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Monthly Archives: March 2015

Hmmm, I think that by leaving things for three weeks or so the whole Liebster thing has gone away from the blogosphere, but I did say that I’d respond to the questions from Syl and Jeromai even though I have no plans to continue the chain – partly because I deeply dislike chain letters (of which this is a disguised version) and partly because just about anyone I would want to nominate has already been picked on. Still, some of the questions looked fun, so here goes – Syl’s questions first:

1. If you could learn a new language over night, which would it be? My father spoke about nine languages ranging from Lithuanian (his native tongue) through Russian, Polish, German and English. He told me that Russian was far the most expressive when it came to swearing and cursing, which sounds pretty useful to me.

2. What is the first MMO you’d want to visit in full VR mode? If we’re talking all five senses then definitely NOT something fantasy-based, as the smells of a pseudo-medieval setting are likely to be quite awful. Star Trek is too antiseptic a setting to be worth getting the full experience… maybe City of Heroes so I could grab a full sensory hot dog in Atlas Park before leaping buildings in a single bound.

3. If you got to invite a dead person over for tea and biscuits, who would it be? Alas, that’s too easy to answer – I’m just coming up on the first anniversary of my mother passing away, so we have news to catch up on.

4. What kind of biscuits would you serve? Bourbons. Or Jaffa cakes, if I’m allowed to stretch a point.

5. Who should go down first: House Lannister, House Frey or House Bolton? Lannister, because they should yield the most loot.

6. Justice means:
– a) everyone gets what they work for
– b) everyone gets the same
– c) everyone gets what they need

Ooh, I’d better be careful because I could probably write an enormous spiel about the difference between justice, fairness and equality. I tend to interpret “justice” as everyone gets what they deserve in return for their actions, no more and no less, and regard that as an uncomfortable proposition that needs to be leavened with mercy and compassion. Which means that what you get in the real world is usually less than perfect justice in that some get a better deal than they strictly deserve, but that’s the price that you pay for not being Gevlon.

7. If you could see one of your favorite games get a sequel, it would be….? Dark Age of Camelot. Wait a moment…

8. If a person were to split a pot of 1000$ between them and yourself on condition of you accepting their first offer, would you rather accept 100 bucks or both go empty? As I like to think of myself as being rational – if this is a one-time deal, I’ll take the $100 bucks. If this is the first in a series of such transactions, then I opt for nothing this time to signal that he’d better offer a more equitable deal next time around. Note how the words “just” and “fair” were not used in that response.

9. Which ingame MMO place/location do you consider a home to return to? Not sure if I[‘m attached to any place in any of my current games enough to regard it as “home”, nut I’m always happy to head over to Hoelbrak in GW2 and hang out enjoying monumental ice sculptures and listening to the Norn NPCs with their uncomplicated view of life.

10. Favorite midnight snack when nobody’s looking? Marks and Spencer’s honey roast ham flavoured crisps. And frankly I don’t care if anyone IS looking.

And then there’s the Jeromaic Inquisition…

•How much time do you spend gaming each day or each week? As much as I can get away with after discharging my duties as a responsible adult and a father. I usually manage a couple of hours on a typical weekday once the girls are in bed and my good lady is watching some TV programme I have no interest in whatsoever. I may get a few more hours on the weekend, depending on what we have planned. So maybe 20 hours per week.

•How many people do you roughly interact with while gaming, and what’s the extent of your interactions? I try not to roughly interact with anyone, except for consensual PvP 🙂

•What emotions do you enjoy experiencing while playing a game? Satisfaction when things go well, frustration when they don’t (which is my cue to go do something different), and the rare but precious moments of sheer joy.

•What are some of your favorite genres/settings/worlds to read about in a book? Military SF, space opera and ancient period historical.

•Are they any different from the genres/settings/worlds you might like in a game? (Be it a computer game or a tabletop RPG.) Like a great many nerds, I seem to prefer to read SF and play fantasy games. Which I guess helps explain the enduring appeal of Star Wars as it blends the two.

•What Warhammer 40k army would you choose (assuming unlimited budget)? I’ve never been a big Games Workshop fan, but I’d have to opt for Space Marines as I’m a traditionalist at heart.

•ASCII art, yea or nay? Nay. Once upon a time it was necessary as we didn’t have anything better. Now it’s just pretentious.

•Your favorite vegetable, and your most loathed one… I’m not an enormous fan of a great many vegetables, but I have a real problem with onions and their relatives – I can’t eat if I find myself biting down on chunks of onion, leek or anything of that ilk. It’s at least as much texture as taste, because I’ll eat a curry where the sauce contains onion puree, and it’s a real pain when buying ready prepared food because so many people seem to add onions of some sort to everything. Sweetcorn on the other hand I love, either on the cob or loose.

•Unlimited budget, pick one country in the world, that you haven’t been to, that you’d like to visit. I’ve a long-standing plan to visit Hawaii for my fiftieth birthday, just to have a Hawaii 5-0 birthday (which I then have to explain to my daughters). I’ve been to the mainland USA, but not out there yet.

•You cannot choose a human for your next MMO character. Would you pick a tall race or a short race first? (Width or muscularity, bestial features or lack thereof is up to you.) Depends entirely on the races available to choose from. I’m happy to go short provided they aren’t just a “cute” race – GW2 Asura are great fun.

•Wings or no wings? No wings. Wings are so last year. I reserve my right to change my answer if that question actually turned out to be an offer of barbecue hot wings however.

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Just a quick post – I’m well aware that I have Liebster call-outs from Syl and Jeromai and I’ll try and get the answers to both sets of questions, and some of my own, up later this week.

However, I just wanted to post to mention that I’ve been talked into trying out Elite Dangerous, and assuming I stick with the game for a while I have a long term goal – the Fer-de-Lance ship that was added in today’s patch. Given that the sexy beast in the video below, the love child of a luxury yacht and a battlecruiser, happens to cost a shade over a hundred million credits, and I thought I’d done well making seventy thousand in an evening’s bounty hunting, it’s likely to be a very long term goal, but whooo daddy! Lookit them curves! Ahem, I think I meant to say that’s quite a fine ship and I’d be delighted to be the captain of one.

For what it’s worth, my initial impression of ED is that this is an unforgiving and very deep sandbox game made by space sim grognards for space sim grognards. It’s unlikely to have mass appeal (Star Citizen is probably going to be the accessible space game) but I can see how ED could be very rewarding for the right niche of players, who have patience, an abiding love of the genre, a decent joystick/throttle controller set-up (you don’t need to spend hundreds on top of the line flight-sim kit but I wouldn’t TRY to do this on just mouse and keyboard. My old £30 Cyborg joystick with built-in throttle works just fine) and the mind-set of learning to live in the game universe, not just jumping straight in to play a game. Oh yeah, and I frigging HATE the landing pad part of docking. It improves with practice, but my first attempt in the tutorial was a nightmare and after several evenings I’m still sliding back and forth across the landing pad and making horrible crunching sounds with the landing gear.

The big gaming news this week is that Blizzard are getting into trading gold for game time using something that’s similar, but not identical, to EVE’s PLEX – the WoW Token. These create a pseudo-market that let’s gold-rich players (i.e. time-rich, in most cases) trade their Azerothian gold pieces for subscription time bought with Earth dollars/pounds/euros/whatever by other players. Note that I say pseudo-market, because the prices are set by Blizzard rather than a free market, and because the price paid by player A for his token may not match the amount of gold player B receives for putting that token on the market. This is because player A pays the (Blizzard-set) rate at the moment he makes his purchase, but player B receives whatever the (Blizzard-set) rate was at the time he put the token on the market in the first place (but he has to wait until A comes along and buys it off the market before he gets his gold).

This isn’t a free market, or a free-floating exchange rate such as we have with PLEX or with trading dollars for euros. This is a controlled currency, as evidenced by the likes of Venezuela today, Zimbabwe before they gave up completely on having their own currency (for those who didn’t know – you can trade in Zimbabwe in US dollars, euros or several other currencies but not the Zimbabwean dollar, which was abolished after basically hyper-inflating itself out of existence), or as was used in the good old Soviet Union.

Apart from the greater or lesser unsavouriness of the currency-fixing regimes, this has several consequences. The first is that without a free exchange seeking an equilibrium point, we could well see either a glut or else rationing and/or queuing occur if Blizzard are too far out in setting their price. If they set it too low (say, at 10K gold), then we have lots of people trying to turn their gold into tokens and not many people willing to exchange $15-$20 for such a paltry amount of gold, resulting in the auction house goblins queuing up waiting for their turn to hand a few crumbs from their vast fortune over in return for 30 days of game time. If they set it too high (maybe 100k gold) then loads of players will be putting tokens on the market but not that many buyers will be found, resulting in a long wait to actually get gold back for those real world dollars you plunked down. How bad will this be? Depends how good Blizzard are at setting their prices and how responsive they are to shifts in supply and demand. Real world experience suggests that command economies have a lousy record of efficiency compared to free markets however.

Secondly, Blizzard will end up creating or destroying gold from the economy as they shift the price. If they put the ‘market’ rate up, then the guy buying a token pays more than the guy selling it receives, and gold vanishes from the economy. If they shift the rate down, then gold gets created with each transaction. Blizzard can do this because the Azerothian gold piece is actually a fiat currency – there are as many gold pieces in existence as Blizzard set their database to say there are, just as central banks for modern states can print as much money as they wish. It has the same consequences in WoW as it has in real life, however – debauch the currency and you’ll get more inflation. Note that Blizzard have actually eliminated a moderating mechanism, because speculators can’t bet on the market by buying tokens at a low price and re-selling at a higher one (which in a free market acts to moderate swings – see, all those bankers do provide some sort of useful service). Once you’ve bought a token, the only thing you can do with it is pay your subscription – there’s no option to re-sell it.

Thirdly, Blizzard have pretty much guaranteed that there will continue to be a black market in gold pieces, and possibly even stimulate it. There are always black markets in controlled currencies, usually offering a more realistic and less favourable exchange rate. In the case of WoW – the gold sellers won’t go out of business. They aren’t selling at their break-even price and will make losses if Blizzard undercut them. They’re currently charging all that the market can bear, and their limiting factor isn’t how much gold they can farm, it’s how many customers they can lure in. What they’ll do here is undercut Blizzard’s price (but still make a profit because the cost of producing gold pieces is negligible when you’re farming with a swarm of bots on accounts bought with stolen credit cards) and get increased sales from people who buy cheap illegal gold which they then convert to subscription time at the ‘official’ exchange rate. Net result – asshat players who don’t mind dealing with the scum of the MMO world get to play WoW for less than the actual subscription rate, whale players willing to turn their dollars into gold get more gold, everyone else watches the extra farmed gold feed into the economy and wonder why everything on the auction house is so darned expensive.

Now, I’m not predicting economic apocalypse here. All of these effects are real, but just how strong they are depends on how accurate and timely Blizzard are at adjusting the official exchange rate in line with what a free market would set. You can be reassured by looking at just how accurate and timely Blizz have always been with balancing classes and releasing new content.

Hmmm. Welcome to the apocalypse, kid.

EDIT: I’ve just discovered that not only is Scott Jennings actually still alive (or as much alive as the slave minions of Richard Garriott can be), he’s started posting on Broken Toys again and had much the same to say about this topic Can I just plead that everything here was original to me, at least, when I wrote it? 🙂