Monday, November 28, 2011

Sealed and Drafting the Forge Way

(This card is an Innistrad token picture which is pretty cool for just a token.)

Forge’s quest mode is fully realized and fleshed out, while the sealed and drafting modes are bare bones. Obviously Forge’s sealed and drafting modes don’t have questing “levels” and it is easy to win against the computer.

Unfortunately the drafting mode is very easy. While the AI does create his deck from the cards that he picks, the decks are mediocre at best. The AI could draft much better if the card set was much smaller. Trying to give 9,000+ cards a power rating, such as A or C, is much harder than only giving 350 cards a rating. Forge does allow the user to create a custom set to draft from but it is complicated.

I do not know how to make the AI better at sealed deck. Basically you are trying to create a deck that is “good” with a semi-random collection of cards. The deck should have a basic mana curve with mostly creatures, some removal is possible, and a few creatures/spells that are good finishers: either creatures with evasion or spells that cause direct damage. While I understand the basics of deck building, I don’t know how to specifically program the AI to build better decks.

Programming a better drafting AI seems impossible because you need to create a specific formula for the computer to follow. Human intuition is trained through observation but computer programming is accomplished through logical steps, if this is true then do that. Programming is like following a recipe with mathematical precision, there is no “flavor to taste”.

Basically the computer is an idiot and computer programming makes the idiot appear smarter than he really is. (If you have ever seen an unintelligible error message, you will quickly realize how dumb the computer really is.)

From the very beginning, I knew that Forge’s drafting and sealed mode would not feel like real life but it would it be an approximation. When you draft in Forge you still have to watch your mana curve, choose good creatures, splash for big spells, and stay in your colors, all of the things that you have to do when you draft in real life. I’ve never drafted or played sealed deck in real life, so for me Forge is as close as it gets. (I’m guessing that most people have haven’t drafted or played sealed deck in real life but who knows.)

Question of the week:
Have you played draft or sealed deck in real life?

Currently not programming but has thoughts
of programming again some day…

--Part of this blog is just me hammering the fact that programming is very hard. Programmers understand this but many other people do not. Think of Java code as concrete. Concrete cannot be randomly thrown around and neither can code.

--Artificial intelligence is just an illusion, like a magic trick. The illusion can be strong but it doesn’t mean that it is true. I have no fear of computers learning to think and becoming sentient. (Despite many movies to the contrary.)

Someone once asked, “Can a computer think?”

He replied, “Does a submarine swim?”

(Stolen from here.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Forum Is Currently Not Working

Currently Forge's forum is not working as well I hope the problem is only temporary because the forums have been very useful. Please post any relevant information.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why Is The Quest Mode So Much Fun?

The quest mode is my favorite part of Forge. There is something intoxicating about starting with a random selection of cards and transforming your deck into a Magic killing machine. The computer quest opponents clearly have stronger cards than you do and you might even be envious when you see them play a duel land from Alpha.

The quest mode is fun because it forces you to use a wide variety of cards. Some cards like Shock, which deals 2 damage, are clearly worse than Lightning Bolt which deals 3 damage but when questing, Shock is a very good card. In fact I don't mind paying 2R to get an effect like Shock because it is so powerful.

Strategies like life gain or land destruction are not very powerful in constructed decks but they are viable strategies when questing. Even when the computer occasionally uses life gain or land destruction, it can be very surprising and frustrating.

The quest mode is fun because it can be very challenging and you will lose a few games. Sometimes you lose because you made a mistake but sometimes you lose because the computer just drew the right cards. Recently when questing, I had 2 wins and 6 losses. The computer seemed to be on a lucky streak and I had no chance of winning against two 3/3s with vigilance and double strike (it was a sliver deck). It was ironic because I thought, "I'm losing and I'm really enjoying this." If you can lose and still enjoy the game, then it is a really good game: videogame or otherwise.

The quest mode forces you to learn your deck well. By playing the same deck over and over again you really get a "feel" for the deck. I tend to fall in love with the quest deck that I'm using because I know that I've tuned this deck, one card at a time, and transformed it from wimp to warrior. Every quest deck is unique. I recently played a quest deck where I had one dredge card and it was a game winner against decks that had a lot of removal. I could keep playing the dredge card over and over again.

On paper the quest mode is boring and menu based but in reality it is an addictive add-on that makes Forge infinitely replayable.

Question of the week:
What is your favorite Forge format: constructed, sealed, draft, quest or something else?

Keep on questing,

My quest strategy:
1. Two color deck with 9 lands of each color
2. No more than 5 cards that cost 5 or greater
3. My goal is a creature heavy deck with a few removal spells or combat tricks
4. No (or few) 1/1s because they are so wimpy
5. Try to have 1 or 2 "finishers" that will win the game, either creatures with evasion or spells

I'm not a great deck builder so I usually see which two colors have the most cards and I add all of them. Then I look through the list and remove the really horrible cards that are over-costed or not very useful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Version

New versions of Forge are always a reason to celebrate.  Forge now has a total 9,536 cards which means that it has 200 new cards.  Imagine having to pay for those 200 new cards individually, yikes!

(Sometimes I forget that people still use cardboard to play Magic.  I'm guessing that Magic Online must account for at least 50% of Wizards income since electronic cards don't have to be printed, packaged, and transported to a 3rd party.)

Forge added about 34 flip cards from Innistrad and the older Kamigawa block. I'm just going to show some of the new cards, enjoy! (All the card pictures are from which is like Gatherer, except with bigger, higher-quality scans.)


(11-04 is when this version of Forge was first posted to the forums.)

Link - Forge 11-04 (Windows, Linux) 31 MB and can be
          unzipped with Winzip or 7-Zip (free, open source)

Link - Forge 11-04  (Mac) 32 MB and can be unzipped with Keka

Download - Card Pictures (160 MB) - These are some of the low-quality (LQ) card pictures. 

Java - Forge requires Java in order to run

Link - To the previous post about the new version of Forge that has some installation information

You can move your decks files by copying them from /old forge directory/res/decks/ to your new deck directory.  You can also copy your pictures from /old forge directory/res/pics/ to your picture directory.

If you have any questions/comments, please post them to the forum.

Keep on forging,

Many people helped with this version. A special thank you goes out to them.

Chris H
Friar Sol
Jeff Wadsworth
Rob Cashwalker

Monday, November 7, 2011

Forge: Stable and Unstable Versions?

Innistrad token
I love Forge but that does not mean that it is perfect.  Forge is an ever-growing, mutation.  And as we all know some mutations cause the X-Men and other cause the less interesting superheros like Aquaman or The Tick.  Programmers are free to add (almost) any feature that they want, there are no committees or vetoes.  Everybody is allowed to do (almost) anything, so if Forge seems like a patchwork of different ideas…well…it is.

Ideally there would be a stable version of Forge and an unstable version.  Users who did not want to deal with crashes or buggy cards would download and enjoy the stable version.  People who wanted the bleeding edge, with new cards and features would choose the unstable version.  The stable version would always have fewer features and cards than the unstable, because some issues cannot be easily fixed. 

The biggest downside for having a stable and unstable version of Forge is that is requires more time and effort.  Most of the programmers would probably work on the unstable version and a few programmers would solely work on the stable version.  Both versions would share 95% of the same code.  Features that were fixed for the stable version could be integrated into the unstable version and vice versa.

Although this sounds easy in theory, in practice this would require a different mindset.  Most programmers add new cards, which is relatively easy to do.  Cards are not thoroughly checked for accuracy.  There is no set of tests which a card has to pass.  The stable version would require that each card pass a minimum number of tests that were specifically written for each card.  Obviously adding more tests would mean more code and more time.

A couple of years ago I did create very hackish, duck taped patch for Forge that removed a list of buggy cards.  (The cards were replaced with a generic creature card that cost 2 and created a 2/2 creature.)  The card names were kept in a require text file which anybody could update.  While this did not remove the buggy features from Forge, it did remove the buggy cards, which was an improvement.

All in all, Forge is becoming less buggy.  I applaud the efforts of everybody who has helped make Forge the great, fun, fantastic, original program that it is.


The Tick cartoon was actually pretty good but the live-action TV series with Patrick Warburton smelled pretty bad.  Tick’s battle cry was, “Spoooon!”  Which always made me laugh.