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 except your internet connection, so if you're on a flat-rate scheme it really is nothing! If you're on a pay-as-you-go dial-up connection, 'ere's Albert's tip - play your first game (to make sure everything's been downloaded), then disconnect the line! You can play as many games as you like without reloading the page, subject only to your browser crashing when it's 'ad enough of running the same program over and over again without 'aving the chance to clear out its memory. Any complaints about that, moan at Microsoft, not me.
Q. What can I win?
A. 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 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 an illegal lottery. Good job Avalaff's free, isn't it?
NEW! AVALAFF BALLS EDITION!
Q. What the f**k is Avalaff Balls Edition?
A. Do you play Avalaff XP a lot? If so, do you win very often? Didn't think so! Bingo produces a lot of near-winners on every game, but very few actual winners - typically one or two cards out of 2,000 or more in play.
Now imagine that you're, say, a TV bingo channel that's been going for a while, and your punters have cottoned on to the fact that they really don't win all that often. They're beginning to lose interest, so what do you do? You make them all winners every time!
Avalaff Balls Edition uses the same patterns, cards and balls as Avalaff XP, but plays the game very differently. Each game lasts for 15 balls, whatever the pattern. Cards are scored simply by how many squares they've matched on the pattern. There's no need to complete a pattern to win - in fact if you match just one square on one card, you're deemed a "winner"!
Play Avalaff Balls Edition a few times, and you'll see that the large majority of cards match at least one square in every game. Even if you play just two cards, the chances are you'll "win" every time. If you play more, only a freak result will leave you winless. So with Avalaff Balls Edition, almost everyone's a "winner" every time!
Of course here at Avalaff we're only joking, so you don't get a prize. But you probably don't get much of a prize for "winning" with one or two matches on telly bingo channels either, since virtually everyone does that every game.
Q. So what's the point of making everyone winners if it doesn't mean anything?
A. Well here at Avalaff we're only joking, so it doesn't really matter what we do. But if we were charging you money to play (which, of course, we aren't), then you might think it was a cynical ploy to try to fool you into thinking you're a "winner" even when you aren't, so start pouring your cash back into our coffers.
Q. Don't be daft! What do you take me for, an idiot?
A. Not at all - we're totally up front about the true nature of "winning" on Avalaff Balls Edition. But then we're not desperately trying to get our hands on your money.
USING AVALAFF XP 2004
Q. When I load Avalaff XP 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.
Once you've virtual-connected, you can press "Get Cards" to get yourself some cards for the next game (if you're really quick you can get them for the first game). 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) and wait till the "You're Connected!" menu appears, 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.
Q. What is Avalaff XP Stats Edition?
A. It's a special version we cobbled together to show just how wrong our game-end predictions really are, as well as whether the numbers drawn really are random (they seem to be). You're welcome to use it, but don't expect all the buttons to work.
NEW! Avalaff XP Stats Edition 2004 is based on Avalaff XP 2004 (including the High Performance Checking Engine), and the buttons actually work! It's a breakthrough!
USING AVALAFF SELF-DRIVE
A. When Avalaff SD loads, it'll show you this control panel in the middle of the screen.
First choose how many cards you want (they're all free!).
Next choose who you want to draw the balls - choose "Me" if you want to play along with the telly or a real bingo caller, or "Avalaff" if you want to enjoy playing against your favourite pattern.
If you're letting Avalaff draw the balls, you can also simulate other players in the game with you - see "What does 'simulate other cards in play mean?'", below.
Next choose your pattern by clicking the down-arrow under "What pattern?". As you select each pattern, it's shown in the pattern box at the top of the screen - the moving ones, like "Everything Goes", even move around!
Now you're ready, so press Red and get playin'!
A. Simple - when you choose a pattern from the control panel (right), the pattern appears at the top of the screen (below). As you switch between patterns, the display changes, and if it's a moving pattern (such as Everything Goes), then the squares change to show you all the possible winning combinations.
When you start the game, the pattern display disappears, and
the pattern squares are shown on your cards instead.
Q. What's the difference between manual and auto playing modes?
A. You choose your mode by clicking on the "Who draws the balls?" radio buttons (right).
If you choose "me" (manual mode), then you draw the balls by clicking on the ball numbers (Avalaff shows you where to click). This lets you play along with a real bingo caller, such as someone in your living room with a fully-functioning ball machine, or a TV bingo channel.
If you choose "Avalaff" (auto mode), then Avalaff chooses the balls for you. It also marks your cards and claims for you if you win, leaving you with absolutely nothing to do. It's just like the telly!
Q. How can I change my player name and location, and/or reset my number of wins back to zero?
A. It's simple! Just click the helpful "Cheek! Remove my cookie" link next to the Privacy statement (above), then fill in your details, press red, get cards and get playin'!
Q. What about new patterns?
A. If there's a pattern you think should be in Avalaff, just email me the details (address below), and I'll try and fit it in.
Q. What does "Simulate other cards in play?" mean?
A. This option works in auto playing mode only (see above), and gives you a taste of what it's like to play against other people. Choose a number (500, 1000 or 2000) and Avalaff will play that many cards against yours in the game. This isn't faked - we really do create all those extra cards in your computer's memory, and check them all against every ball! Try it, and see how often you win!
Choosing "No" instead of a number means you'll win every game!
(Note - if you choose a large number and you're using a slow-ish computer, you may get the message "A script is causing Internet Explorer to run slowly". It's OK to let Avalaff continue - and with the money you'll save by playing FREE Avalaff, you'll soon be able to afford a faster computer!)
Q. Do you do free squares like they do on the telly?
A. Yes luv! Before you start a game, click on the small squares near the top right of the screen. Clicking a square makes it free, clicking it again makes it "un-free". Remember to unclick your free square(s) after the game, or they'll carry on to the next one!
Q. Help! I clicked the wrong number in manual mode! How can I cancel it?
A. You should've been more careful, shouldn't you? All right, all right, I'll tell you - you can cancel the last ball you clicked, by clicking the red 'Cancel last ball' button just to the left of the numbers table. It even works if the ball won you the game - the game is restarted for you automatically!
Q. How can I use Avalaff Self-Drive to enjoy harmless small-stakes gambling with my family and friends?
A. I'm glad you asked me that! Here's how to do it - but remember, gambling can be addictive, so keep the stakes small and treat it as fun!
Each person puts a stake (say 5p) into each game, and gets one card (you can either let people choose their card numbers, or draw them by lots).
In the Avalaff control panel (right), set the number of cards to one per player (if there's an odd number of players and the unused card wins, make the next game a rollover!)
Make sure you check "No" under "Simulate Other cards in play?" - doing this will make sure there's a winner in every game.
Choose a pattern, then click Red and watch the excitement grow as your cards fill up! Avallaf will tell you which card(s) win, and their owners share the kitty!
Note that there's no skill of any kind involved in this - it's just like the real thing!
Q. Aren't you a lot like Avago?
A.What? Avago Arts of Bude, Cornwall, or Avago Karting of Salisbury, Wilts? Or perhaps Avago Employment of Ridgehaven, South Australia? Can't see the resemblance myself! And don't forget - we're only joking!
Q. Why hasn't Avalaff Self-Drive got animated balls, other player names and other fancy stuff that Avalaff XP has?
A. We developed Avalaff Self-Drive first, then adapted it to create Avalaff XP. After that we couldn't be bothered to go back and put the fancy stuff into the old version. Same goes for Avalaff XP Stats Edition, which is looking a bit ropey now that we've smartened XP up. There - how often do you get a straight reply like that from a software developer?
Q. I didn't like that straight reply. It made me nervous. I'm used to dealing with proper companies who smother bad news in bucket-loads of corporate bullsh*t.
A. OK then. Avalaff SD and XP editions are targeted at differing market segments. We conducted an in-depth evaluation of our customer base, and found that Avalaff SD users valued hands-on control and an uncluttered UI layer above all other areas of functionality. As a result we concluded that the needs of SD customers were best served by maintaining a strongly legacy-based development strategy for this edition. We continue to pursue an aggressively innovation-led development strategy with Avalaff XP, our premium product line.
Q. That's better. Will you be implementing a realtime multi-user version backed by a network of load-balanced SQL Server databases?
A. Yes, once there's World Peace and no rubbish in the pop charts.
Send your comments, writs (but remember, we're only joking!) etc to:
Albert's Authentic Cockney Text (C) Smart-Arse Graduates Doing Michael Caine Impersonations PLC, 2002.