Frequently Asked Questions
About Square Off

This FAQ contains answers to frequently asked questions about Square Off, an educational math game that used to be available on the Prodigy Classic service.

You can also see screen shots of Square Off.

Square Off is a service mark of Prodigy Services Corporation. Prodigy is a registered trademark of Prodigy Services Corporation.


1. Questions About the High Score Lists

1.1 Which scores show up on the high score lists?
1.2 When are the high score lists updated?
1.3 Why are my scores nowhere near as high as the scores on the high score lists?
1.4 Why didn't my name didn't show up on the high score lists at the end of the week?
1.5 My score showed up, but it wasn't my highest for the week. What happened?
1.6 Why aren't the high score lists being updated?
1.7 Why weren't the high score lists available for several months beginning in 1996?
1.8 Who is K. Moser, and how did he/she get the impossibly high score of 999,999 points?

2. Questions About Your Scores

2.1 How is my score determined?
2.2 Are my high scores accumulated during the week?
2.3 Will a faster computer or modem help me get a higher score?
2.4 I just upgraded to a faster modem. Why is Square Off slower instead of faster?
2.5 How can I get a higher score?
2.6 What is the highest possible score?

3. Miscellaneous Questions

3.1 At the end of every game it tells me to do better next time. Doesn't it ever congratulate me?
3.2 Am I charged extra for playing Square Off?
3.3 Who is SLAM5, and what does the name mean?
3.4 Why am I allowed to play only once a day?
3.5 Do the winners get a t-shirt or other prize?
3.6 What are the meanings of the quotes on the main page and of the tiled pictures in Phase 2?
3.7 Are the photos in the Meet SLAM5 section real?
3.8 Will Square Off ever be upgraded? Will there ever be a sequel?

4. Other Web Links to Square Off


1. Questions About the High Score Lists

1.1 Which scores show up on the high score lists?
All scores achieved in a given week are contenders for being on the high score list. That gives you up to 7 separate and distinct chances. But because only one ID per player is selected to appear on each of the 3 lists, only your top score in each of the three difficulty levels is really a contender.

The only time scores will be posted that AREN'T your highest is if technical problems prevented some scores from being included in the ranking process. This has happened several times in the past, and is beyond my control. When it happens, there is usually no practical way to recover those scores.

1.2 When are the high score lists updated?
High scores are posted every Friday morning. They include scores from the previous Thursday (a week ago) through Wednesday (two days ago).

Scores from games played after midnight on Wednesday are included as well, even though technically they were really played on Thursday. Because the rest of Thursday's scores aren't posted until next week, it would be misleading to say "As of Thursday..." That's why it says "As of Wednesday..." instead.

1.3 Why are my scores nowhere near as high as the scores on the high score lists?
Square Off is not very forgiving. Every second you waste and every equation you get wrong causes you to lose points one way or another. Conversely, every second you save gives you more points. As a result, your score can be very low (near zero), very high (50,000 and up), or anywhere in the middle.

In retrospect it would have been better to scale the scores so that novice players would score better relative to expert players. This would have made for a more fun, less frustrating experience for first-time players.

1.4 Why didn't my name didn't show up on the high score lists at the end of the week?
One of the following happened:

1.5 My score showed up, but it wasn't my highest for the week. What happened?
One of the following happened:

1.6 Why aren't the high score lists being updated?
It's probably a technical problem. The best way to get the problem fixed is to write a message to Prodigy's Member Services. To write them a message, follow these directions:

  1. [Jump]: ASK FOR HELP
  2. Hit the PgDn button to get to the next screen
  3. Select "Report Errors"
  4. Select "Write To Us"
  5. Write a polite message noting that the high score lists aren't being updated and asking them to please fix the problem.

1.7 Why weren't the high score lists available for several months beginning in 1996?
There were technical problems. (The next time it happens, follow the instructions in this FAQ.)

1.8 Who is K. Moser, and how did he/she get the impossibly high score of 999,999 points?
Kim Moser is me. I programmed Square Off, and at the time I had the ability to put any score on the high score list. It is virtually impossible to achieve a legitimate high score anywhere near 999,999.


2. Questions About Your Scores

2.1 How is my score determined?
Throughout the course of the game, your score can go up or down depending on how well you do. Here is a breakdown of what happens in each phase: Phase 1:

Phase 2:

2.2 Are my high scores accumulated during the week?
No. Your high scores are NOT accumulated during the week. Each time you play, you get a separate score. At the end of the week, everyone's scores from each of the past 7 days are sorted (not combined!), and the highest 50 scores are posted for each difficulty level.

2.3 Will a faster computer or modem help me get a higher score?
Yes. Unfortunately a slow computer will put you at a slight disadvantage because it takes longer for your computer to display graphics. The timer is off for much of the time that graphics are being displayed, but it is not possible to turn off the timer EVERY time graphics are displayed.

The same applies to a slower modem. Most of the game loads in to your computer before the game starts, but occasionally information needs to be transmitted while the timer is still running. A slower modem will put you at a slight disadvantage in these situations. This phenomenon can not be overcome (except by getting a faster computer).

2.4 I just upgraded to a faster modem. Why is Square Off slower instead of faster?

Some Square Off players who upgraded to a faster modem (e.g. from 9600 or 14.4 to 28.8) have experienced Square Off playing SLOWER with their new modem. As far as I can tell, this could be caused by any of the following:

2.5 How can I get a higher score?
Everybody has their own strategies for playing Square Off. Your best bet is to ask other players on the Games BB. To get there:

You can also try sending email to some of the people on the high score lists. If you ask nicely, they might help you.

Finally, you can try some of these tips:

2.6 What is the highest possible score?
There is no maximum highest possible score. Your score is limited only by the speed of your brain, your fingers, your computer, and your modem.


3. Miscellaneous Questions

3.1 At the end of every game it tells me to do better next time. Doesn't it ever congratulate me?
If you score less than 90% of your all-time high score for that level, you are told to do better next time. If you score higher than 90% of your all-time high score, you are congratulated.

3.2 Am I charged extra for playing Square Off?
Square Off is a CORE service. You are billed for CORE services according to the terms of your pricing plan. For more information, [Jump]: PRICING.

3.3 Who is SLAM5, and what does the name mean?
SLAM5 stands for Synthetic Learning Acceleration Machine, version 5. According to the story, SLAM5 is the 5th in a series of virtual intelligences developed by Kerry Nelson.

3.4 Why am I allowed to play only once a day?
If you were permitted to play more than once a day, what was initially intended to be an occasional mind-expanding diversion would become a dull, repetitive chore.

3.5 Do the winners get a t-shirt or other prize?
When Square Off was first introduced in July of 1993, every week a t-shirt was mailed to the top three winners in each difficulty level. (If someone had already received three shirts, their shirt went to the person below them in the list.) This lasted until we ran out of shirts. In all, over 100 shirts were mailed. (It may have been more like 200; I don't remember.)

These days your "prize" consists of the knowledge and skill that you have achieved, as well as the fun of seeing your name on the high score list. In other words, winners don't get anything special.

3.6 What are the meanings of the quotes on the main page and of the tiled pictures in Phase 2?
Some are SLAM5's general philosophies, while others are just plain wackiness devised by the game designers.

3.7 Are the photos in the Meet SLAM5 section real?
Yes, they are real photos, but some have been enhanced for dramatic effect.

3.8 Will Square Off ever be upgraded? Will there ever be a sequel?
UPDATED 7/14/2014: Yes! You can play a web-based version of Square Off.


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Copyright © 2017 by Kim Moser (email)
Last modified: Wed 16 July 2014 03:03:44