Magic the Gathering

Final Judgment is not a Bounce

I just remembered another situation from last week’s PTQ in Hamburg. I was watching a match between two players I didn’t know during one of the early rounds of the tournament. Player A played a Final Judgment and player B picked up all of his creatures and put them into his hand. During his turn he started to play them out again. At first both players seemed content with this. While I was still considering what I overlooked though, A seemed to notice his error, grabbed the Final Judgment and read it again. He noticed his error and asked what they should do. B had now also realized his error and removed the cards he had bounced from the game. I rules that these cards are RFG now, since nothing important had happened in the meantime. (B had drawn his cards and played out one of the cards that should have been RFG. He could untap the mana he’d paid and play something else instead.)

After they did that, A pointed to another Judgment in his graveyard and stated that he had played the other Judgment just before that and that the the second Judgment he had just played was unnecessary. Therefore he picked up the latter Judgment and returned it to his hand. I ruled that both Judgments had been played and that I can’t reverse something that had happened a few turns before. So both Judgments stayed in the graveyard. I gave both players a Warning.

This situation was so ridiculous that I failed to intervene in time, since I was really thinking that I had to miss something. Two players misplaying Final Judgment as bounce … Anyways, I’m now off to the Magic Marathon, a monthly Standard REL 3 tournament at the Magic Center.

Magic the Gathering

Nationals and Grinders

This is a comment by me that I wrote as response to J. Sawyer Lucy’s article Bring Back My Limited Grinders! on Star City Games:

It seems that WotC Europe decided that this year that aren’t any grinders at all for European National Championships. German Nationals used to have meat grinders (Standard, Booster Draft, and Sealed Deck IIRC) and these in part made Nationals a great event. Many people would come from all over Germany, just to have a shot in the Grinders. If they didn’t make it, they would play other side events.

This year there are no grinders. This means that the “Nationals event” will last one day less. I fear that much of the appeal of Nationals will be gone. I personally know many non-qualified people that would have gone to Nationals if there had been grinders. Now? Why bother? Grinders are gone and with it the many people that would come just to play in them. This in turn will probably mean that the side events will also become smaller, because most people are playing in the main event.

This is a sad situation and I hope WotC Europe will reconsider for the next year.

– Sebastian

Magic the Gathering

More PTQ Bits

Here are some more bits from the PTQ that I forgot to mention in my last entry:

During the last Swiss round I was watching a match whose winner would make top 8. Player A had Heartbeat of Spring in play so that each land produced double that mana. A was at 1 life and did some splice action involving Soulless RevivalHana Kami, and Ethereal Haze every turn. This left him with 1 mana left in his mana pool, which he sunk into a Sensei’s Divining Top. After he had done this several times he didn’t announce the sinking part in one turn. So I said: “So, you burn for one.” The player explained that he of course sunk his remaining mana into Top as he had done before. I accepted his explanation since he had demonstrated his actions before and from the way he reacted I had no reason to assume that he had really forgotten about this mana. It seemed to me as if he had just taken a shortcut for actions he had previously explicitly announced.

There was actually a tense situation after the Swiss rounds were over and prices were given out to people not in the top 8. A player from my hometown Berlin (let’s be creative and call him M) had played against another player (O) during the last round. The winner of this match had a shot at top 8. (But it later turned out that whoever had won this match would only end up at 9th place.) The events played out as follows according to an investigation conducted by Tim and Philip: M had won the match but got distracted and forgot to fill out the result slip. O then filled out the result slip incorrectly, noting that he had won. He signed his own name, but didn’t hand in the result slip. (The signature of M was missing at this point.) When the result slip finally arrived at the scorekeeper’s result entry box it had two signatures. It couldn’t be determined who had signed for M or how the result slip ended up in the result entry box.

So Philip and Tim discussed what to do. O confirmed that he had lost the match, so the result of the match was uncontested. Also it was obvious that M’s signature was not M’s signature. It couldn’t be determined who had forged his signature though. Since we were waiting for the top 8 to start, I went over to them and heard of this story. After pondering it for a while, I told them: “I’m sure you will find a solution.” and went away again. This is the moment when you are glad you are not the head judge’s shoes. After a while I went over again, having pondered the issue myself. Just when I was about to suggest to change the result slip according to the actual result of the match, Philip and Tim both came the to the conclusion that the result would stand. Since a decision was finally made, I didn’t comment on this any further as not to further delay the tournament. I feel that both decisions (letting the result slip as handed in stand or changing to the actual result) have their merits and this was really a decision that could go either way.

From the PlanetMTG forums I later learned that there had been a similar case in the tournament before and that it had been ruled the same way.

Finally at the start of one of the Swiss rounds I overheard a player saying somethink like: “Then call a judge.” When I went there, both players assured me that a judge wasn’t required, but then one of the players (X is a nice letter I haven’t used today) added: “I just doesn’t like to be called [some names I don’t remember].” His opponent claimed that he didn’t said any of these words and also the players at the neighboring table who were watching obviously amused claimed not to have heard anything. From the way they were telling me I had the feeling that they were lying. So I took them both away from the table and called over head judge Tim. Well, it couldn’t be determined that X’s opponent had used any insults. In the end Tim gave a stern lecture to all players involved.

Both players were clearly pissed off during the rest of the round. When X was in a situation that didn’t look good for him (but was still not hopeless), he conceded. He was clearly very pissed off and said something something like: “I have enough. I don’t want to play against assholes like this. I’ll just concede.” He grabbed the result slip, marked a win for his opponent and a drop for himself on it. At this point I decided to let the insult against his opponent slip, since moods were not good at this point and I didn’t want this situation to spin out of control. Also X had already dropped from the tournament. I did inform Tim afterwards though. In retrospect letting this slip was most likely an error, though.

Well, that’s it for now. If I remember anymore interesting situations, I will surely blog about them.

Magic the Gathering

PTQ Los Angeles in Hamburg – Judge Report

Yesterday was a PTQ for PT Los Angeles in Hamburg. I planned to go there with a few friends anyway and since the TO Philip Schulz had asked for judges on the German judge list, I applied. We targeted our arrival at about 10, but between weekend traffic on the Autobahn, a broken route by Map24 and several closed streets on that route, we managed to arrive exactly at 11.

We were four judges total: Besides me there were Tim Richter (HJ, he passed his L2 test yesterday as well, yay!), Stefan Kurhofer und Johannes Schnoor. Philip was scorekeeping. We had 86 players, although it was a bit sad to see two thirds of Phoenix Foundation playing in a PTQ (Marco Blume and Dirk Baberowski). All in all the event ran smoothly, although there were of course a few interesting situations:

One situation involved Ghostly Prison and Godo, Bandit Warlord. The question was if a player had to pay for the Prison twice for the same creature if there were two attack phases (due to Godo). After consulting with other judges I ruled that you had to pay twice , although I wasn’t sure. The ruling was on the grounds that the way Ghostly Prison is worded, it will apply to every time attackers are declared. This ruling was later confirmed by judges on #mtgjudge.

I was called over to another situation that involved a player looking at another player’s hand cards without any effect allowing him to. The situation was not easy to resolve, especially since there were two issues mixed up. Player A had played Enduring Ideal before and was just in his upkeep resolving the Ideal as well as a Honden of Night’s Reach and a Honden of Infinite Rage. The players were not quite clear, whether the Honden A had just searched with the Ideal would also trigger (it won’t) and how cards B had to discard and how much damage the red Honden would do. Since A could explain to me the correct stacking order of the Honden and Ideal triggers (stack Honden’s first then Ideal), I rules that B would discard three cards and the red Honden would deal 3 damage.

Nevertheless the complicated issue was that A had placed his one remaining hand card face-down in the middle of the table while searching through his library. B had picked it up and looked at it. A claimed that B had asked “What’s this?” and A had answered “My hand card.” before B picked it up. B couldn’t remember whether there had been such a conversation. Also, B maintained that it didn’t matter, since A couldn’t play any spells anyways, due to the Ideal. I went to Tim and Philip and discussed that situation. I thought that a Game Loss was appropriate here. I think that B was confused when he looked at the card and did not think much about it before he did. Otherwise we would probably talking about a disqualification in this situation. Nevertheless I think that this is a very abusable situation. Looking at an opponent’s hand card can give you crucial information if not caught (Ideal or no Ideal). Tim went over himself and ended up giving B a warning. Also while we were still discussing the situation, B went over to us and told us that he would concede anyway, which he did.

Another situation that caused a bit of discussion was when Stefan went over to Tim and myself. A player had played a Cranial Extraction and accidently looked at his own library and shuffled it. Since he had reordered his top cards due to Sensei’s Divining Top before, Tim and I felt that a Game Loss was the only appropriate penalty here, since the game state was damaged beyond repair. I have to admit that I failed to ask Stefan some necessary question in this situation. (“Why didn’t the player’s opponent stop him when he looked at his own library?”, “Why did the player shuffle it when he noticed that it was the wrong library?”, “What targets did the player announce for the Extraction?”) Anyways, when we later discussed the ruling with Philip, he told us that he had just given a Warning for announcing the wrong target (his opponent instead of himself). While this is a sneaky way to prevent a player from getting a Game Loss, I don’t agree with that. I feel uneasy, since this seems to be easily abusable. Maybe the player noticed too late that he grabbed the wrong library and then used this opportunity to get a free shuffle? As I noted before, I am missing some information about this situation.

Finally there was the obligatory “DQ situation”. During one of the last Swiss rounds, Stefan asked me to help him. (I was not sure what the exact question was, though.) At a table two players were playing for a possible top 8 spot. The extra turns were practically over, but both players were tied, which would mean elimination for both of them. So they were discussing if one of them would scoop to the other. Always a slippery slope. Player C asked us judges whether they could role a die to determine the result. We denied this of course. They discussed a bit more and D asked C whether he would like to concede. C replied with: “Was würde mir das bringen?” (“What use would that be to me.”) Now this term can mean two things: “What are giving me for it?”, which would be a request to be bribed, but also a rhetorical “No, why should I?” In this situation it sounded to me to be the latter. Nevertheless I stepped in and told them that I would not tolerate the discussion going into this direction. In the end the players called it a draw.

Later Tim approached me. It seems that he interviewed C about this and he wanted to know my opinion. Actually I was a bit confused at first and was not sure what situation he was referring to, since I hadn’t viewed it as “serious”. I told him about my interpretation and in the end Tim decided just to give a Stern Lecture.

At the end of the day, I table judged the quarter finals between the two Berlin top 8 players, Gabriel Huber and Rosario Maij, which Rosario won 2–1. Since the people I drove with were eager to leave, I didn’t have the chance to judge or watch the half finals, but I later learned that Rosario went on to win his and so won one of the two flights to LA. Congrats to him as well as the other finalist, Fabio Reinhardt!

Video Games

GTA: San Andreas

Finally I found time to blog a bit about GTA: San Andreas. Let me begin with a brief summary: San Andreas is a great game in the tradition of the GTA series. The level and mission design is certainly better than that of GTA: Vice City, and there have been lots of other improvements.

Cruising through the state of San Andreas

What is so great about the GTA series of games? Well, I think it is mainly the freedom you have in the game. You can do whatever you want at any time you want. You can go whereever you want to go in the game. Contrast this with my criticism of Brothers in Arms, where you have very static levels that force you into exactly one possible approach to each situation. Also, the games are very anarchistic. Here you can do whatever you want to do, and you don’t have to live with the consequences, especially when driving around in cars. The radio stations with their subversive moderators and highly satirical commercials and chats also help to make this game a lot of fun.

But let’s start with some of the negative criticism. The graphics sucks, of course. It is rather primitive compared to other current games, although there have been a few visual improvements and added effects compared to Vice City. Also, the viewing distance has increased, which is important in the vast level of San Andreas. The poor graphics are of course a legacy of the console heritage of this game. This also explains the rather crude controller options. You can notice how they just mapped the keypad keys to certain keyboard keys, so that you have rather different functions on the same key. On the other hand, shooting with weapons is very easy on the PC, since mouse aiming is so much easier than aiming with a keypad. But there is one crucial advantage over the steering of Vice City: You can now look around inside vehicles using the mouse. This is so much easier than looking around with keypad keys. In Vice City you easily bumped into other cars when driving backwards or turning corners, since the camera view needed a few seconds to adjust to the new direction. This won’t happen in San Andreas!

Flying around Los Santos

One of the most visible changes is of course the size of the level. GTA: San Andreas is supposed to simulate a whole US state. It includes three cities: Los Santos (resembling Los Angeles), San Fierro (resembling San Francisco, complete with steep streets and trolley cars), and Las Venturas (resembling Las Vegas). It also includes a lot of smaller villages and an airplane graveyard in the desert. The level is quite diverse. Also, for the first time, there is a whole system of highways between and inside the cities.

The size of the levels offers many opportunities to discover so-called sub-mission. These are missions that are not necessary to complete the main story arc, but are nevertheless challenging. These sub-missions are very different. For example there are the classic taxi missions, where you have to drop off passengers as quickly as possible, race missions with cars or planes, girlfriend missions where you have to please your girlfriends with restaurant visits etc., pimping missions, quarry missions, various driving schools etc. pp.

Denise likes to do drive-bys

But of course there is also a main storyline. This storyline is again quite expansive, similar to the Vice City storyline. Also, we get to meet old friends, like Rosenberg and Kent Paul from Vice City and even you character from GTA III and his treacherous girlfriend Catalina! Oh yes, and you take a short trip back to Liberty City.

As I mentioned before one of the strong points of the game is the satire and humor in the game. Unfortunately I personally think that the satiric part was more advanced in Vice City, with the radio moderators being a caricature of modern society or the film studio where they seemingly filmed the moon landing. San Andreas concentrates more on a “sex theme”, which might be shocking or provoking to a more prude audience, but which I personally find rather childish. (Although I have to admit that I laughed out loud when I first saw the new Cherry Popper ice cream wagon.)

Nevertheless the game is a whole load of fun and perfect stress relieve. It brought me many fun hours and I am sure it will bring me more.

Debian Netatalk

Netatalk 2.0.3-2

I just released Netatalk 2.0.3-2. This version solved the conflict with yudit by renaming /usr/bin/uniconv to /usr/sbin/netatalk-uniconv. As this is a tool that is only required very occasionally (i.e. when updating a volume from one character set to unicode, which hopefully you will only have to do once per volume), this change should be fairly unobstrusive.

Resolving the conflict with bigloo is more bothersome. Bigloo also contains a binary called afile, just like Netatalk. But since this is a tool that is possibly used regularily by some users and may even be used in scripts, I fear that simply renaming it may break things. I think I will just try to rename afile (and a few other similar commands) to apple_file, add a note to NEWS.Debian, and upload this to unstable. If too many users complain, I will probably use a transitional strategy: Rename the tools, add the note to README.Debian, but leave symlinks hanging around until after the release with etch. This would mean that the conflict with bigloo can’t be resolved until then.

Other opinions or suggestions on that matter are welcome.

Magic the Gathering

PTQ LA in Hamburg

I will be judging the PTQ for Los Angeles in Hamburg this weekend. I was planning to go there with friends, but since Philip Schulz was still looking for judges, I applied, and fortunately I was accepted. Nice.

Debian GNOME

ORBit 2.12.2-2

Uploaded a new version of ORBit2 that fixes bug #317352. It seems that at some point ORBit2 stopped building the API documentation by default, so it wasn’t included in liborbit2-dev anymore. Fixed that by providing the –enable-gtk-doc configure option. But then the API documentation is in a really bad state.

Also noticed that the linc-cleanup-sockets utility program hardcodes /tmp. Added a simple patch to GNOME bug #149394 that fixes this problem and commited it after I got Michael Meeks’ permission. This fix isn’t in the Debian package yet, though.


Thoughts on Notifications

There has been much talk lately about notifications in GNOME. Here are my thoughts. Basically there are different kinds of notifications:

  1. Notifications that need attention soon. This includes things like notebook battery running low, a phone call, an IM chat request, or an appointment. Generally these kinds of notifications need to draw attention to themselves without being distracting. While they need to taken care of, you normally want to finish the current sentence in the letter you are writing, read the current paragraph on the web page you are visiting, or quickly jot down your thoughts so they don’t get lost.Generally these kinds of notifications should only disappear when one of the following happens:
    • The user explicitly dismissed them (“I know that the battery is running low.”) or handles them (picks up the phone). Normally the notification itself should offer an easy way to do both.
    • The condition for the notification goes away. For example, a notebook running low on battery was reconnected to the power grid or a caller has hung up. The latter kind of notifications can then often be replaced by a type 2 notification.
    • The condition for the notification has become irrelevant. For example, a meeting is over according to the timetracking application, but the user has not taken action.

    In general such a notification should not go away automatically, since the situation has to be taken care off, even if the user is not currently at his computer. For example, a user has taken a coffee break and forgotten about a meeting. In the meantime the computer pops up a notification about it. If the notification would automatically disappear after a few minutes, the user might never notice that it had been there in the first place. If it stays, he will notice it and can still go to his meeting (better late than missing it completely).

    I think for this kind of notifications, popups are the best approach.

  2. Notifications about events that the user will want to check often, but that are not time critical. These kinds of notifications must be handled at some point, though. The poster child of this kind of notifications is of course e-mail. Such a notification should also provide the ability to quickly access the object the notification is about, for example open your inbox folder. Generally these kinds of notifications don’t go away, as long as the condition is true. If there is new e-mail, there is new e-mail.The best approach to these kinds of notifications is in my opinion icons in the panel, possibly using the notification applet. Icons are unobstrusive and can be checked quickly.
  3. Finally there is a group of things that aren’t notifications at all, but more information that the user wants to process from time to time. There is no harm if you miss a notification. Examples are news feeds or when somebody else added an appointment to your calendar. In the latter case, you would notice this appointment either when you are checking your calendar, or when the appointment is due.

The classification of many kinds of notifications are highly user-specific though. A user should be able to configure them, even though the fact that he is configuring the “notification level” can often be hidden. For example, a mail programm could have folder with differing flags: an “urgent” folder would generate notifications of the first kind, while a mailing list folder would generate generate no notifications. Normal e-mail generates type 2 notifications.

Finally, I will discuss some specific application and how they relate to the categories above, in my opinion:

As described above, e-mail would normally generate notifications of type 2. A user can glance towards the notification area from time to time and if there is new mail, there will be a mail icon. This icon could even be varied to indicate which folder the mail is in, e.g. if it’s private or work related mail etc. Also, the may be urgent folder that generate notifications of type 1 or bulk mail folders that wouldn’t generate any notifications.
music player
In my opinion a music player should generate no notifications. It is quite obvious when a new track starts, because – well – the music changes. If you really want to know what the current song is, you can hover your pointer over the music player’s applet icon and it should show a popup with the current song title, artist, etc.
instant messaging
When someone is trying to contact you, a type 1 notification should be generated. You can choose whether to accept the talk request, or to reject it. (Though the latter does not necessarily mean that the other person needs to learns that you actively rejected their talk request.) If you just ignore the talk request, it would go away after 5 minutes and replaced by a type 2 notifcation that shows an icon in the notification bar. This indicated that there is an IM message waiting for you.

Joins and leaves are normally a type 3 notification, i.e. not something that usually appears on the screen. Of course a user should be able to flag some buddies specially, so that they would generate a type 2 notification if they join. This is useful if you are waiting for someone.

phone ringing
This works quite similar to the IM case. As long as someone is calling, there is type 1 notification that allows to to pick up the phone or to ignore the call. When the caller gives up, the type 1 notification is replaced by a type 2 notification. “XYZ tried to call you. They left the following message on the voice box: …”
news aggregators
New aggregators should usually generate type 3 notifications. Normally new news items are not immediatly interesting and people will just want to check the news from time to time. Of course it is possible that there are more important news that could get a type 2 or even a type 1 notification.
weather applet
This should usually not generate any notifications. It’s just something a user glances up to when they want to know the current temperature and conditions. There is an exception though: If there is a weather warning, the weather applet should show a type 1 notification that will go away when it’s either dismissed or the weather conditions changed again.
battery charge
This should generate a type 1 notification if the battery is running low. The notification will go away when it’s either dismissed or power is restored.
network stuff
Network switching This is also something that should happen automatically. Why bother the user with something that is mostly irrelevant? The same is true for connect/disconnect messages. As someone pointed out, just show an error when someone tries to initiate an action that requires a network connection and none is available.
new devices
No notification needed. Devices that were plugged in should just do the right thing: USB sticks should appear on the desktop, cameras should open an image storage program etc. pp.
Appointments should generate a type 1 notification. They need active dismissal and only go away automatically when the appointment is over. The latter case could also generate a “missed appointment” type 2 notification.
Magic the Gathering

PT London, Terrorism, and Miscellaneous Other Stuff

As you will have heard, there was a series of bombing in London today. Of course, tomorrow Pro Tour London is supposed to start, so many Magic people are gathered in London at the moment. I haven’t heard about any harmed Magic players or judges so far, so let’s hope for the best.

Wizards plans to run the Pro Tour as planned. Personally I welcome this. We should try to continue living our lives as normal as possible and cancelling such an event sends the wrong signal. Also, many people have taken holidays or spent money travelling to London and they should not be disappointed. Life goes on.

On a more happy note, I’ve been invited to judge German Nationals this year. I’m really looking forward to judge a big event again and to meet nice people. Finally, I will travel to a PTQ in Hamburg the weekend after next. I will go with friends, and since Philip Schulz was still looking for judge, I applied. If I’m not accepted as judge, I will play in the event, which should be fun as well.