Greedy Goblin

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!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Archeage: charcoal disaster

Archeage has a "trading" system, similar to Black Desert (Archeage was first). In this, you create a special item, a "trade pack", that you can carry on your back slowing you down or put into special (and $-expensive) transport wagons and move to NPCs at distant lands. The further you carry them, the higher reward you get. Or, that's the plan. But it's completely messed up and I doubt if many people actually make more money on this than they'd get by simply grinding mobs. Probably this is why I barely see NPCs below 130% reward, which means that no one used that NPC for some time.

There are two kinds of NPCs to turn packs in. One is for intra-continental trade. The continents are mostly in the hands of one faction, so you can do such trade mostly safe. Traders can be attacked by pirate players who take the pack upon kill and turn them in themselves. Here you can see the prices of Haranya and Nuia continents.

The first problem is that the material cost of the packs are often higher than what the NPC pays after a medium-ranged haul. For example the Hasla pack materials cost nearly 20G, so you can make 1G "profit" if you bring it to the other end of the continent. Don't forget to add the value of the 50 labor points you use making the trade pack. If you'd use that labor for crafting instead, you could easily get 1-2G instead. And that's before the time cost.

But the really nasty thing is the intercontinental trade. If you do that, you get "Charcoal stabilizer" item. "Due to the risk involved to get these high-demand materials, they sell for high prices and are considered to be one of the most profitable trade ventures." - says the official site. Too bad that in reality 1 Charcoal sells for 80 silver so you usually get less money for a lengthy boat run than you'd get for a land trade. The low price is probably because PvP is nearly dead (I wasn't killed once with a trade pack) and because it's trivial to bot sea travel. While the devs included a delay between turning in the pack and being paid to give themselves time to catch botters, they seem to be doing a bad job.

All in all, trade pack hauling in Archeage probably won't make anyone rich except botters.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

WoT & LoL: rigged or just demo mode before the game?

Once upon a time I believed that proving that a game is rigged equals to the death of that game, or at least a huge firing wave at the company and big promises that all the bad eggs are gone and the company is now clean and really won't do it again.

Instead, neither League of Legends, nor World of Tanks went down after I've found them rigging the games. OK, the LoL research is probably not the best (I'll redo it once with proper blind testing and everything), so it didn't catch up enough buzz, people simply don't know about it. But the WoT page is my highest visited and there are other high traffic sites claiming the same. We can assume that "everyone" who cares to know that WoT is rigged, knows.

Instead of crying how the World is unjust, I'm always thinking about rational explanations. What if players don't care because it's not "the game" what is rigged, just a demo mode? Let me explain. Both games are team vs team battle games with high synergies between team members. While the WoT clan wars seems convoluted and needlessly complex, probably to cover up something, the LoL tournaments are likely clear e-sports. But either way, it's clear that a random group has no chance against a coordinated and somewhat competent team. So the actual participants of the "real game" are teams, while individual, teamless players cannot participate.

In this framework the random battles between matchmade teams (regardless of tier/ranking) are irrelevant and can be considered a demo mode. It's needed only to lure new players to the game who can test and learn the game in a casual schedule. Since a solo queue LoL player is not playing the "real game", it's irrelevant if this is rigged or not. The team being artificially stacked is irrelevant compared to the fact that they are uncoordinated and random.

My point is that a "real" Lol/WoT player (someone who participates in organized team battles) rightfully dismisses everything that happens with matchmade teams, including rigging as non-related. From that standpoint the experiences of a "bronze noob" or a "platinum pro" are equally not relevant for the team game experiences.

Of course these do not make my findings invalid, as most players are not participating in the team games and they are openly lied to and cheated by the developers. But they are "cheated anyway" since what they do is pointless within the game World: someone who runs only random battles will make no effect on the clan wars, therefore indistinguishable from a non-player, despite he puts thousands of hours and dollars into the game. They are cheated when they were made to believe that their individual kill/death or rating matters and not when these were modified to cater to the whales.

Monday, May 15, 2017

South Korea First!

More rational self-interest over ideology post!

South Koreans - and in smaller extent Japanese - are in trouble. Half of them live in the direct proximity of the border with North Korea with some parts of Seoul lying just 25 km from it. While the ability of North Korea to deliver nuclear weapons to large distances is debated, there is no doubt that Kim Jong Un could kill 20-30 million of them. Sure, not without similar destruction on the North, but retaliation won't resurrect the dead. The obvious question is: how can South Koreans prevent this from happening?

To see the answer, one must see how is this situation different from the Cold War. The Soviet Block and the NATO both had enough nukes to eradicate the life from the Earth, but they didn't use it. One could - absolutely wrongfully - assume that such mutually assured destruction can guarantee peace on the Korean peninsula. However the cold war was based on mutual understanding and acceptance of the mutually assured destruction and acceptance of the coexistence of the powers. While both blocks had an ultimately conflicting agenda (making the whole World Communist / Capitalist), but they did not have deadlines and it was accepted that the other block will exist in the foreseeable future.

On the other hand, the USA completely does not accept the idea of nuclear North Korea and cannot accept it without giving up its "only superpower" and "leader of the free world" doctrines, since then anyone could build nukes and scare off the USA, eventually confining it behind its borders. Which would incidentally be what the American people voted for, but who cares about those losers in Washington? It is the declared intent of the USA to prevent North Korea from reaching modern nuclear ICBMs. With every passing day, their ability decreases as North Korea is building better and better missiles.

North Korea cannot back down either. The fate of Gaddafi makes it clear that negotiations and concessions to the West does not protect someone from being attacked by it. From 1998 to 2010 he made big changes from his earlier anti-West agenda, given up his weapons of mass destruction and actively fought Islamic radicalism. In return the EU ended its sanctions and in 2006 the USA removed Lybia from the list of terrorism supporters. Negotiations between top Western Leaders and Gaddafi became usual and his parties together with Silvio Berlusconi became notorious. Then out of the blue, without even citing reasons why he became "evil" again, he was deposed and killed without even a mock trial.

To make it worse, Lybia didn't become a capitalist paradise, nor even a semi-decent oppression (where you have no political rights but if you shut up, you have food, home, health care and work, like in Chile under Pinochet or in the Communist Europe). Lybia - along with Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen became failed states where headchopping madmen massacre anyone different from them. There is simply no example of successful Western conquest from the last 20 years, so Kim Jong Un can't even resign and go to exile to save his people (not like he would). He is right to assume that building the ICBMs is the only way to save not only himself but his people, costs be damned.

To create a perfect storm, Trump did something that was not done during the cold war once: attacked a country formally under the protection of Russia. He bombed Syria with Russian troops in the installations next to the explosions. Sure, the communist and the western block fought countless proxy wars (most prominent being Vietnam), but in these, the proxies weren't formal allies. The Vietcong wasn't a Warsaw pact member, nor Salvador Allende's Chile (nor was Pinochet formally allied to the US). The Red Army Faction terrorists were not acknowledged by the actual Red Army. Formally all these wars were fought by independents. What Trump did in Syria is the equivalent of Brezhnev bombing West Germany - just avoiding killing Americans.

At first I was puzzled why Putin let it happen, if I was him, when the call came from the US about the attack, I'd reply "I consider it an attack against ourselves, if you shoot, that's all out war", just to upkeep my ability to have allies at all. I mean from now he can't make military treaties with anyone, since there is a precedent that his troops just take cover when the Americans come to bomb, so allying with Russia has no protection value. Now, I think he did it exactly to create the Korean War. With the Syria bombing precedent, the door for a third party guaranteeing the safety of North Korea is closed. I mean if there was a treaty that North Korea gives up its nukes, but China and Russia would extend their own nuclear umbrella above them, that treaty would be toilet paper, as Russia already proved that it won't retaliate against an American attack and China is weaker than Russia. So no matter how much the US pays or presses China to hold North Korea back, it cannot, as Kim Jong Un truthfully replies to China "you can't protect us, we have no one but ourselves to rely on".

So we have:
  • Too parties with mutually exclusive goals
  • One has nowhere to retreat, the other is under time pressure
  • No third party can step in as mediator
It seems the war is inevitable. How can it be prevented? I don't think it can be. But the title of the post is "South Korea First!" (a pun on Trump's "America First!") and not "how to make peace in Korea". Please note that the conflict is between North Korea and the USA. South Korea and Japan will suffer heavy losses simply because they are the ones North Korea can reliably hit. But why would they hit a random neighbor? Kim sure won't nuke China or Russia! They'll hit these countries for being allies of the USA and having US military stationed in them. While Kim Jong Un surely has a crazy plan how to hit the US mainland by somehow sneaking past the US defenses, and he might even get lucky, but the majority of his forces will target the local US allies and deployed US forces. Ergo: the only reason South Korea and Japan are threatened is that they are allies of the US. All they have to do is break this alliance and remove of US military from their land. This is a funny twist: the US military is there to protect them from Northern invasion at the first place, but now is the prime reason for Northern attack.

I think the winner of the recent South Korean election knows this, because he already demands the removal of THAAD missiles and has a book about "saying no to the USA".

What if the US military refuses to leave? Then South Korea and Japan can send a couple hundred volunteer nationalist fanatic youth dressed in uniforms and armed with rifles to evict them. Sure, they'll be easily slaughtered by the US military, but the pictures of the dead "soldiers" will be more than enough to convince the World - and above all North Korea - that these countries are invaded by the US. It would cause large international uproar, that might even force the US to withdraw, but even if it doesn't, it probably convinces Kim to consider them not hostile and focus his nuclear fire on the carrier battlegroups instead.

What will guarantee that North Korea won't invade South in the minute the US left it? Simply that its current goal is to survive by creating a nuclear deterrent force. They focus all their efforts for that one goal. They are already suffering from heavy embargo. Do you think they would jump on an offensive campaign against a third party in this situation? Sure, if the USA doesn't attack them and they can finish the nuclear deterrent force, stabilize their economy, then (1-2 decades) they can invade South. But then the incumbent South Korean government can just apologize for the "foolishness" of their predecessors, fire everyone who were active in 2017 and beg the US back, who will surely return since they won't want twice as big North Korea.

Bonus question: what would I suggest to Kim Jong Un in this situation? To offer nukes to South Korea and Japan in exchange to kick out the USA. I mean literally, if they declare non-alignment to blocks and wow to have no allies (which practically means no US alliance) and ban any foreign soldiers from their land in their constitution, North Korea should reward them by giving them nukes that they can use to deter North Korea from attacking them. Why would he do such thing? Because while it would make him unable to ever invade South or Japan, it would also make very hard for the USA to attack him as it would lack land bases in 4000 miles and have to do every bombing from vulnerably placed carriers and any land attack with a D-day style landing.