Friday, April 25, 2008

Is Mahjong Time Fair?

Mahjong Time works hard to provide the best online Mahjong experience for our players. We have programmed advanced algorithms, incorporated and updated rule sets, and taken many other steps to ensure a fair online game. But, we want to know what you think.
Is Mahjong Time a fair online Mahjong game? Do you feel as though you're playing at a real-life Mahjong table with family and friends? Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of the gaming platform? Please voice your opinions, comments, and concerns here.

20 comments:

swanc_2000 said...

I was playing with this newbie in CO for 2 rounds, and she mj 6/8..higher rating players are always victims of newbies. They always seem to get fast and good hands, I have talked with other players and they felt the same way. MJT favors new comers? And this is not a one off..happens all the time.

swanc_2000 said...

Me and other players experienced many time that the bar was white, we have sent reports to MJT, but their reply was that our pc doesnt have enough memory, I dont think this is the reason to it; the emotions and all these new features they added took up more memories, so is not our problem. I also got dc so many times during the game and had trouble logging back in, and when I did, the bot threw my hand away

Atticus said...

Although I know some members -- several of them my friends who I like quite a lot -- are convinced the game is fixed at MJT, I've never believed it. The claim is that newer members (or those with lower ratings) get favored treatment within the game itself, such that they are more likely to win a hand, especially with self-picks.

They point to the meteoric rise in ratings of some new members as evidence, and reason that MJT favors these players in order to keep their business.

In my view, MJT is a business that wants to keep all their paying customers: getting renewals is likely to be just as important to MJT as are getting new memberships.

We need to remember that just because a player is new to MJT, doesn't mean that s/he is new to Mahjong itself. I joined MJT knowing nothing about the game, but I'm guessing I'm the exception and not the rule. I certainly had no quick rise in rating points as would be expected if I were getting preferential treatment as a new member.

Those players that have jumped ahead came to MJT with lots of experience and skill in the game. That's been my observation when playing against them: I was outplayed and out-classed. This doesn't upset me... it just makes me want to grow in my skill-level.

There is one area, however, that I think the rating system is unfair. The formula for translating game scores to rating points allows, in very specific circumstances, a player who wins a hand to actually lose rating points. This only happens if a higher-ranked player is playing against very low-ranked players and MJ's with a low-scoring hand. Still, it should never happen at all: if someone wins a hand, their rating should increase, no matter how small an increase that may be.

It worries me because it discourages better players from playing with new members. I wonder how long I would have kept with Mahjong if no really good players had been willing to play with me?

I try to "play up," that is, compete against more highly skilled players, so that I can learn more. But every so often, I "play down," to return the favor, if you will, I received when brand new to the game and to MJT.

Why should I be "punished" for this, as the formula now allows?

No, I don't believe games are fixed by MJT. They are fair. The loophole in the rating formula, however, is unfair to higher-ranked players: it may be a minor problem in terms of frequency of occurrence, but is in my opinion a major problem in terms of concept and community morale.

Atticus

Is Mahjongtime fair? said...

Fair or not I think there need to be an improvement in the random tile sequencing. That’s the really big issue, whether on purpose or not is not important. It needs to be improved.

I don’t agree with Atradius. Newbies DO win more than long standing and better players. What could be more attractive for the business than happy newbies who are quickly rewarded?

I have proven it in the praxis. There also do appear to be patterns in the tiles being dealt. Those who read them get high ratings very quickly.

On one point I do agree though - The rating system is certainly faulty - I personally don’t think is really that important to have a rating system, but if there is to be one then its got to be fair.

Mahjongtime IS the best Mahjong site on the web that I have played on so far, but there is still a way to go.

Keep up the good work - get the shuffling right and BTW the CO rules aren’t quite right yet either - and continue to make it better.

Is Mahjongtime fair? said...

PS. - What's with the censorship? What do you have to be afraid of?
If you want fair comments then you have to remove the treat of reprise and censorship - that would promote your claim to fairness

Anonymous said...

There seems to be a lot of conspiracy theorists out there.

I am going to play the Devil's Advocate here. Let me begin with the Beginner's Luck. Who are these supposedly 'worse' players who had meteoric rise in ratings ? Let us see the examples and examine their rise ? Is it with the help of MahjongTime programmers or is it their own merit ?

Most of use have lost a round or two to novel players who do not even know how to play well, and we don't like it, but these are exceptions, not the rule. The same lucky players do not always win, the players who CONSISTENTLY win must be good players.

Most players are playing many more rounds everyday or every week, because we play online. And we will only take note of all the odd and peculiar hands or bad losses, and so on. The more you play, the more of these instances you will add up. If you used to play 2 rounds a week with your friends in the weekend, and you might see a Little Three Dragons once a month. If you play 2 rounds a day now, what do you think you will find ?

Those are very serious and heavy allegations, and should not be treated casually.
I personally do NOT believe that the program is 'rigged'. I have faith in the honesty and integrity of the operators at Mahjongtime. If there is a way to test the random algorithm and make improvements, I am sure they will work on it.

As for the ratings system........That is another story. I am really interested to see what the solutions are. Get rid of the numbers ? Just keep the colours ?

Just want to open topics for discussions and get a brainstorm starting here. This is the best site to play online Mahjong and I think they are doing an excellent job. And I trust that they are dedicated individuals who are doing the best they can.

Anonymous said...

NOT RIGGED ?? You must be joking !!

Do not bother to play another online tournament because the same player is going to win. Is it because this JulJul is a superior layer than everyone else ?? I do not think so. It is all too plain to see, she even won the American Mahjong Tournament's $2000 prize.

Her many stunning 'come from behind' wins, one with a very timely self pick fully convinced me and many others that the games are indeed fixed. Otherwise it must be the biggest co-incidence and stroke of luck one could have seen, because we all played with her and know how well she plays.

Let us see if this post will be censored. There are just way too many of these unexplained outcomes in games.

Anonymous said...

when was there an AMerican Mahjongg tournament with a $2000 prize???

MahjongTime said...

Dear Mahjong Time Players,

We would like to offer some answers to the questions and concerns brought up in the blog discussion so far. We will address issues regarding fairness and equality in this post. Other issues may be addressed in separate posts.

First of all, Mahjong Time does not favor any one player or group of players. As in any games with an element of skill, it is possible for a skilled player to win multiple tournaments. For example: JulJul is a skilled player who has won multiple tournaments on Mahjong Time, just like blom1234 who has won the live Paris tournament two years in a row (2007, 2008). However, as we all know, Mahjong has an element of luck such that a skilled player may lose simply because of the luck element of the game.

At Mahjong Time, the wall is randomly build before the game starts, just like in real life. Every player has an equal chance of getting any tile from the wall. To further confirm this, Mahjong Time is in the process of working with an independent, certified third-party gaming analysis company to verify the randomness of the wall.

As for the "newbies" to Mahjong Time: A player with a white belt can increase their ranking rapidly if they win against high-ranked players. Moreover, high-ranked players will lose their ranking by losing to a player with a white belt. However, a white belt player may be new to Mahjong Time, but may not be new to Mahjong and may be a skilled player. This fact may give the impression that "newbies" get better hands!

After hearing your comments & concerns, we are proposing the following solution:

1. The skill level of "newbies" need to be determined. In order to achieve this, "newbies" need to play at least 40 games before their true rating is established.

2. If a "newbie" wins a game, then players who play with the "newbie" will not lose rating points. Thus, playing against "newbie" is safe.

3. Mahjong Time will come up with an indicator to indicate "newbies".

We would welcome any suggestions that you may have by posting in this blogs.

For previous discussions in regards the rating formula, please go here: http://mahjongtime.blogspot.com/2006/06/can-mahjongtime-rating-system-be.html

Censorship is a tool Mahjong Time uses sparingly. In the past, we have neglected to censor our blogs, which resulted in profanity and advertisement. We currently only censor blogs which contain profanity and advertisement, nothing else. We also encourage everyone to use their user names when they post. since this is a Mahjong Time member blog, anonymous posts may simply carry less weight when they are read by our staff and other players. Mahjong Time encourages everyone to participate in friendly, constructive discussion. Mahjong Time is about integrity, fairness, and friendly competitive play; We are here to help our members and take suggestions.

Sincerely,

Mahjong Time Staff

nobody said...

Dear Mahjongtime-Team,
the needs of the players can be implemented much easier than you think.
1. There is no necessity to make a connection between the players at the table and the rating points that can be won. Give them only the points that they earned at the table. That's all. All players will be lucky and there will be no reason (for me) to avoid to play on a "lower rated" table, which at the moment is (to 90%) rating suicide :)

nobody said...

Dear Mahjongtime team, your proposal is:

1. The skill level of "newbies" need to be determined. In order to achieve this, "newbies" need to play at least 40 games before their true rating is established.

2. If a "newbie" wins a game, then players who play with the "newbie" will not lose rating points. Thus, playing against "newbie" is safe.

3. Mahjong Time will come up with an indicator to indicate "newbies"

My comment: PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT, IT'S ONLY CONFUSING:

Atticus said...

MJT said "2. If a "newbie" wins a game, then players who play with the "newbie" will not lose rating points. Thus, playing against "newbie" is safe."

hmmmm... I'm not sure I like this idea. It swings to the opposite extreme: now "oldies" will want to play only against newbies, as they can't possibly lose points!

Let newbies establish their own rating as they do now. If they're skillful they'll rise quickly and even out when their "true" rating is reached. If they are true-blue newbies -- like I was -- they'll have to claw and scratch their way upwards. Their rating will grow as their skill does. Isn't this they way it should be?

I don't understand why MJT is so resistant to fixing the formula loophole that I discussed above. There is no a-priori reason to have rating adjustments balance out among the four players. Give lower-ranked players a larger increase for besting higher-ranked players, but give the losers of a hand a lesser decrease at the same time. Ensure that winning a hand can never lead to a decrease in rating points. This could be accomplished by a simple if-then statement that calculates the formula and if the winner has a negative number for their adjustment, bypass the formula and award .25 (or whatever amount deemed appropriate).

There are other reasonable solutions that would do away with the formula altogether. If you are interested, I could explain how "Masterpoints" are awarded in the Duplicate Bridge world. Perhaps another member could explain how it's done in Chess, which actually would be closer in its characteristics to Mahjong than Bridge is.

Thanks, MJT, for this blog topic. A very useful discussion!

swanc_2000 said...

rbq told me about losing after complaining to MJT, I told her that's impossible...but...now I really think she is right....because i am getting the punishment now...feeding big hands, robbed from kong and mj..you name it...just CANT MJ AT ALL after I wrote on the blog...HAHA!

Libby~aka~4xScorpioGirl said...

I doubt VERY much that the games can be rigged... I've lost enough hands when just one tile away, waiting FORVER... and then pulled a winning hand out of NOWHERE to win!!
As for the rating system, to tell the truth I don't pay any attention to it... I play with anyone for the joy of playing!! I was new here once too, and even with having played MJ for years, it took me quite awhile to figure everything out... I mistakenly threw my share of jokers!! arg!!
SO, I think it's VERY important to remain helpful & friendly to new players to site. We can ALL be teachers and learn something in the process of helping others. I never want anyone to refer to this site as unfriendly and not worth joining. There is nothing worse than playing at a table with other players that have NO MANNERS!!
I enjoy the positive feedback from people I have refered here and hope it continues....
My ONLY frustration is getting booted offline & it ruining my hand... I get messages that say my "session has timed out"... whatever that means?? I've upgrade to the lastest of everything and this is ONLY site I EVER get booted from... so how about fixing the system that if someone does get booted, that the system throws a tile I DON"T NEED, while I'm frantically trying to log back in!!
NOW, how do we get MORE AM PLAYERS HERE?? LOL...(*~*)
4xScorpioGirl
(¯`'·.GOOD•*´¯`*•.¸°ºø øº°¸.•*´¯`*•LUCK.·'´¯)TO EVERYONE!!

pringle9999 said...

As being a programmer myself, I would say that designing a system that can be rigged is far more complicate than a normal fair system like the one MJT stated above.

And as far as I see, some comlain that the system bias toward newbies but there also some who complain that the system bias toward high ranking players, so there probably to comment anythings because those two statements already nullify each other.

[b]However, I think the rating system is not fair to high rating players.[/b]

Just simply prevent the rating to go down if they win is not enough. No matter how small it is, a win is a win. Their rating should be increased.

Beside that, there also another problem. The current rating system itself is not good enough to determine the difficulty of the game, because many skill players can be underrated due to

1) They just new to MJT so their rating start from very low.

2) Non member rating reset every months. (as it sate on website)

Therefore, the difficulty factor use in the rating formular put the higher ratings player to too much disadvantage when playing with players from those two categories.

As for suggestion, it could be

1) The difficulty factor should not be use to calculate the rating of players who have higher rating than the difficulty factor.

2) Instead, only use it to calculate the rating for players whose rating is lower than the factor. (probably with higher bonus if you want to give some credit to them)

slowbreak said...

I think there are ways to mitigate this. Set up a format where the one who throws the winning tile pays the pot. This will not mitigate "lucky" self picks but it will eliminate collusion.

Also make the amount of $ won or lost relative to the point system.

If its a $1 table 64 pts should have more $ impact then a 8 pt hand.

Any thoughts?

Thomas Klasko said...

Mahjong time is rigged!!!! I lost 4 games consisting of 1 round. Each round lasted about 7 games each. I did not even win 1 game out of 30. Newbees were winning 3 or 4 games in a row. A couple of wins were after less than 10 cards discarded. So Mahjong time is rigged. Too bad I didn't find out before I paid to be a VIP member.

TonE said...

I highly doubt Mahjong time is rigged, at least not when it comes to games that aren't actually dealing with money. I am a free user, and as such, do not really lose anything if I go out. That said, I have noticed that the system tends to favor certain players over everyone else.


I play pretty well, and am usually waiting to go out near the beginning of every game. I'll win after starting with sensationally horrible hands based on skill, and quick thinking- Here and there, I might lose a round. The point is: It behaves like normal luck, you win some-You lose some,no matter how good you are.


Then, along comes one of those "special players" and you can guarantee that they're waiting to go out after one chow, or pung. I've tested this theory, and stayed at tables with these players, and round after round the win in just a few turns. It is mathematically impossible for someone to win with a pure, or semi-pure hand, concealed, with a self draw three to four games in a row.


These aren't newbies, and sometimes I see them on losing streaks. I have experienced this same abnormal luckiness myself a few times. After winning several grand slam hands, I leave the table out of respect for the other players as to not destroy their ratings.

TonE said...



Simply put, when you program a system to function like artificial Mahjong, you also create a sort of artificial system of luck. Since it's artificial, it's imperfect and sometimes forgets to distribute the luck evenly. Some people will always naturally be more lucky than others, and some will always be more skillful, but when there aren't actually tiles on the table in front of you there's no way to be sure if someone's mastery of the game isn't simply some Matrix-esque glitch.


I'll boil this down to two points, three if you count the fact that I love Mahjong Time for giving me the chance to learn, and play, and experience this wonderful game:

One- The system is flawed, but since it's free to play, I can't really complain. If the people at MahjongTime want to be really awesome (And my new best friends), they'll take a peek under the hood and see if they can't tweak a few things.

Everything can always be better, and I'm sure that they really are striving to provide the best experience possible, as well as ensuring that it's as accurate and objective as playing with actual tiles.

Two- If you're going to play on Mahjong Time, you're going to have to accept that those heavy losses aren't always your fault and move on.

If you keep playing, eventually you'll start winning again, or sometimes, even figure out what scnario the system has set up and then force it to go out of order. There are patterns in the way it distributes tiles that become apparent after a few rounds.

Usually, one player will be set up with most of the tiles that everyone else needs to form melds, this player has no hope of winning. The system will also indicate which tile the designated loser should throw out first by making it the least favorable tile in his or her hand.

I have experimented with this and found that sometimes if I refused to throw out the obvious discard, the system would eventually let the player who needed it self draw the same exact tile I was holding. I can ususally pick out the player who needs it, and within one round, that player gets their winning tile.

I've also found a law of inverse luck with good hands, typically the better my starting hand, the more likely it is that another player needs one, or all of the tiles I'm holding. I usually only win if I start out with a "bad" hand. With a good hand, I'm forced to throw out specific tiles, and I can usually predict which ones will be needed, and by whom. The only other options for a discard I'll have would result in destroying concealed combos in my hand. It's almost as if I'm being forced to throw what my opposing player needs from the start.

I've also experienced instances of the system repeatedly giving me draws that were intentionaly meant to feed the other player's hands. Especially if I'm waiting to go out with a large concealed hand.

With all this in mind, you can form a defensive strategy for when these periods of abnormal unluckiness arise, then play for draws or try to confuse the system into giving you the win. I've found that when I'm dealt an obvious hand, going for a pure or throwing out pairs will not only throw the other players off guard, but will also result in a large scoring victory for me which negates all of the damage done to my score by consecutive small losses.

I know it's a lot, and it's all my opinion... But I hope it helps.

paul coppin said...

I love Mahjong time...but it is fixed.. in several ways. The easiest way to see this is to have won a few games then watch what the player on your left discards and what you draw from the wall right then, if the AI has decided you will loose it will often be the same tile the guy on your left discarded. The system knows you dont want that tile because you didnt take his discard. This happens far far too much to be just luck, after a 200 pt win last night it happened 4 TIMES in one hand,the probability of that happening are massive. The advantage to new players is also very noticeable, I stopped playing on MT for 2 years because it was clearly fixed ,when I came back sure enough I won almost every game...for a while.
The bottom line is obvious really !. this is a profit making site
2. these are number cruncher s..its what they do for a living its easy to set the system in a profit making direction. I went form 60th rank to 330th in a week yet my win average was still ,now lets guess... 26% in a 4 player game.Just even enough to keep you playing, I love the chance to play MJ online but its getting me down like it did two years ago