Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Flash player

 


The end of flash player. 

Technically the phase out started quite sometime ago, when apple stopped supporting flash in 2010 (still remember the "cannot learn the move flash" meme?). Then NPAPI was gone in 2015-16. Then mainstream browsers started creating difficulty for one using flash. Adobe officially stopped supporting Flash by the end of 2020 and now chrome is stupidly blocking flash.

But I am sure there are many who would like to use flash anyhow for whatever good ol' online materials. It could be flash games in Kongregate, Neopets or Asiadog, flash vids from Newgrounds and oocities archives, or the for once state-of-the-art flash online RPG the Adventure Quest (AQ).

All you need is a get around, and here is one.

Before windows officially work against flash, the main obstacle would be flash player itself and the browser, so we need to deal with them separately.

Disclaimer: there are security problems with flash itself, even more for the older versions. This is the primary reason why it was phased out in the first place, so use at your own risk.

Flash: install a much older version of flash with update disabled.

The current one might have been disabled/uninstalled by windows/flash itself. What you want to do is to uninstall the current one (if it is still there) and install an older version. 

The reason to get old versions is to prevent adobe putting anything related to end the use of flash player into the software. In that sense any version that is more than a few years old should be fine. I tested 15.0 and 18.0 and they both worked for me, but I suspect something more recent should also work. 

I got myself the old installer from my old download stuff, but I am sure there are archived installer online with some simple googling.

Browser: DO NOT USE CHROME. Firefox and IE should be fine. Vivaldi maybe?

The picture of flash blocked that everyone posted is a result of chrome blocking flash, not that flash blocked itself. That basically means that there is no hope using flash with chrome unless you downgrade it significantly. 

I experimented with Firefox and it works even on the latest version (at least for now, not sure if flash ban is also scheduled for Firefox). Allow flash to run and disable any update prompts. You should have no problem running flash from there.

If you use modern browsers then you would like flash player that supports PPAPI (or flash for Firefox/chrome, simply speaking). If you are using old browsers then you will need flash player that supports NPAPI.

I feel like modern browsers have problem coping with really old flash versions (8/11/12), that's understandable because PPAPI were not fully established at the time, but it's also weird considering that almost everything in Neopets were build well before these flash versions.

*

It is definitely an incorrect approach to force the users to adapt something else by mandatory updates including updates from windows and chrome, and of course finishing flash this time. Sadly it has been the practice of those IT giants, among many of their ignorant moves.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

夢.十夜 (6) Fire in the hole

 


- happysky1(小紅)的隊伍 -
2 x 「赤銀騎士」雷音 [PVP:四連擊]
2 x 「無畏劍士」西薇爾 [擊退6][PVP:麻痺]
1 x 「靜默無聲」德蕾婭娜 [擊退7][PVP:遠狙7]

- 攻城戰 -
1. 每場正式戰鬥時間為一小時整。
2. 玩家可以攻擊對方陣列、城門或進行砲擊得分。
3. 玩家攻擊對方陣列時只能攻擊敵方最前排玩家。
4. 只有當對方陣列全破時玩家才可以攻擊城門。
5.  玩家卡片攻守皆共用同一血量,所有卡片血量歸零時則進入擊破狀態不可戰鬥。
6. 當卡片並非滿血時,玩家都可以發動回復將血量補至全滿。
7.  玩家攻擊對方陣列時,若結算時未被擊破攻方可取得分數。分數與卡片戰力與剩餘血量成正比。如果攻方被擊破則只能取得極少分數。
8. 玩家直接攻擊城門時可取得大量分數,約為以同樣隊伍攻擊對方陣列時得分的兩到三倍。
9. 玩家可隨時進入探險模式收集砲台零件,期間不得進行任何戰鬥。
10.玩家在探險模式時主戰場上會視為已擊破,無法進行任何防守。
11.當砲台零件集齊後玩家可進行一次砲擊,有若干機會直擊城門取得大量分數,亦有機會打中我方或敵方陣列造成傷害。
12.戰鬥中所有行動,包括對方陣列或城門、進行回復或探險都會消耗體力。體力會隨時間少量回復,也可以用一般物品[體力藥]直接補滿。
13.戰鬥時間結束時以較高分的隊伍獲勝。

- 獎勵 - 
1. 獎勵分成隊伍成績與個人成績兩項。
2. 隊伍成績以勝場數及總分作排名,只有排行的獎勵。
3. 個人成績即玩家在攻城戰的個人總輸出,有排行及固定獎勵。

*

在那個昏暗的機廳裡。

深夜的機廳裡只有我們兩人。平日在照相機裡打情罵俏的情侶和打戰機STG的中年大叔通通不在,跳舞機的音樂在空蕩蕩的機廳裡悠悠響著。

跳舞機正在播放的是與季節相反隅田川夏戀曲的鬼譜面。這首樂曲的鬼譜面難在大量八分跳音連打,與其jubeat譜面一樣擁有「鬼怒川大濁流」的惡名。

跳音,也就是同時踩兩個箭頭的音符,對玩家的平衡和回復能力的需求比一般箭頭大得多。在等級16到17這個區間裡,玩家逐漸接觸到更多連續跳音的譜面,但像是隅田川夏戀曲這種長串帶跳音的八分連打還是極少數。不少人認為這樣放在16算是詐稱了。

「哈……哈啊……」把結尾糊過去的我倚在扶手上喘息。總感覺我開始打終戰幻想以來打跳舞機的機會變少了,體力也沒以前好。

與我相比旁邊的卡羅只是稍露疲態。他把放在一旁的珍珠奶茶遞了過來:「休息一下吧。吃完宵夜才一小時這樣打當然會累呢。」

「嗯……也對,等一下又要開打了。」現在是凌晨三點半,三十分鐘後又是公會戰。

「贏了奧林匹克神眾的話這場大概不是打一檔土豪就是打弱隊吧。你想跳過的話我跟他們說一聲就好啦。」

隊伍的匹配系統會優先匹配勝場數相近的隊伍,但每個對戰組合只能出現一次。勝場數接近的隊伍都打過的話就會對上比自己強很多或者弱很多的隊伍。除非勝場數落後要對上強隊掙扎一下,不然剩下四天半的賽事都沒有認真打的必要。跳過戰鬥對我來說肯定是一件好事,不然再打幾場超高強度的戰鬥的話我的熱情就會被燃盡吧。

與「奧林匹克神眾」的戰鬥是我打過最剌激的比賽之一。我現在滿腦子都還在想那場比賽--

*

為了方便不同隊員,我們選擇使用聊天室而不用語音交流。但一句句「開火」在聊天室裡快速刷過彷彿能像戰友們的怒吼一樣真實。

隨著這場正式開打,我快速進入戰場,裡面雙方玩家已經全數出現。開局前幾分鐘大家都把戰力投放到正面進攻上,因為先摸清對手陣容至為重要。被分配到後排的我當然也攻了上去,第一次進攻打到對方的中排。應該說對面不愧是土豪隊,他們手上的角色不是超強的課金角就是好看的活動獎勵。我的隊伍雖然沒法打敗對面,但是在雷音和西薇爾的拖延下我的德蕾婭娜成功解決了對方的輸出。想必下一次進攻就能把他打趴了吧。

經過一輪衝鋒後,雙方各自喝藥回復進入消耗戰。其實玩家可以隨時消耗體力把血條補滿,所以只要瘋狂吃藥回復的話是很難被擊破的。但是這樣體力藥的消耗會變成本來的四到五倍。考慮到體力藥本身就是交易貨幣,一直用這種打法還不如把錢留下來抽活動卡把對面碾過去。

此時雙方大概都在考慮,到底贏下這場成本要多少呢?有沒有可能大舉投入還是輸掉呢?戰力更高的隊伍在戰略上擁有主動權,只要保持進攻便可將領先擴大;戰力較低的一方想得到更多分數只能採取其他打法,比如裝作投降等對面收手後再反撲的裝死打法之類。但是這些方法對上要衝個人排名的隊名是行不通的,奧林匹克神眾很明顯就屬於這種隊伍。

眼前的聊天室全是「我方中破」或者「XX快回復」之類的簡短情報。顯然我們中排破防的頻率比對面高一點,分數上的差距也在慢慢拉開。我上前攻擊的時候大部份時間都打到對面的前排,就算打到對方的中排,滿血的隊伍也讓他們難以被打穿。

情況很不妙啊。

不同的應對方案在我腦海中閃過,但大部分都很快被否決了。狂吃回復藥拼下去嗎?對方同樣可以跟你拼;全員同步攻擊?這樣的確更有效率地擊破對方,但每一次都同步等於攻擊速度取決於打最慢那個,這樣也太浪費了。簡單來說只要摸不到城門的話就只能一直這樣混戰,混戰裡輸出更高的一隊怎樣打都擁有絕對優勢。

可以摸到對方城門的方法--對了,砲台!我在群組裡留下訊息便匆匆進入探險模式。

探險模式與探險活動的介面十分相似。不同的是這裡你只會撿到物品和砲台零件而不會遇上怪物。由於不用載入戰鬥的關係,體力的消耗速度一點都不慢。砲台零件沒法儲存起來,每次發射過後就會清零,所以要集滿一套還是要一點時間。

我大概花了兩分鐘把零件湊滿,期間我們隊的防線可謂風聲鶴淚,本來就被頻頻摸到後排的防線幾乎失守。所幸的是對方沒法把握機會直接攻擊城門,兩隊分差仍然在緩慢地拉開中。

就像要進行轉蛋十連一樣我不安地按下「發射!」按鈕。

碰--沒打中。

開甚麼玩笑!我趕緊再次進入探險模式收集零件。隊上開始傳來哀號,看來真的快防不住了。我一個勁地在手機上不停按「前進」按鈕,希望快一點把零件找全。

這次我花了不到兩分鐘,體感上卻比上次慢得多。我毫不猶豫地再次按下「發射!」按鈕。

碰--直擊城門。

主頁上顯示的分差比我剛進入探險模式時收窄了少許,代價是本來弱勢的隊伍陣列幾乎崩潰。如此看來砲打城門的確可以分擔少許輸出功能,但不足以逆轉目前的劣勢。

眼前的聊天室閃過「大破」的求救,但是抽得正起勁的我才不可能停下來。我再花了兩分鐘把零件集滿。發射--

這次沒打空氣也沒打中城門,而是打到對面陣列上了。

我們隊顯然在剛才的兩分鐘裡失守了兩三次,砲彈直擊城門的拉近的分差幾乎又吐回去了。剛剛的砲擊使得對面全員重傷,前排的坦角幾乎全滅。這可是難得的進攻機會!我趕快在聊天室下指令:

小紅:「砲彈打中對面,快上!」
Lampbear:「レ(゚∀゚;)ヘ=З=З=З」
Sora:「幾乎都秒殺呢」
飛:「爽,不知道能不能摸到城門呢」

探險期間玩家不會遭受攻擊,所以我的卡片得以滿血發起進攻。第一次把對面中排某一個玩家秒掉,第二次把對方後排最後一隻也打下來了。遊戲此時顯示出對面全滅而可以攻擊城門的標誌,但打下去時迎接我的只是滿血復活的前排坦角。

Lampbear:「……_(┐「﹃゚。)_對面回防了」

對面回防跟是否知道被砲彈打中沒有關係,只要卡片血量不夠玩家自然會跑去回復。從砲彈打中對面到對面完全回防只有一到兩次的進攻機會。

但這樣已經足夠了。對上半血的卡片的戰鬥比滿血的戰鬥要快得多,趁對方殘血時一刀一隻,第二次進攻應該便可以摸到城門。更重要的是對面在這段時間沒法形成有效的進攻,我方也可以趁機重整隊形。

一小時的攻城戰已經過了一半,剛才一波攻勢打下來我們追回了一截。更重要的是剛才即將崩潰的防線已經回過神來,雙方回到在一開始那種混戰。

這樣看來砲彈最大的戰略效果可能不在於直擊城門而在攻擊對方陣列,但兩分鐘一砲的話平均六七分鐘才有辦法砲擊對方陣列一次。按目前的分差來說這樣追成平手不是不可能,但對面瘋起來的話肯定能打穿我們的防線。要繼續執行砲擊戰略只能用突襲的打法。

另一個考慮是怎樣將砲擊的利益最大化。如果說打中對方陣列會造成固定比例的傷害的話,最佳的砲擊時機必然為對方滿血的時候。而對方唯一會同時回復的時機是--

小紅:「我們輪流進入探險模式收集砲台零件。前面盡力守住別被摸到城門,必要時浪費一下體力藥也沒有問題。」
亞歷克斯:「可」
天天下小雨:「想到打法了嗎?」
小紅:「大概吧」

單一玩家沒法儲存砲彈零件,這個設計無疑是正確的--但我們有九位隊員啊。只要製造幾次砲擊對方陣列的機會我們就能大量得分,而且在他們剛回復過來時再施以砲擊的話就能將傷害拉到最大。砲擊的當下他們也可能帶著半血的卡片上前攻擊而自滅,這樣我們的攻擊都可以灌在城門上。就算不施行連續砲擊,砲擊的主動權一直都在我們手上。他們只知道自己的卡片受創,但短時間內他們是沒法分出事否被砲彈打中的。

依照計劃我們輪流收集零件。按次序由一個前排先去,之後是中排和後排再回到前排,這樣可以最大限度減輕防線的壓力。對面似乎除了用力打以外沒有甚麼特別的動作。或者說,他們就算發現了有古怪也不會做甚麼。這就是公會戰有趣的地方:以個人分數為目標的話正攻法就是最優解,而只要隊伍足夠強大時正攻法也是穩贏的最佳打法。但當兩隊實力接近時戰術便能發揮作用,以個人分數和資源為代價可以拉近兩隊之間的差距。現在我們的對手是土豪為主的隊伍,瞄準個人分數排分也是理所當然的。

時間還剩下八分鐘。分數差距在過去二十分鐘拉遠了一點,大概比我開砲前再多一點的程度。要追回來並非不可能,但前提是我們有辦法打到城門--這正是我們要做的事情。

小紅:「時間無多了,來輪流發砲吧!發出去後立刻上來報告打中哪裡了。前排Alex卡羅先上」
亞歷克斯:「沒打中」
卡羅:「沒中」

以之前的數據來看打進對方隊伍裡的機會恐怕比三分之一還低,不過我也只能硬著頭皮上了。

我暗地嘖了一聲繼續指揮:「阿飛你其中一個號發砲吧」
飛:「中城門」
小紅:「另一個號也發砲吧」
飛:「中人」
小紅:「總攻擊!」

對面的隊伍瞬間變成殘廢我們也沒必要防守了,全部壓上去就好。我的雷音[Rain]每次發動四連擊剛好可以將對面一張卡片打掉,使得戰鬥成為單方面的砍瓜切菜。我在第二次按下攻擊之際再次下令發砲:「Sora跟熊熊發砲!」
Lampbear:「(´ー`)沒中」
Sora:「中城門」

我的第二遍攻擊對上是對方後排最後一個,相信其他隊員應該摸的到城門吧。九星連珠砲發的計劃中最重要的是連續的砲擊壓制,連續Miss的情況下再叫其他隊員可能就趕不上了。我回到主頁面上把自己的砲台掏了出來,發射。拜託一定要打中對方隊伍--

準星彷彿回應了我的願望,砲彈直直地打進對方的陣列中。

連續命中的砲擊之所以能構成更大傷害,是因為對方的「硬直」時間更長。剛剛用體力回血的他們,按下攻擊按鈕之際其實已經吃到砲擊了,這樣相當於他們拖著殘血隊伍上前攻擊(自殺)。等我進攻時對方的隊伍已經失去防守能力,我們就能直接進攻城門了。本來只有半輪能摸到城門,活用硬直時間的話便能拉到一整輪以上。

本來都在攻擊的隊員們繼續壓了上去。我第一次攻擊打到對方中排,第二次已經打到城門上去了。雖然我還沒檢查分差,但是代表兩隊分數的紅藍分數條以肉眼可見的差距縮小著--不,說不定已經追平了。

小紅:「最後是小雨阿秋,一起發砲吧!」
Lampbear:「٩(ŏ﹏ŏ、)۶我好像看到反超了」
飛:「太強了吧,最後五分鐘反超」
卡羅:「不愧是小紅呢。」
亞歷克斯:「還沒打完,小心一點」
帕斯秋:「沒打中呢」
天天下小雨:「我也打中人了!」
Sora:「那就再一遍總攻擊!」
「「「喔喔喔!」」」

這次總攻擊並沒有收到甚麼成效。

原因大概是對面突然發現自己落後了,在時間無多的情況下唯一可以做的是吃藥瘋狂輸出。這樣打三分鐘的話成本也不會差很多,比起輸給比自己弱的隊伍來說瘋狂吃藥根本不算點甚麼。吃藥的打法與其說是提高輸出還不如說是提高防守從而壓低對手的輸出。砲擊的優勢在於製造削弱對方全隊的機會,但對方一直吃藥的話這個機會根本不會存在。

不過我們已經不需要再把差距拉開了,只要把優勢守下來就好。人家可以吃藥猛打三分鐘,我們同樣可以吃藥守下來。分差在緩緩地縮小,剩下的時間卻在快速地流逝。

六十秒,三十秒,十五秒--我心裡默默倒數著,手上機械式地不停按著回復,偶而還能上前攻擊個一兩次。最後的一次攻擊按下去後遊戲彈出「戰鬥已結束,結算中」的訊息,我才終於放下心頭大石。

贏了!

分數的差距定格在一萬五千左右,那是消滅對方一兩個玩家就能得到的分數。這樣算的話再多三十秒就可能撐不住了吧。當然這些已經不重要了,我們從第二檔強隊的嘴邊搶下了一場勝利,在勝場排名上形勢一片大好。

就像足球比賽裡領先一比零然後苦守了整個下半場的球員一樣,我沒有理會聊天室那邊的歡呼而是站起來對著空氣揮舞拳頭。我把坐椅推開正想跑起來,卻發現房間裡空間不足。保持著單腳站立雙臂舉起的姿勢五秒後,我的肚子適時地響了起來。

那就下樓吃宵夜吧。

*

「你為甚麼知道我會知道我住甚麼地方,為甚麼知道我會下樓吃東西啊?跟蹤女性可是一件非常危險的舉動呢。」

卡羅擺出一個我哪知道的表情:「嗯~我只是想深夜吃點東西而已。至於你住哪裡,大致可以從你的出沒範圍猜出來吧,不過詳細地址我真的不知道哦。

至於下樓吃宵夜這件事,我在聊天紀錄裡感覺你不論是音遊刷新紀錄還是終戰幻想裡打完活動也好,只要完成某個指標你都有找美食的習慣呢。我就在想你打贏這場比賽的話應該會想找吃的吧?至於你會在家裡吃泡麵還是下樓吃宵夜,這就不是我能控制的了。所以說,這應該算是緣份吧?」

雖然很想吐糟,但是他很快接了下去:「但是--我必須感謝妳。妳的加入讓大家團結起來打活動,這是我以前沒法做到的。

我很早就說過我們群組之中不乏各種類型的高檔玩家。不單是擁有神抽之手和交易人脈的熊熊,也有課很兇的亞歷克斯跟農很大的Sora和阿飛。這些人足以組成一支很強的隊伍,但在你進來以前這個群組不過是交流必要資訊的平台而已。新活動出來,知道要怎樣打就潛水埋頭去打;活動結束,誰要買賣獎勵就上來說兩句,僅此而已。

在你進來之後感覺你的熱情跟分析讓他們變得更投入,大家的交流也變多了。以前的攻城戰隨便組一隊出來有空就上線打,沒空就放過;跟強隊掰手腕是從來都沒夢到的事情,也沒有想過除了正攻以外還有這麼剌激的玩法。」

說罷他雙手按在扶手上,形成一個奇怪的扶手咚。帥氣的臉龐露出燦爛的笑容,這是我第一次看到他拋棄CG式表情而從心底裡笑出來:「所以說,能邀請你進來玩遊戲實在是太好了。」

這……應該算是……嗯?

雖然感覺到他的弦外之音,可是我一直盯著他的眼睛,嘴巴張著卻久久說不出話來。

不知道過了多久他往後退了一步差點就摔下腳踏台,算是緩解了一下尷尬的氣氛:「那接下來的攻城戰跟以後的活動也多多指教囉!」

「嗯!」

「然後,看起來下一場快要開打了呢。」他看了一下手錶:「還沒打算回家的話要不我們再找點宵夜一邊吃一邊打攻城戰?打音遊後吃美食最棒了。」

「嘛……其實我很少深宵溜出來吃東西啦。這個時間附近有甚麼好吃的嗎?」

「下半夜的話最好的選擇一定是喝早茶呢。我知道附近有一家不會太擠的,在那邊打個一小時應該不成問題。喏,我來帶路吧?」

少女隨即收拾自己的東西。說是收拾其實沒有甚麼東西,本來就只是下樓吃東西而已,連抹汗用的毛巾都沒有。把喝光的的奶茶杯丟進垃圾箱後少年把手搭在年少女的肩膀上,二人慢慢地步出機廳,留下跳舞機「See you next time」的音效在機廳裡迴蕩著。

*

嚴格來說,打輸低一檔的隊伍不需要甚麼不可饒恕的低級錯誤,最常見的原因就是缺人所以戰力大減。這種事在來自單一時區的隊伍時有發生。視乎匹配的進度,落後的勝場也不是不能追回來。系統會低估落後隊伍的實力把它配給「高檔次」的隊伍當沙包打,但實際上這兩隊是同一檔的。贏下這場的話勝場數自然就能補回來。這樣樣玩難度當然會變高,成本也會跟著漲上去,但並非完全不可能。真正一場都不能掉的的只有前三到五名而已。

從外人的角度來看,「奧林匹克神眾」輸了就是輸了。他們甚至不在意是誰打敗了它的。而我們隊,靠著這場勝場位列第十五。第十一場我們幸運地被配到較弱的沙包隊,如果亞歷克斯在線的話很大機會能打贏。這樣形勢對我們隊相當有利:第十二到十五場的時間正好對應我們睡醒的時間。只要這幾場不要輸給同檔次的隊伍,第四天開始對手強度就差不多往下了。

這場激烈的戰鬥除了我們隊,或許還有神眾他們以外不會有人記得。我們的砲擊戰術倒是帶來了一點影響。雖然網上沒有人討論,但從這個活動開始到以後的攻城戰大家砲擊的頻率都變多了。即便是頂級的隊伍都願意犧牲一點刷分的時間進行砲擊。從我們收集到的資料來看,主流對砲擊的理解只停留在「打中城門能賺很多分、打中隊伍有助擊破對方」而已。至底有沒有隊伍學會連續砲擊的玩法,在我們碰上實際會這招的隊伍以前根本無從知曉。

*

銀髮少女現在相當不爽。

她身處的隊伍總成績是33勝2敗排名第三,兩場敗仗理所當然地是面對前兩名吃下的。不過前三名的隊伍都可以得到最高檔次的七星勝場獎勵,排名第三本來就在她的預料之內。

問題在於個人輸出排行。只有前20名才能取得最高檔次的獎勵,一隊九個人的話光前三名隊伍就分不完了。用過去的數據來看,這二十個名額一般會由前三隊各取五到六個,剩下則由其他隊伍的主力輸出拿下。

但這次她們隊只分到了三張。虧掉的資源暫且不提,更氣的是這都是隊上一直有人跟著喊砲擊大法好的錯。

對上第一二名不抵抗意味著那兩隊白白多了一個免費刷分的機會,而我方也失去了一次刷分的機會。個人排行這東西不進則退,不在餘下的場次瘋狂刷分的話是追不回來的,偏偏部分隊員擅自跑去撿砲擊零件。她當然十分清楚砲擊的戰略價值,但在她看來她的隊伍在滿員情況下對上下位隊伍的優勢是絕對的。只要可以在九打八的情況下快速擊潰對方,砲台的戰略空間就不復存在。因此跑去撿零件只是白白損失百分之十的刷分效率而已。就是這百分之十決定了她隊上有四個隊員輸出排行都在21到30之間,他們跟第二十也剛好只差百分之五左右而已。

而嚷著要玩砲擊的正是那位對她俯首貼耳的肥宅--看來必要更改一下調教的方法了,她暗暗地想著。

拋開自己隊上強差人意的結果,這次攻城戰還是有讓她感興趣的東西。那就是排名第九,戰績為28勝7敗的「熊熊」(Bear Eats Meat)隊。隊上隊上的Rainmi0031(小雨)aoisora2(Sora)Lampbear(熊熊)全是她在關注的人,從來不認真打攻城戰的他們居然進入前十。主力的七名隊員都是遊戲常客,兩個新人名額的帳號的其中一個的正體到底是誰,她有八成把握能猜出來。比較可惜是這次活動他們沒能對上熊熊隊,沒法了解他們的打法。

前十的隊伍不比前三,不需要毀天滅地的卡片組合,但也不是一張七星活動卡就能躺著進的。這就只剩下一個可能了,少女喃喃道著--

「激活一整個玩家群、制訂出可行戰略並帶領隊伍走向勝利。妳越來越有趣呢--」

*

有沒有想過,在沒有發生疫情的平行時空裡你在怎樣過新年呢?

我的話可能會是喝個紅豆湯,然後下樓看箱根驛傳吧。

本來這篇應該在聖誕前後發出來的。在平行時空的聖誕節我們本該在在涉谷狂歡,準備迎接那個沒被東京奧運耽誤的コミケ,然後在コミケ拼盡後迎接新一年的來臨。

但是一切都改變了。

武漢肺炎改變了世界,正如國安法改變了香港。世界沒法回到過去,正如香港也沒法回到過去。世界必須向前行,香港……人也要活下去。新的一年世界似乎不會變得更美好,對於香港來說更是the worse is yet to come。但是我們必須堅守我們的信念和身份,等到黎明來到可以光復那一天。不論你是義士還是只是星斗市民,我在此獻上微薄的祝福,唯願你們在新一年仍能緊守崗位,做正確的事。

回到正題,說到多人網遊會戰,最近最受關注的應該是EVE Online帝國與聯軍的大戰。這幾天聯軍挾連勝之勢進攻M2星系,卻因為伺服器過載的原因導致聯軍戰艦只能逐隻出現在帝國大軍面前慘遭砲決。有關這次大戰的細節可以參考這裡

這次伺服器過載是因為這次戰鬥一共擠了差不多6700人進去,大概是遊戲史上最多的一次。要知道要同時處理不同人的指令並將結果發到每一個人手上,要處理的資訊量不是線性的。營運方用的已經是能處理五千人同接的超級電腦,卻還是被玩家給擠爆。把這個反高潮的戰果去掉的話,這場戰鬥絕對算是史詩級的一役。當然聯軍雖然損失慘重,但也還沒像兵敗列寧格勒的德國一樣徹底失去進攻的能力。這場戰役最終鹿死誰手現在還很難說。

在這種極大規模的會戰中成熟的指揮系統當然不會差到那裡去。可是你作為6700分之一難免有種自己作為棋子沒法看透大局的感覺。相較之下在人數較少的PVP裡隊員的關係可以更緊密一些,即時的配合變化也可以更靈活一點。在我看來,一隊九人正好是十分合適的人數。

我不是要說這個遊戲比那個遊戲好玩,不然其實OGame的大戰也挺剌激的--當然OGame比EVE還要肝上十倍……每一個遊戲的大型PVP都有他們自己的魅力,而我在終戰幻想中找到跟隊友分享戰術、還有分享喜怒哀樂的樂趣。

哦對,還有一點。那就是星際科幻對我來說太硬核了,還是紙片人的世界比較好懂。

畢竟,萌就是正義嘛?

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Classic Tetris World Championship and the evolution of competitive gaming

CTWC 2020 Group C final, Dog vs. Koryan G3.

Classic Tetris World Championship (CTWC) refers to the tournament on NES Tetris that has been flourishing in the past 10 years. Unlike modern games like Tetris Battle and Puyopuyo Tetris, the rules for NES Tetris is quite different. That's because new Tetris games must follow a given set of guidelines in order to get the trademark. 

But before that we had the Grandmaster series that used the Akira rotation system (ARS) or Sega rotation system (SRS). Even more primitively there was the Nintendo rotation system (NRS) for NES Tetris, where most modern mechanics like lock delay and wall kick did not exist. 

*For more about NES Tetris and CTWC this is a very nice introduction video.

So what's fun about this ancient system of tetris that is hard to deal with, and even theoretically not sustainable forever?

It turned the game into a really good candidate of extreme solo e-sport via score attack.

The brutalness of the classic rules ensures players to adopt already special techniques to start with, either the delayed auto shift(DAS) or hypertapping. The absence of lock delay means that the reaction time will be extremely limited. Together with the lack of hold pieces and "7 bag" pseudo randomness that requires a balance between aggressiveness and sustainability, which further boosts the difficulty of making the right decisions. The lack of wall kick and modern spins makes planning harder, but the game is a lot more accessible to general public -- you can place the pieces in a certain position if and only if you can do that with reality physics. NES Tetris, the one with the most simple rules, is simply the easiest to understand.

Extreme input requirements, balance between strategies and high accessibility combines into a potent game for extreme e-sports: unlike FPS or other multiplayer games, these are stages for soloist to show what happens when you push the game to its extreme, to the boundary between software restriction and hardware restriction. 

CTWC has been held since 2010, but it had very little attraction until recent years when memes were grown out of nowhere [boom tetris for Jeff] and a great community is eventually built. 

Throughout the years, we have observed a steady growth of the average skill level among the players.

In early years, players may start from as low as level 9, and level 19 gameplay was treated as a premium. Maxing out a game was extremely rare (in 2010 Harry was given the automatic spot just because he had a max out -- not even in a given set of time but in his gameplay history). Then in the years after the choices were usually between level 15 and 18.

[Note: simply speaking level 15, 18 and 19 are the three fastest feasibly playable speed in NES tetris. One may choose to start from higher level to gain higher score. Starting from level 18, a change to level 19 occurs at line 130, which is known as *the* transition. There is another transition to "kill screen speed" at level 29 or 230 lines from level 18. Level 29 speed were thought impossible to play for no more than a few pieces, but this has changed in recent years.]

Starting from the reign of Jonas however, flexing in level 19 had became the standard among the upper seeds. Players are expected to reach the kill screen and score above 800k regularly. 

More recently with the bloom of hypertappers, reaching the kill screen is nothing special anymore. We are not just observing players at "maxout pace" before transition, but they hold on and actually maxout occasionally. 

Among the hypertappers Joseph (@JdMfX_) is definitely one of the best. His hypertapping skills allowed him to play extremely consistently at level 19 and actually made level 29 gameplay possible. He can casually reach level 30 (10 lines into kill screen) and all the way up to level 35[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k7bk3ynKjA]. 

He outflexed Jonas in 2018 and had a great match against Greentea in 2019.

Then in 2020...he was knocked down in the quarterfinal.

So what happened? Well, the top 8 this year is completely composed of players that are almost as good as him. His match with Huff isn't exactly the best from him, and together with same bad luck he was out. 

CTWC 2020 is entirely different from CTWC 2019. Not only that Joseph was knocked down, but all the veterans and even players ranked up high in the 2019 tourneys were taken down in early stages like Jeff (he still got a lot of booms and neck and neck commentaries though), Jonas, Svavar and Koryan. They were just taken down by players out of nowhere (that is, unless you are a close follower of the monthly tournament too).

Among these the battle between Koryan and champion Dog is the absolute must-watch. It ended up as a 3-0 sweep but the stats are just crazy. 5.9 maxouts (one 989k) and 4 1.1mils; 5.9 kill screens (one 229 lines) and 4 234+ lines (and one level 30). 1.1 mils and playing into level 29 is simply unimaginable in the past, yet it happened in real matches this year. Even more thrilling is that the last two games ended up with a score difference of about 1500 and 400 respectively. Had Koryan optimize even the slightest he could have won one or two games -- this is how close the match was. 

There are a few reasons behind this great shift in competitiveness, but they boil down to the fact that the community grew big enough to produce enough hypertappers that flooded the tournament.

CTWC gained more attraction since 2016-18 and that had paid off in recent years. A big portion of new players said that they started playing NES tetris because they watched 2016-19 CTWC. It is difficult getting people to play NES, so this is a big step forward.

They are also successful in running the online community. There are now classic tetris monthly (CTM) and other streamed tournaments. They collaborated with tetris effect which ended up with a classic tetris mode. They are getting more sponsors every year and this year they were even sponsored by Xbox. These are all signs of a flourishing community.

The final kick is of course the pandemic, which forces everybody to watch streams at home. It also forced the tournament to be held online. Being online means more were allowed into the tourneys, and more actually joined because they do not need to reach the venue physically. 

It is very important to have new players, because they promote more advanced idea. Instead of introducing new ideas, they adopt the frontline techniques and put that into mainstream among the community. Old players tend to stick with the way they played (for example Harry tend to have right well instead of left well even in competitive scenes in the past), but this isn't a problem for new players. Between DAS and hypertapping the latter is clearly more potent, so they simply start with hypertapping. 

The wave of new players comes with a side effect: the new players are significantly younger. The original player base is for sure, those who lived the NES era who are rather aged (in the perspective of gamers) in 2020. New comers are in general younger, but for competitive games this is even more extreme because reaction speed, concentration and bursting power all peaked when one is of the age of adolescents. Among CTWC top 8 the ages are 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 18, 19 and 23 respectively, and it's quite unimaginable that players of such age are so much into a NES game.

Average age of top players decreases as the game become more competitive is nothing new after all. Just think about the top players in Osu, from 2008 where Cyclone was #1 and Alace was easily #30, to Cookiezi and Whitewolf in 2014, then to Whitecat plus many more in 2020. It becomes clear that they can really play the best when they are high school students. Similar scenarios are also observed in mainstream e-sports, although the peak varies with game genres. 

From the perspective of a long term follower (kind of), I have a mixed feeling when the community is heavily flooded with new players. On one hand they come with fleshing techniques and marvelous gameplays, but on the other hand we lose our connection with all the old players that we used to watch. 

But one thing is here for sure, CTWC 2021 next year is again what I will be looking forward to.