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.

Announcing release 1.00.3: Markdown, Ladder improvements, and more

WarLight will be going down on Saturday, February 26th at 2pm PST (10pm GMT) for up to 30 minutes. Please plan accordingly for any fast games or single player games that may get interrupted during this 30-minute window.

During this time, WarLight will be upgraded to v1.00.3. Once the deployment is complete, you can view all of the changes on the Change History page, but this blog post also gives a good summary.

Forum Improvements with Markdown

Markdown is a popular syntax for allowing more flexibility in forum posts than just plain text. After this release, the WarLight forum will allow you to include bold, italics, different font sizes, clickable links, and even in-line images in your forum posts.

This will be applied retro-actively to all existing forum posts, so all links that exist in posts today will automatically become clickable. Once the system is live, I will make a forum post in the General forum describing how to use the special features.

Strategic 1 v 1 Luck Change

The Strategic 1v1 template (and therefore the ladder games) will have their luck reduced from 18% to 16%. This value is chosen since 4 armies attacking 2 armies will never fail at 16%. At 18%, the odds are 99.91%.

Ladder Rating Changes

The ladder rating system is getting a few minor tweaks. First off, ratings for new players will start at 0 instead of 1500. This doesn’t really affect much other than initial matches and mentality, but I felt this is necessary to reinforce the point that the current rating system does not start you at 1500 and raise/lower your rating based on your wins and losses. This is entirely my fault, since I presented the rating system this way, which was a mistake. The Bayesian rating system rates you as best it can with the available information – the idea that you start at 1500 is just plain wrong and should never have been introduced.

Second, the game creation algorithm has been tweaked. The main goals behind this algorithm are to try and match you with players that will get you fun games, while also putting an emphasis on playing new players so there aren’t a lot of repeat matches, while also not stagnating your games if you get stuck waiting on a few busy/slow people.

The ladder is settling down and pretty soon we will have what I consider an “established ladder.” The experience of a new player joining into an established ladder is important. With this new algorithm, the idea is that a new player will start at the bottom and work their way up. As they keep winning, the ladder will jump them further and further up the ladder until their win rate stats to stagnate and they find their final position. The Bayesian algorithm is perfect for this kind of system, since a strong player working their way up the ladder won’t penalize the players they beat on their way up much, since those player’s ratings will re-calculate dynamically based on the new player’s final resting place.

Third, the Best Rating column has been tweaked. This column remembers the highest rating you have ever achieved. It’s getting a partner, Best Rank, which will act similarly. However, both of these fields will now only be recorded once you’ve exited the provisional period. This prevents the early fluctuations from awarding a higher Best Rating than was really earned. Also, the Best Rating column has been hidden from the main ladder page just to keep things more tidy. You can still view the value by clicking on a player’s name. The existing Best Rating for everyone will be reset.

Finally, the game creation algorithm has also been improved so it’s possible to receive more than one game per ladder update. This doesn’t guarantee you that it will create every match possible, but it’s a step in the right direction. More work still may be coming in a later release to make it full up all available matches.

Non-member Map Creators

In the previous update (1.00.2), map creators were allowed to invite past the 6-player limit when creating games on their own map. This has been improved even more, and now map creators can use all of the member-only game-creation features when creating games with their own map. This means they can use custom scenarios in multi-player and also specify any luck percentage for their games.

Dashboard Improvements

You can now click on the maps on the Dashboard to preview them. Further, a “Show all” link below the new maps was added that takes you to a new page that lets you browse all public maps.

Similarly, the Recent Forum Posts section grew a “Show all” link. This link takes you to a new page that lets you view all new posts across all forums at once.

Misc Changes

– Player’s profiles now link to their corresponding ladder page.
– After clicking “Show all” next to a list of ladder games, the ratings of each participant now show up in a new column.
– The 2v2 auto game is now fixed teams instead of random.
– The Reconnaissance card now moves the camera to the spot it was played on.
– Blacklisted players are no longer auto-added to your invite list via the auto-add system.
– The ladder now highlights the player being viewed, or yourself on the main ladder page.
– Updated the Variants page with three new variants: Juggernaut, real locations, and Chinese Checkers.
– Fixed a bug that prevented auto boot from working in games that involved AIs.
– Fixed a bug that would sometimes cause a Force Join to fail when a player did not have an automatic color.
– Fixed a bug that was preventing the member icon from showing up in the lobby.
– In the Tournament Settings window, the tournament settings were moved from the right to the left side to make it more balanced.
– Deleting a testing map now deletes any templates that were assigned to that map instead of causing an error.
– Fixed a bug that caused distributing games to appear at the bottom of a list of ladder games.
– Fixed a bug that was limiting the number of people that could be invited to tournaments too strictly.

Small Update: v1.00.2

Today’s update contains a few small enhancements and small bugfixes, mostly pertaining to the ladder.

Provisional Period

Players with fewer than 10 completed ladder games are no longer awarded a rank. This means that you need to finish 10 games before you’ll appear on the scoreboard.

You can still tell where you would have ranked by examining your rating compared to others, but you won’t officially get it until you complete ten games.

This is necessary due to the rating algorithm used by WarLight. The algorithm performs very poorly with small amounts of data. If WarLight ever switches rating algorithms, this restriction can be removed or changed, but for now this makes sense. This makes sense not only for the launch of the ladder, but new players joining the ladder since they would suffer the same problem.

The ladder updates more often

The ladder now updates every 2 hours instead of every 6. The speed may need to be tweaked again in the future, but right now the server can handle doing it every other hour.

Increased the number of ladder games you can play at a time

The maximum number of simultaneous ladder games has increased from 3 to 5. Players wishing to update their number can visit the ladder tab and select “Change Ladder Settings.”

Map creators can invite more than 6 players to their games

Any map creators that aren’t members can now invite any number of players to games that they create using their own maps. This is in response to non-members who were working on big maps and would like to continue development.

Bug fixes and smaller improvements

– Increased games and players per ladder page from 20 to 50.
– Tweaked the ladder game creation algorithm slightly – it sorts initially by rating instead of rank.
– Fixed a bug that was causing the ladder to set up duplicate games.
– Fixed a bug that sometimes caused the ladder to not invite you to games when it could have (but it still only invites each player to one game per run, that’ll be fixed later.)
– Fixed the broken link in ladder e-mails.
– Added the “offset” command into BayeseloLog.txt, making it so you don’t have to mentally add 1500 to scores.
– When looking at a person’s ladder games, the order is now reversed so newest games appear on top.
– Ladder games that have just begun now list the date they were created instead of blank.

Maximum number of invites by non-members has been raised to 6!

Due to popular demand, free WarLight players can now invite 6 players to a game. This enables 3 v 3 games, as well as 2 v 2 v 2 matches.

Please note that 6 invites includes yourself, so this means you can invite a maximum of 5 friends plus yourself.

This was changed in a small update today, which also included a few bug fixes and minor improvements. Here’s the full list of changes:

– Raised the invite limit for non-members from 5 to 6.
– Moved “Newest maps” on the Dashboard to the right column.
– The 2v2 auto game and the Strategic 2v2 templates are now actually 2v2 instead of FFA.
– Ladder pages no longer show games still in the lobby as have moved on year 0001.
– Fixed many pages on Chrome so they no longer stretch to 100% width.
– Recent ladder games on the dashboard page now sort correctly.
– Fixed the rank that appears for contender 2 in a ladder game’s description.
– The ladder keeps a log of bayeselo commands located at Data/BayeseloLog.txt. This will be explained in the next blog post.

Announcing the WarLight 1.0 Launch: Saturday, February 19th

After almost three years in development, WarLight will shed it’s beta tag and launch 1.0!

WarLight will be going down on Saturday, February 19th at 1am PST (9am GMT) for up to two 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 v1.00.0. Once the deployment is complete, you can view all of the changes on the Change History page.

WarLight is not finished!

Just because it’s being called 1.0 does not mean that I’m done working on WarLight. This is just a milestone – I have no plans of moving on to a new game. To further reinforce this, the company that will own WarLight has been named WarLight, LLC.

Features Summary

In case you haven’t been following along with the previous blog posts, here’s a summary of the changes coming to WarLight:

  • The Ladder: The WarLight ladder is a ELO-based ranking system where players compete for the top spot on the ladder. Initially a 1 v 1 ladder will be available, with more coming later.
  • Automatic Booting: A third boot timer, next to the direct-boot and vote-to-boot timers will be made available to game creators. When players reach this time, WarLight will boot players that aren’t playing from games automatically, without requiring any player having to click the boot button.
  • The Statistics Window: The current “graphs” window is being absorbed into the new statistics window, which provides a variety of interesting information about your WarLight games.
  • The Dashboard: The dashboard gives an overview of the latest things that have been happening around WarLight, including new maps, forum posts, blog posts, etc.
  • Membership System: WarLight is adopting a freemium-style membership system.

Membership

While I love free things, it�s obvious that WarLight cannot continue forever without bringing in revenue to keep the servers online. WarLight will adopt a “freemium” model, which is just the latest term for having a free service alongside a premium paid mode that offers more features or a better experience. WarLight will sell lifetime memberships which give access to features of the site that the more hard-core players tend to want to use, such as ladders and the statistics window.

Many of the features restricted to members only apply to game creation. This means that a member can create a game using the cool member-only features and invite all of their non-member friends to a game. This is designed so that, within a group of friends that play WarLight, only one person needs to become a member to allow all of their friends to enjoy many of the member benefits.

Member benefits:

Price

Rest assured, WarLight will always be free to play! WarLight membership just gives you access to more features.

It’s tough to decide between a one-time or a reoccurring fee for a site like WarLight because it has a high cost-per-user in hosting fees. Everyone likes one-time fees, and it would certainly generate more sales, but the trouble with one-time fees are that players who play for a long time eventually end up costing more than they originally paid in. Most of the sites similar to WarLight all have reoccurring fees.

In the end, I’ve decided to launch WarLight as a one-time fee. However, it may change to a reoccurring fee in the future — but of course, anyone who purchases now is buying a lifetime membership which will never expire. The reoccurring fee would only apply to those who purchase after the switch. This will help grow WarLight faster, and it also serves as a thank-you for everyone who helped test during beta. Don’t miss this opportunity!

WarLight offers more than any other Risk-like strategy game online – the game creation options are far more flexible than any other site, and games move far more quickly since everyone is able to play at the same time. WarLight’s one-time fee means, over time, WarLight is less expensive than the others, too:

Announcing New WarLight 1.0 Features

The biggest feature coming in 1.0 is of course the ladder, as covered in the previous two blog posts. But there are more goodies coming as well!

Automatic Booting

This was mentioned in the previous blog post, but it deserves its own section. This is a third boot timer, next to the vote-to-boot time and the direct-boot time, that game creators can specify. When the auto boot time is reached, WarLight will automatically boot any players that have not taken their turn, without requiring anyone to press the boot button.

This is really useful for tournaments, where someone holding up a game can cause the whole tournament to become held up. Automatic booting also applies to the Force Join system that’s already in place for tournaments – a player does not join their tournament or ladder game before the auto boot time is reached, they will be automatically joined to the game (with a random color, if their color was not available.)

The Dashboard

The Dashboard is a new page that will be accessible by clicking the “Home” tab or the WarLight logo in the top-left. This page gives an overview of the latest things that have been happening around WarLight, such as:

  • The newest maps that have been created.
  • Recent forum posts across all forums.
  • Recent posts to this blog.
  • Recent ladder games.

This makes it easy to check on recent events without visiting each individual section.

The Statistics Window

The existing graphs window will be absorbed into the new statistics window, which will show a variety of interesting statistics about the game. The statistics window will only be available for WarLight members. In addition to the graphs that currently exist, it adds two new sections: relations between players, and player statistics.

Relations between Players

The “relations” tab shows how much each player has fought with other players. It’s great for determining who has been fighting who.

It can be switched between the following metrics:

  • The number of A’s armies killed in fights between player A and B.
  • The number of A’s armies killed in A’s attacks against B.
  • The number of B’s armies killed in A’s attacks against B.
  • The number of armies that A defended with against B’s attacks.
  • The number of armies that A attacked with against B.

In the real game, you can hover your mouse over a cell to show a description of what that cell represents. This makes it easy to understand what the numbers mean.

Player statistics

The player stats tab shows a variety of statistics about each player.

It shows the following metrics:

  • Total number of orders issued.
  • Total number of attacks issued.
  • Total number of deployments issued.
  • Total number of cards played.
  • Total number of cards received.
  • Total number of cards discarded.
  • Total number of transfers.
  • Total number of successful attacks. (territory captures)
  • Total number of failed attacks.
  • Total number of armies attacked with.
  • Total number of armies lost by attacking.
  • Total number of armies killed by attacking. (defending armies killed)
  • Total number of armies transfers.
  • Total number of armies deployed.
  • Total number of times attacked.
  • Total number of armies that attacked this player.
  • Total number of armies killed while defending. (attacking armies killed)
  • Total number of armies lost while defending.

Statistics Brainstorming

I want to hear about any more statistics you’d like to see. I plan to add more in subsequent releases – let the brainstorming begin!

Misc Features

  • Sort Tournament Players: When inviting players to a tournament or forwarding a tournament invite, the players list can now be sorted.
  • Performance Enhancements: Many areas of the site have been worked on for performance, and will load much more quickly. Particularly the My Games page has been sped up a lot, and the page that lets you invite players to a game will also load much more quickly.
  • Force Join: The Force Join system has been de-coupled from nudge, and is now a first class citizen. This just means it’ll work more reliably. Players will be force-joinable in any tournament or ladder game once they’ve reached the direct boot timer without joining a game.
  • Members-only open seat prerequisite: Ability to restrict the open seats in your games to WarLight members only.

Announcing the WarLight Ladder (part 2 of 2)

Be sure to read Part 1 if you haven’t. Part 2 continues to discuss some of the more nitty-gritty details of how the WarLight ladders will work at launch.

Automatic Boot

WarLight 1.0 will bring a new feature: Automatic booting. This is a third boot timer, next to the vote-to-boot time and the direct-boot time, that game creators can specify. When the auto boot timer is reached, WarLight will automatically boot any players that have not taken their turn, without requiring anyone to press the boot button.

Automatic booting will be enabled for all ladder games at the 72 hours (3 days) mark. This is bound to be a controversial topic, but let’s first make sure we understand the benefits of this.

The main reason for automatic booting is that it keeps the ladder fair and balanced for all players. If booting was manual, players who eagerly boot whenever possible would, over time, have a ratings advantage over players who were more courteous with their boot button. By making booting automatic, this takes booting out of the equation and makes it fair for all players.

Another reason for automatic booting is that it ensures the ladder as a whole keeps moving. It’s not uncommon in WarLight for players to procrastinate games – I’ve seen some 1 v 1 games that got stuck for exceptionally long time periods (sometimes even over 100 days). These aren’t just because players quit WarLight, but rather they avoid playing specific games. Even when boot times are enabled, often players feel like they should not boot out of honor or kindness.

These kind of delays really cause problems in a ladder. There could be several people waiting to play with a stuck opponent. This also opens up exploits where high ranking players can keep themselves busy in a stuck game, preventing them from having to defend their rank.

Automatic booting solves all of these, but has other disadvantages. If you know you’re going to be away from WarLight for more than 3 days, you’ll need to depart the ladder before you leave. I realize this is an imperfect solution, and I plan to improve this in a subsequent release.

Game Expiration

Three months after a ladder game finishes, it will expire. Although they are still visible on the website for historical reasons, expired games no longer count towards your ratings. This is done for a couple reasons.

ELO is a zero-sum system, meaning each rating point that is lost by one player is gained by another. However, when a new player joins the ladder, they bring 1500 new rating points into the mix. If someone joins, loses a few games, and quits, they just deposited a few ratings points onto other players who may end up never leaving the ladder.

On a small scale this process is not a problem, but over long periods of time it causes ratings inflation. This makes it difficult to compare the true skill over someone who gets an early high rating versus someone who gets a high rating at some point in the future. It also can create further gaps between the players on either end of the ladder.

Wikipedia has a good explanation of ratings inflation here. Not only will game expiration eliminate inflation, it will also help reflect changing skill levels. Most players will get better over time, and game expiration will ensure that your skill changes are reflected in your rating. This also is yet another thing ensuring that high-ranking players need to actively defend their ratings.

First Pick

The strategic 1 v 1 settings have been designed to take most of the luck commonly found in WarLight games out of the mix. The luck percentage is set very low, manual distribution means you can choose where you start, and the initial map layouts are mixed up enough to ensure that the best starting locations are rarely obvious.

Just like any manual distribution game, ladder games will have an initial territory distribution phase where both players choose which territories they’d like to start with. Picking where you start is very significant for determining how the rest of the game plays out.

Sometimes, there’s an unfortunate and unavoidable situation – both players pick the same territory as their #1 pick. WarLight’s behavior, as usual, is to give out the territory to a random player. Their opponent is compensated by getting their #2 and #3 picks, but often it’s still not as good as getting their #1.

I like to compare this to Chess, which is well-known for having an advantage to the player playing the white pieces. Some Chess ELO systems give a slight ratings advantage to players playing white, under the assumption that this will help rank those players closer to their true skill.

WarLight will follow a similar model, giving a slight ratings advantage to players who get first pick. It won’t be a very big advantage – less than a third as big as Chess’s advantage. After the ladder has been live for a few months, I plan to do an analysis of every ladder game to get a better idea of how often the player with first pick truly wins and will adjust the ratings advantage to match the real-world results.

Conclusion

This post describes how the ladder will work at launch. Everything is subject to change – if you’re reading this in the future, be sure and check the Help tab for up-to-date rules on how everything works now.