Archive for March, 2012

MMO MBA

March 31, 2012

As many of you know, I’ve been Star Wars The Old Republic for a few months now.  I’ve previously written articles on obtaining crafting schematics  (which to this day still gets more views than any other post on this blog) and tips for making credits in the game.  So I thought I’d comment on some common misconceptions and mistakes as they pertain to crafting for profit in MMOs.

If you’re making stuff in the game (i.e. crafting) and selling it on the auction house to make credits (i.e. profit), then you are for all intents and purposes a business person, or at least playing one.  It stands that concepts that benefit real-world business can also be of some use in running a virtual business in an online game (though much of what I’m going to talk about applies to real life, as well).

1) Time has value:  The #1 most common misconception I see in MMO’s is the idea that time has no value, particularly with regard to gathering resources.  Many players think that because they personally gathered the resources used to craft their goods (rather than buying the resources on the auction house), that those resources were ‘free.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Your time has value!  In fact, in an MMO, time is the true currency of the game, not gold or credits.  The time you spent gathering those resources was time you could have spent doing something else, possibly something that would have netted you more money, or that you would have found more enjoyable.  Therefore, you need to place a value on those resources you gathered, which will be factored into your bottom line (more on this below); at the very least you should value those resources at the going rate on the auction house, what you would have to pay to purchase those resources.

This ties in to the economic concept of opportunity cost, which is just another way of saying when you make a decision you’re weighing options between multiple choices.  Do you spend your time gathering resources or do you buy the resources and then spend your time crafting or doing quests or other things that you value.  Of course, this applies to life as well.  Every single decision we make in life has an associated opportunity cost.

Now, some players counter that they enjoy spending hours gathering resources and then making things cheap to help out other players.  And that’s fine.  It’s a game, play it the way that is fun for you.  But don’t be surprised if someone buys out all your cheap goods and resells them for twice the price (and don’t complain about it either…you asked for it).  Honestly, if you just want to help out other players, don’t bother selling stuff on the auction house at all.  Just hand them out.  That way you make sure it gets to someone who can really use and appreciate them.

2) Calculate your break even point:  A lot of crafters in MMO’s make things first, then sell later.  And they usually end up in a pricing death spiral.  Few of them take the time to actually figure out how many credits it’s costing them to make something.  Often this is because they fail to take into account opportunity cost; i.e. what they could sell the raw resources for vs. what they could sell the finished good for.  Many times you’re better off selling the resources rather than making the item (from a financial perspective, at least).

After you figure out what it costs you make the good (using the going market rate of the resources used to make it) then check the auction house to see what that item actually sells for.  If it sells for at least your break-even cost, then you can consider trying to sell that item for a profit.

Related to this, don’t try to be the low price leader.  In an MMO economy there is no such thing as a low price leader.  You’ll only be working harder for less money (crafter burnout from this was very common in Star Wars Galaxies).  Walmart can get away with being the ‘low price leader’ because they’re able to achieve amazing economies of scale due to their size and by leveraging technology.  There are no economies of scale in an MMO!  Whatever economies of scale exist in an MMO only exist if the developers build them into the game…and most developers don’t.  Another reason MMO’s don’t have economies of scale is because their economies simply aren’t large enough to accomodate them.  The USA has about 300 million consumers; most MMO servers have, at most, around 10,000 consumers (EVE Online is a rare exception with about 100,000 players–but still relatively small compared to real world economies).

3) Know your market:  Meaning, focus on one area or category instead of trying to do everything at once.  Once you get a handle on your ‘area of expertise’ you can then expand to other niches.  This also helps you recognize opportunities, such as when a new comer sells their goods far to cheaply…you can snatch them up and resell them at the going rate for a tidy profit.  It also helps you recognize when it’s time to start looking for new opportunities.  If some portion of the market is hot, you can bet that it will attract competition.  Without a corresponding increase in demand then prices will inevitably drop.  Don’t get trapped in a pricing circular firing squad!

When you know your market, you’ll also develop an idea of the market’s sustainable demand at a profitable price point.  Meaning, just because you can make 100 blaster pistols doesn’t mean the market will buy them all, at least not anytime soon.  I’ve seen this in SWTOR with the high-end implant market on my server.  People jump in, make a dozen of the same implant, but only a few of them sell.  Then the sellers panic and start dropping their prices, which leads to a deathspiral to the point where implants sell for less than the cost of the resources used to make them.  Now the same thing is starting to happen to Grade 6 starship components (and it’s being casued by some of the same players).

Knowing your market also means knowing the market for the resources you depend upon.  Check the auction house for resources at least once a day (and don’t forget to check out your competition, while you’re at it).  If you find resources going for less than the average price, buy them if you can afford to do so, even if you don’t need them right away (storage cost in most MMOs is very cheap).  Lower resource costs means more profit, and you never know when those resources will come in handy.

4) Identify Unserved/Underserved Markets:  There’s a saying, if you want to get rich, find a need and fill it.  And the MMO analog to this is, don’t do what everyone else is doing.  If everyone is making Grade 6 starship components on your server, it’s probably not a good idea to get into that market (though it may be a good idea to gather and sell the resources they need 😉 ).  Look to see what goods are not being offered.  It may be they aren’t being offered because there isn’t any demand for them, but it may also be an overlooked niche.  If you read the trade/craft forums, you’ll see ‘common wisdom’ freely dispensed…only this sells, that never sells, you can only make money doing X.  In my experience, the common wisdom is usually wrong, so don’t be afraid to experiment and test new markets (and this applies to ‘sub-markets’ as well — there may be excessive competition in high-end implants, but the market for low-level implants may have been overlooked).

It’s not always easy to recognize an opportunity, but the best tool in your arsenal is the auction house (in SWTOR it’s called the Galactic Trade Network, or GTN).  The auction house provides an instant snapshot of the state of virtually every aspect of an MMO’s economy.  It’s a powerful tool, and something that doesn’t have any real world analogs (the closest would be something like E-Bay or NASDAQ).  At a glance you can identify overlooked opportunities, saturated markets and you’ll come to recognize your competitors and determine their modus operandi (for instance, maybe they are trying to be the low price leader).  Also, pay attention to trade chat and trade forums.  If you notice a lot of requests for something that isn’t being offered on the auction house, that may be an opportunity for you.

Another time to be on the lookout is when a new major content patch is imminent.  Major updates usually introduce new crafting schematics, change game systems and sometimes render existing items unobtainable (creating ‘legacy’ items which may be in demand by collectors).

I’ll end this post with a piece of ‘common wisdom’ that I believe is true.  If you’re looking to make a lot of money in an MMO, but don’t like the business or crafting aspects of the game, then you’re probably best off just selling resources.  In my experience, you can make more money through crafting and playing the market, but you’ll still make plenty just selling resources and it’s a lot easier to do.

Cheers, and good luck to you.  May you become wealthy, in-game at least, if not in real life. 🙂

Wrath of the Titans

March 30, 2012

Just saw Wrath of the Titans and I have to say I think it’s a pretty decent action film, appreciably better than Clash of the Titans.  I was expecting a mind-numbing FX assault on my senses, ala the first movie or Transformers 2.  And there is a lot of computer FX in the movie, but not as much as the first movie…or maybe they just used it better this time around.  One reason I think I like Wrath better than Clash, is that this one isn’t a remake of a classic.  Instead it’s treading it’s own ground, so it avoids the inevitable comparisons with the original…and the inevitable disappointments born of those comparisons.

Wrath brings out a lot of classic monsters of mythology:  manticores, cyclops and the minotaur.  Which are, of course, classic monsters of D&D as well.  As I’m watching the fight scenes, I’m thinking “why can’t my D&D fights look and ‘feel’ like these fights?  I particularly enjoyed the fight scenes with the manticore and the cyclops.  The movie really gives you a feel for just how dangerous these monsters really should be (the minotaur, unfortunately, went down like a chump, imho).

Dudes (well, mainly Perseus) are leaping onto the back of monsters, being thrown around, stuff being smashed, clever tricks, desperate strategems, fire and dust…just chaos.  OD&D’s abstract combat can allow this kind of detail if you have a really imanginative DM and players who can roll with it.  Pathfinder’s/3E’s (and, I imagine 4E’s) tactically detailed combat system allows for all this ‘motion,’ but is so sterile that it’s sort of soulless…it becomes an exercise in game mechanics, just pushing miniatures around on a map.  Maybe there’s a happy middle ground somewhere?  Food for thought, anyways.

PFBB Beastiary Azer, Fetchling and Grick

March 30, 2012

Here’s another batch of BB monster conversions, compliments of David Jenks.  He’s fast becoming the BB monster converson expert. 🙂

PFBB Beastiary: Azer, Fetchling and Grick

These were simpler monsters, so there wasn’t a problem fitting everything onto the cards.

Many thanks to David for all his work on these.  Cheers!

P.S.:  I think I’ll be seeing Wrath of the Titans this afternoon.  I’m not expecting much from the movie, but it’d be nice to turn my brain off for a bit and admire the explosions.  I’ll give my impressions of the movie afterwards.

Tabletop Fix

March 29, 2012

It’s been a hectic couple of days so I haven’t had a lot of time to post.  Just wanted to highlight a gaming blog I enjoy reading called Tabletop Fix.  Tabletop Fix posts about rpg and wargaming miniatures, focusing primarily on new product announcements.  I’m not a big wargaming fan, but I do admire miniatures as much as the next gamer, so I always have fun looking at all the crazy new stuff companies are putting out.

If you are into minuature wargaming or collecting, then I think this blog would be a great resource for you.  I’ve used it to bookmark a lot of companies that put out 15mm lines of fantasy and sci-fi miniatures.  When I have the money someday I’d like to go crazy and build a large collection of them.

Cheers.

Ravenbow’s PFBB Character Sheet

March 27, 2012

Ravenbow has made a neat little character sheet which I think can be easier for more experience gamers to use.  I like that all the really pertinent information is towards the top of the sheet and easy to find.  And it all fits on a single page.

Here’s the link if you want to download it:  Ravenbow’s PFBB Character Sheet

And here’s a link to Ravenbow’s blog.  It looks like it’s a new blog, but it seems to me to be off to a good start.

The Goblin Warrens

March 26, 2012

Map subject to change!

 

Here’s a sample map (as yet unkeyed) for the first part of the PFBB megadungeon project:  The Goblin Warrens.  The Warrens are set on the outskirts of as yet unnamed city ruins, so will be one of the first places the party encounters in the megadungeon.

This area consists of a jumble of ruined buildings, where all that’s left are crude stone walls.  The walls are roughly 5-6 feet high, and the goblins have become quite adept at scrabbling up them and using them as high ground against intruders.  From the tops of the ruined walls they rain down stones, spears, arrows, even their own feces, upon invaders.  It is assumed that the party will approach from the south, though they can attempt to enter from the flanks.

You’ll also note a number of crude traps and barricades, serving more as obstacles to slow down attackers than anything else.  The little black circles around the map are goblin holes, all connecting to a dense network of small tunnels (just about goblin sized–a tight fit for most PCs) that they can use to quickly move about the Warrens unseen.  The goblin’s suicide-bombing dire rat pets also use the tunnels, along with some unwanted house guests on occassion.

The goblins have a natural enemy elsewhere in the ruins…the Orcs!  They two tribes fight over an area rich in salvage called No Wunz Landz (working title–both areas to be mapped later).

I’ll probably use the Goblin Warrens as my entry into the One Page Dungeon contest this year as well.  I doubt I’ll win, but it’ll be fun and I’ve always wanted to make a submission.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.  Cheers.

PFBB Beastiary – Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker, Dark Slayer

March 26, 2012

 

David Jenks has been busy on another batch of monster conversions for the Beginner Box: the Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker and Dark Slayer.  We had a bit of trouble with the Dark Slayer, as it had so many special abilities it didn’t fit well on a 3×5 index card.  But I think David made some good compromises that preserve the deadly essence of the monster.  Enjoy!

Dark Creeper, Dark Stalker, Dark Slayer

PFBB Consolidated Class Conversions

March 25, 2012

All the class conversions I’ve done for the Pathfinder Beginner Box have been consolidated into a sinlge document.  I’ve done my best to clean them up a bit, making sure everything uses the same font and formatting.  Also, I’ve done my best to fix all the references to swift actions to free actions.

I did make a few changes:

  • On the Cavalier, I noted that they incur no combat penalties in melee combat while astride their horse (they still suffer normal penalties in ranged combat from horseback)
  • On the Paladin I added their Aura of Good class ability.  Originally I didn’t think it was important for the BB, but upon seeing DWishR’s Paladin pregen sheet, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to add it in, just in case.
  • On the Ranger, I changed Two-weapon Fighting Style to note that it is a standard + move action to attack with two melee weapons.

As of yet this document does not include the 5 classes Paizo did, but I’ll add those eventually.

Let me know if you have any questions or notice a typo or mistake I missed.  Many thanks.

PFBB Consolidated Class Conversion document

PFBB Consolidated Class Conversion document (rtf version)

Dungeon Dice

March 24, 2012

I’ve had this idea for a simple little dungeon bashing game burning in my head for a couple of weeks now.  Wasn’t sure on the best way to proceed, but I think I finally have a handle on it.

The game uses a dice pool mechanic, and draws inspiration from games like Shadowrun, Tunnels and Trolls and Crom.  What follows is only a rough draft, and incomplete at that.  What’s missing is the GM’s half of the game, and the spells.  I’m still working on the Player’s Sheet, as I’d like to incorporate everything a player needs on one sheet (including all the spells).  But this kinds of gives you an idea of where I’m heading with this.

The GM rolls Monster Dice for the monsters, dividing them between Action, Combat and Magic (just as the PCs do).  Each point of damage reduces Monster Dice, until they’re all gone (or the monsters flee for their lives!)  However, each turn the PCs spend in the dungeon, the GM adds a dice to a Threat Pool, which the GM may draw upon to add reinforcements for monsters in the middle of a fight, or to ambush the party as they explore the dungeon.

Anyways, here’s the player’s sheet if you’re interested:  Dungeon Dice Player’s Sheet

Cheers.

The Hunger Games

March 23, 2012

Saw The Hunger Games earlier today.  Never read the books, so I don’t know how the movie compares to them, but I did enjoy the film quite a bit.  Though it’s about 2-1/2 hours long, it moves along nicely and you don’t really notice the time passing (at least, I didn’t).  Jennifer Lawrence does an amazing job as the protagnist, Katniss Everdeen.

For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the story, it’s set in a dystopian future state where 12 outlying districts that rebelled against the central government are forced to send one male and female child (or teenager, I guess) to the annual Hunger Games as a sacrifice.  In the game, the kids kill each other off until there’s only one victor.  If you’ve ever seen the Japanese movie Battle Royale, it’s a bit like that, only with much higher production values and a sci-fi theme.

Now I need to read the books.


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