For the sixth pro-file, I spoke with a really long time player, Timex. He’s been playing since the early days and had a lot of good stuff to say!
Real Name: Mike McDonald
Location: Waterloo, Ontario
How do you know the Prismata developers?
Will has been one of my best friends since highschool, Shalev was 2 years younger but I met him at highschool as well and he played on the chess team with Will and I, Elyot I had heard about ever since I was like 12 due to him doing so well in math competitions but I first met him playing for a rival highschool’s chess team… David I met at a few math camp’s that most of us went to and Alex was in the same dorm as me in University.
Do you guys all still hang out in person?
Ya. Will always has and always will be one of my best friends, I also see Alex/Elyot somewhat often for getting lunch, seeing them at parties etc and Shalev/David I don’t see as much these days but still occasionally at the Lunarch office etc.
Do you give them a lot of feedback on Prismata pretty regularly?
Somewhat… I sometimes recommend balance changes etc but in general I’m quite happy with what they’re doing and know they know better than me, so not a ton of feedback.
Elyot says at parties all he talks about is Prismata, is that true?
If its not true its damn close to it! Prismata is definitely a big part of each of their lives, but especially the case for Elyot.
You’ve talked about it quite a bit in interviews and such, being a big advocate for the game. Do you still feel that way?
Ya. I took a few months off since its just so so addictive. I was very busy with poker and having a girlfriend, but when the poker season slowed down during the summer and my gf and I broke up I got back on the Prismata grind.
How long ago was that?
Back in may. Still getting readjusted to Prismata.
Have there been a lot of changes since you had left?
New units, balance changes, tough opponents, arena, better UI, skins etc.
You must have gotten reacquainted pretty quick to already be in the masters.
I think I ran above expectation in that tournament… I think right now I’m one of the top 16 players but when that qualifier ran I don’t think I was
Are you enjoying the format?
Ya I think overall its quite cool… I don’t quite know how playoffs work but it seems to me that unless I am misinterpreting the playoff matches after winning your group are too important.
From my perspective it sounds like if you win your group, then win a playoff, you are guaranteed top 4, but then if you lose than match you need to win 3 consecutive matches to get back in the top 4… that seems to me like it is too beneficial for 1st/2nd and too little benefit for 3rd/4th. Otherwise I think its very cool and fair and gives the better players a fairly large edge (although that said I’m something like 8-4 and probably about avg in my group- maybe worse than avg).
Any suggestions on changes to fix the playoffs?
I would say something like letting those top 2 go where they are, and have 3rd/4th get perhaps one bye (the rule sheet may be a bit ambiguous… its possible they already do get byes and I’m ranting about nothing)… it seems just kinda weird that winning 1 match would put you 3 matches ahead of someone else who had the best record in their group.
Even if it’s nothing, its probably good that it be more understandable to someone as knowledgeable about tournaments like yourself.
Yeah, but otherwise I like the format a lot- its fun taking tournament games so seriously, and I wish I could bring the same intensity to ladder matches but instead I’ll have fb open, miscount things by $1, forget units like blood pact are in play and go breach proof etc etc
You had said in your AMA that you expect Prismata players to make money playing in the future, and that if the money was there you’d drop poker in a heartbeat. Do you still think that’s likely?
I’m kinda clueless about the profitability of Prismata… I think I made that comment sort of as a joke, but I think as more retention features get added we’ll get a much better idea of the actual market size of Prismata.
Are you back to playing “40 hours a week” ?
This week no… last week probably like 70 :S
Catching up still?
I have a very addictive personality, and when I played very little poker in June I had lots of free time. I just love playing Prismata.
You’ve said you’re a bit of an introvert. Do you prefer playing over the internet like this versus face to face like poker?
That depends, both have pros/cons and I can’t really say which I prefer, ie after not playing live in 2 months I loved playing live this week. If I play every day for a month I’ll want to go back to online.
Do you ever find yourself having to smurf to preserve your ladder ranking while learning or goofing around?
Ya. I kinda like having 2 accounts and camp with one, play on the lower rated one. Sorta pointless, but I like the challenge/variety.
Do you think the game should just build smurfing in and have multiple profile choices, or that an unranked mode will handle that ok?
I think that long term the game just won’t reward smurfing. Right now you don’t accumulate skins, etc. Eventually I’m sure we’ll all just want to play more to accumulate things and that a lower emphasis will be placed on the leaderboard, and more emphasis on tournaments.
Do you think it could still benefit from an unranked mode for when you want to play more stress free?
Ya, that could be a good idea long term. Short term I think they just want to split the player pool as little as possible.
Who’s your favorite opponent right now?
That really depends. I rarely play aetherllama/dbelange, so of players I regularly play I feel I learn the most losing to arkanishu. I also really enjoy playing Elyot since he plays much more creatively than most and 50% of the time I learn a new strategy to implement and 50% I get experience on how to counter a tricky line.
Who’s been the biggest challenge for you in the masters so far?
Arkanishu so far. I’ve managed to go 3-3-1 against him which I think is much better than I deserve.
Your humble attitude is great.
Meh I think I’m pretty objective in general- like on a different topic I could come across very arrogant since if I think I’m the best at something I have no issues saying I think I’m the best. Maybe in 1-2 months I will feel that way about Prismata.
Who in your opinion is the best right now?
It’s tough to know where dbelange ranks, so I’ll ignore him and say Aetharllama is best.
Do you ever challenge people to games or just play ladder?
Mostly ladder. Sometimes I’ll get a swingy set and ask my opponent if they want to take turns with that set and try figuring things out. I think that’s an ok way to improve since such a large % of games can be similar to each other. For example any set where you get a turn 2 animus you can test many lines and narrow in on the right strategy much quicker than say a big econ game where you may not be dealing actual damage until turn 8.
Prismata in General
Do you plan to spend much money on the cosmetic stuff or just grind?
I’ll see. Its possible I spend $0 or a lot. I imagine for minor things I’ll want to grind, but its possible if there are some sweet ultra-rare things I may just want to buy them.
Do you think the business model will work out long term?
I think Lunarch has done a ton of research and they feel quite confident so I feel quite confident, but we’ll see.
What are you most excited about in the future of the game?
I think just an increasingly competitive player pool at the higher end. I care less about huge volume or cool cosmetics than most, but love the mental battle that goes on in Prismata and find it exciting that there are so many people getting good at the game.
What do you think about chill post-nerf?
It seems better. I like that frostbite is still good, but not just an auto-buy so often. I would like some variant of brooder to come back, but obviously much weaker than before.
Do you use the embargo system?
Nah, never, but I probably should. I think I enjoy the variety of the game more than anything but I probably should still embargo some units like thorium dynamo that almost remove variety due to their strength.
Did you see the blog post today about the nerf to dynamo?
No I didn’t, that’s sick though.
Do you think overall Lunarch are doing a pretty good job of listening to feedback from the players?
I think so ya. I do think they won’t blindly change things because they are unpopular, but they are very active in listening to the community and dealing with legitimate concerns.
Are there any units besides dynamo you think need a nerf?
Possibly doomed drone, but I think the old doom drone was to weak, and the goal is for base set units to be less efficient than other units. Maybe omega but I’m not sure about that. I believe in Prismata the strongest units should be the most difficult to use effectively. It sucks that just buying 3rd engineers, lots of drones and omegas is a fine strategy in many sets.
Are you, dbelange and the devs ever going to form team waterloo?
I know will mentioned it as an offhand comment. Is masn on a team? I think he’s a highschooler from waterloo too. I kinda feel like the teams should really be trying to do cutting edge things and being the best, and I don’t think its reasonable for will/elyot to have that goal in mind. If db and I and a few others did, it seems to make much more “sense” since any hour the devs spend playing the game is an hour taken from building the game. So I think its best they don’t prioritize beating the existing teams too highly.
What skills from poker do you think overlap with Prismata?
I think all games have transferable skills, but I actually think poker and Prismata have less overlap than most. I think one of the Prismata skills that helps in poker is just being very objective/logical/math based, but like its so obvious that those are the key to Prismata but less obvious in poker. In Poker there is so much luck that its hard to say “poker made me logical which helps in Prismata” since its so ridiculously obvious Prismata is a game where logic helps you.
Do you do a lot of odds calculation stuff in Poker?
Yes/no… like I’ve done so many millions of calculations over the years that its kinda second nature, but in my first few years would just sit there with a calculator estimating things.
Does that math skill help out in Prismata?
I always tell people that in poker you just need to be really quick at simple math, you don’t need high level math. Prismata even more so the case, where you just need to add/count really quick.
Do you plan a few turns ahead then, especially from an economy standpoint?
Turn 1 yes, more than that and not really. I often just kinda do what feels right economically and then “hope” when my centrifuge pops I can afford lucina and odin or whatever it happens to be.
Is that “feel” something you’ve built up through hours of play?
I’d say I’m still currently building it, its a long way from “built”. I think even though I’m ok at Prismata I make many many awful mistakes.
When you catch a mistake do you review it via replay or anything like that or just make a mental note and move on?
Often just mental notes which I forget far too often. I think the better players do more replay analysis, etc.
What do you think your strengths are at the game?
I honestly don’t know. Maybe I’m too hard on myself, but I kinda feel like I don’t have any. I feel like I’m bad at rushes, bad at chill, bad at big econ, etc, etc.
Do you have a favorite style that you either kind of lean on?
I definitely just default to tarsiers far too often, so I guess I lean on that quite a bit. I often tell myself to look at a set and try coming up with the best strategy that doesn’t involve tarsiers to try preventing that too much.
Does being p1 or p2 factor into that?
I think I care way less about player advantage than almost anyone. I often “forget” that the position is asymmetrical and just play rather than worry much about that.
Do you think that could be an advantage in playing better, like learning to be ambidexterous?
I think it may be an advantage as far as sanity goes. Like even though Prismata has nearly no luck, most things that are literally the better person wins 100% of the time suck. We could play “whose taller” every day, and the better person will always win, but that will get boring very quickly.
Do you think there are some slight changes that could be made to make the game more casual friendly in that sense while not compromising the tournament quality?
I think “unlucking” units may be a good way to go about it. Units like iceblade or brooder are so much more complicated than shadowfang that it seems like letting noobs play more shadowfang games and less brooder games is good.
So does that mean you think that there should definitely be an algorithm to the unit set selection as well as take ELO into account with it?
Likely ya. Maybe “games played” as well as elo, ie if a professional MTG player is 1300 elo after 50 games, they may still be more confused than my gramma being 1300 elo after 1000 games.
Should it also take specific unit combos and synergies into account, especially the ones labeled “autowin” or “broken”?
Ya they definitely want to prevent autowin sets.
Do you think there are some like 99% autowin sets right now?
“Yes”, but that it is a very small % of sets.
Is it a big deal to you when they come up?
0. Poker makes you so emotionally tough when dealing with things outside your control that in the grand scheme of things an auto-win set every few days just doesn’t affect my mood at all.
In a game like Prismata where that’s pretty much the only RNG, do you blame yourself pretty harshly when you lose then?
I blame myself, but I only blame myself harshly if I know why I lost and feel I should prevent it. I’m nowhere near the point at prismata where I should win 100% of games and as a result just try guessing at a good strategy. If it doesn’t work try to figure out why and do better next time.
Are you usually able to figure out where you went wrong?
No. Otherwise I’d be a lot better lol.
When you were first learning the game, did you do it primarily on your own or did you get any help from Lunarch?
Ya they had no single player or AI when I started playing so I had to help learn “MCDS” from the devs (Lunarch didn’t exist yet lol).
That’s what it was called until like 1.5 years ago. Stood for “Magic Chess Dominion StarCraft”.
So when did you first start playing?
I first played quite a while ago… I think like 3.5 years or something, maybe only 2.5. Played a bunch for a month or two, but obviously player pool was so tiny we had to like arrange games. So didn’t play a lot until like a year ago.
Are there any other players besides yourself and the devs that are still playing from that long ago?
I know Adamyedidia has played for a while, as has dbelange. Dmac has played a while, that’s about all I can think of right now.
What other games have you gotten addicted to besides Poker and Prismata?
Chess, WC3, Dominion.
Still play any of those?
More or less no- chess/wc3 I kinda gave up when I found poker since its as fun and you can make money. Online dominion felt like Prismata for me, just incredibly addictive and would just play for hours on end. Once I got into Prismata I quit dominion, since Prismata just seems much better.
What makes Prismata so much better?
There is just so much variety to sets and dominion can feel like solitaire… you both choose a strategy and race to implement it better… in Prismata every choice your opponent makes can lead to you countering it the next turn. Its just so much more interactive.
Do you spend a lot of time focusing on counters to things?
Possibly not enough. I have an ok understanding, but think I quite regularly find a set where A counters B and then 50 games later buy B and get owned by A again.
Do you use the bot at all at this point?
Do you think it has value to new players still?
Absolutely ya. It takes so long to just learn the units and hopping into ladder can be so daunting.
What do you know now that you really really wish you had known when you first started?
I just learned this like a month ago but it was my biggest “aha” moment in a while:
In Prismata you effectively “defend before you attack”… I always thought I should attack aggressively since inflation is so high… but in reality on turn 10, you are doing your defense for turn 11, and to not get breached you actually defend and then attack… so in situations where it seems like you should be indifferent. For example, picking last defender between wall, doomed mech, arka 6 absorb + 2 attack>4 absorb + 4 attack >2 absorb + 6 attack when I previously had thought the opposite.
Anything else you think new players should understand?
In general you don’t want to get breached, but if breaching you does them more harm then good, let the breach occur. If someone wants to use 5 frostbites to kill 2 engineers and a drone, let them.
Any final thoughts?
Thanks for doing this series and introducing a bunch of the Prismata community. I think its so cool that despite Prismata being in its infancy there is such a serious hardcore community developing and things like this really help encourage that environment.