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Textbook: Writing for Statistics and Data Science

If you are looking for my textbook Writing for Statistics and Data Science here it is for free in the Open Educational Resource Commons. Wri...

Sunday 29 March 2015

Laser Tag Rating System

This is a rough outline of an idea that Phil Ophus and I had. We want a rating system for laser tag. We want it to be a cumulative reflection of a player's skill over multiple games. We want a means to compare the laser tag skill of players that have a substantial play record, but not necessarily against each other in the same match. In short, we want an Elo or Trueskill style metric that is a shorthand for "this player is X skilled at laser tag".

However, laser tag has less standardization than the sports and games that these metrics are usually applied to.

As it is now, the single game score cards don't give any context of a skill outside of the single match displayed. Scores in general are higher in matches with many players and longer 'ironman' matches. A score of 50000 can demonstrate just as much achievement as a score of 100000 against equally skilled opponents by these factors alone.

There are strategy factors that affect score that don't fairly reflect skill such as picking mostly weak targets, and aggressive running around play rather than base protection. Besides within-game luck, other random noise is added in from equipment effects; some guns are in better shape than others.

Scores are naturally different between free for all and team games, and some players do better in different formats. However, it's reasonable to assume a strong enough association between the skill levels of a given player across formats that one format can inform the other.

All of this variation, and this is only from a single location: Planet Lazer near Braid Station, New Westminster. At this location, the scoring system rewards hitting much more than it penalizes being hit. Also, every target on a vest is worth the same amount, although this isn't necessarily true at other locations.

We want a ratings method that can be used to compare players in different arenas that may be using different rules. Ideally something anyone could see how well they stack up on a regional up to a worldwide level. However even if we only use places that use comparable equipment, the arenas are substantially different, whereas in many other sports the arena effect is negligible. The rules and scoring systems even differ from place to place. 

Our intuition and short train ride's worth of literature searching suggest that no such system exists yet that can handle the non uniform, free for all situations of laser tag. I'm hoping that further developing the cricket similalulator to handle data of cricket players that are compete in multiple formats for multiple teams in a single year.        

On the sampling design and logistics side, there are issues with data collection. What if a location's equipment doesn't record a key variable? How long is data retained? Are there enough return players? It seems like the next step is to draw up a research proposal, and bring it to planet Lazer and see if they would let us record their player data like that.

For after the thesis, if at all.

Sunday 15 March 2015

R Packette - Weighted Binomial Sums

This R code file Weighted_BinSum.r is a... packette? Proto-package? Mini-package?

It's by no means a full R package because it doesn't have the proper documentation, but it's the start of what could be one.

Tuesday 10 March 2015

Improving the Exam Experience - A Research Proposal

I've read through quite a few reports on improvements in university learning in the last year. A few ideas have made quite an impression. Ideas like the flipped classroom paradigm, in which the lecture time is spent working through homework problems with the guidance of the instructor and peers, and instruction and note-taking happens before the class with the use of online videos.

However, I've only seen a few pieces on improving the exam experience. Students spend a lot of time thinking about their exam performance, but besides writing good questions (which is a difficult art in itself), not much thought on the instructor side seems to have gone into it.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Kuzdu Update - Lock and Key

New Material:

First, there is a new dungeon available: Lock and Key, which features a pair of new spaces. Most of the map is sparse for treasure except for an optional room in the middle that become available about 2/3 through the map. I'm worried that on its own the treasure hoard is available too late to matter, but it could be just right for any meta-game rewards that are incorporated later.

The rules have been made more explicit in some cases, and the relic deck has been increased from 16 to 20 cards. The card "Drill Relic" has been replaced - see patch notes for details.

Other Links:

Patch Notes:

I've made some changes to Kudzu's presentation intended to make it scale up more smoothly. 

- First, I've split off each dungeon into its own document. Each dungeon module includes the playable map for that level, a guiding layout, and an explanation of spaces found on that map. If there are any cards specifically for that map, they will be included.

- Generic Kudzu material such as rules and cards, however, are only found in a separate document. This way, updating the rules means changing one document instead of several. It also reduces legacy issues with players applying older rules to newer versions of the game.

- The card "Drill Relic" has been removed from the game for now. Having the ability to place tiles on walls is exciting, but has the potential to ruin any map where a major barrier is a single wall thick, as in Lock and Key. Cards with wall-breaking abilities will appear later, but attached to specific maps as starter cards.

Other thoughts and plans:

- The next module, Ulee's Pitfall, will not introduce new tiles, but will focus on more challenging uses for letter tiles. Players will start with a Pillar Relic, which allows them to turn letter tiles (and other tiles) into walls.

- Another possibility is 'portal' tiles that allow the player to start a crossword at one portal location and continue it at another. However, there may be memory issues with that. I want to experiment more with "Lock and Key" and tracking which keys have been collected before I try that.

- The logistics of a print-and-play game are more involved than I expected. Making things portable is taking more time than I expected, but hopefully the modularity changes will improve the development flow and allow more time for the creative aspects of the game.

- To my knowledge, nobody is testing the game at the moment, and neither am I. Most of my energy is going into thesis work at the moment, so playtesting and finding other playtesters is going to have to wait until the defense.

- I've been investigating the prospects of making Kudzu an Android game, again after the defense. I want to make the game a net good for the environment, and it seems like the best way to do that is by having a running advertisement bar on the bottom of the game, with a large portion of the revenue going towards either planting trees or buying up carbon permits and letting the permits expire unused. There are some other ideas involving in-game currency and 'cashing out', but the logistics of that are a distraction from game development at the moment.