The Diamond Cartel
December 29, 2017 5:11 PM   Subscribe

 
That was fantastic.
posted by Construction Concern at 5:39 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


reading this article
a) was absolutely fascinating
b) reminded me why i only buy index funds and will never be rich
posted by murphy slaw at 5:49 PM on December 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


Having never played Minecraft, but also having been interested a bit in it, I have to say that story crushed any desire I may have had in giving it a shot.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:08 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


They were playing a modded minecraft. Vanilla minecraft doesn't have currency or an economy.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 6:14 PM on December 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


There's also no need to play it on a server, MMO style.
posted by Shutter at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


That was oddly like all the other "memoirs of a trader" books I've read at various jobs.
posted by PMdixon at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2017 [6 favorites]


This article was a fascinating window into another world, underscoring how little brains or ambition I have. An upside to that, however, is: I'm ok with this!
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 6:19 PM on December 29, 2017 [5 favorites]


Thanks for posting this.

I thought Alice's description of her route to initial wealth ( grinding riverbank clay and lilypads) was very interesting in its unsexiness.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:34 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


So great! Thanks for posting this!
posted by great_radio at 6:47 PM on December 29, 2017


Only like 1/3 of the way through, but this is much like the mega EVE exploits tolled here ever now and then. I don't have the time anymore, but I love reading about things like this.
posted by sanka at 6:51 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]


Most modded Minecraft doesn't have currency, either, for that matter. I find all these descriptions really baffling, because if you're a person who just wants to build some really enormous things, why on earth would you choose to do it in that environment and not in Creative? As a story, what's really revealing about it is that all these people were doing all of this fully by choice--nothing they wanted couldn't be had by playing on a different server that was set up differently, even then. This wasn't a thing you had to do to play Minecraft. This was a game barely even related to Minecraft that was built on top of Minecraft as a platform.

And during this same time period, I was playing other games built on Minecraft as a platform that were completely different experiences, for example one modpack where you could in fact generate basically infinite diamonds but you were constantly fighting not to die of heat and dehydration. It's weird and amazing to me that I can look at other people who've also spent tons of time on this game and realize that our play experiences have almost nothing in common.
posted by Sequence at 6:59 PM on December 29, 2017 [17 favorites]


I didn't read the entire thing, but I read much of it.

Alice seemed like an honest player...

And then there was this exchange (paraphrased).

Honest player: Um, someone is cheating in this economy, you should figure that out!
Regulator: Um, no, that's impossible, this economy is totally fair, and without bugs.
Honest player: No, seriously, it's impossible to be this successful if you are being honest, I can tell that someone is hacking the system.
Regulator: Nope, impossible.
Honest player: So, given that, if I also profit from what couldn't be unethical behavior, and you in the future figure this out, can I keep all of my (ill gotten) gains.
Regulator: Of course, because the system can't be broken.

I like to think this sort mirrors the real-world economy, except that 'honest players' are much less common in the world of big-finance. Also in the real world there is a non-zero chance that the regulator hangs out and parties with the other players, and was once a player himself, and may be a lobbyist for the cheating players in the future.
posted by el io at 7:00 PM on December 29, 2017 [17 favorites]


Having never played Minecraft, but also having been interested a bit in it, I have to say that story crushed any desire I may have had in giving it a shot.

We play a crap-ton of Minecraft here. My son has literally spent the entire day bouncing between three or four servers with friends. We follow many large and small scale Minecraft YouTubers. I have literally never before heard of anyone who plays Minecraft this way.

'Marbles' are some kind of home-grown add-on currency they created. Of course, the beauty of Minecraft is that you can make the game do almost anything you want. And she's right - shearing sheep is super annoying. But its reasonably easy to get A LOT of wool with dedication and a dozen or so of hours of gameplay. And there are certainly survival servers where they build some AMAZING things (Hermitcraft is one, if you want to look it up on YouTube.) But there is, for, sure also creative and a million other options besides this.

So, I guess, you do you? This doesn't sound like a fun way to play to me, but clearly it (sorta) was for them, and the game can stretch to accommodate them..... But don't let it put you off. This is some other game that they were playing within the confines of Minecraft.
posted by anastasiav at 7:04 PM on December 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


Thanks, bq, that was a fascinating story.
posted by straight at 7:21 PM on December 29, 2017


why on earth would you choose to do it in that environment and not in Creative?

For the challenge. I built Macchu Picchu, the Tower of London, Hatshepsut's Temple, Salem Village, and a massive Victorian garden cemetery in survival because part of the thrill was saying, "I made all this alabaster. I raised the sheep and colored all the wool. I survived creepers and the night and spiders inside my towers, to make this thing."
posted by headspace at 7:35 PM on December 29, 2017 [15 favorites]


After reading this, it is nothing like the EVE trolls. Not worth it at all.
posted by sanka at 7:54 PM on December 29, 2017


This is great!

It's amusing how you can replace "colored wool" with "altcoin" and you get cryptocurrency 101.
posted by Memo at 8:20 PM on December 29, 2017 [8 favorites]


There were no restraints anymore. We could do whatever we wanted. It was our server. Everyone else was just playing on it.

Why am I hearing Ray Liotta reading this monologue?
posted by Chrysostom at 8:24 PM on December 29, 2017 [21 favorites]


Thank you for posting this. It was amazing to get into her head for a bit.
posted by wym at 11:07 PM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


On one hand, this is fascinating.

On the other hand, I can't imagine why an artificial shortage of saddles makes riding horses more fun for anybody. (There's a reason I'm not a gamer.)

But, I am delighted to learn this didn't end with a cash-out for "real" money (as far as I can tell). There's something beautiful about wasting thousands of hours hacking a fake economy without getting anything of value except opportunities for play in exchange.
posted by eotvos at 5:53 AM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I like to think this sort mirrors the real-world economy, except that 'honest players' are much less common in the world of big-finance.

This is pretty damn close to the narrative of The Big Short (the book; haven't seen the movie), The central figures in that event go from door to door telling banks and investors and regulators that repackaged securities are built on shit and that it's all going to come tumbling down, and are patted patronizingly on the head and told that what they're sayin is impossible, that smarter people than them have designed these investments and assessed the risks, and so-forth. After enough of this treatment they say, "Fine, so, if it doesn't bother you at all, we're going to go and make a lot of money on this, then." And then they do.
posted by jackbishop at 6:22 AM on December 30, 2017 [11 favorites]


Yes, I was reminded of alt-coin and The Big Short as well. This is a very incisive and powerful lesson in behavioral economics, down to the reasons people prefer to play a version of Minecraft with an economic exchange layer, and the various ways they engage with it, including their attraction to building in that environment despite the availability of creative mode, even in multiplayer.

I read this last night and I'm still thinking about it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:19 AM on December 30, 2017


I'm waiting for a Gorean Minecraft server, myself.

which would also have a thriving saddle market
posted by delfin at 8:28 AM on December 30, 2017 [7 favorites]


Important to note about Minecraft: Unmodded servers do not have a de facto currency or even shops. Unmodded servers require players to broker their own barter trades. Usually diamonds are the currency of choice, but it can be whatever's in short supply. In close-knit play groups (e.g. MeFightClub or other clubs), there can be an element of collaborative building and socialist economy where most resources slowly come to be available for free, self serve, only requiring travel (which can be massively shortened via various travel-related infrastructure builds) to help yourself to whatever material you need.
posted by kalessin at 9:55 AM on December 30, 2017 [3 favorites]


I am amazed by this kind of thing. Also, how can I give all my money to this person to play the market for me? Seems like this mentality and skill set is directly translatable to the world of finance.
posted by Osrinith at 11:34 AM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


...which is why there a so much suffering in real life. Can someone switch the United States server back to unmodded, then?
posted by eustatic at 12:02 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's something beautiful about wasting thousands of hours hacking a fake economy without getting anything of value except opportunities for play in exchange.

My nephew dropped out of college to set up a room full of servers running his automated trading system that arbitrages the buying and selling of in-game items. He cashes out when he can accumulate $10,000 in value, there are people who buy at that quantity in bulk with bitcoin.

If he stays on top of it, he regularly makes $400 per day.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:52 PM on December 30, 2017 [2 favorites]


I read this trying to imagine the perspective of one of the "regular" players. I don't think I'd choose to play this variation of Minecraft, but for someone who did, it seems like the shenanigans of the author and his partners would have made the game more interesting, with the whole chain of Diamonds are Cheap! Diamonds are worthless! Somebody's buying diamonds! Whoa, you can make so much money selling diamonds! Where's all the diamonds? Diamonds are expensive again! Progressive tax rate after sever wipe? Everyone uses diamonds as currency to avoid taxes.

Having an in-game economy that changed a whole lot, stores coming and going, some people being super wealthy, some people with farms that you could make guaranteed money by just going over and sheering their sheep for a while -- all that stuff seems like it would be a lot more interesting than the canned economies you get in most RPGs & MMOs.

So I have to applaud this person for playing so well the type of game those people all signed up to play. One of the beauties of Minecraft is that the world is so nearly infinite, you can usually have a lot of choice how much you engage with other players in a multiplayer map. I'm sure there were players who went off to their own remote area of the world and did their own thing, mining for themselves most of what they wanted to use, and only being vaguely aware that there were all kinds of weird things going on at the markets among the rich people back at the spawn points that they could go check out or ignore as they pleased.
posted by straight at 4:45 PM on December 30, 2017 [5 favorites]


> it seems like the shenanigans of the author and his partners would have made the game more interesting,

Sounds like you just explained why so many people like following the ever-triggering news cycle in real life.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:41 PM on December 30, 2017 [1 favorite]


"Why am I hearing Ray Liotta reading this monologue?"

As far back as I can remember I always wanted to play Minecraft.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 12:13 AM on December 31, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't understand how these servers work, tbh, and I've played Minecraft since late alpha-early beta.

Like, in my single player survival game, I have thousands and thousands of iron blocks. I get them automatically, by killing golems created by installing fake villages that fool the game into spawning iron golems endlessly, which I then kill for their iron using lava. I literally throw away thousands of iron per hour to avoid lagging my game, and I don't even need to be in the same chunk as the farm. I also have thousands and thousands of colored wool blocks. I use a weird trick to just hold down right click and get fed shears while I cut the wool off sheep for 8 hours while I sleep. I have an unlimited number of enchanted books and emeralds that I get by exploiting villager mechanics. I can kill the wither boss with a stick while naked because I exploit the shape of the nether roof to force the boss to suffocate himself. So as many nether stars as I want. Like... why would anyone ever need to BUY wool? Or, anything?
posted by xyzzy at 9:08 AM on December 31, 2017 [2 favorites]


If you try to build something like that on a public server, they'll just send the goons over to grief it down, or else get straight up banned.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 10:11 AM on December 31, 2017


Fantastic article, thanks!
posted by equalpants at 4:40 PM on December 31, 2017


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