Xpovos' Blog - Jan to Mar 17 (103 followers)

To start, a disclaimer. I'm going to be talking at length about the game JUJU in this blog. Given that someone as verbose as I am can explain the entirety of the plot in about 3 sentences, I don't think this really needs spoiler tags, but if you're at all concerned about this ruining your experience of playing the game, you have been warned.

JUJU is a staple platformer. It feels an awful lot like a slowed down Rayman. It's entirely reminiscent of Mario. The graphics are cute and intended to appeal to children, or at least a younger audience. The game has a strong music theme, and one of the mechanics is that occasionally you'll need to "play" music by pressing cn_Y to progress through the level. Normal enemies can also be distracted by your musical abilities, allowing you move past or defeat them while they are entranced by the tune. The level designs are interesting and gradually build in terms of challenge eventually coming to a few that are a little tricky, but nothing that raises it to the level of "hard."

The game has a 1.38 total game ratio, which definitely seems to agree with my assessment that it's not hard, and 37.8% of those who start it have 100%-completed the game in terms of achievements, again a strong point indicating the game's relative simplicity. When the game went on sale a few months back I took a look at these factors and decided to buy it. The price was good, the game seemed simple, and it was likely to appeal to my own children and give them a 'starter platformer' just as I had Mario on the NES. In that sense, it's been a success. I've played it with all of them, even the three year old--though that didn't go very well. For as 'easy' as JUJU is, it's too much for someone that young.

And the truth is, that JUJU is probably too much even for my older girls. It's a platformer with training wheels, but the difficulty does ramp up as the game goes on, and while the game is forgiving about deaths, there will be a lot of retries.

I had a guy on my friends list contact me because he saw I'd been playing it wanting to know how hard it was. I answered that there are some tricky parts and the final boss is a right bastard, but it is called an easy game and it is pretty easy.

For a game with a big music theme, the end boss music was truly terrible.  You'll get to hear it a lot too, since the fight requires ~160 seconds of perfection.  Needs more <i>Estuans interius ira vehementi</i>.For a game with a big "music" theme, the end boss music was truly terrible. You'll get to hear it a lot too, since the fight requires ~160 seconds of perfection. Needs more Estuans interius ira vehementi.

All of that to preface a simple point. Easy isn't always easy. The game was easy for me because I've got a lot of experience in jumping platforms in video games. My kids lacking that experience found it nearly impossible without my aid, which the game was generous in allowing through it's "bubble" mechanic. This kept it an enjoyable experience for everyone. But even my experience wasn't enough to get through everything. There were several levels, even before the final boss, where I would die repeatedly working out the timing sequence for a set of platforms. If you die enough times before reaching a check point the game will give you an option. "Do you want to play in easy mode?"

Easy mode? What's easy mode? Well, it doubles your health to four hearts as seen in the screenshot above, and may make other elements of the game easier too. I'm not sure. See, I didn't use it. Ever. It's not that easy mode disables the achievements, nor did I have any other practical reason. I didn't use easy mode because I wanted to play the game "as designed" which would, in turn, make the achievements more difficult. Not that anyone would ever see or know or be able to tell--except me. It was all about pride.

I find I do this to myself frequently in the achievement hunt. There's an easy solution to an achievement but it's just TOO easy. I'll skip it and go for it "legitimate". I'll set up insane achievement combos just because I can and because it amuses me to see them queued in my feed in a particular order. Here's a great example.

Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the PlaneswalkersSalt in the WoundThe Salt in the Wound achievement in Magic: The Gathering - Duels of the Planeswalkers worth 26 pointsAn opponent's last permanent leaves the battlefield (Expansion 3)

The top solution is brilliant. It's so simple and obvious that I didn't see it. I did the achievement the much harder way shortly before I joined the site. That brutally simple solution is upsetting to me, or at least it was. It's too easy. So I added my own solution, my first on the site. In no way is my solution better for earning the achievement. It's just better for earning the achievement in a harder way.

A similar situation occurred while I was playing JUJU. I'd read through the achievement list so I knew I had this one coming:

JUJUSecret AchievementThe Secret Achievement achievement in JUJU worth 80 pointsContinue playing to unlock this secret achievement

But I didn't read how to properly unlock them, so reviewing the levels I had, it seemed that this was actually some kind of boss rush mode. So shortly after beating the final boss I went back and played the "golden mask" final boss mode. In this mode, you have a single heart. One hit and you're dead. I'd just spent most of the previous hour memorizing the attack patterns of the final boss, so I was able to do this pretty quickly, three tries if my memory serves. And when I finished, lo I did pop an achievement.

JUJUCan't touch thisThe Can't touch this achievement in JUJU worth 56 pointsComplete any level without losing a heart.

Aha! I'm on the right track. Let's do the other bosses now too. It's a good thing I knocked out the hard boss first. Oh, wait. That's the wrong achievement.

I'd made my life far harder than it needed to be. I'd golden masked the final boss, even though there's no reason to--for achievements. Sure, I felt accomplished, and I get to tell this story, but there's no shiny link to it for me to share on TA, except this blog, I guess.

Don't get me wrong. I was still pleased with myself for doing that, but suddenly my reward was diminished. We've always known there are some weird bits of psychology involved in the achievement hunt. This was just another example for me.

At about the same time, I'm playing Cars. Cars has an even lower ratio (1.16, with 51.8% of all starters 100%-completing the game). Cars is a pretty straight-forward racing game with a host of mandatory side-activities. It's a solid showing for a 2006 movie tie-in. But what brings it into this conversation is that there are cheat codes that don't disable the achievements. What is a pretty easy racing games can become a ridiculously easy racing game--thus lowering that ratio forever. And here I am, racing at normal speed like a sucker. Why? Because of pride.

That said, I'm definitely turning on the cheat codes for this POS minigame.That said, I'm definitely turning on the cheat codes for this POS minigame.

And finally, I'm reminded of one of the things that brought me to TA in the first place. LEGO games. I've built this whole series of meta-rules about the cheat codes in LEGO games. Depending on the game you can unlock all of the "cheats" without even needing to do the collecting. That's verboten. But in almost all cases, you need the cheats (at least the stud multipliers) to earn a sufficient number of studs in a reasonable period of play to earn the total stud achievements, so it's not like anyone completes those games without cheat codes. But I won't turn on the stud multipliers until I've hit the "True [Studfinder]" milestone for every level. And on and on the meta-rules go. They make sense in my head, but not from an efficient gameplay standpoint.

If the goal is to get achievements (and it is) and to get through the achievements quickly, e.g. to score points for the GTASC, then using easy mode and cheat codes is common sense. I didn't buy Cars for an amazing game to play. I'm not playing it this week and last because I'm itching to spend time with Lightning McQueen. I was playing because it was easy points and the team needed points. And ultimately, we needed more points than I got. If I'd turned on easy mode or cheat codes from the start, maybe I'd have earned more achievements. If I'd swallowed my pride and actually read the achievement descriptions and how to get them I could've saved 10 minutes on that damn final boss. At the very least I'd have gotten through the achievements I did earn faster and gone to bed before 4 AM.

There's a word for pride that goes to far. It's hubris. I seem to be filled with video game hubris and it's a little disconcerting to come face to face with it.
Posted by Xpovos on 29 March 17 at 16:08 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGTASC - Period 11: A Not Quite Massive Effect
  • On Elimination

I feel I need to take an entire section to address this right now because a lot of my thoughts and feelings here might influence my positions elsewhere, and so I need to be clear about those biases.

I want to start out by thanking my team, Nuclear Winter Is Coming and all its constituent members, AlbinoKidELITE, epic fail 1710, FNSUITE GHOST, and KirkSadler. Guys, thanks for the run.

Second, while I'm going to do my best to talk about it in even terms, I am bitterly disappointed in being eliminated. Being eliminated always sucks. This is my third GTASC, and the previous two eliminations sucked, too. Being eliminated in the solo earlier this year sucked. But none of those have sucked as bad as this one does. My previous two teams were at the end of their ropes when they were eliminated. It was a "this week, or next if we're lucky," kind of elimination. We were due. Nuclear Winter had the power to go another 10-20 periods. We weren't due. I've never been eliminated like that before, except in the solo side this year, and that was due to real life events and a miscalculation. I guess so was this.

I'm particularly disappointed in this loss because I feel like it's on me, somehow. Maybe my teammates do too, and that would be even worse, because it's terrible to feel that you've let someone down; but if they agree... For all that I'm not sure I did, even if they do feel that way. I hit my stated points total for the week. It was lower than we needed, but not because I didn't do what I said I would.

I'm disappointed because I could have done more. Even worse, I did. Due to some weird Xbox One glitch, my Xbox One games stopped recording achievements Thursday night. I got them back late Saturday or early Sunday morning, but even then, the achievements I had already earned did not retroactively pop. I had to redo them. At least one achievement could not be redone, all told the achievements I unlocked this week did not include a couple of hundred TA from achievements I should have earned. But then, again, if I had earned those points, maybe I wouldn't have pushed so hard early Sunday morning, since I still had to hit my projected points total somehow. So I'm not going to blame the loss on the glitch.

When I finished my Sunday morning push by completing JUJU (a game I'll have some commentary on later this week, which given my expected theme is now more poignant than ever), we were in 99th place. 47 slots out of the elimination zone and about 1500 points. The points matter less than the slots, though, as enough teams in the elimination zone and below you have to score enough to match or beat. That's a lot of slots, particularly since at that point the elimination was only about 6 hours away. I'd stayed up VERY late to finish my targeted games. I went to bed feeling that we looked good, and confident that the others would make sure we had enough as the morning wore on; or push a bonus if needed.

I got about two hours of sleep then I was off to help my brother-in-law move, so I was driving to Williamsburg for the rest of the morning. I took a break from loading the van long enough to check the score on my cell phone. We were 3 slots above elimination with 5 minutes to go. The line moves fast at elimination time since we'd lost 44 slots in the intervening hours. But only 5 minutes? We're fine, right? Nope.

We finished in 146th place, the last team to be eliminated in Period 11, about 25 TA away from safety.

Obviously, with only 5 minutes left I couldn't have used a bonus, even if I'd thought to. Plus that wasn't my call. The bonuses are a double-edged sword. With all the work that goes into earning them the decision to use one is a big deal. But not using can be crisis-inducing, or potentially fatal. Every week that it's even close the decision is always, "is this sponge worthy?" I've held bonuses too tightly before, here we did again. The psychology here is fascinating.

So now I'm on the outside looking in. What does that change? For now, not much. I joined the GTASC as an extra excuse to score more. It didn't do as good a job at that as I'd hoped, and my life continues to prove to be too busy to score as much as I'd like. But I still have goals for the year and I'd like to hit them, even without the GTASC. So I'm going to keep on tracking my data for each week, GTASC-like, and see what I can do. I was tempted to call this the XTASC... but then I realized that was too much like "ecstasy". Besides, the vast majority of my goals this year are GS-related not TA-related. And it's not really a challenge or a competition as much as it is a set of personal goals, so almost none of the letters make any sense. I've no idea what to call this, then. Give me your suggestions.

Things I'll track:
My total achievements for the week, each period coinciding with the GTASC periods.
My total GS and TA on those achievements earned

I'll also continue to discuss the games I've played in my "Personal Notes" section, along with noting my highlight and lowlight.

Goals as I track:
Goal #1: Complete more games than I start on the year, including any added from the Bean Dive if I participate again.
Goal #2: Clear out as much of my "for points" backlog as I can. I'm not saving anything for another GTASC. Right now I'm thinking I'm done with the GTASC for good, I'd always intended this to be my last for now, and while I didn't intend to get eliminated this early, if I start thinking about "saving stuff for next year" I'll never complete enough of my other goals. One thing I've really realized head-on so far this year is that there are more games with more points available than I'll ever realistically be able to play. So why not just play Never Alone now? There'll be another Never Alone available for me next year if I really want.
Goal #3: As a result of #2 have a monster year on GS. I have a series of GS goals listed here on TA. I want to make a lot of progress and hit as many of those as I can, even if they really are impossible, I want to do my best, my genuine best, so that when I look back I can realistically say: "I couldn't have done more."

Obviously, goals sometimes don't always line up. Completing games sometimes means taking time away from higher GS games. Attempts to keep ratios up causes problems with other goals. Etc. Ultimately, it's all just a huge push of gaming, and those three are my top priorities.

  • Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Commentary

Raise your hand if you thought Mass Effect: Andromeda was going to be the top scoring game this period. wave

It was nothing to sneer at, but the point total wasn't nearly as high as I'd have expected. Yes, ME is a colossal RPG and those take longer to unwind, but I was not going to be surprised if ME hit 100,000 TA for the period. Instead, it was 37,234. Only good enough for 6th place. It was beaten out by sale-title 'easy' game Coffin Dodgers GwG title Evolve, grindy F2P Clicker Heroes and most impressively by the Title Update to Rocket League which let that game dominate the scoring this period. It was Rocket League scoring over 100,000 TA.

Oh, yeah, and Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition.

That is not the massive effect I expected. That doesn't mean that ME has landed with a wet splat. Sure, the reviews aren't stellar, but it's still doing OK. It just isn't the next "Game of the Year". It's not even game of this period.

  • Team Contest

Oh, yeah. We went splat this period too. Nuclear Winter has come. Time do deal with the fallout.

Cutoff: 12752 (son of a...)
Last: 11079
Delta: 15.1%

  • Individual Contest

Mass Effect was even further down the list in solo contest, taking 16th place! It seems that the folks who wanted to play ME on the individual side felt that they couldn't as much without a teammate to take the load since the tail end of RPG points from a game like ME would just be too difficult for a single person to pull off in the period.

Cutoff: 1870
Last: 1548
Delta: 20.8%

  • Personal Notes

I largely covered these in my first segment. I'll just add that I probably picked poor "quick points" games for my Xbox 360 games to play. Both Juju and Cars are deeper than their ratios imply. I had other quick point games I could've chosen, but most of my fastest points are on the One, and given that was where the glitch was, I was a bit hamstrung. And by the time things were working again I was in a fixed mindset. I should've deviated and scored some of those quick points post-glitch. If I had knocked out Ben-Hur, or at least most of it Sunday morning in addition to what I did, and we're having a very different conversation right now.

  • Highlight

JUJUSecret AchievementXpovosThe Secret Achievement achievement in JUJU worth 170 pointsContinue playing to unlock this secret achievement

Pretty tricky. I liked World 4's the best, but I did that one first thinking it was the hardest and wanting to get it out of the way first. World 3 was actually the hardest, IMO. Before I did this the right way, I thought the achievement was tied to a "boss run" kind of game. Look for more about that later in the week.

  • Lowlight

CarsTractor TippingXpovosThe Tractor Tipping achievement in Cars worth 86 pointsSuccessfully complete all levels of Tractor Tipping

What fun. Bad controls and a bad camera make for a frustrating "stealth" mini-game. I seem to have had an easier time with it than many, though, based on some of the comments I've read.

  • Started

Clicker Heroes

I've had Cars ready to start for a while. Needing Xbox 360 points on Saturday due to the glitch, it seemed the way to go.

Clicker Heroes has been on my radar since it was released. I'd been intending to start it eventually. I did start it this week so that I could test out a brand new game with the glitch. I confirmed that it wasn't unlocking achievements even on a new game and stopped playing. When I came back to it later, I was prepared to have to delete my save file to get the achievement to unlock--a big part of why I didn't play any Xbox One games after the glitch became apparent. But loading the game and playing for a bit caused the achievement to unlock retroactively.

Some games are clearly better at programming the achievement logic than others.

  • Completed

Posted by Xpovos on 27 March 17 at 21:15 | Last edited on 28 March 17 at 14:15 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGTASC Stats Round-up. (Periods 1-10)
We've got ten weeks worth of GTASC under our belt. That's as good a time as any to have a look at what's been going on so far.

Let me start with some headline numbers, courtesy of planting42 and basic math.

  • Solo

Gamers Entered: 1738
Gamers Remaining (after 10 periods): 609 (1129 [65%] eliminated)
Total Achivements: 515,099 (296.4 [29.6/week]/gamer entered; 845.8 [84.6/week]/gamer remaining 438.9 [43.9/week]/gamer F.AVG)
Total GS: 14,968,369 (8612.4 [861.2/week]/gamer entered; 24578.6 [2457.9/week]/gamer remaining 6377.7 [637.8/week]/gamer F.AVG)
Total TA: 28,540,731 (16421.6 [1642.2/week]/gamer entered; 46864.9 [4686.5/week]/gamer remaining 12160.5 [1216.1/week]/gamer F.AVG)
Effective Ratio: 1.92
Avg. GS/ach: 29.06
Avg. TA/ach: 55.41

  • Team

Gamers Entered: 1775
Teams Entered: 355
Gamers Remaining (after 10 periods): 781 (994 [56%] eliminated etc.)
Teams Remaining (after 10 periods): 157 (198 [56%] eliminated)
Total Achievements: 565,688 ( 318.7 [31.9/week]/gamer entered; 569.1 [56.9/week]/gamer remaining; 204.3 [20.4/week]/gamer F.AVG || (1593.5 [159.4/week]/team entered; 2857.0 [285.7/week]/team remaining; 1022.9 [102.3/week]/team F.AVG)
Total GS: 16,510,409 (9301.6 [930.2/week]/gamer entered; 21140.1 [2114.0/week]/gamer remaining; 6459.5 [646.0/week]/gamer F.AVG || 46508.2 [4650.8/week]/team entered; 83385.9 [8338.6/week]/team remaining; 29856.1 [2985.6/week]/team F.AVG)
Total TA: 31,668,439 (17841.4 [1784.1/week]/gamer entered; 40548.6 [4054.9/week]/gamer remaining; 12389.8 [1239.0/week]/gamer F.AVG || 89206.9 [8920.7/week]/team entered; 201709.8 [20171.0/week]/team remaining; 61852.4 [6185.2/week]/team F.AVG)
Effective Ratio: 2.03
Avg. GS/ach: 29.19
Avg. TA/ach: 55.98

So what do all of those numbers mean? First, a roughly equal number of gamers entered both the individual and the team contest, but it wasn't the same set. Some registered for only one contest, some for only the other. As the contests have gone on, the lists have likely become more disparate, but I don't have any solid analysis on that. Second, the sheer scope of these numbers is impressive. Over a half-million tracked achievements in each contest in only ten weeks!

Even though the numbers entering were roughly the same, more people have been eliminated from the solo side, as a result of the stricter cut-off threshold on that side. This has resulted in a much more competitive series much faster, which was the intent. Meanwhile, the team-side has been competitive as well, despite the lower cutoffs, because of the inherent bonus a team has of being able to spread the responsibility around.

Even with a "slower" cut-off, well over half the field has been eliminated from the GTASC in just the first ten weeks. Though the contest is year-long, for most gamers, it's far, far shorter.

Additionally, 4 individuals have been eliminated from the team side, even though their team has not, leaving 3 teams (one team lost two) short on members, unable to compete for some bonuses and at a perpetual disadvantage in scoring.

Partially due to the slower elimination schedule leaving more gamers in, and partially due to the generically more competitive nature of the team event, the team side has scored more GS (10.3%), more TA (11.0%) and had a higher overall ratio than the individual side.

Finally a word on "F.AVG", which is a modified simple average for the 10-week period using the starting teams and the ending teams. It does an OK job of tracking the typical average output for the contests and most interestingly, a decent job of tracking the cut-offs, though a safe margin higher still.

The following stats are team-side only. While there are discrepancies between the team and the solo as I note during my weekly updates, tracking both, when they're largely the same, seems duplicitous.

The stats page lists the top games by TA gain for the whole contest. Here's a snapshot at 10 weeks in.

Minecraft: Xbox 360 Edition
Minecraft: Xbox One Edition
Killer Instinct
Fallout Shelter
DC Universe Online
Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition
Rare Replay
Goat Simulator
Lies of Astaroth
Gems of War
Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
Doodle God: Ultimate Edition
Adventure Pop
Rocket League
World of Van Helsing: Deathtrap
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Energy Cycle
BATMAN – The Telltale Series
Minecraft: Pocket Edition (Android)
NBA 2K17: The Prelude
ARK: Survival Evolved
Dear Esther: Landmark Edition
Toby: The Secret Mine
Among the Sleep
Halo Wars: Definitive Edition

Minecraft for the Xbox 360 takes the top spot overall with a shade over a million total TA. The Xbox One version takes second place with about 750,000 TA, despite earning more GS on more achievements. It's all about the ratio. Obviously, both versions of Minecraft are high on the list due to the power of Title Updates. They're not the only ones, though. Killer Instinct, Goat Simulator, Lies of Astaroth and Gems of War are all on the list as well and at least in part due to DLC or Title Updates. Rocket League also jumps out, but the Title Update there will factor more for later periods than for its placement in the top-30 through ten periods.

Other notable factors of the top-30 include 8 free or free-to-play games and 3 Games with Gold titles. Gamers love free GS. The presence of games like Energy Cycle, ACA NEOGEO WORLD HEROES and Among the Sleep also indicates a desire for quick points over potential quality.

Finally, the top-30 isn't all "free" or quick indie games. The Master Chief Collection cannot be denied a spot among the top due to the sheer number of achievements it has, to say nothing of Master Chief's enduring popularity. Rare Replay gets a similar size boost. Meanwhile, Halo Wars 2 as a new and successful AAA game has a nice showing rounding out the top-30 with a total 140,000 TA.

The top-30 games have a combined 8.2M TA. That sounds like a lot but, as I noted above, the top game has over a million of it, so it drops off per title pretty quickly, and the contest total has 31.7 million through ten periods, so the top-30 are only 25.9% of the total TA scored. Games outside of the top-30 make up the vast majority of the scoring, but not in any significant quantity each. It's a representative set of the deep library of Xbox 360 and Xbox One combined titles available, not to mention Windows Phone, PC and a few points from other platforms as well--again, mostly from Minecraft.

How about some team-specific stats for my team: Nuclear Winter is Coming

External image

Personally, I've placed 4th overall on TA for the team, but I have the highest TA ratio. Actually, considering that I'm largely on GS goals this year, that might make it worse, not better. Time to kick it up a notch. My best week was Period 6, with 5382 TA for the week. I got edged out of the top scorer slot by Albino who put up over 6000!

Times top-scorer
AlbinoKidELITE (3)
epic fail 1710 (3)

Times bottom-scorer
KirkSadler (6)
Xpovos (1)
epic fail 1710 (1)

Kirk's stated goal of being the #5 scorer each week is largely coming true as he's taken the trophy 6 times out of ten. No complaints there, we've only had folks go negative twice, so it's all good by me.

My one week as the bottom scorer coincided with my business trip, so I don't feel terrible about that, but the problem is that I've had no super big weeks to show off and outperform with.

Of the top-30 games, we've had plenty of Minecraft from epic as he belted out his big week. I've personally dipped into 9 of the top-30. But for all that, we haven't really dug too deep, I don't think.
Posted by Xpovos on 24 March 17 at 22:47 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGTASC - Period 10: Of Brothers Banned
It's time to beat a dead horse.

People compete at different levels, and that's actually one of the things we enjoy about sport--seeing people perform at their best, and one of them being better than the other. I personally am very bad at basketball. Not only am I short, but I have poor shooting skills. About the only two things I can do well in the game are to steal the ball on defense and foul. You do not want to have me on the court in almost any situation. But if for some reason I was to go out onto the court against Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman, e.g. I wouldn't expect to win. I might even claim I was just "in it for the experience" or "trying to have some fun." But Jordan's philosophy of "for the love of the game," probably means he'd try his best to win, even if he didn't need to try his best. And if by some miracle I put a move on him I would expect that Rodman would foul the crap out of me for the audacity of my shuffle-step.

If Rodman fouled me, I'd be entitled to two free throws. Which I would miss, probably, even if I weren't in agony due to the foul.

When a casually competitive person is thrown up against a professional, the result is going to be ugly. Even when the casually competitive person is actually pretty good. The thing is, that in each of those scenarios, these guys are more physically impressive than I am, and in each case they're playing within the rules. In basketball it is a well-known and perfectly acceptable thing to intentionally foul. That is, it is culturally acceptable to break the rules because the penalties are less severe than the unimpeded action.

But what if there weren't any rules, and by extension, what if there were no punishments? Here in America we have a chain steakhouse called Outback. It's a "Land Down Under" themed upscale casual dining eatery. About the last time I at there, the chain slogan was, "No Rules, Just Right."

The GTASC is not the Wild West. And those in the know are aware that even the "Wild West" wasn't the Wild West. But the GTASC is pretty close to "No Rules. Just Right." There are really only two rules to the GTASC: Score enough to survive and don't get banned by MS or TA.

The second rule inherently includes MS and TA's rules. Since joining the site I've had a long history of revising my own understanding of what is "against the rules" for achievement hunting. I recall one of my first statements on the nature of cheating in achievement hunting included considering problematic individuals who earned achievements prior to a game's release. I'd still welcome some improvements to that kind of a situation on a technological level, but clearly there are many cases where that is NOT cheating. And TA (the site in general, not the man necessarily) was right to not consider it such, and I was wrong to broach it. For an excellent piece on cheating in achievement-hunting, I recommend reading this blog.

The most poignant rule, however, is the code of honor. For a research piece I was doing I found this old article. The most important takeaway is that an achievement has to be your own. Boosted is fine, but it has to be your boosting. By this logic, if I had let my daughter play a round of Gems of War yesterday (because she asked and to keep her occupied) while I set a fire, I would have violated not only MS' ToS, but the unwritten code of ethics that many abide by on TA--even if it isn't cheating per the cheater policy. Such an action might be against the letter of the law, but hardly the spirit. Microsoft quite literally does not care if I let my daughter play my game; they just want to ensure I don't share my purchased games with strangers, something that is more and more possible with larger and larger digital collections.

But then, what about the other side; against the spirit but not the letter? We had some strong accusations flying around this period about account sharing, something against the MS ToS, but not specifically against the TA cheater policy, but definitely not encouraged, and definitely not part of the old guard code of ethics as noted in that article I posted above. It's almost impossible to prove without direct admission from the guilty parties, which is one reason why TA doesn't even try to enforce it. And speculation about that from outside parties with insufficient evidence is likely itself problematic, creating an atmosphere of McCarthyism and general angst. But, then again, certainly trash talking in an attempt to get a team taken down a peg, or jus to get under their skin isn't against the rules either.

In the end, the GTASC's true purpose is butthurt and popcorn. The weekly cutoffs are really just the mechanism for ensuring we get sufficient drama.

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  • Team Contest

A bonus was live in the Team contest asking each teach to earn an equal number of achievements between teammates. This isn't too hard, but it does require a little team coordination and a full team effort to score enough on the target number of achievements to avoid elimination. With no new real hotness this week (unless you got early access to Mass Effect: Andromeda which can't have been too many since the game didn't crack the top-20) we had a lot of rehash of our normal top-scoring titles, and not much increase in the cutoff. The lower %-based changed on the team side is likely completely attributable to the lower static percentage being eliminated in the teams right now. For this week at least, and perhaps for a few more weeks, the individual contest will be the more intense one.

But then again, that likely all goes out the window as we do get that new hotness aforementioned next week.

Our top games this week continue last week's trend and include several F2P.

#1 was Clicker Heroes which as an idle title is bound to show up for a while. Pre-loading this would take some serious thought, but I believe it is possible. I wouldn't be surprised for the winning team to have 3/5 members drop the level 3600 achievement in the final week.


#3 was Lies of Astaroth which continues to benefit from a very big TU. It should largely die out next week though as I think basically everyone who is capable of earning this achievements at this point has done so.

And of course, Minecraft and it's TU took up two more of the top-five slots.

The oddball this week was #4 I, Zombie which went from cheap to even cheaper thanks to a sale.

Meanwhile, last week's new game: Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands plummetted to 13th place.

This week's closest thing to "new hotness": LEGO Worlds charted, but in 18th place. This game will likely stick around as it gains steam this week and the depth starts to allow some of the bigger achievements to pop, but it doesn't seem like it'll be climbing very high.

Finally, Battlefield 1 also received an update with achievements this period, bringing it back on the chart in 11th place.

Cutoff: 11079
Last: 10960
Delta: 1.1%

One final note, I counted three benches used this period. Using a bench can be a sign that a team needed a break week, but it can also be a sign of stress. A team that uses the bench is highly unlikely to survive more than a few more weeks after needing to use it. Three down this period shows that even with a limited increase in the cutoff, there's still sufficient pressure to start forcing teams to play out their hands before they'd like.

The thing about benches, though, is that they required at least the effort earning a bonus, so that three of them went down this period is worth noting.

  • Individual Contest

The top-5 games on the individual side were the same as on the team-side. The team bonus didn't really shake up the game selection much, as the goal was team matching, not necessarily something that requires any specific game. Though the games were the same, the order did change, of course. And further down there were some notable changes helping to clarify the differences between the two contests and their stressors.

The biggest of these was SMITE barging in at 6th place in the individual, despite not charting in the team version at all. SMITE did get a recent TU as well, so this is another example of the F2P TU system pushing a lot of content in the GTASC this year.

The differences as they go down the charts are pretty significant this week, but I want to note one more.

Her Majesty's SPIFFING came in at 18th on the individual side. While that's not particularly high, so not charting on the team side isn't unreasonable (it could easily have been 21st and we'd just not know it), the appearance might give us an indication of who is left in the individual contest vs. the team contest. Spiffing is a game with a very British sense of humor, and it tends to be enjoyed much more by our UK gamers, and those from the rest of the more closely aligned former colonies than those of us in the US, in general. If Spiffing is over-represented in the score, then that might indicate that Americans are under-represented.

Cutoff: 1548
Last: 1342
Delta: 15.4%

  • Personal Notes

This week was about the Torment map mode update for Lies of Astaroth. I didn't pop these last week, but I did, largely, at the start of this period. Then I coasted on the decay all the way to the finish line. I had to take it easy after the big bump on Sunday so I didn't outscore my teammates in terms of number of achievements, so we could easily line up for the bonus. Success! That said, my jubilation in an "easy week" was somewhat tempered by losing 500 points from Sunday through Wednesday. C'est la décomposition.

  • Highlight

Lies of AstarothMystery ForestXpovosThe Mystery Forest achievement in Lies of Astaroth worth 335 pointsThree star all stages in Map 13.

I needed to get this achievement to get the Torment achievement as well. I was still 6-stars away when I loaded it up and they were daunting. I had a momentary joy when I got the 5th one, thinking I was done. But, alas. Completing this one was the real achievement, though. The Buggy+ Torment mode achievement is not worthy of recognition except that it has this one as a prerequisite

Lies of Astaroth is up to 2000 GS now, and I hope that's the last of it. I know there is more content in the mobile version of the game, but I can't imagine it coming to the console and being any kind of enjoyable. If no new achievements are added, I'm confident I'll get to a completion eventually. If they keep adding content, it'll be an open question.

  • Lowlight

Bejeweled LIVE (Win 8)Chroma-CollectorXpovosThe Chroma-Collector achievement in Bejeweled LIVE (Win 8) worth 10 pointsAll the colors, so bright and pretty! I got 20 of them to unlock Chroma-Collector!

First, why is this an achievement? Second, I wasn't even trying for it. I got a thing from a friend via one of those social media thingies asking me to play Bejeweled. And rather than do that, I just loaded up this game. Popped a few gems because I felt like it. And achievements pop too? Preposterous!

  • Started


  • Completed


With the team target on achievements for the period I wasn't going to work too hard at starting or finishing anything.
Posted by Xpovos on 20 March 17 at 02:44 | Last edited on 20 March 17 at 02:52 | There are 5 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkGTASC - Period 9: The Silent Lie
After a month or two people start to get acclimated to the environs. While every week we say farewell to another chunk of our compatriots, the constant cutoff is typically more our friendly companion than something to be feared. Similarly, amidst the relative quiet this week (certainly relative to the chaos of the past 16 hours--ah, fodder for next week) I read this week of some complaints. The GTASC, being a point-scoring contest is pushing people into playing quick indie games for points. It's a simple observation; perhaps even an obvious one, given what has been popular in the contest so far, but the question behind the question is worthwhile. Why? Why do we play a game that we may not otherwise enjoy simply because it has those magical GS assigned to it.

Certainly, that's a question being asked by many of those who regularly play our number one title for the week: Lies of Astaroth. I'm intimately familiar with their pain because this is one of the games I play myself. Though it does make me question a least daily whether I am playing or being played. Astaroth topped the charts this period thanks to a massive Title Update worth 450 GS across 13 achievements. The update introduces a new even harder version of every "story" level of the game, with a new achievement for completing every map on the new harder difficulty. Considering that only about 60 people have actually cleared the original maps, adding more difficult versions doesn't seem like an easy way to load up points for the GTASC. But there was a fatal flaw in the implementation that allowed these new achievements to be unlocked early if certain conditions are met. As a result, those 60 people can unlock all of the new achievements, and while some are still blocked off to the rest of the group, they can pop enough of the achievements to really load up the score, since the first 8 of the 13 have been done by almost everyone who is going to play the game. But the TU keeps the ratio inflated in spite of that kind of bug. These will decay some, at least until they get patched--if they can be patched, but not to lower than the original map's ratio, so they've got an overall floor of 4.0 or so.

A title update is hardly the new hotness, even if it is from a hot mess of a game. Our new game of note this period was Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands. Mr. Clancy's death three-and-a-half years ago has not slowed down the video game franchises based on his work. As much as I'm not a fan of shooters, I've always appreciated the heightened realism of the gameplay from this series. But it's also another reason for me to never play the game, because if you're bad at shooters, you're going to be terrible at a Tom Clancy game.

It's also worth noting that Eekeemoo Splinters of the Dark Shard Achievements made it into the top-20 for the period, barely. And that is in spite of a 1.4 rating from the site, placing it just above Yaris which at least had the benefit of being free. So we are definitely playing bad games just for points, and when questioned as to the why, there does seem to be a resounding silence.

  • Team Contest

The bonus is over on the team side this period, so the team is the control. I've already covered the big points, but here are a few more stories. While it outperformed on the individual side, I've failed to so far mention this new hotness: Clicker Heroes. Free to play is dominating the charts. And if you count Layers of Fear as "free-to-play" due to GwG, then 4 of the top 5 games are free.

To a certain extent the GTASC these days is about who has the most disposable income to throw at a plethora of quick indie games. Since each game is worth the full 1000 GS, completing 4 of those in 24 hours or less is worth as much or more than completing a single 4000 TA game that takes a hundred hours or more.

But with the free games on the charts like this, it's clear that's not the way it's actually going. Maybe on the margins, but the biggest chunks of score are coming from games that are widely available. They'll only cost your time. And maybe your soul.

Cutoff: 10960
Last: 11710
Delta: -6.4%

  • Individual Contest

Despite the bonus being active on the individual side, there wasn't much movement. The bonus this week required getting 7 different 1GS achievements. There are a handful of good choices for this bonus if you wanted to go for it. Both Cast of the Seven Godsends and Summer Athletics and the regional variant (Summer Athletics (EU)) have a sufficient number of 1GS achievements on their own. However, despite their increase in play this week, noted at least anecdotally, none of them gained enough points to show up in the top-20.

Cutoff: 1342
Last: 1576
Delta: -14.8%

The declines this week are a bit shocking. Not so much that they happened, as we've already seen in prior weeks the lack of popular new hotness reduces the score output considerably. So when Lies of Astaroth is your "new hotness" you're gonna have a bad week.

What is shocking about this number is that if this had been the score last week, I'd still be alive. Nope, I'm not bitter at all. cry

  • Personal Notes

My teammate, FNSUITE GHOST tore it up taking all of the pressure off. I wanted to score more, but even though I'm going for a high scoring year there's no point in blowing my 1000 GS games right now in the face of that. Next week is just as good for me to pop one (or not, thanks bonus). So I stick with my soul-stealing obsession and the Bat.

  • Highlight

Lies of AstarothWilderness VolcanoThe Wilderness Volcano achievement in Lies of Astaroth worth 294 pointsThree star all stages in Map 11.

The game is awful, but earning this achievement is still a big deal. I was the 51st gamer to do so. A few more have gained it since, in large part because the Torment levels have encouraged a redoubled effort.

  • Lowlight

Lies of AstarothLegendary Hero ⅦXpovosThe Legendary Hero Ⅶ achievement in Lies of Astaroth worth 124 pointsYour hero reaches level 90.

It's fitting that this game has the lowlight too. The achievement is fine, but it's worth commenting on, so I'm happy to give it this slot. Lies of Astaroth has an exponential experience curve, as many games do. Unfortunately for the players, the achievement gaining mechanisms level out early on. The most efficient method earns ~2200 xp per action. The total xp required for level 100 is 175,000,000 or so. Quick math shows that the efficient action needs to be done close to 80,000 times. Get ready to buy a new controller. Even better the game limits those actions by time so that a maximally efficient person (or a turbo controller) can get about 360 actions per day. Some freebie actions speed this up, and there are limited ways of gaining xp outside of the most efficient method, so this is not the 200+ day grind that initially means, but taking out efficiency for human error, sleep, etc. and to date only 5 people have done it.

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Level 90, which I earned there is at about 97M. That means the last 10 levels I need (that 5 intrepid players have gotten) is still another 50+ million experience away. I'm more than halfway, but that's cold comfort.

Level 90 fell this week, in large part, due to an error on the dev side. Two days a week the experience gained from all sources is doubled. It's important to log in every day for this game, but especially on double-xp days. This week, someone goofed and the "2x" became "8x". I worked hard at it and my ~600,000 xp for the day became ~6.4 million.

  • Started


  • Completed

BATMAN – The Telltale Series

I made a few comments about this game last week as I started it. Namely, that the game is 'short' even by TellTale standards and that they seemed to be doing some very interesting things with Batman canon. Upon completion, I can't really say much more. There is not much wrong with the game. Just the usual TellTale engine stutters. But there also isn't much to recommend about the game. It's a Batman adventure game. They managed to check off all of the necessary boxes, but didn't really go beyond. Most notably, one seemingly foreshadowed plot element was left nagging, and not in the "begging a sequel" kind of way. It's hard to be disappointed in a game that isn't bad, but I do feel this could have been, perhaps even should have been, more.
Posted by Xpovos on 13 March 17 at 03:17 | There is 1 comment on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.