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  1. #1
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Join us for extra pellets - Rock, Paper, Zachtronics

    Space can be a lonely affair. Join and add us, your Zachtronics leaderboards will magically be brimming with life.

    Happy cycles, everybody.

    http://steamcommunity.com/groups/RPZachtronics
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  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    You eat the pellets? I've stuck to eating the dogs.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
    http://playingitwrong.wordpress.com/

  3. #3
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    As your Vogon overlord, I graciously dispense pellets. (no spoilers please)
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  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Tikey's Avatar
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    I'm one with the Zachtronics collective. Still I love their games but I'm terrible at them.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tikey View Post
    I'm one with the Zachtronics collective. Still I love their games but I'm terrible at them.
    Your diligent efforts ensure your betters are further out of the bell curve, keep up the good work.
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
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  6. #6
    I still don't really understand how the scores work; It seems obvious but I've had a lot of counterintuitive results, so I just tend to ignore them for now.
    Steam: Dilapinated

  7. #7
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dilapinated View Post
    I still don't really understand how the scores work; It seems obvious but I've had a lot of counterintuitive results, so I just tend to ignore them for now.
    There's no score proper in either Infinifactory nor Spacechem, the game will simply tell you how many cycles your solution needs to complete the assigned task (time), of how many parts it is built out (blocks in Infinifactory, symbols in Spacechem), and how much room it needs to run (footprint in Infinifactory) or the number of reactors (single puzzle chambers) in Spacechem.

    For each metric, the game plots a frequency (distribution) graph that shows every solution the game has collected, from all of the players: short bars are uncommon solutions, while taller are more common. The tallest bars are the typical solutions, though depending on the puzzle, there may be one or more.

    Basically, you can think of them as par scores.

    Your solution is shown as a vertical line imposed over the distribution. Left of the tallest bars is like saying better than most, the more to the left, the better the solution has fared. If it places on the right, then it's under-performing.

    Or, left below par, right above par.

    Note that solutions can be optimized for one metric, so a fast solution may have a large footprint and require many a block, while a minimalistic solution may be slow.

    Finally, the game shows you a small leaderboard composed by your friends only. You can read why the games are structured this way on Gamasutra.

    SpaceChem's histograms were developed as a replacement for global leaderboards. They solve two common problems:

    Getting your name at the top of the leaderboards is a fantastic incentive for cheating.
    For most players, the only thing a global leaderboard manages to tell you is that you suck (and not even by how much).
    Unlike global leaderboards, SpaceChem's histograms allow you to quickly and impersonally see how your solution stacks up against the aggregate. We have found that most players discover that their solution is terrible, but quickly formulate a personal challenge after looking at the histogram and replay the puzzle to improve their score. Because we include three antagonistic metrics (number of cycles, number of symbols, and number of reactors), players optimizing for one criterion often do poorly in the others, padding the graphs with low scores that make it easier to beat the average in a single category.


    Of all the features in SpaceChem, the score histograms are probably one of the most popular, and one of my personal favorites. Considering that they're not much more difficult than a leaderboard to implement, there's no reason not to include them in your game and/or community platform -- we're looking at you, Steam!
    I hope this answers your question, and in a way that isn't oversimplistic nor too obscure.
    Last edited by alms; 14-05-2016 at 02:18 AM.
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  8. #8
    That's extremely helpful! Not only for me, but my partner just got into the game, and was wondering also. So, thanks. :)
    Steam: Dilapinated

  9. #9
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Glad I could help!

    And now to balance out my karma, time to get some well-deserved hate:

    First, let's get even with AshHenke who made me go back to this puzzle I'd already solved:



    Next, what I'd call a productive IF session:



    ^ This is my first solution which, after some tinkering, went down to 137 cycles and 36 blocks, however at the cost of an increased footprint of 199.

    Another first solution, which took me surprisingly little to assemble, but proved resistant to improvement. I assume when Gus gets to see it, he will bury me, still pretty satisfied with this outcome.



    Had a lot of fun with this one (Small Excavator), though the Gus is already 50 cycles ahead of me and couldn't see any way to improve other than redesigning input processing.

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  10. #10
    Lesser Hivemind Node Matt_W's Avatar
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    Those images are pretty embarrassing:) Time to really step up my game.

    EDIT: Better


    Infinifactory is interesting because I generally find that you can indeed optimize for all three factors at the same time. Code tends to trade speed for size because subroutines are a way to reduce size at the cost of additional overhead (saving state, tracking loop iterations, etc) that manifests itself as a speed penalty. Infinifactory doesn't easily permit subroutinization (<-- a glorious neologism), so the smallest solution is also often the fastest.
    Last edited by Matt_W; 15-05-2016 at 02:24 AM.

  11. #11
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Stimulating, is the word you're looking for! Some rethinking later, I have this one. But it's clearly not the definitive version.



    edit: now with even less footprint and blocks!
    Last edited by alms; 15-05-2016 at 02:46 AM.
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  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus vinraith's Avatar
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    That post-mortem is disturbing, they seem to have concluded that future games should be simpler, dumber, and shorter. I feel spectacularly guilty for not having completed SpaceChem in light of that. Then again, I don't really gather Infinifactory is any of those things (well, it might be shorter, you'd have to tell me).

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Heliocentric's Avatar
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    Hmm, mmm? People are infringing on my domain of 'not very much stuff used or space taken. Prepare to witness even slower and less block using solutions!
    I'm failing to writing a blog, specifically about playing games the wrong way
    http://playingitwrong.wordpress.com/

  14. #14
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    Thanks for the link, alms, it was a really interesting read. Personally, SpaceChem is one of my favourite games and I come back to it every now and then. To me, the problem with it are (line in any other game) the boss fights - they just feel so out of place there.

    Plus, I love this quote:
    The first incorrect assumption we made was thinking that everyone likes science. Although the internet may love "Science!" thanks to games like Portal, games that look like actual chemistry remind most people of chemistry class.
    As for Infinifactory, I obviously need to step up my game. In the first run I usually aim for least cycles, and minimize the number of blocks later. I don't really care too much about footprint. I guess that would make me an expensive engineer :)

  15. #15
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Well, Cargo Lifter has kept me busy for 3 days. It's gone through a major revision early on and refinements later, and it was going to finish with less than 100 cycles on the clock, except the synchronism of the inputs broke exactly on the very last piece.

    In this latest iteration:



    112 cycles according to the stopwatch, at 79 blocks (it was actually 77, but I was too tired to find out where the two extra blocks went) and 109 squares of footprint.

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  16. #16
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Gus_Smedstad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alms View Post
    it was going to finish with less than 100 cycles on the clock, except the synchronism of the inputs broke exactly on the very last piece.
    Yeah, this is one of those puzzles where you don't get input blocks at the correct, matching rates if the input speed is set high enough. This generally requires regulators in the way of pushers or blockers. For example, if assembly line #1 is the critical path, assembly line #2 builds an excess and then provides parts on demand to assembly line #1.

    That one's a little hairy because, at least when I solved it recently (at 110 cycles), the critical path shifted from the rear rocket assembly to the front forklift.



    There's another blocker there that isn't visible in the GIF.


    Blocker #1 (the rear one) only allows the rear rocket assembly to drop into place for welding when the main body is fully in place. Blocker #2 (the forward one) prevents the entire assembly from moving forward until the rear rocket assembly is in place and welded. The second sensor attached to blocker #2 keeps the blocker retracted as the assembly moves forward.

  17. #17
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Very nice solution. I'm almost in love of the clockwork rhythm in my final assembly, though. Wait... I've just got a simple idea that may further improve the figures...

    In the previous design, the rockets for the 10th piece would pass a fraction of a second too early, leaving the front behind. It was the first design which went that far, and I thought I had a winner ...imagine the look on my face :<

    For welding the rockets I had two solutions: one would weld the blocks right out of the dispenser (also employed in the final solution) while the faster one would weld them on final assembly.

    My first attempt at correcting the sync problem, was implementing a block discarder before final assembly. The solution simply discards a block every 3 at the dispenser level and has a very regular output.

    There is no other discarding for the other two outputs, which are also fault tolerant, to an extent, in that unless the section leading to final assembly is too crowded, and there is room for body rotator to work, the front and body still get sandwiched in the correct order.

    It's kind of interesting that it took me 3 days (well, two technically) before realizing no amount of refining the other two processing stages would cure the sync issue with the rockets.

    And now I'm wondering whether the undo stack is deep enough to bring me back to the previous version, that was before I had the right idea about the discarder ...maybe I can fix it?
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  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Gus_Smedstad's Avatar
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    Generally speaking "stop moving" works better than "discard some blocks." Discarding raises the possibility of a unnecessary delay caused by the gap created by the discarded blocks. A solid backlog generally doesn't have that issue.

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Gus_Smedstad's Avatar
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    I've been going through the puzzles again, optimizing them here and there. I mention it because I worked my way up to Landing Alignment Guide, and managed to get a system together that uses both sides of the painters for two separate assembly lines. Which was interesting.

    I'd show a GIF, but the recorded GIF didn't really work - it only shows a few frames. It utterly failed to recognize how the loop works.

  20. #20
    Moderator alms's Avatar
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    Being able to create an animated GIF is amazing when it works, however, the last one you posted also had a hiccup in it. Guess for some things there is no alternative to a YT upload.

    The other day I've begun the first campaign from the Home Fleet Upgrade. It was perplexing to find out that I'm already playing what may be late game content, if you want to call it that way, what with it being the third, and last, update the game received.
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