Greedy Goblin

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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The existence of game API is a proof that the dev is doing something nasty

Long story short: Valve got sued for supporting "skin gambling" on steam. "Skin gambling" is using in-game items as gambling chips and then selling them for real money. This is done to avoid the anti-gambling laws: if you open a casino where people win money, you get to jail if you don't follow the very strict rules. Gambling is completely prohibited in several areas. On the other hand if you gamble on non-existent chips, it's considered a game and ignored. So various criminals figured out that they can run a casino on the top of games and then RMT the winning. Needless to say, these casinos - among other bad things - are rigged.

Anyway, the lawsuit is against Valve because they allegedly enabled this criminal activity on its site and to avoid huge money to be paid and maybe some execs in cuffs for participating in organized crime (illegal gambling is typical maffia activity) they are kicking the gambling sites off Steam, denying them API usage. Ironically, the only site they didn't ban is the flat out RMT site that allows selling skins for real money.

This post isn't the Nth copy-pasting the same news and adding some commentary from the butt of the author. It's about the API system that made gambling site developers to access game data for the operation of their software. API is a formalized protocol for programmers to write their own code to access an IT system. Using automated code to access a web database has huge advantages over using the default web interface.

"Using automated code to get huge advantages" in a video game is called "cheating". Having a level playing field is crucial for a game, so it makes absolutely no sense to give advantage to those who are capable of coding a third party application over those who use the game client. Actually in most games writing a third party application to get advantage is called botting or hacking. Why does the developer of the game create such tools? The answer can't be anything else than what the plaintiff of the CSGO case claims: "deliberately allowing the creation of a market where players and third-parties trade weapon skins like casino chips." My point is that there is no fair reason for public API to exist for a game and its existence is an evidence of the developer supporting shady or outright illegal third parties.

I will closely follow the CSGO case and when (I've yet to see a commentary from a legal expert who doubts the outcome) Valve and the various skin gambling sites will be punished for their activity, I'll inform the proper authorities that CCP and IWI are doing just the same, so they should use the CSGO precedent and press charges. When a CCP representative on record told that IWI is doing RMT and not banned for it, he acknowledged that CCP was aware that the IWI gambling is done for monetary gain and decided to allow it. I have no idea about Iceland law, but if a US or EU court decides against them, they can be banned from doing trade in the US or EU, even if they can't be touched in Iceland. Such case the banks are forbidden to trade with them, so they can't sell PLEXes and subscriptions in the EU or US. I would strongly suggest CCP lawyers to look into the CSGO case and to prevent their fall by quickly banning all "casinos" (illegal gambling organizers) from accessing CCP services. I'd also shut down the API as a whole because Lenny and his criminal gang will just change name and IP to continue operating.

How could this "skin gambling" get this far? Because lawmakers and enforcers see video games as children's toys and didn't bother to look into them, despite they are multi-billion dollar businesses. Devs were financially motivated to look the other way, since skin gamblers were paying players after all. Players who saw the problem didn't want to attack the game they love (hint: and this is why you shouldn't post a "highly defamatory diatribe" about them). The mentioned lawsuit was started by parents of a minor (who probably wasted couple thousand dollars of dad's credit card). I think if Valve had the decency to keep children out of their gambling activity, they'd still be fine.

For those who had doubts that "knowing the right people in high places" can save someone from meritocracy, this shall be a valuable lesson: there are people in higher places than a video game community manager. Like ... judges.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

BDO: Calpheon timber crates guide

I wrote about my misfortune with crates, now I worked with them enough to write a proper guide.

Calpheon timber crate is a special trade item created by workers in a building with wood workbench. It needs 5 fir, 5 cedar and 5 birch plywoods with 1 black stone powder. It has no expiry and can be sold to any trade vendor. Due to distance bonus, it worth making it at one end of the map: Trent (one workbench in town, another in the next node) and sell at the other end: Ancado Inner Harbor. If you sell it for over 120%, you get over 140K for a crate:

First thing first: having high contribution points (level alts) is mandatory for this due to the long connection (you can also see some of my work nodes). If you don't want to have high CP, just forget crates.:

Second thing, transportation: you can't offline travel with trade packs. You can't reach Ancado on road with an AFK cart. However you can use the warehouse-transport feature! Send your crates from Trent to Epheria port (790 silver each) and from Epheria to Ancado (4100). Crates don't stack while transportation and you can't transport more than 100. A transport takes 2 hours but only a few clicks to send. So every time you come back from AFK, check the 3 locations and receive what arrived and send what's need to be sent. You can theoretically save 8 CP by skipping Epheria and transport on the Trent - Calpheon - Tarif - Altinova - Ancado Inner Harbor route but that occupies the transport system for 8 hours with 100 crates. And you'll make more. Just use Epheria! In Ancado there should be a permanent alt with a cart (just travel by ship and buy the cart in Valencia). The income should be converted to gold bars and sent to Altinova via warehouse transport.

Third thing, materials: while your worker empire can easily reach 3 birch, 3 fir and 2 cedar nodes (third is a bit expensive), that won't provide you enough materials, just about 30-40 crates worth a day. Having all those nodes and an alt locked just for 30-40 crates is a dumb waste. So you need to buy more wood. Fir and cedar sells around 600, Birch around 300. 8 needed for a plywood and 5 plywoods needed from each. That's 60K material cost. You should check the market often for new listings and buy lots of timber.

Fourth thing, processing: you must process all the timber into plywood. That's lot of processing since 1 plywood takes 20 seconds to make (4 processes of timber make 4*2.5 = 10 planks, 1 process makes 2.5 plywood, 5*10/2.5 = 20). So the plywoods of one crate needs 300 seconds aka 5 minutes of processing. For 200 crates a day, that's 1000 minutes or 17 hours a day processing. Follow the processing guide and if you don't want to process at least 10 hours a day (AFK of course), forget the crates. You can save lot of time by buying planks or plywoods directly when they are cheap enough. Important thing: don't forget the price of processing. Just because you process the timber, it's not free. You could process iron into steel or unsellable timber to plywoods to vendor. For example you can only vendor Ash timber for 70 each (560 for 8), but if you make plywood, you can sell for 2240. That's 1680 silver profit on a plywood that you will not make if you make crates. So for the 15 plywoods per crate you can estimate 25K processing cost. You don't have to process in Trent, you can process anywhere and use an alt to offline travel to Trent with the plywoods.

The material, processing and transport costs are around 90K. So your income is 40-50K per crate. What you have to do for it? Lock down your CP and log to the Ancado alt. He must be online for 10 minutes before using the trader NPC. Traders rarely offer 130% max price. If you or someone else sold crates recently, it's lower. Every % will cost you around 1K. I use to sell over 115%. If it's lower, I switch channels, which is more waiting and no guarantee that there will be better price. Even if you find 130%, after selling 60 crates, it will be below 115, forcing a jump and wait. While jump and wait is AFK, it's not long-time AFK, so you must be around the computer. Also, while your alt is waiting, your main is not processing, and you could make 70K in 10 minutes processing. Sure, you can process with your Ancado alt, but that means sending the materials and sending the products back and leveling processing on that alt. As a middle ground I send her Silver Azalea and she makes concentrated herbal juice and when enough are made, offline travel to Valencia and sell it. Before selling the crates, you must do a successful bargain minigame which is stupid, takes time and energy points!

So think about all these before jumping on crates! But if you do it right, that's another 10M a day with little clicking.

Monday, July 18, 2016

The source of financial conspiracy theories

If you spend any time reading comments (you shouldn't), you surely know about dark forces conspiring for world domination. They want to mind control you with chemical agents spread from airplanes (since their electromagnetic devices can be defeated by wearing tin foil hat), they are hiding UFOs and invented lies like global warming to blind us from the hidden truth. In the financial field, "obviously" the Jews are conspiring to gain world domination trough controlling the money.

You probably wondered how could seeming intelligent (or at least not drooling retard) people believe in these nonsense statements. I think I stumbled upon the solution, thanks to some less than intelligent people on the BDO forums. One created a thread named How to lose 10M a day with this simple method, obviously referring to my "Making 10M+ per day in less than half an hour clicking with workers" thread which got my blog pretty high traffic. He wrote: "Post a random guide about your most profitable method and watch your income hit the floor by millions of brainless players flooding to it after just a few days." Another similar person added "I really don't get why people would ruin their own passive income by putting their methods in minute detail in a guide".

Now my guide isn't exactly rocket science. It's a simple guide for the most basic industrial source, one that is practiced by newbie quests in Velia. Yet these people are upset that this "secret knowledge" got out. Why? Because probably they were using it and now fear the competition. The situation when vast majority of the players got their income from mindless grinding served them well. They realized these people weren't smart enough to figure even this simple method out by themselves. Now that I made a guide, they can just follow it and get income!

From the point of view of the grinder, the worker empire was "hidden knowledge" of "those in the know" and he was locked away from them. Of course he is wrong, the only thing locked it away from him is his lack of thinking. But it doesn't change his perception. The attempt of our posters to keep the situation as is makes it worse, reinforcing his belief about the knowledge being secret.

While real world economics are more complicated than a video game, it's still very well documented. There is formal education for economics. Yet for those who didn't study it, the economy remains hidden knowledge. When they encounter a particular situation and ask questions the answers are purposefully confusing or flat out "bank/business secrecy". The reason is the same: "those in the know" don't want the uneducated masses to stop being uneducated masses. The uneducated masses don't see themselves uneducated, they believe that some secret knowledge exist that you can only learn from "those in the know". The objective truth that the knowledge is widely available in economy books isn't helping them, because they can't be arsed to read a full book and don't even think they should (slackers and morons). They asked a specific question and got bullshit as answer.

The conspiracy theories serve both groups: the dumb ones can keep believing that their dumbness and poverty is not their fault but the result of an evil conspiracy, the rich ones can keep selling useless papers to the dumb ones. This is why no solution arrived: anyone trying what I'm doing would get what I'm getting: hate. "Those in the know" hate me for giving out the "big secrets", the morons and slackers hate me for pointing out the fact that money was always front of their noses, but they were too dumb to grab it.

But there are those who are just uninformed. I will teach them. There are many: the OP here asked if it's possible to make 100M/week (I make 180) and the top answer mentions grinding for 8-10 hour sessions, the second top is suggest to grind 3 hours a day for whole week for 5M/hour. There is much darkness to light up here.

Friday, July 15, 2016

BDO: get a million an hour AFK after 20 secs clicking by processing

Processing is one of the main tradeskills in Black Desert Online and while not extremely profitable, it's extremely AFK-ble, providing absurd silver/activity results. I mean literally million per minute clicking. Of course you can't have such clicking minutes constantly, you have to wait AFK for the processing to complete. Processing is a perfect moneymaker for people with little active time, but lot of computer walltime, similarly to workers.

Before all, a warning: processing is the most pearl-intensive activity. If you don't want to spend on the item shop, just forget it - along with craftable crate trading (guide later). The reason for that is the processed materials have weight and gather to your inventory. When it's full (weight-wise), the processing stops. So every +weight increases time spent crafting. If you don't use the newly introduced maid/buttler costume, you have to store the materials in your inventory too. And those usually weight twice as much, so the costume doubles your AFK time. Hercules-hystria is mandatory, but insufficient. I repeat: don't bother with processing besides some odd items for yourself if you don't spend on costume and weight.

So what is processing: you press the "processing" button on the storage (or "L" with default keys if you work from your inventory), select a processing method, select materials and go AFK. You can process awful lot of things. Simple Alchemy and Simple Cooking give HP, mana and WP potion equivalents, it's not really profitable.

Chopping allows you to process 5 timbers into planks and 10 planks into plywood. With artisan skill you get around 2.5 results per process. So from 8 timber you can get a plywood. Some timbers sell around 2-300 silver, others sell up to 700, while plywood sell over 6000, so this seems very profitable. It is a trap as the products often don't sell. I mean you can formally make a fortune from processing Ash Timber (150) into plywood (4900), as (4900-150*8)/20*3600 = 660K/hour (-tax). Excellent income if you consider it's complete AFK-ness and less-than a minute setup. In reality, you won't sell a single piece as there are already zillions in the marketplace for that price and you can't undercut, due to that being the minimum price. What you can do is sell for 2240 to the vendor, which is tax-free, so can be considered 3445 marketplace price. (3445-150*8)/20*3600 = 404K/hour - tax, still not too horrible for 20 seconds of clicking. My experience that only fir and maybe cedar plywood sells on the marketplace (due to crate trade), everything else can only be vendored. The vendor prices are
  • birch:2560, crate trade item
  • cedar 3040, crate trade item
  • fir: 2720, crate trade item, sells on market for 7000
  • acacia: 3360, the timber sells for 600 so don't bother
  • ash: 2240
  • pine: 2880
  • maple: 2400
  • white cedar: 3200
  • elder tree: 3520

Heating allows you to process 5 ores into shards and 10 shards into ingots. With artisan skill you get around 2.5 results per process. Ingots have the same problem as plywoods: the marketplace is already full with them. You can however vendor for
  • iron:2380, see steel below
  • copper: 2240, make bronze instead
  • tin: 2380, make bronze instead
  • zinc: 2880
  • lead: 2250
  • bronze: 2400,needs tin and copper shards
  • brass: 2560, needs copper and zinc
  • vanadium: 3090
The exception is steel (5 iron shards, 5 coal) as it sells for around 7000 and it's made faster due to coal being basic material. 2 processes of iron ore makes 5 shards and 1 process makes 2.5 steel, so you need 3/2.5*10 = 12 seconds to make a steel ingot. Iron ore sells around 300 silver, coal sells around 800 and you need 4 and 2 for an ingot, so (7000-300*4-800*2)/12*3600 = 1.2M/hour AFK for 20 seconds clicking (-tax if you sell and not use it). I mean currently. I'm honestly surprised people are not making more and fill the AH. So while the title is true, it probably won't be for long. The reasonable numbers are 4-500K/hour for AFK making ingots and plywoods to use them and 300-350K/hour to vendor them.

You can also process flax, cotton and fleece by heating, but you shouldn't as the raw material sells higher than vendor and the market is full. You can grind crystals (that fit into item slots) for black stone powder, but they don't stack, so they fill your inventory slots and have to be bought individually with the damn captcha. You can also heat or grind rough crystals and they are profitable, but materials are missing from the market. Oh, and you can thin water, if you can put your hands on river water or muddy water, go for it.

As mentioned several times, the most profitable is making crates for trade and will be described in a later guide. Anyway, processing won't get you stellar income fast. But going to sleep and waking up 1-2 M richer is pretty nice.

Official forum thread here, don't make reddit post please, r/blackdesertonline doesn't need Lenny and his crap.