Friday, September 10, 2010

Some stats on stats.

A recent conversation with a friend has got me obsessing about playing D&D again. However, since I don't have any sourcebooks (because of the fire at my parent's house a couple years back), I am very sadface. Out of this recent obsession, I've decided to do some math. And by math, I mean some programming.

Whenever you create a D&D character, you use die rolls to determine your characters stats. I was curious about how the stats are distributed and the probability of obtaining particular results. To investigate this, I wrote two programs, one iterated through all of the possible rolls for 4 die, dropped the lowest, and found the stat total. This let me figure out the mean, mode, and quartiles for the distribution of the stats.. In short, out of all the possible rolls, the number of outcomes for each number is as follows:

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The House that is no more

Ever since my junior year of high school, my parents were looking for somewhere else to live. We would have bought this one house that was on Colonel Glenn Road, but we couldn't get a good enough offer on our current house in order to justify the move. They tabled the search until my freshman year of college, when they purchased some land out around Cabot (technically it was in Austin, AR) that had a double-wide trailer on it, with the intention of selling off the trailer and building a house, which they did.

By fall of my sophomore year, our current house had been sold, the new house was in the design stages, and what wouldn't fit in the trailer was in storage units. My parents, since they still worked in Little Rock, were not living in the trailer. They were staying with a friend who lives in Jacksonville. However, come Christmas break, there was nowhere to sleep in the friend's house, so I lived alone in the trailer for the month, with occasional visits from my parents or maybe just the dog.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why games are hard to explain.

Kotaku posted an article recently about how it's difficult explaining some games to people who aren't gamers. I constructed a comment in response to this, and I liked what I said, so I'm sharing it here.

The article can be found at  My response is as follows:

Everyone understands gameplay. Everyone understands story. Each of those is easy to understand by itself. That's why games such as Tetris, Mario, and Grand Theft Auto are so easy to talk about. Tetris has no story. Mario's can just be ignored. Grand Theft Auto's story can also just be ignored, like many 'sandbox' games.

When these two aspects become entwined, inseparable, things become difficult. It is like trying to explain a 3-dimensional world to a square (a-la the book Flatland). These two dimensions, gameplay and story, combine like two number lines to form a cartesian plane which is infinitely more complicated than the sum of its parts. Unless you play video games, explaining this two-dimensional space is difficult because most people have only experienced the two concepts separately.

Fallout and Bioshock are also unique in that the main character acts like a paint brush who paints upon the canvas that is the setting. Although they are major players in the story, they act out your wishes. You aren't observing their actions, you're controlling them. This complexity only exists because of the combination of interactivity and story that video games provide. It allows the players to see and feel the consequences of their actions, and gives video games a new layer of depth.

Finally, people expect video games stories to be stupid and infantile, but in reality they can express very complicated concepts. However, when you tell people "It's a game about the failure of Randian Objectivism", they are going to look at you like a baby with a briefcase, and you suddenly feel awkward.

It's not a problem with games, or the nomenclature associated with it. It's a problem in that other people just don't understand what modern video games are. On the surface, all they see is game, and it's what they expect. However, there is much more to it than that.

Congressman Drinking Bird

So I came up with this idea for a website, I call it, although the name is subject to change. The idea is that the website asks each visitor what state they are from, whether they identify as Republican or Democrat, and then asks polls their opinion on 10 or so topics that came before Congress, yea or nay. Then, Congressman Drinking Bird casts his votes on the topics by selecting at random, 50-50. Then, it will show how you, Congressman Drinking Bird, and the congressmen (and women) from your state voted. This would allow you to gauge how accurately your representatives are representing your interests.

Other polling topics are possible, such as gender. However, it is good to keep in mind that people don't like to spend much time answering stupid questions about themselves and can also find those questions intrusive and may be turned off by them. So it's good to keep the survey small, unobtrusive, but still giving you good information about the visitors.

Congressman Drinking Bird acts as a gauge of how good your representative is, because at 50% randomness, he should agree with you 5 out of 10 times. If your representative does worse than that, then their interests are clearly opposed to yours. So theoretically, Congressman Drinking Bird can win, and possibly represent you better than your congressman.

The site would keep statistics on how people voted on issues, on how well the congressmen represent their people, keep track of each congressman's win percentage against Congressman DB, and keep track on CDB's overall win percentage. The site would also provide a list, ranking each congressman by the average number of times they agree with a visitor from their state.

I have come up with a few monetization schemes for the site.

1. Congressmen can pay to have a link to their website from the results page. As in, when the site shows how your opinions compare with your congressman and CDB, their would be a link (possibly even a banner) next to your result that would point the user toward your page.

2. Groups can pay to have access to portions of the polling data.

3. People who are running for office can take a full survey of issues, and then when someone from that state comes to the site, it can show just how the candidates rate on the issues versus the other candidates/incumbents. Naturally, this service would cost money.

EDIT: It could also have a cute/funny animation with a caption that says "Congressman Drinking Bird is carefully weighing the issues."  Perhaps some webcomic artists could be troubled to add their look/skills to the design.

Pug Stories: Fail Tank

Sarah and I decided to play some WoW. So we got on out Rogue/Warlock team and decided to fly around turning in random things and queue for a dungeon. Simple, right?


We got into Sunken Temple, and the Pally tank had no idea where he was going. But did that stop him from pretending like he knew where he was going. He also wouldn't stop and turn around to the suggestion of the rest of the group. Only when the first healer dropped did he finally ask, but he kept fucking off anyway.

Also, while we were playing, I turned on the voice recorder app on my phone. You can hear me ramble and moan about this guy for quite some time. Here's the download link:

Friday, May 21, 2010

Math Textbooks are Stupid

I opened up the cover of a student's Algebra textbook when I was at Sylvan the other day and I flipped forward to the list of authors, plural. There were 8 authors of this textbook, as well as 2 contributing authors.  I read the description of the 8 authors and found myself outraged.  Of the 8 authors:

  • Most were college professors
  • One or Two were also Deans at Colleges
  • A couple were professors of education
  • Some were administrators at school districts or worked for state departments of education
  • Only two were described as being 'teachers'
  • And one of those teachers had founded a couple publishing companies since his retirement.
This disgusted me.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Email Conversation

From Sarah:
Subj: I am a hero

I stopped a man from stealing a soda.  I'm pretty sure that makes me some sort of hero.  A super hero even.  Either way, I'm awesome.

From Henry:
Subj: Re: I am a hero

you deserve a hero's dinner

From Sarah:
Subj: Re: I am a hero


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Summer Projects

Summer is nearly upon us, and I've decided that I should take upon myself some summer projects.  These will vary in scope and in discipline and will hopefully give me something to do while I'm not taking any classes.

Project the first:  Statistics Project
I don't know what the topic of the project will be, it's scope, or what.  But I feel that I should do some sort of statistics research this summer.  I could expand upon my WoW project, or the 'Cars of Little Rock' project that I did for last semester, or I could do something entirely new.

Project the second:  Finish/Update This

Project the third: Program a mathematical drawing program
The program would empower the user to create mathematically defined shapes/pictures.  Plotting points, connecting them with lines, drawing circles of defined radii, etc.  The program should automatically detect where lines and circles intercept each other, and allow the user to place a point there.

It's basically a program that I've wanted in the past, and I feel that I could program.  It would also do me well to help retain why programming skills.

Images should be exportable to either an image format, or offer a text interpretation that would be usable in TeX.

Project the fourth: A gaming marathon for charity
You see lots of people doing gaming marathons to collect donations for charity (specifically Child's Play).  I'd like to do one of these, but instead of playing several games from the same series.  I would play several 2D platformers from different series.  Some of the games could be newer releases, some of them older releases.  I think it could be really fun. 

Project the fifth: Viking RPG
After I saw "How to Train Your Dragon" I was inspired to create a simple RPG system that was suited around Vikings and Dragons.  Since having the original idea, it has deviated quite a bit from "How to Train Your Dragon," so thinking of it as being related to the movie isn't the best analogy.

  • Vikings
  • Dragons
  • d10 system
  • 4 classes
    • Defender - a brute force warrior.  Hearty, and skilled with shields.  Can even use them as weapons.  Has defensive and shield related magic.
    • Fighter - skilled with all manner and configuration of weapons.  Can use special attacks and buff type magic.
    • Archer - especially skilled with ranged weapons.  Can use special attacks and debuff type magic.
    • Mage - skilled in a wide array of magical abilities.  Most vulnerable when unprotected, but most deadly when left alone.
  • Stat/Combat System details
  • Spell details
  • etc.
 Project the sixh: Algebra Book
I've spent the better part of a few years now teaching Algebra to all types of people.  This one is a big maybe, but I might work on an Algebra book typeset in TeX.  None of this pretty pictures and fancy schmancy charts and graph stuff.  I feel that much of what they put in Algebra books these days is a distraction, and only serves to increase the cost and size of the books.

Project the seventh: Secure employment
Pretty straightforward. 

Project the eigth: Find some way to make money from the internet
Also self explanatory

I bet all of this could easily keep me busy.  I'll clearly not get all of it done, but it's nice to have goals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Interviews With Hideous Men

Yesterday, Sarah and I watched "Interviews With Hideous Men," a movie based on a novel by David Foster Wallace. In it, the main character, a female grad student of Anthropology, interviews several men who have severe issues.

When the movie was over, we didn't really like it.  I felt unfulfilled, and Sarah said she didn't like it.  However, it stuck in my head, kept turning over and over, developing, fleshing out.  New revelations about the material and its presentation kept coming forth in my head. The movie eventually sparked a long discussion between Sarah and I where we discussed and analyzed various parts of the film. We talked about characters, their flaws, motivations, whether their actions were justified, etc.

Long story short, now I want to read the book.

How I failed and how I learn.

There are a few reasons why I do math.
  • I suck at memorization.  This makes science, history, and literature studies hard for me.
  • I'm very good at learning by doing.  I can remember a procedure very well after just doing it a few times.
  • I'm clever. I have been using my wits to work my way through math classes for the longest time. Why study when you can re-derive all of the things that you would need to know?
All of this concluded in the Differential Equations comprehensive exam (which I failed, again). The way that the professor that I took Advanced DE from tests is strictly about wrote memorization.  The test format is at follows:
  • define X out of these Y terms,
  • state what X out of these Y theorems are,
  • and prove X out of these Y theorems (findable in the book).
There are no 'problems' to work.  There are no original theorems to prove which would require the use of the student's intuition. This is the only math class that I have ever taken that has ever been this way, and it's very hard for me. Compound that with the fact that I hardly understood the material when I took the class 1.5 years ago, because of the teacher's accent and the natural abstruseness of the material, and you might be able to understand why I did poorly.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I'm testing something.



Why are my ads coming through in German?  That is some weird stuff there.  Dear Google, I speak the English.


(I'd just like to note that I drank a beer REALLY fast and on an empty stomach before writing this)

Wow, so I'm almost done with school.  For REALS this time.  Just one more class this summer and then I'm through.  (Something about the word 'through' there doesn't look right to me)

So for those who don't know, it seems likely that I have Asperger's Syndrome, which is a type of autism.  Wikipedia tells me that one way that some autistic people cope with social situations is by emulating those that they are around.  Do what other people are doing, that way you can't be wrong.  At least, that's the logic.  What I'm getting at is that it's not good that I'm reading hyperboleandahalf, because it's making me crazier than I already am.  If you read that, you'll get the impression (and she'll happily confirm it for you) that she's got issues.

Of course, none of this would be a problem if Eric Schmidt would just let me hang out with him, then I could be a successful CEO.  (If you're reading this E.S., call me)

This whole revelation about myself (which I had long before I learned about Asperger's and autism) is disconcerting.  Who am I really?  I'm like Ditto, from Pokemon, except I'm useful for more than just breeding.  Seriously though.

I might worry that some people only like me because I act differently around them, and that this would somehow make the friendship a lie, but then I usually get distracted by my ADD.

It's nice to know that my ADD is protecting me from my Asperger's.

Thanks ADD, for always being there when I need you. :hugs:


So I put ads here.  I got an Adsense account so that when I make a website for the results of my WoW study, I might be able to make some money  off of the traffic to it to offset the fact that I had to spend $200 on that damn account.

Anyway, DON'T CLICK ON THEM.  Google tells me that if I tell you to click on them that I'm a bad, and that they will be very mad at me and do bad things to me.  So DON'T CLICK ON THEM.  We cool Google, we cool.  :wink:

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Shaman Changes Thoughts

I believe I can fly...

The Shaman changes preview notes were released today and I am giddy with excitement.  All specs are going to be benefitting, some more than others.  I'll be going from most changed to least.  Of course, we'll start with the general changes before the specifics, and I won't be giving the details, but my perspective on them.

Unleash Weapon is going to be a new spell for all Shamans that will do different effects depending upon what the Shaman's weapon imbues are.  I'm excited to see how this will increase Shaman flexibility.  Spiritwalker's Grace is a new spell (10 sec duration, 2 min cooldown) that will let the Shaman cast while moving.  This is going to be a great boon to all Shamans in PVE and PVP.

Modern Classics

Every art form has its classics.  Painting has the Mona Lisa.  Literature has things like The Scarlet Letter.  Music has the works of Beethoven and Mozart.  Movies has works like The Shawshank Redemption or Schindler's List.  These are just a few examples.  However, there are more modern classics, such as the work of The Beatles.  The thing about classics is that they are shared with each new generation, ensuring that they live on in our culture.  So here is my question:  What is it to be a classic?  What are the new classics of our time?  What pieces of our culture today are you going to share with your children? What are the video game classics? Yes, that's actually four questions.

The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman is like Harry Potter but...

Wait, that's not right.  Initially and superficially, one may think the two are similar, but in reality they are quite different.  The Magicians begins as a tale about Quentin, a very intelligent and diligent high school student in Brooklyn, and his two friends, Julia and James.  The tale takes a sudden turn and Quentin abandons his family, friends, and old life for a life of learning magic at Brakebills Academy.  Sounds like Harry Potter, yes?  It stops here.

In Harry Potter, magic is, rather aptly, magical.  It is fantastic and relatively easy to learn (for something which the distinct majority of the population have absolutely no possible talent with).  In The Magicians, magic is incredibly difficult to learn, with the most basic attempt, making a marble move slightly, being incredibly difficult to learn.  Spells are not single words and a quick flick of the wrist, they are incantations and complex finger hand movements (the constant practice of give you great manual dexterity).  Life for a magician is no different than the life of a regular person, filled with turmoil and dissatisfaction.  Maintaining meaningful relationships is difficult, and people are outcast just as easily in the magical world as they are in the mundane world.  In many ways, life as a magician is more difficult.

Much of The Magicians appears to be a thought experiment on the part of the author about what magic and being a magician would be like if such things existed.  Fortunately, all of this is conveyed narratively, with the story demonstrating all of these details to the reader, rather than being simply stated as if in a textbook.  This isn't to say that interesting and magical things don't happen in the book.  In fact, The Magicians is an enthralling read,  which held my attention far better than most other books.  Tales of The Beast and what happened to the Fourth Year students are gripping, and they push you to turn the page to discover the rest of the tale.

Slightly more than half of the 400ish page book is concerned with Quentin's magical education at Brakebills Academy.  Since Brakebills is a college-age institution, the characters are adults, and they have more 'adult' problems.  So this story isn't meant for young people, it's meant for those who can understand the mature thoughts and actions of its characters, as well as their mistakes and flaws.

I hope you don't take my description to mean that The Magicians lacks the epic moments and story that we have come to associate with magic.  Epic does indeed live in The Magicians, and truly comes to a head in the latter half of the book, post-graduation.  Keep in mind, however, that The Magicians is not just a story about events, it is a story about people.

An excellent book, and definitely one that I would recommend.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The first stage of grief

Above: A typical day in the life of a Death Knight

In this thread, Blizzard announced today that Blood would be the only Death Knight tanking tree in Cataclysm and that Frost and Unholy would solely be DPS trees.  This news was met with mixed anger and excitement.  The changes were made in the spirit of making the class easier to balance, since a single class having access to 3 DPS specs and 3 tanks specs provides a level of inter-spec competition over which is best and creates an extreme spec-of-the-month situation.  This simplified design will also allow the developers to focus more on other classes and not have to nerf/buff various Death Knight specs so often.

The cons are fairly obvious.  Death Knights will have fewer options for how they can reasonably play, and some people will be losing their favored role/tree combination.  Many people had specific concerns/frustrations with this new design paradigm for Death Knights.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

This Movie is Not Yet Rated

I watched This Movie is Not Yet Rated on Netflix.  It's a movie done by a Netflix and the Independent Film Channel about the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) ratings board.  You see, the movie raters are kept secret, their names aren't public.  The goal of the movie was to expose the process by which the board rates movies.  The director talked with various directors of movies that received an NC-17 rating upon initial review and had to cut down the movies so that they would be picked up in theaters.  The director also hired a private investigator to help him find out who the raters were, we'll get to that in a moment.

The ratings board isn't supposed to be an attempt to censor movies.  However, nobody wants to receive an NC-17 rating, because people don't go to see NC-17 movies.  It seems to me that the ratings board knows that they have that level of control and therefore the DO have the power to censor movies.  When American Psycho was initially reviewed, it received an NC-17 rating because they objected to the general tone of the movie.  Boys Don't Cry received an NC-17 rating because Hilary Swank wiped lady cum off of her mouth, because of the rape scene, and because a woman's orgasm was too long (even though the camera was solely on her face).  In fact, several movies have had problems that seem to be because the female characters are being pleased too well.  A woman receiving oral sex usually gets an NC-17 rating whereas when a man receives oral sex, it doesn't.

When Trey Parker and Matt Stone submitted Team America: World Police they deliberately extended the puppet sex scene with ridiculously more gross stuff that they had no intention of including in the final film.  So when they had to remove stuff from the scene, they were able to keep the parts that they actually wanted.

As I mentioned before, the director hired a private investigator to find out who the reviewers were.  So how did they find out who they were?  The investigator waited outside the studios, collecting license plates to look up who the driver was.  That, however wasn't good enough, they receive better information from when the security guard left his post and the investigator was able to walk up to the booth and take pictures of the list of extensions on the wall of the booth.  Oops.

She got final confirmation of the list of raters by calling the rating department of the MPAA and saying that she was going to be sending a gift package to the department and didn't want to leave any names out.  She then rattled off the list of suspected raters, the secretary confirming all of them, and then asking if she left any names out and the secretary happily filled her in on the rest.  Social hacking, FTW.  The movie then showed information on all of the senior raters.  All raters are supposed to have children, since the role of the ratings are to inform parents about what movies may be suitable for their children.  But many of the raters' children weren't children any more, there were in their 20's.  One of the raters didn't even have any children.

After rattling off all of this information, the director submitted the movie to the MPAA to be rated (he clearly had no intent of it being rated well, he just wanted to see inside the system).  It received an NC-17 rating due to all of the sexual material in the movie (a large portion of the beginning included sex scenes that had to be cut from aforementioned movies).  He, however, chose to appeal the rating.

There is a separate appeals board, which is kept even more secret.  Furthermore, during an appeal, you are not allowed to compare your movie to any other movie as support for why it should be rated lower.  It was also revealed by an anonymous interview that there are 2 members of the clergy on the appeals board, a Catholic priest and an Episcopalian priest.  According to an un-anonymous interview, the clergy are silent and have no vote.  According to the anonymous interview, they do have a vote.

When he went in for the appeal, the rating board director was so worried about the director exposing who the  appeal board member were that she drove them all there in a black van, to prevent their license plates from being run.  But, 3 months earlier, the private investigator was waiting outside of the appeal area, and ran the plates of all the cars and you'll never guess who's on the appeals board.

The appeals board consists mainly of movie buyers and executives from various theater companies, as well as the two clergy.

There is no other ratings board in the world that keeps its raters anonymous.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My last SC 2 game.

Okay, Terran vs Terran.  This means I should go for mech, since that's the defactor TvT strategy.  I build up my base and start to pump out Siege Tanks and Thors.  Before those go out though, I send out a scout to my opponent's base.

It's not there.

Okay, he's Terran, so he probably lifted off the Command Center in the beginning and is building up somewhere else.

Scout around the map...

I find him.  And his base is REALLY close to mine.  By now I've got some Siege Tanks and Thors, and he couldn't have teched (verb check on aisle 3) very high since he would be so delayed from having to move his base all the way over there.  ATTACK!

I wipe up that base pretty bad, but then some air units start to attack my base so I have to retreat to deal with them.

And here's where I screwed up.  I never went back to finish off that base.  I went everywhere else in the map but there.  But I never finished off his first base with the 3 Starports for air units.

Guess what I lost to.  A massive air attack with Battlecruisers.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

MMO-champion Thrall humor

What follows are my favorite posts from a MMO-Champion thread with Chuck Norris-esque Thrall jokes.  Some have been edited to make them flow in a more humorous way.

  1. Thrall's Fire Nova caused the Cataclysm
  2. Thrall's Sentry Totem can be used offensively
  3. Thrall's Spirit Wolves doesn't summon 2 wolves, it kill two BM Hunters and steals their pets.
  4. When Thrall uses Fire Elemental Totem, Ragnaros comes out. And it's never too soon.
  5. When Thrall casts Earth Shock, he throws a boulder at you.
  6. Thrall's Ancestral Spirit also resurrects the target's father and grandfather.
  7. Thrall's Water Shield drowns his attackers.
  8. Thrall doesn't use Far Sight.  He just knows...
  9. Thrall is the father of the Worgen.  He had sex with a human while still in Ghost Wolf form.
  10. Before Lava Burst was a spell, Thrall threw molten rock at his targets.
  11. Thrall's Earth Elemental is Blackrock Mountain.
  12. Thrall's Searing Totem summons Jaina.
  13. If Thrall heals you and procs Earthliving, it sends you underground, where you are doomed to live the rest of your life.
  14. Thrall's totems are actually Resto Druids he jammed in the ground and fingerpainted.
  15. Thrall uses Riptide as an offensive spell instead of as a healing spell.  It floods his targets lungs until they suffocate and die.
  16. Thrall's Sentry Totem watches you masturbate.  (Need to edit the ceiling cat image to reflect this)
  17. Thrall used a dark portal to travel to ancient Egypt, where he was known as Moses.
  18. Thrall proc'd Windfury once, he's still waiting for the Maelstrom to die down.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Long Time no Blog

Many things have happened recently.   Hmmm....

I'm getting a pay raise at Sylvan.  I'll be finding out tomorrow how much it will be worth.  I went into my supervisor's office and just asked for it.  S seemed somewhat astonished when she learned what I was being paid now, and she commented that both she and the owner have noticed how awesome I am (paraphrasing, of course).  So she was going to talk to the owner about how much my raise should be.  I can't wait to find out.

WoW.  I haven't played much recently.  Gryllz is only missing Consumption Junction and riding an Emerald Drake as part of Glory of the Hero.  So I'll be getting my Red Proto Drake very soon.  Too bad he's a druid and I won't be seeing it as often as I should.  Tauf is the character that I tend to collect vanity things on, so hopefully I can get him one soon.  Jainne (priest) got several upgrades today, and is turning into quite the healer.  Tauf (shaman) still needs several actual resto pieces.  Mostly, I'd say that he's lacking crit and MP5.  Spear (DK) is halfway through 79 and I'm lookin forward to getting him to 80 and experiencing Death Knight tanking.  I've been tanking the last half of the 70s so I'm very accustomed to how Death Knight tanking work, which means that I won't have that awkward, "What am I doing?" phase.  Four 80s, I disgust myself.

Stacraft 2 is still very fun.  I've been spending my time as Terran.  I still haven't figured out how to counter late-game Protoss heavy air.  Mothership+Carriers is ridiculously annoying to deal with.  It's bad enough to be assaulted by one Mothership, but after you survive the first attack and another one comes, it's hell.  I think that the Protoss should only be allowed one Mothership throughout the course of the game, and they need to use it wisely.

The fish are doing rather well.  Sometime this month we'll get a couple more for our tank.  It's only a 10 gallon tank so we can't get too many.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Is it random?

This is a spreadsheet that totals up all of my Heroic runs on all of my characters.  I can't believe I've run 315 heroics.  You will see that the probability that my dungeons are distributed evenly is less than 0.01%.  That's not good.  Why the hell is Drak'tharon Keep so high?  I knew I was running that place too much.

Now, there are tons of things at play here, and the dungeons that I'm getting are also a result of player behavior. Perhaps players often drop out of Drak'tharon Keep?  It's important to remember that the Dungeon Finder is subject to player behavior and isn't just taking 5 people and tossing them into a dungeon.

If you are savvy enough with spreadsheets, here's how to make your own.
  1. Make a column for each of your characters, and a row for each Heroic.  I only used the old dungeons in the randomness calculations since the other ones are new and thusly I should have fewer runs of.
  2. Calculate the total number of times that you have run each Heroic.
  3. Calculate the total number of (old) Heroics that you have run and divide that by 12.  That is the number of times you would have run each dungeon in a perfectly random world.  That number will go in every cell in the expected column.
  4. Difference is the absolute value of expected minus total ( eg:  =ABS(F4-G4) )
  5. Chi-partial equals the square of difference divided by expected (=Difference^2/Expected)
  6. Chi square is the sum of all the Chi-partials   =SUM(H2:H13) on mine
  7. Degrees of Freedom is 11    (12-1, it's a statistics thing)
  8. Go to and enter Chi-square under X^2 and 11 for 2.
  9. Calculate and multiply by 100 to get your percentage.  
My actual percent chance that this was completely random was 0, but I knew that was a rounding error so I changed it to what I put there.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Love is In The Air Boss Strategy

This year, with Love is in the Air, there is a boss encounter in Shadowfang Keep.  The boss encounter is composed of 3 bosses put together, Apothecaries Hummel, Baxter, and Frye.  My suggested positioning for the beginning of the battle is pictured.

The gist of the fight that everyone needs to keep in mind is that they should each use either a cologne or perfume neutralizer and make sure to not stand in the areas of the fragrance that they are still vulnerable to.  Green is for cologne and purple is for perfume.

Hummel is the first boss to activate with Baxter activating second and Frye activating last.  When Hummel activates the tank will taunt him so that both Hummel and Baxter will be standing in front of his/herself.  That way, when they use their cologne or perfume frontal cone AOEs, they won't affect the rest of the party.

Frye is not so bad, he will activate and run around, slapping people and dropping aggro constantly.  The tank should use his/her taunt in order to keep him under control, but he can't be kept under control constantly.  When taunt fades, he will likely run off again.  He doesn't do much damage, however, so just do your best.  He mostly just throws down vials of cologne and perfume and runs around.

Furthermore, minor apothecaries spawn during the encounter, run around, and eventually explode for damage.  They can be killed to prevent the explosion, and depending on how good your healer is, you might want to assign a ranged to do that.

The big trouble with this encounter is making sure Baxter and Hummel are not facing the rest of the party, and making sure not to stand in the cologne and perfume AOEs.

If you're having more trouble with the encounter, wowwiki has some additional tips.

Good luck, and happy loot hunting.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Priesting is fun.

I've been running several random dungeons on my Priest lately and it's been both a blast and uber-frustrating at the same time.  If I have a poorly geared group, I am challenged with how well I can heal through people who aren't being careful enough for their gear level.  If I have a well-geared group, I am challenged with how much DPS can I do while still healing.  Using Mind Sear to proc Surge of Light and using the instant cast Flash Heals as my only healing is fun, honestly.

If the healing required is a bit higher, and more AOE oriented, I'll just jump around and spam Holy Nova.  I discovered I could do this when I was running Ahn'Kahet and the tank decided I needed a challenge (literally, he told me was going to make it fun for me) and pulled 6 mobs in the area between Prince Taldaram and Jedoga Shadowseeker.  I countered this by frantically spamming Holy Nova to heal and to make them die faster.  It's incredibly fun, but it does destroy my mana.  Mind Searing is nicer on the mana.

I've yet to be blamed for anything though, so that's pretty good.

I'm left with a list of frustrations:
  • Dear Warrior DPS, you may wear plate and have a bazillion hp (it's ludicrous) but if you pull threat, you can still die faster than I can heal you.  This is especially true on bosses.  Also, don't stand in a boss' whirlwind, it's still really damaging.
  • On a related note:  Tanks, when someone pulls off of you, it can be hard to tell it's happened and it's very frustrating when it does, but taunt it back onto you.
  • When Scourgelord Tyrannus knocks you back, tanks, it is not an invitation to charge right back into his Enraged self ("Power Overwhelming"), you're supposed to be kiting him over the frost patches so I don't have a heart attack.
  • On the same fight, I don't know if it was an accident or not, but please move your Regrowth button away from all of your tanking buttons, Madame Druid Tank.  Bosses hit hard on druids who aren't in Bear Form. True Story.  If you're running out of bar space go here.
  • Mirrored Soul means to stop DPSing, or else you'll kill somebody.  Me.
  • Before the second boss in TOC 5-man, don't pull 2 of the groups simultaneously.  You'll destroy my mana pool and make the subsequent boss fight a frantic hell for me.
On a closing note listen to In the Moonlight, from Modern Family.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Game Review: Uncharted 2

I absofuckinglutely love this game.  It opens with the protagonist, Nathan Drake, shot, bleeding, and freezing to death in a train car that is hanging off of the side of a cliff and only not falling because it is connected to the next train car.  He must then climb his way along the outside of the train car and run for his life to get onto safe land.  From there, the action never stops.  The game then flashes back and the story progresses until we see how Drake ended up on that train in that position and continues from that point to its conclusion.

The cover-based third-person shooting never becomes old because of how well it is implemented and because the levels are not only varied in location, but have differences in theme for the gunplay.  Some levels emphasize stealth.  Some levels emphasize explosive action.  In some areas you are just running for your life.  These, as well as many other scenarios kept me interested and happy.  My first playthrough clocked in at around 10 hours played, and there never was a dull moment.

Stealth, platforming, cover, melee, and gunplay are all designed and implemented excellently and kept me happy throughout the duration of the game

One of my complaints about the first game was that the platforming elements that were played up in previews of the game were not featured as heavily as expected in the final product, and appeared to disappear towards the end of the game.  Uncharted 2 keeps the varied gameplay elements omnipresent throughout the duration of the game.  Furthermore, the game is very flexible in how you approach each situation.  If you want to try to stealth kill all of your enemies, you can be successful with that, if you want to kill them all Rambo-style you can.  Each method has its challenges and rewards.

Furthermore, this game has realistic, non-cartoony graphics that also have color and style.  The character models are well done and respond to changes in environment.  Clothes become wet when you swim, and your boots gather snow as you plod through the mountains.  The script, acting, and animations were excellently done and portrayed an interesting story.

I'm almost done playing through the game a second time on the hardest difficulty, Crushing.  Afterward, I'm going to send it back to Gamefly and eagerly await for it to be released on Greatest Hits so I can buy it cheaply.

Great job, Naughty Dog!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Game Health Models

There are several different ways that health is managed in video games.  The basic premise is always the same: enough damage can kill you.  However, they differ in how much damage can kill you and whether that health can regenerate.  So here is my description/analysis of the different models that I have observed.  I'm mostly going to be talking about health models in shooters/action games, since RPGs tend to mostly use the first model that I will discuss.

The most classic model of health in video games is the finite, non-regenerative health model.  Basically, the hero/heroine has a fixed, initial amount of health (typically 100) and it decreases as s/he takes damage.  When health reaches 0, the character dies.  Healing is possible through health packs or healing spells if it's an RPG.

This model has been with us since the beginning of video games and is the most familiar.  Your health is usually denoted by a number in part of the screen.  A shield which can extend your health past 100 is not unfamiliar.  One thing about designing around this type of health is that your game becomes boiled down to trying to make it from health pack to health pack, since each health pack resets you back to full health.

One of the downsides of this model is that it can promote Rambo-ing every thing, because taking your time can cause you to take more damage overall.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Future of Bears

Bears saw little new in Wrath of Lich King as far as active abilities are concerned, retaining the Burning Crusade approach to single and multi-mob tanking strategy.  Here are some changes that I would like to see made to bears for Cataclysm.  This isn't supposed to be a call for buffs (although they are welcome), I just want Druid tanking to be more interesting.

AOE Tanking Fixes
I have a couple ideas for making Bear AOE tanking more effecting and more interesting.

Mangle Procs
A proc could be added to Mangle to encourage its use in AOE tanking situations.  Naturally, this proc would need to more than make up for the missed Swipe opportunity.  I have two ideas for this:
  1. The proc makes your next Maul a 360 degree AOE,
  2. or the proc buffs your next Swipe in some way.  It could just do a straight buff to damage or add a bleed component.  A bleed effect would also interact with Mangle's buff to bleed damage.  This would make bleeds be the Bear Druid's 'thing.'.
More after the cut.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Epic: An email I got

    Spellcheck:  Yes
    Excessive Formality:  Yes
    Grammars:  Sometimes missing

    Hello Professor:

    My name is --------, please notate I prefer to be referred to as ------.  My Student  id # is -----. I am requesting an email of your syllabus, because I was unable to attend your class on Monday as scheduled due to a complete schedule change and rearranging.  It is my greatest concern to report to class prepared and knowledgeable of any material that will be taught on Wednesday. In order to due so I will need your syllabus emailed to me by the next working day which is Tuesday. I greatly appreciate your time and patience.

    Thanks in Advance.

    P.S I  am enrolled in your  ---  class --- as of ----

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Technical Issues

    Some technical issues arose tonight.  Let me paint you a word picture...

    Sarah and I wished to enjoy some Castle, streamed to our TV via PlayOn.  We boot everything up, and it can't access my Hulu queue or play any videos.  I restart everything, still doesn't work.  So I update PlayOn, which required a full download as opposed to a patch since an audio driver was included in this version as part of their updated stuff.

    What's this, I can't log in to the PlayOn site to download it?  Password recovery not working?  A customer support contact informed me that logging in is not necessary and only my name and email used to buy it are required.  Stupid me, I guess reading the page would have helped.  Whatever.

    Download, install, watch Castle.  Laugh.  Gasp.  Drama?!  Intrigue?!  Castle finishes, it was a good episode.  Go onto my computer to do computery things.  I am led toward a flash game platformer.  Huh, it has no music.  That's weird, but whatever.  Beat it, it was good.  Sarah asks me to turn on some music.  I do, but later we realize that no sound is coming out.  Itunes is doing things, my little audio indicator is moving up and down, meaning activity.  Youtube produces no sound either, WHAT IS GOING ON?!

    I surmise that PlayOn must have caused the error.  It was, after all, the only thing that updated, and that included a new audio driver.

    I turn off PlayOn, still no good.

    I tell PlayOn to not start on boot and restart.  No jingle, still no worky.

    PlayOn forum search for the keyword 'audio' gives me a topic saying that Windows 7 has an issue where if an audio driver is installed, it is made default and that switching the default back to my normal driver should do it.

    It didn't.

    Reboot?  No.  :(

    FUCK!  What the hell do I need to do.  Back to audio settings.  Configure?  Test?  I heard a noise in the sound test.  Back to iTunes....nothing.

    Uninstall PlayOn audio driver.


    Rollback default audio driver.  Apparently got rolled back to not existing.  Fuck.

    Offbrand on-board audio card driver download sites look scary, where's that driver CD.? Not in the motherboard box.  Not outside.  Oh, it WAS in the box, but it fell out and I didn't see it lying there.  CD does funny things on autorun.  Browse CD...Driver/Audio/Setup.exe  go!  Finishes, wants to reboot.  Ok, you do that.  Heard the shut down jingle.  HUZZAH!

    We'll just have to see if I can reinstall the PlayOn audio driver without fucking myself in the ass again.  Hopefully, if it happens again, I can uninstall my default audio driver and reinstall it and hope that the same bug that causes the problem will fix it.

    -Taufmonster, Out

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Shadow Priests are Awesome!

    I recently got my Priest to level 80 and have been running Shadow in order to get gear.  I have a love/hate relationship with the spec.  Let's start with the hate.

    The Bad
    I have a rough time figuring out what I should do on trash pulls.  Should I dot?  Should I use Mind Sear?  Should I dot and THEN Mind Sear?  Since many DPSers do so much damage, it's difficult for my dots to be effective.  But my general rule is this:
    • 1 or 2 mobs: dot all of them.
    • 3 mobs:  dot one, then Mind Sear on that mob.
    • 4 or more:  Mind Sear
    Try to dot the mob that most of the DPS isn't targeting, so the dots will be effective.  But if it's one big mob and several little mobs, dot the big mob.

    The Awesome
    What makes Shadow Priests awesome?  Several things.  For one, they have great utility spells.
    • Psychic Horror:  3-second horror effect and a 10-second main and ranged weapon disarm.  The horror effect will stop the mob dead in its tracks, and can function as an interrupt if you really need one.  The ranged weapon disarm effect will help you deal with those hunters in Halls of Reflection.
    • Silence:  5-second silence effect/3-second interrupt effect on NPCs that can't be silenced.  45-second cooldown.  Hate those mages in Halls of Reflection?  Does that boss have an ability that can be interrupted?  This is the spell for you.
    Wait a second, Shadow Priests have utilities against casters, melee, and hunters?  NO WAY!

    Yes way, my friend, and it's totally awesome.  And if all else fails, there's still
    • PSYCHIC SCREAM!:  Makes 5 targets around you run in fear for 8 seconds.  30 second cooldown.  Seriously, how is this not awesome.  OH NO! the healer can't keep up because the tank was overzealous and pulled too much.  BAM!  Take that!  Problems solved.  I guess the just needed to call the psychic friends hotline. :sunglasses:  YEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!
    No, seriously, this ability doesn't get enough play during those crucial moments where it would be useful.  Back to serious mode now.
    • Dispersion:  Reduces damage taken by 90% for 6 seconds but you can only move.  Also recovers 6% of your mana every second (36% total).  I love this ability.  I use it mostly to get my mana back while moving between pulls or if there is some big damage coming that I don't want to take.  My crowning achievement was tanking King Dred for six seconds after the tank died allowing us to bring him down.
    • Dispel Magic:  Removes to magic effects from either a friend or foe.  Awesome.
    • Power Word: Shield - Yes, Shadow Priests can cast Power Word: Shield without breaking Shadowform, because it's a Discipline spell.  Think about that next time your tank is about to take a large hit, or when healing becomes difficult.
    • Vampiric Embrace:  Heals the priest for 25% of all damage s/he deals and other party member are healed for 5% of the damage (with talents).  Because of this ability, I usually account for 10% of the healing in a dungeon, and about 40% of the overhealing.  It's not a game-changing amount of healing, but it will help your healer save some mana and can help slightly during particularly rough spots.
    • Replenishment:  Shadow Priests also offer replenishment to the party whenever they cast Mind Blast on a target affected by Vampiric Touch.
    • Misery:  +3% chance for all spells to hit the target.  Comes from the Shadow Priest's dots.
    How can you not look at that list and say, "Wow, Shadow Priests are so cool.  Where can I get one?"  The sad truth is that most priests run a healing spec so they can get into random dungeons faster.  But if you have a friend who plays a Priest, ask them, "Have you ever tried Shadow?"

    The new Elemental Shaman Heroic Strategy

    See boy, dat how you kill dragon.

    In patch 3.3, a new spell was added to the Shaman arsenal, Fire Nova.  This has replaced Fire Nova Totem and produces a same-damage effect, just centered around (and not destroying) your current Fire Totem.  This spell has completely changed the way that I approach DPS in 5-man Heroics.  I used to use my single target DPS rotation and would mix in Chain Lightning liberally.

    However, I am now a bringer of burst AOE hell.  My DPS has gone up at least 40% on trash pulls (depending on the size of the pull).  The spec to go along with this technique is here, with 3 points to place where you see fit.  You'll notice that I have brought Fire Nova's cooldown to 3 seconds, and brought down the cooldown of Thunderstorm and increased its mana return.  Here is how you play the spec:

    1. Stay on your tank's butt.  Time spent running to the mobs is time wasted.
    2. If your tank has aggro'd and you aren't in melee range yet, fill that time with a Flame Shock while you run, or an Elemental Mastery'd Chain Lightning.
    3. Get into melee range, and drop Magma Totem.
    4. Use Chain Lightning, then Fire Nova and Thunderstorm as you move slightly out of melee range w/ the movement allowed by the instant cast nature of Fire Nova and Thunderstorm.
    5. Repeat Fire Nova and Chain Lightning when ready and fill gaps with Lava Bursts and Lightning Bolts.
    6. WIN!
    This will, if your tank isn't ready for it, produce a ton of aggro (and damage!).  So make sure to feel out your tank to see how much of this they can handle and whether or not you need to back off.  This tactic, if used aggressively is extremely potent and dangerous.  Remember, you're playing with Fire (Nova)!

    As tempting as this strategy is to use in raids, I wouldn't recommend it.  It runs serious risks of pulling aggro AND MORE IMPORTANTLY makes sacrifices to the Shaman's single-target DPS (read: most bosses), where your DPS is needed more.

    Taufmonster, out.

    Friday, January 1, 2010

    2009: In review. 2010: A preview.

    2009 is the year that I proposed to and moved in with Sarah.  It is the year that I decided to switch to studying Statistics.  This was the year that I started to tutor children, and have learned much in the process.  It has been a year for making decision that are going to affect my entire life.  It's been a defining year.  It's been a year of learning.  A year of sacrifice.

    In 2010, I should get my Masters Degree and join the workforce.  I should lay out a definite 5-year plan.  I should get married.  I should sell a bunch of this old lame stuff that I have around that I don't need or want anymore.  I should teach more, and I should learn more.

    Things I want to accomplish next year (not relating to school/jobs/marriage):

    • work on making a blog that people would actually want to read
      • develop writing skills
      • come up with a good idea
    • learn a new programming language
    • learn to make web pages (could function for the previous item)
    • work on my piano playing
    • expect more from myself.
    So much has happened this past year.  So much will happen this next year.  This is a very pivotal moment in my life and I should work my hardest to make it go as smoothly and as well as possible.