I’ve been very lucky in iSRO this week

These are just a few of the prizes I got in the White Day event.

I barely played at all, to tell the truth, and I still ended up getting some fabulous prizes. The last one is from SRO-R. Of course, I’m happy about it since I’m the one who benefits, but it’s quite obvious that the ease with which these items can be acquired will be ruinous for the game economy. It really ought to take a lifetime of grinding and alchemy, not to mention massive amounts of real currency, to be able to obtain these Seal of Nova and “Rare” items. Yet a person like me, who had barely played in the last year, was able to get those items using a brand new character that I hadn’t even been botting very much with. Case in point: I bought a level 101 “Rare” earring from a guy for 150k gold. That’s how flooded the market is with Seal of Nova and “rare” items; people will sell them for less than the price of a single star level 35-50 Dimension Hole.

Ruined though the economy may be, it was to my great advantage, especially since my character is a newly created one. I once again am reminded of my theory that the bad luck I used to have in SRO was due to some sort of invisible “luck” factor built into the game, one that is assigned to each character upon creation and never changes. Not that I really believe there is a hidden “luck” statistic, but I did play legitimately without botting from level 1 to 80 during cap 80 and it is true that I never once got an SOS drop or even a +5 drop. Yet, in the space of several days of light botting (not even 24/7), my character got these:

As though that wasn’t enough good luck, the new equipment exchange system is worth mentioning. I haven’t seen too much written about this yet, which surprises me because it strikes me as one of the biggest game-ruining updates ever implemented, dwarfed in imprudence perhaps only by the elimination of the triangular trade system. The idea of the exchange system is that if you have, say, a level 56 sword and you need a level 56 blade you can go to the Magic Pop NPC in any city and exchange the sword for a blade or any other Chinese weapon of equal level with randomized stats. You pay a small fee in gold for the exchange. The key phrase here is randomized stats. This isn’t random in the same sense that the alchemy success rate is “randomized” to never, ever work when you most need it to. No, it’s “randomized” in a good way. Say your sword has shit stats, no blues, and is +0. You might get a +5 blade with full blues and superb stats in exchange. All it’ll cost you is a very modest fee in gold. Here are some items I got today with my new character by exchanging equipment with no bonuses on them at all:

I don’t know if the best part about all this is

    a) that you can buy an item from the NPC and “exchange” it for a superior item of equivalent level or
    a) that you can “exchange” an item into something else and then “exchange” the resultant item back into the original type of equipment

The latter requires a teensy bit of elaboration. Let’s say you use blades and have a level 52 blade with garbage stats. You have no money or patience for alchemy to fix the stats on the blade. As long as you have at least a little bit of gold you can exchange it for some other weapon and then exchange that weapon back into a blade. There is a good chance the resulting blade will have better stats than it did when you started the process. If it doesn’t, you can just keep repeating this exchange loop, as it were, until you get a blade with stats that you can be satisfied with.

The fee is not enough to discourage gaming the system like this. I can’t remember the exact fees, but for low degree stuff the fee was only four digits. For the 8th degree staff it was around 250k or thereabouts. It’s highly affordable and less of a gamble than you might imagine. I didn’t go through the loop more than three times on any of those items, if I recall correctly.

Once again, this change to the game gives some instant gratification and I’ll even admit I did momentarily feel like posting a global chat message proclaiming my overflowing love for Joymax when I realised how I could take advantage of it, but, just like the White Day event, it takes one of the meaningful challenges out of the game while leaving untouched the most injurious of the game’s many flaws which is the amount of time it takes to level up. Planning ahead was one of the things that made SRO great. You could never be certain that you’d be able to find equipment mid-degree. By this I mean that, while you could always be sure in the knowledge that, in a pinch, you could buy NPC equipment, you couldn’t buy equipment after the first item for each degree from NPCs. So if you were level 52, you needed to start thinking about buying your level 56 and 60 weapons because, though you could buy the level 52 weapon from the NPC, you had to buy the latter two from actual human players via a stall or direct exchange. The same was true for equipment. The stall network made it easier to find the second and third tier items for each degree but didn’t actually do anything to reduce the scarcity of them. The exchange system, on the other hand, actually reduces that scarcity and makes it easy to create out of thin air equipment that cannot be purchased from the NPCs. This reduces the importance of long term planning and will surely precipitate a sharp fall in the prices of most non-SoX equipment and perhaps even elixirs.

Having said that, I should really quit biting the hand that feeds me. I will exploit the exchange system to the fullest. It’s not a bug, so I can’t be banned for it. I just can’t help but wonder if Joymax realised when they implemented it how generous they were being.

The most incredible episode in my series of good luck, however, must be the following:

I’m telling the truth when I say that I only started playing again in mid-March. I went to the Forgotten World a total of three times since I started playing and, as is my wont, only went to the first treasure box. I got Spell Paper on my first run, Red Tears on the second, and Elder Staff on the third. I’m now in the peculiar situation of having the two most sought-after talismans but nonetheless being unable to finish the quest for lack of a Puppet, which is not all that rare of a talisman. Yet in the entire stall network there has not been a single puppet since this morning, when I got the Elder Staff. I suppose I’ll just try to get one myself since I’m only level 56 and have no need to finish the quest just yet. I can’t wait to one-hit mobs in DW stone cave with my SoSun staff!

I tried Silkroad-R today…

...and got this in the White Day event!

It was my first day playing SRO since last autumn and I didn’t even know what Silkroad-R was. Now I do. Since I’ve only played it for a few hours so far, I’m unable to conclusively say what I think of the new system yet. It’s weird getting stacks of 500 potions. I used to have to do gross estimates in my head every time I would restock on pots, trying to estimate how many inventory spots I would need to leave empty in anticipation of elixirs, alchemy materials, and, if I was lucky, equipment drops. Now I don’t have to do that. Pots take up 3 spots: one for HP potions, MP potions, and universal pills.

On the positive side, you get a free SOS equipment set every time you reach the next degree (eg. 8->16->24->32->42->52, etc…). This is nice, I suppose, especially for someone with bad luck at getting SOS drops. On the other hand, it takes all the luck out of the game. In normal SRO even killing thousands of Niya snipers has a tiny degree of suspense because you never know if a piece of equipment will drop. In the back of your mind you even maintain hope that maybe today will be the day you’ll get a SoX drop. Nearly all chance is taken out of the equation though without equipment or even gold drops in SRO-R prior to level 70.

But the reason I’m so excited is not because of SRO-R actually. In fact, I was going to play normal SRO today but I can’t get the client to update properly. Shortly after starting SRO-R I got these two White Day event items. On my very first try I got the above SOM garment chest piece. My first thought, of course, was that I had stumbled across some bug and that now I was going to be banned for “abusing” it. My second thought was something along the lines of, “Holy hell, this is one uncharacteristically magnanimous event if all the rewards are like this!” But no, apparently I’m just the luckiest noob on earth.

I’ve cashed in two sets of heart-shaped event items now. The first was a grand triumph. The second time I got a cookie that restores 25% HP and MP. The value differential between the first and second prizes is just staggering. So for all my complaining about there being no element of chance in SRO-R, it looks like it’s the events that are going to restore the premium on luck. That and presumably alchemy. I suppose that’s still all about luck, too.

I hope I can get a GDF. Those are worth barrels of money now.

I just had an epiphany concerning console obsolescence

My PS3 has endured many hardships.

Consoles become obsolete; that’s for sure. Games don’t though. I never finished Xenosaga Episode III: Also Sprach Zarathustra, though I did stumble through the indecipherable tome of the same name. Now my PS2 is broken, my computer can’t run PCSX2 at playable speeds because I was too cheap to buy an Intel processor, and my PS3 has a bad BD-ROM drive. I should be overcome by despair right now. But I’m not, you see. That’s ’cause I had myself an epiphany.

Famicon was released in 1983. By 1993 Game Boy had a vast library of games, including ports and re-releases of Famicon games. SFC was released in 1990. Game Boy Advance was released in 2001. SFC titles saw ports, sequels, and remakes in large numbers for GBA. PSX was released in 1994. I had a PSP by New Year’s Day 2005 and it can play virtually all PSX games.

As you can see, the magic number between the time a home console is released and the time its games are available on a portable system is about 10 years. The time from Genesis to Nomad was a mere 7 years.

Therefore, I should not mourn the loss of an opportunity to play those great PSX and PS2 games that I never had time to play when they were new. I should just patiently await the next big thing that will breathe new life into these old buried treasures. PS2 came out in 2000. A portable version of the PS2 is long overdue, judging from trends. Of course, a high-end laptop would play PS2 games just fine, but that doesn’t count. I want something like popstation for PS2 games.

At the moment my PS3 is completely usable. The power/eject board only worked around one in ten times I’d try to use it so I replaced it. Prior to that I could turn it on with a controller that I had managed to sync with the console but then I accidentally de-synced it when I used it on my computer. The BD-ROM drive is dead so I play games from a 250GB hard drive I deprived my laptop the use of. I was satisfied with the $30 PS3 I had salvaged until I went and completely severed the connection between the USB assembly and the power supply by putting a screw into a hole that really, really looked like it was supposed to have a screw in it but was apparently just a decoy. Anyway, the lesson is that you don’t have to know how to use a soldering iron to fix a thing like that; you just a need a penny to do some scratching and a tiny wire to bypass the damaged section. Now all four USB ports work just fine, although I will say that it now looks as though the slightest breeze will ruin the whole “repair”.

I’ve dumped Comodo

Haha, I just love this kid.

Comodo firewall is great if you like to micromanage every single process on your computer. Nothing slips past Comodo, seemingly even if you set the firewall to “disabled”. On the one hand, it’s a bit idiot-proof to the extent that it’s hard to accidentally disable the whole program by some mistake. On the other hand, I’m rarely able to get it to do exactly what I want. For example, just to get a simple P2P program working required making 4 non-intuitive application rules (one for port 80 for tracker announces, one for TCP in/out, one for UDP in/out, one to deny everything else) and a global rule. I also had to make these 5 new rules top priority or else they didn’t take effect. There’s a section for managing programs on an application-by-application basis so you’d think I could just point the firewall to P2P_program.exe and tell it something along the lines of “trust everything P2P_program tries to do; it’s safe” but that doesn’t work. Even the “allow all” setting doesn’t really allow all. You have to dig deep in the forums to figure out how to allow a single program access through the firewall on a single port or port range, as though this were some sort of uncommon task that only superusers need to know how to do. It’s not though. Whenever you install a program that needs relatively unfettered access to your Internet connection you need to let it through your firewall but there’s so much prerequisite knowledge needed to be able to do that in Comodo firewall that it can be extremely frustrating and time consuming. I should be able to choose a program, specify some ports and a direction (ie. IN/OUT) and be done with it. I shouldn’t have to mess with global rules, stealth port settings, and application-specific rules or be familiar with some arcane settings buried in an obscure “advanced” menu.

Comodo is not a bad firewall. Of course, I know nothing really about computer security, so even if it were a bad firewall I wouldn’t be qualified to judge. What I can say though is that Comodo makes it so difficult to actually allow a program to run normally that I may as well unplug my Ethernet cable for 100% security. The program is so secure that it makes it a real challenge to weaken it even slightly. A more user friendly approach is what I’m looking for, even if it may put me in a less secure environment than Comodo. I’d rather be put in a bit of danger by human error resulting from my own foolishness than do things safely but painstakingly with Comodo.

My other problem with Comodo though is cfp.exe, which unexpectedly jumps to 25% CPU utilization occasionally. I’ve read that this can be caused by conflict with another firewall or AV program but I don’t have another firewall and I’ve tried uninstalling my AV program Avast, with attention to meticulous detail including using CCleaner and the official Avast manual removal tool. I’ve also specified the entire “COMODO” directory to be excluded when Avast does virus scans. In the Defense+ settings of Comodo I’ve likewise specified all the Avast folders to be excluded. Neither of those ideas helped. The high CPU usage is not a reproducible reaction. It’s totally unpredictable and has no upside, which is what makes it so aggravating, unlike the strictness of the rules system which at least has the benefit of preventing me from doing something stupid. Sometimes I’ll simply be browsing the web without any P2P program open at all and cfp.exe will cripple my computer, sometimes for just a few minutes, sometimes for as much as a half an hour.

I didn’t want to use a commercial firewall as a replacement. I did a google search for “lightweight firewall” and came across PrivateFirewall. I’ve only been using it for about 30 minutes now but I already know how to make global rules, new application rules, how to trust an application completely, and how to make application rules that allow a program through the firewall only under certain conditions such as only via specific ports or only in one direction or the other. These are all things that were not satisfactorily covered in the Comodo help menus which meant I had to read countless threads on the Comodo forums before I could figure out how to do them and even then, my rules did not always work properly because I had missed some other minor setting that would render them ineffective.

I also like the PrivateFirewall taskbar icon of a friendly police officer.

Trinkets, odds and ends. That sort of thing.

Lisbet is my most beloved Ukrainian cannibal of all time, standing heads and shoulders above her compatriots.

It’s fun seeing what else the people who buy my items on eBay are purchasing. As I’ve admitted before, I really enjoy watching the TV show Hoarders because mocking these people who are tens of thousands of dollars in debt from compulsive shopping who live in filth and have to shit in buckets behind their homes because a plumber cannot physically fit into the bathroom to get the sink, shower, and toilet working again makes me feel better about my own minor foibles.

Of course, the one question that’s always on my mind as I laugh at these basketcases is where they get all this stuff. I always wonder if the people buying the old books I occasionally sell are like the people on that show. Sometimes I find evidence that they are.

I’m not proud of the fact that I sometimes look at the purchase history of my buyers, but I’m sure others do the same. People know that others can view their feedback profiles and they also must know that each feedback entry, save for private listings, has a link to the item for which the feedback is for. That’s why I never buy stuff that could later come back to haunt me on eBay. That’s what proxy services are for.

I wouldn’t be so interested in looking at purchase histories if it weren’t for the fact that the books I’m selling are such garbage. There are kid’s books, very old textbooks that are surely outdated and nearly useless (eg. a book on Photoshop from 2000), school books, detective novels, movie scripts, and occasionally some old game-related books.

As it turns out, at least some of the people buying my items buy other garbage as well. Here’s a case history of my most recent customer, who bought a kid’s book from me:

  • a vintage hobo-shaped pin complete with bindle
  • an army strongbox for storing documents
  • a toy treasure chest for storing cash
  • a custom made motorcycle tag
  • several motorcycle-shaped pins
  • several motorcycle themed stickers and other ornaments
  • a snowflake-shaped cookie cutter
  • egg-shaped novelty salt and pepper shaker set
  • a pumpkin-shaped pie mould
  • an apple-shaped pie mould
  • 2 moon-shaped pins
  • 3 candles shaped like little girls
  • a pendant souvenir from the book/movie Eragon
  • numerous vintage postcards
  • another novelty cookie cutter set
  • a cookie recipe
  • a green, plastic, St. Patrick’s Day themed wreath
  • a pig figurine
  • various china dresses like China-san’s from Spirit of Wonder
  • motorcycle themed temporary tattoos
  • a novelty drinking glass with dancers painted on it

This is all from February. In all fairness, it is a leap year, but even so, that’s far more rubbish than I would purchase in any given month. Not that I’m complaining, since, without this sort of person, I wouldn’t be selling my books filled with scribbles and underlining and, of course, a person with my profligate spending tendencies is really in no position to preach. Nonetheless, I genuinely find it entertaining seeing what interesting folks like this customer are buying.