The Importance of a Base (home) in Games

| Friday, September 28, 2012
The other day, in response to Syl, I wrote about the concept of homes in games, places where you can sleep and retain your sanity and perhaps even comfort.  At the time I thought it was merely a pointless concept that is fun to talk about but has no relevance to the actual game or its design.  As so often happens, I was wrong, as proven by the fact that I disagreed.  Homes, or as I will call them, bases, are important in shaping how we play.

I'll use the term bases rather than homes because the concepts are different.  Homes make us feel warm and fuzzy.  Bases are resting points, hopefully safe, where we can refill, restock, and empty our bags.  Stalker has no homes, but it does have bases and those are very important to how I play.

As I depart from Skadovsk, the rusting ice-breaker in a swamp, I save my game.  As I leave I am transitioning between the safe area and the unsafe.  Within there are no stray bullets, anomalies, or mutants.  Outside, there are.  Having a base creates this transition area, perfect for saving the game.  It's also perfect for quitting the game.  As I return or leave there is a clear change in mental state, from the alert outside to the relaxed and more thoughtful inside.  For me, that makes it a good time to quit.  It is a break in the game.

Contrast that with Civilization which doesn't have as clear breaks.  There is the end of turn pause, but that is merely a button press waiting to happen.  And besides, that pause is time for checking on production, making sure nothing was missed.  It is a pause, at most, and definitely not a break.  This is part of what drives the "one more turn" phenomenon, that despite being turn-based and presumably disjointed, it is actually quite smooth, with one action flowing into the next, with no logical point to start.  There is the start of the turn, right after the AI has gone, but that is an even worse time, when you've just seen all the consequences of decisions and have that information fresh in your mind.  To quit then is to discard all you've seen and all you plan to do, in hopes of remembering it later.

I found this in WoW as well.  When I return to a town there are the mailbox and vendor, inviting me to empty my bags and free myself of the worry of those.  There is the inn, inviting me to log out for a while.  The town is safe and there are usually no quests within the town itself.  Maybe there is a quest giver, but the exclamation point will be there tomorrow.  Unlike Civilization there is not a memory loss from logging out for a while.  However, bag space, despite seemingly to be a stopping point "bags are full, gotta go now", is instead a starting point to another task: empty the bags, knowing where to mail items, what to sell, perhaps what to go to the AH for, or if a bank alt handles the AH, then the bank alt has mail to open and bags to empty and auction to post.  Eventually there is a stopping point, when mail and bags are settled and auctions are up.  It may add another half hour or more, but it is eventually there and will nudge you off to dreams of epics.

Guild Wars 2 is different in its break points.  The anywhere AH sale and ability to deposit crafting materials means that I've not gotten into the habit of using bank alts, so I don't have that pull to jump around to clean up everything.  But this also means that cities do not stop me.  A city is just a waypoint away from more questing, so it's more of an inconvenient loss of silver than a note to stop.  Similarly, the heart system means that I won't return to a town to turn in a dozen quests and have that sense of completion and therefore of stopping.  However, since I am unaware of the existence of rested xp, wouldn't want it anyway, and there is no logout timer in the wild, I have little problem logging out wherever I am.  In that regard it is easier to log out, but there is no nudge toward doing so.  There is even a nudge to stay on: since the marketplace is global, there are always buyers and sellers, so odds are, someone is just about to buy your auction if you wait just a few more seconds and maybe you'll get some of your orders filled so you can craft with that and post it which will sell and in a little bit you'll post more buys and pick up those and why does my clock lie to me and claim that hours have passes when all I was doing was picking up my auctions?

I like having break points.  Call it paternalism if you like, but I think gaming would benefit from design bits such as break points which encourage more moderate play.  They don't at all force it, but they help.

Stalker: Clear Sky

| Thursday, September 27, 2012
I finally got around to buying and playing this game.  It helped me see what I love about Stalker, by not having them.  It's recognizable as being Stalker, mostly because about half the maps are the same as Shadow of Chernobyl.  The other half are new, but not as good as what they replace.

Lessons learned

1 - I actually like being scared
In SoC and Call of Pripyat (the newest of the three) there are a few underground laboratories that the player runs through.  They aren't friendly places, filled with dangerous mutants and deadly anomalies, closed spaces that make me feel claustrophobic.  One was inhabited by a giant brain in a jar, which was fine, except going too close to it resulted in my psy protection helmet warning me about the critical emissions, which always startled me.  Another featured poltergeists (they levitate stuff and throw it at you and look like balls of electricity and are hard to hit), followed by a giant monster that could shoot earthquakes, followed by a poltergeist that shoots flames.  And then the military attacks.

One of these places scared me so much that the next time I played I was stuck for days: I needed to find a time that I could play that was long long away from when I'd need to sleep.  Horrible, right?  But the lack of these places in CS wasn't much fun.  They were a neat change of pace, from the open-world to the cramped, sending me into a place where I needed to be cautious, but not scared, and where I needed to be fully prepared.  Running out of bullets halfway in with the enemies stubbornly refusing to die was not good.

2 - Have a good story
In SoC you have amnesia and have a serious mystery to figure out, not only of your identity, but of old conspiracies.  In the end you learn something close to everything, or die in various ways, thanks to the multiple possible endings.  In CoP the story isn't as cool, but you do at least get to feel like a bit of a hero, saving people along the way and doing a great service to your country.  In CS you're instead being strung along, possibly being lied to (fans aren't sure), to hunt the hero of the first game, and in the end all you manage to do is fix absolutely nothing and are either dead or brainwashed.  It doesn't have any of the sense of figuring out a mystery and it doesn't have as much of a feel of being the loner against the great conspiracy, since you're basically the tool of a larger group being used to kill some guy based on a nonsensical pseudo-scientific dung pile of a theory (the 'scientist' claims that the guy you're hunting is triggering blasts which are slowly killing you, based on next to no actual evidence).

3 - Work
CS is buggy.  Very buggy.  Fortunately the players who were so enthralled by the awesome game which was SoC put a lot of effort into fixing the many problems in CS and with mods they could fx many problems, but not all.  In particular, the ambitious and neat "faction wars" system, which was meant to allow for allied factions to gain territory, is poorly-scripted and so the NPCs who are supposed to reinforce and therefore capture points often do not show up, leaving the conflicts perpetually unfinished.  This didn't affect my ability to complete the game, but it did harm the feel of it and was an annoyance, to capture an area and then have it fall the moment I step away, when it should not.

4 - Open Worlds and Consistency
All three games use open worlds for the most part, mostly.  SoC and CoP are 90% open-world, where you're free to wander and come and go.  CS is at the start, but after a particular point and with no warning you're thrust into a mostly-linear path for several zones, and unable to turn back.  I hope you wandered into that part of the story with the armor and weapons you wanted.  Hallway-oriented FPS combat has its place, in other games, not in an open world near-sandbox.  I'd complained about the ending to SoC, which was linear, but that was a single zone, not half the game.

This is, however, mostly a matter of consistency.  Hallways shooters exist and that's fine.  I've played them and they were fun.  But that's what I expected from them, not an open world.  Meeting expectations in terms of gameplay is important.  This isn't just about marketing, but about what the game builds up as you play it.  If the first five zones are of one style of gameplay, the sixth should be as well.    The way around this is to build-in variety from the start, so zones 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are different and therefore 6 can be as well, though that runs the risk of just making an incoherent pack of mini-games.

But you might want to buy it anyway
I know I just spent the post pointing out flaws and I think they are all there, but despite those flaws, I do think it is worth a few bucks.  If a Steam sale pops up, get it and it will be worth it.  Full price, maybe not so much, though it's only $10 anyway (keep in mind I'm really cheap).

I found it interesting for seeing what happens if you give the same areas to a developer team and tell them to write a different story.  Same place, new plot.  It's intellectually interesting and maybe you'd find yourself thinking about what you'd do with the areas.  If it were not almost my bed time I might conjure up some comparisons to the Cataclysm of WoW.

P.S. If you do play, I suggest finding an addon that disables or in some way fixes grenades, because for some reason they are homing weapons.

Looking forward to GW2 authenticators more than ever

| Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I woke up to an email about a login attempt from the city of Hefei in China.  Good job, ArenaNet, for blocking that.  Of course now I'm annoyed though.  I don't actually trust security emails.  I don't like to click links, especially links for things that are going to ask for my password.  So rather than click the account/guildwars2/account/login-attempt?[unintelligible garbage] link, I instead went to my account using the ArenaNet site.  Except I can't seem to find the link for managing unauthorized login attempts.  That's bad.

To add to the worry I wondered if that meant they also had my email, or more accurately, my email and password.  So then I changed my email password too.  Now it's a very strong password, though not hard to remember.  It is, however, annoying to type.  Maybe that will stop the hackers.  While I was there I figured I'd check out the two-step authorization feature, but that appears to rely on phone calls or texts, neither of which are free for me, so I'd bankrupt myself as fast as if I gave you all my ATM PIN.

And to think, I'd started off the day so well.  Well-rested, cold almost gone, with some shiny clean dishes waiting to be put away.  And then the internets betrayed me.  Though ultimately, as with all things, it is the fault of China.  I will have to yell at some classmates about this today.  They'll only be feigning complete confusion.

[edit] I also have an email from Blizzard about suspicious account activity.  Thankfully that has an authenticator.  But now I'm very worried.  GW2 could have been random, but two accounts makes me think I need to run a t-test.

No RPG for Old Men

| Monday, September 24, 2012
I watched No Country for Old Men on the way back to school.  It felt like an RPG.  Of course the scenery is that of New Vegas, or rather, both take place in the southeast (though I suppose Texas is its own region, but the land looked similar enough).  The character felt a bit like an RPG character.  He wandered the desert, hunting, and scavenging.  Find a corpse?  Check for a decent weapon.  Of course there is a weight limit to carry.  But that feeling of the lone wanderer, out in the wilderness, with nothing but bandits and insufficient police to keep him company, that felt familiar.

A small bit that really increased the feeling that I was watching Fallout: New Vegas was when he fired, and picks up the casing.  Apparently brass casings in real life are expensive enough to justify that.  Within the game that happens automatically and you might not even notice, though I did because I was in the habit of making my own ammo.  Those casings were as good as loot off a corpse.

I have no doubt that they were not aiming for an RPG feel.  Yet I think the movie and the game genre aim in the same direction, of the lone almost-hero, out there staying alive and maybe slowly, slightly, getting somewhere.  The risks are great, not just from the other people around, but from the land itself.  While I'm sure the man in the truck wanted water mostly because of the bleeding, being in the middle of a hot, dry land didn't help the matter.

Later on the theme developed of the recurring enemy and that nagging question: How does the heartless AI keep finding me?  That's followed up with a healthy dose of greater forces attempting to manipulate the player to their own ends.  Going along with them may be the easiest path, but of course has no guarantee of safety.

That man alone with no allies is a recurring theme in a lot of media, particularly American set in the West, of the lone man roughing it, taking on all odds.  They might be breaking the law or just barely following it, but we set that aside and we root for them.  In America we like to talk about self-made men, a mythical creature.  Yet out there, with no one around, perhaps they can exist, and did.  Just like in real life we yearn for heroes and yet know there are no true, perfect heroes, so we make them in fiction.  We yearn for that self-creation and so we look to the place where maybe it can happen and if it doesn't, we make a fiction where it can happen in the place where it can happen.  And then we make games where that fiction in that place can happen.

I greatly enjoyed the movie.  Though I was sad that he never got that antelope.

Why the patrol shot at Han

| Friday, September 21, 2012
You might have noticed an utterly nonsensical tweet the other day.
Note to self: Star Wars corrupt government official totally justified could have saved Luke. Pew pew.
It makes more sense, and by more I mean less, if you know that I wanted to ensure I remembered that idea for a class.  On corruption.  Sadly, because it is taught in Wisconsin rather than Illinois, it is not a "how to" course.

During the class one of the concepts we're looking at is what I'll call "positive corruption", carrying out illegal abuses of power as a public official, but for good causes.  Going full-on Godwin mode, the class has been using a guard at a concentration camp who lets Jews sneak out.  He's breaking the law, he's going against orders, and he's undermining the system he is hired to uphold.  Yet we'd probably say that it is a good thing that he does.

 My friend suggested to me this other incident of "positive corruption", in Star Wars.  You might recall that Han was trying to get to Cloud City and was fired on.  Why?  Maybe the seemingly overly-aggressive patrol was actually trying to help him, to discourage him.  Cloud City was under Imperial occupation.  Communication would be monitored, so the patrol couldn't just tell him.  But shooting at him might not be noticed and could get the job done.  It was the unauthorized use of his power, and yet, might have saved a lot of grief.  If they hadn't landed and been captured, then Luke wouldn't have needed to run off.

In the end it might have worked out, since it was the father connection that saved the day.  However that save was possibly only needed because Luke made it so.  If he just thought Vader was a huge bully, Luke wouldn't have let himself get captured and the Rebel attack screwed up.  Keep in mind that while the Emperor claimed that it was a trap, I've not seen any evidence of that; it may have just been a lie to corrupt Luke.  The presence of the fleet of Star Destroyers proves little: we'd expect a large fleet to protect the Emperor.  The positioning, hidden, may have only been possible thanks to Luke getting captured and giving early warning.  Though while we're on that subject, if Vader had ordered the shuttle boarded and searched rather than dealing with them himself (never do that, archvillains), then the entire operation could have been stopped right then.  On the other hand, even if Luke didn't know yet about the link, Vader did, so he might still have wanted to meet Luke to try to convert him, leaving open the possibility of the majority of the plot, with a few minutes extra for the "That's impossible!  NOOOOOO!" falls down well with Leia filling in for Lassie* scene.

* No I'm not saying what you think I'm saying.  Unless you're thinking of the other...  My point is that she had the job of informing everyone that Luke fell in the well, not that she's a bitch.

A world to live in, a world to sleep in

| Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Syl asked an intresting question: Where would you build your house?

Where indeed?  We can set aside scenery and ask something more important: sleep.  Homes aren't where we live, but also where we sleep.

This is where I think my MMO and single-player experiences diverge.  In single player games I tend to be in worlds I could live in.  Stalker, Fallout, Half Life; these are all worlds where I could live.  I could scavenge and scrape by and have some fun doing it.

I could never sleep in those places.  Like in I Am Legend, I imagine myself trying to huddle in the bathtub while scary things shriek around me.  Normally I'd go shoot them, but it's been a long day and I just want to sleep.

For me, sleeping means huddled under blankets from the cold.  I don't like summer much because of that: too hot.  But winter, winter is wonderful.  I can open a window and be nice and cold, or I would be if not for my pile of blankets and quilts.  So if I need a world to sleep it, it better be cold.  World of Waarcraft had some cold at first: Winterspring and Dun Morogh.  Then came Nothrend and snow, snow everywhere.  Glorious.  Welcome to the endless winter!

Unfortunately, Northrend was also filled with Scourge and was therefore not much a sleeping spot.  Thankfully, Guild Wars 2 has a nice collection of zones with a lot of snow and nary an animated corpse in sight.  Wolves and owls don't worry me.

Beside the necessity of snow, there must be peacefulness at night.  Indeed, there is peacefulness there.  Not like those awful post-apocalyptic zones filled with bloodsuckers and zombies making noise all the time.

What worlds can you sleep in?

I heart hearts

| Monday, September 17, 2012
Are hearts just quests?  Yes.  On the other hand, no.

Quests and hearts tend to do similar things: tell you want to kill, fiddle with, or retrieve from a designated area.  In this regard, quests and hearts are the same.  However hearts have advantages in terms of presentation.

First off, hearts are active the moment you're able to participate.  If I am shooting wasps it means that I'm shooting wasps for the heart.  Contrast that with a quest where you might kill a dozen bears on your way in, only to be told to go kill a dozen bears.  I'd not mind that if they actually wanted two dozen, which is really just a matter of presentation: count number of bears killed before quest, add that number to the total required, thereby creating the illusion that the player got credit for them.  However they don't do that.  The overall effect of the hearts in this regard is to reduce the sense that I am killing mobs pointlessly.  Neither system deals with post-quest/heart slaughter.

Second, hearts are simultaneous and comprehensive.  I'm helping Farmer John with his farm, which includes everything from killing wasps to digging up large and aggressive grubs.  Maybe all I did was kill wasps, but if I killed a ton of wasps, that's helpful, even if I ignored the grubs and leaky pipes.  This even helps with the problem that a dozen other people are already there killing wasps.  Since we're rendering a sort of general help, rather than heroically saving a very tiny part of the world, it makes sense that more than one person would be involved.  Furthermore, having many people helps average things out, so I can imagine that despite my obsession with shooting wasps, someone did eventually get around to fixing the pipes.  Quests can use the trick of stacking, having a few quests that relate to the same area, but this doesn't give the flexibility of wasp-killing vs. pipe-patching.  When the quests come from multiple NPCs, particularly NPCs who aren't standing right next to each other and presumably overhearing what the other ones told me to do, then it can feel artificial, excessively planned that everyone just so happens to want me to kill a dozen bears, harvest a dozen bear asses, and kill a dozen angry stalks of grass which feed on bear corpses.

Hearts don't fill my bags with terrible vendor trash 'rewards'.  Instead, the heart-giver is a karma vendor who might sell me something neat.  Or at worst, helps me empty my bags of whatever trash I got off the wasps.

A deflationary economy with a price floor

| Thursday, September 13, 2012
I find game economies interesting because they can be little experiments.  Imperfect experiments, but experiments nonetheless.  In the case of Guild Wars 2, we can look at how people act in an economy experiencing deflation, but with a price floor.

To start off, I tend to use deflation in the sense of price deflation, which is not necessarily linked to the money supply.  We can see this in the current economy where the money supply has grown more quickly than prices.  In the long term the two will tend to match up, but we tend to die and stop caring over the long term.  However in this post I am going to use deflation to describe both the money supply and the price level, as the two are more easily linked in a game.  Why is that?  Because in a game there are not contracts, so prices can vary much more readily with the money supply.

Rather than calling it a deflating economy, you might try to call it a heavily-taxed economy.  This seems logical: any trading post activity results in me the seller getting 15% less than what the buyer paid, much like taxes.  However taxes actually go somewhere, to someone, rather than vanishing into thin air.  This isn't to suggest that taxes do not change the economy, but merely to show that taxes are not the same as burning a pile of currency.  We could still look at how the taxes change behavior, possibly reducing activity or fueling a 'black market' of avoiding taxes by using chat and mail.

The reason I call it deflationary is that the money supply is being reduced, as well as the price level.  Normally in times of deflation we expect to see a recession.  Consumers, anticipating lower prices, will hold off on spending and instead save.  That savings can become investment and loans, and loans become very desirable since deflation essentially causes the currency to have a built-in interest rate on top of the nominal interest rate.  If I give you $10 today and you give me $10 tomorrow, even if you paid no interest, for me the $10 is worth more and if you had to work to get the $10 to repay me, you had to work more to get it.  In that way, deflation discourages borrowing even as it encourages lending.

Prices cannot drop forever because there is a price floor.  In real life we'd see this in the form of government subsidies.  For example, in the US there are price guarantees on farm products such as milk.  If market prices fall below the guarantee, then the government will refund the difference.  The reasons for this are varied, but in part it can act as an insurance policy, ensuring that farmers do not react to price drops by excessively reducing production, triggering a price spike, and so on.  It soothes the markets, though at the cost of overproduction at times and the subsidy cost.

The price floor in GW2 takes the form of vendors who will always buy items.  This means that copper ore is never worth less than 3c.  Nothing can ever become completely worthless.  Obviously if the market price is higher then the items will go there rather than to vendors.

This creates a ping-pong effect.  Market activity destroys a large amount of currency, driving down prices.  But if prices get too low, vendors will stop the decline.  For a while we will see items being vendored until the money supply is large enough to drive up prices.  And then gold is destroyed until vendors become a factor again.  Note that personal activity will deviate from the overall market, so I'm not suggesting that the market overall is going to go into constant, repeated recessions (at least not for this reason; I'm not ruling them out), but rather that individuals will tend to go through cycles.

I expect that this pong-pong will stabilize as the markets mature, and importantly, as the rush to level crafting wears off.  Eventually some items will be obvious vendor trash and others will go to the market.  Though even this will not be perfectly stable.  Imagine a simple world in which the only drops are Chest of the Trash and Copper Ore.  The chest is useless and does not salvage into anything useful, so it is permanently vendor trash. Copper ore is valuable and will go to the market.  Stable prices require a particular ratio of dropping between the chest and the ore.  If too few chests drop, then the ore trading will destroy too much gold, driving down the price, until eventually copper is vendored, until the currency is restored and prices can rise again.  Note that copper is a stand-in for a variety of trade goods and the chests cover not just vendor trash but also events and quests, since those generate gold and do so at a particular average rate relative to resource gathering.  Of course activity can change to alter these effective drop ratios, such as spending more time at events that give gold and less time farming materials.

One reason for the deflation is obvious: having little spare gold encourages gem-buying which means profits from the gem shop.  This would encourage not just heavy gold sinks, but few gold sources as well.  But not everyone would buy gems and having too little gold would ruin the economy (this is why a real-life gold standard is exceptionally stupid).  To compensate, there are gold sources beside the gem-buying.  Together, these create a deflationary economy with a price floor.  It won't be stable and it certainly won't be the most efficient set of regulations, but it sure is interesting to watch.

A million competitors and a million customers

| Tuesday, September 11, 2012
People are expressing worry over the effects of the globalized market.  With so much competition prices end up extremely low, to the point that most crafting is unprofitable.  I could have taken the last part of that statement, "most crafting is unprofitable" and pointed it at WoW, where indeed, most crafted items are not profitable and you often are better off sending items to the vendor.  In those cases where they are profitable, it often seems to be due to the presence of enchanting, not because the leveling items are particularly useful on their own.  From this perspective it could seem that the global market isn't actually doing the supposed harm to crafters, but is instead just the easy thing to aim at.

Think back to your intro econ class with your supply and demand curves (which back then are straight lines).  Push supply out and there you go, quantity goes up and price goes down.  Now push out demand and suddenly price is back up where it was and quantity is even higher.

Competitors and undercutters are not the problem of the globalized market.  Time is.  With so many people, someone is online crafting when you are, which means that you don't get to be the one single person who is making copper wizzbangs.

On the plus side, this means customers.  Not only are there more customers, presumably in direct proportion to the increased crafters, but they will be more even than on a single-time zone server.  No longer is there the guessing game of posting and hoping that a buyer arrives before another seller.  It might happen, but with so many people from so many time zones in the market, you'll get enough buyers at more times, despite the sellers.

The constant stream of buyers means that a seller can do a constant stream of business.  Flooding the market is a much smaller problem, since the market is that much bigger and able to handle that many more goods over a given time.  Tap into a stream and you can get a lot of gold.  But if you fail to do so, if you cannot find a stream of your own, then you're going to have a hard to getting in.  You'll be competing with people who know their marker, how to efficiently get supplies and create their product with as little effort as possible, and who know exactly how low they can go on their prices while you're fumbling in the dark.  In this way, the global market may have little effect on the average seller, but will concentrate the rewards among fewer sellers.  That could cause problems.

A money-fired power plant

| Monday, September 10, 2012
I found a niche in the Guild Wars 2 economy where I can get a bit of gold.  I'm not rolling in piles of gold coins (that emote hasn't been added yet), but I no longer feel poor and I think I can get fairly steady income from this.

But it involves the trading post.  That creates a strange problem, or at least what is in my mind a strange situation.  These are rough estimates, but depending on the product, I destroy the 15% on my sale, baseline, plus more on top of that for merchant materials, with the result being that I estimate that  20-30% of the gold I touch is destroyed in the process of me getting it.  That doesn't include the fact that whoever I buy from also had 15% of their sale destroyed.

This isn't part of some convoluted scheme of buying and reselling and rebuying to distort markets.  It's little different than how I got gold in WoW: buy gems off market, cut gems, sell gems.  Some gold is lost to failed sales and auction house cuts, but that's just the inevitable result of the system.  Buy-craft-sell.  Nothing fancy, and yet, it burns piles of gold.

What disturbs me about it is the inefficiency and the implications for other players.  If for every gold I get, 20 silver are destroyed, that suggests that for every gold I have someone had to farm 1.2g through events (which in the mid 40s are giving around 2 silver) and vendoring.  I shudder to imagine what happens if I'm not selling to consumers but instead my product is bought and recrafted or simply reposted, destroying even more gold.

I'm not opposed to gold sinks, but GW2 does seem to be rather excessive.  If I were looking for a single crude fix, I'd remove the trading post's cut.  Leave the posting fee, but don't take a further cut at the time of sale.  That takes the baseline burned gold from 15% to only 5%.

A few fixes for GW2

| Friday, September 7, 2012
Save auto-attack states for weapon switches.  It is irritating that when I switch to my flamethrower or elixir gun I lose the auto-attack on the primary spammable and have to turn it back on, every switch.

Longer leashes on mobs, particularly if you are actively attacking them.  I have to kite a lot and it doesn't help when just barely out of shooting range the mob is running back.  Thankfully, resetting mobs are not invulnerable and do not regenerate quite as fast as in WoW.  However this also means that they don't seem to reset their aggro if you shoot on the way back, so a fully-healed mob may return to chase after you again, while you've been in combat the entire time and not healed up similarly.

Restricting map markers to current map as some sort of toggle.  It's frustrating to try to figure out how to get to a skill or vista only to realize, eventually, that it's in the next zone over.

Slightly shorter bounce range on my engineer's electric shot which likes to jump halfway across the map to aggro neutral mobs.

Rather than merely displaying total profits, give a list of sales, including the TP cut.  This can be found in the "My Transactions" tab.

Add "Usable" as a filter option or add armor type as an option.

Bulk vendor chef items come out of bags of 25 while others come out in stacks of 10.  Cut the bags to 20 and reduce the karma cost proportionately.

Add a bank tab for intermediate crafting materials.  This is especially problematic for my chef, which seems to be an order or two of magnitude more complex than leatherworking or huntsman.

Allow crafting to draw materials directly from the collectables tab. As of a couple days ago, crafting can be done using materials in the collectibles.

Please tell the woman near the crafting waypoint in Hoelbrak that we all agree that she has not taken leave of her senses and we have gone off to fight the creatures of metal and stone so please stop yelling every two seconds.  Also, please tell the NPCs that we all know that the spirits of the wild rarely answer their prayers and we're really sorry to hear that, particularly the part where we have to hear that.

[edit for new fixes]
Preserve searches in the trading post when switching tabs.

Buy gear at the trading post, but don't sell

| Thursday, September 6, 2012
I've been having trouble keeping my gear up to date, which is my current excuse for dying a lot.  I did the sensible thing and checked out the trading post.  Well, it went well.

Items are on the trading post for mere copper above the vendor price.  That means that the net cost of the items is only a few copper.  I'm sure this will change, for various reasons, but for now, it is a buyer's market.

I've even found yellow weapons, which seem to be somewhere between WoW blue and purple in quality, for mere copper above the vendor price.  The size of the upgrade is huge, going up a dozen levels and a level of quality.  Hopefully this will help me out in the field.  If it doesn't, it cost me only a few copper overall.

On the other hand, selling seems stupid to me.  The trading post takes a cut of sale (10%)s.  That means that the 1c 'profit' vanishes and turns it into a loss.  Put the deposit price (5% of ask price) on top along with the risk of not selling, and it sounds like a terrible idea to sell anything that you can't put at least a few times higher than that merchant price.

This doesn't apply to non-gear items which are already selling for many times their merchant price.

I think the sell prices will go up as more people notice the values available and as sellers realize that getting one copper above the merchant price isn't doing them any good.  That means upward pressure on demand and downward on supply.  As players spread out in level we may also see fewer low level items available.

Why I love buy orders... as a seller

| Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Can we agree that in WoW, 1 copper is utterly trivial?  Good.  Note that I won't say the same for Guild Wars 2, which so far isn't throwing piles of gold at me, though that's with the condition that the game is young and so is my character.

I don't mind price competition.  I do mind time competition.

If I post first, I lose.  The next person to come along can undercut by one copper, the agreed-on utterly trivial amount, and they get the sale.  I could pre-undercut and post at a copper less than I would have otherwise, but the next person in line can take a copper off of that.  I try two less, and he does three less, and so on.  Over many, many iterations we'll see the price drop by several silver.  Wow, competition sure is... not bringing down the price by any significant amount.

The person undercutting me isn't truly competing on price.  1c is trivial.  It has only one big effect: sorting the AH puts his goods higher up and therefore likely to be seen and therefore purchased first.  The effect isn't price competition, but time competition: he is able to get his goods listed higher because he got to the market after me.

Obviously if he were undercutting by silver per item and we were dealing with large volume stacks, then it's not so trivial.  This isn't about that.

Thankfully, GW2 has a buy order system.  Buyers can put up an offer for items which are filled as items come in.  As a seller I can enter a market knowing what buyers will pay.  Even better, I know that they are and will pay that.  If I post an item at an offered price it is guaranteed to sell.

Of course this only applies in a high-demand market.  If there are many sellers and buyers aren't around then it will look much like a WoW AH market: gradually descending prices as everyone tries to get something.  I avoid those markets.  As a buyer, I've found myself facing a similar situation of gradually descending prices from which I can pick the lowest or post my own offer and hope someone comes along to supply at that price.  Conversely, if it's a high-demand market and I'm buying with few sellers, then I'm stuck putting in an offer and hoping the next buyer doesn't bump it up slightly.

Any market system has tradeoffs and offers different benefits at different times, so don't take this post as me suggesting that the GW2 trading house is superior to the WoW AH.  While I think the offer system and cross-server aspects are great (smooths out prices and activity), I think WoW has a better interface, though I'm sure some of that is merely due to learning a new system.

Can we get rid of the First Rule of MMO Crafting?

| Tuesday, September 4, 2012
That rule of course being: "Don't make anything useful until the parts stop giving skill."

You start off making copper gizmos which are used to make copper widgets.  Both are guaranteed to give a skill boost.  So you do the sensible thing and make a few gizmos and turn them into widgets because widgets are pretty handy to have.  But now gizmos don't give any more skill and widgets are the only way to level.  So you're stuck making more gizmos for no skill to make widgets for skill and the overall result is that you used extra materials and made extra widgets (there are only so many you can use) for the same skill gain as if you'd made all the gizmos at the start and then the widgets afterward.  Of course to do that you'd need to have known that gizmos go grey very quickly and you should not make any widgets until then, which seems rather silly, since presumably one reason you're leveling widgetsmithing is because your class uses widgets and it makes quite a bit of sense to make a widget and use it right away to replace your terrible starting gear consisting of a stone widget with no stats.

I suggest this: crafting parts go grey at the same skill level as the devices they create.

Ah, but you're thinking that there is a problem.  Surely now this means that gizmos are the easy way to go, all the way, cheap and easy!  But you're wrong.  Why would I make nothing but gizmos?  They won't sell for much, not if they're supposedly the spam-crafting way to go and therefore in an abundant supply and utterly without demand. In fact, once I have a pile of gizmos, why would I not turn them into widgets?  I get a skill up without using any materials which I have no already spent, and given the tendency for gizmos to sell for very little to merchants and vendors, there is very little lost in the gizmo->widget conversion.

The net effect would be to make crafting guides a thing of the past.  No more "make 10 copper gizmos and then 10 copper doodads and then finally 5 copper widgets"  followed with "make 10 bronze gizmos..." and so on and so forth, the net effect being to convert a relaxing session of widgetlust gratification into another google search for a guide that isn't for the last expansion and therefore out of date.

The new crafting method would be to make what you want as soon as you have the skill for it, without needing to look up the exact moment that you're allowed to make a widget to use, which is, at times, never.

America Online

| Monday, September 3, 2012
WoW is the America of MMOs.  It is big, profitable, and gets a huge amount of attention.  It is culturally dominant.  It is perpetually 'dying' as an upstart appears, and then somehow fails to overcome it, since inertia keeps things moving just as well as it keeps them stationary.

The tourists are the worst.  They blunder about with their maps out, perpetually lost.  They don't know the language and refuse to learn it, or even accept its legitimacy.  "Why is the character screen called a hero screen?  It should be C, not H.  And why are bags I for inventory instead of B for bags?"  They don't like the responses, for any response suggests that another game could have sprung up and done things just as correctly yet not the same way.

The entire time they complain about how much better things run in their game.  "Our auction house works.  And it isn't a trading post."  They forget the launch problems of their own game, cleaning up the little bit of history they know.  It makes for a shinier picture.

Thankfully, they do go back home.  Of course once they get back they think they are worldly and now superior and so they go about the reverse business of criticizing everything and saying how they do this thing so much better over there, seemingly forgetting all their previous complaints, until such time that they feel the need to remind themselves how much better they are for having been born in WoW.  "If your bags are full you can just send back all the ore into the collectible slot in the bank.  And you can access the bank from a crafting station.  And mail is everywhere.  Waypoints are instant!"

Give them a few days and they'll be back to normal, trading their insufferable there worship for insufferable here worship.  They'll be yelling in trade chat about how Guild Wars 2 is the gayest game ever and then someone will call them a fag and finally they'll be on the same page of agreeing that they don't like gay people, though they can't quite give any good reasons.

I've had a nice time so far in Guild Wars 2.  I expect that forTuesday or Wednesday I'll write a post about all the terrible things in it.
Powered by Blogger.