Archive for May, 2007

Are Guilds Still Important?

Posted: May 31, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, General Game Concepts, Guilds

I’ve been involved in some pretty good discussions over the past few weeks with gamers from all over the MMO-sphere, and with certain high profile players within Everquest 2.  These discussions have almost invariably started to revolve around guilds (or clans, corps, cabals, etc.). 

I love talking about guilds, as should be obvious to anyone who follows my postings for any amount of time.  Earlier this week, I posted an open Letter to My Guild to discuss the pride I have regarding the work they put in night after night.  I’ve spend thousands of dollars over the years travelling to visit guildmates, and on three occasions, I’ve held gatherings at my own home here in the Twin Cities for our members to attend. 

I admit that I see guild leaders as a special breed apart.  To be a successful guild leader takes, in my mind at least, a person who is part CEO, part coach, and part military officer.  At events like FanFaire or Summits, I personally gravitate toward other guild leaders, and almost immediately we begin talking about our guilds like proud parents showing off wallet sized photo albums. 

So it should come as little surprise to find out that I spend a lot of my time and what little influence I have trying to make the games I play in more guild friendly.  I’ll freely cop to having an agenda when it comes to increasing options for guild leaders and officers, and in working toward ways to increase the relevancy of guilds within games. 

However, as I watch MMO’s “evolve” with more and more individual and group options and less and less guild specific content, I find myself wondering if game developers feel that guilds have lost some of their relevancy. 

Where are the guild halls in these modern games?   The guild flags and banners?  The guild banks?  Older games have these amenities already.  I can go visit my guild or association hall in games like Dark Age of Camelot or even Star Wars Galaxies.  So why, then, has it taken nearly 3 years for Blizzard to realize that a guild bank might be a good idea?  Why did it take SOE seven releases to finally bring in guild cloaks?  Don’t get me started on new titles that have recently released or are coming out. 

I love the guild functions in Everquest 2.  It’s one of the reasons my guild is still there still.  I have more tools and functions available to me in EQ2 than in any other game.  For those of you who have never lead a guild, I can’t possibly impress upon you enough the magnitude of relief a good set of guild officer tools brings to your nightly activities.  Any officer who’s spent any amount of time in a larger or more successful guild will tell you that running a guild is very nearly a second job unto itself.  Tools which make that job easier give the officer more time to …well, actually play.

However, are we the niche minority?  Do guilds matter?  Are guilds…important? 

Now, my obviously biased answer is that guilds are absolutely important.  If a system doesn’t exist to form guilds in a game (i.e. Starcraft), then players will still find ways to create and organize guilds.  Without guildbanks, guild officers will create mule accounts to store goods.  Without in-game rosters, officers simply track membership in spreadsheets and websites.  Without guild housing, players simply set up shop in some officers house.  Without guild merchants, someone sets up a merchant character anyway. 

This list goes on.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way…and the way is currently paved with workarounds. 

So why the lag in development time?  Are guilds seen as a niche playstyle?  Why then do the overwhelming majority of players in modern MMO’s belonging to guilds?  Maybe there simply aren’t enough developer guild leaders.  I don’t blame them if this is the case – guild leadership takes time, effort, and emotional resources that most developers probably don’t have left over after already spending 8-16 hours a day working on the game. 

I believe guilds should be easier to run, not harder.  I believe guilds should be easier to set up, not harder.  I believe there should be more guild specific rewards and gameplay, not less.  I believe all of this should exist at launch, not brought in later as an afterthought. 

For nearly 2 years leading up to the release of Everquest 2, there were already guilds.  You’d go to sites like the (now defunct) EQ2 Lounge or EQII.com and you’d find dozens, if not hundreds of listed guilds already recruiting.  The same thing happened for Vanguard, LOTRO, and WoW.  It’s happening now for Warhammer Online and Age of Conan as well.  Obviously players – especially early adopters – feel that guilds are important.  Obviously guild play matters to developers on some level, or we’d never see guild features at all.

However, at what point do we start to see more guild specific content and rewards?  With the release of each of Everquest 2’s expansions, you saw increases to guild levels.  However, unlike the original 30 guild levels, and certainly different from the adventuring and tradeskilling levels, you didn’t receive rewards at level 32 or 39.  You got rewards at 40.  Later, you picked up rewards at 50.  Then, at 60.  There were no “thanks for putting in work to get to level 55” mid-point rewards.  It was all or nothing…and even then, the rewards were largely marginal (typically a slightly faster, but much, much more expensive mount, and perhaps access to some new title).  The only exception was at level 50, when you first started to see status rewards that could be useful in combat.  Even then, the use was limited and the rewards were put in later.

Ruins of Kunark comes with 20 new guild levels.  In recent interviews, SOE has alluded to the idea that there will be rewards spread throughout those levels and not merely at 80 (and possibly 70).  I hope so.  I also hope that the guild recruiting tool is eventually looked at and has some debugging work performed.  I hope we eventually see guild halls one day.  I hope we eventually see more reasons to actually stay in a guild rather than just jumping guilds.  I hope to one day see guild merchants or brokers.  I really want to see guild flags planted in certain contested areas.  I’d love to see the day where a purple and white banner flies over some tower in Qeynos, proclaiming my own guild as a champion of the city. 

Till then, I can only hope that issues such as the near miss on Warg speed (at one point on test, the Warg was up to 50% run speed – effectively as fast as level 60 guild mounts) in Update 34 and the housing issues from Update 35 are simply oversights, and not indicative of some new trend in design philosophy.  One of the few areas where EQ2 has dominated other games of its generation was with guild options and tools.  I hope that the developers remember that, and try not to forgot us poor niche players who wear guild cloaks and enjoy seeing < Names > over our heads. 

Hopefully, we’re still important.  😉

Well, it seems that we’re going to hold a little Minnesota shindig for MMO developers of both the professional and armchair varieties.  As I fall firmly in the latter category, I’ll be there doing what I do best:  speaking loudly and often. 

In all honesty, it looks like a good crew so far.  The always lovely (and opinated) Cuppycake will be there, as well as Brent from Virgin Worlds, and apparantly Ethic from Kill Ten Rats.  Personally, I feel a bit outclassed in such company, so I’ll do my best to not stand out too badly.

Those of you out there who want to help me feel out of place are welcome to come out to relentlessly rant about my incessant online postings.   I’m sure there’s more than a few of you out there looking for a chance to meet me face to face (just for the chance to call me names, if nothing else 😉 ).

Of course, I’m as likely to buy you a beer as argue with you in person, but I’m always up for a good debate (Just bring your latin handbook with you and be ready for a good verbal lashing). 

In all seriousness, I’m looking forward to getting together with my fellow Minne-SOH-tan MMO enthusiasts.  I truly hope this turns into a regular event.

A Letter to My Guild

Posted: May 29, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2, Guilds

I don’t speak enough about my guild on here, which is a shame. I’m damned proud of my guildmates, and they put in some serious work to do what we do.

For those of you with no clue what I’m talking about, I lead the Legion of the White Rose guild, currently on Guk server in Everquest 2. We consider ourselves a pretty casual raiding guild, which for us means we raid 4 nights each week, for 3 hours each raid. That’s it. No 5-8 hour raid sessions. We don’t raid 6-7 nights a week. Just four three-hour sessions a week.

Considering we choose to be good only, this is definately quite the challenge for us. In fact, it’s such a challenge, let me repeat that again: we’re good only. That means no brigands, no defilers, no coercers, no necromancers, and so on…

To quote ol’ blue eyes, “We do it our way.” …or not at all.

Our raids are also voluntary. For those of you who don’t understand the significance, that means we’re not in the business of booting members who don’t attend raids from time to time. This also makes it more difficult to maintain a solid, standing raid force. We make up for this by recruiting more members overall, and paying closer attention to our class makeup (particularly since we only have access to 16 of the 24 classes).

Now, we’ve been raiding in Echoes of Faydwer zones, just like most guilds. We’re not nearly as far in as we’d like to be (probably just like most guilds), but we have a good time most nights just trying.

Recently (about 2 months ago), we held a poll within the guild to figure out where we wanted to spend our limited raid time. Not suprisingly, most members were sick to death of Vyemm’s and Lyceum. What did surprise me was how many members were NOT sick of Halls of Seeing or Deathtoll. With all these new Echoes raids out there, the overwhelming majority of my membership wanted to spend more time in Kingdom of Sky raid zones for a bit more.

So…we have. We’ve buckled down a lot over the past few months and started coming together in some major ways which have enabled us to finally see some significant jumps in our nightly numbers and progress.

For most raid guilds, this is old hat. We’re small potatoes compared to dedicated raid guilds, and we both appreciate and respect that. We’re not out to raise the bar for raiding as a whole, nor are we out to prove anything to anyone beyond our membership. We’re just out to have a good time when we log in.

All that being said, we’re doing well enough, I think. After taking 5 weeks off of Deathtoll, we went back on Sunday and took down Tarinax for the first time. It was a great feeling, and even the guildmates who couldn’t make the raid were hitting guildchat with woots and congratulatory messages. Since that kill, it’s been hard to discuss anything else in our forums or guildchat. Members can’t wait till this Sunday when we go after him again (and hopefully get our first guild Claymores).

Sure, this is old news for 90% of the raid guilds out there. We’re 2 releases behind the times, right? That doesn’t matter to us, though. If you had been in our guildchat Sunday night, chances are you would have felt great, too.

So, to my fellow Legionnaires, I’d like to say the following:

You’ve worked hard to get where we are. You’ve come a long way. You’ve learned a lot, you’ve become more savvy, and you’ve finally come together in a big way. You make me proud to be one of you, and I can’t wait to see what we bring down next.

Good job, Legionnaires. Keep it up!

Neriak: The New Real Estate Boomtown?

Posted: May 29, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

NOTE:  Well, seems I missed out that Kelethin did get new 5 room housing with Update 35 (thanks for the comments, everyone – keep it coming).  I’ve edited the article to take this into account. It’s apparantly similar in pricing to Kelethin.  Though this does mitigate part of my point regarding balacing good vs. evil, it does not affect my point regarding old content vs. new.  Status costs should remain part of high end housing across the board…or not at all; and it shouldn’t require less than half the cost of old housing for new housing.  

In Game Update 35, the long lost city of Neriak was found.  Apparantly, so was the long lost pre-bubble Norrathian real estate market.  Judging by the firesale prices on Neriak housing, one would think that Queen Cristanos is hurting for residents. 

Don’t know what I mean? 

Before I can explain, we need to step back and compare.  For example, look at Qeynos and Freeport.  The best housing in the starting cities is only available to members of level 30 guilds, and requires a cost of more than 4.8 platinum and 300,000 status just to move in.  After that, the upkeep costs nearly 20 gold and another 60,000 personal status every week. 

Compare this to Neriak’s new five room digs.  Not only do you only have to spend 1.7pp to close on the place, but you don’t require any of those pesky guild level checks, either.  No status down, either…as the place comes without any status costs at all.  That’s right, just slide 1.7 platinum across the table, and you can own your own five room house without any additional hassle. 

Sound too good to be true?  Just wait, there’s more.  Your weekly upkeep costs only 7gold.  That’s it.  No status – just 7 gold pieces.

I’d tell you what the Kelethin five room housing cost by comparison – except I can’t find any. (see n0te above). 

So, just to recap:

South Qeynos
2 & 4 Bayle Court
Price: 4p,83g,84s 300,000 Status
Upkeep: 19g,35s,36c 60,000 Status
Slots: 6
Must have guild lvl 30
5 & 8 Erollisi Lane & 5 Karana Court
Price: 3p,87g,24s 250,000 Status
Upkeep: 15g, 48s 96c 50,000 Status
Slots: 5
Must have guild lvl 30

North Freeport
1 Compassion Road
Price: 4p,83g,84s 300,000 Status
Upkeep: 19g, 35s, 36c 60,000 Status
Slots: 6
Must have guild lvl 30

3, 5, & 7 Compassion Road
Price: 3p,87g,24s 250,000 Status
Upkeep: 15g, 48s, 96c 50,000 Status
Slots: 5
Must have guild lvl 30

Neriak
3 Walk of the Dead
Price: 1p, 70g
Upkeep: 7g
Slots: 5
No status or guild lvl listed

Kelethin
Price: 1p, 70g
Upkeep: 7g
Slots: 5
No status or guild lvl listed 

Now, if your guildmates are like my guildmates, they take that guild level seriously.  They worked hard to earn that level and they’re proud of it.  They spent a lot of time working on quests, writs, and buying/collecting status items to get us to the level we’re at.  Once they bought their status housing, they then spent the time to pick up lots of status furniture to keep the costs down. 

Now, I’m not a believer that all things need to be made equal in a MMO to retain balance, especially regarding online economies.  However, in most MMO’s now, the economy referred to is player controlled for the most part – an open market.  In such a system, the capitalist concepts of supply and demand largely keep prices in check, and the world goes round and round.

However, the housing market in  Everquest 2 is completely controlled by the developers.  There are is no player control over housing costs in Everquest 2.  The only level of control players can exert is where to move to…which isn’t always an option for 1/3 of the playerbase at any given time.  Nevermind immersion or “roleplaying” justifications.  The way Everquest 2 is designed, 8 of the 24 classes are “good” (Qeynos/Kelethin only) and 8 of the 24 classes are “evil” (Freeport/Neriak only).  What this means is that if you’re a Qeynos Swashbuckler or a Kelethin Ranger, good luck moving to your new, cheaper Neriak abode. 

This really is one of those issues that deserves some deeper discussion, at the very least.  Either the Neriak housing needs a revamp on pricing (add in status costs and guild levels at the very least) or the rest of the housing currently on the market needs a revamp on pricing (cut costs and remove status/level requirements) to bring it inline with the new cost model in Neriak. 

Honestly, I can’t imagine that Neriak has a massive housing boom right now.  It’s not as if the Neriak Tier’Dal WANT new residents in their city (in fact, the quest text tends to say exactly the opposite).  It would be like the New Tunarians opening the gates and asking for a boost in immigration.  Don’t get me wrong – I like the idea from a mechanics standpoint, but it still doesn’t gel with the current storyline.  

The Root of all Annoyances, pt. II

Posted: May 25, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

Earlier this week, I spoke on some of the basic complaints that players seem to consistently share regarding income in MMO’s.  I concentrated mostly on the issue from the perspective of someone responding to complaints, pointing out how many of the complaints aren’t as valid as they might appear to be.  Now, I’d like to change hats and try to focus a bit on explaining different, specific ways to make coin in my personal favorite MMO, Everquest 2.   First, a word of caution.  I don’t claim to be an authority on economics, by any means.  Don’t expect to walk away from this post with any type of expert knowledge on the subject of economics, and certainly don’t go out prepared to bring in boatloads of platinum in-game just because you picked up on a few pointers from a blog entry.  Take all advice here with a grain of salt, apply your own experience, start small, and see where it takes you. 

There are plenty of ways to quickly bring in thousands of platinum within the Shattered Lands of Evequest 2.  I’m not going to tell you any of them.  This post won’t help you get rich quick.  First of all, I’m not “rich” myself.  Oh, I’m comfortable and I not close to broke…but I measure my platinum in the hundreds, not the thousands.  If that still seems like a lot of coin to you, then keep reading.  If not, you’re better of looking elsewhere for your next big plan. Let’s touch on a few basic tips 

Ask Questions:Use some sense, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.  I’m assuming you’ve got some friends or guildmates?  If so, find out who’s making money and ask if they can teach you some pointers.  If nothing else, ask about specific items you’ve seen on the broker.  Is it really worth that much?  If so, why?  How or where can you get that item?  What’s involved in acquiring it?  Ask!  Ask!  Ask! 

Learn the Broker:Watch the broker.  Find out what’s selling…and what’s not.  If an item has multiple uses, chances are it’s worth slightly more (as a general rule) since the demand will be slightly higher (remember, higher demand generally equates to higher prices).  If the supply is also rare, that’s all the better (lower supply generally equates to higher prices).  Ideally, you want items that have high demand and/or low supply.   This will take time to learn, and it’s not always clear cut.  Items may have ridiculously high prices…but may not be selling at all.  Meanwhile, other items may just have a temporary overstock (maybe someone’s clearing out a guildbank or getting ready to move servers).   

Remember also, you can only sell from one character per account at a time.  If you’ve got 4 characters all set up on the broker and you’re wondering why nothing seems to sell. – that’s why.  Pick one character, and start moving everything you want sold to him or her ONLY.  If you’re setting up a new character for this, try to pick an easy to remember (but still game-legal) name.  Creating Mxlplix just to work on the broker is exactly the opposite of what I mean here.  Pick a name that’s going to be easy to spell, easy to remember, and if possible, related to the product you want to be known for (especially if you’re a tradeskiller).  There’s a reason companies spend billions on branding each year.  There’s a reason the most recognizable words in the word are Coca-Cola.  Branding works. 

Buy Broker Storage:Which broker gets all the action?  On most servers, it’s going to be theQeynos
Harbor broker.  It may also be the
East Freeport, Kelethin, or likely as not, the Neriak broker.  Find out where the busy, busy broker is on your server and buy a house nearby.  Keep it cheap, close, and easy to find.  Put as many sales crates as you near the front door and make it as easy as possible for potential customers to get to what they want to buy.  Who cares if it looks way cool if you stack the boxes in the air by 14 torches and a fireplace, while your 27 flaming splitpaw pigs run around the house.  If your apartment is a myriad of particle effects, leading through a maze of jumbled furniture and bookcases set up to play a game of hide and go find the sales crate – you have no idea what I mean by “keep it as easy as possible for potential customers to get to what they want”. 

 Not many folks will want to run through 3 city zones to find your goods.     

Harvest Collections:I say that and the first thing you’re likely thinking is “but I already do that!”  No, you don’t.  If you did, you wouldn’t be complaining about being broke all the time.   

Now, I don’t mean the basic “spotted red <insect>” collections here.  You start hitting a zone, and you’re going to rake in tons of the same collection items over and over.  You’ll also start to notice a trend regarding where the collectibles are.  You’ll see those happy, shiny question marks all over the place…but you’ll also see them in the same places over and over again.  Make a mental note of that.  Hell, write down the waypoints.   Don’t turn in any of the collection items, though.  It’s tempting…especially if it’s the last one you need.  Don’t do it.  Put it in your bag and keep collecting.  When you’re waiting for a group to form, go collect.  When you’re chatting absent-mindedly in Ventrillo or Guildchat while waiting on dinner to finish, go collect.  You’ve got 45 minutes before the raid forms – go collect! 

It should become second nature to want to collect.  Even if you personally hate collection quests – the game is full of folks who love ‘em!  Remember, it’s not what you like – it’s what the consumer likes.

 Now, while you’re collecting, keep a note of where you’re collecting and what’s coming from those areas.  Watch the broker.  Find out what’s selling…and what’s not.  If an item can go to multiple collections, chances, note which collections are there.  Try to find the quest rewards.  Try to figure out which items are the “rares”. That’s right, every collection quest has at least one or two items that are a tad harder to get a hold of than the rest.  Those tend to be the items which sell for a few platinum while everything else is listed on the broker at 20 silver (and covers 2+ pages of listings).   

Due to the fact that collection quests still give experience (adventuring AND achievement), the demand remains fairly constant.  Even some of the original quest items from 2 years ago are still bringing in consistent coin, because players starting up their 2nd, 3rd (or even 7th) new character still want/need those collections to skip through certain levels which may have less quests or content to grind through.   By the way, this entire section takes on new importance when a new expansion or zone launches.  Fat Grubs from the Greater Faydark were selling for 2-3pp each in November of last year (even now, they sell for 10-30 gold, at least).  When Unrest launched earlier this year, none of the collectables were selling for LESS than 20 gold each.  For that reason, I recommend selling ALL collectables for at least the first month of a new zone or expansion.  Don’t use a single one.  Sell everything.  Later, after you’ve made a small fortune on all the folks who just had to have the latest collections first…you can take some of those profits and just buy up the items you don’t feel up to collecting.  You’ll still have made a profit in this way. 

Tradeskill Supplies:I expect to get more hate mail for this section than any other.   Think back to the history you’ve read about Alaska and
California in the middle of the 19th century.  People heard about gold, so they packed up everything they owned, sold what wouldn’t fit, and moved out west.  These men and women would get up at the crack of dawn, head out their mines and streams, and spend 8-12 hours trying to find any trace of gold they could.  A few folks would occasionally hit it big enough to keep everyone else excited enough to keep trying. 
 

That’s how I view Tradeskilling in Everquest 2.  There’s an old saying that the best way to make a small fortune in Tradeskilling is to start first with a large fortune.  For most players, Tradeskilling doesn’t turn a profit.  There’s a lot of reasons for this, and honestly, I could take an entire weeks’ worth of articles up on just the many different ways to turn a profit as a tradeskiller in Everquest 2.  However, for the purposes of this particular entry, presume Tradeskilling is a black hole of money.  Many players view crafting in this way, and either they don’t understand the various systems, aren’t prepared to compete on the level necessary, or just don’t care about the costs.  Whatever the reason, there’s a lot of tradeskillers out there with red ink all over their virtual broker statements.   Sure, once in a while, someone strikes it big (usually right after some new recipes come out, or a new expansion is released) to keep everyone else excited, but soon after, the boom ends.  And yet, day after day, long after the bubble has burst, there are some tradeskillers still convinced that if they just keep putting in the hours and hours, they’ll eventually hit it big, too.   

Want to know who really made the fortunes during the gold rushes?  Suppliers.  The guys who went out west to open up general stores and supply companies Wealthy (big “W”).  They sold picks, axes, grates, screens, lumber, nails, hammers, food, feed, whiskey (hey, mining makes you thirsty!), clothes, lamps, lamp oil, and everything else they thought folks would buy.  …and they bought it.  Oh, did they buy it.   Like I said, you can turn a profit Tradeskilling (and a pretty tidy sum, too, if you’re savvy enough).  If you don’t think this is for you, there’s still a fortune to be made by selling supplies to tradeskillers.  Harvest raws.  Sell raws.  Sell the rares you occasionally find.  You won’t turn a massive profit on a stack of loam…but over the course of 200 stacks of loams, it starts to add up.   

If you decide to run this route, be aware that it’s (A) tedious, (B) tedious, and (C) tedious.  It’s also lucrative over the long haul.  The best advice I could give here is to find a niche that’s not being served and serve it.  You’ll tend to get more rares at lower levels, so concentrate there at first.  Find out which supplies are lower on the broker and try your hand at filling orders for a few weeks on the broker.  Keep track of who your best customers are in the brokerage log and see what they’re selling.  See if they’re leveling up, and perhaps “level up” with them (shift your supplies to a higher tier when they start to hit a new tier).  You can probably even work out arrangements with some players in this way, to keep a steadier income.   It’s not going to turn you into an overnight millionaire…but it’s steady, relatively income.  With a new tier coming in November, you can bet you’ll see a lot of players turned into farmers overnight.   

Should Quality Matter?

Posted: May 23, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

On the official forums, SOE’s new crafting system developer, Emily “Domino”
Taylor has directed the attention of tradeskillers everywhere to the subject of quality.  This isn’t the generic “quality” that all MMO developers discuss when talking about polish or software lifecycles.  No, this particular use of the term is quite specific:  Emily wants to talk about changing tradeskills again. It’s become a bit of a cliché in Everquest 2 to talk about changing tradeskills, really.  Oh sure, we can discuss combat revamps and zone changes, but to really dig up a dead horse, you’ve got to start talking about harvestables, pristines, and durability reactions.  

Now, this isn’t to say that I think this is a bad idea.  In actuality, I’m pretty excited about some of the ideas brought up.  At heart, I love tradeskilling.  I was a Grandmaster in several trades in the old Everquest, and lived for new recipes I could make.  I spent hours trying to discover new items or just helping out guildmates, and the majority of my fortune was made selling tradeskilled products and goods in the Bazaar.  I just never got into Everquest 2 tradeskilling as much. So what are the big ideas?  Domino is planning the next tier of tradeskills for Ruins of Kunark, and she’s trying to determine if the years’ old ideas regarding quality levels are still (A) relevant and (B) worth continuing.  In more simplistic terms, she’s wondering if we shouldn’t just do away with quality levels altogether (since most non-pristine level items are simply sold to vendors right away anyway) or if we should find ways to make quality levels matter more (such as increasing the amount of supplies required to make higher quality goods).  

Now, personally, I like the latter.  It makes more sense to me, and I’m a fan of things that make sense to me, all things being equal.  I like the idea that a crafter sitting down at a forge needs more gold for a higher quality ring than one of lower quality.  After all, isn’t that the basic idea behind 14K gold as opposed to 24K gold?  Is not some chocolate considered to be higher “quality” because it has more pure chocolate in it?  I know for a fact that not all coffee is equal and I go blocks out of my way each morning to buy my coffee that’s made from 100% Kona beans (as opposed to a 50% Kona “blend”).  Now, I’m not arguing that pristine goods should necessarily be made pricier than they currently are.  I am going to suggest that non-pristine goods be made cheaper, however.  Perhaps this could actually create a market for such items that doesn’t currently exist.  Honestly, does anyone actually buy Apprentice III spells anymore?  Who even looks at shaped armors?  After all, not everyone cares about premium gourmet coffee blends – some folks just want a cheap cup of Joe.  

It’s a lot of work, and in the past I’d have said it’s hardly worth the effort.  However, Emily Taylor’s a different breed of dev.  I had the pleasure of meeting her a couple years ago, and we’ve kept in contact since.  For those of you who don’t know, she’s come up through the ranks the hard way – player first and foremost.  She’s one of the little guys who made it big, and I think she’s got a chip on her shoulder just large enough to see this through to the end.    So the only question then becomes one of whether or not it’s the right thing to do.  I think so, but I’m not representative of the wild eyed, rabid tradeskilling community.  Whether they believe it or not, Everquest 2 tradeskillers are some of the most hardcore players that exist, vicious in their opinions on the subject of all things craftable.  You start toying with that particular subject, and you’ve got to deal with all sorts of emotional responses that may or may not have anything to do with the actual facts of the matter.

If anyone can understand that, it’d be Domino.  All the same, I wish her luck. 

  

The Root of All Annoyances, pt. I

Posted: May 22, 2007 by Kendricke in Everquest 2

We’ve all got friends like this.  You know the ones.  The players who – intelligent though they may be – start complaining in that they are broke, that they don’t have enough coin to mend, or that they haven’t had the time to (*shudder*) …”farm cash”.

Gaining coin is ridiculously easy in most online games.  Just following basic fundamental economic laws and theories will net you a healthy positive cashflow in no time.  All it takes is some observation and a little backbone.

Personally, I find the most common mistakes in most MMO’s regarding cash flow are completely related to attitude and erroneous perception.  Here’s a few of the common complaints I hear coming up most often:

Complaint:  It’s too hard to make coin at low levels.  Low level items on the broker are overpriced.  How can a new player possibly be expected to gear up? 

Response:  If the items sell for that amount to low level players, then low level players can also sell the items for the same amounts. 

No, seriously.  I still start up new characters on different servers from time to time just to see how hard it is to make coin.  In nearly every case, I’ve managed to earn my first 50 gold by the time I hit level 10.  I can usually manage a platinum by the time I hit level 12 or so.  Level is NOT the limiter, folks.

Complaint:  Player X has a monopoly.

Response:  First things first: unless the item is an artifact, there’s no such thing as a pure monopoly in Everquest 2.  Items are generated daily out of 1’s and 0’s.  Just because Player X has 22 Master I’s on the broker doesn’t mean he has a lock on the market – though it does mean so-and-so can certainly exert a significant influence.  What’s important to remember is that just because Player X has a lot of inventory doesn’t mean your item isn’t worth the same. 

At this point, however, you have to make a choice.  Either sell the item for lower than you wanted, or leave the item up for sale longer.  How badly do you need the money?  Are you willing to wait for the price you want…or are you willing to shave 10-20% off to get a price now. 

(There are alternatives as well to kick the price down, but we’ll get to that down the list a bit.)

Complaint:  Player X keeps buying my goods and reselling them for more than they’re worth;  People keep “overpricing” items on the broker.

Response:  This complaint is really a non-complaint, and I shake my head every single time I hear it.  Reselling happens.  So what.  Who cares?  You wanted to sell X for Y price.  X sold for Y.  Why do you care what happens to it now?  You sold your item for the price you had it listed to sell at!!

Seriously, stop and think about this for a moment.  You hold a garage sale and tell me that you’ll sell me your old bike for $20.  I buy it and immediately take it back to my antique bike shop where I put it up for sale at $200.  You’re now angry because I “ripped you off”, right?  But did I really?  Or are you really just angry because you had no idea anyone would pay $200 for the old bike you’d found?

You want to stop getting angry at resellers and “price gougers”?  Start learning the value of what it is you’re selling.  Not the value you think something is worth, but the “fair market value” – the value that an item will sell for in a free and open market.  The phrase “you are your own worst enemy” applies frequently in this situation. 

Stop telling yourself that it’s “wrong” to sell an item for two, three, or ten times the price you’d personally pay for an item.  You’re not doing anyone any favors there.  No one will remember your loving act of broker charity.  You’re fighting economic forces…and you’re going to lose. 

If an item will sell for 50pp, put it up for sale at 50pp – even if you personally think the price is too high.  Let the price dictate what the market will bear.  Stop selling your goods for less than you need to sell them for. 

Remember, there’s no morality on the broker.  People aren’t forced to buy your goods at your prices.  No one’s twisting their arms here.  That’s why it’s called a “free and open market” – because there is no coercion. 

Besides, if the price doesn’t work, you can always lower it, later.  This leads me to my next ?

Complaint:  Nothing ever sells; I have items that haven’t moved in weeks; I already have the lowest price;  Why can’t I sell anything?

Response:  Market forces work on two basic principles:  supply and demand.  Most people are pretty good at figuring out supply.  Either you have it or you don’t.  Either it’s common or it’s not.  High supply tends to mean lower prices, whereas low supply tends to mean higher prices.  This is the half of the equation that’s easiest to explain to folks.

Where most people seem to get a little bit lost is with demand. 

Demand is a concept which translates to the desirability or necessity of an item.  Entire industries have evolved around this concept – around telling you what you desire, and why you need it.  Every advertisement you’ve ever watched had something to do with demand on some level.  Even if it’s just a simple reminder of a brand’s name, it’s still a reminder to you and your brain on how much you desire or need that particular brand over others. 

Now, it’s easy to build demand for some items.  The Ubersword of Godslaying  probably has a tiny bit more demand than a bit of canine saliva.  There’s likely a tad more desire for a Shield of Hammerfelling than there is for a spotted butterfly.

When you put an item up for sale, it’s easy to see what the supply looks like with a simple search.  It’s not quite as easy to see what demand looks like.  Some folks don’t quite grasp the concept and just put everything up on the broker (especially if they see other folks selling the same thing).  Four weeks later, the item is still there. 

The problem?  Demand wasn’t properly gauged, I’d wager.  Either people don’t want the item…or don’t know they want it.  If you have an item you think folks should genuinely want, then ask around.  Start with your guildmates and friends and find out if the item has any recognition at all.  People may not even realize that the item exists in the first place (and as such, might overlook it on a search). 

If the item seems to have some value in their eyes, then you might be overpricing just a bit.  Reign it in slightly – drop the price by 10% per week or so till it works.  Demand is tricky, and unlike supply (which is easy to quantify), demand is more art than science. 

If the pricing doesn’t seem to be the issue, then maybe it’s time to advertise.  Hit the auction channels, the level channels, and even a server forum.  Get the item linked around.  Build up some impressions of the item. 

The bottom line?

All in all, just remember that no matter what, patience always wins out.  It’s a rule that given enough time everything eventually sells, no matter the price.  One of my guildmates used to sell common vendor items on the broker just to prove it.  He’d walk over to an alchemist, buy a torch or something for a few copper, and put it up for sale at 1 gold.  It might take weeks or even months, but eventually someone would buy it. 

Also remember, like a haircut, it’s always better to start conservative with pricing and slice some off later if you don’t like the results.  You’ll never regret an item not selling half as much as an item selling for far less than you thought you could have made.

Lastly, as Michael Douglas said it best in Wall Street, “Greed is good”.  In the virtual world of the Shattered Lands, it might seem contradictory to practice “need before greed” in a dungeon while protecting groupmates you’d just met,  only to switch gears and try to accept that avarice can be a good thing, but trust me, the broker is no place to practice your good deeds.  If you want to give items away for well below market value, just find someone and strike a deal away from the broker…because the moment you put an item up on the free market, you’ve signed over control on who is allowed to purchase your goods.  Either sell your items for profit, or don’t complain when someone else buys you out for it. 

That’s it for now.  May Xev bless your dealings, and may your wallet be fat.