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CYCLES Like when Jeff Goldblum said, "Life finds a way," in Jurassic Park... Cycles find a way. So-called "soft-finite" games may be crappier than claimed. Cycles may not happen in the first 10 or 100 plays. It may take 1000 plays. That's what happened to me with Quadrature. Cycles are a force of nature, like a whirlpool. You don't realize you're caught in one until it's too late. Players can't break out of a cycle without losing. As skill increases, play "tightens". Advantage doesn't flop back and forth with each successive blunder. Expert opponents together chart a course for a distant whirlpool. Good and perfect moves keep them on course. Bad moves divert them.

Classic examples of cyclic games are Checkers, Chess, and Go. "But wait," you say. "Go has superko!" - an asinine, retarded thing to say, oft repeated by otherwise semi-intelligent individuals (Corey). Superko means you're not allowed to repeat a board position. You're saying in essence, "Go doesn't have cycles because you're not allowed to cycle." You could apply that "principle" to any non-finite game. Colossally stupid. Ko, triple ko, and superko are crap. Go - "minute to learn" (rofl). You about need a PhD to understand all the intricacies of Go rules.

Beginners may never experience cycles in the three aforementioned classics, but experts are plagued by them. My reasoning is inductive and intuitive. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a game out there in which cycles can happen but never will because intelligent, competitive play somehow thwarts them. I sincerely doubt it. Not to glorify my own design strategy. I really don't care. It's just my belief. Cycles find a way. For most games we'll never know. There are too many games, and not enough players, for play to become expert enough to find out. But do you really want to invest years of effort, advancing your strategy in a game that may ultimately fail you?

I've heard the ridiculous counter claim that finite games are somehow vulnerable to "implosion" - a conjecture postulated by cyclic game designers, projecting their implosion insecurity onto real games. All finite games can eventually be "trivialized" (lol). In other words, learning some trick about the game makes it trivial to win. If winning becomes trivial then there must be an automatic win for Player 1 or Player 2. They can't both win, at least not in my games. Herd of clueless designers in unison: "HUH?" Other cockamamie theory: Cycles mysteriously improve the quality of a game. Like a time bomb strapped to your fuel tank improves your mileage.

You want to play a real game that will never let you down? Play Oust. You will never wring out Oust as long as you live. Point of interest - Oust has cycles. They're just not infinite cycles. Group dies, space is vacated, new groups fill the space. Repeat. It just can't go on indefinitely. This "finite cyclic" behavior is what makes it so hard for AI to play Oust. You need real intelligence to play Oust. Not artificial.
Corey Clark said, "Hex Oust was really decimated by the strategic ideas of Raph on iggc a decade on (not like it became a bad game but no more 1 stone comebacks)."

WHAT?? I played Raph many times and watched him play many times. He was just a super good player whom nobody could beat.

Sure, Raph destroyed the 1 stone comeback. And the large group comeback. And every other kind of comeback - against Raph.

Raph must have beaten Corey down to his last remaining stone. Corey presumed he could mount a comeback, and instead just lost his last stone. Like the tennis player who hits a bad shot and immediately examines his racket strings, Corey found an explanation for his loss other than his own inferior play. "Yeah, that's it! Oust is coming apart at the seams!"

It's not as though Corey gained any insight from playing Raph. Corey continued to suck after Raph left (after Raph got tired of beating everyone and moved on to something else). Corey can today be beaten by a 1 stone comeback. Corey could himself execute a 1 stone comeback - against someone other than Raph.

Raph has a high IQ and was able to peer farther into the future than the rest of us. He also undoubtedly developed some tactics that would have been impossible to explain to mere mortals, had he wanted to. There's no shame in acknowledging good players. Most of them couldn't design their way out of a paper bag, and wouldn't want to. They're perfectly content playing what's there.

No, the death of the 1 stone comeback has been greatly exaggerated. It's still alive and well - between evenly matched players. I was there. Had Oust developed the slightest problem, I would have known about it. I think Corey got into a patch of bad mushrooms in the Canadian outback. Why else would he go on a flight of fancy and make up something absurd about Oust?

If Oust had revealed a flaw, I'd be the first to admit it. Other of my games are flawed. Quadrature, my first game, has what I consider to be a flaw. Move cycles can occur. I found out the hard way, after having played at least a thousand times, and it wasn't fun. Never again would I design another non-finite game.

Addendum: Witnessing the interminable flaw-fix cycle of Faust (Fussed?), I think I see the root of Corey's bizarre Oust critique. Faust is fatally flawed. So now Oust, the inspiration for Faust, must also be flawed. Classic post hoc fallacy.

Update: Corey claims to have occasionally beaten Raph after Raph's ascendance to Oust supremacy. Show me the replay. I'm having a little trouble with that, lol.
BANNED I don't play well with others. I've been banned from some sites, and I've self-exiled from others. My latest temporary membership was at Corey Clark's discussion forum. We got along for a while, but he was persisting with his ridiculous, inarticulate claims that Oust was somehow harmed by advancing strategy. Strategy may have advanced in Oust. From this one can deduce that strategy may have advanced in Oust. Nothing more.

Corey kept challenging me to a game of Oust to prove the power of his newfound theory of opening play. I finally relented even though a win by Corey would prove nothing. Like most designers-cum-player, I'm not particularly known for my playing skill. Neither is Corey.

So we open a board at igGameCenter, and Corey is executing his "advanced" play out of the gate. And he's winning, quite convincingly. Then, he makes a less than ideal move. Not exactly a blunder. But not, as I told him afterward, what I would have done. A short time later the game begins to turn slightly in my favor. Then suddenly he up and quits. Classic Corey. The game served to demonstrate one thing. Oust is and will continue to be a game of least worse moves. Not a game of Johnny-come-lately theories. If you're way smarter, you'll always win. Otherwise you won't.

Corey has claimed (it never ends) that even though the Oust game tree is ginormous, "not all moves are meaningful." What does that even mean? What's a non-meaningful move? If he's alluding to the prospect that, after thousands of Oust plays, some opening moves have emerged as better than others, then fine. Make those opening moves and get on with it. Chess has huge catalogs of opening plays. Memorizing opening plays isn't what one normally thinks of as "strategy". But it hasn't exactly been a death knell for Chess, has it? As Corey himself has demonstrated, moving first and making some "prescribed" opening moves doesn't guarantee victory. He had asked me if I would invoke the pie rule. I said, "No. Move wherever you want. I won't invoke the pie rule." It didn't help him. He still lost.

So we go back to Corey's discussion forum and he's pretending not to be butthurt. Fine. Then he starts taking his frustration out on Christian Freeling, who has declined invitation to the forum (wisely, lol). Apparently, Christian is the king of self-glorification. It's debatable whether he once was. But what's not debatable is that Nick Bentley currently holds the title. Nick, a zero talent ass, has taken the glory trip to heights Christian never dreamed of. I said in Corey's forum that Nick's bathroom mirror has lipstick smudge from Nick kissing it every morning. (Nick is a world class sh*t eater. He eats sh*t by the bucket - mostly his own. He periodically stops into the forums to bless everyone with his latest self-serving, sh*t eating little tidbit.) Corey announced that he was deleting my comments. In his mind, it was somehow ok for him to smack talk Christian, because Christian wasn't there to defend himself. But not the ass, Nick Bentley, who might see it. Never get between Corey's lips and Nick's anus.

Buh bye Corey forum. I knew it wouldn't last. Lord Corey couldn't restrain himself indefinitely from lording over me. Now the forum can go back to what it was intended for. An ass kissing convention.
MANHATTAN VS EUCLIDEAN If you're measuring the distance to the center of an even size checkerboard, it's the distance from a square to a point, and Euclidean seems more natural. Also, distances to the center point become intuitive after a few plays. It's immediately obvious which moves bring you closer to center and which don't.

But... for random checker to checker distances, the Manhattan distance is easier to calculate. Manhattan distance especially makes more sense in an orthogonal move game like... Manhattan.

Incidentally, it appears I've redefined Manhattan distance for the game of Manhattan. But my definition is more realistic if Manhattan distance is actual taxi distance in Manhattan. You might have to circumvent Central Park.
OTHER DESIGNERS Yes, I appreciate other designers, especially those whose style I've influenced. It's nice to be recognized and appreciated. Zola marked the culmination of my eight year hiatus from game design. Before I left, it was all "You suck!!" It's still there, but now there's also a kind of reverence. Thanks guys. Keep up the good work.

COPYRIGHTS AND TRADEMARKS - All of the games presented here were designed solely by me, Mark Steere.  I retain all of the rights to all of my games, including copyrights and trademarks.

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