Cuddihy's Cut

Cuddihy's Cut on the events of the day....


Monday, April 17, 2006

Trying out Space Shot

Okay, Lent's officially over, which means I get to post and surf the Internet whenever I choose.

I've been wanting to post on this topic, because it really is Space for everyone: Space-Shot.com. The overall idea by Sam Dinkin is great--the best part being that it's legally accessible from all states.

So far I've tried three plays. I won once and lost twice. Here's my overall impression:

1. Domain names matter. Twice early on I tried to get to the website by typing "www.spaceshot.com". Suprisingly, that takes you not to the official Space Shot website, but to a (perhaps different?) company with the message "space shot..this page under construction," with no pointers or links to the actual Space Shot website. I'm suprised that domain name wasn't also bought by Sam in an effort to ensure that everyone who tries to get to the correct website actually gets there. It'd be like Amazon.com not having the rights to 'amazon.com,' so they have to use 'amazon.net' instead.

2. 'Playing' it is actually not much fun. Especially when you can't try again till tomorrow. Sam Dinkin wanted to create a game where the chances of winning are the same for everyone, so that certain 'skill' players wouldn't dominate the competition and discourage beginners from trying. (See last week's article in The Space Review.) Great, that's part of the reason I was interested in trying it out. So I got the deal of 6 plays for $18 and sat down to try it out.

The first play, I picked a bunch of numbers pretty much close to the forecasted numbers. Within a few hours, I was matched up against 'Veomega.' We both picked numbers close to the forecasted highs,lows, humidities, and precipitation. I was 1/2 a degree lower than forecasted, he was 1/2 a degree higher.

Here's a confusing bit: When you pick your plays, and finalize predictions, the site says "Finalizing predictions ...", but then never lets you know that it's done. It looks like it locked up on 'Finalizing...', although if you go back to the front page, it shows the picks as actually finalized.

Then we waited...and waited.. In effect, it was a 3 day play. We picked our plays on the 8th, sat through the 9th while the weather data was collected, and couldn't actually check it out till the 10th. I certainly wasn't going to try again until I knew how the first one went.
As for the results..frustrating. Both of us were way off, the actual temperature was nearly 20 degrees higher than forecasted. Nevertheless, since I was lower than 'Veomega', he advanced and I lost.

The next time I tried it I tried a double combo 'higher' and 'lower'. I picked numbers as close to the forecasted as possible, with one higher, and the other lower, than the forecasted values. Unsuprisingly, I lost one and won the other.

So I did three plays in a week, one advancing and two losing. And to be honest, I have no real interest in continuing. Oh, I will play out my remaining hands. But I won't be paying any more money unless some changes are made.

In fact, here's the big problem--it is actually a game of chance when you get down to it, which would argue for a fast, casino style of play. But each play takes DAYS. There's no hurrying it. So, any excitement from a win is gone by the time the next play comes. There's no hope of getting a win to salvage your pride following a disappointing loss until the next play is over--that's two days from now!

3. No Standings: This is a big mistake in my book. Part of the reason I have no interest in continuing is because I have no idea where my two losses and one wins place me. How many people are at level two? how far would I have to go before I have trouble getting a match? How close are we all total to getting someone to orbit? How many would I have to win to get my name in the neon lights? Status is an important motivator. This is stuff that should be on the front page.
There's a reason most bloggers check their TTLB ecosystem standings every day. People want to know just where they stand.

4. Top frustration with single hand gameplay: In order to reduce ties, the highs and low temperatures are forced into a 'x.25 degrees', 'x.75 degrees'. But you can play out number of inches of rainfall to the hundreth of an inch. Remember, the order of competition is highest temp-->lowest temp-->rainfall-->humidity. So you have less granularity in your initial pick to tie than you do in your tiebreaker. What kind of crap is that?

As it currently is, it feels like the pace of playing the stock market, but you lose your investment entirely if you don't gain, instead of just losing a percentage of it. So here are my top three suggested improvements for Space Shot:

1. get standings on the front page, as a minimum with the levels and names of top players, along with the numbers of players at each level.

2. get the domain name for www.spaceshot.com and point it to the homepage, so everybody gets there on their first try.

3. fix the 'finalizing predictions' to update when it's done so that first-time users don't think it locked up.


Here's a suggestion for the long term, if this is intended to continue beyond the initial interest phase: allow some type of game to be played that allows instant matching and feedback. This is not a simple fix, and would radically change the way space shot is structured. But as it is now, there's no real fun to playing Space Shot. The only 'fun' comes from knowing you're closer to winning that prize to space. But that's not real fun. I get closer to buying my own trip to space for every dollar I earn too. Which means Space Shot is more like work than fun--the difference being it costs you money.

For example, one way that might be fun is a 'skill' game involving an element of luck--like an online version of 'Lemonade Stand','Monopoly,' or 'Risk'. The chance could be reduced below the threshold at which it becomes a game of chance, with the advantage that feedback would be instantaneous. Losing that way is actually kind of fun.

Anyway, I think there's ways to do this better that would be more fun. The lure of eventual spaceflight, however, is far too distant with Space Shot as it currently plays.

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