Saturday, November 4, 2017

Holy Fucking Shit

Thug Rose, round 1 KO.

Is this real life?

When I first saw Namajunas fight, I was really excited about the idea of her getting to the top, but damned if I ever expected it to happen now, against this champion. It seems like she's been around so long it's impossible she's only twenty-five, and that experience is why she's able to be a champion at what is quite a young age, but holy shit!

I'm super happy for her. I hope she can hang on to the title for a while, and I hope the UFC gives her a platform to be positive the way they give others a platform to talk shit. She's one of those people who refrains from negativity while also not being boring as shit. She can pull interest from fans who will love the fact she's a champion badass and high-level human being all at once, if they expose her to those fans.

She's going to have to keep the title and snag a couple defenses to really hit her popularity stride. I like Joanna, and I would have been happy to see her keep the belt, but now I hope she moves to 125 and Rose can hang on to this title for a while.

UFC 217

I want to do this quickly, but I wonder if that's even possible.

Joanna Champion vs. Thug Rose: I like Rose as a fighter, and the honesty she shows when she talks about pretty much anything. I think the fighting world would be better with her as a champion. But for that to really be true, she'd have to be a seriously dominant champion, the way Joanna is, and the way she's going to be after this fight. Joanna by decision.

Neck Tattoo Garbrandt vs. TJ Snakeinthegrass: The first time Cody hit the spotlight, I just shook my head, because what Dominick Cruz said in the lead-up to their fight was right on: he seems like kind of an idiot. Dude can't rub two thoughts together without setting them on fire and losing both. I don't expect every fighter to have McGregor levels of gab capability, but I can't envision ever being interested in what this guy says if there's no outside reason to be curious (e.g. the feud with Dillashaw).

But he seems like a decent guy--bringing the kid into the ring seemed odd, but I think it comes from a good place--and the more information that comes out, the more that TJ really does appear to be a serious clownfucker piece of shit. I think it's possible that TJ puts up more of a challenge than Cruz did, odd as it is to watch myself write that sentence, but I don't think it's likely, even disregarding the fact I definitely want to see him lose. Garbrandt by 4th round TKO.

Steroid-Free Mikey vs. The Elder God: I realize calling them by these names makes it sound like I'm completely in the bag for GSP. If this was pre-retirement, I would be, even if GSP hadn't taken the time to go up in weight and was effectively fighting a full weight class up. But now? I believe GSP has trained appropriately for this fight, and I'm not assuming he'll be way off what we're used to seeing, yet Bisping has ramped up his game so dramatically that alone changes how it looks like this fight will go.

Bisping's not a wrestler, although he can defend against grapplers reasonably well. GSP was always on another level in that respect, though. That said, I'm not sure GSP's ground game translates as well to middleweight, even if he's puffed up to the point where that's his new natural weight class. I think most of this fight revolves around whether or not I'm right. I think I am. Bisping by decision.

Friday, November 3, 2017

League Worlds Finals

Prediction: The team I don't pick in five.

How in the bloody hell fuck are you supposed to figure out who's going to win this match? Samsung is playing better than SKT, period. They're from Korea, so they have plenty of experience against SKT specifically and teams on that level in general. They lost twice to RNG in groups, but right now that looks like a completely different team from the one going to the finals. There is zero reason to think Samsung is at a disadvantage in terms of player quality, teamwork, or anything else that matters.

As great as Faker is, I hate the argument that SKT wins because they have Faker. They have a very solid team mindset that has been up against the wall in every conceivable fashion, and when it comes to Worlds Bo5 matches, they've found a way to win every time. They're, what, 9-0 in elimination games? 3-0 is impressive. 6-0 is crazy. 9-0 is obscene, on the verge of inhuman. For all the problems some of their players have had, they constantly pull it together when everything is on the line, including against Korean teams (2016 ROX and Samsung, for example). Even knowing that, however, it's hard to disregard the fact that Misfits, RNG, EDG, and ahq all had SKT beaten bloody and looked incapable of finishing the game. All of them had sufficient control to win the games where they had big leads, but they left openings that it's reasonable to think Samsung won't.

Yet... SKT has Faker. It's not even that they have Faker, but they have the Faker that's been playing in this tournament, who may ascend to a dimension above the ranks of normal humans if he carries this team to a championship. The LoL meme of playing 1v9 doesn't exactly apply, but it sure as hell feels like he's playing 1v5 sometimes, to the point that to pick SKT feels like you're picking one man and his team's history against the five ultra-badasses rolling up on him tonight.

And only an idiot would blame a person for doing exactly that. Objectively, taking a player and a team's history into account when predicting future results is... not silly, but very easy to let overwhelm one's thought process. But at some point a team does this so often that to pick against them feels like you're just asking to get burned when they do it again (says the guy who picked RNG to beat them). It's like, you know they shouldn't be a favorite, but they've done this for so long you can't actually imagine the world in which they lose.

Goddammit.

SKT in 5.

Dave Reviews: Linguistic Hybrid Man-Beasts

Werewords

Take Werewolf, One-Night variety, add a dash of Twenty Questions, forget how to stop counting at twenty, and voila:


Like normal Werewolf, there's a Seer, a Werewolf, and some villagers, and all the non-Werewolves are trying to find the Werewolf. Like One-Night, there's only one round of gameplay, and everything is over in five minutes.

The difference is in the challenge placed before the villagers. There's a magic word, chosen by the Mayor from a short list, which the Seer and the Werewolf also know. All players close their eyes, and the game's phone app directs the relevant characters to open their eyes in turn so they can see the magic word. Then all players ask the mayor questions, which she answers by handing out yes, no, maybe, or so close tokens. The players have four minutes or until the mayor runs out of tokens to guess the word. They can take as many guesses as they want, but each wrong guess eats a no token.

The Seer's goal is to guide the players towards the correct answer, while the Werewolf's job is to ask questions that guide them away from it. If the villagers guess the word, the Werewolf reveals himself and has one chance to guess who the Seer is; if successful, he wins. If the villagers don't guess the word, they have one chance to guess the Werewolf, and if successful they win. Thus most of the game hinges on the Seer and the Werewolf, as they need to affect the data being revealed without making their roles apparent.

(Note: The Mayor also receives a role, which means she can theoretically end up as the Werewolf. If this happens, she can lie about the answers. Being in control of the answers can make throwing the villagers off easier, but given that the Seer knows the word, it can also be an easy way to get busted if you send them too far off away from the actual word.)

Werewords is an ultra-fast party game, to use for either a few rounds as a warmup for bigger games or to play for many rounds if everyone's having a good time. It's important to remember how game size and the skill of the Seer/Werewolf are in determining outcomes. If the villagers keep getting Seers who are too obvious about what they know, it can look like the game is skewed heavily towards the Werewolf when the Werewolves keep pulling out wins. Likewise, inexperienced Werewolves might be prone to getting busted and feeling like it's impossible to win. The game itself, though, allows for a broad enough array of strategies (literally any question you can come up with is allowed, and you need to pick the ones that will help you win) that it's not weighted in either direction unless the good guy/bad guy ratio is skewed. (The instructions don't say at what number of players you should add the Beholder, Minion, or second Werewolf, so experience and a desire to experiment will have to be your guide.)

Much like in regular Werewolf, most of the responsibility falls on the people with the special roles. If you're a piddly little Villager, you have about as much impact on the game as in Werewolf: plenty if you're thinking and being active, very little if you're passive and let others lead the action. On the plus side, it doesn't suffer from the Werewolf problem where active players are assumed to be special roles, and often are accused of being Werewolves just because they're so vociferous. In Werewords, there's no potential downside to trying to get involved, and you may just lure the Werewolf's attention away from the real Seer.

Basically, it's Werewolf, it's word games, and it's cheap. If at least two of those three attract you, you'll probably like Werewords.

Score: Five dead villagers with their guts spread across the street in the shape of the alphabet out of six.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November 3rd, 2020

I read something, in response to the Mueller investigation against Paul Manafort, that betting odds on Trump surviving his first term are under fifty percent. When I went to look it up, I discovered something I've apparently whiffed on for the past several months—the odds have been under fifty percent for a while.

Granted, the main betting channel I see mentioned is Paddy Power, an Irish gambling site that is almost certainly taking advantage of the money people desperately want to throw at the idea of Donald Trump being unceremoniously dumped out of the presidency. I mentioned in regards to the Mayweather/McGregor fight how the desire of people to bet a certain way can skew gambling odds way out of whack as compared to the actual odds of a thing happening. Even now, as this presidency somehow continues to grow as a clusterfuck day after day, I don't think the odds of a resignation or impeachment leading to removal are over fifty percent, or realistically anywhere near it. There are too many people politically invested in not letting this presidency fail that badly for removal to happen, and Trump is stubborn enough to not quit.

But, goddamn, what a time to witness. The concern of people being too distracted by Trump to notice the ridiculous shit that's actually being done isn't as bad as I thought it could be, but it's still a thing and I hope we don't forget to keep paying attention.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Dave Reviews: Bots And Dice And Cards And Luck

Sentient

In the short history of Renegade Games, they've developed a very positive reputation, built on the backs of high-quality titles like Lanterns, Flipships, Clank, and Lotus. They're not perfect; their greatest sin is making a game called Shiba Inu House and not Doge House, which is what it is, LOOK AT THE DOG ON THE FRONT, IT'S THE FKING DOGE, WHAT ARE YOU DOING RENEGADE


Their new title is Sentient, a game about being a futuristic corporation and hiring AIs to I'm just kidding it's about dice. The theme looks very cool—the art is fantastic—but there's nothing about that theme which has anything to do with the mechanics. They could have gotten a Dora the Explorer license and turned it into a simple algebra game for kids. That's not to say the game itself is bad, but if you hoped for something that would let you sink into a futuristic world the way Pandemic throws you head-first into a toxic one, that's not what you're getting.

The game itself has each player taking control of five dice, four agents, and five assistants, in an effort to collect the cards and chevrons that will earn you more points than your opponents. Players start with a board that has a space for each of the dice and a chevron with one of the five types of AIs available. Games are three rounds; at the start of each round, players roll their dice, place them by color, and have to work with whatever numbers they got.

Each turn, a player can place one agent and any number of assistants next to an available AI card, then place the card between two of their dice. AI cards have requirements the dice on either side of them must meet in order to score that card's points at the end of the round. Making things trickier, each card has a +, -, or = sign in each upper corner; you have to add or subtract one from the appropriate die, or leave it alone for an equals sign. However, you have the option to place an assistant on one or both of those corners, which keeps the add or subtract function from happening, which you will need at some point for your dice to give you what the cards require.

(Also, once per round, players can choose to wipe the board and place their turn-order token; the earlier you do this, the later you go the following round. Turn order determines tiebreakers for winning chevrons (see below), but going later lets you set up your agents and assistants after other people are done, so there isn't a big advantage to any spot in the order.)

Five chevrons matching each of the AI types sit out on the middle of the table. Available AI cards sit between two of those chevrons (thus four cards are out at any given time). At the end of each round, players count up how many agents and assistants each of them have next to each chevron; whoever has the most next to one gets it, while whoever's in second receives a one point consolation prize. At the end of the game, each chevron is worth points equal to the number of cards of that type you've taken during the game. Thus, while one person might grab anything that scores maximum points  each round regardless of type, another player can stack up three Service chevrons and five Service cards for fifteen bonus points at the game's end.

That's pretty much the game. To its credit, Sentient is well balanced between the strategies of grabbing point cards and grabbing sets. If you never collect any chevrons besides the one you start with, it'll be hard to win solely on high-value cards, but you have to be fairly unlucky not to get any unless you dump all your assistants into avoiding pluses and minuses. However, if you plan completely around good assistant placement and maximizing the chevrons you collect, and just score points on cards where you can, that's not going to be enough either—there aren't enough bonus points reasonably available to make up for a desperately low score.

The question here, as it is with other games of a similar dice-puzzle type, is how much you can deal with playing around weird strings of good or bad chance. It's entirely possible you've built an empire of military AIs and just need a couple more in the last round to solidify the victory, and they just don't come, or they fit what other people need so well they take the cards without even trying to hurt your cause. The math between your dice and the available cards might just not work one round. And this can sink you, because whatever strategy you employ at the start is going to define your game. If you have two rounds of twenty-plus points but only a couple of chevrons and a wide variety of card types, bad math in round three can't be made up for by suddenly dumping all your efforts into whatever sets might work best for you. And since you need to score a reasonable number of points each round even if you're focused on sets, a final round where you can't find anything to add to those sets isn't likely to be fixed by a random selection of high-point cards.

The randomness is a feature, not a bug, so there's nothing wrong with it. It's a simple game with enough decisions to make people go into the tank hard at times, but it's probably not something that will require twenty playthroughs to develop as optimal a strategy as is possible. This is where a strong thematic tie-in to the game itself would be nice, but as it stands, Sentient is perfectly good while not being particularly close to great.

Score: Nine busted up information bots out of twelve.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

League Worlds Semifinals: Gaming's Longest-Running North America-Free Zone (since 2012)

I did not realize NA hadn't put a team in the Worlds semifinals since season 1. Back then, there were eight teams in two groups, and the top team in each group took a bye directly to semis. That ended up being TSM and Epik, NA teams who both lost in those semifinals. TSM then beat Epik in the loser's bracket before falling to against All authority, who went on to the Grand Finals.

These are the main takeaways as regards NA's history at Worlds:
  • NA has never won a winner's bracket match at Worlds. 
  • NA's only match win was in the loser's bracket of season 1 (the only season where there was a loser's bracket), in an NA vs. NA matchup.
  • NA has lost eight matches in the bracket stage (two each in 2011 and 2014; one each in 2012, 2013, 2016, and 2017).
  • Cloud 9's recent 3-2 loss to Team WE was the closest match for any NA team in the bracket stage since TSM's 2-1 loss to aAa in 2011, and the only time an NA team has won two games in a main bracket match.
  • It may be a misnomer to say NA has ever made the semifinals. TSM and Epik are listed as semifinalists in season 1, but after that match, Fanatic played aAa in the final, followed by a rematch in the Grand Final. If you define semifinals as the round of four—which is perfectly reasonable, I'm not trying to unnecessarily shit on NA here—then yes, those teams were proper semifinalists. But no NA team has ever been one match away from competing for the championship through the normal bracket (TSM would have been in the Grand Final had they beaten aAa in the loser's bracket).
  • NA is fucked and will never win in the bracket stage. (Speculation.)
Korea owns the stage because they, as a gaming culture, are obsessed with being number one. China's bonkers-huge population should, or at least can, give them the advantage in the long run. Europe in theory can out-perform NA because Europe's population is about double, but it remains to be seen what the effect of the new four-region system is on their international performance. The Champions League style sounds really cool, but since it will be confined to EU and they're more than doubling the number of teams involved, it's hard to see how they avoid the situation of having improved performance top to bottom but more dispersal of talent from the teams that would be representing the region at Worlds or MSI.

Plenty of people more engaged with the scene than I am have opined on the reason for NA's failures, so I'm not going to pretend to have equivalent expertise. I'll just say this about NA's performance and the comments that follow up: the general sense is that NA should be good enough, yet somehow isn't, so why? There was no reason Immortals should have failed to make it out of groups, but they did. That group was split by hairs, though, and sometimes that happens. Plenty of people (including me) had TSM first in their group, but that was without realizing how good Misfits had become. What looked like an amazing group for the team to be in wound up as one where TSM was clearly third-best. Likewise, Cloud 9 was the second-best team in their group, even though going in it looked like EDG should have been superior. 

One thing the NA's history should make clear is that arguments about whether Bo1 or Bo3 are better for domestic competition are pointless. They haven't made a difference. Cloud 9 got their 3-2 match against WE because it was WE. As well as WE performed in groups, remember, that was the group where TSM was expected to do well because it was so theoretically weak. C9 sure as shit wouldn't have taken Longzhu, SKT, or RNG to five games. 

Yet, what do you do to the rosters to improve them? Short of throwing out the import rules and making a bunch of Korean kids rich, who do you take off of TSM to noticeably improve the team? Svenskeren is the easy target, for good reason, but numerous comments have been made about how he's playing a style that doesn't suit him. Maybe pull Xmithie now that Immortals disbanded? Sure, that's a start. It's hard to see him performing worse, and the change would free up an import slot. Hauntzer? Opinions on him vary wildly, but he's American, and it's hard to see what NA top laner is going to be a substantial improvement. If Sven is replaced by Xmithie or another NA jungler, then the sky's the limit, in theory. If TSM has another import slot available—I can't tell if they do, but it seems like Biofrost is Canadian and the other EU player listed on the roster is a backup who should be easy to drop for a high-quality starter—maybe you see about getting somebody with a better rep than Biofrost? Even then, Biofrost has had enough good performances to make it difficult to find someone that will be both available and unquestionably better.

I don't know, man. I want to see NA do well, but I want to seem them do well in a sustainable way. C9 squeaking past WE would have felt good but disregarded the fact that Misfits were the best Western team in the quarterfinals. They have something to build on. NA... maybe someday.