Greedy Goblin

Friday, May 26, 2017

Ghost training: new evidence to more EVE corruption

Nosy Gamer, the last desperate fanboy of EVE is upset that EVE has an "ongoing bug", the ghost training. At first, a short explanation: ghost training is setting up an Omega (subscribed) account with one month of subscription. You set a several months long training queue and log off. Your subscription will expire after a month, but your training queue will not stop until you log in again. So if you don't log in for a year, you get a character with 1 year worth of skillpoints to extract without having to pay for it. This is well documented on Reddit.

What Reddit doesn't know (and please inform them if you have an account) is that this "bug" is much older than Alpha clones. I bumped into it when my girlfriend stopped playing EVE around 2014 January, when I started the GRR project which she found not to her liking (she prefers creative project, she was right, I was wrong). To that point I PLEXed her account, but of course stopped doing it when she stopped logging in. I didn't use her account as it wasn't mine. However her character training API was on my EVEMon so I could warn her to update training. So one day - long after she unsubscribed - EVEMon notified me that her whatever race Battleship 5 skill is complete. I first thought that some unsubscription feature was missed and her credit card was billed, but no. Then I thought that I overPLEX-ed her so I asked her to log in, but she couldn't (no Alpha clone back then). I asked her to file bug report and moved on with my life. The character name was Panni Ogeko if some CCP dev wants to look into it. Back then I trusted CCP and thought it was a honest bug, so made no fuss about it and forgot the issue. Note: this user had the same result 2 years ago.

Now, I don't think it was a honest bug. Sure, you couldn't extract skills back then. But please remember that back in the day it was customary to keep supercap accounts unsubscribed between wars. I found it a bit weird, someone who can afford a super can't afford a PLEX a month to keep his pilot training?! Well, I think they were training. These guys just left the pilot with some several-months skill (racial titan 5, doomsday operation 5, fighter-bombers 5) and unsubscribed to receive free skillpoints.

It's easy to prove that this isn't simply bug-exploiting, but corruption between devs and those "in the know": what kind of idiot would risk his supercapital account banned for a 100% capturable exploit, for a couple PLEX worth of SP?! I mean the exploit leaves clear logs, takes months to be completed before someone can cash out and disappear with the money (by selling the character on the bazaar back then, by extracting skills now). If it was a honest bug, it could be closed at any moment and the exploiters banned during the long months while they were waiting for the training to complete. The only way someone would dare to use this exploit if he has inside information that he will not be banned and I'm sure that those supercapital-heavy alliances had the guarantees from corrupted devs that this is fair game.

The final evidence to corruption: CCP claimed to have fixed this in 2008!!! They either didn't, or some corrupted dev removed the fix when everyone forgot about it.

PS: I've left Albion after I've realized that the best way of getting rich is speculating on the premium currency, which is a real world coupon. Now in Archeage, I sold an APEX for 815 gold which I bought for 700. It's not yet sure that it's a viable speculation and not just a few morons selling at wrong prices, but surely a warning sign.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why wealth redistribution for fairness is impossible

I spent almost a decade on the blog to show with in-game examples why redistribution of wealth to increase "fairness" is wrong: it rewards morons and slackers who just waste the resources that others earned hard. But I never questioned that it would be - while disadvantageous - possible. Probably, because I assumed that systems works as they should and you can set up any parameters and they would run with them, for better or worse. My recent experiences with rigged games made me able to see the real issue: redistribution for fairness is impossible to implement. But ability is not equal to performance. To actually see what's going on, I needed a commenter with a simple enough analogy for everything to fall into place:
Adam is born into a family of millionaires. Bob is born to a drug-addicted single mother and is quickly moved into foster care. Bob grows up in a succession of broken homes. He's subjected to emotional abuse, neglect, irregular nutrition, and inadequate health care. He has a brilliant mind, but he's unable to properly cultivate or exploit his talents (no books at home, no personal computer, no mentorship, lousy role models, etc). Adam grows up with every possible advantage. He's not especially bright, but he has private tutors. His parents fill his life with interesting opportunities - programmable robotic toys, musical instruments, sports equipment, etc. His parents carefully vet his friends, ensuring that he builds connections with the sons of millionaires while avoiding bad influences.

Both boys sit down to write the SAT. Bob hasn't eaten today, so he finds it hard to focus and he scores only 1500. Adam has undergone 10 months of exhaustive test preparation; he manages a 1520. Naive meritocracy says that Adam is a better worker. So the boss gives Adam a corner office, and sends Bob down to work in the mailroom. That's silly. It's obvious that Bob would have done much better if he had been given a better upbringing. It's obvious that Bob could do much better than Adam if you put both of them into the same job.
The implication is clearly that we should help BoB reach his potential. My answer was the dime-a-dozen conservative "Bob must just work hard with the cards dealt to him and make a decent middle-class life". But after that - literally waking up in the middle of the night - I have this answer: Who else could do the redistribution than Adam's parents?! I mean the policies are made by politicians who belong to the elite class - represented by Adam in the example. Congressmen, governors, mayors are all capable to provide the life of Adam to their children. And we can say without doubt that they won't give up their wealth to help Bob. How? Because if they would, they had! Nothing stops rich people from donating to charity. Some do, but most don't as evidenced by the expensive cars, yachts and jewelry not far from "Bob" struggling. What madman would assume that Adam's parents who don't donate to Bob will draft a law that taxes them for Bob?!

Enters Cindy and her parents. She isn't growing up in luxury like Adam, nor she suffers like Bob. She lives a decent middle class life: public school in a decent part of a town, a few extra-school activities, access to computer and some books, healthy food, decent but not "trendy" clothing and items, modest vacations. In absence of redistribution at least. But when crying eye leftists start demanding for Bob, Adam's parents have to do something. They won't give up a single cent from their wealth (otherwise they had done it already), but tax Cindy's parents taking away her opportunities in the name of "equality". Some of the taxed money will indeed reach Bob's family (not likely Bob himself, since his parents are irresponsible and addicts), but most money will be just wasted on bureaucracy or flat out stolen to feed the endless greed of Adam's parents.

So here is the final nail in the coffin for socialism:
  • if the people with money and power had compassion, we wouldn't need redistribution because they would donate for the poor freely;
  • if the people with money and power have no compassion, they will steal the taxed money aimed at the poor.
This also explains why the power-hungry oligarchs are behind leftist causes: because leftism supports high taxation "for equality" which they can all steal. A right-wing small government system leaves them with less money to steal.

Bob is screwed either way. But by voting right-wing, we can at least save Cindy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Game moneymaking isn't what it used to be

While I'm making progress with my Archeage moneymaking methods, at this point I'm unsure if I'll be capable of making more in-game money in an hour than I could make by one hour of real life working and buying APEX. During EVE, BDO and my short time in Albion, this was achieved after learning the game. I can't really talk about the old WoW days because back in the day there was no WoW token.

Which is the point. Back in the day (gather around the fireplace youngsters, grandpa will tell about the good ol'days when we were riding on faction mounts instead of cash shop dragons) the only ways to get in-game currency were:
  • Farming it with horrible efficiency
  • Getting smart and trading
  • Risking ban and botting
Among these, trading was obviously the best and that's why my blog gained audience fast. But since the microtransaction "revolution", a fourth way - kind of - opened: buy token from the item shop and trade it for in-game currency. It's "kind of", because the in-game currency is still created by the above three means (trading increases GDP by motivating farmers), it's just given from the original currency maker to the one who pays for it with real money. This removes the need of being effective. You don't have to care if the currency you buy was gained inefficiently by someone who "farmed for free". You have nothing to fear if you buy botted gold on the legit, anonymous marketplace, even if the botter is banned, you won't be negwalleted. What was once a must-be skill for competitive play is now a niche, as you can make all the in-game currency you need without any in-game moneymaking knowledge, just by throwing the salary of few hours of work on the game.

Sure, in some economy focused games like EVE a good businessman can make more in-game money than by spending the same time in an average wage (Western) job and buying PLEX. But someone who has the brains to do it is probably not working in an average wage job and even my peak EVE income (about 150B/month = $27K/year) is low compared to a high-paying job.

It doesn't mean that I think the money game is over. The Diablo III failure showed that the microtransactions can destroy a game as players realize that the above means that the best way of playing is not playing but working and paying, so they didn't play and after some time they also realized that they are dumb for paying for a game they don't play. But the developers are also in a tough spot, they must include pay-to-win to have income as the results are clear. The solution is to realize that the in-game free market is the problem, as it replaces competition. I'm sure that the future big MMO will be limited market, where the various opposing groups (factions? guilds?) can only trade between themselves and intra-group trading will be impossible.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I'd value both over my freedom

I always love when something in the Real World is alike to what we see in games, reinforcing my belief that video games could/should be the main modelling method of social sciences. In this example, an "intersectional feminist" literally suggests that "you are probably taking up room that should go to someone else. If you are a white cis man you almost certainly should resign from your position of power" and "What can universities do? Well, that’s easier. Stop hiring white cis men until the problem goes away. If you think this is a bad or un-serious idea, your sexism/racism/transphobia is showing."

Then she goes on and on how every "meritocratic" system is just a perpetuation of sexism/racism, but - since she is a mathematics PHD by trade - the whole thing is logically sound and self-consistent, unlike the "diversity is strength" crap. However, when something is logical, self-consistent and wrong, it's because it's built on wrong axioms. And she gladly provides these axioms: "Are you concerned the quality if your institution would plummet [if white men would be replaced]? Are you worried about all the brilliant minds you’d be missing? List your reasons and ask yourself which ones you’d value over your own freedom."

This is the most logical explanation of liberalism I've seen in my life. And I gladly answer: I'd value both the quality of the institution I serve and the brilliance of minds over my freedom. (If I choose to not serve an institution, I stay in private business) My reason is simple (and I wrote it): I'm mortal, I'll die and everything I am will disappear. The items I create can survive me, but in time they'll go down too. But the knowledge I create can live forever. As it's written in The Book, we are mere vessels for genes and memes (not the reddit ones).

Her logic is sound: if we accept personal freedom as the axiom, then liberalism is right and we should surrender all qualities and brilliance - and in turn become unable to maintain a functioning society. Meritocracy is unfair, as some people indeed have privileges and others have disabilities. But it creates the most production to all of us, and it matters more than ideas and feelings. Bluntly put: I'd much rather be a slave of a brilliant black trans-woman who creates millions of dollars GDP than an equal member of a hippie commune where everyone is stoned and the life expectancy is 30 years like in the prehistoric ages due to inability to create any form of health care or even food surplus to survive a bad harvest.

In the games we play, the "freedom" is meant as "do whatever I please without consequences". "For fun" players are infamous for being horrible in the games and creating very badly performing groups. When developers cater to them, the games themselves become shallow and die soon. Even the flagship of MMOs, WoW is constantly losing subscribers since they came up with the "non-elitist" approach at WotLK. The rest of the MMOs died or linger at minimum subscribers while Kickstarter scammers make killing among the desperate would-be players. Only good performance creates the value we all need on to exist.

This looks strange in a video game where everything is make-believe. The dragon you kill or the items you farm are not real. However your effort and thinking are real and they are real values. Many communities are performing make-believe tasks seriously: students solve problems that have solutions in the back of the textbook and soldiers fight imaginary enemies during drills. The "serious" games with "consequences" create the same atmosphere, while the "for fun" games create exactly what liberals try to create: a non-functional "equal" society everyone runs away screaming.

Monday, May 22, 2017

I'm a natural born PvP God (not really)

Look! I've joined a raid the fist time in Archeage on Friday, for a Mistmerrow battle and right at the first time, with low gear, I finished on the top spots among the 50 participants! I'm a natural born PvP God, pwning those noobs left and right!
Except I had absolutely no clue what's going on, so my "l33tneess"was limited to "if you see red, shoot red". And that was enough for the top spots, because the others didn't bother to do the same. The raid leader was keep asking "everyone got the quest", referring to the daily quest given for doing stuff in the battle and led the raid to various pillars where we waited for them to turn red and shot them. That was all. We met a few lost enemies, but never seen a big enemy raid, probably they were busy doing the same thing.

This both shows how little the players care about the battle and how easy it is to make someone look awesome if he lacks any self-awareness. I'm sure many morons really believed themselves to be awesome just for showing up and shooting reds. While I'm still interested in the moneymaking aspect of the game, especially because comparing different game's money schemes gives perspective, I'm positive that Archeage won't be my game for long time.

PS: I'm up to something in Archeage moneymaking, which has effect outside of this particular game. I've just purchased my first month of subscription with APEX (Archeage token) and a +1000 labor/day pay-to win item, also with APEX.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Archeage: missing even the illusion of making difference

The unique selling point of MMOs is a World to live in and share with other players. A World you shape alone is best done in single player games (Skyrim, Fallout). To hop on and get some "pwnage XD" is easiest in arena games in various sub-genres (FPS, RTS, MOBA).

Of course I also realize that creating a World where players really have effect means players are forced to face with changes created by other players, may it be an battle with bad odds, shortage of some item or simply no content when they chose to log off. Only niche games are effectively doing this, because while players claim to want a World, in reality they want a World they imagined, but refuse to do anything about it.

World of Warcraft went on creating the perfect illusion of effect. While the game is formally MMO, most of the time players doing the same thing are in different phases or instances, unable to even see each other. You really have an effect on your phase - just like in a single player game - but not on the phase/instance of the other player. Players are also performing quests that belongs to a storyline and this story is progressed by every patch, further increasing the illusion of contribution. Sure, if no player would ever kill a monster or complete a quest, it would progress the same, but hey, it's selling illusion.

Archeage on the other hand neither has effect on the World, nor good illusion of it. Sure, there is non-consensual PvP, but with no losses, it's mere annoyance and I don't even bother to try to fight back. I respawn at the temple and continue doing what I was doing. I also realized that most of the "trading" is done not between players but to NPCs: you sell the trade packs to NPCs and most relevant items you craft have item shop component. I just look at the quest rewards and if it doesn't interest me, I skip. I don't feel included in a World. While trying to figure out effective methods to make lots of money is challenging, the game World itself is not. No wonder that Archeage has much less population than WoW or even BDO.

PS: you can be sure that the End is near when you see famines, pestilences, earthquakes and Anita Sarkeesian defending Donald Trump.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

I told you so, hahaha!

I wrote on the "Don't play Albion" page that it's totally unacceptable to allow players to speculate on the price of the premium currency. Not only because it's an income that makes every in-game income laughable, but because it's trivially easy to "rig", using insider info.

Manipulating the premium currency is the most important job of the sales department (subscriptions are more stable and respond much less to marketing), so they perform extensive research about it with "top men" and all possible data. Their jobs depend on predicting what will happen if they do an Amazon sale, or if they partner with a famous streamer who advertises a promo code or ... if they cut PLEX into 500 pieces. That made the price of 30 days subscription (1 old PLEX or 500 new) price skyrocket. In hindsight it's obvious why the price increased: because the 1/500 unit price allows poorer players to buy PLEX. Previously you needed 1.2B in one piece to buy a PLEX, which is somewhat a problem for people who file for reimbursement of a 200M ship loss. Now they only need 2.6M to buy one fragment, so they can buy a few for one extractor, for a single "cool" skin or whatnot. This is the point why CCP did it. They wanted to increase the demand of PLEX, because that means more people will pay $ to get PLEX.

I've written hundred times, but I repeat: I have absolutely no problem with open monetizing of a game. CCP had the right to do the split and doing so was a smart move. There is nothing wrong with the PLEX change. The problem is that this can be used by players to profit, instead of the company. If you had a trillion ISK two months ago and invested it into PLEX, you already made over 200B profit without even logging in and the prices are still growing. Who knew this will happen? Everyone who had connections to CCP. Those who were told by buddies "over a beer" that PLEX price will skyrocket surely invested in it. We can see that both the price and the traded volume started to elevate months before the change (despite decreasing player activity), as connected "players" started to stockpile PLEX:
I guess I'd be upset if I'd realize that I lost 1/5 of my in-game net worth because I missed this investment. Since I've left this heap of corruption and gave away everything I had, I'm just pointing at players and laugh. I told you that CCP will keep being CCP and success only depends on your connection to the devs! I'm also vindicated about my Albion choice, which was rejected by many as "the gold speculation is not that big deal". Yes it is!

In WoW, the token price jumped similarly, when Blizzard allowed redeeming the token to be used in other Blizzard games. But no one could make a bank on that, because speculation is forbidden: if you buy token for in-game money, you can't resell it. So someone having lots of gold and seeing the change coming could only stock up for his own subscription and other-game needs, but he couldn't resell it in WoW to increase his WoW gold value.

This is a cautionary tale that if you see a loophole that can be used for rigging and the company refuses to close it, run, don't wait until the "connected" players make a bank!