Monday, March 25, 2013

How and Why I Level Characters

As of this writing, on my home server I have 10 x 90s, two 85+, and a bunch of characters waiting to get leveled on my other account ranging from level 6 to 73.  The reason leveling so many 90s was easy for me was I started this game way back in 2006 upon finishing my business with Diablo 2.  I've played RPGs for over 25 years, so leveling is something that I understand and it's also a fun process for me.  (That's right, I've been gaming longer than the majority of my readers here have been alive, and I enjoy the process.)  Over the years I've taken many different characters to the level cap, so it's not like I sat down at the beginning of MoP and took them all to 90, this was something I did over time.

The big question you have to answer for yourself before you stack capped characters - Why have so many?

From an Auction House standpoint - Flexibility, Knowledge of the Classes, and Experience
From a playing standpoint - Tons of Fun

On my "tons of fun" reason - I like variety, and I have had several different "mains" in my time playing WoW.  Characters are like golf clubs (something I also enjoy playing), you just pick the one you need to get the job done, and each one handles differently.  I can play all of them well, and of course my short game still needs work.  I'm going off on a tangent, so...

More flexibility means that certain things in the game aren't locked out for me.  I can make another tailor, leatherworker, or blacksmith with ease.  If needed, I can also pick up more of the basic professions.  Given the changes to reps, I can also get any of them to the needed reputation with ease.  Tillers is a 90 only rep, and if I need to plant something specific I can get lots of whatever I want very quickly.  Further, it didn't take a ton of time leveling my characters, since I keep up from expansion to expansion, the only choice I have to make during expansions is which ones are priority to get to cap first.

A side bonus of having all these 90s - I utilize the same sites as everyone else (should).  Icy Veins, Mr. Robot, Elitist Jerks, etc.  I'm one of those people that sit down and actually read and consume the content out there so I can play properly, and not just "figure it out lol".  I don't like reinventing the wheel when the research has already been done - that's not fun.  Therefore, I'm a walking encyclopedia of what's best for each class and spec, and I can tell what people are really going to desire.  This is especially helpful in creating BOEs where it's not just 'stack it high and watch it fly'.  I don't waste time or resources chasing markets where things won't sell because they are poorly itemized.  I've been through the leveling process of each and know what items are rare on the AH, and how to build a marketing plan around this.

Leveling to Cap is Easy

* BOAs are offered in almost every slot, for Justice Points, which are almost useless otherwise
* Rested Experience
* Monks get Enlightenment from a daily - 50% more xp through 85, 20% through 90
* Pandaren earn rested XP 2 times faster, so 5 days and you're ready to roll again
* 80-89 now has a large amount of gear available to give you killing speed
* Questing is entirely linear and you have a choice of paths
* BOAs are now upgradable through 85, giving you a monster amount of bonus XP all the way to 85
* Previous content buff foods, elixirs, cheap old flasks all speed you up and are cheap
* Death Knights start at level 55
* Pet battles offer experience - while nerfed and slower
* Recruit a Friend (RAF) if you're into that
* There's a guild bonus at Level 6 for 10% more experience gains (not at 25 you nubs)
* The amount of XP required per level is dramatically reduced over previous expansions

Prior to the opening of Diablo 3, back when I thought WoW would become history for me, I started a leveling project where I took 5 different Death Knights to 85 on different servers with no BOAs.  For some reason I got it in my head to possibly grind gold on 6 of the most populated US servers, but for obvious reasons I abandoned that idea.  When I was done with it, I had 5 DKs, 1 Warrior, and 1 Rogue all at 85 on these other servers for a total of 18 x 85s.  It's not that hard to get it done.  Again with the tangents.

How I Level a New Character

1-15:  Dump Enchanted BOAs on them.  Where possible, give them missing slot items I won't upgrade quickly, Bracer/boot enchants, foods, elixirs for different levels, healing/mana pots.  I keep these updated along the way.  Of course bags.  I quest the entire way, doing all of the available quests as fast as possible.

16-60:  I specifically run each dungeon one time unless it's irrelevant, I don't do randoms.  I'm only after the gear available from the quest rewards.  If the dungeon has a poor upgrade for me, I skip it and continue questing in the appropriate zone.  Here's a map that was released on MMOC at the opening of Cataclysm that I commonly refer back to when I'm looking for a spot to jump in to.  Always do the zones that are for your level, move on to the next one immediately when you hit the level for the next zone.  At 58 I move into Outlands because the quest reward XP is far greater than wasting time in Silithus or grinding Classic dungeons.

60-68:  Thanks to CRZ, questing in Outlands is a real challenge and slows me down.  I know this is the state of PvP servers today, but I'm not looking to get my main fight back since I'm on a mission so I just queue it up.  I will do quests as long as I can in the zones that are relevant, but once ganking starts I'm queued.  Outlands just seems to be the most affected with the ganking, probably because the portal is right there in town and people have nothing else to do.  I get it.  This also happens to be the only time when I queue randoms, but I will insure I get all of the relevant ones completed before exiting Outlands.

68-80:  I am immediately off to Northrend, and I like to do Borean Tundra.  I tend to quest entirely through to 70 and retain the updated gear I can, then at 70 I'll start the dungeon crawl for quest rewards.  I quest certain zones because I enjoy them still - Zul'Drak (74), Sholozar Basin (77), Storm Peaks (78), Icecrown (79); but I immediately leave them upon hitting the next level.  I still try to get all the different dungeons completed one time, except Oculus and only because asking people to not take 4 red dragons or 4 green dragons results in unneeded delays and brain aneurisms.  At 77 I will equip a Cataclysm green weapon.  I don't care if the thing has spirit as it's mod, it's the dps I'm after and it will get replaced almost immediately at 80 anyhow.

80-85:  Obviously Cataclysm zones, and this is where I'm questing almost entirely.  I run the various dungeons one time each, but most of the time I only get to 2-3 of them the entire time.  This is also where you equip the MoP twink gear, especially weapons since those will 1-3 shot mobs all the way through.  If you can't afford those, then get the Cata gear made - rings, neck, armors.  Since they reduced the XP requirement from 83-85 by a ton, I flat out don't have the time for all of the dungeons when I'm plowing through quests.  Once I get to Twilight Highlands, I'm looking for a Crucible group immediately, and from there I'll complete all the quests until 85.

85-90:  Here's something they don't tell you normally - if you're looking to blow through MoP questing, you don't stay in a zone any longer than necessary.  I know people that bitch and moan about how long questing takes, but they do all of Jade Forest, V4W, KW, etc.  The quest reward XP is tied directly to the level of the zone, so if you're 88 doing quests in Krasarang Wilds, you're way off.  The path you should take:

* Jade Forest until you get the quest to leave the zone.  By this point, you should be well over 86.
* Valley of Four Winds to 87.  Open Halfhill and get that out of the way, I usually do that with about 10% XP from 87.  Finish other quests if you're short.
* Immediately at 87 I'll head to Kun-Lai Summit and do everything I can but I also insure Golden Lotus is opened before leaving.
* At 88 I waste no time getting to the camps in Townlong Steppes.  If I need the 442 helm I'll complete all the quests up through that even if I'm 89 at that point.
* 89-90 it's Dread Wastes.  Fastest I've completed the climb here is about 2 hours.

At 85, I will definitely equip my 415 gear.  415 gear is obviously the blue proc items you get from making the various LW/Tailor/Blacksmith items, and I stack my strongest stats and reforge to hit/expertise.  If I need a trinket, I head down to my Adventuring Gear vendor and pick them up.  Fill the slots, run appropriate dungeons for the quest reward cape.  These will last you until you hit Townlong Steppes, because all green rewards are 414, and blue items are only granted sparingly.

I took the time to get the BOA Archeology items (and even upgraded them in 5.1 just in case) and the spear goes on all Death Knights, Monks, Paladins, Feral Druids, and Warriors.  But it's Agi, Zero!  Yes, it's agility based, your point?  Go by the dps of the weapon.  I have a heroic mode 463 (471 now, nyuk nyuk) and I'm 1-2 shotting everything, you're running around with a 372/399/404/410 weapon that's itemized for your class, grats.  Agi also grants crit rating.  Slap this spear on an Arms Warrior, Bladestorm, and watch the tanks fight in vain to hold the mobs in the dungeons.

Stay Rested

During the entire process, I will generally only level on rested experience after level 70.  Rested gets burned so quickly prior to this point, it's not worth parking that long.  If I run out of rested experience I will not continue.  The character gets parked after I've insured I have the flight paths to get back to where I was.  If you do 85-90 entirely rested, and you quest your way through, full rest at 85 should last through 87/88.  At 88 you only need about 3/4 rested to quest entirely to 90 without running out of it at all.  So completing 85-90 should technically only take you 17 days if you account for rested time, provided you quest and only do each dungeon one time.  For me, 85-90 is actually about 10-12 hours played.

Optimize Your Gear

I generally reforge after 80 to my needed hit and expertise ratings whenever I get too low for comfort, since these are your most powerful stats along the way.  I try to stay at around 3-4% since I'm usually hitting mobs my own level or one level higher (we aren't raiding here).  I equip hit elixirs when I need to, because missing attacks simply slows you down.  I enchant for hit/expertise if I have the mats laying around - but generally they're cheaper on the Auction House because people level with them and the vast majority of players ignore this mechanic while leveling so they remain cheap.

Research the Class While Leveling It

Ever hear that tanks are the highest dps until 80? or 85?  Bullshit.  That's because most players haven't a clue how to play their class properly, and most tanks just AOE while everyone spams buttons.  There are more resources today than ever before telling you how to play the class, and the best one in my opinion is Icy Veins.  They have all of the classes broken down, what spec to use while leveling, glyphs, everything.  They do everything except push the buttons for you.

This is important because you need to optimize your killing power along the way.  All classes get their signature abilities at level 10 now, and I know exactly when I'm getting new skills to put on my bars because I looked into it.  For the extreme casuals out there, this will also teach you how to play your class and the game better, because you practice a good rotation along the way and learn a little more about how the game mechanics work. 

For My Next Trick...

I'm working on a project in down times where I'll have more 80s because I want my primary account to be all about the major professions.  I started on this last month and it's a dream of mine to have an army of warriors, so I started 5 more warriors and another monk on my other account.  The warriors are all the different races, even a panda.  I love warriors for their killing speed.  They charge everything after 15, can tank dungeons and tear through quests.  The BE warrior I rolled after the Cataclysm patch went to 80 in 4.5 days played with only a BOA weapon, it's ridiculously fast now compared to the 14 days played during Classic just to get to 60.

Crazy?  No life?  Meh, I just really enjoy playing the game and leveling characters in my spare time.  Too bad others don't.

Margin Call, Week of March 17

This week I actually finished learning all the new BOE 522 Epic patterns for LW/Tailor.  Tailoring still has about 4 patterns left to discover, while LW is over 40 now.  The PvP gear mill is very nice, but Contenders still turns much better, and at better ROI.  I did my checking and have come to a conclusion on Sha Crystals, so next week I'll have those in inventory en mass again.  Nothing makes me more nervous than dealing in that market when prices still aren't settled, but I do believe my answer gives me a good reason to invest for quite some time.

It wasn't a super high week by any stretch, and definitely below expectations.  The problem is missing a few markets (high end enchants, alchemy) so sales are going to reflect this.  I did a bit of buying as you can see, too.  My other account bought another 79,000g in materials not reflected here.  Further, I give way more shits about getting my 3 favorite characters geared than paying too much attention daily to the AH.  By my numbers weekly, you can see I pick up about a million gold every 3 weeks, so it's not like I'm hurting here.  You see, I had a birthday last week, so there were drinks to be had and friends and family to go out to dinner with.  I think I got my evening repost in around 11pm.  =)  Always keep your priorities straight, especially when they want to go for New York strips.

AH Nerd Math 102

You want to know what kind of pressure the Exotic Leather market is going to be under?  Or has been, depending on your server?  By my current results and calculations (give or take a recipe or two), to keep yourself COMPLETELY stocked with all the new PvP LW items when all are known:

Total Magnificent Hides required:  94
That's 4700 Exotic Leathers (not counting daily CD), or 235 stacks, or 19.58 full mails to your LW to make them.

Thanks for stopping in!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Duplication Stinks

For once I'm not talking about Blizzard's blind eye to their games.

When I wrote about my 5.2 Marketing Plan, one of the features I was installing were multiple crafters of the BS/Tailor/LW type.  This week I've gotten to 29 Tailoring patterns, 28 LW patterns, and I now know almost all of the epic patterns for LW/Tailoring.  The problem I had this week were crafters learning duplicate patterns.  I recognized this would possibly be an issue, and this last week I acknowledged I got excessively lucky the first week in not getting any duplicates, but this week I felt like I was buying baseball cards in foilpacks and getting the worst possible cards. Basically 7 new PvP patterns of each, which is what everyone else retained, which still puts me at 2 weeks ahead of everyone else but I couldn't get over the fact that my luck always runs out when I get on a streak.

If anything, I'm able to craft most everything a little easier, since I've had to bounce around different characters just to restock.  These things still sell for a decent profit, but not 1000% like they did the first week.  We're approaching saturation of the talking monkeys.

Talking monkeys tend to craft things, and then just put it up for whatever they want to make.  If something only cost them 100g to make, they post it for 110g.  Thanks to TSM, these same people just follow downward spirals in the pricing.  What the hell am I talking about?  The leatherworking CD gives a lowball price to items, and people don't adjust their addon to account for the full value of the materials required for the craft.  So they post an armor for 110g, when it really has a cost of 200g.  It would seem like a good idea to try to reset the price, but these items are not like gems.  These items will sit for a while before they sell, sometimes requiring 2-3 reposts to sell just one.  In that time, talking monkey takes my gold and starts the process all over again, sticking you with overpriced items.  High pop server problems, sigh.  It's not that bad, many items are very well priced, although the profits on most of them are not that great.  50, 100, 200g?  Items are considered too high priced and people waiting?

This is why I love leatherworking even more.  Most of the playerbase posting these 5.2 items today were incredibly lazy during 5.0 through 5.1.  They couldn't be asked to grind out the Contender gear.  1 SOH per RECIPE!?  That's criminal and bad design, I'm going to vote No!

Since the 5.2 items are playing the game of "Race to the Bottom", I've made a truckload in the previous market. After all, who the hell would want to buy crap from the previous patch?  It's outdated and we've moved on, right?

Answer:  Most people.

Are you a consumer in real life?  I'm pretty sure you are.  Ever go to a Walmart and see your favorite shampoo and then notice that they have the store brand for about half price?  If you're someone that buys the brand name, you have lots of extra money to throw away.  If you're me, you're snapping that offbrand up and probably buying two of them and congratulating yourself for saving money.  Maybe this is a bad example, I'm assuming people wash their hair here.

My point is consumers want a bargain that will satisfy their needs for the least possible outflow of cash.  Not everyone playing Warcraft is wealthy, and they tend to treat their gold like they would real life money.  Blizz has stated it before, the average amount of gold people have is incredibly low.  I was chatting with a friend of mine that came back to the game, and he told me he only had about 7k to his name.  After all his repair bills being paid, flasks paid for, foods, high end enchants, and him grinding all those dungeons with friends for years, he only has about 7k.  Another guildie after Firelands received a 20,000g severance package from me when I let her go from our raid group.  She told me "No hard feelings, I'm now rich!".  A warrior I brought in (who was really good and listened) had extreme money trouble - he was worth 3,000g after 4 years of playing.

Most people are really, really bad at making and SAVING gold.  Even with all the dailies, enhanced gold drops, and opportunities to make gold in the game, they flat out aren't going to have the spare gold to blow on your 1k bracers or 2k chest pieces.  The target market for these expensive new items are people who don't have the alts to make things, but have the gold to spend on their alts.  If everyone was extremely wealthy and carefree with their gold, then I would be selling through everything within an hour, given my server has about 22,000 90s running around on it.  People budget what they spend on their characters, and they aren't always going to choose top of the line, just good enough.

So I'm still posting everything from 5.0 leatherworking daily, and it's selling out.  Tailoring, much harder to do because the reagent cost is not as much. 

Enchanting - If you didn't know this trick, you're in the dark

I can't understand why Crystals haven't plummeted through the floor.  I haven't had the time to really sit down and analyze my market, but my gut guess is that people are still not doing math or the demand is behind the supply since people aren't aware of it.  Since Tailored items now offer several recipes that will give a cheaper Ethereal Shard, I shake my head nightly as I see them still priced well over 50g per.  Either people aren't in this market or someone's keeping pricing fixed in place, and the latter I highly doubt given the supply of them.  If anything it's made me nervous about keeping a large stockpile of Shas laying around, last time I did a 2 week supply black came up and I spent the next week running Gold-Cost-Averaging calculations.

Here goes (plug these into your spreadsheet to get your own ceiling):

Windwool Cloth - 2g per (cap)
Windwool Bolt - 10g per (cap)
1x458 Cloak/Wrists Armor - 4 Bolts, 40g cost
Disenchant the item, you now have a 40g Ethereal Shard, 20g if you get a proc.

And it goes down from there.  I use 2g because that's the extreme price on my server.  Even funnier because nobody is keeping the cloths off the AH, they keep going lower and lower.  This alone should put enormous pressure on the tailoring market, but it's not for some reason.

If you want to get in on the action, just do the basic math, make a bunch of these, and post at primetime.  It's not exactly awesome GPH or ROI, but you can cash in before the herd finds this watering hole.  Mooo.

Margin Call, Week of March 10

This week was not nearly what I would have liked to have seen, but given I'm putting in 60 hours a week at work this month (yes, exhausted, thank you) and putting my spare time into valor capping (the joke this patch for LFR, your BIS more than likely comes from the new raid rep) three different characters, it wasn't too bad.  I was hardly even paying attention to restocking things, just selling inventory, getting CDs and Tillers done, and doing some mat snatching while hanging around in queues.  Here, check this out:

Hardly any purchases, a decent amount of sales.  If only I cared right now.

And by the way dps in LFRs on Council, It kill the adds before the bosses, or else you get the hose again!  Watching Living Sands wipe the raids over and over told me it's gonna be a long, long patch.

Thanks for stopping in!

p.s. While I have other topics fleshed out in my blog queue (including a nice roast), I am still working on them.  Once this smoke clears I'll be in a better position to get them done.  Not having weekends is wearing on me.  Next time, I'm going to go over my leveling process, or possibly publish a long awaited roast.  I can't decide.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Lessons learned in 5.2

Let me recap.  Last Tuesday I got started around 5pm my time, and the servers had been up for about 2 hours.  Ironically, being on one of the largest servers in the world I half expected to see a 1 hour queue, which is the standard penalty for having responsibility during the day.  We had no queue until late in the evening, and I found that out trying to log into my other account to fetch some extra GIO from a mailbox mule - and even then it was only 800 deep, which was about half what 4.2 brought.

That sort of stinks, I expect queues because it means there's a lot of people coming back to the game.  Our queues during release hit 4000+ in line, which was actually up over Cata's initial release.  When more people come back to the game, it means more opportunity to sell lots of things to people who want to either catch up quickly or are retaining some gear out of LFR/Dungeons and need to update them.  Given the number of people that I saw in my own guild that got to 90 and quit, I expected more people to resub.  I guess maybe I was wrong.

I was also on a mission when I logged in.  I needed to locate the Leatherworking patterns while also going about my normal routine.  Like others, I want to see new content and such, so I figured I would go look for patterns there since reports were good that they were dropping quickly there.  But the Isle of Thunderlag came with 5 second lag and lots of spikes, so I changed course.  I completed several series of dailies finding ONE pattern.  I even tried Scenarios.  So here's a pro-tip for the day if you're thinking of powerleveling a LW:

If you need the Magnificence recipes, your best bet is to run dungeons.

I acquired the six I needed within 3 dungeon runs across the 3 LWs.  They dropped almost immediately for me and there was no sharing.

As of 7 days later:
Tailor:  19 PvP recipes, 2 Epic patterns
Leatherworking:  19 PvP recipes, 1 Epic pattern, Magnificent Hide Bag

Nobody learned a duplicate PvP pattern, I ended up with a one duplicate epic pattern.  Honestly, the epic patterns at this point can burn, why would anyone want these things outside of bleeding edge guilds who have the ability to retain the Haunted Spirits at this point?  HS started showing up immediately on the AH, but it was about 45k per.  Yes, the price has since dropped, we're down to 40k here.  Either way, I'm now 2 weeks ahead of the standard competitor, since I'm now halfway through the entire process for tailoring discoveries after a week.  I'm predicting I'll start seeing duplicate recipes heavily this week.

Ahh, Leatherworking

My favorite feature of this PvP gear rush is that LW is more cumbersome, while tailoring is definitely going into the ground.  From the beginning, the tailored gear was undercut over and over, and today Contender's gear is sometimes more valuable and actually sells.  I don't give it too long before we hit a point of saturation and people stop making the items entirely.  The problem of course is that cloth is widely available, whereas leather requires a specific profession to collect it - and hundreds (if not thousands) of skins to supply the market.

Leatherworking requires more reagents, and that's a good thing.  Not everyone is prepped for this type of demand, since making a 2 hide item requires 100 exotic leather (or save up those 20 leather CDs for a few months to justify a cost in the 40-80g range, since TUJ is using the CD price as the standard cost).  Since that's unreasonable, and there are approximately 58 recipes that require these items, anyone wishing to keep a stock of all the different types is going to put some extreme pressure on the prices.

My prices of this leather are fixed since I stockpiled these for the past 2 months and have an enormous supply (one mailbox shows 834 mails available, and that's normally 10-12 stacks per mail, and that's just ONE mailbox), and I further snap up all idiots posting Mag Hides below my costs since right now is a good time to do it while people look for epic recipes to pop.  Sure they get to make a little money on their CDs, but it also keeps them out of the market and others from doing what I'm doing.

If I was looking to put some hurt on this market, I would insure prices of leather were kept a bit higher.  I wonder how I would do that?  Hmmm. 

Blacksmithing and GIO

Firing up the machine...  I heard the following statements prior to this patch:

* Living Steel is going to go up!  Buy it!
* Trillium Ore is going up!  Buy it!
* Ghost Iron Bars will go up!  Buy it!
* Ghost Iron Ore will go up!  Buy it!

The gold prognosticators that seem to hold Master's Degrees in Economics from the London School of Economics from their BFE Internet Campus location at Starbucks were calling for these things to skyrocket in value.  Just kidding, I doubt most of them hold a degree in anything at all.  Many of them seem to be revising what they were saying and backtracking their advice.  God forbid they were wrong and didn't know wtf they were talking about and have to admit it, right?

After the patch we saw (if your server isn't a backwater):
* Living Steel went up!  For about 4 hours.  It's been at normal prices ever since.
* Trillium Ore has sat where it was prior to the patch.  Still easy to come by.
* GIB and GIO are at normal prices.

I knew they were wrong.  How did I know?  They were talking, and they had no logical or rational reason based on anything except tertiary profession changes for this speculation that was never truly analyzed, but they are halfway decent at social media.  Stick to one thing or another, I think Jim Kramer's job is filled - and he did it for over 20 years prior to telling people what to do with their money on TV.  He actually does his research however before he answers any questions, so you can be reasonably certain he knows what he's talking about.

I've been buying GIO for sub-market pricing everyday ever since we went live.  Even when the forge is opened (legitimately this time), there will not be much pressure on the prices.  The last bastion of hope for a bump is this event, but I doubt you'll get it.  Tailoring should give you an excellent example of what to expect so you don't expect prices to just go up when this event happens.  Everyone started learning the recipes (and many already started), everyone jumped into the market, and today the prices are in the shitter.  Windwool did see a slight bump here by about 25 silver, but there's a big difference.  Windwool hasn't got botters.

GIO is heavily botted and is not exactly in limited supply.  Prior to the release of the patch, Blizzard banned many, many bot accounts.  This placed some pressure on the prices prior to the release.  It's been some time, so these guys are back in business.  To make Trillium Ore, it is directly in line with the price of GIO thanks to Alchemy, and it has enormous downward pressure.  Meanwhile, Blacksmithing is not exactly popular, and as I proved the week before last, anyone leveling it via GIO for the most part are fools.  It's not going up, so dump your stacks now, or COD directly to me.  Send me an email for mule info on my server.  My buyer is standing by.  Otherwise, hold out for a rise in price, and keep listening to the soothe-sayers.  I can also give you the name of a good psychic, too.

Margin Call - Week of March 3

First week of a new patch, it was a tad slow going this week as recipes get learned and I try to squeeze in some actual play time in between jobs here.  Not the most sparkly number, BOEs sold well, new PvP gear sold well, Contender's sold well, as did some enchants.  I'm fairly certain this next week will be better since I saw a level of undercutting this week that I hadn't seen since release of MoP.  I've also held back some stuff since LFR opens this week and THAT is where the money is at moving forward.

Someone PMed me asking why I black out things in this.  Simple:  I don't want you seeing my best sellers and what I buy the most of.  I'm not here to make copycats of techniques, I want copycats of the thought process.

Thanks for stopping in!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thunderforge ... Like we didn't see this coming

Oh hi, I didn't see you come in there.  Welcome to the party.  I always wanted to say that, a la Hugh Hefner.

Many of you don't know me, but I've been screwing with Blizzard since 2000, when I took a visit to Walmart and picked up the new release of Diablo 2.  That game was awesome, and another time we'll go into that thing and how I wrapped my life around it and squeezed it for everything it had.  But in that time I've learned a lot about the company and it's stance on things, including how it many times absolutely screws the pooch and then takes photos for posterity.  I wish I could say it was from time to time, but it is consistently.  Today's piece is opinion and exposition, it's not much to deal with actual gold making.

So let's start my hate machine today, and it deals mostly with our favorite manufacturer.

1)  They never monitor the sites that have been dedicated to hacking and exploiting their games for almost a decade and a half.  Blizzhackers, MMOwned, Ownedcore.  Just to name a few.  If they really had, people would be running away from these sites as soon as people were banned for using the plethora of bots written there, hacks to crash servers, etc.  Instead they flock there because nothing ever happens.  It's even my understanding that Blizz has an understanding with these sites, because honestly I fail to see how their "crack security team that takes their jobs very seriously" isn't banning the shit out of everyone using the stuff from this place.  Someone convince me otherwise.

2)  If the games were implemented perfectly, everyone would have a really good time and casual players wouldn't get screwed over because they weren't in the know.  If they paid attention to the game's economies that they create that would be even better.  Diablo 2/3 and WoW have spawned multi-million dollar sales in items and gold sales.  The beauty is the items in these games are botted, duped, and hacked, with a legion of fans proclaiming they aren't and they barely do anything about it because it would be unfair to an ignorant playerbase that bought these items with real money or bought gold ... wait a minute...  we're protecting them?

3)  Whenever something comes along, they are slow as Christmas to react to anything to do with the in-game economy, UNLESS it directly affects the playing experience for the majority of the population.  Dupe a few thousand Blood Spirits, we'll get back to you next expansion.  Crash the server or kill every friendly in town, however, they'll ban the ever living shit out of the culprits.

4)  They have a legion of players that believe Blizzard can do no wrong, and frankly, these people need a deprogrammer.  Dupes?  They don't exist.  Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!  Or that guy in trade hocking Blood Spirits in lots of 100.  I've dealt with this organization going on 13 years, they honestly have no desire to eliminate the holes in their systems.  Case in point, someone made 500 Blood Spirits to order for me last week and it took them 30 minutes.  Obviously he needed the time to go hack Blood Legion or Raiding Rainbows, because guilds like them get hacked every week, right?

Ok, so what has the hooded one so riled up today and ready to take a flamethrower to the "Ferrari Only" parking spots at Blizzard?  The new quest zone.

It's absolutely filled with bugs and exploits.

First - PvP in the zone is pretty much like Isle of QQ, where you land or spawn, you're a target and capable of dying.  That's not a problem with me, you're level 90, on a PvP server, time to man up.

But most egregious - Blacksmiths are not supposed to be able to learn the new Lightning Bars until the damned thing is unlocked.  And here we go...

Rather than phase the stupid island, they left it completely open.  It's phoned in.  Seriously.  And to prove it, I'm going to give EVERYONE the skinny on how to retain the shit and how others did it, just so you know how it's done and maybe can tell your friends and maybe join me in pondering the QA team's leadership.  And MAYBE, just maybe, Blizzard will learn how to release new content in phased format, since they were pretty freaking proud of that technology with the release of the Isle of QQ and have used it ever since.  So buckle up.  I'm no fan of promoting exploitation, but I am a fan of educating people so they can join my side of the equation and demand better, and maybe hold them accountable for the stuff they make.

First, you need to get to the island on your 90.  Just land and go here:

The best way to get here is on a class with water walking, but if needed bring some water walking potions.  FFS I got here with no problem on a paladin, just keep a spare one available in case a mob hits you (spear throwers and casters are on the way to the location).  Once there, you should see a slope with a tree at the top:

Notice, the only wall walking here is jumping up on a ramp.  There's no wall walking, hacking, or exploiting in any of this.  Simply jump up onto the slope and follow the path into the cave, follow my godly paint skills with the map and land in the Thunder Forge area.

Keep running out the cave exit and you will then arrive in the Thunder Forge courtyard.  The actual forge is past the two guards and the clickable door to the left here.

For those that haven't been here in the PTR, there's a mob that you have to kill named Itoka (below).

He will drop you the item you will need to turn in to learn Lightning Steel provided you have Blacksmithing.  And seriously, the NPCs aren't aware that shit isn't open yet, so they drop you the recipe.  NPCs are the Keystone Cops of Warcraft, they do as they're told provided you have the quest items or required profession.  They don't care, and they certainly aren't going to tell you "I'm sorry, your realm hasn't progressed this far yet, one second while I consult with a GM and report your ass."

And slam bam, thank you ma'am, you're in the Thunder Forge and can learn PvP gear and new 522 epics a full 15 days ahead of the "scrubs" on your server who are still killing dinosaurs and hoping for keys to do loot runs.  Screw that, you have 1-5k PvP patterns to learn that only a handful of blacksmiths are learning.

Why this is so screwed up:

1)  The island is not phased.  It's locked with gates.  If I learned anything watching The Walking Dead, it's that you always check the perimeter, because those damned walkers will find a way in while you're asleep.  The players of WoW are curious and will explore every nook and cranny hoping to find a secret.  Most of them are not ill-intentioned, but many are.

2)  They will chalk this up to clever use of game mechanics unless the majority get upset.  Remember hunters training Spirit Wolves when Dustwallow got revised in TBC?  What are they going to do?  Refund gold?  Take away patterns?  Delete items from inventory?  Most people don't know these items shouldn't exist at this point (or believe we live in the magical land of Oz and they have to wait 'til Phase 4), so that's impossible.  Here, check your Auction House today.  Select Armor, Plate, and search with "Crafted Dreadful".  Fairly certain you'll see some crop up if you're on a server of any size.

3)  There's no alarm bells.  Anyone ever sneak into Hyjal years ago?  Setting foot in the area would have a team of GMs on your ass making you feel like you were the target of an FBI raid.

4)  Anyone making a Lightning Ingot at this point should be targeted immediately.  Not happening.  I know of not one person given a temp ban, but I know many who are making the PvP sets and have the recipes already.

5)  It was implemented.  Blizzard offers PTR so that the general playerbase finds holes in the system to give them something to do later.  I swear it's the truth.  Betas and PTRs are good for one thing - experimenting with the holes in the system, so you can blow through them when it goes live.  There's no goodie-goodies reporting these finds.  Those that find them document them, and pray they go live, which they normally do.

6)  Itoka was supposedly hotfixed, but I can't find any documentation.  People are still camping him, and those that nabbed him early on are still making Lightning Steel.  Myself, I'm not going to be camping him any longer, I have other things to do at the moment and since he's possibly hotfixed, I'm not going to watch water boil.  He'll become available in a few weeks, and then I'll complete my main's training.

The problem is Blizz designs this stuff but QA doesn't think 3 steps ahead.  They go 1, maybe 2, but then they have better things to do when they get to 3.  The answer here was to phase the island so that cheating would be impossible, or at least phase the bosses.  At the very least, put a freaking roadblock in to keep people from going further into a zone than they should

For a company that rakes in a cool 50-100 million a month off just one title, you would think they would have a better Quality Assurance crew.  But then again, I hear they pay those guys squat and they're busy having to wash the developer's cars on Fridays and convince their spouses that working at Blizzard IS part of the benefits package, so I guess I would probably show up and do my job really half assed, too.  Hell, leave a few holes in the game just in case they do the standard layoffs after a bad quarter as a bonus severance package.

Am I upset because I need the recipe on one of my blacksmiths still?  Nope.  What is upsetting is I have to resort to extreme measures and bizarre behavior just to keep ahead of the pack.  If I have to do that, then it means everyone else is being taken advantage of, and that's horse hockey.

Thanks for stopping in!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Future profession changes, 10th 90, Patch Day

My pet beagle used to do her dance everytime she was done with a bath.  This mostly consisted of her running in circles around the house and rubbing all over the carpet.  Beagle owners commonly refer to this as the beagle dance.  I always like to believe she was thrilled the bath was over (she hated them giving me a look of pure sadness throughout them) and that it was party time.  I feel the same whenever we move from an initial release to the first patch in every expansion.  They always feel like they are not 100% polished, always have bugs and junk that was never fixed from beta up through the day of the next patch, and then we get to see the polish in later patches and play a game as it was intended.  But I'll still do a beagle dance because I'm freaking glad the release patch is over.

But professions, those are another matter.

Like a Broken Record!

I hate harping on about the topic from last Tuesday, but in all seriousness the system is weak.  Actually, weak is a bad word for it.  Terrible.

Quandry:  People want to power level through professions faster.

Answer:  We'll use current content materials, and consult with Furor to come up with the amount of materials needed (note, he designed the AQ War Effort).

The reason I hate this solution is that it's going to end up being outdated by the next expansion when a new material is introduced and then they have to play catchup.  Blizzard is absolutely slow when it comes to updating game mechanics for professions historically.  Do I trust them to stay faithful to the entire system?  Absolutely not, look at other professions and their requirements.  Heck, look at the bugs that are still in the game that are still in the game with us.  I would say by Patch 6.3 they'll probably update it, but until then you're headed to Pandaria if you're short on Adamantite and Outlands isn't producing much.  I simply don't like when they make a big change/introduction, because I know that it's yet another thing they won't be faithful about with maintaining it.

When Cataclysm arrived, we got to see +2, 3, 4, and 5 skill upgrades for making something, and I was jumping for joy.  By MoP the system from 500-600 was almost entirely +2 through +4 throughout the process.  Both of these changes were exciting and made the system much more tolerable - I'm a person that juggles professions constantly.  However, the direction they're headed is to give a current content alternative, and what would the game look like when they do this for all professions?  I think you see where I'm going with this.

Worse, I can easily see them revisiting the quantity requirements as soon as the unwashed masses see this system and start complaining that it requires too many materials.  Remember this is a first of several changes to come.

Rather than add, they need to enhance.  A true revamp would be to go back to each profession, and grant various recipes the ability to give more levels than just one.  So instead of "Craft 100 Rough Grinding Stones" or "Blow 400 Ghost Iron Bars", you go "Copper Gloves, +2".  Or crafting a Classic Epic would have the opportunity to give +5.  This would be a VERY welcome change to the Iron through Saronite climb.  Its more well rounded and doesn't require constant revisiting - no changing materials from Ghost Iron/Windwool Cloth/Exotic Leather to whatever 6.0 requires.  The Wizards at Blizzard make great games, but maintaining them is not always in the deck.

My guess is the developer meeting went like this:  "What takes less coding time?  Add quests to an existing NPC?  Ok, we'll go that direction.  Someone go get Afrasiabi, this is beyond our ability."

Zerohour's 5.2 Preparation

As expected, March 5th is patch day.  I think we knew this for certain 3 weeks ago when they told us we still had time to valor cap.  Did anyone not know this already?

With only a few hours before the resubs begin, the screams of "why don't the vendor gib epicz for JP?", people blowing up the official forums for not having Thunderking available on LFR the first week, and people cancel their account again within 24 hours of release, this is what I'm doing in preparation:

1)  Finished my 10th level 90, who is a Leatherworking Tailor.  And a monk, which are insanely fun to play.  I recommend them.
2)  Not making anymore LW/Tailor Contender's gear until I see what happens Tuesday to their prices.
3)  Monday night I'll probably do dailies on the monk, maybe a dungeon.
4)  Perform many last minute snatch and grabs off the auction house picking up last minute materials.  For some reason people decide to practically vendor mats the day before a patch.
5)  Nothing else.  My normal routine.  I stockpile all the time, not just for patches.  There's no reason to hoard things anymore, that mindset now lives with Elvis.

Zerohour's Tuesday Schedule

Assuming I can log into my server without a 2 hour queue...

1)  Do Tillers planting
2)  Dailies on the Monk, while looking for the LW cooldown recipes to drop.
3)  Dailies on the Warrior, while looking for the LW cooldown recipes to drop.
4)  Dailies on the Hunter, while looking for the LW cooldown recipes to drop.
5)  Blow CDs on the LWs after locating the recipes, and the Tailors.
6)  If time's left over, do the new dailies on my main.
7)  In between watch prices and see if I can score some bargains.
8)  Profit off the weak
9)  Protest changes on official forums

This almost felt like a bit of pointless drivel, but whatever.  It's pretty much all I have planned since LFR isn't coming out, and I'm done with 5.0 stuff.

Margin Call - Week of  February 24th

Last week I had a record low week not seen since about November.  Not even worth the screenshot!  Only 254,000 in sales for the week, and I know damn good and well why.  People were more interested in waiting for the patch, and I suspect many chose to take the week off from playing.  The expected release date has been around for a while, since the blue post was nice enough to spell it out 3 weeks ago.

This always happens, but the amusing part is that there's no reason to take a break from WoW anymore unless you are completely caught up across all characters.  You can leave, but when you come back you will be right where you left off at.  Dailies to do, alts to gear, no catchup gear.  Once that sinks in I think we'll see better week-before-patch numbers.  I'm anticipating some deep six figure weeks to come here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Patch 5.2 Blacksmith Calculator

The other day I described the new GIO/GIB leveling costs via a spreadsheet.

Today, I'm making that part of the spreadsheet available to you.  You are free to download it and spread the word to your friends.

The function of it is pretty simple, download it and follow the instructions.

NOW Hosted at Google Docs.

Hopefully you gain something from this or possibly find a hole in your market.

Patch 5.2 Blacksmith Calculator


Update:  If you are getting a runtime error when copying the WoWuction data, Ctrl+Alt+F9 is a workaround to recalculate the data you pasted.