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Current Projects: Americana Engine (Game Engine Development)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Candy Lei Problem

The board under varying degrees of Candy Lei. Players will never see balls roll out in the way shown on the third screen.

This week's board (previously called Summer Solstice) faces a few problems due to the board design, most notably regarding Candy Lei (and any other food that creates bigger clusters.) The fanpage hints that this is a tough board this week and mentions that the Candy Lei appears to be working, but many people disagree. So what's the real problem here?

Difficulty Adjustment: There are several ways that difficulty can be raised aside from the curve design. As boards in Blitz use the same curve file structure as in Zuma's Revenge, the difficulty can be raised by either increasing the max number of singles that pop up in a row (offset 0x15), the number of colors the curve will produce (offset 0x19, max 6), or other features like max cluster size and speed of balls (offset unknown). The balls generated are not completely random, instead the color of the ball is based on whether or not it meets various criteria in the previous sentence.

Note the difficulty applies for a single curve only, and there are two curves that are loaded in Blitz, so the difficulty for each curve can be adjusted independently.

Problem: The Candy Lei makes clusters bigger by reducing the number of single balls that can appear in a row (it also increases the chance that clusters are bigger, but only marginally). Under normal circumstances after a ball has rolled out, if the next ball isn't the same color as the previous ball then the ball after that must be the same color. The Candy Lei ensures that no single balls roll out at all. However this board allows up to two singles to roll out in a row, so a Candy Lei would set the board to the difficulty found in past boards without the use of Candy Lei. The noticeable change is minor when multiple single balls are allowed to come out in a row, but is major when they cause singles to be non-existent. The huge difference is causing people to believe that the Lei is not working.

How to resolve: The Candy Lei effect either needs to be made stronger, or change the difficulty that fewer singles roll out.

Strategy: I would normally suggest using a Spirit Turtle since you can chain hot frogs together and can clear balls / reach fruit no matter how jumbled up they are, but they banned it and 99% of the players do not have access to a turtle. Unless you are an expert with making gaps, I don't have good tips otherwise, so all I can say is good luck.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Facebook Spam via Tagging

More of these posts start showing up, usually you only know about this via email.

I've been getting a lot more of these spam messages lately, involving a friend (or friend of a friend) sending spam messages, and tagging others to improve spreadability. They're usually deleted within minutes after they show up, and due to its nature they appear to be automated. If that's the case it won't spread far, but there's a few things to get from it.

Stuff I do know about it: I know these messages exist because:

  • I get an email the minute I get tagged, even though I was untagged or the post was deleted. I concluded that it was deleted, because tag review notifications include posts which were deleted, and deleted posts technicially still exist on FB's servers, with the privacy setting of that post set so that no one can see it.
  • The email is legitimate.
  • Who gets tagged appears to be random (though I don't know for sure because I never actually saw the live message)
  • It would be quite hard to tag specific friends of friends because you need to type in at least their first name and need to start typing their last name in full.
  • If the tags include friends, it can spread quicker because in most cases people don't use Tag Review and therefore any tag from a friend will auto-appear on their wall and a newsfeed post will be made about it. (With Tag Review on, it occurs only if a comment or like is made on the post in question.) Just tagging anyone will automatically hit their tag review wall.
  • If it was automated you can apparently tag anyone in a status message... yet the official documentation for graph API for a status message doesn't say anything about tags.

I know there are some legitimate uses for tagging friends of friends (I usually do tags only if I am mentioning someone in a post that they can't normally see) but I feel like there are more ways for this feature to be abused. Although notifications that non-friends have tagged you can be turned off, it doesn't stop them from tagging you, so the activity log should be checked at regular intervals to ensure that people aren't associating you with... bad stuff.