Friday, 30 May 2014

Eurovision Voting - Simplifying

Since last time I have spent a while thinking a bit more about the two Boring World test cases. Each was designed to be the most boring according to each metric for suspense I had come up with, the idea being to try to judge the relative weighting of each factor.

But the two results have what feels like a pretty important similarity. The country coming first never changes. It occurred to me that this seems like a much simpler, better measurement.

Suspense = Number of times the country coming first changes.

This isn't perfect, because this system is likely to produce many ties for most suspenseful. I am not sure that it would be worth the complexity to avoid that.

I do have a couple of ideas for tie-breakers, so the full metric will probably be:
Number of times First changed, highest round for the last change.

This still leaves the problem of actual ties, 2+ countries coming equal first, depending on how we sort this may be static despite being pretty suspenseful. I think that just looking at the very top slot will still work though. Will need to ensure that I test this so we will need to include Eurovision 1969 as one of our early tests of the algorithm.

So we finally have a fitness function. The next step will be tacking the search space. There are 37! (That is 37 factorial, i.e. 1.3763753 * 1043) different ways of ordering the current Eurovision voting nations. Definitely can't brute force it.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Shadowrun - Bringing Sydney into the 2070s

I really like the setting of Shadowrun. It is a cyberpunk-fantasy dystopia that was created in 1989. It features megacorporations that are more powerful than countries, the Matrix an immersive VR internet along side magical beings, spirits dragons, orks, trolls, dwarves and elves.

Being an RPG setting you can theoretically play whatever you want but the default has you playing a band of Shadowrunners, criminals who are hired by rich individuals and corporations to achieve illegal ends without the need to dirty their own hands.

As with a lot of Earth based RPG settings, they haven't really done much with Australia. It was only mentioned in a few side notes in various Shadowrun books until 2001, when Fanpro released Target: Awakened Lands.
Theoretically, it was a sourcebook about awakened sites around the world, but at least half of the page count was dedicated to fleshing out Australia as a location. While the materials in there are pretty good there are two problems:
1) Target: Awakened Lands is a little internally inconsistent especially regarding population numbers. The population summary table and the text have very different figures.
2) It is 13 years old, both in and out of game. The fluff material in the book is dated 2062, the year in the Fifth Edition sourcebook is 2075. A lot has happened in those 13 years. I think it would be good to try to update things.

The Shadowrun Almanac has the most recent canon information on Australia. It got almost 2 pages and I will probably use some of it, however the writer appears to have not read Target: Awakened Lands and seems to have missed basic information about real world Australia. The Almanac implies that Canberra is only the temporary capital of Australia for example due to the problems Sydney.

The basic plan is to go through and write a reasonably consistent and interesting setting for running a Shadowrun campaign set in Sydney. I am not going to go into much about the rest of Australia unless it seems particularly pertinent. This is both to reduce the workload and also because in Shadowrun Sydney is a relatively isolated city. A combination of nature and magic are not very happy make access quite difficult at times and hopefully I can find ways to highlight that aspect and the struggles it causes.

Tune in next time where I will talk about the weather in 2070s Sydney.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Eurovision Voting: Boring World Test Cases

Now we have decided what contributes to suspense, we can test them by comparing them to what are hypothetically the least suspenseful votes possible in Eurovision.

Since currently I have two factors, I am coming up with a scenario that minimises each of them.

Boring World Scenario A:
The juries involved in voting are all identical sets of clones, each country thus votes exactly the same way. 12 countries get away with cheating by voting for themselves making the reveal order irrelevant. Presumably they get away with it because of mind control satellites or something.

Boring World Scenario B:
One country puts in a performance which is breathtakingly phenomenally better than all of the others, who kind of all forgot about Eurovision and ended up sending a man and his old arthritic dog who get up on stage and awkwardly warble for 30 second. As a result one country gets the maximum (432 points) possible, and every other entrant ends up with the other 25 getting the average. Given that the average is 69.56, the .56 means there should be 14 countries in 2nd place, each with 70 points.

Both of these situations would be pretty boring purely from the context of voting results. In A there is no shifting of positions, once the first results are announced there is no movement, but theoretically the result could change until right near the end. There is only a difference of 74 points between 1st and 2nd. The positions are technically only certain when the 31st set of results are out.

In Scenario B the winner is made clear as early as I think is possible within the voting rules for Eurovision, which appears to be round 21. But it should be pretty clear what the result is well before this point in both cases.

Honestly I think that scenario B is the less suspenseful of the two, but I am not sure. What do you think?

EDIT: As Krellen pointed out, I had messed up the numbers. I had been thinking in terms of a system where each country gives out 12 scores, worth 1-12 points each. In Eurovision each country gives out 10 scores,1 through 8, 10 and 12. This shifts the positions of the tipping point to be a little bit earlier.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Eurovision Voting: Suspense

Last weekend I watched the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest with my partner. It is the first time I had ever paid any attention to Eurovision and it was a pretty fun evening of spectacle. While I couldn't follow the Swedish commentary, my fiancée could and would generally relay any particularly interesting information.

One thing she mentioned when we were approaching the end of the night is that the order in which the voting results are revealed is algorithmically sorted to generate the maximum suspense. I can't help but wonder what would that algorithm look like? Seems it would be an interesting challenge to try to create my own version.

As a first step, we need to find an answer to the question: What do we mean by suspense in this context?
Without knowing the answer to this question, we don't know what we are trying to maximise and that will make it very difficult to produce an effect system.

I definitely don't know all the answers here and would like to hear your ideas, but here is what I am currently thinking. High suspense means:
- A lot of movement in rankings (especially the top position)
- If there is a clear winner, their victory is made obvious as late as possible
- If the final result is close, the second last round should show positions 1 & 2 as close as possible, ideally with the final victor being second.

In other words, you want to ensure that the audience is unsure of the victor for as long as possible, and to try to ensure that as many countries as possible are in the running and jockeying for position.

So what other factors do you think contribute to suspense?