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    jp's Culdcept (PS2)

    [August 11, 2008 12:05:48 AM]
    I've just finished the final battle and "won" the game. Yay!

    I actually feel a bit sad because I don't think I'll play any more, though I'd like to. I have too many other games waiting! While playing I did realize a few things which surprised me (mainly because I hadn't thought of them before!)

    (1) When "emulating" a dice roll in a video game, you aren't limited to "traditional" dice. For example, you can use a "die" that can only roll 5,8, and 2. It seems so obvious that I wonder why this hasn't been done more often. Of course, the tricky part is communicating the odds to your players so that they know what to expect. (ie, this is a wonky dice that mostly rolls 1s, but it can roll 10s 30% of the time!) To be honest, in Culdcept (where you roll a die, but the range of values you can get varies quite a bit), I never really knew what was going on but I got a general sense based on what I got and what my opponents rolled.

    (2)I was a bit disappointed in the AI these past few matches when it made decisions that were obviously wrong. I found that it was ok when the AI made a "believable" mistake, rather than when it made one that just seemed too stupid. So, what makes a believable mistake? Hmmm.. that's a hard one to answer because I haven't seen anyone else play in order to see what kinds of mistakes they make. If I see an AI make a mistake like one that I've made in the past, then I feel it's ok. I guess what I'm trying to say is that a believable mistake is relative to the observer. (which sounds obvious) However, I think that it might be dependendent on the mistakes the observer has made in the past together with the awareness (by the observer) of those mistakes. I guess that sounds somewhat like a metric for AI design! (and I'm sure that others have figured this out long before I thought of it...)

    In all, I'd love to play this against someone else!
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    [August 8, 2008 09:27:14 AM]
    Finished two more challenges! The nice thing is that I was able to win on my first attempt, which goes to show I've been making good progress in understanding the rules and nuances of the game. (one of the matches was still pretty close, though!)
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    [July 14, 2008 03:00:20 PM]
    Oof, the going has certainly got tougher and I haven't won a match since. Luck has certainly played a factor, but perhaps my strategy has been a bit naive. I've been trying to avoid falling into the "trap" that many RPGs and strategy games pose: play a scenario/mission, fail, then play it again but not before having super-prepared for it using the knowledge of our prior failure.

    While I believe that learning from your mistakes is a good thing, I also think that too using foreknowledge of the coming scenario/mission defeats the purpose. In the case of this game, I've been trying to create a "great deck for most ocassions" rather than the perfect-all-out deck that is only good for the next encounter, but rubbish for everything else. If this was Magic:The Gathering, I've been preparing for a tournament where my deck would remain unchanged against a number of foes, rather than try to create a custom deck designed exclusively to target the weak points of an opponent's deck I know beforehand. In the case of Culdcept, I want to avoid winning by, after multiple iterations, devising a deck that works well against a particular opponent.

    That said, this game is still very interesting, since there are subtleties within subtleties that are only barely becoming apparent to me. Also, I'm just starting to avoid silly mistakes like forgetting which cards I had in hand (and thus choosing to land on the wrong space).
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    [July 7, 2008 01:38:52 PM]
    I guess you could say that I've been stuck for a few days now. I've lost 4 battles in a row (Temple of the Medium, the 5th battle). Each of these battles takes a little bit over an hour to play, so you could say that I've wasted 4 hours by failing to beat the 2 opponents I'm playing against.

    I confess that I was pretty annoyed when I lost the second time, but since then I've started to appreciate some of the subtleties in this game. Generally speaking, I've realized that I've lost a three times because of not fully understanding the rules of the game (together with the implications that some of these rules have). For example, it is generally convenient to summon a creature onto a land that matches it's color. This gives you a +10 defensive bonus. However, the bonus is actually calculated as (level of land)*10. So, you can get a pretty hefty bonus IF you took care to play a creature of the appropriate color. It sounds pretty obvious, but it took me a while to catch on to why my opponents were so though, while my creatures were (comparatively) easy to take out. (for a while there I thought that the level of the land gave a bonus, then I realized that it was tied to the colors matching).

    I guess that comparatively speaking, this game is "trickier" and more complex than Magic:The Gathering. A lot of that complexity goes into back-end calculations and arithmetic that you (the player) don't have access to, and don't need to worry about it. However, each of the elements in the game seem to be more interdependent to others. For example, in Magic it is common for you to focus on a few colors (say, have a Red-Blue deck) so as to tighten the focus and speed with which you can do things with your deck. In Magic you need to draw card lands and then use them to get your creatures. In Culdcept, the lands are there, you need to try to match your creatures to whatever lands are there, and ensure that you have enough "mana" to summon them, increase the levels of the lands, and so on. So, a deck that is focused too much on a few colors, might be handicapped due to there not being enough lands of that color.

    In this type of game it's also tricky to figure out how much of an effect is "chance" having. Did you lose mainly because of your bad luck? I know that this was the case in one of my matches simply because I was awarded two medals at the end: the first for rolling three consecutive ones and the other was for paying more than 3000G in tolls (which is quite a lot!).

    Anyways, I've been surprised by how interesting it has been to figure out this game while playing it so far. I did win on my 5th attempt....I guess the sum of minor deck-tweaking worked out! (I was trying to ensure a certain balance of creatures/spells/items, previously I had too many creatures)
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    [June 23, 2008 08:52:48 PM]
    I bought this a while ago because I read somewhere that it was interesting. I don't think that it was this comment on Penny-Arcade, but it definitely sounded intriguing. A game that is sort of like Magic the Gathering, but with RPG elements, and a roll-and-move boardgame? In fact I was reminded of the old Magic: The Gathering game by Microprose.

    Contrary to what you should probably due in this kind of game, I decided to jump in directly, hope the game would have some sort of tutorial mode that would help me learn the basics, and see what it was all about. It was an interesting experience for two reasons. First, my first battle was decidedly longer than what I though it would be (over an hour!). Second, I lost. I don't think it's usual for you to lose your first battle in a game of this sort!

    Anyways, I'm not disheartened, and I think I have learned the basics of the game including recognizing some of the mistakes I made. So, I'm looking forward to trying again! (I am a bit worried that this will be a 40+ hour game though...)
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    jp's Culdcept (PS2)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Monday 23 June, 2008

    GameLog closed on: Monday 11 August, 2008

    jp's opinion and rating for this game

    Incredibly deep, and interesting, gameplay. A new take on the CCG, that takes advantage of the digital medium. I would highly recommend it, despite the crappy CGI cut-scenes...

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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