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Journal: Economics of MMOs

Journal by way2slo

Time = Money is not the only reason. And it is not simple. And it is a design flaw, though not directly evident.

MMO economies are very dynamic, more so than real life. I've read a few papers, grad students I believe, on trying to analyze MMO economics. One of the papers said most MMOs have issues with rampant inflation because they do not have enough money sinks. IRL, we all spend most of our income on Shelter, Food, Clothing, and Transportation. These are all vast money sinks, mostly due to maintenance of items or its use it and it's worthless nature. (food you have already eaten or clothing you have worn out) Basically, IRL we destroy wealth every day we live. At the same time we create wealth every day we live by performing a job whether it be producing something physical or performing a service. The difference is inflation (a net increase of money supply) or deflation (a net decrease of money supply). In the MMOs, wealth creation is as easy as finding a chest or slaying a mob. But the money sinks are few and far in between. The result is massive inflation which is the less worth a stack of gold coins has for a player because things cost more on the AH. The game designers built in the inflation, though they did not know they were doing it.

Another issue is a shift in the Supply/Demand principles as a byproduct of the wax and wane of the MMO player base over its life. Early game life sees high demand and low supply, mid life sees high demand and high supply, and late life sees low demand and high supply. Economic changes made to fix issues in one phase tend to cause issues in the following. For example, in early life the players complain that things are too expensive and they are constantly broke and cannot afford the best gear at the AH they want to buy. The devs respond by increasing the gold drop from mobs and chests. This fixes the issue until the game's mid life arrives, along with the rampant inflation they introduced. Supply catching up with demand should have brought prices back down, but the inflation prevented that from happening.

Probably the biggest economical issue with MMOs is that they break their in game economy deliberately. They sacrifice economical stability for fun. Let the player hack through the game and easily accumulate vast sums of money and fantastic gear in a few months of casual gaming time because that is what fun means on this MMO. It is not necessarily a bad thing as long as they do not try and pretend to care. Perhaps Blizzard has come to realize that it does not care about D3's economy and decided to stop pretending.

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Journal: A few thoughs on US Politics...

Journal by way2slo
The PotUS does not write legislation. The Legislative Branch writes the laws that spend the money. It was a Republican controled Congress that reduced the deficit in the 90's by spending less, not the president. All the president can do is support or veto, but the veto can be overridden by a 2/3rd majority vote.

"Trickle Down" economics, where tax cuts free up money for business and people to spend, is far better for the economy than raising taxes. The government should not be redistributing the wealth of hard working americans, like all of us. :) We can spend our money better than the federal government. The federal government should not be Robin Hood.

Raising the minimum wage hurts small businesses and their employees. Here's a little example:
A 25 cent mimium wage hike can devistate the budget of a small business. One employee working 9-5 every day 6 days a week, that's $12 per employee per week. $624 per employee per year. 5 people, that's over $3,000 out of your profits. You now have that much less to grow your business. Odds are, your business was making the most it could already so making up that extra $3,000 is impossible. If your business is not doing well, you are forced to fire one of those minimum wage employees to keep yourself out of bankruptcy. Also, the employees that still have jobs have to pay taxes on that 25 cents so they are not even getting all of the benefit of making the extra quarter per hour.
End result is you put a strain on small businesses that may be forced to sacrifice some employees jobs to make the others insignifigantly better. That does not sound very compassionate to me.
If you want to help the minimum wage earner, do it by letting them keep more ofthe money they already earn via tax cuts across the board. That is far better for them, you, me, and the economy as a whole.

In a golbal economy, unskilled labor will be moved to where it costs less. Nothing can stop this. Companies do this to stay competitive. In some cases, they would be under-cut by their competitiors and possibly go bankrupt if they did not relocate. End result is the unskilled workers lose their jobs anyway. (see US steel industry) Putting industries on governmental life support to try and fight Supply and Demmand is a Lose-Lose situation. Horrible for the US economy for in the long run it forces us to pay more while not saving jobs anyway.
In the course of history, the value of certain tasks have changed. At one time, you could make a living by cutting blocks of ice out of a frozen lake and ship them to peoples homes. Times change and so do the ways you can earn a living. You have to adapt to the new ways and give up the old. The government should not artificially protect them.

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Journal: Information Security and Linux

Journal by way2slo
(In response to a debate about Solaris vs. Linux security)

There were two seperate kernels in development at Sun. One was the regular solaris most of us are use to and the other was something they called Trusted Solaris [sun.com]. I have had the....joy of working with it. According to their "master plan" they merged the two kernels in Solaris 10. So, you would have the features of Trusted Solaris (TSol) available, if you so desired.

TSol is one of the most secure OS's I've administered. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the kernel developers and the one quote I'd like to convey about what we talked about is "That which is not explicitly permitted is implicitly denied."

However, Linux can have this level of security also. If you go here [nsa.gov] you will see the webpage for Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux). Although, it is only a technology demonstration and may not be suitable for a real world environment.

These OS's are based on mandatory access control policies using roles. This is where the quote comes in to play. If you do not specifically give permission for an executable or a user to perform a specific action, that action will fail. There is no root user. Regular users have no rights themselves but are granted roles they can assume. These roles are given the rights and permissions to perform the tasks they have been asigned. You can create a "backup-admin" role so that it will have access to the tape drive and be able to read all files on the system, but not write anywhere but the tape drive and not be able to do anything else.

Now, I have not read if this part of the code will be "Open Sourced" and it was not discussed in the article. However, it has to be deeply embedded into the OS kernel for it to work so I must assume that it will be a part of it.

Mark my words: Mandatory Access Control, Labeled Security, and Role Based Access Control are the future of secure operating systems. If an operating system does not do these things it will not be considered for use in environments that have a high priority for information security (infosec). IMO, anything that connects to the Internet or a WAN or hosts sensitive data should have infosec as a high priority. If SELinux is not further developed, or a suitable replacement is created, then Linux will fall off the infosec curve.

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Journal: How to deal with Cheating and Griefer's in multiplayer games

Journal by way2slo
I believe that cheating is a symptom of a logical game design flaw. Solutions are either a better way to implement what they are exploiting, or a workaround in the game that makes it the cheat irrelevant to other players (somehow design it so that the other players don't mind that others are cheating).

The first is very hard because network games rely on sharing data and off-loading some of the work to the clients. Even if every computation was done on the server and your computer did a remote GUI login, you could still figure a way to exploit it. (perhaps by sniffing the video packets for something that looks like a player's head and then having it automatically send the proper mouse/keyboard commands to aim at it and shoot). Trying to prevent it is a never ending battle. A more elegant solution would be the latter.

Have a system built into the game where the players not care if the others are cheating. How? Well, why do players get mad at cheaters? Because they are so much better than they are and never have a chance to do well against them. The same can be said for very gifted non-cheaters. The problem is not the cheating, it's the lack of balance between the players skill level, artificially enhanced or not. Therefore the answer is to build in a balancing system into the game, often reffered to as ranking. Rank the players according to how well they do in the game, wheither it is acquired by cheating or not, and make the rank public. In a short time it will be obvious which players are in your rank range and which are not. Each game will be more enjoyable because each party within your rank has a good chance to be victorious. It will be a fun challenge, not excersise in futility.

Of course, how do you do it in an MMORPG where everyone is interacting with everyone else? Well, fortunately in this case "everyone" is a relative term and can be redefined. I have seen implementations that keep users of different levels in different areas. Newbie areas, secret passages that cannot be seen until you are a certian level, etc. Mostly, the level difference in RPG's are not that much of an irritation however abusive PK'ing and griefing are. A couple of ideas. First, keep the people that want to PK away from the non-PK'ers. How? Different sever or different world. You can do the same for griefers too. Send them to a "grief" version of the world and let them grief themselves to their hearts content. This grief world could even be on their own client machine. A private hades just for themselves. They may have to work at a few tasks before being allowed back to the public server. Anything is possible.

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Journal: Why it's ok to not love your job

Journal by way2slo
I'm afraid I have to disagree with most of the posts that I've read so far that talk about how you should pick a field to major in college. While it is nice to hear "choose the field because you love it", I believe that is a secondary reason one should choose a career field. The fact of the matter is this: You work to earn money so you can provide for you and your family. Therefore, you should pick a career field in which you believe you have the best potential to earn a living. Pick something that you have an aptitude for doing. This may be something you like, but it may not. In a perfect world, we would all get to do what we love. However, it isn't, so we don't.

Another point: How often do we change what we love? More often than you think. How many girlfriends have you had? How ofen do you love to hear a song, then eventually tire of it? How often do you change from one hobby to the next? How often do you get bored with your current job and want a new challenge? Love can be fickle. If you want to have something that will last and be fully satisfying, you better have more reasons for doing it than love alone.

Things you love are better off as hobbies than as work. I know people that went to work at Hershey Foods, Inc. and thought they found their dream job because they were major choco-haulics. However, they soon lost their love of chocolate because they were saturated with it every day. Now, chocolate makes them think of work. It is a rare thing indeed when we find something that we can love for the rest of our lives. That's why it's so special when you have found someone you can marry.

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Journal: Your job may depend upon this information

Journal by way2slo
Beleive it or not, I have seen too many good workers get fired, laid-off, down-sized, you name it all because they could not make their co-workers and supervisors believe they worked hard. I have been working in the corporate world for over 5 years and this I know: Illusion is more important than reality. You can work your tail off and do a good job, but if your superiors don't believe you are working hard then your career is over. You have to give the illusion that you are a hard worker, weither you are or not.

Example: A friend of mine had a job and he was a wiz. A guru. He could do anything they asked him to do. Yet he was down-sized. Why? Because he never gave the illusion that he was working hard at what he did. He did his work quickly. He finnished every task assigned to him, however he then went back to his desk and idled while waiting for the next assignment. The reality of the situation was that he worked hard and did as much, if not more than his collegues. But to his manager, all he saw of my friend was him sitting at his desk playing games on his computer. That's what his collegues saw too. When review time came around, naturally they all had bad impressions of him. He got a low rating. When it was time for lay-offs, his poor review made him one of the first on the list.

Another Example: A fried of mine, who worked with the friend in the first example, is not the sharpest pencil in the drawer. He's not very techincialy savy, but knows enough to get buy. He usually takes his time working on things and he is always bugging other people on how to do his assignments. He comes in late, around 10 am and is prone to take vacations during periods of mandatory overtime. So how come he gets a better review than my first friend? He milks his assignments, so he's always busy. He's alwasy bugging other people, so they think he has a ton of work. It takes him five times as long to do the same task as the first friend. This guy always has something to say at the meetings and always has something to tell his manager. End result is that his co-workers and manager all think he is really busy and working hard, when really, he takes his good old time doing things. I'm even skeptical about his hours, because he tells me that he gets in late and stays until the manager leaves, then he does to. Basically, his job is not to do work, but to make it look like his is doing work. He's pretty good at it too, cause he's been around for 10 years.

What should you learn from this? Perception is more important than reality. The facts do not matter. What does matter is how people interpret the facts, what point of view they have, and what conclusions they draw using the facts from their point of view. You want job security? Being an indespensible guru is nice, but if you can't be that then you have to put yourself in the position to be viewed as a valuable productive member of your organization from the view points of your collegues and managers. You can do this by communication. Make sure you talk to everyone on your team, weither it's about your assignment or theirs. Help others out with their stuff when you can. At the beginning of the day, have a question ready for your manager about your assignment and always have something to tell him that you are working. Always have a comment during status meetings, even if it is just a re-hash of stuff you have already said to others earlier in the week. The trick is, the more you talk about what you are doing, the more it looks like you are busy doing it from their point of view. Part of your job is making your peers believe you are doing a good job. This is not advice on how to slack, but how to keep your job weither you slack or not and someday it may save you from the unemployment line.

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Journal: My take on Saddam Hussien...

Journal by way2slo
I once read that diplomacy is the art of saying "nice doggie" and petting it on the head with one hand while using the other hand to reach for a club to wack it on the skull.

It's simplistic, but not far from the truth.

It was obvious back in the mid 90's that diplomacy with Saddam would not work. He views himself as a decendant of Nebuchadnezzar destined for power and glory. Saddam has billboards in Iraq that pretty much say exactly that. He's rebuilding ancient Babyloinan ruins and including his name on the stones. The guy wants to go down in history as a great and powerful leader. But you don't do that by letting the UN tell you what to do. You do it by conquring nations and defying your enemies. Diplomacy never had one chance with him.

Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899

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