Friday, September 06, 2013

Revisiting Blood Bowl Clients

Six months ago I started using a second client for playing online Blood Bowl. I wrote a bit about the two clients (Cyanide and FumBBL) at the time but having now used them both for six months I wanted to go back over the differences between them. This may have been prompted by the two games of Blood Bowl I played yesterday, one on each client. In particular the game I played on the Cyanide client took more than three times as long to play as the one on FumBBL and featured several interface quirks/bugs that ranged from annoying to frustrating.

What does the Cyanide client have going for it? Pretty pictures. It has the coaches and teams for Sceadeau's league. And that's pretty much it. It does have a log file you can parse for stats which is nice, except it's bugged such that any roll of a 1 or a 6 doesn't give you the mod info so roughly a third of all the d6 stats are corrupted.

What does the FumBBL client have going for it? So many things I need to go to bullet form to list them all...

  • Graceful recovery for disconnections. Several times over the course of the Cyanide league I had to log in and reset a match because one of the two players got disconnected in some way. The only options are to have the disconnected person forfeit (losing their cash, MVP, and any chance at winning or tieing the game) or restart the game from the very beginning. Both of these options are terrible. Someone in a dominant position could suddenly find themselves back at the start of the game. Robb had multiple injuries disappear when one of his games got reset. FumBBL just pauses the game where the disconnection happened and you can resume it right away, or the next day, or in a week. 
  • Speed. Pretty pictures come with pretty animations and those take time. A lot of time. I know I play with some slow players in the Cyanide league but I think the interface isn't doing them any favours. Cyanide also has a ruthless time out feature where if you go over 4 minutes your turn instantly ends. My playoff game yesterday had my opponent think for most of his 4 minutes and then run out of time just before he threw the final block of his turn, which happened to be on my ball carrier who has in range of the end zone on turn 8. I failed the dodge away so I didn't score, but I probably shouldn't have even had the chance to do so. On FumBBL you get a button to time someone out after their time expires but it isn't automatic. This also means if the doorbell rings or a baby wakes up or someone needs to run to the bathroom or something they aren't just screwed.
  • Fewer bugs. FumBBL has a few bugs but not nearly as many or as common as the ones on Cyanide. FumBBL has never lined up invisible players for me in random positions. It has never kept me from subbing out my Deathroller. It has never let my opponent field 12 or more players. Neither client is really updated much, which pretty much means either client is stuck with their bugs and interface quirks. The only really bad bug I've run into on FumBBL is you can't induce positional players who are missing the current game.
  • A better interface. One of the important design decisions when building a Blood Bowl client is deciding how to handle skill use. Practically every skill in the game is optional, so you need to decide if and how you're going to prompt the players to use these optional skills. FumBBL took the route of just defaulting almost every skill to the obvious choice and only prompting for things when the coder thinks you should be asked. You always use dodge, unless you're in danger of getting crowd surfed (or maybe even in a 1-turn touchdown situation?). I know it doesn't always prompt, but sometimes does. Cyanide decided to just default all skills to always use them, unless you go into an external option menu and then you can tell it which skills to prompt you for. And then it prompts you for those skills ALL THE TIME. I'd knock down one of Steve's guys yesterday and it would ask him if he wants to use claw. On the ground? That can't have any game effect. But I guess because I could have chosen attacker down I can see how it would end up coded that way. Badly, that is. Even worse is the way the stand firm skill is implemented. When you get pushed into someone with stand firm they should get to pick if they want to use it or not. If not then none of the pushing chain happens. If so it all does. On Cyanide you get prompted if you were the first guy pushed. If you're the second guy in the chain it doesn't prompt you. Instead it uses the decision made the last time that guy was pushed. Will a chain push work or not? WHO KNOWS! This is actually a big problem for my Cyanide team, since I'm playing dwarves with a bunch of frenzy and stand firm. I want to set up chain pushes to surf my opponent while being immune to the return chain pushes and it simply can't happen with this interface.
  • Unit labeling. One of the neat features I only recently learned is you can hold shift and click on any player on either team and it will let you enter up to 5 characters as a label. So I can tag all of my opponent's units that have guard with a G, and anyone with an abnormal strength or agility with a number. Want to know who has a niggle so you can target them for free experience? Cyanide won't even tell you! FumBBL will let you find out just by clicking on them, or you can tag them with a $ so you don't even need to click around after the start of the game.
  • Community. There are big tournaments with unique prizes run all the time on FumBBL, and I can find out about them pretty easily by just going to the list on the webpage. I couldn't tell you if Cyanide had any big events. I feel like no, but there's no way to get from the game to any sort of forum that I can find. I've had to Google search to find the forum to look for downtime info before, so I know it does exist, it just isn't easily accessible.
  • View of the field. FumBBL shows you the entire field the entire time. Cyanide is trying to show off their pretty graphics so it does lots of zooming in and is set up so you need to scroll around the screen with interface elements in the way. I've definitely seen people end their turn accidentally when trying to click a guy standing behind the end turn button.
Suffice it to say, I now think FumBBL is way better than Cyanide. So much so that I'm going to have to think about joining the next season of Sceadeau's league because I find the client so frustrating now that I've been using the other one. I do like playing games though, so I'll probably just suck it up.

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