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!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Censorship

When Final Fantasy VI was originally released in the US it endured a fair amount of censorship. The translation was tamed down in terms of religious imagery, vulgarity, alcohol, and an attempted suicide was removed. Oddly enough they left in an imprisoned woman getting beaten for information, though that scene was eventually removed for the GBA port.

They also modified some images for overt sexuality but ended up restoring them in the PSX port. One of the minor reasons I wanted to play the PSX version on my PSP was to see if I'd notice any of these images. Well, the answer was yes, because one of the summons isn't wearing any pants at all. Siren is supposed to lure poor men in with her lovely voice, not by walking around naked. Though if the wikipedia article on sirens has anything to say about it, maybe they are known for being naked. *shrug*

Here are versions of the Siren summon from the different ports. The left is the original, the middle is the NA SNES version, and the right is from the GBA version. Apparently they were allowed to show some more skin on the GBA, but not the full monty like back on the Super Famicom.

Sometimes they just went to cover up some scantily clad goddess...

The censorship wasn't always for nudity though... Here's an anti-smoking change...

I never did understand what these fan enemies were doing with the weird stick. I thought it was a blow dart gun or something. Turns out it's a really long cigarette. I'm surprised this was edited out. I guess Nintendo didn't want to encourage young American kids to smoke but was just fine with young Japanese kids smoking? Though I'm not really sure that kids are going to do what some pixelated enemy in a video game is doing. Now in Metal Gear Solid when you have to smoke in order to be a better sniper? That I could see kids emulating...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Alienware Arena

The League of Legends client advertised over the weekend for an upcoming ladder season for the Alienware Arena. Our brief foray into the NESL event bombed out for a few reasons but it seems like this event fixes most of those problems. It introduces another one, to be fair, but I thought it was worth bringing up to gauge interest.

The main problems I had with the NESL event were a lack of consistent game times (sometimes we'd get a bye, if we'd ever won games we'd have had to keep playing so we had to set aside the whole day), the lack of matchmaking, and the shoddy admin support. I'd report someone for violating the rules right when a match ended and then get a response back the next day that it was too late to do anything about it. No kidding... Maybe you should have responded right away? Bah!

The Alienware Arena is different in that the event takes place over 2 months instead of trying to be done in a single day. It's set up so you get a single match pairing each week and can play it whenever is good for the two teams with a default time of Thursday at 9pm. You can also meet up with any other teams during the week to play a match. These matches are worth points and the top 32 teams get to play in a final tournament at the end. The points earned in each match are based on the relative records of the teams... So there's no real advantage to the best teams coming to beat up on us. We'll be worth such a small amount that it won't be worth their time scheduling a pick up match with us. And we can just decline anyway once we see that they're 15-0 and we're 0-8 or whatever!

It really sounds like a better fit for us. Assuming there are other mediocre teams signing up we're bound to run into them eventually during the scheduled matches that take record into account. And presumably we can search out other people on the bottom of the ladder to have fun with. It probably also helps that there's only a $1750 prize pool at the end of 2 months plus a tournament. So awesome teams actually have no financial incentive to play either.

I mentioned a new problem... Well, I work for a marketing company that works at Dell Canada. Dell owns Alienware. Employees of event sponsors aren't allowed to participate. It's a little unclear if a contractor working in Canada has a conflict with an event put on by a US subsidiary. If we were likely to win any money at all I'd look into it more and I suspect the answer would be that I couldn't play. But since I can't imagine we'll be winning and (other than this post) I can't imagine anyone figuring it out anyway... I'm willing to give it a go. What's the worst that happens?

So... Are people interested in giving this a try? If so, do you think I should sit out? I created a team with the obvious bacon password just in case...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Surrender at 20

A few days ago I was searching for details on the League of Legends Elo reset. I didn't find the specifics I was looking for but I did find a pretty awesome site: Surrender at 20. The guys running this website seem to collate all of the official Riot forum posts/tweets/whatever into one spot with what so far seems like reasonable commentary.

I've been reading about lots of new items that have been posted by the Riot guys and commenting about them on Skype when playing in recent days and a couple people asked where I'd been finding this information. Well, now you know! Check it out if you're curious about the future of LoL...

Something really neat I saw today... Boots are getting nerfed across the board with all champions getting a base movement speed buff to compensate. This will hopefully make boots no longer the objectively best starting item on almost every champion. Also apparently they're adding in a third tier of boots by letting you tack on an extra enchantment to your tier 2 boots. The enchant that makes your allies run faster when moving toward you certainly sounds interesting! Stick one of those on boots of mobility for Alistar and charge forward!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More on Elo Hell

I mentioned earlier this week that I was worried about placement matches for fear of getting junked back into "Elo Hell". Robb expressed disdain that I could believe such a place exists. I do, and I don't, and it really depends on what you're calling Elo Hell. So I thought it could be useful to revisit the topic once again to explain my thoughts.

First of all, I'm going to define one's equilibrium point as the rating one should eventually arrive at assuming the rating system works properly.

Elo Hell is then going to be defined as a rating zone substantially below your equilibrium point from which you cannot escape in a reasonable length of time.

Now, most people who talk about being in Elo Hell don't actually fit this definition. They're actually in a rating zone near their equilibrium point and everything is working fine. The problem for these people is illusory superiority. They think their equilibrium point should be much higher than it actually is. So when they're sitting at their equilibrium point it feels to them like they're substantially below where they want to be. And therefore, they think they're in Elo Hell.

So, for most people, I don't think Elo Hell exists. I think the rating system does a good job of getting most people towards their equilibrium point. I think most people who consistently play actual rated games will find their way where they should.

So, what am I so worried about? Well, it's that playing actual games thing. Last time I was in the 1000-1100 bracket I found that most of my games weren't actual games at all. The games were filled with people who would go AFK, or who would intentionally feed. I'd win some games by default, and lose others by default, but I wouldn't actually get to play real games very often. It didn't feel like I could get out without getting very lucky since most games seemed to be a complete coin flip regardless of my personal play skill.

Now, maybe I couldn't get out of that pit because that's actually where I belonged. I am human, after all, and certainly partake in my fair share of illusory superiority. I do think that the fact I ended season 1 around 1400 and season 2 around 1500 implies that my equilibrium point is closer to 1400 than 1000. I was rusty, to be fair, so it's hard to say. Maybe I was that bad and should have been playing against 1000 people. That's actually fine, and I'd be ok with that. The problem was they weren't games most of the time. It simply wasn't fun.

Does Elo Hell exist? In an environment filled with leavers and people who go out of their way to intentionally lose, yes. If enough of these bottom feeders exist then they'll end up creating a pit out of which most people can never escape. But it doesn't exist the way most people complain about. If most of your games are legitimate games and you find yourself winning about half of them then you're not in Elo Hell. You're at the right rating.

Riot claims to be doing a better job banning these people. So maybe the 1000 bracket is fine now. Maybe my worries earlier this week were for naught. But I don't want to risk it. It's worth it for me to take a week or two off to lower the odds of sinking down into that pit again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Paladin Shield

I mentioned the other day that I'd taken the Ragnarok sword instead of the magicite. This took ultima off the table unless I managed to put together the paladin shield. The way to get a paladin shield is to get a cursed shield and win 256 fights while wearing it. This doesn't sound so bad, except the cursed shield is truly a cursed shield. We're talking Beyond the Beyond levels of cursed here. Can't move... CURSED!

Ok, maybe not quite that bad. What it does is lowers all your stats by 7, has no defensive stats at all, and permanently inflicts you with the statuses berserked, muddled, muted, condemned, and seizured. It also makes you vulnerable to all elemental attacks. In order for the fight to count towards your 256 you need to have the character wearing it live through the fight which can be rough with all those negatives running around.

I've never uncursed the cursed shield before. 256 seems like a big number, those negatives were pretty harsh, and for the most part I didn't even know how to uncurse it. The game is pretty easy without a paladin shield anyway so I never really felt the need to dig into how one would uncurse the cursed shield. Even worse, there's a cursed ring in the game that you can't uncurse in any way. So even if I was into trial and error on figuring this stuff out as a kid (and I was, don't get me wrong) there'd have been a decent chance I'd have tried the ring first and failed.

At any rate, most people suggest going to the starting island of the ruined world and fighting the things that instantly die for 256 fights. But that sounds boring. I'd rather just use the shield while I play the game! It turns out I can pretty easily work around all the negatives because of how awesome Setzer is! You see, his main attack (fixed dice) isn't based off of any stat at all. The damage is just based on his level and what you roll on the dice. So taking a big stat penalty for wearing the cursed shield doesn't phase him. Slow him down a little I guess, and makes his heals worse if somehow he's the one casting heals instead of chucking dice at people. Now, because I've been playing the whole game knowing how awesome dice are I've also been shirking skill-ups with Setzer's espers. Instead he's been getting stuff like more max health. And he's been using the exp egg so he's a pretty high level. Taking extra damage from spells doesn't really hurt him so much when he has like 80% more health than Terra does.

Oh, and all those negative status conditions? Setzer is wearing a pretty ribbon! The only thing he's hit with is condemned, and if I can't win a fight in 60 seconds I'll just have to use a life spell on him.

I've been giving it a go for a couple days now without really any troubles. I only have one concern, really... 256 is a really big number! I've just cleared out the magi tower and there's very little left to do beyond the final dungeon. I guess I could go futz around in Narshe some more and hope to figure out where Mog is. I also don't have Relm, Strago, or Gogo either. Part of me wants to just go smash Kefka's crazy little face in though. But I do want a paladin shield at some point...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

League of Legends: Rating Compression

Season 2 finally ended today. Most of the changes they've been talking about recently haven't gone in yet, and they have yet to give out the free Janna, but one thing that has happened is the Elo ratings were hit with a soft reset.

It isn't clear exactly how the compression worked. Apparently it's pretty close to bringing you halfway closer to the starting point, which is 1200. I've been looking up some people on ELOBuff to see if I can figure it out but it's not a simple linear formula. One of the random dudes on my friend list actually didn't change at all. He was 1265 and he stayed at 1265. I went from 1512 to 1396. Another friend went from 1210 to 1234.

If it was a simple 'go halfway to 1200' conversion then the ratings should have become...

1265 -> 1233
1512 -> 1356
1210 -> 1205

I saw a video today which claimed everyone was getting a free 25 points after the conversion in an attempt to deal with overall rating deflation. The idea being there are people who tanked their ratings and then quit the game. The overall rating average should be 1200 but if you exclude those people the average will end up well below 1200. So give some free points across the board to help deal with that and make everyone feel better about themselves?

It doesn't look to be that simple, since I gained 40 free points while the other people I looked up gained 32 points and 29 points. It could be a proportional thing again. I was higher, so I get a bigger chunk of the free points? Alternatively it might be based on games played. Pretty sure I played many more ranked games than the other people I looked up.

At any rate the exact formula doesn't matter. What does matter is that ratings have all come closer together as a whole and that everyone has to go through placement matches again. This means the next few games are worth a lot compared to later games. At the start of season 2 I lost 8 of my first 10 games and destroyed my rating. I ended up in my own version of 'Elo Hell' and would really like to avoid that this time around if at all possible. But with games now likely worth 40 points each a 2-8 record would be down 240 points and put me at 1156. Which is awfully close to where I landed after the season 2 placement matches. *sigh*

A question I've been mulling over in my head is if it's better to play right away or to delay a while and play the placement matches after all the eager beavers have gotten their out of the way. I'd want to keep playing other games in order to not get rusty but I can play normal games or 3v3 games for that. The thing I want to consider is who I'm apt to play against today, and who I'm apt to play against in a couple weeks... And then decide if the difference between the two is enough to justify skipping out on ranked games.

So right now I'll be matched against other people around 1400. These will all be people who, yesterday, were over 1500. Or people who were a little under 1500 but already won today. Or people who were 1600  and lost their first game. (Losing a game for 40 post-adjustment points will cost you 80 pre-adjustment points!)

How confident am I that I can beat those people? I'd like to think 1500 was a reasonable place for me, so I'd expect to win around half the time against the first group. I should have a fair edge against the second group but very reasonably expect to lose against the third group. My concern is that third group, and that a full half of the old 1600 people will lose their first game and end up there. Of course there's a decent chance the real 1600 guy ends up on my team. 44% chance, assuming I don't queue with someone else. So still a likely net loss.

What about in a couple weeks? All the really active people will be out of their placement games by then for sure. Some people will have gotten swept away by their placement games and have ended up too high or too low, but many will have ended up back near where they should be. In order words, I'll be playing with true 1400 people. All of whom are weaker than any of the three groups I can face right now. Now, those three groups will still exist even 2 weeks from now. After all, I'll be one of them! But right now everyone is in them and in a couple weeks their numbers will be diminished.

Does it really matter? I think it does. The problem is the first games are worth so much. It takes a long time to recover from a disastrous set of placement matches. 1-9, which isn't that unreasonable if I get paired against true 1600s in the first couple, puts me right back into Elo Hell. I'll be able to get out of it eventually I'm sure, but it simply wasn't fun. I think it's worth going a little out of my way to reduce the odds of it happening.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Ragnarok

Shortly after you find Locke and get him to rejoin the party you get presented with a choice... Get the magicite for the esper Ragnarok or have a crazy blacksmith forge it into a sword which is also named Ragnarok. If memory serves I generally take the esper. I like learning all the spells and such and have typically been happy just using the atma weapon. This time around I have three people who are attacking with swords and decided pretty much on a whim to go with the sword this time around. Holy cow, is it strong! It's doing more than double the damage of the atma weapon and sometimes casts flare! The only downside is it seems to drain mana in order to do this extra damage. Oh well, Locke doesn't want to cast spells anyway!

I figured I should look into exactly what you're giving up when you make each choice. Mostly to sate my curiousity but a little for the next time I play the game!

The Ragnarok esper has no level up bonus so there's no need to worry about missing something there. It is the only esper in the game which teaches the most powerful spell: Ultima. Not having access to Ultima is a big downer and I'm pretty sure that's why I normally take the esper. On the other hand there is a hard to get shield which also teaches Ultima so you're not throwing it away completely if you take the sword. You're just delaying picking up Ultima for hundreds of fights. The last thing the esper does is lets you morph enemies into all kinds of items. This morph spell is the only way to get extra copies of a few powerful items. You don't really need extra copies of them, and you can have a really low chance to get them anyway by using magicite consumables and hoping you hit Ragnarok. I don't think I ever used the esper to morph things so if I'm missing a lot by not having it I wouldn't know!

The Ragnarok sword is the second best weapon in the game. The best weapon, Illumina, can only be obtained by betting the Ragnarok sword in the arena. It's stupid good. +7 to all stats. 50% evade and magic evade. Can't miss. Auto-crit. Can be used from the back row. Can cast pearl, which also auto-crits. Maximum attack power. I don't think I've ever had one of these... Tomorrow on the bus I plan on going to get one. Locke is going to be even more awesome than usual!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Twilight Imperium III

Twilight Imperium III is a Master of Orion style space exploration/conquest board game that takes a long time to play. I haven't played the game before but from listening to descriptions of the game it's right up my alley. I love civ building games! I have no problems with spending hours on end in a game. There are just a couple of sticking points... Finding enough other people who want to spend that much time on one game, convincing them to play with a new player, and the concern of getting blown out on turn 1 and having to spend 8 hours playing from an essentially unplayable position. I did that in my first game of Manifest Destiny, which is only 4 hours, and it wasn't great. I felt like I was ruining the game for the other people.

Duncan recently found a whole ton of people interested in playing TI3 off of a post in a Facebook boardgaming group. Some were people who also needed to learn and most (if not all) were willing to play with new players. Sweet! Duncan also found an online tutorial for the game which I just read through. I'm rather impressed with it. The tutorial made plenty of strategy errors and cheated in a few spots which calls out how complicated the game seems to be... But I feel like I have a decent grasp of the mechanics now. There were some rules that weren't really explained so I imagine there will still be some 'oops' moments in my first game but I feel like I should at least be quasi-competitive. I'm not going to forget to build enough settlers like in MD...

At any rate I'm heading out to spend tomorrow playing the game. It should be fun. And maybe the tutorial will predict the future? I like the name of the winner of that game is all I'm saying...

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Final Fantasy VI: Slots!

Setzer may well be my favourite Final Fantasy character from any game, but I've never liked his special ability. I decided to take a little look at it today and it turns out the game actually cheats. So it's not just that I've always been bad at using it... Even if you're good with timing there's only a small chance you'll pull it off!

I found an interesting guide on gamefaqs about it which is worth a read if you like seeing the silly ways abilities are coded in these games. It turns out there's a counter which gets incremented each time an action goes off. It gets incremented by a fixed amount, so you can know what the counter is currently at. Then the value of the counter determines which slot results are legal. So 8 of the 256 options allow the 777 auto-kill to go off. If you're not futzing with the counter and it actually is in a 'random' spot then you're only able to get the best outcome 1 in 32 no matter how good you are at spinning the wheels.

Also, apparently you can cheat at spinning the wheels by pausing and unpausing the game to see where the wheels are.

Apparently the RNG starts each fight at 0 and there's a trick to get it up to a 777 auto-kill value in one action. Use an echo screen and then go to slot town!

I donno. I used to think I was just bad at using slots. Now that I know it's a deliberate design decision to make the ability bad I'm not very happy. I like when things are hard because they're hard. I don't like it when things are impossible because of game design. At any rate, I no longer have any desire to try to use the ability. I am glad I know how it works so I can avoid using it. I guess all Setzer will do now is be awesome by throwing dice at the enemies!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

League of Legends: Armor Penetration Changes

The third season for League of Legends will be starting soon (it was supposed to start yesterday but I gather it's not quite ready so they've pushed it back) and they're changing a bunch of things again. They've been slowly announcing things each day and the stuff from today was particularly interesting. They want to itemize more for physical casters and their solution is to change the way armor penetration works.

As it works today they made armour penetration stack in a bad way. You can get either a flat amount of armour penetration or a percentage amount. Currently the flat amount applies first and then the percentage amount. This means the percentage reduction is working off of a smaller amount and therefore is a smaller reduction. They're changing it to apply the other way which means more armour will be penetrated now than before with the same item build. This means that flat penetration items won't just be an early game thing now and will actually be really solid late game. Especially against a team with a ton of armour.

On top of that they're adding in some items to take advantage of this change. A lot of details haven't come out yet, but they did post one remade item. Black cleaver used to stack up 15 armour reduction on a target each time you auto-attacked them with a max of 3 stacks. Now it's going to have a flat 10 armour reduction with a stacking debuff of 5% armor reduction stacking up to 5 times. It will also apply on any source of physical damage instead of just auto-attacks. This is pretty sweet because it will have both a percentage reduction and a flat reduction in one item. Some characters have abilities which synergize well with the change. Garen was the example they gave... He spins to deal physical damage to everyone around him every half second. So over 3 seconds he deals physical damage 6 times to everyone around him. Knocking 25% off of everyone's armour from doing this seems pretty sweet. And I like how this item should be a lot better for Garen than for someone like Yorick. Their goal is to put more item paths into the game and building specialized items like this is a great start. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of their item changes whenever season 3 actually launches.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

League of Legends: Treeline Jungle

I've been paying attention to jungling on the revamped 3v3 League of Legends map and have some thoughts. I want to crunch some numbers to back them up or maybe even refute them.

The basic conclusion I've come to is the jungle isn't valuable enough to justify a dedicated jungler. Someone who spends all of their time on just their part of the jungle seems to end up underleveled and undergeared. They can't afford to keep up in items with someone in a lane and end up falling behind. This doesn't mean you shouldn't jungle, of course, but that you need something else going for you. Maybe you want to be a champion that doesn't need as many items to get good. Maybe you want to take both sides of the jungle. Maybe you want to gank aggressively. But if you just content yourself with jungling you're actually hurting your team.

But how do I back that up with numbers? Well, I figure I should look at how long it takes to kill each of the three camps. How much they're worth. And how much damage you take from each of them. How useful is smite? And should you even bother fighting double golems?

Big Wolf - 600 hp, 9 ac, 28 AD, .7AS, 40G, 144xp
Little Wolf - 400 hp, 6 ac, 16 AD, .7AS, 10G, 12xp
50s respawn timer

Big Wraith - 450 hp, 15 ac, 28 AD, .6AS, 35G, 120xp
Little Wraith - 300 hp, 8 ac, 12 AD, .6AS, 8G, 48xp
50s respawn timer

Big Golem - 950 hp, 12 ac, 60 AD, .6AS, 50G, 150xp
Little Golem - 550 hp, 12 ac, 30 AD, .6AS, 20G, 42xp
50s respawn timer

Melee minion - 22G, 59xp
Caster minion - 16G, 29xp
Siege minion - 27G, 92xp?

Experience scales as time goes by. For now I'm just going to assume it's a constant rate and therefore comparing jungle to lane in terms of ratios will make sense.

Lane minion damage and health stats don't matter. They'll all die every 30 seconds pretty much no matter what. You get 3 melee and 3 casters every 30 seconds and 1 siege every 90 seconds. So over 90 seconds a lane generates 884 experience. Over 50 seconds the jungle will generate 576 experience, which is actually a little better than a lane. So if you can clear the jungle as fast as it respawns you're good to go. I think this is unlikely? How about effective health per camp?

Wolves - 600*(1.09)+2*400*(1.06) = 1502
Wraiths - 450*(1.15)+2*300*(1.08) = 1166
Golems - 950*(1.12)+550*(1.12) = 1680

Experience per camp?

Wolves - 168
Wraiths - 216
Golems - 192

Outgoing damage per camp with all monsters alive?

Wolves - 28*.7+2*16*.7 = 42, but it can crit? Maybe 15%? So 48.
Wraiths - 28*.6+2*12*.6 = 31
Golems - 60*.6+30*.6 = 54

So wraiths do the least damage, have the least health, and are worth the most experience. Golems actually seem reasonable on paper compared to wolves. They have three negative strikes against them, though. Their damage is concentrated in one spot so they stay at max damage longer whereas wolves damage decreases over time as you kill bits off. There are also three targets at wolves, instead of two, so AE abilities do more damage to them. And some of the defensive masteries reduce damage by a flat numbers. Shaving 4 damage off of every attack is a lot better on wolves than on golems since it's 3 targets instead of 2.

I donno. Is 54 damage per second too much? I guess if you start at 500 health with 20 armor you're in big trouble. You're dead in 11 seconds. And the big golem has 1064 EH so if you're swinging for like 55 every .8 seconds it'll take you 24 seconds to kill it. So it'll kill you way before you'll kill him. Even with smite, for half it's health, you're still going to lose. You have an ability which probably swings it in your favour but it seems pretty sketchy. I feel like skipping them just makes sense, especially for someone with good AE abilities which make them a lot worse than wolves. I'd rather steal the enemy wolves I think than take my own golems. I'd rather try to gank. Either a lane will be pushed close to you, so you can gank them, or all lanes will be pushed out, so you can invade their jungle.

Monday, November 05, 2012

League of Legends: More on Treeline

My filler game of choice recently has been playing pickup games of the recently revamped 3v3 map. I've been using it to try out some recently purchased champions (Sion and Irelia), to try out some different jungling ideas (Taric, Amumu, Olaf), and to just see how the map tends to play out. I don't have any definitive thoughts for how things must go yet, but I have plenty of preliminary ideas I want to get out there.

First of all, there are a few distinct phases of the game. I think the key to the map is ultimately going to be taking champions which thrive in all the phases of the game. There are likely some champions being ignored right now which are actually solid across the board and deserve more consideration. In particular I think Annie is actually pretty darn good on this map. I played three games with her earlier today and my teammates were scoffing each time, even in my ranked team game. I went a combined 24/10/31. Now, I know that's a small sample size. It certainly doesn't prove anything. But it does make me think she's at least reasonable. Now I want to actually work out why she's reasonable and then see if there are other champions which are even better!

The phases of the game, as I see them right now, are the level 1 team fight, the lane game, altar control, late game team fights, Vilemaw, and building destruction. Some of these link together across the whole game. Some only exist for a very brief period of time. So, what do each of these phases entail and what sort of skills are you looking for?

The level 1 team fight is only up for about a minute at the start of the game. Minions and the jungle haven't spawned yet, so what are people to do? Well, they tend to get together and charge into the other team. It feels like if your team is bad at the level 1 team fight that you'd just avoid it but no one ever does. I'm not even sure you can, since the lanes are so long if the other team just stays in a group in your jungle you can't possibly get any experience or gold from anything without just dying. I've seen some games pretty much end in the first minute when one team dominates the level 1 team fight. Sure, the other team _could_ come back, but it feels like they don't. When you're still level 1 and the guy you're laning against is level 4 you're pretty screwed.

So, what's good in the level 1 team fight? Well, scouting abilities are pretty good so you don't get surprised. Ezreal's mystic shot, Maokai's sapling, or Olaf's undertow for example. Spells that don't require a target that you can chuck into a bush. If it gives vision, great. If it just gives an audible sound when it makes contact that's good too assuming you can then communicate that to your team. That's to help get the fight on your terms, but what about in the fight itself? Stuns are really good. Ignite and exhaust are really good. Summoner heal is solid. The ability to deal high amounts of damage or have high amounts of health are good for surviving. Good tactics are very useful, too. Proper targeting, not chasing into turrets, that sort of thing. Cho'gath is probably the king of this category since he has an AE damage spell that also stuns. It can be used into a bush to scout in a pinch? I think Annie is good here since she also has an AE damage stun. Alistar also does. Lux has a 2-target snare which could be pretty solid. Riven has an AE stun. Single target stuns are just fine, especially in multiples. So people like Sion/Taric/Twisted Fate/Renekton/Poppy/Vayne/Udyr/Xin Zhao all seem reasonable. On the other side, champions with no CC and low health seem bad in the level 1 team fight. Teemo, for example, seems to just explode if he gets stunned.

The lane game is interesting. The big difference between Twisted Treeline and Summoner's Rift is how far the natural equilibrium point is from your turret. Just fighting at equilibrium leaves you a little vulnerable to ganks from behind. Pushing ahead even a little bit is a potential disaster if the other team has persistent slows. The walls are really thick so it's a lot harder to just dive over the wall to escape so someone like Tryndamere has a harder time getting away here than on the old map. So to take real advantage of the long lane you want people on your team who can slow/stun a bunch during ganks. And you want people who have a chance of escaping with their own stuns or slows or just by having lots of health. You want to be able to farm creeps without either pushing deep into the lane or letting a big stack build up on your own side to get pushed into your turret. I think Olaf is probably the king here. I've killed people from near full to dead on the run back to their turret with just undertow over and over. I've never actually played Sejuani but I wonder if this is the job she'd excel in. Pedobear probably works well with a teammate who can CC a little. Even just having a stun and some damage has worked out pretty well in my experience. Jungle Taric felt good because of his ability to walk up behind someone and crack them with a stun. It took a laner with a gap closer and CC of their own (like Jax) but it worked pretty well. Sion would do the same sort of thing. I actually wonder if Ashe would work here? Mundo almost certainly does.

On the other side, you want laners who can escape with some sort of abilities. Annie stun was ok here, but you're looking for something like Shaco's jump away. Or Kennen's dash. What you don't want is someone who just explodes when people look at him funny. Like, say, Teemo. I played a game as Irelia against Teemo and I didn't even need a gank from a friend. He just couldn't escape from a dash and a slow. I'd had other games where I was jungling Taric or Olaf with similar experiences.

Where Teemo does have a plus is his mushrooms. Wards are banned from this map so his mushrooms are one of the few ways to spot incoming ganks. Other options here would be Nidalee/Caitlyn for traps, Shaco for boxes, and Maokai for saplings. I guess Heimerdinger could leave a turret behind?

Altar control is a unique aspect for this map and it's one I think might end up determining who wins and who loses on this map. Getting an altar guarantees you keep it for 90 seconds and then as long as you can defend it. There are two aspects here... Defending the altar on your side of the map so you never lose it and stealing the altar on their side of the map so you deny them the buff for 90+ seconds. The question is, how do you stop an attack that takes mere seconds if their whole team shows up and that you can't see coming? How do you put together an attack of your own without just dying when you're so much closer to their base?

In contrast to the previous point, the key here is to push your lane aggressively. When you coordinate hitting their altar with 3 people you want to give them a lose-lose situation. Either they don't contest the altar and lose the buff for at least 90 seconds or they leave a big minion wave to die under their turret where they don't get the experience or gold. The coordination between all 3 people on your team is also very important. I've seen one or two people try for an altar and it tends to result in bad times. Your team can't be low on health. And you need to be strong enough to win or at least draw the team fight when they come to get you. Annie was pretty great here. Standing on an altar with a charged stun and Tibbers up is a pretty scary thing. Do they jump up on the altar to interrupt you? They're all getting stunned for 1.75 seconds and taking a third of their max health in damage right off the hop. I can see someone like Zyra or Morgana being pretty good here as well.

On the defensive side you want to control your lane such that you don't get a huge wave stacked up. On Summoner's Rift my goal with Yorick is actually to get a big stack of minions outside my turret and farm there forever. That works because I never have anywhere else I need to be. Farming up to get huge and be a beast in team fights later on is strong. Denying the other top laner farm is also good. Neither really works here since there is something else to do... Take the altars! Letting the other team take your jungle is really bad for defending your altar. It means they know they can screw around in your jungle without being punished.

It's tricky. You push ahead too far and you're vulnerable to being ganked. You get pushed in too far and you're giving up your altar. There's got to be a balance there. Part of me thinks that maybe if both lanes stay pushed then your jungler can just farm their jungle instead of your own. You need the laners to be capable of quickly reacting to a skirmish in the jungle. And since you'll be streaming in everyone needs to be tough enough to not just get gibbed. Like, say, Teemo. But Ezreal has the same problem. He can't stream in against a team with gap closers without getting smushed.

Maybe you need someone who can clear a lane in a very short period of time? Kayle/Morgana/Karthus? Rumble maybe? Annie who levels her cone could do it? Olaf leveling undertow could as well. Maybe Cho'Gath? Then you can react to an attack on your altar without losing a ton of creeps?

What about late game team fights? Something that surprised me when I played Amumu is low damage crowd control just isn't very good. Your team probably doesn't have a max build AD carry like it would in 5s so you don't have someone to gib them down during the root. They eventually get out of the CC and then start laying the beats and Amumu just couldn't keep up. Now, maybe that was just a bad game, but it really felt like it just wasn't good enough.

On the other hand, repeated stuns you can lay onto one person actually seem pretty good. Taric stun into someone else's stun with 2 damage dealers actually felt pretty good. Taric also brought enough defensive abilities to the fight (armour and heals) to help swing things. Gap closing bruisers seem to be a key part of most teams and you need to figure out a way to survive. A single one shot stun, even on the whole team, doesn't feel like enough. But a few stuns you can lay into one person over and over seem to work reasonably well. Especially if they actually come with some damage too. Taric actually does come with damage by giving some AD/AP to his team with his ult. And your team lives longer with the healing. Annie actually pumps out a lot of stuns too which I've found does slow down the bruisers pretty reasonably. I wonder if Soraka would bring enough against an AP heavy team? Zyra seems pretty good here with the root spam if the other team has a lot of melee.

With all this CC running around on everyone you have to consider how brutal Olaf could be. I honestly think Olaf alone would destroy my Annie plan. Other people with CC reduction include Irelia and Trundle and could be reasonable additions to teams.

Vilemaw is interesting. He does a ton of damage and has a lot of health. Many champions are just bad against him, like Annie. If you're going to burn him down in a reasonable amount of time you probably need people building the new lanternish item or be very high leveled. Or maybe have a lot of health gain while fighting. Irelia or Warwick, for example. Or maybe Lee Sin?

The best part about Vilemaw is how he sucks in anyone who tries to interrupt. If your team has stuns you can probably just gib anyone who tries to interrupt alone. So I think Vilemaw attempts, assuming a decently built team for them, should happen a lot earlier than they have been so far.

Building destruction. So there are some new elixirs that help physical damage dealers bust down turrets but I never see anyone buy them. Are they any good? It gives 42 AD, 42% attack speed, and 15% extra damage to turrets for 4 minutes. It only costs 500G. I wonder if AP champions should even buy it? (If your AP is much higher then your AD then you use a percentage of your AP as damage to turrets. The attack speed and %bonus should work for them.)

Beyond that, what works? Well, AE attack speed buffs like Nunu or Warwick can help your team really burn down a turret. The ability to win a team fight under a turret would help get to the point where you can attack as well. I'd been using Tibbers to help tank turrets after a fight which seemed ok. But for the most part  it's seemed pretty disconcerted so far and pushing only really happens after a dominating team fight. I'd like to see what happens if the whole team buys the turret killing elixirs and just goes for it. If you have a team capable of winning a fight on an altar then you probably can win a fight on the outskirts of a turret. So you may be able to just win a siege? I donno.

So, what am I looking for in a champion? Some tankiness, sustained crowd control, persistent damage. Maybe an escape. I'm honestly interested to see how Sejuani does. A tanky Lux build might be pretty good? I still really like Annie, assuming Olaf is banned or on your team. Olaf just seems like he might be the best? Lee Sin and Xin Zhao also have some sustained crowd control, are tanky, and pump out the damage. Trundle might have a spot? I wonder if Anivia egg is enough to make her viable? She does have a decent stun. I always love Kayle but I think she needs to be really careful to not get initiated on. She wants to use her ult offensively, not when she gets jumped on.

I donno. I think there's a lot going on and I need to try some more things. But for now... Have you seen my bear Tibbers?

Friday, November 02, 2012

Antike Duellum

Yucata recently added a new game: Antike Duellum. It's a game in the 'rondel' series. Rondel games work by having a circle with all the different actions listed in different wedges. Then on your turn when you're going to choose an action you can move clockwise 1-3 spaces. If you want to keep spamming a specific action over and over then you need to move as many spaces as possible each turn even if it means taking sub-optimal actions. Or you can go slow and do a variety of actions. It's an interesting idea but I've never really liked any of the games using it.

Having played Antike Duellum a few times now I'm really liking it. I like the rondel action wheel in this game which makes me think maybe the reasons I didn't like Imperial or Antike had nothing to do with the rondel itself. Imperial we didn't like because it felt like the winning strategy and the fun strategy were never going to coincide. Antike I didn't like because we played it with 3 players and combat was mutual destruction. So Robb attacked me, I traded my entire army for his in defense, and Pounder trounced us with his actual army to our nothing at all.

Antike Duellum seems to have most of the same mechanics as Antike, but it's only a two player game. Mutual destruction in combat makes a lot of sense in a 2 player game. It turns military into more of a tug-of-war game which can be interesting. You need to spend an action to get iron, an action to turn iron into units, and then actions to move them around the map. So defender has an action advantage (they don't need to move since they can spawn units in their cities before they get attacked) but someone who's making a lot of iron can certainly build more units and swarm in.

It's quickly become my game of choice on Yucata for the time being. I wonder if it'll be an event at WBC this year...

Thursday, November 01, 2012

MLG Fall Championships

It's been a while since I've been able to spend a whole weekend just watching video games online. This weekend will change that since it's the Major League Gaming championships this weekend. I haven't been following them at all this quarter so I don't know if they'd been running arenas or whatnot. If they have, Facebook wasn't telling me about it.

This championship looks to be interesting in that they're bring back a first person shooter for the first time in quite a while. Even more interesting is that it's a game that hasn't even come out yet! Halo 4 is getting a prerelease of sorts by being a $40k tournament! Beyond that they're holding events for StarCraft II, League of Legends, Mortal Kombat, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and something called PlayStation AllStars that I've never heard of.

Apparently they've got a field of over 850 people to play the Halo 4 event which seems like an awful lot of people to compete in a game no one has even played! I donno, have they given beta copies to these people or is everyone going in blind?