Thursday, 26 March 2009

Don't sell your account!

I really hate it when people sell their accounts. Beyond the usual rule breaking associated with it, it's sad to see your friends give up a character they put so much time in to and you had fun interacting with. Like people who delete their characters, they usually regret it. Maybe not now, but in a month or a year when they get the itch to start playing again. Out of the hundreds of people I've met on WoW, I could count on one hand who quit and never came back.

A month or two into Wrath, two of my WoW friends gave away their characters to people at school because they were bored with the game. I sometimes see their old characters in a city or in trade, and it's sad. Although that feeling changed when the new owner node-ninja'd me in Sholazar Basin. Now one of my other friends is considering selling his character he has been playing for three years. Like a lot of people these days, he's having financial troubles (nothing overly serious) and needs some cash. I don't think selling his character is a good idea, but I'm not the one in his position. I really hope he doesn't sell it, because he's invested so much time into this character, and I hate to see my friends make mistakes. I guess it's his mistake to make and ultimately I have little say in it. But I will certainly miss seeing him around on his character. With over 130 days played on my main, I don't think I could ever get rid of her (the fact that I even refer to it as "her" says something) but I guess not everyone is as attatched to their toons.

Rogues and Leatherworkers can make some money in 3.1

Being the least played class does bring some advantages to it. Rogues are pretty hard to find these days, and I'm usually the only one in an Archavon Pug, and free gear is always welcome. One surprising side effect has been the increased cash flow from opening lockboxes. In Burning Crusade I had really given up on charging people for opening them, even asking for one would get you looks of disgust and a "lul i ken find 100 other rouge to opan". Fair enough, I can provide a service and if you think you can find a better deal, go get it.

The situation is pretty different these days, and I would say 95% of people are happy to pay what I charge. My prices are 2g for Khorium, 3g for Froststeel, 5g for Titanium and 1g for anything lower. Typically I'll add another 5g to that if you want me to travel to another city. I think that's pretty reasonable considering the value of the contents (I opened an old Azeroth box for my guild a few months back which had an Orb of Deception).

The good news is that El has dug up some information about a new lockbox from the upcoming Fishing Dailies in Patch 3.1. The catch is that the Tiny Titanium Lockbox requires 405 lockpicking (maximum skill available is 400), so you'll need Dark Leather Gloves to even open the box. This is a fairly rare world drop recipe from vanilla WoW but the leatherworkers lucky enough to have it should get to making some. I've been keeping an eye out for the recipe and gloves on my Auction House, and finally spotted some guy selling the gloves today for 30g each. I don't think too many people know about this, so you can make some very nice money. One thing to note, the materials of the recipe are going to be reduced according to the PTR.

I've had these gloves for a few years now, and it will be something I'll have to add to my bags on permanent basis. The new lockbox will actually contain epic gems, and considering the value of these in TBC, I will probably be charging anywhere between 25 and 50g to open these boxes. Expensive? Sure, but a gnome needs her gold.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Arena Season 5 flops

WoWInsider has an interesting article on the decline of Arena based on stats for Season 5. For me this is just an indicator of the decline of PvP since Wrath, with the exception of Wintergrasp. I've never been a really big fan of Arena, but I was tempted to join the Arena tournament because of the Armored Murloc pet. The tournament really changed my mind about how fun Arena can be though. It's great being with two mates on vent, having a laugh and slaughtering priests with your rogue. Even after my first few games however, I could tell how badly broken the class balance was; Death Knights and Paladins are just way too overpowered. As great as my Rogue is in Arena, it's pretty frustrating to see he's gimped in PvE because of it, but that's a separate issue. In most games we entered, we could pretty much tell the outcome of what the game will be by just looking at the classes of the other team, and the rankings show that most of the top teams all have the same classes dominating.

Around a week after Wrath came out, I wrote my review of the expansion and even as a player who had been away from PvP for several months, it was clear in my eyes that this Season was not going to be a success. Here's what I wrote;
- I really don't understand Blizzards philosophy towards PvP gearing, because it goes against everything they're trying to push for in PvE. In case you don't know, all the PvP gear available at level 80 requires you to do Arena. Basically there will be 3 tiers; Blue quality gear which requires Arena points (no rating), normal Purple quality items that also require an Arena rating and finally the high end Purples that require a high level rating. Now for someone who enjoys BGs (mainly Alterac Valley) and has zero interest in Arena, we're basically forced into doing Arenas. It's the equivalent of telling people you can do 5 man instances but sorry you cant get any gear rewards till you step into a 10-man raid. Can you imagine the reaction? Blizz has really been pushing Arena and E-sports for a while, but I don't thinking forcing people is the way to go about it. I spent most of my level 70 end game (over 95%) in Battlegrounds, I think this will flip it the other way. I know the new Season does not start till December, so I'm still hoping they change their minds on this, but so far no one in the community seems to care. Maybe I'm missing something but at the moment I have no idea where I will be getting resist gear, so I won't be able to enjoy BGs even casually.

It's funny how my prediction was correct, I've gone to spending most of my time in Alterac Valley to becoming a raider. The new gearing rank structure has been a total failure. Not only is Arena less popular than ever before, but the best Battleground in the game (Alterac Valley) is unplayable on many realms. It either has one hour wait times, or not enough people of either faction participating. The main problems;

- Honor is less important, so why go to BGs? Also you can get easy honor from doing Wintergrasp which is still new and shiny and more fun for people who are sick of playing in the same BGs for the last several years.
- Why bother getting your ass handed to you in Arena by Pallys when you can just get your PvP gear from Vault of Archavon, Wintergrasp or Honor?
- People gravitate towards the easiest way to get gear, which has shifted from BGs/Arena in TBC to Puging Naxx in Wrath.

It's strange that Blizz's strategy for raiding has shifted in the last four years to encourage everyone to enjoy it, yet in Arena they are rewarding literally a few hundred players and leaving the rest out in the cold. I'm not suggesting cutting back on the rewards for the top 5% but the bar is too high for the casual player, i.e. total disparity between the effort involved and the reward. Even people who played for just fun (and not gear) will be bored once they are beaten by the same class combination 10 games running.

I really hope they do learn their lesson for Season 6, and there have been some encouraging signs. Alterac Valley will be added back to the requirement for BG mark hand ins quest, and also you will be able to enter BGs from anywhere in the world. Certainly I would be more likely to sign up for a BG whilst waiting for the raid to begin. I think they should add more vanity awards in for BG marks and honor also, these have been barely improved for a long time. Put in new pets, tabards and mounts. Even some bind on account items would be useful. Ultimately though, the class changes in patch 3.1 will determine if Arena can make a recovery in the next season.

The good news is that Blizz are adding a new Battleground to the game and hopefully this time it won't be Diet-Wintergrasp (I'm not too keen on Strand of the Ancients). We might just see a return to the good old days of making Battleground Pre-mades! In the meantime, I'm off to make some easy money in Wintergrasp.

The Mining Myth

If you frequent any of the Warcraft forums (official or fansite), you will constantly see threads pop up asking for gold making advice. The most common answer will be to get a gathering profession and preferably Mining. Whilst this is good for a new player or someone who is extremely bad at managing their WoW finances, it's not really good advice. Mining is a solid profession, with a guaranteed income but it will not lead to your riches.

The economy in WoW is build on inflation/deflation (increase/decrease in prices), which is very cyclical i.e. the economy rises and falls depending on the timeline of the game; how close it is from a patch/expansion. There are other factors such as realm population & supply/demand issues, but they're less relevant in this case. If you simply judge Mining on inflation, it's not a great profession. Let's just look at some basic stats from within the game to explain my point:

Stack of Fel Iron & Adamantite ore during TBC; 20-30g
Stack of Cobalt & Saronite ore during Wrath; 20-30g

20-30g might sound like a good price, but considering the value of gold today compared to 2 years ago, it's not so valuable. The biggest gold sink in Burning Crusade was the 5,000g for epic flying, today it's 16,000g (after rep) for a Tundra Mount. In simpler terms, to pay for my flying I would have to sell 200 stacks of Ore at 25g a stack, but to buy the Tundra mount I would have to sell 640 stacks. I realise this mount is less vital than epic flying, but this is just a simple example to illustrate the deteriorating value of your mining. Even basic daily costs like repairs or flight paths will need you to sell more ore to cover.

This diminishing return seems even worse when you consider the alternatives. Many other professions have seen a rise in auction house prices (herbalism and cooking for example). Even daily quests offer more gold than they did in the previous expansion. So in relative terms mining is no longer as valuable, and this is a trend that will likely continue.

I'm not suggesting mining is a bad profession because I have it on my main, but you'll have to think outside of the box if you want to increase the cash flow.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Time is money, friend!

In my previous guild, I was by far the richest person in the guild. I had many thousands lying around whilst a large percentage of them usually had a few hundred to spare. In jest, many of them referred to me as Scrooge McDuck. Although it was in good humour, I found it an inaccurate caricature of myself. There is certainly a difference between greed and avoiding free riders. In real life many of my friends are now in the work place, whilst I'm still a student. I wouldn't take money they worked hard to earn, and I feel the same way about it in game. Ultimately, you have spent the time and effort (usually in a very boring manner) to make that gold, so no one else should expect a share from it. If you refuse to listen to practical advice I have given to you in the past to help your income (and I dish plenty of this out to people I know), don't expect me to be sympathetic tomorrow when you lost all your money due to a bad night on repair bills.

What throws a major spanner in the works of this way of thinking is personal relationships you have with people. My current guild is full of members who have plenty of gold (some even more than me), and are always sharing and actively listening to advice on how to increase their wealth. So whilst I value their friendship no less than my other friends, I'm far more likely to throw them a bone if they come across hard times.

Only relatively recently have I become a hardcore raider (4-5 nights a week is hardcore in my books), and this has changed my perspective on certain issues. I never understood the value of repair bots. Why would I spend 20-30g to craft an item with limited charges? Of course not being a regular raider, I did not put a value on the down time between wipes. Just like I hate "farming", when I could make money in easier ways, I hate sitting around before a boss waiting for everyone to get ready. Repair bots, cooking feasts, mage tables are all things that help cut down this down time. The conservative side of me is cautious with throwing out a repair bot. At the end of the day I farmed for the mats, so the value of cutting the down time between pulls is diminished by the time spent farming mats. So I set myself certain limits on when I feel the use of a bot is valuable. Before we cleared Eye of Eternity, the repair bot here was highly useful because repairs would mean people re-entering the instance for the body and then flying back for repairs. On the other hand, coming to a Naxx raid with 50% durability and needing a repair after the first boss is a waste of my effort (not that this situation has occurred in my guild). A bad night on 4 Horsemen, sure I'll chuck one out because the walk back is too long when the healer is ressing at the boss.

Of course these feelings are shifted by your relationships to people within your raid. If my friend asks me, I will use my bot without hesitation, as I know they genuinely need it. Conversely the fact that you didn't quest in Dragonblight whilst leveling (how?) and therefore don't have access to the Wintergarde Keep repair man is not a valid reason. If you're not willing to put in minimal effort to benefit yourself, don't expect me to put any in. For a friend, I'd probably use my bot, but tell them to get questing!

The "Time is Money" saying the Goblins often shout is something I take to heart. For me there is zero fun in waiting around, and this is often at the expense of my own bank balance. Today in our Heroic Naxx run we has just killed some trash in the hall before Thaddius, and the rest of the raid was in my opinion taking to long to recover. You've cleared 5/6 trash mobs, why stop there when you will be doing so before the boss fight to arrange groups anyway? So I marched on ahead knowing I would likely end up dead from the shade usually occupying the door in front of Thaddius' room. Predictably I was dead within seconds, but I got the raid moving forwards and it saved us a few minutes of slacking.

There is a hard balance between making money, being efficient with your time and enjoying your WoW friendships. I'm sure there's an answer somewhere within these ramblings.

On a separate note, this is my first post in a long time. My raiding schedule has meant there has been lots to talk about but usually less to do with money making. It's also meant less time to spend on posting. I've decided to carry on posting on the blog, but the focus with switch to whatever topic comes to my mind.