Playing with Probability

I have occasional discourses on probability. Here is Professor Munger having one upon the recent event that the Michigan Daily 4 lottery drew the same number two drawings in a row. The odds of that happening, of course, are exactly the same odds of your winning or of any given number being drawn once: 1/10,000. (If your intuition tells you it should be 1/100,000,000, remember that there are 10,000 ways it could happen.)

I haven’t checked his math on the all-year, many-states extension, but that’s the next piece on which to train your intuition: 1/10,000 events that have a chance to happen many times per day should happen pretty frequently. If you want the extended version of that, the post links to a piece adapted from a book subtitled, “Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day.” Because in a world of seven billion people, one-in-a-million events happen seven thousand times a day.

Big, foundational ideas in probability theory were based on analysis of lottery and dice games like this. It is perhaps no wonder that we have trouble with designed more complicated games if our intuition has trouble with something as simple as drawing numbers from a hat.

: Zubon

[TT] Talisman

I mentioned Talisman: Prologue over the weekend. So, what about Talisman itself? It’s a random number generator overlaid with a fantasy game skin.

The flavor of Talisman is right: fantasy adventure, many classes and options, slaying monsters, gaining treasure and followers. In practice, you’re getting a random walk through all of that, where the importance of any decisions you make is vastly dwarfed by the randomness of deck and dice. You might get killed by the strongest creatures in the deck in your first turns, find half the weakest monsters an hour into the game, or perfectly replicate the hero’s journey. You’re basically along for the ride, without the opportunity to play through a story like Betrayal at House on the Hill. The ride can be fun at times, but it is pretty clearly a ride; you are not driving. You roll a die, and then the most important decision you make most turns is, “Do I move right or left?”

Potentially good for younger players or people who enjoy long games but not strategy or decision-making, something you can talk around, hoot and holler when the dice go your way, and blame the dice when they don’t. I find it time-consuming and unsatisfying, something I can neither play with serious gamers (who tend to care if their decisions matter) nor casual gamers (who tend not to play multi-hour games that require dozens of pieces). Board Game Geek lists this as a 90-minute game, and maybe it is with two experienced players; I usually see it cited around 4 hours. Talisman is remarkably newbie-friendly, what with the lack of decisions to make. You can teach someone to play in less than 5 minutes, less than 30 seconds if you want to explain four stats and set them loose.

: Zubon

I really want to like Talisman, but my reaction is more, “This?! This is a foundational work of fantasy and board gaming?”

[GW2] Scaled Raiding

The Vinewrath is one of Guild Wars 2 open-world “raids”. Compared to most conventional raids the mechanics/roles are pretty simple, but they do exist. For example, someone in the lane needs to keep an eye on the backline because I’ve seen slingers wreck whole lanes with rock bombards. A couple people in the thrasher champion fight need to deal with pustules. Many lane wipes have occurred from pustules.

Each Vinewrath fight so far had felt full with people map having been hopping between instances of Silverwastes like locusts. Nobody appeared to know the recommended population for fighting the Vinewrath. Players even felt pressured to do the content now! Now. Now! in case it became difficult later on when the active population moved on.  Continue reading [GW2] Scaled Raiding

Guild Wars 2 Flash Sale, ESO Switch, and Wildstar

So, before the Saturday announcement Guild Wars 2 is selling for $10. I’ve been trying to avoid the hype train until things become real (ArenaNet officialized). But, hot dang, $10 for Guild Wars 2 is… that’s Steam Sale worthy. That’s Steam worthy in the sense that I would buy the game to let it sit there.

Then ESO is going to buy-to-play. It even has the synics (sic :P) slightly on board. I think that’s cool and expected. The game seemed to fall off the map too quickly. The switch went pretty well for LOTRO and TSW, and I expect about the same for this.

Which leads me to Wildstar… the game I wanted to be buy-to-play. Supposedly their latest update is going to do a lot of good to the game. At least that’s what I’ve heard through the grapevine. Still, I am surprised that ESO is making the business model switch first, and it gets me looking at pappa NCSoft, killer of City of Heroes.

I am a big fan of MMO’s I own. I am much more likely to buy it in Steam fashion and play it some. I did it with TSW, which I adore but just don’t have time for, and I still have my lifetime “sub” with LOTRO because I wanted ownership. I will probably pick up ESO for that reason. I might even get Mrs. Ravious interested, who knows. I’ll probably pick up another GW2 account as well, just ‘cus.

–Ravious

[GW2] Season 2 Living World Review

The short of it is: it is a vast improvement over Season 1. There is more permanence, more cohesive, apparent plot, and a strong heading. ArenaNet seems to have gone from “too many cooks in the kitchen” to “yes, chef” in one Living World season. Also spoilers.

Permanence!

The most objective improvement is that almost everything is now a permanent fixture. Every launch period (2+ weeks) a player can log in to snag the personal story chapter for free. Thereafter it costs 200 gems ($2.50), or 20 something gold. After that, whatever instances and achievements that come with the chapter are at the player’s whim. There are no timed achievements. Either the achievements are tied to the story instances or to the zones themselves.

ArenaNet also chose to devote most of their attention to permanent zones rather than instanced, temporary pop-up areas, such as the Tower of Nightmares, or temporary activities to zones, such as the Marionette. The debris left behind by the temporary activities and areas makes areas of the zone feel unfinished. Continue reading [GW2] Season 2 Living World Review

Quick Review: Spoiler Alert

A conceptually amusing platformer with mixed execution. Playing part of the first world is worth the time; probably not worth buying or playing through the whole thing. I played around 45 minutes to get 100% completion.

You start at the end, defeating the end boss and running away with the princess. Then you go in reverse, from right to left, bouncing off enemies’ heads to wake them back up, returning coins, and catching fireballs. That’s the “conceptually amusing,” a reversed platformer. Not all the coins were collected nor all the enemies stomped on the run through the game you are unwinding, so the challenge is frequently to collect particular coins and avoid bouncing off certain enemies.

This is entertaining for a small number of levels. There are 100 levels. Most of the levels are very short. A perfect run through the game would take about 15 minutes. That is helpful, because stomping an enemy you were not supposed to creates a “paradox,” start over. Some levels are a couple of easy jumps, and you will never see them again. Others require pixel-perfect jumping or timing that you need to memorize because you need to react to some things before they come on screen.

That is, the jump is a fixed height and width, so if you need to make three jumps in a row, you need to know exactly where to start the third one so you can start the first one at the right spot, and the third one will be off-screen. That’s bad design. Many other design decisions are good. For example, when a new enemy is introduced, you have an entire level that is nothing but dodging that attack pattern with no complications, more or less just showing you how this enemy moves.

One design decision initially annoyed me, but I decided it was a good thing. You get a perfect score on a map by beating it with no deaths or paradoxes. You cannot start over in the event of death or paradox, or perhaps you could by quitting to menu, but there was no quick restart I saw. The level restarts automatically upon paradox, and it keeps doing so until you get the whole level perfect in a single run-through. Then you get your score. If you want your perfect score, you need to do that, then start over and do it without failing. In effect, you need to be able to beat the level perfectly twice in a row. I like that. Once can be a fluke (and perfect on the first try still counts); if you just failed it 10 times in a row to get it once, you need to do it again to demonstrate that you actually know what you’re doing. It reminds me of a nice bit in Ender’s Game when Ender has his troops repeat a maneuver three times to prove to themselves that they have mastered it (but only three to avoid having it become a repetitive drill).

: Zubon