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AJ ALMENDINGER

glimpse into the future of Roblox

Our vision to bring the world together through play has never been more relevant than it is now. As our founder and CEO, David Baszucki (a.k.a. Builderman), mentioned in his keynote, more and more people are using Roblox to stay connected with their friends and loved ones. He hinted at a future where, with our automatic machine translation technology, Roblox will one day act as a universal translator, enabling people from different cultures and backgrounds to connect and learn from each other.
During his keynote, Builderman also elaborated upon our vision to build the Metaverse; the future of avatar creation on the platform (infinitely customizable avatars that allow any body, any clothing, and any animation to come together seamlessly); more personalized game discovery; and simulating large social gatherings (like concerts, graduations, conferences, etc.) with tens of thousands of participants all in one server. We’re still very early on in this journey, but if these past five months have shown us anything, it’s clear that there is a growing need for human co-experience platforms like Roblox that allow people to play, create, learn, work, and share experiences together in a safe, civil 3D immersive space.
Up next, our VP of Developer Relations, Matt Curtis (a.k.a. m4rrh3w), shared an update on all the things we’re doing to continue empowering developers to create innovative and exciting content through collaboration, support, and expertise. He also highlighted some of the impressive milestones our creator community has achieved since last year’s RDC. Here are a few key takeaways:
And lastly, our VP of Engineering, Technology, Adam Miller (a.k.a. rbadam), unveiled a myriad of cool and upcoming features developers will someday be able to sink their teeth into. We saw a glimpse of procedural skies, skinned meshes, more high-quality materials, new terrain types, more fonts in Studio, a new asset type for in-game videos, haptic feedback on mobile, real-time CSG operations, and many more awesome tools that will unlock the potential for even bigger, more immersive experiences on Roblox.

Vibin’

Despite the virtual setting, RDC just wouldn’t have been the same without any fun party activities and networking opportunities. So, we invited special guests DJ Hyper Potions and cyber mentalist Colin Cloud for some truly awesome, truly mind-bending entertainment. Yoga instructor Erin Gilmore also swung by to inspire attendees to get out of their chair and get their body moving. And of course, we even had virtual rooms dedicated to karaoke and head-to-head social games, like trivia and Pictionary.
Over on the networking side, Team Adopt Me, Red Manta, StyLiS Studios, and Summit Studios hosted a virtual booth for attendees to ask questions, submit resumes, and more. We also had a networking session where three participants would be randomly grouped together to get to know each other.

What does Roblox mean to you?

We all know how talented the Roblox community is from your creations. We’ve heard plenty of stories over the years about how Roblox has touched your lives, how you’ve made friendships, learned new skills, or simply found a place where you can be yourself. We wanted to hear more. So, we asked attendees: What does Roblox mean to you? How has Roblox connected you? How has Roblox changed your life? Then, over the course of RDC, we incorporated your responses into this awesome mural.
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Created by Alece Birnbach at Graphic Recording Studio

Knowledge is power

This year’s breakout sessions included presentations from Roblox developers and staff members on the latest game development strategies, a deep dive into the Roblox engine, learning how to animate with Blender, tools for working together in teams, building performant game worlds, and the new Creator Dashboard. Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School and Physician at Boston Children’s Hospital, also led attendees through a discussion on mental health and how to best take care of you and your friends’ emotional well-being, especially now during these challenging times.
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Making the Dream Work with Teamwork (presented by Roblox developer Myzta)
In addition to our traditional Q&A panel with top product and engineering leaders at Roblox, we also held a special session with Builderman himself to answer the community’s biggest questions.
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Roblox Product and Engineering Q&A Panel

2020 Game Jam

The Game Jam is always one of our favorite events of RDC. It’s a chance for folks to come together, flex their development skills, and come up with wildly inventive game ideas that really push the boundaries of what’s possible on Roblox. We had over 60 submissions this year—a new RDC record.
Once again, teams of up to six people from around the world had less than 24 hours to conceptualize, design, and publish a game based on the theme “2020 Vision,” all while working remotely no less! To achieve such a feat is nothing short of awe-inspiring, but as always, our dev community was more than up for the challenge. I’ve got to say, these were some of the finest creations we’ve seen.
WINNERS
Best in Show: Shapescape Created By: GhettoMilkMan, dayzeedog, maplestick, theloudscream, Brick_man, ilyannna You awaken in a strange laboratory, seemingly with no way out. Using a pair of special glasses, players must solve a series of anamorphic puzzles and optical illusions to make their escape.
Excellence in Visual Art: agn●sia Created By: boatbomber, thisfall, Elttob An obby experience unlike any other, this game is all about seeing the world through a different lens. Reveal platforms by switching between different colored lenses and make your way to the end.
Most Creative Gameplay: Visions of a perspective reality Created By: Noble_Draconian and Spathi Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective to solve challenges. By switching between 2D and 3D perspectives, players can maneuver around obstacles or find new ways to reach the end of each level.
Outstanding Use of Tech: The Eyes of Providence Created By: Quenty, Arch_Mage, AlgyLacey, xJennyBeanx, Zomebody, Crykee This action/strategy game comes with a unique VR twist. While teams fight to construct the superior monument, two VR players can support their minions by collecting resources and manipulating the map.
Best Use of Theme: Sticker Situation Created By: dragonfrosting and Yozoh Set in a mysterious art gallery, players must solve puzzles by manipulating the environment using a magic camera and stickers. Snap a photograph, place down a sticker, and see how it changes the world.
OTHER TOP PICKS
HONORABLE MENTIONS
For the rest of the 2020 Game Jam submissions, check out the list below:
20-20 Vision | 20/20 Vision | 2020 Vision, A Crazy Perspective | 2020 Vision: Nyon | A Wild Trip! | Acuity | Best Year Ever | Better Half | Bloxlabs | Climb Stairs to 2021 | Double Vision (Team hey apple) | Eyebrawl | Eyeworm Exam | FIRE 2020 | HACKED | Hyperspective | Lucid Scream | Mystery Mansion | New Years at the Museum | New Year’s Bash | Poor Vision | Predict 2020 | RBC News | Retrovertigo | Second Wave | see no evil | Sight Fight | Sight Stealers | Spectacles Struggle | Specter Spectrum | Survive 2020 | The Lost Chicken Leg | The Outbreak | The Spyglass | Time Heist | Tunnel Vision | Virtual RDC – The Story | Vision (Team Freepunk) | Vision (Team VIP People ####) | Vision Developers Conference 2020 | Vision Is Key | Vision Perspective | Vision Racer | Visions | Zepto
And last but not least, we wanted to give a special shout out to Starboard Studios. Though they didn’t quite make it on time for our judges, we just had to include Dave’s Vision for good measure. 📷
Thanks to everyone who participated in the Game Jam, and congrats to all those who took home the dub in each of our categories this year. As the winners of Best in Show, the developers of Shapescape will have their names forever engraved on the RDC Game Jam trophy back at Roblox HQ. Great work!

‘Til next year

And that about wraps up our coverage of the first-ever digital RDC. Thanks to all who attended! Before we go, we wanted to share a special “behind the scenes” video from the 2020 RDC photoshoot.
Check it out:
It was absolutely bonkers. Getting 350 of us all in one server was so much fun and really brought back the feeling of being together with everyone again. That being said, we can’t wait to see you all—for real this time—at RDC next year. It’s going to be well worth the wait. ‘Til we meet again, my friends.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Improving Simulation and Performance with an Advanced Physics Solver

August

05, 2020

by chefdeletat
PRODUCT & TECH
📷In mid-2015, Roblox unveiled a major upgrade to its physics engine: the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS) physics solver. For the first year, the new solver was optional and provided improved fidelity and greater performance compared to the previously used spring solver.
In 2016, we added support for a diverse set of new physics constraints, incentivizing developers to migrate to the new solver and extending the creative capabilities of the physics engine. Any new places used the PGS solver by default, with the option of reverting back to the classic solver.
We ironed out some stability issues associated with high mass differences and complex mechanisms by the introduction of the hybrid LDL-PGS solver in mid-2018. This made the old solver obsolete, and it was completely disabled in 2019, automatically migrating all places to the PGS.
In 2019, the performance was further improved using multi-threading that splits the simulation into jobs consisting of connected islands of simulating parts. We still had performance issues related to the LDL that we finally resolved in early 2020.
The physics engine is still being improved and optimized for performance, and we plan on adding new features for the foreseeable future.

Implementing the Laws of Physics

📷
The main objective of a physics engine is to simulate the motion of bodies in a virtual environment. In our physics engine, we care about bodies that are rigid, that collide and have constraints with each other.
A physics engine is organized into two phases: collision detection and solving. Collision detection finds intersections between geometries associated with the rigid bodies, generating appropriate collision information such as collision points, normals and penetration depths. Then a solver updates the motion of rigid bodies under the influence of the collisions that were detected and constraints that were provided by the user.
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The motion is the result of the solver interpreting the laws of physics, such as conservation of energy and momentum. But doing this 100% accurately is prohibitively expensive, and the trick to simulating it in real-time is to approximate to increase performance, as long as the result is physically realistic. As long as the basic laws of motion are maintained within a reasonable tolerance, this tradeoff is completely acceptable for a computer game simulation.

Taking Small Steps

The main idea of the physics engine is to discretize the motion using time-stepping. The equations of motion of constrained and unconstrained rigid bodies are very difficult to integrate directly and accurately. The discretization subdivides the motion into small time increments, where the equations are simplified and linearized making it possible to solve them approximately. This means that during each time step the motion of the relevant parts of rigid bodies that are involved in a constraint is linearly approximated.
📷📷
Although a linearized problem is easier to solve, it produces drift in a simulation containing non-linear behaviors, like rotational motion. Later we’ll see mitigation methods that help reduce the drift and make the simulation more plausible.

Solving

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Having linearized the equations of motion for a time step, we end up needing to solve a linear system or linear complementarity problem (LCP). These systems can be arbitrarily large and can still be quite expensive to solve exactly. Again the trick is to find an approximate solution using a faster method. A modern method to approximately solve an LCP with good convergence properties is the Projected Gauss-Seidel (PGS). It is an iterative method, meaning that with each iteration the approximate solution is brought closer to the true solution, and its final accuracy depends on the number of iterations.
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This animation shows how a PGS solver changes the positions of the bodies at each step of the iteration process, the objective being to find the positions that respect the ball and socket constraints while preserving the center of mass at each step (this is a type of positional solver used by the IK dragger). Although this example has a simple analytical solution, it’s a good demonstration of the idea behind the PGS. At each step, the solver fixes one of the constraints and lets the other be violated. After a few iterations, the bodies are very close to their correct positions. A characteristic of this method is how some rigid bodies seem to vibrate around their final position, especially when coupling interactions with heavier bodies. If we don’t do enough iterations, the yellow part might be left in a visibly invalid state where one of its two constraints is dramatically violated. This is called the high mass ratio problem, and it has been the bane of physics engines as it causes instabilities and explosions. If we do too many iterations, the solver becomes too slow, if we don’t it becomes unstable. Balancing the two sides has been a painful and long process.

Mitigation Strategies

📷A solver has two major sources of inaccuracies: time-stepping and iterative solving (there is also floating point drift but it’s minor compared to the first two). These inaccuracies introduce errors in the simulation causing it to drift from the correct path. Some of this drift is tolerable like slightly different velocities or energy loss, but some are not like instabilities, large energy gains or dislocated constraints.
Therefore a lot of the complexity in the solver comes from the implementation of methods to minimize the impact of computational inaccuracies. Our final implementation uses some traditional and some novel mitigation strategies:
  1. Warm starting: starting with the solution from a previous time-step to increase the convergence rate of the iterative solver
  2. Post-stabilization: reprojecting the system back to the constraint manifold to prevent constraint drift
  3. Regularization: adding compliance to the constraints ensuring a solution exists and is unique
  4. Pre-conditioning: using an exact solution to a linear subsystem, improving the stability of complex mechanisms
Strategies 1, 2 and 3 are pretty traditional, but 3 has been improved and perfected by us. Also, although 4 is not unheard of, we haven’t seen any practical implementation of it. We use an original factorization method for large sparse constraint matrices and a new efficient way of combining it with the PGS. The resulting implementation is only slightly slower compared to pure PGS but ensures that the linear system coming from equality constraints is solved exactly. Consequently, the equality constraints suffer only from drift coming from the time discretization. Details on our methods are contained in my GDC 2020 presentation. Currently, we are investigating direct methods applied to inequality constraints and collisions.

Getting More Details

Traditionally there are two mathematical models for articulated mechanisms: there are reduced coordinate methods spearheaded by Featherstone, that parametrize the degrees of freedom at each joint, and there are full coordinate methods that use a Lagrangian formulation.
We use the second formulation as it is less restrictive and requires much simpler mathematics and implementation.
The Roblox engine uses analytical methods to compute the dynamic response of constraints, as opposed to penalty methods that were used before. Analytics methods were initially introduced in Baraff 1989, where they are used to treat both equality and non-equality constraints in a consistent manner. Baraff observed that the contact model can be formulated using quadratic programming, and he provided a heuristic solution method (which is not the method we use in our solver).
Instead of using force-based formulation, we use an impulse-based formulation in velocity space, originally introduced by Mirtich-Canny 1995 and further improved by Stewart-Trinkle 1996, which unifies the treatment of different contact types and guarantees the existence of a solution for contacts with friction. At each timestep, the constraints and collisions are maintained by applying instantaneous changes in velocities due to constraint impulses. An excellent explanation of why impulse-based simulation is superior is contained in the GDC presentation of Catto 2014.
The frictionless contacts are modeled using a linear complementarity problem (LCP) as described in Baraff 1994. Friction is added as a non-linear projection onto the friction cone, interleaved with the iterations of the Projected Gauss-Seidel.
The numerical drift that introduces positional errors in the constraints is resolved using a post-stabilization technique using pseudo-velocities introduced by Cline-Pai 2003. It involves solving a second LCP in the position space, which projects the system back to the constraint manifold.
The LCPs are solved using a PGS / Impulse Solver popularized by Catto 2005 (also see Catto 2009). This method is iterative and considers each individual constraints in sequence and resolves it independently. Over many iterations, and in ideal conditions, the system converges to a global solution.
Additionally, high mass ratio issues in equality constraints are ironed out by preconditioning the PGS using the sparse LDL decomposition of the constraint matrix of equality constraints. Dense submatrices of the constraint matrix are sparsified using a method we call Body Splitting. This is similar to the LDL decomposition used in Baraff 1996, but allows more general mechanical systems, and solves the system in constraint space. For more information, you can see my GDC 2020 presentation.
The architecture of our solver follows the idea of Guendelman-Bridson-Fedkiw, where the velocity and position stepping are separated by the constraint resolution. Our time sequencing is:
  1. Advance velocities
  2. Constraint resolution in velocity space and position space
  3. Advance positions
This scheme has the advantage of integrating only valid velocities, and limiting latency in external force application but allowing a small amount of perceived constraint violation due to numerical drift.
An excellent reference for rigid body simulation is the book Erleben 2005 that was recently made freely available. You can find online lectures about physics-based animation, a blog by Nilson Souto on building a physics engine, a very good GDC presentation by Erin Catto on modern solver methods, and forums like the Bullet Physics Forum and GameDev which are excellent places to ask questions.

In Conclusion

The field of game physics simulation presents many interesting problems that are both exciting and challenging. There are opportunities to learn a substantial amount of cool mathematics and physics and to use modern optimizations techniques. It’s an area of game development that tightly marries mathematics, physics and software engineering.
Even if Roblox has a good rigid body physics engine, there are areas where it can be improved and optimized. Also, we are working on exciting new projects like fracturing, deformation, softbody, cloth, aerodynamics and water simulation.
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
This blog post was originally published on the Roblox Tech Blog.
© 2020 Roblox Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Using Clang to Minimize Global Variable Use

July

23, 2020

by RandomTruffle
PRODUCT & TECH
Every non-trivial program has at least some amount of global state, but too much can be a bad thing. In C++ (which constitutes close to 100% of Roblox’s engine code) this global state is initialized before main() and destroyed after returning from main(), and this happens in a mostly non-deterministic order. In addition to leading to confusing startup and shutdown semantics that are difficult to reason about (or change), it can also lead to severe instability.
Roblox code also creates a lot of long-running detached threads (threads which are never joined and just run until they decide to stop, which might be never). These two things together have a very serious negative interaction on shutdown, because long-running threads continue accessing the global state that is being destroyed. This can lead to elevated crash rates, test suite flakiness, and just general instability.
The first step to digging yourself out of a mess like this is to understand the extent of the problem, so in this post I’m going to talk about one technique you can use to gain visibility into your global startup flow. I’m also going to discuss how we are using this to improve stability across the entire Roblox game engine platform by decreasing our use of global variables.

Introducing -finstrument-functions

Nothing excites me more than learning about a new obscure compiler option that I’ve never had a use for before, so I was pretty happy when a colleague pointed me to this option in the Clang Command Line Reference. I’d never used it before, but it sounded very cool. The idea being that if we could get the compiler to tell us every time it entered and exited a function, we could filter this information through a symbolizer of some kind and generate a report of functions that a) occur before main(), and b) are the very first function in the call-stack (indicating it’s a global).
Unfortunately, the documentation basically just tells you that the option exists with no mention of how to use it or if it even actually does what it sounds like it does. There’s also two different options that sound similar to each other (-finstrument-functions and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining), and I still wasn’t entirely sure what the difference was. So I decided to throw up a quick sample on godbolt to see what happened, which you can see here. Note there are two assembly outputs for the same source listing. One uses the first option and the other uses the second option, and we can compare the assembly output to understand the differences. We can gather a few takeaways from this sample:
  1. The compiler is injecting calls to __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit inside of every function, inline or not.
  2. The only difference between the two options occurs at the call-site of an inline function.
  3. With -finstrument-functions, the instrumentation for the inlined function is inserted at the call-site, whereas with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining we only have instrumentation for the outer function. This means that when using-finstrument-functions-after-inlining you won’t be able to determine which functions are inlined and where.
Of course, this sounds exactly like what the documentation said it did, but sometimes you just need to look under the hood to convince yourself.
To put all of this another way, if we want to know about calls to inline functions in this trace we need to use -finstrument-functions because otherwise their instrumentation is silently removed by the compiler. Sadly, I was never able to get -finstrument-functions to work on a real example. I would always end up with linker errors deep in the Standard C++ Library which I was unable to figure out. My best guess is that inlining is often a heuristic, and this can somehow lead to subtle ODR (one-definition rule) violations when the optimizer makes different inlining decisions from different translation units. Luckily global constructors (which is what we care about) cannot possibly be inlined anyway, so this wasn’t a problem.
I suppose I should also mention that I still got tons of linker errors with -finstrument-functions-after-inlining as well, but I did figure those out. As best as I can tell, this option seems to imply –whole-archive linker semantics. Discussion of –whole-archive is outside the scope of this blog post, but suffice it to say that I fixed it by using linker groups (e.g. -Wl,–start-group and -Wl,–end-group) on the compiler command line. I was a bit surprised that we didn’t get these same linker errors without this option and still don’t totally understand why. If you happen to know why this option would change linker semantics, please let me know in the comments!

Implementing the Callback Hooks

If you’re astute, you may be wondering what in the world __cyg_profile_func_enter and __cyg_profile_func_exit are and why the program is even successfully linking in the first without giving undefined symbol reference errors, since the compiler is apparently trying to call some function we’ve never defined. Luckily, there are some options that allow us to see inside the linker’s algorithm so we can find out where it’s getting this symbol from to begin with. Specifically, -y should tell us how the linker is resolving . We’ll try it with a dummy program first and a symbol that we’ve defined ourselves, then we’ll try it with __cyg_profile_func_enter .
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ cat instr.cpp int main() {} [email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -Wl,-y -Wl,main instr.cpp /usbin/../lib/gcc/x86_64-linux-gnu/crt1.o: reference to main /tmp/instr-5b6c60.o: definition of main
No surprises here. The C Runtime Library references main(), and our object file defines it. Now let’s see what happens with __cyg_profile_func_enter and -finstrument-functions-after-inlining.
[email protected]:~/src/sandbox$ clang++-9 -fuse-ld=lld -finstrument-functions-after-inlining -Wl,-y -Wl,__cyg_profile_func_enter instr.cpp /tmp/instr-8157b3.o: reference to __cyg_profile_func_enter /lib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc.so.6: shared definition of __cyg_profile_func_enter
Now, we see that libc provides the definition, and our object file references it. Linking works a bit differently on Unix-y platforms than it does on Windows, but basically this means that if we define this function ourselves in our cpp file, the linker will just automatically prefer it over the shared library version. Working godbolt link without runtime output is here. So now you can kind of see where this is going, however there are still a couple of problems left to solve.
  1. We don’t want to do this for a full run of the program. We want to stop as soon as we reach main.
  2. We need a way to symbolize this trace.
The first problem is easy to solve. All we need to do is compare the address of the function being called to the address of main, and set a flag indicating we should stop tracing henceforth. (Note that taking the address of main is undefined behavior[1], but for our purposes it gets the job done, and we aren’t shipping this code, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). The second problem probably deserves a little more discussion though.

Symbolizing the Traces

In order to symbolize these traces, we need two things. First, we need to store the trace somewhere on persistent storage. We can’t expect to symbolize in real time with any kind of reasonable performance. You can write some C code to save the trace to some magic filename, or you can do what I did and just write it to stderr (this way you can pipe stderr to some file when you run it).
Second, and perhaps more importantly, for every address we need to write out the full path to the module the address belongs to. Your program loads many shared libraries, and in order to translate an address into a symbol, we have to know which shared library or executable the address actually belongs to. In addition, we have to be careful to write out the address of the symbol in the file on disk. When your program is running, the operating system could have loaded it anywhere in memory. And if we’re going to symbolize it after the fact we need to make sure we can still reference it after the information about where it was loaded in memory is lost. The linux function dladdr() gives us both pieces of information we need. A working godbolt sample with the exact implementation of our instrumentation hooks as they appear in our codebase can be found here.

Putting it All Together

Now that we have a file in this format saved on disk, all we need to do is symbolize the addresses. addr2line is one option, but I went with llvm-symbolizer as I find it more robust. I wrote a Python script to parse the file and symbolize each address, then print it in the same “visual” hierarchical format that the original output file is in. There are various options for filtering the resulting symbol list so that you can clean up the output to include only things that are interesting for your case. For example, I filtered out any globals that have boost:: in their name, because I can’t exactly go rewrite boost to not use global variables.
The script isn’t as simple as you would think, because simply crawling each line and symbolizing it would be unacceptably slow (when I tried this, it took over 2 hours before I finally killed the process). This is because the same address might appear thousands of times, and there’s no reason to run llvm-symbolizer against the same address multiple times. So there’s a lot of smarts in there to pre-process the address list and eliminate duplicates. I won’t discuss the implementation in more detail because it isn’t super interesting. But I’ll do even better and provide the source!
So after all of this, we can run any one of our internal targets to get the call tree, run it through the script, and then get output like this (actual output from a Roblox process, source file information removed):
excluded_symbols = [‘.\boost.*’]* excluded_modules = [‘/usr.\’]* /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libLLVM-9.so.1: 140 unique addresses InterestingRobloxProcess: 38928 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libstdc++.so.6: 1 unique addresses /uslib/x86_64-linux-gnu/libc++.so.1: 3 unique addresses Printing call tree with depth 2 for 29276 global variables. __cxx_global_var_init.5 (InterestingFile1.cpp:418:22) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp.:415:0) __cxx_global_var_init.19 (InterestingFile2.cpp:183:34) (anonymous namespace)::InterestingRobloxClass2::InterestingRobloxClass2() (InterestingFile2.cpp:171:0) __cxx_global_var_init.274 (InterestingFile3.cpp:2364:33) RBX::InterestingRobloxClass3::InterestingRobloxClass3()
So there you have it: the first half of the battle is over. I can run this script on every platform, compare results to understand what order our globals are actually initialized in in practice, then slowly migrate this code out of global initializers and into main where it can be deterministic and explicit.

Future Work

It occurred to me sometime after implementing this that we could make a general purpose profiling hook that exposed some public symbols (dllexport’ed if you speak Windows), and allowed a plugin module to hook into this dynamically. This plugin module could filter addresses using whatever arbitrary logic that it was interested in. One interesting use case I came up for this is that it could look up the debug information, check if the current address maps to the constructor of a function local static, and write out the address if so. This effectively allows us to gain a deeper understanding of the order in which our lazy statics are initialized. The possibilities are endless here.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, I’ve collected a couple of my favorite references for this kind of topic.
  1. Various: The C++ Language Standard
  2. Matt Godbolt: The Bits Between the Bits: How We Get to main()
  3. Ryan O’Neill: Learning Linux Binary Analysis
  4. Linkers and Loaders: John R. Levine
  5. https://eel.is/c++draft/basic.exec#basic.start.main-3
Neither Roblox Corporation nor this blog endorses or supports any company or service. Also, no guarantees or promises are made regarding the accuracy, reliability or completeness of the information contained in this blog.
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efficiency costs of purchase vs awakenings ideal ranks and their use in winning tournaments

efficiency costs of purchase vs awakenings ideal ranks and their use in winning tournaments

https://preview.redd.it/govc8j6lwaw41.jpg?width=720&format=pjpg&auto=webp&s=b53ae8c35f697ea53d6d292ec05f434f29578784
blue = gem cost of initial purchase of a hero at that starting rank, vs. red = gem cost of the awakenings needed to get them to R6 (800*each rank) - together being 100% of their total cost. The "box"-looking effect is the proportion that each rank takes up irt its' relative cost - e.g., the blue boxes are always larger b/c they offer less efficiency at 1500/rank instead of the 800/rank for each awakening; and they are different sizes b/c the heroes have different total costs (i.e., so the awakenings take up a smaller or larger relative proportion of it). The black line is then the % of tokens that can be skipped when starting off with a hero at that starting rank, and the green dashed lines represent each successive rank above that, which are always the same regardless of a hero's starting rank: so a R0 hero starts off with none, but then at R1 is 3% of the way through, then at R2, R3, R4, R5, and R6 is 9, 18, 29, 53, and 1005 of the way through. Speaking of, I did not make another one for R7 though I could if there is interest - still, this should help get across the main points. And yes, I realize that there are no heroes that start at R3, or R6 (yet!), but it was easier to leave those in than to take them out.
Also an accompanying table of other helpful numbers.

starting rank: R0 R1 R2 R3 (though no hero starts here) R4 R5 R6 (doesn't exist - yet!?)
total gem cost: 4800 5500 6200 6900 7600 8300 9000
remaining tokens to R6: 170 165 155 140 120 80 0
People keep asking questions about the "efficiency" of ranking up heroes for tournament usage, so I thought I would share this graph, in case it helps.
For instance, did you realize that once you buy a hero that comes pre-awakened to R2, you've already spent nearly *half* of their total gem cost to fully awaken them to R6? (4 more awakenings*800 each=3200, vs. their 3000 price-tag) Although you start off only skipping 9% of the total tokens needed to get them there ((5+10)/(5+10+15+20+40+80)). Especially for newer players considering which heroes to buy and rank up to unlock worlds, these heroes offer fantastic utility for the campaign, Endless mode, and higher-difficulty RS situations. And then once bought, they offer the same efficiency as any other hero to finish off to their R6 for use in tournaments. It's a matter of preference to get one or several of them early and enjoy their use in the campaign, or to avoid their high cost and just awaken more inexpensive ones for faster, though more difficult progress.
In contrast, the heroes that come pre-awakened to R5 are more expensive - but their purchase price represents 90% of their total gem costs, and they already have more than half the total tokens that would be needed to unlock their R6. In short, if you have the gems, it's way more efficient to purchase Yan or Narlax and then finish them off to their R6 than it is to start a new hero at R1 (although if you would have to save up the gems first, read this post instead: https://www.reddit.com/RealmDefenseTD/comments/g1mmg5/advice_about_awakening_existing_heroes_vs_buying/). (Also, do not buy Leif, at least not for the sake of tournaments, although he's great for campaign, and the #1 hero for RS, so especially good for getting a new event hero to higher rank.)
As far as it pertains to "ideal" ranks (those below R6 that are worth pausing at, to win during a hero's week), that is something that many newer players want to know about, but don't quite realize that it's not necessarily for them just yet. But for those that are keen to know, read https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Meta#Season_11_Meta.2FAnalysis for the utility of heroes in Tournament settings, and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Awakening_Tokens#Most_powerful_Ranks for the utility of each awakening, plus https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Heroes_overview for some additional commentary on hero ideal ranks. For instance, Smoulder has 2 of them, for different purposes: R4 for anti-flier stun situational effect, R5 for his own week that adds stun & a reduced cooldown, although really for his own week he's mostly R6-or-bust, but that depends heavily on the league & the lateness of the season.
I should perhaps add that I've never had much luck with ideal ranks. They seem mostly to be useful in Diamond League, and then by Masters already they are no longer useful. That said, you should give each one careful thought, individually for each hero, b/c it can save you a TON of time from getting a hero's R6 when you didn't need it (yet). Perhaps the most (in-)famous example is Yan's R6, which she doesn't need on her own week (I've literally seen Gold- rather than Purple-outlined Yans among the *very* top scores of a league), probably b/c she doesn't have great skills to help turn her blessed stat boost into actual DAMAGE (being mainly a "support" hero, which she is good at), and especially if you don't even have Efrigid or Bolton yet to receive the synergy that her R6 talent would offer, then it is fairly useless. Though these things do tend to change over time - like Narlax's R6 also used to be unnecessary, until this past season (11) when on his own blessed week it became mandatory to pull several strong bosses. Also one of Hogan's ideal ranks used to be R3 iirc (when his R5 decreased rather than increased his attack speed, before it was switched), then last season it became R5 to keep him alive (also against a strong boss), and now this season it looks like his blessed week is strongly pushing even his R6? Oh yes, some heroes can't/shouldn't really be paused at all, like Lancelot who prior to R6 is flat-out replaceable even when blessed, but at R6 gains a STRONG anti-air utility that is absolutely mandatory to win that week (as in, if ANYONE else in your group has it, who isn't terribly unskilled, then you have little chance to get a higher score than them).
Where the concept of "ideal ranks" is most helpful then, is when you already have (most of) the Meta, and are looking to win more reliably each week. Having a hero at an ideal rank may not be required to win in Gold League for instance, but it can be helpful to use that along the way while you work on other things too (like a second hero's ideal rank, or their R6, or even continuing on with the same hero, just holding back on the actual gem cost - btw strong shout-out thanks to lanclos for sharing with me most of what I know about ideal ranks:-). I suppose it may be like identifying potential resting spots while climbing a mountain - once you identify them you can either pause and rest at them, or else of course skip them and keep going, but either way they may be nice to at least plan to pass by during your ascent, just in case you find that you need them.
SPEAKING OF, here are some additional thoughts on tournaments that might help in that regard, though first I'll have to cover some basics:
a) there is an effect I call the "leading edge" whereby the earlier weeks in the season are the hardest. e.g., *this week* in Gold League is literally the hardest week that it will ever be in this season, b/c *this* is the week that it contains the most senior players (like former GMs). Then, next week, Platinum League will be created, and will be populated by the top 3 players from each group that managed to get promoted - which lets face it tends to be the most senior players, with the deepest hero investments and also the most experience & skill; and thus *that week* will be the hardest that Platinum will ever see, and so on in Diamond, and Masters, and...actually Legendary is special, b/c once a player reaches GM, they remain there. But the other leagues get easier the further the season goes, b/c of all the more senior players getting promoted each week. So therefore the last week of each season (prior to Legendary) is literally the easiest to get promoted in.
There are some important modifiers to this, b/c it may be easy or hard in general but not for you b/c of the heroes you have, and also an effect where campers used to try to not get promoted so quickly, but then towards the end of the season get nervous and want to move upwards, but anyway, this is generally true. So when I say "in lower leagues, later in the season", what I mean is "further away from the leading edge". IN OTHER WORDS, the difficulty of Gold League on week #1 is nowhere NEAR the same difficulty as Gold League on week #15. On the other hand, Platinum League on week #2 is quite similar actually to the difficulty of Legendary League, anytime, b/c that is the league where at that time all the veterans are (with anything above Platinum not yet having been created). See what I mean? But b/c of this effect, any talk about "Gold League" or "Platinum League" must be merely an average of how difficult it is to win, which basically means mid-way away from the leading edge, although be aware of these variations where earlier means *much*-harder-than-average, and later means much easier.
b) Gold League further is special in its' being so small, and in having players that haven't finished the campaign yet, which (vastly) increases the number of total players, and has the effect of "diluting" / spreading the veteran players out between/among the various groups. Therefore, even on week #1, its' difficulty is nowhere near as hard as Legendary League, b/c of being mitigated by this effect. Platinum on week #2 also isn't *quite* as hard as Legendary for similar reasons (the group size being 30 instead of 50; and effects like even former GMs lacking Hogan and not being promoted while others who have Hogan's R6 can do even better), but...Gold is truly special in being the easiest league to win in (aside from the non-repeatable Bronze and Silver of course). Though again, for people having trouble getting promoted from Gold League, take heart: as the season progresses it WILL get easier!:-)
c) in Gold League, with Koi & Raida you can pretty much win by accident even w/o meteors (though this particular week requires Narlax too, and might even need meteors - though I have never used any to get out of Gold myself). This is b/c those heroes provide so much higher utility, compared to so MANY players that lack them, that you definitely have a good chance. And that chance keeps repeating every week, as it gets easier and easier later and later into the season, so if you don't get promoted one week, keep trying the next. The advice for players lacking Koi & Raida is the same: keep trying, and eventually you'll get into a group that lacks Koi, or perhaps someone who doesn't know how to use them yet, and you CAN win! And if you truly want to prioritize this aspect of the game, before you finish the campaign, get a hero to an ideal rank or even R6, and on their blessed week, if it's late enough, you'll have a VERY good shot (though perhaps also needing good generic heroes like Narlax and Leif, unless you get VERY lucky with your group placement, or outright R6 a few heroes for this purpose).
d) in Platinum, it gets a bit harder. Though, if you have the Meta, not by that much. For those who have Raida & Koi, also pick up Yan, necro-Connie, Narlax, and Smoulder's R4 and you'll do fine in Platinum, even without the blessed hero (though of course, earlier in the season you may need them, while later you can get by without them, having strong generic+situational replacements).
e) in Diamond, it gets harder still, where you start to need the blessed hero more often. Though not every week, and not necessarily at an "ideal"/pausing rank. Two seasons ago (while I was still R6ing Koi) I got promoted by having Obsidian, not at his ideal rank of R4 but just about level 20 and rank R2 - & even then he was replaceable with Efri's R6 (which I did not have) - though that was week #13 out of 15, so very late. Many other similar stories told by veteran players abound: Mabyn's R2, Helios's R4, and if you have Yan's R6, then also Efri's R4 & Bolton's R3, etc.
f) in Masters, it is pretty much R6-or-bust, and so you are already past the stage where ideal ranks can help you for the most part (I mean Yan's R5 would probably still work, and Helios's R4 b/c towers don't add much to tournament situations, but...not much else). *If* you use the blessed hero at all, you probably need them all the way to R6. Though there are a few situations where a hero is outright replaceable - chiefly Sethos, Leif, and Masamune (possibly needing to be quite late in the season for that one), all of whom lack anti-air capabilities (though Masamune's R7 is going to change that!).
g) that said, Masters League is still nowhere near as difficult as Legendary. Scores that would get you promoted out of Masters won't even get you a reward in Legendary (although THIS season looks to be changing that - thus encouraging promotion and concurrently discouraging camping in lower leagues - definitely a plus for both veteran and more junior players alike!). Also, for the most part you can get by without the whole entire cast of "situational" heroes that are needed in Legendary, to win a GM. What I mean is: when veteran players have ALL the heroes to choose from, and they are all at R6, they can find the absolute BEST one for any given week - which could be Efri, Mabyn, Azura, Caldera, Connie, Helios, Shamiko, Narlax, Smoulder, etc., and if you want to get a GM, you need to have whatever it is that week that is among the BEST. While in Masters, you most often don't - so actually, R6-or-bust isn't that hard to do, at least compared to Legendary where you need both the blessed hero that week AND one of a large(-ish?) cast of situational heroes, and of course their R6 as well.
h) an argument against ideal ranks is that it may spread out your hero investments too thin to let you win many weeks. On the other hand, an argument for it is that even having a hero's R6 doesn't guarantee a win (e.g., at first I was absolutely terrible at using Narlax - and still I have yet to ever win a week where he is blessed). Also aiming for ideal ranks lets you maximize your elixir income (https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Realm_Siege_Strategies). Though an R6 hero also offers the option to use that hero even when not blessed (and yet this works better for some heroes and not so well for others - e.g., Mabyn can perhaps win at R2 in Diamond, but as a situational hero needs her 5th meteor talent gained at R6 to truly be effective; while Bolton + Obsidian are mostly only used when blessed, and never outside of that - although this week may again be revealing that the devs may change that in the future!). Therefore there are many benefits to either using, or not using, ideal ranks.
Ultimately whether you want to pause at an ideal rank, or keep going all the way to R6 for every hero that you own, seems to be a matter of personal preference: how EXTREME of a personality are you? Do you want to work on increasing your MAXIMUM power, to possibly win a GM title sooner - but also maybe fail to even reach Legendary League at all, as a more junior player, and also have little chance at all on weeks that you lack the blessed hero (at least in Diamond League, or others earlier in the season, closer to the seasonal reset - i.e., take a risk, and maybe be #1 on the weeks you've prepared heavily for, but then score very low on (many of) those you've invested literally nothing into? Or do you prefer to aim for a more AVERAGE level of power, which may leave you unable to be promoted on a given week (maybe several of them), but yet still maybe get some rewards, not being the best but neither being the worst, and yet still get practice either way, and maybe win sooner with less of a hero investment needed into a particular week, leaving you free to focus your efforts elsewhere?
Like most things in life, the ideal path is probably somewhere between the most extreme of R6ing one hero before moving on to the next, vs. having all heroes at ideal ranks but none at R6. Though there are people who have pursued each of those strategies! (and I can tell you some of their names if you want:-) Ultimately you need 4 wins to get to Legendary League, and then at least 1 more if you want a GM title that season. So pick a few heroes to get to R6, another few to get to ideal ranks, and with that collection you'll do well. Another hint: do you want your strongest hero investments to be earlier in the season, in your lowest league, or later, in the highest? Watch the https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Blessed_Heroes_-_Tournament page to see how early a hero is blessed in the last few seasons, and pick one that will likely be blessed later rather than earlier, and then aim to buy that hero and work on increasing their power. e.g., Yan and Narlax are both in the Meta, and blessed mid-to-late-season.
Also there are a TON of other helpful tips - about towers, heroes and synergies and combo moves, and many other tournament topics on https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Basic_Info and https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy. So now all that's left is for me to wish you good luck!:-)

Edit: while I thought about adding these couple of thoughts before, they didn't specifically touch on ideal ranks, so I left them out. But so many are asking so I'll put them in after all...
i) there are 3 hero roles to fulfill each week: generic, situational, and blessed. If you want to think about it harder it's "really" 2 situational and 1 blessed, but since right now one of those slots is nearly ALWAYS Koi, the former formula is at least a nice way to think about/remember it.
generic: especially if you lack blessed heroes and/or Koi, this is about all you've got - so use it! When you get to W3, Helios or Sethos can work, to help get you promoted from Gold - though you shouldn't get them just for this purpose (it is terribly inefficient to buy new heroes all the time when you can awaken earlier ones for nearly half the cost, though that takes TIME so this is a strategy mainly for P2W players). In W4, Yan and especially Narlax can get you promoted in Platinum (though again, don't buy JUST for this short-term purpose), and in W5, Leif/Caldera can get you promoted even as high as Diamond (later in the season). I doubt that any of these can get you promoted in Masters, and if anyone ever actuall DID that, they should count their lucky stars, but it's not something that you should "expect" to happen. Once you get Raida and Koi though, you'll never use these other heroes for their "generic" utility again.
situational: usually there is some hero / class of heroes that will work best for a given week. Otherwise, for example, if the only powerful heroes you have are Koi & Leif, then every week you'll always bring them, for their *generic* power. But Leif hardly does anything against fliers - merely blessing towers which, while that work GREAT in RS on blessed tower spots, is virtually useless in tournament situations. Instead, if you brought Smoulder, especially with his R4 anti-flier slow-down talent, then you have a *much* better defense & offense against fliers, even though Smoulder seems to offer FAR less "generic" power than Leif - but even thoug it is "less", it is "more" appropriate to the *situation* - see? So for a level lacking fliers entirely, Leif would be better, although for a sitaution where fliers are the ones ending your tournament play, Smoulder can be a huge boon.
Also, sometimes situational utility can (nearly or even completely) win out over generic or blessed heroes! An example is where on Sethos or Leif's blessed week, a team of strong anti-flier utility can relatively easily get scores as good as or better than a team including the blessed hero at R6 (though skill also plays a role of course). Lancelot prior to his R5 is also replaceable, and Masamune even at his R6 is *somewhat* so (if it's not a binary yes/no, but rather a continuum, where his R6 provides *one* route to win, but a strong anti-air team is *another* way, which even though offers less power, and so can't win a GM, is offered at much greater efficiency and may let you get high rewards or even promoted with from Masters League).
-) anti-fliers: Raida, Smoulder, Connie are enough to get you started, then later you'll want to add Helios & Azura. Each offers something different - like Smoulder slows them down, Raida stuns them, Connie does both, Azura can charm up to 4 (good for when there are more rare but tanky ones like W3 crows), and others can be good too like Efrigid also slows them, Narlax pulls them back, etc. The Narlax+Raida pull+charge/stun combo is ESPECIALLY powerful (read more at https://realm-defense-hero-legends-td.fandom.com/wiki/Tournament_Detailed_Strategy#Narlax_.2B_CC_combo). Note that while Fee is tremendous for fliers in campaign, she can't really keep up in this mode, except when she's blessed.
-) bosses: Koi & even Raida (& Leif if you got him for other reasons) can tank fairly well at first. Connie's bunny mamma does even better, and her little bunnies help slow it down. Narlax at his R6 can pull them back. Later, you'll want Azura who can help charm an enemy to use as a tank against the boss, and then there is Caldera who is immune to all physical damage, but extremely vulnerable to magic. Although the latter two are rarely blessed themselves, and often aren't as worth bringing as the blessed hero. If you are just getting started, Fee (at any rank) may actually work surprisingly well, as her wolves can delay a boss somewhat as it pauses to kill them.
-) delay: Connie, Raida to stun, Narlax to pull back, Efrigid to slow/freeze; or for just a few enemies that get past a checkpoint, Yan to teleport, or Mabyn for fear.
-) worlds: Mabyn works REALLY well for W3, to send enemies back whereupon the archer-bots can regain control of the situation after being broken through. Azura works really well for W4 since she is immune to the slow effect, can heal to help counteract all the ranged damage being thrown at you, and can charm strong enemies - like an armored tank to use against a boss, or a strong flier to use against other strong or weak ones, etc. Caldera isn't good in W3 (poison) or W4 (magic), but is very effective in W1,2,&5.
-) synergies: these can be stronger than anything else (yes even than Koi - in fact this is the ONLY reason why you might not want to use Koi if you have him) - basically you either have the synergy partners or you lose that week (except *maybe* in Gold?). Efri & Bolton need both Yan & Koi's R6, Bolton & Obsidian need each other, Fee needs at least 1-2 of her synergy partners, and Smoulder needs his R6 + Narlax to in. Read the wiki for more comprehensive details. Note that every one of Leif's synergies is absolutely useless and *never* worth bringing him along, unless you are a more junior player and lack anything better to do (hint: it might help once or twice, but it's REALLY not worth getting those 80 tokens and spending 800 gems to get his R6 - that should be one of it not literally THE last thing you do in the game; unless the devs change that soon? I personally would LOVE to see that!:-).
-) special mention 1: Yan hastes Koi, and is thus used more often than any other hero, after Koi himself. She can do this at her R5 though - no need to get her R6 until you are ready to take advantage of her 2 synergies.
-) special mention 2: Raida's extremely high generic utility (2nd only to Koi), AND his high situational utility (for fliers, stunning & damaging bosses, large CC, etc.) makes him the top #1 all-around utility / situational hero...though only providing a very "average" level whenever you lack some other hero who can provide a higher MAXIMUM power. When you have literally every other hero in the game, and to their R6, then you may never use Raida again (though even that's not quite true - players often use him in their first try at a level, to be ready for anything, even though he is always replaced with someone better to get the final maximum score), but until you invest that deeply (which will take YEARS of your life), Raida can provide a great deal of help. *Especially* on the days where you lack the blessed hero, though that is more of a generic functionality, and yet also when you lack the top situational hero for that week (Azura?). Use him as a stepping-stone.
blessed heroes: there is no getting around the fact that you need the blessed heroes to have the best chance to win on a given week. Especially by Masters League, though of course they still help a LOT to win more often in Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Until then, strong generic+situational utility can help fill in - some heroes are more replaceable than others as mentioned above - but after you get the Meta (Koi, Raida, Connie, Yan, Narlax), then you need to decide whether to prioritize more situational heroes, or more blessed heroes. Both ways work, and you probably want to split your efforts b/t the two. Often heroes work for both: e.g. Narlax is blessed every season, usually fairly late, and then last season (11) was also used another 4 times. In contrast, heroes like Fee, Lancelot, and Masamune are only ever used once, on their blessed week. But still, you only need 4 wins to get to Legendary, and especially if you already had these heroes at a high rank to help you unlock worlds in campaign, they can be a GREAT way to win, certainly much easier than trying to win with purely generic+situational utility that doesn't match what is needed on a given hero's blessed week. One tip: pick a hero that you like to work with, and get them to R6 - you'll likely do better with them than you would with some other hero that you don't enjoy as much.
j) R7 heroes and future predictions: many people, myself included, think that R7 will mostly be necessary for winning GMs. Thus, R6 becomes another ideal/pausing rank, though this one useful to win Masters League with. Many people want to know whether they "should" get an additional hero to R6, or focus that time instead to continue on to R7, though again this is up to your personal preference - do you want to win more often, though possibly not at the #1 spot and maybe not get promoted but do get rewards, so aiming for a higher "average" utility, or do you want to take a risk for a chance to get a GM, and aim for "maximum" utility instead (at the cost of being farther behind in terms of having fewer heroes to use whenever they are blessed)? It's a GAME, so go for what YOU want!:-)
TLDR: use ideal/pausing ranks for heroes blessed earlier in the season, and instead put your highest investments into heroes blessed later, where you'll need their power the most.
submitted by OpenStars to RealmDefenseTD [link] [comments]

My thoughts on Competitive GWENT's current state

Hey guys, Panda here.
 
Following the release of GWENT Homecoming, I took it upon myself to delve deep into the game and analyze it extensively, before forming a conclusive opinion on the current metagame and GWENT's competitive future. Before I go on, I want to state I've played about 500 competitive games of GWENT at the highest level, finding myself at the #1 spot on the Pro Rank leaderboard or not far from it throughout the majority of this week, hopefully lending credence to my analysis and claims in this post. For many readers, some of the information will seem irrelevant, mainly due to the large differences in the metagame and play behaviours between casual GWENT and the top end of pro rank ladder.
 
The rest of this post will have many negative connotations, but I would like to preface by saying I had not participated in any PTRs prior to launch, and was very pleasantly surprised by GWENT's revamp with Homecoming. Gwent is fun to a degree, has included a lot of interesting mechanics and card redesigns and continues to be an innovative CCG compared to the rest of the market. It was better than I expected, but it has major flaws that are only further exasperated at the highest levels of play.
 
1) The coinflip 
 
A lot of the current design changes, including the inclusion of the tactical advantage artifact for the blue coin player, as well as the changes to card draw help in reducing the advantage that red coin offers. Although it helps in lessening the problems of card advantage in GWENT, it does nothing to aid in the blue coin player's chance at having last say for the end of Round 3. Due to the binary nature of certain decks and the importance of last say, losing coinflip is still nearly equivalent to losing the game in certain matchups taking in to account equal level of skill from both participants.
 
2) Card balance and the value ceiling of specific cards 
 
Although I give this point equal importance, I do understand Homecoming still has to undergo a series of balance changes in the coming month, and I imagine the devs are working hard to make the correct decisions going forward. I believe the great majority of cards are properly balanced when it comes to the provision/value ratio, and commend the devs for doing such a good job in such a short time frame. Regardless, I believe some cards are troublesome due to the uncapped value ceiling in which they operate or their game-altering properties.
 
a) Artifacts
 
I'm not entirely sure I have to go into specifics here. Artifacts currently make the game uninteractive and certainly not the GWENT developers envisioned when creating Homecoming. I won't specifically go into balancing details, but either a hard limit on the amount of Artifacts you can include per deck or the necessity of units on the board for artifacts to function would be plausible solutions. Limiting the amount of artifacts you can include in a deck would once again give them the qualities of an engine-like resource without having them become an archtype on it's own. Are you creating a boost or damage oriented archtype? Then you should be able to include a limited amount of artifacts to support your deck, not become the foundation of it. Having a set amount of units on the board would also fix the problem, although it would have to be at the very least one unit per Artifact, otherwise players would continue to abuse cards like Yarpen Zigrin or Immune units such as Saessenthesis.
 
b) Cards with an uncapped value ceiling
 
In GWENT, there are many cards that could be described as high risk/high reward. These are necessary in the game as they form the basis for a lot of the more complex strategy when it comes to setting up valuable boardstates. My problem is in certain cards that have little to no risk and too high of a vaue reward in combination with other easily attainable game factors. For example, Epidemic in combination with Artifacts creates an uninteractable uncounterable board wipe for 8 provisions. The enablers are the artifacts, and only time and balance changes will tell if changes to Artifacts will also adjust Epidemic's place in the meta. The same can be said of Golden Froth(and Zoltan), a card with a very high value cieling(18 points) for half of the provisions(9 provisions). There are certainly rowstack counters in the game, but when a bronze card can easily attain it's expected value(4-5 units on a row) and has a value cap of double it's provision cost, something certainly needs to change. Golden Froth decks have already begun to shape the meta, and I believe the card should either be upgraded from bronze to gold(limited to one copy) or adjusted to with a restrictive value ceiling(boost X amount of units, instead of a full row).
 
c) Bad Balancing
 
There are many cards that I believe are terrribly designed or badly balanced in their value/provision ratios. I won't go into detail on all of them, but just to name a few which really stand out. Gremist is a card that replays alchemy cards from your graveyard. It costs 6 provisions and can replay Golden Froth, which costs 9 provisions. When you're replaying an extremely powerful card for less value than it's worth with very little downside, something has gone terribly wrong. Xavier Lemmens is a 7 provision card that can instantly shut down a number of archtypes and guarantee a win with little to no downside. Get lucky to match with Eist Skellige or Woodland Graveyard consume, go ahead and win the game. This type of card should not exist. The same can be said of White Frost, and it has a similar design problem to Roche Merciless in old gwent. It's extremely binary in it's effect, but unlike Xavier Lemmens it adds a total of 0 points when it doesn't find it's intended target deck. This card is unplayable, and is not a viable answer to Artifacts(even in the most Artifact-heavy meta I think the developers could have ever imagined).
 
3) Gwent's card draw design and the prevelance of longer rounds 
 
Gwent's current card draw system forces the players into much longer rounds than before. Because of the current system, rounds are no longer shorter than 3 cards at the minimum. The average round of Gwent sees an increasingly higher amount of cards played, downplaying many elements of old Gwent's strategy, including finishers and deck consistency to assure those finishers. The lack of punishment towards long round strategy eliminates many avenues of deckbuilding, as working towards strong finishers has much less of a return and gives the player a lack of versatility when it comes to manuevering through the card advantage and coinflip scenarios in different games. If a player aiming for a long round loses card advantage in Round 1, he may simply pass when he has 5 cards in hand. The opponent will then have two options, attempt to bleed Round 2(and subsequently risk losing card advantage) or go into an unfavored long round where the greedier deck may win(froth decks, for example). Even if the opponent successfully bleeds a deck in Round 2, he would have to go into a topdeck situation to ensure he doesn't give his opponent a reasonably long round 3 to once again enable his long round strategy, due to the increased amount of cards players now draw going into Round 3 of every game.
Because of these changes, I believe a lot of the liberty in deck building has been taken away from the players. You either run a long round strategy(froth), or run a direct counter to a specific long round strategy to try and counter it(regis, forktail, etc). If you're playing a standard nilfgaard deck, let's say Reveal, and I'm playing a froth reveal variant, I have the upper edge from the moment the game begins. If I lose control of Round 1, I can pass a few cards in, and force the opponent into a lose-lose situation. My opponent will then attempt to bleed Round 2, or go into a long round 3 where he will have no chance to outvalue me due to the nature of my deck(2x 18 bronzes and 1x20 point gold).
Out of the four strongest decks in the game, only one can successfully challenge long round decks due to it's insanse bleeding potential and the points it can slam on the board, and that is Big Boys Woodland. Two of the strongest decks in the game rely on neutral cards to reach insane value(Golden Froth, Zoltan and Germain). Crach Froth is the strongest deck in Skellige, and relies on froth effects as well as Gremist's insane points per provision value(20 points for 6 provisions), and not to mention Lippy Gudmund's ability to play all the strongest cards all over again. The same can be said with Nilfgaard, with a strong base of bronzes supported by a froth/Germain package that has little or nothing to do with Reveal.
 
4) Conclusion 
 
Although fun, I believe Gwent HC still has many issues it must resolve, and quickly. Throughout the last week I've returned to streaming and have found it fun, partially due to an unsettled meta and the novely effect of Gwent HC. A week into Gwent HC's release, netdecks reign supreme at the top end of the ladder and there is little to no creativity. And I'm not complaining, I'm the one publicly sharing/advertising the decklists I create through streaming or on my twitter. The fact that I can queue into a certain deck, and instantly know the outcome of a match due to the coinflip, assuming generally similar skill levels between players, is not a good sign. There is little level for outplay, and as usual in Gwent it comes to the binary nature of certain matchups/card combinations. Due to the high amount of Eithne Artifact decks at the top end of the ladder, I simply have no desire to queue up for a game, and that's a worrying thing to happen only a week after Homecoming's release. And I don't blame the players, they're only playing the strongest possible decks for that faction in hopes of achieving a higher fMMR score. I hope this post creates some form of discussion on the points exposed and solutions can be created among the developers or the community in the coming weeks.
 
Thanks for reading.
submitted by ImpetuousPandaa to gwent [link] [comments]

My Review / Take On Homecoming

Hello, I am Imbure and I will comment on most of the things in Gwent Homecoming giving my thoughts on it. To start off a little bit about myself, I like Gwent. Yeah, that’s about it.
Special thanks to SirPumpkn for helping me with ideas, where some weren't fitting or just not well polished enough so I could rereview them with his assistance, thanks a lot!
Since it takes a lot of time to go over it all and if some people are interested just to find the most interesting parts, I have it on google document with highlights to say which parts are more interesting / important.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1kG3gWspUD_VoV5l-pJbFwBJfJ2k0uQ95n_Aqs5a8QCw/edit?usp=sharing
Before the whole thing, I do realize that this was PTR and will try mention as little of balance issues, bugs, wrong tooltips or poorly worded abilities, but rather problematic or lacking concepts when it comes to gameplay and I will mention some of which concepts are amazing.
One more disclaimer, I do understand that some of these changes might require a big amount of time, that does not mean you need to instantly release them with Homecoming if think them worthy, at least those that require time, others could be looked at and patched in close future.
Marketing
I am not qualified in this field, so my opinion should not matter much, however, I think marketing is important, I do understand that you are not going to market the game as it has way different feeling to it compared to Beta, so if people join in now they’d be playing a different game and redownloading it in a few days, but when it does come out, marketing is crucial to have a big player base.
UI and Visuals
Now as the new patch hits a lot of things have changed and different mechanics have appeared in the game and players misplay a lot with them.
Ability locked cards
Cards that only acquire an X ability should have an indicator for two reasons. Even if players get better at the game, they will still make misplays here and there, it does not feel good and the victories against them often don’t feel deserved.
Indicators
Visuals like Lock, Adrenaline etc. had nice looking icons. I assume these ones are used as the card sizes changed and artists still have a lot of to do, but on an off chance it is not the case, please bring back those amazing looking effects! Before playing it, With the new abilities highlighting the rows that have abilities and give them different highlights.
Deck / Graveyard Size Indicators
Small graveyard card amount indicators for how many type of cards do you have in your deck, Artifacts, Traps, Spells and etc. so you wouldn’t need to do unnecessary counting, a quality of life change.
Side of the Row Points
Make an option that you could see your numbers on your left side and make the right side clean, so streamers could place their faces somewhere. Since it’s only optional, players would still be able to see it in the best way. Just a nice quality of life addition to the game.
Weight of the Cards
The cards have lost points and I think for the old players even 20 power plays won’t feel impactful, on top of that, placing a card doesn’t feel like doing something amazing. It would be immersive if cards felt like they had weight attached, as if the enemy should stutter upon seeing my THICC GERALT IGNI, instead of it falling like a piece of paper, even though it’s a card game, it doesn’t have to feel as one.
Drag and Drop
Drag and drop just feels better, as you actually play the card from your hand, CURSORS ARE EXTENSIONS OF OUR ARMS.
Colors of the Board / Shadows
Now the feeling of darkness is taken too literally. Even the torches don’t feel as if it was lighting up the area. Nilfgaard that has the sun as their symbol can barely have any light on them. Corners of some places are just too hard to see as they blend in within the darkness remaining invisible. The board itself is relatively lit, so that is visible, which is nice. The things can be dark, just make that we see something there instead of it being pitch black. Lacking ability to see something makes the game dark literally, that creates this weird Batman vs Superman movie problem, where they made the scenes hard to see without actually creating the darkness.
Time Consumed on Animations
Speed up the animations. Eithne takes a decent amount of time to go off, if you also add some artifacts which they often use to the mix, you start feeling bad for roping them when it’s out of your control.
Deckbuilder
When searching for cards, make it so looking for Da’o you would find it by writing Dao. That has been implemented in League of Legends champion select search and is a nice quality of life change. Excluding some bugs, where you switch some filters up and it still saves some of the previous filters, it’s still good.
Twitch Tool
Hovering over a card on Twitch so you could see what it does for Homecoming would be great for new players and old players to get a better feeling on the game.
Gameplay - The Juicy Part
Unrewarding Round 1
It always was that you would fight for the first round fiercely so you could bleed round two and go into round three, there was some strategy to it. Even though it was somewhat flawed to an extent that some cards would be just 20 power plays each and you have 2 of them, here it’s not exactly the case. Now you just barely commit in R1 and R2 because they feel unrewarding and committing for a round feels risk with close to no reward. This vacuum of space was left after we lost the spy mechanic, which was unhealthy, but it was one proper way to actually bleed R2.
Suggestion for Unrewarding Round 1 - the player to win the first round gets an extra mulligan to their bank. It’s a subtle reward that pushes the players to utilize such a thing, however, it is not too big of a thing to make decks around it. You do not need to do it the same for second round, because if you play go to 3 cards in hand only then you start committing your 3rd round, before that you are still not committing second round if you are ahead, while second round going below 7 is considered committing and bleeding is also a thing, so it already creates initial tension on round 2.
Provisions
Maybe people play too much on golds now, but I think that’s just a balance thing and I have nothing, you have honestly outdone yourself, this system is amazing!
Too Many Overlapping Abilities Some archetypes are crying for cards while others have 20 to choose from. I think a heavy overhaul on some bronzes with lack of oversight or being undertuned is not the worst that can happen.
Archetypes
Many of the archetypes are small packages that work with one other and that’s a whole new different thing to Gwent, where you have way more win conditions, instead of having 2. I like it as it adds more variance to the game, hopefully not too much RNG. Northern Realms Orders Without Charges - Seems underwhelming in power and lacking tools, even considered the fact that it would fit fine in a starter deck, something that has a leader and many cards based on it shouldn’t be just a starter deck, but also have some sort of playability.
Northern Realms Charges
It has a huge arsenal of tools, I would say probably more than any other deck and that is not necessarily bad. Some cards however are overlapping - Ballista and Reinforced Ballista is just the same card, but one is worse than the other. I know that this is meant for machine tag, but I would use some Humans then to make more Orders decks that fill the vacuum that armor left archetypes left off.
Spies Where Are Thou?
Reveal
I am so funny. In its current form Reveal can be played two ways. You play a very few unit deck, where you are almost sure your reveal card will show greater strength card or you will add a lot of units and hope that you get to reveal Daerlan Soldiers. First example is a very niche deck with a small amount of variation. The second one has a wider range of choices, but is widely based on RNG. I know that the old archetype was unhealthy in many ways and you are looking to replace it, but it should not be then switched into RNG playstyle or based on small niche deck. Instead of this, Reveal could switch between bronze units in your deck. Every unit that reveals could always show the top bronze card, take the top bronze card in your deck and switch it with the last one pushing every bronze card like an array switching places towards top. It might take some time to come up with an easy text, but as you have detailed explanations at the bottom, healthier gameplay will always beat complex text reading, especially because beginners won’t care about it and experienced players will know how the system works.
Armor
In live Gwent Armor is a whole archetype of cards, however, it does not have to be, removing the thing entirely is bad as you could do some less greedy plays with defensive opportunities. Potion that worked like Thunderbolt where you could give an allied unit some points and add armor to an unit, perhaps a charge too, so then Order + Charge decks would be viable or just in general some strategies. I assume it will be added with Redania, but now as a mechanic it doesn’t have to be deleted outright.
Weather Decks
We had decks like Dagon Fog and Eredin Frost, problem was that they were lacking balance in weather department and only some archetypes were viable as some didn’t have enough tools to them. You could make more cards that play weather, for example spying cards that apply X weather, cards that buff from weather and etc, it wouldn’t break the game but would still make the archetype a thing. Other thing is to make weather decks work with each other, it wouldn’t be just play a frost unit or play a fog unit or rain unit, a card would work when there is a hazard in general. Perhaps limit those to bronzes, so it doesn’t feel to oppressive to play against gold weathers. Considering its current form, it wouldn’t be a bad design choice as you’ve already made weather into a really balanced thing.
New Witchers Archetype
It’s a new addition that players have been waiting for a long time, it has a nice touch on the lore, nerfing Silver Witchers is most likely necessary, as I don’t know how it will be in the future, don’t nerf them in a vacuum, buff other Witchers.
New and Old Mill
Live Gwent Mill is really frustrating to play against and in most cases you either win or lose based on your opponent’s draws and your deck choice, whether it thins or not. New mill usually doesn’t mill to 0, unless you are Discard Skellige, but rather hinders your deck. Maybe the RNG on Viper Witchers is not good, but in the current form you can even give GGs to them!
No More Proper Handbuff
In its current form Handbuff if applied the same way to Homecoming would be game breaking, but instead you could just make them lower power units that have a different thing, not deal that much damage. Then carryover wouldn’t be as much of a problem, it was an interesting deck in ST that feels missing.
No More Spellatell
Deck used to be really unique and you could still make it work as you play less tutors in the game or even add a cap to how much the card could go up to.
New Trap Deck
It’s a great deck with proper synergies built in that require a good amount of skill to pilot and to play against, it’s all that Gwent is about, the archetype has a fine deal of cards and the new way you made Traps, that they are no longer unit is also great, as a lot of old trap design was: “If he played X, I have to play Y and win, however, if he played Z I have to play C to win, if I mess this up, I will lose, if I don’t, I win.” It used to be some sort of coinflip to an extent, you fixed it, good job.
New Artifact Deck
It requires skill to play around and even if it does feel oppressive sometimes, you can totally outplay it and artifact removal is cheap.
Specters
Cursed was transformed into an archetype that was based on a one card, but you had opportunity to have flexibility with your silvers and golds, now all of that is gone and Specters archetype rewards going all with Specters, due to its golds and bronzes abilities. Problem is you can’t build a deck anymore with it, excluding the Henselt combo, but it’s not exactly a specter deck. It feeds into a problem that I will mention that all decks have.
Strengthening Archetype
Considering that most cards are playing on low points the playstyle against and with that kind of deck might be quite boring, unhealthy and / or unbalanced, I do understand that it was either taken away forever or just placed onto a queue for future balancing.
Kambi
Rest in peace the mightiest rooster FeelsBadMan
Lack of Card Archetype Supporting Cards
This is probably one of more troublesome things. When a lot of cards were shown people instantly have noticed that many archetypes have been butchered. More experienced players instantly mentioned that CDPR, you guys, can add new cards to the game. First time we saw Alchemy cards we had to wait a long time until it saw playability, it was something around midwinter. There were more decks, but this is just an example. A lot of decks that we had to wait for to become working and we gave you a lot of time are now gone again. We already waited for so long, they became a thing, an actual archetype. We started having Moonlight and waited for new patches to make it into an actual archetype instead of small package. All of that was taken away and we are left with waiting again, that’s why overhauling some cards might be necessary, if not within the release of Homecoming, at least could be done with close upcoming patches.
Flexible Tags
Currently there is a trend on cards removing specific clan tags and etc. In its current form we have lost clan tags and gained Soldiers, Warriors and etc. These have positives and negatives, abilities like Muzzle and unlock that synergy with Soldiers would give a possibility to outplay, it also makes the arena better as the synergies are no longer only in one faction, however, the game becomes harder to balance as you don’t balance things in the vacuum. Considering that we have provision, cards shouldn’t be too hard to balance.
Card to Add
Card Shuffler: Bronze Card X Power, Y Provision. “Order. Add a mulligan to your leader.” You could add a shuffling animation to it as if it were a Cursed Knight, so it felt as if it was shuffling cards upon activating the order.
Some leaders can’t have more mulligans like Francesca due to the fact that she’d be overpowered, but if she could work by adding some high provision cards for getting mulligans, you would not make that leader broken, but rather playable and I hope the game is all for that.
Leaders
I will mostly focus on the more problematic ones or the underwhelming ones when it comes to their ability rather power as most leaders can be fixed with adjusting their power or mulligan amount. I haven’t seen that many leaders in play, so can’t comment on all of them.
Emhyr Van Emhrys
Not only that the ability is somewhat underwhelming in power, it is also a boring effect that has no value. You started a lock archetype, it could work as: “Reset an unit, if it’s an enemy unit, lock it as well.” It might be slightly oppressive, but there are more oppressive things in the game than that, some of it won’t hurt too much.
Usurper
It is problematic that this leader could just build a deck that is not reliant on leaders and is more likely to win than any deck in that case. It is just not healthy for the game as well. I think the old leader ability might be a better choice, where you could create one. Of course it adds its own baggage as not being that much useful in the current form how leaders work. If you take the last mulligan away it would be a tech deck or work only in tournaments, but not sure even that is good.
Eithne
I have been playing Eithne myself and she is overtuned. I think changing the amount of mulligans shouldn’t be much touched on, since her ability is powerful due to how well you can align cards like Regis or Geralt: Igni. Considering that ST would need to a buff on every card or leaders to push for good synergies, as now ST is good as always at abusing neutrals. Changing Eithne could go as far as removing 1 power per turn or making a variety that you get X, Y and Z amount of pings through all 3 rounds, that it wouldn’t be too overwhelming playing her. In current form to make ST not broken and still work without overhauling all cards, it’s enough to just bump her down to 3 pings a turn. In the future it could be reworked, but it needs ST cards to be buffed as well.
Adda
She needs a rework to bonus a certain archetype or have an unique ability. Raw damage should not be a thing, that’s why Radovid was a bad choice from a design perspective as well, he didn’t fit into any archetype.
Filavandrel Aen Fidhail
Boost all non boosted units in your hand by 1. At the start of the round the effect resets. Then tutors like Witchers would not be affected and it would be a balanced leader, not an autoloss if players know how to play around that leader ability.
Francesca
Now she seems weak because she does not have enough mulligans. If you gave her an extra mulligan, she would be too strong most likely. So instead give her a chance to earn those mulligans with cards like Card Shuffler or winning round 1 and having an extra mulligan for round 3.
Brouver Hoog
It’s a bad card, movement with even a lot of damage would be awful. I think you could make it so it creates a few base copies of the same bronze card so it would synergize with Dwarves and Elves spam. It would be a great card for beginners that are usually looking for only one wincondition and could function as a learning leader.
Handsize
For now I think at start people don’t value the power of bleeding as many don’t know their decks, not even talking about opponent decks and since there are no spies, people should start thinking of winning 2:0 as everyone keeps mulligans or try to throw out non-efficient cards in R1 and R2 to instantly go to R3. That opens more 2:0s which are actually good to the context that enemies have to drop too many bad cards for the opponent to pick it up that the plays are inefficient.
Blacklisting
In the current state of Gwent, if blacklisting existed you could add a lot of golds, a few 4 provision golds and then you would be playing all golds. Bronze cards already feel like a hindrance to the deck, so if you give incentive to play low provision cards, people will pay even less attention to the bronzes than they do now. Don’t add blacklisting back.
Card advantage
Card advantage doesn’t matter as much anymore and you need to work for your cards. As now more removal exists, like Ciri, Ciri Dash, even for that you have to work, it used to be just dump a spy and you have Card Advantage. We are moving away from 1 card reward, which makes the game a tad bit more complex in a good way.
Mechanics
Order and Charge
These give more control to the player, so the game feels more active, which is good, opens a new design space with artifacts, on top of that finishers can be played around and played around back as the order doesn’t activate instantly, but you could wait extra turns for it.
Immune
This is extremely hard to manage. We used to have gold immunity and we didn’t play too many cards that fight enemy cards, now as we do, immunity is just a more important gold immunity. It is a good mechanic to an extent if you look very carefully at it. If these cards became top of the meta, we are looking at distasteful playstyle of closed beta NR Gwent. Just be conscious of adding these type of cards within the future as mechanics should still exist for some decks to even work.
Thrive
Not sure if it’s that interesting of a mechanic, it will make for a powerful deck, but it might just feel like Tetris in the end where you barely interact with the opponent cards, as in Tetris, there is no opponent. In the future consider more interesting archetype cards that make you play around something.
Conditions for Cards
Artifact removal in some cards is genuinely very interesting - you have to have X amount of Bloodthirst in SK to remove an artifact. It is an interesting mechanic that ties into the archetype, a certain condition. It would be nice to see proper conditions, unlike ST: “Have an elf in your hand.” condition to trigger some. This idea with conditions with more bizarre requirements and rewards would also be interesting for the game and design field that could be explored even more.
Lock No Longer Unlocking
If you are playing a lock, you always lose close to no value. Both players usually have some sort of engines and if you’d be able to lock or unlock, locks would become close to an auto-include, now you are playing around enemy deck with those, instead of having ultimate card, an answer to everything.
Wonky Combos
There are combinations that are hard to pull, but if you do, you win the game. That I think is a genuinely good thing. Gwent for a long time has been a game of average card plays, especially when you look at Veteran decks. Combos that require a lot of work and have a big payoff are insanely great for the game as it opens different win conditions.
No Short Rounds / No Topdeck Wars
If you manage to get down to 1 card, have more mulligans than your opponent and your 1 card has more provisions, you are still more likely to win, so instead of having short rounds, you still play for the same strategy to bleed and go to round 2, but instead still draw a small package of your synergies. That’s great, topdecks is genuinely a bad idea to the game.
Drypass Strategy
It no longer exists within the game and as of late I am playing Spies (used to play a lot of ST and will still do so after Homecoming), my wincon is to pull Cantarella and use Menno onto it or just drypass and get a card advantage. This strategy was not healthy and made a lot of win conditions quite binary, that is not good to the game. If a strategy is available, if it’s unhealthy, doesn’t make the game better.
Arena
Live Gwent’s arena is dreadful, it was made like Hearthstone’s arena, where instead it should have been made in an unique sense, where you draw some cards, then you draw a package of a few cards that have synergy, can be wonky combos too, then some more cards in between, more packages and that would make an interesting arena deck. Of course the package amount had to be large, but having a big community to offer those packages wouldn’t have taken too much time. Moving on to new Gwent as we have lost a big pack of tags and replaced it with tags that work all across the game, we can build decks with synergy. However, building Arena decks might have another problem coming, Hearthstone Arena is balanced around the fact that it has mana curve, so even if you get these 10 cards that are insane finishers for 10 mana, you still need to play out your first 9 rounds. Gwent’s lack of mana curve should not make the player draw all randoms so players that want to have a huge amount of wins in a row, or just percentage wins should not just rely on good draws. If there was a number of provisions decided before the arena is drawn, the player does not know of the number that he gets, but it would be for the example a number between 165 and 200. Then every card you draw is randomized to an extent where you draw 25 cards by provisions without getting a broken deck or a deck that will never be able to win not because of your choices, but rather of how unlucky you were. This randomization is healthy to an extent as you still go into arena to find funny combinations and some game mods could break the stigma of arena, however the classic Arena should have a variance to it and shouldn’t feel like a boring experience.
Achievements
Requiring players to have a lot of : “Have 4 Phoenix Eggs on your side of the board.” “Use Scorch to acquire 100 point swing.” “Complete Arena run without a lose.” “Win 5 Arena runs in a row without breaking the contract.” and things like that. Extreme challenges are great for players that are trying to excel at a certain deck or funny combo that they try to pull and have this amazing aftertaste as if they just defeated a Dark Souls boss. It’d be just like Dark Souls. Starter achievements could be Scraps, Ore, Kegs and then Powder in the respective order, somewhere there arena tickets too, but most likely it’s best for newer player category as well so they would check on it and perhaps get hooked onto it, old players don’t need it as they have all the kegs in the world. Like that players that are deep within the game would actually get something that is relevant to them, as Powder and new players don’t yet need Powder, but need to fill the collection.
Tutorial
Make tutorials that actually teach all of the interesting mechanics and show more complex cards from the enemies or create an AI that has specific challenge to beat X deck with a Y deck, that is already prebuilt, where you have a narrow win condition, which is just disturbing enemy combination or something with a specific card. When new players will lose a couple times to interesting cards they will understand that there are interesting cards and you can disturb them. This clears up new players from playing raw number cards in the game as a lot of decks start off with point slam cards without knowing about the interesting stuff. Leaders could also be used for strong combinations.
I really love designing cards and in general CCG development, so I gave my view on Homecoming, maybe one day I shall sit in CDPR’s studio thinking of new cards for you and how to balance them, so if you feel like my ideas are not good, don’t be afraid to critique them so I could defend the idea or change the idea if the idea doesn’t stand on its own.
Thank you for reading Sincerely, Vilhelmas “Imbure” Stankevičius
submitted by Imbure to gwent [link] [comments]

A solution for everything

Hallo there, boys and girls. Let me start by admitting that the title is just a bit misleading, as I haven`t solved quite everything. There`s still global warming. Racism. Human nature.
But! I`ve solved Gwent. Read on and find out how.
A warning: There`s a wall of text below that would make GRRM proud. These are some thoughts about the state of Gwent and how I would like to see it improved - with concrete solutions. If you are short on time, you can scroll way - waaaaaaaaay - down and find a summary.
Ok, some background. I`ve played Gwent pretty much since the beginning of the open beta, clocked in over 1500 hours, been/am in the pro league; the usual. I really like CDPR as a company (they make games that fit my needs), I like the Witcher lore, I love - LOVE - the Gwent art, and I enjoy brainy games.
As you can see by my time investment, I was very much into Gwent; until Homecoming came along that is. When CDPR revealed some of the changes they were going to implement, I was skeptical, but I really tried to keep an open mind and adapt to the new reality. So when HC was published, I played the game for a few weeks, and then I stopped. Haven`t played it since.
HC made me think hard about what I don`t like about shiny new Gwent and why I don`t like it. And after a few days it was 14 pages of 11-font word documented text of Gwent fan fiction; or as it is to me "Game Solved - My Ideal Version of Gwent".
Let`s get to it then. This is where I`ll list all the things that I would like to see changed, why I believe they should change and most important of all, how to change them.
There are four basic keywords I`d like to see in Gwent.
ASYMMETRIC GAMEPLAY - IDENTITY - CONSISTENCY - CHOICE
Asymmetric gameplay:
I don`t know about you, but for me the tension, the fun and the strategy/tactic in these types of games comes from the wildly contrasting play styles - factions and archetypes that have different win conditions, require different setups, spike in power at different times, have their own weaknesses and strengths; all the stuff that requires the player to assess and understand the board state, to adapt to it, to use the knowledge and the tools at his disposal to his own advantage. But HC has purged most of the traits from the factions. No more spies, no spellatel, no mulligan-scoia, no movement, consume, weather, etc... Which brings us to
Identity
This is something that has bothered me since the beginning of the open beta and it has only worsen over every iteration of Gwent. With "identity" I don`t mean only faction identity (I`ll come to that later), but the identity and consequently also the purpose of any given card type. What`s the identity, the flavor of an organic card as opposed to an alchemy card? What kind of playstyle does it lean towards? What archetype does it empower?
In other games the difference between a green spell and a red spell are easy to spot and to understand. Green is for growth and you put a red spell in your deck because it goes boom. That`s intuitive. In Gwent tags and categories are mostly used as restrictions, from the days when there were tutors, so that those couldn`t access every single card of a specific type.
Moreover even the units don`t have an identity. For me there should be a numerical difference between a unit that is designated for the melee row and one supposed to be played on the ranged row. I can`t see that in HC Gwent.
As mentioned before, there is also the disappearance of all those juicy faction-specific abilities. While there were some positive additions (orders, thrive) now it`s mostly deal damage and boost, boost and deal damage, boost when boosted, etc. If you take away the names and the numbers from the ability descriptions, can you tell which faction a card belongs to?
Consistency
For this part I´d like to argue what kind of game this is. You say it`s a card game like Hearthstone. Wrong. Let me give you a practical example to illustrate what I mean:
I was playing a game with Usurper and no silver witchers - so no thinning. In those games you end up with 9 or 10 cards in your deck when the game is over. My opponent played Xavier Moran in round three and buffed him to over 40. I had GIgni and Gerald Professional in my deck and never drew them. Lost.
You see, in other card games you always have access to all of your cards - there`s only the question of probability. If you play long enough, eventually you will draw all of your cards. Gwent`s different. There is a limited number of turns (usually 16) and the 10 cards you don`t draw, you will never have access to. And it stinks - STINKS - to be at the mercy of the half of the deck you don`t draw. Your play doesn`t matter, your preparation doesn`t matter, your tech choices don`t matter.
So if you want to compare Gwent to a Blizzard game, it`s not Hearthstone. It´s Starcraft. Both players have armies (decks) with resources (units, etc.) that need to be managed properly for maximum value. That means thinning, tutoring and mulliganing - manipulation of the deck - to get access to all of those answers you`ve prepared.
Deck management in OB Gwent was its own mini game that added tactical depth on so many levels. I would really like that back. And so would you. Just look at the prevalence of the silver witchers. The players have spoken with their deck building.
Choice
Answer me this: What is the benefit of playing Caretaker on the melee row? What is the CHOICE here?
SOLUTIONS BABY!
Now to the solutions. The very first adjustment I`d like to see is the game reverting back to the values of OB Gwent, where bronze, silver and gold cards had target values of 11, 15 and 19 respectively.
This is important for so many reasons. First of all, the board states right now look frankly very dull with all these 4-power cards around. All the units look very same-y. With such low numbers there is not enough room for variation of the card stats, which diminishes their identity (I`ll come back to that later). Besides, wasn`t the lesson from the open beta to give the cards bigger values, so that there would be more leeway to balance them? Moreover, for a year or so we`ve been conditioned to work with the OB values - so from a pedagogic perspective the decision to go with the current numbers seems to me quite boneheaded. Lastly, as we`ve seen over the last months, when the values on the cards are so close together, it oftentimes takes just one ping to scorch the whole board. Low values make control way too easy to pull off and way too strong.
So going forward I will be working with the OB values when talking about the solutions.
Ok, the center piece of my proposition, the thing that solves most of it. Bring back the third row!
No, wait!
The game doesn`t need a complete overhaul for this to work. There are in fact already three rows in the game:
Melee row...one
Ranged row...two
Hand... three rows.
That`s my first proposition: make the hand the third row.
This way the game keeps the nice look with the big cards, but gets additional strategic depth and enables the return of all those faction abilities that disappeared because (I suspect) they couldn`t work on two rows.
How does this third row work?
For starters, instead of calling it the siege row, it would be the base or camp row. Narratively it makes sense that your army has a base from which it initiates its warring campaign. At the start of the game, all your units and resources are inactive in this base (the base row), then are activated (or deployed - call it as you want) as they are placed on the battlefield. They can be deployed to any of the three rows, provided there is enough space, meaning they can also be played to the base row - with a penalty (more on that later).
But then - you might ask - does that mean that the players can interact with the opponents hand? Yes, absolutely!
The cards in hand can be passively targeted - and attacked - by each player. You can damage the cards - even the inactive ones - but never below the value of one. You cannot destroy them. And of course, since the cards are face down when inactive, you would damage random cards. You can also play any type of weather on the base-row and over time harm all the units on it - active and inactive alike.
Understandably this seems problematic . It is not. Here`s a handy (had to do it) solution: FORTIFICATION.
Fortification functions much like armor. It`s the protection value for the whole row - meaning it protects any unit on that row, so long as it`s not destroyed - and is indicated on the left side of any row. It has no influence on the overall power values of your army on the right side. Each player starts the game with the base row (and only the base row) fortified for value of 30 (can be discussed, but let`s work with that number for now). This value is persistent for all three rounds , but can be reduced (siege machines, dragons, weather) or raised. In round one you could for example play Ragnarok, and over 8 turns the fortification value would be lessened by 16 and stay 14 for rounds two and three, unless further changed . If the fortification is completely destroyed, active cards can be directly, inactive cards indirectly attacked.
Furthermore, fortification is not only a tag, it`s also an ability.
Specific units have the ability to fortify a row - any row. Shield Maidens and Mahakam Defenders are the first that come to my mind. Just imagine the Spartans from "300" who cover with their shields, so that the guys behind can stab and poke. That`s what this is. As long as the fortification is intact, it will protect any unit on the row. This is the sort of thing the game needed with regard to engines. Up until now players never had the possibility (yes, Quen) to protect units before they were played. Instead you had a binary back and forth - you play a card, the opponent destroys it or doesn`t. With an ability like fortify you can prepare the field for engines and other cards of value, which would make them so much so much more viable. Equally it would make locks necessary again. Lastly it also creates another option to deal with weather and other raw-wide effects, which in turn allows weather to be designed more aggressively.
Those are just a few of the advantages you get from the fortification ability. There are so many more and I will come back to them later when I get to some practical examples for cards, etc. For now I`d like to jump to the next important point:
STRUCTURE FOR EVERYTHING.
Remember how I wrote about the lack of identity of card types and about the adjustment of the current card values back to those of the OB? Let`s address that.
While this might not be a problem per se, it would make Gwent so much clearer and more intuitive, if any given card type had a precisely defined character that makes it easily readable and understandable; makes it instantly evident what the designated row, role and purpose of that very card is. Of the two general card types (I`ll leave out special cards for now) here is how I imagine the unit subcategories should look like (keep in mind that is just a very abridged version, there are many more intricacies to all of this; also the numbers as presented below are orientational... so just go with the flow for now, ok?):
Melee units:
High health (7 - 12), low damage (1 - 3), reach of 1 (with an asterisk). Small penalty for ranged row deployment, but can gain defensive ability (like armor or fortify; depending on the rarity of the card). Bigger - faction-specific - health penalty for deployment of the ranged row. Units mostly have armor (about 2). Orders and duel abilities prevalent.
Ranged units:
Mid health (4 - 8), mid damage (1 - 6), reach of 2 - 3. No penalty for melee deployment, small faction - specific penalty for base deployment. No armor. Deploy ability prevalent.
Siege units:
Low health (2 - 4), high damage (1-8), imprecise or volatile, reach 2 - 5. Can have armor. No penalties for melee and ranged deployment.
Support:
Mid health (4 - 7), no damage. No armor. No penalties on deployment. Versatile.
Alchemists:
Low health (1 - 6), versatile. Poor man`s mages, meaning that they have a wide range of utilities, from damage to support, but not as powerful as mages. Can be unique (gold, silver) but are mostly bronze units.
Officers:
Archetype "joints", the units that make an archetype work smoothly. Low to high health. Can have armor. Versatile on deployment. No row penalties. Tutors.
Mages:
Low health (1 - 4), very versatile with abilities for damage, control, support. No armor. No deploy penalties. Always unique (cannot be bronze).
Witchers:
Witchers obviously... Additionally to the stuff they have going for them now, witchers must always be unique (cannot be bronze; yes, you Viper Witchers). Always immune (they are, as per the lore, immune) - just for the extra flavor.
Legendary Units:
Faction specific legendaries need to aggressively incentivize archetypes, be the centerpieces or big payoffs thereof. Need to be complex and versatile - meaning having always multiple deploy choices. Neutral legendaries meanwhile should fit into multiple archetypes.
Please remember that this is just a brief overview of the characteristics I´d like to see on this unit types. There is way more complexity to every single of these categories, and there are more categories. And not to mention special cards. What I want to illustrate here is how the game needs a system and a structure to give each card type instantly recognizable traits, roles and purposes - identity. This paired with the third row and the OB Gwent card values creates much more variety on board; bigger range of stats, bigger diversity in damage output, reach, etc.
To the factions. In my ideal world their rough characteristics would look like this:
Nilfgard
Nilfgardian troops - as per the lore - are well trained, well equipped and disciplined. They also rely on intel and advanced scientific and technical knowledge. Translated to the game mechanics this means:
- Units with biggest overall stats
- Signature units: spies, alchemists, siege machines
- Signature abilities: orders, reveal
- Unit focus on melee row
- Great at thinning/managing troops
- Weak to control and weather
Skellige
Skellige units are reckless fighters and pirates. No well equipped (because they don`t need to) but drunk enough to make up for it.
- Mid stats, highest damage output of all the factions
- Signature units: resurrecting units, pirates, warriors
- Signature abilities: discard, resurrect, duel (makes most sense in SK), plunder
- Unit focus on melee row
Scoaitel
Scoaitel units are sparse and badly equipped. To make up for it, they are very mobile and slippery and like to attack from a hidden or fortified position. Have lots of magic users.
- Lowest overall stats of all the factions, but with wide variety of damage output
- Signature units: Spell-tutors (elves), item-tutors (dwarves), trap-tutors (dryads)
- Signature abilities: move, hide, fortify, ambush
- Unit focus on ranged row
Monsters
Monsters are the least homogenous faction, having a polarizing diversity for stats (bigger than Nilfgards, smaller than Scoiatels) and abilities among its units. I would divide them in four groups, each one with a specific focus: Wild Hunt, vampires, necrophages, beasts and insectoids.
- Wild Hunt is the destructive part of the faction, with stats that rival those of Nilfgardian units and big damage output
- Vampires grow while in the graveyard
- Necrophages abuse the opponents graveyard
- Beast and insectoids rely on weather, effects and swarm tactics
- Signature abilities: consume, deathwish, infect
- Units not focused on any particular row
Northern Realms
NR is the faction that is usually the target of aggression. They start out weak but get stronger with growing success and numbers.
- Mid stats, mid damage, swarm tactics
- Signature units: bronze tutors, siege machines, crew
- Signature abilities: tutor, boost, crew, promote (an additional ability - since NR for me always was the dullest faction -to make the more unique; for bronze units - destroy an enemy gold-unit to get promoted; promoted unit gains additional stats, armor, charges, color)
- Units not focused on any particular row
Lastly, some examples how I wished the cards were designed (on the base of the pre-HC values and abilities) :
Drummond Shieldmaid, 4 power
Melee: Deploy - deal 2 damage to an enemy unit; if it was already damaged, summon another Drummond Shieldmaid from your deck
Ranged: Deploy - fortify 2
Base: Deploy - penalty 1
Here you have two choices, thinning and damage, or low value but defensive setup.
An Craite Raider, 4 power
Whenever you discard this unit, resurrect it
Melee: Deploy - Deal 2 damage, knockdown
"Knockdown" would be an ability that whilst dealing damage it also slams the opponent into the ground, giving him a concussion and disabling a permanent ability for a turn. This as a measure to artifacts and other engines (Skellige to me is a faction that shouldn`t good at control, but instead specializes on slowing down the opponent). Again here the option of discarding the card for thinning and big value, or playing it from hand for low value and an effect that might prove more useful. Meaningful choices and a variety of answers for problems.
So this is it, my Christmas- wish list for Shupe. As I wrote before, this is a short version, so please don`t nail me on the details. There are many more areas for the game to improve, like old abilities that are missing and new ones that need to be added, meaningful use of the graveyard, leader abilities, etc. But c`mon, look at the wall of text. If you`ve managed it this far without shaving in-between, you obviously haven`t gone through puberty yet.
To summarize, things I`d like to see:
- Readjustment to the pre-HC card values
- Third row as described above
- Consistency; ability to manipulate the hand that is dealt to the player
- Structure and identity that are presented trough stats and abilities for all factions, archetypes, units AS PER THE LORE!
This last part - the lore - is extremely important, as a lot of the cards just look and feel disconnected from it. Right now Nilfgardian units don`t feel more powerful than any others, because they aren`t, the stats don`t show it. Four is equal four is equal four is equal four. Scoiatel troops don`t feel sneaky or slippery or like they`d shower you with arrows from the trees, because there aren`t abilities that would represent this.
And one last - last thing that makes me uninterested in Gwent right now: boring abilities (boost and damage, damage and boost...). This is most pronounced on the legendary cards, that are mainly dull and unimaginative. Just look at gold - Eskel: that is a bronze ability at best, requires no setup and with little satisfying payoff. There are three units in Gerald:Professional, Leo Bonhart and Eyck of Denesle that do pretty much the same thing. That`s not the stuff I expect from a gold unit.
Now let me be constructive here and give another example how I`d like CDPR to translate the lore into the Gwent mechanics. Look at Gaunter O`Dimm; another character that simply destroys units. Boring. What does O`Dimm do in Witcher 3? He gives great power, then takes it away, with a hefty price. So:
Gaunter O`Dimm, 7 Power
Melee: Deploy - Discard two cards and give a unit 15 armor
Ranged: Deploy - Discard two cards and boost a unit by 15
Base: Deploy - Boost a unit by 2 and give it immune. After 2 turns, destroy it
See, the two-cards-discard is the price to be paid, just as the lore dictates. Mechanically it also prevents Gaunter from being the last card played, giving the opposing player a chance to respond to it. The card fits into multiple decks and gives you meaningful choices. It can work in a discard deck, or in a armor-centric deck. It can be an enabler for engines. But it can also be a safety net for any sort of swarm deck that is brick-prone. Choices.
Gold cards should incentivize hard choices, calculated risks, gambles. There just aren`t many of those in the game right now. There is no choice in playing Caretaker on the melee row - there`s nothing to gain from it. You`ll always play it on the ranged row.
Obviously these are just the most pressing things that annoy me about the game in this iteration. But I`m spent now, so in closing: I really hope CDPR makes some (all?) of these things happen, because I`m convinced if they create a solid foundation for the game, in the long run, Gwent will destroy the competition. I don`t want to go back to the other games economy, or art. I don`t want to ever again open a pack that doesn`t give me the choice of the fifth card.
submitted by nessuno99 to gwent [link] [comments]

Detailed Review of UBTG

As posted at BoardGameGeek several years ago:
I am definitely a fan of what Gillespie Games has created with "Ultimate Baseball the Game" (UBTG). When I read what others have written about it, I come away feeling like it is both a misunderstood product and one that has not found its audience yet. The web site for the game gives a very detailed account of how it is different from 'replay' games like Strat, but I think that many people gloss over that and focus on the web site's claim that the game is a "simulation of baseball". This seems to cause a misalignment of expectations.
The majority of baseball gamers seem to interpret "simulation" a very specific way, a way more aligned to troves of real life statistics used to get the most realistic possible outcome for a proposed "what if" scenario with limited "player elected" decisions. UBTG isn't built to do that, which I think frustrates many people who are looking for a "simulation". UBTG is also not a "replay" game. It takes hours to play and doesn't have a sanctioned solitaire mod (though it can be played solitaire with some effort - more on that later).
So what is UBTG delivering? To me, instead of being a "statistically driven simulation", UBTG is actually a "baseball strategy role playing game" where, at any given moment, the player must make strategic decisions in the role of: -The general manager -The manager -The pitcher -The batter -The baserunners -The fielders
When I say "moment" above, I really mean it - far from being a "set your roster, roll the dice a few times and write down the winner", UBTG actually includes some "bullet time" play for events like infield grounders where fielders and batters have to make split second decisions about, for the batting team, whether to try and take a base, and for the fielding team, where to go with a throw. You will spend minutes on a play that takes seconds in real baseball, but for the player who wants to 'role play', this is a good thing! UBTG is a first edition and, in my opinion, not quite perfectly engineered, but it's exceptional as a first effort.
Now, the pitch by pitch mode Diamond Mind Baseball (DMB) comes close and has many of the same features as UBTG and (depending on how you see things) the "advantage" of automating some of the action, while also including more 'real life stats' (more sophistication for injuries, ballpark factors, wind) into its machine, UBTG seems to be the most complete "Baseball strategy role playing" game there is, where I'm measuring completeness not in the number of statistics used (where DMB and several others have a great deal more) but in the number of 'player elected' decisions that have to be made by a live person on every pitch and ball-in-play.
So, if you are wanting to simulate a lot of games quickly - if you are wanting results derived from a specific season from a specific player - if you want columns of SABR data down to the thousanth's place in decimals all feeding into the results - you can safely stop reading knowing that UBTG is not going to satisfy your needs. On the other hand, if this notion of head to head strategic decisions using a simplified but still highly-thought-out statistics model, over several hours (it will probably take you all of 4 hours to play your first "advanced" game with all the rules) appeals to you, and you are ready to learn more about "Baseball strategy role playing", read on:
While this review will be long, for at least a taste of brevity I am revealing only the full 'advanced' game. There is a simplified 'basic' game option also, though while it is more accessible it lacks much of the strategic bite of the advanced version and feels much more luck driven. Anyway, putting that aside, let's examine the roles to play in the advanced game.
The first role you must play in this baseball RPG is the General Manager. So let's talk about how you select your players in UBTG. The UBTG team includes a baseball historian who has indexed 19th century players, negro league players, dead ball players and modern players using his own proprietary (and private/unavailable, at least so far) model, so that you can have 'dream matchups' of any of the above. Satchel Paige vs. Barry Bonds - OK... Babe Ruth and Frank Thomas in the same lineup? For sure...
Here are the details of the simplified statistics model:
BATTING: When batting, along with right/left handedness it looks like this: 1) A 'hitting rating' integer up to 15 - of the real life stats, hitting rating feels closest to on-base percentage... a higher hitting rating will of course lead to more hits on balls in play but it will also lead to more fouls and balls on balls not in play. We'll cover an example of this later.
2) A 'power rating' up to 15 - of the real life stats, this feels closest to slugging percentage... And in fact slugging record holder Babe Ruth has the highest power rating in the game. On base hits, power rating is applied to determine whether a 'base hit' outcome is actually a double, single, or home run. The specific mechanic is that you must roll <=2x the power rating with the game's 30-sided die (the only die in the game) in order to qualify for a 'power upgrade chance', and then, based on the power rating, you roll agin to determine whether you got the upgrade to a double, triple or home run (some upgrade chances fail and the base hit remains a single).
3) A 'speed' rating up to 15 (though no one has earned a 14 or 15 yet) - UBTG's historian differentiates pure speed from 'baserunning acumen' but of course when batting speed is all about getting around the bases.
Then there are a series of binary 'skills' for batting that you either have or you don't, which are: 4) 'Keen Eye' -- this reduces swinging strikes that would lead to a strikeout. For example, a given die roll outcome will look like this: "Strike but Foul if Keen Eye"
5) 'Situational Hitting' -- this skill only can be used with <2 outs and certain baserunner conditions, but it's all about compromising some power (literally abandoning the ability to use 'power upgrade') to 'hit behind the runner' which, overall makes runner advancement more likely even if the batter makes an out.
6) 'Clutch Hitting' -- this still only can be used with runners in scoring position or in the 9th/later if the batter can tie or win the game -- it is definitely powerful as there are several die rolls that are "base hit if clutch hitting, otherwise ball' - definitely a big difference
7) 'Base Running' -- This is applied as a modifier to die rolls in any baserunning situation that calls for a die roll
8) 'K+' -- Actually a 'negative' skill, this increases the likelihood of striking out. It's applied differently than the other skills in that it actually is applied to affect a real-time increase in the pitcher's attribues.
9) 'Team Leadership' -- The UBTG team believes in the competitive value of having 'team leaders' (Think of guys who were player managers or guys who were a 'coach on the field' like Joe Morgan) in the dugout or in the field... if a team has team leaders in the dugout it earns 1-5 one-time use chits that can be redeemed to: a) Temporarly boost a batter's hitting rating b) Nullify advantages that the pitcher would get from throwing his "best pitch" (more on that later) c) Get a 'great jump' for a base stealer
So that's batting.
FIELDING: Now, in the field, it works like this:
1) A 'fielding rating' - this slams together many of today's advanced defensive stats into one- in gameplay though it shows up as a major factor in whether extra bases and other unforced runner advances will be successful or not. Combines fielding, throwing and tagging.
2) A binary skill of 'big throw' - relevant only for catchers and outfielders, the BT is used as a die roll modifier which increases the likelihood of a throw-out on advancements. Most analogous to "base running" skill for batters.
3) List of position eligibility - you can play out of position in UBTG but with severe penalties in fielding rating.
PITCHING: Finally, for pitchers you have the following:
1) A 'pitching rating' up to 15 that is I suppose closest to 'WHIP' -- it's really treated like the inverse of the 'hitting rating' above. I'll show why with an example a bit later.
2) A 'K rating' up to 4 that is closest to 'strikeouts per inning pitched' -- certain play outcomes will turn BALLS or FOULS into STRIKES if the K rating is high enough, but more importantly, K rating also one of two factors that determines 'pitcher type', which differentiates entire columns of results based on a spectrum of command and control guys to more 'wild' strikeout pitchers
3) Binary skill of 'Big game' (starters) and 'Save' relievers that legitimately functions as a 'do over' for certain pitches... very powerful in key moments of the game
4) Binary skill of 'pitch call' for catchers which functions exactly the same as (3) above
5) Binary skill of 'pitcher endurance' which means that fatigue begins 20 pitches later (starters) or 10 pitches later (relievers) than normal
6) Binary skill of 'knuckleball' which influences a few results, though frankly makes no difference most of the time (a minor disappointment, but I can forgive the designers on this one)
7) Binary skill of 'pitches to contact' which creates more strikes and more contract, along with fewer strikeouts and walks. This is the other factor in 'pitcher type', along with K rating
Finally, remember that 'Team Leadership' skill from before? If the fielding team has team leaders 'on the field' then it can use chits to: a) get the 'element of surprise' advantage on a pickoff throw b) prevent (really 'nullify') ERROR results that occur from die rolls
So there you have it - that is the full universe of skills as derived by the UBTG team and their historian. Assembling your 25 man roster allows for a wide range of flexibility in choosing which skills you want to prioritize. Setting your line-up is similarly fully up to you, as is whether or not to use the DH.
Now you've picked your players and are ready for the first pitch - here's where you get to the heart of the UBTG experience - the pitcher batter battle. Here's how it goes down:
First, pitcher tells the batter whether he's throwing 'Normal', 'Strike mode' or 'Ball mode'. This simulates that a major league hitter can get a 'read' on pitches which look 'dead red' or 'clearly a ball'. That said, this is an imperfect skill, so of course if you take a pitch in 'ball mode' it still might be a strike - and if you take a pitch in 'strike mode' it might still be a ball, though the odds are heavily against this in both cases for all types of pitchers.
Next, the pitcher chooses the pitch to throw -- every pitcher in the game has the same four pitches, which are four colors instead of specific pitch names. White and Black are fast and Green and Red are slow, which is meaningful for stolen base attempts and on third strikes, where a guess of at least the correct speed can give a chance to turn a strike into a foul. where it gets more interesting is that each pitcher has at least one 'best pitch'. That best pitch is determined by what type of pitcher it is. Remember, pitcher type is based on the combination of 'K rating' and 'Pitches to contact'. For the four colors there are four pitcher types (Contact<=1k, Contact>=2k, non-contact<=1k, non-Contact>=2k) each of those types has its own specific column of possible results correlated to specific die rolls. As you might expect, the number of die rolls that could lead to a swinging strike for the non-Contact>=2k pitcher is the highest - and in particular that pitcher type's 'best' pitch can convert a number of FOULS into swinging strikes.
Meanwhile, simultaneous to the pitcher choosing the pitch to throw, the batting team chooses the pitch to swing at, or to not swing at all and take the pitch. The pitcher choice and the batter choice are done by concealing a colored marble (white/black/green/red) in your hand and holding it out over the board, then a simultaneous reveal. The number one factor in the results of a given pitch is whether the batter has guessed right or guessed wrong.
Exploring that factor further, very specifically, the heart of the action are the game's "play results tables" (PRT) which are a series of grids starting from '1 or less' as the index value for the top row and '34+' as the index value for the bottom row. There's a grid for each possible permutation of baserunners. Results <1-13 are unique to those permutations, while results 14-34+ are common for all permutations. As you might imagine, each index value represents a modified die roll of the 30 sided die. If there are no modifiers and you roll a '4', you look in row 4 for the result. Now, onto the columns of the table - there is one column for a RIGHT GUESS that's used for any right guess regardless of pitcher type. From there, rows 1-13 of WRONG GUESS are common for all pitcher types, while rows 14-34+ have unique columns for each of the four pitcher types. We'll talk about some of the modifiers below, but for now let's compare right and wrong guesses.
Considering RIGHT GUESSES, a lower die roll is generally better for the batting team - in fact '1 or less' is an unconditional home run even if using the 'situational hitting' skill (just over the fence!) -- Meanwhile considering WRONG GUESSES, a lower die roll is generally better for the pitching team.
The chain of results for RIGHT GUESSES looks roughly like this from low to high die values: HOME RUN>Hard to field base hit>Base hit>Conditional base hit (for example only if clutch hitting, or if you can roll again less than the batter's hitting rating)>BALL>FOUL
Over on the WRONG GUESS side, where the lower numbers favor the fielding team, the results generally look like this: Double/Triple Plays>Force outs and ground outs>Fly outs>Strikes>Fouls>Balls>Single (a wrong guess can be a single only in the 34+ row)
Of course many play results are conditional - some examples are: - Base hit IF batter has clutch hitting skill and there are runners in scoring position -- but otherwise a BALL - BALL unless pitcher threw best pitch, in which case FOUL instead - STRIKE, unless batter has keen eye, in which case FOUL instead - FOUL, unless pitcher's current K rating is 3+, in which case STRIKE instead
While there is MUCH more to the game than just this table, this is the heart of the action and will drive the results more than any of the other elements in the game. So, given that, some readers may wonder if such a big swing in possible results from RIGHT GUESSES (which almost never result in any kind of out) to WRONG GUESSES (which almost never result in any kind of hit) leaves too much in what is essentially a 'guess which marble I picked' question. Perhaps this would be true if all marbles were equal and the pitcher had as much of a reason to choose any one color as any of the others, which actually is indeed the case in the 'basic' game. But this is not just rock, paper scissors, because:
1) Right guesses have +6 added to them (i.e., to the die roll) when 'best pitch' is used, and some wrong guesses have -3. Remember, right guesses favor the hitter the lower the die roll, and wrong guesses favor the pitcher the lower the die roll, in general 2) All pitchers also have a 'second best pitch' which can add +3 to right guesses 3) Contact>=2k pitchers (Greg Maddux) actually have THREE of the four pitches which can modify die results on right/wrong guesses 4) The pitch speed (recall two are 'slow' and two are 'fast') can affect the success of a stolen base 5) Many results in the PRT are conditional to the 'best pitch' (BALL unless best pitch in which case FOUL, for example) 6) For the non-Contact >=2k pitchers, their 'white' best pitch, a 'power' fastball, drives significantly more swinging strikes than any other pitch in the game
Any 'guessing game', most famously rock paper scissors has these thoughts on the part of the guesser? a) Will he repeat what he just used last time or change? b) What does he usually do first? c) What does he do after a 'win'? d) Whad does he do after a 'loss'?
All of that thinking is part of being at the plate in real baseball ('he's started the last three batters with fastball, so I'm looking for the fastball') and in UBTG as well - but in addition to that, the batter has to consider:
e) Since the pitching team knows they'll get the best modifiers on the die roll with a 'best pitch', should I guess the 'best pitch'? Or, will they anticipate that I'm going to look for them to throw the best pitch and pick something else to make sure of the WRONG GUESS? f) If I don't choose to look for the BEST PITCH, would they choose the second best pitch? Or is that too obvious? g) If there's a runner on base, will they choose a FAST pitch or will they go against the grain knowing I'll be looking for a FAST pitch h) If there's 2 strikes and it's a non-contact >=2k pitcher, do I for sure go with the BEST PITCH knowing that I'll likely strike out swinging for anything else? i) Do I just 'take' the first pitch (not showing a corresponding marble) to learn tendencies of how he starts off batters, then try to capitalize?
All of this brings a real richness to the 'cat and mouse' game, but there's even more! When the pitcher has a heavy advantage over the batter (comparing 'pitching rating' to 'hitting rating' incl. handedness), the batting player can only use 3 colors (and only 2 for the largest advantages, such as when pitchers bat) -- in these instances it's possible for the pitching team to get the batting team to exhaust all possible guesses while the at bat is still in progress and then move to one of the other colors, forcing either a WRONG GUESS or for the batting team to just take pitches and hope that the pitcher can't find the strike zone. Similarly, if the hitter has a big advantage (or in STRIKE MODE) the pitching team might have to reveal a marble and only use the other three in choosing, making even a random guess change from a 25% to a 33% chance of hitting a RIGHT GUESS.
Batters can try and swing at pitches in BALL Mode but any right guesses (particularly from contact pitchers) will have modifiers added. In STRIKE MODE, both RIGHT and WRONG GUESSES have -2, reflecting that if a right guess happens on dead red, this will be very solid contact, but if a wrong guess happens on dead red (you read dead read fastball and it was actually a changeup) this will hurt contact.
Remember those ratings from before? Pitching rating minus hitting rating (including +1 to hitting for opposite hand and -1 to hitting for same hand) = PITCHER ADVANTAGE and gets added to right guesses - but if Hitting rating is > pitching rating then that's BATTER ADVANTAGE and it's added to WRONG GUESSES.
The batting team's other surprise options include BUNT (which the pitching team can also surprise by charging in to try and field) and SITUATIONAL HIT (discussed above). Bunts have an entirely separate two grids used to determine first a) whether the bunt was laid down successfully and then b) who fields it, and determining any putouts.
This pitch by pitch faceoff is the biggest strategic decision in the game but it's far from the only one- picking up the pace of the review a bit, here are other decisions that must be made:
-The rule on BASE HITS is that as the batter goes, everyone else goes... that is, if batter gets a single, everyone moves up a base. BUT, nearly all base hits allow for all runners to 'Go for the extra base' (and maybe even an extra 2 bases, rare but possible) as a player elected option. For each runner, you calculate FIELDING DIFFICULTY (FD) which includes both a die roll but then also factors such as - The batters power (mainly only on fly outs, since power for BASE HITS comes via the POWER UPGRADE mentioned earlier) - Runners speed - Whether runner has 'base running' skill - Whether runner had risky lead - Whether runner was 'forced' - Whether there was a 3-2 count with 2 outs - What base runner is running to - Where on the field the ball was hit (die roll, slight bias to pull for all hitters) - Fielding ability of throwetagger - Whether thrower has 'big throw' - and more...
Once FD is calculated for all the runners, the batting team can decide who all is going to go for the extra base - at this point the fielding team gets to decide where to attempt the putout, which could lead to a decision like "Do I take the chance to throw out the lead runner at 20% chance of success or do I try to throw out the trailing runner at 35% chances of success"? The batting team can play it conservative and only advance if it's a sure thing or run the risk even if there's only a 3% chance of success! By the way, outfield throws from base hits to 3B or Home can be "cut off" as well... for example, gameplay might go like the following example - emphasis on the word DECIDES:
-With 1 out, Batting team has runner on 1st - Batter hits double to CF -Batting team decides to 'go for the extra base' to score the runner from 1st after calculating 70% chance of success of that runner scoring and 40% chance of batter-runner reaching 3rd (if the CF threw directly to 3rd) -Fielding team decides to throw home -Batting team decides to now advance the batter-runner to 3B at 50% chance of success (with the throw being cut off), baiting the fielding team to cut off the throw home to ensure the runner scores -Fielding team decides whether to let the throw go home or cut off and throw to third
On infield plays, the intensity of the decision-making gets dialed up even further with something only found in UBTG, called "immediate unforced advance" and "delayed unforced advance". I'll use an example to explain again:
1-With 0 out, Batting team has runner on 1st and 3rd - Batter decides to bunt 2-On the bunt, the batting player decides to place the runner at 1st in "Immediate unforced advance" -- this means he's not running with the pitch, he's waiting to make sure the bunt isn't popped up and only running once the bunt is down fair. But the runner on third is maintaining their normal or risky lead and not running yet. -Now there's a die roll to determine who fields the ball, and FD is calculated for all of the following: a) The forced runner headed to second b) The batter-runner c) The runner on third, who, as soon as the fielding player might throw to second or first, has the option to make a "DELAYED UNFORCED ADVANCE" and dash for home while that throw is occurring, and also has the option to MAINTAIN RISKY LEAD (and get thrown behind) or to return to the bag. The batting player must decide this option d) Now the fielding team decides where to attempt a putout - let's assume for now that the runner on third MAINTAINED RISKY LEAD - this means the fielding player gets to decide between --Trying to pick the runner off of 3rd --Trying to throw out the forced runner at 2nd --Trying to throw out the batter runner --Do nothing (which would mean that everyone is safe but ensures that no one would score) Now let's assume the fielding team decides to try and gun down the runner at second - here the batting team now must decide whether to execute the DELAYED UNFORCED ADVANCE of the runner from third to home, knowing that, assuming the 1B fielded the bunt, that a 3-6-2 double play is possible.
That's a lot of decisions - and of course they don't happen in 'real time', but it's a great way to get 'inside' the guts of this bang bang play. When you get several runners the FD calculation can drag a bit because of all the modifiers, but the more you repeat the process, the faster you get at determining FD.
Other decisions in the game: -Deciding whether to try and pick off runners with a risky lead at the risk of a wild throw -Deciding whether to try and steal a /base, or hit and run -Deciding when to use the 'situational hit' -Deciding when to apply defensive sets including 'play in for bunt', 'play in to prevent score', 'play corners in' -Deciding when to make a substitution -Deciding when to dive for a ball which is eligible for the 'dive play' (3.3% of base hits, die roll '20') -Deciding when to use your chits (this will all make more sense now), including: -Pitching team using "big game"/"save"/"pitch call" chit to nullify a RIGHT GUESS in a critical situation, making it a 'do over' so hitting team has to guess again (the larger effect being making it even harder to get that critical 'right guess' against the best pitchers) -Hitting team using "team leadership" to nullify the modifiers from a BEST PITCH, which might turn am inconsequential BALL into a game winning BASE HIT
So that's the theme... decisions decisions decisions - making this a true "Baseball strategy role playing" game. By the way, yes, the strikeout pitchers will tend to get more strikeouts, the best hitters will tend to get more hits, and so on-- but let's get real -- 'simulation' is secondary here. You could invent your own team of made up players and assign them the attributes above since the model is so simple! You could even have a 'salary cap' for assigning out fixed amounts of rating points and chits.... how would you use them? Would you create a babe ruth and a nick punto or would you create a balanced team?
Gillespie has done an amazing job and this is very fun if you like to get 'inside the head' of all the baseball roles. I do see a few opportunities to improve, which are as follows (Gillespie is already thinking about many of these):
1) Base hits on WRONG GUESSES -- probably my biggest suggested change, along with outs on right guesses -- It is nary impossible to get a base hit on a WRONG GUESS when facing a good pitcher (and the game is full of good pitchers). To have a die roll of 34 requires a significant hitter to pitcher advantage and if a contact pitcher throws their best pitch only the maximum 7 point hitter advantage can counteract the -3 on a WRONG GUESS and still result in a hit, which is always a soft single! This doesn't seem right... Joe Mauer, Miguel Cabrera... these hitters can be looking fastball and then 'make the adjustment' to the offspeed pitch -- maybe giving up a little power (though not as much as 'situational hitting') but still being able to drive the ball. It's taken me a while to get there but I now believe that the game is too penalizing for the best hitters on 'wrong guess' pitches. At a minimum, it feels like if I guessed fast and got slow and had one of these great hitters, I should not have to roll a 30 and then also have at least a 4 point advantage to get a single... I'm not sure how to get this into the game - whether the WRONG GUESS PRT just needs to be a bit more forgiving (probably) or whether this should be another special skill. I'd suggest it's the PRT... I'd make even a 31 at least a 'roll again' for a hit... but even here... it seems like that's not right, and that even against a great pitcher, a great hitter has a chance to make the adjustment. So even where there's pitcher advantage a wrong guess should still have a chance... even for a power upgrade, in my opinion. I'd say for pitcher advantage of 3 or less, an unmodified roll of 30 should probably have a good chance of being a hit, and then of course even moreso as hitter advantage comes in... Adjusting from slow to fast?? well, that usually is a 'foul' at best so I think that's covered. So, yes, officially, I'm recommending that if a slow pitch is thrown and there's pitcher advantage of 3 or less, a wrong guess of a fast pitch should give a better chance at 'making the adustment' ... excited to hear what the Gillespie's have to say on that one, given that they tested the PRT for 20 years or so, ha! But it just doesn't lay right with me that there are only very scarce soft singles possible in the most extreme of circumstances. In my play to date there just hasn't been one at all because the pitchers used have been so strong! It feels too gimmicky to have solid hits only on 'right guesses'and I think it needs looking into.
Related to this, a few 'right' guesses should also probably result in outs. Hard hit outs, mind you, but outs... those balls that commentators say "he got all of it, but right at ____" this would balance out the averages etc. that the Gillespie team has worked so hard to make sure come through in results of well played games. Allow for some outs on 'unlucky' right guesses and more powerful and more occurrences of hits on 'lucky' or 'highly skilled hitter' wrong guesses, please! To me this is the biggest issue with the game, and actually materially annoys me, really the only thing that does though (2) below comes close.
Just to hammer this point home further, think of baseball games you watch on TV in particular - what do you hear? None of these are that rare! -"Wow, he got all of that ball but just hit it right to the center fielder!" (RIGHT GUESS but OUT) -"Jammed him, and look at that, just a little duck snort right over the infield and no one can get it - falls in for a hit..." (WRONG GUESS but HIT without requring a huge batter advantage) -"Watch him hold his hands back for the offspeed pitch and then just go with the pitch right down the opposite field line for a double" (WRONG GUESS but powerful hit for a good hitter) For that matter, some hitters can even throw their wrists to accelerate for the fastball, so maybe we allow for that too.
Okay, the horse is dead... moving on!
2a) As mentioned above, there is a modicum of 'pull' in where the ball goes on batted balls. In the outfield 1-10 = LF, 11-20 = CF and 21-30 = RF. You subtract 1 for a RHB and add 1 for a LHB. That's all. This feels a little too 'random' to me, making every batter "Tony Gwynn" spraying the ball to all fields. I would like to see another skill (NOT a rating) added for "pull factor" which would boost that +/-1 to a bigger number - maybe -6/+6. Jim Thome doesn't spray the ball to all fields with just a 3% bias towards right..... nor David Ortiz, etc...
2b) Of course once this is introduced, the fielding team should be able to decide to shift their infield and/or outfield, separately, left or right to account for this pull factor. If the ball goes where it's most likely to go, then I'm rewarded in FD for a hit or maybe even earn an out instead of a base hit in certain infield scenarios. But if the batter surprises and goes against trend, then I'm at more risk of Higher FD or balls getting through that might have been outs otherwise. Now it may seem this would get overly complicated (for the infield) with runners on but I don't think it would be that bad -- if things are shifted over towards 1B in the infield, it would mean many grounders to 'third' would get through for a hit, and that grounders to short would get fielded but with a very high FD for making any putout at third base, and probably automatic advance to 3B on some PRT 1-13 results. If things are shifted over towards 3B then second and third are covered and it would just be a matter of grounders to '2B' having a more likelihood of getting through - the 1B still has to stay close enough to the bag to receive the ball. Overall the design should be 'risk/reward' as in real life.
A scary batter in this model would be a pull hitter who also has SH (can't think of one of these right now, but I'm sure there was one somewhere out there) who has great pull power but can handle the bat when they want to...
2b) 'Draw Walks' skill -- As noted above the game as the "keen eye" for strikeout prevention, but what about Rickey Henderson (a player 'disrespected' by UBTG a bit to my eye) and other hitters who actually excelled at inducing balls even on good pitches. I'd like to see this as a binary skill which would "turn strikes into balls" on taken pitches to truly give the great OBP men their due. Rickey is a guy who just seems underrated in the UBTG overall skill ratings, and to me it's got to be because this skill is not in the game.
3) 'Pitch framing' skill for catchers -- The academic analysis is out there for everyone to see now and I've e-mailed it to the Gillespies - this is a real thing that can be measured in the game. A great framer can "turn balls into strikes" - this skill would probably be the counter to the previous one.
4) 'Rob a home run' die roll -- This play happens too often to not be able to be player-elected, in my opinion. At the low end of the 'home run' range, perhaps that die roll qualifies as 'robbable' if the relevant outfielder has the right combindation of speed and fielding. Then they make the leap and try to get it based on a die roll. Would love to see this in... More for the entertainment of it than the items above, but who wouldn't like to rob a home run?
5) 'Pickoff move' skill -- Andy Pettite, Terry Mulholland... truly great pickoff moves that froze runners at 1B. These aren't represented in the game and I think they would add more realism to the decisions around stealing, leads and pickoffs.
6) Wild pitches/passed balls seem a bit scarce, though they are in the game. Minor.
It should be noted here that Team Gillespie is currently very highly interactive on their web site via the 'ask a question' feature and will consider all suggestions. One common response I've gotten is to invent my own mods or, if I've already invented them, to try them in the game and see what happens. While that's okay, the whole value of UBTG is that it's a system that the family has tested for 20 years, so mods like the ones above would be better received coming with their stamp of approval rather than just my imagination!
Hope you've enjoyed this look at the game - my critique is meant to be constructive and I hope that my analysis (certainly largely positive) will help this game in finding its audience, in particular because it is very hard to find an opponent right now!
Postscript- I mentioned solitaire... it's a bit crude but using dice or a computer you can randomize many of the decisions above (usually with 2 factors) and get 'realistic' outcomes... for example, if using the die... 0-0 count... roll 1-25 means 'opponent' takes the pitch, 26-30 swings, and so on... it's not perfect but it can be done and it's a great way to test out all the different parts and pieces of the game, especially modeling the effect different choices have on results. You've just got to set up the conditions of the first roll based on 'what would they most likely do' (sometimes it's 50/50), make your choice and then find out if things went 'your way'.
submitted by CommanderBigMac78 to FansOfUBTG [link] [comments]

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