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The Age of the Discriminating Vendor January 23, 2013

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Ancient Gaming, entertainment, Rift, TorilMUD.
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14 comments

Another one of those posts that starts with “back in the day…” and which recounts how things used to be during the stone age of online gaming.  Writing about it is not necessarily advocating for its return, but it certainly made things different.  Anyway, on to it…

Back in the day, back in TorilMUD, there were things that were very different than we see them now in modern MMORPGs, and there were things that were very much the same.

All text, all the time

It was all text, all the time back then

One thing that was the same was money.

Everybody needed it, the economy needed it, but nobody started out with any and the only real way to get any was to kill NPCs that spawned in the world for their loot.

There were also quests.  But quests were not very common, annoying to find, and could be frustratingly difficult to complete.  I have gone into the way questing used to be back in the day.  There was nobody standing around waiting to tell you to kill ten rats.  And the end result was more often an item than any money.

So that left murdering the residents of the world and looting their still warm corpses as the only real money making enterprise.

Wholesale slaughter would get you some coins.  But for the most part that was a pretty slow way to earn money, at least at lower levels.  Later, in a leveling group in place like the pirate ship, a good group could end up with a nice pile of cash.

But you, new adventurer, won’t be doing that or zones or anything of the sort for a long while.

And that went double for elves and half elves who started on the Island of Evermeet, in the elvish city of Leuthilspar and were stuck there for the first 20 levels of their career.  I will focus on the plight of the elves, since that is what I am most familiar with.

So to supplement the tiny trickle of coins, you would have to also grab whatever else your victims were carrying.  Swords, bits and pieces or armor and clothing, random items of junk, whatever you could pry from their cold, dead fingers.  You would collect all of this to sell to one of the many vendors in Abeir-Toril.

As a young citizen of Leuthilspar, you would head out to Kobold Village or the Faerie Forest in search of adventure, experience, and loot.  At least, once you figured out how to get there.  Eventually, if you were successful… by which I generally mean that you did not die and have to go find your corpse in the dark… you would have a pile of coins and some items to vendor.

In Kobold Village there was a couple of vendors, but as your became more seasoned you began to notice that those vendors paid very little for your items.   That was the way of the world.  The buy and sell prices from vendors were influence by your race, your class, your charisma stat, and the general level of wickedness of the person who created the zone.

The young elvish adventurer could make much more money, multiples of what the stingy vendors out in the world were offering, if said adventurer just dragged all of that loot back to a vendor in Leuthilspar.

The key was, which vendor.

Leuthilspar Locations

Leuthilspar Locations (click to embiggen)

The good part was that all the vendors were pretty close to the square at city center and near to the bank.

The down side was that the vendors were all pretty picky about what they would buy.  Your options were:

1 – Talidnal’s Goods and Supply Shop – Sold random supplies like rations and small bags, would buy miscellaneous items of the same sort.  You had to sell the red feather from the traveling faerie here.

2 – The Weapon Shop of Leuthilspar – Bought and sold weapons and only weapons.  Notable for being one of the vendors with special responses.  Would point out in all caps that this was weapon shop if you tried to sell something else and would claim that they could buy items flagged “no value” because they just bought a Doombringer earlier.

3 – The Scribe Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold scroll, including the scroll of identify.  These cost 2 platinum coins, which was more than any new player could afford, but which was the only way to see the full stats and information on any given item.  Except, of course, if the item was flagged as “no identify,” in which case you just wasted 2 plat.

4 – Silyonlanster’s Fine Gems and Jewels – Sold some gems that had no purpose I ever found, and would buy any gems you happened to have.

5 – Norlan’s Pet Shop – Bought nothing as far as I could tell, but would sell you a very expensive pet that would fight for you and which would be gone forever if it died… or if you logged off.  A lot of us bought one of these exactly once.

6 – The Armorer of Leuthilspar – Sold some very heavy bronze armor and would buy anything flagged as armor, which did not include leather armor from Kobold Village or the Cloak of Forest Shadows.

7 – The Leviathan Shipwright – Sold rafts and canoes for crossing water.  You just had to have one in your inventory (but not in a container) for them to work.  Would buy them back at a deep discount.

8 – The Green Griffon Pub – Sold alcoholic beverages.  Never bought anything I had to sell.

9 – Tilanthra’s Shop of Alchemy – Bought and sold potions.

10 – The Magic Shop of Leuthilspar – Sold a number of scrolls and wands, despite there already being a scroll shop.  Would only buy wands and the like.  This is where you would sell that Wand of Thunderous Rage that was in the garbage heap and which never worked for me over the last 15 years.

11 – Morlanthrtilan’s Fine Clothier – Had nothing for sale as I recall, but would buy that leather armor from Kobold Village that the armor shop turned its nose up at.

12 – The Blue Dragon Inn and Restaurant – Sold oddly specific and very expensive food at various times and would buy, for reasons I could never determine, arrows and quarrels.

13 – Qulazoral’s Barrels and More – Sold you a skin or a barrel of water after your first issued water skin evaporated after you emptied it (I think they finally fixed that) but before you finally got a flagon from Bandor.  Would buy liquid containers, if you ever found one.

There were some other vendors in town.  Each guild had a vendor that might give you a few more coins for specific items.  But in general, it was vendor row on main street that handled your needs.  You just needed to run around a lot until you figured out who bought what.  It helped that what vendors purchased ended up in their inventory for sale again, a feature I miss, and which was last seen in EverQuest as I recall.

And even then you would end up with a few items that no vendor would purchase, but which were not flagged “no value.”  There were a few items I would have to travel to Mithril Hall, way up in the north beyond Neverwinter, in order to vendor.  I think the dead rat was on that list.

Still, in some ways, the elves did not have it so bad.  The vendors gave decent prices and were all centrally located.  This was not necessarily the case in Waterdeep or Baldurs gate, and good luck selling things way down in Calimport.

And vendors in Leuthilspar never closed.  Elves don’t need sleep.  In other towns vendors would often close for some or all of the night cycle of a given day.  The time translation was one real world minute for one game hour, so you might end up sitting in a shop for 6 or 8 or 12 minutes waiting for the vendor to open up again.

And with all of that, you still ran the risk of selling something of value to other players… something you could sell or trade… to a vendor without knowing.  As I mentioned above, you needed a scroll of identify to see what an item did.  There were no stats on demand and equipment was not color coded by the now standard formula (gray, white, green, blue, purple) to indicate relative worth.  Of course, once you sold the item to a vendor, it cost you a lot more to buy it back.  It seemed that vendors were in the business of making money… or at least acting like they were there to make money as opposed to just being a place to dump your crap.

Today though, we can see it all.  Stats show up when we hover the cursor over and item, and it will even show what we have equipped in the relevant slot so we can instantly compare.  Items names are color coded, as noted above.  And not only will vendors buy just about anything you have (and sell it back to you at the same price if sold something by mistake) but we are at the point in games like Rift where there is a button that will automatically sell all of your “trash” grade loot to the vendor with a single press.

As I said at the top, I am not exactly hankering to go back to the way vendors used to be.  But it is interesting to see how much has changed, and one wonders if it was all for the better.

Draw Down of Production November 28, 2007

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online.
Tags: , ,
7 comments

I am closing down most of the first part of my production experiment.  I have managed to go in and prove that money can be made with some basic blueprints in EVE Online.  I ended up producing the following items:

Flameburst Missile
Production Cost Per Unit 6.33 ISK
Average Sale Price 8.84 ISK
Comment:  The first item I decided to produce.  Because I use a lot of these missiles, it made sense.  While I ended up with a net profit after all costs, including materials, I did face a lot of price pressure in some systems, so I did not exactly get rich making these missiles.

Sabertooth Missile
Production Cost Per Unit 10.91 ISK
Average Sale Price 17.89 ISK
Comment:  A slow seller, but there was also not much competition, so I made back my investment over the course of my run.

Widowmaker Missile
Production Cost Per Unit 29.10 ISK
Average Sale Price 31.01 ISK
Comment:  Chosen more for the fact that I couldn’t find any close by one night when I needed some heavy missiles.  Depending on what system I was selling in, I either faced a huge amount of price pressure or I was able to charge freely.  I did not make my money back on this blueprint directly, but that does not take into account the fact that I fired a good chunk of the missiles I made out of my own launchers.

Antimatter Charge S
Production Cost Per Unit 10.45 ISK
Average Sale Price 12.10 ISK
Comment:  I picked this up on the suggestion of Debes and it turned out to be a good deal.  I made my money back and, because I have gone all missiles with my Drake, I did not even fire off any of the inventory.  Money made back on my investment.

Iron Charge S
Production Cost Per Unit 8.02 ISK
Average Sale Price 5.17 ISK
Comment:  Simply the worst thing I produced.  I bought the blueprint way back in January when I was starting to think about production.  I found the blueprint when I was moving stuff to our corp HQ and decided to produce a run.  A full run of 150K charges.  I had the materials handy, but I should have checked the market first.  The price point is horrible.  And even priced way below costs I have only sold 1/3 of the lot.  Anybody want some iron charges, cheap?

Expanded Cargohold I
Production Cost Per Unit 959.92 ISK
Average Sale Price 4824.80 ISK
Comment:  The best item I chose to produce.  I don’t sell huge lots of these, like I do with missiles or hybrid charges, but they sell consistently and at a decent margin.  I will continue to produce these as time goes on.

But why would I stop producing any of these (except for the iron charges) you might ask.

I finally woke up to why the price competition was so fierce and why some people seemed to be selling below the cost of producing these items.

The thing with EVE is that it does have some of the same problems that other MMOs face.  One of those problems is often misunderstood mudflation.  The term implies that all prices rise as a MUD or MMO ages.  But, in reality, some items fall in price because they become too commonplace.  And one reason they become common because easy mobs drop them all the time.

And what do easy mobs… say NPC pirates… drop all the time in EVE Online?

Light missiles, small hybrid charges, and frigate modules.

So I found that I could buy things like Flameburst missiles, antimatter charges, and even Widowmaker missiles, for as much as 35-65% less than the cost of production. 

Why spend 29 ISK making a Widowmaker missile when you can put out a buy order and pick them up for 15 ISK?

So my economic empire has shifted priorities.  It will be arbitrage rather than production for most things now.  I have buy orders out now for my area to purchase millions of missiles and charges at prices well below my cost to produce, even with material effeciency research.  And the missiles and charges are coming in, so I have begun replenishing my sales channel with these lower cost items.

Still, some things are better to make.

Expanded Cargoholds, for example, do not drop very often and have buy orders all over for pretty close to the cost of production.  So I am better off making those, as they sell for a large mark-up and move at a steady rate.

So for my next round of production, I am looking for things that are in demand that do not drop, or do not drop very often, from NPCs.  Mining crystals might be something to look at.  And rigs, though the parts are hard to come by.  And then there is always blueprint copying and invention to look into.

The Black Hole of Vendor Trash November 15, 2007

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest, EverQuest II, MUDs, TorilMUD, World of Warcraft.
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5 comments

What happens to all of those things that you sell back to the vendor?

Where does it all go?

Yes, I know.  It is all virtual, entries in a database.  It doesn’t “go” anywhere, it just ceases to be.

Once upon a time, years back, vendor trash used to stick around.  It still does today, if you know where to look.

Back in the heyday of Diku MUDs, the vendors in my own favorite derivative, Toril, used to allow you to list out and buy all of the stuff that people sold to them.

This was a tradition carried forward into EverQuest, and one I miss.

There were always lots of interesting things for sale at a popular vendor.  Often very useful things.  I still always look at what the vendors have in stock when I go back to EQ.

Of course, with just a few low level characters in EQ these days, my tastes are pretty modest.

Still there are things of use, things of value, things for trade skills, and things that are just downright odd in those vendor inventories.

But perhaps this points to something else about EQ, that even vendor trash had some use.  There were spells that required those beetle eyes.  I could always sharpen those rusted weapons to work on my trade skills.  And I always operate under the theory that bad equipment in an slot is better than no equipment at all.

So I pick through the vendor trash in EQ and have a good time doing it.

But I end up wondering why I cannot buy the items other people sold to vendors in other games.

Would it kill the economies of these other worlds?  Would the market go flat in EverQuest II if I could purchase from the vendor in the trade skill instance all of the items people made just to level up their skills?  Or does the fact that people grind up trade skill levels just to sell most of the stuff to an NPC point out some more fundamental flaw in the economy?

And how about grey drops in World of Warcraft or the general crap drops in other games?  Why can’t anything be done with them?

Do these games need inventory filling items that are only there to be sold for minor amounts of cash and disappear?

I think I am going down the opposite road from the “I want to loot what the mob is shown wearing/wielding” crowd.

I don’t really want to loot anything that does not have some value in the game.  And I don’t just mean value to me at that very moment. Value to somebody besides an NPC vendor would be fine.  Just say “no” to vendor trash.

Of course, at the far end of the vendor trash spectrum is EVE Online.  I like the fact that there isn’t a convenient NPC vendor around every corner to buy the crap drops from some asteroid belt rat.

And not only that, but everything has some value.  Even if nobody wants to buy it on the market, you can always refine it down to some minerals.  The mineral market is quite active.

So, in a way, EVE Online is the ultimate anti-vendor trash game.  Almost nothing goes into the NPC vendor black hole.  Everything has some viability, in some fashion, in the vast economy of EVE.

But when you have a game that puts out a .pdf quarterly economic report with charts and graphs, I suppose that is to be expected.