Saturday, August 24, 2013

You only have to click once, fool!

The Howling Abyss, the All Random All Mid (ARAM) map and game mode is, as of writing this, a fairly recent addition to League of Legends. Matches are usually pretty quick taking roughly 20 mins on average. If you like teamfighting and generating gold faster than a sloth picks its nose, then ARAM is the game mode for you. Having taken an extended break from LoL for just over a year and a half, I find myself mainly playing ARAM and little else these days.

Admittedly this return was spurred by a number of things, one of which was a desire to see what has changed in LoL, coming back to what honestly felt like a completely different game. Another was the fact that recent LANs demonstrated that it is still a fun game, provided you don't take it overly seriously and become obsessed (like I did for a time). Finally, and possibly most importantly, several friends of mine, both old and new, are playing it as well. These friends, one of which I have watched become incredibly competent at LoL in the last few months, are the real reason I bother to play LoL at all these days. If not for them LoL would still be sitting in a proverbially dusty closet even now. Which would be a shame because presently, LoL is a hell of a lot of fun.

Anyways, ARAM. This acronym based brunt of a terrible, repeated household mum joke is something that is bordering on being overplayed. I have made a frag video which, if anything, will give me reason to maybe ease off a little bit or even explore the other game modes I liked a bit more (Summoner's Rift, Dominion). Although, knowing me, this is probably an absurdly quixotic thing to expect.

As per normal with any video on this blog, I recommend watching it in 720p.

The video itself I am ... how should I say ... slightly disappointed with. I have been video editing a LOT lately due to my other work commitments so I maybe didn't quite find the energy to make this a serious production. While I am usually the first one to criticize my own work, I think maybe due to the nature of ARAM, the frequency of truly awesome, video worthy occurrences are incredibly rare. You are almost constantly teamfighting/poking, which while fun, is maybe not the best spectator sport for the average person with ocular sensory organs. For the most part, things that occur in ARAM are an absolute clusterfuck at best and discerning what is happening amidst the chaos is probably quite strenuous on first watch. The choice in music is a new experiment for me, but honestly something I have tired of having listened to 50+ times while editing. I also realise that most of the frags are performed by me which is probably a bit boring. Alas, that is the nature of the recorder also being the editor. Still, I hope the video portrays some of the amusing moments that have occured in ARAM and that will hopefully continue to.


Like the game content I produce for personal or tutoring purposes, I have been incredibly reluctant to bring up my PhD research in any public place. Even a blog. However, as my PhD is (hopefully) coming to an end in the next few months, I do not see the harm in bringing it up in the form of a video I made for conferences and speeches.

My PhD is based around modeling certain player-like behaviour that is lacking in FPS bot AI and implementing it in games in a way that does not fundamentally change how typical AI systems (e.g. Finite State Machines) work. Within a plethora of possible player-like activities to improve on, such as my honours focus on a bot aiming system, I chose the somewhat vague and confusing idea of the 'threat' that players experience in games. For some reason, some people have difficulty understanding and swallowing what it is that I am talking about when I talk about threat in games. Maybe it depends on the type of games you play and how you think you play them. Hopefully this video shall aid in the digestion of the topic.

While this video talks primarily about the theory and design of the bot AI I have created, it should be noted that the entire game environment the AI exists in was designed from scratch too, as well as the default/base AI behaviour. This was not a game I just dumped my finalized ThreatBot AI into over an existing AI system, but developed from the ground up with attention to detail. This is a personal design choice, to see if a game can be developed from scratch to support the technology, but also to practice solo game development. Even now, with Australia's failing games economy, it is something I would love to get into.

The one percent

I have not posted anything in awhile. I am not sure if it has been because I am too busy IRL or if I am slowly tiring of even this meager means of anti-social narcissistic self expression (as opposed to social types such as Facebook). Part of me feels I don't really need to do this, but another part realises that its good to have something random to reflect on many months/years from now.

Nevertheless, I have a backlog of stuff to talk about. The first off the list is, again, Diablo III. Diablo III has copped a lot of flak from fans for many reasons in the past year. In my opinion, some of those reasons are legit (always online DRM, RMAH) and others are just people jumping on the jabberwocky bandwagon of wanting something to rip on. However, some reasons are ones that I will never understand, such as complaints about the game's story and not getting upgrades to your character consistently and immediately. I'm not saying they are not poor systems, I just could not give a hoot about them. Diablo games have always been about the gameplay for me, and Diablo III does not dissapoint on that front. At least in my opinion.

Anyways, enough of me trying to justify playing a game everybody hates. If I do any more of that I will have to start asking myself why I do it. A few months ago I decided to level a hardcore character. I am not sure what inspired me to do so, especially on an Australian connection (lag, disconnects etc). Maybe having leveled all 5 classes to 60 made me realise that there was only one area I had not tried. For anyone unaware, the Hardcore game mode in Diablo III is the same as the Hardcore difficulties in previous Diablo games. You get one life. When you are dead, you are dead.

I of course chose a Barbarian to play, the class I am most comfortable with and had the most experience playing. It is strange just how differently you approach everything in the game when you realise that death is permanent. I found myself gearing very differently than my previous Barbarian, focusing heavily on defensive and sustain gear at an early level and running abilities to buff my damage. Even with my knowledge of the game, I would find myself jumping into horrible situations and nearly dying at least once every 15 minutes. It was a much more interesting and tense play experience. As the hardcore AH is not the same as the softcore one (for example there is no real money option), the economy is completely different too. People understand that dying is very real and paying outrageous sums for gear is nonsensical. However, while stuff is usually cheaper, the supply of it significantly less (i.e. far less people playing hardcore). Taking into account the risk of farming of gold and items, the hardcore AH is much more balanced, but used sparingly due to the incredibly small amounts of gold people have. Upon reaching 60 and Inferno difficulty, amazingly my female Barbarian had over a million EHP and enough damage and sustain to take on the majority of the content.

Needless to say, Diablo was an absolute pushover. I think taking what I have learnt in softcore and my own personal preference for maintaining a balance between damage, sustain and tankiness was the exact criteria needed for finishing hardcore and killing Diablo. I will probably return to hardcore again in the expansion, Reaper of Souls, hopefully coming sooner rather than later.

 Note: The title of this post comes from the fact that less than 1 percent of Diablo III players have killed Diablo in hardcore Inferno. By comparison, only 6% have cleared Inferno in softcore. Amazing...