For this pro-file, I spoke with an up and coming Masters League player who’s done quite well so far, Sixsmith!
Real Name: Tim Townsend
Location: Birmingham, UK
Vocation: PhD in Pure Maths (Thesis in combinatorics)
Do you apply much math to Prismata?
Hmm, I don’t think you can really apply much particularly high level math to Prismata no, at least not while you’re playing. I think having a numerate background lends itself to understanding the game well.
Do you do much math analysis of the units and such when not playing?
Yeah, a fair amount, certainly when trying to analyse new units. I don’t claim to have anything as comprehensive as Aetherllama’s spreadsheet though! If you hear Silverspawn’s (very numerate) explanations of how he values units, I think my thought process is pretty similar to his.
What other games do you play?
I’ve never played anything else at a sufficiently high level to have people casting my games on twitch (or interviewing me!) but I’ve played all of Prismata’s progenitors (magic, dominon, starcraft, chess) relatively seriously at one point or other. I actually was introduced to Prismata by one of my RL friends who’s one of the top dominion players (qmech, for anyone in the know). I’ve also played a fair amount of Blood Bowl and Pokemon Showdown.
Do you still play any of those actively?
Nope, I find that I only really have time for one competitive game in my life at a time, and Prismata fills that spot now! I’m currently playing Darkest Dungeon though for my non-competitive game needs.
How long have you been playing Prismata?
Since late March I think. I’m a newbie compared to most of my peers in the ML!
Is the ML the first Prismata tournament you’ve been in?
How are you doing in the ML so far?
Better than I thought I would! I went 9-9 in the group stages.
Have you been surprised by some of the games in the masters league?
Yeah definitely. I was lucky enough to get to play dbelange in my group, who’s probably one of the most innovative players in terms to trying crazy Elyot-esque lines that no one else would even consider. Trying to figure out how to react in those games is very fun. On the flip side, while lots of people really like Base+11 games, and think they promote more skill and variety, I think the opposite. The Base+11 portion of the group stages I found much less fun to play, since it felt like the majority of the games were all the same; big blue econ games. As others have pointed out before, this happens because the speed of a set is so often dictated by the size of the largest defender, and there’s more chance that a big defender will appear the more units are in the random set.
Besides Dbelange, who’s been your most interesting opponent?
dirtymagic and marmiteicecream have both been great opponents too, I couldn’t pick between them!
Have you done any co-casting for the ML?
I haven’t, though I’d like to at some point. The problem is that I’m generally not around at the relevant times. On Wednesdays I’m usually asleep by the time the ML starts (or wrapping up the weekly board games club I organize), and on Saturdays I’m usually either out with friends or spending time with my fiance. This is also why so many of my games weren’t played live. I think it’s great though that people can be in the ML while still having tricky schedules; thanks to Celerity for organizing everything!
Do you watch the twitch Vod’s of the cast to see how others played?
Yeah that’s always my Thursday morning breakfast activity 🙂 Also to see who was trash talking me in the replays of my games 😛 But seriously, it’s really useful to hear other player’s views on the mistakes I make in my games. It’s often things I don’t pick up myself, so I learn a lot from watching the vods of my own games. The next set of replays from me has a pretty spectacular mistake in, probably my best yet. You’ll know it when you see it!
What do you think of the 3 newer units from breach party?
I really like them; I’ve always liked breachproof as a strategy more than most I think, and try to go for it more often than most (with mixed results!)
Are you going breachproof more often now?
Yeah, a little. Going breachproof is largely about having access to breachproof drones, so adding dynamo pretty much doubles the amount of times you can do it.
Overall is breachproof pretty effective or do you just like to do it anyways?
I think it can be very effective when there aren’t any defenders in the random set that are better than walls, and there’s at least one or two breachproof attackers you can build other than gauss cannon. Since once damage is high enough, certainly once it gets to double figures, buying walls is just less efficient per health than buying cannons.
Do you have any favorite units?
A couple. I really like Mahar Rectifier. Also Asteri Cannon, Thermite Core, Doomed Drone. Doomed Drone because it balances openings, Thermite core because denying absorb is probably the most satisfying thing ever, and the other two because they look cool!
Do you have a preferred tech?
I like all the techs, but if I had to pick a favorite, it’d be green. Lends itself more to mid-range and breachproof than the others, which as we discussed, I like!
Are you more of a low or high econ player?
I feel like I’m pretty bad at both! So maybe I’m a mid-range player. I suck at high econ; perhaps I’m a little better at very low econ games, but still not great. I think part of the reason I’m so bad at high econ is that there’s more stuff to deal with every turn. More calculations, especially when freeze or Apollo or something is involved. And since I feel like I’m one of the slower players, I run out of thinking time in those games.
Being a slower player do you only play with higher timers like 60+ then?
I play 45 seconds or more on ladder, which means that most of my games are 45 second games. I can generally handle that, though I use most of my time on most turns. The only 30s game or faster that I’ve ever played was the 30s game that was sprung on me for a tiebreaker in the Masters League. Needless to say, it didn’t go well!
Is it just that you like to analyze a lot of possibilities and think multiple turns ahead?
A little, though I don’t tend to spend my time doing lots of calculations or using analyse mode, more just thinking about the interactions between the units in the random set on an intuitive level, and how to counter what my opponent is doing.
Do you play pretty reactive or have your builds/lines in mind early on?
I’ll always spend the first couple of turns trying to formulate a vague game plan; but you quite often end up having to react to something the opponent does that you weren’t expecting, and the game can take a totally different path to what you were initially planning.
How do you feel about mirror games in general?
I don’t mind them too much. Asymmetric games are generally more fun, especially to watch, but mirror matches really make you take care with the smaller decisions. In mirrors, you can’t win on the back of superior strategy, since you both have the same strategy! So you have to win on the back of superior tactics; better play with the dozens of micro-decisions every turn. It’s nice to have a variety between games where strategy matters most, and games where tactics matters most. It’s why I still queue for Base+5 in ladder in addition to Base+8.
Do you find tactical or strategy to be a much more numbers heavy game?
Tactical games are always more numbers heavy. Especially in the case of very tight low econ games. Those are the only games I ever think about planning more than 1 turn ahead.
How far ahead can you realistically think ahead in a game like this?
I think not much, certainly outside of the opening, since you have to react to what your opponent does, and they could do so many things.
Do you use the replay or analyzer tools much?
Yeah, quite a lot. Not usually during games, since I’m far to slow to accumulate enough of a time bank to do so, but after most games I try to stop and think about why I won or lost, and sometimes that involves me using the analyse tool. In general I try to distill every game I play into one sentence that describes what I’ve learned from that game. It’s my way of trying to constantly improve.
Do you do that with ladder games too, or just the ML matches?
Yeah every game, ladder matches too.
Do you go over replays of other players games to learn anything?
Quite often I’ll watch the Live games if I’m not in the mood to play myself, which I guess is a pretty similar thing. Any replays that people post on reddit and want advice on I tend to look at too. But on the whole I still make enough mistakes that I’ve got plenty to learn from my own games!
Are there any other players you practice with?
No not really, I’m not in a team or anything. For the same reason I just said above; I’m still learning so much from my own mistakes that I don’t feel like I’ve plateaued and need outside help to tell me what my mistakes are! Hopefully that’ll change in the future though.
A good majority of the ML players are on teams, are you interested in joining one?
At some point sure!
Interested in one of the existing ones or perhaps some other players you’d like to team up with?
Not really something I’ve given much thought to as of yet.
Learning the game
How did you go about learning the game when you first started?
I played the all the tutorial missions (except for impending doom… props to anyone who’s solved that!) and then played the bot a lot. I’d play a few games against each bot until I could consistently beat it, before moving up to the next bot rank. After maybe 40 games or so I started playing ladder.
Do you ever use the bot anymore or just ladder?
Not any more no, just ladder.
Did you use any other resources like youtube videos, streams, articles, wiki, etc?
Oh yeah, actually, I forgot – when I first started playing, before I even played the bots, I read through every article on the gamepedia wiki! I remember regularly consulting it regarding various rush lines and counters too, later. Argeiphontie’s youtube videos were also pretty cool, I watched all of those.
Do you think those are still pretty relevant and useful or are they getting outdated? For example Argeiphontie’s first analysis video is a Savior game.
Lots of the videos are outdated, since a lot of the units they deal with have been changed or removed. The wiki is quite often a little out of date too, but it’s still a pretty good resource most of the time.
What do you think of the Reddit community for the game?
I think it’s great, I read everything posted there. I see reddit as the main interface with the community. And the devs are really active there too, which is always great.
One of the things that’s hardest in the beginning I think is learning how to read the random sets properly on T1. Any tips on how you look at the set?
Nothing beyond the obvious really. You want to look for how fast the game will be, by looking for what defenders are there, and what rushy attack units are there. You want to look for what the most efficient attackers there are, and try to go for those if you can. That should help you plan your opening and your tech. Other than that, look for specific unit interactions – does one unit counter another, or work really well with it, etc. In the end I think experience is probably the best way to improve your reading of the set
Any other advice for new players?
Well I can point to the resources that I used to learn the game myself, but at the end of the day everyone learns in different ways. The main thing I would say is to try to not be disheartened when you lose loads of games when you first start playing. Everyone went through that stage, you need to see every defeat as a learning experience rather than a loss of ELO. Your actual skill at the game probably increases more from defeats from victories, since you tend to learn more; so be grateful for the defeats!
Do you think the current ELO/Leader board system is doing a pretty good job of measuring skill?
I think it’s alright as a rough estimate. Ladder performance and ML performance seems to have a pretty loose correlation though, for whatever that’s worth. I guess some people play much more seriously in ML than ladder, or experiement with crazier things on ladder, while others take all their games seriously. Ladder probably awards consistency more than tournaments. High variance players will do worse on ladder compared to other players with the same ‘mean skill’.
Do you ever use a smurf account to experiment without affecting your ladder rank?
I’ve thought about it, but no; there’s something about it that irks me. I’m not really high enough on ladder to have a rank worth protecting anyway – I’d rather try to increase it than sit on where it is now. And as devs have said, leader board won’t ultimately be their main way of measuring skill anyway.
Prismata in General
What do you think about the future of Prismata in general?
I’m hopeful! The devs obviously know what they’re doing, and the business model is very fair. If LoL can manage a successful f2p model with no pay2win, why can’t Lunarch? 🙂
Do you plan on spending money on the cosmetic content?
Probably. I tend to care less about aesthetics and cosmetics than most people, but I might spend a little every month or so as a sort of donation; a ‘thanks’ to the devs for making such a great game! And if it gives me a cool skin, all the better! That’s pretty much what I did with LoL when I played that for a time. Cosmetic stuff that you have to unlock by actually achieving something in the game I’m much more excited about. Since that actually shows off your skill rather than your ability to grind/ pay money. I always liked that sort of ‘title’ thing from MMOs for example.
What do you think of the art style and theme of the game?
I really love it. Its so clean and crisp, it’s one of my favorite aesthetics I’ve ever seen in a game. People sometimes say the art style is awful and basic, and that it’ll put off potential new players watching streams. Maybe that’s true, but I just don’t see it, I think it’s gorgeous in it’s clean simplicity. If they ever change the art style to something more like Hearthstone, that’s when you’ll see me drop a bunch of money to buy all the ‘classic’ skins to get the current look back! I realize that I said earlier that I don’t tend to care much about cosmetic and aesthetics. Maybe my last two answers have revealed that actually that’s an enormous lie!
Do you think they are going the right direction with the humor and theme in the skins?
I think they need a mix of tones for the skins to appeal to all tastes. Some people like comedy ones, others will like ones that they think look really cool and badass, others want their units to look adorable and cute! I think the devs are doing a good job with covering all those bases.
Do you plan to play pretty competitively (both ladder and tournaments) for the foreseeable future?
I hope to. I start a new job in September, and I don’t know how much that’ll eat up my time, but I hope I can still find enough time to play competitively. I actually find tournaments super stressful (like, I’d sometimes feel physically nauseous before my games, which is silly, I know), so I probably don’t want to be playing loads of tournaments all the time, but definitely some.
Do you think a game like this works for casual play or is it too competitive?
I think once Casual mode is added, as well as Arena rewards, it’ll work for casual play. But right now there’s basically no incentive to playing in any way other than competitively.
What are you most looking forward to being added to the game?
More units! I’m always interested in new units. Also the integrated tournament system they’re planning. Mostly though I’m looking forward to more players being added to the game, and the community growing – the game deserves to do well and have a big community.
Are there any changes to units you think the game needs right now?
Not off the top of my head. I tend to think there’s less imbalance in the game than a lot of people do. Lots of sets look imbalanced when you only consider the standard sort of lines that you can play in your sleep, but I think its good that the game encourages you to be innovative to try to counter perceived imbalances in sets. That said, I think there certainly are units that in practice lead to some imbalanced games. Centrifuge in some sets is a big culprit I think, as well as a few others.
Have there been any ML games you feel like you lost due to P1/P2 advantage?
No none. In every game I lost, I (and the casters!) can point to at least one (and probably loads) of mistakes I made. I think people are sometimes too quick to point to player advantage to protect their ego; it happens, but I think it happens less than people would like to think.
Do you like being P2 for the natural conduit opening?
I don’t have much preference. In some games player 2 has a more natural line, and in some games player 1 does. And sometimes its no fun to play the natural line anyway!
Any Final Thoughts?
Thanks for doing a great job with this interview series; thanks to Celerity for doing a such a good job with organizing the ML, and thanks to the devs for all their hard work!