Saturday, March 31, 2012

Thrill Digger

Rupees: 140 Games: 1
Bombs: 6 Rupoors: 6
Safe Remaining: 28 Hazards remaining: 12

The Rules of Thrill Digger

Thrill Digger could be described as "minesweeper with uncertainty." When you click on a cell, instead of displaying a number that tells how many bombs surround that cell, a color is revealed that provides vaguer information about how many hazards surround that cell. The colors are:
  • Green: Zero hazards, is worth 1 rupee
  • Blue: 1-2 hazards, is worth 5 rupees
  • Red: 3-4 hazards, is worth 20 rupees
  • Silver: 5-6 hazards, is worth 100 rupees
  • Gold: 7-8 hazards, is worth 300 rupees
I say hazards because there are bad things other than bombs. Bombs, like in minesweeper will end your current game. There are other hazards called Rupoors which instead of increasing your rupee count will decrease your rupee count by 10.

What are rupees for?

The game is hard, and your chance of winning a particular game is very low. A new game costs you 70 rupees and the real goal is how many games you can play before not being able to pay for a new game. So your real goal is to get as many rupees as possible before hitting a bomb.

Differences between Skyward Sword and this version

In Skyward Sword, after you dug up a spot, the game wouldn't leave a reminder of what you had dug up there. This made the game excruciatingly hard because it's really hard to remember so many things. Furthermore, there was no way to mark a location where you thought a bomb to be located. Lastly, I took Skyward Sword's Expert difficulty and adjusted it down a bit to a level that I find to be much better. Lastly, in my version, your first click will never be a hazard, which is very important in minesweeper-esque games.

To mark cells as dangerous, toggle the "Digging" button and then click the ones that have hazards.

I may come back and update this with more features or a better look. But right now it is without bugs (as far as I know) and fully playable.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Pandaren and the Sha

The Mists of Pandaria beta has started, and with it a ton of new information has come out. Not only are people finding out about items, game mechanics, and zones, but people are finding out about lore and what things will finally look like. With that, we have finally seen in game models for the Sha. I would link them or otherwise include them in this post, but my work internet blocks all the sources which could provide it to me. However, let me describe it to you. They look evil, of course; the one I saw looked like a much nicer shadowfiend. However, more importantly, they were black with white accents. I'm sure MMO-Champion would have a picture.

The Sha and the Pandaren are only found in Pandaria. The Sha and the Pandaren are black and white (if we ignore the red pandaren females). The Sha respond to emotions. It seems to me that the Sha and the Pandaren don't just share a common location, but are actually linked.

With Warcraft we have Old Gods and various other evil forces. So I think most people just figured the Sha were somehow connected to an Old God that resides there and left it at that. I'm not saying that the Sha can't be connected to an Old God, but my personal theory is that the Sha are souls of dead Pandaren that respond to the emotions around them.

Think about it, Pandaria is a lovely place with people who seem deeply spiritual. What if part of its beauty is that the spirits of dead Pandaren of responding to the Pandaren's mostly positive outlook on life? Then the Sha come when bad emotions and hatred flow and make things more sinister and dangerous.

Time will tell if my theory is correct or not, but I would personally love it if it were true. I think it would not only add a darkness to Pandaria, but it would also add a darkness to the Pandaren, whom so many people complain about as not being serious. But this all brings me to my last point, which is really more of a desire/prediction.

Ghostbusters 2.

Ghostbusters 2 had a river of ectoplasm that responded to human emotion. It also fed that emotion back into people that were near it, but let's ignore that part. In Ghostbusters 2, when things were at their most desperate, the Ghostbusters coated the inside of the statue of liberty with the ectoplasm and used strong positive emotions that were stirred by an inspirational song to animate the Statue of Liberty to penetrate the defenses of the museum.

What of the Sha could also possess objects, similar to a poltergeist? What if, in the Siege of Orgrimmar, Garrosh's defenses are too strong to break without losing too many people. To combat this the Horde and the Alliance bring the Sha to Azshara to infect the giant Gallywix face and then use strong positive emotions from their cooperation and an upbeat song to animate the giant face, bringing it out of the ground with a body to break the defenses of Orgrimmar?

I wanna do that raid fight.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mists of Pandaria's New Loot Systems Analyzed.

Because Community is back on the air and we're talking about random things. I present a relatively random song. Seeing this fan video, one of Community's earliest, let Dan Harmon know that the show had "made it" to a certain degree.

I've talked before about how no voting system is perfect. It seems perhaps that no loot system is perfect either. Blizzard has announce that a new loot system will be used in Mists of Pandaria for LFR and the two world bosses where instead of rolling for specific pieces, the game will randomly pick people to get loot. If the game picks your player, it will pick an item appropriate for your class/spec. They haven't decided if every player has an X% chance to get loot or each the game will randomly choose X people to get loot.

Later in the thread, Zarhym went on to note that the X% chance to drop version of the system is flawed because the number of items a boss will drop will then become random, which could lead to abnormally high numbers of drops or even zero drops on a boss.

The game will roll for you, and it won't say what you rolled. You also don't have the option to pass. If you win loot it will be randomly picked from the items appropriate for your class. So you may get something you already have or something that isn't an upgrade. Furthermore, you won't be able to trade loot obtained by this system.

The advantage of this system is that it removes other people from affecting your chance at loot. Nobody can take your loot from you, it's all up to Lady Luck. With the current LFR loot system, some people roll on everything that they are eligible to roll for and then hold the item hostage to trade for something that they need. This is a dick move.

On the other hand, people can't pass on loot via this system, so loot can go to someone who doesn't need any when there are plenty of other people who might need it. People who might even need that specific piece. This does bring concern about loot waste and making it harder to gear. While that is a concern, keep in mind that only gear that is appropriate to people in the raid will drop. So gone will be the days when spell plate drops and you have no Holy paladin.

Another concern is that this will prevent you from obtaining off-spec pieces. I have a personal address to that concern. If you want off-spec gear, then run as your off-spec. My understanding of LFR is that it's quite easy. This loot system won't be used for normal or heroic raids. In a 25-man LFR raid, there will likely be a person for every type of gear that can drop, with the possible exception of spell plate. So if you're taking an off-spec piece, you're likely taking away from someone's main spec. If you're running a premade LFR or an LFR with a large number of friends, then you're likely to be organized enough that you can afford to run on your off-spec.

This new loot system will affect boss loot tables. In order for this system to work, it will require that all bosses in LFR will have to have at least one item that appeals to every specialization. Between armor, jewelry and weapons this shouldn't be hard. However, it is comforting to have that assurance.

Furthermore, there is talk of a system where out-of-raid actions can give you a charm that will allow you an extra roll for loot on any raid boss, regardless of difficulty. This roll also doesn't impact other players, but gives you an extra chance. Furthermore, if it fails to give you boss loot, it will give you something like gold or consumables. When the boss dies, a prompt will ask something along the lines of, "Would you like to use your charm?"

This system too, seems to bear the consequence that all bosses, even in the world of normal and heroic where loot is typically not shared across bosses, must have something that can appeal to everybody. The alternative is that the charm loot would have to come from some sort of shared loot table, which would make it not unique to the boss, which would somewhat defeat the point.

I was all ready to go into this post to tear down and examine the problems with these new loot systems. However, as I started writing it and reread some things to make sure I didn't misstate anything, I realized that not only did I like it (which I already did), but I think it's brilliant. I feel this is a great system and will be a fantastic upgrade to the preexisting LFR loot system.

I'd like to do an investigation into the loot distribution that happens with this new system and how much loot does get wasted in using this new system versus the old system. I'll have to run some simulations to get it done, but I think it will prove to be very interesting.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Journey's Unique Multiplayer

Multiplayer in video games is a very interesting thing. For some games, it's the one of the primary draws. This is especially true of racing games, sports games, fighting games, and shooters. In those contexts, it's competitive, the various players are working against each other and only one player (or team) can win. I typically am not a fan of that type of multiplayer, but there has been a title or two in days past that have drawn my attention.

Multiplayer can also be of the cooperative variety, where the different players assist each other to accomplish tasks. In some games, the cooperative multiplayer is separate from the single-player part of the game. Sometimes that means a separate set of missions. Sometimes that means that the cooperative part is stored on a separate save. However it's done, multiplayer has always something that the player opts into. A choice is made at some point, they either select a menu option to take part in multiplayer or they tell their friend to pick up the other controller and join them.

Journey is a very unique game in many ways, but one of those ways is in its approach to multiplayer. For one, the only way to opt out of the multiplayer would be to forcibly disconnect your system from the internet. You see, after you have completed the introductory section, which literally teaches you the five things that you need to know about for the duration of the game, the game will find another, random player who is at the same point in the game as you and decide that you will play together. A white mark will appear on the edge of the screen that is typical of so many games to indicate that there is something of interest in that direction. When you turn the camera to it you will find someone else who looks almost exactly like you.
Your clothing becomes more detailed as you accumulate trophies and the gold accents crawl up it.
If you didn't know it was another player you might think it was an NPC. You can't type or talk to each other and aren't shown the other player's name. The only ways that you have to communicate are through your actions, which are limited to movement and singing. Some accounts I've seen so far have talked about how they communicated with the other player. One such account said that they adapted to echoing two short chirps for "Ready?" and "I'm ready."

It's a very interesting experience. On my first playthrough I had two companions with me for my journey. The first went away after the first section but I got a new one just as I started the second section. Working together, flying around, and solving puzzles together made it a unique experience, like two children playing together even though neither can talk yet. We explored and made our way to the top of the mountain together. Sometimes we would go our separate ways and get separated, eventually not being able to see each other. If that happened, one of us would sing out a loud note which would inform the other of our location, and the other would respond and we would move towards each other.
Deserts are only in the beginning of the game.
In my second playthrough, I wanted to spend more time exploring. This meant that I would often run away from my partner to look at things, and they wouldn't wait for me. I wouldn't have waited for me either. So I spent a good amount of time in the game without somebody with me. It completely transforms the experience. It makes you feel alone. The world in Journey is not an inviting one. At it's best it's neutral about your presence and becomes hostile towards the end. Having somebody else there with you, to experience what you're experiencing, makes the entire gameplay experience different.

Furthermore, since there's no way to talk to one another, you can't harass the other player. You can't grief them. You can't inconvenience them. There aren't any tasks that you can't complete yourself, so you can't even let the other person down. Those who do fear potential harassment, at the end of a playthrough, after the credits roll, the game does tell you the names of everyone you played with.

One thing that I find particularly interesting is that as you gain trophies (the PS3's version of achievements), your character's robe becomes more ornate. Because of this your robe acts as a sort of indicator of your knowledge of the game. None of the trophies have a prohibiting skill requirement, they're pretty much all about finding things. So if you see someone whose robe is particularly adorned, then they know where much of the game's things are and just might show you where they are. In fact, as of this writing, I'm one trophy away from having all of them, and that trophy requires that I spend a week not playing the game. Once I have that, I'll have earned the platinum trophy and I plan on going through the game showing other players where things are, and hopefully they'll pass the knowledge on themselves.

Playing Journey has been a fascinating experience in more ways than way. It has really challenged ideas that I've had about multiplayer, storytelling, and achievements. I'm very curious about how the concepts used in it could be put in other games. Could Journey's anonymous multiplayer be put to good use in other games, such as cooperative shooters? What about a game, such as a shooter, where you "sign up" for various missions and the game picks a random partner for you to play with. Turn off the friendly fire and the ability to communicate and you could potentially have a rewarding experience. It's an interesting thought, and it's something that I really hope to see some day again in the future.

Obisidian's problem with reward cutoffs and continuity

There are tons of things in life which fall under the category of "If X is greater than Y, then you get this." For example, at my current job: I'm going to get laid off  eventually. I haven't been working here long, and by the time the layoff happens I will have been here less than a year. If I had been here longer such that when I get laid off I will have been employed for over a year, then my severance will be double  of what I will end up receiving. In simpler terms
  • Employed < 1 year: Severance=X
  • Employed ≥ 1 year: Severance=2X
Where X is a value that I'm not going to disclose. You've likely been in this sort of situation before if you've ever received a grade of 89, which for most school I've been to is the highest score you can get that isn't an A. You're so close, but not close enough, and it stings. I went to a Catholic high school where an A was 93 or higher. There were more situations that I'd like where my final grade was a 92. It was good, but not good enough, and at most other schools it would have been. I hated it.[1]

Obsidian, developers of Fallout: New Vegas, have found themselves in a similar situation recently. In their contract with Bethesda, Obsidian would only receive a bonus if the New Vegas received a Metacritic score of 85 or higher. The game has an 84. Therefore they receive no bonus, and this has likely led to their recent layoffs and the reported cancellation of an unnamed next-generation title. I'm guessing they needed that bonus to keep that team running. I feel bad for Obsidian, because as far as I'm aware they did pretty good work with Fallout: New Vegas. 

Now, I'm not here to discuss how using Metacritic as a measure of how good a game is quite flawed because Metacritic pulls from reliable, trustworthy sources and other, less reliable sources. I'm here to talk about the mathematics of the situation and how

Graphically, Obisidian's situations can be represented as such
We can all see this plainly, once they hit 85, they get the bonus. Otherwise, they don't. You see, the unfairness lies in the discontinuity in the graph. Does it make sense that they get nothing for an 84 but get it all for an 85? I argue that it's not. Instead of the function that is in their contract, I propose a different function. What if, starting at a score of 80 they receive a small bonus that increases until maxing out at 85.
This seems to make more sense to me, since it rewards different levels of accomplishment in varying amounts. Now, of course, this contract deal would obviously benefit Obsidian more than the previous contract, so if this were part of a discourse, a compromise would likely have to be struck. If might start at 82 instead of 80 and cap out at 87 instead of 85. I made a composite image of that with the payment model that was used.
As you can see, when comparing the two, my way benefits Obsidian if the score is from 82 to 85, It benefits Bethesda if the score is from 85 to 87, and it's the same everywhere else. Under this model, Bethesda still wouldn't have gotten the full bonus, but they would have gotten something. In fact, they would have received 40% of the bonus, which may not have been enough to save their game team, but it would have been something.

I think that people often underestimate the impact that a reward structure can have. Discontinuous ones such as the letter grade system, Obsidian's bonus, and my severance can have very harsh effects for falling just under the cutoff.

I don't think people understand just how important continuity is when we create functions (and these payoff systems are functions) for our life. Every real world phenomenon is continuous. Although things can seem sudden to the point of being an instantaneous difference, they never really are. Their change can be sharp, but it's always there. For example, the people who write the tax code understand this, although the marginal tax rate is a discontinuous function, it makes the actual amount of tax you pay a continuous (specifically, a continuous and increasing) function of your income. That is, until you start to talk about various tax exemptions and loopholes.

So what is it about continuous functions that makes them important? The important thing about a continuous function is that if you have a threshold on how much change you want in your output, there is some amount of change in your input that can be tolerated before breaching that threshold. To rephrase the problem with Obsidian's bonus payment function in these terms is that if you're sitting at a Metacritic score of 85, there is NO amount by which the score can go down and produce a small change in the bonus.[2]

[1] The grade scale at my high school was:
  • A=100-93,
  • B=92-85,
  • C=84-77,
  • D=76-70,
  • and F=69-0.
[2] The continuity of the function isn't the only important factor here. Frankly a continuous function, like the ones that I displayed, could have been made steep enough that it would emulate the bonus payment function that Obisidian had. It's not only the continuity of the function that's important, but also the continuity of all of it's derivatives. Continuity is just the first step at arriving to a function that would play more nicely. To note, a function for which all derivatives are continuous is called smooth.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Night School: The Math of Drop Rates

Hopefully that chestpiece is in this pile somewhere...
Drop rates are where most people will encounter and be aware of randomness in World of Warcraft. The other places would be in crits and random procs, of course. There can also be quite a bit of misunderstanding about how they work. Everybody knows the basics, of course: when the boss dies, the game rolls some random numbers and finds those numbers in the loot table to see what the boss should drop. Different items have different drop rates, which come from that item occupying a larger or smaller section of the loot table, making it more or less likely to drop. Other things, like tier tokens and legendary weapon fragments are often rolled for on separate tables from the normal loot.

For the duration of this post, I talk about drop rates with the percents, but all the math with be done with the decimal. So, 10% is 0.10, 5% is 0.05, and 100% is 1. Percents (Latin for "per 100") are a great way to talk about these things, but you cannot do the actual math with them, one must convert them to decimals.

How long until this item will drop?
That's the big question, isn't it. When will my shield drop? Why can't I get a shoulder token? Where is that stupid phoenix mount? Let's just assume that you're the only person contending for a particular item, and that when it drops it will go to you. Will you indulge me by allowing me a table? Who am I kidding? I'm putting a table here whether you like it or not.

Minimum Kills for X% of people?
Drop rate
% of players50%10%1%

An entry from this chart should read as, "With a drop rate of 10%, 50% of players will have to kill the boss 7 or more tries."

So how do you like those numbers? That mount that has a 1% drop rate? There's a ~50% chance it will take you 68 or fewer tries. There's also a 10% chance it will take you 230 or more tries. You might notice that the numbers for 1% of players is roughly double that for the 10% of players. This is because 1% is 10% of 10%. But where does all this come from?

Suppose the probability that an item will drop is p, and the probability that it won't drop would then be 1-p. If you want to know the probability that something will drop after you've killed the boss x times, that's actually difficult to directly calculate, because it could drop multiple times. When calculating probabilities, you'll very often run into situations where the thing you want to know is hard to calculate directly, but the opposite of it (in this case, the probability that the item won't drop in x kills) is very easy to calculate. In that case you calculate the probability that it won't happen and then subtract the result from 1.

In our question, calculating the probability that something won't drop is easy. You simply take the probability that it won't drop from a single kill, 1-p, and raise it to the power of the number of kills, x. You multiply because these are independent events, meaning that the outcome of one event (a kill) does not affect the outcome of the other events. This makes the probability that the item won't drop is*
and the probability that it will drop at least once is
One thing that could be noticed from playing around with that equation is that, for any positive value of x,  unless p=0 or 1, the formula will never equal 0 or 1. In other words, the only times when there is absolute certainty is when the drop isn't random, or you haven't killed the boss yet. Here is a chart that depicts the probability that an item will have dropped based on how many kills have been attempted. Here, the probability of a drop is 10%.

Wolfram Alpha is a great source for doing math.** 
You'll notice that even at the number of kills get's very large, the probability that the item will have dropped never actually hits 1. So no matter how many times you kill, there's no guarantee that the item will drop.

There is an article written by Brian Wood on WoWInsider that contains a wonderful calculator for drop rate percentages such as this. I highly recommend that you check it out here.

Corollary: Average Number of Drops
Of course, the previous section is based on an assumption that you'll only want one of an item, and that it will only drop from one boss/monster. Say you are farming something that has a <100% chance of dropping from whatever you're killing. Let's say it's Relics of Ulduar. It has an 11% percent chance of dropping off of Mildred the Cruel If you want to know the average number that you should expect to get after so many kills, you just multiply the probability of it dropping by the number of kills. If you were to kill Mildred 26 times, then you should expect to have an average of .11*26=2.86 Relics of Ulduar.

The mousover text for those equations contains the LaTeX code used to produce them at the Online LaTeX Equation Editor. Note: "\left(" and "\right)" weren't actually necessary for those, I could have just used "(" and ")" but it's considered a best practice to use the longer ones because they scale in size with their contents. Consider the example below:

**I used Wolfram Alpha to produce the graph up above. It's an amazing thing. Like if Google could do your homework. It can factor polynomials, give population statistics, and even do calculus. I used the free trial of the pro service to get the graph above. The whole thing blows my damn mind.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Lumines and Super Stardust Delta Impressions

Click for full size w/ double the vertical and horizontal resolution.
Super Stardust Delta
Super Stardust Delta is the followup to one of my personal PSN favorites, Super Stardust HD. Super Stardust (of both varieties) is a twin-stick shooter like the immensely popular Geometry Wars but instead of being played in a bounded rectangular area it is instead played on a sphere, meaning that the player (and the enemies) cannot get trapped in a corner. Super Stardust HD featured three main weapons as well as a bomb and boost capability. Super Stardust Delta has brought that down to two main weapons and has added the Black Hole and the Missile Strike which are activated by touching either the touch screen or the rear touch panel.

One of my major problems with Super Stardust HD was the lackluster boss battles. When the bosses for the later levels were two of earlier bosses, you know you have a problem. SSD has really stepped up the boss battles to be interesting, fun, and different. Furthermore, reducing the number of weapons to two (Gold Melter and Ice Splitter; now called 'fire' and 'ice') was a great decision because Rock Crusher and Ice Splitter were basically the same thing. Ice Splitter just had a narrower spread and a longer range.
I haven't had a great opportunity yet to try out the new special weapons, Black Hole and Missile Strike, but I'm definitely finding an increased usefulness for boost, especially since it doesn't consume your special moves anymore.

The game also includes several minigames to play around with the features of the system. The first game I tried had waves of asteroids fall and in order to break them up, one must press on both the front and rear touch screen to squeeze them to pieces. This was a simple enough minigame and was fairly neat.

The second minigame had me using the front touch screen to move around a blue disc. The object was to avoid being hit with red enemies while killing the blue enemies. The large problem with this is that having my finger over the screen obscured my vision, which is all too critical for a game Super Stardust, especially when you are red/green colorblind. There are more minigames of varying quality, but the real fun is with the main game.

The music tracks are remixed versions of the Super Stardust HD tracks and that's a good thing. They've retained their high quality and addictiveness in the transition to the Vita. The game allows you to play each level individually or back-to-back in the main mode, it also has three difficulties and allows you to play the game in a "Pure" style, as in without the Missile Strike or the Black Hole abilities. All in all, Super Stardust Delta is a much better game than Super Stardust HD and any Vita owner who enjoyed the original or who just enjoys shooting things should definitely give this newer installment a try.

Note: I highly recommend going into the menu and remapping the controls so that the back touch screen doesn't do anything. You will thank me when you don't get hand cramps from trying to avoid touching the back screen. Normally this isn't a problem but since the action in the game lasts so long and is constant, it becomes quite the issue.
Click for full size.
Lumines: Electronic Symphony
Ah, Lumines. Lumines was the game that caused me to want an original PSP, and was the only game that I bought for it at launch. That little game and I have spent so much good time together. From the moment I started it and "Shinin'" by Mondo Grosso started playing I knew that I was in love. Fighting, making my way to the end so that I could hear "Lights" was a journey, and a difficult one at that. I've also enjoyed Lumines II and Lumines Supernova.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony is another entry in the Lumines stable of games . There are a few things that it does differently. To begin, the special chain block doesn't require the formation of a square to activate, it just needs an adjacent square of the same color. This makes it easier to use, but it will often be used at times when you're rather save it. There is also a new shuffle block that when it lands will randomize the color of each block that is connected to it. I haven't been in a 'late-game' situation yet where I've had too many block on the screen. However, I imagine that if I get into one, this block will greatly help me bring that down.

Another interesting addition to the game is the introduciton of avatar abilities. In the past, Lumines has allowed you to select an avatar to represent yourself. However, the avatar has been purely cosmetic. However, in this installment, each avatar has a special ability that can be used when it is charged up. The abilities charges depending upon your performance. The standard avatar ability makes the next piece have a chain in one of its blocks. I haven't actually played around with other avatars yet, but I definitely look forward to seeing what the other ones can do. Avatar abilities are activated by using the touch screen to tap the picture of your avatar and they differ between single- and multi-player modes, for balance.

The other important component to Lumines is the music. In past games, I've found that the best skins are the ones were based on licensed songs. Lumines: Electronic Symphony seems to have realized this and has included a wide assortment of licensed music to base skins on. As such, the music in L:ES is very good. It tends to be more in the foreground than in previous games, but I consider that a good thing. Past music in the games sometimes just felt like a collection of sound effects that were triggered by your actions. Now every song has a good driving theme supported by great effects.

Lumines: Electronic Symphony  is a great game that I wholeheartedly recommend if you own a PlayStation Vita.

If only this song were in it:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

WoW Survey Results: behind the scenes of "crossplay"

I tend to round to two decimal places for all the stuff I do, just so you know. I like two decimal places because it's the same level of accuracy that you get with money; so it feels specific without being overly so.

During the writing of my post on crossplay, I encountered a problem. When I was looking at the difference in crossplay between the young and the old group, I wanted a way to talk about whether a particular increase for a race or class was more or less than the average increase. I've included a small sample of one of those tables below.

Crossplay by age for race
You'll notice that the last column has been removed also. That's because that's exactly what we're here to talk about. My first instinct for that last column, which I'll just refer to as the "change" column, was to just to take the difference. This would give us a difference of 10.23 for the humans and 9.33 for the trolls. I didn't like that, though, because I felt that the trolls' gain was more significant since they started off much lower than the humans.

My next instinct was to try ratios (division) for the last column. This would give the humans a result of 1.33, a ~33% increase, and the trolls a result of 1.56, a ~56% increase. While this looks good for these two numbers, I actually have conceptual problems with this as well. Suppose I included a third race here for which the young group had 90% female characters and 100% female characters for the older group. This would give us a result of 1.11 (repeating, of course). I feel that's too low though; going from having 10% male characters to zero is a pretty significant thing. So I wanted something that will scale well at the low end and at the high end. Just as gaining 10 percentage points is a big deal when you have very little, such as the trolls, it's also a big deal when there's not much left to pick from, such as for this hypothetical race.

So it occurred to me that just considering how many female characters there were would be insufficient, and that I would also need to look at how many male character there were. This is when I turned to looking at the odds. In short (if you don't want to read that link), the odds of something happening is the probability that it will happen divided by the probability it won't happen. So if the odds of something happening are 10:1, it's 10 times more likely to happen than to not happen. So I decided to look at the ratio of the odds for each age group, or as I summarized in the last post
where p is the percentage of female characters for that group. When I did all the calculations and thought about how I felt about the results, everything just looked right. The values that I felt should be bigger than others were all that way. 

So if you're wondering how this stuff get's done; that's how. It's trial, error, and intuition.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

WoW Survey Results: Looking at crossplay

Actually a dude
There's a bit of an adage about World of Warcraft that the men are men, and so are the women. This is to say that no matter what the gender of the character you're looking at is, it's likely a guy playing that character. Now, given the percentage of female players that some studies have shown and the percent of the time that players of both genders play oppositely-gendered characters, this is actually unlikely.

For this article, and forever on until I manage to find a better one, I will use the term "crossplay" to refer to when a person plays a character whose gender is different from their gender.

In general, from my survey results, male respondents engaged in crossplay ~33.96% of the time and female respondents engaged in crossplay ~9.19% of the time. Right of the bat we see that men engage in crossplay far more than women do, almost 4 times as much. If you ask, most male players would likely tell you that you spend all of your time in this game looking at your character's butt and they would like to enjoy looking at what is presented to them.

Is that all there is too it? Guys, why do (or don't) you play female characters? Ladies, why do (or don't) you play male characters? Well, we can look at this ourselves a bit while we wait for potentially helpful comments. Let's get some breakdowns in here. Unfortunately, as in the past, I can't supply a breakdown of crossplay for female respondents due to an insufficient volume of female respondents. I'm so totally bummed about that. So, if I fail to stipulate it later on, I'm just talking about crossplay by male players.

Percent of crossplay for male respondents for each class
PriestPaladinMageShamanRogueDruidHunterWarlockDeath KnightWarrior

What immediately springs out for me is something that I've noticed before. We find the warlock, Death Knight and warrior are at the bottom of a list. We saw this before when I was looking at gender and class, when those were 3 of the 4 least played classes for female respondents. It's interesting that three of the four least played classes for female respondents are the least crossplayed classes for male respondents. Although pinpointing why it's this way will have the same troubles that we had back then. The correlations between armor type, role, location in battle, and theme will confuse the analysis. We also see that our light-wielders, the priest and the paladin, hold solid leads in the top spots with the cloth-wearing mage in the third spot. Let's look at this a few different ways.

Average crossplay by armor type
This table shows a pretty clear trend that indicates that as you go from the lighter armor types to the heavier armor types, the average amount of crossplay by male respondents decreases. This probably plays into the aesthetics of the armor as many male players probably don't imagine a male hero wearing a robe or a female hero wearing bulky plate.

Average crossplay by role
No HealHeal
No Tank32.5241.61
This table show us that healers tend to have more crossplay while tanks tend to have less crossplay. Does this show that male players consider tanking to be a masculine role and healing to be a feminine role?

Average crossplay by fight location
Here we can see that male players tend to crossplay less with characters in melee and more with characters at range. I feel less certain that this one plays into real feelings and feel that it may just be a correlation with the effects of role and armor type.

The three tables above really break down what I think are some of the predominant factors that influence whether a male player will crossplay. I think that armor type and how it affects aesthetics and role/fighting location and how that affects perception really make up the most of it. I'll admit that I am not immune to this as well, but I'll get into that after this next section. Now let's look at how race influences crossplay.

Percent of crossplay for male respondents for each race

There is some wide variance here, huh. Analyzing the races is different since they can't be broken into groups as easily as classes can be. The thing that tends to stick out to me, is the comparative of the female model, especially when that is compared to the male model. We see that the female models that are the most attractive (according to human standards, of course) are at the top of this list. I have complete faith that the patented female Draenei hip wiggle has played no small role in vaulting them to the front of this list. Gnomes, while certainly not having human proportions, are much like tiny humans, which is probably the factor that has placed them in the number 5 spot above all the "monstrous" races and the dwarves. Interestingly, although dwarves are quite human, moreso than the gnomes in my opinion, they are at tenth place here. I guess guys just tend to be too shallow for them. They probably couldn't handle a playing a dwarven lady anyway. One last table for this section, you probably noticed this yourself with the last one.

Crossplay by faction

This combined with the fact that the Horde has fewer female players than the Alliance means that the Horde is a bit of a sausage fest, comparatively. Sorry Horde bros, that's just the way it is.
Also really a dude

In full disclosure I must admit that I am not immune to the draw of the female characters, although I believe my percentage is lower than the average. My very first female character was a Night Elf priest (how typical, right?) and my second female character is a human warrior, which I've talked about before (and need to play more). I honestly can't remember any others that I may have.

So it seems that the trends that drive men to play a female character are the oft-quoted attractiveness and their perception of in-game gender roles. What I'm particularly interested in is why there is such a difference in the percentage of crossplay between male and female players. Do women play so few male characters because female characters tend to be more attractive? What other components are there to this?

But wait, there's more - Age and crossplay
There is an age component to all of this, too. In general, older male players are more likely to play female characters than younger male players. Going back to the two groups that I set up for my post about the ages of male players and how that impacted what they played, I found that in general, the 18 and younger group played female characters 27.62% of the time while the 25 and older group played female characters 34.65% of the time. Futhermore, the increase from one group to another was not uniform, some groups saw a higher increase than others.

Crossplay by age for class
YoungerOlderComparison of odds*
Death Knight17.65%27.75%1.79

So every group except for the hunter and the mage saw an increase in their amount of crossplay among the male respondents at they ageds. When looking at this chart, however, some of the classes increased less than the average increase. So while female characters tend to appeal more as we move from the younger group to the older group, some don't increase as much. In summary, as male players age
  • Decreased: hunter, mage
  • Increased<Average: priest, shaman, rogue, paladin
  • Increased>Average: warlock, Death Knight, warrior, druid
One thing to notice is that the classes that had the lowest percentage of female players among the younger group saw the biggest increases. It's distinctly possible that as male players get older, they tend to throw away a bit of their preconceived notions about in-game gender roles. This isn't to say that the older male players are an enlightened bunch, but just that they don't subscribe to those gender roles as strongly.

Crossplay by age for race
YoungerOlderComparison of odds*
Night Elf47.58%47.11%0.98
Blood Elf44.44%52.02%1.36

 In summary, this is
  • Decrease: dwarf, draenei, orc, Night Elf
  • Increase<Average:Blood Elf
  • Increase>Average:goblin, human, troll, worgen, gnome, undead, tauren
 One thing to notice here is that in addition to being more open to crossplay, the older male group also seems to have lost their qualms with the "monstrous" female races, with all of them except for the orc receiving significant gains in popularity. Quite frankly, I can't come up with a reason that the orc and the dwarf would have a decrease in popularity. It's puzzling to me.

I could have done the various breakdowns that I normally do but I think what we saw was pretty clear and that I would spare you all.   ;-)

Male crossplay is something that has many factors. In general, it seems to be affected by the attractiveness of the female model of the chosen race as well as the aesthetics of the class's armor. Futhermore, it seems to be affected by the in-game gender roles that the players seem to ascribe to their character's PVE roles.

As male players get older, things seem to change. They seem to become more willing to crossplay in general. It seems likely to me that this isn't due to an increased desire to play female characters but a loss of feeling that they have to play male characters. Furthermore, they seem to becomes more open in how they crossplay, not feeling as strong a pull to tend to those perceived in game gender roles and becoming more open to crossplaying with races that they might not find as attractive as others.

All in all, no matter how much analysis I do here, we can't conclude anything about why a particular person engages in crossplay or why they crossplay with the particular character(s) that they do. For some, it could just be about having something nice to look at. For some, it could be for roleplay purposes. For others, it can be part of their transition process as a transgendered person.

In the future, I'd like to be able to take a look at female crossplay. The fact that it is more rare makes the possibility of analyzing it all the more appealing. If I get the chance to do a study like this again in the future I will go to great steps to get a large enough number of female respondents so that I can achieve such an analysis.

Next time, I intend to look at what I'm calling "class correlations." I'll be looking at what classes tend to be played by the same person and how if one person plays one class, how likely is it that they play the other classes. Are there some classes that are much likelier to be played together than others? We'll find out.

*The comparison of odds column is calculated as follows. If p(young) is the percentage of female characters for the young group and p(old) being the same for the older group, with both being between 0 and 1, then the comparison of odds,
This is a measure of the increase in crossplay from the young group to the male group. It is the odds that a older respondent crossplays for that class divided by the odds that a younger respondent crossplays for that class.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It hasn't been a good week.

The only thing keeping me going.

This week has been a pretty bad week. The first bad thing is that on Wednesday, Sarah got into a car wreck when she was leaving work. Someone was coming but they had their blinker on and were slowing down like they were going to turn in. She went out but they kept going straight. They told the officer that they were slowing down to turn in down the road, despite the fact that the next turn in was at least 150 feet down the road and it would have been irresponsible to turn on their blinker and slow down that early. She is fortunately completely fine despite the fact that, even at the slow speed the accident occurred at, this is what happened to her car
The door is ruined, the frame where the door latches to the car is bent, nothing forms a seal to keep out the elements, the door doesn't open, and the inside is a bit squished too. The paramedics and the officer were very surprised that she was okay. They would look at the car and then back at her and ask, "Are you sure you're okay." We went to the doctor the next day just to make sure and yeah, she's okay.

Right now we're in the how-much-would-this-cost-to-fix-and-would-it-be-better-just-to-sell-it-for-parts-and-buy-something-else phase. We're looking around and will hopefully have that cleared up in the next week or so. We're going to start by trying the maybe-we-can-just-use-one-vehicle strategy, with our schedules it will probably work, even if it may trap her at home when I'm at work (unless she wants to take me to work <wink>).

It gets worse
At work on Friday we learned that the medicare contract that we work is (finally) going to be awarded to another company. This means that at some point in the next (roughly) three months I won't have a job there anymore. They're looking for work to do once the contract expires, but everything that's been talked about essentially wouldn't include me.

This contract bidding process has apparently been going on for five years, and was something that I knew about when I accepted the job. I accepted the job because, well, I hadn't had a 'real job' doing statistics before and I definitely needed the experience/recommendation/everything so that I could leverage it for a job that I really wanted. I even knew that we would be hearing about the contract this week or next and I knew that we probably wouldn't get it, but actually having it happen really hits hard.

So now begins the process of looking for a new job. Although I'm certainly going to be checking local (central Arkansas) places for jobs, I'm not optimistic of the prospects. So I'm definitely going to be checking other states (mostly more northern states) for places to work. I'll also be doing online searches and other things. You'll probably hear more about this in the future from me. I have literally drawn up a document that I have called my "Action Plan" for how I'm going to deal with this.

If I had to describe everything in a picture, it would be this:

OH, and Fred broke my watch last week, also. It wasn't intentional, since he's a cat and I don't think he harbors ill will against my watch, but it is no less frustrating. It's just the band and I'm 99% sure it can be fixed, but UGH.

There are some other things going on now, but they aren't definite so I won't talk about it yet. This would be something very positive that I'm quite excited about. It's a reaction to what has happened above and would make me very happy.