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Gold-Making in MoP

I had a guild member ask me what I have been up to so far on the AH side of things, and I figured I may as well share here too.

The backbone of my routine is/was the Saronite Elementium Ghost Iron Shuffle. Basically, you buy stacks of Ghost Iron Ore at X gold, then through Prospecting/Alchemy/Enchanting/etc you turn it into a product worth X+Y gold. Every realm/faction market is different, so individual research will be needed to find the values for X and Y. Right now, for example, I buy Ghost Iron Ore at 4g apiece (and below). This ore ends up being:

  • Smelted into Ghost Iron Bars –> Transmuted into Trillium Bars –> Transmuted into Living Steel
  • Prospected –> Rare gems cut for >60g minimum
  • Prospected –> Uncommon gems turned into necks/rings –> Rare necks/rings procs sold for 300g, uncommon necks/rings Disenchanted for Dust
  • Disenchanted Dust –> Enchanting scrolls and/or sold for mats

After a while, I started getting exceedingly lazy and stopped prospecting altogether. Instead, I keep an eye on the Golden Lotus market and snatch any up that are 50g or less. From there, I keep ~5 of each flask up on the AH and then Transmute the rest into Rare gems which I cut and sell for a minimum of 60g, but generally 100g+. This probably lowers my margins significantly, but once I made it back up to my 300k starting gold reserves (even after gambling ~100k on Darkmoon trinkets), relisting hundreds of auctions a day becomes less and less interesting.

One market I was surprised to find was the Ghost Iron Dragonling. While most Engineers will be dumping a bunch on their way up to 600, what I have found is that in 99% of the cases they list them without bothering to fill in the Cog sockets. Considering the item is damn near useless without them – and taking a cue from someone spamming trade chat for an Engineer to make some – I started selling mine with a variety of useful Cogs already slotted in; configurations like Haste/Mastery/Spirit, Haste/Crit/Mastery, Hit/Expertise/Dodge, and so on. Remarkably, they continue to sell at an absurd mark-up: 750g apiece compared to the empty ~200g models.

Presently, I am buying up a bunch of Ghost Iron Ore again, in preparation for the new Blacksmith changes coming in 5.2, and the whole Lightning Steel Ingot deal. I am somewhat doubtful that the price of ore will jump up in the long-term on my particular backwater server, but I figure I may as well start stockpiling now. In fact, it is far more likely that my server will experience a lack of availability than a lack of affordable goods. Until a week ago, you could not find Blood Spirits at any price, for example.

MoP Thus Far

It has been weeks, and I just hit level 88 on the paladin.

I have established a pretty stable routine based on daily profession cooldowns, which is a good sign to anyone that wishes me to continue logging in everyday. Scribe, Tailor, and then JC/Alchemy. I mentioned before that the AH on Auchindoun-US is pretty garbage, and things have not especially improved since that first impression. Instead, I have adapted. Glyphs, for example, were a market I avoided previously because the value for my time just was not there with the botting and the undercut wars. Now? The competition is basically one baron with a 699g fallback that I undercut by 100-200g depending on my mood. In fact, since I’m just using Auctionator instead of a more robust addon, I simply order all glyphs by highest price and use that as my guide for production.

By the way, many virtual tears were shed when I realized how utterly useless my 50 stacks of banked Twilight Jasmine and hundreds of other Cataclysm herbs became. The two dozen stacks of Pyrite Ore got prospected into gems which turned into rings which turned into nicely priced Enchanting materials. Blackfallow Ink, though? Good for only a single glyph… and Mysterious Fortune Cards. Better than vendoring the herbs, I suppose. I hope.

Something I always find interesting is how much Blizzard changes the paradigms with each expansion. After two straight expansions of alt-friendliness, Mists is the most alt-unfriendly expansion I have ever seen. The whole Spirit of Harmony thing in particular is maddening as someone with alts of every profession. Specialized crafting components being BoP is nothing new (Frozen Orbs say hi), but what is somewhat new is how early in the process they are required for goods. Level 85 blue Blacksmithing weapons requiring 2 Spirits at skill level 545? Why?

Speaking of crafting, I don’t know how I feel about its present trajectory. Blizzard has been simplifying the process for years, of course, but my return after a 1.5-year break makes the culmination stand out. Specifically: do people really like random-stat crafted gear? Or how Ghost Iron is basically the de facto resource for all Blacksmithing? Or completely interchangeable Enchanting ingredients? Some historical aspects of crafting were becoming increasingly obtuse as the game aged – Enchanting rods come to mind – but there is something to be said about requiring more than two moving parts and/or working towards a specific item. Hell, I was immensely relieved when I saw the level 90 crafted JC rings/necklaces were specific things with concrete stats.

Anyway, my immediate goal is to get the paladin to 90 so that I can unlock the farm. While that sentence was a bit depressing to type, it is more painful to me knowing that while I make it a point to log in daily for the profession cooldowns, I am continuously missing all the easy Spirits of Harmony (etc) that I could be gaining while I putz around looking for a new main. I have not tanked on the paladin yet – part of me rebels against the necessity of memorizing yet more mob/boss abilities – but I am definitely not a real fan of the Retribution rotation/kit anymore. At least compared to how fun/fast I was mowing down mobs as the warrior anyway.

Although… well, I did have a bit of a giggle Bubble-Hearthing away from two separate gank attempts. Just like old (TBC)  times.

Things Are Looking Grim

Yeah… I’m not sure about this whole WoW thing anymore. Again.

I have not really bothered logging in since the last time I wrote about it, which means I am less than 10 quests into the expansion on any character. On Tuesday, I had an extra long length of time available to play, so I buckled down for the long-haul. Before heading out of Stormwind again though, I decided to continue feeding Auctionator some additional data and perhaps looking into pimping my 85s a bit with some blue gear. Or, hey! I have alts with professions that need leveled, so why not kill half a dozen birds with some AH stones in the form of buying some crafting mats?

Let’s see here… wait a minute…

Wait, that's TOTAL?

Wait, that’s TOTAL?

I thought Auctionator was bugging out on me when it completed the AH scan in literally two seconds, while also stating there are 52 epic items scanned. “That can’t possibly be correct… can it?” Yes, in fact, it can. A generic search for epic items in all categories reveals a total of 137 auctions (presumably 52 unique items). Now, it is certainly possible that I have missed a major announcement when it comes to scaling back BoE epic items, and Wowhead is telling me there are are only 134 epic non-BoP, non-heroic raid items in this expansion.

But what is being presented to me here is truly ridiculous. Aunchindoun-US was always a low-pop server, but as my early posts under PVsAH demonstrated, there was at least a functioning marketplace where you could be a big fish in a little pond. What I am seeing is not a little pond, it is moist patch of earth. Checking even the expansion staples like Ghost Iron and Green Tea Leaves only confirmed my suspicions. My faction’s AH officially qualifies as a failed state.

This discovery completely killed the mood, and I logged off. It is obviously possible to level up and even raid without a functioning economy, but why would you? I have mentioned before that I want to play games I can invest in, or at least feel the simulation of investment. Knowing the economy is dead, knowing the server is dead, and knowing that Blizzard isn’t ever going to bite the goddamn bullet and put realms like Auchindoun out of its misery means my incentive to push forward is dead. Server transfer, I hear you ask? Literally $250. Otherwise, if I have to abandon all my alts with all their professions (and pay $25 on top of it all) just for opportunity to have fun playing your game on one character… well, I politely decline.

For the past three expansions, Blizzard has been solving all the problem elements of low-pop servers except the one that matters: the server itself. Play BGs with everyone else, run dungeons with everyone else, raid with everyone else, and now even quest with everyone else. Isn’t it about time you let us be with everyone else?

Systemic Concerns About the GW2 Economy

It may seem a bit premature to wonder about the Guild Wars 2 economy, considering the game has only be out for a week or so. But a comment by Chris K over on Syncaine’s GW2 Review post got me thinking about whether the game’s structure makes the economy unlikely to ever “recover” from its current bizzaro state:

“The trend [of crafting being pointless] will not persist. Currently people are levelling crafting only for the xp gains. It is, essentially, buying levels with gold. When the majority of these people hit the level cap then you’ll start seeing a decent economy forming.

At least I hope so…”

I have reported before that the GW2 devs made it a point of pride that the crafting system alone can get you to level 80, assuming you feed an alt enough mats. But Chris makes an astute observation that crafting, even when the market is vendor+1c, has a point: easy, scaled XP gains.

So think about it. Going 1-400 in one profession will net you 10 levels of XP at increasingly large costs (primarily in vendor mats, but also karma recipes, etc). Or you could simply go 1-40 (etc) in all eight crafting professions and net 8 levels’ worth of XP much more easily. Why wouldn’t you do this on all your alts? Or your main for that matter, considering that you continue earning Skill points for “leveling” past 80 to spend as Mystic Forge currency.

Changing crafting professions to a new one is a completely painless process with no upfront costs, and all your progress in a dropped profession is saved. Switching back to even a 400-level profession only sets you back 40s – not a completely trivial amount at current gem exchange rates, but way less than I expected. There are no profession bonuses that I know of, and even if there are BoP gear recipes, the lack of gear progression at endgame makes it a mostly moot point.

All of this + the global Trading Post + the existence of Buy/Sell Orders makes me think it unlikely that the Guild Wars 2 economy will ever meaningfully mature from its current state. I have every incentive to start all eight crafting professions on all five of my character slots, and so does everyone else. Doing exactly that will continue to put huge Demand pressure on low-level mats, even if gold inflation raises prices across the board. I can maybe see higher level gear selling for more than vendor+1c once fewer people are leveling crafting past 125 (etc), but the moment it does there will be ten thousand wannabe goblins squeezing into the margins.

Not that I am particularly complaining about the ease in which I can finance cash shop purchases here. I just think ArenaNet really screwed up in the incentive department, on the same level and scale as Blizzard did with Diablo 3. I never thought I would look back on WoW’s discrete Auction House markets and extreme Profession-hopping disincentives with nostalgia, but here we are.

If there is ever a Crafting system failure metric, the “vendor+1c” phenomenon is it.

Black Market AH

Heeeeeelllllloooo, nurse.

Yes, please.

So the lede here is that Blizzard may be introducing a “Black Market” AH into Mists that is capable of selling, say, the Ashes of Al’ar. We can have the discussion as to whether that devalues the 0.13% mount or not in a moment. What I am more interested right now is in the very notion that:

  1. These mounts (etc) potentially becoming BoE or otherwise Bind on Use.
  2. This being a brilliant money-sink into a rapidly inflationary economy.
  3. Blizzard getting into the business of selling in-game items with in-game currency.

That last point may seem odd (vendors have been around since Day 1), but what I mean is not necessarily the selling of the Ashes of Al’ar, but of any of the mounts/items that otherwise are only obtainable by grueling hours /played.

The initial reaction may be to say that this is counter-intuitive; by definition, what Blizzard is doing is making these items easier to obtain, which not only reduces their scarcity, but allows players to actually eat the carrot. In the long view, players actually accomplishing their goals is bad for business. As the classical argument goes, the Black Market AH should be the equivalent of cheat codes, which hollows out the enjoyment that comes from restrictions and limitations – an infinite life Super Mario Bros is a less fun Super Mario Bros.

However, I must ask this: is a Konami Code-less Contra a less fun Contra?

Contra Title Screen

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, get off my lawn.

Nethaera on the Blizzard forums mentions:

It’s worth noting that since we’re in beta, we’re still looking into what our philosophies are for what should and what shouldn’t be on the Black Market. We’re also trying to discern the frequency/rarity of what shows up there as well.

So perhaps we will not ultimately see the Ashes of Al’ar on the Black Market after all.

But… why shouldn’t we? I brought up Contra because, as anyone who attempted to actually play the game without the Konami Code can attest, the game was stupidly difficult to beat within the default number of lives. So much so, that I imagine few would even try without the Konami Code. Thus, the Konami “cheat code” probably generated more enjoyment in the aggregate than was lost from “bypassing” the difficulty.

In other words, while the “legitimate” owners of Al’ar or the TCG items or whatever Blizzard ends up selling on the Black Market do “lose” something of value (scarcity), I believe the incremental gain by everyone else results in a net positive. Obviously, the average player doesn’t have the 200,000g+ that it will require to actually obtain these items, but they couldn’t get a group together to farm Kael’thas either. What the average player can do is farm herbs or run dailies and otherwise set X amount of gold as a goal to reach in the pursuit of Al’ar; something that was largely unobtainable before, but now has a “reasonable” path towards.

Will these undoubtedly obscene prices encourage gold-sellers? Maybe, maybe not. Just keep in mind that unlike the sale of BoE raiding epics – whose prices already can encourage gold selling – the final gold price of Black Market items are removed from the economy permanently, regardless of whether they can be resold or are BoP from the mailbox. Any reduction in inflation is a net positive for everyone.

So, I say: bring it on. And not just because I have oodles of gold with nothing else to buy.

P.S. The Daily Blink has the right idea:

WTB that Actual Subscriber Data.

Mobile AH Game Changer?

[Edit: I may or may not have been a bit premature. If the change below doesn't auto-update the price as I assumed (in a sort of reverse-eBay bidder style), it merely matches the functionality of addons like Auctionator et tal. Apologies for the excitement, although if Blizzard continues down a road of making canceling/relisting easier, it could begin to cross over into premium competitive advantage.]

This is, by far, one of the most game changing features to the World of Warcraft AH I could ever imagine:

The iPhone World of Warcraft Mobile Armory has just been updated! Check out all the improvements we’ve included in the latest version:

  • Automatic price undercutting: Set the default buyout price of your auctions to match or undercut the current lowest buyout price for an item.
  • etc (source)

In one fell swoop, Blizzard has introduced a premium feature that simultaneously grants an unbeatable competitive advantage that destroys an entire economic methodology AND damn near makes AH botting obsolete. And possibly even entire addons. What am I talking about? I am talking about how AH barons can become immune to undercutting for $3/month. The simplicity and genius of it boggles my mind.

Just think about the glyph industry in WoW. The entirety of blog posts and guides devoted to becoming a captain of the glyph industry revolves around pushing other players out of the glyph market. Why? Because glyphs, by their very nature, are easy to create and have trivial listing fees. If I post a glyph for 200g and someone else lists the same glyph for 199g99s99c, I just lost that sale. In order to recapture it, I will have to cancel my undercut listing(s), collect the mail, and then go to AH and A) undercut the other guy by 1 copper, B) undercut deeply, or C) engage in economic/psychological PvP to drive this guy from the market.

Simply put, this changes everything. There are thousands of articles across the internet about setting up addons like Zero Auctions (etc) in creating Fallback prices and thresholds and so on, which this change completely invalidates. Toss your Glyph of X on the Mobile AH for 300g and set the threshold at 20g (or whatever). If someone pulls a 299g99s99c, they instantly get undercut by you. While they are spending time canceling, emptying the mailbox, and relisting, you are doing nothing. Relist goes up to 299g99s97c, automatically undercut again. There is no way to beat this. No longer will you be checking your glyphs 2-3 times a day, doing 12 hour posts, posting at 6 AM or other odd hours, emptying thousands of mails, etc. Assuming you set a sale threshold you are willing to accept, camping the AH as an economic strategy becomes obsolete. I am trying to come up with historical examples of strategies that have becomes this obsolete… and I am drawing a blank. Knights in full plate armor against the crossbow? Castles as defensive structures after gunpowder? Trench warfare after the invention of mustard gas?

One of the biggest reasons to NOT use the Mobile AH feature, aside from it costing $3/month, was how it was always more efficient and convenient to use your existing addons. While I do not think the Mobile AH is particularly well-suited for heavy AH usage interface-wise, the auto-undercut feature alone makes not using it impossible in an environment where anyone is. Forget glyphs for a second… what about gems or epics or other goods with non-insignificant deposit fees? I assume the auto-undercut feature will not charge you each time (that seems too large a trap for an unwary premium feature user), but if that is the case then you can literally bleed other stubborn goblins dry as they cancel and relist items with Xg deposits. Assuming the undercut logic is programmed well, you may not even need to care what the market price is for a good at all: just list everything starting at 300g and let it auto-adjust downwards for you.

The one negative implication – aside from people who forgo the app and to whom this entire announcement spells economic ruin – is when you get one or more persons with this app in the same market: without collusion, prices will automatically bottom out at the lowest threshold. Good news for the average player, of course, but bad news for anyone looking for margins that justify the crafting time. Then again, perhaps you could bait someone with this app into automatically bottoming out their prices, buying all the stock, and then relisting higher as they blithely go about enjoying their day in the knowledge that the app is doing their work for them. So perhaps some of the old strategies can still work…

In any case, this feels like a strange new economic world, my friends.

WarcraftEcon Interview

The 500k milestone interview is now up at WarcraftEcon.

If you read my 500k post two weeks ago, you will basically already know what is inside, gold-wise. It does have some more personal tidbits, however, including two mini-rant-esque paragraphs that I have hitherto keep out of this space, vis-a-vis the terrible design of Glyphs and my opinion on selling gold guides:

Why did you choose to collect this amount of gold?

My ultimate goal was to hit this level of gold without relying on selling Glyphs, to demonstrate that the worst piece of game design Blizzard has ever released was not necessary to generate wealth. Fundamentally, turning herbs into Glyphs should not be any different than turning herbs into flasks, but I abhor the way Glyphs ended up playing out. Instead of accessibility, here is a profession that discourages competition, encourages collusion, and has a ridiculous add-on requirements before you can even hope to get started. When the “right way” to run a profession is to have three guild banks and process thousands of canceled mail a day, you know it should be time to go back to the white board. [...]

How did you learn to do it? Anyone or resource you would like to thank?

I was more or less self-taught by experimentation, back in the TBC days when it seemed like no one really knew what they were doing. I would like to thank the members of my guild, Invictus, for putting up with all the unsolicited, in-game financial advice over the years. Also a shout out to all the gold bloggers selling gold guides for giving me the incentive to try and undermine their business by running a free blog without any advertisements of any kind. It may not be working out that way, but it is the thought that counts.

Regarding the latter, 5+ months into this process I can begin to see the appeal. I remember a post by a blogger a month or two ago talking about they get somewhere around $120/month from ads, “not enough to live on,” but that is basically my car payment, so… wow. Then again, once you start down that road the motivations change, not to mention websites become an unreadable mess without AdBlock running. I checked out JMTC on a particularly slow day from work and could hardly even see the post below a 128×128 pixel ad from IRL gold sellers (height of irony, eh?).

In any case, new viewer or old, welcome to Player Vs Auction House. I post once or twice a week, usually close to midnight EST as I work second shift and enjoy playing WoW for a bit when I get home. Bookmark or blogroll, I hope to see you around.