The pop of the day and other items of virtual economy

Tuesday, 23 February, Year 8 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu

My experience so far as the main economic regulator of the economy in Eulorai has been roughly speaking hell.ii Allow me to compartiii.

One principle, readily accepted when it comes to creating persistent virtual worlds is that items, no matter how virtual they may be, must nevertheless not be created out of thin air, but instead must be created from other items of the same virtuality.iv

Another principle, idem readily accepted when it comes to creating immersive virtual worlds is that the player must be able to create all the items that may exist. Remember what a big deal it was when first person shooters finally added bullet holes into the walls ? Myeah.

Well, once you've accepted these two principles, congrats, you're fucked. Specifically, here's the Virtual Goods triangle : you can have a virtual economy that scales to accomodate human interest ; you can have a virtual economy that's immersive ; you can have a virtual economy that's persistent. Pick any two.

Yes, pick any two. You can't have all three, and to illustrate this point, yet another log snippet :

mircea_popescu so i have a few Unsteady Scaffoldings q 158 available i could conceivably part with. ideal item for digging up select remarkable claims. lemme know.v [20:25]
diana_coman mircea_popescu, 1.2mn for 2 of those us? [21:24]

mircea_popescu aka 130%vi i'm better off making cft apparently. [21:26]
diana_coman hm, what do you want for the us? [21:27]

mircea_popescu diana_coman i'd take 1.2mn bv of low q ibs say.vii [21:30]
diana_coman mircea_popescu, what is low q there? [21:30]

mircea_popescu anything under say 80 or so ? [21:31]
* diana_coman fires up calc [21:31]
diana_coman do you have f and sr for that? so like 67k sr and 134k f? [21:35]
diana_coman mircea_popescu, how about ibs at 123q or there? [21:38]
diana_coman I could do that with my own f+sr [21:40]

mircea_popescu diana_coman i'd also take F and SR at q 5, same deal. [21:40]
diana_coman but ibs at 123q, not at 5q [21:40]

mircea_popescu but the idea here is to get a noob looking to rank tinkering and feed him your own basics really [21:40]
diana_coman yeah, I know, kind of running after noobs to get that, but it doesn't seem to go very quickly or something [21:40]

mircea_popescu upping your own craft is barely worth it for me, get what, measily 20-30 points and the bp is 10 anywya [21:41]
diana_coman I wouldn't mind getting it to the noobs, but that makes it such a huge quantity that atm I can't quite see where I'd get the high q sr+f for it all esp since ordinaries of sr take SLITHY TOVE [21:41]
diana_coman that's the trouble: us seems to be a luxury atm

If you have any talent for a high ranking position in finance, you already spotted the problem : currency is being substituted in the marketplace! This is the meaning of my "the mayo is cutting"viii commentix, always and everywhere an unmitigated disaster. The next step is for Heina to start taking payment for training in IBS and it's goodnight Gracie, we've completely lost scaling.

In general, ECu has a few important functions in Eulora. The most obviously important is that if you wish to take your resources out, you will have to transform them into ECu, but currently nobody wants to take anything out - net inflows are something outright scary and have been for quite a while.x Another obvious function, if necessarily modest in economic terms, is the cost of training - players have to pay cash to level their skills. There is however no requirement to do so, and unlike every other game there are quite credible niches for noob players in Eulora, so this does not constitute a "money sink"xi like it does in your run of the mill MMORPG, but merely an optionality. And that's just about it - there's also a tiny fee for breaking coins into smaller denominations, but it doesn't really merit mention.

So how is a new player supposed to get items to play with ? Oh, that's easy, buy them from other players. It's better for the ecosystem anyway to do it that way - people get to talk and work together. While this is true, and while Eulora easily has the most vibrant ecosystem I've ever seen in any gamexii, the original problem remains : before player showed up, goods totalled G, cash totalled C. After player shows up, whether he decides to buy coppers from one of the distributors or not may have some impact on C, but no impact whatsoever on G.

While this is obviously problematic, the obvious solutions do not work. You could, of course, offer tools for trade via the merchant. But tools are an important part of the economy, if you shunt that out you'll get one of two effects : everyone will just buy out the whole supply of tools, leaving none for the new player [that hasn't even showed up yet] or else the market will be so flooded with tools that the whole thing they connect to flatlines, reducing them, and their associated processes to economic irrelevancy. This is undesirable, and while superficially it might appear that you could mitigate it by removing the tools from economic relevancy through administrative means first (by making the cycles involving them less central to the general working of the economy) this really amounts to nothing other than cutting your nose to spite your face - now their lower relevancy just pushed the problem back up, what are new players to do ?

Fortunately inspiration finally struck, and I was able to see clearly through all these complex knots. The correct move would be to offer the higher miner bundles for sale! These items are not currently much part of the economic cycle, principally because the players do not perceive they can afford to divert resources from the crafting cycle to power the higher echelon miner cycle - it seems more affordable, and it certainly is a lot saferxiii to just mine smalls and the occasional ordinary.

And so, on the fluttering wings of this inspirational fairy, Electron received a shipment of goods yesterday, consisting of 1`000 of each Ordinary Bundle, quality 250, 30 of each Remarkable Bundle, quality 200, and 5 of each Sizable Bundle, quality 150. The total weight of this cargo was reported at 2`319`405.412, which is a lot of numbers - thanks goodness we don't have to actually lift them. The total value should be somewhere in the 6 to 7 billion ECu range, which means that the players will hopefully need at least a few months to digest it all.

That the tension was there and action was required is made obvious by macroeconomic evolution hence - cash literally fell off a cliff. Here's a graph :

eulora-blurgh

The above monster represents the monetary mass and aggregated goods value in Eulora for the interval between December 31st 2015 and February 23rd, 2016. It is readily apparent that the value of goods is roughly speaking constant (and that the yellow and blue are spurious additions of no immediate accountanticy benefit). The monetary mass however varies wildly - the severe upticks are distributor buyouts from S.MG, while the severe drops are auctions wonxiv and respectively, merchant profit. That's right : Electron made just about as much money for S.MG in (almost) a day of selling his bundles as the most successfull auction to date. Unlike the auction, however, his efforts also result in an expansion of the goods in circulation. The precipitousness of the shift clearly indicates that significant economic imbalance was brewing under the hood. Whether the outlet it has found is beneficial for the long term health of the system remains to be seen - I for one am well satisfied that it is the least detrimental of all possible alternatives.

Oh, you wanted to know about the title. I almost forgot. Here it is :

tpt-remarkable-pop

Going to dig up a Remarkable Solid Branch claim tonight, wish me luck!

———
  1. There's a lot of discussion on this topic to be found throughout the S.MG category. Perhaps the most interesting are two articles, the first from July the 23rd (Eulora's largest trade to date and assorted teologico-socioeconomic considerations) and the second from October 1st (Whoever said resource allocation is a solved problem deserves a kick in the nads), because they illustrate and record for posterity how in the narrow space of a coupla of months, my in-game position degraded from "omnipotent deity" to "economic superpower". This, I'll have you know, is the fate of free market economies built atop economic freedom generally - you'll get eroded into the dirt, and not mind the process one bit. That last part is also the important part, yet for some reason always the first part to be forgotten. Weird.

    Anyway, my position has further eroded since, but perhaps not at such a crushing pace. For instance, out of the total 1.7 bn ECu (17 BTC) foreign investment in Eulora this month I hold a measly 11.7%. This necessarily must mean that I'm losing share in the economic pie, but perhaps on the grounds of the humongous industrial basis I start out with, especially in the form of difficult to replicate intellectual property and know-how (aka, skills) I might hold out and maintain relevancy a little longer. Don't I make just the darlingest model of the US you ever saw ?

    Which brings us to the point of this note : I do hold a lot of regulatory power in Eulora, but principally through meta-physics, which is to say because I hold the passwords to the server. In simple terms of physics I'm not even certain I'm the largest player, but I am absolutely certain I'm a minority player in any case. This state of affairs should be instructive for any political system that expects the central bank / banking regulator to fix anything of any practical impact or import : do they have the keys to god ? Because if they don't... moderate your expectations, will you. There really isn't all that much a player can do, in a free world. And fixing the "free world" part really is no sort of fix at all. []

  2. Here's a conversation for flavour :

    Ea Da' ce zici ca-i asa lipsa de ii faci resuscitare lui Electron?

    (what did you say was the big problem forcing you to resurect Electron [ie, the merchant] ?)

    Eu pai mi se separa aici maioneza in plm. am niste probmele de grupa chtulhu pe-aici.

    (my fucking mayo's cutting, what. i've got some chtulhu-level problems you wouldn't believe.)

    Ea eh, pai fiecaruia dupa nevoi, nu? :) ) )

    (eh, to everyone according to his needs, right ?)

    []

  3. You know, same principle as impart, except with con. Like imbibe - combibe, impound - compound, impress - compress, import - comport, etcetera etcetera. One's by the agent, the other's by the community, you know, like in Latin. Oh, what, you mean to tell me you louts long forgot the beautiful scheme of that language, meanwhile still use some words created by it that have been drifting apart in meaning because lack of knowledge promotes lack of structure, and now you can barely guess the original intention of the prefixes in the finished words ? Awww!

    No, really, I care. Your orcish problems are of interest to me. Get fucked.

    Ps. Insert-exert. Insert-exert. Inhale-exhale. Insert-exert some more. []

  4. A quick once-over this otherwise fundamental concept could be provided by the following snippet of the logs :

    JuliaTourianski so why is eulora different than minecraft
    mircea_popescu minecraft just creates shit out of thin air neh ?

    JuliaTourianski am i masculine cuz i was addicted to minecraft or feminine because i built a kitchen
    mircea_popescu you're gay for caring!

    JuliaTourianski so ghay
    danielpbarron minecraft is way more focused on sandboxing
    mircea_popescu i never played it, but is it inflationary ?

    danielpbarron very
    mircea_popescu well then that's the difference.

    JuliaTourianski do i have to give mp money to have fun in eulora
    mircea_popescu JuliaTourianski_ nah atm noobs are making a pretty penny mining.

    JuliaTourianski ill give it a shot once my monitor happens
    danielpbarron i used to play on a hardcore pvp server that had a decent economy (for minecraft) and they would have to periodically reset the whole world

    Now think about it - why would they HAVE TO periodically reset the world, which is to say break the persistence ? And, for advanced readers, how does this tie into stuff like V and genesis-es, and what exactly is the meaning of the concept of chaining virtual items, and on it goes, a whole rabbit hole just for you. []

  5. As otherwise described, Unsteady Scaffolding is a high value, complex intermediate aglutination that requires various rare materials to put together, plus a lot of time, and is in turn required in a number of crucial recipes, such as for instance the Remarkable Solid Branch Ennumeration, or the Turning Wheel (Lapidary craftline tool) and Worn Old Screens (Bouquinist craftline tool) blueprints.

    From Diana's very useful resource we find that the bill of materials for it is Spicy Moss : 99 ; Worthless Putrid Leather : 288 ; Clump of Dry Grass : 657 ; Nondescript Tubers : 30 ; Crumbly Rock : 201 ; Wooly Mushroom : 24 ; Rotten Fruit : 81 ; Flotsam : 576 ; Slithy Tove : 3 ; Elusive Purple Snail : 6 ; Solid Branch : 18 ; Boulder : 105 ; Dead Mollusc : 15 ; Shiny Rock : 558.

    On the basis of either of these considerations you would expect a significant mark-up to attach to it. []

  6. Each US is worth 290`349 ECu at a quality of 100, so my quality 158 items would fetch 458`751 ECu apiece from the merchant. Thus 1.2 / 9.1750284 = 0.130789786 which means she's offering 130% (ie, less than what she'd have to pay to get them should I decide to actually sell them to the merchant, if memory serves he charges 135%). []
  7. IBS aka Indescript Bark Shavings are a low value (255 ECu) precursor for a large number of items because they're used in large quantities to make one commonly used fluid recipient, the Leaky Treebark Flask. This is in turn an ingredient in both Improbable Oil, which holds a major role in the metal economy - such as making tools - as well as Alechemist's Cheap Gin, which holds a major role in another tree, being needed to make all sorts of things such as Grubsilk Thread etc. []
  8. I have no idea if you've ever made mayo by hand, out of egg yolks, virgin olive oil and elbow grease. If not, you should. It will teach you a lot of things about a lot of things, including cutting the cabbage. []
  9. Incidentally, if you're wondering in amazement at the sheer lunacy of me speaking openly about this, whereas the key word in all contemporaneous central banking is secrecy - consider the essential point that my movements are effortlessly effectual, in stark contrast to the ineffectual efforts that are similarly the rule in their world. And perhaps consider that me actually understanding what "free world" means may well have something to do with it.

    If on the other hand you're shocked at how unprofessional I'm being, forget all this and go dig ditches. On one hand you're not actually smart enough to concern yourself with such matter, and on the other hand the birds have already shat a thick stratum of scatum all over you, that's already hardened, constricting you into a shape. You're a shitshaper, basically, the opposite of the shapeshifter, and truly the effort of washing it off exceeds by far any possible benefit you might derive from the operation. Your handicap's too great, you have no further business here, go! []

  10. A discussion of capital inflows and inflation you might find interesting is found in the S.MG statement for October 2015.

    Ps. inflation - conflation. HA-HA! []

  11. The theory of game economics in terms of "sinks" is so endearingly primitive it'd make medieval thinkers blush for your shame. []
  12. Not "largest", and not "most obnoxiously sugarcoated" and not anything of the sort. By vibrant I mean specifically something of the fractal quality, "closest approximation to life as it is".

    The experience of it has actually led me to understand that the very concept of "quest" as practiced de facto and unthinkingly in pretty much all computer games is in fact a very sad cop-out, on par with cardboard shoes. If you think about it - the origin of the quest rests with the questmaster, who was a person in the old tabletop days. This person created quests, have I underscored person enough ?

    Once numeric machines took over all the arithmetic tedium involved in calculating dice rolls etc, people got all excited about the AlphaGo of the time, and introduced "AI quests", which work just about as well as you'd expect AI stuff to work. Have fun fedexing 5 rat's tails until you drop.

    Quests in Eulora exist, but in their original meaning - tasks given to people, by people. By players. At first I thought "you must have quests", and there's rudiments of this notion implemented, see Greyhawk, but as I understand the topic better (through experience!) I come to realise that no, there's no room for "quests" in this world, nor should there be. We may have an interface to make quest management easier for people, and we might allow some particularly well crafted content in later on, but by and large autoquests in the Eastern fashion aren't happening. []

  13. Variance is a bitch. Consider my experience with a run of 95 Chetty Sticks detailed in the logs : out of the 95 sticks (worth 20k each!) I obtained 14 ordinary and 80 small claims, which, when exploited (which cost a further ~400k) returned altogether loot of a shade under one million - 967k. This, on the face, is a horrendous loss, something to the tune of 40% returns means 60% losses. Nevertheless, the 95th hit in there yielded a Remarkable claim, and if experience to date (of which we have exactly one such) is any sort of guide, the find should be worth somewhere in the low millions.

    But had I not had the last stick to get the one good loot that made it all gravy, what then ? []

  14. 140mn on February the 14th - the lowly 23 mn produced by the February 21st auction do not figure too visibly in there. []
Category: S.MG
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6 Responses

  1. One principle, readily accepted when it comes to creating persistent virtual worlds is that items, no matter how virtual they may be, must nevertheless not be created out of thin air, but instead must be created from other items of the same virtuality.

    Another principle, idem readily accepted when it comes to creating immersive virtual worlds is that the player must be able to create all the items that may exist. Remember what a big deal it was when first person shooters finally added bullet holes into the walls ? Myeah.

    A virtual world seeded with finite resources will inevitably exhaust those resources if the world is infinitely persistent. The level of persistence is just an answer to the question of: "when does the world end?" ((Which has it's own merits for reasons I'll get into later in this comment.)) Based on the available public knowledge regarding Eulora, that is not inflationary, farming is ultimately naturally eliminated as resources become exhausted.

    If I recall correctly consumables remove value from the game, which eventually needs to be reseeded with investment from outside the Eulora-verse. Without incoming investment (the so-called fuel to run the server aka the universe), the world would inevitably exhaust all resources given enough time, (given infinite persistence will inevitably happen if albeit a long duration to reach said inevitability). Without yet a need for consumables, it's most beneficial to hold resources indefinitely, since they are finite, and don't replenish via predictable spawning.

    But I think one resource, the most important one, has yet to be mentioned: time.

    Time is the great equalizer in survival games. Let me use Rust another survival game as an example. The most enticing end goal is to raid other's bases. The way to do this is through C4. C4 is the most costly item in the game both time and resource wise. One has to run around for about an hour to collect the 2700 or so sulfur to craft the massive amount of gunpowder to create the explosives for said C4 charge. Now it takes 2 C4 charges to bring down a single wall which may result in loot or may result in more walls. Some of the most well engineered bases are resistant up to 10 C4 charges before encountering a loot room. This is an effective 10-13 hours of grinding to achieve said goal on the most resistant bases.

    Now think about it - why would they HAVE TO periodically reset the world, which is to say break the persistence?

    The point here isn't so much about grinding/farming as it is about time investment. In Rust, servers are regularly wiped once a month, as to make the resource of time finite. With an inevitable doom always approaching, time is that much more precious. So you spent 13 hours one week farming C4, and only farming C4. Did you spend your time effectively? Was this how you wanted to spend your time?

    The level of persistence of a world makes time that much more important. This is why a 2D game with a 20 minute timer to escape (a Metroid reference for ya), will keep you on the edge of your seat.

    I'm not saying an apocalypse isn't the only way to finite-tize time, it just happens to be the easiest.

    The experience of it has actually led me to understand that the very concept of "quest" as practiced de facto and unthinkingly in pretty much all computer games is in fact a very sad cop-out, on par with cardboard shoes. If you think about it - the origin of the quest rests with the questmaster, who was a person in the old tabletop days. This person created quests, have I underscored person enough ?

    Glad to see this come up. The cookie cutter notion of the quest as a time sink (ultimately a money sink for subscription models), makes you grind time away for a purpose that's not your own. A state of play doesn't always require a win/lose condition for one to truly be in a state of play. Are the father and son tossing a baseball in a lesser state of play than say the son being in an actual little league game?

    Unfortunately for the sake of profit AAA studios have bastardized the notion of missions and quests. And unfortunately in a single player game, the computer program that-be is the dungeon master instead of a human. This is why games like GTA are so successful, because the missions aren't just a time sink, the gameplay mechanics utilized to complete said missions results in fun rather than feeling like a grind (or a chore). The immersion here is partially driven from narrative, the rest is from the state of play. A great example is one of the final missions in GTA V, the Union Depository heist. The mission starts with driving up to the gold depository in downtown Los Santos (which if you think about it has a lot of cops). You may enter the depository in disguise, transporting the gold under a fake transfer. (all of these details which are presented through dialog as you're walking around taking in the immersion of the mission. a so called "calm before the storm"). After loading the gold onto fake gold trucks, you split from the "legit path", and voila the cops realize what's really going on - insta max wanted level. Eventually you ditch the trucks and load the gold into modified muscle cars similar to the Dodge Challenger all while shooting at cops to keep them off you. You eventually make your getaway, driving through the city as if you were in the fast in the furious. Adrenaline is pumping through you the entire time.

    Missions do not have to be cookie cutter operations. A well designed mission can be an incredible experience for the player. This is where immersion can take place through dialogue, visuals, actions, and much more to allow the player to fully understand the world in a way that can't be accomplished through other mediums.

    So much is yet to be discovered in game spaces, but companies unfortunately depend too much on the game selling despite quality vs. the game actually being good.

  2. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    2
    Mircea Popescu 
    Tuesday, 23 February 2016

    > A virtual world seeded with finite resources

    Not a matter of seeding, as "another principle" protects you from that. If players can make anything in game, then there's no seeding to speak of, they can cycle right back to the seed.

    > will inevitably exhaust those resources if the world is infinitely persistent.

    Except this is pointedly not the case. Look at the left side of the graph monster, see how stable it is ? Spaceship Eulora transforms things from one into another, just like spaceship Earth does.

    > The level of persistence is just an answer to the question of: "when does the world end?" \

    Mno. It's not a case of "we're all retarded just a matter of how much". Eulora is not qualitatively different but quantitatively different from everything else on tap.

    The man who can reproduce is the necessary, natural king of an impotent horde ; Eulora is the perfect ideal towards which all other games to date have aspired and failed.

    > Based on the available public knowledge regarding Eulora, that is not inflationary, farming is ultimately naturally eliminated as resources become exhausted.

    You should probably play it more.

    > If I recall correctly consumables remove value from the game, which eventually needs to be reseeded with investment from outside the Eulora-verse.

    You'll have to link.

    > it's most beneficial to hold resources indefinitely, since they are finite, and don't replenish via predictable spawning.

    You'll have to link here, too.

    > But I think one resource, the most important one, has yet to be mentioned: time.

    It's often mentioned, in the logs, part of value calculations (or attempts to, at any rate) etc. Do you read the logs any ?

    > Let me use Rust another survival game as an example.

    That's somewhat problematic as I've never played it.

    > This is an effective 10-13 hours of grinding to achieve said goal on the most resistant bases.

    Miserable example on pretty much any conceivable metric. Say wut ?!

    > In Rust, servers are regularly wiped once a month, as to make the resource of time finite.

    Mno. Eulora has [at least planned] a death for characters - but for characters only. This because unlike the PoS you chose for your example, Eulora economy is actually soundly designed.

    > I'm not saying an apocalypse isn't the only way to finite-tize time, it just happens to be the easiest.

    I don't see much relation between these sayings and anything else.

    > Glad to see this come up.

    I dunno how the father/son thing relates to the grinding thing, tbh.

    > This is why games like GTA are so successful,

    Yes, yes, the reason ugly women are so successful is because in a world of fat ugly women they kinda stand out.

    I don't deal in fail. Got my supermodel stable here and those 10`000 problems ain't mine.

    > A great example is one of the final missions in GTA V,

    Well, as it happens that's just another game I never played.

    > Adrenaline is pumping through you the entire time.

    You know that's not very good for you.

    > A well designed mission can be an incredible experience for the player.

    Quite so.

    > This is where immersion can take place through dialogue, visuals, actions, and much more

    There's no high tech substitute for human interaction, I don't think.

  3. Except this is pointedly not the case. Look at the left side of the graph monster, see how stable it is ? Spaceship Eulora transforms things from one into another, just like spaceship Earth does.

    I guess I was speaking from the experience of worlds with exhaustible resources, where the conservation of energy/mass doesn't quite stick. I.e. drilling all the oil from a SimCity map results in the oil being gone forever. Not someone extracts resource, and then dies and comes back in another form. Interesting Eulora has the circle of life perfected given that graph.

    Mno. Eulora has [at least planned] a death for characters - but for characters only. This because unlike the PoS you chose for your example, Eulora economy is actually soundly designed.

    I'm not really talking about the economy. This is unrelated to the use of time as a mechanic for completely eliminating the world. For instance escaping Zebes in Metroid (1 and 3), before the self destruct timer gets to zero. Or the 30 in-game day countdown of life support in Pikmin. The latter is a better example, as you only have X amount of time to explore the space before you must restart the entire experience anew.

    Player death in Eulora doesn't extinguish the play-space, only the player's worldly existence. Although it alters the act of play in that one must start "a new life", the legacy and imprint on the world (if any) remains.

    Eulora is the perfect ideal towards which all other games to date have aspired and failed.

    Um okay? I'm pretty sure Kanye said something similar about Yeezus. I would say it's the most well designed and innovative MMORPG since A Tale in the Desert.

    There's no high tech substitute for human interaction, I don't think.

    Highly coincidental I witnessed a play-through of "The Beginner's Guide" shortly after reading this comment. I don't think socializing is a requirement of play, but it can be a component of such. Kids regularly find ways to create play spaces and entertain themselves without the requisite of another person's involvement.

    I do see your point however in the human driven quest. A player using the in game mechanics to fulfill a goal given by another player is intriguing and becomes more intriguing the more granular/detailed/extensive the game play mechanics utilized in this context.

    I don't deal in fail. Got my supermodel stable here and those 10`000 problems ain't mine.

    I guess I can revisit this in a decade or so when more of your games come out. It would be interesting to see what a different genre other than an MMORPG released by S.MG would look like.

  4. Mircea Popescu`s avatar
    4
    Mircea Popescu 
    Friday, 26 February 2016

    Here's how that "revisit" will play out : you'll still be on the outside looking in.

    One of these days, time to actually take a step.

  1. [...] it has a very entrenched principle that nothing is created out of thin air or vanishes into thin air - and by way of consequence [...]

  2. [...] the NPC trader in game started selling mining bundles, to everyone's delight. The total shipment as announced may well have weighted 2`319`405.412, whatever that is, but was also worth 503`351 * 2.5 * 1`000 + [...]

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