Tuesday, 31 December 2013

You Won't Believe These N Easy Tricks (for some N element of Z+)

Having only been writing this blog since late June, I only have half a year of posts to pore over to find my favourite games of the year.  Still, in that half year I found 24 games that I discussed in some form.  Making a top 10 list out of 24 different contenders seems like a bit of joke.  It's harder to make than the NHL playoffs, but still not very respectable.  Besides, what is the point of making a list only of things I liked?  That gives me little room to complain about things I didn't like.

So here are the top 5 and bottom 5 games that I discussed on the blog this half-year.  Bear in mind that I generally only discuss games that I have played, so there is a skewing away from the actual worst games of the year.

Bottom Five
5. Spelunky
A lot of people really like this game.  A lot.  I did not.  The dungeons may have been randomly generated and there may have been tons of items and enemies, but I just found it very same-y as I played it over and over.  Ultimately, I didn't play it all that many times.

4. Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign
I really liked playing this game for a very short period of time.  The mechanic where you can do a fight over and over again to try to get all the prizes but most of the time you don't get a new prize but instead get basically nothing was so annoying that I just gave up on it.  Again, fun for a while but ultimately it was just frustrating to do the same thing over and over again and have nothing change.

3. Heroes of Loot
This game has so much room to be good and just isn't.  With such a simple game it seems like they could have included 100 different items but instead there are basically three and only two of them matter.  I paid a couple of dollars for it and I guess I played enough to get my money's worth, but I wouldn't recommend it.

2. Representative Democracy
This game continues to suck, though I will admit to be glad to play in the Canadian league rather than the US one or, heaven forbid, the British one.

1. Plants vs. Zombies 2
A game which is probably going to win some game of the year awards definitely makes my worst game of the year.  After so much time to release a game which has fewer features than the first game was just awful.  It's not terribly unusual for a sequel to be worse than the original, but usually that is because they take things in a different direction or ruin the plotline, or even because they simply don't add anything and it is the first game all over again.  But in this case you are just left with the feeling that they got the games in the wrong order - number two is the basic game that has space to build on and number one is the full game with all the neat stuff happening.

I also really don't like games with pay-to-not-play monetization schemes.  I always admired PopCap as a company that focused on making quality games, I don't really think I can hold onto that notion of them anymore.

Top 5
5. Magic: the Gathering
How could I put SolForge or Hearthstone on this list when there's still Magic?  I couldn't.

4. Desert Bus
Released this year for iOS.  My high score is zero and I doubt it will go up any time soon.

3. Rogue Legacy
This is the top of the procedurally generated dungeon game heap for me.  It was too short for my liking, and a later content patch that I have only seen videos of seemed to be targetted at gaming ninjas rather than people who just loved the initial gameplay, but I still had heaps of fun playing this.  If my only complaint is "not enough" then it must be pretty good.

2. Sand Castle Builder
I definitely want to give honorable mention here to all the other browser games that came out this year.  This genre of game has a ton of potential and Sand Castle Builder is the realization of that.  I'm not going to be surprised if this is still at the top of my list next year.

1. Glitch
I think I had more fun in my dream-games of Glitch then I did playing any game that actually existed this year.  But more than that, I feel this this has actually been Glitch's biggest year despite it ending just before the year started.  People who played Glitch went out and started making their own games, and they have all the art from Glitch to do so if they choose to use it.  While the game was running I legitimately wondered whether Glitch lived up to its claim of being made "in the spirit of the web," but after its death it clearly has.

So that's it for 2013, list of N things complete.  For auld lang syne.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Things Seem to be Slowing Down

Well, things have finally stopped happening in Sandcastle Builder.  I just went back and checked my original post and I've been playing since November 26 or 27, so more than a month now.

I've gotten to a point where I need a lot of blackprints, so many that if I were to simply leave the game running and wait for them to accrue it would take me more than a week to get them.  Of course I could instead spend them upping the rate I get them.  It would take me about two weeks to increase my rate to the point where I could acquire the number I need in a single day.

That might be a good idea since I know I will need even more after that, but I'm not really sure how long I can hold out with any positive reinforcement.  I guess I should actually just let the game idle for a long while now and come back to it only once or twice a day to get things going, but I probably need to get a lot more logic levels than I have so I guess I will keep plugging away for now.

I don't think I've yet encountered a stretch of more than about two days where I wasn't getting into something new, so this is a bit of a downer.  On the plus side, maybe I'll get myself a hellfire ring before Diablo III comes out, and possibly I will get a starting version of piggy petter up.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Oracle Review - Legends Grab Bag Part Three

Elder Land Wurm
The wording adds some functionality needlessly to this card.

Defender, trample

When Elder Land Wurm blocks, it loses defender.

So if another effect gives Elder Land Wurm defender then it really shouldn't be able to get out of if by blocking.  The wording I here is a bit tricky.  Personally I'd advocate sticking with the original wording.  It doesn't have defender, it simply can't attack until it has blocked.  But if we must upgrade all "can't attack" cards to "defender" cards then the best I can come up with is this:


As Elder Land Wurm enters the battlefield, choose Aye or Nay, but you must choose Aye.

If the chosen word is Aye then Elder Land Wurm has defender.

When Elder Land Wurm blocks change the chosen word to Nay.

You see, the fact that there is a chosen word links the three abilities.  That way we can have blocking remove only the specific instance of defender that Elder Land Wurm gave itself.  This wording has the benefit of being obtuse in the extreme.  As for the wording they gave it, randomly adding abilities that old cards don't have doesn't make me happy at all.  This is one star for sure.

Energy Tap
Another change from nowhere, this time words just appearing magically where they weren't before.

Tap target untapped creature you control. If you do, add Variable Colorless to your mana pool, where X is that creature's converted mana cost.

So how abut that "If you do" part, eh?  I honestly don't even see what function that serves in the card.  Unless you cast it on a creature that has "cannot become tapped" it isn't going to mean anything anyway.  This wording is clearly one star.

Falling Star
Oh lets see what was done here

Flip Falling Star onto the playing area from a height of at least one foot. Falling Star deals 3 damage to each creature it lands on. Tap all creatures dealt damage by Falling Star. If Falling Star doesn't turn completely over at least once during the flip, it has no effect.

Right, meaningless.  This is all the more reason to be angry about the terrible Chaos Orb wording.  There are two cards that use this mechanic, it should be in the rules.  This raises my ire and receives zero stars.

Floral Spuzzem
This is not a good day for Oracle wordings.

Whenever Floral Spuzzem attacks and isn't blocked, you may destroy target artifact defending player controls. If you do, Floral Spuzzem assigns no combat damage this turn.

This wording is just dead wrong.  It should read:

Whenever Floral Spuzzem attacks and isn't blocked, Floral Spuzzem may choose to destroy target artifact defending player controls.  If it does, Floral Spuzzem assigns no combat damage this turn.  (Floral Spuzzem's controller makes choice on Floral Spuzzem's behalf)

Yeah, that's better.  But actually, two stars.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Diablo 3 Public Test Realm

I was just playing on the Public Test Realm and I'm pretty sure that Diablo 3 will finally be ready for release by March 25, 2014, fourteen years after Diablo 2.

Rather than copying characters I started a level one wizard on the hardest difficulty available - Expert - and just played.  It's hard to even explain, but it was just a lot more fun than it was at release with only minor changes.  Just looking at the paragon system was very exciting.  I found a couple of cursed chests and that was a great addition to the game.

I played a little on "Normal" difficulty as well, which should be called "Playing with your chin" difficulty, because I can't imagine any other reason you would want to fight enemies that can't hurt you and elite packs that die to three attacks.

They haven't given me a beta key so I can't test the really fun stuff, though part of me wouldn't want to play Act V until it actually comes out anyway.  Still, I'd like to see how "Adventure" mode works, so I hope I get an invite sooner rather than later.  Given how many of my suggestions they've implemented so far, I would hope they go ahead and invite me - though realistically I assume they don't know who I am.

Friday, 20 December 2013


I ran some tests on the algorithm for generating logic puzzles in Sandcastle Builder.  In case you aren't one to read code obsessively, the code works like this:

Choose a number of statements and for each statement make it true or false.
For each statement choose whether it will be "and" or "or."
For each true "and" statement, generate two or three true claims to form the statement.
For each false "or" statement, generate two or three false claims to form the statement.
For each false "and" and true "or" statement generate one appropriately true/false claim and then generate one or two additional claims at random.
Asks you to find a statement with a truth value that at least one statement has.

What the algorithm does not do:

Force there to be a true and a false statement.  All statements might have the same truth value.  If this is the case, though, you will always win the puzzle regardless of what you click.
Make sure there is a way for you to determine what the solution actually is.

It's that latter one that I was concerned about.  I wrote code that followed the same algorithm to generate a set of statements and checked how often there was more than one solution set that worked.  It turns out the answer is "most of the time."  Usually even in a four statement puzzle there are three or four different ways to assign truth values that don't violate the conditions set out.  The more statements, the more ways of assigning truth values.  Particularly problematic are things like, "Statement C: Statement C is true and Statement C is not false."  Thanks, I'll get right on that one.

Of course you goal is not to get a truth value for every statement, it is just to find a single statment that has the desired truth value.  The former would be usually impossible given the statements, the latter is actually still very hard but not nearly as hard.

If you are just getting started, though, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  One boost you can unlock through logicats is one that allows you to spend 50 glass blocks to take a second guess.  Once you have two guesses, almost every puzzle is trivial.  If you are looking for a false statment, find any "and" statement where one condition is that another statement, statement X, is false.  Click this statement and if you are wrong then that statement is true which means all its parts are true which means X is false.  If you need a true statmeent then you look for an "or" statement that claims statement X is false.  If that statement isn't right then it is a false "or" statement which means all of its claims are false so statement X must be true.  Of course it's just a bonus if the statement is contradictory.  X and not X is conveniently always false and X or not X is conveniently always true, so as long as you can find the "or" false/"and" false pattern two tries is all you need.

The odds you can find such a statement are very high.  If you can't then you can look for "X is false or/and X is false" which always give you two mutually exclusive statements regardless of whether you are looking for true or false.  You can also look for tautological statments and use them to do some quick logic on the rest of the statements.  Another trick is to look for statements that claim that they are false.

Obviously a statment cannot actually claim itself to be false because that's a problem in propositional logic.  So if you have a true "and" statement is will never have "I'm false" as one of the conditions because then it couldn't be true.  If you have a false "or" statement then it can't have "I'm false" as a condition because then it would be true.  Because of this we know what part of the code we went through to generate these statements.  If you have statement X which says, "X is false and Y is false" then it's not just handy because you know that statement X must be false, but you also know that statement Y must be true.  If statement Y was false then the conditions of X would be satisfied and so X would be true which can't be.  Similarly, if statement X says "X is false or Y is false" then you know that X is true and that Y is false.  This can be a helpful out if you need it.

All in all, I haven't actually lost a logic puzzle in a long time, but just as importantly, I haven't had to waste seconds thinking about them either.  A quick scan of the options and I am done.  Thinking for a long time about the statements really sucks because: a) you may start thinking about a subset of that statements that is not logically resolvable at all; and b) why would I want to be a sandcastle slowder when I could be a sandcastle fastder?

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Oracle Review - Legends Grab Bag Part Two

Missing Counters
Here are three cards that have something in common, and the title of the post is going to tell you what.  Just like Alchor's Tomb which I covered in an earlier miscellaneous post before my more thorough read of Legends, all of these cards say something about putting counters on a permanent to indicate that they have affected them.  But when we take a look at the Oracle text:
Whenever Aisling Leprechaun blocks or becomes blocked by a creature, that creature becomes green. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)
When Brine Hag dies, all creatures that dealt damage to it this turn become 0/2. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)
Tap: If target Plains is tapped for mana, it produces colorless mana instead of white mana. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)
No more counters.  Now to be fair the case of the Gnomes the card never actually told you what to do with the counters, so one could argue that the wording is completely consistent with the original.  The other two definitely should put counters on the things that they affect.  All of these get one star.

Anti-Magic Aura
This card was reprinted, so the Oracle text does not follow the original wording.
Enchant creature 
Enchanted creature can't be the target of spells and can't be enchanted by other Auras.
Anyway, the original destroyed auras and prevented it from being targeted.  In fifth edition they made it so that it prevented enchantment instead, which fits the way they used to reword things back in the day.  Given the fifth edition rewording the Oracle text makes perfect sense, so I guess this gets two stars.

There is something weird here about the counters.

Enchant creature you control
Enchanted creature doesn't untap during your untap step if Cocoon has a pupa counter on it.
When Cocoon enters the battlefield, tap enchanted creature and put three pupa counters on Cocoon.
At the beginning of your upkeep, remove a pupa counter from Cocoon. If you can't, sacrifice it, put a +1/+1 counter on enchanted creature, and that creature gains flying. (This effect lasts indefinitely.)
I don't think its entirely clear from the original card whether we are meant to keep the creature tapped as long as it has counters and the Cocoon or whether the counters are supposed to keep it tapped even without the counters.  It can go either way, though, so I'm fine with what they did here.

What bothers me is that the original reads more like the benefit should be gained as a delayed trigger from removing the last pupa counter, rather than "if you can't [remove a pupa counter]."  Maybe this is too much of a quibble, though.  I think it still deserves two stars.

I was going to fit Elder Land Wurm in here but I got distracted and it's time to say goodnight.  Next week, we'll see what's wrong with that wurm.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Various Things

Well, the Marvel Puzzle Quest game requires an always on internet connection, so I can't actually play it as a mobile game, which is annoying to me.

I unlocked a boost in Sandcastle Builder for getting 20 goats, so now I'm going all out for goats, by which I mean I am not switching on the Monty Haul problem and hoping to lose.  My Achronal Dragon is up to 42,740 power but nothing has happened yet, other than that I'm just gradually creeping up the orders of magnitude.

I'm on rewrite-from-scratch six of Piggy Petter.  This time... will be different!

Also, I'm going to write a simulariton of logicats to see how many of them are actually logically resolvable in a single guess.  It sure seems like there are a lot that are not.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Plants vs. Zombies Redesign

Plant's vs. Zombies 2 had a major reworking.  They removed all of the locked games completely and made all the levels purely linear.  They got rid of the concept of redoing levels with challenges to earn stars.  They replaced both of these with nothing at all.

Now I'm not exactly sure what motivated them to do this other than possibly the game doing poorly, though I can't find any indication that it actually did poorly.  Rather it is winning game of the year awards and was downloaded 25 million times in the first month after its release.  But when several months after release a game has a major redesign that removes elements of the game and that does not unlock a fourth level that has been sitting locked since the game came out, it makes you think something must have gone wrong.  The thing about free to play is that you have no idea what 25 million downloads means in terms of dollars.

But if your game is doing poorly then removing the majority of your monetization from it doesn't seem like a way to fix that.  Sure, lowering prices might help, but simply taking out the parts of the game that you hoped people would pay for... well, I don't quite get how that increases your sales.

It's possible that making the game linear without all the unlocks is more appealing to a certain segment of players and they hope that this segment of players will buy the extra plants and the boosts that they weren't buying previously.  Maybe the reason people weren't buying boosts and plants was because the game was tedious and they didn't want to play it.

But the idea of getting these people back into the game by taking out the stuff in the game seems dubious to me.  I would think that people who do things like buy the extra plants would tend to do so during the honeymoon period and not during the part where they are bored with the game.

Anyway, I really don't understand the redesign.  Of course I don't understand the original design either, which, as I have said before, seems like a feature-light copy of the first game that wants you to pay more the less you want to play.  Now it is a feature-lighter version of the original.  I sure wish they had simply added a couple of features and a bunch of levels to the original and asked me for $20 for it, and then they'd have my $20.  But in this new world of free to play games, it is pretty clear that almost no one actually wants <i>my</i> money.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign

There's a free game from the makers of Puzzle Quest, and it's a Puzzle Quest game!

I'd actually never played Puzzle Quest, so I didn't know exactly what it was like, but I had some idea.  Also it's bejeweled, so everyone already knows how to play it.  On the other hand, I also never played much bejeweled, so I'm not any good at it.

So you match tiles gaining coloured points for each tile of the colour your remove.  Each hero has damage for each colour and power that use tiles of each colour.  Match tiles, damage enemies, use powers, win, etc.

Of course free games aren't free, so the question is how they are trying to get your money.

You progress by beating missions, which are fights.  Each mission has a series of randomized rewards.  You get a reward the first time but each successive time you have a random chance of getting jack instead of getting something real.  The rewards are crystals (ISO-8), coins (hero points) and comic book covers.  Comic book covers add a power or a level of a power to a hero.  If you don't have the hero then you get the hero.

You can buy more or use ISO-8 to go up levels, but the maximum level of a character is based on the rank of powers they know.  So to progress you mainly need to pick up covers.  You get some from missions at the beginning, but after giving you a few heroes to start with you start having to deal with random covers.  The problem is that to level up a hero you need lots of covers for the same hero and there are lots of different random heroes to get.

You can also level up powers by spending coins, so I think that's their main expected source of income.  Buying covers from the store is random, so you'd have to drop a fantastic sum to get anywhere.

The way I see it there are a few cash points.  You can buy coins for about a cent each or about two thirds of that if you are willing to put in $20.  So with the 3k coins you'd get from that $20 you could buy up the levels of your heroes' powers and level up much more quickly, though you'd still need crystals from playing to do so.  You can also buy new heroes for 300 coins each.  The 300 coin heroes are always two star heroes which are better than the one star heroes you get from most of the missions.

So $20 to level a little faster, but if you really want to go ape with the power characters, you are probably looking at dropping a lot more than that.  The problem is that once you invest you have to invest more.  If you unlock a two- or three-star hero, you are unlikely to get another copy of them without spending more.  You need to spend on random heroes to unlock their other powers, and then you have to spend $5 on each power.

All in all I would think that $100 in you could get pretty much whatever you want, though it may be more like $200 since I don't know anything about how many high rank heroes there are.  The game seems to play okay without spending money, just make sure you don't skip the PvP since that's comparatively large rewards for little effort.

I'm not sure if I find it really fun.  The big problem is that thing where you can do a mission more than once and have a chance when you do to crap out on the reward.  Replaying an easy mission five, six, or ten times is pretty tedious, even if the basic gameplay is pretty good.

I'm playing this game for free for now, but I'm not going to be paying in.  I don't find their payment structure as absurd as Plants vs. Zombies 2, was, though.  You can get it on Steam or on iOS, so I'll probably be playing it during my lunch hour at work.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Oracle Review - Chains of Mephistopheles and Gauntlets of Chaos

That's a lot of "of" for just to cards.  Well, I mean, it's more than you'd expect.  It certainly isn't as astonishing as if it were three.  Did you know that I know how to spell "Mephistopheles" off the top of my head?

Chains of Mephistopheles
I had the pleasure of seeing this card hit the table in real competitive magic recently.  At a Star City Games Open Legacy event someone dropped this one against an unsuspecting opponent.  Here, "unsuspecting" is a word to indicate that the opponent picked up the card to read it.  At this point, the owner said, "Don't read it, I'll tell you what it does."
If a player would draw a card except the first one he or she draws in his or her draw step each turn, that player discards a card instead. If the player discards a card this way, he or she draws a card. If the player doesn't discard a card this way, he or she puts the top card of his or her library into his or her graveyard.
If a thing would happen, instead a different thing happens, and if it does, that thing happens, but if it doesn't then a different thing happens.  It's actually pretty simple, and I always love a wording that replace an event with that same event.

So why not read the original card?  Well there isn't really any reason.  It makes for a funny story but the Oracle wording is pretty much the original wording with a bit of sprucing up and rearrangement, nothing too fancy.  I actually find the original wording quite readable, and understanding that "instead" must mean a replacement effect, it's pretty hard to misinterpret how it should be taken.

Chains of Mephistopheles is a super straightforward wording for a bizarre card has caused a fair bit of confusion in its day.  I easily give it...

I love replacement abilities
Gauntlets of Chaos
This one is not quite so straightforward.
5, Sacrifice Gauntlets of Chaos: Exchange control of target artifact, creature, or land you control and target permanent an opponent controls that shares one of those types with it. If those permanents are exchanged this way, destroy all Auras attached to them.
Okay, that doesn't look so weird, after all, exchange is a pretty sensible substitution for give and take.  And, after all, they did reprint the gauntlets and make that fix in 5th Edition.  There was also a Chronicles reprinting but that is between the two, and the Master's Edition reprinting never counts in terms of wording.

What are they doing to young Olle RĂ¥de?
So there you have it.  They just used the latest printing.

But wait!

This is not the same wording as on the 5th Edition printing at all. Look at those last sentences.

Sure, the wording on the 5th Edition card came straight out of nowhere, but regardless of how sensible the change to exchanging the permanents was, that basically came out of nowhere as well.  If a card changes from one thing to another thing, then it changed.  Why the take-backsies?

By all rights the Oracle wording should say "those enchantments cannot be regenerated" and should not say, "if those permanents are exchanged this way."  This is really going straight into arbitrary land.

I've said this before, but it's not so much that the wording on this card is bad, it's more than the fact that this card is worded this way makes you wonder why they stuck with latter-printing wordings of other card when they sucked.  It is vicariously, then, that Gauntlets of Chaos desernves...

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Pie Rule

In the past I wrote about bidding systems and how they can only balance games to a certain granularity.  Not a groundbreaking observation but a worthwhile one.

This past weekend told about the "Pie Rule" for balancing going first in a two player game.  This is a rule modeled after the cake splitting algorithm of "I cut, you choose."  One player is chosen to take one turn.  The other player then decides whether they would like to be the first player who has just made that move or the second player whose turn is just starting.

You could use this rule to balance a game where the second player has the advantage too.  Of course you can't take two normal turns and then give the first player the option of taking the second seat because the first player could presumably sabotage their first turn so badly that they would be sure the second player's advantage was maintained.  Instead, have one player take two turns, for both the first and second player, then have the other player decide whether to be the first or second player after that.

You could, in fact, extend this rule to any number of moves.  A chess master could presumably sit down at a board and make a dozen moves and then ask me which side I'd like to play and I would have no idea.

Of course this does give one player an advantage.  In the chess example, I have a lot to gain by having someone better than me make the first number of moves.  If they try to keep the game even then they probably play my eventual side better than I would have.  If they play giving one side an advantage then I have a 50/50 shot of ending up with that.  Unless they can seriously next-level me I stand to gain as the weaker player, and they probably can't reliably trick me because if they are better than me then I may miss their trick.  If I am sure they are better than me I can take any skill out of their end by flipping a coin to make my selection.

And while this is obvious 20 moves into the game, the same should hold true for making just one move.  If the better player is the mover, it will tend to skew the game to make the match closer because they will present a more even board than the weaker player could manage.  Conversely, if the weaker player moves and the better player chooses then the better player is at a greater advantage than they would be if a coin had been flipped to see who went first and the game had been played normally.

So this method of choosing who goes first does not systematically favour the mover or the chooser but it does favours one or the other depending on who is the better player.  Ultimately, you are still flipping a coin to see who gets an advantage.

And of course all of this goes back to actually dividing pies between two people.  If you are very good at cutting a pie into two even pieces then you want to be the one choosing, not the one cutting, you don't want to be backed into a corner where you are forced to make an even split where you know the opposition would have made an uneven one.  If you are poor at cutting a pie in half then you want your opponent to make the cut so that they can't take advantage of your mistake.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Knowledge Vault Addendum

I implied - or more directly stated - that it would be a simple matter to revise the wording on Knowledge Vault to make Sacrificing the Vault an activation cost of the second ability. Not so.

If you sacrificed the vault as a cost of the second activated ability then the triggered ability would go off and put all cards from the vault into your graveyard before the activated ability had time to resolve.

What a blunder!

Well, my one star rating stands, because, as I've said before, if a good wording is not supported by the rules, it doesn't make me like a poor substitute any more.

But how could we possibly work Knowledge Vault to make it work the way it ought to work?

Well, I thought of a few ways to go about it.

Instead of:
2, Tap: Exile the top card of your library face down.
0: Sacrifice Knowledge Vault. If you do, discard your hand, then put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's hand. 
When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard.
We could go with:
2, Tap: Exile the top card of your library face down.
Sacrifice Knowledge Vault: Discard your hand, then put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's hand. 
When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard. If this ability would trigger when an activated ability of Knowledge Vault is on the stack, instead it triggers the next time there are no activated abilities of Knowledge Vault on the stack.
Though it has the odd side effect of putting the card from the top of your library into your graveyard if Knowledge Vault is destroyed in response to the first activated ability when it would otherwise be exiled. So we could try something like:
2, Tap: Exile the top card of your library face down.
Sacrifice Knowledge Vault: Discard your hand, then put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's hand.
When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, unless it was sacrificed to pay the cost of an activated ability of Knowledge Vault, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard.
But there are ways you could end up with a Knowledge Vault with activated abilities that have sacrifice as part of the cost that are not the second Knowledge Vault ability. The trouble is that while there are various ways to link abilities in Magic, they all have to do with referring to cards affected or choices made as part of one ability. You can't just state that two arbitrary abilities are linked and that one triggers or does not trigger off the other.

There is another way, though. My proposed wording for Knowledge Vault, after some thought, would be:
2, Tap: Exile the top card of your library face down.
Knowledge Vault loses all instances of "When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard." if any, Sacrifice Knowledge Vault: Discard your hand, then put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's hand.
When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard.
The "if any" protects against the case where you target your animated Knowledge Vault with a Quicksilver Elemental. Since the elemental would not have the triggered ability it couldn't lose it to pay the cost of the sacrifice ability.

I think the wording does the trick. It would still have odd consequences if you somehow replaced the sacrifice payment with an effect that left it in play, but for now that's very difficult and I'm much happier with that defect than the defect where your opponent can respond to the sacrifice ability by destroying it to deprive you of your cards.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Remembering Glitch

Remembering Glitch makes me sad, largely.  I've been trying to work on things that put its art to use but I haven't gotten very far off the ground yet aside from little things like the piggy petter and the race track.

It turns out there are at least two completely distinct groups that are attempting a full reboot of the game as it was when it shut down.  I don't know how far along they are, but maybe one day it will be just like my recurring dreams and I'll wake up to find that I can log in to the game again.

Of course with all of the source code released that may be more possible than it was before, but I know that one of the teams was working on it well before that.  They were planning on making the game entirely in HTML/javascript rather than employing Flash.

These are some pretty big projects while my own little project for using Glitch art has just been restarted from scratch as I get better and better at javascript coding.  Sandcastle Builder has given me a big boost as well, really showing me what a stupid clicking browser game can do.

Anyway, maybe I'll start playing some other things again, but for now it's coding and clicking on kitties.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Oracle Review - Knowledge Vault and Chain Lighting

A card that will never see play in any format and a card that will always be plausible when legal, and neither with good Oracle text.

That Amy Weber art is really sweet, they don't make them like that anymore.
2, Tap: Exile the top card of your library face down. 
0: Sacrifice Knowledge Vault. If you do, discard your hand, then put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's hand. 
When Knowledge Vault leaves the battlefield, put all cards exiled with Knowledge Vault into their owner's graveyard.
That second ability is something pretty odd.  Why does it cost 0 to activate and then sacrifice the vault as part of the resolution?  Wouldn't it make more sense to just sacrifice the vault as the cost of activating the ability?

It makes a difference, certainly, that the ability is worded this way.  But I don't see how the Oracle wording is more like the wording on the card than a more straightforward wording would be.

In fact, let's look at Life Chisel:

Sacrifice a creature: You gain life equal to the sacrificed creature's toughness. Activate this ability only during your upkeep.

Well, that's easy.  Quite obviously, Knowledge Vault scores...

Just not great

Chain Lighting
Any spell that allows multiple decisions to be made and abilities to be activated in the middle of its resolution is a little weird. So how did they word Chain Lighting?
Chain Lightning deals 3 damage to target creature or player. Then that player or that creature's controller may pay RR. If the player does, he or she may copy this spell and may choose a new target for that copy.
 Okay, let's take a quick look at the words on the card again:
Chain Lightning does 3 damage to one target. Each time Chain Lightning does damage, the target or target's controller may then pay RR to have Chain Lightning do 3 damage to any target of that player's choice.
I think a big, "What happened there?" is in order. I mean, how on earth did we go from when it does damage you can pay to make it do more damage to the target or target's controller can copy it? First of all, the original didn't let you pay to deal more damage if the damage was prevented and the new version doesn't have any clause regarding that. Second, copying a spell is very different than having the same spell deal damage more than once.

So did these changes get made? Chain Lightning has been reprinted twice. Once in Master's Edition, where they did not update the wordings on cards, and in fact printed them with their original text even if the rules had been updated, the second time was in a Premium Deck Series deck.

I guess a Premium Deck Series is a new printing, and so takes precedence over the old printing, but we're not talking about Revised edition here. This was 2010 when they decided to reprint a card with huge functional changes. That seems pretty unforgivable to me. Now, it's quite possible that I'm getting the chronology wrong here, and that they first decided to reword Chain Lightning and then printed the premium deck series, but there is something about the product page that makes me blame everything on this printing. I will leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine what.


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

My Troubled Dreams

I've been dreaming about Fibonacci numbers recently.  This game is costing me serious sleep.

I'm on NewPix 215, which, if I know my One True Comic lore, should mean I'll be entering the LongPix quite soon.  I'm not sure how that will change the mechanics of the game.

My methods of expanding my castles have changes twice today.  I actually collected a huge number of castles off of kitty clicks, but not I'm onto regular clicks.  I've clicked over ten thousand times since I bought a buff that make that matter.

There's a badge for 50 trebuchets.  I think maybe if I buy them that will unlock boosts for my next tier of castle production.

Must keep clicking.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

I'm not cut out for this

I played a Hearthstone arena this weekend, and maybe this says something bad about me, but I'm really just not cut out for competition.  I went one and two and then every successive game I was just hoping to lose so that I could be out and not having to keep trying.  I ended up getting five wins, so it was quite excruciating, especially since one of those games my opponent just gave it away when he could have won and another I was on two outs of fourteen and ripped for the win.  I thought I was going to lose and it was denied.

And stop for a moment to take a look at this game.  That weapon I have has two attack, so my opponent needs a taunt guy or life gain or he dies.  At the time you are seeing this game, his turn has been going on for approximately a minute.  That's how long it took him to decide to play that newly summoned engineer on the right.  It took him another 30 seconds or so to decide that the card he drew wasn't going to save him.

Playing games against other humans is so agonizing.  They think for so long then they either have no play or play badly anyway.  Or even worse they make an intensely obvious correct play.  Think, think, think, use a perfectly sized removal spell to kill your only guy, play another guy, swing with the team.  Next turn do it again after more interminable deliberation.  Basically they have two options: tempo me out or concede because they can't take the pace of their own play.  If I were them I can't promise I wouldn't choose the latter but it wouldn't take me so long.

I recall reading that for gambling addicts near wins feel like wins, so they are motivated to keep playing even when they are losing.  For me, near losses feel like losses, and even solid wins feel like losses if my opponent takes too long to play them out.  Like I say, maybe this reflects poorly on me, but if playing a game makes me wish that I could just lose and be allowed to stop, then probably I shouldn't be playing.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Sandcastle Builder

Oh my goodness, some weird things have happened.

Summoning Temporal Knights
to protect me?
Rivers seem to be paying out.
Some buffs are Swedish.
And... tiny embedded YouTube video?!?