Monday, May 18, 2009

Taking a Break

Last week I stepped down from the raid roster. It was a tough decision, but I realized that the time and effort I put into raiding twice a week (Wed, Sun) were not paying off. Our guild, like most casual raiding guilds, didn't have the mechanism or culture to enforce skill requirements, so that significantly held back our progression. Despite those drawbacks, Naxx-25 went smoothly over the course of 1 month as follows:

2/12 Finish Arachnid and Plague Quarters
2/19 Finish Military Quarter
2/23 Finish Construct Quarter, Sapphiron
3/2 Downed Kel'Thuzad-25, complete Naxxramas
3/30 Downed Malygos-25

Ulduar is significantly harder, though, and we lack the people to keep trying on 25-man. Too many skilled players had left the game for us to make real progress on Ulduar-25. Hence too much remaining work for too little reward, and time to finally leave raiding.

Cheskie and Babka hit 76. They can go to Sholozar Basin (which I've never seen), or they can do more instances, five of which are still new to them. By now the crafted blue Saronite set is mostly available to Babka, so he is rocking out in them. Plus, I used Emblems of Heroism to buy the +10% exp shoulders for both Cheskie and Babka to help them in their leveling.

In the meantime, I'm trying out Free Realms and having a good time with the ultracasual mini-games.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

2.5 Months into WotLK

11/11 Get a copy of WotLK early at a 7-11 where the store salesman doesn't know any better. Email Mike to tell him to do the same. He tries 4 stores in Pasadena before he finds one, and gets the last copy there.

11/12 Opening night. I have it installed and patched up, ready to go. Servers open at midnight EST, 9PM PST. I plan to play from 9-2AM. But first I go to Fry's to interview people standing in line. At 7PM there are about 50 people. I interview people for an hour. When I leave at 8, there are over 200 people there.

11/15 Took a few days off leveling to hit realm-first grandmaster enchanter (450). If I ever do that again, I'll more carefully research all the crafting interdependencies. Enchanting needed a rod made by a blacksmith, which needed titanium transmuted by an alchemist...

11/27 Thanksgiving -- hit 80. All the focused playtime has aggravated my sinuses, giving me a perpetually stuffy nose which lasts into mid-January. :( Play less over the next month, as we try living in SF during December.

12/3 Ghostcrawler from Blizzard posts on the official WoW forums: "If you're 80 already, you are a relatively hardcore player. Most WoW players are not 80 yet."

12/21 Escapism begins raiding Naxx-10.

1/8 Beat the Arachnid Quarter.
1/15 Beat the Military Quarter.
1/22 Beat the Plague Quarter.
1/29 Beat the Construct Quarter. Escapism begins plans for Naxx-25.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hitting the Gold Cap in WoW

This morning, 10/29/08, I hit the WoW gold limit: 214,748. That limit exists because Blizzard records money as a 32-bit signed integer. So the largest possible number of copper pieces is 2^31. Since there are 100 copper to a silver, and 100 silver to a gold, the gold cap is 2^31 / 10,000 = 214,748.


Actually, I hit the gold cap with over 9k gold to spare on a different character. When I sent some extra gold back to my main character, and tried to open the mail, I got an "Internal Database Error." When I killed mobs, I would pick up money, but it would not be added to my gold total. Similarly, if I sold items to a vendor, the items would disappear, but my gold total would remain the same.

The past few weeks, ever since patch 3.0.2 where these statistics were recorded, I have been making about 10k gold per day. Apparently people are still buying the most expensive enchants and gems even though in two weeks, the expansion will make them obsolete. (The worst gems in the expansion are better than the best and most expensive gems now.) Why do people spend so much on things which don't last? [cue in Sunday School lesson here]

Some people -- including my spouse -- might wonder if I could sell my gold for real-world cash. A quick Google search will show that the going market price / exchange rate is about $20 per 1000g. I could sell my stash for $4,000. Even more importantly, I could sell my daily intake of 10,000g for $200. Which works out to $70k/year for income. Not bad! There are a few problems with this scheme:

1) It is against Blizzard's Terms-of-Use. If they catch me, they will delete my gold and my character, and ban me from the game.
2) It is not sustainable. I can only make that much money now because we are in a pre-expansion transitional phase. Who knows how the markets will behave in 2 weeks?
3) Once I turn the gold into real money, the IRS will tax it. Not reporting it = tax evasion.

So what do I do now? I still have plenty of gems and enchants in my inventory and queued up for sale in the Auction House. I guess in-game I will drop Skinning on an alt and pick up Blacksmithing instead. The gathering professions (Skinning, Herbalism, and Mining) are only useful for making money. And then I'll retire from money-making. Outside of the game, I'd like to spend some time thinking about the lessons I've learned from this experience, and how it could apply to the real world.

Lesson 1: Find a market of impatient wastrels. This is a difficult mindset because most of my friends are patient tightwads like me.

Lesson 2: Avoid personal interaction. The last thing you want to do is waste time haggling with impatient wastrels. Put your product up for sale, and let them buy it -- that's it. Think vending machines.

Lesson 3: Sell a product which is easy to manage in terms of production, storage, sales, and shipping. That is: minimize your logistics costs.

Lesson 4: Avoid intelligent competition. Smart people, upon seeing your product, should say, "Who in their right mind would buy this crap?"

Someday I would like to make a follow-up post titled, "Hitting the Money Cap in E*Trade".

Friday, October 24, 2008

I was not prepared (for patch 3.0)

I had saved up 700 bank slots full of herbs, but I had neglected to update my addons with beta-ready ones. As a result, my OneBag and OneBank were broken, as well as my Auctioneer, making it very difficult to organize and sell items while powerleveling Inscription. I stayed up till 3 doing it. I leveled Inscription on my bank alt Adze to partake in Minor Inscription research and learn more minor glyphs, since they are only available on a 20h cooldown.

It was a perfect storm of broken addons, wanting to sell at the AH, wanting to powerlevel Inscription, and wanting to play with the new talents in 3.0 I just didn't have enough time to do it all!. I won't make that mistake going into WotLK on 11/13. To eliminate spending time on the AH, I am not going to have any items going into wotlk, just gold. I am hoping to hit the gold cap (214.7k) by the expansion date. That will close one chapter in my play so I can cleanly move to another.

The pre-WotLK zombie invasion event this week had an interesting side effect of allowing trade across factions. That allowed me to bring my entire Horde treasury to the Alliance side, bringing my Alliance total to 198k.

My last gold update was on 7/11, in which I had 90k gold total. Since then I've earned nearly 110k gold over 3+ months, about 30k/month or 1k/day. At this rate, I will hit gold cap in 16 days, just a few days before WotLK. There is no more herb arbitrage to be done, but with Inscription I can now sell high-end enchants with a 100g markup. Oddly, epic gems are still selling well even though they will quickly become obsolete in the expansion. I am buying them for 200 and selling cut ones for 290 (with about a 15g AH fee).

I have an alt, Calvinn (69 enhancement shaman), in Knights of Good. That's the guild with players from the web show "The Guild." I'm hoping to raid Karazhan with them tonight. :)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Evolution of WoW

(posted as a comment on Tobold's blog)

To me, WoW went through *fundamental* changes when TBC was released. The general trend has been towards more reward of skill. For example, vanilla WoW raiding was gathering 25 skilled raiders and 15 no-skill raiders for mid-level (Tier 2) content. I healed through AQ20/BWL/Ony as a clueless feral druid in greens. :-) As another example, the old honor rank system was purely time-based: how many hours/day can you spend in AV? The new arena system has flaws but is infinitely better than the Marshal/Warlord grind.

The trend towards skill will continue in WotLK. By making raid-wide and more homogenous class buffs, player skill will become more important than class. (No more need to stack shamans.) And PvP gear will move away from "welfare epics" to a combination of honor points, arena points, and arena rating.

Casual players get "10 more levels", a new class and tradeskill, and pretty pictures along the way. Serious players get changes to the game mechanics and reward system. By emphasizing and rewarding skill, WoW is moving towards an e-sport model, which is a lot easier to do in a themepark environment rather than a sandbox.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Predicting the WotLK release date

Blizzard announced the release date of WotLK as 11/13/08. I put together a spreadsheet comparing the TBC rollout with WotLK.

The Alpha and the Beta both took about twice as long to move to the next stage, but the 2-month length between announcement and release are about the same.

My guild has stopped raiding, as has the loose association of guilds and most of the server. I'm at about 130k in cash, with maybe 300 slots of herbs (12k conservatively). I was slow in collecting herbs, being caught off-guard by the announcement that Inscription will come in patch 3.0, before the expansion.

Babka and Cheskie are both 66, but I am waiting for the increased leveling rate in patch 3.0 before playing them further. Babka will pick up Inscription as his second profession then.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Update on past 1.5 years of WoW

I bet Blogger will be around for a long time, so I'd like to do a quick update snapshot of my WoW life.

1/07 - The Burning Crusade expansion is released. I level to 300 jewelcrafting in the first 3 hours (12:30AM - 3:30AM) and go on to turn in quests until 9AM, hitting level 60.7.

2/07 - Hit level 70. Finish unloading all of my stockpiled jewelcrafting materials, ending with a cash position of 9k gold.

3/07 - Begin working on Karazhan. My guild, Conquest, begins falling apart because of a difference in officers' and hardcore raiders' opinions on when to start Karazhan.

4/07 - I leave Kalecgos to go to Zangarmarsh and join Tony's guild, Chosen of Valhalla. I become physical DPS lead, and eventually raid leader and tank class lead.

8/07 - I main-tank a Prince kill. Mike Lee transfers servers to join CoV.

10/07 - Begin leveling Babka (paladin) and Cheskie (priest) with June.

3/08 - CoV dissolves, around the time June and I take our Pacific big trip. The raiders go to Driven in 3/08, short-lived because of friction on both sides and a lack of raids.

5/08 - A few raiders including myself go to Escapism. We begin raiding Tier5 instances (SSC and TK). Because of the 3x/week raid schedule, I take a break from PvP.

6/08 - Arena season 4 finally begins. Begin selling off hoarded gems.

7/08 - After 2 months of trying T5 bosses (3/5 TK, 3/5 SSC), we decide to try Mount Hyjal (T6). Because of PvP and badge gear, much of the T5 gear is disenchanted anyway. Cheskie and Babka hit level 60. Buy a guild with 3 bank tabs for my alts. Cash position is around 75k on Alliance, 15k on Horde. Closing in on Blizzard's gold cap: 214,748 (2^31).

There are 4 activities I am trying to balance, always striking where the iron is hot:
1) Main PvE advancement (raiding)
2) Main PvP advancement
3) Making money on the Auction House
4) Playing alts with June or other friends

Right now #1 is hot, as our guild is willing to push towards harder content. But if we stop raiding, I may go back to #2. I might do more #2 just for fun with Mike.