Greedy Goblin

Monday, July 24, 2017

No, it's not the free market

One of the blogs I've found during the crawl, is pretty rarely posting, but has valuable content when does. This post is about his tribulations as a game dev:
Prepare to work 16 hours a day for perpetual crunch because of the incompetence of management and producers. Prepare never to see your loved ones. Get used to sleeping on the floor in your cube. Prepare to see your health decline as you eat bad food and stop exercising. If you don’t like any of that, just realize there’s a line-up of hundreds of naive fools standing right behind you that will gladly replace you and sell their souls to be part of the video game sausage factory.
He also quoted a long post of another disillusioned game dev:
  • The gaming industry is a meat grinder... The reality is, you will work for 80-100h hours a week during crunch periods.
  • You have no job security. Your game tanked? Oops we need to find a culprit, might be you. And boom you are fired. Studio failed to secure that contract? Hmmmm we need to downsize, you are out.
  • I doesn't pay; especially for programmers ... I can tell you will easily see a 60%+ raise just by switching domains. My current job is by no means boring, even though I don't make games anymore, and I make 70% more, and my overtime is paid when I have to do some.
  • lot of places are extremely toxic. With such low job security, backstabbing is constant.
  • In the later years, it has become extremely PC, especially smaller studios. I've seen HR telling me how great they were, because they had a 40% females studio.
  • The management is horrible ... co-worker get threatened by HR because one of their friends posted something negative about the studio on their facebook wall.
  • Don't rock the boat. You can't afford to make a statement ... you do it, even if you think they are garbage.
I do not question the validity of his experience, nor the quoted or the countless others. But then he gets to the conclusion: "the state of the video game industry is a symptom of our progressive culture and an example of the worst excesses of capitalism." I get to the liberal culture in a different post. But in the "excesses of capitalism" he is dead wrong. He now works in a different field without these problems. Is that a government agency? The highest paid programmers works for banks. Are they not the poster children of "excesses of capitalism"?!

The question isn't why the game companies offer these atrocious work conditions and pay. The question - always - lies on the other side: why are there lines of wannabe devs going through the same suffering? Why there are anyone who doesn't quit. Most importantly, why can't the banks get away with offering the same? Why would it be bizarre for a bank boss to tell the employees to work unpaid overtime?

The conditions he described aren't rare, but not in capitalism, but in crony-capitalism and semi-criminal capitalism. Like when the night club doesn't pay waitresses at all, and they work for free for the opportunity to catch rich and drunk customers for "escort". Or when border patrol agents made half of cops in several Eastern European countries and still the applications crushed the desks, because one could make a monthly salary from one night patrol by not searching the right cars. Or the plague of the Hungarian health care: doctors work for pennies, but still don't quit, because queues are long and patients pay into their pockets to skip it.

The reason why game devs are underpaid, overworked, abused and still line up is corruption. You can make much more than your salary by making a deal with RMT-ers. Even a lowly GM can make some extra for not banning certain people. Programmers can make much better money for exploitable bugs. Higher ranked devs who can actually design systems can make a fortune. Remember when someone gave CCP intellectual property to a "book publisher" with zero publishing experience?! Even if he was just offered 10% of the money, 10% of 150K is pretty nice for a month of shilling for the book on streams.

Show me someone who is not paid, abused and overworked and not quitting when there are much better opportunities for him and I show you someone who is on the take! Show me a dev who can't catch a literal 24/7 bot and I show you a botter. Show me a dev who can't fix "Ghost training" in 15 weeks and I show you someone running a ghost farm - or at least getting money from those who do.

The problem is the usual moral hazard in financial investing, which means that the shareholder has no clue of the company he buys and just buys a black box based on previous stock prices and divends. In this case the actual company management is done by employee managers who are also selected for previous management experience. The problem is that the typical CEO-for-hire has no clue about video games. He might sold sugared water or television programming or hotels but not video games. He comes with the attitude "I don't care, production is production, doesn't matter if box of soda or box of video game".

The problem is that video games are fundamentally different from soda: the sold experience is directly linked to experiences of other players. If you sell something that lets Adam pwn Bob, you see a successful sale at Adam and a discontinuation of service at Bob, but the connection isn't obvious. Usually Bob gives the useless "I'm not having fun" explanation for quitting. However while video games are special, by no means unique: sports have or had the same problems. I'm pretty sure that a successful boxing promoter or horse race director would be a wonderful gaming studio CEO. So would be a casino manager who understands the damage that a single card-counter can do.

On the employee side, the problem would be more capitalism. You see the problem is self-inflicted: the employee sees himself miserable only because of a rule in his own mind: don't steal. This rule isn't existing in the current game development, I haven't heard a single case when a GM or dev was fired and charged with embezzlement after found to be in league with cheaters. I hear of the same in professional sports and gambling, every time when there is a cheating scandal. If he would do everything that is possible, he would be just as happy as his colleagues. Or, if this isn't the path he'd choose, he'd quit and work at a bank. I have no doubt that there are many honest devs who don't steal, just work for free until burned out "for the team". If only they'd all shrug as Atlas one-way-or-another, the gaming industry would burn overnight.

But fear not! Capitalism will fix this. At first, many managers reach CEO age who played games as young (or even still play) and understand how RMT and exploiting damages a game. As soon as they get to power, this problem will diminish. Please note that being completely heartless and game-hating CEO wouldn't change that, he would indeed squeeze every dollar out of the whales in the item shop, but would not leave a cent to third party exploiters. Also, it's only a matter of time before a privately owned studio makes something good that goes viral, via word-of-mouth advertising of satisfied customers.

Finally, the political climate is changing fast removing the final obstacle. But that's for a later post.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weekend minipost: maybe playerunknown's battleground?

Shooter genre - not really my thing.
No permanent results - kind of "for fun"
Alpha/Early access - I promised that I won't touch any of those.
But they handled this rule breaking streamer so perfectly that I must give them some support. I look up some more info and if you have some personal account, please share. A game that enforces the rules is quite a sight in 2017.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Pictures of your in-game food

When I announced the new crawl, digging through the blogs, to find inspiration and information, I greatly underestimated the task. Almost a month passed and it's far from done. However a milestone is reached: I finished the blogroll of biobreak:
Ouch, it was looong. And I clicked on every single one of them and checked its contents. Many are dead. Surprisingly many died last July, tricking me as I saw the "July X" as last post date, read them and they felt outdated, checked again and saw that the date is actually "July X 2016". Weird.

I've found some inspiring and intelligent blogs, you see how my blogroll grew from the 5 pre-crawl entries. I've even found one that made me laugh for minutes. Really check it out!

But most of the blogs are just "pictures of your in-game food". They are alike the facebook pages of random nobodies that are full of everyday busywork that no one cares about (not even the poster) and literal photos of food. Why does someone cares to share a meal? Or a minipet? Or a storyline. This is the last one on the roll and a good example of these type of blogs. (no need to check it out, check out the previous link, really!)

The trick with these blogs is that they are identical, since the adventures of the bloggers are identical. "Everyone" started to play Secret World Legends and got surprised that the tutorial is lengthy and the outdoor area is dark and feels like a dungeon. I believe the bloggers considered their stories worth sharing, but they are the same, which is kind of the problem with non-competitive games: there are no unique stories. There are no highs of victories and lows of defeats, just the boring, dime a dozen grinding over on-rails, piss-easy content.

Seeing these blogs, I can explain why my blog survived the lulls of non-gaming: I always tell something unique. Maybe hilariously wrong, but definitely something that you can't read on every random reddit page. Of course I'm not satisfied with that, (hey, nobody ever wrote "ak,fmg;ldsmL:ASmf;lssdl;fkadl;" before, I'm unique!), but it's a start. I keep crawling until I find something worthy to finally settle down. I've already got my eyes on Fortnite and got info to cross out many titles that looked good.

Speaking of which, there goes Ark Survival Evolved. While it wasn't a primary target anyway, I kept it as an "if all else fails" option. Obviously not anymore. It seems the "evolution" of games over the past decade is
  1. we are fair
  2. we give clear advantage to those who pay in the shop
  3. we break our own rules and support some players secretly
  4. we can't even be bothered to stop exploiting when there's a scandal
There is nowhere to sink now, so there must be an investor who says "I have $100M, I believe there is a niche for a non-rigged, competitive game on the long run".

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fortnite: hoping but not expecting

Fortnite is a newly released (Early access from July 25) game with lot of potential and charming graphics.

The "revolutionary" element is that you are building a fort on the fly, in the middle of the battle from resources you gather during the battle while killing zombies with weapons you craft on the fly. This means quick thinking. Also, the maps are randomized with various enemies, so there is no "check out uber fort on youtube and build always that". Finally, it's a team game, meaning a perfect place for testing a-social ideas, working with other good players instead of "friends".

Are you excited? You shouldn't be. Because even if we assume that everything I collected from their promises is true, we don't know anything about the most important thing: is Fortnite even a game? I mean, will there be winners and losers? Will it matter if you build the best fort with the best team compared to 4 ArthasDKlols:
  • one being completely lost/stoned/drunk/AFK
  • other ignoring objectives and just "pwning 4 lulz"
  • third trying to complete some obscure achievement that has nothing to do with the task
  • fourth building a fort with one purpose: to make it look like a huge penis
Will the optimal team achieve anything that the second team doesn't? Or will the difference will be only in some meaningless achievements and maybe 20% more rewards? Will there be exclusive content available only to the best players (like platinum league in LoL)? Or everyone will get everything assuming playing enough?

Another question: how bad the monetization will be? Will playing matter at all or results will only depend on paying, like in the mobile crap?

Finally, assuming that the formal rules are fine, there will be winners and losers, monetization will cap out around $50/month, will the game be fair? I mean will it operate according to the rules or will it give piss-easy random maps to those who bought vanity? Will exploiters be banned or laugh together with devs on "Fanfest"?

The sad thing is that these questions had been crazy paranoia just 5 years ago, while now 90% of the games out there violate one or more. I'm really, really hoping that Fortnite will be good. But I'm not expecting it, and until they prove themselves, I won't give a damn dime.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"At this point is it fair to say that the GMs only reversed this guy's ban because he was a streamer"

I've left Black Desert Online due to lack of interest, not because of rigging. My how to get rich page is still up. But it seems I have to reconsider, due to a recent scandal.

To fully understand what happened, you should be aware of the worker system that I described in detail. Now I just give a short version: you have a limited resource called contribution points that you can use to connect nodes, connect subnodes and rent lodging for workers. Some nodes are better than others and you can send only one worker per node. Now, exploiting players figured out how to send more workers per node. Not only it allows them to have multiples of the most lucrative nodes, but it greatly increased their contribution point effectiveness, as the extra worker needed just extra logding, while properly utilizing another node would also need node and subnode activation.

OK, exploiting happens, cheaters are banned in every game, what's the rigging? On May 25, a "famous" twitch streamer was banned for this exploit and later found innocent and unbanned. Except, he was so guilty that he kept exploiting! Too bad for him that he unwittingly streamed evidence against himself, making Reddit explode (as far as r/blackdesertonline can explode):

He of course since claims innocent mistake, but I can expert witness that he is guilty as hell. All the other workers are orange on his screenshot as they should be. The worker quality goes up from white, green, blue, yellow and orange. I never used blue workers for more than a day or two until I had the energy (renewing limited resource) to reroll them to at least yellow. That one blue worker has 48924 cycles left from the maximum of 50000, so already completed 1076 cycles. He has 2h 15m 41s left of its current cycle while the filled bar is 45 pixels, the total is 142. From that, a cycle is 199 minutes long, so that worker wasn't touched for 149 days (actually more, as it was slower when it was low level). He didn't touch him, because he knew that if he removes the worker, he can't put it back. If he was innocent, he would have unwittingly remove it to replace it with a higher level and just notice that he can't put it back. So the dude was purposefully exploiting for about 5 months.

Yet, he was unbanned in May and now he only got 72 hours of suspension, despite serious exploiting. Repeat: he is still not removed from the game, just got a suspension. Why? The title of the post comes from a reddit comment. This is I Want ISK unban in Black Desert. It seems that the community management is corrupted here too. I considered BDO safe from corruption due to being developed and managed by different companies, so any exploiting would need collusion between corrupted employees continents apart. I forgot the option that the devs in Korea make a honest mistake allowing exploiting (happens with every game) and the community team just let the exploiting go rampart and unpunished.

Anyway, I amend my BDO page with a warning about the community team being corrupted. It's probably not a coincidence that it's always the community team that gets compromised: it's their job to engage with players, they get friendly with them and they soon learn that the cheating streamer or the RMTing botter makes 10x more with his shady business than the honest salary of the devs. From there it's only a few beers for business to be made: a little money (still more than salary) from the game-monetizer in turn of a blind eye or even in-game support from the dev.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Ad hominem is not an argument. Nor it is politics.

I watched in disbelief how the lefties in the USA turned every stone to find the imaginary Russia collusion. But now the right wing started to catch up by turning stones on Seth Rich and the Haiti investigator "suicide" and several other suspicious deaths of people who were uncomfortable to Hillary Clinton. After all, if your opponent makes a complete clown of itself with nothing burger conspiracy theories, keep up!

The problem with these conspiracies isn't that they are likely not true. It's that them being true would be totally irrelevant for any argument on politics or even the elections. These are about deciding where the country should go. The politicians leading it are just working there. The president is an institution, not a guy. Trump voters didn't vote for his non existing charm or relationship ethics or whatnot. They voted against migration, international trade, globalist wars and enforcement of leftist culture, the issues Trump championed. Trump being impeached for collusion wouldn't make them go away, they'd just vote for the next guy (Coulter? Cruz?) who offer these.

Similarly, just because Hillary goes to jail for killing people or stealing charity money, lefties won't stop chanting "no nations, no borders" nor stop demanding that every company CEO must be a black transwoman. They just follow the next candidate (Warren? Harris?) who carries the same banner. Hillary "rallies" were empty, no one was interested in her charm, yet she got 65M votes because of the issues she championed. And some of those voters were alive citizens, imagine that!

Even further, the objective value of these ideologies aren't affected by the personal fate of the current flag carriers. The migrants either integrate into the society and become valuable citizens or stay aside and remain leeches, criminals and terrorist. The companies are either producing more GDP with a diverse staff or don't. Children who claim to be trans either grow it out or commit suicide if not allowed to change sex. All these debates will be closed 50 years from now and those who were on the wrong side will be remembered as idiots. Finding the correct solution needs research and debate over ideas, not ad hominem attacks, regardless of their validity. Sure, criminals should go to jail, but that belongs to the criminal justice system and not to pundits, journalists or voters.

What I want to say is that please don't participate in these retarded non-issues and focus on the real political issues if you choose to be political.

Monday, July 17, 2017

No, puzzles aren't games

According to Steam, I spent 57 hours playing Rebuild 3, single-player puzzle "game", successor of the top played web game Rebuild and 2, created from kickstarter money.

From the hours you can guess I like this "game". Technically I didn't finish it on the highest difficulty, because the map is huge, so will take some more hours to even find the other factions which I must defeat or ally with to win. But I'm doing OK:

No, this isn't my fort. It's just part of my fort. But unless the "game" will show something I haven't seen in the previous difficulty and building the current gigantic fort, it's only matter of time.

Now, why do I claim that it's not a game? Because it has no more replayability than a TV show. Sure, I can watch it again out of boredom, but I have no reason to do anything differently. Even worse, if you read the spoiler below, you can win on highest difficulty, largest map, max opponents on first try. Puzzles operate on obscurity, their fun comes from figuring it out. The optimal way of solving them is reading a spoiler, which makes the task trivial, while of course spoiling the fun. However if we play to win, we must choose the optimal path, read the guide and - then have no fun while doing a trivial task.

So with puzzles we reached a reductio ad absurdum: if someone plays them like they were games, they are unchallenging and unfun. Which shouldn't surprise anyone: it's true for any kind of entertainment outside of actual games. For example: Caesar dies, Brutus dies too. Here, I saved you a hundred bucks and a travel to the theater to watch the Julius Caesar play. But of course your point of watching a theater play isn't to get the outcome, but to enjoy the story unfolding. Good for you, but not a game. Neither Rebuild 3 or any of the puzzles out there.

Spoiler: ignore unhappiness and food at the start, you'll lose survivors, but it's easier to replace them than keep them alive. Get laboratory early and research improved scouting to see every resource on the map. Scavenge. Get a workshop fast and build bombs. Don't defend the fort, blow up the zombie hordes instead and instantly capture the rubble. Hell, if you have no bombs yet, don't defend either, easier to recapture what the zombies take from you than holding it.