Monday, May 13, 2013

Experimentation, Another Lost Art

I'm the archeologist of WoW gold making.  Zerohour and the Baddies of the Lost Art.  I'm the guy curating the museum of long forgotten habits and methods.  I had a talk with Profitz this last week and it reminded me that I've been around so long, I should get a PhD in WoW Auction House history.

Something I usually talk with in my circle of gold-making friends is an extremely important aspect of the game - Experimentation.  This is an art, and usually one of the hallmarks of a stellar gold maker. 

Those of you that are looking for techniques usually follow blogs out there that show you a variety of methods; usually cutting gems, flipping xmogs, making and selling glyphs, setting up TSM, your basic BS that everyone does.  Real low information stuff and meant for those that are looking for solid ways to join the herd.  But everything required some experimentation to get to that point, someone got their hands dirty and did some digging, which is essentially research and development.

The process behind the delivery of a technique:

* Selection and analysis of a market (philosophy, creativity, and critical thinking)
* Experimentation (research, problem solving)
* Refinement (development)
* Delivery of the technique (application)

Generally, the vast majority of people trying to learn about gold making are only interested in the last part.  There's two camps in the gold making world - Homo Erectus and Modern Man.  Homo Erectus had the distinction of picking up the stone hand axe and thriving with it, he learned it from his predecessor Homo Habilis, and then proceeded to use it for the next 1 million years without improving it.  He had no imagination, was trapped in the literal world of his own mind and needs, and never thought "What if I was to somehow attach a handle to this thing?"  For him, his life was a daily grind doing the same thing day in and day out because that's what he was taught.  Could you imagine 1 million years of no new or improved technology?  Of course not, it's in our nature to be curious and creatures that want to experiment with building a better mousetrap.  You have an imagination that took millions of years to develop, so don't be a talking monkey.  If you aren't experimenting, then you're not using the best tool set nature gave any animal on earth.

I love finding new things out, and I find them out all the time.  From Vanilla through about Wrath I relied 100% on my own discoveries.  I didn't participate in forums, I didn't read blogs, I just looked up everything on my own and tried and failed many times before I got something to work.  This is why I don't discuss techniques much, and I can assure you that there's a very solid reason why.  Of the things I'm doing today, nobody blogs about them, and I never will because I put the time into finding them out, and why would I want to share a competitive advantage with you?!  I think anyone can respect that, techniques are only good for a short period of time before they become common practice.  If all I did was explain techniques it would be a boring "what will everyone be doing today" blog.

Experimentation keeps the gold engine humming, since it means you're constantly seeking new markets and advantages that are hidden from the general public.  If all you do is wait around on others to pay the freight, you're always the 12th man on the deal team, and you will run into constant competition and be forced into spending abnormal amounts of time in front of the auction house.  Experimenting is essentially what any entrepreneur engages in regularly, looking for little niches that offer the opportunity to make a profit.

A little tangent:  Over on The Consortium, we have an application process for Wind Trader, which is our elite membership rank.  My favorite applications are usually those where the person explains how they've made all their gold with jewelcrafting, glyphs, enchanting, making DMFs, or other such nonsense.  I guess they're equating the rank with total gold earned, because honestly, we don't give a rat's ass about how much gold the person has, only that they are a creative person and can come up with the techniques that everyone will eventually be using ahead of everyone else.  Here's how I handle these apps before letting them know they should continue grinding -

"Please explain to the group here at least one technique or process that you've come up with in your WoW career, how you came up with the idea, and what did you learn?"

This question generally chases them off pretty fast when they realize that we're looking for brains, not a resilient mousewheel finger.  Hell, I don't even care if it was profitable, what I care about most is that the person at least TRIED something different from the pack of talking monkeys who haven't a creative cell in their brain.  For certain, I use my gold to keep score like about anyone else, but if you really want to be cutting edge, you don't do what others do and you delve into the caves that no spelunker has ever considered.  I do it all the time, especially with my multi-server project where I'm fighting all the major auction houses in the US.

This does go back to my spreadsheet argument, where I advise ANYONE looking to make the real gold in this game to learn how to develop one, and then utilize it to locate niche markets.  But this isn't the ONLY thing you should do in the way of experimentation, so let me give you a quick story about when MoP dropped and what I did.

One of my good friends online is Z-Man (or Zamboni).  For weeks after patch, we were sharing information back and forth in-game about things we found.  Neither of us were in the beta, so we were hitting the ground fresh and with no real information except what we saw before us.  For several weeks all we did was experiment with various mob drops, investigate Wowhead, level characters, watch the auctionhouse antics and find out where we needed to be killing certain mobs to get what we were after.  Since both of us are notorious for farming mats for ourselves when we need something, we knew the approximate price and ease with which certain things were available.  One of my favorite things I figured out was that I needed ZERO spirits of harmony to get to 600 on tailoring, leatherworking, and blacksmithing, and in the process discover a lucrative market for the expansion.  I re-leveled skinning on my Jewelcrafter and sent him out on a mission to check leather skin rates and collect meta cut recipes (today that JC is a Blacksmith, too).  All of the little finds we shared back and forth, because we are both heavy into experimenting with things.

Keeping yourself only to MoP content is also not really a good idea, things are constantly being changed and discovered in the game all the time.  The people that investigate different places in the game and think the most creatively are generally going to have an advantage for quite some time.  And to clue you in here - this is a huge game, and was rebooted in Cataclysm which changed almost the entire first incarnation of the game, and there are lots of things to figure out even to this day.

So what's the process for experimenting?

Usually I pick a particular market that I'm working, and see a potential profit to be made in a certain area.  Let's say tailoring, since cloth is generally the most needed.  Can you name for me the best possible areas in the game to locate Linen, Wool, Silk, Mageweave, and Runecloth?  For certain you can buy them off the Auction House, but what if Silk is sitting at 5g a piece?  Are you going to give someone 100g a stack for it?  I know I wouldn't.  What if you want to reset this market?  Is there an easy way for it to be replenished by a farmer who could crush you after you decide to buy everything?  What if you were trying to make a particular idea work, how much farming on your part might be involved?

I do a lot of pouring over Wowhead information and comments, and I treat this information like anything else - I trust but verify.  In the silk example, the top rated comment today still gives one area top billing, but if you go a little deeper it names another place to go look in later comments.  If it's me, I get on my horse and go out and check for myself.  I found that the top rated areas mentioned on Wowhead in the Silk example were completely bogus compared to the later comments that didn't receive as many upvotes.  True story:  This is the case for MANY things on there.  Now that I know, I can develop an entire market model around what I now know.

Many things I do in-game are probably published in some places, but most things aren't.  I don't work markets like everyone else, I have processes in place to get to the end result in the lowest cost manner possible while maximizing my fun.

Have you ever read anything about the Vanilla shuffle?  No?  That's because the people that developed it aren't saying anything about it.  What delivers you the best possible results in prospecting?  Enchanting?  Engineering (of all things)? Are these markets even viable?  Are people buying these materials?  How long since you leveled a profession JUST TO SEE the difficulty of certain points?  How many different ways can you arrive at the same end result?  You won't know unless you try for yourself.

How about acquiring materials and selling crafted goods?  Have you every checked various times of the day and times of the week?  What if you were to look on the AH for materials at 5am or in the morning before you leave for work?  Got access to Remote AH?  Ever look around lunch time or while on a break?

Have you ever experimented with the demand of certain items in the game?  There are hundreds of items weekly that fluctuate, and many that are great for making quick cash.  The opportunities are almost endless.

When was the last time you checked for a new addon?  Maybe played with an existing addon's settings?  TSM and Auctionator aren't the ONLY addons available, though you would almost believe they are if you read blogs.  I've discovered several other addons that improve my QOL and efficiency, and nobody else really talks about them so I guess I'm the only person using the things.  Thank goodness they keep updating them. 

Step outside your comfort zone and invest in yourself.

This is all the difference between someone that is just interested in making some gold, and the person that's in it to hit homeruns everytime they step to the plate.  And this is what's missing.  The innovators are slowly retiring from the game as we move forward, and unfortunately many of you are going to be stuck in the future with just the basic professions that everyone knows, and everyone engages in.  Streams will all talk about the same things, blogs will all post the same patch notes information, gold guides will be sold by bloggers and will be terrible.  Actually, I think we're there already.  I don't know how you people stand it.

Learn how to experiment and take some time out to discover something new, because the future belongs to those people.  If you want to be a 10k a week back-of-the-class-gold-guide-buying-leeching-complaining-stream-watching-terrible gold maker, I guess that's fine, too, it is your $14.95 and 24 hours in the day.  I just don't like to waste my time, and hopefully you're not a person interested in wasting yours.

Margin Call - Week of May 5th

What a great week coming back after being ill.  I paid more attention this week to cross server projects than I did my own auction house.  I was also more interested in getting RL things done since I'm behind on all of that stuff.

What's depressing is watching Sha Crystals crater further in price.  Oh well, live and learn, right?  This is why I have my fingers in other markets, because I'm half tempted to just blow that market out this coming week and eliminate them from the stock.  5.3 doesn't look to be very promising to help get those back on board, so why hold onto them?  If anything, they're an uphill battle right now that probably won't recover.  Kinda fun knowing I invested roughly 500,000g in them prior to the crash.  Like I'll never make that back, right?  Here's a saying you should learn - cut bait.

How about Diablo 3's debacle?  That was amazing.  Dupes don't exist people, Blizz has stated this many times and it's impossible for there to be holes in the code that would allow duping in any of their games.....  oh wait.  What we saw this last week was clear and present proof that Blizzard is full of shit when they say it's impossible to have anything like that happen in WoW as well.  People should be linking the blue response to blue posts that say anything about this in the future. 

They're worse than a political public relations team - deny, deny, cover up, deny the cover up, proof arrives and gloss over it, point out how awesome they are for doing anything about it.  Truth be told, there are holes in WoW's code as well.  All it takes is someone with a little knowledge of how to make it happen and you can make all the Haunted Spirits, Epic gems, Deathcharger mounts, and Vial mats you want.  They've been doing it for years, and hopefully the general Blizzard gaming public has figured out that they are being duped in more ways than one someday.  At least they cleaned up most of the mess this time, I remember February 2003 when D2 got a public dupe and they did absolutely nothing about it except shut it down 48-72 hours later.  They didn't even acknowledge it existed even then.  Yes, I do hold grudges.

Thanks for stopping in!


  1. Great post, I completely agree that the community, at least publicly, seems to be entering a state of stagnation. I am also a little guilty of this, but am currently working on a couple things to help break out of this, at least for me. Keep up the great post, always enjoy reading them.

    The Drunken Mogul

  2. have to agree I sell more stuff that my Guild mates think is junk (old stuff) then the new.

  3. As always Zero, exceptional. Your a straight forward talker who has a DEEP history and knowledge of not only gold making but the game. Like a foreign language that's native to a family, it sometimes gets lost and not passed on through the generations. It's nice to know someone, a down to earth guy who tells it like it is, that shares information, this native language of olde, for us new comers as well as keeping the old times in check. Thanks for all your support and keep leading!

    Much respect,


  4. A very good point about the fact that much of what we know about the game ain't so -- because they remade so much of it in Cataclysm. Those of us who got to maxlevel before then haven't really explored everything they've changed.

    Sure, most of us have leveled alts since then. But guess what? We speed through it with assistance from our sugar daddy/momma 90s, fully heirloomed out, generally hardly questing once we can dungeon-run. I know I do. Same with leveling professions; we power through it, rather than learning the place intimately.

    This means our memories of stuff in the game are outdated. It also means that the recorded memories are outdated; much of what is in e.g. Wowhead comments is WRONG when it comes to old-world stuff. Same for most other written guides; they were written before 4.0 or were written by people who hadn't gained an in-depth knowledge of it.

    1. Yep, you saw that point there. Wowhead research is fun, and I should note that when looking there, take the drop rates with a grain of salt, and always adjust comments to "4.0" or later. The majority of my markets today are working in previous tiers.

  5. Its interesting seeing someone actually mention the vanilla shuffle (s) again. Having recently rolled alts with nothing on a new server, people are astounded at how fast I made money without using the "WAYS" everyone else does. Ah, the thunderbluff route, how well I knew thee. When silvers were worth gold.

    1. That's why I put this together, people just look at the obvious. On several servers I'm working there are certain niches that are untouched, but for me they are standards. They richest shuffle in the game is actually the one that the least number of people are familiar with (the vast majority playing today cannot trace their in-game lineage to Vanilla). The other problem, people are only all about the MOP money making methods, principally since that's all they read about.

      While I am not going into the techniques I employ, nor will I publish comments talking about specific ones (you have to sing for your supper sometime), I would encourage everyone to look into this in your spare time.

  6. GREAT article, and one I will save and go over many times.

  7. This isn't the exact post, but I've just had time to go thru everything, and I'd like to say I can't believe I didn't consider not posting on some days(sure you lose some profit, but you earn time, which is way more valuable).
    Thanks for showing me a different point of view!


Remember to keep your comments pithy, they will be posted after approval!