Book Trilogy Review: Remembrance of Earth’s Past (The Three Body Problem)

Epistemic Status: Stuff that keeps not going away so I should write it up I suppose. Brief spoiler-free review, then main talk will be spoilerific.

Spoiler-Free Review

I read the trilogy a few months ago, on general strong reviews and lack of a better known science fiction option I hadn’t already read.

I was hoping to get a Chinese perspective, some realistic physics (as per Tyler Cowen’s notes) and a unique take on various things. To that extent I got what I came for. Book felt very Chinese, or at least very not American. Physics felt like it was trying far more than most other science fiction, and the consequences are seriously explored. Take on that and many things felt unique versus other books I’ve read, in ways I will discuss in the main section.

What I didn’t feel I got was a series that was high enough quality to justify its awards and accolades, or allow me to fully recommend reading it to others. It’s not bad, it has some great moments and ideas and I don’t mind having read it, but I was hoping for better. That’s fine. That is probably a lot about my expectations getting too high, as I can’t point to (in the limited selection of things I’ve read) recent science fiction I think is even as good. Like other genres, read mostly old books is wise advice that I follow less than I should.

It is a reasonable decision to do any of: Not read the book and not continue further, not read the book and allow it to be spoiled here, to read some and see if you like it, or to read the whole thing.

This long post is long. Very long. Also inessential. Apologies. I definitely didn’t have the time to make it shorter. Best to get it out there for those who want it, and to move on to other things.

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Game Analysis Index

This post links to this blog’s posts discussing game design, balance, economics and related topics, as well as any strategy posts. It does not contain new content.

Much of the blog is relevant to gaming, but these are the explicitly on-topic posts.

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Posted in Economic Analysis, Games Other Than Magic, Magic: The Gathering, Reference, Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Less Competition, More Meritocracy?

Analysis of the paper: Less Competition, More Meritocracy (hat tip: Marginal Revolution: Can Less Competition Mean More Meritocracy?)

Epistemic Status: Consider the horse as if it was not a three meter sphere

Economic papers that use math to prove things can point to interesting potential results and reasons to question one’s intuitions. What is frustrating  is the failure to think outside of those models and proofs, analyzing the practical implications.

In this particular paper, the central idea is that when risk is unlimited and free, ratcheting up competition dramatically increases risk taken. This introduces sufficient noise that adding more competitors can make the average winner less skilled. At the margin, adding additional similar competitors to a very large pool has zero impact. Adding competitors with less expected promise makes things worse.

This can apply in the real world. The paper provides a good example of a very good insight that is then proven ‘too much,’ and which does not then question or vary its assumptions in the ways I would find most interesting.

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Disadvantages of Card Rebalancing

Previously: Artifact Embraces Card Balance ChangesCard Collection and OwnershipCard Balance and ArtifactCard Rebalancing, Card Oversupply and Economic Considerations in Digital Card GamesAdvantages of Card Rebalancing

This is the last post in this sequence, although we will doubtless return to related topics in the future.

IX. Non-Economic Disadvantages of Card Rebalancing

Last time, I explored eight reasons why card rebalancing was great. Now it is time to turn those reasons on their head, and see how disaster might strike.

There are three central reasons why I worry about card rebalancing. They are card and game economics, destruction of history, work and memory, a desire to ‘overbalance,’ and Goodhart’s Law.

Economics I’ve already considered. For considerations of card ownership, in-game economics and related matters, see Card Collection and Ownership and Card Rebalancing, Card Oversupply and Economic Considerations in Digital Card Games. I won’t consider such issues here.

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Advantages of Card Rebalancing

Previously: Artifact Embraces Card Balance ChangesCard Collection and OwnershipCard Balance and Artifact, Card Rebalancing, Card Oversupply and Economic Considerations in Digital Card Games

VIII. Card Rebalancing and Gameplay Benefits

Let us presume we’ve gotten economics out of the way. We’ve chosen a model compatible with limited ownership of cards and/or paid the price for not doing so. Most players will have access to whatever level of cards they usually have access to, and at least don’t mind the changes to their cards.

What are the effects on game play? What are the good and bad scenarios?

I’ll lay out the good scenarios and features, and offer eight good reasons to rebalance your cards.

Next time, I’ll lay out the bad scenarios and features, and why it all might be a terrible mistake.

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Card Rebalancing, Card Oversupply and Economic Considerations in Digital Card Games

Previously: Artifact Embraces Card Balance ChangesCard Collection and OwnershipCard Balance and Artifact (good comments on that one and on the current one)

Note: The rest of the series does not require or rely on this post, so it can be safely skipped. Original version of this post contained a gigantic false assumption. I understand how I made it, but it was still pretty bad, and if I had a SlateStarCodex-style mistakes page it would be my first entry. The post has been updated to reflect the new information, and may be updated further as more implications are thought out.

VII. Card Rebalancing, Pack Supply, Pack Value and Economics

What happens when a game periodically rebalances its cards?

There are several distinct effects.

In the second post, I considered the question of card collection and ownership. This section is partly reiteration of key points from there, then expands upon them. I want to get the economic aspects out of the way now, so the remainder of the series can consider other factors.

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Card Balance and Artifact

Previously: Artifact Embraces Card Balance ChangesCard Collection and Ownership

VII. Card Balance

To what extent should cards in a collectible card game be intentionally unbalanced?

Before Artifact’s recent changes, it was clear that Axe was the best red hero, and Drow Ranger was the best green hero. Playing a red deck without Axe, or a green deck without Drow Ranger, was not a strategic choice. It was a sure sign that the player didn’t own the card in question.

Is that… bad?

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