Sunday, December 18, 2011

Phlogistination!


The Phlognosticator's mmph charge might be slightly OP -- you can refill your HP, take almost no damage, and get a crit boost in the middle of a fight...as this server log from a single mmph charge indicates:
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed ScarrJaw with phlogistinator. (crit)
scarybirdman killed inkheart#1fan with degreaser.
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed happykiller2727[GMC] with phlogistinator. (crit)
anarchy RULE killed Nuke4Brainz with bushwacka.
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed scarybirdman with phlogistinator. (crit)
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed Set My Bullets Free with phlogistinator. (crit)
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed {GbK}FenFen( . )JP( . ) with phlogistinator. (crit)
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed Catfish with phlogistinator. (crit)
Commander Schwegs 2,500 hrs TF2 killed Lostways with phlogistinator. (crit)
But goodness gracious is it fun! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Avoiding Flame Wars 101

There's quite a few flame wars on the web, and it seems they occur just as frequently on TF2 forums. Unfortunately, when touching on sensitive subjects, they're seemingly hard to avoid. However, the good news is that there's some things you can do to help avoid them. :)

I just recently ran across a post that went something like this:
Title: X, again.
I know a lot of you heavily back group X, and I'm all for the idea, however a recent event involving Y has really made me on fence about them, again. I was at peace about them for a while. To put it short, X is banning everyone from Y...I know that what Y did was wrong, but banning them? That's 100% inappropriate. Its been quite apparent, to me at least, for months now that X is tad bit power crazed. I think it would be wise to request a reform of X in order to avoid more events like this, scandals have been happening left and right, this is undeniable. Just want to hear some input from you guys.
Unfortunately, this degenerated quickly as people who support group X quickly took offense and others rolled their eyes. Equally unfortunate, the intention of the author in this case was actually to obtain input, but that was quickly passed over in favor of the debate over the validity of group X.

I talked with the author later on about this, and his response was something to the effect of "But everything I said was accurate!". Well, that may have been true, and his facts may have been 100% accurate. However, that doesn't mean listing all facts, or certain facts, or even some facts in a certain way, is the best approach to create an atmosphere conducive to avoiding a "ME vs YOU" situation or flame war.

What's the point? If you want to avoid a flame war, be supportive and brief.
  1. Start with and genuinely emphasize that you're on the same team as the reader
  2. Avoid subtle jabs and sarcasm ("a tiny bit power crazed", etc)
  3. Avoid extremes ("100% inappropriate", "happening left and right", "undeniable", etc). 
  4. Be brief (even so far as not listing the details or long links in-line where possible, because the physical amount of text required makes it feel large and/or complex)
For example, let's consider the following:
The Democratic Party is wrong. I think we should all vote for the Green Party.
While the statement could be factually true, anyone in your audience who thinks the Democratic Party is right will default to being in a disagreeing mood with anything you write following that (and conversely, the other half of the people will think you are brilliant). This is called a polarizing effect.

Now consider the following:
The the world needs more hugs. I think we should all vote for the Green Party.
That may be equally factually true, but because you start with something the reader agrees with, you are far more likely to get them to support the Green Party -- simply because they will default to agreeing with you (or at least, not think that your opinions are probably wrong).

Here's what I would have suggested the author of our original post write:
Title: Question about X and Y
I know we pride ourselves on making good decisions here, and we all hate to tarnish reputations if at all possible. So I was wondering if you guys felt X's action regarding Y was appropriate or not, and why. Here's some links (1, 2, 3). Personally, I'm leaning toward thinking it's unfair for reason A, B, and C. What are your thoughts?
Do you have any additional suggestions on how to avoid flame wars? Feel free to post a comment!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TF2 Trading #3 Price Check!

Where would you guess the majority of my time is spent? Banning forum trolls? Negatory. Calling down fire and brimstone on scammers? Nope. Actually doing some buying/selling of my own? Not even close, son!

The answer is what's called a price check. That's when someone asks you how much their Ghastly Gibus is worth, and you have the sad fortune of informing them they won't be able to sell it for a Burning Flames Kabuto.

Well, fine sirs (and ladies), I am here to help you gain confidence in your own value estimation. With some practice, you can happily know the value of your items, and I can happily get back to calling down more fire and brimstone.

In my last post I talked about how supply and demand determines values in TF2 trading. But how do you figure out exactly how much you should trade your item for?

There are a number of sites to give you info, but I find it's best to get a ballpark with simple reasoning, then use those sites to help you nail down your estimate. I will list them here as I go.

Ghastly(ier) Gibus
What we probably know off the top of our head:
  • Supply
    • Seems like everyone has it
    • Easy achievement item in TF2
    • Doesn't cost anything to get
  • Demand
    • Haven't ever heard anyone say they wish they had it
    • A lot of people will trade ~1 refined to for a random hat to craft with another hat with the hope of getting something better, but this can't even be crafted
Estimation based on above info: 1.5 reclaimed (half a refined)

What we could find out with a little work:
  • TF2Stats.net hat lists -- this is a great resource for seeing commonality of hats -- in this cast, 91% of people own a Gibus of some kind
  • TF2Items.com trading site stats -- this is a cool place to see the trending top few hats being bought/sold -- in this case, the gibus is the 4th most common hat people want to sell (i.e. don't want)
  • TF2TP.com wishlist search -- this is THE most useful place to find what people are trading items for, and how much people are offering for items -- in this case, there's a number of people trying to sell the gibus for 1 reclaimed, and not many buyers
Final approximated price: 2 scrap to 1 reclaimed

Okay, that was easy. Let's pick a hard one.

Unusual Killer's Kabuto with Burning Flames
What we probably know off the top of our head:
  • Supply
    • It's very rare to see someone with an unusual
    • Unusuals only come from crates
    • There's a 1% chance of getting an unusual in a crate
    • Keys cost $2.50 if I buy them from the store, so unboxing a random unusual would cost $250 on average
    • Not that many people open a lot of crates
  • Demand
    • Everyone I know wishes they had an unusual
    • The Soldier one of the most popular classes
    • The Kabuto is one of the most popular Soldier Hats
    • Burning Flames is one of the most popular effects
Estimation based on above info: $500

What we could find out with a little work:
  • UHatSearch.appspot.com unusual list -- this site isn't exact, but it's pretty nifty for getting a general idea of unusual rarities -- in this case, there are about 15,000 unusual hats, of which 130 are Killer's Kabutos
  • TF2Items.com unusual search -- this site is much more accurate when looking to see just how many unusuals with a particular effect there are -- in this case, there are only about 8 burning flames Killer's Kabutos
  • SourceOP.com TF2 subforms and UnusualTradingCommunity.com -- running searches here are THE most useful places to find what people are trading high-value items for -- in this case, the last burning kabuto sold for around $800 (link for proof)
Final approximated price: $700-900.

The processes I used here to price check these two items are very similar to what I use to price check items when people ask me, or when I need to know for my own trading. From experience, I can know how certain items usually trend, how easy items are to sell for certain prices, etc, but there's no secret sauce. If you follow the above guidelines and use these resources, you'll soon be totally confident in your values.

TF2 Trading #2: What determines prices?

I've had people ask me before "Who sets the item prices?" I usually look confused for a moment, then inform them that no one does. Which usually makes them look equally confused. I'm told my attempts to explain economics generally doesn't improve the situation either.

In reality though, TF2 is no different than the free market in the real world -- supply and demand. Another way to word that would be availability and desirability. But that's a little too simplistic. So what exactly are the factors that make up "supply/availability" and what exactly constitutes "demand/desirability"?

TF2 Supply of <Your Item Here> is influenced by
  • Number of <your item here> in the game
  • Speed at which more <your item here> will come into the game
  • Cost of getting <your item here> outside of trading -- e.g. the Mann Co Store, pre-ordering another game, opening a crate, or some other non-trading venue
  • Likelihood of Robin Walker deciding to celebrate National Aboriginal <Your Item Here> Day and giving everyone <your item here>
  • Likelihood of Robin Walker being in a bad mood and deleting everyone's <your item here>

TF2 Demand of <Your Item Here> is influenced by
  • Number of people who want <your item here>
  • Number of people who already have <your item here>
  • How badly people want <your item here>
  • Likelihood of Robin Walker announcing that <Your Item Here> is [Totally Awesome | Totally Sucks]

Fortunately for us, Robin Walker is pretty passive, so we don't have to worry about him much. Those other factors matter a lot though.

Let's take some examples here using just our brains and the above principles.

Which Is More Valuable: A Crate or a Weapon?
A weapon: Almost no one has keys, so those crates are just taking up space. With the exception of the first day or so that new crates are released, no one wants crates. With a weapon, at least you can smelt it into metal.

Which Is More Valuable: Drably Olive paint or White (abundance of tinge) paint?
White: White looks great on a lot of hats so lots of people want it, whereas olive looks not so good, so rarely anyone uses it.

Which Is More Valuable: Vintage Killer's Kabuto or Non-Vintage Killer's Kabuto?
The vintage kabuto: There's fewer of them, there will never be any more, and people want them because owning vintage makes you look more experienced (or so I've been told).

Which Is More Valuable: Stormy Storm Hustler's Hallmark or Circling Peace Sign Hustler's Hallmark
The Stormy Storm: It's a brand new effect, so there's fewer of them and there's a novelty of owning one of the latest and coolest effects.

Which Is More Valuable $1.50 USD or a Mann Co Crate Key?
The Key: If I was able to sell the key for $2 to someone who wanted to open a crate, I'd be making 50 cents, and he'd be saving 50 cents over buying it from the store.

Just like a real economy, supply/demand really do determine prices in TF2. There really isn't a magic guy sitting behind the scenes making up values after all!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

TF2 Trading #1: Is it worth my time?

Topic #1 in a series on TF2 Trading

To anyone who trades in TF2, this may seem like a silly question, but to a lot of people, it's totally valid.

Some people think the idea of trading is boring, scary, confusing, would take too much time, and/or just don't care enough about getting items in TF2. That's totally valid.

But there's some good reasons why you might want to take the dive too.

First, it would take a really long time to wait for all the items to drop. Each drop is random -- it's just as likely to be an item you already have as an item you don't.

Second, trading with other players is always cheaper than crafting. Let's say you want weapon X, which costs a reclaimed (6 weapons) to craft. Let's say someone else got that as an extra drop. If they can trade that to you for between 2-5 of your weapons, you're both winning.

Third, buying from other players is always cheaper than the Mann Co Store. Far cheaper, in fact. The store prices seem...well, let's just say random. Right now, players buy/sell refined for about $1 each, and will trade, say, an Ol' Snaggletooth for about 2-3 refined. The Snaggle $7.50 in the store, and isn't even tradeable when you buy it. Similar case with Keys -- they are about $2.50 in the store, and players will sell them for about $2.

Fourth, some items are unavailable in the store or via drops. Unusuals and Strange weapons are only available from crates (and are random), vintage and promotional items cannot be purchased, and some colors of paint are only available through random drops.

Finally, you may have some items that are quite valuable in your backpack, that other people would pay quite a bit for (I'll talk about those later).

So the answer is yes! If there's an item you want, or don't need in TF2, it's always worth it to trade it!

UTC Logo Competition

In addition to the Unusual Update Competition, UTC is also running a competition for it's new logo. The one we have right now is just a placeholder.

There's only a couple days left to enter, so show off your creative ability and submit your design here. The technical specifications for sizes, etc. are listed there for you.

UTC Unusual Update Competition

UTC is running a competition to create the most unusually awesome ideas of new hats, weapons, and maps!

You don't even have to be a modeler or artist to participate -- the best ideas will be voted upon and the artists (which could also be you) will get to work making the best ones a reality.

For example, my personal idea is for a 1940s-style diving helmet. Would be super awesome with the new bubbles effect!

Submit your ideas at the UTC subforum here.