Greedy Goblin

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Taxes, beer, tea and housewives

In video games, there are typically have low taxes on in-game transactions, since there is no government to support. But Black Desert Online uses market taxes as gold sink. Actually I don't even see any other significant gold sinks in the game. This can serve as a perfect example how damaging high taxes to the economy. First thing first, cooking awful lot of beer and doing the cooking quests pushed me quite high on the cooking toplist:

High cooking skill means good chance of getting more than one product. I just did a test, from 100 units of materials, I got 266 products and 29 bonus products. This obviously means that I should use this multiplication on something profitable. Beer can be produced from 900 silver worth of materials and sell for 1500 (bonus bear for 2300). Tea with fine scent can be produced from 5000 worth of materials and sell for 4000 (bonus tea for 5000). This means that if I make beer (from purchased materials), I make 2.66*1500+0.29*2300-900 = 3757 silvers. If I make tea, I make 2.66*4000+0.29*5000-5000 = 7090 silvers. No brainer. The fact that I need beer is irrelevant: I shall buy beer and use my energy to make tea. (Note: tea is the highest price food that sells in large numbers and need no milk or other limited material).

But here comes 35% sales tax with a twist: I need beer for myself. So if I make beer, I still save the 3757 silvers for not buying beers. But my tea income will change to 0.65*2.66*4000+0.65*0.29*5000-5000 = 2858. Ouch! Beer becomes the profitable choice. If I consider that my workers produce the materials for beer, which I can use or sell taxed, while I must buy materials for tea, the choice is even worse. The end result: despite producing tea generates 2.7x more GDP than producing beer, it's more profitable for me to produce beer.

With taxes suppressing high value production, it's a miracle that tea is made at all. Since beer prices are constantly rising, I guess much of it comes from people who are bad at math, buying beer and producing tea, not noticing that their profit is eaten by taxes. It's only profitable if you don't sell it, but either drink it or rather use it to produce Milk Tea or Sute Tea. You probably ask why producing them is any less tax-blocked than the first one. The solution is another market messup: fixed price ranges. These specialties contain milk, which is a valuable reagent in BDO, but its price is fixed in a hilariously low range. So if you have it, you must do something with it other than selling.

What we saw today isn't limited to video games. Most women in couples and most single people do their own housework (like making the beer for themselves) instead of spending this time doing something more productive and hiring someone to do this low-skill work for them (like making tea and buying beer). Simply if the "something more productive" isn't much more productive, the taxes eat the difference and you are better off doing housework for yourself, even if you'd never think of doing such work as a career. As a result, in bigger households many women become full-time housewifes, despite capable of doing something better, while a bunch of low-skilled people are unemployed. Taxes are bad things kids!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

BDO production node maps

The net is full of BDO node maps, but I was quite dissatisfied with them, as they did not visualize the most important information: node prices. Not all nodes are made equal and a longer path can easily be cheaper in terms of contribution points. Also - to my surprise - the price of the farming nodes themselves weren't equal. An iron node is 1 contribution near Velia and 3 in Mediah. So for my own purposes I made screenshots and wrote the node prices on them, along with resources and a piece of information I've nowhere found: the lodging hiding in farms. These buildings can greatly decrease the cost of housing in some towns.

The information on some nodes are conflicting among different sites. I only included what I've found in-game. Not all resources are instantly visible, some need to be found by first connecting the main node, then leaving the node management screen, then talking to the node manager again, sometimes paying energy. So everything on the map is guaranteed to be real, but some resources can be missing if I didn't find them. If you have them, write a comment with info how to find it please.

Work nodes are a great way to make semi-AFK money, just place workers on them and they fill the storehouse with materials. Some of them sell well, others are just for vendoring, but each of them make money. Hint: if the main resource (for example chicken meat) is for vendoring, use high luck worker, so he gets lots of secondary resources (for example eggs).

Please remember that workers only work if you are online (even if AFK). Also, the worker works faster on closer nodes and he always goes to work from his home town. So if the nodes are connected, you can mine in Mediah with a Trent worker, it'll be just very slow and the resources will be in Trent. This is usually a bad idea, but sometimes necessary. Velia for example is full of great work nodes, but horribly understaffed, so I farm most of its nodes from Olvia, which has very few natural resources, but can house lots of workers.

The pictures show my setup at the point, but it's no way the optimal. I've changed it several places as I've written this post as I noticed that they can be better. I hope they contribute to your income. A lone number means node price where it's just a node to be connected. For usable nodes you see node and production prices.

Olvia and Velia:







Tarif (please note that despite the nodes look close to Altinova, the are not):

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

War of sovless aggression

It is done. With Goonswarm Federation losing their last system, the slope is complete, they are now sovless dockers aggressors:

The North is now completely under the control of the various MBC groups. I especially like the middle one, because they took the last system:

So everything I've planned came true, Goons are evicted, their minions are destroyed or rebelled and MoA finished their sov. Let this be a monument of the victory of numbers over "metagaming", social skills and "best ship is friendship".

No way I'm going back to EVE. The road to this moment was anything but fun, especially with the horrible Falcon. Fighting this mess was a struggle, with no one believing in it. Most just jumped on the bandwagon, the rest were "I wish it was possible, but it's not". Yes it was. GRR was a great project and a great blogging material. An evidence that no amount of social nonsense can defeat a handful of men who are right in the objective sense. But it's not a good game, at all. I'm sure BDO will be much better.

But that said, this moment is an ear-to-ear smile.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Yuria 15: economy based gear progression

In most MMOs, gear is a reward for completing content and also a tool to complete more content. The most notable exception is EVE, where you build your gear via crafting from farmed materials (or buy it from someone who built it). Black Desert Online belongs to this exception: you grab a crafted item and put in black stones farmed by you or someone else. Black stones drop from random monsters (just got one from a wolf near Olvia on a 1 hour alt) and rewarded for killing daily bosses.

The higher you enchant your items, the more powerful they are, but also the more stones they need. Getting a +15 is considered so expensive (not "hard" in the sense of getting mythic raid gear in WoW), that the game makes a system wide announcement that someone just did it:

The rest of my gear is far from perfect, but nothing to be ashamed of for a 3 weeks old player. The leveling numbers were limited not by black stones, but by ingredient gear availability (if you enchant, you damage the gear and it must be repaired by sacrificing similar items):

Of course, getting so many black stones need lots of farming. But not for the player:

Making all the beer and chopping all the timber and mining all the ore took lot of time for my workers and my character, but for me, it's just a few clicks after they are set up once. Which is surely the kind of game I like and can recommend every market-savvy player. You can get top gear just by running industry.

Of course I'm somewhat worried by the longevity of the game because of that: I'll "complete" my gear in a week or two, leaving room only for miniscule upgrades not worth taking. Then what? This means I can't really recommend the game until I see the answer for this question. I hope the answer will be good, because I really like BDO now, but I can't deny that it feels like a single-player game which runs until the player runs out of content. Sure, there are much content in BDO for me, but it's still finite.

PS: the top earring and ring were farmed. Hexe Sanctuary was just the best MMO scenery I've seen and visited it every day until I got bored of it.

PS2: there is luck in the world:

Friday, May 20, 2016

Stripper no more

I expressed my displeasure at the "stripper outfit" and promised that if I stay in the game, I buy my avatar something decent. And I did:

Interestingly, the suit changed my personal perception of my character. She looks much more battle-ready and serious in that suit. However I kept the normal armor look for the city, it serves well as a "shopping dress":

I threw $60 on the game and bought not only the suit, but +8 slots for all Calpheon, Serendia and Balneos cities (720 pearls), a dog (which can detect suited enemies and pick up gold), a bed (60 energy/hour replenishment) and +150 weight limit for my main. You might be surprised that I throw money on a game, but counting with the usual $15/month, that's mere 4 months of subscription. Over the eight years of WoW, I paid 1200 euros (it's cheaper than $15 if you subscribe for half year).

Did I buy power? Yes. The suit is strong in PvP, so is the counter: the dog. The extra slots are practically contribution points (no need to buy storage), the weight limit increase speeds up everything from questing to industry. The bed is a significant increase of energy. Am I happy about this monetization? No, I'd still prefer subscription, or pure buy-to-play games where people who play have equal chance (while those who can't buy the game simply don't play). However the results are clear: the players value in-game items higher than game access, so developers have no choice but to sell games cheap (or even free) and then make money on selling power or "prestige" items.

Does this mean that I'll play pay-to-win mobile games? Of course not. There is a clear difference between being able to buy a capped amount of power for money comparable with a year of WoW subscription and being able to buy power infinitely. I don't think I could gain any more power by spending more on BDO. 2 beds don't recover energy faster than one. I have to accept the new pricing of games because they aren't going to go away. Subscription is dead.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Ships: the curse of not free market

Since I've found Iliya Island (in Black Desert Online) by bringing the amity of an NPC high enough, I wanted to get a boat. As usual, I went to the market and found empty inventory. I found their prices acceptable, but I couldn't buy anything. So off I went to a guide how to craft it myself and the problem became obvious: the materials cost more than the system-allowed price of the ships. Obviously no one mass-produces ships. Sure, there are enthusiasts and roleplayers (and people who don't know about opportunity cost), but if you want to buy a ship, you need luck.

I got mine after days of search and went happily to explore the seas. While it gives knowledge, therefore energy max, there isn't much to do on the islands. However the point is that in a free market system you don't have to rely on luck: you bid. If you are rich enough, you get the item. If you are not, you at least don't waste time hunting it and look for alternatives instead. Above all: if the price is high enough, more producers will jump in to increase the supply.

Ships aren't the only items in BDO which can't be found because their price is forced to be too low, so demand is greatly larger than supply. Pork, log, rough stone, milk are also greatly plagued. Of course you can't beat the numbers, at the end they show up. The products needing these resources are calculated by the "real" price of these materials, this is why cooking products with pork (like good feed) are so expensive compared by normal cooking products.

I understand that price range locks were implemented to avoid goldsellers transferring coins to buyers via overpriced rare items. But the range itself should be automatically revised based on supply and demand. I think what BDO really needs is buy orders to somehow signal to the algorithm how big is the demand for an item and also to producers that there is demand, they can get instant sales. Also, the ranges of the high volume items can be let loose, it's impossible to transfer silver in Ash Timber. For rare items, the range can be calculated using materials. For example the range of a Seleth blade +8 (which is surely a never-selling item, so perfect for goldsellers) can be calculated from the price of the base Seleth and the black stones while these can float freely.

Anyway, the situation is the same here as in real world where the government wants to mess with prices: there will be shortage of the item and there will be out-of-market ways to decide who gets that few. In games, this is decided by camping the AH. In the real life, by corrupting those who distribute it. While forcing lowrent or food prices sound nice for the poor, expensive homes are better than "sorry, you have to wait 10 years in line".

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BDO business: vendor it!

Remember the picture from yesterday?

After I was pleased how well I filled the Heidel storehouse, I listed the possible 30 wares and went to sleep. In the morning I've found about 10 sold, 20 didn't. That's not a problem for someone believing in deep undercutting, I take them out and relist them lower until they sell. Except, I couldn't, since BDO sets price ranges and these items were already at the minimum, along with hundreds of others. It was obvious that they'll have to wait a lot before they sell (I guess equal value orders are sorted by age).

Instead of crying over the broken teapot, I salvaged the situation. At first I needed a simple method to determine what has chance to sell and what doesn't. It's important, because a non-selling item fills up one of the 30 market slots, keeping me from listing something that would sell. It wasn't that hard: the game has an automatic price recommendation which matches the lowest listed price. If it is equal with the range min, you will compete with lots of identical orders:

OK, we now determined what will not sell. What to do with these? Vendor them! And when I did, I noticed something weird: I didn't even lose much compared with the lowest sell order. I mean the vendor prices were pretty high, while the AH sales had taxes. I compared the price I got from the vendor and the taxed prices of several materials:

The red items aren't simply unlikely to sell. They are unworthy to sell on the marketplace. For 10-15 silver extra, you lock up a market order for a long time and you have to haul:
  1. (Offline) travel to farming town storage
  2. Take out item from storage to cart
  3. (Offline) travel to selling city storage
  4. Move item from cart to storage
  5. List item from the storage marketplace interface
If you sell to a vendor, the task is much simpler:
  1. (Offline) travel to farming town storage
  2. Take out item from storage to inventory
  3. Move few steps to the nearest vendor
  4. Sell
Please note that if the item(s) are in large quantity and don't fit into one cart, you have to visit the same town multiple times in the first case, while in the second, you simply make more walks between storage and vendor. Saving that effort is really worth selling for 10-15% cheaper.