Wednesday, April 27, 2011

OT: Crushing Blow

[note: Blizzard updated the notes after I wrote this, but before I posted. See Edit at bottom]

The inexplicably undocumented Arena point change has been a huge blow to my drive to PvP in WoW. In case you missed it - you know, focusing on all the gold-making and "versus AH" opportunities - the way Conquest points are earned have been radically changed. Pre-4.1, you had to win five games to cap yourself to the week, regardless of whether you were at the minimum 1343 (sub-1500 rating) or at 2000+ (over 1500). This may have seemed too "easy" for some, but the entire point of personal/team MMR is to put you against other teams/players that will result in a 50% win percentage. In other words, you are expected to play 10 games in order to win those 5.

Now? Blizzard has at least doubled the required number of games everyone has to play to achieve the same results. If you do 2s for points with your friends, you are going to be playing 20 games instead of 10. If you are above 1500 rated, you will be playing exponentially more - a 1600 Conquest point cap, for example, means I need 12 wins, or 24 games... 14 more than last week. A 2300 cap is 18 wins or 34 expected games at a high level of play. This is what I wrote on the MMO-Champ forums:

You guys really aren't getting it.

1) This change hugely impacts everyone who does Arenas: it is at least doubling the amount of Arena game wins each player needs to have to get capped each week. If you are below 1500, it now takes 10 wins instead of 5. Blizzard balances your MMR around the idea of a 50% win percentage, meaning they expected you to play 10 games to win 5, capping yourself out. Last expansion, you could /dance or /afk your way through 10 games per week for points; the pre-4.1 change let people cap early if they get lucky (going 5-0), but if you have a lower win percentage you could end up going 5-13 and do more games than last expansion. This new change doubles the amount of games everyone needs to play. Now your "for fun + points" teams will be running an average of 20 games instead of 10, and the upper-crust PvPers could be required to play an average of 40+ games instead of 10. Between the queue times and how long matches can last (at any level), we are talking about a massive, extra drain on your time.

2) No warning whatsoever. Patch was on the PTR for months, and a fundamental redesign of the Arena system was pushed through like a Congressional earmark on a budget resolution at the 11th hour? Not only that, Blizzard already knows it "may be too low" but they pushed it anyway?

3) All of this smacks as a back-handed move to push Arena players of all stripes into Rated BGs for Conquest Points - "Hey kids, how about 4 Rated BGs instead of 20 Arena matches?" Instead of, you know, admitting that Rated BGs are a failure due to their overall design, and not the reward structure itself.

4) The lack of empathy from obvious PvE players who never Arena'd to save their life is just sad. This is the equivalent of them reducing the VP you get from dungeons from 70 to 35 (or 140 to 70), but leaving the weekly cap the same. How would you feel about suddenly needing to run twice as many heroics per week? Oh wait, "it isn't necessary to cap VP each week" so nothing changes, right?

I had not really paid any attention to the MMO-Champ forums before, but it is truly despicable garbage over there, way worse than even the official forums in terms of trolling (if you can believe that). Most of the "counter-points" were essentially saying "haha, suck it" or:

No, it's not the fact that they don't enjoy PvP, it's the fact that they don't want to grind for the same type of rewards that sole PvE players have to endure for their epics. That's why many people went to PvP in Cata due to the fact dungeons and raids are very time consuming again, and are not zergable as in Wrath... It's the extreme lack of paticence that these players have that causes them to rage, because arena battles are not as easy to farm as, say, normal 5-mans or unrated BG's... Plus, there is the rating issue... (lol)

There is a literal disconnection from reality with these people, and it is becoming impossibly hard for me to even wrap my mind around their worldview. "Extreme lack of paticence [sic]?" Is there no difference between a Tol Barad daily that requires you to kill 12 spiders and a hypothetical one that requires you to kill 24 spiders for the same reward? Is there no difference between a heroic that takes an hour to complete and one that takes two hours? What is the magical patience threshold they are using as a metric here? Imagine if it took twice as many heroics as it does currently to gain the same amount of JP/VP. Did nothing change? Did you lose nothing? Is the argument that your fun is actually increasing because you are being forced to play longer for the same goal?

I mean, good lord. Do people act like this in their real lives? "Pay freeze this year, so no raises. Oh well, nothing changed." Or does this masochism only appear when they sit down for entertainment?

I enjoy WoW PvP... more or less. On equal skill levels, the player with the better gear wins. You have to have gear to compete, as PvP sure has hell isn't balanced amongst players with 11% resilience (crafted PvP gear) and 31% resilience (4pc + weapon + trinkets) - one player is literally taking 20% more damage than the other. You know those unkillable healers running around these days? That doesn't happen in crafted gear. Well, it might happen if you both are in crafted gear, which is the reason why you are getting better gear.

Regardless, Arena games are stressful affairs to me, and random BGs typically boil down to squeezing blood-fun from the "inevitably getting farmed at your GY" stone that is Alliance PvP. If I wanted to play more Arena games, I would play more Arena games. Indeed, I do Arena on three separate toons. Now? I will be forced to cut at least one of those toons out just to scrape enough wins on whichever I decide is my main PvP toon. If this system was in place at the start of Cataclysm, I would not have geared up three toons and otherwise not have played as much.

If you cannot recognize a difference between doing 30 games across 3 characters vs 30 games on 1 character, or are dismissive of the former because "it's for the gear," then... I have to question your sanity. You are playing an MMO; being rewarded for the things you do is not something dirty, it's a huge part of the game. If the reward doesn't match the effort, you don't do it. If you disagree, well, I expect to see an Armory link of your main with "the Insane" title along with your response.

Which, ironically, would only prove my point.

Edit: Check out this post by Zarhym:

We saw that Arenas and Rated Battlegrounds were over-rewarding players for the time investment required, particularly compared to point gains in PvE. We felt the change we went live with in the patch was a little bit too low and overcompensating though, so we buffed up the numbers for wins just a bit to 180 (Arenas) and 400 (Rated BGs).
This changes the math a bit, but not by much - 8 wins (16 games) instead of 10 for casual Arena players, ~13 wins (26 games) for the upper crust. Make no mistake about one thing though: the Blizzard designers are very concerned about how rewarding you find the game. Fun cannot be metered out too quickly, because why else would you be playing, amirite? Think about that next time you find yourself grinding out Therazane rep for your 25 extra stats on shoulders. That kind of shit is mathed out on an Excel spreadsheet, and they just added three more lever presses before the Conquest Point food pellet comes out.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Million Gold Question

What would I do with 1 million gold?

The same thing anyone else would do: nothing different.

If you have been using Auditor for any length of time, there is feature of it that is useless 99% of the time, but this happens to fall under the 1%: total audit. The release of 4.0 broke most of my addons beyond repair, so this is only since Cataclysm was released:

I broke the 400k mark for the first time a few days ago, but nearly 2 million gold has whipped through my bags in the last five months. Does that not count? Why do I say "I've broken the 400k mark for the first time?" And for that matter, what exactly is the value of the 400k when, by definition, for me to have 400k means that 400k of whatever net worth I actually own is languishing in my bags, getting no return?

Gold is primarily a way to keep score, for gold bloggers and many non-bloggers. If my gold total goes up from day-to-day, that means I'm Charlie Sheen winning. Except that really does not make any sense. If I was serious about reaching a cap or maximizing my potential, I would not have 400k in my bags, I would have 400k worth of items in play on the AH. At the same time, WoW is a game to me, the AH is a game within a game Inception-style, and juggling 400k worth of items on a daily basis is just too much.

Thus I am skeptical of when bloggers like Mageshadow say:

I'm almost at 600k, what would I do with my million gold? Trading Card Game mounts for one, I've had my eye on a swift spectral tiger for a while, and a mottled drake & a riding turtle wouldn't hurt. I'd also probably buy a couple achievements/mounts that are obtained through raiding, mainly Invincible and Mimiron's head. I'd also probably hand out some gifts to my friends, mainly choppers and sandstone drakes.
None of those things require 600k to purchase, so why wait? One million is a number. And actually, it is a pretty arbitrary number when you have already "handled" 1.8 million. If I had one million liquid gold I would get the Warcraft Econ interview and... nothing else. Maybe it does become easier in some peoples' minds to spend the gold when they have finally achieved their "goal," but I doubt that ever ends up being the case. Most people who make this much gold have made it because A) they have a hard time spending gold, and/or B) they are addicted to getting an ever-increasing high score. Spending 100k on a Spectral Tiger is indistinguishable from losing 100k on bad Glyph bet (or whatever) to such people. I especially think it's funny buying mounts when you can only use one mount at a time - you cannot ride Invincible, Mimiron's Head, the Riding Turtle, Sandstone Drake, and the Spectral Tiger at the same time.

Then again, maybe I'm just crazy.

P.S. Regarding those two epic weapons I got off Trade for 11k apiece...

P.P.S. I am still fairly confident that BoE epics will retain their value despite ZA/ZG coming out, simply because of the 346 ilevel requirement to zone in. The only sales you should be losing would be to the budget raiders who believe the 353 is good enough for them (and are willing to farm heroics), as compared to the 359 BoE. Odds are good that budget raiders weren't buying many epic BoEs anyway.

P.P.P.S. If ZA/ZG is faceroll out of the gate though, all bets are off.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the Meantime

Not a whole lot to talk about in the gold space, at the moment. Patch 4.1 may or may not be next week, and that will surely shake things up quite a bit, but you already knew that. In the meantime, enjoy these Trade Chat finds:

The text version of the first picture is I bought Maldo's Sword Cane and Chelley's Staff of Dark Mending for 11,000g apiece and then turned and listed them for 28k and 29k. Sadly, they did not sell instantly like the tanking shoulders, but I relisted them tonight for a more reasonable 21k and 22k - I have every confidence of moving them before next Tuesday, but even if I do not, 11k for a 359 weapon is certainly something I would be willing to pay to buy from a vendor, if there were such a thing.

The second picture is of a guy whispering me about my 21k Darkmoon Card: Tsunami. Turns out he bought a Tsunami deck for 16.5k, but didn't realize that he had to wait until the Darkmoon Faire was in town to get the trinket. His deal? He would trade me his deck + 2 Maelstrom Crystals + 1000g for my completed trinket. All because he did not feel like waiting two weeks. Hey, I don't blame him, I hate waiting too. So I sealed the deal, put the deck in the bank, and pulled out Darkmoon Card: Tsunami #2 and listed that one for the same 21k. Got to keep the shelves stocked to keep the customers happy, you know?

Uber trade deals like these could be flukes, sure. It certainly is not some sort of residual business or source of daily income. But the thing about lightning not striking twice is that few people think to set up a lightning rod... which simply means more potential lightning for you.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Using the AH as Your Bank

A few weeks ago, you may recall that I made a completely unnecessary personal purchase of Fury of Angerforge, ostensively to twink out one of my almost-85 alts. Even after both the DK and Warrior hit 85, I held off, as increasingly it is becoming apparent that my love of certain classes revolves around individual abilities and not the total package. For example, the first time I saw a warrior Heroic Leaping from the AH to the bank, I knew I wanted to level mine up. As a paladin, I have mobility-envy all the time anyway, but the ability to just kind of get goofy on a minute cooldown? Sign me up. Hell, I would have race-changed to Worgen (or goblin even!) had that race been able to be paladins.

Anyway, as it turns out, you spend a lot of time rooted in PvP, as a warrior. And without a healbot, you die rather quickly. I probably spend an equivalent amount of time Feared on the paladin, but the uselessness I feel is greater rooted as a warrior than Feared as a paladin.

In between the purchase of the trinket for 28,500g and my figuring out whether the warrior was for me, I was listing the Angerforge trinket on the AH for 45,000g. I had zero expectation that the trinket would sell for this amount. The principal here is simple. Sequestered away in my bank, the value of the trinket is effectively zero - I wasn't planning on selling it, but I was not using it either, despite having spent ~7% of my liquid bank for the option; I consider the initial 28.5k to be sunk costs. Meanwhile, if there even existed a 0.1% chance it would sell for 45,000g (a return of 16,500g), that would be worth the periodic 10g deposit every few days. Worst case scenario? I equip it on one of my toons a month or two from now and am out ~150g over the course of the month, which is minuscule compared to the kind of gold I write off as business expenses, e.g. canceling and reposting cut gems.

Then, I got this surprise:

Using the AH as your bank is not always feasible, of course. For example, there is no real point in keeping stacks of 400g Hypnotic Dust in there. Okay, well there actually might be a point in doing that, but not in the sense I am talking about today. Epic BoE items work amazingly well for this principal, as the supply is understandbly limited. Some crafted epics work as well, like Tsunami Decks.

In any case, when choosing your price, the important thing is not chosing a price based on what you would consider a good return on the "initial investment." That term is in air quotes because (presumably) you did not buy the item for its investment properties, but rather for your own future use. Rather, choose a price at which you would feel good about losing the future utility of the item. This isn't about opportunity cost, this is about pricing items that you had not planned on selling at all. Angerforge at 28.5k was at the upper end of the bang-for-my-buck scale. Flipping it for 35,000g might have been a reasonable return for some people, but an anemic 19% return on five-digit investment is not good enough for me. Nearly double that percentage though? Now we're talking.

Let me use a more pedestrian example: Inferno Rubies. I have a bunch of cut gems up on the AH at any given time, but I always try to maintain at least 10 uncut Inferno Rubies in my bank. Why? Because the absolute last thing I want to happen is to get a new piece of PvP gear or whatever, not have any Inferno Rubies to socket into it, go to the AH, and suddenly see that Inferno Rubies happen to be at 150g or something ridiculous. The personal value of the 11th Infero Ruby in my bank is signifigantly less than the first 10 - I would sell the 11th for whatever the market price happens to be at the moment, but the other ten would have to be at least double that for me to sacrifice the feeling of safety that having them conveys.

So, what I suggest is for you to head to your bank, take a gander at all of the varied sort of sellable knick-nacks or epics or stockpiled goods, and simply put them up on the AH for a price you feel is high enough for you to have justified selling them at to begin with (instead of warhousing them for the indefinite future) and see what happens. Most, if not all, will come back to you and you'll be out the deposit cost. Sometimes though, you will be that one guy out there with an item that someone else just cannot wait until tomorrow to purchase at a fraction of the cost. Being out there is always better than not.

Either way, enjoy the extra bank space.

Monday, April 11, 2011

OT: The Final Tanking Solution

There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the systemic problems with the LFD feature when it comes to tanks, and quite frankly, a lot of truly bizarre "fixes."

Rohan from Blessing of Kings thinks that maybe we should move from the Holy Trinity (e.g. tank, healer, 3 DPS) to something like 2 tanks, 2 healers, 2 DPS. While that seems out of the blue, apparently it is more similar to what Age of Conan was (is?) doing. Green Armadillo at Player Vs Developer thinks that since there are more DPS than the other roles, why not simply have a tank, healer, and 7 DPS? Gordon from We Fly Spitfires thinks that simply no one wants to play those roles, and so Blizzard should either make those things more fun to do or perhaps give up on the Holy Trinity model altogether. Adam from The Noisy Rogue asks why Blizzard is bribing tanks when they could simply make running heroics required for raiding by adding a (stacking) buff for completing them. Incidentally, Adam appears to hate non-pure DPS classes and wishes them pain. Gevlon from The Greedy Goblin thinks it is an "education" issue that should be fixed by somehow teaching people how to play better (or how to tank), and that no amount of bribery will work.

And to round it out, here is actually Blizzard's official take on the situation:
We don't feel the tanking and healing roles have any inherent issues that are causing the representation disparity, except that fulfilling them carries more responsibility. Understandably, players prefer to take on that responsibility in more organized situations than what the Dungeon Finder offers, but perhaps we can bribe them a little.
With Great DPS-Power, Comes... No Responsibility 
All of these "solutions" flirt around the two problems, outlining what is really going on in the vaguest of ways. Tanking (and healing) carry more responsibility... why? Easy: tanks and healers cannot be carried. When a tank fails, by definition, the group wipes. When a healer fails, the group wipes. There can be sloppy play, for sure, like a tank not positioning the boss correctly, or not reacting to a certain ability the correct way. However, if the group is still able to rally and defeat the boss anyway, the "failure" really is not a failure. Conversely, DPS failing generally means that the DPS died, which is not that big a deal...

...until now. 

Problem 1: Cataclysm dungeons are (still) too difficult for the LFD tool.

The first time I zoned into the revamped Shadowfang Keep and saw that there were actually three separate spells that a DPS could (and has had to in two cases) interrupt on Baron Ashbury, I knew I would despise this expansion. Commander Springvale, Lady Naz'jar, Rom'ogg Bonecrusher, Corla, Herald of Twilight, Ammunae, Setesh, Rajh, Corborus, (post-patch) Asaad, Foe Reaper 5000, Admiral Ripsnarl, "Captain" Cookie... all of these bosses from nearly every single heroic have mechanics that the DPS has to take care of or else the group wipes. Blizzard actually thought they could add responsibility onto the historically least responsible role and have everything work out? Nevermind the endless mob packs that need CCing along the way.

It might come as a shock, but bad players play this game. I do not subscribe to Gevlon's "M&S" sociopathy, but there is a full spectrum of player abilities out there, and not every one is tall enough to ride this roller coaster, so to speak, especially after jacking up the scale a few more inches. You cannot keep these players out of the LFD tool though, because there are not enough "good" players to support the function - as I mentioned back in February, there has to be a critical mass of success going on for the tool to operate at a self-sustaining level. No matter what you think about the LFD tool, it is still entirely better than trying to make your own non-guild group, as otherwise you would be doing that instead of sitting in a DPS queue for 45 minutes.

I Ain't Got Time to Bleed
Speaking of sitting around for 45 minutes...
Problem 2: Cataclysm dungeons (still) take too long.

It is bad enough that having one (or two) bad players from the LFDisaster lottery in your group can torpedo an entire heroic run. What drives the situation into an irredeemable farce that it is today is asking raid-geared tanks to slog through perfect no-wipe, no-death runs... in 50+ minutes. All for 70 Valor Points. Every other non-raid aspect of this game is designed around being completed in 30 minutes or less. TB dailies? 30 minutes. Battlegrounds? 30 minutes. Arena games? They can technically last for 47 minutes or whatever, but most games last no more than ~3 minutes * 10 games (assuming 50% win percentage), so ~30 minutes. What happened to 30 minute heroics? As I have openly opined in this space before, where are all the players asking for 5-man raids on their off-nights?

Blizzard seems to be addressing this particular problem, e.g. 70 VP/hour not being good enough, without actually addressing the equally (if not moreso) pressing Problem 1. This is why their bribing "solution" will be a short-term improvement at best: I actually do plan on running LFD more often, but only because the Reins of the Raven Lord is something I have been farming off-and-on again since TBC was relevant content. So I will either get the mount rather quickly, or I will become so frustrated (again) at the prospect of running these heroics that I would rather be farming Sethekk Halls the old fashioned way, and getting done in a fraction of the time.

Always the Last Place You Look
So what is the actual final solution to this seemingly tanking crisis? Does it involve fundamentally changing the way the game is played, perhaps with 8-9 person dungeons with two tanks or whatever? Nope. How about rating systems, or game tutorials? Bzzt!

Solution: Tune Cataclysm dungeons like Wrath dungeons were tuned.

Problem solved! Did you, or anyone you know complain about DPS queues in Wrath? Not a chance. DPS queues were 11 minutes back then. Eleven minute DPS queues. Can you imagine? I can! Despite the low queue times, I still tanked on three separate toons because it was faster and I enjoyed tanking more. How could I enjoy tanking and it's responsibility? Because I had control over the outcome. You could be the worst player in the world and I would carry you kicking and screaming to a 15-20 minute LFD success. And then everyone could move on with their lives.

People did complain Wrath heroics were too easy. And you know what? Those people complain that Cataclysm dungeons are too easy. There is no satisfying those people, because they have such warped perceptions as to what daily group quests should consist of that placating them is a waste of time. These dungeons were new, relevant content the first few times you beat them. After that? They are farm content. Does anyone legitimately enjoy "challenge" on farm content? That seems like a contradiction in terms, does it not? If you are in heroic raiding content, does it please you to wipe on normal Magmaw? I find that unlikely. Challenge does not consist of RNG wipefests because you happened to be grouped with a stoned college student, a stay-at-home mom changing a diaper with one hand on the keyboard, a Fan of Knives bot, and/or the social bully studying to get his minor in Sadism.

Tanking and healing will always have more responsibility than DPSing. The goal should not be to "fix" that by adding more responsibility to DPS. All that will do is make tanking/healing more frustrating, because on top of what you already have to worry about, you have to worry about whether you will wipe through no fault of your own because Worgenlol of Random Server 316 did not interrupt the one-shot mechanic of a dungeon boss.

Challenging content does have a place in World of Warcraft and that place is in organized content. Grabbing five random players and sticking them into a group that will never exist again is not "organized content." You can even still have challenging heroic dungeons for people that want it... just don't stick those dungeons in the Dungeon Finder. The way the ravamped ZA/ZG are rolling out is a bastardized version of this, but Blizzard could do it better. Have them exist as brutal 5m content for 1-2 months or whatever, and NOT be in LFD. Then, nerf them appropriately when you finally do add them to the tool. This solution actually appeases the "save the community (that we never interacted back in vanilla/TBC)!" camp, as you could get your local e-Street Cred up for successful ZA/ZG runs while anyone else who couldn't be bothered could still get their daily 7/week VP the (now) old-fashioned way. Between the 353 gear and the doubled (!) VP gains from ZA/ZG, I do not think there would be any danger of there not being enough people running those dungeons. And when 4.2 rolls around at the end of August when it's ready? Glide ZA/ZG right into LFD.

No matter what you thought about Wrath, the one thing it indisputably got correct was how to make a vibrant, healthy LFD community. Player activity only went down after nearly a year without new content, and the prospect of another gear-reset expansion. Cataclysm player activity is down four months after launch. No, seriously. Blizzard talks big game about the design iteration process, but as we know from Wrath they kept the same difficulty model the entire expansion. I actually have little hope that they will turn Cataclysm around before plowing into that iceberg, and what we are likely to see is another brutal raid tier in Firelands and less reasons to feel the need to log on every day. Design decisions like "let's require endboss kills before they can get a 4pc bonus!" sound good on paper (and quells the forum trolls), but in practice it makes people less interested in ANY tier pieces. Cataclysm difficulty? Same kind of deal.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Data-Mine Shaft

Nearly every blogger has talked about the data-mined gem vendor changes (including myself), but there have been a few people questioning the potential veracity of the change itself. This is from Stede over at Venture LLT:
Is this bad news?  Not really.  Blizzard gets about 2-3 weeks to test a patch build on the PTR.  To understand how a drop in the vendor price would work its way through the WoW economy over a much longer span of time, they have to take it to the extreme.  The good news is that 75s won't make it ever make it onto live servers.  The not so good news is that Blizzard is seems to be openly considering dropping the vendor price of cut uncommon gems.  My best guess, the vendor price will likely be about half of what it is now - that's ~4.5 gold.
Other people have pointed out, repeatedly, that this is data-mined information, and "remember epic gem cooldowns in Wrath?!" Well, of course. The issue is that this vendor price change was long overdue:

Gem Uncut Vendor Cut Vendor
Blood Garnet 25s 25s
Living Ruby 3g 3g
Crimson Spinel 5g 6g
Bloodstone 25s 50s / 1g
Scarlet Ruby 3g 4.5g
Cardinal Ruby 5g 9g
Carnelian 5g 9g
Inferno Ruby 3g 3.75g
??? ??? ???

It never made any sense that the uncommon gem cut and vendored for more than the rare gem, let alone how uncommon gems vendored for the same as the epic gems of the previous expansion. While this high vendor price provided a fairly stable floor price in ore despite the flooding of bots, an unintended consequence is that it never made any sense to sell cut/perfect uncommon gems on the AH (e.g. Bold Carnelian, Perfect Solid Zephyrite). As Wrath frequently demonstrated, there was a fairly stable, low-volume market of parsimonious gemmers that were okay saving 5-10g by putting +12 Strength into an empty slot instead of +16 Strength.

This market has undoubtedly been underserved by this artificially high price in Cataclysm, so I would not necessarily despair when it comes to ore prices. It makes prospecting riskier from an absolute standpoint, but there will be people making gold out there by selling cut uncommon gems competitively without having to worry about the rather obscene deposit cost (which is a function of an item's vendor cost).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sinking Ships

I think it is fair to say Cataclysm has not been going according to plan.

Right in the middle of my writing a very long post about the Great Tank Bribe of 2011, we get hit with a few more broadsides:
  • Honor is now purchasable from the Justice Commodities Vendor at 250 Honor per 375 Justice.
  • Justice is now purchasable from the Honor Commodities Vendor at 250 Justice per 375 Honor.
  • Conquest is now purchasable from the Valor vendor at 250 Conquest per 250 Valor.
  • Any cut of uncommon gem now sells to NPC for 75 silver instead of 9 gold.
Not to mention the things we already know:
  • The rate at which Honor Points are earned has been doubled.
  • Revamped ZA/ZG granting 140 VP.
  • Daily heroics --> 7/week heroics.
  • Tanks getting gold, gems, flasks, non-combat pets (including cross faction), and mounts.
All of this for Patch Four "WE SWEAR FIRELANDS ISN'T BEING DELAYED" Point One. Or perhaps it should be called Patch Four "Precipitous Subcriber Activity Freefall Solutions" Point One. Individually, each one of these could change the entire gaming landscape for millions of people, and they are all happening together.

The easiest change to grasp is the (data-mined) change of cut uncommon gems going from what we all knew was a ridiculous 9g vendor price down to 75s. This radically undermines the safety net of bot-bought ore for Shuffling purposes as the True Vendor Price (TVP) going from 54g for Obsidium to 4.5g a stack. Will that stop the bots from burying us under a mountain of cheap ore? Nope. What else will they farm? More herbs? It is correct that such a high TVP meant a fairly substantial inflation spiral, but honestly, all that removing the floor will do is send Shuffle components (gems, dust, scrolls, etc) down into further free-fall. The bots have to go; all the 9g gems did was act as a garbage bin for their goods.

But what of the other changes? It is almost impossible to even imagine all the interlocking synergy going on. For example, with the tank bribe deal? It is safe to say that the gems and flasks from the goodie bag will be normal gems/flasks (e.g. sell on the AH), but what about those pets? Can you even imagine having an X% chance of bam! opposite-faction pet in your bags and ready to be sold? If they are BoP when you get them, alright, but most flasks are still hovering at 100g apiece over at Auchindoun, which puts the gold total at 84g + 100g + however much extra that toss in the bag itself. It would take a truly ridiculous amount to bribe me to tank based on gold alone, but at some point I will do an otherwise useless gold/hour calculation. And, hey, while I am not a mount guy, Reins of the Raven Lord is something I have been interested in since Sethekk Halls was current content.

What is most interesting to me at the moment though, is the calculus involving the honor <--> JP conversions. It's set at 66% rate of return, which means you need to turn in 3375 honor for 2250 JP (e.g. a "tier" piece) and vice versa. On the face of it, that's a fairly bad return... but remember that all honor gain is doubling per the PTR notes. We don't know if that's honor from HKs or what, but can you imagine the alternative? I get 240 honor from a TB win, plus another 200 from the weekly quest, plus X amount from just general HKs around the map - 880 honor + X amount, let's just round that to a charitable 900. Random daily BG losses will be 90 per game minimum. All this stuff will add up pretty quickly. That 3375 honor target is actually 1687.5 honor post-patch. In other words, PvP will be the most efficient way to farm JP in that you can turn 1687.5 honor into 2250 JP. Conversely, you could simply be picking up the blue PvP gear for 1100 honor for the most expensive slots.

If it sounds like I'm all over the place here, well, I'm all over the place. It honestly feels like Blizzard is throwing everything at the leaking hull and seeing what will stick, to mix metaphors. The doubling honor deal went under a lot of peoples' radars, but added to all this other stuff? Madness, all around.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Paper Tiger of Paper Losses

Let me begin with an example written by an Anonymous poster way back on Cold's blog on Opportunity Cost:

Let's try a thought experiment. Say hypnotic dust currently sells for 100g per stack on the AH. Your friend decides to quit WoW and gifts you 1000 stacks of dust before he deletes his account. Did you just gain 100kg? Can you sell all of that dust at 100g per stack before the price depreciates? Let's assume that every crafted item you can make using dust values dust at less than 100g per stack, and the demand is such that I can only sell 10 stacks a day at the 100g price point. It's going to take me 100 days to sell that entire stockpile. Is a stack of dust going to retain its 100g value by the end of those 100 days (fwiw, on my server, dust is selling for roughly 50% of what it was 1.5 months ago)? If I can sell 30 stacks a day at 95g (either through undercutting or crafting or some combination of the two) is there value in paying that 5g per stack so that I can move everything in 1/3rd of the time?

Now instead of a friend gifting you the dust, let's say you can generate 10 stacks a day, every day, for the cost of 50g in raw mats from the AH. Hypnotic dust sells for 100g a stack, but due to the supply and demand in your market, you could sell 1 stack a day at 100g, or 10 stacks a day at 90g (again, either through undercutting or crafting). At the lower price point, I can make 400g a day everyday (at a 100g "paper" loss). Or, I could stick to the 100g price point and make 50g a day and bank 9 stacks a day for later sales and hope that those stacks will sell at 100g eventually. Only there's another 9 stacks coming in tomorrow, and another 9 the day after that, and the day after that. Or maybe I should just make the 1 stack a day, because 50g profit a day is much better than the 100g loss I was making selling 10 stacks at 90g. Right?

The defining characteristic of paper losses (or paper gains) is the unrealized part. Namely, they have not happened yet. In the real world, you can realize paper losses/gains rather easily considering IRL market prices are prices at which you have a ready buyer, by definition - if a stock price is $10 a share, that means someone (or a computer) will buy your stock at $10 right now with cash in hand. If no one would, the market price would be lower. As we all know in-game however, "market price" is really short-hand for average price for X period of time, or expected price given Y profit margin, or (as is often the case) simply wishful thinking.

It is in this context that I consider paper losses in WoW as a paper tiger, e.g. something that seems threatening but really isn't. In the example scenario posted earlier, there is really no circumstance under which "undercutting" the market price is a loss because there is no way to know what the market price even is. In the WoW economy, there is either a sale or there isn't one. Any other analysis is ispo facto navel gazing.

On Friday, as I was semi-AFK in Stormwind, someone was advertising in Trade for Heaving Plates of Protection and Kilt of Trollish Dreams "9k obo." In case you did not know, "obo" technically means "Or Best Offer," but in practice it means "I'm terrible at haggling, please gouge me." As I said in my two-part Haggling post, information is power, so why would you ever want to lead off with an admission that you would be willing to go lower? Who is going to ever offer 9k? Anyway, I whisper him with a 7,000g offer for the Heaving Plates which he accepts immediately. After paying him, I run 20 feet to the AH and list them for 21,000g.

A sale of something of that magnitude within two hours could be a fluke (the one person on the realm that would have spent that amount just happened to be browsing at that exact moment), or it could be an indication that whatever you just listed could have been listed for more. A lot more. If that was the case then, did I not experience a paper loss? And since the dude accepted my 7,000g offer instantly, does that not indicate I could have gotten it for less, perhaps 6000g? Another paper loss! And hell, what about the guy in Trade? What about his paper losses?

My first instinct is to say that my own successful sale "realized" the paper loss for the Trade guy; there was a chance to sell it for 21k (or whatever) vs guarenteed sale at 7k... at least until I guarenteed the 21k sale. But... what if the Trade guy doesn't read this blog? What if my buyer turned and sold the shoulders for 28k and I never know? What sense does a concept of paper loss make unless there is concrete, non-subjective market price?

Ultimately, I do not believe paper losses make any sense in WoW. The scenario which it attempts to describe is legitimate, e.g. being on the lookout for times when you could have sold something for more (or perhaps what will happen to Pyrite stockpiles if epic gems come from elsewhere), but in practice there is no such thing as paper losses. Return on investments? Recouping costs? Fire sales? Sure... but those only exist because the successful sale existed first.