Greedy Goblin

Friday, July 29, 2016

"All the real players spent all their money on gear"

This is a common argument against my crafting, trading and worker based income in Black Desert. A claim that other people (the grinders) make more money, they just can't prove it with a #1 wealth badge because they spent it all on gear.

No, I won't come with the obvious reply "screenshot or didn't happen". Instead I'd like to emphasize that this is the point of using crafting, trading and AFK farms instead of grinding. Grinding needs gear to be effective. And levels, but that's "easy" to get. You can't grind as a low level or with low gear. Especially as anyone can kill you to take your spot. Sure, you can run back again and again until he turns criminal, but that's lot of waste of time. This is the same as the WoW gearing: you farm gear so you can kill bigger bosses so you can farm more gear.

On the other hand the industrial income sources need no gear, so you can make stupid amount of money even before reaching level 50. Here gear is simple vanity buy which you can delay until the price goes down. It will go down, as many people replace their normal gear to boss-drop gear, despite only a few percent increase of stats, putting their normal gear for sale. Also, the enhancement materials keep coming into the economy, while demand decreases as the most "dedicated" players finished gearing. For them it's a must: the faster they get gear, the faster they can farm silver. For crafters there is no hurry.

This should be a very good reason for new players to pick the industrial route: instead of competing with the already geared grinders, they could use the grinders as gear source. Instead, they want to follow the "normal route" and then whine that they can "never catch up", which is factually true: you will never catch up if you do the same as someone who is better geared for the job and always have better output. But economy is already a catchup mechanism, as the existing rich pays more for the same product than the people did at the start. I mean the grinders won't care if a well-bred horse or some consumables is expensive as they can afford it, providing income to the horse breeders and consumable crafters. You just have to look for professions that cooperates with them instead of competes.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Islamic State miracle

The Islamic State seems to find the holy grail of terrorism. There always were extremists who were ready to kill random people for "the great cause", but IS managed to turn into a mass movement. Thousands of people from around the World flock to their flag and join them either by moving to IS controlled territory or committing mass killings at home. They don't seem to run out of new terrorists, they can't just be beheaded by killing leaders, they aren't an organization but a movement, an idea.

Tobold got me thinking about them who - obviously - blames it on capitalism: too many poor people with no future. This might be true for Iraqi and Syrian members, but in Europe middle class kids join them, sometimes without Islamic background. Also, poor kids always turned to crime, not to terrorism. They lack money, so they steal, sell drugs or get into prostitution. But killing random people? Why?!

I believe that the miracle of the IS is that they are the first terrorist organization in history with a positive career path. All terrorists, rebels and freedom fighters did what they did "for the people", "for the future of our children", "for the Nation", "for the Faith" or other selfless goal. The IS says "be a terrorist and be famous, rich and successful in this life". The IS offers (and pretty often delivers) slave girls and fame to their members. Not the usual "70 harem girls in the afterlife" but a captured girl sold on their marketplace in this very life. Not the usual "you'll be remembered as a martyr after our final victory" but 1M hits on your beheading video today.

The thing is that the IS offers the "American dream" better than America itself. Look at any blockbuster movie and you see a hero fighting against impossible odds for a noble cause. But can you actually achieve it in the US or EU? Not really. Most career opportunities lead to money and more money and even more money, but young people don't want to be Jordan Belford, they want to be Batman, and there is no hiring for Batman in the US and the EU. Even if you join some fighting force, you'll be outnumbering and outgunning the enemy and no one will consider you a hero for driving a drone over Syria and bombing people by pressing buttons in your air base. IS offers nothing but Batman positions: you'll be surrounded by "infidels" and you'll be killing dozens or even hundreds of them before going down with guns blazing.

The solution is taking away the "coolness" of IS. Flat out censor the hype around terrorist acts. Sure, you can't censor the fact that an IS terrorist killed 84 people in Nice. But you can and should limit this to a dry and factual report and censor out the sensational pictures and videos, especially the one with the image of the terrorist. He shall have no name, he shall die as "an IS terrorist". Of course, most of the censorship needs to be done in social media. I'm sure that unless it's done, IS won't be defeated, even if they lose their land.

Finally, the slave girls. They are such an attractive force to IS because of sexism. Just check out the chat in a video game and you'll see that many players would do many bad things if they would be paid in slave girls. Every time you tolerate "let's rape those cunts" in a piece of media, you reinforce the belief that girls are trophies that the winners will claim. IS will always have girls to offer while Western countries can't do the same. The goal is to make young men be disgusted by the idea of a girl being their property instead of (not so) secretly dreaming about it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The end of Valencia farms

With the Valencia expansion various materials were released. Connecting them was expensive compared to old World materials: the work nodes cost 3 contribution points instead of one and the nodes are often separated by 3 point gateways from the nearest towns. This hints that these materials will be expensive due to how hard it is to get them.

Instead Fig, Star Anise, Elder Tree, Teff, Nutmeg and Pistachio are all on minimum price with the marketplace being full with them, while various old World materials (Fir, Birch, Cedar, Fleece) are pretty expensive. This makes no sense. The price of the materials should follow the CP cost of connecting them as there are no other differences between their farming. Getting potato next to Velia isn't harder for the player than getting Teff next to Sand Grain Bazaar. So why don't people abandon these expensive nodes and grab cheaper ones?

The answer lies in the social term "cool stuff". This is an emotional valuation of items ignoring any rational calculation. Something is "cool" because the "cool kids" say so. The new expansion is always "cool" as it gives new rewards. The fact that enchanting gear with black crystals have nothing to do with the farming nodes of Valencia does not affect the socials. This is called halo effect: different and logically uncorrelated traits of an entity have correlated results in the eyes of social people. If someone considers X pretty, he also thinks X is smart or kind or reliable. This is because of the quite one-dimensional "thinking" of inherited schemes of the social brain (I use to call them ape-subroutines): does X increase my reproduction chances or not? When a social person evaluates a job applicant or even a work node in a video game, he subconsciously ask "will associating with him/her/it will get me more offspring". If the answer is yes, then X is "cool" and the social hires the bad applicant, buys expensive designer clothes and put workers on a 3 CP Teff node.

The solution is always numerically evaluate the options excluding personal opinions.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is PLEX/WoW token a good idea?

WoW token and PLEX are common in modern MMOs, they allow one player to make purchases for another (who essentially plays for free) in return of some game currency. In BDO I can't buy pearls for game currency and this difference made me think that maybe Blizzard and CCP are wrong, and Daum/Pearl Abyss is right. Let me explain, by comparing 3 situations:

Please note that in all cases the whale and the developer have very similar input and output. They exchange subscription for game service, the whale pays some money and gets game currency while the dev gets some money and provides some extra service, either game access to the farmer or maintaining an item shop. In case of RMT they both get worse as the RMT-er can scam the buyer and more often than not "pays" the developer with account theft mess or credit card chargeback.

So why have the middle man? What does a free player brings to the table? In case of PvP-only games like World of Tanks or League of Legends he is the content: an underpowered punching bag. But in mostly-PvE MMOs he is just the fifth wheel, save for the low chance that he'll start paying one day (this can be channeled by a limited time free to try period). Actually having tokens costs money to the dev over having sub+item shop: there are PvE players who would subscribe the game if they had to, but instead they just buy tokens. The dev could have more money by having them subscribed and then sell the power of the token (the game currency) in the item shop .

I believe the tokens are just introduced to bribe the loud minority crying pay-to-win, by letting them buying their subscription with the power sold to the whales. However the "item shop is unfair and make (paying) players leave" idea is dead. There is clear evidence that paying players want to buy power and have no problem with it. A whale is not ashamed of being a whale, a game that has "pay to win" hype doesn't repel paying players. Sure, the "unlimited pay-to-win" scheme (when a $10000 payer is stronger than a $1000 payer) drives away the average buyers and probably not the best idea, but "true" free-to-play (where you can get all power for free) is dead.

I believe now that BDO is doing it right and my wish to make pearls available for sale is just me trying to freeload on the game (as I could easily buy all the peals with silver, being #1 wealth on EU Jordine). Daum/PA does the smart thing taking my $15/month and not letting me play for free, while taking the thousands of the whales who buy all the costumes and horse count resets and whatnot.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Are video games technical sports?

This is a screenshot of a page of the program I wrote for analyzing the monthly CFC killboard data. It's 320 lines long. It uses a self-made library to do most of the tasks, 1170 lines. The end of year analysis and other special tasks are separate programs of similar size, using the mentioned library. It's probably not the best code, my formal programming training was two decades ago, IT improved a lot. I am OK with local computing, but I couldn't write a single line of web application, so the data had to be fetched from he API into a text file by Hanura H'arasch, which is surely a bunch of more programming lines.

My question is: while writing this code, was I playing a video game? Do you consider my time spent on it as "gameplay?" Or even a broader term "entertainment"?

If not, what was it? Was it work? Then it must have some kind of product and there is none. I can't sell it, nor I can use it myself for anything outside of the game.

Was it science or training? I believe it was, as new knowledge was obtained: what CFC lost in that month and to whom. You can claim that it's worthless knowledge, but it's objectively knowledge anyway. The question is, is it OK for a video game to expect people doing science instead of gameplay? Please note that if something is possible in the game, it's necessary if you are competitive.

Sports are games, the outcome depends on player skill. Except for "technical sports" like Formula 1. Here the player skill is secondary to the building of the racing car. The real competitors are not drivers but constructors. Do you claim that video games are technical sports where the real competitors are third party tool developers and the players using the client are just racers? If so, then why are they paying money instead of being paid by the constructor teams? Does this make any sense in an entertainment activity?

The only way out of this mess if we conclude that allowing "constructors" to exist in a video game is a bad idea and game developers must not support or even tolerate the existence of third party tools.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tears over subscription

Black Desert Online reddit thread has the following top topics:

The official forums are sorted by last comment, so some useful topics are present on the top page, but I could find the following ones:

We can say that several players are upset (or trolling the upset ones). What horrible thing the devs do? Introduced a de facto subscription to the game. For $15/month you can buy a monthly buff that increase character and bank slots, weight limit, give various "beauty" stuff and decrease tax on the marketplace. Since the math is unclear to many people, I made a simple test inside the game and found that the tax moved to 15.5% from 35%:

Devs need salary. BDO isn't a web game made by a few guys who are happy to earn enough to pay rent and food from advertising. It's an MMO with huge World and graphics matching recent single player games. Someone has to pay for it. It seemed that they want to live on constant "quality of life" sells, but it has a problem. A latecomer must buy all of them at once to be competitive and after a few years this can be a one-time $1000 buy. Not the best way to get new players. If they give discounts later, people will simply not buy anything and wait for discounts. The only way out is limited time buffs. It's like a subscription: you pay to have access to it for $15/month.

Why not have formal subscription than? Because that's dead. Let me summarize it for BDO players: EVE Online used to be subscription, you simply couldn't log in without having a subscription paid with credit card, or an in game "gift card" called PLEX that you could sell for ingame money to other players, but someone had to buy it from the developer. The price was set by supply and demand, an average grinder could earn enough credits to buy one over 10 hours of grinding. So far, nothing surprising.

The interesting thing is that the EVE devs started to sell a cash shop item that allowed players to remove "experience points" from their character and then sell the package on the in-game marketplace. The buyer could use it to add the points to his own character, gaining skills. In EVE, you get these points automatically if you subscribe. The price of the package is once again set by the market. If many players extract their skills and few buy packages, the price is low, if many buys and few sells, the price is high. Well, the price is very high, one package sells for 2/3 price of the subscription. The fun thing is that the subscription gives 4x more points than a package over a month. But whales want them now and there aren't enough players to sell. If you did the math, you realize that one can now play EVE completely free (don't do it!), just by selling the points he gets in a month to buy a card.

This means that the players, not the devs decided that in-game power is more valuable than subscription and turned the game into a free-to-play + cash shop game. Players want power, not game access, that's the sad truth, so you can cry over "P2W" all day, the majority of the players want to buy power. So deal with it or simply stop playing video games. While the minority is filling the forums and reddit with tears, the majority fills the wallet of the developer, so they'll just keep introducing new power items. Or not, since with the value pack they can sell the same power item again and again every month.

I understand that paying for something that you imagined to get for free sucks. But I had very bad experience in EVE where I could play for free. As I didn't pay to the developers, they were free to not only ignore my interest, but flat out harass me. For them I was just a freeloader who can be abused for fun. In BDO I'm a paying customer and treated accordingly. When I was unhappy with the ghillie suit change, they returned the price in less than a day. The point is that you can only expect decent service if you pay for it.

PS: I used the free beauty feature "Marv's palette" to change the color of the absolutely ridiculous processing costume. I colored the black parts with light green, the white ones with dark green and the hair bow to the hair color to make it as invisible as possible:
The dress is still outright stupid (you shouldn't work with molten metal with any skin exposed, not even your face), but at least she doesn't look like a prostitute. I am really sad that there isn't even a niche market for decent looking costumes, I can't even buy one for money, while various stripper outfits are for sale. But I realize that this is what the majority wants and there is no point rageposting against sexism on the forums.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Protective tariff: Cooking honey for 525

Another wonderful example of the limited economy of Black Desert Online: Cooking Honey. This is a cooking material (go figure!) which is used in various recipes. It's gained by placing a worker in Alajandro farm.

The problem is that its price minimum is 525, making it one of the most expensive basic materials, beaten only by Acacia, Fir and Cedar, maybe Coal. On the other hand its market price would be much lower as its demand is very limited: a few cooks. Ergo, for 525 the supply is much higher than the demand, so the market is clogged with 85K cooking honey listed for 525K which will never sell.

It won't sell, because if you need cooking honey, you are much better off placing a worker on it, than buying it on the marketplace. So the market is limited to a handful of not too bright cooks. Those who produce it without being cooks are doing it wrong.

The result is anti-comparative advantage. Those who'd produce honey had comparative advantage in it (otherwise they wouldn't do it), while cooks probably don't (a specialized cook is better off spending his time leveling cooking than getting contribution points for workers). So they would be better off if the cook would buy the Honey for 150-200 market price than having to make it himself, while the producers would be better off selling Honey than just looking at an idle worker.

The minimum price of Honey can be considered a protective tariff placed by the "guild of cooks" in order to protect their own workers jobs. Thanks to the tariff, cooks should give a work to a worker in Alejandro farm as importing is too expensive. The loser of course is everyone else: the cook himself, the worker empire player and the worker of the latter who is now unemployed.