Friday, December 11, 2015

Path of Exile: Patch 2.1

I haven't played Path of Exile since September 2014 when I hurt my wrist playing the game. I was really pushing to try to win a t-shirt and ended up putting too much strain on my wrist. This apparently combined with anxiety issues (presumably about becoming homeless) to make my hand go numb. But that issue got dealt with via drugs and I've been pretty capable of streaming games for 12+ hours a day without hurting my wrist. I definitely don't want to play super hardcore to win a t-shirt or anything, but I think I can play the game again without hurting myself.

There have been a lot of patches in the last 15 months, with a big one launching today. So many things have changed in the game, and they sound really, really good. Standard things like a new act, tons of new items, better balance... But also some other cool stuff...

An item filter so you can write a text file to alter what loot you see on the ground. You can change font sizes, colours, and add sound effects!

An experience per hour meter!

Revamped map system which keeps all the cool things with end game maps while extending and enhancing things to make them better for more casual play. Map pools are easier to build up at lower levels, and harder at very high levels, but the high maps are worth it.

A card collecting system to trade cards for loot at a vendor, so you can farm specific areas to get specific useful unique items.

Skill gems you can get from quests are sold from vendors so you don't need to create alts or store tons of gems in a guild bank anymore!

Even more customization in the sphere grid system, with new jewels you can stick in the grid!

Integration with Twitch so stream chat is a channel in the game client!

It remains to be seen how good this stuff actually is, but I have really high hopes. I don't intend on playing nearly as much as I used to, but maybe if they still have races and stuff I can get into streaming it... We'll see!

Friday, October 02, 2015

Frankenstein: Master of Death

Every now and then I look on Steam for the absolute cheapest game. If it has Steam cards and looks vaguely interesting I tend to pick it up in the hopes I'll eventually play it. Frankenstein: Master of Death is a game that was on sale for 16 cents a couple weeks ago and said it was a 'hidden object' game. I enjoyed playing a 'hidden object' game on Facebook but eventually got put off by the free to play business model... So I thought putting up 16 cents for a game without those annoying paywalls was a worthy risk.

It ended up being more of a point and click adventure game in the sense that you had to find keys that fight the right doors to progress through the plot. Finding the keys was pretty trivial; remembering where the lock was happened to be a little annoying. Only occasionally did you get into a 'hidden object' minigame and those only ever had a fixed 12 things to find. Not the best offering for someone who just wanted to click on a bunch of hidden objects.

Ultimately I beat the game in a little under 3 hours. I wouldn't say it was the most fun I ever had playing a game, but it was reasonably fun. I had to leave the game running in order to collect up the Steam cards that came with it (they added in a refund option to return a game with under 2 hours played so now cards won't drop until you've clocked at least 2 hours in a game) and ended up selling the cards off for 26 cents after Steam fees.

All told I made 10 cents and got to play a decent enough game. I'm not sure it was actually an optimal use of my time, so maybe buying the cheapest game on Steam is actually not a very good idea...

On the plus side, it is now the second game in which I've earned 100% of the achievements. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hearthstone Ranked Prizes

My brother came over for supper a week or so ago and in the course of conversation let me know that Blizzard apparently added minor prizes to the constructed system. The higher up the ladder you get, the more free stuff they throw at you. The free stuff really isn't very much, but it's more than the absolutely nothing you used to go. (You get one golden common at rank 20, with increments of 5 extra dust per rank most of the time, with sometimes extra cards thrown in instead.) The biggest jump is at rank 5 where you go from getting 2 golden commons and a golden rare to getting 2 golden commons and a golden epic. Not a huge deal, but it is a bunch of free cards and since they're all golden they're worth more if you want to blow them up for dust in order to help put together other decks.

I haven't played constructed in an awfully long time, since I grinded up to Legend a couple of times at the start of the year. But I figured I like free stuff, and I wanted to stream more Hearthstone anyway, so I played for a few hours on the 21st and then a little bit yesterday and today. I was learning patron when I last played and the newest set didn't seem to change anything for that deck so it seemed like the thing to try out as I went to scoop up some free stuff.

When I last hit Legend it took me 148 games to go from 25 stars to 71 stars, which is where rank 5 kicks in. This month it took me 47 games to go from 1 star to 71 stars. That's a whole heck of a lot faster! I was winning around 52-54% of my games back then. This time I won a little over 87% of my games. There are likely a few reasons for this difference. Patron warrior is a much better deck than mech mage used to be. I started much later in the month, so the people I played against at each rank rated to be a fair bit worse this time around. Perhaps most importantly the metagame shifted and a new paladin has emerged that is terribly positioned against patron warrior. I don't know if it beats other things, but it sure can't beat me!

I'm still not sure I really know how to play the deck well. I am getting a better feel for things just through practice, and it definitely makes me think I'd need to invest a lot of time into constructed to actually have a shot at doing well in tournaments. And that would also require way more cards than I currently have... Which means more drafting?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Diablo III: Season 4

The next season of Diablo III starts in less than an hour, and it's looking pretty sweet. They put out a new patch this week to use in the new season and it has a ton of interesting changes! The biggest one is the addition of a new 'cube' with powerful new recipes. It lets you reroll legendary items to get better stats, or trade in an extra copy of a set item for a different piece of the set, or convert a rare item to a legendary. You can swap gem types, or crafting material types. You can remove the level requirement from an item to really power level an alt. But the best part is you can destroy legendary items and then equip 3 of their passive abilities onto your character! One of the constraints to builds in the past was which slots you could get passives from while maintaining overpowered set bonuses... Now those options have multiplied! So many more builds should become playable as a result!

On top of that they've added in higher difficulty levels (useful since the previous highest difficulty for the base game was massively eclipsed by the greater rifts)! New items! Quality of life changes to crafting and rifting!

On the downside they decided to put crowd control (CC) caps back in. This was part of the initial game and it sucked since you couldn't permanently CC hard enemies which meant everyone had to build to be invincible. Eventually they decided that was a bad idea and took the cap out. Now they put it back in and I'm not sure why. On the plus side it came with massive damage nerfs across the board to enemies so maybe they've decided everyone needs to be invincible again but actually made that feasible this time? I guess the setup where every group needed a CC bot that did no damage was pretty bad too. So if everyone can mostly survive just fine with the damage nerfs and you can use short bursts of CC to help against bursty monsters or something that could be good.

I tried out my old crusader on the highest difficulty just to see what it was like. He was built to infinitely CC things, and couldn't anymore, so that sucked. On the plus side I was able to kill all the monsters in torment X. I died to most of the blue packs. But my build was undoubtedly bad now, and I had none of the new cube bonuses, and I wasn't tip-top as it was, so the new difficulties are probably just fine.

All in all I'm pretty pumped to get playing Diablo III again. This version of the game is probably going to be the best one yet, and that's really sweet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Rocket League

Rocket League is an online MOBA game where you drive around in a car, with a rocket strapped to the back of it, and play soccer. It seems to have pretty good physics for a rocket boosted car game... At the very least it seems to be consistent! So even if it isn't 'realistic' for the real world, it feels realistic for the Rocket League world.

Ike is always on the lookout for games we can stream together, and he really wanted to get into Rocket League. I wasn't sure it was for me, but mostly I wasn't sure the price tag was for me. But then Ike was awesome and gave me a copy of the game on Steam. Hurray! I ran through the tutorials and was pretty bad, but it was fun.

Last night after my WoW raid I played some games with Snuggles, Sceadeau, and one of Sceadeau's friends. The game plays up to 4v4, and we were pretty terrible, but it was really fun. We played for close to 3 hours all told and there were noticeable improvements in both our mechanics and our strategy. Still really bad, but not quite as bad as at the start!

I watched Witwix playing H1Z1 this morning, and then he finished his stream by playing Rocket League. It was like he was playing an entirely different game! My tactics pretty much boiled down to driving fast near the ball and hoping it did good things if I hit it... He was able to do these jumping dashing hits that actually made the ball move fast, and in a planned direction! Definitely some more practice will be needed... But it seems to have a reasonable matchmaking system, so even if I always suck I should just play against other people who suck and then we can have fun driving around near the ball!

One big plus the game has is you only play a 5 minute game with almost instant queue times to get into the next game. So even if you start getting blown out, the game is almost over! It's not like some LoL games where it's obvious you've lost in 6 minutes but have to play for another 20+ minutes until the game actually ends.

It's definitely worth checking out if the idea of car soccer sounds interesting.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Seven Springs Lodging Options

The World Boardgaming Championships are moving locations starting next year. It's moving from a self destructing hotel an hour from Philly to a ski resort an hour from Pittsburgh. From the sounds of things the ski resort is under newish ownership and is working on setting themselves up as a summer convention destination. Convenient that our convention needed a new summer destination...

One of the big concerns people have about the move is the increase in hotel cost. There were a ton of cheaper motels and the like around the old location (as in, the next building over) but a ski resort is more likely to be secluded and cut off those cheaper options as a result. On the other hand the ski resort does have a bunch of different types of rooms but actual information about what is available is sketchy at this point in time. Someone told us there were chalets with bunk beds and pretty low quality buildings but I found pictures of the chalets on the website and there were no bunk beds to be seen.

At this point I suspect the best play is to just get a room in the main hotel for the 2016 convention and then actually see what the other options are in person to make decisions for later. But for anyone unwilling to pay the main hotel price that's not really a good option. Getting to cram a ton of extra people into a chalet of some kind could be a really economical option for large groups of people... But there's a problem here in that no one has told us when we can book these things, or even how much they're going to cost! Waiting to get that info before making decisions is apt to have a faster group yoink your chalet out from under you! So it seems like a prudent thing to do would be to look at what the options are going to be and then it'd be easier to pivot and make a decision when the pricing is actually revealed. I will be listing the default web pricing when I can find it, but I have to assume the convention will have reduced rates.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

SGDQ 2015

It turns out it's that time of year again. Summer Games Done Quick started up this afternoon and will be running for the next week. It's a speedrunning marathon which raises money for the Doctors Without Borders charity, which as I understand is one of the best charities in terms of actually making charitable use of donations.

These marathons are really, really cool to watch. Check it out! (Especially Monday night during the Tetris block...)

Friday, June 19, 2015

The First Rule of Don't Starve Together


Easy enough, right? Actually, it is pretty easy. There's a ton of food all over the place! I'm much more likely to die from bees, or spiders, or tentacles than I am from starving. Of course, I tend to be fighting those things in order to get at more food...

Anyway, I've been playing a fair bit with Ike recently and we figured out a couple of recipes in the crock pot device which lets you combine 4 pieces of food into a meal. We found out that meatballs seemed to give lots of food but no health while honey nuggets gave lots of health but not nearly as much food. We wanted to know more details, but it turns out my interface with a controller doesn't seem to show any numbers at all. We wanted to explore the game without just reading all the stuff about it, but not having a real way to get numbers for things was frustrating. So we decided to actually search for the crock pot recipes and see what was actually going on.

It turns out it's a pretty complicated system. There's a ton of recipes, but the real key is that many foods are interchangeable in the recipes. For the most part all of the meats are the same. All of the vegetables are the same. All of the fruits are the same. Some specific recipes care about specific items (turkey dinner needs turkey drumsticks for example) but otherwise a drumstick is the same as a frog leg is the same as a morsel of rabbit meat. Cooking food before sticking it in a crockpot also doesn't do anything in the vast majority of recipes.

The only real twist is that each category of food has some foods that are just bigger than others. Meat, monster meat, and the cooked/jerkied versions of those are twice as good as all the other meats. Berries and cooked berries are only half of a fruit. All of the mushroom varieties are only half of a vegetable.

Because there's so much interchangeability between the different categories it turns out there's a lot of overlap in terms of what you can make with 4 given ingredients. They put in a priority on every recipe and the highest priority recipe gets made if multiple legal recipes are put in the pot. If there's a tie then each recipe has an even chance of being made. This actually means there are ways to turn monster meat into real food!

And in a weird turn of events, twigs are a legal item to be put in a crock pot. I tried to cook with poop, but I didn't try to cook with twigs. Oops!

So there's this huge list of recipes... What recipes are the 'best' ones? A given world layout will have different levels of access to the kinds of food, but is it worth killing frogs in order to make frog leg sandwiches? Are honey nuggets as awesome as it felt like they were? I decided to go through everything and crunch some numbers, because that's just the sort of person I am. Unfortunately this meant reading a little more about some other aspects of the game (base stats and the like), but I still have no clue what the actual goal of the game is, so I don't feel like I've actually spoiled anything relevant yet!

Ike tends to play Willow, and I tend to play Wilson, so I didn't have to do too much poking around. Both have 150 max health, 150 max hunger, and lose 75 hunger per day. Wilson has 200 max sanity, Willow has only 120, but she can gain sanity back by standing in fires. (And is immune to fire damage!) So if one is planning on going on a multi-day adventure to explore the map one should bring 75 hunger worth of food per day.

I built a spreadsheet and tried to guess the cheapest way to make each cooked food. Then I compared the gain of the ingredients against the gain of the result and I was actually pretty surprised. A lot of the recipes didn't seem to actually help all that much. Roasted berries are actually really good, it turns out, so using them as the main ingredient in most things isn't helping all that much. The real gains seemed to be found in terms of sanity. Eating basic ingredients doesn't give any sanity for the most part, while some of the recipes can give some decent sanity.

Roasted berries are worth 1 health and 12.5 food. That's the same value of most things that I thought were better than berries, like cooked fish, cooked frog legs, fried drumsticks, raw carrots, and cooked morsels. Cooked carrots are actually better than all of those at 3 health and 12.5 food.

Honey nuggets, which I thought were really good for health, give 20 health, 37.5 food, and 5 sanity. The ingredients are worth 6 health and 46.875 food. So you actually lose almost 10 food by cooking them up, but they give an extra 14 health and 5 sanity. I'd say that's pretty worth it if you need healing.

Froggle bunchwiches give the same amount! But you can make them with mushrooms and twigs instead of honey and berries so they're actually really good.

Trailmix gives 30 health and 5 sanity, but only 12.5 food. You lose a lot of food value making the trail mix, but you get even more health than the honey nuggets.

If you're looking for a big food boost you're looking at wanting to make meaty stew or meatballs. Meatballs actually are only worth 25% more food than the base ingredients, so they're not fantastic. The meaty stew is a full stomach in one item and also gives 12 health and 5 sanity. The real cool thing about the meaty stew is you can use one monster meat in there with no risk of monster lasagna. So 2 morsels, a meat, and a monster meat will make a meaty stew. Getting the normal meat is rough, and it may be better to use it in a honey ham recipe, but it is a good way to use monster meat to good effect.

The best use of monster meat is probably bacon and eggs. You can use a full 2 monster meat with a tallbird egg and a twig for that recipe which gives 20 health, 75 food, and 5 sanity. Even with regular eggs (which I've never seen) you can use one monster meat with a morsel and 2 eggs for this recipe.

Some of the fancy fruits and veggies have individual recipes which are pretty cool.

Turkey dinner is awesome. More food than meatballs, the same health as honey nuggets.

Fishsticks actually restore 40 health, 37.5 food, and 5 sanity. Which is way better than trailmix! I found a way to mine for fish the last time I played with Ike, and it now seems like a really good idea.

At any rate, what I learned is cooked carrots are better than I thought. Cooked berries are as good as most of the meats, so throwing them in as filler is not as good as I thought. The recipes are still pretty good if you need the extra health or sanity from them, or if you're using them to convert garbage items like monster meat or red mushrooms into real food. Trail mix is bad for food, but really good for health. Stuff you get by fighting low level monsters (bees, frog...) makes the same sort of stuff which is good but not fantastic. Meatballs are not as good as I thought but still worth making I think. Runs to collect up berries and carrots are looking like a really good idea.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

World of Goo

Sceadeau and an anonymous blog commenter (who was probably Sceadeau) urged me to play the game World of Goo that I'd picked up in a prior Steam sale. That someone I know says a game is worth playing is reason enough to give something a try, especially when I already own it! It also makes me feel less guilty about buying games during this Steam sale, so it's win-win!

Anyway, World of Goo is a physical based puzzle game. You have a bunch of goo balls which you can connect up with each other. The connection is a little like a girder would be, in that it provides some support to your structure. But it's goo, not steel, so it's bendier than steel would be. Gravity exists, and can drag your structure to the ground if it isn't secure enough. The goal varies by level, but it's mostly to build a structure from a starting point to an ending point on the level using as small an amount of time, moves, and balls as possible.

It reminded me a little of Lemmings. I like Lemmings a lot, and this game was pretty interesting.

Unfortunately, it isn't all sunshine and roses. My primary goal for a game most of the time now is a game I can stream that might be of interest to other people. World of Goo as a puzzle game actually felt like it would fit in pretty well there. People worse at the game than me might want to watch to pick up tips. People better than me might want to watch to provide tips and make themselves feel better. People around the same skill might want to tune in and feel like they could help out with suggestions some of the time. Hurray!

But then it turns out the game is pretty old, and was not coded with my computer in mind. It only runs in full screen mode. It only allows you to scroll the screen by positioning the mouse on the edge of the screen. It doesn't restrict the mouse to staying on the monitor. And it jams up the resolution of my second monitor. These issues combine to make it hard to navigate around in the game, really hard to make quick moves, and impossible to watch chat while streaming.

It was also set up to have internet leaderboards, but couldn't find my internet connection. I like leaderboards. But I can't use them, despite having an internet connection. Maybe their servers are down? Or they don't understand wireless connections? Regardless, it makes the game less fun for me to have a broken feature than it would for that feature to not exist at all.

I certainly won't be streaming the game again, and I suspect I won't play it again on this computer either. But I might well put it on my laptop to have a fun puzzle game to play. And it was worth a dollar.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Steam Summer Sale

Today marks the start of Steam's annual summer sale. The sale is going to last for 10 days and is going to feature most games going on sale for pretty low prices. Last year I posted that my Steam library had 112 games and I'd only played 41 of them. Clearly I didn't need more games, but I managed to rationalize buying more games at cheap prices. My budget is tighter this year, so it feels like I really shouldn't be buying anything this time around. But I'm still going to browse around and see what's up. There's also likely to be an event of some kind which will provide free Steam cards and such, so I may well be able to sell cards or gems or something to get some games anyway.

I am curious about how the last two big Steam sales (summer and winter) have actually fared for me. Did the games I bought during them get played? Should I start playing any of them now?

Summer Sale 2014

Mata Hari - $4 - UNPLAYED
Magical Diary - $5 - 3 hours, really enjoyed it
Super House of Dead Ninjas - $2 - UNPLAYED
Talisman Digital Edition - $6 - 4 hours, didn't much like it
Banished - $10 - 10 hours, really enjoyed it
Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons - $3 - UNPLAYED
Syberia Collection - $2 - 2 games, both UNPLAYED
Noir Syndrome - $2 - UNPLAYED
World of Goo - $1 - UNPLAYED
GTA IV Complete Bundle - $6 - 2 games, both UNPLAYED

Winter Sale 2014

Dead Bits - 16 cents - 79 minutes, terrible game
Don't Starve Together Frontier Pack - $6 - 4 hours, was fun, will play again with family
Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes - ~$9 (auction gems) - UNPLAYED

All told, things aren't actually looking too good for games bought in the last two sales. Looking at the unplayed games I'm pretty sure if I'd just try them all it would work out to have been a good idea. I think I really need to set something up to force myself to start playing new games. Make Friday be stream a new game day or something like that.

Looking at my games list, I now own 128 games and have played 58 of them. So I made a dent in my backlog in the last year! Not a terribly big one, but one nonetheless.

The bottom line is I probably shouldn't be blindly buying a bunch of games in this sale. But if things are really cheap it's still probably worth taking a chance on them. Dead Bits actually made me money last sale, because I sold the cards it came with for more than 16 cents! There are also a few things I really want to own. If I had the PC version of FFVIII I'm pretty sure I'd start speedrunning it, for example. There are a couple Final Fantasy games I don't own and if they go on sale I'm going to have to pick them up.

Oh, and I have 38 games that are unplayed but that come with Steam cards. I really should get those 108 free cards, because if I can get 6 cents out of each card I can surely get something for free this sale! Woo!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Constructed Hearthstone in April

I posted that in March it took me 303 games played to hit Legend. April saw Hearthstone fall to my3rd most played Blizzard game with both World of Warcraft and Diablo III jumping to the forefront. As a result I ended up playing only 105 games through the first 29 days of the month. I made a push on the last day with another 62 games played but it wasn't enough. I ended up finishing at rank 3, missing out on Legend, and losing the chance to make that a notch in my imaginary Hearthstone belt.

Most of my play in April was spent learning a neat new deck I saw in a tournament that was widely described as the hardest deck to play in the game. I saw multiple pros fail to finish a critical turn in the minute and a half you're given and lose the game as a result. I won 57% of my 60 games with the deck, which is pretty good, and in almost every loss I saw a way I could have won if I'd played differently. It sure is a deck that takes a lot of practice!

Anyway, it makes me want to really learn the deck and hit legend with it in May. But that hasn't actually gotten me to play much. Less than 2 weeks to go and I've only played 34 games of constructed all month! 19 of them were with the patron deck I'm trying to learn and I've won over 84% of my games with it. I'm not exactly playing good players with good decks yet since I again waited so long to start playing this month, but it's still an encouraging sign. I need to get up to the top and start losing to good players to see what weaknesses this deck actually has!

Monday, April 27, 2015

World of Warcraft: Back to Raiding

A couple weeks ago I was thinking about games I'd played in the past that I wish I'd streamed. World of Warcraft was the first one that jumped to mind. Having a recording of how I'd played undoubtedly would have been good for getting better, and it would also be nice to have things like Tribute to Dedicated Insanity up on Youtube to be able to watch and reminisce about years in the future. The very next day Sky put up a post on his blog about differences in recruiting in his current guild and in the one we used to run back in the day.

WoW also recently went free to play. Well, not exactly, but pretty close. Instead of paying a monthly fee you can choose to sell some gold to another player, through Blizzard, and they pay your monthly fee for you. I have more gold on my account than I know what to do with so resubscribing with gold doesn't cost me much of anything at all. So I can try to get back into raiding without a monetary cost...

{As an aside, Blizzard still owes me around 400k gold from when my account was hacked. Now that that amount is over a year and a half of subscription fees I can't imagine ever getting it back, but it just makes getting hacked all the more annoying.}

Sky went and cleared it with his guild leader that streaming is allowed in his guild, so I've been working on getting my gear to a state where I can plausibly raid without just being a drag on things. I did some reading on rotations and stats and such and I'm pretty ready now, so tonight I'm going to try streaming a raid at 9:30 AST.

I normally prefer to tank things, but coming in super undergeared and not knowing any of the fights means I'm going to be a beatdown DK at least to start. And maybe the whole time? The way flexible raids work really make it seem like extra DPSers is fine, but extra tanks aren't needed unless old tanks cut back on play time. But that's just fine by me, as I've liked beating down too.

I will say, I've only been back playing for a week and I'm already sick of both LFR and Ashran. The queue times for both are really long for a DPSer and the gameplay in both just isn't very interesting. But they both provide a way to bootstrap my gear, so I felt obligated to do them. I'm about done with both of them now though, I think...

Friday, April 10, 2015

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Ike and I have been looking for a game we could stream together. I was watching Witwix a couple days ago and he was talking about how he had a 24 hour stream planned for Friday since that was the start of the new season for Diablo III. I haven't played any of the expansion at all yet, so 'new season' didn't mean all that much to me, but it felt like it might be a game Ike and I could play co-op. I suggested it to Ike, he tested to make sure his computer could handle streaming it, and it looks like we're good to go.

As I said, I don't have the expansion, and I wasn't really looking forward to paying Blizzard $40 for it. I did some searching around and found a bunch of different websites that sell keys for games. Initially this feels really sketchy. Have these sites cracked the key generation code and are just manufacturing keys? Did they buy a ton of keys from a country where the game is cheaper? Hack accounts in some way? Are they just scamming entirely?

Then there is the other option, which is that Blizzard is just engaging in variable pricing. Micro economics does say that the seller would ideally like to sell their product for the maximum amount of money to each individual buyer. But they can't well have on their website a button to buy a game for $40 and a button to buy the same game for $20. It's easy to make a more expensive button with a sound track or whatnot, but they'd likely lose more money from $40 people switching to $20 then they would gain from additional $20 sales. What they could do is sell keys to resellers for $20 and then let them mark them up a little bit and sell to the people unwilling to pay $40.

I then noticed that one of the key reseller sites sponsors the pro gaming team Cloud 9, which is my favourite NA LCS team. My favourite Hearthstone streamer, Hafu, is also on Cloud 9, and has an ad on her stream for the key reseller with a small discount code. So they're probably not straight up scammers, I would hope? There's certainly a spectrum of options for how they got their keys and some of them are pretty reasonable to support.

The bottom line is that if I was currently employed I'd just click the button on Blizzard's website and pay whatever they want to charge. But as things currently stand saving $20 is worth the risk of not knowing exactly how G2A gets their keys. So I snapped yesterday and finally picked up the D3 expansion.

I tried playing a bit, but everything is completely changed from the game I used to know. I have no idea what my old level 60 character's build should be, or if the gear she has is useful or not. But that's what a new season is for! Paragon points and stash and crafters and everything is completely wiped out for characters created in the new season.

So tonight Ike and I are going to try streaming from 10pm-midnight atlantic time. I'm going to try out the new class in the expansion, crusader, and I think Ike is going to shoot things from afar with a demon hunter. I don't know anything about what classes might be good or not except that Witwix said every 4 person group 'needs' a '0 DPS' witch doctor for some reason. I've never played any witch doctor at all... If I end up wanting to play without Ike then maybe I'll start one of those and try out public groups if those are a thing?

Monday, April 06, 2015

ALL the Achievements?!?

I finally found the last two items in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth and have now unlocked all 178 achievements for the game. It may come as a bit of a surprise, but this is actually the first game in which I've earned all the achievements. I really like trying to get achievements which is why it seems so weird to me that I've never gotten them all in any game before. Why is that?

Surely the biggest part is that official achievements only came into existence a fair bit into my gaming life. If Krusty's Super Fun House on the SNES had achievements I surely would have earned them all. I likely would have picked up all the achievements in a variety of older RPGs too. The SNES and PSX era Final Fantasy games in particular, but even something like The 7th Saga or Wizardry V I probably would have gotten them all if they existed.

And then once achievements started becoming a thing I spent the vast majority of my gaming time playing either World of Warcraft or League of Legends. LoL has no achievements at all, and WoW has way too many achievements! I have an awful lot of them, including some stupidly hard/crazy ones, but getting them all would have required being really dedicated at all aspects of the game. And ditching my guild for one that ran 25 mans.

I found a website a while ago that tracks Steam achievements. I now have fully completed 1.2% of the games in my Steam library that have achievements. But 47.1% of the games are sitting at 0% achievements! That's sure showing how many games I haven't even gotten around to installing. And that still leaves 51.8% of my library that I started but never finished getting all the achievements.

It has me wondering if maybe I should work on completing some more games? Having some direction could help with forcing myself to stream more, too. Maybe spend a day or two per week solely streaming achievement earning runs of things? It would also be a good excuse to replay some very good games, like Alan Wake and DmC. But I don't know that achievement farming would make for terribly interesting content...

But hey, at least now I can say I'm a REAL platinum god!

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain

Tomorrow brings with it the release of the new adventure for Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain. The way adventures work in the game is you get a bunch of challenging AI opponents to play against that emulate different dungeons/raids from World of Warcraft. Beating the opponent gives you new cards to use in constructed, including some potentially awesome legendary cards. Loatheb and Kel'Thuzad came from the first adventure, for example, and those cards are in my current constructed deck! Along with some of the commons and rares from that adventure too. Owning that adventure isn't really optional when it comes to playing constructed and I suspect the same will be true of this one too.

So then the question is... How to buy it? There are 5 wings to the adventure and they're going to unlock one per week. You can pay 700 in game gold for a wing, or you can pay $7 for a wing, or you can pay $5 per wing for every wing you don't own. I think the $7 for one wing is a little silly. You have to buy them in order and you need them all if you want all the cards. So buying one wing at a time with cash feels just wrong. So the real question, assuming you have gold to spend, is if you'd want to spend $5 to get 700 gold or not. Personally I'm sitting on 2190 gold so I could buy 3 wings with gold easily. And it's certainly possible that in the next 3 weeks I'll make 700 gold to get the 4th one too... But I do need more classic cards, so spending gold on packs is a real thing I might want to do.

Assuming I was willing to spend $25 on packs, how many would I get? 40 packs would run me $50 so you'd think $25 would get 20. You get a bulk discount so I'd probably only actually get 18 or so, but whatever. Spending 3500 gold on packs would get me 35 packs. So if one was going to spend cash, spending it on the BRM adventure would be about twice as efficient as spending it on packs.

I do think this is a pretty sensible way for a 'free' game to make money. Sporadically put out extra content you can buy efficiently or can grind in game to earn. It makes it easier for someone like me to justify paying them some money without feeling too much like it's just a pay to win scheme. Though as a CCG it certainly still has aspects of that.

I bought Naxx because I didn't have any gold at all. I want more classic cards enough that I think if I was currently employed I'd have no qualms at all about plunking down the $25 for BRM. But I don't have a job, and I do have gold sitting around, and I certainly have constructed viable decks without buying more packs... So I'm going to spend the gold I have on BRM wings.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Godhead Unlocked!

It took more tries than it's reasonable to count, and I ran my donation machine down to 40 coins, but I finally managed to beat the boss rush event with The Lost on hard mode in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This involves clearing out 6 floors of the dungeon in under 20 minutes and then beating 15 waves of bosses where each wave contains 2 bosses. The Lost is a character with no health value; any damage kills him. Hard mode makes floors bigger, with less health on them, increases the chance enemies spawn as champions, and increases the chance of getting a curse on each floor. It is overall a combination of brutal difficulty increases!

If you take a look at the screenshot you'll note it took me over 54 minutes to beat the boss rush. Now, you have to start it in under 20 minutes so that means I spent a good 34 minutes actually beating the boss rush. That seems ludicrous. Especially once I tell you that I actually didn't get a single damage up item until the devil deal at the end of the 5th floor, and even then it wasn't a very big one. I barely killed Mom's Foot in under 20 minutes! So what did I do?

I combined the item 'gnawed leaf' which makes you immune to damage as long as you don't move and the passive damage sources 'guppy's hairball' and 'lil haunt'. Any enemy that touched the hairball behind my character would take a small amount of damage. Any enemy that came really close to me would aggro the haunt who would then follow them around doing small amounts of damage. So with only a couple exceptions (enemies who never came close to me) I just watched Hafu play Hearthstone without touching my controller and waited to win.

What a stupid solution to a stupid challenge. But now it's done! (Beating 5 floors with no damage increases is actually pretty darn hard, so I don't feel too bad for cheesing the ending. Turns out holy mantle and stop watch are really good for not dying!)

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Hearthstone: March Legend!

From my post it took 266 wins last month to get to legend in Hearthstone. I just hit legend for this month this afternoon and it took 174 wins in 303 games. Part of the difference is going to be starting from a higher point this time around so I needed to earn something like 14 fewer wins this time around, but a much bigger part would have to be my winning percentage. I have 414 games recorded from last month before I hit legend and I didn't log the first couple days! I was winning about 53.6% of my games that month. This month I won 45.5% of my 22 games with hunter, 56.4% of 78 games with mage, and 59.1% of 203 games with paladin. I'm still learning hunter and know I threw some of those games away with obvious mistakes, let alone the subtle ones, so I'm not saying hunter is bad or anything. Just that I hadn't practiced it before while I had played the other two.

I thought it would be interesting to take a look at my opponents over the course of this month. I'm not super in the know with how to classify decks so I'm going to use the rough categories of aggro and control. Mech decks, zoo warlocks, face hunters, and a few misc weenie decks got classified as aggro. Pretty much everything else is control, even if 'control hunter' is still a pretty aggressive deck. Anyway, 28% of my games were against aggro decks and 72% were against control. The vast majority of the aggro decks were hunter (36%), mage (32%), and warlock (13%). Control decks were much more varied, with hunter (17%), druid (16%), mage (15%), paladin (13%), and rogue (10%) all showing up.

Overall when it comes to class mix hunter lead the way with 22% of my opponents. Mages made up 20%, with druid (13%) and paladin (10%) being the other classes to break the 10% mark. So if you were trying to hit legend this month having a deck that could hold up well against those classes would be a good idea. My paladin deck crushes druid (70% win rate) and holds up quite well against the other three popular classes. (59% against hunter, 56% against mage, 63% against paladin!) It has a rough time against rogues (44% win rate) but was better than 50% against every other class. Some of the games could go rather long so I wouldn't be surprised if mech mage would have been faster even with a lower win percentage.

I slotted in at 652 on the legend ladder, which is far off of top 50 or top 100. With only 3 days left in the month I'm not sure if it's worth trying to win my way up or if I should use this time to play other games. Or maybe to get more experience with hunter?

I've included an image of my current paladin list. If I owned the cards I would want to test out using Sylvanas Windrunner and Harrison Jones instead of Piloted Sky Golem and Kel'Thuzad. More than half of my opponents played decks with weapons in them! Maybe I should think about putting in an ooze until I get a Jones...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Streaming Hours

Back at the end of last month I told myself this month I'd put more hours into streaming. You never know how things will go unless you actually just try it out, right? A lot of the advice I've heard on random streams I watch has to do with just putting in time at the start to see what works for you, but you need to actually put in enough time to give repeat viewers a chance to come back. And at the start of the month I actually had one guy who was showing up every day. Pretty much because I was the only English speaking person playing Isaac while this kid was getting ready for school, but that's at least a start, right? I haven't actually seen him in a while. (Turns out he unfollowed me at some point?) But since I haven't really been streaming lately I can't really say I blame him...

I have started tracking hours put in, and I have 3 weeks worth of data now...

So on only 3 days in the last 3 months did I put in even close to a 'full day' of streaming. People talk about streaming 12+ hours a day every day for months in order to build up a viewer base. These three weeks are clearly nowhere near that level so it really isn't surprising that I have a total of 18 followers.

The question now is... Can I do better? What things were keeping me from streaming more this month and what can be done to overcome them?

The first is health related. I went to the doctor on the 13th and he doubled my Paxil dose. When I first switched to Paxil in January I ended up sleeping a lot and being rather lightheaded for a couple weeks. (I believe this was a large contributing factor to my collapsing in the hospital shortly after the switch.) So it isn't too surprising that doubling the dose has caused me to feel pretty similar. I've been sleeping a lot the last couple weeks (probably closer to 12 hours per day instead of 8) and have really not felt up to doing much of anything but sitting in a chair vegging out most of the time. Putting in effort to talk about what games I'm playing hasn't really been something I've felt up to doing.

How can this be fixed? Well, presumably my body will eventually adjust to this dosage and I'll be back to sleeping 8 hours every 26 hours. That'll free up more time each day which could help. I could also stop worrying about being 'on' when I stream and just turn my mic off some of the time. I'm not sure if that would be a net positive or not, but it would certainly help bump the hours number up. And while just inflating the numbers may not be a good thing it could well lead to good things in the long run. It's like when I was really working on getting better at League of Legends and focused just on last hitting. Even if I was worse in those games in the short run I ended up locking in a skill that could be used later on.

Next is how much time I spend watching streams instead of streaming myself. One comment I've heard from multiple streamers is how rarely they actually get to watch streams. People keep asking them for advice about other people to watch and they can't really say. When you're spending 12 hours a day playing The Binding of Isaac you probably don't have much desire to watch other people play it. And even if you did, when would you do it? You need to eat and sleep and maybe interact with other people every now and then!

I do think watching some streams is still very important for me. I watch for entertainment, but also to see how different people do different things. I'm also learning how to be better at Hearthstone in particular by watching top tier players who explain what they're doing some of the time. Even just being able to watch how different matchups play out without having to own the decks myself is quite helpful.

On the other hand, I've been spending a fair amount of time lately watching Hafu play League of Legends and that isn't really helping much at all. She's one of the best Hearthstone drafters in the world with a really popular stream so watching that has been a big net gain I think. But she's about as good at LoL as I was when I played a lot, and she rarely explains anything about what she's doing. There's certainly still entertainment value in it, don't get me wrong... But if I'm looking at time I'm spending on not-streaming that I could easily convert to time spent on streaming these hours would be a good place to start.

And then there's the pro streams I watch. The LoL LCS regular season, IEM tournaments for LoL and Starcraft 2, random Hearthstone tournaments, Vintage super league... Stuff I watch because I really like watching people who are trying to be the absolute best at something. I don't want to cut that stuff out, though I have realized lately that I actually do a lot of gaming while watching those streams. I killed Mom's heart on hardmode with all the characters while watching LCS. I'd pause and watch during interesting stuff, but when a game got out of hand or when it was talking heads I could just play Isaac and listen in the background.

If I could figure out a way to stream a game without streaming the audio from a stream I'm watching then I could keep doing the same sort of thing. But otherwise I just need to prioritize what I watch to not take up 8+ hours in a day. That shouldn't be that hard? Maybe?

I've also been a little leery about what I stream. Games I know reasonably well, sure. But what about completely new stuff? Why would anyone want to watch me learn to play Terraria? Well, why would anyone want to watch me play anything?

The answer here really is that I don't need to know why anyone wants to do anything. Just do some things! I'll never understand people with my current level of knowledge, so trying to figure out things from ignorance is a silly thing to do. Just trying things can only result in more information to possibly make better decisions in the future.

There's also some data issues with my chart because I stream at weird hours and I'm assigning the entirety of a stream to whatever day Twitch archives assigns to the video. So on days when I sleep in the middle of the day it's possible that if I started streaming at 11:50pm the previous day that the day would have no hours even if I went 12 or more. But realistically that would just make the previous day huge and I could just run weekly averages to help deal with that. Clearly this isn't what's actually making my numbers low, it's just a way for perfectionist me to get bitter and give up. Bad perfectionist me! Bad!

Anyway... More things to think about, but I think the core thing is to just work on mindlessly watching fewer streams and just stream more random stuff for a while and see what happens.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Binding of Isaac: Platinum God!

Yesterday I finally managed to put together a bandage girl in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. This unlocked the last item I needed to touch and shortly thereafter it appeared, I touched it, and I unlocked the Platinum God achievement. This is the achievement for doing pretty much everything in the game except for the super challenge character. According to Steam only 2.4% of people have it, and 2.2% have all the achievements. So very few people are good/insane enough to touch every item and do all the challenges without being good/insane enough to do the super challenge character.

As things stand I have 6 achievements left to get. I need to beat everything on hard mode with The Lost, and then touch the 4 items that unlock from doing so. I guess it's all about running hard mode over and over hoping to hit the item lottery!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Lost

I managed to unlock The Lost character in The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth earlier this week. The Lost is the super challenge mode character in the game. He starts with flying and can make any deals with the devil for free... But any damage kills him. Period. You can't get extra health or pick up soul hearts or anything like that. Take damage and die. There are ways to either make yourself invincible or to bring yourself back to life that still work with The Lost but they are few and far between.

One of the streamers I watch who plays the game did a day of playing The Lost. He focuses more on entertainment than on speed running (though he does some of that too) so the way he played was he used a memory editor to hack it so the first item he picked up was guaranteed to be a holy mantle from the treasure room or a dead cat from the curse room. This way he would get one of the two key survival items without having to reset hundreds of times to get a viable run. (Holy mantle makes it so the first hit you take in any room is prevented. Dead cat gives you 9 extra lives.)

The main Issac speedrunner I watch talked a bit about how to get better at the game. His main advice was to play as The Lost without scumming for a holy mantle or a dead cat. The theory there was you'd have to learn how to deal with every room without taking any damage and that was bound to make you better at playing the game when you went back to playing a normal character.

I'm working on achievements so there's no way I'd hack the game to give me specific items. I think it makes a lot of sense as a convenience matter for entertainment purposes but I also think it's cheating. On the other hand the idea of starting just any item seems insane. I find myself getting hit by early game spiders way too often if I don't have a damage boost. Maybe there is something to be said for forcing myself to do it to get better, but it really isn't much fun. But then there's the fact that I've died 150 times since I unlocked The Lost and reset probably 5 times per death and have only seen one holy mantle! So scumming for those two items specifically would take forever and that isn't much fun either.

So what I'm doing is resetting until I get an item that either makes me immediately better or has real long term potential. So things like a blank card or a crystal ball or a damage boost. Mediocre or useless items prompt a reset. If I don't get a really good item from the treasure room I'll gladly hop into the curse room, which is almost guaranteed to be death. Unless I get a dead cat, guppy's collar, or a telepill I will die.

I have actually managed to complete one run out of the 700ish tries. It opened on a dead cat and led to extra damage boosts from almost every boss. This is pretty unlikely since a lot of the boss items are only health ups, but my first two bosses dropped a halo and a magic mushroom. By the end of the run I had scythes, and double shot, and was guppy. I got to Isaac on one previous run and killing him without ever taking damage seemed beyond my abilities, but this time I had enough guppy flies that he immediately transitioned to phase 3 upon my entering the room. Huzzah!

Am I actually getting better at the game or did I just hit the lottery of good items? Probably a combination of the two. But it does mean there's some hope for getting the rest of the achievements done given enough time... Actually, getting lucky with items probably isn't good enough for the boss rush... And if it is, should I be playing on hard mode? I need to beat the boss rush with The Lost on hard mode at some point too...

Maybe what I should do next is hard mode with some normal characters to get a feel for it and then go back to The Lost.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Finding a Niche

I've put more of a focus on streaming this month but mostly it's been me playing games by myself or (since I connected with Twitter and Facebook) with Lino watching. This morning I had a random guy come in and chat a bit while I was trying to unlock the Lost in Isaac. The following line in particular is intriguing...

'I was looking through the streams for a person i could hear, who spoke english, who i could understand, and who was obviously commentating'

And there we have it. I futzed around with my microphone settings again yesterday to make it so that I could be heard and suddenly I'm the guy on Twitch who speaks English in the wee hours of the morning. Kids who get up and want something to watch before they go to school can tune in to see me because there are no other options!

He followed me and actually came back to watch me play some Hearthstone after school got out.

I still have problems understanding why anyone would actually want to watch me, but I guess when the bar is set at 'speaks English' I can get on board. Huzzah!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Isaac Achievement Countdown

I beat ??? with Eden and the Lamb with Isaac which completed the last of the obvious unlocks that I knew about. I've done all the challenges and I've beaten every boss/rush with all 10 of the main characters. I'm still missing a bunch of achievements though, and I was sure a bunch of them revolved around the super challenge character, the Lost. He dies to any damage, period. I get hit all the time, so I have a really hard time imagining I could get those done... But there are some really powerful item combinations so I really might as well try and see! There might be some easier stuff to do first though, so I went through the list of all achievements and made a note of all the things I still have to do.

19 - super bandage girl
30 - die 100 times
38 - beat chapter 2 without taking damage
69 - collect all items, unlock everything except the Lost
82 - unlock the Lost
84 - collect all items and unlock everything
129 - kill Isaac with the Lost
130 - kill Satan with the Lost
131 - kill ??? with the Lost
132 - kill the Lamb with the Lost
133 - beat boss rush with the Lost
144 - super meat boy
156 - beat Mom's heart, Isaac, Satan, ???, the Lamb, and boss rush with the Lost on hard mode
167 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Isaac
168 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Maggy
169 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Eve
170 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Judas
171 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Cain
172 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Azazel
173 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Lazarus
174 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with ???
175 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with the Lost
176 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Eden
177 - beat Mom's heart on hard mode with Samson

Ok, so that's not too much stuff. I'm really surprised I haven't died 100 times! I suspect dying on challenges doesn't count towards that number. The super bandage girl and super meat boy achievements require running into all 4 of the horsemen of the apocalypse, or scumming it with a monster manual and a source of infinite batteries. After that I need to do the Lost stuff, and beat 8 levels on hard mode with each character. Oh, and collect all the items in the game.

Touching all the items is apparently pretty annoying, if the streamers I watch are any indication. I've heard multiple of them complain about getting a secret room item to spawn. I rarely hunt down secret rooms, so I guess I probably need to start doing that. I took the time to figure out every item I've never picked up. Several of them are items I've seen and deliberately not picked up because they're bad... Guess I need to get them at least once! Anyway, here's that list too.

Transcendence - secret room
Dr Fetus - treasure room
Super Bandage - treasure/boss room (need #19)
The Common Cold - treasure room
Guardian Angel - angel room
9 Volt - shop
Remote Detonator - treasure/shop/boss challenge
Blue Candle - shop
Fate - golden chest
Sacred Heart - angel room
Dead Dove - angel room
Monstro's Lung - treasure room
Stopwatch - shop
Missing No - secret room
Isaac's Heart - treasure room (need #129)
D100 - treasure room (need #133)
D4 - treasure room
The Jar - shop
Eve's Mascara - treasure room
Samson's Chains - treasure room
Scissors - treasure room (need #30)
Godhead - angel room (need #156)
The Mind - treasure/angel (need #130)
The Body - treasure/angel (need #131)
The Soul - treasure/angel (need #132)
The Boomerang - shop

Some of those items require me to do some of the other stuff first to unlock them. The other stuff being mostly the Lost stuff. The hard mode stuff doesn't unlock any items so I don't need to rush to do it... But it's also likely the easiest stuff to do.

I think what I should do first is work on unlocking the Lost (you need to do an archaic set of 4 things) and then try doing things with him. When that gets frustrating, switch to doing Isaac runs in order to pick up items I'm missing with his d6 item. And maybe throw in some hard mode runs with different characters to pick those achievements up too.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Binding of Isaac: Two Brutal Mistakes

I've been back playing some Isaac the last couple days working to unlock some more things. I had a game where I got one of the longer things done, but where I also made two mistakes. One which just screwed my ability to get an extra unlock on that run, but one that actually permanently screws over my save file and costs me an awful lot going forward.

The first mistake was a mere item choice issue. I had a pretty good build running, with a bunch of damage, spectral tears, scythes, and the slug thing that causes your tears to split and shoot sideways at the end of their forward progress. I was pretty much covering the entire screen in damage! So good! But then I saw the soy milk item and decided to give it a spin. I knew speedrunners hate the item, but part of that is it's a special item so just seeing it decreases your odds of seeing other special items. How bad could it be to actually pick it up? You lose 80% of your damage but you attack ludicrously fast! I want to attack ludicrously fast!

Two problems with that. First, I was already attacking really fast, so I suspect the soy milk buff probably put me up to the attack speed cap. So it was probably a DPS decrease. But the second problem was the real killer... The size of my scythes is based on the damage they do, so knocking off 80% of my damage shrunk them down a fair bit. Way more than I was expecting, actually. It turned my situation from coating the entire screen in big damage to damage a very thin line with less damage.

I ended up dying in the chest, and didn't pick up my ??? kill with Eden. And I've been trying that again over and over and keep failing to get a run nearly as good as that one. (Eden gets 2 random items to start and can't be reset over and over to get a good start, so throwing away that awesome run sucks.)

The second mistake makes me really sad and has me questioning the game design and my desire to keep playing. One of the mechanics in the game is a 'donation machine' that shows up in stores. You can drop coins in the machine on one run and then pull them out on another run by exploding it with bombs. For some reason there's a limit on how many coins you can drop in on a given run, which means you get to add something like 4-12 coins per run. One of the items unlocks when you get 999 coins in the machine. So while working on that unlock you basically need to cripple all your runs by throwing your money in the machine instead of buying useful items. Over a hundred runs! And I finally did it on this run.

Then I decided to buy something, so I went up to bomb the machine and get some money back out. But then my finger slipped and I ended up walking into the machine again. This put in coin #1000, which causes the machine to explode in a shower of cash. Permanently explode. Losing all of the coins placed inside of it for the save file.

So not only have I been crippling runs for pretty much my entire time playing the game, but now I don't have the coins sitting around to have fun with on future runs. Or to speed up future runs if I start racing or speed running...

It sucks. And I don't understand why the game designer would put that in. It feels like a game mechanic we'd have put into the Manders RPG when we were joking around about making the worst game ever.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Hearthstone: Pinnacle Tournaments

A couple weeks ago one of the constructed streamers I watch (Massan) was talking on his stream that he'd won the 'Pinnacle 3' tournament the previous weekend, whatever that is. I filed the name in my mind to look up the tournament but never got around to it. Today a different streamer mentioned he probably wouldn't be streaming this coming weekend because he was going to be playing in an open qualifier for 'Pinnacle 4'. Now, I doubt I have the cards to actually compete in a tournament but I like to try things and see how they work even if I can't expect to win right off the bat. So I went off to do some research.

Unfortunately it turns out the guy putting this particular tournament series together is taking some liberties with the word 'open'. Maybe it's a standard term for the Hearthstone tournament scene, I don't know, but entries are limited to 128 and are restricted solely to people who have hit the top 100 on the ladder. Finished in the top 100 I think, so my peak of 40 isn't any good here. I'm actually pretty sure I could have finished top 100 last month if I just stopped playing completely once I hit 40. I'd dropped down some, sure, but I doubt enough people would have passed me to bump me out of 100. Oh well! I didn't know there was any pressing need to finish top 100. Now I do!

But at least now I know there is a tournament going on this weekend so I can try to tune in and check out the stream to at least get a feel for what's going on as a spectator.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hearthstone February Results

The 11th Hearthstone ranked ladder season ended at 4am. I ended up finishing at 968th place, and I'm pretty sure there were over 2k people who made it to legend so I was in the top half of legends. The claim is that only .5% of people made it to legend in the first few seasons, so it's entirely possible that I'm what, 1 in 400? Not too bad.

Of course, 968th place is worth no qualification points towards worlds, so it isn't actually very good. My goal is to get top 50 in a month, or top 100 in two months, and I now have two failed months. (One because I didn't play, and this one.)

My peak ranking was actually 40th place. But I got to that point on the back of a 10 game winning streak. I then told myself I wouldn't play unless I dropped out of the top 50. Enough people played and passed me that I fell down to 58th and then I lost my next game and tumbled out of the top 100. I never made it back up that high.

The really sad thing is I ended up going 79-78 after the 10 game winning streak that put me at 40th. So going better than 50-50 still meant falling from a good standing to middle of the pack...

The whole thing is reminiscent of the old Magic rating system where I was qualified for Nationals and GP byes and the like but was prevented from playing most games for fear of losing those rewards. Card games simply have too much variance to make it worth playing against people significantly below your rating. And in Hearthstone it seems like they're more interested in getting a fast match going than in pairing you up against an even match. (If my matches were close to even then my ELO should have remained similar after going 79-78 instead of falling so much I fell from 40th to 968th.)

On the plus side I now have 2 decks built and I'm learning more and more about the format every day. So I should be able to do better in future months! Maybe?

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hearthstone: Quest Rerolls

Sceadeau clued me in yesterday that there's a feature in Hearthstone to swap out one of the daily quests if you don't want to do it. I feel a little silly for not knowing about such a feature for so long, especially since it turns out to be pretty simple, but now I know. And other people should know too!

Basically each day you get assigned a quest at random. You're allowed to store up 3 quests at a time so you don't need to play every day to keep on top of your quests but they also don't just stack up forever. Quests can be for a variety of tasks and can be worth either 40, 60, or 100 gold. I've always just done them when they show up, or shortly thereafter.

It turns out, however, that each quest in your log has an X on it in the corner. I assumed this was to delete the quest in case you hit your limit of 3 and wanted to get a different one the next day. That's not quite how it works. Instead it deletes the quest and immediately gives you a different one. It also removes all the Xs from all your quests for the rest of the day.

So it would seem that each day if you get a 40 gold quest you should send it back. If it comes back as a 40 gold quest then you should just leave it sitting there and send it back the next day, too. (Days change at midnight PST, so 4am out here.) And then only worry about doing a 40 gold quest if you've got a big backlog of 40 gold quests.

Realistically I'm not going to go through all that effort. If I have a 40 gold quest for casting spells I'm not going to play games without playing spells all day. I'm just going to get my 40 gold and move on with my life. But it does mean that any time I get a quest I will be sending it back for a chance at a bigger gold one. And if I get a quest to win twice with a class I don't like then I can just ignore it and reroll it again the next day too instead of forcing myself to draft warrior.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hearthstone: Sweet Patch Change

A new patch for Hearthstone went out earlier this week. It didn't have very much in it. No card nerfs or anything like that. The card back reward for playing constructed this month, a new animation that makes me want to resolve Mimiron's Head proc at least once to see what it is, and a bug fix for my old mech deck. (Cogmaster wasn't working properly when you switch his stats with a spare part.) But then there was also a set of quality of life client changes that I really like!

They added a client state that basically makes it so spectators exist between games. If you're watching someone play, their game ends, and then they start a new game you'll automatically start watching that game too. They also removed the idle timeout for people who are watching a game. So now I can start watching Sceadeau or Matt play a draft deck and just leave it running in the background to pop in from time to time and see what's going on. It's pretty sweet!

(PS: My Battle.Net tag is Ziggyny#1233, add me so I can watch your draft games and point out when you miss a point of damage!)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Isaac Rebirth: Stupid Builds

I've started playing The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth again recently. I'd finally gotten around to figuring out where the saved files were stored so I could salvage my old save file from my dead hard drive... And then I actually loaded the game and found out Steam seems to store the saves online too since my old game was just sitting there before I moved any files around. Hurray!

The first thing I did was complete the last challenge that I'd not done, purist. This challenge starts you with no items and doesn't spawn any treasure rooms the whole game. My solution was to restart until I got a curse room with a reasonable start (I think I kept a guppy piece and some soul hearts) and then I got super lucky with devil deals. I ended up with one of my most stupidly powerful builds despite the limited access to items. I had a knife, brimstone, guppy, dark bum, and mapping. It was glorious. And now that challenge is finally done!

Just now I finished a run with the stupidest build I've ever used. I don't mean stupid in the same way I did above, where I just combined a bunch of absurdly powerful items and murdered everything. I mean stupid in the sense that it shouldn't be possible and no one in their right mind should ever try to do it. It took me barely under 2 hours to clear the dark room with Maggy (giving me two more unlocks) and I was both unkillable and unable to take actions for the vast majority of the run. I combined an item that makes you invincible if you didn't move with two items that do passive damage. (A giant fly bomb that moves around the room, detonates on contact with an enemy, and respawns 10 seconds later and a leech that aggroes things that get near you and then does miniscule amounts of damage to them.) Then I would walk into a room, put the controller down, and watch a League of Legends stream. Or an episode of Heroes. Or Sceadeau playing a Hearthstone draft. Eventually everything in the room would be dead and I could repeat.

There was no way I could have won without cheesing it on this particular run. I had pretty much no damage items drop for me the entire time, and I'm simply not good enough at dodging to beat things with low damage. So maybe it's good for the game that I had an alternate win condition available? I feel like I would have had more fun if I'd just died and started over though.

I do like abusing game mechanics though, so I guess being able to do it once was fairly sweet. But I have no intention on doing it again! (Except maybe if I ever unlock The Lost...)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Hearthstone: Value

The other day when I was helping Sceadeau understand what I think about when I draft I kept using the term 'value'. It's something I've picked up from watching streamers of the game and it's a pretty developed concept I think, but as someone new to the game Sceadeau didn't really know what I meant. I mean, obviously you want to take cards with higher value than other cards... That's what the word means... But how do you weigh the value of different cards in a draft? He asked and I answered as best I could. I've been thinking about it more lately, and here's where I've arrived.

The first thing to understand as someone who comes from a game like Magic is creatures in Hearthstone are designed to die. Creatures in Magic heal to full at the end of each turn which means it's entirely reasonable to expect a good durable creature to live several turns and eat several cards from the opponent in the process. Creatures in Hearthstone rarely heal, and never automatically. The permanent damage on them means that you play a creature, do some damage with it, and then watch it die.

The end consequence of this is the default assumption for a creature is you're going to trade it for a creature that costs the same amount from your opponent. So the basic idea of value that I'm using is that it's what you expect to have left over after trading with an average card of the same cost from your opponent.

For example, how good is spider tank? It's a 3/4 for 3. If you trade it for a 3/3 taunt guy you get to keep a 3/1 and they keep nothing. That's pretty good! Harvest golem? Spider tank remains as a 3/2, golem leaves behind a 2/1. Tank has the edge here, but if nothing else goes on the 3/2 just trades for the 2/1. Dalaran mage? Spider tank straight up stays as a 3/2 against nothing. Harvest golem stays as a 2/1 and then another 2/1. Even the taunt guy sticks around as a 3/1 taunt. Dalaran mage is terrible under this comparison.

Always comparing with something of the same cost isn't exactly fair. Fighting up or down one in cost is a pretty standard situation too, and it does help to think about those situations. There are also hero powers that can be relevant. Sticking around as a 3/1 is a lot better against a warlock than it is against a mage, for example!

You shouldn't go too crazy with comparing up or down though. Obviously an archmage trades very well with a wisp, but it also costs 7 more mana!

What sort of things are typically found on cards I'd consider to provide high value? Big stats compared to other creatures is a good start. 4/5 yetis for 4 are surprisingly good even when they have no ability. It's just super hard for any creature of equal or lower value to kill a yeti in one round, and similarly hard for one of those creatures to survive a round with the yeti.

The stat mix is also really relevant. You want fairly balanced stats, with toughness actually being better than power most of the time. Lost tallstrider is a 5/4 for 4 and it's actually a lot worse than the 4/5 yeti. The problem is the 5th power tends to be wasted against creatures around the same cost. They don't have 5 toughness, so in a trade the extra power isn't used. Having only 4 toughness increases the number of creatures that will kill it is one shot. Especially against a mage which can tag in an extra damage for 2 mana if they need to do it. But while 4/5 is better than 5/4, 1/8 is not better than 4/5.

The 5th toughness is especially important because of the existence of flamestrike. Having creatures you can play before the mage's turn 7 that live through flamestrike is clutch.

Creatures that are 'sticky' can also provide good value for their cost. Stickiness refers to a creature that generates an extra body in some way after it 'dies'. This can come in the form of divine shield, or a deathrattle effect which generates an extra creature, or even a battlecry which generates an extra creature. The battlecry ones tend to be weaker since mass removal can hit both creatures at the same time, but it is still a potential source of value.

Or maybe it's a creature that generates card advantage in some other way. Maybe it has a good sized body for the cost and lets you draw a card when it comes into play or dies. Or maybe it does some bonus damage at some point. Demolisher is a 1/4 for 3 which is a terrible body, but if it stays in play it gets to do 2 extra damage each turn. It's generally pretty terrible value, but I had one game today where I had enough removal via weapons that I was able to keep a demolisher alive for many turns and it just kept picking off small paladin creatures. It was pretty good value, that one time.

It feels like creatures often pay some amount of power or toughness to get an ability on them, and then that ability just doesn't do much. Spellpower, windfury, and taunt are some of the big ones. When they work out they do great things, but if you spend 6 mana for a 4/5 windfury and the enemy just trades for it right away you never get to attack twice and you ended up spending 2 more mana than a yeti for just a yeti. That sucks. The 2/2 spellpower guy for 2 can be good when you follow him up with a swipe or something, but if instead he just gets eaten by a 2/3 then he was low value for you.

Friday, February 20, 2015

They ALWAYS Have Fiery 'Win' Axe

Watch practically any Hearthstone constructed streamer for very long and you're apt to hear them complain about their warrior opponent playing the 2 casting cost card Fiery War Axe on turn 2. It lets the warrior attack for 3 damage twice, which is a huge setback for most aggressive decks. It makes it tricky to decide what creatures to play early when I have a choice in the matter. Heck, if I knew for sure that they had a fiery war axe then I might even decline to play a creature right away. Especially if I had an unstable portal in my hand. But if they don't have one then leading with a mechwarper is way better...

So I've been wondering... What are the actual odds that they have a fiery war axe in hand to kill my 2 drop? To give them the best chance at having one you'd assume they mulligan away every single card that isn't a fiery war axe. I'm not even sure that's an unreasonable assumption to be honest. It's so much better than any other card they could have early and pretty much ensures they'll get to the mid/late game in order to use their other more powerful cards. Maybe they'd also keep something like armorsmith against a known aggressive deck? This is one of those places where I wish I had the cards to play around with more decks so I could get a feel for what their decisions would actually be like.

If you're going second then you start with the coin and can play your 2 drop on turn 1. This means the warrior gets to look at 3 cards in their initial opening hand, and then 3 cards after they mulligan them all away and 2 draw steps. So they need to whiff on a 3 card hand and then whiff on a 5 card hand. This nets out to them having a 44.4% chance of having a fiery way axe on their turn 2 to use against my mechwarper.

If you're going first then you no longer have the coin and can only play your 2 drop on turn 2. This means they get to look at 4 cards in their opening hand, then 4 more cards and 2 draw steps. So they'd need to whiff on a 4 cards hand and then whiff on a 6 card hand. This nets out to them having a 52.6% chance of having fiery war axe on their turn 2 to use against my mechwarper.

So, does a warrior ALWAYS have fiery win axe? No. No, they really don't. If they have the coin then they're a little bit of a favourite to have one, and if they don't have the coin they're a little bit of a favourite to not have one. Overall they'll only have one a little under half the time.

I can see why it's frustrating though. Personally I've won 58.5% of the time against control warrior with my mech mage deck and my feeling for how that match goes is I win if I get an early rush in, or if I get a stealthed archmage antonidas. And I lose if the game goes long and I don't get infinite fireballs. Them having the war axe means my early rush is almost certainly destined to fail, but when they don't have one, and they don't rate to have one, I get my rush on and get a strong edge. They can stunt me with an armorsmith into a coined death's bite too, so it's not the only determining factor, but I suspect if I'd actually been tracking turn 2 FWAs it would be positively correlated with their chance to win.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Hearthstone: Spectating

An interesting feature of the Hearthstone client that I stumbled on last week is the ability to spectate games being played by people on your friends list. It turns out this lets you watch their game, in real time, including being able to see the cards in their hand. It even lets you see their mulligan decision if you start spectating fast enough.

This is a really useful learning tool, for both people. It lets the spectator see what decisions the player is making in terms of cards to play and whatnot. It lets the player ask for suggestions from the spectator without needing to provide extra information about game state. It's especially useful when using an external voice chat program like Skype.

I used this one time with Sceadeau as he asked me for some quick tips on arenaing. Being forced to explain why I would do what I do certainly helped him out, but it also helps me out too because it gives me a chance to figure out why I do what I do. Being questioned gives me a chance to reinforce my choices as right ones, or it gives me an opportunity to fix a leak in my game I didn't know existed. Win-win!

I don't have many friends after my adventures with being hacked late last year. My tag is Ziggyny#1233 if anyone wants to add me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hearthstone: Revising 'To Legend' Numbers

Sthenno pointed out that starting my simulation off at 0 stars isn't terribly realistic, especially now that I'm actually at legend this month. When the ladder resets for the next month you don't get set back to the very bottom of the ladder. Instead you get to start with a number of stars equal to the number of ranks you gained in the previous month. This means that I'll start off at 25 stars next season instead of at 0 and will therefore only need to gain 71 stars to hit legend.

Now, this isn't quite as good as it seems. The first 10 stars are practically free in that losses don't cost you stars down at that level. The last 26 stars are harder to get because the '3 wins in a row' bonus is removed at that point. So you're shaving off easy stars and still have the big slog at the end, but it should still make things a little faster. But how much faster?

I'm on my real computer now so I bumped the size of my spreadsheet up to a million runs, coded it to start with 25 stars, and set it running. Check the same things I checked last time, which was the minimum win percentage to guarantee legend in X games... (I checked both just the first 100k and all million and the numbers were the same.)

1700 games - was 52%, is now 52%
850 games - was 54%, is now 54%
567 games - was 56%, is now 55%

So not a whole lot of change, actually. But I'm now more wondering the inverse of what I'd been checking. With a given win percentage, what is the most games it took to hit legend? Average? I mostly care about the range around 50%, and anyone who didn't hit legend at all is counted as hitting it in 5000 games just because of the way I set things up. So averages close to 5k were mostly people who didn't hit legend at all.

45% - 1428 min, 4990 average
46% - 1035 min, 4922 average
47% - 809 min, 4522 average
48% - 718 min, 3482 average
49% - 606 min, 2228 average
50% - 502 min, 1418 average
51% - 459 min, 985 average
52% - 417 min, 733 average
53% - 353 min, 583 average
54% - 305 min, 484 average
55% - 280 min, 412 average
56% - 251 min, 360 average
57% - 241 min, 319 average
58% - 221 min, 286 average
59% - 206 min, 260 average
60% - 189 min, 238 average
61% - 174 min, 219 average
62% - 164 min, 203 average

Basically it really feels like 54% win rate is a good target. Find the fastest deck that wins about that much and you're good to go. Slowing down to eke out a slightly higher win rate isn't likely to be worth it. Speeding up by losing more often than that is probably too big a hit to your actual speed to legend, especially if you're far away from the minimum values.