Announcing WarLight 1.2

WarLight will be going down on Friday, April 1st at 1am PDT (8am GMT) for up to 2 hours. Please plan accordingly for any fast games or single player games that may get interrupted during this 2-hour window.

During this time, WarLight will be upgraded to v1.02.0. This blog post contains a summary of the new features going live.

Open Tournaments

Tournament creators can now mark their tournaments as “open”, which allows any WarLight player to join their tournament without having to be invited! This makes it much easier to set up public tournaments.

This is similar to the Open Seat system that exists for games, but for tournaments. Tournament creators can use the existing open seat prerequisite system to define prerequisites that players must meet in order to join the tournament. Blacklists are also honored, just like they are for open games, in that players that the tournament creator has blacklisted will not be allowed to join an open tournament without being invited.

Map Browser Improvements

The process of picking the map you wish to play on now has additional options to help you explore the maps easier. First off, the map browser now allows for searching, so you can type the partial name of a map, for example, “Earth”, to filter down to all of the maps that contain the word Earth.

Second, there’s new sorting options that allow you to sort the maps by their name, number of territories, or age.

Last, the WarLight maps have been divided into the following categories:
– Featured Maps: This replaces the current “built-in maps” drop-down that exists today.
– All Maps: A way to view all of the maps on a single page.
– Real World Maps: Maps of places that exist in real life.
– Fictional Maps: Maps that look like a real-world place, but don’t actually exist.
– Novelty Maps: Maps that don’t even try to resemble a place.
– Local Maps: Maps that appeal to small communities, such as a specific office building or school.
– Single Player Maps: This category exists just to separate out the Europe Challenge map, which isn’t really suitable for multi-player under some settings since it contains isolated territories.
– Testing Maps: For map creators, maps they’re testing are now placed in their own special place to make finding them easier.

Strategic 1 v 1 updates

As promised in the previous blog post, the Blockade card is being added to the Strategic 1 v 1 settings.

Timezone Improvements

Dates and times have been a bit inconsistent on WarLight. When within a Flash part of the site, any dates were shown in your local timezone. This is possible because Flash knows your timezone. However, the WarLight website always had to display timezones in GMT, since web browsers don’t share their timezone information with websites.

This is being fixed so that everyplace on WarLight will always show you dates in your local timezone. This is made possible by Flash. The first time you hit the Single or Multi-player tab, WarLight will store your timezone so that everyplace on the site can represent dates in your local timezone.

Ladder Improvements

Ladder matchmaking has been tweaked. Instead of matching players/teams with 20% of the ladder on either side, WarLight now matches either 10 places on either side or 25%, whichever is larger. This improves the situation that’s currently faced by the 2v2 ladder, which has a smaller potential pool of teams to play against.

Ladders will no longer invite you to a game with someone you just finished playing or someone you’re currently playing.

The ratings of players in their provisional period are no longer shown on the main ladder pages. You can still see their provisional rating by clicking on their name. The main ladder pages sort provisional players by the order in which they first joined the ladder. This helps to avoid placing more emphasis on provisional ratings than is due.

Players who have finished 30 or more ladder games now have the option of dropping to one game at a time.

The layout of the 2v2 ladder games has been updated so that it’s more readable. This makes the dashboard look a bit cleaner.

Misc Fixes and Improvements

– Profiles now say “1v1″ instead of “2 player FFA”
– Changed the way that the Flash app is sized to fix scrollbar issues.
– Fixed a bug that sometimes caused the turn indicators in the chat window to be off by one.
– Fixed a bug that sometimes caused focus to get lost, making hotkeys not work until the next click.
– Fixed a bug that caused the 15-minute auto boot to really be 10-minute auto boot.
– Fixed a bug that caused a white box to appear over player names on the invite screen for players with an extremely large invite list.
– Fixed a bug when previewing a map from the website that caused the “Go back” button to be visible when it didn’t do anything.

EDIT: Forgot one:
– Tweaked the history hotkeys based on feedback. The Home and End keys are now used to go to the beginning and end of the game, and the left/right keys are strictly for moving one turn at a time.

The blockade card is coming to the 1v1 ladder!

As a result of voting over the last week, the blockade card is officially going to be added to the 1v1 ladder! This will make the game deeper and create for a lot of new and interesting strategies.

You can view the new settings with this template: Play in Multi-Player, Play in Single-Player.

Be sure to practice up! The change will go live at least one week from today (probably more), so you still have time to practice.

Thanks to everyone who voted. 16% of the voters picked the “I don’t care” option. Of those who cared, 72% voted in favor of the card and 28% voted against it. This is pretty definitive that far more people are in favor of the change than not.

Ladder players: Be sure to vote!

There are two polls going on right now that will affect players participating in either of the WarLight ladders. Please vote if you’re a WarLight member playing in or interested in the ladders. Vote even if you don’t care about the outcome (there’s a “I don’t care” option.) I want to ensure everyone has a voice!

Poll 1: Should the blockade card be added into the 1 v 1 ladder?
Poll 2: Should the ladders switch to a traditional ELO model?

Blockade Card

The first poll is about whether or not the blockade card should be added to the 1v1 ladder. This poll ends on March 23rd, so there’s not much time left. Vote now if you haven’t!

Note that, as a general rule, any changes to the ladder game settings will be announced on this blog at least one week before the changes take effect. This gives you time to practice with the new settings.

Ladder Rating System

The second poll deals with the ladder rating system. This one is a bit more involved – you can read all about it on the poll page. However, I do want to touch on one problem that some players have noticed.

A couple skilled ladder players have been able to exit the provisional period at a very high rank, such as #1 or near #1. This happens if they go 10-0 or 9-1 in their first ten games, since the Bayesian ELO system rates players based on their record / opponents and 10-0 or 9-1 is a very good win rate.

First, let me establish one fact. If a player goes 10-0 (ten wins, zero losses), that does not guarantee that they’ll be ranked in the top 10. This only guarantees that they’ll be placed above the ten players they defeated. If their ten opponents all have low ratings, they’re not going to be ranked very highly even though they’re undefeated. This is a good thing, as it ensures that players must earn high ranks by defeating tough players.

Now, some players figured out that the easiest way to get to #1 is to have 9 wins against low rated players and one win against a high-ranking player (such as the top 5). The 9 low-ranking wins are easy for a skilled player, and they just have to be good enough to defeat a single high-ranking player to claim the #1 spot.

This is a problem, as it rewards manipulating the ladder. However, what really made this strategy possible was the old matchmaking algorithm. The old matchmaking algorithm would prefer to match provisional players with other provisional players, while simultaneously allowing a match between any two players under the right conditions.

This old algorithm made it possible to achieve a #1 rank with only a few wins against very good players. The matchmaking algorithm that exists today works very differently, which makes rising to the #1 spot much more difficult (as it should be!)

In the new algorithm, you’re always matched with other players near your rating even when you’re in the provisional period. Further, you’re only matched with players within 20% of the ladder from you. This means that new players joining the ladder won’t get matched with players in the top 5 right away – they have to defeat some lower players first in order to earn the right to face the higher players. Simultaneously, skilled players won’t have a cakewalk during the provisional period anymore. Once they start winning, they’re going to get matched against tough players before exiting the provisional period.

The bottom line is that, today, it’s much more difficult to emerge from the provisional period at a high rank than it used to be.

Game Data Feed

WarLight can now provide an xml feed of data about a specific game. This allows for the more technical users to write a program that can analyze information about games.

This initial release of the feed should be considered an “alpha” experimental project. If this proves useful, it can be expanded to include more information. Currently, the feed is only available for finished ladder and tournament games and is only available for WarLight members.

Being able to consume this data via an API allows for broader analysis of many games at once, which can answer questions such as:

– How often does a player know one or more of an opponent’s picks?
– How often does the person who definitively knows his opponents starting spots win?
– Does early 3v2 luck affect winning percentage?
– Does getting first pick affect winning percentage?
– Does first move affect winning percentage?

There’s nothing the feed can see that isn’t already available through the game’s normal interface. This is just a way to write custom analyzers which allows for a broader analysis across games.

To access the data, use a URL like this:
http://warlight.net/GameFeed.aspx?GameID=1212978

This will present you with a large XML blob describing everything about the game. To help understand the data, let’s first define some terminology:

– A “standing” is the state of the board at any given point in time. This contains one entry per territory that contains the number of armies on that territory, who controls it, and the fog level.
– A “turn” is just a collection of orders. This includes all the orders each player submitted, mixed together in the sequence they played out.
– An “order” is obviously one order that a player submitted. But it can also include other things, such notifications when a player gets eliminated, or when cards are received, etc. Essentially, this represents what you see in the “Orders” panel on the right side of a game when viewing history.

In the xml blob, you’ll find:

– The players in the game (their names, color, their state, etc.)
– All of the details of the map (it’s name, all of its territories and what they connect to, all of its bonuses and what territories are in each bonus)
– The “distribution standing”: This is what the map looked like when it was time to pick the territories you started with. This is only present for manual distribution games.
– The picks: This tells you which territories each player picked, and in what order. Like the distribution standing, this is only present for manual distribution games.
– Standing 0: This tells you what the map looked like at the beginning of the game.
– Turn 0: This is all of the orders that played out on the first turn of the game.
– Standing x/turn x: Standings and turns then alternate for each turn of the game, all the way until the final standing.

If there is something you’d like to see included that isn’t currently included, I’d like to hear about it.

Announcing WarLight 1.1: 2 v 2 Ladder

WarLight will be going down on Friday, March 11th at 1am PST (9am GMT) for up to 1 hour. Please plan accordingly for any fast games or single player games that may get interrupted during this 1-hour window.

During this time, WarLight will be upgraded to v1.01.0.

2 v 2 Ladder

WarLight 1.1 will bring us the 2 v 2 ladder! This ladder uses the “Strategic 2 v 2″ settings, just like how the 1 v 1 ladder uses the “Strategic 1 v 1″ settings.

Unlike the 1 v 1 ladder, however, you enter the 2 v 2 ladder along with a partner. The two of you will be placed together on the ladder and receive a single rating as a team.

Like the 1 v 1 ladder, all players joining the ladder must be WarLight members. Further, each player can only be on the ladder once. In other words, you can’t pick two partners and join the ladder on two different teams at the same time.

However, you’re not locked with your partner for all eternity. You may leave the 2 v 2 ladder and then re-join the ladder with a different partner. Doing this will create a new team whose rating will start over from scratch. Ratings cannot be transferred from old teams to new teams – so it’s not a decision to be made lightly! However, you can always change your mind and go back to the first partner, as re-joining the ladder with a partner you had previously played games with will assume your previous rating with that partner and place you back on the ladder as if you had never left. This is similar to how re-joining the 1 v 1 ladder works.

Move Order is now Team-Aware

Today, when WarLight sets out to determine who gets first pick during territory selection or who gets first move on each turn, it randomizes the list of every player in the game. This is perfectly fair in free-for-all games, however in team games it’s possible that multiple players on one team will get priority over others.

Let’s look at an example.

Assume we have a game with players 1 and 2 on team A, and players 3 and 4 on team B. Let’s say that all four players pick Mexico as their #1 pick and Norway as their #2 pick.

Prior to 1.1, WarLight would simply randomize the list of players (1, 2, 3 and 4) into any order. Let’s say the order comes out 3421. In this example, this would award both Mexico and Norway to team B. Team A would need to resort to their 3rd picks.

WarLight 1.1 makes this scenario more fair. After 1.1, WarLight ensures that the ordering switches between teams so that, in this example, one team would get Mexico and the other would get Norway – it’s impossible for one team to get both.

WarLight will switch between teams in the same way that it switches between players now – by reversing the order after each iteration. For example, teams will alternate ABC CBA ABC CBA.

Improved Ladder Matchmaking Algorithm

The algorithm that matches players up in the ladder will receive a bunch of improvements.

The biggest change is that it will only match you with players near you in the ladder, instead of before where it preferred near players but could have matched against anyone. The ladder will only create games with people who are within 20% of the ladder from you. For example, if there are 50 players participating in the ladder, it will only look at the 10 players above and 10 players below you.

The algorithm is also receiving improvements that makes it work better for players in the provisional period, as it now ignores rank and creates games solely based on rating. Previously, it preferred to match provisional players against other provisional players which made it too easy to get onto the ladder with a high win ratio (10-0 or 9-1, for example). Now, it will match you to people rated near your rating, regardless of whether you’re provisional or not.

The full algorithm will be documented on the Help tab once 1.1 is live.

Hotkeys for Navigating History

1.1 will allow you to use the arrow keys as hotkeys to navigate around history of a game. The left and right arrow keys go forward and backward one turn, while the up/down arrow keys go forward and backward one order.

Additionally, while not in history the left arrow key takes you to the first turn of a game. Combined with the existing escape hotkey, which closes all windows, this makes it easier to quickly refer to the distribution state of a a game by simply pressing left and then escape.

Misc Changes

– Players can now hold down Shift when clicking on a territory to insert the territoriy’s name into public chat, and hold Control when clicking on a territory to insert it’s name into team chat.
– Increased the invite limit for single-elim and double-elim tournaments. You can now invite up to three times the start size of the tournament.
– A player’s ladder games now sort by last turn instead of game age.
– A player’s ladder games now highlight based on win/loss. This makes it easier to tell how much a player has been winning.
– Fixed a bug in the “Cumulative Defensive Luck” and “Cumulative Luck” graph.
– Fixed a bug that prevented players from moving a template between single-player and multi-player.
– Fixed the appearance of the member icon on the lobby screen.
– Fixed a bug that was showing the “this player is in their provisional period” message on players who had left the ladder.
– Fixed a bug that caused an error if you clicked history buttons on a game where someone got booted during territory distribution.