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The Memories of Darkagma: The Way of the Grinder

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                             "There is always a Way out."

Introduction Edit

In the history of March of War, the true identities of the players' alts were arguably the most important secrets to be kept from foreign powers. All factions kept specific pieces of information restricted only to the most loyal soldiers at their disposal. One particular piece of information has always been shrouded in mystery, exercising the players' imagination regarding its true nature. Originated from the core of the Shogun Empire, it was characterized as the bane of many and the salvation of few. Its effectiveness depended on its secrecy and therefore disclosed only to the few Shoguns who demonstrated outstanding achievements in the battlefield and a proven record of gallantry, unwavering loyalty and unconditional selflessness to the Shogun Empire.

Its creator, Darkagma, gave it the name "Way of the Grinder".

The Way, as it is informally called, contained the methods that allowed a true Shogun to extract his/her full potential in PVE grinding. It effectively and reliably allowed a single Shogun to change the tide of a battle in a matter of minutes. Before getting into its depths, it is relevant to first clarify what the Way is NOT:

  • an exploit that characterizes hacking (e.g force the AI to surrender at the beginning of the match)
  • an automated agent that fights PVE matches on behalf of its controller (e.g. scripted bot)
  • a grinding guide replicated from some source (e.g. Sacred Scriptures of Kagura)
  • an AI exploit that capitalizes on unreasonable behavior (e.g. Polliainen's Doomsday Siege Exploit)

Origins Edit

Despite its debut as a formal method being during the "coalition" War in Masaharta's reign, the Way originated months before, when Darkagma was still a rookie figuring out how to play the game. The whole period coincided with GeneralKenjii's and Katzumoto's terms leading the Shogun Empire. At the time Darkagma joined the game, there was an AI exploit that used fire-based units (Flame Tanks, Korean Archers, War Balloons) to force unreasonable behavior from the AI in siege battles. Most of his battles were based on siege matches, which was easier to manage due to the availability of support powers and turrets and offered generous amounts of gold. Due to the time it took to finish a battle (9 turns), Darkagma's first realization came to light:

                      "There must be a Way to earn gold faster."

Once Darkagma heard of the fire exploit in the Shogun Empire chat, he applied it to exhaustion, amassing a large army in a very short amount of time. During that time, he did not have any particular use of faster grinding for battle point production purposes. It did not take much time for Darkagma to buy his first Akuma-Class land battleship by applying this method. With a full army developed and real life issues pending, Darkagma entered a long period of inactivity.

Awakening Edit

At some point, the fire siege exploit was fixed, which slowed down Darkagma's grinding activities. Darkagma started participating in the faction's chat, gathering information on more effective ways to grind. This eventually enabled contact with influential high commanders at the time: the then faction leader Masaharta, the chief intelligence officer Harutora and the second in command of the Shogun Empire HongKongPhooey. With renewed interest in the game, Darkagma shifted his target for battle points production instead of gold output. Information at the time postulated the mass application of Challenging Assault matches for the following reasons:

  • reasonable battle point per time ratio
  • last AI difficulty option of which the player has the first turn
  • the AI rarely used its gear points in the first turn, which reduced overall difficulty of the match
  • siege takes too long
  • blitz produces too few battle points

These reasons were then crunched into a single realization:

     "Grinding effectiveness relies on the AI and the battle mode's BP/time ratio." 

Putting the knowledge to practice, Darkagma spammed Challenging Assaults. As the number of battles piled up, Darkagma noticed that the AI tended to make the same actions based on the previous turn's actions. This characterized a mathematical function f(X) = Y, which for every action X, there would be a corresponding roughly deterministic outcome Y. By performing the battles for uncountable hours, patterns were identified and then ranked according to the payoff.

Additionally, by using a heuristic-based approach known as ACO (ant-colony optimization), random variations in actions from misclicks or alternative deployment setups allowed the discovery of alternative patterns that produced an outcome with very strong potential. One of these random variations caused the realization that Light Tanks were more effective than Shredder Tanks in the long run due to its higher kill chance with the 1-time use Canister Shot than the Shredder Tank's autocannon attack,. Despite the Light Tank's meager AT damage with its main gun, it was able to kill trashmob infantry with 100% chance in two turns without the large minimum range. Grinding in a pragmatic and reasonable way enabled noticeable reduction in grinding times, which eventually drew attention from other players.

Formalization Edit

By the time the methods of the Way reached maturity, the Shogun Empire was backstabbed by its former allies, the European Alliance and the United Republic, with a preemptive strike from Australia, Bangladesh and Hawaii before declaration of war. The Soviet Union temporarily joined them later. The attackers took the Shogun Empire by surprise, advancing through the homeland territories with impressive speed. Defense was ineffective and could not match the battle points output of the three largest factions of the world combined. Darkagma had by that time reached the Imperial High Command and observed the conflict that reduced the mighty Shogun Empire to a third of mainland China and India. Facing imminent extermination, the deplorable situation gave him a thought.

                       "There must be a Way out of this mess."

The method worked reliably and, due to its repetitive nature, it was easily reproducible. Figuring out that he alone would not be able to fight 3 factions at the same time, Darkagma acted in two ways: first, recording the fundamentals of the method in an intuitive format intended for mass distribution, and second, the foundation of his battle group, the 1st Kure SNLF (Special Naval Landing Forces), in order to spread the method to all able Shoguns and form the shock troopers of the Shogun Empire, capable of taking "one territory in one hour".

In order to maximize comprehension and spread, Darkagma compiled the Way of the Grinder as a set of videos that could be easily shared and trivially learned by repetition by any Shogun with the minimum army size requirements to perform it effectively. The videos were separated in three blocks, one for each type of possible battlefield terrain: ARI (arid), JGL (jungle) and TEM (temperate). Darkagma noticed that each territory had a possible set of maps associated to it, mostly correlated with its geographical location. Territories like Bangladesh and Indonesia had 100% chance of rolling JGL maps, while Benelux and Mid-Atlantic had 100% chance of producing TEM maps. Some maps had mixed geographical themes like Italy (TEM/ARI) and India (JGL/ARI).

Each video showed a walkthrough with a run that varied from 1 to 2 minutes per map. In ideal conditions, the Way could produce about 18000 battle points per hour, with output in regular conditions between 12000 and 14000 battle points per hour in JGL and ARI maps. TEM maps have always been problematic due to the presence of the bane of the PVE grinders: TEM_filtrate.

The Way was then released to the world through the Empire chat and simultaneously disclosed to the Shogun Empire High Command. However, against his expectation, the Shogun Empire Faction Leader protested and censored its spread with sound reason: a powerful method that is easily reproducible in the wrong hands can cause the fall of the Empire, with hordes of alt characters swarming into the High Command. The Way was then turned into a state secret and only disclosed to the most loyal Shoguns of the Empire and those who have demonstrated outstanding potential. The SNLF, other than being a battle group meant to coordinate grinding effort, also became the grinding academy of the Empire, which eventually became the alma mater of two future faction leaders: ChinggisKhaan and Akridd.

The Way was the proof of loyalty that allowed Darkagma to be welcomed into the inner circle of the Shogun Leadership, known as the Imperial Council and composed of the Hayabusas, the most loyal Shoguns of the Empire who were devoted to maintain the Shogun Empire's political stability with an iron fist. With the most loyal Shoguns armed with a method that extracted the full potential of the Empire's arsenal, the situation of the war was reverted. The Soviet Union withdrew. The United Republic was cleansed from mainland Asia. Soon enough, the Shogun Empire was on the offensive, fighting for Oceania against the European Alliance. The capitulation of the ANZAC defenders marked the beginning of the payback against the enemy's dishonorable action: the Winter Campaign.

Theory Edit

Professional grinders like GodOfWar34, CommanderBLK and Lazy_Comrade were all capable of generating large amounts of battle points by using informal/unstructured grinding methods. While the Way is essentially fast grinding, what differed it from informal methods applied by those professional grinders was the theoretical framework the Way was grounded on. It had two main tenets: speed and efficiency.

Speed Edit

Battle points output in a battle was constant no matter how many turns one spent on it. Therefore, to maximize output, one must take the least number of turns per battle in order to fight the highest number of battles in a given amount of time. This meant that fighting on TEM_shoreruins and TEM_filtrate will generate exactly the same amount of battle points despite having a clear difference in size, which directly affected the number of turns required for one to contest the AI's starting node and forcing it to surrender.

The faster you finish a battle, the faster you will earn battle points. This does not apply only to using fast moving units, but also to starting battles faster from the overworld, positioning mouse pointers appropriately over the place where buttons would show up, using game mechanics like movement area panning to increase interaction speed without compromising its accuracy, spatial locality (moving the units that are close to the mouse pointer, reducing pointer traversal on the screen) and mouse pointer traversal between animations (leave long animation sequences like the Korean Archer's arrows as the last action of a cluster of units, so that you can move the mouse pointer and viewing area while the animation is running). All this saves a couple of seconds that pile up the more battles you start.

In tactical aspects, speed implied strong usage of node contesting and capturing, something the Shogun Empire arsenal was well-endowed with the Light Tank and the Shadow at their disposal. Contesting denied resources to the computer, which would allow it to place more units per turn (therefore, more units to eliminate which resulted in larger turn count), while capturing allowed the player to place more units closer to the enemy (reducing the number of turns spent only to move units within attack range).

Efficiency Edit

Every movement and action of a unit must count. This aspect could be easily noticed in the Latin Junta and the Shogun Empire, which contain move-after-attack units: it allowed units to attack an enemy while also having the potential to advance towards the AI's starting node. The unit cost had equal importance for the tenet, prioritizing the placement of fast units at the start of the match (in order to contest the AI's last node as fast as possible) and slow hard-hitting units at the end of the match (closer to the enemy, without the need to spend turns moving the units). This setup filled the nodes with contesting units that would resist long enough for the hard-hitters to clear all enemy units on the last turn. Area of effect units were extremely valuable to clear the last pockets of enemy resistance.

In tactical aspects, "shifting" was of great importance: a fast unit would advance to contest a node with another fast unit following it from behind. The first unit would prevent the enemy from capturing a node, leaving the node for the second unit while it rushed for the next node, somehow similar to baseball. This allowed the map TEM_filtrate to be winnable in 5 turns after the StormSiege AI update. Another useful tactic was to use an infantry unit to try to capture a node. Because the AI gave great importance to nodes, enemy units would go out of their way to contest the node being captured. This allowed commanders to actually bring the enemy units towards them, spending the AI's actions for movement instead of attacking. This could also be exploited when using area denial elements (toxic and fire pools), by forcing the enemy units to walk over them in order to prevent a node from being captured.

In strategical aspects, territory selection was vital. The Shogun Empire could only be saved from the "coalition" attacks because most of the islands and the port of the Empire were composed of JGL maps. Whenever a commander has the option to choose where to fight, he/she is supposed to choose the one where they can fight the most efficiently. Darkagma would regularly ask Shoguns to fight in TEM maps while he would grind the JGL and ARI maps himself. This was also one of the explanations on how he managed to occupy Australia for one week virtually alone. This was top secret information because if the enemies of the Empire had discovered that, they would try to avoid battles on JGL and ARI maps as much as they could, especially the European Alliance, whose commanders were proficient with the TEM maps that were widespread in the European mainland[1].

Practice Edit

Application leaned more towards pragmatism than achieving a definite objective: the Way advocates that it is preferable for a grinding champion to grind where he/she fights better and more efficiently for a secondary objective than fighting in a battle with unfavorable terrain/opponent. This allowed a Way holder to get engaged in grinding by constantly receiving positive feedback as fast as possible, emulating a mental state similar to the "flow". Moreover, regular use of the method produced multiple benefits for the holder and his/her faction, including:

  • Unprecedented grinding speed for the purposes of earning gold, experience, science points and battle points, which allowed a single person to turn the tide of battles in a matter of minutes and enabled the composition of a full-fledged army in a matter of days.
  • Raising faction morale from the continuous chain of battle victories, generating positive feedback for the whole faction.
  • Boost of the holder's faction reputation as a fearsome faction for the purposes of deterrence and political power.
  • General demoralization and constant feeling of helplessness of the opposing factions due to the chain of lost battles.
  • Increase in finger pointing and blaming in the opponent's High Command.
  • Boost in credibility and competency of the holder's faction High Command.
  • Fast generation of new alt slots due to the meager requirements to complete a tech tree (~50000 research points = ~140 Hard Assaults = ~160 Challenging Assaults).
  • Fast progression to foreign High Commands.

The Way of the Grinder evolved from a simple grinding pattern repetition to an actual science, based on general experimentation, formulation of a hypothesis, testing and implementation. Apart from Darkagma's own optimizations on the method, there are three particular concepts that improved the method to some degree.

Harutora's selective map optimization Edit

Field Marshal Harutora, member of The Akuma's, introduced one of the most decisive optimization to the original Way of the Grinder. At its conception, the holder of the Way was supposed to grind all maps, efficient or not, as it was expected that a better average grinding time could be achieved since the fast-grinding maps would negate the impact of the slow-grinding maps (JGL_FloodedTemple, TEM_Filtrate, JGL_Wetworks). The optimization surfaced in the Shogun Empire High Command chat in a discussion between Harutora and Darkagma regarding turn counts and optimizations. The realization happened when he mentioned the fact that surrendering a battle did not impact battle point count in territory battles. This allowed the Way holder to actually surrender the slow-grinding maps right from the start in the hopes that the next started battle would be a fast-grinding map.

Experiments demonstrated that surrendering slow-grinding maps 3 to 4 times in a row (which was very unlikely) and getting a fast-grinding map was still more efficient than grinding a truly slow-grinding map like TEM_Filtrate in the long run. It worked well with territory types like ARI, with plenty of fast-grinding maps, as it allowed the mass execution of grinding runs in fast maps while having a lower chance of rolling a slow map. This optimization produced the Way 2.0, which had a battle point output up to 50% higher than the Way 1.0. The only disadvantage of this pattern was when applied by anonymous alts because it produced a quite unique pattern[2] in a territory battle log, which could be used to link such alt to the roots of the Way, the Shogun Empire.

Akridd's Flora optimization Edit

Admiral Akridd, member of the 1st Kure Special Naval Landing Forces, started his Shogun career by applying the Way of the Grinder to the fullest before becoming a PVP champion. Akridd's contribution was on the later removed map JGL_flora, which was composed of 8 resource nodes surrounding a set of houses with an empty middle inside the jungle, similar to ARI_pĺaza, but without the central star node. When the first version of the Way was released, JGL_flora only had grinding value on particular starting positions for both players which could be won in only two turns and happened only 33% of the time. Akridd came up with a way to reduce the turn count to 5 from the other starting positions by carefully squirming units through the gaps between the houses and by using the Shredder Tank in the deployment phase instead of the more widespread Light Tank. His contribution made JGL the most efficient territory type to grind, surpassing the ARI maps that were perfected in Australia.

GodOfWar34's United Republic Blitz Spam Edit

One particular optimization that was discovered outside of the Shogun Empire High Command was a unique grinding pattern that was first observed while Convair was fighting assault battles to reach the United Republic's High Command. Convair noticed that URHC GodOfWar34 would sometimes produce a burst of rapid-grinding Blitz matches which traded the assault's superior battle point output in moderate times for a lower output in faster times, usually at the closing stages of a territory battle where grinding a full Challenging or Hard assault could be wasted (finished after the territory closed).

Convair was intrigued with the method and decided to check it himself. Convair had only knowledge of the battle patterns, but not the deployment setup. It did not take too long to figure out that the fastest Way to finish a Blitz match was by aiming directly on the AI's Command Vehicle, which was possible due to the Republic's recently-buffed unit, the Bell Helicopter. The method was defined as spawning 5 Bell Helicopters at deployment phase, rush them towards the AI's Command Vehicle in 1 to 3 turns and then launching a full salvo of recoilless rifle rounds on it. Bells would often reach the target with no damage or only 1 or 2 Bells downed. After the first salvo, if the vehicle survived, the player could decide whether to spend 1 or 2 Precision Strike command card on it to finish the battle faster or to wait another turn to fire another salvo. Either way, spending 1 or even 2 Precision Strikes in an AI match was sustainable because for every match won, one would earn a replacement command card as a prize. Also, a player would amass such large amounts of gold by applying this method that it would make bulk purchasing of command cards trivial.

Application of the method worked incredibly well in United Republic standards, notably against the European Alliance, and had a higher battle point output than grinding assault with the same times. Application of the method allowed Convair to reach the High Command in record time and to support the invasion of the United Republic during "The Day the Lion was Tamed" incident.

The Way of the Grinder Edit

The full listing of the grinding manual can be found below. The manual dates from the Winter Campaign period and was considered half obsolete when the Mystery Island (StormSiege) update was applied. While the method can be copied as is, the intended objective of showing those was to "awaken" the individual in a way that he/she would start grinding with their brains instead of grinding aimlessly without any guidelines. Done right, even the bane of the PVE grinding, TEM_Filtrate, could be finished in five turns.

ARI Block JGL Block TEM Block

Other Edit

The Sacred Scriptures of Kagura Edit

It was often said by Field Marshal Masaharta that the first Exalted Shogun and Closest Man to God, Kagura, had written something named "Sacred Scriptures of Kagura" which supposedly contained important information regarding grinding techniques, but that were forgotten as the time passed by. However, The Way of the Grinder and said scriptures are unrelated. The existence of said writings are also a matter of speculation.

The Book of Aceman Edit

The Latin Junta and the Shogun Empire shared a similar trait: speed. Most of the knowledge applicable with the Way was also applicable with the Junta's arsenal. One of the former greater Generalíssimos of the Latin Junta, Aceman, started developing a Way of his own way before Darkagma had joined the Shogun Empire. Obviously, his methods were focused on the Latin Junta's play style and units, but had the same aim to make grinding as fast and pragmatic as possible. The result of his efforts produced "The junta challenging (maybe hard too) PvE assault guide by Aceman", labeled as "The Book of Aceman" within this article.

Darkagma got to know Aceman for the first time from a random private message that was sent to him. In that message, Aceman stated his dislike for the game's course in the recent times and the decline in the player base. Darkagma initially ignored and kept contact to a minimum with said individual who would often stuff his ears with stories dating from the beta period and how buggy and chaotic, albeit fun, the world was during those times. His usual tone sounded slightly melancholic and at the same time nostalgic, earning him the nickname "Green Dinosaur".

Darkagma started to trust Aceman due to his closeness to the then Shogun Empire Faction Leader Masaharta. Aceman would often provide support from the shadows. keeping a low profile and changing the state of the world in a matter of clicks. Aceman eventually revealed his findings, "The Book of Aceman", to Darkagma and other potential grinders who would fight for the Junta's cause and also backed Majikagma's terms during the turbulent period of Lietza's succession in the Latin Junta. Despite being immensely hated by the European Alliance High Command, Aceman was very close to the Imperial Council, making him the only non-Shogun member to be part of this select group and known as "A Shogun at Heart". For his contribution for the Empire's supremacy, Aceman was granted the title of Holder of the Way of the Grinder.

The Tomoka Way Edit

Tomoka, originally born as United Republic's Carolyn who at some point defected to the Shogun Empire, had always demonstrated strong grinding potential. While efficiency might have not been optimal, this was outweighed by sheer will power, grinding and inspiring other Republic commanders. Carolyn learned to grind in an average speed faction, the United Republic, which lacked move and attack units, later becoming fascinated with the Shogun Empire's arsenal that could bring her grinding tenacity to maximum efficiency. Once Tomoka left the 1st Kure SNLF without any particular reason, her attitude became more defiant against the already established Imperial Council, creating her own battle group, the Mighty Yaks, and rallying for support to win the Shogun Empire election.

Darkagma had by that time 12 Shogun Empire characters in order to keep the position of Closest Man to God always in the right hands, capable of outvoting the whole Imperial Council if it ever proved to be necessary. One of these characters, Suzuya, was invited to join the Mighty Yaks due to the particularly effective grinding that was observed by Tomoka while trying to reach level 10. Suzuya infiltrated the battle group and, to her surprise, discovered that Tomoka was creating a Way of her own, "The Tomoka Way", which was publicly available in the battle group's chat. The consequences of this kind of method reaching the wrongs hands would be disastrous. Additionally, the battle group had members that were either known alts from other factions (e.g. Masinegara, better known as URHC's Aeynghus) or had very strong indications of being a Republican (e.g. Zhian).

Luckily, the method was not spread further for the same reason the Way of the Grinder did not turn out be mainstream when it was first broadcast in the Empire Chat: people repudiate hard work and had only a fraction of the discipline required to effectively apply the method. Further analysis of "The Way of Tomoka" indicated that there was no explicit sign of the Way of the Grinder's two tenets: speed and efficiency, which would make the method reproducible (by sharing the method), but still purely mechanical.

The Mighty Yaks were eventually disbanded. Tomoka never became a Shogun Empire Faction Leader due to the intervention with the voting alts and the cooperation of the Imperial Council. Ironically, Darkagma had taken the proposal to reveal the Way of the Grinder to URHC Carolyn twice to the Imperial Council, with her being also considered to become a member of the Imperial Council as Tomoka, The Mistress of Destruction. Unfortunately, she never managed to gather support from every member of the Imperial Council at the same time, despite always having at least one person supporting her at any given time.

RAF4EL, The Angel of Death Edit

While having a short career, RAF4EL of the Latin Junta had demonstrated superior grinding skills than any other commander Darkagma had seen before (perhaps comparable to Admiral Akridd's only). When Acemagma noticed him spreading destruction, he did not waste any time in bringing him under his wing. RAF4EL appeared to have a very deep understanding of the Way's two tenets despite having never been introduced to it. By applying his self-taught skills and complementary coaching from Acemagma, he managed to fully wipe two factions with Aceman's support and sometimes Acemagma's help as well.

It is speculated that had him stayed in the game long enough, he would have developed a Way of his own. Acemagma never taught him the Way because it would have been redundant.

Holders of the Way of the Grinder Edit

Certified Edit

  • Darkagma
  • Akridd
  • ChinggisKhaan
  • Masaharta
  • Harutora
  • HongKongPhooey
  • NonoyAquino
  • HurriKane

Trained Edit

  • ushoran88
  • 47JL
  • Ancadril
  • DocKimble
  • cuanse (LJ)

Bestowed Edit

  • Aceman (LJ)

Notes Edit

[1] Because of the noticeable difference of battle point outputs between TEM maps and JGL/ARI maps, Darkagma would often be "benevolent" towards factions with copious amounts of TEM maps by publicly announcing he would not grind on the European mainland (SE-EA relations after the Winter Campaign) or invade the United Republic as Latin Junta (UR-LJ relations after Lietza's Succession War) despite having the means to do so as a convenient excuse to not have to grind those maps. This had some benefits: it boosted Darkagma's reputation as a peace-loving but competent grinder and could also be used for bargaining power: threatening to intervene in a conflict with grinding effort was sometimes influential or acted as deterrence in political affairs.

[2] One notable situation where the pattern investigation appeared to work was after AWFL wiked was removed from power by the Shogun Empire, with a previously unknown warlord named AgentOrange0024 (OrangeKebab) succeeding him. Within the Shogun Empire, it was evident to them that OrangeKebab was a veteran player due to the discrepancies between the time of the character's creation and the effectiveness of the player's grinding skills. Further investigation showed that OrangeKebab had an unusual victory to loss ration in her profile: a very high number of losses lowered the percentage down. Darkagma, as the creator of the Way of the Grinder, concluded that OrangeKebab was a Way holder (hence, a Shogun), since only the Way holders tended to show this kind of abnormal victory to loss ratio. This was perhaps the only reason why the African Warlords were not wiped by the Shogun Empire after OrangeKebab abruptly declared war on the Shogun Empire's ally, Acemagma's Latin Junta. The most probable perpetrator was later questioned by the Imperial Council. Although such person has never admitted it himself, he has never denied it either.

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