Greedy Goblin

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The warning

I got a warning on the Albion forums for an inflammatory post. Considering that half of the posts in that forum are "devs are totally killing the game that was great in Alpha", the bar for "inflammatory" is high. What kind of horrible things I've said? Read it yourself (the thread isn't deleted, just moved to a cesspool subforum):
Did you plan to make a fortune by farming mounts at start? Well, forget about it!
The Devs wrote:
The tutorial will see significant improvements prior to release. There will be a basic mission line guiding beginning players through the starting towns and rewarding players who complete them with a first very basic mount to set out into the world of Albion.

This also make buying Legendary pack pointless, as everyone will have a mount at day one, so Legendary explorer's horse will add no or just little benefit.

I'm not saying it's a bad change. Anything that would give firstcoming players a serious advantage is bad, you shouldn't be millions behind just because you started 2 days later. However if you planned to make lots of money by selling mounts early, you should forget about it. Everyone will have mounts.
It's pretty harmless isn't it. Hell, it's even supportive towards the change, I've never seen a dev warning someone for supporting them. I wasn't mad, I merely wanted to inform people about a business change. Can you spot my horrible sin?

No? Then let me help: "This also make buying Legendary pack pointless". This isn't inflammatory, but quite harmful to devs, therefore they try to bury it. Let's check the shop:

I crossed out the cosmetic items with orange and what's the same in the packs in red. The real differences are the 7500 gold (which is irrelevant for good players and cheaper to buy in the shop for bad ones). The only real difference left for the +$50 is the two mounts. They are far from being overpowered, they are pretty basic mounts and now one can have much better one for ordinary playing - or by buying gold for $1. But on day one, they are very powerful. You see, mounts are nurtured on farms. And farms costs fixed amount of silver which is big amount for day one when everyone is naked and have to kill lowbie monsters dropping few silvers. After the farm is gained, you must plant carrots which take a day to grow. When you harvested them, you get the skill to breed horses. Buying the horse foals has astronomical costs for newbies, only dedicated players can farm that silver from lowbie monsters. Then the horses take another day to grow. So no one has horses in the first 2 days of the game and only the top players can afford it on day 3. And of course those who paid for the Legendary pack. This made Legendary a must-buy for competitive players.

Adding a horse (no matter how bad) to the tutorial makes the horse buying less urgent. Sure, people will replace the tutorial horse, but they won't pay premium for it. So horse breeding will probably won't be the best market opportunity on day one. And buying Legendary pack is probably not so mandatory for competitive play.

See now why my find had to be buried? The prudent action would be to offer refund to the Legendary buyers in light of removing the main advantage of the pack. But that would cost money. Does this act makes Albion a "don't play it, it's rigged" game? No. As long as the game act as described, it's not rigged. But it's clearly a flag that the devs are ready to do some shady stuff for money.

Sure, the specification of the horses are unknown. Maybe the difference between Tutorial and Legendary horses will be big enough to warrant a purchase. Maybe the tutorial won't give horses after all. Maybe more benefits will be added to Legendary pack. Maybe Santa Claus will come and gives us candy!

I'm in trouble now. I still want to play the game and now I have a guild idea in mind. But I clearly can't call anyone to join me in beta and pay money while I see something like that. Possibly the prudent action is to only blog and create the guild after launch, assuming the game is launched and still good. On the other hand, playing in beta is a huge advantage in the early days of moneymaking.

Feedback is welcomed.


Ragelle said...

It's not unethical for you to invite people into a project for Beta so long as you layout what red lines would cause you to drop the game in release.

Most people will want to know they are signing on to something worthwhile that brings an advantage and has some legs to it.

The devs get a hit here for shady dealings. It's not the changing terms that are the issue it's the inability to be direct and up front about it. Just don't emulate the bad example and maintain transparency and the people you get may complain latter but they really won't have a valid complaint if you maintain basic honesty about the plan.

Hanura H'arasch said...

"But it's clearly a flag that the devs are ready to do some shady stuff for money."

If the extend of "shady stuff" they're willing to do is hide financially problematic forum posts ... then they're sadly still better then practically every online game in the industry.

Regarding your concern about people paying money for a game that is in beta: every online video game that isn't dead is in beta. You never buy a final "product". Every day a businessman could decide that he would make more money if he'd give welfare gear to everyone in your favorite game. And there is nothing you can do about it.

The only real difference between beta and launch of a online game is the likelihood of a change to which players a game tries to cater to.

Anonymous said...

Regarding feedback: I think you know the answer. It would definitely provide some material for blog posts. It is not guaranteed, but my expectation is that when you are writing your Albion post-mortem, you will say this is your "I should have known when..." moment. IIRC, in your *redacted* post-mortem, you said that when Falcon did I-forget-what you should have walked away then.

The devs may be competent and not overly greedy. But this change, and especially banning your post, both have to set off "I have a bad feeling about this" concerns.

GL with whatever you decide.

Anonymous said...

It is a good thing to call these things out as you, as an informed customer and opinion leader, can perceive them. I believe it is weird to see your post on that subject moved in the rants section, as there is nothing rant-like in it.

Everyone playing the beta now plays it to have a leg up once the game starts. This is obvious, and part of the nature of open world, player economy driven single shard MMOs. Lowering the advantage early RL money brings from having a mount by negating the effect of early mounts is not necessarily bad for the game.

To do right, the publisher just need to give the option of an alternative legendary pack, with more gold and no horse to take in accounts the latest changes they brought to the game, and let the players that bought that pack decide for themselves which option is best for them with the latest information available before release.

As for your project, testing it in beta is probably best to get ready for launch. After all many guilds like EOS or Niflgard are doing it and getting a leg up early. As a matter of fact, these guilds acting now and finetuning their launch strategy will do better than those starting at launch. So get your name out as soon as possible... In many ways, starting in beta is already too late for this kind of games anyway...

Anonymous said...

The extra day headstart is also very important, as it allows you to build up enough silver to buy gold when its at a 1:2 ratio on the first day, and gives you a day to buy as many city crafting plots as possible, these make an obscene ammount of profit during the first month since they are incredibly cheap and will pay themselves off with just a few of your own crafts, not to mention charging other people to craft at your station.

Anonymous said...

I would totally join your Guild.
I bought the founder pack back then when I played a lot of games. I did not even logged in once, since I don't really have the time now.
The original plan was that Albion will run on phones, do you know anything about it? Maybe I could log in a few times from my workplace and a few nights a week.
So if you need someone, who already has beta with limited playtime, I am happy to join your experiments.

Gevlon said...

@Ragelle: I can't draw red lines because I don't know what to look for until I find it. Devs are very resourceful in rigging. World of Tanks was a simple case, mostly because it was the earliest rigged game. Compare it to EVE, where everything is player driven and the devs have no agency - until they unban "friendly" offenders, even if they are criminals (both vandalism and underage gambling is criminal). I didn't see any of it coming until I bumped into them. In LoL they had a very sophisticated rigging which works not on team strength (like WoT), but makes a weaker team win by the feeder-snowball mechanics of MOBA play. Again, without complete understanding of the game, and statistical analysis, I couldn't find anything.

If SI rigs Albion, they do it in an unprecedented way that I won't know until I do.

@Hanura: there is difference between "the game may change" and "all progress will be wiped at launch".

@Anon: "I have a bad feeling about" every game. All devs are in for the money at the expense of players, with no consumer protection agency behind us. The question isn't "are they after me?", it's "do they provide enough gameplay to compensate for their monetization"

Ðesolate said...

Some online-Games have a PTR, that is Beta, everything else is "release", because it is released (excluding early access). The term Beta / release / EA declares the publishers (sometimes dev) mindset about the game status.

Esteban said...

Keep illuminating possible problem areas and give your readers some credit. We can make our own decision as to whether it's worth shelling out the EA/beta cash and joining early. If we get burnt, it's hardly your fault.

Jonathan Silva said...

Recall my comment a week ago to you about Albion? Relative value of the packs constantly changing. My post that I linked to it was also quickly moved to their "rant" section those few years ago. Honestly these days gaming companies have children at the helm, they cannot deal with facts.

Ragelle said...

Sure, you can't know ahead of time what the form of rigging might be, but you can still define goals for your project and make it clear to those you recruit that if the devs change the game to make those goals impossible then you'll quit. It doesn't necessarily have to be a hard "if they do X I quit" so much as a clear communication about what you are trying to accomplish. Then everyone can evaluate developer changes in the context of your goal - small effect, large effect, render impossible, make it easier, etc.

You're goal will be asocial, but that shouldn't preclude honest communication about the goal you are pursuing within the guild community you recruit.

Mr Tingla said...

I'm messing around in the beta doing bits of trading and would gladly join you in a project if it was interesting and casual/had a casual role within it(limited time).

Gevlon said...

@Ragelle: here is a red line for you: