a shot.

Orcs may actually be the best here. They have no frills. They just have a good stat mix to hit the 50k mark what with having 9 armour. The rest of the team has a good mix of specialty guys though they are a little on the slow side. But since speed and armour seem to cost the same amount it shouldn't be surprising that high armour guys are slow.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blood Bowl: Sneaky Git

I've played a few games with my Halfling team online and had leveled quite a few halflings. They don't get many choices for skills (they can only take agility skills, not general skills, so they have a very short list of options) and I decided to take a variety to see how they felt. I have yet to use diving tackle, block was awesome (I could only get it because I rolled doubles), and sprint/sure feet were as good as I remembered them. The last one I've taken so far was sneaky git which modifies the way fouling works. I really found myself liking the change and I wanted to look into exactly what it does...

Back in the day fouling in Blood Bowl was a way to level up your characters on top of the other benefits but they took that out. Now fouling is actually a decision. As I see it there are only two reasons left to foul... To inflict short term damage on the opposing team (in the hopes that helps you win the current game) and to inflict long term damage on the opposing team because you're a sadist, or for revenge, or because you may play them again in the future and want an advantage in that game. To counter-balance these benefits it takes an action and there's a straight one in six chance that your player gets kicked out of the game while causing you to miss the rest of your turn. (So you should probably foul as late in the turn as possible I guess.) Sneaky git removes most of those downsides. Instead of getting kicked out on any doubles you only get kicked out on doubles that actually inflict damage on the opposing player.

For halflings the short-term benefit is pretty huge. Halflings suck and the only real thing they have going for them is you can afford lots of subs. As such, getting a halfling kicked out for fouling isn't the end of the world and if they happen to take an opponent out for the rest of the game it's a huge win. You have 11 players, I have 14 halflings and 2 trees. I would gladly remove any number of halflings to take out an equal number of your worst players. I'd even take a 2 for 1 deal against most teams! The things that needs to be worked out then are the odds of taking an opponent out compared to the odds of taking yourself out both with and without sneaky git.

There are a couple variables here. When you foul you roll 2d6, add 1 for any adjacent teammates outside of enemy tackle zones, subtract 1 for adjacent enemies outside of ally tackle zones, and compare to the enemy's armour. Beat it to inflict some damage which again entails rolling 2d6 with a look-up on an injury chart. For simplicity I'm going to assume 1 adjacent ally and no adjacent enemies but that can obviously change depending on board state. Then I'm going to look at a couple of typical armour values... 7 and 9.

First of all, how does the final damage roll look? On a 2-7 the injured player is merely stunned. They get to stay on the field but have to miss their next turn. On an 8 or 9 the injured player is knocked out. They get removed from play and get a 50% shot each kick-off to recover. If they recover they can come back into play, if they don't the enemy team is short-handed for a few turns. On a 10, 11, or 12 the injured player suffers a casualty. They're knocked out for the rest of this game and may well suffer permanent damage. (1 in 6 that they miss the next game, 1 in 6 that they permanently lose a stat of some kind, 1 in 6 that they're permanently killed.) A stun result is reasonable off of a block but is pretty sad off of a foul. It doesn't accomplish either of our possible goals. A KO is reasonable for the short-term since they're out at least the current drive. What you're really looking for is a casualty, which is only 1/6th of the time that you penetrate their armour. 1/4th for the KO. 7/12 of the worthless stun.

Against an armour of 7 you need to end up with a modified 8 on your 2d6. We're assuming a +1 bonus, so you're looking at 7/12th chance of penetrating the armour on a squishy elf. The actual result table for such a foul is:
Outcome# in 144# in 144 (sneaky git)
No Result90102
Worthless Kicked Out197
KOed Kicked Out33
Casualty Kicked Out22

And against a tanky orc armour of 9...

Outcome# in 216# in 216 (sneaky git)
No Result160184
Worthless Kicked Out317
KOed Kicked Out33
Casualty Kicked Out22

The first (and obvious) thing to point out is sneaky git doesn't actually make you more likely to inflict any damage. It might make it more worthwhile to foul but it doesn't actually help hurt them. You want dirty player for that! Against an elf you're looking at turning 12 of the 144 outcomes from kicked out without doing anything to no result. That's a little over 8% of the time, which isn't nothing. It also isn't a huge deal. Against an orc it gets a little better. You save 24 of 216 outcomes which is over 11% of the time. Rearranging a bit, assuming a KO ejection is neutral and a normal KO is positive you're looking at:

OutcomeElfElf (sg)OrcOrc (sg)

Looking at it like this really shines some light on the topic I think. Most of the time you're just throwing an action away for no gain or loss. This is true regardless of the target or if you have sneaky git. Fouling an elf is more likely to help than to hurt regardless of skills, assuming you're hitting him with a lower valued character. Like a halfling. Orcs are a little rougher. Fouling is more likely to hurt than to help. Unless you have sneaky git, anyway. I feel like fouling an orc with a halfling still might makes sense. Certainly against Sceadeau I was happy to take shots at his +1 aglity, +tackle orc. But it probably wasn't worth fouling most of his other players. With sneaky git, on the other hand, I think it makes sense to foul even an orc at every opportunity. 

With a different team, where I don't have a full bench and each individual player is worth a lot more it makes less sense to foul. Again, maybe if there's a really leveled up guy it can make sense. But otherwise the risk just isn't worth the reward. Unless you have sneaky git. Which makes me think it might be worthwhile to give an elf sneaky git so he can run in and foul every turn... And fouling elves at every turn will probably still make sense. Stupid unarmoured elves... Makes me think I should maybe find a high armoured team...

Friday, December 07, 2012

Blood Bowl Rules

I finally got around to playing my first game of online multiplayer Blood Bowl and it worked about as well as I'd thought it would. I even had my router die in the middle of the match and the client managed to recover (mostly) gracefully when I switched my connection direct into my modem. Very impressed by that.

The game itself was a pretty typical starting Orc vs starting Halfling match... A 0-0 draw. I was up against Randy Buehler in like his fourth game ever and we spent a lot of time with him pushing halflings around and me trying to stand trees up without success. We hit the good old 1-in-36 of failing a few times which resulted in him losing a pretty sure touchdown in the first half when I kicked to him and me losing one in the second half when he kicked to me. We both made some tactical errors (rust and not really knowing the rules, mostly) but I'm sure we'll do better going forward. A couple rules questions did come up which I couldn't really answer at the time. Most of my time spent playing the game was 12 years ago and that was at least 3 rules rewrites ago.

So, I went looking for the current rules. And found them here! Definitely worth a read if you haven't played in a while/at all.

First rules question... Is there overtime? According to the current rules that's up to the people playing. For the online game if the game is a play-off game where draws aren't allowed then you have overtime. Otherwise you don't. Hence, the 0-0 draw.

Second rules question... Randy inflicted a casualty on one of my two treemen early on but didn't get any SPP (Star Player Points, the experience currency in the game) from doing so. Why not? It turns out you now only get SPP from casualties inflicted directly from a block. If you inflict a casualty by knocking someone out of bounds, or by fouling them, or by throwing a halfing into them you don't get any points. This is definitely different than back in the day when I distinctly remember knocking people out of bounds for points. It was my main way of leveling halflings up! Isolate one dude and then keep shoving him out of bounds. It's a shame that doesn't work anymore, but I guess it's better for the longevity of the players. Fouling used to be something worth doing for experience each turn at the very least. Now, not so much. It still could make sense to try to inflict some damage, don't get me wrong, but it isn't a way to power level. This was why Randy didn't get his 2 points... He took my tree out by stepping on his head.

Finding an opponent in the client doesn't seem like the easiest thing to do. I think because I'm in a small league and don't know enough about playing in other leagues. I may start up another team and throw it into an online league just to see how that works. On the plus side Sceadeau has a Vent server and the league has a Facebook group so finding games isn't impossible. More people couldn't hurt, though!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

League of Legends: Tribunal Revamp

I was doing some digging after reading about the pro ban I posted about yesterday and discovered the tribunal system actually underwent some big changes a couple months ago. I like the idea of the tribunal but really only did it a couple of times. I got a total of 105 IP out of it, which really isn't very much at all. One game's worth, pretty much. It was better than nothing, but it clearly didn't motivate me to keep doing it.

Well, two months ago they took the IP away from helping out in the tribunal. No tangible reward at all from doing it. In exchange they added in two new features. The first is a tribunal rating system where you earn points for getting cases correct but the points don't do anything except raise your tribunal rating. The second is the system actually tells you the specific outcomes of every case you review. This seems really game changing. One of my laments when I was doing this 11 months ago was that I found out how many cases I got 'right' but not how many I'd tried or how I got things 'wrong'. Now I can see how other people voted so I can see what is actually getting punished and what is getting pardoned. I like visibility!

I did 20 cases today and actually already have a result for one of them. I voted to punish, and that was the end result. It turns out this guy was a repeat offender and was due for a 7 day ban. Which went out automatically less than an hour after I voted. Sweet! So now I have a tribunal rating of 1210 and I have a 'toxic days prevented' stat of 7. It also no longer gives user names so I can't go harass this guy about banning him if I wanted to. That seems like a good change too. I don't need to know who the terrible person is, I just need to know that my punish vote helped hit someone bad with a 7 day ban. This guy in particular was obviously playing in low level games and was pretty vile to his teammates so I'm pretty glad he's out for a week. 

The question I guess is will giving me some arbitrary numbers to raise and some actual result feedback keep me doing this more than the IP reward did? I think it might...

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

League of Legends: Pro Ban

An interesting thread popped up on the main League of Legends forum yesterday. It would seem the jungler for one of the top US teams has what you may call a bit of a potty mouth on him. He'd been punished by the tribunal system 7 times in the past and was just handed an 8th punish verdict. The recommended punishment by the system given his past history was a permanent account ban. Typically this would mean he'd lose his account (and therefore any purchased champions/skins) but could start over from scratch. If he'd learned to be less caustic to the other people in his games he'd get to keep that account. If he was bad again the new account would eventually get banned. This works for most people, but pro players are a bit of an exception. People will talk about how he needs to be a good representative for the game because he streams to a lot of people and because people look up to him. I can see how that is true, and definitely think that he should be held to a higher standard of behaviour, but to me that's not the biggest difference.

The biggest difference, for me, is that a lot of the games he actually cares about aren't played on his account at all. The big tournaments are all played on special tournament realms where every account has access to every champion/rune/skin. Banning his main account might put him out some cash if he wants to buy his way back quickly so he can keep streaming practice games, but he would undoubtedly get a lot of people watching him leveling up too. Banning it wouldn't seriously impact him, though. If I lost my account it would really suck because everything I have invested in LoL from a time or cash perspective is all on the one account. For him, not so much. Nevermind the fact he had several other max level accounts already! (I guess when you get punished by the tribunal 7 times you have plenty of spare time to start new accounts.) Permanently banning his main account would be annoying for losing the name (unless you can name change to a banned name...) but wouldn't really be a punishment.

Fortunately banning his account wasn't the only thing they did. They went and looked up his other accounts and it turns out (unsurprisingly) they were all misbehaving as well! They were all at or near the perm-ban level themselves, so Riot took them all out at the same time. That certainly helps since he no longer has a level 30 account to play on at all. It won't take that long to level up, and I'm sure someone would lend him one if he needed it...

So they went one step further. Those tournaments which are played on a tournament realm with different accounts? He's suspended from those for a year. Now that's a real punishment. I read that entire thread (1200+ posts and counting) and a lot of people seem to think it's too harsh and is really going to hurt his teammates. I think it's a pretty good spot. A full year might be high but I think any traditional punishment wasn't actually going to hurt him at all. They needed to go after his ability to play on the tournament realms if they were going to get the point across that his behaviour was unacceptable.

Other people complained that it was unfair to hit this guy because other pros act like jerks too. Some argued that people acting like jerks was a good thing and 'censorship' is bad. I'm strongly in favour of chat moderation. I hate the idea that it's ok to act like a compete idiot and I sadly recognize that that's the default option for many people. So I'm thrilled when companies actually start cracking down on it. My hope is actually that they'll wait a little bit and then go after some more pros that haven't shaped up from this warning shot. The other champions in these games are played by actual people and some modicum of respect isn't much to ask. Yelling at people makes them feel bad and play worse and there's no reason those things should be allowed or encouraged.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

League of Legends: Super Patch!

The long anticipated preseason 3 patch has finally gone live. There are tons of changes in this patch. The mastery trees are changing. The runes are getting some tweaks based on item budgets changing for armour and spell penetrations. Items are getting a complete overhaul with some old items going away and a lot of new ones coming out. The jungle is being altered to be harder, less AE intensive, and worth more. The rewards for killing other players are being tweaked. Pretty much every aspect of the game is getting changed in one way or another and it's almost like it's a brand new game... The perfect time for some of you slackers to get started!

One thing that isn't really changing at all is the champions and their abilities. This concerns me a little since with all the other changes coming in I have to think some champions are just going to be too good and others are going to be a lot worse than they used to be. The test servers probably weren't a good enough place to find this stuff out and we probably need the patch to be live for a while with people being abusive before the champions get altered. I guess this is why this is the preseason patch and not the season launch patch, eh?

The patch is downloading now and I'm going to likely spend the whole night playing around with the new stuff. Assuming the servers are actually working, anyway... I've lived through too many online game patches to actually expect anything to work today. But I sure want it to work!

I'm especially curious to see how the new boot enchant which speeds up nearby minions will work... Does it provide enough of a speed buff to allow you to force your lane into the enemy turret in the early-mid game?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Golden Saucer Date

One of the things I find so interesting about playing a game again years after I last played is how the information available about how the game works has advanced. The first time I played FFVII I played almost entirely in the dark. The second time I made liberal use of gamefaqs. This time around I am digging even deeper into the stuff on there. It may seem like I'm just finding new guides that already existed years ago, but no... There are guides with new information since I last played. For a game that's over 15 years old. That's pretty impressive I think!

At any rate, there's a scene near the end of the first disk of Final Fantasy VII where the main character chooses one of the other characters to go on an amusement park date. He'll choose between one of the three female characters or possibly the Mr T friend character. Not based on your choice at the time. Instead there are internal affection meters for each of the four characters that change as you make decisions throughout the plot. Be nice to someone and they like you more. Diss their world view and they like you less. Whoever ends up liking you the most when you get to the amusement park a second time goes on a date with the main character. The odds are stacked very heavily in Aeris's favour. It seems plausible that Tifa might get chosen if you're actively rude to Aeris at every turn but without really trying hard it's very unlikely to end up with Yuffie or Barret. I'm pretty sure I ended up with Aeris the first time I played and Tifa the second time. The second time I was trying to get Barret and failed because of faulty info in the guide I was reading...

You see, it turns out the game actually tracks two affection values for each character. One is used for the date, the other is used for nothing at all. But the first guy who took a hex editor to the game didn't figure that out. He just saw that some numbers were going up when you did all kinds of weird things so the first guide I read talked about doing crazy things. Like having Cloud attack Aeris in combat or using healing spells on Barret. Doing those things would adjust some internal numbers, but it wouldn't actually do anything.

It looks like there's a guide that got updated in 2009 that dug even deeper and worked that little difference out. I'm currently angling my way to meet up with Yuffie. I actually had to reset the game and replay about an hour or so because I forgot to recruit Yuffie in time to give her a tranquilizer on the boat for 4 affection. I messed up the meeting with the fort condor guys but I think I didn't have Aeris or Tifa in my party at all when I went in so I'm hoping it won't be too bad.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Cutscenes

In my youth I was a Nintendo kid. We had a SNES and then a Nintendo 64 in my household and I don't recall even thinking once about getting a PlayStation. As such, when Final Fantasy VII came out in 1997 I didn't have a clue about it and certainly never played it. It wasn't until Josh joined the group of people living in Comfy Prime (and brought his PS with him) that I had a chance to play it at all. And by that point Final Fantasy VIII had come out and I'd watched many people playing that game. I only played FFVII to differentiate myself from everyone else who was playing FFVIII.

By this point I'd heard such good things about the graphics in FFVII but I remember being pretty unimpressed with them. People who had played it at launch would have been comparing it to the 16 bit era FFVI at best. I was comparing it to FFVIII and it wasn't spectacular at all. It probably didn't help that our collection of televisions was pretty low grade since we were poor students and all. At any rate, my memory of FFVII's graphics was that they distinctly mediocre.

When I hit the first FMV cutscene the other day on my PSP I was blown away. The PSP has a pretty high resolution screen for a portable device which I'm sure helps but I'm now in a position to compare this to FFVI. A remade PS version of FFVI mind you, but one that tried very hard to keep the 16 bit look and feel. I am now very impressed with the FFVII graphics. Combat and stuff is pretty good, but this FMV was awesome. I guess this sort of thing is why the game was 1.3G, eh?

I love how Da Fool and Ubu jump into the back of a pick-up!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Advanced Civilization

Advanced Civilization is one of those classic hardcore board games that a lot of people I know sometimes talk about but no one ever plays. The game takes many hours to play, requires many people, and has some pretty punishing mechanics to it. Personally I believe I've only played once, back in University, and I was actually playing on a team with Snuggles. One of us (I forget who) had to leave after a couple hours so we teamed up to start with the plan of cutting down to one person when they had to leave. 10 hours later we were both still playing. I don't remember if we won or not but I know we did very good despite neither of us having played before. Two heads may be better than one! It was long, but very fun.

Robb mentioned earlier this week that he was considering playing Advanced Civ at WBC this year. Now, I find WBC time is way too valuable to spend 8 consecutive hours playing something. Especially since all the Advanced Civ games start at 9 in the morning! I have to think I'd be better off sleeping in until 11 and playing three other games instead. That said, I would like to play the game again since I did like it. WBC may be the only chance I have since the odds of finding 7 other people who want to play a 10 hour game at the same time seem pretty darn slim...

Or they did until I read the WBC recap from this year's Advanced Civ event today. It turns out there's a website up that handles running games of Advanced Civ similar to Diplomacy judges. You get 2 or 3 days per move and the game takes about 4 months to resolve. It feels like it should be easier to get people willing to check a website for 10 minutes a couple times a week for a few months than it is to get someone to spend a whole day doing something. Especially with how many of my old gamer friends have children now. Mistakes are made, but we can work around that.

So, the question is, is anyone interested in giving this site a spin? I figure I'll probably join a public game later this week if there isn't enough interest to get a game going from people I know. Or maybe I'll do both...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

WBC Event Recaps

The event recaps for this year's World Boarding Championships are almost online. By this I mean that they are actually up on the website but they haven't been announced as up and aren't linked to. Of course any hacker who cares can figure out where they are... Each year they just increment the number at the end of the webpage name and it seems the 12 one is up. This is always a happy time for me since I love reading all the event recaps. Some of them I read to see if I get mentioned in the recap. Some I read to see how the event ran to know if I should try it in a future year. Some I read even though I don't care about the game at all because I just like reading them.

In 2011 there were five events that didn't submit a recap. There's a punishment for not getting one in on time and that's a reduction in status for the event itself. A top tier event get bumped down to a potential trial. A potential trial gets kicked off the trial ballot for a whole year. This year there were three events that didn't submit a recap. That makes me sad in general but these ones in particular make me really sad since they include two events I've won in the past and a third I was interested in playing now that the game is on Yucata. Hawaii has been kicked out for a year while both Puerto Rico and Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation will have to be voted back in as trials.

I don't know how to feel about this. On the one hand I've never been a GM so I'm in no real position to complain that they aren't writing recaps. On the other hand if I'd known the Lord of the Rings GM wasn't going to submit a recap I would have written one myself to let it have a full compliment of plaques next year. It feels like the people getting punished here aren't the ones who slacked off for whatever reason but the people who do well in that specific game. But as Sceadeau pointed out on Facebook yesterday you can't have any punishment against the GMs specifically or you'll really deter people from volunteering to GM and that's the last thing you want to do. I'm worried enough that I'd do a bad job GMing and forget to do something... If you threaten me with a ban from WBC if I do a bad job then there's no way I'd do it. And if there's no punishment at all then way more than 3 reports would get skipped each year. Presumably people choose to GM games they care about in some way so the status quo does seem like a reasonable way to approach things.

I just wish there was a way to prod these things along. Because I don't want popular games to get removed and because I want to be able to read about all the events each year. And because I want to win a Lord of the Rings shield!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition

I got a message out of the blue from one of my WBC friends, Sceadeau, asking if I happened to play Blood Bowl. I haven't in quite some time, but back one summer at Comfy Prime we had a board in use probably 20 hours of every day. Man, those were the days. We didn't get into the whole Games Workshop idea where you had to buy and paint your miniatures before you could play... We used numbered pieces of paper, the junky minis that came with the game, and the pewter pieces from my copy of Robo Rally and had a grand time of it. I bought the PC game when it came out in 2009 and had fun playing it but I found it lagged too much on my laptop and ultimately got distracted by other games. Probably WoW given the year.

Apparently they've been coming out with new versions of the PC game with improvements and new teams. A new version recently came out which brought the number of playable teams to 23. I took a quick look and discovered that halflings are one of the teams added in since I last played. Here's the very first sentence under their 'strengths' on the webpage...

"You’re going to end up losing a few Halflings regardless of what you do,"

Oh man, now that brings back memories. I lost more than my fair share of halflings back in our league. They're so terrible! I can remember that they were so cheap to replace that I'd retire guys if they were just going to miss the next game. No sense playing with only 15 people next time when I can turn him into an assistant coach and throw another 30k at a new dude instead! I loved playing halflings partially because they were truly terrible and partially because you got to do some very silly things. I can remember one time I stopped someone from scoring (Josh's maybe?) by chucking a halfling at the ball carrier who was on the sidelines and out of running range of my team. Direct hit! The ball bounced into the stands where they threw it down the field in my direction.

One of my guys got an early agility up and he became my go-to scorer. Get him the ball, get him beside a tree-man, and chuck him down towards the end zone. He broke his neck on one such play when he failed to land properly and ended up only having one strength. He sure was terrible!

It turns out the game is/was on sale on Steam for the black friday/cyber monday junk, but they also were offering the new version for $10 to anyone who bought an older version. Sceadeau is putting together a league of some kind and I figure I can go be terrible there for old time's sake. So I upgraded to the new version and played a game against the computer last night to see how things worked... Turns out halflings are still terrible! The AI didn't seem great and still ended up knocking me down below a starting roster by the last kick-off of the game. They were also down to only 10 guys but that's because they only started with 11! I had the full 16! Lots of little speed bumps all over the place.

Trees are still awesome, but it looks like wood elves can buy treemen also. Which means they pretty much have to be better than halflings at pretty much every aspect of the game. Except being expendable I guess... But I don't know that I want to be good... I want to be awesome! And nothing says awesome like using your teammates as projectile weapons!

If anyone is interested in joining in let me know.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dancing With The Stars Finale

Tonight will have the final competition episode for this season of Dancing With The Stars. This season was special in that they brought back 13 stars from previous seasons to have an all-star season. Lots of past champions and such. One returning star in particular has been awesome this season and I found myself wanting to re-watch all her dances and link them on facebook. But since I'm probably going to want to watch them again later it would be useful to have them all in one place. So while this is pretty off topic for a gaming blog, I'm going to stick them all in here anyway.

Watching DWTS has taken away a fair amount of gaming time in recent weeks and Robb was confused as to why I'd choose to watching dancing over playing League of Legends. I donno. I really like precise, in sync movements. I don't get when the judges talk about the emotional connections or whatever. I think that's the Vulcanian in me. It's the sort of thing I like to imagine I could do myself someday if not for the whole needing a second person thing which just doesn't seem very likely, does it?

At any rate, Shawn Johnson is simply awesome. After the week 3 dance her pro partner was visibly exhausted from the dance and she didn't look winded at all. She hits every single step precisely and they're just able to go so high energy. Last week she finally got tired after an incredible bhangra dance. I really hope she wins tonight... I don't go crazy and only vote with one Facebook account so I'm not really doing all I could to help her win, but I hope she does anyway.

And now... Youtube videos! Try not to get as bitter about Len's scores and comments as I do...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Final Fantasy VII: Versions and Plans

Next up in my marathon is the best selling game in the series: Final Fantasy VII. I'd remembered hearing something about a recent PC re-release of this game so I figured I should go looking for information on what may have changed to see what version I wanted to try playing.

It turns out there have been surprisingly few version of FFVII over the years. Considering how many versions keep popping up of FFIV, for example, I would have thought there'd be more FFVII running around. I guess FFVII is the first game of the PlayStation era and therefore the original version was playable in more places than the old ones thanks to the backwards compatibility of the PS2/PSP/PS3. As best I can tell there have only really been 2 relevant releases. PSX and PC. The game changed a little between the initial Japanese release and the subsequent NA port, and a little again when the NA version was ported back to Japan, but they're essentially the same game. It was also released on the PS Network for PSP and PS3 but that is also a straight port. The PC version apparently was built off of an old branch of the PSX code and as a result ended up a little different. And by different I mostly mean incredibly buggy. But because it was on PC it was relatively easily modded. The new PC release a couple months ago is essentially just the old PC version with the better mods applied which fixed bugs. And some easy to obtain achievements.

The new PC version doesn't sound like it's really any different from the old PSX version. As such, it's really not worth my while to pick it up. But for someone who wants to play the game in one location the new PC version sounds like a perfectly reasonable way to go. At any rate, I still want to play on the bus so I decided download the PSN version on my PSP instead of getting my PSX copy back from Andrew. I have to go through the hassle to set my router up each time I want to download a game on the PSP so I decided to buy FFVII and FFVIII at the same time. I went to start the downloads and ran into a bit of a problem... My PSP came with a 1G memory stick. FFVII is 1.3G and FFVIII is 1.8G! Those are huge! As Andrew pointed out, it's these sizes that took the Final Fantasy series away from Nintendo. The N64 could apparently hold 64M on a cartridge... Assuming this download is the same size as the initial game it would have taken 21 of those to hold the game. Yikes!

So I ended up having to go buy a new memory stick. It doesn't seem like they're really sold much anymore but I found a 4G one at The Source. I wanted a bigger one but if I need to offload games from the stick to my laptop in the future (or even just buy another 4G stick) it won't be the end of the world.

Now that I have the game the question is do I want to do anything wacky... Apparently the game is considered to be pretty darn easy and there are a lot of people coming up with all kinds of crazy challenges. For example, single character, initial equipment, no materia, no accessories, no running from fights. SCIENMNANE for short. The fact that this is even possible should be a clue as to how easy the game is when you use three characters, gear, and abilities!

On the other hand I've only played this game twice. The first time I did pretty much everything. I killed Sephiroth entirely with morph damage! The second time, during my first FF marathon, I think I just plowed through to the end fast. But while I remember a bit about the plot and mechanics I don't feel like I know the game very well. Not like FFIV or FFVI where I could rattle off pretty much the entire game if I had to. So I think I'm just going to play the game normally, be overpowered, and smash things. And then complain about how easy it is later.

Oh, and I'm going to date Yuffie this time. Honest!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Conclusions

Yesterday on the bus in to work I made my way to the end of Kefka's crazy tower and put an end to his insanity. He was pretty easy. One of his four stages managed to kill off one of my characters, but only because of bad timing on my part. I had entered in the command which killed off the stage and then he attacked 10 times and killed Terra before it resolved. I didn't get a change to cast life on her.

I remember talking with James about this game many years ago and he was annoyed that you couldn't solo Kefka. One of the stages finishes off with an instant death attack that kept trying to resolve even if you dodged it. You could become completely invincible but would get stuck in an infinite loop as the boss stage would use it's death attack, get dodged, and then repeat. Turns out in the PSX version they changed the way it worked. He only tried to use it twice before giving up. Now, I certainly wasn't invincible and pretty much just got lucky that Setzer dodged it twice.

I was a little sad at how easy pretty much everything was, actually. Some of the fights right at the start of the ruined world were a little rough but I scaled much better than the boss fights did. I didn't even twink out very hard at all. I didn't switch in espers right before leveling to make sure I got optimal stat ups. I didn't grind out extra levels. I didn't even bother finishing off the paladin shield. Even worse, I didn't bother taking it off... Setzer kicked the snot out of Kefka even with a cursed shield on. My mages were casting flare or meteor instead of ultima because I took the ragnarok sword and didn't finish the paladin shield. In short, I could have been a lot more powerful. I'm a little sad that there was nothing to do that needed such an absurd amount of power.

I was feeling a lot of ennui with regards to finishing the game. It took about two and a half months to get done which is pretty comparable to what it took to grind out Final Fantasy IV. Don't get me wrong, I think both games are incredible even after all these years. I think the problem is just that I've played them so many times there really wasn't any exploring left to do and that's one of the great end game features of these games. FFVI in particular has so many little cutscenes you can find depending on who you have in your current party. Did you know Shadow is actually Relm's father? Wandering around with different party compositions was a ton of fun back in the day. But now? I didn't really have a great desire to watch Gau interact with his father again.

That said, this game has my favourite villain from any game. And thinking about it more, I think it actually has my top three player characters as well. Setzer, Locke, and Celes are all awesome in their own ways. I like me some Kimarhi, don't get me wrong, but I don't think any character in any game passes any of those three.

I love the battle system. Adding in something as simple as the 'pass' command which lets the active character skip their turn is such a huge improvement. I still think I prefer the more tactical system of FFX but as far as the ATB system used from IV through IX goes, this is a pretty good iteration.

The leveling system is pretty great, too. I like how just playing the game normally will get you plenty of spells and stat ups but that you can really twink out if you want. All that's really missing is a reason to twink out. An emerald weapon to go beat up, that kind of thing.

The music is fantastic. The graphics are state of the art for the SNES. You can really tell that this is a later generation SNES game and that Square learned from making FFIV and FFV. The sound in the PSX port was tinny which was annoying, but the original console game didn't suffer from that flaw at all.

Going into this whole marathon I was pretty sure FFIV was going to stay on the top of my heap. If anything was going to challenge it for supremacy I was thinking it might be X or VIII. But no... FFVI is the new king. The characters, character development, plot, gameplay, music... It's all here. This game is the complete package.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Kefka

Kefka is the big bad guy at the end of Final Fantasy VI, and he's my favourite villain from pretty much any source. Game, movie, book... No one else is as awesome, insane, or just plain evil. I really like the way Kefka works into the story of the game pretty much the entire time which is fairly different compared to most other games in the series.

Take FFIV, for example. The end boss of that game is Zeromus, a fellow you only learn exists shortly before the end of the game. For most of the game you're led to believe that Golbez is the prime evil but then it turns out he's actually your brother and has been mind controlled. Great twist and all, but it really doesn't leave much time for Zeromus to come into his own.

In FFV you do learn of the end boss pretty early into the game but you actually don't have much reason to hate the guy. X-Death was imprisoned by your father and I'm sure he was quite evil back then. But now? He's just trying to break out of jail, power up, and get some revenge. Heck, frame it a little differently and that actually sounds like the back story for a good guy.

In FFIII the end boss is just a cloud. It is pretty scary that there's this big cloud out there that wants to devour the universe and clearly you want to go stop it... But can you really call it evil? It's just doing what a giant void cloud does. And even then, it doesn't feature much, if at all, in the plot. It's kinda pulling the strings in the background but mostly it's just there.

Being present throughout the game, it turns out, is actually important for people. You can see this from the first couple World of Warcraft expansions. The initial game had no end boss to speak of. Kill some things, get some loot, wait for new dungeons to come out. Tons of fun, but no big bad guy to hate. The first expansion brought Illidan out as the big bad guy and he featured in the opening video as a guy you really wanted to go kill. And then he promptly disappeared from most of the game and most people never saw him again. But in the second expansion the Lich King was featured prominently in lots of leveling quests. At one point you even inadvertently help him conquer a tribe of trolls and get control of a zone. You really wanted to go beat him up!

FFVI really brings this angle out of Kefka. He keeps showing up in the plot during the events of the first world. You don't think he's the big bad guy at the time, but he's still kicking around and doing things that make you hate him. Square still gets to pull out their big twist when Kefka kills his emperor, destroys the world, and becomes a god. But because it's not the introduction of a new character as the god but the transformation of an existing character I feel it has more power. And oh, what an existing character...

Kefka starts out appearing like the comic relief. He has corny music, he dresses funny, and he's egotistical to the extreme. He's marching through the desert and makes his lackeys dust the sand off of his boots! Then he goes full on evil when he goes behind Leo's back and poisons the entire population of Doma. And that laugh... MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! After all, nothing can beat the sweet music of hundreds of voices screaming in unison...

Kefka kills off one of the other Empire generals, Leo. This shortly after you start to learn more about Leo and start liking him. He seems like a good guy, and then Kefka kills him on you. Kefka also does a decent job of turning the party against Celes by talking her up as a spy instead of a defector. It's things like these that make you really hate Kefka. I really liked Locke and Celes together and it angered me when Kefka drove a wedge between them!

Kefka fights the party over and over, but it actually makes sense that he's a rough but beatable fight each time. He keeps gaining power as the story progresses by killing more and more espers and absorbing their powers. (Which is actually how the player characters progress as well. Espers teach spells and give stat ups on leveling.) Eventually Kefka gets control of the goddess statues that created all magic and uses their power to become a god, at which point you stop fighting him. Then you have to live in a world he's destroyed. Kefka isn't someone you casually run into anymore but you're constantly faced with the consequences of his actions.

Kefka has tons of great lines, he's constantly in your face, and he's absolutely both insane and evil. And his path to power is actually quite believable given the game world. It's for these reasons I think he's the most awesome villain in any story.

And his music is great too... Check out both his normal theme music and his epic final boss battle music!