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Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Testing: Blitz+ Beetle

Six weeks in the development of Top 200 leaderboards, it was quite obvious that cheaters in the leaderboard are inevitable. Some are not that easy to spot, however, such as those who slow down the game, etc.

There were a few options to counter this, however. One was adding infinite time (like survival in regular Zuma games, but difficulty is based off of time, and not by points).

Another one was to 'mod' the game somehow to continue making the game competitive and give everyone more equal footing so that games weren't entirely based on luck, but more based on skill. (Even using spirit beetles was considered luck since typical players could only use them once in a while, and you had to be really lucky with the game layout and time for a really high score.) I had a solution for this.

Introducing: The Blitz+ Beetle.

Bringing the classic blitz mode from Zuma's Revenge with a few minor tweaks, it was designed to address a few issues in mind with the time ball stuff. The only factors for your high score is a bit of luck as well as your skill.

Good luck, you have THREE minutes.

I'm planning to roll this out by March for group approval and planning to implement a separate leaderboard for using this beetle.


  • No time balls, but game starts with 3:00.
  • No Multiplier Limit (start with 3x)
  • Fruit/multiplier spawn rate slightly increased.
  • Ball Speed +50%
  • 3x Crit Power (12.5% crit chance)
  • Jade beetle (no spirit blast)
  • Completely free (for now)
    • Probably 40k mojo to use, but gives you 9x mojo/XP than a normal game.

How to use

It's still in testing, so I'll give instructions on it as soon as I get the OK on it.\

Test Results

  • The difference isn't much, but still significant at higher scores - in three minutes, best scores achieved were 13.2m on the blitz+ beetle, and 10.1m on a L80 beetle, maybe it has to do with the extra 2.5% chance to crit?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

24: The Interclub at Davis

This is the first major event that I've been to this Spring semester. 24 hours. Three events. One unforgettable experience.

I'm almost two weeks since the last post, so that means more pictures here. Please note that headers are picture titles as well.

This has been so far one of the largest picture posts I have made in the history of the blog.

On The Road

The following takes place between 5PM and 7PM.

The limited amount of rides = send drivers from Sac State and Davis down for all seven of us. I of course learned that limited rides were a global problem, and not just us. I knew that this was the largest group from UOP that we took to a interclub since DCON.

Over at Fentons

Vacaville, 18:52 PST.

Fenton's Ice Cream it is. Not just ice cream - burgers as well. (Any ice cream parlor would probably do this). Unfortunately there was ice skating afterward so I'll pass with the ice cream for another day.

Ice Skating

The following takes place between 7PM and 9PM.

Some were pros, others were beginners. One of our members happened to be one of them. Training during the two hours there = went from edge to center of the rink. In another scene, someone had to chase Vinh to make it interesting.

This Old Teahouse

The following takes place between 9PM and 11PM in the Davis Area.

Went over to This Old Teahouse, ordered a Pineapple Blizzard, and it changed my perception about these drinks. Thank Erin on this one - she suggested it.

It's also pretty cold outside and it's crowded inside. Where now? Back to Andrew's - apartment. With a brief intro. 6 beds and a large apartment - I've never seen anything this large in Stockton.

Settling in Catan / Apartments

The following takes place, Between 11PM and 2AM.

Settlers of Catan, anyone? Erin won this time around with me coming in third. Abba-Zaba, among other things.

Between 2AM and 5AM, discussions on CKI occurred on both floors. I start to figure out whether or not I plan to attend one more year - but that'll probably be a backup - I've got co-op to figure out.

Wake up, we've got stuff to do

The following takes place between 5AM and 9AM.

We're asleep, but some are wide awake. If you're in a different place, on the floor... yea. I've had those experiences where I got little sleep.

Rushed to Cuando

The following takes place between 9AM and 11AM.

We've been given a signal to head over to the dining hall in order to meet up with the rest of CKI there. Turns out we were the last ones there. Anyways, brunch.

January DCM

The following takes place between 11AM and 1PM.

DCM. The remainder of the events seems interesting enough. Icebreaker minigame, and the nearby apartment becomes the DCM.

If I had to say something about CKI, how I learned about it, and my experiences, I'd have to say that

  • I heard about it through one of my friends at UOP, who founded the Key Club for my High School
  • I went mainly to get community service, to explore new places, and to have fun, and...
  • To make lots of new friends. (To date, the number of people I've met at Circle K exceeds the number whom I've personally met at UOP.)

Quiltmaking 102

The following takes place between 1PM and 3PM.

Meetings conclude and we continue on with arts and crafts. The only public bathroom in the building is sealed shut for the entire period of the event, causing a few... inconveniences.*

Unfortunately I didn't have much in the form of ideas, so I worked with another person to make a portion of a quilt.

Tied Up As CKI

The following takes place between 3PM and 4PM.

Our next stop was the nearby park to end the event. A jungle gym to be exact. It reminded me of that one in San Ramon, but this one's bigger.

But we had to leave...

The following takes place between 4PM and 5PM.

This was our message on their whiteboard before we said goodbye. It has been a good start towards the new year with these events. There was something that Andrew Tom said that would come later in the semester - I hope that happens.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Evolution of Leaderboards: Product Development

Many weeks ago (as early as last year), several players decided to step it up and create their own leaderboards based off their high score tables, and eventually groups had players designed to gather scores of players who wished to participate in the group leaderboard, since the board was for friends only. Fast forward to December - my definition of 'leaderboard' was taken a step further when the friend requirement was dismissed with the introduction of a true 'top 200' leaderboard as proof of concept as first, then a regular recurring series after many positive reactions.

I do it mainly to satisfy the needs of the players who want to know how they rank up. But honestly, it seems more like product development.

Prior to the creation of the board, I was looking through posts on forums and this group and discovered that several people were interested in a group-wide or national leaderboard. I went out to develop something that would solve this problem, as well as bypass the 'top 50' on a local leaderboard.

Above, we have the comparison of the first leaderboard that was hosted on this blog with the discovery of the score parser (basically, this is what it actually does - take raw bits of information and parses them into readable data players can interpret easily). More tweaks were made and released on Facebook to my ZB friends for feedback.

A week later the leaderboard went live on the official add me group, with mostly positive feedback, but several had concerns about how this data was retrieved, which was answered. I later went on to add a few more features that I determined might be helpful such as person's level (in order to show true skill as mastery levels weren't factored into score) and general score statistics. One additional feature, ranking arrows, were planned for release next week, but I'll let the viewers decide that change.

A side note on stats: there is a field not listed here called "Percent of Scores Over" - I like stats like this, but it can also be used to determine approximate board difficulty (how easy it is to get points) - a peak on lower level scores (like over 500K or 1M) may indicate the board is easy, peaks on scores lower than this might indicate the board is harder, and low minimum score percents can indicate that difficult multiple-gap techniques might be in play on this board. This can be used as a baseline to determine if a unique (possibly user-created) board has the potential be used again.

The snowpocalypse board had for minimum scores 74-54-45-25 for position 10, 30, 50, and 100th place for the group respectively in terms of percentage of the top score on the board. This indicates that speed and luck (time balls) was more prevalent than skill. Major Mouthful, on the other hand, has 53-38-28-14. This represents that a high scoring technique was more likely used than just speed (in this case a double gap strat was used here).

What can I summarize about making this board? If this was a product in development, it's going through its incremental cycle right now.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Replay Cleanup

Due to the space taken up by these Zuma Blitz replays (including that ones that make it up on Youtube) I had to put some controls on what replays to keep, which to archive, etc. The rules ended up to be the following:

  • The top five replays from each category for each board (spirit animal, powers, no powers) will be kept here, the rest will be archived.
  • All Zuma Blitz replays recorded must be converted to x264 q32 or better before being archived.
  • Replays must be named correctly and have a naming convention attached (see guide.txt on how to name files)
Fun Fact: In the one year that I've hosted this blog about Zuma Blitz, I've accumulated
  • 150k+ hits on Zuma blitz posts on this blog
  • over 150 hours of game time
  • 3,626 videos recorded
  • 7.3 billion points accumulated total from video replays
  • 260+ spirit animal uses
  • 19 spirit animal malfunctions (accept spirit animal, takes your mojo, but game fails to start)

Rosebowl Parade

I woke up to this rose bowl parade. I knew about the other ones, but didn't bother seeing them, but I paid attention to this one. Why? Someone I knew was there - it was Brett Butler, the District Governor of CNH Circle K. The float that I would have possibly helped with should I have went down there for Go West, but wasn't able to attend - it's 300 miles to get over there, and last year was because of no-interest (no one else felt like going down), and this year was a no-ride available.

I look through my older posts, some were long with no picture. Recent pictures were all picture few words - why not try both?

And thus begins the week of (possibly unnecessary) backstories trying to explain a picture or diagram as much as possible.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

With the new year comes in many resolutions. I have my own share, and despite not having a pic for this post, a few of them are:

  • renew friendship with a Sac State student
  • post more content on FB with the "get x friends" goal completed.
  • Successful hangout with a MCHS class of 09 student currently living at SF
  • Get half of artwork done for Spring 2011 image set (120 pictures) - Known as Fall 2011 in Pics Extended Version.
  • Find a job
  • Ride a bike, get a car, etc. Anything to prevent me from being stuck at UOP for up to five hours a day due to lack of transportation. (Finding a bus route didn't help much either)
  • Get A's in all classes.
  • Finish those Day Zero projects (after all, time flies quickly, and this is the last semester before those 1001 days are up.

Note that I didn't call out explicit names, so don't assume anyone.