Duo to the Death

Blokus has taken over my life

Blokus wishes for the New Year

Posted by nand on December 17, 2009

I know that probably there’s little incentive for Mattel (the new owners of Blokus) to do a lot of tinkering with its site, since membership is free & thus there’s no monetary reason to hire a computer tech guy to make it run better… but a guy can’t help wishing, can he?

So here’s what I think would make it a better site.

REALLY EASY FIXES:

  • A warning bell for when the timer drops below 1 minute. This would take, like, about 2 minutes of a programmer’s time to add… it’s unbelievable that despite this being frequently requested by players, this never gets added.
  • 3D Duo in the Competition room, not just in Training.
  • Add grid coordinates along the sides of the board–in duo: A through M on the X axis, 1 through 14 (bottom to top) on the Y. (This could be a toggle button: SHOW COORDINATES/HIDE COORDINATES.)
  • Add an option to number pieces according to the move they’re played on, so you can actually figure out the entire sequence of play at a glance at the board. (This could just be a toggle button: SHOW MOVES/HIDE MOVES.)
  • Install anti-spam software on the forum. I’ve never come across a more spam-prone online forum — it’s truly embarrassing. They eventually get around to cleaning it up by hand, but there are much better automated ways of ensuring this stuff never gets posted in the first place.

A LITTLE TRICKIER:

  • Add an option to permit players — within the Competition room — to choose sides rather than being assigned them randomly. This would obviously require BOTH players to consent (they would each have a button). This would save a lot of headache when players are trying to resume a match (currently, the only solution is to keep quitting & returning, hoping that the other player is not such a schmuck as to penalize).
  • Fix the poorly-conceived censorship in chat. (For now, let’s set aside the question of whether there should be censorship.) If it’s going to be done, at least program it competently. First: It should not be triggered by part-words. It’s dumb to turn words like “assuming” or “culminate” into “***uming” and “***minate”: if you want to guarantee that it catches both “fuck” and “fucking” then simply put BOTH words in the blacklist. Second: given that virtually all chat takes place in English, no words should be censored that are innocuous & commonplace in English: e.g. “pot”, “con” and “fan”.

MORE AMBITIOUS:

  • The best solution to online misbehaviour would be to get rid of the censorship entirely & use a different system: give some trusted players “moderator” status, with the ability to silence unruly players or eject them if necessary.
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6 Responses to “Blokus wishes for the New Year”

  1. Gerenuk said

    Indeed the Blokus-Chat is a good place to learn international swear words. Just type in a normal sentence and see what gets censored 😀

    Another change I would support for blokus is an orange advantage of 2.5 points. I think we have enough experience to say that this is a reasonable value. This also would make the win/loss statistics more meaningful, improve the scoring system and discourage the use of well known solid lines that lead to minute wins.

  2. nand said

    No: I strongly disagree about the idea of a “handicap” to even the balance, though I know there are many (usually midlevel) players who support it. The result of adding 2.5 points would be, if anything, to ENCOURAGE boring dependence on the safest, most reliable openings (e.g. XF Lerpy and XF Rubik). If violet already starts down 2.5 points, why should he play something that makes it harder for him to win?

    I also think it is silly to “fix” the game by artificial means, rather than ones that follow the internal logic of the game. The current system of matched sets (players play 2 games, trading sides) is actually the ideal system.

    That said, the software could recognize this formally. So here’s a proposal: In the Competition room, there could be a sidebar listing all the games played in a room (thus: “nand vs Gerenuk: 63-61” or whatever). If there are consecutive games by the same players, then it will also include a running differential tally (thus if the next game is “Gerenuk vs nand: 65-61” the running tally would be: “Gerenuk: +2”). So it would be possible to keep track of who wins a 2- or 4-game match.

  3. Gerenuk said

    I see it differently. First the addition of an offset is artificial, however it is common practice in world class GO, which is a game with similar logic.

    I don’t think that violet would play a safe opening, since in that case he has 50/50 chances (or worse!) against any fool that has read the standard lines. In fact often it is not hard for mid-level players to respond to deviations from standard line, whereas the “perfect” line will give a loss with a 2.5 offset.
    On the other hand if violet causes some chaos by playing new lines, he can play out his skill. This would result in a high risk so games would end up +10 or -10 which will make then 2.5 offset negligible.

    One of my major points is that this will make the scoring system more precise. And there is a small chance that someone might not have to time to play a rematch.

    • nand said

      GO has a similar logic but it also takes MUCH longer to play, so demanding a 2nd game would be asking a lot!! With Blokus, especially duo, it’s easy enough just to play the rematch.

      The scoring system seems precise enough either way. Do you mean the ranking system?

      • Gerenuk said

        To be honest a lot of the point rank depends who and how often you play.
        Basically with violet having an advantage, the points tend to even out with whoever you play (provided you are strong enough to occationally win with violet). Also just playing more increases your points, even if you are not improving.

      • nand said

        Indeed, it’s a little weird. One of the oddities of the points are given for evenly matched players is that I’ve often had the experience, after a prolonged bout with Bobby Bob or maheshsiddaraju, of BOTH me AND my opponent having gained points. In other words it’s not zero-sum.

        It occurs to me that if anything the ranking/scoring system needs fixing more than the scoring for individual games. What discourages people from playing more riskily is often the possibility of huge losses in ranking if it goes wrong. So it encourages conservative play in the player with the higher rank.

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