For anyone that knows me outside of Star Wars: The Old Republic, I hope that you did not injure yourself when you collapsed in shock that my topic today is advocated for regulation of a market. I am always in favor of letting market forces drive the allocation of resources, but when some market participants are interfering with the free flow of goods and capital an intervention is warranted. This is even more true in a game than real life, because at the end of day this is supposed to be fun!
What’s wrong now?
The problem I’m writing about are the sellers on the GTN that list items for exorbitant amounts. I have become acutely aware of the magnitude of the problem as I’ve spent the past week writing algorithms to identify and remove these sellers from my GTN data to remove their skew in a less manual way in the long-term. The process has been long and boring, but hopefully it will be finished later today and I can get back to the more enjoyable content creation that it is preventing. I was not prepared for the sheer volume and diversity of listings outside of the useful data set from the GTN.
More importantly, these sellers are primarily listing items for prices that can be accidentally selected by tired eyes after a night of operations when sorting the price column incorrectly. This has subsequently spawned a more noble, but no less problematic, group of sellers that list the items for sums that no player I’ve encountered has available, most often one billion credits, so that incorrect sorting is more apparent to the player. While this is a helpful safeguard against the nefarious intent of the first type of seller, it is not without its own cost because the sheer volume of listings on the GTN causes the database recall to be quite slow at times and has been cited by developers as a limitation for new content. For more information on an example, check out the latest Ootinicast which includes information from Bill about a GTN-related feature suggestion for which database workload was a limiting factor mentioned by BioWare.
The result is hundreds or even thousands of single item listings per server for unit values that are illogical at best and manipulative at worst. There is no database or system that is not hindered by unnecessary workload, so that alone is a worthwhile reason to make changes. If you add the quality of life benefits to players of a faster GTN and the removal of manipulative sellers, it becomes a big win for BioWare. So how would I fix it if Musco emailed me and asked?
How can it be fixed?
The simplest solution would be price ceilings on items for the GTN, but this is too broad of an approach and even on a per-item basis would be very limiting. If the system could handle it, the best solution I’ve come up with so far is a dynamic price ceiling which only allows new listings up to 200% of the current lowest price available. My thought process is that a dynamic ceiling still allows it to be market driven, but maintains a tighter range of listings. If there are units available for that much below the price you’re attempting to list your units at, you should be buying them up to sell later or you’re listing well above market equilibrium and should lower your price.
Another simple solution would be to suspend accounts that chronically list above reasonable value, ideally just removing their GTN selling permission if possible. Start with a short-term suspension and scale up for repeat offenders. If anyone from BioWare happens across this rant and would like to pursue this option, I’d be happy to provide my exclusion list from my algorithm of sellers to exclude as irrelevant to market analysis to make the process even easier!
Your turn to tell me how I’m wrong!
I would honestly like to hear a lot of feedback on this topic. Is it an issue? Does it negatively impact your use of the GTN or dissuade you from using the GTN? If it is an issue, what should be done about it? What’s your ideal solution and is that the same as your practical solution?
As always, thanks for reading. I’ve nearly finished the new algorithms and data base queries which will allow me to post GTN data updates that are more easily navigated and have more information on trends and relative value at current prices built into the output! I’m also working a lot to build out the back-end system for other new features that will be very exciting, but work keeps getting in the way and realistically that will be an issue for another month or so probably.
– Andrew | SWTOR Economics