A Glance at Echoes of Mana

I’m not really one for random mobile games. I really would prefer a proper PC or console title. I am somewhat fond of the Mana series, though I haven’t played all of them. I played a lot of Secret of Mana, a little Secret of Mana 2 (as a fan translated ROM, not the re-release), and a decent amount of Legend of Mana, both the original and the remaster which I recently finished an initial playthrough of.

The original, branded Final Fantasy Adventure in its initial US release, I’ve never played in any form, and there are a couple of mobile/Nintendo DS titles that I never messed with. I should add rounding this out to me to-do list.

I bring this up because the roster of characters for Echoes of Mana seems to draw from the protagonists of these games.

Front and center are the two that seem to be the protagonist(s) of Echoes. I also see the characters from Secret of Mana (bottom right and left center), Secret of Mana 2 (bottom left and most of the right side and back row), and Legend of Mana (back row, the two on the left). The two right behind the Echoes protagonists and the brown haired girl in the back, I don’t immediate recognize, though it’s probably safe to assume they’re from the other titles.

An attempt was certainly made to rope in all the more well-known titles, especially those that have received remakes in the last several years.

So, I could go a bit in-depth on the screenshots of Echoes, but I have some reservations. As a free to play title with in-app purchases from a Japanese developer, it really smells like mana-flavored gacha. That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be bad, some people really enjoy that kind of thing, but many of them tend to feel low effort. I’ll keep an eye on it, if I don’t forget, but I’m not exactly excited.

I’m somewhat more interested in a different announcement from the same press release, Legend of Mana – The Teardrop Crystal –. This is an animated series involving the creators of the original new game cinematic from the game. Legend of Mana has a few characters and stories that are, as far as I know, unique to it. It’s a bit of a stretch, but based on the name there’s a good chance it involves the Jumi, a race of immortal beings with a gemstone “core” who have been hunted to the brink of extinction because humans like shiny things.

Regardless, I enjoy the universe and lore of Legend, so I’m curious to see what they do with it. While it says it will have a worldwide release, there isn’t any information on how, where, or when they plan to distribute it.

Absolute Speculation: The 24-man raid series of FFXIV: Endwalker will be Mana-related.

Y’all take care. Don’t burn down the mana tree.

FFXIV – Patch-driven Price Cycle?

No data this time, just some thoughts on what I’ve observed as I collected my data. Specifically, the prices of grade 7 and 8 Savage Aim and Heavens’ Eye materia.

Up until recently, I’ve watched as the price of these specific materias slowly slid downward. Very slowly, but notably so. By the end of last week it was easy to find the 7s below 1k/ea and the 8s could usually be found as low as 15k/ea. When I started it was closer to 5k and 25k, respectively, so that’s a pretty notable decline over about a month’s time.

Over the course of the weekend, I noticed a server here and there would experience a sharp rise in price, especially the 7s. As of last night, prices were largely 5k/ea for the 7s on all servers and around 20k/ea for the 8s. I’m assuming since a new patch just dropped, a major equipment update/grind patch at that, people are coming back and/or preparing to upgrade. Economically this would be a surge in demand which should push the price up, so the change I’m seeing at least makes sense.

What practical value does this have? Well, if you were attempting to make money, I would suggest buying about a week before a major patch. Especially for things like materia that are largely disposable and tied to the equipment upgrade cycle. I would caution against dumping it all at once, but you don’t want to hold onto it all that long either or you’ll be “stuck with it” until the next major patch.

Just a thought, not something I intend to act upon personally. I’ve been considering the details of taking the next stage of this further afield and including additional games to see if some of the things I see here can be generalized. I’m not sure all of them will, FFXIV has a pretty consistent patch schedule. Loathe as I am to admit it, WoW should be on the shortlist of places to look. I would especially like to look at data for things like the WoW token, lockbox keys, plex, that sort of thing. I don’t have a good analog for those in FFXIV and I think other researchers and non-gamers may find its more business-oriented implications more interesting.

My problem with most other games is that lack the same level of expertise I use to identify the important goods of FFXIV. It’s only because of my time raiding and doing end-game grind that I’m able to discern which items are important. While I’m confident that I could assimilate approximate knowledge of these things by reading up on a given game’s raid meta, there would be… limitations.

What I’m seeing suggests to me a sort of population/price cycle that’s likely tied to FFXIV’s patch cycle. This will actually go into my notes as a specific item of interest that I need to test later. I’m not really that surprised, I guess. It makes sense that this should occur.

I’m wondering to what degree the content/patch “heartbeat” helps regulate and/or (de)stabilize the market.

Anyway, that’s enough musing for today, I think. Y’all take care, and beware of financial and investment advice from strangers. Virtual or otherwise.


blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

Research – Virtual Good Volatility?

I’ve spent a fair amount of time lately considering exactly what it is I would like to get from my data. What questions do I wish to answer and how exactly should I structure that… query. In the meantime, I’ve been working on different ways to sort and recombine data.

primal iron
NQ Iron Ore daily for the entire data center.

I just realized that I’m quickly approaching the one month mark, my original intended stopping point. I’m… not sure I’m ready to stop. Logically I have to stop eventually, but the longer I collect data the more likely it is that inflation and arbitrage will become detectable.

The mean price for that specific iron ore data is 141 Gil/unit with a standard deviation of 44 Gil. Even if inflation was absurd, say 10%, that would only be a 14 gil increase. That kind of number is easily lost within the volatility, and I’m pretty confident it’s not anyway near that high. At a glance, Iron looks more deflated over this time period than anything else. That’s assuming it’s even fair to lump an entire data center together like that. I’m not sure it is for Iron but I’m not certain exactly how to test that.

savage aim 8
Savage Aim 8 for Primal Data Center

I suspect it’s more helpful to combine items like materia that I know to experience some level of arbitrage. (M=32162, Std.D=2793) It also has a much more reasonable standard deviation than Iron Ore. Iron’s is 31% of the mean while Savage Aim 8 is closer to 9%. Is that even a reasonable way to measure volatility? Is it a good indicator of arbitrage? Must think about this.

That said, I need to double-check those prices at some point. If you randomly asked me what the typical buying price was, I’d say 15k-25k. I think that’s because I usually only see the ten lowest price listings, but I’d like to confirm a few manually just to be sure.

Okay, well, I’ve written and deleted several different paragraphs at this point, so I believe I’m done for now. It is my intention to write a post about The Outer Worlds tomorrow. I can’t tell if its particular brand of corporate dystopia is appropriate, timely, or offensive at the moment. Maybe all of the above, but it certainly isn’t helping my mood.

Y’all stay safe and take care. It’s not the best choice, it’s Spacer’s Choice.

FFXIV – Actual Data and Wild Speculation

Since I’ve spent so much time lately writing about my research project, I felt it was time to actually share some of the results.

lamia iron

Most of it is of little practical value. The iron was included more for the sake of being thorough and making sure I have a way to confirm things are or aren’t the same as last time. The thing that stands out the most to me is how much higher the quantity supplied is now. My previous data had a total daily supply of around 1500 units and the average here is closer to 2600 units. Of course, there’s the 7th with a rather wild 8,406 units. The market concentration (HHI) is consistent with what I saw before. We can also ignore the elasticity here. I would need a Sig below .05 to have anything useful. I’m a little disappointed, but life goes on.

behemoth iron

Behemoth is a little more exciting, but not much. The price is much higher now than it was before. My two prior data points put the average unit price around 75-85 gil. The total quantity supplied is also significantly lower. Last time it was around 6000-9000 units v. the average here of around 2000. Taken together I suppose it makes sense. A decrease in quantity supplied should lead to a higher price, assuming we’re around the equilibrium. Also an increase in concentration, though not by a lot.

lamia hq gold

For something slightly more interesting, there’s high-quality gold ore from lamia. Fairly stable concentration compared to iron. However, what got my attention was the elasticity that not only got three significant results but results that were fairly similar. Now, elasticity is telling us the percentage change in quantity with regard to price. Since this is supply data, what people are attempting to sell, it should be positive. I saw this once before when I had my terms backward in the formula, but I’ve double and triple checked it and that’s not the case.

So, the question becomes why? What could possibly be occurring in this market to create a negative relationship? That is, when the price is high people actually list fewer units, and when the price is low people list more units.

At the moment, I’m wondering if this is a result of undercutting. What would it look like if the people listing new material were actively and significantly posting below the current asking price? In particular, what if you have a few major suppliers doing this so that any time a notable increase in quantity occurs it drives the average price down?

Of course, I would have to go take a closer look at the day to day happenings in the market. Might be worthwhile to add the daily deltas for quantity and sellers.

While the data is over here doing its own thing, it seems that the world has gotten quite hairy. Y’all take care, be safe, and wash your hands. Have a bonus Materia table:

lamia savaa8

Data Analysis – Curious Case of Price and Quantity Changes

The realities of working with real data are rather unique and intriguing. I find no end of strange unforeseen quirks that I’m never entirely certain how to handle. I’m working through the nuts and bolts of importing and processing my market data for FFXIV. As a side note, I must admit I underestimated R.

So, big data plan aside, I was attempting to consolidate 13 days of market data into a single data set. While most of the shenanigans revolved around navigating the ins and outs of data structure manipulation. I was, however, victorious! Kinda.

lamia price change
Forgot to include headers. That’s server, HQ, unit price, retainer name, city-state, and total quantity for that unique combination, respectively.

I ended up with some interesting entries like this one. My current sorting method considers these two separate entries because the price is different. In reality, it’s the same 205 units from two different time periods. The seller just dropped the price at some point. If I were to consider the entire collection as a whole data set what should be done with this? Which is more accurate, the higher listing or the lower listing? Both represent a legitimate attempt to sell goods. In reality, I don’t plan to treat all days combined as a single data set.

I’m going to run the stats on a per-day basis. Daily average unit price, total quantity, concentration, and elasticity for each good/server combination. That should allow me to see how these things are generally behaving over time and support good v. good and server v. server comparisons between data sets.

Elasticity is the odd man out though. Since it will be obtained using regression in the first place, I have to consider the value of retaining insignificant results in the data set. I could be off base here, but I believe that insignificant in the statistical sense simply indicates that there isn’t a clear relationship between Q and P. Might be worthwhile to compare the result of significant only v. all values just to see what there is to see.

Anyway, I’m off track. Having the same set of goods listed multiple times so that 205 units show up in the result as 410 units was not the only instance of something like this occurring.

lamia quantity change

I picked this example out as well, for that reason. I actually went and looked over the day-by-day data to see what was going on. A seller (not the same one as the other picture) initially posted 3 listings of 8 units each, a total of 24 units, at 210 gil. The very next day, they appear to have reduced the unit price to 147 gil. However, the goods sat there at that price for a couple of days before someone bought only a single 8 unit lot, which generated that 16 unit entry. It sat there for another day or two then someone bought another 8 unit lot, giving us the last entry, which also eventually sold.

So now I have 24 units that would become 72, 24 at 210 and 48 at 147.

I’m going to abandon that specific avenue of consolidation for now. I think if I date-stamped the records I could probably pull out the initial listing quantity and the final unit price, which would accurately read 24 units at 147 gil.

I would rather invest my time in the “original” plan first then follow up with this if I feel it needs doing.

Y’all take care, and remember to go check all your listing prices. You never know when your change might be the one that generates a blog post.

Monetary Policy and MMOs

I keep circling this idea of monetary policy for MMOs and I can never put a finger on how applicable it is. A lot of the attention on it stems from the fact that monetary policy includes many of the activities we use to control inflation, and inflation in MMOs is something I’m interested in.

In a nutshell, monetary policies are the choices typically made by a central bank, such as the Federal Reserve Bank, that primarily affect commercial banks. Interest rates for loans from the central bank to commercial banks, the availability treasury bonds, and the amount of cash they require banks to have on hand (reserves) are the ones I’m typically thinking of. By manipulating these numbers the central bank can suggest, encourage, and/or require the commercial banks to change their behavior.

The net effect of these changes, especially the last two, allows the central bank to manipulate the amount of currency that exists within the economy. If they want to reduce (contract) the amount of currency, then they sell bonds or raise the reserve rate. Selling bonds takes money from commercial banks in exchange for a piece of paper, money they could have loaned out instead. The reserve rate is unique because it acts more like a multiplier.

I kinda talked about the reserve rate in a post over a year ago, Activision Lawsuits and Fractional Reserve Banking. Considering I had hadn’t taken any economics courses at that point, I’d say I did pretty good.

However, FFXIV, and most MMOs I can think of really, don’t have any sort of banking or lending industry at all. It’s because there’s no contractual enforcement, but that’s for another day.

The question then becomes, can monetary policy exist in an environment with no banks and no lending? They still have a monetary base, and decisions by the developer have an impact on that monetary base, but that’s it. None of the other mechanisms or agents are present.

I’ve been quite fond of saying that fiscal policy doesn’t apply, but I’m questioning that. An argument could be made that I’m getting hung up on the idea of the monetary base increasing to decrease in response to a tax. An alternative way to look at it would be like any other tax, but government spending is always nil. That is, the tax money is “collected” and never spent.

In a way, I’m not sure it matters which it is, either. Increase in tax, reduction of the monetary base, either one is effectively contractionary. I think, all things being equal, if it looks and sounds like fiscal policy it makes more sense to call it fiscal.

The other huge question is how does one measure this kind of thing? I think pinning inflation down is reasonable enough, at this point. I feel confident that if I sat down and developed a solid plan I could probably measure inflation, it would just take several months to get the required data. Alternatively, I could try to find a third party site that already has it. The items I’m thinking of are probably updated frequently.

GDP or monetary base, though, are a much different animal. Given how much work goes into finding those in the real world, it seems impractical to measure from the outside. Even if I had a decent estimate, what practical value would that have? Think I’m going to let it simmer some more while I focus on the task more immediately at hand.

Y’all take care. Get plenty of sleep. That sort of thing. I should go take my own advice.

Correction – FFXIV Materia Changes

So, it would seem I was slightly wrong about some of the materia changes. I suppose that’s what I get for writing about a game I’m not actively playing.

spiritbond

So, the loss of the item is negated, but the spiritbond it reduced to 1%, not by 1%. Not sure if it was a typo or I misread it the first time.

Either way, most of the time burden of spiritbond is still going to be present. It’s like starting over every time, but you don’t have to replace the item.

As such, it probably won’t have as large an impact as I thought.

My bad.

Y’all take care, I got some catching up to do.

FFXIV – Tax Hike Shenanigans

In my shock about the materia changes, I completely missed a critical line buried in all the chaos.

Fees are now charged for items bought from the market board when the player is in the city where the item was listed.

A little context first, I think. When you want to sell things in Final Fantasy XIV you have to put them in a special inventory for your retainers. I believe the logic is that they are theoretically at the market selling your stuff while you’re busy saving the multiverse. Each one of those retainers has a city-state assigned as its home location. While sellers always paid the marketboard tax this wasn’t the case for buyers.

Before the change a buyer could travel to any marketboard under the influence of the matching city-state and pay 0% tax. This is generally saving you money (but not time) for anything but the least expensive goods. Purchase amounts > 25k were a good guideline, depending on where you are and where you’re going.

Due to this, most servers ended up with an emergent “default market” where most people sold their goods. At least on Lamia, it was generally Limsa.

Now, buyers will also pay the same tax rate as the seller, regardless of circumstances.

The question, as always, is why. Squenix generally plays this kind of thing close to the chest and as far as I know, hasn’t spoken about this change. There are two explanations I see floating around at the moment though.

  • Inflation – The Good Ol’ Standby

For as many people as I see running around touting inflation as an issue that needs to be addressed, I have yet to see anyone offer actual data backing that claim up. While the baseline definition of “too much money chasing too few goods” is fairly possible, much of our monetary policy in the real world revolves around finance, which doesn’t exist in this economy.

What tiny fractional bit of data I personally have seen showed deflation, not inflation, but that was only a single item (out of about 11,000) with a very low price point, so I wouldn’t hang my hat on it.

This is one of the goals I’m working toward with my research, but there’s only one of me and my knowledge and resources are limited. One day, friends, one day.

  • Real Money Trading (RMT)

I’m actually favoring this idea at the moment for both tax and materia changes, though I’m not sure about effectiveness. Squenix hates, I mean hates, RMT. I would absolutely believe that this change out of nowhere is a deliberate attempt to inconvenience them.

I just don’t see how raising taxes for buyers is an effective tactic. Maybe I don’t understand how RMT works in XIV, but I was under the impression they primarily cheesed dungeons to get the money they’re selling. I mean, that’s the point, they’re sellers collecting money in order to sell it for real money. You might could make a case for cross-server trading, kinda like market trading in EVE Online, but if it’s profitable enough to outpace other methods of making money then I don’t see how a 5% tax is more than an inconvenience.

Materia change totally makes sense though, even the low-grade stuff carried a decent value and allowing players to flood the market and drop the price would have a direct impact on materia as a source of income.

  • What happens now?

Well, in the economic sense, all goods are getting more expensive, but only for buyers. On its own, the micro-level should show a lower demand for most goods. At the macro level, it would theoretically lower inflation, though how quickly that happens is debatable. I haven’t even considered how to measure price “stickiness” at the macro level. I’ll… put it on the ever-expanding list.

It’s also hard to really gauge how impactful it will be, though. There are so many other little bits that feed into all this and each good will respond a little different. There are actually a number of smaller tweaks I’ve been picking up on too, like cutting or curbing the payout for collectible turn-in. Small little tweaks here and there.

I’ve just about got the basic shell of my data collection script up and running. If I get a chance I may try to finish it this weekend and begin collecting data to see if anything interesting occurs. Wish I had gotten to it a bit sooner so I would have some better before/after data, but life goes on.

I can sit here and talk about expectations all day long, but data is king. I don’t want to expect, I want to know.

Y’all take care, maybe hold off on buying goods for resale in FFXIV. This just doesn’t seem like a great time to be buying.

FFXIV – RIP Materia Prices

UPDATE (2/22): Some of the things in this article about spiritbond were incorrectly reported or not reported at all. Spiritbond resets to 1% when the materia is extracted, so most of the time burden is still present.

Such a sensationalist headline, that. It’s always an interesting day when two things that are generally separate parts of my life bump into each other. My ongoing quest in pursuit of academic research in the field of economics has led to some interesting changes in my thought process. When I read articles or listen to podcasts, I occasionally hear things that stand out as great examples of economic concepts and/or their application. The complete patch notes for FFXIV’s 5.2 update is one of those things.

I was just casually scrolling through the changes, with nothing really standing out or unexpected, when suddenly:

Materia can now be extracted from fully spiritbound gear without losing the original item.

What?! For those not familiar with the materia system in FFXIV, any piece of gear used long enough to go from 0% to 100% spiritbond could be converted to materia, an item that can be “attached” to gear for small stat bonuses. Not really a big deal until you get into the more end-game sort of content. I, for one, never bothered until I reached the active raid tier around 4.1.

It takes quite a long time to fully spiritbond a piece of gear and it was destroyed in the process, creating a very heavy time investment to obtain. Even then, there was a range of possible outcomes only one or two of which were typically desirable. Other methods to obtain these items were also slow and typically time or role-gated.

As a result, materia was expensive, especially if you were after crafting/gathering materia. There was a low and costly supply to a market that had a significant demand. Everyone in the mid to high raid tier needed it. It was a fairly good way to make money if you wanted to put the time in.

Economists have a concept called “opportunity cost,” which is simply what else you could have done with the resources you have given up. Is the piece of gear a direct cost or an opportunity cost? That’s a question for another post, I think. Regardless of the answer, though, it is a cost or was, anyway.

My immediate reaction is that materia prices are headed into the toilet. With a reduced cost, the available supply is going to increase significantly because the burden on the producer is all but gone. Yeah, there’s still a very high initial investment required, but for an active player using end-game gear it’s not uncommon to hit spiritbond by the time new gear tier drops and the materia tier doesn’t tend to shift much between expansions.

A few caveats before I wander off. It’s always possible that the demand is so intense that it minimizes this price drop. Not everyone is going to bother with the effort of constantly extracting materia from their gear, or use gear most likely to spit out what’s in demand. I’m not well versed in which gear sets spit out which materia, so I would expect anything specific to tank or healer gear to hold its value a little better because there are fewer of them, generally speaking.

None of this is based on hard data, it’s merely conjecture based on relatively simple supply and demand concepts. With the ability to more efficiently grind out materia, it creates some interesting new opportunities to make money even though the unit price is likely going down.

I may look into the data down the road and see how this pans out. Either way, y’all take care, and I hope none of you invested in materia yesterday.

FFXIV – The Tankpocolypse

I go play a different game for two days. Two days! Somehow all the tanks in Eorzea picked that 48 hour period to call it quits.

To be fair, this isn’t a surprise, and probably not nearly as quick as it might seem. If anything, it’s more of a return to normal now that everyone got Gunbreaker out of their system and realized the healers weren’t as bad as everyone thought.

I noticed this when we queued for Eden normal as our usually Healer/DPS combo. All prior weeks this was an insta-queue, or close to it. While we sat there staring at our lack of group, it finally began to sink in. I switch to Drk to look at what I needed gear-wise, and my brother withdrew, switched to Gnb, and stealth queued while I wasn’t looking. Immediate pop, much to my chagrin. I ended up running all four as OT to his MT, and we made it work.

Of course, before all this, we’d sat in party finding trying to round up a savage group for about an hour. Never did get any tanks there either.

There are always other explanations too. Most of the “good” tanks are probably part of a static, and statics are super busy on reset day, I presume. We’re also pretty much right in the middle of a patch cycle, so it’s a bit of a content lull for everyone but the raiders. We’ve probably got a few more weeks before another major patch, I believe. It usually doesn’t drop until around the time the raid-tier weapon becomes available to the regular players. This one is seven token, so 7 weeks. For those that got a first-week clear, which isn’t me, that’ll be next Tuesday.

On the bright side, I’m sitting on a giant pile of tomestones and I already had the Drk weapon from all that Titania grinding I did, so gearing a tank isn’t an issue, I just have to run it some to knock the dust off. I wasn’t prepared to switch quite this earlier, or at all, really, I just figured I might need to at some point.

Oh well, life goes on, I suppose. It’s a nice change of pace for me, anyway. It’s always possible that this is a server or data-center specific issue as well, but I figure the reasons I listed are likely the major ones.

Y’all take care, and remember to check the party window before you randomly requeue for something.


BlaugustBOnlylogoIn case you haven’t heard, we’re in the middle of an event called Blaugust. The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.