Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas !

Of all the presents received on Christmas day, nothing compares to DIRT!

Monday, December 21, 2009

GameLog 125 & 126

Football Manager 2010 (20h) - T.Bowes - FM 2010 Sitting in 4th after a dozen or so games in Blue Square Premier. Team is looking Ok to make promotion, although I lost one of my star forwards to a broken leg. Trades have dried up now that we have transfer windows, but I have most positions covered well.

Titan Quest: Immortal throne (16h) - Finally downloaded Titan Quest as it and Company of Heroes killed the downloads for the month. It's still surprisingly good. I'd even go so far to say that it's the best diablo clone on the market. Ran a character through with Ben over the weekend and have some nifty items to push through the expansion content.

Dominions 3 (15h) - Playing through one of the set maps. Makes the content a littlee more meaningful than the random maps. I think that's more because of the poor random map generator than anything else.

Colonization (10h) - Watching John Adams on SBS had me hankering for some new world discovery and rebellion.

Civ 4: Fall from Heaven (10h) - Playing through Colonization reminded me of FFH. Tried to make a goer of a different race this time, the Grigori. They play REALLY weell and will probably be my go-to race from now on.

Dawn of War II (7h) - Played some of the Campaign with Ben, and a bit more survival mode. Survival mode looks to be the one for LANs.

Bejewelled Blitz (2h) - Usually keep going until I get past the 250K mark

Monday, December 07, 2009

RPG Card Game v0.8

Finally managed to have a couple of run throughs of my RPG card game with Andrew at lunch and came up with some interesting updates from merely talking about it, but then some greater tweaks after playing through 10 or so games.

1) Simultaneous play: While going through the initial concept I was a little confuzed at whether attack and defense cards are played face down and then flipped for simultaneous play, or whether it was played as a single card and a response. The idea of simultaneous play sounded like what it ended up being, but looking back at the document later I recalled that the defender played first and the attacker had cause to respond. This gave the advantage to the attacker at each turn rather than to the defender, but I liked the idea of simultaneous play even more. After further discussion we fleshed it out to playing BOTH attack and defense cards at the same time face down, and then exposing both for a single round of combat. Sometimes felt a little rushed, but I guess that's a good thing because the game needed a little pepping up. Might have a play through with defender leading like I originally thought just to see if there's anything extra strategically I'm missing out on in going to simultaneous play.

The great thing about simultaneous play is that it enhances the metagame. You may have a good idea on what the opponent has in hand by simply counting cards, but you may not know whether they will play a strong card for you to counter, or a weak card expecting your strong counter. Yomi (knowing the mind of the opponent) at it's finest. Unfortunately out of the 10 or so games I played there wasn't too many times when I needed to think this way as I knew I was behind on most matchups (playing monster) and had a high cycle time for the stronger moves. We'll see what happens tomorrow when we play again with a more limited deck.

2) 7 card attack/defense deck: One of the things noted was that even after stacking 5 treasure cards into his deck, Andrew could still beat a monster deck 1 level below his. it took a long while to gain those 5 cards using the tradeup strategy of the original game, so it certainly wasn't expected that you'd play an hour or so and still be in on the same level. reducing the amount of cards inn your deck to 7 allows treasure cards to carry much more risk per card as it combines and dilutes the player's deck.

Another pondering I had on the original design was that calculating your level (average of your card's face values) was harder at 13 cards than if it were at something like 10 cards. Dropping the attack/defense deck to 7 allows the total cards making up the character (including life) to 10. Nice and simple to find out your level, add the face values and divide by 10.

3) Challenge dungeon has battles on the way out: One of Andrew's ideas as the "Hero" was that it seemed odd being able to skip out of a dungeon once you know you had what you were looking for. To change this the challenge dungeon could be made up of a number of rooms per level, and the further you wen in the more battles you had to face on the way out. This way it made the choice to turn around that much more earlier as you needed to think of getting out with a decent amount of loot.

There was also a distinct advantage of the hero over the monster at a level below (mainly due to 6 life compared to 9), so the monsters could be made up of the integer component of the player's level (New start of player's level gives 2.9, therefore the monsters start at 2, but entering at 3.1 would have level 3 mosters). Hopefully this would give rise to deeper dives to skip past low-rated parts of level advancement.

4) Treasure is back to additive: Once you get back out of a dungeon, you can purchase anything that you have a combination of cards for. Even though this ramps up quite quickly to getting 10's and face cards, the total number of games should be playable in a session of an hour or 2 for a challenge, so at 3 minutes a game, 20 games in total to get someone up to the top tiers. Going 3 deep into a dungeon would be 5 games per run, so ~ 4 runs per hour. First run should nett ~4 treasure cards and ~10 points to gain taking them to level 4, 4 at level 4 would be ~18 points, or nearly level 6, ~24 points to level 8. By this stage they should have a number of custom cards and access to the end-game content. Another dive would take them to ~level 9 because of doubleup and cards not able to be traded in for unique deck cards. maybe there wouldn't need to be much deeper than that to keep the face cards somewhat special.

Treasure also has a new rule in that if you draw a treasure card that you already have, you can combine it and the one you have for a next-higher-ranked treasure card. Eg: You already have a 3 of diamons and you draw another, you can trade them both in for a 4 diamonds, keeping the dilution the same as before, but better value. This also allows higher rated cards to be chosen than what the dungeon monsters provide.

I'm still leaning toward having scenario dungeons, but at the moment there might be a couple more lunchtimes to tweak out the basics before setting up a monster loadout.

GameLog 123 & 124

Football Manager 2010 (37h) - T.Bowes - FM 2010 AAR is still going, despite some extra pressure from more steam buys. Made a big push into the final part of the season to get promoted. Now I need to rebuild the team again for the next push up into professionalism.

Dawn of War II (17h) - Some crazy Steam offerings ove rthe thanksgiving weekend had the whole 17 THQ games on sale for $50. I remember paying that for DoW2 for Matt & Scott ...
Couple of attempts at playing through the campaign, but the last stand mod looks interesting. Laggy with just 3 peple and skype though. Wierd.

GRID (7h) - Would have thought there was more than 7 hours, but I'm happy to trust Steam this time. Another cheapie over the thanksgiving weekend and a decent game for $7. Plays a little bit easier than I had thought, and no way of tuning cars that I can tell. Had some lag issues every now and then, and this combined with lagouts in DoW2 had me go through the Win 7 rebuild I'd been putting off. Seems to be running cleaner now ..

Also found out that my old Logitech wingman yellow wheel is finally cactus. Bit of a sad end to it as it sputtered around the calibrations, but GRID failed to pick it up even after calibration. Oh well, looks like I'll need a PS3 / PC compatible wheel for Gran Turismo anyway..

Dragon Age: Origins (3h) - Alim, 8 Elven Mage - Picking my way through the elven forests. More interesting scenarios followed by some intense battles.

Osmos (2h) - Another cheap thanksgiving buy at $2. Been meaning to pick this one up for ages and even though I've played most of it in 2 hours, it's a great price for a novel, intelligent indie game.

Bejewelled Blitz (2h) - Usually keep going until I get past the 250K mark

Add-ons Gallery

Results for "blogger" - Add-ons Gallery: "Share your life online with Blogger. (Accelerator)"

Hopefully an IE 8 accelerator that actually works. Nup, still no tags available :/

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Rammstein vs Cookie monster

Awesome little vid of Cookie monster vs Rammstein. (embed didn't work?)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

GameLog 122

Football Manager 2010 (30h) - T.Bowes - FM 2010 AAR is going along pretty well. Floundering a bit in the league, but getting deep into FA cup territory. Team on paper should be doing a bit better than what it has. The game seems more difficult than previous years.

Dragon Age: Origins (5h) - Alim, 8 Elven Mage - Playing second fiddle to FM2010 mainly because I need to play this after the little ones are in bed. Just as easy to keep FM going. I know though that I'll be playing FM for a long time (hundreds of hours) so this one is just the variant to keep in touch with the rest of the gamers.

Torchlight (2h) - Scott picked this one up while he was here, so I managed to play a few characters through it. Very much like Fate, but more polished. Wonder if the same enchantment exploit is still in there?

Bejewelled Blitz (2h) - Another big score at 322K to see of the rivals.

Monday, November 16, 2009

GameLog 119 - 121

Finally finished up my teaching prac. Somedays there was virtually nothing to do while other days had marking and lesson preparation eating away at my game time. A 3 week summary this time. I guess I'm going to miss some of the odd little games, but luckily FM2010 kept most of my time contained in one game...

Football Manager 2010 (40h) - It always seems a shock when the game reports more than a day of play time, but in terms of hours it seems alright when it ticks over to 40 in a week (my goal). Started unemployed and landed a job at Bath 1/2 way through the season. A crash 10 hours in lost the lot, but luckily the restart had me starting at Bath again, just a little later. Lucky because I had already written up about 4 posts on my new AAR about the move to Bath: T.Bowes - FM 2010

Dragon Age: Origins (10h) - Alim, 7 Elven Mage - Newest purchase. Great to see it at $50 on Steam, but a 15Gb download ??!? Fairly impressed at the story building, but the overall moving about the world and interaction with items seems a bit behind the times. It's still better than Baldur's Gate and Neverwinter Nights, but it seems to be the part of the game that hasn't advanced over the past 10 years. Combat seems fairly touch and go, which is nice. The party system seems to also raise some interesting choices. Looks like there's a looong way to go in the game too.

Dominions 3 (5h) - Kept interest until FM 2010 came out.

Bejewelled Blitz (3h) - Most weeks I can get over the 250K limit to grab the maximum stars, but the personal leaderboard is a fantastic motivator. Actually I'd like to see 2 more leaderboards: People in your region (coax people into sharing their location) Overall leaderboard for the week. I'd still keep the personal leaderboard as the default, but it'd be nice to have other challenges to feed that 'one more go' mentality.

Trackmania Nations (3h) - Spent some time racing through the single player tracks. Got almost all green medals now.

Wii Fit (1h) - Probably should be spending more on this, but at least Sandy is sticking at it.

Geodefense Swarm (1h) - 5 minute breaks at work when there's too many things on the go to start another one.

No Regrets

With a little bit of short notice I managed to put together my "No regrets" Sermon about my life journey from a while back. Fit very neatly into the readings for the day. Very, very neatly...

No Regrets.mp3

Notes for the sermon:

Hebrews 10:22
" let us draw nar to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience"

" Lord, let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of our hearts, be acceptable in your sight oh Lord our Strength and Redeemer, Amen."

Personal Testimony.

- What did you want to be when you were young?
5 or 7
- Baker: pound the dough.
Fireman, Policeman

Growing up on the farm Gaeta, and going to Gin Gin high school
Grade 8:
- Architect: drawing house plans. Designing space.
Grade 9:
- Didn't want to be a farmer.
- used to the work and the lifestyle, but there seemed to be much more interesting things to do.
- Slept in & missed the bus.
- Dad seemed a little annoyed, but not as annoyed as I thought
- worked all day
- never missed school bus again.

Grade 10. Guidance officer
- Become an Architect?
- taken graphics & liked it.

- Discussing at home
- Words that would change my life
"Don't regret the choices you make in your life"
- warning against wasting opportunity
- you don't know what doors you will shut. Keep your options open.
- my understanding:
accept that the choices you made were the best at the time.

- So, the choice of a career?
- Through year 11
- more discussion with Dad
"What about something in computers?"
"Yeah, but that's just a hobby. It's too much fun to be real work"
"not everyone thinks they are easy"
- confirmed with Guidance officer
- less entry requirements
- more job prospects
- win win!

- No regrets
- happy with choices I made were the best at the time. Looking back at my high school years wih no regrets.
- Through University
- Don't look back on a decision and think you should have done something differently, make the effort up front to get the decision right in the first place!
- STudied a bit, played a lot more
- failed a couple of subjects, still happy with my decisions.
- Time is precious. Each decision you make of how you spend your time is important.

- No Regrets.
- Focusing more and more on getting the right decision.
- Meticulous in getting all the facts right before making a decision.
- Paralysed by fear of making the wrong decision
- No decision is a decision in itself
- Limited time to act: Kid about to be hit by a car
- Decisions made for you.
" Failure to act is just as bad as an inappropriate action"
- Realisation that all choices are with imperfect knowledge.
- We can still accept that we made the best choice with the information that was available, but it still may be the wrong choice.

- Dawned on me
- God knows everything. Trust God
- Been a christian all my life, but never really let god in on my decisions.
- Computer Games: Football Manager
- Star coach setting out instructions but aren't being listened to.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

- God has this perfect plan for my day. All I have to do is open up and trust!

- No regrets
- Story ends there? Trust god? The perfect solution?
- I know it, but I still don't do it
- My own arrogance and pride.
- Keep thinking that I know better.
- Off I go again booting the ball into my own goal when Jesus is sitting on the sidelines with his head in his hands.

- No Regrets
- Looking back
- I can still look at all my failings and accept the decisions I make, even if they are wrong. I can live with that.
- God can't
- Clearly states that his world, his being, cannot abide mistakes.
- There is no place with God once you have sinned.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, .... but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

- it's not us that gets the sack from the team, Jesus, our coach, our perfect coach, takes the blame.
- Jesus accepts the conseques of our actions, Jesus takes the wrap for our poor decisions, our imperfect lives.

- Why? So that we might continue to play.
- Hopefully in the way he wanted us to play.
- He sees our potential.
- He sees what we CAN be.

- The slate is clean.

Hebrews 10:19-22
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, (22) let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience.

True cleansing. No Regrets. Our mistakes wiped clean. Amen

"Lord, you offer us liberation from our guilt through the sacrifice of your Son. Instill in us the ability to seek your word and trust your guidance, so that we might live our lives in a manner pleasing to you."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

QCT professional Standards

Updated my ePortfolio to cover the 10 professional standards of the Queensland College of Teachers.

Final week of prac and then I'm a teacher!

.. although it's only a provisional license, and I'll probably lose it because I doubt I'll get 200 days teaching done.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

GameLog 117 & 118

Been up the farm fighting fires over the past week so the count is down somewhat.

Depths of Peril (10h) - Filled out a weekend after Ben and Levi started playing it again. $20 was an easy buy to go past level 7. Should probably get back into it to finish a lev 25 character. Still trying to figure out if it's best to just concentrate on the story or grind the others into the dirt as soon as you can.

Dominions 3 (10h) - Listening to 3 moves ahead got me interested in this one again. The demo is still long enough to get a good jump into the game. I'd buy the full version if it were <$30, but $50 for a 3 year old game is a little too steep.

Bejewelled Blitz (5h) - 311K. New week 269K. I can pretty consistently get above 100K and am attempting to get the 75K-100K up to 5 star before the 50K - 75K one. ~20 left to go on the 50K one, and about 90 on the 75K one, but I'm getting about 5 to 1 75K's over the 50K badges so it'll be close.

Quake Live (3h) - De-stress after work

Tiger Woods Golf 10 (2h) - Got my 4 amateur wins and am averaging ~67. Only need to see out the season to get up to the pro's.

Wii Fit (1h) - Soccer heading and advanced marbles.

Geodefense Swarm (1h) - Figured out the scoring mechanism rewards killing them right before they exit, so it's even more interesting to finely tune a level to get a high score.

Trackmania Nations (1h) - couple more laps around the F1 circuits.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GameLog 116

Bejewelled Blitz (4h) - New version has a lot more options for matching, and not having to wait before matching another triple means that it is more skill based too.

Tiger Woods Golf 10 (4h) - Couple more rounds. Still going great. Hopped online for a go at some of the public tournaments and people were averaging 21 under in one round! Got to 13 under using super tiger, but I'll have to get into the swing of it more before heading back online.

Zynga poker (2h) - had some weird sleeping patterns over the weekend and found myself waking up to play poker at 4 in the morning. Usually that almost bed time.

Wii Fit (1h) - Couple of Skiing attempts.

Geodefense Swarm (1h) - The goto game on the road at the moment, but only in dribs & drabs.

Trackmania Nations (1h) - couple more laps around the F1 circuits.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Smart phone GPS Illegal?

A recent article by the News Mail stated that Smart phone GPSs are illegal. The headline certainly caught my eye, and the picture of a policeman holding up an iPhone sporting a GPS app certainly nailed the point home. Wha ??

I rang the police department later that day for clarification. If using the GPS features of an iPhone are classed as using a phone, what about using other features such as, say, listening to music? If this point stood, you may as well fine everyone with an iPhone. Fortunately the clarification made the point clear: OPERATING a phone is illegal. Using the phone in hands free mode for any feature is acceptable.

GG News-Mail. I think that distinction is critical to the balance of the article.
MOTORISTS are being warned that smart phones such as the iPhone will cost them a $300 fine if they are used as a navigational device while on the road.

Uhh, I would expect the people who have shelled out ~$50 for GPS maps have also shelled out for an in-car cradle to make it easy to use, placing it in exactly the same legislative position as an ordinary GPS unit.

By the way, I don't see any laws against using a laptop while driving. Maybe the legislation surrounding phones needs to cover distractions in general caused by in-car devices?

GameLog 115

Revelling in not having any more assignments or Uni work. Guilt free gaming!

Civilization: Beyond the Sword (20h) - Pulled out my old HDD to scratch the Civ4 itch. Various modes of 3v3, Meso-America scenario and Fall from Heaven II total conversion.

Dwarf Fortress (15h) - 2 more settlements taking shape. Was thinking of documenting one, but the seasons seemed to just slip away.

Tiger Woods Golf 10 (10h) - Happened across a 2nd hand Wii, and I liked TW10 enough that it was worth the purchase (and the Wii Fit board sounded alright too)

Majesty 2 (2h) - Bogged down a little about 1/2 way through. Bit disappointed you can't build temples anywhere.

Wii Fit (1h) - New Wii and its exorbitant battery demands now graces the living room. Record of 505 on Soccer heading, one miss early in the piece.

Bejewelled Blitz (1h) - Nearly time for the new version!

Geodefense Swarm (1h) - iPhone game recommended by a number of podcasts (or possibly Rabbit on a number of different podcasts). Nice mix between TD and puzzle.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Wordle cloud

Fiddled around with Wordle pointed at this site. Pretty awesome service, and making the images creative commons makes the site more useable. Pity there isn't a way to automatically embed the generated image into the post, but a cut/paste isn't that hard:

Monday, September 28, 2009

GameLog 110-114

Wow, been almost a month. When I'm doing Uni assignments it doesn't feel right to spend time writing up these reports. Doesn't stop me playing games tho, that's crazy talk ...

Dwarf Fortress (20h) - Back to building holes. Tried to get into the adventure mode, but it seemed more obtuse than fortress mode without any of the roguelike niceties. 3 lots of immigrants so far, but having issues with water. No streams on the map, so it's rainfall into puddles for the time being until I can get some beer production going.

Majesty 2 (15h) - Plays a lot like the original, even having the same sound effects for the iconic parts of the game ("More gold your Majesty"). I like the Heroic hall to pull back surviving heroes from previous campaigns, makes a good addition and adds a sense of continuity to the whole thing. Maybe 1/2 way through the scenarios.

Knights of Honor (10h) - After sweeping up with Zeta, I talked through the game with Greig and lamented on the easiness of the game. Decided that the traders broke the game, so I started another in the Scottish highlands on the hardest difficulty level with a caveat that I won't hire traders. Certainly made the start more interesting, but once I broke out and took a few provinces, the game fell into its usual pattern.

Majesty (10h) - Bundled with the pre-order of Majesty 2 over Steam. Played pretty well how I remembered it, and the new expansion areas are tough!

Pirates! (7h) - Had a hankering for some old piratic action. Played better than I remember as I think I was too concerned how it compared to the original. Sword fights were easier than I remember, and I played through a whole career in under 5 hours. Might have another go in the later parts of the game and go for a monster score.

Quake Live (5h) - Listening to some LO3 for QuakeCon had me pining for the good olf days. Fired up QuakeLive and it felt good to go back to Q3. Some maps I remember, some are new. Aim is a little off on the rail, but TF2 has kept my rockets honed.

Bejewelled Blitz (5h) - Even though the gamesd only go a minute, they are still entertaining and addictive. I've managed to work out enough of a strategy to typically get >50K per go now, but the randomness of the fall somehow adds to the replayability.

Poker (4h) - Landed 1st in the multi-table tournament to net 500K. Was a weird game. Wasn't caring that much about it as I was heading to bed. Played loose and luck was definitely on my side.

Tiger Woods Golf 10 (3h) - Picked up the Wii version for Mark's Birthday and promptly played a round or 2 while he slept. Looks ilke a Wii is heading our way, so I'm debating whether I'll borrow Mark's or get my own copy...

Mafia Wars (2h) - lvl 35. The other Facebook app that I play to fill in a bit of time. Bit too formulaic, but it's got enough variety to keep me hanging around.
Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (2h) - More Cameron help

Flight Control (2h) - Succumbed to every site recommending this game for the iPhone. Plays well, but the hype put it into a 'meh' category. Boredom killers go to Paper Toss / Tower Bloxx / Flight control, with other notables being CivRev and iGo when there's more time on offer. Highscore chart is great though.

Trackmania Nations (1h) - Couple of laps after tea with 2 squirmers on my lap for added difficulty.

Paper Toss (1h) - Flick. Flick ... Flick.

Tower Bloxx (1h) - Played a bit with Cameron again.

Friday, September 25, 2009

No sound on Windows 7 Virtual PC

Installed a Windows 7 virtual machine onto the barebones XP64 system here at work to test how it's going to go as a personal research environment. Installed fine, but had issues with virtual machine additions and sound. The fix for virtual machine additions was an upgrade to Virtual PC 2007 Service Pack 1. The new additions loaded fine, but still no sound? Not even a soundcard detected.

More googling revealed that the VM needed Vista as the chosen OS on install to set the correct sound driver. I knew this and had definitely set it up that way, but possibly SP1 reverted that change. Anyway, to remake the VM:
1. Run the wizard to create a new VM from inside Virtual PC 2007 SP1
2. Select "create a new virtual machine"
3. Name it as a new name (or v2 on the old name)
4. Select "Vista" as the operating system
5. Select "use an existing virtual hard disk" and point it to the VHD file of the old VM

That done, I fired it up and it picked up the sound card, but couldn't install drivers for it. Seeing that the virtual hardware is the most generic available it must be something to do with how it is being displayed to the operating system. More googling showed that you may need to reinstall the virtual machine additions:
1. Uninstall virtual machine additions
2. ignore any errors coming up about services being in use, they get cleaned up on the restart.
3. restart.
4. Install virtual machine additions again.
5. Restart.
6. Sound!

A couple more updates and I'll store this VM as a blank to base future W7 VMs off.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Intern rollercoaster

Signs you've been playing too much rollercoaster tycoon:

... when every problem can be expressed with a rollercoaster. Check the intensity rating before riding again.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Primary Wedding

Primary Celebration Evening culminated in an all staff dance ala JK Wedding Entrance Dance. As Bret was sick, Gino and I led out the dance as the "ushers". Awesome fun.

Twitter SpamBot

I noticed a random follow on Twitter this morning and it looked suspiciously like a spambot for the semi-ad as the latest post. It may very well not be, but it got me to thinking how easy Twitter makes SpamBots over something like IRC or other personal mediums:
Twitter is public facing. Tweets are generally aimed at no-one in general, just informative.
- This model makes it easier to construct spam as a likely tweet that may be taken as a legitimate message

People generally tweet something of interest with a link to follow.
- This is and almost perfect medium to do short pitches.

More and more people are using link shorteners.
- With the actual link obfuscated, and the increased tendancy of people to click on the link, it opens the possiblity of bait and switches.

Not all tweets are statements, there are fair few that are responses to others. In fact most of my tweets are responses or queries, but that's probably more my style. Could SpamBots mimic responses?
Twitter exposes many half-conversations and non-relevant conversations into your stream.
- With increased tolerance to flotsam in the stream, even short pitches sent as a response to a random person (who would have no idea what it was about, but couldn't do anything about the way it was structured or composed) would fit into the stream quite easily.

Not all tweets are promotions either. All the flotsam makes up a persona and the one thing that the turing test has taught us is that representing personas is damn hard to do with AIs. But why build one when you can copy one?

Twitter exposes millions of personas in their entirety to the world.
- Simply pick an identity at random and copy their tweets onto the spambot, inserting relevant pitches where necessary.
- In later evolutions, copy people that give the types of responses you want to emulate and the volume to limit any jarring differences. Don't target people that have the mimicked person in their friends list, but are on their recommended list (similar interests / many FOAF) for greater appeal of copied information.

And why stop at one? You could easily find a group of people that have a good conversation going and emulate the lot of them, while inserting pitches, pitch responses, and even legitimate RT's! A veritable soap opera played out on your twitter feed to help sell .. err ... soap.

So many opportunities and so many fundamental traits of twitter to feed off that it's almost inevitable. The intriguing thing is not that spambots could exist under twitter (they do already), but that they have the ability to easily embed themselves for a long duration. Maybe we need xkcd's couple testing:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

McDonalds skyscraper

"It's a McDonalds!" exclaimed Cameron.
Wow, that looks pretty cool. Looks more like the spinning observation platform from rollercoaster tycoon, but good imagination.
"Up the top here is the kitchen and down the bottom is all the people" he remarked pointing to the top block. "So if there's a fire in the kitchen all the people are safe."
"Umm, what about the people in the kitchen?" I queried.
"they get into the lifts on the outside. "

4 y.o. engineering at it's finest ...

Saturday, September 12, 2009

IV the Revolution - Change commentary

This article is a review of Andrew's proposed changes to Civ

Gift Culture (from start)
Give gold to other nations in return for culture.

Culture, especially early on, is used for expanding borders to deny access to areas or push against another civ's culture. This makes it highly location specific and is city based. Does the gift target the culture toward the closest city to the gifted country (probably overpowered)? to a chosen city (definitely overpowered - see culture bombs with great leaders)? or just into the civ pool (more or less useless early on)?

Bureaucracy (requires Literacy)
Palace doubles city worker output of your capital instead of culture bonus

I see Bureaucracy as adding central management, which in turn helps focus monetary, cultural or scientific goals. Never really perceived politicians as a steel works.

Vassalage (requires Feudalism)
Plains and grasslands generate +1 trade if they contain your military units

Nice idea, possibly need something extra than just one trade as once you're past the military cap your units would be costing you more than the bonus. Might be a nice balancing act though and definitely gives military nations another avenue between wars.

Capitalism (requires the Corporation)
Double the bonus of resources.

Sounds Ok if it's just trade/food/hammers, but doubling the happiness from resources would be game breaking, allowing a massive population advantage.

Paganism (from start)
Barbarians can be friendly
Barbarians usually only play a part in the first couple of centuries, but it might be a nice decision between that and Ancestor Worship for the fast religion civs. Usually you can't wait getting off the bottom rung civics. That's a nice choice in not giving an advantage for this civic, but removing an option in going to another. Later on in the game it's usually an agonizing decision as to exactly when to swap to another civ. Nice to see some effort in bringing that to the start too.

Ancestor Worship (Ceremonial Burial)
Your units being killed generates culture

Nice. Might suffer from the same problem as before of defining what city to attribute the culture to (closest city? home city?). Anyone going the passive-agressive route of culture spread would love this as it would be far cheaper building 2 warriors and imploding them on an enemy than building a monument. Maybe not the actual ancestors you were wanting to venerate .. ;)

Terrain Changes
Add two new terrain types: jungle, and wetlands

See Colonization

Settlers can convert some terrain types in return for gold. This takes a full turn and requires that the settler has movement still available.

I've tried a couple of mods that allow greater flexibility in deforming the landscape and, although I craved it at the beginning, it destroys the replayability. Every town on every playthrough eventually becomes a mirror of your perfect city. Maybe I'm a sucker for exploration and map design, or I've just played it too much, but the shape and structure of the map is the largest influence on the type of cities and playstyle used for each game, which in turn brings something new each time you restart. (As an aside, make sure you try the tectonics map choice in BtS. Very, very nice)

A big part of the problem is that it is too easy to boom while you're rushing: you steal geographical space over the map which then lets you build anywhere. Starcraft avoids this problem by geographically concentrating the resources required to build expansions in a few discrete areas instead of all over the map.

I didn't really get to see this being addressed in the changes, in fact most changes were about enhancing production that would aid the rushing strategy. To emulate the starcraft analogy would be to play with high corruption so that each city needs to be a valuable choice rather than simply filling in the gaps (although filling across a choke could be valuable enough to do). With more space unclaimed on the map it allows barbarians to work their magic too. Problem with this is that it doesn't feel like you're building a civilization anymore, but playing a strategy game (Most civs would optimise to a semi-hollow circle, rather than having a productive, peaceful, populated core)

Can't believe I'm advocating corruption as it's one of the features that nearly put me off civ4. In earlier civs corruption was nowhere near as prevalent and you could more or less take over 70% of the world (as in CivRev too actually). This feels right when you're in expand / build mode as by that stage you've essentially won. In Civ4 you can only really get to about 40% without serious repurcussions, which is by no means conclusive. Once you get to that stage there's no point retaining conquered cities so the game ends in a massive slash & burn of ~50% of the map. Corruption needs to be more exposed if you're going this route, as well as a serious look into vassalisation (ala crusader kings) to make a slow conquer possible.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Making him fit

Poor gingerbread man, I'll put you out of your agony in just a
minute ...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Assessment and Reporting Tutorial

Writeup of A&R Tute on 6/9/09. Now I just need to find somewhere to upload the actual audio.

- 0:00 Assessment bank
- 0:45 Describe portfolio.
- 1:20 Comparability of work
- 1:50 200-400 pointscale
- 2:40 reflect the gaps rather than concentrate on getting the right rung
- 4:10 Expectations of pre-service / 1st year teacher for ranking student
- 5:20 QCAT standards for assessment bank items to be ramped up
- 6:50 Nearly Everyone sits the tests
- 7:50 Naplan results, 2nd last for Qld
- 8:45 Contextual assesment vs standalone tests
- 9:30 Building the IPT course
- 10:50 Making criteria sheets for 'A level' standard
- 11:40 Make sure you teach what you assess
- 12:10 Progressive scale of assessment
- 12:45 'Fullest and Latest'. Key principle of assessment
- 12:55 Don't simply add up the scores, use quality of material.
- 13:10 Used at panel. First assess the quality of material
- 13:50 Intentionally Hard
- 15:10 Discernment of knowledge through assessement rather than task completion.
- 16:00 80% for demonstration of mastery
- 17:00 Core Skills Test
- 17:55 Best of its type
- 18:20 Purpose - Give the student a grade on an A to E scale. C is acceptable for Lit/Num minimum
- 19:00 How many sit the test
- 20:10 Purpose - Scaling one school against another.
- 22:10 Pressure as a senior teacher to pass students rather than failing them
- 23:00 50% students well serverd by school today, 30% suffice, 20% want out
- 24:20 Schools aren't the same. Wide variety of cohorts and school direction
- 26:00 Design parameters of the QCS test
- 27:00 assessed 35 syllabuses analysed for ~60 common curriculum elements
- 29:00 Current CCEs
- 29:30 Some CCEs are performance based that can't be tested by paper, leaving 49 CCEs
- 30:10 5 big baskets of CCEs
- 30:20 Each year they don't test all CCEs, but only about 1/2 of them and rotate through them each year.
- 33:00 Navigation to Core Skills test website
- 33:30 Difference in CCEs
- 36:00 QCS test can be hard.
- 37:00 Multiple choice shouldn'thave dummy answers, all should be accptable, but one the most appropriate.
- 37:30 layout of multiple choice questions not needed to be shortest to longest
- 38:40 Language of QCSTest. Short and Sharp. Lower level language used than the core skills it attempts to test.
- 40:30 Design of NAPLAN questions: round table -> UNSW
- 41:30 Security of tests, security leaks
- 42:00 Structure of QCS Test: Short Response, 2xMultiple Choice and Writing Task
- 42:30 Testing for Equity in questions before it is sent out for use.
- 44:00 70% pass rate is a good number to aim for in general
- 44:20 Cost of QCS Test
- 44:50 New teachers mentored into the system through moderation (Professional Development)
- 47:00 Preparing for the test
- 48:00 'Test wize': How the test looks, the language, the types of questions, the time it takes to achieve.
- 48:30 QCS test design Easy ones first, might end with hard one, but not mandatory to be scaled linearly.
- 49:50 Unspeeded tests? When do we have time critical assessment in the real life?
- 50:50 Expected to be completed in 2/3rds the time allocated.
- 51:20 Review of sample question and criteria sheet for marking
- 52:30 Difficulty of question for 1 to 5 stars. Shown on test.
- 53:20 Questions weighted, but more for the expected time taken to answer rather than pure difficulty.
- 54:30 Review of sample question and criteria sheet for marking
- 56:30 Review of writing task
- 59:50 Bottom line: Best preparation for a test is do do a similar one.
- 1:00:00 Immediate quality feedback
- 1:08:00 Summative assessment runs counter to immediate quality feedback?
- 1:30:00 So many pedagogy methodologies. Which to choose? DoL, QSA.
- 1:35:00 DoL aligns to teacher best practice.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Just took the BrainHex test to see what type of gamer I am and came out as a Mastermind-Conqueror. The blurb for that class sounds about right:
You like solving puzzles and devising strategies as well as defeating impossibly difficult foes, struggling until you eventually achieve victory, and beating other players.

According to your results, there are few play experiences that you strongly dislike.

And now to the numbers:
Mastermind: 19
Conqueror: 17
Socialiser: 12
Seeker: 11
Achiever: 8
Daredevil: 7
Survivor: 2

Monday, August 31, 2009

GameLog 109

Knights of Honor (35h) - Sand'y sitting opposite playing Crusader Kings and reading AARs. CK is in almost every respect a deeper strategy title, but KoH is still compelling at some level I haven't put my finger on yet. Greig mentioned the limitation of the 10 knights in your retinue, and I think that comes into it at some point.

Currently playing through hard mode as Zeta as I thought it would be more a hotbed than the usual Scotland expansion. Started off being at war with Italy and there were a few touch and go moments once they polished off the top of Spain. Eventually could beat them back enough to make a second army to flank over and grab their Spanish expansion. By the time truce was called I'd nabbed another 4 provinces from them. After another messy All vs All battle for the Italian boot, I managed to come away with with the whole top of Italy and into Austria, Germany and Bolivia. Now the crusade have me tagged and I nearly lost a province to a crusade siege when everyone else was piling on me.

Up to ~28 provinces and a mile ahead in most of the scoring departments. Only way to lose looks like being pulled into a 5 vs 1 battle, so I'll try to pick my battles carefully that I know I can steamroll quickly and return to peace. Named bandits and crusaders are a PAIN. If they get your province they set up another kingdom and potentially grab other provinces out from underneath their previous rulers (no matter who they were). Lost a couple of provinces to a rebel attacking someone ELSE and claiming one of my provinces in the establishment of the kingdom. That's annoying. Not sure what you can do about it.

Tower Bloxx (1h) - Cam likes it and he plays well for a 4 y.o. The judgement of motion swing and coordination of tapping seem like good skills to learn. Sometimes he can stack together 7 or 8 in a chain, but then totally miss the tower. I'd like to see it as a psych experiment.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (1h) - More Cameron help

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

GameLog 108

Knights of Honor (10h) - Picked this one up off steam after Greig mentioned it as a Crusader Kings alternative. Breaks apart pretty easily once you put a lot of traders in place.

TrackMania Nations (5h) - Ran the computer game stall at the St Luke's Day carnival for the school. Lots of new kids initiated into the wonders of TrackMania.

Hinterland (4h) - Finished off hard mode with no town support.

Tower Bloxx (2h) - An update to the lite version came with facebook interaction when playing the quick game. Made enough difference for me to part with the 2 bucks for the whole game. Very slick and suits the iPhone well. Another keeper for that minute or 2 break.

Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 (2h) - Cameron is playing this a lot, so I've been called over to "help out" every now & then. Quite good for spatial awareness and physics, but the cost models and deeper strategy are beyond him at the moment.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hinterland Achievements

After playing a couple of games and beating it on hardcore, I had a quick glance at the remaining achievements in steam to see what else the devs thought were interesting challenges. 4 of 9 still remained:
- Lone wolf: Win without inviting anyone into your party
- Guardian: Win without any settlers dying
- Disrespectful: Never accomplish a King's request
- Champion Attain level 12

Hmm, what if I don't employ anyone? That should take care of the first two, and hopefully leave enough XP to get to champion, and being disrespectful would be entertaining too.

I first tried a couple of runs with an outlaw as it seemed to fit with the disrespectful nature, and also had the maximum difficuly multiplier. I think it's definitely posible, but you have to be pretty lucky to get the free food perk on 1st or 2nd level up otherwise you'll starve, and having regeneration everywhere is good for the sanity.

On the other hand, orc shamans have the same difficulty multiplier, but don't have to worry about food as you can get it from drops. They actually fel more solid as a solo character too. Managed to snag regen on the 2nd level to help push the game through a little faster and completed it in about 4 hours. In the end I charged the hardest fort with 10 summoned goblins that I'd been saving. Managed to take down a group of 3 super quickly without taking any losses, so I tried again on a final group of 5. Something nailed the little guys pretty quickly and 2 archers were hitting me for over 1/2 health a shot! Stuck to my guns and pulled through after downing 20 odd potions.

Mopped up the remaining areas and just dinged 12 one the 2nd last battle. Noice.

Looking back at the achievement list, I would have completed every single one in that game. Fairly unorthodox playstyle though so I doubt anyone's popped them all in their first play through the game.

GameLog 107

Started to use Raptr for tracking playtime. Seems to pick up way more games than steam, but is still not able to track everything ...

Hinterland (20h) - Had forgotten all about this one, but picked it up cheaply on steam. Still a little buggy and laggy even after 9 months of patches, but it's got that majesty feel to it (even though you have more control).

Civilization Revolutions for iPhone (20h) - may have missed documenting this one last time, but Civ for the iPhone was great, if a little too easy. Definitely the highlight for strategy games so far (most are pretty casual), although I can still see me playing iGo a long time from now. Might look at a crossword one too.

Team Fortress 2 (4h) - Testing the new update. KotH maps are a little lame. Once a team takes it they pretty much have 30 seconds in the bank. The ending is rather anticlimatic.

Poker (2h) - late night action.
Bejewelled blitz (2h) - Still trying to figure out whether there is any deeper strategy to it. Still addictive, although I may have it in a less traditional camp than most strategy games.

King's Bounty (1h) - Popped over to the 2nd island and realised I'll need to finish of the 1st island to get XP up. Not too motivated to finish the outstanding ones.

Hearts of Iron II (1h) - Japan started the Pacific war. Showed Dad a bit of it, but he didn't seem interested even though he likes historical battles.

Monday, August 10, 2009

GameLog 105 & 106

Assignments back to ward me off too many games ...

Hearts of Iron II (40h) - Aussie air force in France, then helping in the African campaign. Japan has just done the dirty and it's a race back home to see what the damage is.
Dominions 3 (30h) - Demo has lasted sooo long!
King's Bounty (10h) - Popped over to the 2nd island and realised I'll need to finish of the 1st island to get XP up.
Poker (4h)
Bejewelled blitz (2h)
Paper toss (1h)
iGo (1h)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

When does poo cease to become interesting?

This morning while having a shower I overheard a conversation upstairs between Cameron and Sandy. It went something like this:
Cameron: "Mommy, come quickly! Look!"
A few moments later, footsteps from the front of the house toward the back. They stop.
Sandy: " Oh, this isn't about your poo again is it?"
Footsteps retreat.
Sandy: "I don't have time for that ..."
Cameron: "But it's in the shape of a C ! ... or a L .."

When does poo cease to become interesting?
At the start of potty training we're overjoyed seeing the deposit successfully retained inside the porcelain, but certainly wouldn't boast about such a feat when grown up. In fact, poo being such a touchy subject it almost seems foreign that you'd show delight about it at any stage!

Parents know though. So many stinky nappies. Potty training is a firm victory worth celebrating.

When does the praise and adulation wear off? Somehow I felt sad at that moment. A little window into the interestingness of poo has been closed; it's now back in the realms of not-for-discussion topics for the rest of Cameron's life.

Rachael, on the other hand, still hasn't got the whole potty training deal yet, so another window is opening up in the near future ...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Google Wave account

Recently, you applied for a Google Wave developer sandbox account. Your
sandbox account is now ready.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Waiter, there's Narrative in my PCG.

Another rather interesting post by Andrew Doull regarding the function of narrative in games had me thinking today. I really enjoyed the article, but there seemed to be 2 problems creeping in the back of my mind: Do AAR's count as game narrative, and does the metagame count as a narrative setting?

Firstly on to AARs. Ducked out at lunch for a finance meeting, which gave me some in-car time to dig into how AARs fit in my world picture. I made a recording on evernote on the way back, but it's pretty crappy quality.

To me, AARs really work well in a PCG setting because your 'story' that you experience in a single pass through the game is almost guaranteed to be a different story than someone else's play though the game. Your adventure begs to be told lest it be lost to fading memories. I've started a couple of AARs for specifically this reason and also weekly GameLogs for a more concise memory dump of my experiences.

AARs started out differently for me though. Back at Uni I was stuck in a Civ rut. I constantly played the game over and over and over. I absolutely loved the game, but after a couple of months and hundreds of games I had to stop and take stock. Why do I feel I need to keep playing this game? I've beaten it so many times it's not funny. When I analysed what I was doing I was constantly learning from each playthough on how to beat the game even better, or would think that a false move back in the stone age was what caused my space race defeat. What I needed (well, craved) was that perfect game. It never felt like I'd completely mastered the game until I played through it flawlessly. With a new determination I set out to defeat it once and for all, on the hardest setting, in the quickest time. I managed it within a week through countless reloads and, satisfied, could put the game down and get onto other things (like uni).

A funny thing happened though. About 3 months later I started up another game of Civ. It wasn't on emperor setting like before. It wasn't even the optimal race. It was just a casual game on monarch that I actually enjoyed for the story thrown up by this wonderful randomized world. Once I had 'broken' the game I could then look at it in another light. Instead of seeing numbers and optimal choices, or minmaxxing reloads, I could relax and go with the flow of the grand story that played out by my choices. This is the mode that makes me write (and appreciate) AARs.

All of my AARs are at least the second play through. I still have to break the game to get that competitive element of my brain out of the way, but then I can really savour the game as it unfolds and add my own imagination to the tale.

Imagination. To me this is where the arguement of AARs as a confirmation of narrative in PCGs falls down. Andrew stated:
My experience with roguelikes suggests external agency is not a requirement. Narrative exists in roguelikes in two forms, in a similar ‘what I’ve already done’ and ‘what I have to do’ form (it would be disingenuous of me to omit the fact I’ve chosen a narrative theory that provides this correspondence). The ‘what I’ve already done’ consists of after adventure reports (AARs) and day in the lifes (DiTL) written by players of roguelikes and posted to the forums and shared with other players
AARs aren't just the narrative of the game, but embellished with the imagination of the writer to create the story in a narrative context. Great AARs like Boatmurdered or Real men do it Alphabetically could quite concievably have been run-of-the-mill games with no real epic tale to be told. The imagination and additional information added to create the scene and a sense of 'being there' comes from the author, not the game. The game is the framework on which the story is built. The story resonates with other players of the game because they have shared the same exposure to the game's framework. In great AARs you can see the game shine through the writing and you can visualize not just the story on the page, but how the game could have played out at a deeper level.

In my experience, letting go of the 'game' and accepting the 'story' is a mindshift. Some games make it easier than others to do, but I have yet to see a game write my story like I would have in an AAR. Masters of Orion III had that as one of their goals; to write out the story of your reign as a book so you could read what happened and how the rest of the galaxy reacted. Unfortunately that idea got canned (with a bunch of original employees) and the lame duck came out without its golden egg. I still think it's an achievable goal in PCG, maybe even the holy grail: To make a game that writes your epic tale.

I still think narrative exists in PCG, but expressed in terms of ‘what I’ve already done’, the AARs would show that the game inspires tales and creates a setting for them, but doesn't create them. And, from my experience, games with random content do poorly at summing up what went on (I live in hope though).

Hmm, past midnight and I haven't even started on permadeath. Might make this a quick one with some followup later on ..

To me I think that permadeath brings a lot to the table when playing through PCG games, but I'm not sure about extending the narrative to the metagame. Permadeath bring a sense of emotional energy to the fight akin to playing poker with real money rather than play money. Something is at stake. Your investment in the character. The time. The attachment. The trinkets they have collected. I vividly recall my brother throwing his mouse across the room and ranting when he lost his 99 warrior in hardcore Diablo II. You don't get that in normal D2. The sheer brutality of permadeath makes the journey and reward that much sweeter once you have completed the game.

The roguelike narrative of a single play through is united, I’ve argued elsewhere, by the meta-narrative of repeated interesting and hopefully unique failure which guides the player’s learning of the rules of the game.
Personally I'd put learning the rules of the game under ludology. When I'm in game breaking mode I'm playing the game as a puzzle; the content and story are far removed from my enjoyment of the game. In this mode I'll keep playing the game over and over if I feel there's more to learn. Once I'm over the game breaking mode and can settle into the game as a story I'm not looking for replayability, I'm looking for a single pass through an interesting set of events. I think, no, I know PCG games can do that because I do it regularly with games I'm happy I've beaten (*bands, Civs, Footy Managers, Mount & Blade, Total War, etc).

What PCG games have in spades is the interestingness that inspires repeated play. To me this tugs at the wanderlust gene. "I wonder what's over the next hill? down the next level?". Coming back to resonance as a narrative element, I see that the interesting set of events and the unpredictability of what can happen next keeps us heading out on the next glorious adventure. Bilbo Baggins would be proud.

Monday, July 27, 2009

GameLog 104

King's Bounty (16h) - VRBones, 6 mage. Picked up King's bounty and Hearts of Iron II in a 50% sale on steam for ~$25. I'm really getting into KB now. Even though the story is typed and it feels like something to skip through, the game has a good atmosphere about it. Played an all-nighter on Saturday, so that's a good enough sign for its addictiveness. First major boss battle completed, and I'm surprisedyou can't use the rage box. Wierd decision by paradox. Cleaning up some skipped quests on the first island before venturing forth.

BloodBowl (7h) - Almost finished the first cup with Sore'Uns, but it was just getting too easy in realtime mode. Wins of 15-1, 16-0 etc. Game crashed after 16-0, so I left it at that. After a bit of reflection I restarted a classic game with the Lizardmen again. Going to use rerolls to counter the insanely frustrating dropsies. Won 3 matches so far and nearly compleded the cup.

Hearts of Iron II (7h) - Heared a bit about Hearts of Iron III on the strategy podcast 3 moves ahead and wanted to check it out. Played through most of the other paradox games, so the interface and nomenclature wasn't much of a surprise. Still too ~2hrs for the tutorial. Started the coral sea scenario to get my feet wet in a limited context, but quit once I lost a cruiser with little chance of production. Starting a new 1934 campaign as Australia. Going full air for an alternate history.

Facebook Poker (2h) - Couple more tournaments. Over 90K now.

World of Goo (1h) - Cameron's getting into World of Goo again, and Mum had a go.

Paper toss (1h) - Best iPhone game so far. Just simple, yet really addictive for a 5 minute filler.

iPhone games (1h) - assorted freebies.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Full Immersion 2025 - A vision of the future


A casual Diigo link to the Colorado Virtual Academy this afternoon had me interested. I'm always on the lookout for virtual learning environments that match my ideas of the way to the future, and this link just kept ticking the boxes.

First off I noticed "An individualized approach to learning". Now that term has been bandied about a lot recently without really any substance to it, but paired with a virtual environment it is possible and a main goal of my VR dream .

A bit further down the page and another cathphrase pricked my ears: "An ideal fit for accelerated learners". Having completed an assignment last term on how to manage gifted and talented students in the current curiculum and also the implications of accelerated learning in a VR environment, it seemed likely that we might be on the same wavelength.

Digging into the accelerated learners section confirmed my suspicion: "The K-8 curriculum is mastery-based, enabling students to advance when they're ready—not when the rest of the class is." Wow. First time I've seen that type of thought expressely used in an established learning institution. I'm excited!

Looking deeper into the K-8 curriculum I find another component of my model: "And with more than 700 lessons per subject, he can dive deeply into areas of interest." Yes! A curriculum exploded into bite size chunks. No real indication of a meshed list of prerequisite skills, but nothing to the contrary either.
Opening up the individual courses it starts to sound more like an ordinary school approach. I got excited that "From helping younger students make the link between the concrete and the abstract to introducing older students to Algebra" might mean having an intrinsic peer mentoring approach, but upon reading it again it's really just showing the breadth of the whole course.

A phrase appeared a couple of times that didn't really make much sense: "Big Ideas + Consecutive Down Payments + Practice = Mastery". Found out a little later on that the downpayments are the stepping stones to the big ideas. Makes more sense now and shows the benifits of an adaptive curriculum.

Through tea I was really excited on how close it matched my model. The closest by far. I dug up a blog of Bror Saxberg for my google reader and the first article caught my eye: "A vision of the future", where he expands on his participation in a published article on how 10-year olds will learn in 2025. This article is amazing! It's like reading something I would have written myself. Our visions of a future educational environment through VR are almost identical!

I really like the implementation of the helper AI (yoda). I'd dumped most of the AI elements from my model as I wanted it to be as believable as possible to the Uni lecturers I was presenting the model to without having to explain the intricacies of tracking AIs, shadow AIs, Tutor AIs and helper AIs (which was a big part of the vision in my early days; I guess that's because AI was a big hobby for me back then). I still think that a yoda helper AI is still further off than 2025, but then again it depends on the scope of something like Project Natal. Having AI's able to learn standard answers from real teachers and tutors would then be able to fill in forums / FAQ sessions in the absence of a real tutor. I had always envisaged helper AIs saying things like "You answer is most likely ..." to give the relative confidence to the learner on the veracity of the answer given, and being able to show the pieces of information that made that assumption if questioned.

For me the big part for AI's to play is through "shadowing". For every student you have a shadow AI that attempts to emulate the thought processes of the student. It tries to predict what questions the student will get right, what they get wrong, etc. With those "aha" moments in learning where the patterns and processes finally click into place, there will be a big positive spike in the error between the shadow AI and the student. This can be used to trigger the next phase of learning. The shadow AI can also be used for system wide testing, where it can be interrogated and compared to other student's AIs for help in choosing the next course to take. Bror's vision seems very close, but relying more on the student's actual results to make the system learn how to educate that student better.

The role of educators in both systems seems very much inline. I think that through the Uni course I'm concentrating more on allowing different learning styles to be catered for through the variety of courses on offer to achieve the same skillset, whereas Bror focuses more on deep database analysis.

Deep database analysis is one area where Bror's model seems more advanced than what I had imagined. His use of data mining techniques to shape the curriculum seems more solid than the shadow AI approach. Both systems would compliment each other though; shadow AIs would just give more data for analysis.

So pleased that I found this link and Bror's ideas. I'm over the moon that someone has demonstrated what I'd been contemplating for a long time. Well, not everything's implemented yet, but with someone at the helm with such a closely aligned vision I can see exactly where the boat is going...
I want on ...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

GameLog 103

Facebook Poker (12h) - worked up to ~70k, then lost about 60k on the iPhone interface. Picked up another ~50k on the weekend.
Bejewelled Blitz (2h) - still not sure what the best strategy is. Vertical matches seem to get more action above the match and more penetration down to the bottom stale section, but they take longer to drop. It seems very random whether you get 50k+ or 10k with almost the same type of movs
BloodBowl (2h) - Another flogging in blitz mode 11-3 to the good guys.
iGo (1h) - First iPhone game that I paid for. Plays a fairly decent game of go, and keeps the table the same so that you can play a couple of turn and then put it away. Going to be good in the long run.
Paper toss (1h) - Best iPhone game so far. Just simple, yet really addictive for a 5 minute filler.
iPhone games (2h) - assorted freebies. Just hunting through the appstore in catchup mode. Some are Ok, most are variants of online games.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A grading system for comparing tournament stuctures (part 2)

This article is the second in a series on designing a tournament:
Part 2 - A Grading System (this article)
Part 3 - Calculation of Win Percentages

A Grading System
Although I set out what I think are the boundaries of tournament systems (that of single elimination and league) at the end of the previous article, in this section I want to come up with a meaningful method of comparing the disparate tournament structures in terms of its ability to rank players, the desirability from a player's and spectator's perspective, the resources that it uses, the inherent tournament bias, and the individual matchup bias. Some of these (like resources) are a known quantity and can be mathematically compared, but others may stray into subjective territory. If there is no hard number accessible, a rating system will rank the specific tournament on a scale of A to E against the other tournament systems, where A is the best for that particular section and E is the worst. Lets start with some easy ones first:

Even though location impacts on time eventually as a resource, there are still some benifits in having the 2 separate resources listed so that situations with ample amounts of one resource can choose appropriately. The first value is minimum time to complete the tournament. As I would like to compare the difference between one match and best-of-3 matches at a later date, the match length is used as the discrete unit of measure. An example will be an 8 man single elimination tournament has a minimum time of 3 match lengths, whereas an 8 man league has a minimum time of 7 match lengths (calculations formally defined later on).

Although it doesn't neatly cover the dilemma of limited locations, the number of matches in a tournament gives an indication of the size of the problem. An 8 man single elimination tournament is completed in 7 matches, but an 8 man league takes 28 matches.

Another way of demonstrating the time increases imposed by limiting locations is by recalculating the total time taken if only 1/2 the locations are available for a tournament of that size. This would give single elimination an increase from 3 to 4 match lengths for an 8 man tournament in contrast to an 8 man league going from 7 to 14 match lengths. [Maybe represent as a proportional increase?]

Tournament ranking ability:
A simple count of each unique rank given to participants should suffice. A 16 man single elimination tournament provides only 5 ranks(1st, 2nd, =3rd, =5th, =9th), whereas a 16 man league will rank all 16.

Inherent Tournament Bias:
Now it starts to get a bit tricky. A couple of years a go I developed an application to measure the inherent bias of a tournament structure against a competitor being ranked at his true skill. An extreme example of this is if the best player took on the 2nd best player in the first round of a 64 man single elimination tournament. The person who should have come 2nd will now come =33rd. The program takes a template of a tournament system and runs thousands of trials using random seeding and with competitors playing at their true skill to gain an average bias per player. An example would be a 64 player single elimination tournament having an average bias of ~0.59 levels after 100,000 trials.

[updated 15/7/09]
The unit chosen is a level of a single elimination tournament. This means that being misranked as 2nd to =3rd is the same importance as being misranked =17th to =33rd. This feels about right as the importance for accurately placing the top players has more perceived bearing on the bias of the tournament.

Using a Base 2 logarithm we can formalize the meaning of a 'level'. Log2(16) = 4, Log2(32) = 5, log2(64) = 6 etc. So someone who has a true skill that ranks them 32nd would receive an expected value of 5, but if they finish in 16th they receive an actual value of 4. The difference (1) is the same as finishing up a 'level'. So the formula for player bias is:
Player finishing bias = abs(log2(expectedPosition) - log2(finalPosition))
With a formula not reliant on the actual levels of a tournament, it allows the average tournament bias to compare totally different tournament structures as long as you know where players were supposed to finish compared to where they actually did.

Individual Matchup Bias
Although the bias should be able to be estimated once the situation is known, these factors by and large impact on all systems equally. I might leave this section as a special notes category to highlight specific independant matchup issues (such as robustness for home/away bias) until there's a standard way of presenting these types of bias across all structures.

Player satisfaction
This grade will need to be tempered with some subjectivity, but there are 2 areas that can be measured: average number of games played and the closeness of the competitor's skill levels. Average number of games played helps give an indication of how many rounds a player can expect to stay in the tournament and is a ratio to the minimum number of rounds of the tournament to normalize the result. Leagues would have 1.00 as players participate in every round (barring finals, leagues with finals will be analyzed seperately) whereas an 8 man single elimination tournament gives ~0.37.

The closeness in competitor skill should indicate both a greater potential for a close game and a greater potential for learning in a competitive environment. I'd like to collect some solid evidence (or even lots of circumstantial evidence) that this is the case, but it feels right from a what I've observed. Maybe it's a cutoff thing instead of proportionally based? I'll need to adjust the program to output this result anyway, so I'm open to suggestions.

Spectator satisfaction
Not sure what I can do in terms of measuring entertaining play, but close matches can glean off the closeness in competitor skill grade, with possible emphasis on the final games [logarithmic?]. The high degree of skill would emphasize tournaments that gave maximum opportunity to 1st and 2nd to play each other, and a logarithmic dropoff after that. [Very close to tournament bias?]

In the next couple of articles I'll look at the more common tournament structures and see how they stack up. I'm sure I'll be back onto this page at some point to tweak the grading process to more aptly fit the criteria. [should wikify it?]

Part 3 - Calculation of Win Percentages

Designing a tournament (Part 1)

This article is part of a series on designing a tournament:
Part 1 - Designing a Tournament (this article)

Spent a bit of last week involved in a few discussions about ranking systems used in competitive computer gaming. This reminded me of an application I had virtually completed to calculate the bias of different types of tournament systems, but I hadn't written up the results. Hopefully this series of articles will address that.

Ever since the second season of QGL back in 1998 I've been designing and analysing tournament systems for use with computer games. Back then there was a great focus on player satisfaction as a goal for the type of tournament to run as we wanted to maximize the enjoyment and participation of players throughout the season. We developed a matching system akin to swiss to be run across several LANs that enabled players to compete against people of their rank and be resilient to players/teams dropping or joining the tournament.

As AusGamers grew to a national body for organising tournaments, we dabbled with finals formats consisting of mainly double elimination. At that time the format was relatively new on the scene, but it held up remarkably well to a number of concerns we had for finding a winner from disparate states in an efficient manner.

Through involvement running the Australian leg of CPL and WCG, a number of other systems were reviewed and the shift to a more spectator oriented position could be seen emerging through the formats chosen. As a keen advocate of double elimination at the time, I was a little disappointed in WCG's insistence on pools of players competing against each other with the top 2 advancing to a single elimination tournament. I could see the reasons why that type of structure was chosen, but believed that it was an inefficient method. I spent another 5 years involved with WCG (partly as Australian tournament director designing my own tournaments, and later at international level as head referee) and had continued to seek ways of eliminating bias.

There's got to be others in the world that have gone through a similar upbringing and who share a passion for tournament design. Hopefully these articles can stir up some debate so that we can develop a body of knowledge about how best to design a tournament for future competitions.

What makes a Tournament?
Wikipedia currently does an Ok job of defining what a tournament is, but not why it exists. What are the goals of a tournament? For me, the primary goal of a tournament is to provide an objective method for finding the competitor with the highest true skill. Who's the best gathered here today? As an adjunct to that, a tournament should also do its best to rank all competitors by their true skill. This becomes especially important when there are rewards given to lesser places.

There are also 2 other goals of varying degrees of desirability that depend on the context of the tournament: player satisfaction and spectator satisfaction. Players wish to derive satisfaction by playing as many games as possible, by being treated fairly, by being exposed to learning opportunities, and by demonstrating their skill to others, whereas spectators want to see entertaining play, close matches and a high degree of skill being displayed. Ideally these goals should be maximized and can shape the type of tournament selected, but not at the expense of its primary goal otherwize it's not a tournement (EG: WWF as a spectacle, handicapping for social play). These will hopefully be expanded upon in future sections.

True skill in a competitive sense is defined as the competitor's own abilities in the game being tested. Ideally everyone should be able to demonstrate their true skill each time they play, however a number of factors can cloud a player's true skill to produce a bias in the final result of each match in the tournament. Another topic for later, but it's mentioned here as acknowledgement that they exist. Initially when analysing tournament structures we will assume that players are able to play flawlessly to their true skill so that they will always win a matchup with someone of lower true skill.

The perfect tournament for me would be one where every competitor is able to play every other competitor simultaneously (but individually) and complete the match instantaneously, while playing at their true skill. Obviously this could never happen, but that type of tournament would be able to state with certainty who was the best competitor at that specific time and place. In reality there are biases all over the place, having to wait for your rounds, having to play people coming off a losing streak or winning streak, not playing everyone, etc. All are biases inherent with the tournament system that you choose. Understanding these biases and choosing a specific type of tournament structure that minimizes bias is at the heart of tournament design.

The final part of the puzzle is resource management. You are almost always going to be constrained to complete the tournament in a specified amount of time. If you can complete the tournament in a shorter amount of time then there are many ways to enhance the tournament to address bias issues or cater to secondary goals. The other main resource is the amount of locations available for matches to be played simultaneously. Not having enough locations for each round will impact on the total time taken for the tournament, however increasing the locations may be impossible or too costly.

Decisions, Decisions:
So, we want to deliver an objective ranking of all competitors while maximizing player and spectator satisfaction, minimizing bias inherent to the tournament structure or to individual matchups, and maximizing location use and time. No worries! Where do we start?

First port of call is to look at the resources you have and the anticipated players to see what types of tournaments are possible. Try single elimination initially as there will be no tournament structure with less resource usage for a competitor vs competitor style tournament. If you still don't have enough resources you'll need to cull the amount of players eligible or beg for more resources and use single elimination.

Next try a league format. If you can fit in a complete league then your tournament biases will be largely minimized, however the resources and time needed make these a rarity in most LAN and computer game competitions. You are most likely going to come out somewhere in the middle; more than enough resources for single elimination, but less than a full league. In this space there are a bevvy of different tournament structures to choose from, but little to no information to gauge how efficient each type of system is.

So how do you choose which is the best system for you? In the coming articles I hope we can come up with a grading system to compare tournament structures against each other in terms of bias and desirability and then explore what each type of tournament structure brings to the table.

Part 2 - A grading system