Scott Hardie | June 4, 2010
The tower system has been problematic for some time now. I've seen longtime players drop out of the game in frustration after losing one too many towers, by their own hand and by opponents. And you're well aware of the public criticisms, which have been just as strong in private. I was already planning to get rid of the tower system towards the end of 2010, but I'm accelerating that plan because hey, why wait? Steve Dunn and others, I know you were a fan of the system and lobbied for its return, but the version that you liked didn't involve rewards such as taking down your opponents; this version is just not healthy for the game.

We've tried a lot of different systems over the years. The essential problem is how to reward consistent play, but still separate a winner from a pack of players who usually solve exactly the same goos, without using a timer or introducing randomization or allowing players to hold each other back. Let's try a brand new approach: Betting. I'm not sure exactly how the mechanics will work when I'm done, but currently I'm thinking that every player would start with 1 point, and place bets on their ability to solve each goo, slowly building up a large bank of points. Guess right, you get as many points as you bet. Guess wrong, you lose that many points, to a minimum of 1 point. The winner is the player with the most points after fifty goos. Even though the maximum possible score is north of one quadrillion, there's still a good possibility of a tie if two players bet and guess exactly the same way, so you would also get to bet on whether each of the other players will solve the same goo after you solve it, getting 10 points each time you were right and 10 points each time you were wrong.

Certain players will bet it all every time and do well, until they inevitably lose it all on a single goo... unless they can go all 50 goos without error, which is difficult but possible. The title seems more likely to go to the person who has the savviest talent for knowing when to bet low. Can infrequent players win? Yes, but only if the top players wipe out their own pots. Ultimately, I think that some kind of handicapping or odds system will need to be implemented, something like giving high risk and low reward to the players in the lead and vice versa for the bottom of the pack, but for now I think I just want to implement a plainer version of the system and see how it plays out.

To clarify my intentions, as of the moment anyway: You would never have less than 1 point no matter how much you lost in bad bets. You would have to place a bet on a goo (thus activating it) before you could see it and guess. You could bet on multiple goos at the same time without guessing, but it would be smarter to play them one at a time to build a bigger pot of points. There would be no 12-hour delay; guess as many goos as you want at a time. There would be no way to cancel a goo once activated, so bet carefully. Bets on whether other players can solve each goo would cash out when the goo expired (not when the guess is placed), and of course could only be placed on the players who have not guessed that goo yet. The deadline to win would be a set time on the clock, 1-2 days after the publication of the 50th goo, not seven days later when it expires.

Suggestions? Feedback?

Scott Hardie | June 4, 2010
As for timed goos, one idea occurred to me this week, which I'd love to try someday if it weren't too much trouble: Use some kind of Flash animation to gradually morph from a very distorted gooed image to the original picture of the celebrity. You'd have to type your guess during the animation, with no way to pause it. The player with the consistently fastest correct guesses would be the winner. Timed goos tend not to be popular, and I don't even want to think about what it would take to get animations out of Kai's Power Goo and onto the site in this format conveniently, but I like the potential in this idea.

Amy Austin | June 5, 2010
Lol... oh, my...

Well, I stay away from betting for a reason -- and I think my performance at GooCon II ought to be a good indication of how much I'll suck at this, but...
I am still thoroughly intrigued. ;-D

Steve West | June 5, 2010
I'm a pretty bad bettor also but I have my moments. Here's to coming in third, maybe...I hope...whimper.

Amy Austin | June 5, 2010
Out of four, right? ;-)

Samir Mehta | June 5, 2010
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Scott Hardie | June 5, 2010
The need for many more hard goos occurred to me too, Samir. I'm fine putting in a few more (I'm telling you now: expect them), but I'm apprehensive about loading the game up with too many; it makes the game a lot less fun for most players, and for me.

Surrenders is a good idea, as long as there are more hard goos than surrenders available. During the towers system, several players asked me to eliminate the "cancel" reward that let players avoid toppling their own tower, because it was keeping top players from tumbling out of the lead. I'll give surrenders some thought.

Even though it feels like correcting for a problem whose scope isn't known yet, I'm leaning more and more towards odds and limits, to keep the divide between players from growing insurmountable. It's an artifice, reminiscent of the "rubber band" effect in racing video games, but I'll be clear about the odds before each bet is placed so that the system is transparent. Just as it keeps any player from getting so far ahead of the pack that they can't be caught up to, it may also keep players from losing everything they have on a single bet, at least later in the game.

Lori Lancaster | June 6, 2010
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Justin Woods | June 14, 2010
Okay some questions here!

1.) if you don't put in anything on the radio buttons on who will solve or not solve will it be the same as a no bet?

2.) if you bet someone to solve it and they never activate it will you lose points?

3.) if your on a tier three at midnight when the new goo is published and you get it right putting you in the tier one how will that affect your bet on other players?

Scott Hardie | June 14, 2010
1) Yes. Submit the form with any not chosen and those will count as no bet.

2) Yes, when the goo expires.

3) Yes. Your risk and reward multipliers apply at the time the bet is recorded, not at the time it cashes out. For bets on other players, these multipliers make a very big difference in the first few days of the round when point totals are so low, but that won't last long.

Justin Woods | June 15, 2010
okay a follow up question for #2...

If it is the other way around, say you bet that they will not guess it and they never activate it do you get points? after it expires of course...

also will you be removing in-active players so that we can't be banking points on the players we know are not playing in the round?

I am sure I will be asking more as the round continues!!!

Samir Mehta | June 15, 2010
[hidden by author request]

Scott Hardie | June 15, 2010
I was thinking about that, Samir. It's a trade-off. If you activate the goo right away, you have more names of opponents to bet on, which could net you a few extra points, and people can't bet on you. (Like I said earlier, betting on others makes a huge difference in the first few days of the game, but small difference later, although it might help break a tie in your favor if the round ends up that way.) On the other hand, if you wait to activate a goo, you can gauge how easy or hard a goo is by seeing how many people have solved it in the first 12-24 hours. I still expect savvy betting to be the key to victory for whoever eventually wins this.

Justin, it works both ways. If you bet that someone will not solve a goo, and it expires without them guessing or even activating it, that counts as not solving it and you get points. Active players disappear one month after their last activity. "Activity" is defined as submitting a form, even if it's just requesting a goo or searching the archive. It works that way for each section of the site.

Scott Hardie | June 15, 2010
I ran out of time this past weekend, but shortly I plan to add a record of all bets to date and their outcome per player, so that you can see how any player's score got to where it is currently, and what unresolved bets they have outstanding.

LaVonne Lemler | June 15, 2010
Scott, I look forward to the round! The betting concept is interesting, and it will be fun watching it play out --- though I'm totally confused at this time on the scoring and anxiously await your betting chart! :)

Scott Hardie | June 19, 2010
Thanks! I'm enjoying it so far. I'm curious to see how some players take advantage of the modifiers and how much it benefits them, and how much some players hold back from betting the limit every time and how much it benefits them.

Showing who bet on whom is probably a bad idea – we got rid of towers because of controversy, so revealing that someone bet against someone else isn't the way to avoid more. Instead, I have created a personal betting history where you can look up how your own score got that way. Click the link at the top of Current Scores to see it any time that you wonder in the future.

Scott Hardie | August 5, 2010
We have a winner! Chris has pulled off the highest score, more than anyone else can reach with the remaining goos. Congratulations, Chris! You've played hard for a few years, and victory is yours at last.

This was a very competitive round. I really liked seeing players bring different strategies to the system, trying to get into the lead and stay there. You all played well! This system will return next round, with modifications. Feedback is appreciated, as always.

Steve West | August 5, 2010
Congrats, Chris. Many of us played well - you played better. Nice.

Steve Dunn | August 5, 2010
CHRIS! Bravo man. Very nicely done.

Ryan Dunn | August 5, 2010
Nicely done, sir. You deserve it!

Chris Lemler | August 5, 2010
Thanks!!!!!!! The first time winning is always exciting. I like to tip my cap to the tough competition. You all played well and I wish you all the best of luck in the next round.

Amy Austin | August 6, 2010
Well done.

LaVonne Lemler | August 6, 2010
WOW! It's nice to see it finally in black and white....way to go, Champ! :)

Sarah Kyle | August 7, 2010
Congrats Chris. I am so glad that I introduced you to the website

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