Robert Nelson's Thoughts on Jezzball
Date:9th of December 98
Well, I'm pleased to find your site! I have lots of info and comments to off-load, so this will make a beginning:
Topic I. What is JezzBall? Rick Singh expounds that "Real men don't play JezzBall on slow speed." Well, being a real man, I heeded that dictum for a long time. Then it occurred to me that someday I might be in competition with a woman, and that she would not feel bound by that dictum, and that I better learn slow speed JezzBall--and I did (more on that topic later). But is it JezzBall!? My thought is that the game should be programmed to display an "SP" marker on the screen the first time Slow Speed is employed, and thereafter until the end of the game. Then you could distinguish between all high scores and high scores with no SP, and people, men and women, could decide which category they wanted to compete in. For now, I think it is O.K. to use slow speed because it is a part of the game, but anyone who can reach level 49 without using slow speed is a better man, eerr... person than I. Maybe you could put people on the honor system to report whether or not they had used slow speed. However, I fall off the wagon on your corespondents who pause the game to guarantee the setting of traps without loss of life. At one point I developed a technique to do that, but I didn't count resulting scores. It's not only a corruption of the game, but its terribly boring! All of your correspondents should take an oath, ala Bill Clinton, that they haven't used this technique, or their score(s) should be footnoted to show that they did. I mean really! ( I reserve the right to return to any and all topics from time to time and fully intend to do so!)
Topic II. Let's get some standard terminology. For example, lets say that the game begins on a "field" of 560 "cells". Let's define a cell, not as an outlined rectangle, but as a blank rectangle with a cross in the middle of it. Then, for example, it is possible to communicate that horizontal traps should be two cells in height, and that vertical traps should be two cells in width.
Returning to Topic I: When is the game at any particular level over (assuming that it is not ended by the loss of all lives)? Answer: It is over when MORE THAN 75% of the cells have been "captured". Thus, it is over when 421 cells have been captured. But if only 420, or exactly 75% of the cells, have been captured, the game continues at the level in play. Stated otherwise, if the uncaptured cells total 160 or more, the game will continue, but it will end when they drop to 159, or less, uncaptured cells. For purposes of these rules, cells occupied by captured "balls" do not count as captured cells. Incidentally, if I am guessing at anything, I will say so. In general, it is better NOT to capture your 421st cell until you can capture all of the cells that will not be occupied by balls. Sometimes it is important to know whether or not a particular line of play will end the game. This can be determined by pausing the game and counting the number of cells that will remain after the line of play is complete. This should not be illegal, nor deprecated by Rick Singh. To count cells, just count intersections, i.e. the tiny crosses.
Returning to Topic II: Cells which have been eliminated from play (which happens when they do not connect to a space containing a live ball) should be called "captured" cells. Types of traps should be distinguished: A "skill trap" would be a trap constructed without loss of any life. (This is done by double firing of the gun, of course, more later). A "bought and paid for trap", or BPT, would be a trap constructed by sacrifice of one life. A "super skill trap", or SST would be a trap constructed by the "touch and glow" technique described by some of your correspondents. Terms could be agreed upon to describe skillful, or otherwise, play. For example, a "double fault" would be an effort to construct a BPT or SST which fails, and results in the loss of two lives. The terms "flub" or "miss" could refer, respectively, to an unreasonable shot, or mistake, and a failed shot that was reasonable to take, but difficult to make. A "costly flub" or "costly miss" could be one in which a life was lost, "very costly", two lives lost. "Packing percentage" could refer to the ratio between the number of balls captured in a trap, or series of traps, and the number of spaces available to capture balls in those traps. For this purpose, it would be agreed that, in a horizontal trap, for example, the two cells in a vertical line in the trap constitutes space to capture one ball (even though it might happen that two balls would get "stuck" in those two vertical cells). "Trapping efficiency" could be defined as the ratio between the number of balls trapped, and the number of lives lost. Then it would be possible to suggest that players set personal targets for trapping efficiency at each level, e.g. 3 to 1, and that players determine there own "potential" at a given level by computing their trapping efficiency excluding lives lost in double faults and flubs, which, in the long run, they should be able to eliminate. And it would be possible to make the observation that, as a general rule, it is usually possible to capture the last 6 balls in play with skill traps.
Topic III: Scoring. One of the problems with JezzBall is that it has no end. I decided that my JezzBall game would be over when I reached 10,000,000, irrespective of what the programmers had decided. I don't know how you guys hold jobs and raise families while addicted to this game. It really isn't fair or smart. JezzBall 2.01 should have a defined end! Beyond that irrelevancy, points are scored in the play, and by accumulation of life, space and time bonuses. At Level 1, two balls, each cell captured during the play earns 7 points. Since it is possible to capture 558 cells, with 2 cells reserved as resting places for the balls, the maximum count in the play is 7 x 558 = 3,906. At Level 2, each captured cell earns 8 points, but only 557 cells can be captured, since 3 have to be reserved for the balls: 557 x 8 = 4,456. Available at Level 4 during play is 556 x 9 = 5004, etc. If a level is successfully completed, two space bonuses are awarded. The first is for capturing the 449th through 504th cells (the 56 cells in excess of 80% through exactly 90% of the total cells, say the "80% bonus") and the second is for capturing cells in excess of 504, say the "90% bonus". At Level 1, for example, 3,500 points are available for the 80% bonus and these are prorated over the 56 cells, or 62.5 points per captured cell. Similarly 10,500 points are assigned to the 90% bonus and allocated over the last 56 cells at 187.5 points per captured cell. However, it is never possible to capture all of the final 56 cells, since, for level 1 for example, 2 cells must be reserved for the captured balls. Hence the maximum 90% bonus at level 1 is 187.5 x 54 = 10,125. At Level 2, the amount allocated to the 80% bonus is 4,000, and at Level 3 it is 4,500, etc. i.e. it increases 500 at each level. The theoretical maximum 90% bonus increases by 1,500 points at each successive level. JezzBall observes the same rounding convention as the IRS: If a given space bonus computes out at a decimal less than .5, it is rounded down to the next whole number. Any decimal of .5 or more is rounded up. Suppose for example 30 cells were captured out of the 80% group. The 80% bonus would be computed as 30/56 x 4,000 = 2,142.857143 etc. which would be rounded to 2,143, but if only 29 cells had been captured the bonus would be 29/65 x 4,000 = 2,071.428572 etc. which would be rounded to 2,071. At Level 1, a bonus of 1,750 is given for each live saved, a maximum possible of 3,500 (and a minimum possible of 1,750--you have to complete the level to get any of the bonuses). This bonus increases at the rate of 250 per level per life saved. Thus, for example, at level 2, if all 3 lives are saved the lives bonus is 3 x 2,000 = 6,000. The time bonus is equal to the amount of allowable time which is not used computed in 10ths of a second. Thus, for example, the allotted time for Level 1 is 1,500 tenths of a second = 150 seconds = 2.5 minutes. The allotted time increases by 25 seconds, or 250 points, at each successive level. So, if you could capture 558 squares at Level 1 with no loss of life and in 10 seconds time, your score would be:
|Points in play||558 x 7||=||3,906|
|Lives bonus||1,750 x 2||=||3,500|
|80% bonus||3,500 x 56/56||=||3,500|
|90% bonus||10,500 x 54/56||=||10,125|
|Time bonus||1,500 - 100||=||1,400|
For example, my personal best at Level 1 is 22,447, which is to say I played it "perfectly" in 8.4 seconds (my time bonus was 1,417).
Scoring that occurs during slow play is at 1/2 of these levels. Time appears to run more slowly during slow play until you realize that 2 points are being taken off at each tick.
Topic 4. Keeping track of your progress. It is not practical to keep track of your best total score at each level, but you can keep track of your best bonus at each level and of your best running total score at each level. JezzBall 2.01 should report your total score at each level, and tell you how that score and your total running score compare to your personal bests, and the bests on record on the machine. You could invite people to report their best bonuses and best running scores at each level and record the best. (Of course, best bonuses are not strictly comparable unless all possible space was captured during the play.) My best running total at level 2 is 49,746, and I got that on the same game as the 22,447 for level 1. It does seem impossible, and I never hope to equal it, but that's the way I have it in my records!
Well, its later than I intended so I'll sign off for now.
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Date: 11th of December 1998
Jezzball Part I
I'll sneak in a little more, here, in the midst of addressing Christmas cards:
More on scoring
Topic III - continued: Scoring of Slow Speed Play. All scoring that occurs during the time that the game is on Slow is halved. There are two nuances to this "rule", however, that may not be obvious. First, the time to complete a Level does not change. E.g. at Level 5 you still get 250 seconds (4 minutes and 10 seconds). The "time penalty" inheres in the fact that the balls are moving only half as fast. Thus, in 1 minute, for example, of slow play, you get the same action as you do in 30 seconds of fast play. Effectively you have half as much time to complete the level, but on the clock it is still 250 seconds (or whatever). Second, if you switch from Slow back to Fast before the scoring occurs, full scoring applies AND all space and saved-life bonuses are scored on the last snip! Thus, if you have captured all of the balls on slow play, and are ready to make your final snip, you can get full boat space and saved life bonuses if you will remember to switch to Fast before you make that snip! The time bonus is still the unsed number of tenths of seconds. Slow play, then, penalizes only the awards for space captured during play. For example, at level 5, each cell captured during play normally counts 11 points, if you capture 200 cells, say, during slow play, you earn 1,100 in play points instead of the 2,200 available for the same points under fast play. But for many players, the slow play will more than make up for this penalty because of increased saved lives and captured space bonuses.
Topic V. Slow Play--Why, When and How. There are several useful purposes in slow play. First, in slow play you can study how things happen on the board, what happens when balls collide or come close together. This kind of information may help in future play. Second, you can practice skills that you haven't yet fully mastered, like setting Skill Traps, or Bought and Paid for Traps, and Super Skill Traps. Then, after you have mastered the technique, you can apply it in fast play. Incidentally, the setting of Bought and Paid for Traps and Skill Traps is shown in Levels 4, 5 and 6 of the Demo that is a part of the game. It takes a little time to see what is going on, and since the cursor is not shown, you have to imagine how it is being manipulated. But a little study should show how it is done. I think it is true in the Demo that all BPT's are horizontal traps, and that all Skill Traps are vertical traps, but I have only reviewed it once recently. I think the Demo also shows some flubs, or misses, in setting Skill Traps, but maybe something else is going on that I don't understand (or agree with, for that matter!) The greatest lure of slow play, however, is to enable the player to complete Levels he/she otherwise wouldn't be able to complete, or to improve scores at really difficult levels.
More to come. However, I now have assignments to pick up the ginger bread house (or it is going to be sold out from under us!) tree lights and ornament hangers.
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Jezzball Part II
Finishing up re Slow play: If you use Slow play at all, it will be to help build traps, since that is usually the toughest part. It also helps quite a bit in trapping the balls and improving trapping efficiency, especially when there are lots of balls flying around and there is pretty regular traffic in the trap(s). However, when there are fewer balls, and less traffic in the traps, you may want to go back to Fast to conserve time. Also, if you plan to make a big trim of space, you may want to go back to Fast just to avoid penalty. Finally, you will always want to go back to fast before finishing, for the reasons stated. You can go back and forth during play at a single level. The greatest benefit of slow play is that it permits you to achieve your goal faster. (This seems particularly important in a game that has no defined end. Your correspondents pretty uniformly show that they each defined their own end to the game, and then quit playing when they reached it. My end of the game was 10,000,000 points, and I used some slow play to get there because I didn't really want to spend the rest of my life playing JezzBall. For me, it was O.K. to do.) Should you use slow play, "yes" if it fits into one of the reasons stated above. It is really exhilirating to accomplish something you haven't otherwise been able to do, even if slow play is needed to do it. The greatest satisfaction and accomplishment, however, is to use fast, at least until you reach your limit--that's my opinion. I would suggest that the penalty for slow play should be changed: say, for example, that once a player invokes slow play at a level, all scoring during slow play would be at 50%, and any subsequent scoring at high speed would be scored at say 75%. It is materially harder to play an entire level at high speed, and that should be reflected in the scoring; by the same token, there could be some reward for someone who has the presence of mind to turn high back on.
More to come, but I think I am through with comments on Slow play!
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Jezzball Part III
Returning to Topic I, briefly, and the description of the field of play, we may note that each cell is about 50% longer than it is high. This does not impact play as far as I can tell to date, except, possibly for one matter: If you create an area which looks square, it will in fact be taller than it is wide, measured in the unit of cells. This might be misleading in calculating the effect of a particular play. However, I must say that I don't believe it affects my play in any way. (This means, for example, that if a horizontal trap is two cells high, and we give it a measure, then, of, say, 2 "units", a vertical trap which is two cells wide will have a measure of 3 of the same units. Nonetheless, two balls approaching each other in a trap, and which do not collide head on, will "freeze" in the trap, whether the trap is horizontal or vertical. I think I observe that balls frozen in a horizontal trap are a little squeezed, and that balls frozen in a vertical trap don't quit cover, and move back and forth just a little.) As I speak, however, I would surmise that the "wider than tall" aspect of cells does have a practical impact on play in at least one regard. I would bet that the speed of channel creation is determined by the actual distance covered by the "wizzer" (?), and not by the number of cells traversed. Hence, in a given amount of time, the wizzer will cut more cells if it is traveling in a vertical direction than if it is traveling in horizontal direction. In fact, it will cut about 50% more cells if traveling vertically (I would bet). This is probably why it is easier to build vertical Skill Traps (at least I think it is) than horizontal Skill Traps.
Aloha, Bob Nelson (more to come)
Jezzball Part V
To conclude, for now on Topic 1, JezzBall is played on a rectangular field composed of 560 cells. There are 28 cells in each horizontal row in the grid, and 20 cells in each vertical column in the grid. However, if one takes the vertical height of a cell as a unit of one, the vertical height of the field is 20 units, but the horizontal length of the field is (about) 42 units. Just wanted to get that out of my system before going out for sushi!
Jezzball Part VII
I have been thinking and I think it would be a good idea to limit and end a JezzBall game by allowing only a maximum number of lost lives. Eperimentation as to the best number would be in order, but you might start out at, say 777. That ought to allow the hardcore players to play level 49 for a while, without making them play forever, and it would give beginners a gauge for their progress. e.g. "I got all the way through Level 16 last night with only 25 lost lives, and I'm still in the game!" I have read most of the stories on your page now, and the recurring theme is that most once ardent players will not play the game again. I think they would if they knew the game had to end, and if there were something to be accomplished other than just playing forever. Just a thought. Other ways to end the game would be to cap total time (which is really kind of a crap-shoot), or to cap the number of levels (which would not leave the best players the chance to hit the stratosphere). Without Microsoft's endulgence, the easiest way to change the game would be to just agree that the game ends after twice through level 49, say. Then, the competition would be to get the high score within that limit. You could offer to keep track for players who agreed to that limitation. For reference, I hit my 10,000,000 target on my third run through level 49. Then, for my 4th run through, I tried fast speed, "just to see". Faster than a speeding bullet! That's how it went! I am just saying that I thought 10,000,000 was a good end, and I was just getting well started at Level 49 when I hit my target. If it worked for me, maybe it would for others.
Date: 12th of December 98
Jezzball Part VIII
Let's change gears a little and focus attention on a single question (this probably belongs in the scoring topic, incidentally): How important is it to clear the last blank cell at any level?
Level Play Score 90% Bonus Total
1 7 188 195
2 8 214 222
3 9 241 250
4 10 268 278
5 11 295 306
10 16 429 445
15 21 563 584
20 26 696 722
25 31 830 861
30 36 964 1000
35 41 1098 1139
40 46 1232 1278
45 51 1366 1417
49 55 1473 1528
Be sure to harvest all of your points! I notice some games at JezzBall where trapped balls were not fully trimmed. There is no reason for that unless you are running out of time.
Let's start a new topic: Topic x : Goals Try this: Try to hit 1,000,000 before the end of level 16. You could keep a list of people who do, and who prove it. I finally hit it, barely, at level 15, but I think that included pausing the game to take totally safe shots to set traps. Bad me!
Finally, back on the topic of picking an agreed end to the game without the help of Microsoft issuing a new version, I have decided you should announce level 48 as the highest level that will be counted. That way you could insist on proof of scores. The Hall of Fame for this game would simply be the best scores at the end of play at level 48, or any lower level. I think you could generate competition around this concept, and lure back some of the greats who now refuse to play the game anymore. Before, as you know, I suggested several run throughs of level 49 before the game ended, but as you also know, there would be no way to audit those results.
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Date: 17th of December 98
Jezzball Part IX
Here are some more suggestions for improvement of the game:
1. When a game is in progress, and you hit New Game, as you can do when you are trying to Pause, you should be asked "Do you really want to quit this game?
2. You should be able to save games to a hard disc, so that you can turn your computer off occasionally, and so that you don't have to run the risk of over-night power outages.
3. You should be able to start play at any level (but once you start you would not be permitted to go back to lower levels during the same game).
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Date: 6th of January 99
Here are 2 other features I would like to see in the new version of JezzBall: (1) Instant replay (a menu choice would permit repeat of the last 10 seconds of play (-history only-no new moves allowed during the replay) in slow or fast speed, and repeated clicks on replay would keep moving you further back); and (2) the "Biggie" internet play--we could all watch Rick Singh do his stuff, and or tournaments could be staged etc.
Aloha! Bob Nelson
Date: 15th of July 99
JezzBall Golf is a game in which the first 18 levels of JezzBall are played and score is kept against a "par" performance at each level. Thus for example, for level 6 the par is 1 life lost. So if you play that level with no lives lost your score is 0, which is a birdie. On the other hand, if you lose 2 lives playing level 6 that is a bogie, or one over par; and if you lose three lives that is a double bogie, and so on. Here is the score card for JezzBall Golf at levels "A" and "B". You can move the tees, so to speak, and create par for your game. Remember, par is the number of lives lost. The Running Total is your predicted score for an all par game, and the Bonus is the projected bonus for the level if it is played at par. You can report your golf games and golf stories, but we don't know what will happen to them yet!
Aloha from the Valley Isle! Maui Bob Nelson
Date: 16th of July 99
Please excuse my bad manners. I can only confess that I come to accuse you of JezzBall fraud.
I have established certain JezzBall standards. The highest level of legitimate JezzBall scoring is called "Alien Alert!" This guy/gal needs a blood test! There are two problems placing you in this category: (1) you look normal and (2) your scores are above the Alien Alert! level. In fact they are in the "Pauser" category.
There are 4 ways to set traps. The first three are legitimate. They are:
(1) "Skill Traps" ("ST"s): You fire twice without getting hit, the second time while one ot the original tracers is still alive;
(2) "Bought and Paid For Traps" ("BPT"s): You fire once, intending to lose one life, but also accomplishing sending one of the tracers to the border of the field without getting hit; and
(3) "Touch and Glow" or "Super Skill Traps" ("SST"s) which are like a BPT except that you fire when a ball is just hitting the tip of your cursor from which the sacrificial tracer would otherwise emerge, with the effect that it gets aborted without the loss of a life.
(4) to set traps is to pause the game so that you can set an SST but without necessity to time your shot. While paused you position your cursor so that one end is directly at a ball, and so that the other end will safely fire to the border of the field. You then just resume play with the taking of the shot selected and the trap is set without loss of life--and without special skill. Of course, you need to learn when a ball is in a good position, and how to pause and unpause the game, but there is no special skill in getting balls in good position, because if you pause and there are none, you simply unpause and pause again. This is not JezzBall for two reasons: (1) it takes no special skill and JezzBall takes skill, and (2) it isn't any fun and JezzBall is fun.
You stand accused by me of using pausing to accomplish your scores and of not owning up to it
You have several choices: (1) you can write and tell me you are not Pausers, and I will apologize profusely, send you a pineapple, and acknowledge you as the greatest non-alien JezzBall players of all time in any forum and as often as you request; (2) you can write and admit that you are indeed pausers, in which case I will give you two weeks to forward your own confession/apology to David Rich and thus avoid the embarrassment of being exposed by somebody else; or (3) you can ignore this message in which case I will eventually let David know that this is what you did.
I do not maintain that you can't be a pauser. My brief is that when one submits a score achieved by pausing, he/she should state it was achieved by pausing, and (hopefully) that David would footnote such scores or, even better, create a separate category for them. You can also sink all your basketball shots if you use a step ladder, but it isn't basketball. Our venerable game needs honorable standards of conduct.
Aloha from the Valley Isle! Your Island sorehead, Maui Bob Nelson.
Also see my thoughts on personal Web Etiquette and You.