Seriously worried about your gambling? Try Gamblers Anonymous UK or Gamcare (this bit isn't a joke).
Avalaff 2004 released!
It's a bingo-style numbers game, not totally unlike the one played on a satellite TV channel, but less likely to leave you out of pocket (to be fair, it won't leave you in pocket either, as there are no prizes). You can 'ave up to 20 cards, and there are lots of patterns just like on the telly! You can just sit there doin' nothing while I draw the balls and mark your cards (just like the telly too!), or you can play along with the TV by clicking the numbers they read out - and it's all free!
Q. What does it cost to play?
A. Nothing (but you can't win anything either)! If you're using one of those mobile
thingies and you pay for your data, then be aware that downloading Avalaff will use 3 or 4 MB (less than a 5-minute mp3).
Q. What can I win?
A. Like I said, nothing! It's just a joke! Do you think I'm daft or something?
Q. Yes I do think you're daft - fancy spending all that time writing this program when you could have been doing something useful!
A. There is a bit more to it. The idea of Avalaff is to let people "'ave a go" at playing a computerised bingo game without spending loads on stake money or running up a large phone bill that they won't realise is coming until weeks or even months later. Plus, of course, it's fun to play! Anyway, 'oo are you calling daft?
Q. So what are those numbers at the top left of the screen with £ signs next to them? Are you trying to charge me or something?
A. No - those show what you would have spent since loading the page if you'd been connected to a phone line (which you don't do anyway these days - that was back in 2002) and buying cards at 25p per card. Don't worry though, because at Avalaff we're only joking - it's all free!
Q. How does the game work?
A. It's a bit like bingo. Numbers get drawn randomly, and you
have to match them against the ones on your cards - except that you don't,
because Avalaff does that for you. To win, you've got to match the yellow
squares on your card that form the current game's pattern - except that you
don't have to do that either, because Avalaff does that for you as well.
A. Simple - this is dumbed-down bingo, made so easy to play that you don't actually have to play it! In fact it requires so little skill or judgement (i.e. none) that if you were playing it for money then it could be argued that it was a lottery, not a game of skill (not that anyone seems to worry about that these days). Still, good job Avalaff's free, isn't it?
USING AVALAFF XP Heritage Edition
Q. When I load Avalaff HE it just carries on playing games and ignores me! What do I do?
A. Just like the telly, isn't it? To join in, you've got to press Red on your remote control (bottom-left of the screen). That lets you virtual-connect to Avalaff, although in Avalaff Heritage edition we do that for you.
Once you've virtual-connected (which you are automatically in Avall HE), you can press "Get Cards" to get yourself some cards for the next game (in Avalaff HE we do that automatically for you as well - easy, isn't it?). Now you're involved with Avalaff! Your main game controls are the arrow keys - hold the mouse over them to see what they do!
And don't worry, it won't cost you anything - the "virtual phone cost" is just a joke, and the virtual stake money you lose is a joke too, unlike the real thing! Mind you, you ain't going to win any prizes, either!
Q. I want my name and location to appear on the leaderboard when I'm winning, like they would on the telly. How do I do that? Regards, Elsie in Norwich.
A. Hi Elsie! Entering your name and location is simple - press Red (if you 'aven't already) then choose "Change My Details". You can type in your name and location there. Avalaff will remember them next time you visit, and as well as showing you on the leaderboard (if you get there), will also mention you during in-game banter, such as "Ooh! Elsie in Norwich - you need just 46!". It's all designed to make you feel as if you're really involved with us, but in fact we're just a computer! Amazing, isn't it?
Q. What's new in Avalaff XP 2003?
NEW IN-GAME LEADERBOARD
The leaderboard is selected automatically when each game starts, but you can view the good old ball chart (now with HOT BALLS - see below) at any time by clicking the "Ballchart" button in the new, smartened-up control pad (bottom right of screen).
HOT BALLS DISPLAY
Other players' cards are now a different
colour from yours (a tasteful dark blue, as it 'appens), to help you
recognise them. And cards have their owners' names above them, so you know
who you're up against!
BETTER PERFORMANCE WITH LARGE NUMBERS OF CARDS
Not any more! We've fundamentally re-engineered (i.e. fixed) the core Avalaff Checking Engine so that other things still work while it's checking the cards, and "Script running slowly" messages don't happen! So even if your PC's a clapped-out Pentium II with 64MB RAM, it'll get there in the end, and you'll still be able to switch between leaderboard and ball chart while it's doing it.
NOTE - with very large numbers of cards (4,500+) and even a half-decent PC, you may still get "Script running slowly" errors at the start of a game (while Avalaff is filling the cards with numbers). We can't be bothered to fix that, so just click the button to let the script continue running.
it does mean that, despite all the new features, the Avalaff XP page is only
3K more to download, and actually takes less of your computer's resources to
run. And we think we've fixed the vanishing free squares bug (probably). So there!
Q. What's all this odds stuff that appears in the panel next to the leaderboard??
A. There are two sets of odds in the display. The first are the fixed odds, which start appearing once you've reached the minimum number of balls needed for a win on the current pattern. These odds are calculated before the game starts, along with the prediction of when the game will end. The odds are different for each ball drawn, and get shorter as the game progresses.
The first figure ("1 card") is the odds against each card winning on the next ball. The second figure ("xxx cards") is the odds against any one of the cards in play winning on the next ball. So if the odds against a single card winning on the next ball are 30,000/1, and there are 3,000 cards in play (including yours), the odds against any one of the cards winning are 10/1.
These odds are fixed predictions, and take no account of the actual progress of the game. In fact there's no chance at all of the game ending on the next ball unless at least one card needs just one number, so while the fixed odds on a win next ball may be 10/1, the actual odds may be infinity/1 (i.e. it just ain't going to 'appen!).
That's where the "Actual" odds come in. When there's at least one Hot Ball (a number which, if drawn, will produce a winner), Avalaff calculates the odds against a hot ball number being drawn next.
Unlike the fixed odds calculation (which is 'ard, we can tell you!), the actual odds calculation is simple. Say the next ball is draw number 26, and there are 10 hot balls. That means there are 50 possible numbers left to draw, of which 10 would produce a winner, and 40 wouldn't. So the odds against a win are 4/1 - easy, eh?
Q. But if the fixed odds don't take the progress of the game into account, why bother with them?
A. To demonstrate the amazing power of mathematics, and show how bingo operators calculate the odds they offer. Watch a few games, and you'll see that the predictions of which ball the game will end on are surprisingly accurate - they seldom get it exactly right, and they're sometimes 10 balls or more wrong, but over a large number of games they're within a few percent on average (TIP - Avalaff XP Stats Edition lets you run large numbers of games to see how accurate the predictions really are).
That's how bookies and bingo operators make their money - by predicting the average results over long periods, and giving themselves a margin on the payout. Of course at Avalaff we're only joking and don't have a payout (or stake money), so we needn't have bothered. But we care, so we did.
Q. Care? More likely you just want to show off your maths skills! But go on then, how do you calculate the fixed odds?
A. Actually we haven't got much of a clue, as we're not very good at maths! The calculation is based on the Urn formula (basically more factorials than you can shake a stick at), which we got from www.mathpuzzle.com. However it also includes a Pattern Weighting Algorithm which we made up all ourselves, to compensate for the fact that patterns with unequal numbers of squares in each column take longer to win.
Q. My PC's rubbish. Can I still run Avalaff XP on it?
A. Depends what you mean by rubbish. We developed Avalaff XP on an 850 Mhz Pentium III with 128 MB RAM running Windows ME, which is fairly rubbish by today's standards, but it works OK for us. Anything faster and you should be fine. Anything slower and you may be struggling (TIP - try setting your maximum number of Other cards quite low. You can do this by pressing Red then choosing "Change my details").
Note - even though we've fundamentally re-engineered (i.e. fixed) the core Avalaff Checking Engine, you may still get "Script running slowly" errors if you run Avalaff XP with a large number of cards (4,000 or more) and another application in the foreground. If so, why are you running another application in the foreground? Close it straight away and concentrate on your cards!
Q. My screen resolution is 640 X 480. Can you help?
A. No. We don't support PCs that are that rubbish. Up it to 800 X 600 and get some new glasses.
Q. Why don't you support Netscape Navigator?
A. Because it's a terrible browser that should have been taken out and shot as an act of mercy (mainly to any poor developer trying to get something to work in it). To be precise, the versions from 4 to 6 were terrible compared to Internet Explorer, and although Navigator 7's a lot better, it's also too late. Sorry, guys!
Q. Why don't you support Opera?
A. Because Opera isn't half as compatible with Internet Explorer as it makes itself out to be. For a start it doesn't support light filters, and they're used extensively in Avalaff XP (that's how we get the ball to change colour). There are lots of smaller incompatibilities too. Which makes it all the more annoying that Opera lies about itself and puts "MSIE" in its agent string by default!
Q. What's this "High Performance Checking Engine" in Avalaff XP 2004? I want a nerdy answer.
A. At your service! Avalaff XP's new High Performance Checking Engine (HPCE) is optimised in two ways.
First, it recognises "dead balls", i.e. numbers which belong in a column for
which the current pattern has no target squares (e.g. any of the first three
columns in Excess Postage). When a dead ball is drawn, it doesn't bother
checking the cards at all. This doesn't affect the majority of patterns,
which have squares in all five columns. However there are quite a few
patterns which have empty columns.
For example, Everything Goes includes a single column layout which occurs in five positions. However for each ball, four of those positions are redundant. That's a saving of four checks, multiplied by up to 5,000 cards. No wonder it's quicker!
Q. I said I wanted a nerdy answer. You can do better than that.
A. OK. To facilitate HPCE's dead ball and selective positional checking (SPC) features, the pattern validation method (called by the pattern object constructor) builds a base position column map array (BCPMA) for each layout within the pattern (note that a static pattern is simply a pattern with a single layout in a single position). A BCPMA has five elements, which contain true or false depending on whether the layout at its first ('base') position contains at least one square in the corresponding column.
When a ball is drawn, the ball processor first checks to see if the pattern is static (i.e. its .isStatic property is true). If so, it checks whether the ball's column is true in the pattern's single BCPMA. If it's not, then it's a dead ball and no checking or leaderboard update is performed.
For moving/multi-layout patterns a more complex process is required. The processor checks each layout at each of its positions, calculating positional offsets from the BCPMA. For each layout, it builds a live positions array, containing the numbers of the positions (if any) which include the ball's column. If none of the pattern's layout/position combinations generate an array element, then it's a dead ball (as with, for example, the middle column in the In A Corner pattern).
For live balls, the pattern checking method works its way through the live position arrays, thus checking only those positions which have been verified as including the ball's column. Static patterns have a dummy live positions array (pointing at layout zero, first position) created by the pattern validation method.
Q. That's better. What development methodology did you use when designing the HPCE?
A. We just kept fiddling with it until it worked.
THE REST OF THIS STUFF IS FOR ORIGINAL EDITIONS OF AVALAFF, WHICH YOU CAN ONLY RUN
IF YOU'VE STILL GOT A WORKING COPY OF MICROSOFT INTERNET EXPLORER. IF YOU HAVE, THEN YOU CAN REACH THEM
FROM THE PAULSPAGES MAIN MENU