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Nathan Evrard's blog

2:12 PM on 10.26.2012

Honoring The Fallen In XCOM Enemy Unknown

To pretty much everyone he was known as Jerry Seinfeld. But to his fellow soldiers he was known only as “Gonzo”. He had earned that name for his fearless action on the battlefield. As an assault soldier it was his job to lead the charge and he never backed down. He didn’t take the time to think about the inevitable future he faced. That future came during “Operation Patient Law”.

The enemy was playing hide and seek in the Subway system somewhere in Europe and it was XCOM’s job to bring their game to an end. The four man team set out with Seinfeld at the helm. He was the most seasoned soldier on the battlefield and he was deadlier than any two soldiers combined.

The mission started out as normal, moving along slow and steady flushing out the enemy and destroying them as they showed up. Most members of the team had taken some damage up to this point but it was nothing too crucial and it looked as though they were about to finish things up before heading home.

There was one lone enemy hidden a subway car and the commander decided he wanted this alien brought in alive. This would have been child’s play were it not for the group of three Mutons that had been hiding in the back corner of the subway.

As “Gonzo” moved forward to stun the lone Sectoid it was already too late. His positioning left him with no cover and three enemies bearing down on him. It took all three Mutons working together but in the end it did not matter. Jerry “Gonzo” Seinfeld was dead.

From this moment on the mission was not about capturing or defeating the enemy. It was about revenge. The remaining members of the XCom squad set to work and in cold precision finished off every last enemy. Upon returning to the base the victory felt shallow it had everyone including me as their commander wondering what we were fighting for.

Seeing Seinfeld’s name on the memorial quickly answered that question. We were fighting for him and all of the others who had joined him on the wall. Lt. Bill Dozer, Rk. William Wallace, and Sgt. Kofi Kingston were also on the wall. The list of names is still growing but there are still those brave men and women who fight for everyone on that wall.

Brave soldiers such as Danica Patrick, Gwen Stefani, and Taylor Swift will continue to lead the charge against the alien invasion. It is more likely than not that some if not all of them will end up on the memorial. When that day comes we will listen to the bag pipes and mourn there loss. Then a new group of soldiers will step up to the line because we are the world’s last hope. We are XCOM.[/img]   read

1:33 PM on 09.25.2012

My Favorite MMO Terms

With the release of Guild Wars 2 much of my time in the past several weeks has been spent traversing the world of Tyria. During my travels one of the more interesting things to me is the chat that takes place between the players in the game. My previous MMO experience includes eight or nine different games but only one of those ever held my attention for any length of time. That game was Dark Age of Camelot (DA0C) by Mythic Entertainment. No matter which games you play however the chatter is still the same though it has gradually changed a bit with the games themselves. Without further ado here are some of my favorite MMO terms for better or worse.

BAF – Bring a Friend

Does this mob (monster) bring help when he is attacked? This is one of the first terms one learned especially in earlier MMO’s. It goes along well with the term Aggro (Aggressive) which refers to mobs that immediately attack you when you run near them. It always seemed a like a term that could survive in the real world. “Hey come 2 my party.” “Can I BAF cuz my BFF wants to come?”

INC – Incoming

Perhaps one of the most important terms to learn especially when working in dungeons with a team. As soon as someone yelled INC you had better be ready. The result of ignoring this message meant certain death for you and your group. It’s always the worst when a group of mobs randomly spawn right next to your group while everyone is AFK (away from keyboard) to use the bathroom.


Thanks to game such as Call of Duty and other First Person Shooters this term has a negative connotation to it. The term refers to waiting in a certain area for a specific mob to spawn so you can kill it. These are generally quest related mobs and often require multiple people to take down. It was an integral part to early MMO’s as only the people who first engage the mob would get credit for killing it.

Corpse Run

Yep, you read that one right. In Guild Wars 2 when my character dies the penalty is a broken piece of armor and the cost of a trip to the nearest waypoint. In older games such as DAoC the penalties were much more severe. Upon dying your character would lose a percentage of experience earned for that level while other games such as Runescape also had your character drop items and money that anyone could come by and pick up. The only way to gain back a part of your experience or your goods was to make your way back to your gravestone. This was often extra difficult because people tend to die in hostile areas and, in the case of Runescape, you may be doing it without your best weapons.


It’s the unofficial victory term used in MMO’s across the globe. After beating an extremely difficult boss it is not uncommon to see the chat screen filled with Woot’s. It provides a sense of accomplishment for everyone and essentially says good game while patting everyone on the butt.

WTS/WTB – Want To Sell/Want To Buy

Guild Wars 2 has one of the best in game trading interfaces in a game to date. The trading post works more like the stock market than anything and it is a step up from the traditional auction house offered in other games. However, there was a time when auction houses didn’t exist in MMO’s or had very limited functionality. Any time you entered a major city in DAoC you would immediately start seeing messages saying WTS or WTB nonstop. You would think this would be annoying but given the nature of earlier games it really just added to the feeling of being in a major city. It felt like walking through a busy market in any city with vendors constantly shouting about their wares. You occasionally see people shouting about this in Guild Wars 2 but it is extremely rare and somewhat pointless.

LD - Link Dead

Perhaps nothing encompasses the early MMO experience more than going LD in the middle of a major battle. One second your tank would be whopping on the bad guy and then suddenly he would stop and sit there unmoving while getting beat down. This was the beginning of certain doom for the rest of the group. Upon returning the game the tank would come back and say “LD” and everyone would nod understandably. Fortunately that is pretty much a thing of the past though now we have nothing to blame our horrible dungeon beat downs on.

What are your favorite MMO terms?   read

2:19 PM on 09.19.2012

The Price of Butter (and stability) In Guild Wars 2

With Guild Wars 2 ArenaNet has decided from the beginning that the long term health of the economy is one of the primary concerns for the game. Within the first week the company banned over 3,000 for a karma (a type of in game currency) exploit that could have had a rather adverse effect on the economy. The exploit came about as a coding error on the side of ArenaNet.

The result was that items that should be selling for 35,000karma were selling for a mere 21 karma. Some gamers took notice of this and began buying these items up and selling them to vendors for in game gold. Exploits like this, if left unchecked can lead to a few rich individuals and, in the long term, an unbalanced economy.

Exploits aside the developers and economist, John Smith have a tricky job to do in order to keep the economy constantly in check. Fortunately, they have one fantastic in game tool at their disposal, the trading post (TP).

The trading post serves as the auction house for Guild Wars 2. It connects buyers and sellers with each other much the same as in other MMO’s but with a few very important differences. For starters, the TP is set up so that people can use it from anywhere in the game world. This results in much more activity as people are not stuck sitting on materials waiting for a chance to sell them.

The second benefit of the TP lies in the bidding system. The TP works much more like a stock market than an auction house. Sellers can choose to set their item at any price and wait for the item to sell or they can choose to dump the product right away by matching a buy offer. This allows for more dynamic trading as you are not stuck buying or selling stacks of items. Rather as a buyer you can place a bid of 20c for 100 items and the order will be filled as the inventory comes along.

The most important part of the TP however, is that there is only one trading post that is shared by everyone playing the game. This means that the TP has over 2 million people using it as opposed to several thousand on any given World of Warcraft server. The result is a supply and demand that is much more even across the board. However, there are still situations where supply will far outweigh demand and thus drive prices too low.

This is where the benefit of having one TP really comes into play. Since the TP is connected to everyone this means that the in game economy can be manipulated quite easily on global scale. Within the first three weeks of the game ArenaNet noticed a glut of materials on the market including sticks of butter, wood logs, and wood dowels. The result of course was too much supply and prices that were bottomed out.

Their solution to this problem was quite novel. They created temporary in game recipes that required large amounts of these items. The results were almost immediate. The price for sticks of butter jumped 1000% from 2c to 20c in only a couple of hours. Green wood logs and Soft wood logs saw an increase also from 10c to 17c and 4c to 16c respectively. All of them have been holding steady near the 10c mark since then.

Not surprisingly up this point the Guild Wars 2 economy has been fun to track. The game updates that are presented by the actual in game economist really provide a more in depth view of the inner workings. If the ArenaNet team continues to put this much care and attention into the game then the long term outlook for the economy, and in turn the game, looks quite promising.

Read John Smiths State of The Economy Report Here.

Note: Much of the data was derived from my own tracking but the rest was filled in via this great site here.

Crosspost From Video Game Mojo   read

1:43 PM on 09.11.2012

A Statistical Analysis of Video Game Scores

Video games have long been reviewed and given scores (grades) to let people know how good they supposedly are. This should be an objective process but as many people know there is a definite subjective element at play. Over the course of the last several years the defacto scoring metric has become Metacritic.

The site aggregates critic reviews alongside user reviews for direct comparison. To get the final Metacritic score for critic reviews the site uses a special formula to weigh the reviews that are included in the metric. The end result is a score that unfortunately can affect the wages that game developers get paid.

Going into this particular analysis there were two theories that were going to be tested. The first is based on the average review score. On Metacritic games are scored on a 0-10 basis. Given these numbers the average score should theoretically fall at the 5 mark given that that is the mid point or average of the range. My theory going in is that this is in fact false and the average score will actually be much higher.

The second test revolves around user scores vs critic scores. It was my belief going in that user scores would be lower. This stems not necessarily from more stringent reviewers but rather from hatred towards publishers such as Electronic Arts.

The study used a simple random sample of twenty games from both the first person shooter (FPS) and role playing game (RPG) genre. The genres were graded separately from each other and broken down in various statistical forms.

Descriptive Data

Score Comparisons


The data above simply represents the breakdown of the numbers at our disposable. It does not however give us an answer to the questions that have been pondered up above. To do that we need to do something called a hypothesis test. The first test simply compares the average score to the theoretical average of 5.

The second test compares user reviews directly to Metacritic scores.


The formulas used above may look quite confusing to some and that is understandable. Ultimately, the tests we performed told us two things. In the first test the result simply states that yes, the average user score is significantly greater than 5. In the second test the results tell us that the average user score is less than the critic score. To be more specific however, in the world of statistics we don't say that we are correct but rather that we fail to prove that we are wrong.

CrossPost From Video Game Mojo   read

2:35 PM on 09.05.2012

Guild Wars 2 Trading Post Data 04 September


Yesterday marked the first day that ArenaNet allowed me to view the trading post in Guild Wars 2. Though most people may not share my excitement on the subject it was of great joy to myself. Given my education in business and my interest in gaming it is a natural transition for me to study both at the same time. Going forward it is my hope to keep weekly tabs on the market and track it long term.


Being so early in the life cycle of the game some of the data is not very surprising. The prices listed on both of the charts presented work by listing the lowest tiered items on the left and moving up the tiers to the right. Given this set up, an economy that is steady should look something like this:

However, as can be seen above and below the current Guild Wars 2 data does not follow this trend.

As with any economy things are driven by supply and demand. With an influx of new players lower tiered items such as copper ore are in high demand while higher tiered items such as iron and silver have less demand. This results in a very interesting situation where teir 1 copper ore is worth the same amount as tier 4 platinum (Pro Tip: Sell Your Copper And Buy Platinum Now!). This will of course even out over time but there is a chance to make some easy money for anyone paying attention.

One note about the charts. They do not contain data on the top tier items Orichalum Ore and Gossamer Thread. This is because these items rarity has them trading a premium (425 and 850 respectively). Placing them on the chart simply renders it useless for our purpose.

UPDATE: I'm going to edit myself on this topic. My point of view on future values was predicated on the real world idea that precious metals are constantly in line with each other. However, as has been pointed out to me on various forums their are many other things at work in MMO's that have an effect on raw material prices. As such the end result will most definitely not be an even curve in any future charts.   read

2:47 PM on 09.04.2012

Guild Wars 2 Gearing Up For The Long Run

When ArenaNet released guild wars 2 last week people, myself included, expected a solid entry into the massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMO) genre. Historically, the release of MMO’s are plagued with bugs and player exploits that drive down review scores. It has become clear however that very few people are disappointed thus far. MMORPG currently has the game listed as having the highest rating of any MMO on the market with a 9.09 rating. The next closest games are Funcom’s Secret World at 8.23 and Trion Worlds Rift at 7.41.

Aside from the game itself being highly regarded, ArenaNet has done a great job setting the tone for the future of the game. Over time MMO’s all face the same general issues that can have negative effects on the enjoyment of the game long term. The two biggest issues of note are the virtual economy and game immersion. These are both areas of concern and the Guild Wars 2 team has clearly considered the overall impact of these things. As a result they have made some interesting and very important choices in policing the game from the get go.

Setting up and enforcing standards is probably the most important step in shaping the long term health of an MMO. As with any game one plays these days Guild Wars2 has a EULA that players must agree to before participating in the world of Tyria. Unlike most MMO’s ArenaNet has decided to enforce these rules very strictly right from the get go.

One of the easiest ways for an economy to fail in an MMO is to allow player exploits to go unchecked. To clarify, exploits are not cheating but rather taking advantage of poor coding in the game world to receive a benefit of some kind. In the case of Guild Wars 2 some players realized that a certain vendor was selling an item for far below market value. The items were purchased with Karma (one type of currency) and then sold for in game gold. This resulted in a small amount of people amassing a large amount of wealth (the 1% so to speak).

ArenaNet immediately took action and banned over 3,000 players immediately. It should be noted that players can appeal the permanent ban and have it dropped to 72 hours. The point has been made however; exploiting the games economy in any way that may upset the balance of the game world will not be tolerated.

Before the Karma exploit the team was already hard at work swinging the ban hammer. The team was handing out 72 hour bans for both naming violations and improper use of chat in game. Most of the chat based bans seem to be based on racist or derogatory remarks. Some of the names that have been targeted include “Adolph Critler” and “Niegromancer” to name a few. There is a very large reddit discussion that includes feedback from the ArenaNet team that has much more entertaining information as to why certain players received their bans.

Another preemptive strike on the team’s part pertains to services that are purposely being kept offline by ArenaNet. The official Guild Wars 2 Forum has been down since the pre release of the game with no scheduled return date. The claim is that this is because of bandwidth usage. The more reasonable explanation is that they are essentially keeping the forums cleaner in the long run by avoiding all of the negative threads that are being posted in regards to bans and what not. Both and are probably very happy with this decision as they have both shot up towards the top of Google search results.

Another service that has been down since launch is the in game Trading Post (auction house). The explanation for this one again seems to stem from bandwidth issues. There may be some legitimate logic behind this. But as with the forums there is undoubtedly a strategy behind it also. If the Trading Post was fully functional from the get go it would be flooded with a huge supply of low level goods which would drive the prices into the floor. By waiting to fully launch the trading system it gives players some time to level up and thus will result in more variety in the items available at prices closer to equilibrium.

The real question of course is whether or not all of these choices made by ArenaNet are ultimately going to be better off for the game. And it would seem, from my perspective at least, that they are indeed on the right track. There are various discussions about the bans that were handed out in regards to the Karma exploit mentioned above. A quick search for the term “banned” on Guild Wars 2 Guru brings up numerous threads where users are asking if they will get banned for doing “x”. This is a good sign as it shows that people are actually considering their actions in game.

All of the actions taken thus far by ArenaNet have been controversial to some extent. However, everything up to this point has been geared towards healthy game and community for a long time to come. Overall, the launch of Guild Wars 2 has been nothing short of amazing and there is no doubt that many people will still be playing this game for years to come.

Fully linked version available at Video Game Mojo   read

2:55 PM on 08.28.2012

Guild Wars 2 Leveling System Is Spot On

The much anticipated release of ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 is finally here. The game has been in development for years and promises to make a big impact in the world of massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMO’s). The game includes many MMO tropes such as leveling, crafting, and both player vs player (PVP) and player vs environment (PVE) content.

What sets the game apart from other games in the market space is the way in which it approaches these things. The most important differences lie in the character leveling aspect of the game. There are three key areas to focus on; the leveling curve, the event system (no more quests), and the dynamic level adjustment system.

Leveling Curve

As anyone who has ever played an MMO knows leveling is at the crux of the game. Guild Wars 2 is no different in this aspect. There is however, a difference in how long reaching these levels will take you. Traditionally in games such as World of Warcraft (WoW) the amount of experience required to gain a level would raise exponentially over time.

An example of this in WoW the time it would take you to go from level 89 to 90 would be roughly equivalent to the time it took you to get from level 1-82. That’s a massive amount of time required to reach the maximum level. In Guild Wars 2 they have introduced a kinder and gentler leveling curve. The goal is to provide a sense of accomplishment to players even if they are casual gamers. Having spent days playing Dark Age of Camelot (DAoC) just trying to get half of a level helps me appreciate this change.

Dynamic Events

Traditionally MMO’s have based leveling on the completion of quests. These are generally tasks assigned to you from non player characters (NPC’s) in the game world. They may ask you to bring a letter to someone, clean the bad guys out of a camp, or most boring of all ask you to kill x amount of something.

More recent MMO’s such as Rift have started to embrace new ways to level. The introduction of world events and instant adventures in games allows players to join forces with others to complete certain tasks. Guild Wars 2 eschews the quest system entirely in favor of the aforementioned event system with some additional tweaks.

In Guild Wars 2 dynamic events actually have an effect on the game world. If you fail to stop an attack on a city then that city will be useless to the player base for a time. This is in contrast to the classic quest system as it actually has consequences. The end result of dynamic events is easy grouping and playing with a purpose.

Dynamic Level Adjustment

The introduction of world events and instant adventures provides great opportunities for advancement but they also offer one big problem. As a result of participating in these, especially in Rift, you can out level an area. This essentially means that your character is too powerful to gain any useful experience from finishing quests or battling creatures in the area. This forces the player to move on to the next area and miss out on interesting side stories that would otherwise enrich the world.

Guild Wars 2 obviously recognizes this and has found a rather simple but awesome solution in the way of dynamic level adjustment. This simple feature may be the most important aspect in the entire game as it will encourage players to finish as much of the game as possible not matter what level they are.
The way it works is straight forward. Assume you have a player that is level 60 and you want to venture with your friends in a level 20 area. Upon entering the area the game will reduce your attributes and stats to that of a level 21 character and allow you to earn xp at a regular rate (level cap +1).

This leveling works the other way also when participating in PvP. Anytime someone enters a marked PvP zone they will automatically be given level 80 attributes even if they are only level 20. It’s still not recommended to enter these battlegrounds at such a low level because you will not have the skills or armor available that higher level players will have. It is still great to have the option though.

Guild Wars 2 has taken the time to look at the problems that face MMO gamers today and have put forth quite an effort to provide solutions. All the reasons mentioned above plus no monthly subscription has made the game a must buy for myself and countless other fans of the genre. Now get out there and help save Tyria!

Cross Post from Video Game Mojo   read

2:25 PM on 08.27.2012

Electronic Arts Growing Digital Revenue

Electronic Arts (EA) released their quarterly financial statements for quarter (Q1) of 2012 earlier this month. Along with the straight up financial data they also provide a presentation that highlights some of the areas where they are doing well and some of the avenues they are pursuing for growth. Their overall plan is dedicated to what they call three strategic pillars. They emphasize Brands, Platform, and Talent.

For the sake of this particular article Platform is key because it is the area that focuses on making the brand digital. Now, let’s take a look at some of the numbers pertaining to digital sales. The first financial area of note pertains to sales by platform.

A quick breakdown of their sales by platform in Q1 shows that PC numbers account for about 45% of sales with year over year (YOY) growth at 62% while tablets and smart phones are at 16% with YOY growth of 86%. The tablet and smart phone numbers are indicative of the general shift in consumer behavior. Electronic Arts didn’t create the demand for this market but they have taken advantage of it.

The next breakdown comes in the area that refers to type of digital sales for Q1. These include full games, DLC, ads, and mobile. DLC accounts for an impressive 40% in this category which resulted in an 87% YOY increase. The smallest number to be found comes from full releases which only accounted for 10% of sales and has seen very little growth over the last couple of years.

The final and most interesting part of the report details growth by specific games. FIFA 12 and Battlefield 3 lead the way in terms of digital revenue for the company. FIFA 12 is on pace for about $161 million in digital sales compared with only $79 from FIFA 11, an increase of over 100%. My guess would be that FIFA Ultimate Team is the main reason. However the digital release of Euro 2012 probably helped quite a bit also.

The Battlefield series is a bit more difficult to compare across generations as they are all very different games. Battlefield: Bad Company 2 accounted for $66 million in digital sales last year while Battlefield 3 is on pace for over $180 million.

The one additional metric that they throw in is Free to Play (F2P) growth. In Q1 the average weekly revenue was $6.3 million compared to $.4 million three years ago.

Interestingly to me is that the Madden series isn’t listed as measurement. Perhaps with the upcoming release of Madden NFL 13 we will see the game make a big bang with growing Madden Ultimate Team revenues. Other omissions are breakdown for Origin and specific platforms such as Facebook. Perhaps going forward all of these will be dissected more.

Overall when all is said and done it seems pretty clear that digital is the future for Electronic Arts. Rumors about NBA Live 13 will be available on Xbox Live, if at all seem to point to this possibility. NBA Live would provide a good test for EA as there will be nothing to lose on the title. Also one of EA’s bosses, Frank Gibeau, basically came straight out and said it.

"We're going to be a 100% digital company, period. It's going to be there some day. It's inevitable"

Cross Post From and   read

2:25 PM on 08.24.2012

Why I Play As Fem Shep

When games come around that offer me a choice between male and female characters it seems more often than not that my choice is to play a female. When asked why my initial answer is because if my time is going to spent staring at my characters backside it may as well be something worth looking at. But that was never truly the real answer. No, the genuine answer escaped me until somewhat recently.

The answer is quite simple, male protagonists are a dime a dozen in video games today. Grand Theft Auto has always had a male lead with Niko Bellic playing the role in GTA IV. Read Dead Redemption had perhaps my favorite lead character in John Marston, and it also had his not so awesome son to take his place. And the recently released Sleeping Dogs has Wei Shen, the badass character not the professor from the University of Minnesota. Other games such as Dead Space, Halo, and every single COD clone also have a strong male presence at the helm.

There are some notable exceptions to this rule. Joanna Dark from Perfect Dark is one along with Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider franchise. Overall though female leads are quite rare. To make matters even worse women are generally meant to be saved in video games and are often the crux of the whole story. Take a look at Princess Peach for an older example.

It is with this in mind that the idea of a female character appeals to me. Games such as Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Dragons Dogma all center around a “chosen” one overcoming the odds to save the world against impossible odds. By choosing a female hero it feels as though the odds are truly stacked against you. Every time someone doubts my in game ability it seems like a direct challenge that is to be overcome by my Fem Shep.

For some reason having a male Shepard somehow feels like cheating though that is clearly not the case. Like it or not, we still live in a male dominated society when it comes to war and competition. This mindset seems to flow into the game worlds with which we are presented. As far as I’m concerned that is fine with me. It simply provides a greater sense of accomplishment for me when my female protagonist finally slays the dragon to save the world.   read

3:14 PM on 08.23.2012

In Video Games Ignorance Is Bliss

One of my fondest gaming memories as a child was learning about the Konami code. It was the first real cheat code that me and my friends were aware of. Every time Contra was booted we would enter the code and listen for the reassuring sound that accompanied it. The result was that we had thirty lives in which to beat the game.

This was pretty much the extent of cheats that we had in games with the exception of the monthly issue of GamePro which would provide a handful of other useful secrets such as this Pro Tip: "To defeat the Cyberdemon, shoot at it until it dies." This really helped me as I tended to stop shooting at it and waited patiently for it to off itself.

Of course the world of gaming is quite different today as every game has a wiki or FAQ available with minutes of its launch. This can come in handy when stuck on some seemingly impossible mission or when searching for the final collectable on a vast map. This accessibility can also prove as a crutch at times for many players, me included.

Recently, while playing through Arkham City, I found myself looking at an FAQ anytime a mission foiled me a couple of times. It just seemed like a waste of time to constantly try only to fail again. The end result was me getting through the game quicker but also becoming more annoyed with myself for my lack of persistence in game.

It is almost always more satisfying to finally best a challenge by ourselves with no outside help. Dragon’s Dogma was one game where this came through for me. My first battle with a Chimera left me wondering what my party had done wrong. However, when I finally put the right group together and killed that beast it was one of the most satisfying moments in recent gaming memory for me.

Currently Sleeping Dogs has been my gaming addiction and it is my goal to avoid using online help at all costs. And up to this point it has been successful. The main reason for this is that the world of Hong Kong, both virtual or in real life, is completely new to me and the wonder associated with discovery is really the most important part of this game. Once the main story is completed I may visit GameFAQ’s to find anything that has been missed but only time will tell.

What are your thoughts on using game guides or FAQ’s to complete games?   read

1:53 PM on 08.17.2012

My First Cock Fight

Sleeping Dogs is the latest in a long line of Open World games and it carries on the tradition quite well. The game is set in a virtual version of Hong Kong and as with its predecessors includes plenty of stuff to do outside the main story arc. And as with other games such as Grand Theft Auto (GTA), Saints Row (SR), and Red Dead Redemption (RDR) it is often the side distractions that really make the games enjoyable.

Sleeping Dogs is really no different in this regard as it provides plenty of side missions to keep the player busy. There are statues to be collected and returned, briefcases to be plundered, and cars that need to be brought to the chop shop. There is one distraction in particular that has piqued my curiosity more than any others.

In Sleeping Dogs you can watch and bet on cock fights. This is interesting to me for several reasons. For starters, no game has ever allowed me to do this before. There may be games out there where this is an option but this is my in game introduction to the spectacle. Secondly, the inclusion of the cock fights has really helped the immersion. And on top of that, one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld revolves around cock fighting.

My first trip to the fighting grounds involved a broken GPS that insisted my location was in the middle of a Freeway. This seemed quite illogical to me given the illegal nature of the activity. After driving around for a bit I found the entrance to shady arena. There was a gentleman standing there who was taking bets on the upcoming fight so I approached him.

Before placing my wager the two contestants showed me their birds and both insisted that theirs was the better of the two. My first bet was placed on the beastly looking black bird which proceeded to let me down. Not to be deterred I placed another bet, this time again on the new black bird. Alas, it was not meant to be. This bird was just as much of a pansy as the other and proceeded to go down in about thirty seconds.

After that I headed back to the market to find a new bed for my apartment. What more can be said, these side distractions can be addicting. Maybe next time Little Jerry Seinfeld will be at the cock fights and he can win me some money.   read

3:14 PM on 08.15.2012

5 Reasons Selling Virtual Goods Is Tricky

Ever since online worlds came into existence there have been people trying to figure out how to work the system to make real world money. Historically very few games have offered official ways to make money in game. The ones that have however certainly provide for genuine opportunities to succeed if you have the time and devotion.

Perhaps the best examples of legally making money in online games come from the world of Second Life (SL). The world of SL is almost entirely user created and allows for people to buy and sell virtual goods for Lindens which can be converted to real money. The most famous example of this in game economy is one Anshe Chung. Anshe became the first SL millionaire in 2006 by buying and selling virtual land.

The introduction of Diablo III’s real money auction house (RMAH) a couple of months ago has provided a new generation of gamer with a straightforward way to convert game time into real world earnings. It is still early in the cycle of Diablo III but users are already reporting modest incomes from the game.

In instances where there is no officially sanctioned channel to make money players have been resourceful and found numerous ways in which to make the games pay. In the past it was not uncommon to find World of Warcraft (WoW) characters for sale on the auction site Ebay. These characters would consistently sell for hundreds of dollars with a purported record sale of around $9,000.

Ultima Online is one of the oldest graphical massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG,MMO) out there. In as such it has seen its fair share of virtual entrepreneurs looking to make real world cash. Items such as armor, weapons, and even castles have provided sources of income for numerous players for 15 years.

In his book, Play Money, author Julian Dibbell describes in detail his quest to make millions selling virtual loot with Ultima Online as his primary source of income. He describes camping out waiting for land to go on sale and tracking daily auctions among other things. When all is said and done he was on pace to make about $47,000 per year. That’s a pretty good chunk of change for most people.
With all this money to be made what is stopping you from becoming the next virtual goods millionaire? To put it mildly, there are some very important factors to consider if you choose pursue a career dealing in virtual goods.

1. Time Investment

Let’s get straight to the crux of the situation. Making money whether it is in computer games or in the real world requires time. The first step of course is research. One has to find the right game to work with and then the right items to buy and sell. Also, you have to take into affect variables such as timing and overall market conditions. In Mr. Dibbell’s case he could make far more than $47,000 per year by utilizing his time on his freelance writing work. If you are serious about making money this way then you cannot treat it as a part time hobby.

2. Low Barrier To Entry

This item is both a positive and a negative. A barrier to entry is simply anything that would keep someone from entering a specific market. For example, if someone wanted to sell a new cola a large barrier to entry would be advertising cost to get the name out there. With the RMAH of Diablo III there are very few barriers. All you need is a copy of the game and a authenticator. On the plus side this means that anyone can do it, even you. On the down side, this means that anyone can do it. Even if you are more efficient and offer better service people still have to wade through all of the offers to find you.

3. Never Ending Supply and Demand

In both the real world and virtual worlds economies run on the basic idea of supply and demand. Generally speaking, more demand equals higher prices as does low supply. This works well in a world where goods take time to create and supply is limited by raw materials and capacity. In virtual worlds such as Lord of The Rings Online (LOTRO) raw materials have a never ending supply.

Think firewood as an example. You can only cut down the tree in your back yard once before it is depleted. In LOTRO that same tree can be chopped up an unlimited amount of time assuming you have the patience. The end result is a glut of raw goods that essentially keeps prices low on all but the rarest of items.

4. Cost of Production

In economics the cost of production theory of value states that items have a value that is commensurate with the factors of production. The three major factors are labor, capitol, and land. In the case of MMO’s both labor and land are all but taken out of the equation because all of the land is available to anyone and the labor cost generally consists of equipping an axe and pushing a button. By eliminating two of the major factors involved it drastically reduces the cost of goods sold.

5. Legal Issues

This is the grey area that can make doing any type of online business risky, not just virtual goods. For starters, those that sell virtual goods or characters outside of game worlds are often in direct conflict with the end user license agreement (EULA) that they agree to with a company before even playing the game. This can result in permanent bans and loss of all in game monies and assets. Marc Bragg can attest to this firsthand as he lost between $4,000 and $6,000 in assets as a result of a banning from by Second Life owner Linden Labs.

Other complications can arise from technical glitches or legal issues pertaining to jurisdiction. Blizzard’s rmah in Diablo III has reports of errors costing players hundreds of dollars in real world currency with no real solution provided. As far as locality is concerned it is important to remember that games can be hosted in say the United States while the product seller can be located in Africa and the buyer can reside Russia. This can make it very difficult to seek a remedy for anyone that is wronged during an online transaction.

There have been many reasons listed as to why it can be difficult to make real money dealing in virtual goods. And all of these reasons should be taken to heart when considering this type of venture. However, it is important to note that these challenges can be overcome with foresight and perseverance. As Mark Twain once quipped, “It usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.”   read

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