Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Cheese is Insane

Obviously there is a lot of talk about the new player experience right now, so I thought I'd say something that has to be said: Cheese is insane.

Upon starting you have three choices for your first skill: Animal Kinship, Light Green Thumb, or EZ Cooking.  If you happen to choose cooking then you start with the handful of basic recipes, including Sammich and Cheezy Sammich.  There are are a few others, but lets just focus on those for now.

As a new glitch you have no other skills, so a to make a Sammich you are going to have to pet and nibble a piggy to get a meat for 9 energy.  You are also going to have to buy a bun for 10 currants from the grocery vendor.  It's 2 energy to combine these into a Sammich and you get 2 imagination for doing so.

So your inputs are 11 energy and 10 currants and your outputs are 2 imagination and a Sammich that you can eat for 29 energy or sell for 17 currants back to the groceries vendor (you could get 18 if you do a little exploration, or 22 if you are aware of the tool vendor).  Let's say your goal is to keep playing the game (energy) and to earn imagination.  Since you don't have another source of currants, you are going to have to sell 10/17 of the sandwiches back to the vendor to cover costs.  Each 7/17 of the Sammiches gets you 11.94 energy per Sammich, nearly a one energy profit.  Given that your energy decay is 1 per 90 seconds, you could theoretically stay afloat if you have an ample supply of piggies.  So our expectation from EZ Cooking being able to scrape out a hard life while earning a paltry amount of imagination (in reality you'll be collecting Qurazy Quoins and getting Badges and earning plenty of imagination, but the work you are doing is at least allowing you to break even while you do this).

On to the Cheezy Sammich.  You need the same 10 currants for a bun.  To get a cheese with no skills you need to use a dose of butterfly lotion as well, which costs 2.2 currants.  You also need to spend 10 energy massaging a butterfly, and 10 energy milking a butterfly to get your milk.  Then you need to spend 2 energy to turn the milk into butter.  Then you have to spend 5 energy to turn the butter into cheese.  Then make the sandwich for 2 energy earning 2 imagination.  At last you have a Cheezy Sammich that you can eat for 23 energy or sell for 13 currants.

Total cost 12.2 currants and 29 energy and the output is worth less than the Sammich.  You do get one extra imagination since massaging a butterfly gives an imagination even with no skill, but that's hardly worth the increased cost.  In fact, the output is worth less than just the energy spent, so eating the thing you cooked doesn't even give you enough energy to make another one.  How much would a Cheezy Sammich have to be worth to allow you to break even the way you can with Sammiches?  It would have to be worth 51.  Then it would vendor 29 at the grocery vendor, meaning you get to eat 16.8 out of every 29 Cheezy Sammiches, earning 29.54 energy per Cheezy Sammich you make.

Of course the Cheezy Sammich recipe itself isn't the problem, nor is the value of Cheezy Sammiches.  The problem is the energy requirements to get Butterfly Milk and the value of Cheese.

Sammiches turn 19 currants worth of raw ingredients into a 29 currant item for 2 energy.  Cheezy Sammiches turn 15 currants worth of raw ingredients into a 23 currant item for 2 energy.  Sammiches are a little better, but the two recipes are comparable.

On the other hand, with no skill it takes 9 energy to get 10 currants worth of meat, but 20 energy to get 8 currants worth of milk.  Meat is nearly three times as energy efficient to harvest.

But then, most bizarrely of all, it takes 2 energy to turn 8 currants worth of milk into 6 currants worth of butter, and then 5 energy to turn 6 currants worth of butter into 6 currants worth of cheese.  We could have lengthy arguments about whether it's better to spend 2 energy to lose 2 currants of value or to spend 5 energy for nothing, but clearly neither are good, and doing one and then the other in succession is downright terrible.

If I were to write a guide for glitch beginners I would not put a lot of things in it, because this is a game of exploration and I think it's best to figure things out on your own.  One thing I would, however, feel compelled to put in, would be the following:

Pretend Butterflies Don't Exist Until You Have AK4

Anything less and it's just not worth interacting with them.  Realistically I wouldn't bother until I had AK5 because it's just not worth the inventory slots to carry the lotion.

Three Options to Fix Cheese
First, let's tackle what we would have to do to have a purely numerical fix to the actions themselves.  Let's start with reducing the no-skill energy cost of massaging a butterfly to nothing (you pay for it by using the lotion) and of milking a butterfly to 5 and get rid of the single imagination from massaging.  Next, let's reduce the cost of turning milk to butter to zero and reduce the cost of turning butter to cheese to zero as well.  Now making Cheezy Sammiches costs you 12.2 currants and 7 energy.  You still can't break even on energy making them - selling one for 13 currants only gets you 0.8 currants which means you are only earning 1.4 energy back from eating the ones you eat; even if you explore and start selling them for 14 you are still only earning back 3.0 energy per Cheezy Sammich (you don't even break even at the tool vendor).  At least it's not quite so far off as it is now.

Does this sound like a problematic solution for high level?  Of course not.  Turning butterfly milk into butter would still lose you 2 currants and take time for nothing.  Turning butter into cheese would be time spend earning nothing.  Ultimately it would probably mean that milking butterflies would only cost 2 energy at AK7, but since nibbling piggies only costs 2 energy and produces the same amount of goods, that's not going to be a problem.

Second, let's imagine a slightly more adventurous solution that involves changing the prices of items, which is going to be a larger endeavour.  First, to alleviate the inventory slot issue and the large factor the cost of lotion plays for new glitchen lets increase the uses of butterfly lotion to 50 without increasing the cost.  Again I don't see a way around reducing the energy cost of milking to 5, and the energy cost of massaging would be reduced to 2.  Then, increase the value of butterfly butter to 9 and the value of cheese to 14.  Then increase the value of all items made out of these two things accordingly.  A Cheezy Sammich would now have 24 currants worth of ingredients.  By comparison, Common Crudites have 22 currants worth of ingredients and are worth 33 currants.  So probably a Cheezy Sammich would be worth around 35 currants.

Now it would cost 10.22 currants to make one Cheezy Sammich and it would sell for 20, meaning you would get to eat just under 50% of the Cheezy Sammiches you make for 17.1 energy per Cheezy Sammich.  They would cost 14 energy to make, so maybe this is a little generous, but its on the right track.  We could probably improve the situation by increasing the energy cost to make the Cheezy Sammich by one.  Again the high level implications are not problematic.  We'd again end up spending less energy to milk butterflies but that would matter very little.  The reduced cost of lotion wouldn't matter because high level glitchen don't use it anyway.

Finally, let's imagine a solution that differentiates butterflies from piggies in a way that's more substantial than different energy numbers to interact with them.  First, we'll remove the requirement to massage a butterfly before milking it entirely and also remove the Animal Kinship perk that means you don't need lotion to massage them.  Take lotion away from the vendors and make it something we craft with alchemy (10 uses per bottle, 120 currant value, takes 6 Friendly Acid and 26 Groddlene to make - that's around 10 chunks of dullite and around 11 chunks of beryl; possibly add a larger bottle with 100 uses as well).

Now make the cost of milking a butterfly with no skill 7 energy which drops to 2 energy at maximum Animal Kinship.  Keep the current progression of milk rewards.  Massaging a butterfly is the same cost and reward as it is now, but it increases the amount of milk you get from milking that butterfly by two.  So now massaging is something we can choose to do or not and that gives us additional rewards (massaging gets the milk flowing better).

To fix the cheese problem, give imagination for the transmutations.  One imagination for each milk turned to butter, two for each butter turned to cheese.  Then add a skill - Dairy Mastery - that requires, let's say Animal Kinship 3 and Saucery 1 - that halves the energy cost of the transmutations and doubles the imagination rewarded.

It shouldn't require 2.2 currants and 27 energy to make an item worth 6 currants.  For that matter, it shouldn't take a high level glitch with maximum skills 8 energy to make the same item worth 6 currants.  The fact that this item shows up in many cooking recipes is a hindrance that cooking doesn't need.  Hopefully in the future Cheese will not be for suckers.

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