So, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, a lot of talking with nerdfighters, and started a new job this week. As such, I haven’t really managed to get my act together to do a serious blog. I’m not going out yet, but I’m definitely stretched thin. Hope to have everything in order by Friday, though!
Warning: This post is full of math and nerd, if either bore you, you should probably come back Wednesday!
In one of my communities recently, I was asked to figure out how likely a D&D group would randomly encounter something based on a percentage per hour. I slapped together some math and gave them a quick percentage to roll. In probability, some questions are easier answers ‘backwards.’ In this case, the question was, if a group has a 12% chance of an encounter per hour of travel, what’s the chance of an encounter at 8 hours.
Depending on the other rules of the situation, there’s two ways to approach this. In an effort to give a quick answer, I assumed that they only cared if they’d have at least one encounter in that time, and didn’t care how many encounters they’d have. That math is actually really is, since what we really need to know is how likely is it that they’ll have no encounter at all. In this case, that’s .88^8.We take that answer, and subtract it from 1, or 100%. In this case, that equation is 1-.34=64. So our intrepid band has a 64% chance of at least one encounter. Pay attention to that wording, it’s important.
So after providing the proof you just read, I was asked to demonstrate the other way. And I’d love to! But I’ll do it here, where a few more gamer geeks can get a short lesson in probability.
There’s two ways to do this kind of problem forward. One way is to make a probability distribution chart. Basically, you take your outcomes, and build a big branching chart for all eight hours. You end up with 256 final groups that you’d need to recombine into a chart of eight possibilities. A lot of work.
Luckily for me, there’s an equation to handle this!
The Binomial Distribution
This is an awesome equation to give you the probability of a number of successes out of a fixed number of trials. The important thing to remember is there can only be two possibilities, and the chance of success can’t change (We’re not drawing cards, we’re rolling dice).
The equations is P(r)=nCr*s^r*f^(n-r)
Not sure what all that means? Let me explain it:
P: This means the probability of r successes.
r: The number of successes you’re looking for.
n: The number of trials.
s: The chance of success.
f: The chance of failure.
C: This is notation meaning a Combination, in this case, we have n things and choose r of them.
Let me demonstrate all of this math for you for 1 success, then I’ll give you the final table for everything from 0 to 8 encounters.
So, exchanging the letters for numbers:
There’s aproximately a 40% chance of exactly 1 encounter in eight hours.
The full chart looks like this:
E8 = Insignificant
E7 = Insignificant
E6 = Insignificant
E5 = Insignificant
E4 = 1%
E3 = 5%
E2 = 18%
E1 = 40%
E0 = 36%
And to prove my previous math: E4+E3+E2+E1=64%, which is the answer I got ‘backwards.’
So there you have it, figure out the chances of most anything you’ll need in games with a little math!
Check out this incredible TED video featuring Marco Tempest, a real Digital Magician.
And to continue the theme for today, how about an artist that uses technology to produce sculpture that tries to get real reactions from people:
I recently discovered a webcomic that has actually lost me sleep over the last few days.
When a heavenly file clerk makes a little mistake, street racer Ash Upton wakes up to find himself a girl. The angel responsible introduces him to Emily, a young woman who lost two years of her life to his misfile, and now the three of them need to get Rumisiel back into heaven where he can fix his mistake.
While the art in Misfile didn’t impress me, I was instantly taken by these characters. The world changed to accept the modifications to Ash and Emily, and they must frequently exam both previous bias and their current identity. A major theme that comes up is Ash trying to understand his position as a young woman, often getting challenged by his new best friend on some of his more misogynistic thought patterns.
One thing I’m impressed with is the very regular ‘scene-sequel’ pattern throughout the story. Major events almost always have an emotional backlash that the character have to deal with in their own ways.
Definitely suggest trying this one out, even if the art style isn’t your thing, the story is pretty good and the creator doesn’t seem afraid to examine some tough topics through this interesting concept.
Are there any series you really, really like? Like hardcore, have followed them for as long as they’ve been out?
I have, for a number of series. I discussed Firefly, and I’m a huge Warehouse 13 fan. I love both series, even if Warehouse 13 had some rough episodes last season.
But I’ve also been hardcore fan of some series I don’t think are as well executed. Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy them, but they may have had weak dialogue, or flat characters, or maybe they had some boring stuff.
Here’s the thing: I don’t pass those series on. Even as much as I love them, I love them for reasons that another person likely won’t.
So when you’re pumping up your favorite series, think about what a non-fan is going to see.
I’m going to use a random example from a forum discussion I saw. A user didn’t get Wheel of Time (I’ve never read it), said that the first few books were boring. A fan of the series told them to just read a few more novels, because the first four set up ‘context’ for the real story.
Here’s a hint, true fans: That’s not how you put together a story. I’m not going to spend four novels finding the good stuff, I’m going to go read the book that put the good stuff in the first one.
Here’s an example I have read: The opening of Lord of the Rings is boring. No, really, I had to reread it five times before I finished the trilogy. Tolkien was verbose, and bogged down in details. There’s a great story there, buried under world building details that most readers won’t care about.
While I hated the movies for removing many of these details when it came out (I was an overzealous fan once, too) it was the right choice to focus on the core story.
Do you have an experience with an overzealous fan, or maybe know a series that might have used a little more editing?
Game reviews are back! This time, though, I’m not talking board games (Though I still love them, and if you want some boardgame fix, go check out Cartrunk Entertainment. John is the man when it comes to supporting awesome games) I’m talking about my online game of choice.
Wikipedia calls them action real-time strategy games, which is a fairly clinical description of the genre. Spawned as custom maps in Star Craft and Warcraft III, each player took control of an individual hero from the game and attempted to destroy the enemy base with their team. This game mode became so popular that stand alone games using similar mechanics began getting produced. At first, they got the name ‘Defense of the Ancients-likes’ or similar terms after the original Warcraft III map.
A number of titles have come out since the original DOTA, including League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, both versions I’ve played, and other titles like DOTA2 and Demigod, neither of which I’ve tried. Blizzard even added an official version to Star Craft II called Blizzard All-Stars.
The term ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’ was coined by the Riot Games team who produced League of Legends.
So, now that I’ve bored you with the history, what is it that sets MOBAs apart as a genre?
It is technically a sub-genre of RTS games, due to being designed originally in RTS games! The catch, though, is there’s much less micromanagement required to successfully play a MOBA. Instead of keeping track of multiple bases, and controlling dozens of units, you get one, and just have to react to the conditions of the battle field itself. For those, like me, who enjoy the genre, but couldn’t come to grips with keeping that much in the air at once, it’s a welcome place to play.
Role Playing Game
There’s two reasons I play role playing games, one is for the awesome stories. But the other, and this one is more important for me to burn through a 100 hour game, is the game play. A solid combat system with interesting character advancement choices is an absolute must for me to really get into an RPG. The thing about MOBAs is they give me those interesting moment to moment decisions, excellent and interesting character development choices, and cool gear, and deliver it in 1/100th of the time!
Team and Objective Based Gaming
I’ll admit up front I’m not a huge fan of conventional first-person shooters. Free-for-all gaming isn’t really my thing. But you take a classic shooter, split guys off as teams and give us something to do besides kill each other, and you’ve got my interest. MOBAs are team and objective based by definition. A large part of the strategy is working together to get kills so you can ‘push’ down base defenses to claim victory.
So, a bunch of great things, can’t be anything bad about these games, right? Well, not so much, and it depends on which iteration of the game you play.
The genre is notorious for its incredibly steep learning curve. With a bundle of mechanics, fairly complex statistics, and dozens of unique characters, you’ll spend a lot of time just learning how everything fits together before you get a feel for what you’re really capable of.
The first thing that stands out to confuse newbies is the ‘roles’ different characters are capable of. Some characters are ‘Carries’ whose goal in the game is to get a lot of money and build into incredible powerhouses that are a force to be reckoned with. Others are ‘Tanks’ which any classic RPG fan will recognize as the guy intended to take damage. In MOBAs, they do their job by being incredibly tough to kill, with a lot of nightmarish effects to keep the enemy from doing much. My favored role is ‘Support’ which MMO players will know as the heal-bots of their genre. A support with friendly buffs, enemy debuffs, and heals.
Then you have ‘last hitting’ which is simple on the surface, but is one of the more skill intensive actions you’ll take in the game. The idea is simple: If you get the killing blow on an NPC you get the gold for the kill. If you score the killing blow on an enemy hero, you get a higher amount of gold than your teammates who assisted with it. For some characters, this last-hitting is what makes them good at their job, and if you don’t do it enough, you end up falling behind.
So you’ve got the genre in a nutshell, so now I should probably make a suggestion about where to start. Personally, I’m a huge fan of League of Legends. It was a free-to-play version, with a colorful cast and an easier skill curve than its competitors. (Sorry, Heroes of Newerth, but I don’t like the denial mechanic.)
This version has some metagame mechanics through ‘masteries’ and ‘runes’ that are basically passive buffs that apply to your champion in game. It’s got a cool leveling system to keep newbies playing newbies, and you can’t play ranked games until you’re level 30, giving you some time to get used to the game before playing ‘serious’ players. In addition, it has a system for playing games against computer controlled opponents with an automatically generated team of human players.
Come try it out (That’s a referral link, I get virtual monies if you sign up and play to level five) and you might see me around using Divine Soraka to keep my team alive until we win.
I’ve been working on a new project. And like most of my projects, that bends around into reading the genre its in, talking about its themes and subthemes, and discussing the work semi-covertly on Twitter.
The book I’m reading is Brave New World. (No, I haven’t read it yet. Absolutely scandalous, isn’t it?) I’m not far into it, so not much to say yet. Not sure if the Hatchery is where I would have started the novel had I written it, but different time in writing, and I’ve only just begun!
My project is a dystopian, but I’m playing with themes of familial loyalty and trust, and religion and faith will be major themes throughout the story. Some things you just don’t escape.
While talking about this idea on Twitter, though, I was asked if Dystopian has become the new Vampire. I’m obviously close to the genre right now, but I want to hear from you: Is Dystopian literature the new hip genre? Why or why not?
If you haven’t seen it yet, Larry Brooks is doing a deconstruction of the craft and story physics of The Hunger Games on his blog Story Fix. I swear by this man’s book on craft (Story Engineering, Amazon, not an affiliate link) and this series is interesting. He’s on part 11, but I’m still reading his very detailed beat sheet for the story right now.
Head over, check this out!