Greedy Goblin

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Weekend minipost: Fresh start

I've started playing on the Archeage EU Fresh start server (it only allows accounts created in 2017, older accounts must play on Legacy servers). For some weird reason the game doesn't accept my credit card, so I'm on a free account, therefore farming and trading are not available, only questing.

I've finished the Warborn starter zone (which is a new region) and with various XP boosts (without subscription bonus), I'm already lvl 40, so something is not properly balanced here. several zones could be skipped:
Anyway, I hope that soon I get the subscription. The game is nice, but of course I haven't seen the moneymaking aspect yet. I don't know if I find an interesting "World" in it, or just write a moneymaking guide like in BDO and move on. So far I've seen or heard of nothing nasty going on, which is quite a change after the recent experiences.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What game companies can learn from Albion Online

Albion Online has many great features and I'm really sad that they failed to set up proper internal security to prevent a few corrupted devs to ruin the economy, therefore the game. But among all of them, the best feature, one that I strongly recommend to all MMO devs is low graphics.

No, it's not at all ugly. It's just pretty unzoomed and has a fixed viewpoint, like some early 2000 games. This makes the game not only very light on computer load, but also on art and engine development costs. Creating the breathtaking graphics of Black Desert, or the somewhat cartoonish, but flashy and fiery WoW takes hundreds of millions of dollars, both to create the art and the engine that can render it. Such features don't add much to the game's competitive core. I mostly watched various inventory screens on BDO and most competitive players watch the battleground with maximum unzoom, where the characters are just little dots on the map. But the most perfect example of the effort being wasted on graphics is this EVE screenshot about Logistic (healer) ships. Please rate the ships according to their beauty in comments:

Sure, after you have hundreds of thousands of core players who like your gameplay, you can afford good graphics, cutscenes, voiceovers to cater to casuals who are just drawn to the hype and either play a game for a month before they realize they can't compete, or play some safe and irrelevant part of the game happily ever after. But before you get this core, you can't waste precious development resources on these beautification parts.

While Albion is far from being a success, Minecraft is a well known success story, despite its graphics isn't "simple" but "absolutely hideous". The new star of Steam, Playerunknown's Battleground (Battle Royale FPS) has graphics that reminds me to the HL:CS mod of 1999 which is responsible for so many evenings wasted. I'm pretty sure that if it keeps up its success, it'll get better graphics engine to cater to the idiots who pay money for cowboy costume. But for now, to grab the diehard FPS players, the 1999 style graphics is more than enough.

Crowfall devs - assuming they aren't ... like Star Citizen devs - made a huge mistake for not making the game first, graphics second. A simple engine where objects are just plain boxes with text over their heads to identify them as "tree" or "boar" would be perfectly acceptable for alpha testing, assuming the actual mechanics that make Crowfall unique (Eternal Kingdom + campaigns, progressing worlds) would be testable.

Please note that "just license an engine" is not an option (as Star Citizen devs learned). Graphics engines are typically designed for single player or very limited multiplayer games and perform horribly when you try to put in thousands of players. To make a competitive MMO, you must make your own engine that can safely handle a 10K battle, even at the cost of TiDi. Actually, EVE TiDi is the poster child how hard it is to add later. EVE TiDi fails to handle really big battles, because it cannot slow down movement sampling and network traffic.

I really hope that upcoming game devs don't follow the Crowfall road and go the way of Albion. Except for the gold speculation and supporting RMT part.

I was hesitating to break the "no politics" rule on the blog, because I really wanted to say something, but luckily the wisest contemporary thinker wrote what I meant to (and much better than I could).

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Seems I was right about New Jita (+more RMT corruption evidence)

Update: damn, Quant delivered bad data (by mistake, or purposefully). If he fixes it, I'll update the post. Anyway, he claims that only regional data is corrupted, so the main message of the post is true, even if the numbers are off.

More than a year ago, I predicted that an extremely unbalanced feature will enter EVE: the highsec trading citadels. A bit later, when I realized that the change is not canceled despite public outcry, I announced my departure and when the deadline was up, I quit and stood by my decision. It's one thing to having to deal with the cyberbully campaign of the community manager. It's completely different to see a completely unbeatable advantage given to the selected winners.

In retrospect, I was overly dramatic in some details, mostly in the faction Keepstar as official trading citadel of the RMT coalition. Also, the head of the coalition had to be banned after legal threats just when he announced the monopoly, so probably the current situation is a temporary anarchy before a new leader emerges and banks the money.

But the recent economic report shown that I was right that this feature is unbeatable:

Yep, the citadels channeled 1360 billion ISK from the trading random people to the owners of the citadels. As the same report shows that 80% of the trading is done in the Forge (Jita) and another 15% in Domain (Amarr), Sinq Laison (Dodixie), Heimatar (Rens) and Metropolis (Hek), we can conclude that about 1.2 Trillion ISK per month goes to the highsec citadel owners. If we use the zkillboard valuation, that's $17000/month. Funnily, the shills of the RMT coalition try to convince me to blame Goons, too bad that the report shows 407B total market trade for Delve, probably just ammo and small ships, while all the large stuff goes via contracts or corp hangars.

This income comes to the selected winners of EVE without anyone even logging in. With money moons, one had to install towers, actually hold the region, freight moon material and tower fuel. Here the owner just sets up the citadel and it gives him the ISK of random players without any further player interaction. The RMT coalition behind him guarantees that his citadels won't be sieged.

Now, I promised more botting-RMT evidence, and here it is: let's compare the major sinks and faucets in 2016 March with 2017 March:
2016 (T ISK) 2017 (T ISK)
Bounties 37.6 66.7
NPC Market (WH loot) 19.9 23.9
Incursions 10.2 11.3
Mission reward+bonus 2.5 2.8
Skillbooks -9.8 -13.0
Tax+Broker Fee -13.1 -22.9
LP Store -7.3 -8.0

The obvious thing is the near doubling of (nullsec) ratting. But the interesting thing is the very modest increase in WH loot, incursions, mission rewards. It seems that only the most bottable ISK making activity increased seriously. The evidence for CCP being complicit is that money supply only increased by 5% in the last year, while it increased by 20% in the previous year (March-March). Can anyone tell me how can the inflation slow down despite the main faucet nearly doubled?! There is only one explanation: CCP knew this will happen in advance and increased the main sinks, the tax and broker fee! No, they didn't respond to hyperinflation, they turned up the sinks in the same damn Citadel expansion. I expected extreme deflation, but devs knew exactly that the ratting will double, because they let all RMT botters loose the same time when they unbanned the admittedly RMT-ing IWI bankers. Look how perfectly they tuned the sinks, until the alpha clones made a mess, the money supply was more stable than ever:

While I have a long list of unacceptable behavior by CCP devs, the open catering to RMT-ers with highsec citadels and tuning the sinks to the botters were far the worst thing they did. I have trouble understanding why they still have players, but it seems I won't have to wait long before they go down:
As you can see, going free-to-play and increased botting activity could only stabilize them for one year, the concurrent logins are exactly where they were a year ago and the summer dip is just coming. Unless they have one more "free to play" level stunt in their sleeves, a year from now they'll be under 20K concurrent players.

Please link it on r/eve, they had to miss my "conspiracies" for almost a year now.

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?