Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bargain Hunting

Attention WoWMart shoppers. There’s a special on Lich Bloom in isle 3.

So, I have been keeping track of the herbs needed to craft the flask of endless rage. This flask seems to be a very popular item on raid nights so I’m using it as the basis for my test. An interesting thing happens on Bleeding Hollow for alchemists. The price of materials for a flask is usually equal to the price of the flask itself, +/- 3 gold. So, if you are a dual crafter, like say a Alchemist/Tailor or something like that, you’re pretty much out of luck when it comes to making flasks for enough profit to be meaningful, unless you do your homework. The word "meaningful" in that sentence is very subjective, but let’s assume “meaningful” is at least enough gold to cover weekly maintenance costs.

So, who’s making money off of Alchemy on Bleeding Hollow? Alchemist/Herbalists are. I suppose there just aren’t enough pure farmers on this server to bring the price of herbs down low enough for an Alchemist to buy all his/her materials from the auction house. One side effect of this “self employed” style of gatherer/crafter market is that there are very few, if any, deep under cutters. Producers are limited to selling what they have farmed for. You can’t sell 500 flasks if you didn’t farm 500 Frost Lotus so the cheap flasks get scooped up fast. Furthermore, since the cost of the materials is so close to the cost of the flask, no one is going to undercut the market rate by 40% like the Greedy Goblin does with his glyphs. This also makes flasks a bit more attractive to buy low and relist later.

What happens if you don’t want to gather your own herbs? You have to become a bargain shopper. This is where a tool like Market Watcher could come in very handy. Add the materials for a flask AND the flask you want to make to your Market Watcher addon and scan the auction house twice a day for a few weeks and take a look at the trend. Each herb should start to show a pattern of low and high prices over the WoW week of Tuesday through Monday. Gathered resources are almost always cheaper on Sunday and Monday nights as players unload their stocks after a long weekend of farming. Start buying herbs at their low point and save them for when the flask sells at its high point then craft the flasks and start selling. The high point for flasks is usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night as those are the nights most guilds are scheduled to raid. Remember not to flood the market with them, just post 2 or 3 at a time and repost as they are purchased. It really is an easy thing to do and it seems silly writing about it, but I suspect a lot of people don’t bother with this kind of planning and preparation. You may not get rich by selling flasks for a lower profit than someone with alchemy/herbalism, but you won’t have to spend time farming and ultimately that is the goal for a lot of us.

Of course if you enjoy farming like my wife does, then that’s more coin in your pocket for something that is relaxing and care free. Sometimes though, farming doesn’t produce enough materials to supply your crafting or real life gets in the way of us flying circles around Northrend so stocking up on materials from the auction house when they are dirt cheap is always a good idea, especially when it’s a rare drop material like Frost Lotus.

What's the materials cost vs. market price for consumables on your server?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Lazy

It’s been a while since I’ve posted something. I have a few ideas rolling around in my head but I just haven’t gotten to writing down something coherent. My wife and I haven't spent much time in the World lately due to us buying some DVD's. Now that we've burned through the entire first season of True Blood (I've even switched our premium cable subscription from Showtime to HBO in preparation for season 2), I should have something up on Thursday with a little meat behind it. For now, the WoW economy seems to be on a slow spiral back to low activity. I asked a former guildmate Dagr about his guild’s food buffs because it seems that my buff food isn’t selling well and prices are deflating. He says his guild always uses a fish feast before every boss. I’m going to see if raiders buy the fish feast, just the raw materials neither and just farm it. I have a feeling they just farm it. I guess it’s good for regular raiders that they don’t have to spend money on individual buff food, but bad for those of us that used to make a decent amount of money from it. We’ll see how the Fish Feast research goes. I think I need to head to Wintergrasp and do some fishing first.

I read a few days ago that Gevlon of the Greedy Goblin is going to give some tips or show how Engineers can make money. I’m curious to see what he comes up with. As an “Engineer for life”, I’ve found that we can make money, just not nearly as much as some other professions, especially Inscription. Since the decline of buff food, I’m making most of my steady income from ammo sales. I’ve tried selling scopes before and they don’t move in any significant quantity to really bother with most of the time and the profit margin is maybe 10 gold each. Maybe I’m missing something, so if anyone has any tips on Engineer money making ideas, please share them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

How To Fix It Part 2: PvP

I’m not sure if a game company can make a compelling world PvP MMO. I think one main reason Blizzard decided to add the Wintergrasp zone was because Mythic was working on Warhammer and they were going to have world PvP zones everywhere with cool keeps that you could attack with siege engines. So, we get Wintergrasp. I think the gameplay design of Wintergrasp is fine. Destructible walls everywhere, ways to upgrade which siege engine you get, fast and furious action. That is until the lag monster shows up and eats the entire zone. This brings me back to the statement that I don’t think any game company can make a compelling MMO based on World PvP. Once you reach a certain threshold of players per square unit of territory, the lag makes whatever you are doing unplayable. It’s exactly the same thing that happened when I was playing Warhammer and there was a 50+ on 50+ keep siege.

How do we make it work? Well, Blizzard has just implemented their “hotfix” for the lag by making the daily quests weekly quests to drive down demand. It seems to have worked so far. My wife and I did Wintergrasp on Wednesday night afer 8pm and there was little to no lag because there wasn’t a ton of players in the zone. It’s not an elegant solution, but I suppose it works in the short term. The only way to really make it work long term is to have the zone instanced. Alterac Valley works very well and it’s 40 on 40. Since it’s instanced and the objectives are spread all over the map, you rarely have more than 40 players in the same area on the map. That keeps network traffic lower and thus less lag. Plus, you can have all the dailies you want. So, Wintergrasp should be instanced and have quest objectives spread all over the map to keep people from all clumping on the keep’s front door.

The other major issue I have with PvP is that in order to get a great weapon, shield or offhand item, you pretty much have to raid. Forcing players (aka customers) to play the game a way they don’t want to isn’t a good idea. Sure, you can get to 1850 and get the first tier of Furious weapon, but by the very nature of the rating system , that is out of reach for the vast majority of players. There should be a middle grade of epic weapon somewhere between the crafted epics and the weapons that drop in 25 man Naxx that a pure PvP player can buy. It should be very expensive in whatever currency is used to buy it, but it should be attainable by non-raiders.

I’m generally happy with the battleground system. Sure, most of the games I play are completely dominated by the Horde, but Alliance on Bleeding Hollow have long accepted that fact. Strand of the Ancients is a pretty cool concept and one of it’s best features is that it will NEVER run longer than 20 minutes. Just thinking of hour long Warsong matches makes me want to cry. It would be a nice added bonus if there was an updated reputation system with battleground factions as another source of gear. It doesn’t have to be great stuff, maybe a supplemental way to get new 80’s in some blues that will keep them alive for longer than 3 seconds. Some new mounts, pets and fluff items would be cool too.

Lastly, the Vault of Archavon needs to be addressed. The Vault now has a second boss, Emalon, who is significantly harder to beat than Archavon. He is not the loot piƱata that Archavon is. The two bosses need to be separated out into two separate instances. Getting a group together for the old Vault was hard enough and a lot of players are in their PvP spec, so healing and dps is lower than normal. That makes getting a successful group together for both bosses much harder. Separating the two would make the raids run more smoothly and recruitment for raids much easier and more targeted.

So, while all these issues may not be contributing directly to the “meh” I think it would help to excite players and keep them engaged in the game. What say you?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

We've been linked!

I just recently got linked by the folks at WoWEnomics. First, thanks to whoever linked us! And thanks to anyone who has come here and taken the time to read more than the first sentence of any of our posts. I know the layout is a bit spartan, so I'll be thinking of ways to spruce up the place a bit.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

How to fix the "meh", part 1

So, as my previous post mentioned, there’s a lot of “meh” to go around in WoW lately. How do we fix it? Well, I think for the most part it’s something that only Blizzard can fix. I’ll add this disclaimer first – Blizzard, in my opinion, rarely takes any customer commentary seriously. Given that, here are my suggestions on what isn’t working and how to fix it. Today, I’m going to focus on raiding.

Raiding: I don’t think many people raid to “clear content” or experience the “end game”. They do it for gear. I certainly do. I could care less about seeing all the pretty art that some Blizzard employee toiled over in Ulduar. I just want the gear. The problem is that the random drop from a loot table method of distributing gear is flawed. It keeps us on the worst kind of treadmill where we have to do a raid repeatedly just for the chance to get something. Sure, there are other ways to get gear – reputation, badges, crafting, but those sources usually don’t give great quality items and when they do, the selection is often very limited. The bigger problem for us Arena junkies is that in order to get a decent weapon for PvP, you pretty much have to raid and hope to get lucky. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a crafted epic, most likely for the rest of your WoW career.

The solution? Do what Warhammer does, or at least incorporate some of the better ideas of their loot system. For those who don’t know, Warhammer Online uses what creative director Paul Barnett calls his “Vegas Loot System”. To apply this to a WoW scenario, imagine that you just took down Patchwerk. Patch doesn’t drop individual loot items now, he drops different color bags and the contents of said bag were itemized to your class and the various specs your class can have. You get to choose what item you want from the bag. The better the quality of the bag, the more choices you get. So, if you were a hunter and won the highest level bag from Patch, you’d be offered a choice of several gear items, say a weapon, belt and gloves. You choose what you want to take. How is a winner determined? Not by a loot master asking players to roll and not by some DKP system. It’s determined by a random roll plus a number based on your contribution to downing the boss. The formula behind that contribution number could get complex and arguments have been made about “how can the system measure something like using a special ability that saved a raid wipe” but in general doing more DPS or more healing without over healing will give you more of a contribution rating. To even things out for those who don’t win rolls due to bad luck, if you don’t win something on one boss, you get bonus points towards your next roll on the next boss. Assuming the system behind the scenes isn’t broken like it was for months in Warhammer, it works and rewards people who know what they are doing.

There are few things as heartbreaking as watching a faceroller win a best in slot piece of gear that you’ve been trying to win for months, when you consistently place in the top 5 dps. The Vegas Loot System fixes that without the need for third party created loot distribution systems.

Unfortunately, I don't think we will EVER see somthing like this in Warcraft. I don't mind a gear treadmill where you have to get decent gear to get good gear to get great gear, but the random drop system in place now is just cruel.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

meh.

Drunkenclod over at Blessing of Might seems to be experiencing what a lot of others are going through. What would that be? Apathy. I think a lot of players are getting worn out on WoW. The guild has had fewer and fewer people online and blogs across all spectrums are shutting down or are posting less frequently. I thought Ulduar and Arena season 6 were supposed to breathe new life into WoW. It did with the economy for a few weeks, but products aren’t moving as fast for me or my wife as we had hoped. I’m not selling nearly as much buff food and ammo sales are sporadic.

That isn’t to say there is nothing to do. My wife and I have been doing the Argent Tournament dailies, farming honor and materials and doing Wintergrasp when we can. That keeps us busy enough. That won’t last for too much longer though. I’ll have my Crusader title in a few days and with fewer people online in the guild, I’m probably not going to be doing much PvE because I refuse to PUG and the only gear I want is PvP gear so there really isn’t much of an incentive for me to raid. That leaves farming honor and farming materials. That’s not exactly motivating. Adding to that, my arena team has a slim shot at getting past 1550 so we’ll be running into a brick wall every week trying to get the rating up and getting frustrated with the power combos of the month (I’m looking at YOU rogue/priest).

Are you experiencing the same lack of interest on your server or guild? Voice your apathy!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Scribes Have More Fun


The only professions that aren’t shared between my character and my wife’s 3 characters are blacksmithing, tailoring and inscription. That’s not a bad spread of professions over 400 skill and many of them are at 450. In terms of making money in game, we seem to have found our niche and know what sells and doesn’t sell. I always get the feeling though that I could be making more money. We’re not poor by any means, but we’re not swimming in gold like Scrooge McDuck is. When my wife’s death knight hit 80, I pushed her towards jewelcrafting/enchanting as there is a decent synergy between the two. She can craft jewelry and disenchant it and sell the dusts for more than the materials cost and it will sell faster than the original materials.

After reading through my long list of WoW economy blogs again, it seems I may have misguided her professions by ignoring Inscription. First, to get this out of the way, I absolutely will never get rid of Engineering, so changing professions for me is out of the question. For my wife, she’s making a steady income so dropping one of her professions and leveling inscription isn’t really necessary. But, looking at the money being made by the authors of the other wow economy sites (and by fellow guildmate Krys) makes me realize just how easy it is to rake in cash as a scribe.

Let’s look at the basics. Scribes need herbs to mill into pigments to turn into inks. The thing that is frustrating here is that any standard Northrend herb can be milled into 2-4 of the pigments that are used to make the ink for the top tier of glyphs. So even if you bought all your herbs from the auction house, it will only cost between 1 and 3 gold on average to make a glyph and most glyphs sell for 20-30 gold each. I don’t know of any other profession that has such huge profit margins. Huge profit margins also leave room to undercut all your competitors. Another great thing about inscription is that unlike say, engineering where I make ammo for one class – hunters, your target audience is pretty much every character, because everyone should use glyphs. Even after buying a dual talent spec, people still need to change glyphs all the time as they try new build/glyph combos for pvp and pve.

So, if one of my friends were to start a new character and ask what profession they should take, Inscription will always be my suggestion. Unless of course they want to be a part of the cool crowd and rock the goggles.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Stealing

Imagine for a moment that you get recruited to a Naxx 25 PUG. All is going well, but the raid leader is acting a bit fishy. He doesn't talk much in Vent and on occasion he leaves the channel and goes to another private channel with another person in the raid. You get to Kel'Thuzad, one shot him and get to the loot. Your dream weapon drops and the raid leader doesn't start linking loot for rolls. He just takes everything, hearths and is gone.

Some call it "loot ninja". I call it stealing. Even though it's nothing material, stealing is stealing. I know of several guild members who PUG regularly and all of them have had gear stolen by the raid leader/loot master. It says a lot about our online society that it happens so much. Is it that it’s so easy and there are absolutely NO consequences for stealing that it happens so much? Or are these same people the ones who walk into a convenience store and slip a candy bar into their pocket? I don’t think there’s any way to tell, but it’s a sad state of affairs either way.

So, what can we do to prevent this behavior in the future? Well, for one, don’t PUG with a raid leader that you don’t trust. I know there are plenty of players out there that have to PUG for one reason or another. Keep a list of the good players you’ve raided with. Another thing you could do is PUG with guilds that have a good reputation. Lastly, take control of the situation and start your own PUG by recruiting players that you know and trust.

It would be great if there was a way customer service could help with stealing. One idea I heard from a former guild mate would be if raiders could put in a group trouble ticket that a CS rep could use as evidence against the thief. It would go a long way towards ending the behavior. Until Blizzard makes a policy on it, then there’s not much we can do about it other than what I’ve mentioned above.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Death Knight Weaver

Today's post is from Beermaker, fellow AUO guildie and alt-a-holic.

“Hi, I’m a bag salesman”

I didn’t used to be, but after reading Rorik’s post I decided to give it a go. I had an up and coming priest that was a tailor, seemed like it would be a good fit. It would just take a while to get him leveled up to be able to make the Netherweave Bags. “Don’t you have a Deathknight you could power level it on?” Rorik asked. A light went on, a Deathknight took up tailoring (There’s a joke in there, I just know it), and now I happily sell Netherweave bags on the auction house.

Leveling up tailoring wasn’t all that difficult. It probably took about 3 days of limited playtime. I used a guide off of wowwiki to level up. It’s a little bit outdated due to some recent changes, but it still works well enough. I deviated from it here and there so I’d have items to disenchant on another toon, but other than that it only cost a couple hundred gold for me to get leveled up (I had a fair amount of runecloth on hand, so that helped).

Now, I haven’t been keeping great notes at home. This is still a game so I refuse to maintain a profit/loss statement regarding my little “business”. I do know for a fact that it has a positive cash flow for me though. Here’s a few of the details of what I’m up to….

I may be opportunistic, but I’m no fool. I don’t way undercut on my prices. I usually price them out anywhere from a few silver to one gold less what’s listed. Other times, I’ll price above them if some are too cheap. Why give away a nice profit margin? I don’t flood the market. There are other tailors who do. I list a few, and when they sell I’ll list a few more. The sellers flooding the market also usually undercut by a large margin. Those will sell out fast, and my few bags listed in my normal price range will sell anyways. On average, I’m probably moving 20-30 bags a week.

I buy all my mats. Yep, I don’t spend time farming Netherweave. I buy it. I watch the AH every day to see where the price is. It’s a commodity to me, and when it falls below a certain price I buy all that I can find. Notice I said find, not need. If it’s below my price threshold I buy every single piece I can find on the AH. Why do I do this? It keeps my competitors from being able to buy at that low price (Let them pay more for it), and it insulates me from the market. Recently I went through about a 5 day stretch where the price of cloth was ridiculously high. I bought nothing. Then the market crashed, and I bought dirt cheap.

Interestingly enough, as the cloth market crashed the price of bags has increased a bit. Perhaps it was from everyone else paying more for cloth (after I bought up all the cheap stuff)? I’m happy to play along of course, and price a bit higher myself. More money for me.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Undercutters

My wife's jewelcrafting and enchanting businesses are going well. She's making a steady income and not really spending a lot of time farming for anything other than honor for pvp gear. One of the guild officers (and now temporary GM) Krys, is also doing quite well for himself mainly from his glyph and alchemy businesses. Both of them have a few competitors in their markets that undercut them by quite a bit, usually by several gold and sometimes as much as 10-20 gold. Both my wife and Krys follow the unwritten rule of undercutting by a few silver.

Why would someone undercut by so much? Here's one possible reason: volume. If someone is undercutting by 10 or 20 gold, they are probably selling a lot more of that item than the rest of the sellers who are colluding on a higher price to try to maximize profit per item. That increased volume could mean higher overall income than those selling fewer items at a higher price. If that is the case, then there's really nothing you can do but to either hope the undercutter depletes his stock of goods, leaving no other option for buyers but to buy your higher priced goods OR to start lowering your prices and try to take his market share. If supply of the item is fairly limited, then you can simply buy him out and relist. It's always risky to buy out someone who listed low and relist at your price, especially if the demand is limited because you may not be able to sell off all your stock plus the relisted stock. As always, know your markets.

In other news, not much has been going on. The gem, enchanting and buff food markets seem to be doing well. Goods are moving and prices are leveling out. Even Saronite ore has rebounded from just before patch 3.1. I only wish I had bought all of the saronite that was listed for 15 gold and less per stack. At the very least I would have a huge stockpile of ore for making ammo. Which reminds me...

Gevlon over at the Greedy Goblin recently posted about a thread on the official WoW forms regarding maximizing dps in raids by uncovering the math behind the game. The overall impression I got from the original poster was that he (or she?) doesn't like math and doesn't want to bother trying to figure out how to increase his dps and would rather just wing it and go with what feels right, no matter how stupid it is.

These people, dear readers, are your target consumers. They don't like math and are afraid of it, thus they will never do even simple arithmetic to figure out what's a better deal for them. How do I know this? Well, there are plenty of auction house tricks out there like selling single bars of saronite and buying things that can break down into smaller things and selling those smaller things. I've tried most of them and they work. They may not sell fast or in big quantities, but it's money for almost no time spent farming or grinding.

Hard work won't make you rich, smart work will.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Market observations

Just a short post today. I've noticed a few things about the past month's economic activity on Bleeding Hollow.

The Pre Patch economy was slow (not a lot of buyers) and low (low prices due to low demand).
Immediate Post Patch wasn't much better unless you were a Scribe or Alchemist.
Arena seasons affect the economy more than one would think.

The last comment has held true to every season. Players have a ton of new gear that is immediately available to them that wasn't before. For season 6 that is Deadly offset pieces and Hateful set pieces. Sure, you could get a few from the Vault or badges, but the offset pieces required a rating. Contrary to what the Arena Junkies gladiator level players think, getting a rating above 1600 in season 5 or 6 is NOT easy for the vast majority of us. Anyway, the number of people getting upgrades from PvP vastly outnumbers the number of people getting Ulduar upgrades, so we get things like uncut rubies going for 80+ gold and a lot of movement in the enchanting business. I don't think the demand will taper off for a little while either, since a) it will take several weeks for most teams to top off their arena rating and b) it takes a ton of games to grind out enough honor to buy something. That alone should spread out gear upgrades for at least a month.

So, while the Scribes made a killing the week after 3.1 and Alchemists are selling potions at a decent rate, now is the time to start making money as a jewelcrafter/enchanter. Oh hey, look at that, those are the professions of my wife's Death Knight ;)