Friday, August 28, 2009

Inscription, the perfect profession.

Since I’ve been burned out on all the level 80 stuff out there, I decided to spend all my saved up shards and badges to get the hunter heirloom chest and shoulders and create an alt hunter named Grimsprocket. Grimsprocket was a name I came up with for a Warhammer dwarf Engineer. Engineers in Warhammer are a race/class combo and about as close to a dwarf hunter as you can get, except they don’t have animals as pets, they have gun turrets. So, the WoW version of Grimsprocket would obviously have to have Engineering as one profession and when deciding on his second profession, I decided to give Inscription a try since all the cool kids are doing it and making tens of thousands with a little effort. Now I know what all the fuss is about.

The first thing I noticed about Inscription is that it’s fairly cheap to level. Just buy cheap herbs or get someone to farm some for you (thank you Millie!) and start milling away. The second thing I noticed is that the stuff you make to level Inscription is actually useful as you level your character. I could imagine that an freshly created level 1 alt could pick up Inscription/Herbalism when it became available and actually have fun creating and discovering new glyphs, decks and buff scrolls because they are (as shocking as it may seem) useful! So much of the crap we have to make when leveling a profession has no value and just gets sold to a vendor.

It reminds me of when I was watching development blog videos from Mythic Studios when they were still in the Beta for Warhammer. Mark Jacobs talked about how in many MMO’s, professions are very grindy and pretty much useless until you got near the skill cap and even then, there are only a few things worth creating. His vision for Warhammer’s crafting system was basically what Inscription is - easy to level, complex but not overly so and useful from low levels to max level. He didn’t really get it right in his own game, but we’ll ignore that little oversight for now.

Another thing I’m finding out with Inscription is that once you get a few profitable glyphs, you can pretty much level Inscription to 400+ with the profits from glyph sales. I was shocked when for my first Minor Inscription Research at skill level 75, I got a glyph that sells on average for 15 gold. Now at skill level 133, I have several glyphs that sell for 15+ gold each. With a little work and time, Inscription is the ONLY profession that I know of that won’t cost you a dime, er…I mean silver.

It would be awesome if Blizzard redid the older professions and made them as useful and fun to level and PROFITABELE as Inscription. We’ll see what happens with Cataclysm.

If you know of any other professions that are fun, useful and make money as you level them, please post a comment and let us know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cataclysmic thoughts

Blizzcon is over and there’s a mountain of new information out on the newly announced expansion. Here are some of the highlights of the announced changes that will come along with Cataclysm.

- New races: goblin and worgen
- New class mechanics: no more hunter mana, healer mana regen reworked
- New gear itemization: getting rid of attack power, MP5, defense, spellpower, block, haste and armor penetration.
- Redone continents of Azeroth
- Guilds will be able to gain levels.

I’m fairly “meh” about the new races. The class mechanic changes seem interesting and coupled with new gear itemization, it should make it easier for players to pick the proper gear upgrade.

The redo of Azeroth is very appealing to me. I’ve been incredibly bored with WoW lately and I decided to start leveling a dwarf hunter. Going through all the old content give me mixed feelings. One the one hand, I feel nostalgia as I remember doing the quests on my Paladin for the first time. On the other hand, I did all this stuff already and sometimes I have done it multiple times when I helped my wife and other guildmates level their alts. Having the old world go through a cataclysm and change the terrain and quests would be awesome for leveling a new character and it’s tempting for me to stop leveling the hunter and wait until the new stuff.

Then there’s guild levels. I don’t know if Mythic was the first to do it, but Warhammer had guild levels from launch last year. The idea is a great one and I’m glad Blizzard is taking the idea and putting it into WoW. I know from experience that guild leveling is a great way to get guild members to do more stuff together. I have fond memories of organizing guild Public Quest nights in Warhammer where we’d watch the guild experience meter to see how close we were coming to the next guild level. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when we’re told what the guild level rewards are.

On an economic note, new expansions also bring new money making opportunities. One of these will be from selling materials to all the players that will level new Goblins and Worgen. All those new characters will be leveling professions so when we get close to launch, start stocking up on low level ore, herbs, leather, etc.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Alchemy - Gevlon agrees with me

Back in May, I wrote this post about Alchemy and how to try to make it profitable. It seems that Gevlon has come to the same general conclusion. Alchemy won't make you rich like other professions can for the same amount of time and research put into it. It's good to see that the heavy hitter of WoW economics came to the same conclusion.

To sum thing up neatly for those who don't care to read those two posts linked above:

- The cost of materials is nearly identical to the price of flasks created by said materials.
- Alchemy can make you some money if you aren't a herbalist, but be prepared to do your homework.
- If you want to sell flasks, be sure to have Elixir specialization and be prepared to camp the auction house on raid nights.
- If you're not taking advantage of the perks of being an Alchemist like longer flask duration and you want to make money, then you'd probably be better off dropping the profession for something else.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Epic gems post 3.2

All this talk of PvP and Arena leads me back to something more on topic for this blog, which is a big money making opportunity. In a few weeks, Arena Season 6 will come to an end. A week will pass to calculate who the big title winners are and then Season 7 will begin. New Arena seasons mean new gear and new gear needs to be enchanted and gemmed. When 3.2 hit, Jewelcrafters were prospecting for the new epic gems and the rest of us were using Emblems of Heroism, transmutes and honor to buy our epic gems. When Season 7 begins, the Emblems will have already been spent, transmutes are on a 20 hour cooldown and Honor will be saved to buy gear. This means that there should be a major shortage of epic gems to buy. Players with less money will likely resort to the old rare/blue quality gems for their new gear.

So, how should we enterprising players prepare? Spend all your honor on epic gems immediately and start grinding battlegrounds. Don't forget to queue for Wintergrasp when you can for the huge chunk of honor for 20 minutes of "work". Lastly, look for good deals on Saronite and either prospect it or have someone else prospect it. Basically, do everything you can to stock up on epic and rare quality gems. If you happen to be a Jewelcrafter/Enchanter, use the junk gems that are left over and start making rings to disenchant.

Or should you? At 10,000 honor per gem, it would take about 3 hours to grind battlegrounds for one gem, not counting the badge trade in for honor. In 3 hours of grinding with any gathering profession, you may end up with more gold than you would from the sale of one cut epic gem, even if the gem prices go up from their average of 200-250 gold. On top of that, you won't have any honor left to buy your own PvP gear, if that kind of thing is your bag, baby. I suppose it all comes down to what you consider fun while playing the game. My wife loves farming while some detest it. If you love battlegrounds more than picking flowers, then this may be a golden opportunity for you to make money and have fun playing at the same time, especially if the price of gems goes up due to the increased demand.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Paladin nerfs, part deux!

The patch notes for 3.2.2 are up and Prot/Holy definitely got nerfed.

Judgements of the Just: The reduction in cooldown to Hammer of Justice provided by this talent has been reduced to 5/10 seconds instead of 10/20 seconds.
Touched by the Light: This talent now provides 20/40/60% of the paladin’s strength as spell power instead of 10/20/30% of the paladin’s stamina.

How does this all play out? It means the stun (Hammer of Justice) now has a 30 second cooldown (up from 20 seconds) and spell power went down by about 450-500 depending on gear. A deep Holy paladin should now be able to out Flash of Light a Prot paladin. The question now is: do the benefits of being deep holy (instant heal, bigger heals, haste buff) outweigh the benefits of a 30 second stun cooldown, long lasting/undispellable Divine Plea and a 3 second silence? I suspect for 2v2, Prot/Holy will still be the preferred talent spec. In 3v3, the reduced healing and lack of an instant heal may not cut it. Since 2v2 ratings won’t count for the new top tier of PvP gear, I suspect the vast majority of top level Arena paladins will go back to a deep holy build.

Paladins weren’t the only ones getting a nerf next patch. Rogues got some too, which should make a lot of people happy. And by a lot of people, I mean everyone but rogues.

Fan of Knives: The damage done by this ability has been reduced by 30%.
Throwing Specialization: This talent no longer causes Fan of Knives to interrupt spellcasting.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blizzard hates Paladins...again

Ghostcrawler recently announced that they will be doing something to "fix" the problem with deep Protection spec'ed paladins in healing gear. This one hits close to home because I found that the prot/holy spec was much better than any other Holy spec for 2v2 and possibly 3v3 arena. The main problem for Blizzard is the deep Protection talent Touched by the Light which when used with full PvP healing gear, can put a paladin's spellpower well over 2200 and I've had Flash of Light crits for 8000+. It's such a major problem for Blizzard that apparently they won't start the next season of Arena until they fix it.

I haven't done any serious Arena games in a while, but I was planning on getting back into it once things settled down post 3.2. Since I'm pretty much forced to heal in Arena because of the many problems I have with Retribution, I found the Prot/Holy spec to be incredibly fun. Lots of stuns and throwing shields meant I was doing more other than standing there casting Flash of Light over and over and over again, with Holy Shock thrown in every now and then. It was the perfect Arena healing spec for me and MANY others and now they're going to gut it. This, right after they gutted Retribution by giving it a completely lame Seal of Command. Some dedicated Ret players have figured out that a specialized Seal of Righteousness build gives better burst than the lame Seal of Command that Blizz force fed to us as the PvP seal. If the Righteousness build becomes popular, expect to see the nerf bat smash it "to the ground" just like everything else that was good for paladins.

I'm really getting sick of the constant nerfs to paladins. I don't know why they are in the cross hairs so often. I have a feeling that the top 100 teams next season will be nearly paladin free just like they have been for so long now (excluding this season). These kinds of changes aren't really doing much to motivate me to play the game and given my recent lack of motivation I'm not sure I'll be doing much in game other than trying to sell yetis and ammo. Oh yea, they nerfed ammo sales too....

For those who care to read, here's the source Blue posts:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Quick impressions on 3.2 and the economy

3.2 hit faster than I thought it would. Had I known, I would have dumped my 4 boxes of arrows very quickly. Luckily I had just bought about 30 stacks of saronite ore for 16 per stack and not done much with it, so I was ready to change my strategy if things got tough in the ammo business.

It only took a few days for the price of 1000 stacks of Saronite Razorheads to take a huge nosedive due to the new reduced materials cost. It used to take about 15 gold to make 1000 Razorheads. Now it takes 2 bars or about 4 gold. So, the cost of arrows is now 1/4 of what they used to be and the demand is probably about the same. I don't know if the lowered cost will cause more hunters to buy Razorheads over the vendor Terrorshaft arrows but my gut tells me they won't. So, I fully expect to make less than 50 gold per week on Razorheads now, which is pathetic. Sure, I could play the deep undercut game, but without a larger customer base, I don't think it would be worth it. Maybe I will just as an experiment.

Mammoth Cutters haven't dropped in price much at all. I attribute this to the fact that they are a little more complex to make since they require Volatile Blast Triggers. Since most people are lazy and don't want to bother with the extra materials, they aren't flooding the auction house with thousands of super cheap bullets.

This coming week will give me a better idea of how ammo sales will go. There's a lot of new stuff to do so I'm hoping that hunters will be using lots of ammo this week.

On other fronts, I'm taking it easy with epic gems for now. There seems to be a lot of undercutting at the moment and I really don't want to spend all day camping the auction house. Once the majority of jewelcrafters have exhausted their supply of epic gems from honor and badge purchases, I'll start selling my epics slowly and steadily. It will also give players more time to get deeper into the new Argent raids so they can get new gear to gem.

I was also able to get the plans and create Jeeves the mechanical butler. He is one of the coolest things I've ever seen in the game. Having a permanent repair bot that I can also use to access my bank is full of awesome. Along with Jeeves I created the Wormhole generator. The first time I used it, it teleported me about 500 feet above the big lake in Borean Tundra. Take the warning on the device seriously and make sure you have your parachute cloak tinker! The other times I've used it, it put me right on the doorstep of Ulduar and Utgarde Keep. It seems the Gnomes know that wormholes should open right in front of instances, which is very convenient. Who needs to fly between points A and B when we can just fold space-time so that point A IS point B!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Warhammer - the game that could have been

Please forgive me as I indulge myself a little more than usual today. In my last post, I wrote about how another game has (temporarily?) broke the stranglehold that WoW has had on me off and on since January of 2007. It was nearly one year ago that another game almost kept me away from WoW for good. That game was Warhammer Online.

I had been following Warhammer for a little while back then and was anxiously awaiting another MMO that would have the stuff to take me away from WoW. Last spring/early summer, I was getting frustrated with WoW PvP and really wanted something different. I remember vividly having nothing to do one day other than to level my fishing in Stormwind while I read Tradechat for hours. Yea, I was that bored. I had applied to the Warhammer closed beta and had hope that they would pick me soon. Months went by after that initial application and nothing happened. Then, in late July/early August of 2008, I decided to upgrade my PC to prepare for the open beta. Soon after upgrading my motherboard/processor/memory and video, I decided to upload my new DXDiag file to the Warhammer beta site, since my system components had drastically changed. Sure enough, I got a beta invite days after. I figure it was my new beefy computer that got me in since Warhammer is much more graphics intense than WoW is or was.

One of the things I wanted to do in Warhammer was start a guild. I had been a member of AUO since the early spring and since I loved the guild so much, I asked our GM if it was OK to use the Aculeus Upon Ordeum name and start a “Warhammer” chapter of AUO. She was cool with it and even gave me a sub forum on the main AUO guild forum site. My wife and I put a lot of time into getting things in place for when the game went live. We had a killer application and the forums were fairly well organized. We were set to recruit as soon as we could.

Playing in the beta was a really cool experience for me. I didn’t play too much because I didn’t want the thrill of starting off fresh in a game to not be there when things went live. Soon, the semi-closed beta turned into a full open beta for anyone who wanted to download the beta files and then, things went live. One of the coolest things about the game is that the game studio, Mythic Entertainment, is in Fairfax, Virginia and about a 15 minute drive from my house and from work. I read on one of the forums that the head guys from Mythic were going to do a game signing at a local GameStop. I took a long lunch that day and got my game box and my wife’s game box signed by the top 4 game producers (Paul Barnett, Mark Jacobs, Jeff Hickman and Josh Drescher) and got a few extra goodies signed as well. I think that was the highlight of my Warhammer experience.

Once the game went live, things started going well. The guild was growing and at one point I think we had about 25 dedicated members. They were a great crowd and I miss playing with them, no matter what the game is. As the weeks went on and we got past the first 20 levels, things started to really stagnate. The game launched smoothly enough but Mythic made a few key errors that lead to a huge drop off in subscribers after about mid November of 2008. That’s about the time that my wife made the transition back to Warcraft as she was called back by the temptation of the Lich King. Shortly after she stopped playing Warhammer, I hung up my mantle and hammer and wrote the guild that I was calling it quits. The game really lacked a few key fun elements and it became painful to log on and play.

So, what did Mythic do wrong? There have been many articles written by other much more popular bloggers like Keen and Grave and Syp at BioBreak. I think they all missed the point though. Most of those writers were out of Warcraft for a while and as much as they claim to love MMO’s, I don’t think they are die hard dedicated junkies like the ones who play Warcraft. In fact, I think they were part of a vocal minority that helped to guide Mythic to making Warhammer a game that was destined to fail. So, what did Mythic do wrong? Here’s my list.

Too many servers
. Mythic’s launch went well because the servers were relatively stable. The only problem was that they did a special pre launch for those of us who had a collector’s edition key. I happened to have one, though I didn’t have an actual collector’s edition. I forget how I got it. It wasn’t anything nefarious, I was just given the wrong kind of key from GameStop I think. That special key let me play the game a few days before all of my friends so whatever server I picked was going to be the server they picked and that server came from a small list of servers that would be up for the pre launch. This is what happened for a lot of players and a lot of the preformed guilds. This lead to all of the pre launch servers to get packed very quickly and then the log on queues started and thus the forum whining started. Mythic overreacted by opening up a LOT of servers. Too many actually. So, what they ended up with was a chaotic situation where whole guilds who wanted to play on one particular server would have to up and leave that server for a less populated one. I know Chaos is one of the playable factions, but having chaos in your server infrastructure is a bad thing. Once things settled down, the player base was spread way too thin and once players got out of Tier 1 and left the casuals behind, it started to become hard to find opponents to fight. I think this is one of the main reasons that players started to abandon the game. It’s hard to fight a war if the enemy doesn’t show up. Well, it’s not hard, it’s just really really boring.

Lag. So, if you managed to put up with a low population server and managed to find a fight with a decent number of opponents, than the ugly Lag monster came out. As we have seen in Wintergrasp, you simply can’t have large scale PvP in an MMO without having a lot of lag. So, once you managed to find a battle, it was pretty much unplayable if there were more than 20 or so players in the same area. I think this pushed a lot of the die hard players that were able to put up with low populations out of the game.

Not enough to do. My guild was on one of those low population servers (Grimnir I believe) and we’d have to come up with stuff to do when the PvP areas were empty. This is where WAR was really weak compared to WoW. Now, it’s a bit unfair for me to compare the two at this stage because I started getting seriously bored way before I hit the level cap and it’s at the level cap that half of WoW opens up. But, I know that even at the level cap there isn’t much to do in WAR other than grind their version of battlegrounds or scour the countryside for some world PvP in the form of a keep siege or the like. WoW has a TON of things to do at the level cap, like work on reputation, non combat pets, mounts, crafting, making money, achievements, etc. WAR didn’t have 1/3 of those things. It kind of had a reputation system called Influence which could get you gear, but since the crafting system was so bad and they had no special mounts, etc, Influence wasn’t that important. WAR does have something called the Tome of Knowledge which is jammed full of achievements and other fun unlocks, like titles, special abilities and trinket type stuff, but it was a closed system. You never really knew where to go to unlock something unless someone else told you about it. If WAR had an open Tome of Knowledge like WoW has an open achievement system, I think things could have been a lot more fun.

Graphics/models. One main gripe I have about the overall look and feel of the game is that the character models can be very goofy and the armor models can be just downright silly. The bad guys get all the cool looking armor and character models and the good guys end up looking like anemic frail aristocrats dressed more for a cold November day than for war. The two best examples of this are high elves and warrior priests. There was only one armor set for the warrior priest that looked cool. All the rest either make you look like a penniless monk on his way to the brewery or an English grandmother dressed in her house coat. The elves are just downright odd looking and not in any way attractive or intimidating. It’s hard to log on when you character looks like he’s ready to make a pot of tea and mend his socks.

Horrible questing. It extends also to the dungeon/raid environment too. The quests are boring, repetitive and unimaginative. I used to think the same of WoW’s quests until I played Warhammer. Lich King absolutely crushes WAR in this department. It’s a good thing you can level by doing nothing but PvP.

It’s a shame that Mythic made so many mistakes and bad calls in Warhammer. The background world created by Games Workshop so many years ago is full of life and inspiration. I really wanted the game to be good and succeed. I think Blizzard definitely picked up on a few of the more interesting and cool game mechanics that Mythic used, like battleground queuing from anywhere. Maybe one day if they fix the things I mentioned above, the game will be good enough to hold my attention and I’ll once again pick up my mantle and continue to play as Rorik the Warrior Priest of Sigmar.