Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Shotest Shogi Developer Interaction

Well, good news! The Shotest Shogi developers are taking an interest in the community and have posted on the forums:

"As requested, developer dropping by. :)

Thanks for your support guys. As you've noticed, whilst the game's doing very well in Japan we're kinda struggling back home a bit. We're talking with MS about what we can do to get some more exposure over here.

A game like Shogi's never going to have a massive userbase, but it would be nice to get *some* westerners playing!"

Good luck to the SS team!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Folding Shogi Board

Well, as I've mentioned in the past, I purchased a folding shogi board through eBay and there were delays with the delivery. I did actually receive it and I must say that I'm rather disappointed. Considering the price ($45 + $7.50 shipping and handling) and my experience with similarly priced go and chess sets, this set was not a great purchase. It's very small with poor quality wood and incredibly cheap plastic hinges. The plastic pieces are actually ok, but there are a few with excess paint or scratching.

At any rate, here are a few photos. The first is in comparison to a floor goban to get a feel for the size and poor wood quality.

Here is a close-up of the pieces and the board grain.

And finally, a shot of the plastic hinge. I doubt this will last very long.

All in all, a disappointment. But at least I have something to work with while following along with the Fairbairn book. My search for a good shogi set continues. :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Progress Update

Ugh. Shogi is a TOUGH game. It is a VERY tough game. I feel like I have made no progress at all, despite the fact that I'm studying tsume shogi problems, playing many games against Shotest Shogi, and trying to make my way through the Fairbairn book. I get the feeling like Shogi may turn out to be like's difficult enough to drive you crazy, yet every once in a while you make a good solid shot which keeps you addicted and makes you play another 20 lousy games until you experience the feeling of making that one good shot again. In Shogi, it's not a golf's a tesuji or, for me, something as simple as finding a pin or a fork.

In Chess, I feel like I've made quite a large amount of progress...certainly enough to beat many humans and weak computer problems. I'm at the stage where I actually can think about why I'm making moves and my game has purpose. Chess isn't *that* much different from Shogi, is it? Well, I think part of the problem is simply that there is no quality learning material for Shogi here in the West. If the Fairbairn "Shogi for Beginners" book was a chess book, I'd have tossed it by now and moved onto another one. I suppose I'll save a full review for some point after I finish it, but for now it's safe to say that there is very little I like about his teaching style or the actual book layout. It's very disappointing.

On the Shotest Shogi XBLA front, I've made a couple friends from the forums but have yet to play them online. They're beginners just as I am, so hopefully we'll be able to play at some point and maybe learn a few things together.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Shotest XBLA Impressions

I've had the chance to play more Shotest Shogi for Xbox Live Arcade and am still very pleased with the game, especially considering its low price. I've completed the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced Tutorials and each was worthwhile, though short. I touched on the Beginner Tutorial in a blog entry yesterday.

The Intermediate and Advanced tutorials introduce four castles (mino, boat, yagura, and anaguma - "bear in the hole" for Hachi-one Diver fans), a handful of tsume shogi, and a couple hisshi ("brinkmate") problems. I plan on revisiting the Intermediate and Advanced tutorials since a lot was presented in a short time and I certainly did not absorb it all. Apparently there will be future DLC (downloadable content) that contains more instructional material. I definitely would pay for more tsume shogi.

I also played a few games versus the lowest ranked (1000) AI. It would be interesting to see how the 16 personalities compare to the PC version since I cannot even compete with the lowest skill level on the PC. It's fun to win every once in a while. :) Like I wrote earlier, the interface doesn't get in the way too much and it works about as well as can be expected with a game controller.

The game is not without its problems, though. As I mentioned yesterday, the piece placement sound is not a wood click as it should be. The presentation is nice, but there's far too much wasted space. On an HDTV, the screen is wider than it is taller.

In the screenshot above, just look at all the space wasted to the left and right of the board. Instead of placing the text somewhere like my artistically rendered red box, they put it at the bottom, which covers the board. That wouldn't be too bad, except for the fact that they put the file coordinates there! Why not move the coordinates to the top where they won't be obscured? There's no option to change anything, which is extremely disappointing. I'd love to be able to move the text so that I can fully expand the board and get a better resolution on the pieces. They look so excellent on the PC version, but they don't get a chance to truly shine here because of the layout.

The sound and layout problems are issues that the developers can deal with. However, a much more tricky problem is that there seems to be nobody playing online! Last night around 8pm Eastern Time, I could not find a Ranked or Player (unranked) match at any time settings. Part of my initial excitement about Shotest Shogi on XBLA is that I thought it would become my main way of playing online. I see the Leaderboard is full of Japanese Xbox users so I know that people are playing. I wonder if we in the US are segregated from the Asian users? If so, that is a major problem. There seems to be very little interest in this game here, and posts I've made in the forums barely receive any page views, let alone responses.

I sure hope the online situation improves, but for now I'm going to continue to enjoy playing the AI.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shotest Shogi Now Available on XBLA

I checked as soon as I woke up, and thankfully it's here. I didn't have too much time, so I completed the Beginner Tutorial to get it out of the way. As it turns out, the Beginner tutorial ends with a full match that is nicely annotated. It's not quite as detailed as the games in "Logical Chess: Move by Move" by Chernev, but it's well done and I definitely plan on reviewing it again. It *may* be a bit too difficult for a true beginner, but I could be wrong.

As with the PC version, the graphics are outstanding and the pieces (which default to Western style) are nicely detailed. The environments (inside and outside) add to the feel of the game and the music, to my taste, is somehow more appropriate and pleasing than the PC version's (which I've turned off). The controls obviously will not be as easy and intuitive as using a mouse, but they don't get in the way too much and I can't really think of a way to improve them at this point.

The only problem I noticed with the XBLA version so far is that the piece placement sound has changed from the nice substantial wood click sound to a softer chess-like felt on wood sound. I don't understand why they would have made this change and I hope a future update addresses this.

Easily worth the $10. :) I look forward to playing the game later!

Shotest Shogi on XBox Live

Monday, September 08, 2008

Shotest Shogi on Xbox Live Arcade This Wednesday!

shotest on wednesday

yes it is finally here

i will be happy

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Shogi Blitz Deathmatch

I've had a couple warts on my toes for quite some time and I've had them treated by a doctor for over a year.  No matter what he has tried (including a painful surgery to cut them out), they've made their way back.  Searching again over the internet, I've found a new process that I have not yet tried.  The first step involves soaking the area in hot water for 15 minutes.  The problem is, what should I do for those 15 minutes?

Well, inspired by the 24 hour 1 minute blitz "deathmatches" in Hachi-One Diver, I've decided to do mini deathmatches every day with Shotest Shogi 3D. :)  The quickest blitz setting with Shotest is, unfortunately, 10 second byoyomi, so I've had to settle for that.  I've completed my deathmatch session today with a final result of 0 wins and 6 losses.  I wonder if I'll ever notch a win?

September Shogi Open at BrainKing

I've registered for the September Shogi Open tournament over at BrainKing.  There is a maximum of 15 players (currently 13) and the time setting is 10 days per move.  That's awfully slow, so I'm sure this will take a while.   The major problem with a slow tournament is that I won't be able to join another one, even if all my games are completed since unpaid players on BrainKing can only be registered for one tournament at a time.  Either way, the players don't look to be rated too highly so hopefully I'll be able to compete a bit.

It should be fun!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Slow Week for Shogi

Nothing much has happened in my Shogi world lately. I did start reading the Fairbairn book "Shogi for Beginners" and I've also progressed through more of the tsume shogi book I purchased at Mitsuwa. Surprisingly, the Fairbairn book is going slower because the first set of problems are much harder than anything I've come across in the other book. It's definitely not what I'd expect from a "for Beginners" book, but that's probably a good thing. Glancing through the other chapters, it looks like there's a lot of great material.

I also purchased a basic wood folding shogi set with plastic pieces from an eBay seller in Japan, but that has not shown up yet. The EMS tracking number I was given indicates that it left Japan on August 25, but I still have not received it. I'm not feeling all that great about this at the moment and I suspect I'll never see the board. When a seller's first email states that he won't refund the cost of shipping if it doesn't show up, my instinct is to say he's not going to send it. I hope I'm wrong about this one.

Update: The EMS tracker now shows that the package left Osaka on September 5.  I wonder what they did with it for the past 11 days...perhaps they like Shogi.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shogi at Mitsuwa: Failure and Success

Well, I decided to take the family down to Mitsuwa Marketplace in hopes of finding some shogi players and possibly a board. We were there from 12:30 to 2:00pm or so and did not see anyone playing. I asked a number of shopkeepers and nobody knew anything about a regular gathering of players. So, we sat down and enjoyed some sushi. :) After eating, I did a few google searches on my iPhone and came across an email from 2000 stating that the club meets from 9:00am to noon. I'm going to email a few people this week and hopefully I'll have more info.

The search for a board also came up empty. We even checked a Japanese Toy and Gift shop in the general area of the marketplace and they didn't have anything. They did have some rather risque girly action figures, so we quickly left before the kids had a chance to notice. :)

In the bookstore inside Mitsuwa, however, I managed to find a tsume shogi book (pictured above)! I looked around until I found what appeared to be a game section. Then I saw some Sudoku books and knew I might be close. Finally, I looked at a few bindings hoping to recognize a shogi character when BINGO, this one popped out at me. I pulled it out, opened it up (upside down, since I forgot to read backwards) , and saw the shogi board diagrams. I'm really excited about this one since I wanted a tsume shogi book and there are none published in english. I wish I knew what all the text says, but for now I know enough to get me going.

Hopefully it's not a book for high dan players. :o

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mac OS X Shogi Software

Since beginning iPhone development, I've had the opportunity to use Mac OS X again. If I'm going to spend much time with it, obviously I will need some Shogi and Chess software. :D The Shogi selection is small, but the applications are of very high quality.

As an application for playing Shogi, I use Shogi Z by MacBrains:

Shogi Z

The graphics (both Japanese and Western tile sets) are beautiful and the tile placement sounds are very pleasant to my ear. To register the trial version, it's a mere 1500 yen, so you can be up and playing for less than 15 bucks. My only little complaint with the application is that, upon startup, the main window draws in the top left of the screen and then immediately redraws in the middle. I'm more anal-retentive than most people and it's almost embarrassing that these little interface glitches do bug me, but they do. :)

As a study tool, MacShogi by Eric Cheymol fits the bill:


Like Shogi Z, the graphics are outstanding. However, this application makes it easier to play through variations and review games. Eric even provides a large number of games suitable for opening in MacShogi. The software has only been compiled for G4 so there are a few small issues with running on a modern Intel-based Mac, but I've exchanged emails with Eric and he has plans to release a new build this week. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shogi Equipment

While I have Shogi software for each of the three operating systems I use, there are certain times where I'd really like to have a physical board to play and practice with. It would also assist with my turn-based online games since I could test out variations without using software.

There appears to be a dearth of online shogi vendors so the options are limited to Yutopian and Yellow Mountain Imports. I won't mention Kiseido since their prices are pretty ridiculous and they are tough to deal with in terms of actually making an order and payment (I've bought a go book from them in the past).

Yutopian offers a foldable agathis board with cream-colored plastic pieces:

I believe this is the same set that is sold at The Trading Centre. To me, it looks pretty nice. The problem is that the Yutopian web-site is so unprofessional that I do not feel comfortable providing payment information. They were actually down for most of the day yesterday. If they offered paypal it would be fine.

YMI offers a few all-wood sets, however the wood for both the board and pieces looks rather cheap:

I may also try to visit a local japanese marketplace here in the Chicago suburbs. If I don't find anything, another option would be to simply bite the bullet and buy it from The Trading Centre which is based in the UK. The costs would be higher, but they do accept paypal. I've used them twice so far. Once for Shotest Shogi 3D and the second time to buy the Fairbarn book which I could not find from a US vendor. I ended up paying close to $50 for a $20 book. If the book arrives in a timely fashion and I have not yet found a set locally, I may just buy from them again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Diving Into Online Shogi

I've begun playing shogi online! For turn-based action, fits the bill despite its ad-heavy interface. For real-time excitement, has a really nice java applet-based multi-game interface. I'm not a fan of java applets, but this one is definitely usable.

I just completed my first game there now and lost on time despite feeling well ahead. I was clicking madly with 5 seconds to go (out of the 10 seconds in the blitz byoyomi) but nothing registered. Sigh. I guess the moral of the story is to avoid blitz online. :)

I'm lotsoblots at both sites, so feel free to challenge any time. :)

Oh, and I'm using the traditional pieces exclusively now, so I expect to miss more than a few moves! :D

Friday, July 25, 2008


It's been a while since I updated this blog, and this won't be much of an update. But, I'm just noting that I've changed the layout around a bit and added a banner to the right. I've begun playing chess in April and have been finding it to be much more enjoyable than go.

As I've mentioned to my friend, KillerDucky, I enjoy strategy but I need a game with a payoff. Chess has a payoff where Go does not. Passing a couple times and counting up stones at the end of a game doesn't quite give me the satisfaction of a checkmate.

Oh, and I've also begun learning Shogi. I purchased Shotest Shogi 3D for the PC and will certainly be getting the Xbox Live Arcade version in the Fall. Interestingly, the XBLA version will include quite a few tutorials and puzzles. The PC version (which at $40 costs 4 times as much as the XBLA version) includes none of this. So, the only "tutorial" is watching as the computer crushes me over and over. :)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Decent Sound in KGS/cgoban3

As I've reported before, there was a way to replace the default ugly KGS/cgoban2 stone sound with a sound file of your choosing. That method also worked in the cgoban3 beta. Well, it's been a while since the full release of cgoban3 and I now find myself back on KGS. However, I see the full version no longer allows this same method since it's been digitally signed. I believe I've found the way around this:
  1. mkdir cgoban_tmp ; cd cgoban_tmp
  2. wget
  3. jar xvf cgoban.jar
  4. rm META-INF/KGS2007.*
  5. cp /archive/misc/multigo_stone_fsf.wav org/igoweb/go/sounds/stone.wav
  6. jar cvmf META-INF/MANIFEST.MF cgoban.jar .
  7. sudo cp cgoban.jar /usr/local/cgoban3/cgoban.jar
That's it! Beautiful sound yet again. :)

By the way, I am not a java developer so I'd appreciate any comments on a better and/or easier method.

Update 2008-01-15: Added the . parameter to the end of step six.