Saturday, December 8, 2007

Outland Greens, gotta love them

As the crunch of school deepens, I find less and less time to update this. For today's entry, I merely present two items: Alcor's Sunrazor, an "old world" BoE epic that requres level 58, and Cross Pommel Dagger, a BoE green from Outland that also requires level 58.

Alcor's Sunrazor
One-Hand Dagger
41-77 Damage Speed 1.30
(45.4 damage per second)
Requires Level 58
Chance on hit: Blasts your target for 75 to 105 Fire damage.
Item Level 63

Cross Pommel Dagger of the Bandit
One-Hand Dagger
54-101 Damage Speed 1.70
(45.6 damage per second)
+8 Agility
+12 Stamina
+16 Attack Power
Requires Level 58
Item Level 84

Oh, and the green? It's about 10g on the auction house, typically. The epic? 500, if you're lucky.

While the vividness of that comparison sinks in, I'll go ahead and study. Don't worry, I'll be back. In the meantime, I hope now you see why you shouldn't blow your entire wad on any pre-BC epic...

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Alone in the Dark(moon Faire)

...which I never was. Good thing, too, because the Darkmoon Faire is loads of fun. Drive a little Tonk around and take potshots at others, get your fortune told, even shoot yourself out of a cannon! The only thing missing is copious amounts of cheap alcohol, oh wait, they have that too! Should you be lucky enough to have finished one of the Darkmoon Card decks, now's the time to turn them in and receive your awesome-sauce epic trinket. And to top it all off, two vendors sell much sought-after items in limited supply. My Paladin, in pre-BC days, once wore the Darkmoon Necklace, and for only 5 gold to boot! There are also potions, scrolls, herbs, leather, and rare-quality gems available for purchase on a timer.

The cutthroat nature of WoW gold, however, means that someone's always camping the vendor for the blue gems. It's a shame that some people simply cannot allow the less fortunate WoW players the joy of finding a blue on the Darkmoon vendors. On several visits to the Darkmoon Faire I spotted a level 1 bank toon from one of Thrall's more prestigious guilds staking out a spot right in front of the vendor. It's pathetic that a player actually exists out there who will sit for hours before a vendor just to buy the Noble Topaz (or whatever) when it spawns. (I mean I farm for gems and ore and stuff, but at least I'm not going out of my way to screw less fortunate players out of rares when I do it.)

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't be a prick. Buy the blue gem if you see it--lucky you--but shit, don't camp the vendor for it. Get a virtual life, c'mon!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Twink is slang for a gay man, lol

And again, I have nothing against gays. I myself would probably be considered somewhat "bent"--but that's neither here nor there, hehe. I just wanted a title that would illustrate many people's feelings regarding twinks.

If you're unfamiliar with the practice of twinking, there's a reason why certain blues are exponentially more expensive than others--why, for instance, a Sentry Cloak can run 100 gold when the Cape of the Brotherhood can be had for free with a Deadmines run, or why an Assassin's Blade can fetch 250g, but a Skeletal Club (which does identical damage per second and has an equal level requirement) is barely worth a tenth of that.

The answer, in a nutshell, is twinking--the practice of taking a lower-level character and giving him the best possible equipment for his level. This is well and good for PvE, but in PvP battlegrounds, twinks can really upset the balance of the game. The 10-19 Warsong Gulch bracket has long been choked with twinks, to the point where they outnumber "normal" characters. In other words, to avoid being two-shotted in a level 19 WSG, you need to be twinked. Put mildly, it's somewhat unfun for "normal" players in these battlegrounds.

I know, you say, I'm one to talk. I do, after all, have a 19 warrior twink, a 29 hunter semi-twink, and a 59 rogue twink. I created them, though, out of frustration after my first toon (the paladin) suffered through battlegrounds at every level bracket up to and including 70. (I goddamn earned my PvP rank of Knight, let me assure you. I must have spent a day and a half staring at the "30 seconds until resurrection" dialog on my way to Rank 6.) I wanted that feeling of domination that everyone else had held over me along my way to level 60.

My brother's warrior was level 18 when he decided to give him up (he rolled a rogue after that, I think). I inherited him, and an assortment of truly awful gear; by that time, I already had a 70 and a fair amount of gold, so I geared him up. Upon hitting 19, I figured, why not, let's do a battleground. I did quite well, but in hindsight I wish I had gotten mercilessly pwned.

That early success caused me to pursue twinking. I abandoned his professions--Alchemy and Herbalism (on a Warrior?! Clearly my brother hadn't thought this out, oh wait, my level 70 warrior is an herbalist/alchemist...guess it runs in the family). Instead, I took up Engy to make some twink head armor. All told, at level 19 my brother's warrior had around 1400 health (which incidentally is over 200 more than my enhancement-spec Shaman has ten levels later).

Fully twinked, I entered Warsong Gulch. And what happened? Surprise surprise. Ganked by twink rogues left and right. Turns out Warriors are a sucky choice for twinking at 19.

My aforementioned Shaman is currently level 29, and as an experiment I gave him better-than-average gear (but not even close to twink). In other words, his gear is better than a typical non-twink would have, but nowhere near twink-quality. What's the frequency, Kenneth? Turns out he gets knocked around like a USPS Ground package. The bottom line is, twinks have become the norm in battlegrounds (at least in 19 and 29; I haven't been in a 39 or 49 BG in awhile, but when my Shaman dings I'll keep you posted). You need to be one just to be competitive. And quite frankly it sucks.

Rest assured, I never would have twinked if no one else did first. A poor, jejune excuse, I know, but admit it to yourself: You'd do it too, if your first toon got knocked around as much as mine did. I blame Warlocks, for one. ;)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

War(craft)-Torn Hearts

And when that question is asked, deny everything.

I know it seems hard and contrary to every human (or at least male) instinct, but if a girl in-game proposes anything that smacks of a relationship, and you think you might want to pursue her seriously, DON'T DO IT! For the love of God, yank your Ethernet cable out of the wall if you have to, roll a new toon of the opposite faction and level it for a few weeks, even commit a misdemeanor and spend a month in jail if you have to. (I hear public urination is all the rage this time of year, incidentally.) Just do NOT try to make a WoW relationship work!

If I seem somewhat passionate about this maxim, and it almost looks like I'm speaking (well, typing) from personal experience...well, I just might be. Believe you me, it is twice as difficult as making a real-life relationship pan out, with just a fraction of the benefits. For one thing, there's no going out for a quiet dinner (no, eating a Tough Hunk of Bread in Teldrassil together does NOT cut it), or watching a movie afterwards (you can try sending each other YouTube links, but trust me, it's not the same--and the popcorn tastes strangely like carpet). You can't look into each other's eyes, exchange sweet nothings, and cuddle (although if you've ever gone to the second floor of the Stormwind Inn, I bet you've seen a few couples trying their hardest to make something happen on the bed). As for, ah, more intimate accoutrements, suffice to say that a keyboard in one hand and a, uh, "mouse" (wink, wink, cough, cough) in the other, is not a good surrogate for a healthy sex life. (Not that I would know what does constitute a healthy one, unfortunately.)

And try as you might to overlook it, there will always be a kind of competition between the two of you: who's the higher level, who has the better gear, who's got a higher rank in the guild. You might laugh at such "virtual" tokens of station being capable of wrenching two lovers apart, but if the game was enough to bring you two together, you better damn well believe it's enough to rend you apart. Not to mention all the difficulties inherent in traditional long-distance relationships: increased risk of infidelity, little or no face-to-face interaction, astronomical phone bills, etc.

If nothing else, think of this poor, heartbroken Paladin who once loved a level 60 Night Elf hunter (whose names, both in-game and real, will be kept secret to protect the skanky). Think of all he did--in real life--to salvage the relationship, and think of how devastated he was to lose her to a level 38 Human Warlock. (Yet another reason to hate those goddamn locks.) If you don't want to end up like me, then for God's sake say no to WoW relationships.

Best of luck to you Casanovas out there...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

All's Fair in Love and War(craft)

On busy server days, it's not an uncommon occurrence to depart the bank or the Auction House and find a female Night Elf, bereft of any armor, dancing endlessly, as a stream of characters (all male, strangely enough) lining up before her. I will refrain from passing judgment on this practice, but you should avail yourself of any delusions that this nearly naked Night Elf is, in all probability, either a gold-strapped male, or a female who is, how shall we say, alarmingly starved of opportunities to relieve her pent-up frustrations in real life.

To put it more pointedly, then: At best, you're giving your gold to a really, really, really unattractive woman; at worst, you're giving it to another guy. (Or, if you happen to be gay, and that is perfectly cool with me [although you probably wouldn't be giving gold to a female Night Elf dancing in that case], then reverse the "at best" and "at worst" qualifiers.)

The fact is, most of us aren't stupid--we know this! We accept as unquestionable gospel--perhaps begrudgingly, but accept nonetheless--that most WoW players are male, and the few female players joining them wouldn't be so (to be blunt) slutty as to strip and /dance for the benefit of a few gold pieces. Exceptions exist, naturally, but this is by and large accepted.

But, as I already pointed out, you're not stupid! So why am I belaboring the naked Night Elf point? Well, while most of us wouldn't be taken in by such a vulgar display of pixellated poontang, there's no denying that WoW is a social game by nature. Group quests, guilds, instances, raids, the Trade channel--all depend upon forming parties and interacting with others.

And when people interact, sometimes they hit it off. They become friends; they grow interested in ages, in locations, in families, in jobs, in other personal details, as friends are wont to do. As they grow more comfortable with each other, they confess sordid details and ask, in [Guild] 10-point, fluorescent green Arial, for help--not just with quests or mount money, but with real-life issues. And should it become evident that they are of opposite sexes, and single, and looking, then a bigger question looms on the horizon, one that begs to be asked and, all too often, is...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Give Yourself A Break!

There's no doubt that WoW is, for the most part, a brilliantly designed game. New players are eased so gradually into the "grinding treadmill" that they're desensitized to the addictive monotony of killing mob after mob for their XP bar to fill in sliver by sliver.

But don't let that make you, uh, forget about real life. It's well and good to spend one, two, or even more hours straight playing WoW, so long as it isn't at the expense of other, real-life needs. And regardless of how free your schedule is, for the sake of your health, it'd be beneficial to take breaks from the game every now and then. For every ten miles your in-game alter ego runs, resolve to run one yourself.

Breaks from WoW make you appreciate the game even more when you come back. Trust me. With 3 70s and a 59 twink, I've obviously spent what most would deem an unhealthy amount of time in Azeroth. And even I tire of farming, grinding, and PvPing every now and then. If I don't step away from the keyboard and spend a few days doing something else, the game would probably start getting to me, and I'd quit.

(A personal anecdote: You know you play too much WoW when someone asks your opinion of a professor, and you respond, "He's lev...levity in a turbulent society" to cover up the fact that you were about to say, "he's Level 70". Yeah...I didn't log in for a solid week after that one.)

See you all in Outland...just not every day, I hope!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

In Defense of the "Retnoob"

So I've just explained why the Retribution tree needs a serious revamp. But I'm sure I'll hear from someone who'll say something like, "If you don't like it, respec to Prot or Holy. No one needs another lawladin."

First of all, screw off. No one needs another huntard, Arcane Explosion spammer, or pussy lock either. But people play those classes because they like it, and to hell with anyone who tells them to respec or reroll. Right?

Second of all, Blizz never intended for the pally to be a healbot (or for that matter, a tanky), either. With the exception of staves and fist weapons, Paladins can use any melee weapon in the game, and not just for visual effect. Before Burning Crusade was released, only Humans could be Paladins, giving them Mace and Sword Specialization. Before patch 1.6, Crusader Strike was learnable by any spec, not just Ret. Hmm. Maybe Blizz intended for Paladins to be, I don't know, holy warriors? Not priests-in-plate or tanks with mana, but actual crusaders, valkyries, Knights Templar? Never forget that Uther the Lightbringer was a kick-ass Paladin, as is Highlord Bolvar Fordragon. Sure, that might just be a bit of abstract lore, but it shows Blizz's true intent of allowing the Paladin to be more than just a supporting healer or aggro magnet.

It would be nice if Blizz considered a talent tree revamp to help make that dream a reality, huh?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How we can stop being a joke, part 2

Some ideas, I'll just throw them out there...

*Increase the cost of Crusader Strike slightly, but give it a chance to daze the target, increase Holy damage taken, silence/interrupt spellcasting, etc.
*Decrease the cooldown of Repentance, or
*Remove the breaks-on-damage stipulation from Repentance, but reduce its duration slightly, or
*Replace Repentance with a ranged attack, for example:
Chastise (Rank 1): 280 Mana, 2.5 sec cast, 30 yd range, 15 sec cooldown. Causes 262 to 314 Holy damage to the target and reduces its movement speed by 30% for 10 sec. Higher ranks cost more mana, but deal more damage. Or,
*Repentance instead reduces the target's movement speed for 10 sec. It doesn't matter, as long as it's changed. Repentance is FAR too weak to justify it being a 31-point talent.
*Rather than reduce stats, Vindication should increase casting time and/or reduce movement speed by 5/10/15%. (Most bosses are already immune, so this shouldn't radically up-end raiding.)
*Give Eye for an Eye a 15/30% chance to stun, fear, etc. whenever the Paladin is stunned, feared, etc.
*Make Hammer of Wrath useable against any target, not just those nearly dead, but reduce its +spell damage coefficient (so that healadins don't get 3k Hammer of Wrath crits), or
*Remove Hammer of Wrath's casting restriction, but instead make it castable only after someone in your group lands a killing blow, or
*Leave Hammer of Wrath as is, but remove its 6 second cooldown. Warriors already have Execute; why can't Pallies HoW spam to the same effect?

Most of these ideas are attempts to remedy the Retribution Paladin's sorry lack of ranged ability and CC. I'd be happy to see even one of them considered by Blizz. Here's to patch 2.4!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How we can stop being a joke

One idea. We need some form of crowd control. Here are means by which each class can ensure their target doesn't get away, by class:

Druid: Entangling Roots; Travel Form. (Faerie Fire, to prevent stealth.)
Hunter: Freezing Trap, Frost Trap (1 minute shared cooldown, reducible via Survival talents); Wing Clip (6 second cooldown); Intimidation (Beast Mastery); (Improved) Concussive Shot. (Hunter's Mark/Track Hidden, to defeat stealth.)
Mage: Frost Nova (30 sec cooldown); Cone of Cold/Dragon's Breath (30 sec shared cooldown); Frostbolt; Impact (Fire talent); Slow (Arcane talent); Polymorph. Blink (15 sec cooldown). (AoEs can be spammed to reveal stealth.)
Priest: Fear (also breaks stealth). In addition, DoTs will break stealth and ensure a slow, painful death for anyone who tries to run away.
Rogue: Cheap Shot; Blade Twisting (Combat talent); Gouge (6 sec cooldown); Kidney Shot; Blind (3 min cooldown); Sprint (5 min cooldown); Crippling Poison.
Shaman: Frost Shock (6 sec shared cooldown); Earthbind Totem; Ghost Wolf. (Some totems will foil stealth.)
Warlock: Curse of Exhaustion; fear and DoTs (see Priest).
Warrior: Intercept (requires Berserker Stance); Hamstring; Intimidating Shout (2 min cooldown). (Thunder Clap can detect stealth.)
Paladin: Avenger's Shield (requires 41 points in Protection--in other words, a non-DPS build); Hammer of Justice (1 min cooldown); Repentance (1 min cooldown). (Consecration can break stealth, but it is EXPENSIVE.)

Do you see now the folly of having a melee DPS class with only 2 CC abilities on long cooldowns (one of which breaks on damage, for Arathor's sake)? Compare the Paladin's CC with any other class and try to tell me we even come close.

Now, for a comparison of Melee DPS classes and their ranged abilities:

Feral Druid: Switch out of form to cast Starfire, Moonfire, etc.
Enhancement Shaman: Shocks; Lightning Bolt/Chain Lightning.
Rogue: Deadly Throw. Blind also has a 30 yd range.
Arms/Fury Warrior: Auto Shot/Auto Throw. Weak, but better than nothing.
Survival Hunter: I'm half-joking, seeing as how even a Survival hunter shouldn't melee unless absolutely necessary. But for the record, the pet can pursue the target or the hunter could actually use their ranged weapon (and shots)...
Retribution Paladin: Uh...Consecration has an 8 yard radius! And Hammer of Wrath! (Expensive as hell and can only be used against nearly dead targets...oh, and can be resisted AND can miss...don't forget the 6 second cooldown)

Yeah, so who gets the short end of the stick there? Warriors maybe, but they don't need mana (or rage, or whatever) to take an auto-shot at a fleeing target...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Look at me, I'm a Retadin...oh I'm dead already?

So Patch 2.3 will supposedly make the Retribution build endgame-viable. I suppose it will, although that's not to say we will suddenly be hot stuff in PvP. The biggest change on the table seems to be a reduction in cooldown for Crusader Strike from 10 to 6 seconds, and a 30% threat reduction incorporated into our 35-point talent.

None of the changes, however, remedy our inherent weakness. Sure, we do good burst damage, wear plate, can toss out an odd heal, and even bubble should the situation warrant it. But retadins aren't like Shock pallies, who have 5/5 Spiritual Focus, 12k+ armor and 10k+ mana pools to draw from. A Holy Light that would take 8% of a Shockadin's mana pool and 2.5 seconds to heal around 3500, would take maybe 15% of a Retadin's mana and upwards of 5 seconds to heal around 2500. In other words, if a Retadin's in combat, he has no hope of getting a heal off (unlike shockadins and druids), unless he bubbles or burns a stun.

Moreover, Warriors can Mortal Strike, and Rogues can stack Wound Poison, thereby eliminating the benefit of stun-healing. The planned 15% increased movement speed benefit of Pursuit of Justice is rendered moot by Hamstring or Crippling Poison.

Sure, you say, but you have a bubble! Isn't that good enough? Sure, until you bubble and heal (using up the last of your mana and reducing yourself to weak white attacks), and watch as the Warrior or Rogue bandages, reenters stealth, runs away, etc.

And against casters, forget it. Frostbolts, fears, PoM pyroblasts, DoTs...It's a miracle if I can even land a single melee swing on a caster, much less kill one.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Look at me, I'm a Warlock!

Once upon a time, in the early days of WoW, Warlocks were actually a very underpowered class. Around patch 1.8, the collective lock community had a big whine session on the official forums crying about the nerfiness of the Warlock. So what happened? Did Blizzard acknowledge this emo outburst the way they normally do, with a blue post saying something to the effect of, "The Warlock class is functioning as intended, we apologize for the inconvenience"?

In a word, no.

Since Patch 1.9, the Warlock has been by far the most overpowered class in WoW. Combine the Hunter's ability to command a pet (which can, depending on the situation, tank, DPS, or even be sacrificed to heal) with shadow priest-like DoT spells, fear effects, and health drains (AND a soulstone rez, for crying out loud), and you get, in effect, an unstoppable machine. Oh, let's not forget the Infernal summon, Dark Pact, 5k Shadowbolt crits...

For their truly epic unbalancing of the WoW classes, I hope the entire Warlock Development Team at Blizzard got fired...out of a cannon.

I mean, what are we supposed to do against a lock? By the time a melee class got close enough to take a swing, he's already got 5 DoTs stacked on him, ticking for, oh, 1k a second? Should the lock then feel he's still in trouble, hey, why not drop a fear bomb, and for good measure, sling a Shadowbolt once the fear is about to expire.

I'm not annoyed at Blizz for buffing Warlocks so heavily though; I'm more pissed that certain other classes that have every right to complain about being underpowered are going unnoticed...

Friday, November 2, 2007

It Hurts When I PvP

So, as a follow-up to last time, I was unable to obtain a good replacement helm for my Retadin during Hallow's End. Furthermore, my schedule doesn't allow me enough time to run instances to gear up. As for Arena, it's an unfortunate fact of life that most players /lol at Retadins (whether or not such a reaction is deserved). The only option open to me to get some decent endgame gear is PvP Battlegrounds, and lots of them.

Seems like a pretty sweet deal; kill Horde and eventually get a nice set of Dungeon Set 3-equivalent gear. There was only one unforseen problem in my plan:

The Alliance sucks at PvP.

Ok, maybe that's an overly broad generalization. Let's rephrase, slightly:

The Alliance in the Stormstrike battlegroup have no sense of teamwork or cohesion whatsoever, meaning that the Horde steamroll us with minimal effort.

Every Warsong Gulch is either a turtle or a midfield orgy; the only thing I see in Arathi Basin is scattered offense and a hell of a lot of fighting on the road; Alterac Valley's offense usually peters out and, once we lose our graveyards, becomes a humongous turtlefest. As for Eye of the Storm, watch the entire Alliance team gather around the (empty) flag spawn, despite having no base to return the flag to (if we ever manage to pick up and hold on to the damn thing in the first place).

The constant losing might be tolerable if I were actually able to, you know, kill some Horde. Unfortunately, Ret pallies admittedly have a lot of weaknesses. As an entirely melee-based class, against casters I'm helpless once I've burned my stuns. (The "retnoob" comments from my own teammates are a nice grinding of salt into my wounds.)

I'm hoping I'll start kicking ass once my gear improves, but until then, I've got untold hours upon hours of painful battleground losses to endure.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

(Better) Lessons from Hallow's End

So I had a bit of a /rant session last time, but that's not to say I hate the seasonal events with a passion. Hallow's End is, in my opinion, one of the better seasonal events that takes place in the WoWverse. It has something to offer every player, from the Level 10 warrior in grays to the epiced-out 70s on 320% flying mounts. Mainly because of the free stuff. Okay, maybe I never did get my Horseman's Helm, but I did stumble upon a Ring of Ghoulish Delight and a Witches Band, both of which are equivalent to rings you'd have to pay 15 Badges of Justice for--and The Headless Horseman is by no means as difficult to down as a Heroic boss, much less 15.

Don't despair if you aren't 70 yet! Free stuff for all! Especially if you're level 30 or below and haven't found anything to fill your Helmet slot yet, find an Innkeeper and trick-or-treat. If you're lucky you'll find one of many available masks. Be a Tauren rogue for a day! Failing that, you may find a wand that'll transform any player into a bat, a wisp, a pirate, a ninja...Even the worst loot, the candy, is useful because it scales nicely as you level up. Or head for Goldshire and hunt down the Squashed Pumpkin Loot. Inside you'll find some Weighted Jack O' Lanterns that you can squash onto people's heads and, if you're lucky, a Rickety Magic Broom! Finally a mount for under-40s! (Disclaimer, mount doesn't actually go faster than walking. Keyword, "rickety" magic broom.)

So, I may never have gotten my helm, but that's okay. Free stuff is good no matter what.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lessons from Hallow's End

People are greedy assholes. Oh, and they desperately want to feel superior to you.

Hell, you probably already knew that. I certainly did, even before I made the trek up to Scarlet Monastery in hopes of finding a group to take down the Headless Horseman. I was such a naïve, idealistic Paladin back then, knowing that even if I was in a group with a healadin or a prot Warrior, they'd let the DPS plate wearer have it.

Can you see my mistake? Actually, there's more than one. The obvious glaring error was assuming that a member of a PUG will pass on an epic that they might, conceivably, once in a great while, find occasion to equip when there's someone who will wear it 100% of the time also in the group. This is what everyone and his Murloc non-combat pet calls the "OMG hunter lewtz" mentality. Sure, everyone makes fun of the huntard who equips an epic two-hander with no stats because "its teh epicz!!!111!!one" but the sad thing is I've actually had tankadins, prot warriors, and healadins say they wanted the helm and would roll against legitimate plate DPS...and no one makes fun of their huntard-esque noobiness.

The second error, and the much more crippling one, was assuming I'd be able to find a group. You'd be surprised how many people are so desperate for personal validation that they'll floccinaucinililpilify the Retribution paladin. Or, as they called me, "Retardadin," "noobadin," "lawlret," etc. Aside from proudly showing off their own ignorance, these insults do nothing but insult themselves, for the simple reason that despite what they seem to think, yes, I can DPS. I don't mean to brag in the least, but in instances I top the DPS meter more often than not, beating out Rogues, Hunters, Warlocks, even Mages--all while relegating myself to the task of off-tank or backup healer as necessary. So if I'm a "retardadin" and I'm beating you on the DPS list, what's that make you?

Oh, I already answered that. A person who desperately wants to feel superior. And you're probably a greedy asshole, too. /fart

Monday, October 22, 2007

Speaking of inflation...

There may not be a stock exchange in Orgrimmar, and there may not be a floor of day traders buying Wool Cloth futures in Ironforge, but as I mentioned last post, inflation is slowly but surely eroding the value of the gold piece with every quest turn-in.

Gold is always nice to have--you can't beat its fluidity, and it's certainly embarrassing to be caught short when your raid summons the Field Repair Bot. It's nice, but is it the best?

Gold, like paper money in real life, has no intrinsic value. You have the guarantee--of the vendors, of the government--that those numbers on your screen or on your bill can be traded for goods and services. The quantity of goods and services buyable with a given amount of gold varies depending on how much gold there is. (If you've been reading the other posts, I /sorry for repeating myself.)

So while you can't beat the ease that gold provides, it might behoove you in the long run to set aside a percentage of your money and invest in commodities. By that I mean items which (preferably) stack, have a relatively high value per unit, and are always in demand. A low vendor value is a plus, because it means you'll spend less listing it on the auction house. For the reason that they are in steady demand (and have a vendor sale price of zero), many savvy players will pick the Auction House clean of enchanting materials that are priced significantly below average, stockpiling them for a rainy day--or a day that finds the AH devoid of that particular material. Suddenly those stacks of Dream Dust that were purchased for 5 gold a stack when the market was flooded fly off the AH at 15 when they're all gone.

Equippable items generally do not make for good hedges, because of their extremely high deposit costs and sporadic demand. For a lower-level newbie, ores and cloth are good bets; the ratio of vendor value to potential AH price is very lucrative. Here's a rough idea of what to stockpile and unload on the AH at just the right moment:

Levels 1-20
Linen Cloth, Earthroot, Copper Ore, Moss Agate, Low level green items (Alts with big bankrolls are perfectly willing to shell out 1+ gold for greens with the right stats and level requirement)

Levels 21-40
Wool Cloth, Fadeleaf, Vision Dust, Tin Ore, Iron Ore

Levels 41-50
Mageweave Cloth, Gromsblood, Nether Essence, Mithril Ore, Jade

Levels 51-60
Thorium Ore, Dreamfoil, Golden Sansam, Eternal Essence, Illusion Dust, Large Brilliant Shard

Levels 61+
All Outland herbs, mining loot, and enchanting materials. Aldor/Scryer rep items, and Coilfang Armaments.

Happy speculating!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Gold farming IV: Why even the famers are screwed

We're all hurtling headlong into a spiral of rampant inflation. Don't cancel your subscription just yet, though. (Even if you were nerfed in the last patch!)

You see, even though WoW is a masterpiece of a game that's played by 9 million worldwide and counting, and even if there's no end in sight to the game (God willing), the fact remains that gold farmers are selling someone else's property--and virtual property at that. It's the good old "Wanna buy a bridge?" joke, updated to modern standards.

World of Warcraft's economy isn't like a real-world one. Low-level characters with limited time may feel the pressure to buy gold, but the wonderful thing about inflation is that it affects the rich and the poor alike. In other words, to counteract the devaluation of the gold piece (that the farmers themselves caused) they will need to lower the price of their product. In other words, the farmers are essentially driving themselves out of business!

It may be worth the time now to farm while it's worth around 6 cents per gold, but gradually the gold piece's value will degrade as the farmers sell more and more of it. Once it becomes financially unsound, the farmers will up and leave--or, at the very least, seek greener pastures. And seeing as WoW is the 900-pound elephant of the MMORPG scene, I wish the soon-to-be-unemployed farmers luck.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gold farming III: Why we're all screwed

So, why are we all screwed?

As I mentioned before, Blizzard has done an exemplary job of creating an environment in which gold is introduced to the economy via grinding and questing, but removed via vendors, mounts, and the Auction House fees.

Throw gold farmers into the mix and you end up with a bunch of Level 70s who can dole out damage and kill mobs like any other 70 worth their salt (well, maybe not the furry warriors). The thing that differentiates them from other 70s is, they don't give a piece of vendor trash about getting an epic flyer or gearing up in instances. They exist solely to grind for hours on end and convert their gold to money IRL.

The overall effect, if you follow me, is a bit like what happens when a band of counterfeiters begin to slip a bunch of phony $100 bills into circulation. There's suddenly a huge influx of money to the economy chasing a supply of goods that remains essentially the same. (Supply and demand, of course, is the principle that makes even the crappiest BoE epic sell for no less than 500g on a bad day in the trade channel.)

What does this cause? Well, in a word: inflation.

And who will suffer? It won't be the 70s in full tier 6; it won't even be the 70s who are struggling with an assorted mishmash of quest rewards and greens. It'll be the newbies, many of whom still think of one gold as being a large quantity of in-game money, who will suddenly balk at 10g stacks of copper ore, 50s Minor Healing Potions and ungodly expensive low-level greens. When a typical mob drops a handful of copper and quests reward sub-gold quantities of money, players will either beg or let their subscriptions expire. Sure, they could turn to gold farmers to alleviate this inflation, but of course that'll only exacerbate the problem.

Yet there is a glimmering, glowing, radiant, brilliant, even prismatic glimmer of hope for the game...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Gold Farming II: Money sinks and inflation

Last time, I ended with a cliffhanger. Buying and selling WoW gold is a bannable offense, but why? Sure, there are purists who argue that it's a bit like steroids; spending gold that you didn't swing your own sword (or mace, or axe, or staff, if you happen to be a melee mage) to earn takes away from the game experience. There are legal beagles who point out that World of Warcraft®, a Medieval-Themed Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (hereinafter "WoW") is the intellectual property of Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., LLC, LP, Ltd. (hereinafter "Blizz") and thus all components of WoW are the property of Blizz. In simpler terms, the farmers don't "own" the gold they're selling any more than they "own" the coding that allowed them to farm it in the first place.

But the real reason why gold farming is bad is much simpler. It'll eventually ruin the game.

And not in the purists' sense of the word either. I mean it'll literally make the game unfun, unfeasible, even unplayable. Even more so than Warlocks.

Let's take a gander at the in-game economy model. The two most basic methods of creating wealth in WoW are grinding and questing. If you kill a mob and it drops 16 Silver, 38 Copper, that money is "created" on the spot and added to your inventory. If you hand in a quest and are rewarded 11 Gold, that money is likewise created out of Netherweave--er, whole cloth. Then, if that mob happened to drop [Platemail Bracers of the Whale], and the quest reward was [Two-Handed Sword of Spirit], and you realize both items are crap and you ditch them at the vendor, that gold also didn't exist before and appears in your backpack. (For many players, the Auction House provides much more income than grinding or questing, but since that gold is merely going from one player to another, it doesn't introduce new money to the economy.)

Now, take into account the sheer number of players who are grinding and questing at any one time, and try to contemplate just how much gold is created on any given server on any given day. What you should realize quickly (unless your Intellect is unbuffed), is that with all this gold being created daily, and with most players' equipment either being bought off the AH or looted from a dead instance boss, the economy soon bloats.

And it would, were it not for Blizz's use of money sinks. That term refers to any means by which money is removed from the game environment, and they're everywhere. Vendors are the most obvious money sink, and we buy from them a lot more often than we realize. 50 silver for a Rune Thread, 6 gold for a tailoring pattern, 2 gold for a handful of Imbued Vials, 3 gold for a stack of Purified Draenic Water--it all adds up, even if we aren't conscious of it. If you're as bad at the instances as I am, then any given run results in a 15-gold repair bill. And if you're tempted to splurge on a vanity pet or what have you, then kiss a few more gold pieces goodbye. Training new skills (and re-speccing) also can lighten your purse; at Level 70 expect to pay 10 gold per new ability. Even listing items on the Auction House is fraught with hidden tariffs--the deposit cost and the 5% Auction House cut.

But by a big margin, the most daunting money sink that every player eventually encounters is the mount. At level 40, the price tag is a (comparitively) modest 90 gold. By level 60, when 90 gold seems, if not a trivial amount, then at least a realistic goal, the epic mount will set you back 630 gold. Once you've reached the pinnacle of your WoW-ness at Level 70, your normal flying mount costs a cool grand, while the awe-inspiring epic flier commands an equally stunning price: 5,200 gold.

As ludicrous as the price structure may seem, most players do eventually attain at least one or two of the mounts, thereby removing a decent chunk of change from the gamescape.

But why is that so important? Why can't players just amass thousands upon thousands of gold pieces and swim in them, sleep on them, very painfully make love to them? Quite simply, because it would cause hyperinflation. (And possibly a urinary tract infection; God only knows what else Taurens do with their gold pieces.)

The current system of money sinks is adequate for a normal economy whereby players still making their way towards Level 70 earn a substantial amount of gold, while players at the level cap abandon grinding in favor of raiding (which trades income for drool-worthy epics). An endgame player wouldn't spend his time grinding in the Elemental Plateau; he wouldn't have any need to. He would rather be blasting his way through Karazhan and stomping upon Serpentshrine Cavern.

Ah, but then what's the problem? Why is this well-designed economy still potentially headed for disaster? I know, and maybe you already do as well, but if you don't, you'll have to wait till the next blog... /dance

Gold Farming pt. 1: Introduction

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon in the Alliance capital of Stormwind, and the radiance of the sun flooded its paved streets with a brilliant chrome sheen. Adventurers of every stripe congregated outside of doorways, unhurriedly taking their finds to the Auction House or paying their respects to Highlord Bolvar Fordragon in the keep. Suddenly a Level 1 character bolts up to the mailbox and exhorts, "Visit [URL deleted] for the best WoW Gold Prices~ $5.99 per 100G delivered in 1-24 hrs. Powerlevel 1-70 for $359 7 days guaranteed, Honorfarming $14.99 per 10K honor AV"

We're all familiar with this bizarre phenomenon in some form or another. Perhaps you've never had the misfortune of hearing one of these gold farmers hawking their wares in Orgrimmar, but surely you've stumbled upon the "player" who grinds for countless hours without so much as going AFK for a bio, or the 5000-gold piece of Linen Cloth that someone put on the neutral Auction House to transfer funds to whichever faction bought them. Failing that, surely you've heard the derogative terms "Chinese farmer" or "Ebayer", used to denigrate players who play so atrociously that they couldn't have earned their level and equipment, but instead shelled out real-life money for them.

It all seems too ludicrous to be true, until you do a Google search for "World of Warcraft gold" or something similar, and find hundreds of sites willing to sell you not only gold, but powerleveling as well. Blizzard has unwittingly spawned an inchoate industry that pulls in millions of (non-virtual) dollars annually. Unfortunately for both the players and the gold farmers who rely on their work as a matter of survival, gold farming is a self-destructive industry.

Let's examine for a second the possible impetus for gold farming, or more accurately, the compulsion to convert real-life currency for its in-game equivalent. Not many can argue that World of Warcraft is a deeply engaging game, but as characters become more powerful, an exponentially larger investment of time (and gold) is required to continue progress. At level 5 it would not be unusual to level up within an hour, but at level 50 that elusive ding could take days. Unfortunately, free time in real life does not always accommodate this ever-steepening curve, and there is immense pressure (from guild mates as well as from endgame content that requires a high level) to continue advancing toward Level 70. Hence, some players find it necessary to tip the scales in their favor by purchasing gold.

They do so, ultimately, at their own peril. Blizzard has not been shy about hitting gold buyers with their epic 2-handed mace, [The Banhammer]. And not without reason; first of all, the sale or purchase of any in-game paraphernaila--items as well as gold--is explicitly prohibited in the End-User License Agreement and the Terms of Use. Thousands of accounts have been erased, millions of collective man-hours deleted, because of the compulsion to buy 100 gold for $5.99.

That's nothing compared to what the supply side has suffered. In a 2006 crackdown against the gold farming industry, Blizzard nuked over 30,000 accounts, sending an amount of gold estimated to be nearly a billion into the depths of the Molten Core. At current market prices, 1 billion gold could sell for nearly $60 million.

Blizzard sure seems like a big bully in this market, but there must be a reason why gold selling is against the EULA, right?

Right--but I've reached the end of this blog entry. I'll get to the reasons next time around, I promise. /bye

Friday, October 12, 2007

Who is this guy and what's he think he's doing?

Hello everyone, and welcome to my blog, The World of Warcraft Times. To make a long story short, it's always seemed to me that the world has too many computer-game blogs written in a "serious" light, where the writer insists he's the pwnage and anyone who disagrees (or, heaven forbid, plays the game because it's fun and not just to mock those who aren't uber leet) isn't worthy of holding a mouse. Well, I'm not what you'd call a serious player by any means, and my goal here isn't to belittle anyone just because they aren't in full Tier 6. God knows I'll never have that kind of gear anyway.

No, what I want to do here is have fun in the name of WoW. I uncover the latent humor that's inherent in this game we play, wherever it lurks--PvP Battlegrounds, instances, Outland, or some remote corner of Kalimdor--and make it accessible to every player. I get in depth with topics that are usually only /w, er, whispered about: gold farming, power leveling, item duplication, GM duping. (No, I won't advocate any of them, but I will poke fun at the people who do.)

Yeah, that's all well and good. You might even be interested in reading future posts now. But I can hear you mumbling, "Fine, but who is this Kefra guy, and how dare he presume to write about WoW when I bet he's some lowbie 11-year-old sharing his older brother's account!" Fair enough. This is who I am:

Kefra, Level 70 Human Paladin. Retribution spec. Not great gear, but pretty decent considering how often I get to run instances (roughly three times per ice age). It's always a surprise to my group when I top the damage meters: "omg a retardadin out dps'd me wtf"

Skeeve, Level 70 Human Mage. Hybrid, Arcane/Fire build. Even worse gear, but at least I managed to make the Spellfire set. Has more epics than my main, but also still has several greens, /sigh. If I burn my cooldowns, I can get a Pyroblast to crit around 4700. It ain't a 10k Shadowbolt, but it's not bad, either.

Minikefra, Level 70 Human Warrior (yes, I am aware I have a human fetish). Protection spec. Truly pathetic gear. It looks half-decent but most of it was bought off the auction house, so meh. And before you ask, I'm a horrible tank. I was press-ganged into tank spec by my guild and have yet to get the hang of it...

Tatsuo, Level 59 Night Elf (gasp!) Rogue. Combat spec. Tatsuo's my semi-twink (which is my way of saying I'm too cheap to hit 60 and shell out 640 gold for yet another epic mount). Besides, it's fun to stunlock stuff in Arathi Basin, and 59 is the only level bracket that hasn't been flooded with twinks...yet. Plus, it's ridiculously easy to twink 59, with Outland greens besting epics.

Aragom, Level 19 Human Warrior. Weird spec. He used to be my brother's, until he quit. I twinked him as best I could, but seeing as he's about 85% of the way to level 20, that rules out a lot of quest-reward twink gear. (No, he doesn't have a Sentry Cloak. Would you pay 150 gold for 2 agility?)

I like to think I have a fair amount of WoW experience and lore to share. Stay tuned, the actual content is coming soon.