Slow, modern Heptameron story eleven XI

The first electronic calculator I remember, and the only one I remember seeing or using for years, was my mother’s. It folded in half on a plastic leather hinge and I think was a Casio SL-100B. I remember the folding hinge getting two cracks on each end, leaving these little tabs that I don’t remember ever trying to pull on.

It was solar powered with no memory, so had no real way to damage it. I played with it often to see what I could do to get the “E” to show up. Dividing by zero was easy, I think after that I found out I could keep multiplying things by large things and that would do it, and at last, taking the square root of a negative.

The best memory I have of it is putting in some huge number (it had 8 digits if it was an SL-100B, so 99,999,999 was the highest it went) and repeatedly pushing √ until I got to 1. I remember the numbers would fall rapidly, then become 1.0000something, and after falling below 1.000,000,050, became just “1.”.

This was more entertaining than multiplying things to reach an overflow because I didn’t have to come up with another number as multiplier, I just put in the initial number and watched it change with “√” until it reached the unchanging “1.”. In this, I now realized, I had a zero-player game, similar to “Conway’s Game of Life“: pick an initial state (99,999,999) and the rules (“√”) and everything in every turn afterward is unavoidably known (fixed value) and the same (no randomness or chance [stochasticity?]).

A new paper game for engineers

Here is a new game for science and engineering, to determine between two people:

Supply:

  • Two scissors. If someone is left-handed, they should have left-handed scissors.
  • A large sheet of paper with perfect 90° corners
  • Some witnesses, if wanted
  • A planimeter or something like it

Instructions:

  1. Select by mutual agreement the distance in from the edge to cut. For an A4 or 8½ × 11, maybe 3 cm or 1 in.
  2. At the same time, each person starts cutting a strip off their side of the paper by using the scissors.
  3. When complete, use the planimeter to determine the area between the true straight line and the cut for both (area on one side of the line does not cancel out area on the other side). The person with the smallest area line wins.
  4. If both are identical, the person who did it using fewer cuts wins.
  5. If both are identical, the person who did it more quickly wins.

This is best done with waste or scrap paper that is blank on one side, to prevent paper waste.

As an advantage over the other paper based game, rock-paper-scissors, it is based on skill and not chance.

Games that can (now) Live Forever: 3 in Three

3 (!) years ago, I mentioned a computer game from the days of System Software (6 and 7) called “3 in Three”. Now, because of technological advances, we have a ready-made way of playing it: by emulation!

With some effort and alot of time, you can see things like this (spoiler for persons with photographic memory):

Continue reading Games that can (now) Live Forever: 3 in Three

Very minor art mistake in EU4

More posting about that favorite “grand strategy” game Europa Universalis IV or “EU4”.

In EU4 you play as a country in the world starting (usually) in 1444 and try to survive until 1821. Now as time moves along you get to select “national ideas”, which are nifty little bonuses that improve the performance of your country. NIs, as they are called by regular players, are grouped into groups, so we have things like Maritime, Quality, Administrative, etc. These groups have icons, like so:

EUIV-quality
Quality

What’s the problem with this one?

Continue reading Very minor art mistake in EU4

Not clear icon overlay in EU4

Continuing from my previous post about EU4, I found another interface oddity.

Some context: In EU there are “provinces”, which are similar to cities in the Civilization games. Some of these have fortifications that require you to siege them. To do this, you need to have a certain number of troops in the province. If you do not, you can’t besiege the place.

The icon for this situation is shown in the image below (the little red thing):

eu4-seige-icon
Too few troops to siege this province.

Most of the iconography in this image is apparent to the player, though possibly highly confusing to a newbie. The red icon though I cannot tell the meaning of. It just looks like a squiggle with an exclamation point after it.

Tolerance of imperfection v. time in deeply detailed gaming

For people who play games that allow massive numbers of choices all the time (such as a strategy game), let me ask a question:

Suppose you are starting a single player campaign from scratch. Your plan is well laid out in your mind and you know the game mechanics well. You’re not interested in experimenting this time. You start off… and something goes badly. Do you restart? (I’m assuming you can’t reload from a save.)

Let’s be more quantitative (or try to):

Suppose you had a graph. The x-axis is time, either real or game time, whichever is appropriate. The y-axis is likelihood of giving up and restarting or just quitting and not coming back.

Does it look like this:

restartworthy-linear

Or more like this?

restartworthy-log

Or something else entirely?

I guess this is a proxy question for how seriously you take your particular game, and how perfectionistical you are. (;

Let me know with a comment.

You can rename your provinces in EU4

I had posted a week or so ago about a “grand strategy” game I play. It is called Europa Universalis 4, or “EU4” for short. Essentially you pick a country (doesn’t have to be in Europe) and try and either conquer the world, conquer parts of the world, get achievements, or just survive from 1444 to 1821.

The game is notoriously moddable, but one thing I noticed that I had overlooked for ages because it is so well hidden, is that you can rename provinces you own without having to change text files.

To do this:

  1. Click the province to open it.
  2. Click the name of the province (in the upper left)
  3. Type in what you want.

The change is immediately visible on the map and also in all dialogs. You can change the provincial capital as well.

For some reason, the fact that it is editable is nowhere indicated in the UI, which is strange to me.

Register shift in Civ III installer

In linguistics there is register, meaning the formality level of speech or writing.

Installers or “Setup” programs – at least those made to run in Microsoft Windows – are traditionally use a higher register. I suspect this is because the common installer programs (InstallShield, WISE, etc.) were that way with their boilerplate text, such as the introduction page, the scary copyright warning, and similar.

One place that is left up to the person making the installer is the system components and requirements specification. For Civilization III (a good strategy game, by the way) the person responsible got a little loose:

Civ3install-megs
Description box reading “This installs the game onto the hard drive, leaving all movies and music files on the CD. It requires approximately 500 megs of free hard drive space.”

Continue reading Register shift in Civ III installer

In over my head

I’ve been playing a so-called “grand strategy” computer game for years now. Not the same game itself, but the same software. Unfortunately I’ve gotten something of an addiction to it. Nothing I can’t set down when I need to, which I have when I needed to work on something else.

Essentially this game involves playing as the head of a country and trying to surpass other countries over several centuries. There are the usual wars, but also diplomacy and finantial concerns, local affairs and multiple balancing acts to keep things going smoothly.

Anyway, I’ve been playing as England/Great Britain and got several (game-time) centuries into it before a “disaster” happened. These are preprogramed events that are meant to seriously challenge the player. Well, I’ve got quite beaten and feel like giving this particular game up. I’m seriously outgunned and have multiple rebels going off everywhere and no way to fight them off.

This is making me sigh for two reasons. First, I’ve put alot of work into this game so I wanted to carry it to a conclusion. I may yet, I don’t know. Secondly, up until now it had been going really well, so I felt a little like I was cycling down hill and suddenly had a blowout!

Fortunately I can distract myself with the phone interview I’m having tomorrow.