Sunday, March 26, 2017

Fact or Myth: Traders and Crafters

Greetings, cannon fodders.

I cringe whenever a random Illyrian claims to be a trader or crafter.  I find that almost as laughable as the jack-of-all trades alliances. Why? Because I believe that for the vast majority of self-professed traders and crafters, their description is really just muggle-speak for "I don't actually know how to play this game."

Trading vs. Manufacturing

Let's start with a distinction. Trading is not manufacturing. When you manufacture stuff, that's just making standard items like beer, bows, and saddles. Even if you sell those items from your city or trade hubs, that doesn't make you a trader. It just makes you a manufacturer. Producing and selling resources is a necessary part of the game economy, but there's nothing especially challenging about it.

So what I do define as real trading? Trading is the time-honored skill of buying low and selling high. Often there is a shipping aspect to trading. There can also be a time element for trading, by purchasing items at a hub and then holding them, expecting the price to go up (in real life this process is called speculation). Do I deny that there are some players who do this? No. But I am willing to state confidently that in a game of over 6000 accounts, I believe that less than 25 players actually perform this role frequently and competently. Not only does this mean generating transactions, it means generating those transactions profitably. That gets us to the crux of why I think most traders are faking it.

Fast Caravans, Low Volumes, Negative Profits

Let's start by acknowledging that there are very few active hubs in the game. Centrum is the main clearing house for advanced resources. Hedgor's Haven in the Broken Lands is also a very active hub, although it is probably only 20% the size of Centrum, perhaps less. I assume there are a handful of others across the very large map.

Unfortunately for traders, you can make the map much smaller for only 3-6 prestige. That will double or quadruple the speed of your caravans moving goods from a hub, and that shrinks the map considerably. If a buyer is willing to accept the Centrum market price for an item, it is generally far less expensive to ship advanced resources directly from [0|0] with their own caravans, rather than pay even a small premium to purchase items locally. Since most hub acquisitions are limited to advanced resources, individual players can easily handle their purchases with their own personal caravans. For example, it's very rare that I need to ship myself more than 100000 beer and spears in a single load.

Indeed, most players who consume large amounts of advanced resources will also have stable stockpiles of their own. It's inefficient to prestige-burst caravans across the map, but it's very easy to pull from your local hub and then backfill the arsenal from Centrum purchases. No prestige acceleration required. That's assuming item consumers make regular purchases at all. Most will have at least one farm account to produce both gold and advanced resources for their main.

So, if most "traders" aren't making money posting buy and sell orders in Centrum, what exactly are they doing? There are certainly many orders. Most likely they are intentionally or accidentally score gaming. Many people will focus on their Trade ranking, trying to generate rapid inventory turnover to drive up total points sold. Some players take this a step further by just playing hub ping-pong with their alt, accepting that taxes will slowly erode their gold. However, it is much more common to subsidize one's trade score by generating gold at cities, and then just tracking market prices wherever they lead. Since all transactions generate points, regardless of profitability, most faux "traders" just doggy paddle in Centrum without ever making billions.

Crafting vs. Dabbling at Crafting

For those who prefer to avoid the minor effort of posting Buy +0.25% and Sell -0.25% market orders, I present faux-trading for couch potatoes: faux-crafting. Crafting is one of those hilariously misunderstood activities in Illyriad. As I have described in Jagblade's Guide to Equipment, only about 10% of the crafted items have any practical use. Further, the market for crafted items is incredibly specialized. It's a pure PvP expense that requires a minor grasp of game mechanics to use properly. In other words, the potential market is quite limited, and the demand is extremely narrow.

So how do you spot the faux-crafters from the real crafters? Easy. Ask them to quote you a price and delivery date for 10000 Forest Spears. If they quote you a crazy Centrum fantasy price, or give you a timeframe of months, then you've just found a faux-crafter. Most item prices should be governed by the cost of the input materials plus a reasonable markup. The input material prices are quoted from actual Buy orders, not from crazypants Sell orders. A solid crafter should be able to produce 500-1000 per day (minimum!) of any item requested, assuming there is a sufficient market supply of materials. Anything that you'd want to buy in bulk will have a sufficient market supply of materials, because that's one of the required criteria in Jagblade's Guide to Equipment. Neat how that works, right?

Am I saying that nobody crafts in Illyriad? No, of course not. Many people take random herbs, minerals, and animal parts and then craft them into useless weaponry. As an added bonus, they typically do this very slowly. The vast majority of them never sell their wares for a profit. But if you suddenly need exactly 17 anti-spear swords, they're your hero.

But even faux-crafters are not at the pinnacle of faux-gameplay. As with all food chains, there is one faux-role that reigns supreme in the annals of pretend Illyriad gameplay.

The Ultimate Faux Player

I'm sure the astute reader of this blog has already guessed the greatest con of all: faux-military players.

This is perhaps the most entertaining of all the faux roles, because it is the one most likely to get faux accounts killed by their very real counterparts. If you're paying attention, faux-military players are easy to spot. The first giveaway is that they self-describe as military players in GC. Generally speaking, the player base is already familiar with the alliances and wargamers who inflict the bulk of Illyriad destruction.

Another dead giveaway is city configuration. While people might still be building up an account, anyone who isn't running a 20x2 minimum on most cities is probably a faux-military player. It is far less frequent to see a 8x5 ring of farm sovereignty on a military city. You can also look at where the city has been placed. Is it a clean placement with plains all around, with the occasional small hill or lake? Is the city tile a terraformed non-plains hardpoint? Has the player gone out of their way to claim extra sovereignty on troop production bonus tiles? The city resource distribution might even be a 5 food configuration like 5/5/5/5/5 or 5/6/5/4/5 (although take care not to interpret a starter city configuration as a true military city).

Also consider the player's alliance membership and their past history. While many social players can visit friendly alliances, a long history in a heavy PvP alliance is a clue that someone might be a military player.

As much as I hate to say it, scores can also be a clue. Among those who don't fake their scores, only tournament and true military players will generate lots of Attack, Defense, or Diplomacy scores. If a player is gaming their points, then their other scores like Trade will also show an artificial bump. 

Keep It Real, Cannon Fodders

In summary, I think it's safe to say that these are accurate descriptions of the real roles:

Trader. A player who profitably acquires and sells items that are not of their personal manufacture, often by shipping the goods directly to customers or between distant hubs. Buy low, cut deals, move goods, sell high.

Crafter. A player who quickly manufactures and profitably sells large quantities of useful PvP equipment.

Military. A player who places their cities for maximum defense, and builds their cities for maximum troop output. Usually a member of a recognized military alliance with experience in actual PvP battle. Maintains serious standing armies and replaces troop losses quickly. Probably has higher Attack, Defense, and/or Diplomacy scores for a player their size. Thoroughly trained in city-to-city combat, not just tournament play.

Always remember, cannon fodders, that it is possible to play Illyriad for years without ever mastering any of its aspects. Don't be a faux gamer. Always keep it real in this fantasy world.

Misbehave. Kill lots of stuff!

<^^^^^^^^||==O    Skint Jagblade


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  2. you forgot harvesters :(
    Anyways, if anyone's looking for a legit hunter, drop me an igm, can churn out 1k beetele carapaces and 1k scorp exoskeletons a day