Xpovos' Blog - Jul to Sep 17 (93 followers)

PermalinkBlatant Advertising
One of the things I've been using this blog for recently has been to give some extra exposure to a few projects; most significantly for my streaming turned to YouTube videos. I've started putting those over in the Biography section as a way to maybe tone that down a bit. I'm not much of a salesman, you see. I prefer to just write something, or do something, that I find interesting and hope other people find it interesting too and come on their own accord. It's worked pretty well for this blog and I think it's starting to do well with the stream.

But sometimes things need a little extra visibility, particularly at the start. I showed off the Game Theory flash game, even though that was getting some good traction on its own, it was likely not something that most people here at TA would have seen, but it was something we all could benefit from as gamers. Today I want to share something no one would see otherwise.

My friend Paul is also a blogger, and he started and runs a blog, Rampant Discourse. It's a small thing and mostly just a project for fun, not that there aren't always hopes and dreams for more. It's been running for nearly a year now and Paul just wrote what I think is his best article ever.

Lessons From My Biggest Investing Mistake

If this were a TA blog, I'd have just shared it to my friend feed with the feature Rich set up at my request. Since it's offsite, I have to be a little more explicit. And I am happy to make it more explicit because I genuinely think it would be worth your while to read the article. It's insightful and entertaining, and quite probably pertinent to you as a gamer or as a person.

Oh, yeah, and I streamed Dark Souls the other night. You can check that out too, if you want.

Posted by Xpovos on 21 September 17 at 15:14 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkSo Many Contests
  • Leap Frog

We're down to our top three here. And it is a really strong performance from all at this point. Today, to survive, each contestant will need 7 different achievements at 10.6 ratio, which is quite impressive, particularly since the past few days have already needed 7 at 10+ as well. Really, the difference between 10.0 and 10.6 is inconsequential at this point. As a comparison, I have a total of 8 achievements with a 10.0 or higher ratio in my entire gaming career. These guys all basically did that yesterday. And the day before, and they're going to do it again today, because I do not think we're done here yet.

We have 49 days in the books, and the trendline has had me guessing "55-60" for a while. But we are now finally getting to the point where a sub-55 day contest is plausible, because we're at the top-3. Not only is that a psychological break-point, that's also a prize break point. Any one of the contestants could say at any time now, "Screw it, I'm in the money, I am not killing myself for that little bit of more prize and prestige." But as long as they want to keep going, as always, this will continue for a few more days at least.

Here's another interesting little fact. This is the first Leap Frog that hasn't had a 0-elimination day*. If we're going to go ~55, we're going to see a number of zero elimination days. Zero elimination days are at the end usually anyway, and they have been an indicator that the contest difficulty hadn't ramped up enough from day to day. This time, there is no doubt that the difficulty is ramping up. So if we get no zero elimination days, this contest is over tomorrow or the day after. That would be 51 days at the longest. Still in my initial wheelhouse of prediction, but not what the mathematical models (as flawed as they are) predicted. And that's simply because even though exponential decay is a strong match, it is not necessarily a good predictor.

NOTE: I screwed this up pretty badly. Thanks to JimbotUK for catching my error. I'm redoing the graphs and everything as I type, so... things will change. The analysis largely remains the same, but some of my statements are off. I've made a bunch of corrections, but it's not as clean as I would have liked anymore.

So, time for some graphs. This remains my favorite.

Projected Leap Frog contest length (days) based on exponential decay formula for croaks that day.Projected Leap Frog contest length (days) based on exponential decay formula for croaks that day.

I've shown previous versions of this graph a few times. It has a few interesting peaks. Day 1 is so low because so many people croaked on the first day, as I called out in my first blog on this year's Leap Frog. Then for the first two weeks the croak date rises because as a percentage, fewer people are croaking as it goes on. The difficulty just didn't ramp enough early on to really shake anything more than the casuals out. Then at around Day 14 we get our first maxima. The exponential decay formula at this point projects an 85.9 day contest, which is just insane. But this is before the contest really starts getting hot. Day 15 drops significantly as a third achievement is added to the requirement. But Day 23 was surprisingly strong as well, projecting an even higher 86.6 day contest. That fourth week shows the grit of the generic hardcore achievement-hunting community as the trendline doesn't really move, but after Day 27, the inevitable decline sets in. Five achievements per day that next week all at a high ratio shows that even the hardcore have a breaking point. Except maybe our trio of finalists.

So, why do I always think of exponential decay when these contests run?

Gee, I don't know.Gee, I don't know.

Here, let me put that on a logscale.

Exponential decay graphed on a log scale should be linear.Exponential decay graphed on a log scale should be linear.

Our linear trendline has a R^2 of 0.9663. Do you know what that means? Time for one of my favorite nerdy images of all time.

There is a 95% chance that I am 20% cooler than this.There is a 95% chance that I am 20% cooler than this.

Trendlines and confidence aren't exact matches, but I can't resist.

OK, one more fun graph before we move on to our other contest news.

I've labeled a couple of particularly interesting days to talk about.I've labeled a couple of particularly interesting days to talk about.

Day 1 (373 eliminations) I've talked about before. No need to really repeat anything. Day 8 (91 eliminations) is the first day with 2-achievements required. Day 15 (61 eliminations) is the first day with 3-achievements required. But this weekly peaking did not continue. Day 22 was tame, even fewer eliminated than Day 21.

Two more significant data points on here that I have labeled are Days 23 and 24. I had an asterisk up above, this is my asterisk. There were no zero-person elimination days so far this LeapFrog. Except Day 23. Day 23 is an odd one because the contest was extended. Basically, Day 23 was two days long and every day after that is Day=Day-1. In spite of having an extra 24 hours to earn their achievements a surprisingly spiky number of contestants went out on Day 24, now new Day 23. This was likely due to a comfortableness with having gotten 4 achievements once per the requirements.

Day 29 was lower than Day 28 (27 eliminations) as well. Even with accounting for the "extra day" none of these fit the spikiness of the new achievement patter So after three weeks, it was the ratio that was the bigger determiner of who got eliminated when rather than the spikiness of the achievement jump. Obviously, each additional achievement stuck and made each day afterwards harder, but that spikey jump in difficulty just didn't matter as much as the number of contestants waned.

NOTE: I didn't update this graph after Jimbot's correction. The extra zeros don't actually impact this one.

Finally some discussion on this. Do any of these graphs point towards evidence that could be used to improve the contests for the next round? It's hard to say. The contest team has a tough job of trying to make a contest appealing to the casual fan while also being interesting and competitive enough for the hardcore fan. I can identify a few things that might make the competitive side more interesting. E.g. starting at 3 achievements at 1.0 ratio might be a more interesting contest for the competitive people. Since the early achievement jumps were largely knocking out casuals, starting higher earlier gives more delineation between different levels in the competitive group. For the casuals, though, the biggest thing remains how to handle the 373 on Day 1. Is there more that can be done to increase participation among those who sign up to participate? Does removing a badge for those who fail to at least earn a single achievement help this? Are the registrations periods too long and let people forget that they signed-up? Are there insufficient reminders going out before the contest starts, or during/on the first day?

I don't think there are easy answers, but having all of the data on hand can help make those decisions when they are finally made be more informed.

  • Ultimate Head to Head

The UHH is back for a third round, same as Leap Frog. It's harder to do graphs for this one because the big data isn't as accessible. There are no eliminations right now, so I can't graph eliminations, and when they come, they're perfectly scheduled in bracket form. So my analysis will be slightly different.

I love the UHH format. It gives me extra incentive to play my old games that I've left to languish and it introduces me to new community members, usually less vocal ones, who have similar game collections as me. Therefore, it's a reasonable assumption that they are, like me, pretty cool people. I've definitely met new friends in the previous UHH efforts, so I am always excited to see who I get paired up with next.

For Round 1 of the Qualifiers, we had a bit of a SNAFU, though. The matchups weren't done according to the rules; they were including games we had excluded legally. Therefore the matchups were re-run on the quick. Because of this I see a lot of lists that have multiple achievements from the same games. Let's analyze this.

The first step of matchups is determining best matches. This is an incredibly difficult comparison. Let me check myself vs. a random competitor. Compare games that are available for each of us, compare positions and achievements in each of those games and then compress that down into a "match rating". Now I have a rating integer for one possible matchup. Repeat that for each of the other 1670 potential matchups until I have a rating integer for each. Now I'm done... time to do the 1671 other people in the contest until everyone has an integer for potential matchups. And this has to be done fairly fresh, because the game collection is constantly changing. Even if we can't take games out by exclusion, we can still complete games. We can start new ones. And even the games that aren't removed or added are subject to change. We'll earn achievements every minute of every day here. This is a complex process with 1.4 million moving parts. As a result, it gets done early so that the hard part of the math is ready to go.

So the best matchups were already assigned. But the games permitted got screwed up somehow. So my opponent and I were the best matchups based on games we maybe can't play. But are we based on the games we actually can? No way to know. My matchup is still pretty good, but because Rich was dealing with a time crunch and needed to make some potentially sub-optimal matches work better, I suspect that the screws were loosened on the achievement picking algorithm from the matchups to allow for less variety in the name of preserving the hard math already done, even if erroneously.

So, here's my Round 1 matchup.


4 achievements from Ori and the Blind Forest
3 achievements from Don't Starve: Giant Edition
2 achievements each from BattleBlock Theater, MASSIVE CHALICE and Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse.

That's 13 achievements in games with multiple achievements, whereas in all of my previous UHH lists (7 of them) I've had a total of zero achievements from duplicate games on that list. What does that mean for me?

Well, it makes my list a lot more attainable, actually. I was able to knock out four last night by just playing one game for a bit. It took longer than I expected, but it wasn't particularly hard. That lack of "hard" I think will result in higher scores overall this period than we'll see next period and going forward when the algorithms are fixed. If there are 20 different games... it's sometimes hard to even play 20 different games in the week. Certainly, I want to take advantage this week and earn as many of the 'easier' points as I can because I'll need those points to qualify for the KO stage, if I can make it that far. I can't count on any free points because my lists tend to be pretty tough.

Round 1 has been a barn burner so far. We're barely 24 hours in and already we have a 20-achievement earner. Congratulations once again to JamP0und32. It seems such a small thing, but the fact that he does it with basically every single list and in a record amount of time is a testament to the dedication.

Stats-wise, we're seeing a lot of GwG titles. This is, of course, to be expected. As a 'free' game to everyone with Gold, which is basically everyone in the contest, there are a lot of those achievements floating around in our pools. And they're also some of the games most likely to be unstarted, which means that certain lists have early game achievements from those games more than from other games. But for all that, it's not a GwG game at the top of the list. That belongs to Rare Replay, though it's friend in the "achievement overload" department, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, is on the list too. Not currently present is Killer Instinct, but I'd expect that to show up later this week, or later in the contest at least.

With four weeks of qualifiers, this definitely feels more like a community engagement event than a competition right now. But once the qualifiers are done, I'm sure the knives will come out.
Posted by Xpovos on 19 September 17 at 15:31 | Last edited on 19 September 17 at 16:14 | There are 8 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkPhobias in Games and Media
First, because I am Xpovos, a Greek lesson. Phobos was a Greek god/demi-god. While he had no significant mythological stories, he existed as a personification of fear, particularly the fear brought about by the approach of his father, Ares
Not this AriesNot this Aries

the God of War.
Wrong Console.Wrong Console.

Phobia, then, is a Greek root word and is used to refer to a wide variety of fears, particularly irrational fears these days, as a series of words with *-phobia as a suffix, where the prefix in some Greek root word form, indicates what the irrational fear is of.

I have some fairly peculiar phobias. I have previously mentioned that I have a mild case of telephonophobia as a tangent to the FIFA Hack and my experience with that. But that one is fairly easy to understand. I'm extremely introverted so I just generally avoid that kind of communication. I work on the phone a ton for my job, and I can stream without issue, so clearly it isn't particularly, bad. It's more just a case of extreme reluctance to make phone calls that really brings it into the "phobia" territory.

Less obviously, I have a certain dread of radios, in particular, and almost exclusively, in the form of the old cathedral radio. Though it will cause me a small amount of discomfort, I'll link an image here so everyone knows what I'm talking about.

No, you're not imagining it, that radio is trying to devour your soul.No, you're not imagining it, that radio is trying to devour your soul.

This comes from two sources that I know. There may well be others, but these do an excellent job of reinforcing the certain awe and dread that comes from a magic box that looks like that which carries the voices of people nowhere near.

The first situation we can blame on Sesame Street.

Reading through the comments, I was hardly the only one who was unreasonably terrified of these aliens. And of course, right there is our cathedral radio. I've seen this clip as an adult enough times that it no longer has the same effect on me, but the first few times, it was definitely an unplesant experience, despite the fact that I knew intrinsically there was nothing to be afraid of. That's the thing about irrational fears. It being irrational doesn't make it easier to deal with.

The second situation built upon the Sesame Street Foundation.

I saw this at a friend's house for a sleep-over in the late '80s. Since the show is still copyrighted by CBS, that particular video may be taken down at any time. So for future-proofing, this is "And Now the News," an episode from the second season of "Friday the 13th, the Series." And for those who cannot watch because it is gone, or for those who have something better to do with 45 minutes than watch a poorly acted horror show from 30 years ago, here's a little precis.

A "cursed" cathedral radio peers into the hopes and phobias of the people it meets. It uses the hopes of some and the fears of others for inscrutable reasons. A psychiatrist at a maximum security mental institution is using (and being used by) the radio to "cure" some patients, and kill others. The radio speaks to those killed, showing them their deepest-set fears, eventually causing them to drop dead of fright, or driving them to commit suicide to escape their terror.

So, I don't much care for radios, particularly in a cathedral/antique radio body. It is not as if it causes me any serious issue, but every time I see one, it gives me that intense uncomfortable shiver. The sense of "something isn't right" and it triggers a bit of adrenaline or hits the amygdala and has me ready to run, or fight, or something.

All of that is a set-up for this. Over the weekend, Des and I played OXENFREE. I had been pretty excited about getting OXENFREE for free, or as I should say, at no additional cost, with my Games with Gold subscription. A fairly short and simple game with GamerScore and which tells an interesting story which is getting solid reviews? I'm in. But I didn't do enough research. I honestly had no idea what I was getting in for with this game.

As I started playing, and Des and I are just chatting and having fun, somewhere it came to me that this was a very creepily atmospheric game. And a well-designed one at that. It does a better job of giving players "the willies" than many "survival/horror" games. Des compared it to Resident Evil, a game she played recently, and noted that while both were creepy, OXENFREE was creepier, because all Resident Evil had to offer was the threat of a monster around the corner and a jump scare. OXENFREE is much more robust and able to come at fear from many different directions.

One of those directions is how the radio is a major tool of the game and gameplay. It is the tool that you use to directly interact with the creepiest of moments. Without giving too much away, you are using the radio to "tune in" to the other, whatever that may be. In the vernacular, I was triggered.

For all that, I think OXENFREE might be an amazing game. There were multiple times during my play session where I was so completely discomforted by the creepiness that I felt almost overwhelmed. On multiple occasions in the stream I'm rendered speechless, or just struck by the situations--the sensations. I called out multiple moments of frisson. That's not common for me. Even a game like The Walking Dead which I have called out many times before for some of the best emotional writing in all of video games didn't push the buttons again and again like OXENFREE did in this short experience.

A final note there, as I called out at the start of the stream, perhaps even before the stream started capturing. Skybound was involved in both The Walking Dead and OXENFREE. That's Kirkman's company, so The Walking Dead tie-in is completely understandable. But OXENFREE? It seems that it's just a marriage of convenience, that Kirkman and co. had nothing to do with the story itself. But it's a coincidence in a genre of games that does a lot to convince me that there are no coincidences.

But to conclude, my irrational fear of cathedral radios would apparently be... kathedrikosradiophonophobia.
Posted by Xpovos on 18 September 17 at 03:53 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkOn the Dichotomy of Streaming vs. Content
So, the blog has been a little content-lite for a bit, with four of my last six blogs just a stream recap/YouTube link. Sorry, everyone! I promise I have a lot of content coming, including a blog post that I basically spent all of August writing. It's massive, but I haven't had the time to finish it yet because it's that time of year again! My work schedule is very much tied to the school-year schedule. It's not an exaggeration to say that about half of our total volume of work comes through in the first quarter of our fiscal year (Jul-Sep), then we spend much the rest of the year digging out of the mess that puts us in. As a result, August and then particularly September are just awful for me for hobbies, because when working long hours isn't enough, the few days I am not working those hours, I'm just too tired to really do much of anything. This is the time of year when I'll work 12-hours days, then a weekend shift or two, and then get right back at it on Monday. It's hard to do much gaming in the face of that, and even harder to do much blogging.

Here's a really good example of that from a few years back: Xpovos' blog post - Wake Me Up When September Ends. The patterns haven't really changed. If anything this year may be worse because every year brings a few new challenges, and I feel we were under-prepared for those this year.

I got a total of three blogs published all of last September, two of which were Xbox Fitness shut-down related. Only one was real content, and even calling that "content" may be stretching it. So the stream recaps seem likely to be the common items for a bit because streaming and loading the content to YouTube takes almost no effort.

So I'll keep streaming and pumping out some kind of content. It keeps me entertained, at least. But never fear, new real content will come, and probably pretty soon. I should be back on the blogging and gaming wagon again by mid-October.

Speaking of streaming, my co-host, Des, suggested I could probably get a better and more consistent following if I were better about "advertising" my streaming properly beforehand, rather than afterward. Makes sense. So I'm moving to keep a up-to-date schedule of what I'll be streaming and when in my Biography section. I'm also going to be moving the Biography section on my sidebar so that it will be more prominent. I'd had it at the bottom of the page for a long time because so much of the content in it was for me, not really biographic. I'm going to move most of that content elsewhere.

I'm not going to blog out the stream schedule all of the time. I think that would be too much. But hopefully, this new structure will help anyone who might have been interested but just had no idea when or what I was streaming.

For the record, though, I tend to stream most Tuesdays at 10 PM Eastern for an hour or two, depending on the game. On special occasions, I'll stream some other time as well. That'll usually be a Saturday, also at 10 PM. I stream late because I need my kids to be in bed before I get started--unless of course, we want my kids as co-hosts. I know that time doesn't work well for anyone over in Europe, but that's one reason why I post it to YouTube as well, and if you want in, shoot me a line. Maybe I'll do a weekend session earlier in the day. The current schedule is up in the Bio, which, if you're viewing this on my homepage, should be right over there -->.
Posted by Xpovos on 14 September 17 at 20:05 | Last edited on 14 September 17 at 20:12 | There are 4 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
Permalink30 Second Failure: Dr. Chaos Strikes
I had an amazing gameplan. Des and I were going to stream Half-Minute Hero: Super Mega Neo Climax next. We spent the week prepping for it and because the game is so blatantly timed, I was particularly concerned about needing to focus on the game for extended periods and not being able to talk, ruining the stream vibe. So, I enlisted some help and we brought in a guest host for this episode. I was really happy to have Freamwhole join us. In case anyone isn't aware, Freamwhole is one of the hosts of the Zed to Zed podcast, where they talk about achievement hunting and the community that surrounds it. He's also been a significant contributor here at TA for contests. As a podcast host, I also knew he'd be a great personality to keep things flowing in chat when I was in the tank. We're all set and ready to go when...

Nope. Half-Minute Hero is not streamable via Mixer. At least not with the technology I had available. It was a crushing blow, but we rebounded, checked our plan and went on to the next game on the BC list: Interpol: The Trail of Dr. Chaos.

This turned out to be an excellent choice as finding hidden objects is a lot easier with the extra pairs of eyes from Des, Fream, our Mixer chat participants... even my wife joined in.

This was a particularly fun episode and we started to revisit some of the items we've talked around in the past few, so I made sure to provide links in the YouTube description.

I had a lot more ground that I wanted to cover. There were so many topics I wanted to be able to get to, but the time absolutely flew. So we'll have to try to do this again soon so I can get some of those topics done.
Posted by Xpovos on 13 September 17 at 04:04 | There are 2 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.