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Former investment bank FX trader: Risk management part 3/3
Welcome to the third and final part of this chapter. Thank you all for the 100s of comments and upvotes - maybe this post will take us above 1,000 for this topic! Keep any feedback or questions coming in the replies below. Before you read this note, please start with Part I and then Part II so it hangs together and makes sense. Part III
Squeezes and other risks
Crap trades, timeouts and monthly limits
Squeezes and other risks
We are going to cover three common risks that traders face: events; squeezes, asymmetric bets.
Economic releases can cause large short-term volatility. The most famous is Non Farm Payrolls, which is the most widely watched measure of US employment levels and affects the price of many instruments.On an NFP announcement currencies like EURUSD might jump (or drop) 100 pips no problem. This is fine and there are trading strategies that one may employ around this but the key thing is to be aware of these releases.You can find economic calendars all over the internet - including on this site - and you need only check if there are any major releases each day or week. For example, if you are trading off some intraday chart and scalping a few pips here and there it would be highly sensible to go into a known data release flat as it is pure coin-toss and not the reason for your trading. It only takes five minutes each day to plan for the day ahead so do not get caught out by this. Many retail traders get stopped out on such events when price volatility is at its peak.
Short squeezes bring a lot of danger and perhaps some opportunity. The story of VW and Porsche is the best short squeeze ever. Throughout these articles we've used FX examples wherever possible but in this one instance the concept (which is also highly relevant in FX) is best illustrated with an historical lesson from a different asset class. A short squeeze is when a participant ends up in a short position they are forced to cover. Especially when the rest of the market knows that this participant can be bullied into stopping out at terrible levels, provided the market can briefly drive the price into their pain zone. There's a reason for the car, don't worry Hedge funds had been shorting VW stock. However the amount of VW stock available to buy in the open market was actually quite limited. The local government owned a chunk and Porsche itself had bought and locked away around 30%. Neither of these would sell to the hedge-funds so a good amount of the stock was un-buyable at any price. If you sell or short a stock you must be prepared to buy it back to go flat at some point. To cut a long story short, Porsche bought a lot of call options on VW stock. These options gave them the right to purchase VW stock from banks at slightly above market price. Eventually the banks who had sold these options realised there was no VW stock to go out and buy since the German government wouldn’t sell its allocation and Porsche wouldn’t either. If Porsche called in the options the banks were in trouble. Porsche called in the options which forced the shorts to buy stock - at whatever price they could get it. The price squeezed higher as those that were short got massively squeezed and stopped out. For one brief moment in 2008, VW was the world’s most valuable company. Shorts were burned hard. Incredible event Porsche apparently made $11.5 billion on the trade. The BBC described Porsche as “a hedge fund with a carmaker attached.” If this all seems exotic then know that the same thing happens in FX all the time. If everyone in the market is talking about a key level in EURUSD being 1.2050 then you can bet the market will try to push through 1.2050 just to take out any short stops at that level. Whether it then rallies higher or fails and trades back lower is a different matter entirely. This brings us on to the matter of crowded trades. We will look at positioning in more detail in the next section. Crowded trades are dangerous for PNL. If everyone believes EURUSD is going down and has already sold EURUSD then you run the risk of a short squeeze. For additional selling to take place you need a very good reason for people to add to their position whereas a move in the other direction could force mass buying to cover their shorts. A trading mentor when I worked at the investment bank once advised me: Always think about which move would cause the maximum people the maximum pain. That move is precisely what you should be watching out for at all times.
Also known as picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. This risk has caught out many a retail trader. Sometimes it is referred to as a "negative skew" strategy. Ideally what you are looking for is asymmetric risk trade set-ups: that is where the downside is clearly defined and smaller than the upside. What you want to avoid is the opposite. A famous example of this going wrong was the Swiss National Bank de-peg in 2012. The Swiss National Bank had said they would defend the price of EURCHF so that it did not go below 1.2. Many people believed it could never go below 1.2 due to this. Many retail traders therefore opted for a strategy that some describe as ‘picking up pennies in front of a steam-roller’. They would would buy EURCHF above the peg level and hope for a tiny rally of several pips before selling them back and keep doing this repeatedly. Often they were highly leveraged at 100:1 so that they could amplify the profit of the tiny 5-10 pip rally. Then this happened. Something that changed FX markets forever The SNB suddenly did the unthinkable. They stopped defending the price. CHF jumped and so EURCHF (the number of CHF per 1 EUR) dropped to new lows very fast. Clearly, this trade had horrific risk : reward asymmetry: you risked 30% to make 0.05%. Other strategies like naively selling options have the same result. You win a small amount of money each day and then spectacularly blow up at some point down the line.
We have talked about short squeezes. But how do you know what the market position is? And should you care? Let’s start with the first. You should definitely care. Let’s imagine the entire market is exceptionally long EURUSD and positioning reaches extreme levels. This makes EURUSD very vulnerable. To keep the price going higher EURUSD needs to attract fresh buy orders. If everyone is already long and has no room to add, what can incentivise people to keep buying? The news flow might be good. They may believe EURUSD goes higher. But they have already bought and have their maximum position on. On the flip side, if there’s an unexpected event and EURUSD gaps lower you will have the entire market trying to exit the position at the same time. Like a herd of cows running through a single doorway. Messy. We are going to look at this in more detail in a later chapter, where we discuss ‘carry’ trades. For now this TRYJPY chart might provide some idea of what a rush to the exits of a crowded position looks like. A carry trade position clear-out in action Knowing if the market is currently at extreme levels of long or short can therefore be helpful. The CFTC makes available a weekly report, which details the overall positions of speculative traders “Non Commercial Traders” in some of the major futures products. This includes futures tied to deliverable FX pairs such as EURUSD as well as products such as gold. The report is called “CFTC Commitments of Traders” ("COT"). This is a great benchmark. It is far more representative of the overall market than the proprietary ones offered by retail brokers as it covers a far larger cross-section of the institutional market. Generally market participants will not pay a lot of attention to commercial hedgers, which are also detailed in the report. This data is worth tracking but these folks are simply hedging real-world transactions rather than speculating so their activity is far less revealing and far more noisy. You can find the data online for free and download it directly here. Raw format is kinda hard to work with However, many websites will chart this for you free of charge and you may find it more convenient to look at it that way. Just google “CFTC positioning charts”. But you can easily get visualisations You can visually spot extreme positioning. It is extremely powerful. Bear in mind the reports come out Friday afternoon US time and the report is a snapshot up to the prior Tuesday. That means it is a lagged report - by the time it is released it is a few days out of date. For longer term trades where you hold positions for weeks this is of course still pretty helpful information. As well as the absolute level (is the speculative market net long or short) you can also use this to pick up on changes in positioning. For example if bad news comes out how much does the net short increase? If good news comes out, the market may remain net short but how much did they buy back? A lot of traders ask themselves “Does the market have this trade on?” The positioning data is a good method for answering this. It provides a good finger on the pulse of the wider market sentiment and activity. For example you might say: “There was lots of noise about the good employment numbers in the US. However, there wasn’t actually a lot of position change on the back of it. Maybe everyone who wants to buy already has. What would happen now if bad news came out?” In general traders will be wary of entering a crowded position because it will be hard to attract additional buyers or sellers and there could be an aggressive exit. If you want to enter a trade that is showing extreme levels of positioning you must think carefully about this dynamic.
Retail traders often drastically underestimate how correlated their bets are. Through bitter experience, I have learned that a mistake in position correlation is the root of some of the most serious problems in trading. If you have eight highly correlated positions, then you are really trading one position that is eight times as large. Bruce Kovner of hedge fund, Caxton Associates For example, if you are trading a bunch of pairs against the USD you will end up with a simply huge USD exposure. A single USD-trigger can ruin all your bets. Your ideal scenario — and it isn’t always possible — would be to have a highly diversified portfolio of bets that do not move in tandem. Look at this chart. Inverted USD index (DXY) is green. AUDUSD is orange. EURUSD is blue. Chart from TradingView So the whole thing is just one big USD trade! If you are long AUDUSD, long EURUSD, and short DXY you have three anti USD bets that are all likely to work or fail together. The more diversified your portfolio of bets are, the more risk you can take on each. There’s a really good video, explaining the benefits of diversification from Ray Dalio. A systematic fund with access to an investable universe of 10,000 instruments has more opportunity to make a better risk-adjusted return than a trader who only focuses on three symbols. Diversification really is the closest thing to a free lunch in finance. But let’s be pragmatic and realistic. Human retail traders don’t have capacity to run even one hundred bets at a time. More realistic would be an average of 2-3 trades on simultaneously. So what can be done? For example:
You might diversify across time horizons by having a mix of short-term and long-term trades.
You might diversify across asset classes - trading some FX but also crypto and equities.
You might diversify your trade generation approach so you are not relying on the same indicators or drivers on each trade.
You might diversify your exposure to the market regime by having some trades that assume a trend will continue (momentum) and some that assume we will be range-bound (carry).
And so on. Basically you want to scan your portfolio of trades and make sure you are not putting all your eggs in one basket. If some trades underperform others will perform - assuming the bets are not correlated - and that way you can ensure your overall portfolio takes less risk per unit of return. The key thing is to start thinking about a portfolio of bets and what each new trade offers to your existing portfolio of risk. Will it diversify or amplify a current exposure?
Crap trades, timeouts and monthly limits
One common mistake is to get bored and restless and put on crap trades. This just means trades in which you have low conviction. It is perfectly fine not to trade. If you feel like you do not understand the market at a particular point, simply choose not to trade. Flat is a position. Do not waste your bullets on rubbish trades. Only enter a trade when you have carefully considered it from all angles and feel good about the risk. This will make it far easier to hold onto the trade if it moves against you at any point. You actually believe in it. Equally, you need to set monthly limits. A standard limit might be a 10% account balance stop per month. At that point you close all your positions immediately and stop trading till next month. Be strict with yourself and walk away Let’s assume you started the year with $100k and made 5% in January so enter Feb with $105k balance. Your stop is therefore 10% of $105k or $10.5k . If your account balance dips to $94.5k ($105k-$10.5k) then you stop yourself out and don’t resume trading till March the first. Having monthly calendar breaks is nice for another reason. Say you made a load of money in January. You don’t want to start February feeling you are up 5% or it is too tempting to avoid trading all month and protect the existing win. Each month and each year should feel like a clean slate and an independent period. Everyone has trading slumps. It is perfectly normal. It will definitely happen to you at some stage. The trick is to take a break and refocus. Conserve your capital by not trading a lot whilst you are on a losing streak. This period will be much harder for you emotionally and you’ll end up making suboptimal decisions. An enforced break will help you see the bigger picture. Put in place a process before you start trading and then it’ll be easy to follow and will feel much less emotional. Remember: the market doesn’t care if you win or lose, it is nothing personal. When your head has cooled and you feel calm you return the next month and begin the task of building back your account balance.
That's a wrap on risk management
Thanks for taking time to read this three-part chapter on risk management. I hope you enjoyed it. Do comment in the replies if you have any questions or feedback. Remember: the most important part of trading is not making money. It is not losing money. Always start with that principle. I hope these three notes have provided some food for thought on how you might approach risk management and are of practical use to you when trading. Avoiding mistakes is not a sexy tagline but it is an effective and reliable way to improve results. Next up I will be writing about an exciting topic I think many traders should look at rather differently: news trading. Please follow on here to receive notifications and the broad outline is below. News Trading Part I
Why use the economic calendar
Reading the economic calendar
Knowing what's priced in
First order thinking vs second order thinking
News Trading Part II
Preparing for quantitative and qualitative releases
Data surprise index
Using recent events to predict future reactions
Buy the rumour, sell the fact
The mysterious 'position trim' effect
Some key FX releases
*** Disclaimer:This content is not investment advice and you should not place any reliance on it. The views expressed are the author's own and should not be attributed to any other person, including their employer.
-Karachi is Planning to Restart Tram Services Sindh Government is planning to restore the glory of old Karachi area and is planning to rebuild tram services. For the construction and operations of tram service, the provincial government is looking to acquire services of Austrian experts. The Sindh Chief Minister, Murad Ali Shah, met with the Pakistani ambassador posted in Vienna, Mansoor Ahmed Khan, at CM House Karachi. In the meeting, both discussed ways to improve relations with the Austrian government in the field of technical education, renewable hydropower and city planning for Karachi. -Pakistan’s logistics market reaches $34.2bln Pakistan’s logistics market has reached $34.2 billion with annual growth of 18 percent, a minister said on Saturday, while unveiling a plan for state-owned postal operator to enter into ecommerce business. Minister for Postal Services Murad Saeed said future initiatives of Pakistan Post would be compatible with the contemporary needs of existing times. “This would include an entry into the ecommerce business,” Saeed said at a meeting. The minister announced a pilot project for microfinance loan disbursement of Khushhali Bank through Pakistan Post. The project will be piloted by the first week of January and will formally be inaugurated by the mid of January. -Pakistan Army inducts indigenous built Multiple Launch Rocket system in Artillery Corps As per the media report, Pakistan Army has inducted A-100 rocket in Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) of its Corps of Artillery. Media wing of the armed forces, the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said A-100 rocket had been indigenously developed by Pakistani scientists and engineers. “With over 100 kilometers range the Rocket is a highly effective and potent for interdiction that can effectively disrupt enemy’s mobilization and assembly,” said the ISPR. -$15 billion investment package likely from UAE including mega oil refinery in Pakistan Pakistan is likely to get $ 10 -15 billion investment package from UAE , likely to be announced during the visit of Crown Prince, sources said. Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan is expected to announce the facility for Pakistan during his visit to the country starting January 6. The sources added that Pakistan, in collaboration with the UAE , is also starting construction of Parco Coastal Refinery in Balochistan worth over $5 billion. -Abu Dhabi crown prince to arrive in Pakistan on January 6 Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad on January 6, Express News reported. Sheikh Mohammad, who is also Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, had accepted an invitation to visit the country extended by Prime Minister Imran Khan in a telephonic conversation last year. Sources the crown prince will be accompanied by a high-level delegation. He is expected to announce investments in Pakistan. -Currency dealers offer to bring $1b a month Currency dealers have brought $13 billion in Pakistan in the past eight years, including $1 billion since August 2018, to stabilise the country’s foreign currency reserves, the dealers claim. “Dealers contribute $200-300 million a month to the country’s reserves through commercial banks,” said Pakistan Forex Association President Malik Bostan while briefing Finance Minister Asad Umar. “They (dealers) have the potential to bring up to $1 billion a month,” he told The Express Tribune after meeting the finance minister and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Director General Bashir Memon in Islamabad recently. A delegation of currency dealers, headed by Bostan, asked the minister that the government should offer Rs2 per dollar in rebate to attract higher remittances from overseas Pakistanis. The incentive would help currency dealers to realise their true potential and contribute maximum dollars to the country’s foreign currency reserves, it said. -Imran, Erdoğan discuss bilateral relations, regional issues in Turkey Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday held a one-to-one meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Ankara during his two-day official visit to Turkey. Both the leaders discussed various issues including bilateral relations, national and international issues of mutual interests. A high-level delegation including Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Finance Minister Asad Umar, Planning Minister Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Adviser on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood and Special Assistant to PM Zulfikar Bukhari is accompanying the PM during his first tour to Turkey. -TLP chief Khadim Rizvi remanded to police custody for another 20 days An anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Punjab capital city has granted a 20-day physical remand of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi and others. Civil Lines police officials, after producing Rizvi in court amid tight security, sought a 30-day remand of the firebrand cleric, Pir Afzal Qadri, Pir Ijaz Ashrafi, and Hafiz Farooqul Hassan. -Pakistan prepares Terror Financing Risk Assessment Report for FATF crucial session Pakistan has prepared Terror Financing Risk Assessment Report in line with the FATF conditions that would be scrutinized in face to face upcoming meeting of the FATF scheduled to be held next week at Sydney. “We will dispatch Terror Financing Risk Assessment Report to FATF on Friday (today) that basically identifies both domestic and foreign sources of funding being utilized for execution of terrorists’ activities,” confirmed by one top official. -This city in Pakistan is going to use cow poo to power its buses In a bid to freshen its air and cut planet-warming emissions, the Pakistani port city of Karachi will introduce cleaner-running buses powered by a decidedly "unclean" fuel: cow poo. With funding from the international Green Climate Fund, Karachi will launch a zero-emission Green Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network, with 200 buses fuelled by bio-methane. Locals said the new bus system - due to start operating in 2020 - would help reduce air pollution and street noise, but doubted whether it would have enough buses to resurrect the city's ailing transport system. "(Karachi's) public transport system has totally collapsed and most people have to use online taxi-hailing services (and) auto rickshaws," said commuter Afzal Ahmed, 45, who works as a medical sales representative. After management problems forced the Karachi Transport Corporation to fold some two decades ago, Chinese-imported buses running on compressed natural gas fell into disrepair and were taken off the road, worsening public transport woes, he noted. -KP announces development package for Buddhist sites in Mardan Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has announced a development package for preserving and promoting the Buddhist relics at Takht Bahi, Jamal Garhi and Shehbaz Garhi. Senior Minister for Culture, Tourism and Youth Affairs Atif Khan said this during his visit to Buddhist sites in Mardan on Thursday. “The K-P government will develop Buddhist sites at Takht Bahi, Jamal Garhi and Shehbaz Garhi as international tourism destinations,” he said announcing plans to construct chairlift to facilitate the tourists" -PM Imran Khan approves Rs 50 billion package for Karachi Sindh Governor Imran Ismail has said that Prime Minister Imran Khan has given approval of funds of 50 billion rupees for Karachi that would be utilized to resolve the long standing issues of the metropolis. He was talking to media in Karachi today (Friday) after attending the International Property Expo. The Governor said we intend to start work to improve the condition of roads in the city and to lift the garbage that has marred the beauty of the city for a long time now. He said work would also start soon to lift the debris of encroachments that have been razed to the ground.Talking about the transport projects, the Governor said that the Green Line Bus Service will be fully functional within 4 to 6 months. He said that work on the project by the Federal Government has been completed. He said Sindh Government is carrying out its work while provision of buses for the project by Sindh Government is also awaited. -KP government launched mega project in 25 Tehsils of tribal districts Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government launched a mega project of establishing new playgrounds and upgrading the existing ones in twenty-five different tribal tehsils. Secretary Sports Shahid Zaman said that administration is working on war footing on this project as directed by Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said besides constructing playing fields in tribal areas, it has also been decided to hold a grand tribal districts games event wherein 8 to 10 mostly popular games would be organized and players would be given kits and other facilities. -Turkey hints at buying Military Aircrafts from Pakistan Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has hinted at buying Military trainer aircrafts from Pakistan. -Pakistan becomes 5th largest Motorcycle producing country of the World With 2.5 million units produced annually in Pakistan, country has become the fifth largest motorcycle producing country of the World. -Huge weapons cache recovered by Security Forces in KP Aurakzai Scouts on Friday during a raid at compound in Baghnak area of upper Tehsil of district Aurakzai seized a huge cache of arms and ammunition dumped underground, security sources said. The raid was conducted on tip off that huge quantity of arms and weapons have been dumped at foot-hills. The weapons included 14 hand grenades with 11 fuses, four mortar-shell, explosives and 478 cartridges of machine guns. The seized weapon was dumped for use in some subversive activities, the sources added. -After British Air, Yet another leading Airline of the World wants to start flight operations from Pakistan: Report German Ambassador has hinted that German Flag carrier and one of the leading Airline of the World Lufhtansa Air wants to start operations from Pakistan. -$46 billion export target: Comprehensive strategic policy urged to boost exports President Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) Malik Shahid Saleem Friday called for formulating a comprehensive strategic policy to boost exports. He said business community was looking towards government’s concrete steps to ensure key macro indicators of the economy. "We want more information and input on the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) 2018-23 with an aim to double the country’s exports to $46 billion in next five years," he added. In a statement, President RCCI said the government should evolve a comprehensive strategy in consultation with the private sector to increase exports . -Gilgit Baltistan Tourism and Gems sector: PTI government takes important decisions Minister for Kashmir Affairs and Gilgit Baltistan Ali Amin Gandapur says GB has world's best tourism attractions with beautiful waterfalls, lakes, meadows, deserts, and skiing resorts. In an exclusive interview with Radio Pakistan's Correspondent Ijaz Hussain, he said government is committed to develop the untapped tourism potential of Gilgit-Baltistan. The Minister said an MoU will soon be signed with leading international companies to develop eight lakes in the first phase -ExxonMobil making $250 million investment in Pakistan: Razak Dawood Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry & Production and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said Exxon Mobil was making an investment of $250 million in Pakistan. He said the company had re-entered Pakistan after a gap of almost three decades and setup its office in the country. Pakistan is requesting China to switch its investment focus from power & infrastructure to industrialization, agriculture and education in regard to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). -Weekly inflation decreases by 0.31pc The inflation based on Sensitive Price Index (SPI) during the week ended on January 3, for the combined income group registered a decrease of 0.31pc as compared to the previous week. The SPI for the week under review in the above-mentioned group was recorded at 237.85 points against 238.58 points registered in the previous week, according to the data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Friday. -Chinese group to set up $70 million ceramics unit in Faisalabad A prominent Chinese industrial group has decided to establish a ceramics unit in Pakistan with an investment of $70 million – a decision that is likely to lessen country’s reliance on imported tiles. “The ceramics unit is expected to become operational by March 2020,” according to a senior official of the Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC). FIEDMC, located in the heart of Pakistan’s industrial hub, is rapidly transforming into an attractive destination for well-known foreign companies, which are planning to set up their units following lack of progress on the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), which are planned to be constructed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). “The Chinese industrial group already enjoys its presence in 50 countries,” said FIEDMC Chief Executive Officer Aamir Saleemi. “The group plans to import machinery from China and aims to complete work by March 2020.” -Prime Minister Imran Khan invites Turkish investors to join CPEC Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is on his first official two-day visit to Turkey, on Thursday said that it's time for Islamabad and Ankara to take their bilateral trade to a higher level, citing Pakistan’s ideal geo-strategic location and its huge potential for investment in infrastructure and tourism. Addressing a business forum of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Turkey (TOBB) in Ankara on Thursday night, he said his government will provide all possible assistance and support to the Turkish investors in Pakistan, Khan said that Pakistan is a virgin territory as a lot of trade areas have not been exploited yet, adding that huge reserves of oil, gas, copper, coal and other admirals are yet to be unexplored. He said tremendous trade and economic activities will start due to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). He said special economic zones are being established through this mega project.
I'm coming at this with years of RO experience, and the advice of friends who play at the top of WoE, PvM, and PvP. I have also been a GM on 3 servers and an admin on one, and asked for advice from two friends who have been admins on their own successful low rate servers. Additionally, I have some experience with editing the source files and redesigning the game a bit, not that I will get much into that, but I do know what is and isn't possible. I also have experience from other games such as WoW (as a world and arena PvPer at the highest levels), and from political and economic games such as EVE and bloc. Finally, I have some real life knowledge of economics (though I wouldn't call myself an economist) due to being a FOREX trader. All of that and more has lead to my understanding of game design, some of which I can apply here. I realize that this is a long post, but that's because I got the input from several people and put (a little bit of) effort into explaining the reasoning. If any of these things are being discussed in other threads, pardon me and just let me dump all of my opinions into one place, as they are largely interconnected. Most of my suggestions are based on sustainable gameplay, sustainable economy, rewarding players for their decisions, and giving players more freedom. I tried to keep the changes, for the most part, quite vanilla. I have some much better ideas that require customization, but most players recoil at the thought of customization in RO. I'll start with the unquestionable and move to the debatable.
No donor or normally unavailable items with unique stats.
This means there should be no items with dex on mid or lower. No upper headgears with more than 3 dex, etc. Basically, no overpowered donor items or ones that disrupt normal player balance. Adding a single dex to a build can be incredibly imbalanced, which is why I used dex as an example, but this applies to lots of stats. Not only can it be imbalanced, but it causes item inflation as well. When players no longer need to hunt for gear (because they replace it with donor or custom quest items), lots of gear becomes either worthless and thus overupgraded to abnormal degrees or obsoleted. On the same token, this means not allowing BG items to be used outside of BGs, including in WoE or anywhere else. It's devastating to the economy. WoE is a competition between guilds, not just to conquer castles, but to acquire enough resources to do it. IMO the only items players should be able to donate for are cosmetic, and perhaps things like battle manuals and maybe bubble gum, which have no direct impact on gameplay other than to reduce the grind. But really, cosmetic items should be enough if you're clever. There's one suggestion on this down in the zeny sink section.
Set strict rules for GMs to follow, and don't give them more power than they need.
First of all, the rules for the players should be plainly laid out. If a player doesn't break a rule, they can't be punished. I have been on servers with no clear rules and arbitrary punishments.
Exploitation should generally be handled by patching the exploit, not punishing the player. The game is full of accepted exploits. If a player happens to abuse one you don't like, you need to at least warn them to stop before punishing them, and ideally just fix the exploit. My entire 30 man guild has been banned from a server without warning for soil farming. Don't be like that.
Each GM should have specific responsibilities, and not overreach them.
GMs should always give the minimum punishment that might remedy a problem. For example, in the case of player harassment, a player should be asked first, human to human, to stop. Then warned. Then a 1 minute mute. Then a 30 min mute, etc. I have seen GMs on servers skip all the steps and go straight to an hour mute or jail or something retarded like that. If you can defuse a situation by respectfully asking a player to stop, that's the best option.
GMs should never punish players for being disrespectful to them. GMs don't deserve respect. No one who is power tripping should be a GM. Again, I say this as a person who has been a GM on 3 servers and an admin on one. GMs should never do anything to players for something the player did to the GM, period. The GM only exists to solve problems in the game and between other players, not to start trouble by existing.
All GM actions should be logged, and ideally an alert system set so that if certain high level GM actions are taken (stat changes, item creation, etc), the admins are notified.
GMs should report and explain every action they take, in a thread in the secret GM-only section on your forums once you make them. They should also be required to post evidence to support decisions to jail or ban players, if they have to poweresponsibility to do such things. It's not that much work, and this is how it worked on Rapture.
If all of that sounds paranoid to you, then you're going to end up with GM problems. Even if you trust your GMs with your life, you need to set guidelines. You can't read their minds, even if they are your best friends. They are going to use their own discretion, and that might vary widely from your own decisions, unless you give them strict guidelines. Not only will this make the GMs better, but it'll give you more confidence in their decisions when players complain, and allow you to handle the inevitable drama better, thus preserving the playerbase. I have seen a GM go on /vg/ and talk shit to the players there, unbeknownst to the admin.
A PvP room where consumables (with the possible exception of conc/awakening/berserk pots) are disabled, and where all buffs are removed upon entering.
The main interest of many other players, is PvP (not GvG/WoE). Unfortunately, PvP is often woefully underrepresented in server design decisions. PvP is incredibly disinteresting when using dex food and potion spamming, and when getting SL/Assump/etc from outside. Leave the consumable spam and buff stacks to WoE and PvM. Also, please don't use a shitty map for the PvP room. You can, of course, have two PvP rooms, so this shouldn't be a controversy. On RaptureRO, there was also a 3v3 PvP arena tournament, which was incredibly fun. Takes some scripting though and isn't top priority.
A draw range of 18+, preferably around 20 to 24.
I'm referring to /conf/battle/client.conf area_size. The default is 14, which is an antiquated value meant to reduce stress on PCs made back in 2000. There are actually mobs that can aggro from outside of your view range, which is quite dumb. There is no reason to use a lower draw range, except for artificial difficulty. Successful servers like Rapture, ProjectRage, Destina, etc, had an increased the draw range without issue. Newer players won't even notice a difference. If you are afraid of client lag in WoE (there shouldn't be any, but just in case) you can simply script an NPC to automatically change the area_size value before and after WoE. It doesn't require a reset of anything, not even an @reloadscript.
Turn up the party exp bonus.
Simple enough, makes it worth leveling as a party instead of leeching yourself with a hunter (the normal method for leveling most things as fast as possible).
Take proactive steps to limit zeny inflation and promote a player-driven economy.
Zeny inflation is one of the biggest problems for the longevity of any RO server. The game was not designed in a way to have a stable economy. You must tweak a few things to get something workable. I'll talk about item inflation a bit later:
Marginally reduce the sell price of some high value drops, such as Witherless Rose. Don't completely destroy the value of certain farming spots. Balance them with others instead. If you ask, you can get opinions on the best spots to farm zeny.
Do not put SP items (grape juice, blue pots, etc) on a vendor; these items need to be sold by players to promote an economy.
Make the healer and warper charge a moderate amount (say, 5k zeny) at level 79+. Do not make it 99 only or players will be incentivized to stop at level 98 (yes, this happens on some servers). You can also make the price of this scale with level instead.
Put an NPC next to the healer NPCs that gives rank 10 Bless/Agi. This one might sound questionable, but any good player will make an acolyte alt just to buff themselves. If you make an NPC to do it instead, you can charge a reasonable cost to eat up zeny.
The warper NPC should give free warps to towns, a moderate charge for dungeons, and a heavy charge for quest-gated dungeons. Say, 2k zeny for normal dungeons, but 50k or 100k for dungeons that require a quest. Giving players an advantage for bothering to clear quests is a good way to allow players to make choices about how they want to level, rather than simply picking the unquestionably best method to do it. If they have to choose whether or not it's worth doing the quest first, then you get players being rewarded for making choices.
Include a stat/skill reset NPC with a moderate yet flat reset cost (say, 1mil to reset both). This allows players to switch builds regularly for PvP, PvM, and WoE, and will promote use of the feature, which will eat up their zeny. Otherwise they'll just make multiple characters of the same job just for different parts of the game, which is obnoxious. The lower the cost, the more people will use it, to a certain point. Try to strike a balance of maximal zeny-wastage, which I think will be around 1mil.
If you do implement a PvP arena, you can add betting to it. Make the betting negative-sum, and you've got an easy zeny sink.
Sell tradeable costume hat boxes for a high price. Basically a box that has a random costume hat inside. The better looking ones should be rarer. Here's a huge list of hats, some of which aren't even on ratemyserver: http://nn.nachtwolke.com/dev/viewlist/ You can also change the drop table of the boxes periodically, so that the hats in the boxes have a limited time availability. Many players will eat that shit up. You can also sell these hat boxes for IRL money to fund the server. You can also have weaker MVPs drop the hat boxes to promote competition over them, which works with the PvP on MVP map idea which I'll discuss in a minute.
Roll out content in waves
It's a suggestion I heard elsewhere and it's a good one. Start with trans disabled and less dungeons available. Gradually release more as the server grows and people hit higher levels. This is a good idea for a few reasons:
Reduces item inflation (antiquated items become useful if they are the only ones available. No one wants a chain if they have a lunakaligo. That's bad.
Reduces player stratification. With less content available, the better players won't be able to skip the leveling phase as easily. e.g. I won't be able to just leech myself in Thor or nameless if the dungeons are still unavailable. Older dungeons have lower exp per hp ratios.
The previous point has the added benefit of allowing newer players (later into the lifetime server) to catch up faster.
Allows for more competition. RO has an exponential growth of power, and by limiting that growth, it keeps players on a more even playing field, economically and otherwise.
Makes a healthier economy. The items that lower level players acquire are more likely to be useful to the higher level players. (e.g. the chain).
Allows for more server longevity by virtue of the fact that you have content to release over time.
Consider splitting the server into a pure-WoE server and a non-WoE server
This might at first sound unappealing by splitting up the playerbase, but it allows you to more easily design both servers to fit their respective playerbases. Also keep in mind that many of the players from each server will play on both servers. Only a minority will be exclusive to one.
You don't need to make any concessions on white/blue pots for the WoE players on the non-WoE server.
The WoE server can include BGs, leaving the non-WoE server blessedly BG-free to focus on world PvP and PvM.
The WoE server can make consumables and gear either easily obtainable through BGs, or for free from NPCs for pure WoE.
You can rebalance certain cards and abilities to fit each server. For example, Incantation Samurai card isn't quite as overpowered outside of WoE.
You can put a short cool down on potions in the non-WoE server (2-10 seconds).
Potion spamming completely trivializes a large portion of the game's content and reduces the skill ceiling dramatically. It reduces the importance of healing abilities, eliminates the need for mana efficiency, imbalances PvP (asura spam is a lot harder when you can't just mash blue pots, for example. The same goes for SinXs and White Smiths with white pots, and so on). In PvP, abilities that are not 1HKOs become nearly worthless, due to white pot spam. This reduces ordinarily incredibly complex jobs like champ, to nothing more than asura-machines. Additionally, no pot spam means that if a champ wants to spam asura in PvM, he needs a Professor. This concept applies to other classes as well. In WoE, potion spamming is necessary to survive. In the rest of the game, though, potion spam ruins much. No WoE means no need for pot spamming. The rest of my suggestions assume that you aren't going with this suggestion, so bear that in mind.
Reduce the number of dialogue windows that common NPCs have. I shouldn't have to talk to a healer to get healed, nor a buffer. When I click on a warper, I should immediately see the options of Town, Dungeon, PvP, etc, not some stupid introductory box. The Kafra NPC has an unnecessary box or two of dialogue before you can get your bank open as well.
Be careful with nodelay. I have played on servers where their nodelay software prevented snipers from using double strafe above about 185 aspd. Don't break the game in an attempt to prevent exploits.
Make white and blue herbs more abundant. The best WoE players have been playing WoE for years and aren't going to grind for hours every day to be prepared for WoE at the end of the week. You can work this into the PvP on MVP maps idea that I'll discuss in a minute, or you can just make the herbs drop from more high level mobs that players will want to kill for other reasons.
Change or nerf MVP cards, or replace them on the drop table with another item entirely. Don't just reduce their drop rate. Making MVP cards incredibly rare does not make them any less broken. In fact, it makes how broken they are even more apparent when it's the only one on the server. A better solution is to change the card to have heavy drawbacks from using it, or designing a cool new effect from scratch (one time we made Osiris card allow you to cast a spell that summoned a zombie minion to fight for you, it was pretty cool). If you want a server that lasts a long time, you WILL eventually have people running around with Thanatos cards, GTB cards, and Ghostring cards. It happens faster than you might expect.
Reduce the respawn timer on some MVPs. Ifrit spawns once every 12 hours, which is a long time on a high pop server. If you're going to enable PvP on MVP maps, then this is an especially viable change. You can reduce drop rates to compensate of course.
Increase the spawn rate of regular mobs on maps except for a few (bio 3), then reduce drop rates, exp rates, and possibly total mob hp to compensate. I know there's a thread about this but I'm just going to dump my thoughts into here. This will A) Increase the difficulty of clearing dungeons and reliance on parties, and B) reduce the tediousness of trying to find mobs to farm on many, many maps. And IMO, AoE farming isn't overpowered in any case compared to alternative single-target farming strategies, so a blanket spawn rate increase is a good idea imo. I would actually be happy to see more AoE farming options.
Keep drop rates generally higher than exp rates. 5x exp and 20x drops (including cards) is more fun than 10x exp and 10x drops imo. I say this because I think it's more interesting when gear is a tool to facilitate leveling, than when leveling is a tool to facilitate farming gear. I can explain that reasoning in more detail if you ask. Also, gear can break when over-upping it, so the inflation is less of a problem. Leveling is also less tedious than farming gear, and can be done while farming gear for that matter.
Reduce the base def on some of the newer gear (think variants, diabolos, new world stuff, orlean's gloves, etc) so that it needs to be over-upgraded to be unquestionably better than older gear. That, or make the stats on the gear scale with upgrades (if possible depending on item). This will largely remove the problem of old gear being hands-down worse than newer gear, and also help alleviate item inflation. Think of it this way: older gear used to become better linearly with exponential increases in investment (due to over-upping), and that regulated item inflation. I.E. you always had a reason to over-up your gear. Contrarily, newer gear tends to be good by virtue of stats inherent to the item, and so players have no need to risk over-upping, and item inflation occurs more rapidly.
PS: Yeah you can't upgrade Orlean's gloves, but it could at least become a decision between +1 dex vs. +2 dex and -1 vit or -1 def, or something, instead of just "yeah these are better than or equal to regular gloves in every way". There's literally no reason to farm gloves because you don't need gloves to farm Orlean's gloves. That's how it works for a lot of older gear, and it's not a good thing. Ideally, newer gear should scale better than older gear, but not be better inherently. You won't be able to do it with everything, but every bit helps to stave off inflation and inevitable server death.
PvP enabled on MVP maps.
This is controversial, but hear me out. I think this can, by itself, increase the longevity of a server dramatically, while solving a plethora of problems as well. MVPs are a scarce resource, and players often compete for them. Normally this leads to a meta of trying to out-grief other players. Instead, with PvP enabled, you could fight for the MVP. It changes the competition into a meaningful part of the game, rather than a rat race. This will be especially important on a high population server. And remember the costume hat idea? Now people can fight for the boxes that low level MVPs drop, creating competition over the usually worthless MVPs, and reason to go out and play the game. Particularly challenging content, like bio3, will be extremely difficult to clear if players are trying to kill you. This will encourage diplomacy and cooperation between players (as seen in sandbox games like EVE, DayZ, etc). Either you work with the other group, or you become rivals. This is good for the health of a server. The increased difficulty will also increase the longevity of the server by reducing the rate at which players clear the content and collect the gear. There's the other added benefit of making it more of a challenge to reach max level in places like Abbey3. You might want to turn on PvP in Thor1 for the same reason. Again, players can choose to work together or make enemies while leveling in these high level zones. And, again, the increased difficulty increases server longevity by reducing the average rate at which players progress. Finally, you can have mobs on PvP maps drop white and blue herb boxes, and spawn on timers. This way, players can compete for the resources they need in WoE, rather than grind for days. You can use regular white/blue herb boxes, or use WoE-only potion drops and have them drop in somewhat higher quantities. The more generalized the drop is, the fewer should drop, to have a smaller impact on the overall economy. Players who don't WoE can simply sell the WoE pots to WoE players, so they have just as much reason to compete for the mobs. Since the WoE players need these resources to win WoE, they'll fight each other for the resources between WoEs, reducing the boredom. It also gives every high level player a thing to look forward to doing: world PvP. Something that pretty much never gets old. Just make sure that the mobs are scarce enough that you don't make it too easy to collect herbs/pots. It's supposed to be a supplementation to normal farming, to make it easier in a fun/competitive way. This change will have no impact on low level players. I have seen this done and it works beautifully. If you're imagining constant fighting between players on every MVP map, you're forgetting that there are dozens of MVP maps. Most maps are usually empty, especially at certain times of day. You will probably need to turn off teleporting and memo on non-dungeon maps to prevent things like champs from running in with asura in relative impunity. As far as players who are disinterested in PvP go, remember that there are instanced dungeons now. There are also dungeons in which it's highly unlikely that you'll run into other players due to quest requirements: Thanatos, Vesper, Ktullanux, probably a few others I'm forgetting. You could just turn PvP off on those maps for that matter. You also have the option of disabling PvP on some other MVP maps if you feel that's necessary.
If you go with my last suggestion, I'd LOVE it if you simply don't include BGs on the server. In my opinion, BGs are a terrible and trivialized bastardization of RO PvP. They're tedious and unfun, and unnecessary when you have world PvP, a PvP room, and WoE. However, if you're going to include BGs, then:
Allow players to choose which team they join, so players can actually play with their friends.
Don't disable skills like body relocate in the BG.
If you don't make whites/blues easier to obtain on the world map: Allow consumables for WoE to be bought with BG badges. I know this is literally 100% contradictory to what I said in the first suggestion, but you need to understand that there is a community of WoE players who have been going server to server for years, WoEing. If you don't add easy ways for these top WoE players to get white/blue pots, they won't play the server, period. So either you need to use my suggestion of making white/blue herbs easier to obtain on the world map (or from PvP zones), or make it so you can get them from BGs, or something else. But the bottom line is that you need to have an easier way than normal to get whites/blues for WoE. This is a consequence of an aging playerbase and is unavoidable. That said, don't make it trivially easy. That destroys the economy. You have to strike a balance, and especially make the resource TRADEABLE.
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