Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Thunderdome - the tournament practice test server

The news that several community CCP staff would be leaving CCP hit the tournament community hard because of the exceptional work that CCP Logibro had been doing on our behalf. Not least was the Thunderdome server - a test server with special features designed to support the special needs of tournament players. These are:

- protection from spies. Practices take place in a special arena that can't be accessed by third parties. Spying is still possible if you can get a character into an opponent's tournament practice squad but you can't simply take a cov ops and watch other teams practice.

- refereeing tool. The captain of a side has access to a special tool that allows him to teleport teams to the arena and which checks that fits are legal.

- restricted entry. Only people designated by their team captains have access, usually a tournament squad of around 15-50 people. This is reset from time to time. It was last reset after AT XV.

- all skills at V.

- all ships and modules available at nomimal costs (except titans I believe).

With the loss of Logibro it's been a bit up in the air what the future of this server is. Few tournament players want to go back to practicing on sisi. The loss of Thunderdome has also hurt player-run tournaments with the Anger Games being cancelled recently for this reason disappointing everyone involved.

I asked for access so that I can play with my new alliance (A Band Apart) and received some quite positive news from CCP Falcon.

CCP Falcon
Hi there,
Opening account access to Thunderdome is currently on hold, but will be available again in the coming weeks.
More details will be available on the community news feed once we've established how to continue to run the server going forward.
All the best,
CCP Falcon
EVE Universe Community Manager
EVE Online | EVE Valkyrie | EVE Gunjack
CCP Games hf.

Good news to have confirmation that CCP remains committed to providing us with Thunderdome and very good news that they expect it to be available in the coming weeks.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

MTGO: Planning for the next release.

The release schedule for Magic is given here.

Rivals of Ixalan comes out January 19th 2018. We'll call that T.

T - 40 Leaked cards start to come out. In fact one card has already been leaked. This stage isn't really part of a systematic approach.

Approx T-21. Set is officially spoilered. We find out every card in the set. At this stage it's worth listing the Flash and Instant cards in a spreadsheet by colour and trying to learn them. You're a much more effective player if you know the implications of your opponent having one black mana open.

T-20 to T-14 Youtubers like Nizzahon and The Mana Leak evaluate the cards. I make a spreadsheet just listing the As and Bs as they evaluate the cards. My process when building a sealed deck is to pull all the As out then craft a strategy around playing them. These are likely to be the bombs. I won't always get them all to work, some cards don't splash well but I think this is a good place to start. Note these sites and the later Limited Resources are evaluating for draft, a faster format. So for Sealed I need to overrule their verdicts from time to time.

T-14 to T-6 Limited Resources release their set evaluation. I check if there are any more As and Bs that I don't have yet in my list from the other guys.

approx T-14 Loading Ready Run do their pre-pre-release show which is a good opportunity to see people play with the cards.

T-6 : the set launches. I think about whether I want to go to a shop and play MtG physically. Usually I don't go but I did enjoy the Hour of Devastation prerelease I went to at Dark Sphere in June.

T-4 MTGO prerelease. This is the opening of the gold mine. Right at the start the value of the cards one opens probably covers the cost of entrance so basically you're playing for free with all prizes as pure profit. Also many opponents are new to the format or rusty at Magic and make mistakes.

T-4 to approx T+30. Playing these games is amazingly effective and powerful tapering off over time. Each day the value of the cards opened decreases, the expertise of average opponents increases and the chances of getting a newbie opponent go down.

I think I didn't do enough Sealed this expansion and plan to really hammer the game in late January.

Monday, 16 October 2017

MTGO: close season

As I explained in my last post, Magic Online is seasonal. I finished a league today and as I found that the entirety of the cards I opened, 6 packs worth 24 tickets unopened, sold for less than a ticket to the tradebots it's time to stop playing as the game is now uneconomic.

I could play on if I wanted to but with the opened cards being miniscule in value I'd need 6 wins per league consistently. I've gone 5-4 in my last game and 6-3 the one before that so I can't expect to do so. Without card sales propping up the prize value a 5-4 would cost about $5 and 4-5 would cost over $10 with 6-3 about break even. I've never gone 7-2.

I did 5 leagues of 9 games each this season all in the Friendly Sealed format. I never opted to pay for more cards to strengthen my deck. I went 6-3 or 5-4 every time making a substantial profit particularly on the early games when the cards were new.

I had a ton of fun, I really do like MTG as a game, but I'm quite happy to wait 3 months now till the next release then splurge again. Next time I'd like to get more leagues done in the first couple of weeks, it really does feel like collecting free money.

I'm becoming a lot better at baiting out the opponent's killer move and trumping it. I deliberately set up situations that might tempt him/her to use their best removal spell or combat trick when I have open mana and a counter card in my hand that will result in a 2 for 1 play. That's very satisfying.

Being self-analytical my psychology is quite weird. I have about 700 tickets, worth about $700. I only play when I think I'll come out ahead and I'm usually correct on that. So each season I end up richer. I can afford to play now and lose money simply because I've such a great stack of tickets. However I don't want to and it's hard to explain why. I really like the game, it makes no sense to have more tickets in the system than I will ever use. Logically I should just play on, losing about $5 per league (about 50c per match) because this wealth is useless unless I spend it. I have the unspent wealth to lose about 100 leagues even in the dry season. However I'm averse to. Loss aversion? Is this why real world billionaires keep piling up the billions when there's no longer anything left to buy? I just don't fancy the idea of playing what is essentially a gambling game now the odds are no longer in my favour even though I'm only risking meaningless game money. I believe Dan Ariely would consider me predictably irrational.

Well it is what it is. I have a new corp and a new adventure starting in Eve Online, time to shelve MtGO for the season.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Magic the Gathering Online update and strategy

MTGO is a strange game for me because it's seasonal. I don't know if I've ever played a computer game so strongly seasonal. There's a best time to play it and times when playing it is economically challenging. I mean, you can play it but it costs more, you get beaten more and the thrill of novelty isn't there.

Here's how the game works and how I approach it. A new set is issued about 4 times a year. The set is available in physical form only over a weekend known as the Pre-Release weekend. Then the game is released online on the Monday.

That Monday and the days immediately after the game is full of casuals who only return at this particular time in the cycle as well as both casuals and veterans who don't know what the new cards do. In addition many of the new cards are highly sought after by people who play constructed.

These conditions (mediocre players and high card prices) degrade rapidly, hourly, and then continue to degrade more slowly over the life of a format. The people who are playing in a format's final week will tend to be the most dedicated players.

MTGO is an expensive game with that expense defrayed by prizes. Many formats also allow you to keep the cards you open which is another way to defray costs. It is a very good game, better than Hearthstone, because you can dick with the other player during their turn (or anticipate them dicking with you and trump them). It' can be supremely satisfying.

Players have a concept of Expected Value which is calculated from your win rate. This calculator allows us to work out whether we're likely to be ahead or behind.

A big part of mastering the economics is selecting the format. Draft tends to have stronger players than Sealed, Competitive tends to have stronger players than Friendly. I play Friendly Sealed which not only has the weakest players but also has the best EV at 50% per the calculator.

I'm a decent but not great MTG player. (Limited Rating 1708). By stacking the odds I'm able to come out ahead (known in the community as "going infinite").

Here's how I finished my last league, a set of Sealed games I went 6-3.

I'd very much recommend playing limited format MTGO and I hope this helps some of you find your feet. Beginner's guides are on the sidebar of the MTGO subreddit. 

The next Limited format starts in January so now would be a good time to pootle around for a couple of months learning the UI and the game mechanics and play some beginner games to prepare yourself for then.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Friday, 18 August 2017

Albion Online: Crafting numbers

Crafting generic items is generally done at a loss. Currently using 4359 silver worth of pine planks to make a T4 bow will give you a bow that sells for about 3000 silver.

You also get some planks back:

Resource return by Location:

Black Zone crafting station

Private/guild island: 0% (35% with focus)

Caerleon or other major city: 15% (45% with focus)

Black zone city: 20% (48% with focus)

Food buffs:  

You can improve crafting speed and quality by using food. This is a huge buff and you should always do it.

Bean Salad: +33% speed and quality for 5 minutes.

Turnip Salad: +66% speed and quality for 5 minutes.

Potato Salad: +100% speed and quality for 5 minutes.


The higher a crafter's skills the more quality and focus cost efficiency they gain. Each item has 2 skills that boost these attributes, the two furthest out on its spoke of the Destiny Wheel.

The base skill, the skill unlocking your crafting tiers starting with Tier 4 gives
+0.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +0.75 increase in quality to all the items it shows in its window.

The specialist skills give
+0.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +0.75 increase in quality to all the items in its weapon group.
+2.5 bonus focus cost efficiency and +6 increase in quality to the specific weapon. The artifacts specialisation applies to all artifacts of the weapon group.

For example:

Callduron is specialising in making Warbows.

16/100 Bow Crafter gives +4.2 bonus cost efficiency and +12 increase in quality when crafting all bows.

9/100 Warbow Crafting Specialist gives +3.3 bonus focus cost efficiency and +6.75 increase in quality while crafting all bows. It also gives +22.5 bonus focus cost efficiency and +54 increase in quality when crafting warbows.

The other bow specialisms are at 0 so I get no bonuses from them.

Maximum possible skill bonuses are + 400 focus cost efficiency and +975 increase in quality.

Putting it all together:

Max resource return: 48% (crafting in the black zone with focus).

Best crafting speed buff: +100% from food

Crafting quality: up to +975 from skills, +100% from food (I don't know how those stack). Using focus also gives a quality bonus.

Bonus focus cost efficiency: up to +400 from skills.

The life of a high level crafter then will be a matter of passively collecting your 10k focus per day, then using it to make highly lucrative x.3 or x.2 items which will bring a small profit if you get a low quality or make mad bank if the RNG gods give you Outstanding or Masterpiece quality. Actually you can probably find items that you make small profits on even without focus.

This places two soft constraints on a hardcore crafter:

- it's a big waste to do anything else with your focus.

- it's a big waste to do anything else with your learning points.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Albion Online: Gear set management

Playing on with this very addictive MMO. I'm now Tier 5 in my gear which while nothing exciting is solidly mid-pack.

I've realised that it's all too easy to suffer excessive financial setback through mismanagement of gear. In fact I just found out the hard way.

I joined a ZvZ group which is a Zerg v Zerg group for some open world pvp. In ZvZ gear doesn't matter that much. If there are 10 of you and 3 of them you win, if there are 3 of you (because you got separated or over-enthusiastic) against 10 of them you lose. Gear will tip an even fight but that's a relatively unusual circumstance.

When I died I had a moderately expensive mount on me (a T5 Armoured Warhorse).  Just silly not to swap it out. The zerg moves rather slower than the speed of its slowest member and as a healer I'm not out flanking in exposed positions. I should just stick with the group on a cheap horse as all fighting will be done on foot. Anyway not a bank-breaker and lesson learned.

So it's about gearing on the cheap.

For me that's this build.

Add t3 or t4 riding horse and you're fine for supporting a zvz. Possilby a gathering tool if you think you're likely to make it home with more than the value of the tool.

It's probably not true for tanks. If you're going to charge boldly in you probably need decent survivability from gear quality.

But for healers and dps I think it's better to have more uptime (ie I can carry on past 3 deaths) than higher quality. (I died, sorry guys, got to go.)

I don't think the same is true of gathering unless you're consciously going into dangerous zones. I do most of my gathering in the black zones just outside our friendly town. For me to get ganked they would have to manage to sneak multiple people between me and the safe haven of our town. I have multiple escapes on the gear plus it's really hard to close quickly on someone in the very cluttered forest terrain.

Here's my gathering gear:

Horse is a Tier 5 Armoured Warhorse.

Here's my expedition/fame farming gear.

The boots are a little behind the other armour types as I realised late that I wanted to wear Assassin's boots at end game so they're in my fame-grinding set.

One final point about gear in relation to consumables. A lot of people skip food and potions. This is an error of analysis. If you are playing in a context that is quite likely to kill you then it's all consumable. There's no point cheaping out on consumables when you can just use cheap ones as everything is just going to be lost sooner or later anyway. When you die every half an hour, a hat is just a consumable that gives you some stats and the Ice Block ability for 30 mins.