Greedy Goblin

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The third generation of pay to win

Game note: I've started Archeage, but I'm just dragging myself, despite I can't say anything bad about the game. I remember how gladly I jumped into BDO (after I defeated the UI monster) and played for hours. I closed Archeage after half an hour with busy promises that I'll continue. Somehow killing mobs, just because a guy with ! over his head told me so is not satisfying anymore. Maybe it's the recent disappointment with Crowfall. Maybe it foreshadows a long grind on rails instead of getting into an interesting World like it was with Albion. Damn that gold speculation and the corrupted devs who ruined Albion Online! I try to keep an open mind and give proper chance to Archeage, but somehow I already think I'm playing the wrong genre.

I've tested Crowfall some more and found another problematic thing. This isn't a "don't play Crowfall" post, as the skill system is completely transparent. As long as you can make an informed decision, the game is OK. It's just not for the taste of some people and for the taste of others. The problem is when they offer something and secretly do the opposite.

The skill system of Crowfall is the exact copy of EVE's. You train skills offline. Now, I played EVE for years and never complained about the skill system, simply because it never bothered me, both because trading isn't skillpoint intensive and because throwing a PLEX for another specialized alt was peanuts for me. Only after the skill injector prices I realized how highly the average player values skillpoints. If something players want, it's "win" by definition. And the only way skillpoints enter the system is someone paying real money.

In Crowfall, you can train one "universal" and 3 "archetype" (class) skills. The latter won't be a problem, simply because you can play only one class at one time, so having an alt for all classes isn't much of an advantage assuming class balance will be OK. The problem is with universal skills. There are 3 trees: general combat (+damage to enemies, - damage to you for all classes), crafting and "exploration" that includes harvesting resources. You can train only one at a time, so someone with a specialized combat, crafting and harvesting alt will be at huge advantage. Here is the combat basics tree with the amount of days needed to train the skills:

    • Combat Basics: 126 days
    • Weapon Basics: 153
    • Weapon Styles: 180
    • Armor Basics: 183
    • Stealth: Unknown
    • Siege: Unknown
    All together: about 33 months
    • Crafting basics: 117
    • Runemaking: 168
    • Necromacy: 168
    • Woodworking: 168
    • Leatherworking: 168
    • Stonemasonry: Unknown
    • Tailoring: Unknown
    • Jewelcrafting: Unknown
    • Mass Production: Unknown
    • Blacksmithing: 207
    All together: about 55 months
    • Exploration basics: 84
    • Exavation (Harvesting): 168
    • Vessels: 189
    • Farming: Unknown
    • Animal Husbandry: Unknown
    All together: about 25 months
Honestly, I'd move "Vessels" to the "Combat" tree as it increases basic skills that are increasing combat power and I expect combat characters to learn it.

Anyway, it's clear that anybody trying to do crafting on the same character as combat, he puts himself at great disadvantage to specialists. You can also greatly increase your crafting profit, if you keep a separate character to all crafting types. Since crafting itself involves no button pressing, just waiting, you can keep them logged in concurrently, increasing output. Each account will cost $50 up-front, with no need for subscription, but no way to create new accounts with "PLEX" (in-game purchased ticket sold by someone else). I would say a dedicated crafter who wants to make an in-game fortune will have to throw $400 just for crafting accounts on top of that whatever the prices of Eternal Kingdom parcels and buildings will be for crafting and having shops.

Albion Online had something similar with crafting focus and learning points, but that wasn't so critical, due to the $10/crafter character price. I considered it a simple mistake, but now I think it's a new trend on pay-to-win. Let's see the three generations:
  1. "gold ammo", making characters more powerful in combat by shop items. This is clear and obvious P2W which turned down many paying, but not whale players.
  2. The poster child is BDO Weight Limit. In this system the character combat power depends on gear that can be purchased from other players or crafted using "stones" and "shards" purchased from other player. While everyone can make wealth by grinding, the shop items make characters more powerful in industry, allowing them to get stupidly rich with very little grinding. While the effect is the same, the "P2W" is not as visible as no power item is sold and complete nolifers can indeed keep up with the spenders.
  3. No shop item gives a character any advantage, neither combat or industry, so these systems can claim "the Store does have a number of items available for purchase, none of which offer pay to win benefits.". The trick is that the player will be more powerful by having a bunch of slave characters with the sole purpose of supporting the main. As the alts are invisible to other players, no one can tell where the power came from
Again: this isn't shady or rigging. You can read the pricing and the training data clearly on the interface, you know what you are up to or against. If you accept it, it's your call. I'm not sure that Crowfall will be a good enough game to throw $400 on it even if it's published with all advertised features. I was prepared to throw about $200 on the Albion Online altfarm if I didn't find the gold speculation system, which is rigged. However I do see that Crowfall (if released) will be a "$500 up front or GTFO" game.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

New MMOs must be competitive and fair because of WoW/WoT

I wish for a competitive and fair MMO for long. And I'm going to get it. Not the tooth fairy will save me from the evil, corrupted, unfair, unethical baddies, but free market will. Every single unfair and "don't care just have fun" game is doomed to fail, simply because World of Warcraft and World of Tanks are killing them.

These games have huge budget to develop, great code and servers to run smooth and large existing playerbase to form a community around a "have fun lol" game. They are optimized around the "I sit down and save the World/pwn som n00bz in 15 minutes" gameplay. You log in WoW and you get a bunch of achievements and your missions are completed with awesome rewards and your l33t gear is awaiting for you in your box and you are called the one hero by every NPC. You log in WoT and you are instantly in a battle where you blow up enemy tanks - or you are blown up and you grab your next tank and you're back in blowing up enemy tanks.

Everyone knows that WoW has no difficulty and epicslegendaries fall from the sky. Everyone knows that
But they don't care, because it's flashy and beautiful and releases endorphin on demand for a few bucks. If you just can't care less and want to have fun, these are your games. 150 million players testify it (estimated from 2016 WoT and 2014 WoW stats)!

There is no way in hell that a new game will beat them without a billion dollars of development and marketing costs. Everyone who tried, failed. These devs have no shame, they are putting in anything that sells, no matter how embarrassing, childish or offensive it is. There is no limit how far they wouldn't go for one more dollar of revenue. If you enter the "dirty" arena, you are already beaten.

On the other hand there is a clear demand and empty niche for a fair, non-rigged, competitive MMO. Devs promise it will be theirs, just to be caught rigging and their game abandoned, no matter what they do. No, going free-to-play won't save them, trust is something you can only lose once:

Monday, April 24, 2017

I'm afraid that was 70 Euros wasted

I promised a new game today and I attempted to deliver. I failed. I paid E70 for the cheapest Crowfall packages to test this well anticipated and very highly regarded game. I shouldn't have. Before everything else: this is not a don't play Crowfall post. Those are reserved for rigged and corrupted games. Crowfall was upfront that they are "pre-alpha 4", which clearly means that much work to be done.

However what I've found was extremely little. I mean a "2 people working on it from 200K" content and not a professional MMO developed by a whole staff for at least 2 years (successful Kickstarter campaign 2015 March) from 12 million dollars:

There isn't any form of tutorial, newbie quests, guide, mouseover tooltips for spells, not even a text screen with an OK button to explain the basics, which would be more than expected from something that you release to the general public. There is a graveyard, a landscape which looks about the same as WoW 2005, a bunch of trees to cut, stones to harvest and some empty buildings, with some random mobs. Oh, and 1000+ms lagspikes.

While they indeed promised no release date, so I can't blame them for lying, I was shocked how little I got for a price of half year of WoW subscription. Also, while they are free to monetize their pre-alpha game any way they please as long as they are giving honest information for decision making, I find this ... a bit of Star Citizen-ish:
I'm looking forward to getting updates about the game, maybe I'm totally wrong and they just need a little work for everything to click together. But I'd bet no release date before 2019 and wouldn't be surprised if they go bankrupt before releasing anything. Again, I'm not blaming anyone but myself.

But I've learned my lesson: no more pre-released games, unless they are in final beta with release date set. Albion was technically and content-volume-wise fine, I expect no less from any publisher before I give him a cent. If you want to support Crowfall or any other early access games, fine, I'm not going to stop you. But I'll be damned before I do this again.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Weekend minipost: some questions/notes about games

I've checked out (not played, just read/youtube...) about some suggested games and have some questions:
  • ARK Survival Evolved looks interesting, but it's not an MMO with a World, but a single player game with option to run multiplayer. Is it true? Or am I misunderstanding something and there is one developer ran server-side World that players join?
  • Archeage is OK-ish monetization wise and tax prevents real money speculation, but is there an effect on the World, or is it just Black Desert style capture, brag, no one cares?
  • Screeps looks like a genius concept. Too bad that I can't program Javascript, nor I think many people would follow me even if I'd learn it.
  • Naval action: while early access, it looks playable. Is it a single-World MMO? About how many players? Does conquering do anything? Is there a reason to care which Nation is winning, or one can just jump ship and make winner side alt?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Weekend minipost: more grinding is done

The About page is updated again, as I finished with the "new" posts gathering since 2016 June, classifying them into Ideas or Random. Now only the posts younger than 30 days are New, as they should be.

PS: I deleted 10 Albion posts in various stages of preparation. Some were just a title with "aaa" as text, some were fully written. Sad.

PS2: But unlike after EVE, I will be playing a new game soon, because I just pick one candidate and try. I will announce my new game on Tuesday, no matter what. I've checked Cameloth Unchained, Crowfall, Life is Feudal but all are Alpha, so not even playable beta like Albion was. Though LiF has a limited local server mode (LiF:YO) and if no better is found, I test that, though it has a big negative of being sold on Steam (so far I evaded having a Steam Client). Feel free to suggest more World MMOs.

Update: Archeage is out of question for the same reason as Albion: APEX speculation

Friday, April 21, 2017

Do not play Albion Online (and suggest me a World game)

I was hoping that the non-corrupted devs win the internal struggle and the gold speculation "feature" is removed from Albion Online. I waited a week after the threadnought started on the forum, but there was no response, leaving me with no other options than uninstalling the game and urging you not to play it. Permanent page is up!

I requested games many times before (this is how I've found Albion), this time I'm more specific and has less criteria:
  • The game must have a "World", so if one player does something (killing a mob, taking a resource, building a building), it must be visible and affecting other players
  • The game must not be totally dead (like a hundred players or something)
  • Played on a PC
  • Can be pre-release (I already know of Crowfall and Camelot Unchained)
  • Can be of any genre
Fire away! This time I'm not looking for the perfect game, I just jump on the first looking good and try it out. I will either find it great and stay, shallow and quit or rigged and make a page.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Game development ethics from a rational standpoint

I wrote Why games and devs must meet high moral standards. The post was a bizarre one. On the one hand I meant it seriously: without legal protection and ability to sue for refund when delivered a product that doesn't live up to the specifications one can only trust in the ethics of the other participant. On the other hand I realized how stupid it is to demand game devs to be particularly ethical and cited Derek Smart. Thirdly, writing about ethics by a business-focused kind-of-objectivist is weird as I don't even believe in its existence.

The Albion Online Corruption case (which with 99% chance ends up with a "Don't play Albion Online" page tomorrow), made this mess clear. There is absolutely no reason for Sandbox Interactive (the developer company of Albion) for allowing premium currency speculation. The speculators will have huge amount of currency making any kind of gameplay irrelevant while every penny they made will be RMT-ed at the expense of shop sales, directly hurting the company on top of the loss of revenue from frustrated customers leaving because their game experience was damaged. Why do they do it?

They don't. Corrupted devs do, who want to steal from their company. This is why there is no dev reply in the threadnought, despite they are very active in the forums to explain features that simple minded players wanting to "fix" something intentional, or admit that a broken feature indeed needs fixing. Funnily, the thread isn't banned either. None of them wants to put their name next to this "feature" with the post or with a deletion seen on the logs. They just hope that the whole thing fizzles out and when some scandal come out, they can just play innocent while the bitcoins from goldsellers is already in their accounts.

Funnily, goldsellers themselves aren't shy defending the "feature":
I miss the old days when goldsellers were hiding behind 1 days old alts and faced ban when caught. I don't know when did they realize that finding connections to individual devs is possible and profitable. Probably it happened by some small time sellers finished college and started "living the dream": became lowly paid, 14+ hours working devs and figured how much power they got with very little supervision. From there, "connected" goldsellers had nothing to fear short of a scandal, just remember how Somer Blink was promoted for being "one of the most awesome community sites" not long before having to ban them for RMT scandal. History repeated itself when they unbanned another major RMT site which was forced to be banned half year later after I threatened them with a lawsuit.

Why am I writing this? Because "ethics violation" in the business world can mean two things: sexual harassment and stealing. Companies don't want to air the laundry, they just fire the harasser/thief instead of pressing criminal charges. In this framework everything make sense: demanding "ethics" doesn't mean pleading to the tooth fairy, but calling investors to look after their own profit. What the gaming industry is lacking is audits of development. I'm sure that investors audit sales to prevent employees stealing product codes. They just don't realize the value of in-game assets despite the illicit RMT market is several billion dollars. I think investors believe that devs are just modeling orcs and coding fireballs which they have no business with and simply unaware how many million dollars of theirs can be stolen by "lousy" anti-bot measures and "features" that allow "connected players" to put their hands on half of the game economy and RMT it away.

I looked for salvation from game corruption everywhere, except the most goblinish place: the investors. This is why there never was a corruption scandal in WoW: the corporate behaves as a corporate, probably every department is properly audited and forced to adhere "ethical code". So the biggest red flags in a game studio are exactly those that make gamers excited "we are not corporate", "we are indie" and "crowdfunding" (hey, Star Citizen will surely be great from that $145M).

Sure, these corporates only run popular titles now which are naturally casual, easy and moron-catering. But sooner or later they will do what big film studios, having their "searchlight" department running smaller games for niches.

It doesn't mean that some indie-kickstarter games can't be done right. I'm sure that both the Crowfall and the Camelot Unchained directors are doing a work of love. But unless they can somehow audit their workers, their noble quests will be derailed by a few bad eggs who can't resist a couple $10K bribe. Albion could have been a great game, but it won't be. It will be shipped with a broken economy, with blatant goldselling and players turning away disappointed after a month.