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Archive for July, 2008

In The Night

July 23, 2008 1 comment

Cleaning up, recently, I came across the following very short story. It’s the only style of fiction I’ve ever found interesting to author: writing an entire story on the front of a single sheet of paper. Very little description, and the details of the story are left up to the reader. At least, that’s the idea. Every time I think I’ve got it right, it seems to be a little too post-modern and pretentious. Whatever.

Flipping his hat on top of an empty pop bottle, he sat down at the typewriter. Maybe this would make more sense on paper. His press pass glared at him accusingly. He slapped it away so the other side faced him, as blank as his conscience.

“They,” he typed. What did that even mean? Who was they? A week ago, he had some idea, but now? Was it still Hibbert, or did he have help?

He let the first word stand and then added, “were here first. I only first discovered their existence about a month ago, doing a day’s research for a two-sentence brief about a suicide on the East side of town.”

He stopped clicking at the typewriter momentarily when a mighty gust of wind blew open the window, splashing cold evening air over his unshaven face, and extinguishing the electric desk lamp sitting beside him. In the pitch darkness, he had the presence of mind to hit the carriage return and type out the deliciously melodramatic, “They are coming.”

Groping for his hat, he stumbled away from the window. He felt the sweeping burning up his back as he realized that he’d backed onto a knife. Its owner pulled the blade out and put it to his neck.

She sounded pretty. “Are you familiar with the practice of human sacrifice?”

“Do you mean the practice of spilling a man’s blood over pagan symbols to disguise murder as ritual suicide?”

She paused. “Well, well. At least I know I have the right man. And you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing why you had to die.”

“Yeah, like it matters.”

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Phil is convinced that EVE Online macroeconomics are a new mini-game

This is a spiritual parody of the classic Daily Victim series, “GameSpy’s daily tribute to the millions of fine people who populate Internet culture.”

You can’t really blame him: he’s still recovering from his years spent in World of Warcraft. But this really all got started with WoW. See, WoW has auction houses, where you can buy and sell various magic items, trade goods, whatever. It’s classic laissez-faire economics, with supply and demand making the price.

That, of course, means that the price can differ from day to day. Little fluctuations, like 5% more Iron Ore for sale one day. Or maybe some dude decides to hang up his spurs, and sells off his entire bank worth of Adamantite Bars: big supply jump, price bottoms out. Scoop it up and sell it a week or two later, and you’ve made money for nothin’.

Of course, Phil was totally in to that. He got those addons that tracked average prices and put up red flags when stuff was selling below market value. But, he started taking it too far: futures markets.

Blizzard announces a patch coming down the pike for a new crafting pattern? That means that the demand for the components are gonna go way up ‘cus everyone wants one. So he stocks up and waits. When the demand his, he sells off all his stock and makes a killing. But he never used the cash for anything. He didn’t even realize the untold fortune he was sitting on. About a year or so after he started, he crashed the servers when he caused an overflow from having too much gold.

So he gave up, and went back to Counter-Strike for a while. Sure, it’s got “money” involved, in that you get cash for killing people that you use to buy guns. But there’s no trading, no strategy, no market.

But now he’s found EVE Online. This game is basically capitalism online, where just about everything is centered around getting more money to put into the virtual economy, buying player-made goods from players who log on every day to manufacture fictional stuff.

But I don’t think he really “got it” until they started releasing quarterly financial reports. These days, it’s not about getting a new ship or completing missions for rewards for him. No, he plays so he can gather data. While the rest of us value in-game skills like “Gunnery III”, his mind is solely focused on charts.

Some days, he logs on and just sits in a station, looking at the market prices for Tritanium and Minmatar Cruisers and so forth, just jotting down notes like there’s gonna be a test. I don’t think he’s even got a real ship: he just flies around the galaxy in his little shuttle, checking out various prices in various regions, all the while tabulating and correlating.

My guess? He’s angling for a job as the assistant to the Official EVE Economist.

He’ll just ramble on for ten minutes, about money supply deflation and a lack of inflation and then get this look on his face and say “Isn’t that interesting?” like I’m supposed to know what he means. I’ve tried giving him a taste of his own medicine by talking about the strengths and weaknesses of missiles versus rockets and heavy missles versus cruise missiles, but he’ll always get this glazed look on his face halfway through and start looking around for something. In 30 seconds, he’ll have found a chart showing this “really neato” trend of Torpedoes versus Heavy Missiles that (“even though they’re supposed to be balanced with each other”) shows that Missiles get used much more.

How fascinating.

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Not exactly “Intellectual Property”, am I right?

This is a spiritual parody of the classic Daily Victim series, “GameSpy’s daily tribute to the millions of fine people who populate Internet culture.”

These days, World of Warcraft is big business. I hear that someone crunched the numbers, and the Azerothian Gold Piece is a stronger currency than Japanese Yen or some shit. I don’t know, ‘cus I’ve never been to Japan, and I never plan to. I mean, maybe when they get fast and cheap Gryphon service to get there, I’ll get over to my nearest real life flight master and hop over. I mean, people complain about how long it takes to fly the length of Kalimdor, but it’s really like an entire continent in, what, ten minutes?

As my boss always says, “That’s progress, my friends.”

Of course, that was his pitch for this new business he’s roped me into. “See”, he says to me, “Bob,”, that’s me, “Grade A hucksters have been raking in the dough on fiscal idiots for years with rent-to-own schemes, on trivial bullshit. You ever seen someone make a down payment on a toaster oven? ‘Course not. Well, I have. The desperation is palpable. Almost as palpable as the cold hard cash they fork over for it.”

But, he figures, the real world business on renting to own is pretty much locked down by corporate giants, so it’s time to expand the business: to a whole new World. I think you know where this is going. Renting-to-own WoW characters and items.

Where other sites get the face value of a level 70 Affliction Lock in Tier 5 for the actual value of the character, we can get 20%-40% more, in interest alone. You see, the business actually got started in the early days of WoW, when the boss used to run a casino in a corner of the Ironforge War district. It was kinda like those Three-Card Monte schemes you see on the streets sometimes. And you can guess which guy I got to be: the one with all the macros pretending to win it big to pull in the suckers. O’course, I also had to keep an eye peeled for GMs, so that if we got spotted, he could teleport with the cash to Darnassus before they got wise. After about 20 banned accounts, and the prohibition of the casinos, the boss decided to angle for some bigger fish.

And I still get the hard job. See, just like any arrangement with giving deadbeats stuff on credit, there’s always someone what has to collect the goods when the contract gets tossed out like vendor trash. I did some looking, but I’m pretty sure I’m running the premier digital Repo Depot.

There’s usually two stages to a repossession: the fun part and the suicide-provoking part. See, the easiest way to persuade these idiots is usually with force: it works for the mob, it works for the NSA, and it works for us. Just grab one of the characters that we have up for sale on the same server as the deadbeat to be collected from, but on the other side of the decades-old in-game blood feud, and hunt the cheater down. It’s usually half an hour or so of kicking him around the map, until he gives up and logs off. That’s when it becomes kind of like those stakeouts from cop movies: just sitting there, waiting for him to log back in and keep playing. Within 48 hours or so of this, I’ve usually got the character or item or whatever back, and he’s so mentally beaten down that he’ll never steal even so much as the next free Nine Inch Nails record.

But every once in a while, you get a tough one: he never leaves town, he never logs on, whatever. Basically, he steals the boss’s stuff and then don’t even use it. This is where I have to start the part of the job that makes me want to take up parachute-less skydiving. See, now I’ve got to try and social engineer Blizzard Customer Service to get the stuff back.

And, let’s be clear here: these guys are slothful to aid legitimate saps who’ve been hacked because they got a keylogger from viewing porn on a copy of Windows 98 running Internet Explorer 5 and then immediately booted up WoW. So trying to weasel your way around and trick them into doing what you want, instead of just telling the truth is kind of like lassoing a zebra. While riding another zebra.

Well, now that’s a new career opportunity that hadn’t occurred to me before…

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XGokuPimpNinjaX is taking Combat Arms too far

This is a spiritual parody of the classic Daily Victim series, “GameSpy’s daily tribute to the millions of fine people who populate Internet culture.”

This is just too much. When does it become slavery? If I pay my workers in skittles or “fairy points”, does it count as “adequate compensation”? Because if this PimpNinja fellow is gainfully employed for denomiations of fictional exchange, the sky must be the limit.

See, in Nexon’s new free-to-play First Person Shooter “Combat Arms”, you accumulate points by playing games and not sucking (although I think there is a charity system where you get points anyways, even if all you do is pull the pin on grenades and watch the pretty lights from a meter away). And you use the points to acquire new guns and so forth, to give you new ways of acquiring more points. It’s like capitalism, but founded on a thirst for blood.

But do you flat-out buy the new guns? No. You rent them, in one, seven, thirty, and ninety day increments. Never mind the fact that, as a true gamer, this makes me feel somehow dirty, that if I put down the game, not only will my skills atrophy, but all of my in-game winnings will be taken back to the showroom by Bob from Reliable Repossessions, Inc.

And it’s also got a clan system so that you get super-benefits for playing with clan members. Of course, in keeping with the games homicidal underpinnings (and overpinnings, for that matter), the more you kill and maim — alongside your clan mates — the better your clan standing.

So, I suppose it’s the logical combination that someone would begin to rent themselves out, as though a they were a spawning, chatting, headshotting weapon that comes with its own operator. This is where XGokuPimpNinjaX comes in. For a modest fee of in-game thronegeld, he will play gun for hire on your side, as long as you keep feeding his massive budgetary requirements. After all, he keeps every weapon rented and available at all times.

It’s like having the entire stock of the local Blockbuster constantly checked out as “your DVD library”. Except, of course, when Blockbuster comes calling for payment, you don’t take your FN SCAR and head for the nearest belltower to earn your keep.

The theories are already swirling, though: some unbelievers think he’s simply myth. Those who’ve been headshotted with a hand grenade by this force of nature know better. I met one player (SgtBuzzK1LL) who insisted that he’s really a group of Nexon employees, acting as a money sink: the more available money, the more people are willing to pay for his services, the more this guy takes out of the economy, his argument goes.

I think he’s been reading too many quarterly earning reports.

One things is for sure, though: no matter where this man dials in from, he is at his core American. The game is barely out of beta, and he’s already eking out a living on it. That level of entrepreneurship hasn’t been seen since Mary Phelps Jacob invented the Brassiere and then convinced half the world that they needed them.

My helmet is off to you, sir.

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