Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Apparently the spirit of unrest so prevalent in Egypt and other assorted countries is making the rounds.  Here in the U.S., Wisconsin is stirring up old debates about the nature of a Federalist government.  And as usual, it’s about the money in the end.  Or freedom and agency… but it’s easier to argue about money.

Interesting times, these.  I guess the Chinese still don’t like us dirty capitalists.  (Or wait, who’s the bad guy this week?)

Time to go ignore the world and finish up Dragon Quest V or go grind for a bit in some random MMO.  Reality bites sometimes.  May as well do something with measurable success, hm?


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While money is on the discussion floor hereabouts, I wanted to share this gem from Karl Denninger.

Avoidance Will Not Work

His site might be a bit on the gloomy side, but there are some very real problems with the economy at large.  It’s wise to pay attention to these larger issues.

And maybe get some food storage.


More data to chew on… A Warning to the Political Parties

It all boils down to math and sustainability.  It’s not even ideological or demagoguish at this point, just the cold inevitability of math.

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Because everyone else is?  (Yes, a sample of three means EVERYONE’s doing it, duh. L2Logic, n00b.  Besides, it’s not like gamers have an ego or something…)

The word is “lose”, not “loose”.  Two different words with very different meanings.

If you’re going to use a key twice, make it the space bar, since it still should be TWO spaces after a period, not one.  One just looks retarded, so browsers, stop messing with my spacing, you power-mongering weasels!  I put two spaces in there on purpose, dolts!

Stop Apostrophe Abuse!

Farmville scares me, as a harbinger of the gaming apocalypse, taking the soulless vampirism of gaming to new depths.

I don’t like publishers, just on general principle (even though some actually are good), but especially when they pull dumb stunts.  I like investors and big government (Big Brother?) even less.  Parasites and leeches, along with the rest of the FIRE sector.  (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate… all parasitic, all net drains on an economy.)

Blizzard still doesn’t want my money. Then again, it’s not like Allods understands pricing, either.

Oh, and perhaps most importantly, why isn’t Nick Yee doing anything interesting any more?

Oh, wait…

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I don’t think I’ll try for the trifecta of internet taboos this time.  I’ll save the religious stuff for Easter.  Politics and economics are intertwined, though, and unfortunately, considerably more important than some of the other articles I have simmering on the burner.

Karl Denninger has some new articles up that I’d like to highlight.

First, his obligatory “Year in Review” sort of post.  Lots of data with a side order of vitriol.  This will be an interesting year, what with the 2010 elections firing people up (or not, as the case may be).  Apologies to those of you who don’t care about U.S. politics.  I’m actually not a fan of politics, as it happens (politicians bother me), but events on that stage have a nasty tendency to affect the stuff I am a fan of, so it’s good to at least be aware of what is afoot.

Where We Are, Where We’re Headed (2010)

Then there’s this gem that not only roasts the mainstream media, but also serves as a nice reminder of the math behind housing and why we’re still not in a Happy Place economically.  Calling Geithner and Obama to task is icing on the cake.  (Don’t worry, he has blasted Bush as well.  Economic concerns are nonpartisan; both parties are part of the problem.)

The Mainstream Media Wakes Up (HAMP)

And if you’re a fan of the Time Man of the Year, dear old Ben Bernanke, Denninger has this to say of some of his recent comments:

Fed Bubble Blowing:  A Study of Denial

Denninger is a wee bit more… fiesty… than I might be, but he’s keyed into the financial markets, and considering the smoldering problems in that sector of the economy (that affect all of us), it’s been instructive for me to see what he’s concerned about.

The Christmas Eve shenanigans were interesting, too:

Fraudie/Phoney-What Does Treasury Know

When the legislation makes efforts to pass something while citizens are busy, it throws up a few red flags in my mind.  Similarly, when they say “this must pass NOW, or the world will end”, it bothers me, whether it’s about Climate Change, TARP or Health Care Reform.  I can’t help but think of hucksters telling me to “Buy Now, this deal will never be this good again!”, when almost inevitably, a little bit of homework and a bit of patience shows it to be the fraudulent sales pitch it really is.  Why is it that we offer politicians any more respect than cable TV sales channel pitchmen?  In my mind, both are modern day snake oil salesmen, only differentiated by the actual effect they can have on the population at large.

Speaking of snake oil, though:

The True Intent of Health “Reform”

“Global Warming” SCAM -Hack/Leak FLASH

Interesting stuff.

I know, I know, I usually talk about game design and happy shiny fluffy stuff.  Thing is, if societal acrimony increases while the economy burns as our leaders fiddle about with things best left alone, and we really do step into a Greater Depression, complete with political and societal upheaval, the New Happy Shiny might be more Big Brother Soylent Green than endless navel gazing in the MMO genre.  Jack Thompson isn’t the only “political” figure that stands in opposition to gaming utopia.

So… yeah.  That’s my New Year’s “Coming up Next” post.

Please pay attention to things that really are more important than games.  Don’t take my word for what is going on, don’t take Denninger’s word, don’t drink the Hannity or Huffington Kool-Aid.  Don’t trust government propaganda.  As Thomas Jefferson recommended:  Question With Boldness (OK, OK, there’s a hint of religion in the full quote, so I did get in the whole trifecta…)

Question everything, and don’t stop until you have the truth.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Questioning of Game Design.  (See, the philosophy works there, too!)

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HWFO is an acronym coined by the CEO of Three Rings (the brilliant minds behind Puzzle Pirates), Daniel James.  It stands for Hand Waving Freak Outery, and is often used on the PP forums as a disparaging remark to suggest that someone is overreacting.

Karl Denninger does his fair share of HWFO over at the Market Ticker (a fascinating blog about the markets and their dysfunction of the last several years).  But hey, overreacting is what bloggers do.  If we wanted dry, rational reporting on facts, we’d turn to the impartial, accurate, professional media.  I mean, that’s what they are paid to do, right? *cough*

Anyway, KD’s on a tear lately, with a bit more vitriol and urgency to his commentary.  It’s worth a perusal of his archives if you want to get a bead on what the markets are doing, and how the economy is functioning (or not, as the case may be).  You could be excused for mistaking his latest articles as the rants of an anti-Obama nutter, but the curious fact is that he voted for the guy and made a big deal out of pointing out the fact.  He wrote a few times about liking Ron Paul’s stance on the economy, but ultimately voted for Obama.  So remember that when you dig around and find him ranting and waving his arms about the problems he sees.  He wanted Obama to succeed (and probably still does; who really wants chaos and social breakdown?).

So, his take on the 9/12 gathering in Washington D.C. is interesting less for the inherent HWFO, and more for the observation that it’s not a big deal elsewhere in the media.  No, the big news of the day is about Kanye West behaving badly.  A million or more people marching peaceably on the capital in protest of government spending would be big news in a sane society.  (Though, really, some of the protest posters are way over the top.  Hyperbole doesn’t help make a good case.  Of course, when the people in charge are telling us that they Must Pass This Bill Right Nao!!1! or The World Will Collapse!!11!!!1, it’s not like everyone is behaving rationally.)  People are tired of the nonsense from both parties, and the economic abuses that we’re all dealing with.  (Remember Enron?  Bernie Madoff?  Chuck Ponzi?  When the regulators turn a blind eye to this sort of activity, or actively support it, the guy working for a modest salary can be excused for being a bit peeved at The Man.)

Also, KD’s article “An Address To Our Schoolchildren” was interesting.  Rather than more partisan HWFO about the President speaking to kids in school, he took the opportunity to point out a few key ideas that our kids really should be told.  As a bloke who detests current educational thought on math education, namely the blight that is Investigations Math, I really like telling kids how numbers really work.  Math is really simple; it’s pure logic.  The math behind the economy doesn’t add up to “All is Well, Party Hard”.

Short story long, not only is the economy broken in fundamental ways, but people are starting to understand it, and that has some significant long term repercussions.  We’re not yet dealing with a Network moment of national breakdown, and Soylent Green isn’t being served in elementary schools, but ultimately, we really shouldn’t need to have the Apocalypse in our back yard before learning to pay attention to social mood or political winds.  Whether or not we’re on the cusp of a real economic Depression (or something worse or something better), it’s smart to pay attention and be prepared.  Better to have a bit of extra food on the shelves and nothing crazy happen than to think everything is OK only to have a run on the grocery store tomorrow and be caught with your pants down.

Call it a Blue Ocean social strategy.  Pay attention to the news that isn’t in the mainstream media, and you might just find something interesting, and worth doing something about.  HWFO has its place, but it’s the quiet, subtle shifts that are often most important.   If you’re just paying attention to the big flashy stuff, you’re likely to miss a key point.  That’s how magicians work, after all.

Disclosure: I did vote for Ron Paul as a write in vote for President, and am thoroughly disgusted with the political parties, the establishment, and the media.  I’m nonpartisan; I can’t stand any of them.  This mostly caught my eye as an indicator of what is happening out there in a populace that isn’t happy with a broken economy.  When prevailing social mood shifts, it’s good to be aware of what is happening.  I’m not saying that this is The Most Important Moment in Time, but then again, we don’t often recognize history until after the fact, and social change tends to move in small steps rather than big leaps.  It’s best to try to figure out where trends might go when there’s time to plan ahead, rather than trying to react when the train wreck is imminent and unavoidable.  Some may call long range analysis a bit of HWFO, but I call it strategy.  Also, I’m not advocating any politial position here, just encouraging people to pay attention and to be prepared for the long term, however you want to do so.  It’s not Big Brother’s job to take care of your family, whatever party he’s coming from.  That’s your job, so do it.

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…is another Wizard’s trash.

I’ve had a little more time than I thought over the holiday weekend, since the book illustration is on hold for revision, and I had a few hours to actually go play something.  I know, I said I’d be out of commission for a while, and I will be soonish, but I wanted to slip this in while it was on my mind and while I had a few minutes to write.  It’s how I polish my thoughts, for better or worse.

I popped back into Wizard 101 recently to see what recent changes have done to the game.  In short, I like Grizzleheim’s design, housing is pretty cool, and the Bazaar is nice, but I really don’t like No Trade/No Auction items, I’m very sad that I can’t get the old crown gear, crafting is an unholy grind, and gimmick fights are unfortunate.

The Friendly Necromancer wrote to King’s Isle about the No Trade flag (a while ago, I’m catching up, remember?), and received a response, chronicled here:

Of Shared Banks and No Trades

One of the King’s Isle admins, Professor Greyrose, wrote:

Professor Greyrose:

“Making certain items restricted to one character makes them more rare and valuable. The number of items in the game that are restricted is a tiny percentage of items. We are constantly assessing which items to mark as No Trade and are listening to the community feedback on this and other matters.”

I strongly disagree.  Items restricted to a single character have a higher chance of being almost completely worthless as anything but vendor trash.  My Balance Wizard scored a spiffy healing ring from an instance boss in Marleybone, but he couldn’t use it because he isn’t a Life Wizard.  It was marked No Trade/No Auction.  I couldn’t even break it down into crafting ingredients like I could with a WoW Bind on Pickup item that I couldn’t equip.  What should be a very valuable ring was vendor trash to me.

To add insult to injury, it was “appraised” for 3500 gold or so at the Bazaar, but I wasn’t allowed to put it up for sale.  Since Bazaar buy prices are very low compared to sale prices, I was holding a ring that would have sold at the Bazaar for well over 30,000 gold.  I couldn’t even give it to an alt on my account.  I had to sell it to a vendor for a whopping 355 gold.

This isn’t working.  I got a useless item, was taunted with how much it could have been worth, and it didn’t even function as a gold sink as most other Bazaar-resale items do.

That’s not “rare and valuable” in my book, that’s annoying, wasteful, and ill-conceived.

As for the now-unavailable crown gear, I’m rather disappointed.  One of the early draws of the game was that you could get gear with crowns (W101’s secondary microtransaction currency) that offered unique bonuses and extra cards for your deck, expanding combat options.  A short while after release, you could also get that gear with in-game gold (though it was very expensive).  I thought this to be the best of both worlds; you could pay cash and get the gear, or pay with time and get the gear via grinding gold.  Now, the “crown gear” has changed, and is severely underwhelming (weaker stats and no extra card), and it’s not available for gold purchase any more.

I’m baffled by this decision on King’s Isle’s part, and I consider it to be extremely ill-conceived as well.  One of their brilliant ideas, and a sterling example of “RMT” done right (pay with cash or time for the same stuff), is gone.  That doesn’t bode especially well in my book, either for W101 in particular or the genre at large.

The gimmick fights, as noted by Tipa over here (Cyrus Apologizes), are another strange decision.  I’m very sympathetic to the notion of introducing a bit more variety than simple “smash and grab” encounters by introducing “puzzle” aspects of boss encounters.  It’s nice to have different ways to play the game.  Except… these weren’t presented as an option, they were a sudden and complete change.  What would have worked better is to offer both styles, and let players choose what they wanted to do.  You can’t always do that when you change a game, but this one would have been a very natural fit for “Heroic” dungeon options in the game.

Crafting is a nice addition in theory, but the mechanics of crafting in W101 aren’t all that impressive.  It’s a significant grind to get all of the materials to craft items, and most crafted items just aren’t all that useful, especially as an older character going back and grinding up through the ranks.  Vertical progression in crafting is just as annoying as it is in character development.

The game is still very good, and a great bit of fun.  I could just be oversensitive to change, as I’ve suggested others are in the past.  I’m certainly not boycotting the game or suggesting that anyone else should either.  It’s just that these decisions make little sense to me.  They aren’t like Blizzard’s Faction Switch fiasco, which can be handwaved away as a way to let players get together easier while earning a bit of revenue from those willing to pay the fee.  These are just pure game design decisions in W101… and they don’t make sense.  Even the stated rationale isn’t well reasoned.  It’s a bit disheartening seeing devs that I’ve held up as being great examples make dumb decisions like this… it makes me wonder if earlier successes were just lucky.

When changes in these MMO things happen, they need to happen for good reasons, and the notion of “bait and switch” needs to be carefully avoided.  Changes should bring about more choices and things to do, not fewer.  As I’ve written elsewhere, change is inherent in the MMO genre, and it’s only fair that I find myself on the bad end of some changes when I applaud changes in other games.  Karma and all that…

Even so, stepping back and trying to see what they are doing with W101, I see some odd choices and some ideas that really needed to be thought out a bit more, and then changed before implementation.  It’s something to learn from, at any rate.  I’m glad that I’m not invested in the game to the tune of hundreds of dollars and several months of hardcore playtime.  The disappointment would be more personal, rather than abstract.

So yes, Spinks, I understand the notions of “betrayal” that invested players get when things change.  That’s a personal itch that makes sense.  I just see things like the WoW Faction Switch as a smart decision overall, and can ignore the personal annoyment borne of attachment, investment and a sense of entitlement.  I just can’t find a good game design or business reason for these W101 changes, so it’s annoying personally, which I’m already over, and professionally, which is a bit more unnerving.  Strange that my priorities are thus, perhaps, but so it goes.

Edited to add: Beej’s comment below reminded me of something.  I still heartily recommend Wizard 101 to play, especially if you’re just going to try out the free zones and get a feel for it.  It’s a lot of fun to play.  These concerns I have are about itemization, crafting and the economy.  They aren’t insignificant complaints, but they don’t have a significant impact on how you actually go about playing the game from day to day.  The core card-game combat is brilliant, and the setting and story are delightfully whimsical.  It’s still a fun game to play, despite concerns, and that makes it an easy one to recommend.

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More links, more comments.  Feel free to breeze on by, but there are some interesting nuggets in here, as well as a game recommendation. (more…)

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This is why you really shouldn’t think too much about economics in game design:

Destabilizing the Economy

(Or, perhaps, why you really should think about economics in game design…)

I trust anyone inclined to do so to make their own political conclusions.

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Shifting Winds

mpb has an interesting post up on the shifting dynamics behind the copyright system.  With OnLive rattling around in game dev news after the GDC flap, I really do have to wonder how things will play out.

What Will Happen After the Copyright Model is Gone?

Shamus pontificates about OnLive

I’m not really sold on OnLive, as I point out in the comments on Shamus’ site.  When I buy a game, I expect to be able to play it whenever I blasted well please.  That said, the technology is interesting, it just needs a better use.  Like curing cancer or making the Star Trek sick bay.  (No, the holodeck doesn’t count.)

Reading this article that mpb originally linked to, I couldn’t help but see parallels with the economic meltdown we’re living through.  Way too many people are still drinking the koolaid, hoping for the stock market to signal “all is well” again, that they may eat, drink and be merry.  They ignore the systemic cancer that caused this mess, hoping that bandaids and steroids can get the party started again.

The times, they are a’changin’.  Mind yer sails, now, and don’t forget to tack.

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Sony AIG?

Apparently, Sony is freezing “non-managerial” wages in what looks like a cost-cutting maneuver.  It’s not quite the same thing as AIG’s insane bonuses on this side of the pond, but it’s still boosting the managerial staff, when what should be happening is either a broad spectrum freeze or managerial cuts (or pink slips with no parachutes).  These are the guys, after all, who led the company merrily into red ink.  In a honest meritocracy, that sort of thing is a call for replacement, not shifting the burden to the cubicle drones or taxpayers to pay for bonuses or raises.

It’s a good time to be a manager, though.  I’m definitely in the wrong hotseat, at least if all I cared about was the money.  Even so, shafting the people who actually produce the goods isn’t a viable long term strategy.  It’s popular, but stupid.

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