Who is Markco Polo Redux?

This deja vu has been brought to you by a glitch in the Matrix.  Actually this post was moved because I was waiting for an affiliate link to go through. This post is still mainly about blogging.  Specifically it’s about how to be better at marketing blogs.  Also its about how to be better at buying and selling stuff in games online, but only kinda.  So if you don’t care about any of those things I’m giving you an out.  Find out ‘Who is Markco Polo?’ beneath the cut.

I first found Markco Polo while playing WoW.  I cannot clearly recall how long ago, but lets say 2005 ish.  The reason for finding his site was because I was interested in two things.  Personal finance and making gold in World of Warcraft.  While searching through the various websites purported to being gold guides, I stumbled ed inevitably the site that has become Just My Two Copper.

Markco’s sites have always been good a promotion.  They have always had the slick vainer of good marketing.  And that turned off a lot of people.  Started a couple flame wars even.  But underneath that has always been solid information.  His ideas are tested and make sense from a ‘financial accounting’ point of view.  In other words he creates well marketed products which contain real information.  DiabloIIIGoldGuide.net has continued in that tradition.

The udemy course came out of his blog/website The Traffic Blogger.  If you want to learn how to make more money from your blog, website, etc. I highly recommend taking his course.  Check out the website, join the forum (i used to be a moderator).  Once you check out the website you’ll see that his real name is Chris Antoni.  Markco Polo was his WOW character.

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Diablo III vs Torchlight

I have to admit, I have not played Diablo III 1.04  It just hasn’t interested me since realizing there are some fundamental breaches of verisimilitude.  Torchlight 2 is available for pre-order on Steam and to my surprise it came with a free copy of Torchlight.  Oh, good!  I had lost my copy a while ago, and needed to buy it again.

Wow, what a different feel between the two games!  The pacing is very different between Torchlight and Diablo III.  There are three paces that jump out immediately.  The pace the character moves across the terrain, the pace of attacking and the pace of the weapons drop.  Or looked at another way the pace of movement and the pace of reward.

In Torchlight you run much much slower.  It feels like it takes much longer to move anywhere.  Attacking feels like it takes forever.  It is a big deal if your attack misses, because the monster is on you before you can attack again.  The pace of enemy movement feels very similar between Torchlight and D3, btw.  When you uncover terrain slowly, exploring feels more important.  Going back over old terrain (which you do very little of) is tangibly painful.

Countering the slow pace of movement, pace of rewards such as rare, unique, and set items is much much faster.  These items have relatively low level requirements.  You can use them when you find them or after a level up or two.  They aren’t immensely powerful, but they are powerful enough they retain effectiveness over many levels.  Which is great considering there is no auction house to buy items with.

The slower movement pace of Torchlight is not as detrimental as you might first think.  Gaining levels and powers, particularly speed boosts, and attack speed increases, feels like real benefits.  It really means something when your character goes from Slowest Attack Speed to Slow Attack Speed.  This feels like more of an improvement over time.

Erik Asmussen made a game which dives into the way the pleasure center of the human mind lights up when you get a reward playing a game.  As a psychology student turned game designer he has a great insight into the reward structure of games.  Which he mentions in a funny and informative Boston Indies presentation.  You can feel the effects of rewards on the pleasure center of the brain in Erik’s ‘reductio ad absurdum’ game Shape Shatter.

Torchlight is paced much better then Diablo III and is a more entertaining game because of it.  Slow movement and attack speeds provide tangible rewards over time.  Fast weapon drops and great loot hits the pleasure centers of the brain in the short term.

Torchlight 2 could do very well in sales later this month.  It should be a great game, and the wait is getting exciting.  Assuming they keep a similar pacing structure as the previous game, players should flock to Torchlight 2 as a break from some of Diablo III’s fundamental issues.  Hopefully Runic hasn’t fallen into the Diablo III trap and sped things up as part of an ‘arms race’ attempt to keep gamers with short attention spans interested.  I think Torchlight 2 might end up being the better game assuming they get the pacing right.

Verisimilitude in Diablo III

Last night The New England Institute of Art held it’s SIGGRAPH event.  After the event the presenters visitors and students (of age) went for a beer nearby.  While there we talked about Diablo III as quite a few people around the table are playing (when not designing their own games).  The topic of Verisimilitude in Diablo 3’s Auction house came up, and in retrospect I think the problems with D3 can really be summed up nicely as ‘violations of verisimilitude’.  Let me explain why…

So what is Verisimilitude and why is it important?

For our purposes verisimilitude is ‘The quality of seeming to be true.’

It is the opposite of jumping the shark.  We toss ‘realism’ right out the window when we want to include spells, magic, dragons, etc.  So we need a description of the quality of fitting in.  The wholeness of the game we’re creating.  The television show True Blood, for example, has quite a bit of verisimilitude.  Right until the bit about the fae, after that things kinda get funky.  But it makes a great before/after point which helps elaborate on the point.  World of Warcraft is a great game example as everything seems to fit, even though the setting is ‘cartoony’.  But Diablo 3 is starting to break Sanctuary’s fourth wall.

The Auction House:

In Diablo 3 players don’t access the auction house from the game world.  The auction house is not happening in the game world.  Sanctuary does not seem to have auctions of any kind.  Instead auctions are taking place outside of the game world.   Additionally at least 1/2 of the auctions take place on the RMAH (Normal and Hardcore).  RMAH auctions are denominated in U.S. dollars completely shattering the feeling that you’re even interacting with the game world.

World of Warcraft on the other hand has an auction house ‘in the game’.  And by ‘in the game’ I mean it’s a building, that your character can walk to.  Inside that building you talk to a person who auctions you goods, much like any other dialog screen with the rest of the worlds inhabitants.  This feels like it fits.

This may seem subtle and nit picky, but I think it’s a really important point about creating believable game worlds.  Creating a game experience which does not violate it’s own rules seems like a really basic key to building something players will enjoy.  Am I alone in this?  Or do other people feel this is an essential point to game design?

There is plenty of sympathy for Blizzard Entertainment as they had to include an auction house in Diablo III, and had to include the RMAH.  There was simply no way to avoid including those functions.  The black market which would have developed, had Blizzard not included those features, would have lead to sophisticated account hacking would have made D2 and WOW gold hackers to shame.  Not including those features would have been irresponsible.  But they implemented an out of game fix in response to an out of game issue.  They could have done better.

The Items:
The game drops unlimited random items as a ‘game mechanic’ to keep the player happy.  However it doesn’t seem to fit the game world.  There is no explanation, nor connection between the game Lore and the endless tide of blue and yellow items dropped by the game.  Within the context of the world of Sanctuary, how were those items created?  Where did they come from?  Why didn’t the monster attacking me use those items?  Why cant I give them to the guards and make an army?

Player base:
New Tristram is a pretty small place.  Not many surviving guards, not many surviving towns folk.  Yet millions of players have passed through millions of replications of that town.  Much of D3’s architecture is build on MMO technology, yet we’re all essentially playing a single player game.  This also causes some subconscious cognitive dissonance.  At least I think about this every time I enter a new difficulty level… Maybe it’s just me.  The auction house was made to serve an entire geographic region, usually one demarcated by a single currency.  So it’s a game we manly play either alone or with small groups of friends, but we each have access to millions of auctions.

Granted this is not a point about verisimilitude so much as a point about a subconscious incongruity which many players pick up on some level.  It was also the main point made at SIGGRAPH.  WoW has many smaller economies, which might make it seem to players as though they have less access to an infinite supply of goods.  Small, more regional markets might make for a more positive feeling.  It would also make more opportunities for arbitrage…  But that’s nether here nor there.

Auctions in a Closed Economy
Pointing out the flaws of a system is pointless unless we take something away.  This is only a worthwhile exercise if we can learn something from it.  So what would these systems look like in a game world sticking to verisimilitude?  I feel like this post has gone on long enough.  So I’m going to save corrections for a future post.  Provide some insight if you want.

Diablo 3 Commodity App

What am I working on?

My last post was about the VERY few apps in iTunes specifically for the Diablo III Auction House.  By the way, if I missed an important one, post a comment and link to it.  I’ll take a look at it and add it to the list.  There seems to be a great many apps for the perfect build, dps, lore…  But what about tracking all that Auction House Data?

There’s nothing.

It occurred to me that I know iOS developers…  I know how to document a project and set up a wirefame/pretotype…  And I know exactly what information I want to track and how I want to track it.  I am sick of alt tabbing out to an excel spreadsheet.  I want it in my hand.  I want it on my phone!

So I am building an app.  It’s an extremely simple first version/prototype at the moment.  The goal is to make an app that you just cannot live without.  An app that makes you say “Excel sucks for my Diablo 3 Data! Give me something better!”

Talks have started with a iOS game development company to do the coding.  By the end of the week the Design Document and Wireframes are going to be finished and sent to the developer.  Actually they can see it live via Google Drive, which is an awesome tool for get a team on the same page. At that point we’ll know more about a time frame for coding it.

The iPhone prototype app is going to allow you to record the normal gold value, the hardcore gold value, and the US Dollar value  for each commodity you care about on the Auction House.  At least Exquisite Essence, Iridescent Tear, Fiery Brimstone, each of the pages, and each of the Tomes.  There are no plans to include commodity items!  I am specifically avoiding valuation of weapons, armor, etc.  Although unidentified items are possible (cause they don’t have tons of crazy stats yet!).

If we finish the app, and there is demand, we’re considering creating more apps or alternate versions.  Also plans to make it more robust by including Gem Market Trackers, Unidentified Market Trackers and perhaps Dye’s (if there’s really a market to make there.  Is there?).  There is even a phase 3 to the plan, which may include aggregation economic data, submitted by you, scrubbed for market manipulation, and then presented on a website.

What Diablo III Market information would like to track in a database?  What HAS to be in there?  What HAS to be left out?  What causes you pain when dealing with the D3 Auction house?  What do you hate about it?

4 useful Diablo III Apps

Although Blizzard tried for simplicity there is still a lot of complexity in Diablo 3.  Layered simplicity can still be overwhelming.  Add to that ‘the invisible hand of the market’, and you have a recipe for confusion.  App Developers can offer little ways to cut down on the confusion.  Although few have stepped up to the plate and made an app.

At the moment there are 4 apps (only 4) specifically related to the Diablo III Auction House up on the iTunes App store.  Before you plunk down your $.99 (no doubt earned from the RMAH), you want to know what they do and if they are any good. Here is a review of each.

Profit Goblin
Price: Free
What does it do?
Profit Goblin helps you do math. It’s basically a calculator used to convert the cost you place something on the RMAH, and the amount you actually would receive for that item.  This is kinda handy.

Pros: It’s free.  The interface is simple and easy.  Not cluttered, nor hard to use.

Cons: The app is a one trick pony.  It does one calculation.

There are so many other calculations that would be good to see in app format.  For example reverse engineering gem conversion prices.  Or buyout limit calculations.

Bottom Line: Can’t be the price.  Might as well get the app, as this is a calculation frequently done on my phone, so as not to minimize D3.  This seems like the best of a bunch of bad apps.

D3 DPS Tool
Price: $9.99
What does it do?
This app analyses auction purchases through the lens of DPS.  If you make a change to gear in any slot, this app will tell you whether it will increase or decrease the DPS.  Given the price I could not actually download the app and find out if it works, how it works, and whether or not it’s worth getting.

Pros: Have a really good understanding of your DPS.

Cons: Too expensive.  The app developer should really look into increasing their sales, by lowering their price.  There happens to be a D3dps.com, which is rather confusing, as it has a free DPS Calculator.  The two are not related, although they seem to do the same function.  Free vs $9.99…  I’ll leave that decision up to you.

Bottom Line: SKIP IT!  Too expensive for too little benefit.

Auction Assistant for Diablo 3
Price: $.99
What does it do?
This is an alarm.  You set an alarm on your phone to remind you when an auction is going to end in D3.

Pros: Um…  I’m sure this app actually works.

Cons: You can already set alarms with your iOS device.  I have never felt the need to alert myself for the ending of an auction.  Then again there are not that many auctions which are that important to me as I tend to buy and sell commodities.

Bottom Line: Skip it.  Unless you really feel angst about the end of your auctions.

Gold Farm Tracker for Diablo III
Price: $.99
What does it do?
Basically a stopwatch for gold farming runs.  You can input starting gold, then time how long your run was, and ending gold.  The app will then tally your gold per hour.  It will also store this information for future access.  Which means you can figure out if you’re improving over time.

Pros:  Actually tracks useful information.  Even though I am not a gold farmer at heart, I’m considering getting this app to help track and improve my meager ability to farm gold.

Cons: Some users mention an issue when the phone locks.  So disable your lock when using the Tracker.  If you don’t care about your gold per hour, don’t bother.

Bottom Line: This app is worth the money paid.  It offers a useful piece of information, and delivers well.  If you want to track that stat, then get this app.

Right now there are few good apps that can help you with making money in the Diablo 3 Auction House.  If there are any developers, or coders looking to become developers, this might be a good place to cut your teeth.  There is plenty of room for improvement as D3 is a pretty complex game and there could be a market for creating utilities to help clarify things.  Check out what I’m up to on that front and get back to me with feedback!

Diablo 3: RMAH. Are there Buyers?

Personal stuff

Diablo 3 RMAH fact and speculation after the jump!

Having passed series 6 and series 63 the Commonwealth of Massachusetts says that I can sell people investments in mutual funds.  However, over the past 6 months I’ve learned that working on comission is not for me.  So I’m looking to work for New York Life Investment Management in Customer Service.  Fortunately that job requires series 6 and series 63 licensing.  My future and the future of this blog is unknown.  At this point it’s a waiting game until NYLIM goes through the interview process.  Until then I have a few clients that need some financial goods and services to tide me over.

From a game design point of view, a small Ma game development company likes one of my game concepts, and wants to work on it.  This is a loose deal, but means actually making a real game prototype with someone who knows what they’re doing.  I expect no profit from this, but look forward to starting a real game and giving it a go.  (Well another go).

So in the past year I’ve started two businesses, and two businesses have failed.  This is encouraging.  At this rate I’ll be a successful entrepreneur in 2 years (or 4 more failed businesses, which ever one comes first)!  What better way to celebrate then with some speculating in Digital Goods!  Maybe D3 can be business #3.  That brings me to Diablo III!

Diablo 3

The real money auction house went live yesterday, and I jumped right in.  Having been fortunate enough to find a legendary item, Devil Tongue, there was something worthwhile to sell.

Here is my particular version of the Legendary.

Here is a shot of the auction house itself (click on the image to open a larger version if you cant read it):

Mine is the highest DPS Devil Tongue in the auction house (116.8 DPS $60 min $75 Buyout)!  Which is rather lucky.  You can see that others have lower DPS but have buyout prices as high as $200 (they were there first).  It was tempting to price it as such.  That would be a nice payout, but my pricing strategy was to severely undercut those prices, to make my auction more liquid than the others.  On the first day a lot of people are asking for a lot of money…  But it hasn’t sold yet.  So we have no confirmation that people are willing to pay that much money.  We don’t yet know what the market is willing to bear.
Secondly I paid $60 for the game.  My realistic goal is to pay for the purchase of the game.  So I am happy with anything over $60.  Besides I have a second legendary item ready if this one sells!  So no reason to be greedy.  I plan on putting every legendary found up on the RMAH, and everything else on the gold AH.  So far searching the Gold AH for more items to sell has not yielded any results, but at the end of Day 1, it’s too soon to really tell.
Speculation
/r/diablo has comments stating they are willing to pay real money now for good gear.  It would be great to see some proof of this.  However, that list hasn’t really moved much.  There has not been a lot of churn…  Which most likely means a flat market (few buyers).  If this is the case, items may need to be re-posted for a while until buyers get the cash together to step up.
The Diablo RMAH or Gold AH will in the end function like the WOW economy, while resources are scarce (before people play for 12 months) goods will fetch the highest prices.  Ultimately the value of digital goods is a function of the number of people mining and the number of people willing to buy.  Right now $200 bucks for a level 42 sword is most likely not in the realm of possibility for the average player.
It would be super hard for the Diablo 3 player base to increase over time.  It would be even harder to convince the player base to pay more for digital goods.  Therefore now is the best time to be asking high prices for things.  There will never be a better time then today (the day after it opens) on the D3 AH (of any kind).  The WOW AH taught us that digital goods always get cheaper over time, until there is a change in value based on game updates.  In this respect game updates are like earnings expectations in the real world.  You have to pay attention to them.  Even though they are dense, and technical and hard to figure out how they change things.
There may be other factors as well.  For example, people may not have saved enough money yet to want to buy stuff in game.  They may be trying to sell smaller items and save up to buy larger ones.  Maybe the market needs to grow a little before buyers step up?

Feedback

So what do you think of my strategy?  Was it foolish to ask for so little?  Was it foolish to ask for so much? (It was. Click the link for day 2 of my RMAH experiment)  Should I get my series 7 and then reevaluate these as speculative stocks?