Dishonest, scammy AliExpress games – and a towel from drippy dick (#R21)

AliExpress occasionally does have some great promotions, and they’re usually linked to their games in the subpar phone app. Often times, some base promotion is available to everyone, and additional discounts can be gained by game progress. I’m not sure why that is, since advertisement inside the games is limited, shopping is clunky and very limited, and one is generally better off picking items outside of the games. Nowadays I’m just assuming it’s a time waster for western people paid for by the Chinese state, that seems to be the most reasonable explanation of the whole shebang.

Anyway, the main game seems to be their “Merge Boss”, where goods are produced by “generators”, and then customers show up and ask for specific items that can be merged from the base items. Once delivered, money, coins and promotional points are given, and by elaborate conversion mechanics, can later be turned into dollar discounts. Two level 1 items make a level 2 item, two level 2 items make a level 3 item, and so on up to level 10 (512 base items). The game is overall a terrible one with a sluggish UI, tons of data consumption (and reconnects on server hiccups), the generators are unfairly biased between their two types of items (especially during their buildup to level 8), the customers are biased (especially during promotions), certain game functions are limited, disabled or changed during promotions, storage is limited, old crap cannot be thrown away, some items can barely be distinguished, and on, and on. Well, it’s a time waster game, whatever, get over it.

What grinds my gears however is the “Grow To Get” game that has been introduced somewhere in February to March. Much simpler game mechanics – but a huge scam.

That’s the game interface:

The goal is to harvest 15x cotton from the center of the screen. Cotton like grows and flowers and ripens instantly when watered. Water can be gained by opening the app daily, and checking in at certain time windows throughout the day, and also watching mostly empty advertising pages, opening other games, or exchanging coins for water. Orders made from the game also yield a whopping 15000ml of water (hence my recent spree of useless and easy-to-return flash drives…). More watering yields more free water, which is available on the next day, yada yada yah.
There’s also the scarecrow dude on the left, which is offset on the loading screen, but totally has a water tap as a dick during the game, which also suffers from drippy dick syndrome (as seen on the try channel recent, check my soundcloud for reference).

That thing yields water in an unpredictable pattern, sometimes 30ml per tick (~ every second), sometimes it stalls for half an hour. And once 300ml are collected, they can be moved over and used for watering. Which, before a recent bug fix (yay!) had to be done in 100ml sips, except for when over 1000ml were available, then 500ml chunks were also possible.

What’s my issue with game?
It’s a fucking dishonest scam and waste of time.

Yes, upon harvesting 15x cotton, AliExpress will send you a towel “for free” (10 cents arbitrary handling fees are mandatory, but let’s go with “free” for simplicity). It might be that there’s none available or just the strange color you’d avoid, and the towel was available for 5.48€ anyway (with free choice of color), but AE will ship you a free towel once you’ve slaved away and harvested 15 cotton plants or tufts or whatever it is. Just be a good cotton picker like in the old days.

And I even got one to prove my point:

Not my preferred choice of color/pattern, but it is a towel, it is the advertised size of 140cm x 70cm (strange format, but maybe that’s just me), it has a tiny hanger in the middle (also strange, also likely just me), and it does work as a towel although feeling strange. Material is unknown, it claims being cotton (ha!), being bamboo and being microfiber at the same time. It also survived two washing cycles at 90°C already without damage. That’s 363 Kelvin, for you Yanks out there – you can convert your stupid °F yourself, just multiply by 9/5 and subtract 459.67

The thing that pisses me off big time is the progress to that 15th harvest. In the very beginning, it tells you how much more water is needed to harvest. That info vanishes quickly and is replaced by a progress scale in percent. Well, no big deal, one can always check current status, water once, and subtract the new percentage, right? That’ll give an indicator of how much progress is made per watering, hence 100% / percentage per watering yields the number of actions to reach the goal.

Yes and no.

Yes, this is how the math works. In theory.

No, and this is the scammy part. For once, the number of actions increases per round, a bit like levelling in action RPGs with diminishing returns. Fine. But Ali doesn’t tell you, especially not upfront. And this increase is exponential. And: During the game, during the individual stages, the progress slows down even further, so your initial estimate will be off by a factor of, well, UP TO 45. As with most exponential growth – once you realize this, you’ve put in a lot of time already for a lot of perceived progress (like cotton harvest ~13? 14?), but the reality is that most of the work is still ahead.

Now, I haven’t recorded data from cotton plant #1, since it started out like “water three times and you’re at harvest”. But I do have data from the last (15th) stage. Excuse me if I’m off a sip of water here and there, some of the countless “yeah you won x amount of water” dialogues do water, some don’t, and I only noted down progress every 20 or so actions to not go insane. And it goes like this:

Flowering takes 865x watering (86.500ml). For the first 20, progress is 1.26% per 100ml. Nice and manageable, innit? And then it slows you down to 0.028% per 100ml…

Waiting for the stuff to open takes another 1547x watering (154.700ml). It starts out at 0.52% per 100ml, and slows you down to 0.016% per 100ml.

And then there’s harvesting. Guess what: It starts at 0.29% per 100ml, and final progress is in the order of 0,0093% per 100ml. It only has two decimal places of precision, so sometimes there isn’t even progress. Total waterings for that stage: 2767x = 276.700ml.

That’s exponential at a factor of basically 1.8x per stage.

So we can calculate backwards:
Stage 14 takes 152, 271 and 484 times 100ml (90.700ml total)
Stage 13 takes 27, 48 and 85 times 100ml (16.000ml total)
Stage 12 only takes 4, 8 and 15 times 100ml (2.700ml total)
And the others are basically free and can be done within a day or two, not sure at which stage AE rounds up or uses fixed amounts. I think 10 stages on the very first day are easily done.

Total water amount would be in the order of 627.300ml, say 6300x total.

A quick overview of what can be achieved daily:

* Opening the app once yields 400ml (1x)
* 3x clocking in at the correct time yields 500ml each (1500ml total)
* Opening GoGo Match yields 300ml after 15s (1x)
* Opening Merge Boss yields another 300ml after 15s (1x)
* Watching stupid advertised items for 20s yields 600ml (6x) (3600ml total)
* Clicking one advertised item yields 30ml (1x)
* Watching stupid advertised items for 10-20s yields 300ml later on (3x) (900ml total)
* Exchanging 50 coins for 300ml (3x) (900ml total)

So that’s 7930ml which, on use, returns 10% on the next day, plus roughly 1600ml on top once about 3000ml are spent (that carry-over obviously dies down quickly). So with the occasional free water on every x watering that alternates with free coins, plus ~ten? scarecrow harvests, I’d say 15000ml of water per day is realistic when “playing” A LOT (while watching YouTube). Further progress can be made with the help of invited friends (not interested in multi-account scamming AE for that shit), plus 15000ml per order started from this game that nowadays gets subtracted again when the order is refunded (!).

How long does it take to gather 630.000ml of water with 15.000ml of input every day? 42 days, obviously

It took me about two months to get to this stage. Clicking once per second with an infinite amount of water present would take 6300 seconds, so 1¾ hours of digital labour. Realistically, with all the deliberately complicated menus and the “wohoo, you’ve won” popups for every goddamn action in the game, it’s more like 5 to 10 seconds per 100ml, so ~10 hours of wasting time. All that without any idea of when the game will end, as the terms and conditions do not specify an end date of that promotion. All progress could be gone tomorrow.

To “win” an ugly 5.84€ towel that also costs 10 cent in processing fees.

Fuck you, AliExpress. Fuck you, you fucking fucks.

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