Tuesday, December 05, 2006

New Poota

After much deliberation and rants proclaiming that the time has come to buy a new computer, the day arrived last Friday when I picked up my new gaming rig. We'd decided that another computer would make a good chrissy present fro both of us, and once clearance from the financial manager that "anytime in December would be Ok", things were put into place to get a system by December 1. Me having to travel to Brisbane on that day sealed the deal.

I've been paying closer attention to the graphics card market of late as that was pretty much the only component undecided for my sweet spot system. To SLI or not to SLI seemed the question. I had noticed that the 8800's had just come out, and after a little digging I was sold.
I .. WANT .. ONE !

The mission had changed. Out with all the rational plans, just get me a system that will run one of these suckers! With performance outstripping comparably priced 7950's by over 100%, it seemed that these were definitely the way of the future, and a jump that big has virtually made anything else (even in SLI mode) obsolete.

So, the plan. Get a rig that will run one, with the option of going SLI in around a year's time. Skimp on memory too, as that could warrant a double boost in the future. Everything else sweetspot to make it run. I also had heard good reviews of the Chimei CMV 22', so for 500 bucks it was also on the cards.

Gaming system:
AMD 4600+
ASUS M2N32- SLi Deluxe Motherboard
1 Gig DDR2 Memory
320 Gb SATA2 HDD
Albatron 8800gts
Chimei CMV 22'

Well, absolutely impressed with the screen. Never going back to anything smaller, and playing WoW on anything but widescreen 1650x1080 is going to be painful. Oblivion still decided to crash when ramped up to the max, which I'm pointing the finger at heat issues already, but it happily purred along when dropped down to a more sedate 800x600. TrackMania looks and plays great at max resolution, and the widescreen actually helps seeing corner apexes too. Football Manager copied over Ok too, and although it doesn't trouble the video card, I'm glad the system speeds the game processing up, especially saving (god bless a proper SATAII).

I'm stoked.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hi there, from Tony and Craig! Extra red text
New line bolded
Hi there, from Tony and Craig!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

After scouring the net for tournament analysis I found a shortened double elimination format that claims shorter running times and balanced amount of games per player. It is also asymetric, which usually is a nono in creating an unbiased tournament structure.
I whipped up an excel spreadsheet to test the final finishing positions and potential players who could be at a position to check it out.

With the format given, a perfectly seeded 5th place is biased against as he exits one round before he should have, giving 6th place the spot. I fiddled around with the seedings to produce 2 more seeding patterns, one to give 2nd the largest advantage when they eventually drop to the loser's bracket, and one that gives 5th place back to 5th while keeping all other in the right finishing position, and maintaining the maximum seeded matchup spread.

Gah! looks like you can't load up files onto blogspot :/

Sunday, November 05, 2006

eSport @ StLukes

The first week of eSport at StLuke's is now over, and with practice rounds of TrackMania keeping the students entertained it seems that it's a winner. Although most hadn't played the game before, by the time the Tuesday lunch break had closed on the first session, the numbers had swollen from an initial 10 to ~30 filling up the room and giving it a go. The Thursday session was a little more sedate with people knowing a bit more what to expect, although getting them into the official server seemed a pain. It's good that they are enthusiastic, but I can see that there will need to be some tighter rules on what they can and can't do in the classroom when the official comps start next week.

WCG Wrapup

The dust has settled once again on an eventful WCG, this time with Italy hosting the grand final at the Monza track. Overall it went Ok. Probably needed to ramp up a notch to keep up to the times of ever increasing competition, but adequate enough not to drop the ball as the reigning world event. I wish I got to see more of Italy. Claudio offered an opportunity for me to get in early and tour rome for a week before the event. That would have been perfect to make the trip more than just an apartment and stadium in some other country, but the timing of work and family didn't quite let it happen.

The travel in the area was pretty bad. I didn't know how out-of-the-way the monza track would be, but in retrospect there's a lotta noise to hide away. It took me 6 hours to get to the hotel from the airport on arrival, although my shoot-from-the-hip approach to public transport was partly to blame for that. Claudio probably made the most fuss about it. Maybe he felt the pressure of it being in his home country and took anything going wrong personally? Even things like the transport weren't that bad, just inconvenient. I really, REALLY wanted to get a ride around the Monze circuit itself. They were offering free hotseat laps in BMW's during the day, but the only time we had free, on the sunday after it finished, they had packed up :/

Coverage on the other hand was up a notch from last year. Sky TV did a number of broadcasts, although I didn't get to see the end result. The Cyberstage areas worked well, with games played upstairs in the competition area and commentated downstairs on the big screen in front of a seated audience. The main stage still had the players up on stage and had to deal with the whole plausible information issue, but I haven't seen a system yet that delivers both players and a commentatable game to the general public, so I'm not too fussed. Best of both worlds I guess. WaaghTV also went out from the WC3 area, enough to hit server limits for most of the days we broadcasted. It seemed Toby was still disturbed by the fact that even with 2 games a round going out that people spectating from home still wanted more, and once again took it to heart. Even I get frustrated with some things WCG do, but you need to know what is out of your control and be prepared for the things that are in your control. I hope it's just something you get with experience as his intentions are noble.

The tournament itself went smoother again this year.Having 1/2 the referees from last year back again certainly helped with the orientation, and Andrei, a former team leader, helped out greatly as someone else with a perspective from both sides of the advertising barriers. There seemed to be less information getting to the players this year. As returning players from last year quickly fell into line with the demands of WCG finals, new players still were getting to grips with basic tournament etiquette. No real issues though, apart from Sky's yellow card that kept coming up over and over ...

The flight home was coincidentally the same one that the Australian team, New Zealand team and 6 other referees were on. Made for a great reunion down the back of the plane drinking up the free booze and wangling 1st class meals from the hostesses. Even though I got to sleep a fair bit on the plane, it still hit pretty hard the next day at work.

Avatars for WCG referee page

Hopefully this avatar will be Ok for the WCG referee forum that is being set up. It'll be good to catch up with the referees again and plan for next year.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

First Hop

Just landed in Singapore after the first leg in the trek to Monza. God bless free internet in SIngapore airports. Memories are coming back about my lost mobile the last time I was here. I'm pretty sure t was this internet kiosk that I 'misplaced' it. Oh well.

6 hours down, 18 to go. Certainly would have been easier if they held WCG in Sngapore again.

Emirates is looking pretty good. Only me in my row so I can stretch out. 50 odd games on the personal system to play (even multiplayer against other passengers), 18 movie channels, plus video feeds from the plane looking forward and down. Free alcohol too. Fun stuff. Only complaint so far is that there doesn't seem to be a schedule to show you what movie is playing and on what station.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Competitive Computer Games @ St Luke's

Well, the proposal has been approved. St Luke's now has eSport as a co-curricular activity!

It's taken a while to get the proposal together and submitted in an appropriate manner, but it's actually been quite a smooth process. The Principal had seen the concept in the right light straight away and saw athe potential to develop eSport as another facet to St Luke's reputation of leading the way. Heads of Department pushed it through with little fuss, even giving some positive feedback about the potential impact on the student populace. Most of the infrastucture is in place already, all we need is the games ...

FIFA'06 looks to be the clear favourite for its competitive angle in WCG, the ability for all the school to play, the obvious cross-comparisons to soccer itself, and the absence of violence that is commonly associated with computer games. It might be backed up by TrackMania, mainly for it's progression potential through to ESWC and also it's nifty free pricetag.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Map Select" versus "Map Concede"

Format definitions:
"Map Select" - In a best of 3 match, player A chooses the first map from the current pool of maps to play, then Player B chooses a map to play second. The third map if needed will be randomly drawn between the remaining maps.

"Map Concede" - In a best of 3 match, player A choose a map to eliminate from the pool, reducing the pool size by 1. Player B then also eliminates a map from the pool. If there are more than 3 maps remaining in the pool, the players continue to drop another map each until there is 3 maps left (or 2 maps in the case of an even amount of maps). These 3 maps are then played in either random order, or in the odrer of Player A's selection, player B's selection, map remaining. In the case of an even map count upon starting there will only be 2 maps remaining. Player A chooses the first, then the remaining map. If a 3rd map is required, reinstate all maps and run another round of map concede down to 2 maps, then randomly choose between those by a coin toss.

Eliminating potential bias:
The main reason for using map concede over map select is that any bias in the maps is reduced rather than being exploited. This gives the player a more balanced playing field to play on. As the aim of any tournament is to find the winner by merit alone, any methods of eliminating bias helps a player's true skill to shine through. This is why most grand finals for sport are played at a neutral venue, to eliminate any perceived bias due to the venue. In terms of map choice, ideally we would want all games to be played on the most neutral map possible. If players could mutually agree on a map to play on, this would also be acceptable as both parties are then comfortable that the map selected is not going to adversely affect the outcome. "Map Concede" formalizes the mutual map selection method by putting each player in the position of revealing which maps they believe WOULD affect the outcome, finally leaving the last map as the one with the least amount of perceived bias.

In contrast, "Map Select" allows players to exploit any maps in the pool that favour their particular play style, race or strategy. This creates the opposite effect where you are creating a "home & away" scenario, giving each player the ability to play in their back yard. Even though both players get the advantage of choosing where to play, the potential is there that the bias gained from playing on your preferred map overwhelms any other difference in skill. This leads to a greater chance that both players win their "home" games and you are no closer to finding a winner.

Eg: If each player is 60% confident in beating a player of his own skill on the map he selects, the chance of a draw after 2 rounds is:
draw chance = Player A wins first map AND Player B wins 2nd map OR PlayerB wins first map AND PlayerA wins 2nd map
50% home win = 0.5 * 0.5 + 0.5 * 0.5 = 0.50 => 50%
60% home win = 0.6 * 0.6 + 0.4 * 0.4 = 0.52 => 52% ***
70% home win = 0.7 * 0.7 + 0.3 * 0.3 = 0.58 => 58%
80% home win = 0.8 * 0.8 + 0.2 * 0.2 = 0.68 => 68%

So a 2% greater chance that it will be a draw after 2 rounds, jumping to 8% with 70% confidence that they can win on their preferred map. My guess would be that the player's favourite map would give confidence between these 2 values, so an average of 5% more times the match will go to a 3rd map.

When combined with a player's true skill, it means that there is also less chance for the proper winner to win outright. If Player A has a 60% chance of winning each map due to skill, combining with the home and away effect gives:
win chance = PlayerA wins first map AND Player A wins 2nd map
win chance = PlayerA skill + Home map bias AND PlayerA - home map bias.
50% home win (+0% map bias) = (0.6 + 0) * (0.6 - 0) = 0.36 => 36%
60% home win (+10% map bias) = (0.6 + 0.1) * (0.6 - 0.1) = 0.35 => 35%
70% home win (+20% map bias) = (0.6 + 0.2) * (0.6 - 0.2) = 0.32 => 32%
80% home win (+30% map bias) = (0.6 + 0.3) * (0.6 - 0.3) = 0.27 => 27%

As the home ground advantage increases, it impacts on the chance of PlayerA to win the match in 2 maps. Considering that to win in 2 maps for a player in an even matchup is 25%, dropping from 36% to an average of 33.5% is substantial (~20% drop in effect of skill).

Placing all these effects into a real world scenario, lets assume that PlayerA has a 60% advantage over PlayerB, and that there are 4 maps on offer with PlayerA home advantages of +15% ('Ma'), +5%('Mb'), -5%('Mc') and -15%('Md').
Using "Map Select" we will have a map rotation of 'Ma', 'Md' and randomly 'Mb' or 'Mc':
win chance = (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (PlayerA draws AND PlayerA wins 3rd map)
= (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (((PlayerA wins 1st & loses 2nd) OR (PlayerA loses 1st& wins 2nd)) AND (PlayerA wins 3rd map))
with 'Mb' = ((0.6 + 0.15) * (0.6 - 0.15)) + ((((0.6 + 0.15) * (0.4 + 0.15)) + ((0.4 - 0.15) * (0.6 - 0.15))) * (0.6 + 0.05))
= 0.3375 + ((0.4125 + 0.1125) * 0.65)
= 0.3375 + ((0.525) * 0.65)
= 0.67875 => ~68%
with 'Mc' = ((0.6 + 0.15) * (0.6 - 0.15)) + ((((0.6 + 0.15) * (0.4 + 0.15)) + ((0.4 - 0.15) * (0.6 - 0.15))) * (0.6 - 0.05))
= 0.3375 + ((0.4125 + 0.1125) * 0.55)
= 0.62625 => ~62.5%

Using "Map concede" we will have a map rotation of 'Mb', 'Mc' and randomly 'Mc' or 'Md':
win chance = (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (PlayerA draws AND PlayerA wins 3rd map)
= (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (((PlayerA wins 1st & loses 2nd) OR (PlayerA loses 1st& wins 2nd)) AND (PlayerA wins 3rd map))
with 'Mb' = ((0.6 + 0.05) * (0.6 - 0.05)) + ((((0.6 + 0.05) * (0.4 + 0.05)) + ((0.4 - 0.05) * (0.6 - 0.05))) * (0.6 + 0.05))
= 0.3575 + ((0.2925 + 0.1925) * 0.65)
= 0.3575 + ((0.485) * 0.65)
= 0.67275 => ~68%
with 'Mb' = ((0.6 + 0.05) * (0.6 - 0.05)) + ((((0.6 + 0.05) * (0.4 + 0.05)) + ((0.4 - 0.05) * (0.6 - 0.05))) * (0.6 - 0.05))
= 0.3575 + ((0.2925 + 0.1925) * 0.55)
= 0.62425 => ~62.5%

As a baseline, if all maps had no home advantage:
win chance = (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (PlayerA draws AND PlayerA wins 3rd map)
= (PlayerA wins 1st & 2nd map) OR (((PlayerA wins 1st & loses 2nd) OR (PlayerA loses 1st& wins 2nd)) AND (PlayerA wins 3rd map))
with 'Mb' = (0.6 * 0.6) + (((0.6 * 0.4) + (0.4 *0.6)) * 0.6)
= 0.36 + ((0.24 + 0.24) * 0.6)
= 0.648 => ~65%

What this shows, rather suprisingly, is that even though there is a greater chance for a map to go to a decider for "Map Select", the player's skill on the third map should shine through enough to give essentially the same odds. With a greater than 5% swing in the overall outcome, the map selection for the decider seems to be the biggest 'random' contribution to this whole scenario; one that "map concede" tries to avoid by winning in 2.

Faster tournament play:
Due to the reduction of the 3rd map being played (by ~4% in the example scenario), this also helps tournaments become less prone to running over time by having extended best-of-3 matches. Although it is ancilliary to providing an unbiased result, it is still an issue that helps tournament organisation.

Improvement of the meta-game:
With "Map Select" the player is rewarded by having a specific map that they practice hard on so that they can maximize their chances of winning at least one game. The map selected is chosen more by the player's efforts on the map than by looking at the specific map advantages for an individual matchup. This is essentially inward looking and stagnates the metagame.
With "Map Concede", it is detrimental to focus on one map as this opens the opportunity for your opponent to concede the map, either by luck or by knowing the player's preferences. This encourages players to not only spread their own practice across different maps and playing styles, but also enhances the meta-game by encouraging players to seek out opponent's strategies and weaknesses to use in the map concede process. As a player you can choose to use the "map concede" process to simply not practice the maps you know you are going to drop, however this gives an advantage to your opponent that knows your decision because they can drop maps from the remaining pool, knowing you are forced to drop your own bad ones. Against a person with good meta-game skills, you are likely to play on your worst map of the remaining maps that you did practice.

Map Pool Selection:
Using a "Map Select" method, the tournament organisers need to be very careful with the maps provided for the players in the map pool as any map with an inherent bias toward a specific play style will be exploited. Eg: If there is a map pool of 3 balanced maps and one biased map toward a certain race, the players of that race gain an advantage while others do not. Using "Map Concede", the map pool can be arbitrarily large as the players eventually shrink the map pool down to the most neutral maps on offer. This allows some leeway for experimental maps or new maps to be brought in without a major impact on the final outcome. As a tournament director you still need to consider balance, and all maps should be as balanced as possible, however there is the flexibility that some maps can be in the pool as the best balanced for specific matchups without being used for every match. A pool of 5 or 7 is common for map concede.

Positive Play:
One thing that can hinder "map concede" is that it has a negative connotation. "Concede", "drop", "eliminate" are all negative words and it seems unintuitive to a beginner (or a spectator) that players should start with a negative mentality. Even though the players are emulating the natural process of selecting an even battlefield, this is not obvious from the name. Added to this is that "Map Select" has a better feel toward players when someone does win 2-0 (even though it is less likely). If your opponent has beaten you on your own home map, it is more likely that you will concede they are the better player. During a tournament players can have heated exchanges if they think they are being treated unfairly, so having a method that causes less stress in a tournament is helpful. If the match does go to a decider though, this effect is negated.

Personally I prefer the "Map Concede" method for its ability to find a neutral playing ground and it's ability to enhance the meta-game. I'm surprised that the statistics didn't back up what feels like an obvious advantage for playing on neutral soil, however this scenario of 4 maps with best-of-3 is possibly the worst for the format. If there is only one map required (due to time restraints) from a pool, this method is still available whereas map select is not. with 5 maps on offer, "map concede" offers 3 matches on the 3 most neutral maps while "map select" continues to widen the gap.

I'm working on a tournament format evaluator at the moment, so I'll have some figures for the other map pool sizes shortly. Hopefully I can also use it to demonstrate the anticipated stablility of "map concede" when introducing new maps. I've also looked at moving it to Ruby on Rails to let anyone be able to construct different tournament formats and see the results of the different tournament biases.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

As A Dodo

A brief search around the blogger ring revealed As A Dodo only a few hops to the left.

And I'm spent ...

Well, that's that for now. Getting drowsy and I can't tell green from grey at the moment. It'll need a couple of days to sit so I can look at it afresh. Must get some sleep...

I like the interface for the template design. Much more like Triumph than MySpace is, although I'm guessing it's for a more versatile, educated crowd that wants the blogging without the fuss of having someone hold your hand.

Probably winning out at the moment because of minimal ads, low bandwidth, and the template interface. Pretty much what I was looking for in a blogger. MySpace did find me Rickstah!

Ahh, the pics are baack ...

After a bit of grunt work on the CSS and HTML driving the page, it seems that getting pics hosted is merely an upload away if you bring them into a blog. Quite nifty!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Blogger + MySpace > bases

Gah, I knew putting off getting a blogger account set up up would bite me in the a$$, now vrworld has has been claimed. Oh well, not that important I guess. Doing my best to splatter the net with the same content by setting up a myspace account a month ago and now this spot so that the stuff up on Virtual Dreaming gets backed up.

I'm in a bit of a research mood in at work since it's the school holidays. Heaps of time to go over the iffy problems and look for alternatives. I guess it's now time for some blogging site analysis to see what's out there and which one I'll leave as my primary. For now I'll probably fiddle with the knobs and continue to replicate the content until one pops out as a winner.

Game on!