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   Author  Topic: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games  (Read 489844 times)
christianF
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #375 on: Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:04am »

on Jan 22nd, 2011, 9:39am, omar wrote:
Although it is very tempting for me to play test this, I won't have much time to do it right now. It's easy to make up rules based on gut feel, but that doesn't mean the game is any good.

 
Playtesting has two sides to it, and the first one is to check for bugs. That wouldn't seem to hard here. I can see no bugs in the variant you suggested, and my own suggestion regarding exchange of power between pieces will probably not add to clarity to begin with. Just something that crossed my mind.
 
The other side is whether the game is worth playing. That's different for different games and for different players, so to figure that out playtesting it yourself is of limited significance. The only way is to kick it into the open and maybe lobby for it if you're convinced of its value. But I don't need to tell you how much effort that may require.
 
Fortunately it's not a requirement for the contest: bugfree and clear will do and the feedback may be valuable for its own sake.
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #376 on: Jan 26th, 2011, 12:03pm »

I already have two miniature chess games that are build around the "Atlantis effect", a gradual disappearance of the playing field that will eventually strip one king or the other from refuge, namely Shakti and Caļssa.
These games, in their small and rather eccentric way, provide a tactical playing ground for some rather revolutionary ideas, and both have proven their merits over the years.
Now playing around with the 'offspring' idea of Mark's game Monkey Queen has rendered a third:
 

Cyclix

For now it's only the bare rules, I'll add some examples later and an applet will be provided in due time.  
 
Cyclix © MindSports
The process of invention.
« Last Edit: Jan 26th, 2011, 12:40pm by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #377 on: Feb 1st, 2011, 8:22am »

I discovered a grain of sand in the machinery of Cyclix. It comes with the territory: chess variants are exercises in arbitrariness to begin with. They're usually mechanical rather than organical. They don't come together, you have to put the elements together like a watchmaker.
 
Playing around with it, Cyclix turned out the be something of a streetfight. You hit a lot and take a lot, and things can become rather chaotic. Close combat, an unclear strategy, except maybe in very general terms, lots of tactical leverage and lots of sacrifices.
That's to be expected when the pieces are immediately returned to the player making the 'sacrifice'.
 
At a certain point I noticed that the pieces were hampered by the increasing number of holes. The holes are meant to hamper the king - that's the whole 'Atlantis' idea. They may hamper pieces to a degree, and they do in Shakti.
But not in Caļssa, where a piece may carry its tile along to land on a square that doesn't have one - the problem isn't new and the choice may go either way, depending on the nature of the interacting elements.
 
The Cyclix king is stronger than Shakti's, because in Shakti a king in check is restricted to adjacent squares. But Shakti's pieces are less in number and not too strong either. So I had already decided not to restrict Cyclix' king that way.
 
The Cyclix king is also more often forced to take a piece that gives check because pieces are easily and readily 'sacrificed' for instance to force a king to 'draw holes' around itself. But that may not always affect the king's escape routes negatively, and at a certain point the number of holes may hamper the pieces to a degree that feels annoying, especially if the king finds a long jump as a loophole.
 
So with the implicit exception of the king, I've given pieces the right to take along the tile they occupy if moving to a square that doesn't hold one, as in Caļssa. It gives the pieces greater flexibility and introduces new tactical goals, for instance 'stealing' tiles close to the opponent's king.
« Last Edit: Feb 1st, 2011, 8:28am by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #378 on: Feb 24th, 2011, 9:11am »

We've embraced a project of Greg Schmidt at mindsports:
 
The Axiom Universal Game System Project
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #379 on: Feb 27th, 2011, 9:29am »

Monkey Queen and Grabber, both contestants in the RGA Stacking Contest, can now be played turnbased at mindsports.nl as well as downloaded as Axiom games (these work stand alone, no interface required).
 
The Axiom version of Grabber lends itself excellently for solving a number of puzzles that are implied (if players choose to cooperate, which is simple since Axiom allows you to play both sides) such as:
 
Shortest possible game
Longest possible game
Max pieces in final position
Min pieces in final position
Max # of prisoners (16 most likely)
Max stack height
Shortest game resulting in total elimination of one color
 
When Axiom plays against itself, games typically end between 10 and 20 moves.
« Last Edit: Feb 27th, 2011, 4:08pm by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #380 on: Feb 27th, 2011, 7:55pm »

I downloaded and tried out Hex and Grabber. The interface looks and feels just like ZoG. Very nice. Did Greg develop this? Is there a project page of Axiom? Any plans to do Havannah?  
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #381 on: Feb 28th, 2011, 4:57am »

on Feb 27th, 2011, 7:55pm, omar wrote:
Did Greg develop this? Is there a project page of Axiom? Any plans to do Havannah?  

Yes and yes:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/axiom-system/
 
and maybe in time. The only bots that actually play havannah use MC/UCT. The traditional alpha/beta search using an evaluation function doesn't work too well for lack of a reliable evaluation function.
 
Maybe a good MC/UCT bot can be linked up, but I'm no expert in that field. Or any field except inventing abstract games for that matter Tongue
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #382 on: Feb 28th, 2011, 11:22am »

Cameron Browne started a thread at R.G.A (and a similar one at R.G.C. - but I'm not a member) called Games that stretch MCTS. There are some interesting observations there (though few conclusions), one of which is that uniform finite games are more 'susceptible' to MCTS. Arimaa would seem to be out of the woods where Havannah is in dangerous waters Smiley
 
I got a reply that was posted at R.G.C. by way of its author, Benedikt Rosenau (Zickzack at BGG and iGGC). Here's a Quote:
Symple by Christian Freeling has a kind of contract stage, too. After that, ridiculously high branching factors can and will appear.
In real games, 10^12 or 10^15 are possible. Yet, that stage is easy on the human mind.

Symple owes its existence to the fact that Benedikt reminded me on an old and faint smell. The smell that Star and Superstar and YvY and *Star all suck, not because they're bad games, but because they miss the elusive target, the essence of the theme. They were all off the mark, but what was the mark I missed twice? I had more or less given up on that, and if Benedikt hadn't been so persistent I'd probably left it at that.
 
I'd give *Star the highest credits in the above company, so I can't really blame Craige for saying *Star is what those other games wanted to be. But it's off target all the same.
 
I've described Symple's arrival elsewhere. Even Benedikt thought of the target in terms of a connection game, because Star is a 'connection game'. That's why we were shooting in the wrong direction. The theme is 'group penalty', and connection is a way to dress it. But not the most simple way, not the quintessential way.
 
Generic
Symple is more generic than the above mentioned 'group penalty' games because it doesn't have 'special cells' to connect. There's Occam's Razor for you. Squares/cells are simply squares/cells and groups are orthogonally connected stones of one color.
Symple goes right to the heart of the 'group penalty' theme by asking how many groups you want when on your turn you may either:
 
- grow every one of your existing groups by one stone, or ...
- ... start a new group by placing a single stone,
 
in the knowledge that every stone counts, but every group has an 'existence penalty' of 4 points.
 
I consider a couple things to be obvious:
1. Everyone here can figure out the dilemma posed by this protocol.
 
2. It suggests a paradigm of a division between an 'opening stage' where players place single stones and a 'growing phase' in which the seedlings are brought to bloom.
 
3. The first player has an advantage: if the second player grows first, he's a group (and thus a source for growth) behind, if he doesn't, he's equal in groups but behind in initiative.
 
I can't very well argue against the first The second isn't hardwired and there's a paradigm shift of sorts going on in Sygo, so I'll leave it at that for now. The third one was undeniable and a swap doesn't work because there are no 'bad cells' to start with - the price of being generic. Bummer.
 
Of course those who have followed the birth of the 'Symple protocol' know it has a happy ending: the protocol itself gave the tool, the 'contract' Benedikt is referring to, to balance any advantage.
 
4. The protocol is itself generic and may be applicable to games that have the growth of groups as part of their mechanics.
 
5. Symple is a highly organic uniform finite game, the kind that is considered (at least in Camerons thread) to be 'susceptible' to MCTS. Keeping Benedikt's remark in mind I doubt that.
 
Symple is also rather 'predictable' in its behaviour. I've played one or two games and I can see considerable refinement of its modest tactics and considerable deepening of its bottomless strategic considerations.
 
Great?
Do I think Symple is a great game? No, I think it's an interesting game and better than any of the other 'group penalty' games. Actually Symple is what *Star wanted to be Wink .
 
What Symple lacks (as does *Star) is drama, in the sense of Mark Thompson's leading article Defining the Abstract. I've compared Symple to a big ship slowly heeling to one side: by the time it's clear which way, there's little tactical leverage to turn the tables.
 
And my scale ends with 'great', it doesn't start with it.
« Last Edit: Mar 1st, 2011, 7:32am by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #383 on: Mar 3rd, 2011, 11:34pm »

Thanks for the link Christian.
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #384 on: Mar 4th, 2011, 9:59am »

on Mar 3rd, 2011, 11:34pm, omar wrote:
Thanks for the link Christian.

To be fair, I had hoped for somewhat more elaborate comments, but with the championship running I can imagine many posters here have more pressing matters on their mind Smiley
 
Anyway, I'll probably come back to that, but I've got some ad hoc news I'd like to share.
Dave Dyer has implemented  Crossfire at Boardspace.net.

 
It's a beautiful board, breathing ancienty (wholly unjustified but highly appreciated) and it comes with an AI to play against on different levels. Of course live play against another human player is also possible.
 
Dave writes Quote:
Crossfire is a minimalist stacking game by Christian Freeling.  It's played on a "snowflake" shaped board with hex connectivity. It's a game so simple and elegant, it doesn't need a separate rules page.

I've thanked Dave for that and asked him to mention Sid Sackson's Focus as the source of this simplicity and elegance.
 
At the same time I should mention that Crossfire has by some been discarded as a "Focus clone". Apart from the question whether a translation of a game to a different grid automatically makes it a clone, I disagree.
 
The 'twist' that characterizes the game - replacing the artificial ceiling of a stackheight of 5 by a natural ceiling defined by a cell's number of neighbors - is of major strategical and tactical relevance. Aiming large stacks at low capacity cells is an estabished part of both strategy and tactics and provides fixed 'focuspoints' for both, that are totally absent in Focus.
 
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #385 on: Mar 26th, 2011, 4:48pm »

We've given the ArenA and the Pit a much needed facelift Cheesy
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #386 on: Mar 27th, 2011, 11:58am »

on Mar 26th, 2011, 4:48pm, christianF wrote:
We've given the ArenA and the Pit a much needed facelift Cheesy

Lookin' good... Cool
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #387 on: Apr 1st, 2011, 3:04pm »

on Mar 27th, 2011, 11:58am, megajester wrote:

Lookin' good... Cool

We'll pull it through somewhat more extensively, new applets and all (Draughts, Dameo and Bushka have been updated accordingly now).
 
Meanwhile I still plan to elaborate on why Symple is an important game, although I still haven't played it more than two or three times, just after its discovery.
 
As far as playing is concerned, I prefer Sygo, which is far from quintessential, but it features capture and offers more drama. And it illustrates the strength of the symple mechanism.
 
A particularly interesting game between Rendong You and me ended in a 181/180 score, with yours truly at the short end.
« Last Edit: Apr 2nd, 2011, 3:09pm by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #388 on: Apr 3rd, 2011, 11:55am »

on Apr 1st, 2011, 3:04pm, christianF wrote:

Meanwhile I still plan to elaborate on why Symple is an important game,  

Again??
 
Edit: Toned down but still slightly incredulous.  I'll be famous too someday...  like a hundred years after I'm dead.  That's the nice thing about games.  When it's your turn, it's really your turn.
« Last Edit: Apr 10th, 2011, 2:20pm by MarkSteere » IP Logged
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Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
« Reply #389 on: Apr 4th, 2011, 3:35am »

Restyled till now, with new and better applets: Draughts, Dameo, Bushka, Hexdame and Emergo.  
 
Next weekend we'll presumably restyle Go, Sygo and Symple.
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