Is the Homogenized Economy a Design Mistake?

I feel like FB has been stripping away things lately that gave me strategic interest in the game, all seemingly in the holy name of There Shalt Not Be Any Way to Exceed the Target EPA Baselines.

The Spider-Pope grind was a great case in point. This was a high-payoff, but limited, strategic grind that for me involved: 1. grinding deer in the Moonlit Woods of Balmoral for fiacre bones, 2. off to Port Cecil for grinding of segmented bones (and Scintillack), 3. grinding oils of companionship which took me to Station VIII and London, 4. then off on expeditions at Station VIII to grind Prismatic Frames to take advantage of scintillack, then 5. to the Bone Market on infrequent Spider fashion weeks to cash it all out. For me, this was an occasional grind I did for variation (incentivized by high profit) and it made the market worth keeping track of, but it took a long time — I maybe cashed out 2 or 3 spider weeks over a year or two, plus prismatic mamoths occasionally, it isn’t like every spider week is a sudden echo free-for-all or something.

Now: I don’t bother tracking the Bone Market anymore (whatever is in fashion gives me another item or two in profit, woohoo), I no longer go to Balmoral woods, I no longer grind Scintillack because I don’t need segments, I don’t use Station VIII anymore, etc. Five locations in the game, stripped of utility, blandified in the name of EPA normalization.

Next the Rat Market, which I only cared about for diamonds to generate efficient scrip, though I understand the appeal for others to cash out echoes there. That had me sailing to the Court for whispers, using favours (four of them anyway) and hanging out in the Labyrinth of Tigers, and going to Khanate for some conversions. All for one or two times a year if lucky to cash out the strategic plan of the grind. And even then, it was quite limited to what I could do: I could maybe get through 200 whispers in the event and buy however many diamonds, it again wasn’t some sort of echo free-for-all, just an exciting event a couple of times a year, fates willing.

Now it seems: done with Tribute grinding, no more trips to the Court, and now completely done with favours, because who cares about another extra echo or two in the Authorized Upriver EPA Economy to trade them? I’ve probably got like a million echoes, who cares? Uninteresting. And yeah, I get that why would I want to do spider popes if I already had a million echoes? Because I felt like it was doing something rare and unusual (and I could get scrip or amber or whatever efficiently), making a killing. It just felt kind of strategic and clever, mapping out how to get these various location grinds to interact and interplay over time (or rather, players more clever than me figuring it out and giving me lucrative options), getting some spiders lined up, getting some tribute set up, etc.

Surely there are design alternatives! Why not keep diamonds at the rat market, but gate them by some quality that you can only acquire end-game, like Master Trader or Person of Cosmic Eminence or something? It saddens me so much to see all of these interesting places (Venderbright, Khanate, Godfall, Parabola, etc., dozens of carousels and locations) that have been economically flattened to nothingness, such that there is no reason once the stories have been read to ever go back to them (Balmoral now, Station VIII now, Court and Rat Market now). Why not gate (Master Trader again maybe?) each location with an option where some rare commodity at each place could be acquired that participates in some occasional strategic high-payoff activity (in scrip, echoes, khaganian coinage, stuivers, etc.) at some market or with some person, like spider popes or diamonds? It’d give mid-game players something to look forward to (“one day I’ll be back here as a master trader and will make a killing!”) and is enough of a financial incentive for even late-gamers to buy in.

About the only reason I play these days (apart from the obvious joy of extra new content and text, of course – I mean just day to day playing) is the fan-made objective (supported cleverly by FB with the 777 qualities) of Vanity Grinding, which takes me to interesting different places off and on to grind qualities up. It is the only thing nowadays that gets me out and about on the Unterzee or to Parabola or Balmoral or whatever with these other avenues of profit drying up. Seems a pity anytime an interesting location and activity loop pops up because it is financially beneficial that it gets crushed down again. It is as if FB is saying ultimately that they just want me to sit in London (or Upper River) and flip cards, because the EPA will be completely identical to any other activity anywhere else. Maybe not a design mistake, but it sure feels like a missed design opportunity to me.

8 Likes

As far as I can tell, their design objective is the other way around. They want to support variety - to get people doing different things over time.

If you ask “what’s the highest EPA thing I should do”, that should be constantly varying. When there’s new content it should probably be in the new content, it should vary based on the rat market and the bone market week, etc.

As far as I can tell, that’s their issue with having One Single Best Grind. The rat market with its shifting goals each week was supposed to reward doing different things each week, but it didn’t - it rewarded doing the same thing all the time, just waiting for specific weeks to cash out (and as a side effect, made it so that all grinds that don’t cash out through something rat market could buy are subpar). Same thing with mammoth ranching and spider-pope and whatnot - if there’s a Single Activity that’s far better than anything else, then that means optimal play is ignore everything else and keep doing that same one thing all the time.

As far as I can tell, your design goals and theirs align - try to make sure lots of different places and grinds are viable.

6 Likes

Good point, in principle (and thanks for the reflection). The problem maybe is that for me as a late-game player the financial incentives have to be pretty significant or interesting to bother with a grind. The spider/mammoth sequence was great insofar as (1) it had a significant enough financial incentive for even me (who has like 500k echo lying around in misc. goods) to feel like it was worth the effort, and (2) is was complicated enough to make a bit of a puzzle in terms of how to schedule visits to Port Cecil, the Upper River locations, the Bone Market, and so forth. So it was kindasorta fun, and profitable to boot.

Adding into that was favour conversions into tribute, and figuring when to slot runs to the Court to cash that out when max tribute was hit, and then keep an eye on the market for diamonds and do a frenetic run on that. All kinda complicated and interesting to slot together. I’m all over the place, keeping an eye out on a couple of different random factors, puzzling out how to get it all to work together.

Rat Market as I see it envisioned (and I’m probably way off on what it will look like) seems like it will be something like: go to some location this week that has this item, grind it, then come back and cash it out at the RM. Pretty flat, probably not super incentivized financially. I don’t see the incentive for me. Diamonds as a script generator was great and complicated, the Pope grinds as a generic goods generator (including script) were complicated and interesting. It just feels like every time the community comes up with a clever (and inevitably complicated) grind that is above The Accepted Value, bam! no more, just do your flat card-flipping for equivalent EPA.

Why not let diamond or spider grinding exist for late game players, gated behind some late-game only quality? 500k echo or 500m echo, what is the difference, really, at late game stage, the controlled economy is already broken.

That said, maybe I’ll develop a fun round of goods harvesting across locations to cash out periodically at the RM. Totally possible, but the incentives to do weird stuff like Vanity Grinding will far outweigh any such pull unless it is really profitable, or interesting. Juggling numerous vanity grinds in efficient ways is a puzzle enough to at least have interest to it. I suppose I should trust FB in this sense, they usually come through, and it is probably just the usual resistance to change and loss on my part. (And maybe I’m still annoyed at getting stuck with 250 fiacre bones that had an anticipated use!)

I do still find myself wishing we had Trade Routes or something that incentivized visiting almost all locations gated by some sort of Master Trader (late-game only) quality that enabled diamonds and trading at significant, EPA-balancing-be-damned levels if you are willing to juggle complexity and effort. EPA balancing just seems to regress everything to bland samishness.

4 Likes

One thing I agree with you on is that I wish that overzee locations were more viable. As it is, I only ever really find myself stopping at the Khanate to pick up my Emetics if there’s some story that requires me to be out on the Zee like a Lifeberg. Maybe some way to use the Research Expedition islands for late game things? I know that Bullbone was upgraded to give… bull bones a while ago, but what about the other two?

5 Likes

I’m almost exclusively out to zee these days, but only because I’m grinding piracy vanity (and diamonds from treasure for scrip), and yeah, I don’t actually stop anywhere except occasionally at the treasure map locations if sailing by (that worked at least to incentivize me to stop a few different places!) or the Khanate to pick up emetics. I remember when Vanderbright was released thinking that would be an exciting place to see occasionally, but uh, nope, just more carefully-controlled EPA items that are indistinguishable from every other location’s items.

But I’d extend the desire for locations to be viable beyond just the zee – there are locations and carousels aplenty in Parabola, in London like the finishing school, all over the place, but they are all kind of do-once-and-forget type affairs due to their functional equivalence with every other place.

2 Likes

Interesting. Yeah, I can see their dilemma.

If they balance everything out (roughly), then there’s no incentive to do anything in particular, so might as well just do one thing.

If there is a single best thing, then might as well do that one thing and ignore anything else.

Certainly not going to claim to know how the right way to resolve it is…

(Well, based on the various weekly qualities and their comments on the Rat Market is, it sounds like their attempt to resolve it is to make sure that the “Single best thing to do” rotates week by week, so hopefully sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s complicated, sometimes it’s in london and sometimes it’s at zee, etc etc. But that seems to be hard for them to set up.)

5 Likes

I think the latest change on the Rat Market is too restrictive.

The tribute grind is something I do every night before I go to sleep. Load up on the tributes and sail over to the Tigers’ for the night, sleep and wake up to some easy 4 turn/clicks. A little something my semi awake self can easily do 1st thing in the morning.

During the sailings, I’ll grind up a little on the piracy, so that I can get some Fab Diamonds later.

Back in London, I’ll grind up at hearts game for ivory organza, scrips for parabola linen, and parabola parables. Keeping a stash of stuff for whenever Fab Diamonds might be on the market and I’ll have something to sell for it.

Echoes in this game are not really all that important. It’s the items that are a lot more useful.

Now that there is no fab diamonds, I’m having difficulty thinking of what to grind.

1 Like

From current limits they declared, it looks more like you do half a day work for this week ratket items… and profits dry out. What do you supposed to do with other 6.5 days of the week actions? Well, find the best grind not connected to ratket. I don’t see how it solves even declared goals.
Also mammoths / Pope was so varied in activities and locations, I was almost never bored out of it. I doubt they could replicate this variety and optimization number juggling with new ratket.

4 Likes

The problem with Spider Popes is that there was one specific, clearly-superior grind that was 30% better than everything else.

It was awesome that it was internally diverse. It involved a variety of end-game goals and activities and gave increased rewards to players with even higher end-game stats. As a single activity, it’s much better than the Dark Days where boxgrind was state of the art–not just in terms of EPA, but in terms of there’s more gameplay than sitting in one spot and pressing The Button.

Nonetheless.

It was The One Grind.

As varied as it was internally, there was no external variation in grinds. Because it was too much better than other grinds.

There are a handful of players who, for one reason or another, didn’t like the Spider Pope grind. And here the internal variation actually works against it: if you cannot tolerate one component of it, you either suck it up or opt out of the entire thing altogether.

I compare this against pre-Pope Scrip grinding. There were optimal methods, which varied a bit as stations came out. But there were about half a dozen grinds that were within maybe 5% or 10% of optimal. A lotta people were pretty OK with that. I was pretty OK with that. I switched between a few, sometimes weekly, sometimes monthly.

The quantitative difference is important, I think. I can see it in the community. Back then, the advice given in the forums and suchlike was much more heterogeneous: “Well, this is the best, but here’s three other things that are pretty good.” Whereas now the advice is a link to the spreadsheet, and follow-ups inquiring why not use the spreadsheet. Because not using Spider Popes is too far away from optimal.

The fact that I varied grinds at my own pace was important for me. Spider Popes are pretty proscriptive. Actions must be done at certain ratios, and some things must happen at certain times. I liked Moulin and just stuck there for four months because I liked it, I didn’t have a need to vary whereas Spider Popes do put that pressure on you.

Personally I’m willing to see how this shakes out, and trust FBG to tweak it. But I do think this is a better foundation. The “best grind not connected to ratket” will I think in practice have more leeway for what’s best for your character and for “I like this and am willing to earn 5% to spend time with it” than the current situation, which is that the Rat Market is a totalizing bottleneck on the economy.

3 Likes

For me it just feels not fair for newer players. We had our 14 EpA Bone Market grinds (and then 8+ EpA, and then 6+ EpA). We had times when helicon, parabolan wars, city of attar, ratket and many other things were noticeably better. We got our ciders, polishes, heptas and woesellers. And mountains of resources on top of them. What newer players will get?

I might be wrong, but I think after ratket nerf Hearts Game (with bone market cashout) and CiS will be best base grinds. And they are significantly better than any alternatives, most players will camp here, no variety achieved, only lower EpA.

4 Likes

Yeah, speaking as someone who reached the late-game and had barely started learning the spider pope grind before it got nerfed, I am so incredibly annoyed with what has replaced it. Flipping cards in CiS is just a boring exercise in swapping outfits and Hearts game is either a huge exercise in frustration if I decide to care about winning or just a “click on anything as fast as I can” game if I don’t. I so wish there still was a complex grind left among the top ones. I’ve actually spent a lot of my actions in the last couple of months doing pope grinding without the pope parts just to experience a bit of what you guys had, but I’m guessing the EPA on that is pretty far from optimal now. Not sure what I’ll do once the ratket is nerfed.

4 Likes

All these new players who regularly get 2+ EPA have no idea how easy they have it

6 Likes

Yeah, I definitely remember getting my overgoat when the Overgoat was an achievement, and when 2 EPA seemed excellent. I remember when Affair of the Box (1.64 EPA) was the running best.

As far as I can tell, all the grinds around are good now :)

5 Likes

Dunno, I got my Cider before first Anniversary and new EpA age (mostly by trade in souls with 1.7 EpA). I don’t miss the dark days and especially the year when all updates we got (except ES) were like 2 new short snippets on one of the festivals.

Other thing I don’t like about ratket update is that it makes FL more like other MMO with typical daily/weekly quests. Oh, this week we have quests for gathering poop, so all server would do that, you know.

4 Likes

I’m also given to understand that kids these days don’t have to walk uphill both ways through 3 metres of lacre to achieve Knifegate, so they’ve got that, at least. ;)

I do agree that Tracklayer’s city is rather dull as far as a money-grind, so I hope they do allow for a little more complexity than that.

4 Likes