Tag Archive for loss

Three Week Rolling Average

graphOnce again I am back on the weight loss kick. This time we’ve joined a local co-op for a weekly fruit & vegetable basket so that we will have better foods to eat in the house. So far, this is working. We aren’t crazy, we aren’t trying to go vegan or anything, but we have eaten a few meals with little to no meat.

We are also giving juicing a shot. I’m not sure we are ready to go full on with a juice fast or anything, but it is interesting to make up a couple of glasses of vegetable/fruit juice and have it leave me feeling full for hours. If you know me, then you know I almost never feel full – I’m always hungry, except after juice. Weird.

Anyway, being that we are doing the eat better thing, and we also joined a gym, I’ve also started weighing myself. One of the things I hate most about weighing myself is the wild fluctuations you’ll see. According to the Hacker’s Diet, which I don’t recommend as an actual diet guideline but do recommend for learning some facts about how weight and weight-loss works, a lot of your weight change has to do with water, we are 80% water after all, and the odd thing is that people often increase their water intake when dieting. Take this example, you work out one day – running, lifting, etc – but drink a couple of gallons of water; then one day you sit on your ass playing video games and drink a glass of water. Chances are, the workout day may cause you to gain weight and the lazy day will cause you to lose weight. Crazy, right? That’s why you should never let a single day weight-in get you down.

To that end, I created a spreadsheet in Google Docs that will maintain a Three Week Rolling Average. Right out of the gate, let me say that this is only a “three week” thing if you put in a weight every day. If you skip days but don’t skip rows, it’s a 21 latest values average. But, if you don’t skip days on the sheet, and every day you don’t actually weigh yourself you just copy the weight from the previous day, you’ll get a nice running average. Bonus: the second sheet is a graph. Oh, and also, those numbers aren’t real, just an example.

The great thing about the rolling average is that it helps mentally negate a spike in weight. Once you get yourself in the mental space that the number on the scale doesn’t matter and what does matter is the current average once you’ve entered that number from the scale into the spreadsheet, it reduces the anxiety of stepping on the scale. Over time, the average helps smooth out the curve and you can get a picture of the real trend your weight is taking. As humans, we tend to remember bad things more acutely than we do good things, and so we’ll weigh ourselves every day but only remember the days we were disappointed in the number, leading us to feeling like the weight-loss isn’t working. With the average, however, you can see the spikes and valleys and where your real weight actually rests, and that one bad day isn’t the end of the world.

So, copy the document to your own Drive and start tracking. Let me know if you run into any problems with it.

Role Playing requires a Death Penalty

For me, a “role playing” game, despite being short hand for a genre of games, has always meant a game where you, the player, get involved, care for the character and can influence the outcome.  One of the largest aspects of role playing is the danger of losing.  In MMOs this is often referred to as the “death penalty”.

Gordon wrote about it a couple of weeks ago, and Darren a few days ago.  I’ve written about it too.  And if you search around the Internet on the gaming blogs you’ll probably find hundreds of posts.

In my experience the best role playing games have at least a modest death penalty.  More than just a few coins spent on repairs, or being set back a few seconds, but real almost tangible loss that you want to avoid.

My first real role playing game was, of course, Dungeons & Dragons.  Because the game is so unstructured, being just a set of rules which your gaming is built upon, I’ve found that lots of people have lots of different experiences.  If your Dungeon Master never actually reduced your player’s constitution when he got resurrected, then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  If you never had a character die (and I mean really die, as in you might as well tear up the character sheet because that guy is not coming back, ever), then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  If your character went from 1 to Demi-god without ever being in danger of being permanently hurt or sent to the circular file, then I don’t think you’ve ever really role played Dungeons & Dragons.  That’s just me, but if you played without penalties, I don’t know if I would consider what you were doing to be role playing.  You were just gaming.  You were rolling dice while the DM told you a story.

Playing EverQuest, you put together a group (or joined someone else’s) and you went somewhere to complete a goal or just grind out some experience.  If you died, you had to watch the exp bar retreat, possibly hours worth of advancement vanishing along with the pixels.  You could recover the majority of that loss with a resurrection from a cleric (or later, other classes), but a bit of it was gone.  Just gone.  So, because of that reality, if you invited a player into your group who wouldn’t stop drawing aggro or sucked as a healer or in any number of ways exposed your group to death and loss, you kicked them out.  And because of that reality, combined with that fact that most classes benefited greatly from being in groups, people tended not to be aggro drawing crappy healing death magnets for very long.

Many people will tell you that EQ didn’t have any role playing because people talked out of character or min/maxed numbers or whatever, but to me it will always be a role playing game because your character mattered.  Your reputation, your wins and losses, it all effected how you were able to play the game.  Within the confines of the defined computer controlled rules of gaming, you had to play a role in order to play the game.  I remember a number of weeks I spent in Karnor’s Castle in EQ and there was this bard shouting for a group, and most of us who’d been around wouldn’t group with him.  Every time he’d get into a group, he’d go AFK a lot.  Sure, he’d leave on mana song or something, but he wasn’t doing crowd control, and his songs often pulled aggro off the tank on the pull, and when running was needed he wasn’t there, would have to be left behind, then he’d complain about the group getting him killed.  So he spent most of his time looking for a group instead of being a group.  Sure, his actions would eventually earn him the same level of ignoring in newer games that he got in EQ, but given the design of EQ, the fear of death, the shared spawns and grinding exp, he was very quickly rooted out, not because of how he played but because of how his play affected the play of others.  Meanwhile, players who worked well with others and had a healthy respect for the loss of experience grouped well.  Lasting friendships and guilds spawned from avoiding the penalties together.

Of course, not all MMOs need to be RPGs, but I believe what I have discovered over the past couple of years and what I am realizing now is that in the genre of MMOs I prefer the MMORPG.  Many of the most recent MMOs don’t have much RPG in them (remember, I’m using RPG to actually mean role playing and not as shorthand for a genre of gaming features).  Too many of them are too soloable, with too little penalty, with inevitable victories no matter how much I suck.  Many of these MMOs are more like sports leagues for kids that don’t keep score, where everyone gets a trophy because everyone wins simply by showing up.

As always, I’m rambling, and I’m not even sure where I was going with this other than to empty onto the Internet another reason why I think I’m not being drawn into many MMOs anymore…

A Loss for Words

Oh my God!

Ugh.

Reign Over Me

I saw Reign Over Me yesterday. A very powerful film about love and loss and life. I’m not going to spend alot of time reviewing it, I only want to say that Don Cheadle continues to be an excellent actor and Adam Sandler proves again that he isn’t just a comedy guy. Mike Binder, who’s work I have loved since Crossing the Bridge and Indian Summer, has written and directed a wonderful film full of joy and heartbreak. Maybe they’ll remember him by the time the Oscars roll around next year.

It is not a happy joy joy film, so know that going in, but I highly recommend seeing this movie.

Death Penalties

One thing every game has to deal with somewhere in its design is the penalty for losing. Some games have opted to have none, but in my opinion this leads to the “lemming effect” where player has absolutely no fear of losing and will repeatedly slam into a brick wall until the wall gives in. Other games have chosen to allow methods for the reduction of penalties, like clones, insurance, returning to your body, praying at your death site, etc… the list goes on forever.

Long ago, EverQuest had a very stiff penalty, depending on your level at the time, you would lose experience equal to ten to twenty percent of your level. On some levels, that was hard to earn back. To that end, players avoided death, and dying made them angry. Later, Sony reduced the death penalty enough that the last few groups I was in before I quit didn’t really seem to care about death at all. And of course, experience loss deaths mean very little when you are level capped and have a good buffer.

Other games, like City of Heroes, maintained the exp loss death, but also allowed you to continue forward progress, and you could never lose a level. You earn “debt”, and while you had it fifty percent of your experience went to pay it off and the other fifty percent went toward your next level. Sort of good, but it lead to people not minding defeat, which in a superhero game leads to a little more heroism (but a lot more stupidity). Of course, with CoH having a penalty actually helped because it forced you to level slowed, gain more influence (money), and be able to keep up to date on your power enhancements (store bought).

The one thing all of the games I’ve played have in common, and the thing I would like to see change, is they all have one kind of defeat. Just one. You die, you lose exp. You fall, you get debt. You are killed, you drop an item (Asheron’s Call). You lose, your equipment is damaged (World of Warcraft).

Why no variety?

What I’d love to see in games is multiple layers of defeat. Why must lose of hitpoints always equal death? Why must monsters you fight be relentless until they kill you? When a mugger attacks me in the city, why not have him beat me into unconsciousness, steal some money and then run away? If I enter hostile territory, why can’t they beat me down, then if they defeat the entire party, drag us to the edge of their land and leave us for dead? Why can’t I be disarmed, paralyzed, and laughed at?

I don’t see a reason for having so few options except that the more options you have, the more code it requires. Building a bigger box.

Special Treatment

One of the things I have come to hate over the years is “equality”, mostly because people just don’t use it right. To me, equality means equal opportunity. The door is there, whether I open it and go through it is up to me, but the door is there. Too many people, however, see equality as meaning true equality. If there is a door, and I make the effort to open it and go through it, they should be allowed to go through it too, even if they don’t do the work.

Tied in with this is the concept of trust. Trust is something you earn by being consistant, and when you are trusted, you will be given benefits that less trust worthy people don’t get. Lots of people see those benefits as being “unequal” because they don’t grasp that if they work and become trustworthy, those benefits will be given to them too.

My rent is due each month by the 5th. If you are late, you have to pay a late fee… fair enough. There is a deadline, you miss it, you are penalized. However, since in the past they have run into deadbeats who bounce checks when they are late, my apartment complex requires that late rent must be paid with a cashier’s check or a money order. I’ve lived there for three years, and in three years I have never missed a payment until now. I’m perfectly willing to pay the late fee. I’m late, I don’t deny it. But I asked if, given my payment history, I could be allowed to just write a personal check. They said no. I asked why and they said it was policy, no exceptions. I could totally understand if they demanded all rent in certified payment, but its only the late rent. I tried to pursue it, since I’ve made the last 36 or so payments on time and never bounced a check, but she cut me off, said no again, told me to have a nice day and hung up.

On the other hand, I went to the bank to get myself a cashier’s check for the late rent and the bank manager said that since I’d been a loyal customer for over ten years, they would happily wave the fee for the cashier’s check. Meanwhile, the guy next to me, who was also getting a cashier’s check and was paying the fee, said he thought it was real nice the bank rewarded loyal customers and he looked forward to doing business there for a long time to come.

So today is a loss and a win. More loss than win though, since the late fee on the rent is much much larger than the fee for the cashier’s check. But hey, I’ll take my wins where I can get ‘em.

Approaching Perfection

I play alot of Freecell at work. Basically, my job is interesting and hard when there is work to do, but there are days when there is no work to do. I take my time when playing Freecell. I try to think out my moves eight or ten moves out, making sure I’m not getting myself blocked up. As such, I have ridiculous winning streaks like forty or fifty wins before I take a loss. The game keeps track of your wins and losses, and tracks the percentage wins. Mathematically, it round up at the half. So when I had 72.5% wins, it displayed 73%.

So I got to thinking… given that I can’t clear my scores (actually, I could probably hack the registry and ‘fix’ it), how many wins will I need in order to achieve 99.5% … or visually, 100%.

This exercise quickly illustrates the ideas of diminishing returns, and approaching infinity. Each win carries less weight on the percentage than the last. So, when I was trying to claw myself over the 70% mark, a handful of wins could put me over the top, while one loss would drop me back a bit. As of Monday afternoon, I have 972 wins and 359 losses. Its just more than 73% true, which makes it a 73% rounded. If I never lose again, I have to win 70,469 more times in order to get 99.5% so that the screen will show me a 100% win ratio. If I manage a similar play rate to the last six months, I should be able to get that in… twenty-nine years.

Perfection is a work in progress.

The Line Forms to the Left

I started laughing uncontrollably today. But it was one of those things that shouldn’t really be funny. As I’m sure you know, the Pope died. Its a sad but expected loss. His health had been dwindling, and the whole world knew he was not long for this place. Over on CNN’s website, they’ve been running constant play-by-play coverage, as they do with just about every story. And this article appeared this morning, mile-long line for glimpse of pope.

And I started laughing.

When I was a kid, my family took a trip to Disney World, and my experience waiting in lines has never ever been the same. While we stood in line for tickets, and me being a huge fan of School House Rock, I started singing “Elbow Room” and jabbed some poor guy in the kidney while I was claiming my space in the name of Manifest Destiny. But that’s not really why I was laughing… It was all the signs they used to have at the various rides.

So I’m reading about the pope, and the mile-long line, and the first thing I imagine is the Louvre museum scene from the movie ‘Eurotrip’. I picture people standing in line, and a mime-robot is there trying to entertain the masses and earn money to feed his robot family. Then I see the first sign, “The wait from this point is [240] minutes.” And the numbers are those stick-on numbers so they can change the sign as needed. At the front of the line was a standee, which looked like an archbishop with his hand put out to his side about waist level, and a word bubble hung over his head, “You must be this tall to view the Pope.” From there the scene went crazy… women holding screaming kids, people placing their belongings into cubbies before going to view the Pope, people coming out the other door some saying it was the best viewing ever while others were trying to play off that they slept through the whole thing. Finally, I turn to my friends and say, “Screw this guys, he’ll still be dead later, this line blows, lets head over to Lenin’s tomb and come back here when the line dies down.”

Hours later, I’m still chuckling. Yes, I’m weird.