Wednesday, June 29, 2011

OT: The pre-4.2 Numbers

I think it is a bit early for a more formal "postmortem" on Cataclysm's first tier of content, but for posterity here is a screenshot of raiding progression as it stood at nearly 4am Tuesday morning, before the numbers could be "sullied" by the 4.2 nerfs.

Since there is no 100% boss, some reverse engineering of WoWProgress's numbers shows that there was a total of 62,405 guilds that killed at least 1 boss this tier. A further breakdown estimate goes something like this:

1/12 - 62,405 - 100%
9/12 - 44,107 - 70.68%
12/12 - 23,122 - 37.05%
13/13 - 812 - 1.3%*

Depending on how many raiders you associate with a raiding guild (15-30), this means roughly between 589,245 to 1,178,490 players who started this tier did not finish it on Normal. WoWProgress pulls its data from NA, EU, TW, and KR servers, which comprise roughly ~6.5 million subscriptions per MMOData. This means that at the upper end (30) the raiding pool this tier is about ~28.8% of all accounts. Or, 71.2% of all subscribers did not raid, and of those who did raid, 62.95% did not kill all 12 normal mode bosses.** In this context, seven bosses in Firelands may almost make sense.

The other thing I want to mention briefly is that I expect Blizzard's Q2 investor call to either look absolutely amazing, or completely terrible depending on timing. As you may or may not have heard, Blizzard sent out emails to existing accounts which essentially contains a free copy of the original WoW game, 30 days of game time included. Secondly, Blizzard is poised to release Cataclysm in China July 12th. Finally, and perhaps more earth-shatteringly from a subscription standpoint, Blizzard increased the Recruit-A-Friend XP bonus from 1-60 to 1-80. If you are an alt person as I am (or was, considering I have a full 10 character slots on Auch), this is about as close as Blizzard seems willing to get to letting you buy a Cataclysm character. Back when RAF originally came out, I had two instances of WoW running and essentially spent $5-10 to get a level 60 rogue, priest, and hunter (with the gifted levels) in about two weeks of leisurely play. And for that month, for all intents and purposes I was two subscriptions to Blizzard. Of course, Blizzard recouped $25 or whatever it was when I decided to transfer the RAF priest to my primary account before shutting the RAF account down.

So, basically, depending on when the Q2 sub numbers are compiled Blizzard will likely be seeing huge growth (due to 4.2 being released, dual-boxing RAF accounts, free copies of games going out, new expansion in China) or further drops depending on when the numbers are locked in for the report.

*Apparently Heroic Ascendant Council is more difficult than Sinestra based on number of guilds having killed it: 812 vs 926 (Sinestra). It might be that people were racing for Sinestra kills before the patch, but it is interesting nonetheless.

**By contrast, only 42.32% of raiders who downed Marrowgar did not also kill the Lich King. It is entirely possible we will see more 12/12 after an equivalent amount of time has passed, of course.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fate of Crafted Epics in 4.2 (and more)

I talked about about this subject in a general sense with Fire(lands) Sale where I pre-lamented the death of the Darkmoon trinkets in the face of easy-to-acquire alternatives. Due to a reader's request, I have decided to focus more on what crafters can make right now and whether it might still be a good idea to make post-4.2.


This is perhaps the most obvious category of crafted epics at risk in 4.2. Players will be able to purchase T11 chest and legs for 2200 Justice points on Day 1 of the new patch, and I find it very likely many will do so immediately with whatever amount of JP they have stockpiled. Do not forget that you will (still) be able to turn Honor points into Justice points, easily bypassing the 4,000 cap if you choose. Three weeks of ZA/ZG runs later, they will be able to further purchase T12 (same slots) with their Valor points.

The situation with belts is more complex. Players will not be able to purchase any belts with JP nor VP this patch. Instead, there are two other sources of belts: a small sample from the Molten Front dailies after ~25 days, and a complete set after hitting Honored with the Avengers of Hyjal.

The three belts in the Bad category are Elementium Girdle of Pain, Light Elementium Belt, and Lightning Lash. All three have ilevel 365 analogs available after unlocking The Armorer in the Firelands dailies. The rest of the belts will not be replaced until you get a raid drop or hit Honored with the raid reputation. Last time I checked, the word on the street was that you could hit 11,999/12,000 Honored with the Avengers from farming trash - how difficult this will be or even if it is possible will remain to be seen. I find it likely however, that someone farming Firelands raid trash will probably want to do it with a purple belt in the meantime.

Already talked about this before, but...

The Darkmoon trinkets have given me a lot of AH mileage so far this expansion, but I stopped making the cards a few months ago. Players logging in after 4.2 will have the option of getting 359 trinkets immediately for 1650 JP and/or doing ~25 days of dailies for the 365 trinkets off of the vendors there. And if they hit Revered with the raid reputation, hey, more trinkets.

That covers the crafted BoE epics, but why stop here?

There are no crafted epic cloaks, but I am referring to any BoE epic cloaks from T11 content and/or ZA/ZG drops you may have in your bags. Sell them. Sell now.

Although I missed the chance to warn you before the Midsummer holiday arrived with its free 353 cloak giveaway, the 353 and 359 cloaks were still technically as good or better than what you could get stolen by a scrub for an off-spec they will never use from Ahune. This all changes in 4.2. Namely, every single player will be sporting 365 epic cloaks for completing the Thrall Got Zapped quest-line. Price your antiquated 359s to move, lest you get stuck with a 12,000g+ "investment" that you will have to dupe people into buying for even 800g. Indeed, I recently sold a Drape of Inimitable Fate and Zom's Electrostatic Cloak for ~6,000g each and the buyer immediately relisted for 12,000g. If he can snag a sell between now and Tuesday, more power to him. Meanwhile, I just made nearly half of his possible profit with 0% of the risk.

If 365 cloaks from a quest chain was not bad enough, you also have Valor cloaks for JP and 378 cloaks after however long it takes to get Friendly with the Avengers of Hyjal. Move those capes like they're hot.

Specifically the BoE epic boots you can buy with Valor today, and Justice on Tuesday. Seems pretty obvious that these would be bad deals to get, yes? Well... not quite. Ask yourself if you would be willing to buy Justice points for gold at, say, a 1:2 ratio. In other words, imagine spending 8000g to get 4000 JP. Would you? I would. You cannot get 4000 of course, as the boots are the only items that work this way and they cost 1650 JP. Point being, even though I can grind up the 1650 JP and get them "for free," I could also simply buy them off someone who values their time less than I do and spend those same JP getting something else. Similar to belts though, there is a small kink in the plan: boots from dailies.

The three boots in the Bad category are Boots of the Perilous Seas, Rock Furrow Boots, and Moccasins of Verdurous Glooms. All three have 365 upgrades available after a scant 25 days worth of dailies. The other boots will not be replaced outside of raid drops so you will probably be able to sell them on a decent basis. Of course, so will everyone else capable of running heroics/grinding BGs but if you have nothing else to buy with those currencies, it is better than buying and vendoring Wrath epic gems.

Is anyone still making this garbage? Please, stop, what are you doing?

The mat price for the 346 rings/necklaces was ridiculous even on Day 1, but there were still chances at sales and (low) profit margins. Generally people will tell you to make the Elementium Moebius Band because it's the cheapest but actually pretty good for any tank. Problem is that there is not one, but two epic tanking rings from the Firelands dailies. From the same vendor! I guess Blizzard's thought process was that since the one ring had Parry on it, that a 2nd one was necessary for the Feral tanks. Except now if you are a Plate tank you have easy-street access to both. Did I mention they are on the same vendor? Non-casters are in the same boat with two separate Agility rings AND two separate Strength rings... on different vendors this time, but still. Spellcasters and/or healers got the shaft though, with only one ring.

So you have the option of the Valor rings being bought with JP, the new Valor rings bought with actual Valor, the crafted blue PvP rings having a difference of a whole 90 stats for the equivalent of ~1500g in mats, the 365 rings from the Firelands dailies (which covers every spec), and eventually the 391 rings at Exalted with Avengers.

Necklaces are in a mostly similar place as rings. Spellcasters get a Firelands daily option as do Strength DPS however. Missing here are Agility and Tank necklaces, which means you may have a market for Brazen Elementium Medallion (assuming people didn't just get the Hyjal reputation neck) and Elementium Guardian. There are Valor necklaces available post-4.2, but I doubt the neck slot will be at the top of peoples' lists to replace for quite some time.

Conclusion and Caveats
The mark of a good goblin is being able to make gold when it is not especially obvious that it is possible. Although I am labeling some items as Bad and Fire Sale and so on, it is entirely possible that you or someone who likes to sweat by the AH will make money where money ain't got any right being made. Maybe that dude who bought my cheap cloaks will move both by Tuesday and laugh his way to the bank. That's fine, I'm already at the bank giggling myself. The only real loser is whoever gets stuck with the item when the music stops, and presumably that person paid for the privilege so I guess everyone wins... until that guy does those 10 quests and replaces it.

So, yeah.

If you are looking for some quick and dirty advice, I would say: clear your stock, stop making/buying more BoEs. Worst case scenario you will still have your mats, and can go back to ignoring whatever I say on Wednesday. Goblins strike it rich all the time by taking on risk that no one else does. Goblins like myself also strike ~80% of the richness of the other goblins, with 90% less effort and less than a quarter of the risk. Do what you like, and we'll all see how it pans out next month.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crafted PvP Comparison

As you may or may not be aware, when patch 4.2 rolls around all the old crafted PvP recipes will be going from their current ilevel 339 states to a much beefier 358. The material costs will also be the same, but just keep in mind that already crafted gear will not be upgraded. In other words, do not pre-craft this gear.

What interests me in this interim period though, is the question about whether or not the current crop of Honor Point gear is worth purchasing in the days before 4.2 compared to what you can get crafted post-4.2. Obviously the Conquest Point epics will be purchasable after 4.2 with Honor and be much better than either, but as someone who enjoys getting their BG on the Honor cap is still 4000. For example, I have a warrior in the current crop of crafted PvP blues with about 2500 Honor accumulated. Would it be more "efficient" to hit the 4k Honor cap and stop playing altogether? Or would there be some benefit in buying the current Bloodthirsty Gladiator pieces while still aiming at capping out before June 28th?

A couple quick notes about the above picture. First, the stat gains along the bottom of the page does reflect my adding of gems into those eight sockets. Basically there are three Bolds, two Resplendent, and two Rigid gems in there along with the meta. Secondly, I am only comparing the five "tier" pieces at the moment because I have no idea how to add items to item sets on Wowhead, only how to remove them. Finally, if you want to look at the comparison yourself or perhaps change the gems around, you can use this link here.

What we can see about this at first glance is current Bloodthirsty Gladiator gear > 4.2 crafted gear, even without considering glove and 4-piece bonuses. Wowhead's comparisons are not 100% accurate though, as the Bloodthirsty set does not have a 400+ resilience gain over the crafted gear - the discrepancy is likely from the crafted gear's 2-piece +400 resilience bonus not being properly coded into Wowhead. Taking that into account and then manually plugging in the full Bloodthirsty Gladiator set, we get a comparison like this:

4.2 CraftedBloodthirsty GladDifference
Stamina 3,311 3,135176
Strength 2,206 2,314-108
Mastery 225 15372
Armor 19,644 19,301343
Resilience 1,873 1,930-57
Critical strike -- 449-449
Expertise 393 257136
Haste 336 173163
Hit 519 238281

Note: the Difference column is focusing on the crafted gear. Looking at it in this perspective, Bloodthirsty Gladiator looks less obviously better. Indeed, the crafted gear has +146 stat points and +176 Stamina vs +108 Strength... and the existence of a metagem, a glove bonus, and a 4-piece bonus. Generally speaking, primary stats like Strength are valued at least 2:1 against combat ratings like Mastery, so the tradeoff becomes nearly ~2k HP against +3% crit damage and whatever goodies are on your gloves and 4pc bonus. Bloodthirsty Gladiator gear retains the advantage.

In an interesting twist, the crafted PvP accessories are unequivocally better than the current Honor ones:

The take-away from this is three-fold. (1) You should still be banking some mats to pump out the upgraded PvP gear for when servers come back up. New players and alts will still be hitting level 85 after 4.2 all the time and want something to cover their nakedness (or 'sploit them into ZA/ZG queues). (2) The Bloodthirsty Gladiator non-accessory pieces are still worth getting, assuming buying them does not impact your ability to cap out on Honor by the 27th. Speaking of which, people with Bloodthirsty Glad gear will not be buying your non-accessory crafted PvP gear post-4.2. In other words, the markets do not overlap. Sorry, crafters. (3) If you have a JC toon, expect a rather nice post-patch payday. Your rings and necklaces will straight-up replace any non-epic piece of PvP gear. The healer pieces merely requiring Amberjewel and a smattering of Volatiles is especially win.

P.S. If you are a JC still making those 346 rings, you might want to stop. Resilience is a dead stat for PvE, of course, but you have to start asking yourself whether ~90 stats makes this comparison make sense:


Saturday, June 18, 2011

OT: Subscription and Correlation

Did you know that ice cream makes it more likely you will drown? It's true. When ice cream sales increase, so do the number of drowning deaths. Clearly linked! Speaking of spurious correlations...
I fully expect Rift to now follow in the footsteps of WoW, in that it will decline. Vanilla and BC days had challenging content, and it’s not a surprise that sub numbers grew. WotLK made things ‘accessible’, and surprise surprise, the response was pretty meh (sub numbers dropped in the US/EU, but were offset globally by WoW launching in new regions, hence the overall stagnation). Cata tried to play both sides of the fence, but a combo of too little too late, a gimmick of progression (hard mode rehashes rather than straight-up new content), and a one-track, insult difficulty 1-85 game did it in. With no new regions to offset things, subs are dropping.
 (SynCaine in the post "Accessibility killed Rift")
World of Warcraft's growth rate went from a perfectly stable 2 million subscribers per year during 2006 to 2009, to zero during WotLK. This was exactly the time when Blizzard changed the character progression mechanic.
(Nils in the post "Smoke and Mirrors")
"If developers design a game which requires too much effort from the average player for too little gain, the average players will start leaving the game. "

This is the part I strongly disagree with, and WoW's sub history does as well. Vanilla/BC, which had a MUCH harder end-game that fewer players saw to completion, saw massive growth. WotLK/Cata, with raids being cleared by all who stepped inside, have brought decline.
(SynCaine in a comment on Tobold's post "Syncaine on Accessibility")

The reason I bring these examples up is because this type of thinking (or lack thereof) is what I consider one of the most pernicious, asinine fallacies in any discussion of World of Warcraft. It is intellectual laziness at best, intellectual dishonesty at worse. Before I begin in earnest however, here is a slightly augmented graph from MMOData that most people refer to when they talk about WoW subs:

1) Correlation does not mean causation.

Standard preface to any claim that X means Y. Ice cream and drowning are only "linked" because there is a third factor involved.

2) Even if correlation did mean causation, why this particular correlation?

This specific point is the reason the argument is intellectually lazy. When you look at the graph, it is true what Nils and SynCaine said about there being a relatively rapid period of growth during vanilla and TBC that was not apparent after the release of Wrath. However, tying that solely (or even partially) to accessibility/character progression/difficulty/etc is a completely unsupported leap of logic.

There is zero evidence given by either author as to why it was "existence of more challenging content" and not, I dunno, the introduction of the PvP Honor System and BGs in the summer of 2005, which coincides with a 500k sub spike in WoW-West on graph. Or the release of ZG in September of that year, also suspiciously near another 500k sub bump. Or if I looked at WoW's overall numbers like Nils does with his "2 million per year growth" argument, perhaps I could argue Patch 1.12 with it's wildly successful:
The stage is set for intense, objective-based land battles as Horde and Alliance vie for control over important strategic positions and resources around Azeroth. Head out for Silithus and Eastern Plaguelands to engage the enemy on the field!
...was responsible for the corresponding bump of 1 million (!) subscribers. Clearly, clearly, more things like Silithus and the old Eastern Plagueland towers is just what WoW needs.

3) What does endgame accessibility/difficulty have to do with anything?

This is another intellectually lazy part of the argument that the authors never bother to address. What percentage of the playerbase ever actually makes it to the endgame, and is this percentage big enough to even impact subscription growth? That is an open question.

The best metric that I can come up with is to look at the number of guilds who killed Beasts of Northrend in 10m ToC after two years of it being out (86,187 guilds), multiply that by something charitable like 30 players, and then divide by the approximate population in the graph above while only taking into account the regions in which WoWProgress collects data (~6.5 million). The result is 39.77% of players killing the easiest boss in the easiest tier of which we have data (something like Noth the Lootbringer from Naxx 2.0 would have been better, but alas...). That actually sounds like a lot of people, and 19.88% assuming only 15 raiders per guild is not too shabby either when referring to raid content.

That said, there is no evidence whatsoever from those two that difficulty-related gyrations amongst the top 1/3rd of players doing raiding content has a meaningful impact in comparison to whatever the remaining 2/3rd non-raiders are doing. Between 2005 and 2009 the subscriber base was growing at ~25% per year. Is it even remotely likely that the top 40% had anything to do with a meaningful drop in growth rate?

4) Growth, or lack thereof, does not really mean anything other than what it is.

What I mean by this is that you cannot simply look at growth as anything other than what it is: growth. It does not mean anything else without further information. For all the talk about growth rate percentages and "the design decisions that caused them," look at the pink line for a moment. That represents subscriptions in NA alone. Unfortunately MMOData stopped tracking that information individually (or perhaps Blizzard stopped giving it out), but the whole of TBC resulted in ~650k more subscriptions in NA over a two-year period.

Is 325k sub growth per year more than the apparent zero sub growth in the year of Wrath? Sure... but we have no real way of knowing why that growth was occurring. Was player churn less of a factor in vanilla and TBC? Was the growth simply due to the release of WoW in additional regions? Does market saturation have any impact? Do we simply ignore, I dunno, one of the worst global recessions in world history?

Oh, wait a minute... early 2009 was when the markets were at their worst? And yet WoW subs were relatively stable in most regions during that entire year? Clearly Wrath's accessibility and stress-free raiding were the only things stopping WoW's overall decline in a tough market, as evidenced by Cata's increased difficulty leading to subscription loss once markets improved. QED, amirite?

The bottom line here is that you cannot use WoW subscription numbers as evidence of a claim without first proving said numbers have anything to do with said claim. Did World of Warcraft gain six million subscriptions worldwide in its first year? Yes. Was that because of the strength of its class balance? Its risk versus reward structure? Its accessibility? No one can really say; all of it would be conjecture.

Personally, I believe the initial rush was due to the strength of the IP - I know I certainly gave WoW a shot because of how much I enjoyed Warcraft 3 - and also due to the strength of the Blizzard brand. The designers also got a lot of things down perfectly that I feel other MMO designers stumble across to this day, such as letting characters jump, making solo-play possible, having quests with interesting plots, getting the reward faucet just right while questing, and so on. The tone and tenor of game balance has certainly shifted quite a bit from when I began in TBC, but where I disagree with Nils and SynCaine is that I feel that Wrath was actually a step in a better direction in most (not all) ways. Unfortunately, until the duo, and others who believe as they do, let go of the absurd notion that "the numbers" support their conclusions, it is impossible to have any rational discussion about it.

There is a separate argument as to linear raid progression vs episodic progression, but that is an OT for another time.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Fire(lands) Sale

[Edit: Avenger's of Hyjal as a rep is from the Firelands trash up to the tail end of honored (11,999/12k) and thereafter rep gains come solely from boss kills. When I wrote this post I was assuming said rep came from the dailies even though I should have known better already. The rest of the points still stand.]

So... yikes. I was all prepared to write about my weekend cross-faction AH shenanigans when I realized something startling: we may see a cratering of Darkmoon trinkets and other BoEs soon. As in, within two weeks or so. It seems so obvious in retrospect with 4.2 coming out, but if the full scope of the changes slipped my mind, it is possible it slipped yours as well.

  • Everything on the Valor Point vendor will now be purchasable with Justice Points.

Duh, right? But consider what this means, slot-wise. T11 can cover chest, legs, and hands. Then you have cloaks, wrists, and feet (still BoE by the way). There are also rings, relics, and trinkets. When you look at what BoE 359 epics are available, they come in these slots: cloak, chest, feet, finger, head, off-hand, weapon (all types), neck, shield, shoulder, trinket, and belt. Or after you remove the redundancies... head, off-hand, weapon, neck, shield, shoulder, and belt. Maybe this comes across as more obvious than I originally thought (liquidate 359 gear before the new hotness of 378 comes out), but if you are still holding out hope for that Blauvelt's Family Crest to sell, you might want to reconsider a lower price-point before potential customers simply buy Band of Bees.

  • The Avengers of Hyjal faction offers amazing 378 gear at each reputation level.

You can see the actual rewards on MMO-Champ, but what I want to get across again are the item slots covered: cloaks at Friendly; belts at Honored; trinkets at Revered; ilevel 391 rings at Exalted. Following me so far? No one will be hitting Revered with the Avengers overnight, of course, but given time every endgame player raider will have access to trinkets for both slots (and see below). As a person with gold, I have no particular compunction against twinking out a toon or two - who really wants to grind out heroics and weeks of dailies with green trinkets from questing, amirite? - but the simple fact that said "twinking" would have a shelf-life of however long it took me to do dailies farm raid trash to 11,999/12k and get one boss kill and/or get 1650 JP dampens how much I would be willing to spend. To other more frugal players, it may straight-up remove them from the market entirely.

  • There are other Avengers of Hyjal vendors that offer even more gear than normal.

First off, why doesn't MMO-Champ have a single location for all this 4.2 stuff? It's dumb. Anyway, you can check out the specific vendor lists in this post. You should already know about the Blacksmithing weapon patterns that covers everyone. What you might not know is that belts, hands, feet, fingers, off-hand, relic, and goddamn trinkets again are also covered, depending on class/spec. Actually, only plate-wearers get belt options for example, but that is a rather huge market share cut out of what would otherwise be a very nice empty crafting slot.

  • Don't forget about all that lovely new 378 Valor Point gear and new BoEs

Slots covered by VP this time around are the standard chest/legs/hands, followed by Thrown weapons, wands, relics, rings, neck, and wrists. In the updated MMO-Champ list, it appears that wrists are the only definitively BoE item. I would talk about the BoE raiding drops, but it will absolutely be profitable flipping them no matter how many comparable items exist. I will also pass on talking about the crafted profession items to much, considering they require Living Embers which are likely raid drops. That said, they appear to cover boots and hands.

There will be three two reasonably easy trinket options (and a third for raiders from rep) for players to choose from without even considering Darkmoon trinkets: one from Justice Points and two from the Avengers of Hyjal faction. Even worse for Scribes is the fact that someone doing the Avenger dailies will likely get access to both rep trinkets simultaneously - I imagine grinding 125 Marks of Lazy Design will easily get someone to the start of Revered. What plate DPS* would give a second look at Hurricane when they can get Dwyer's Caber and Essence of the Eternal Flame from dailies? Nevermind License to Slay.

As for the other items/slots? It appears Blizzard is doubling-down on the "tier helm/shoulder being drops" design, so I fully expect epic BoE helms and shoulders to retain and/or increase in value heading into 4.2. Of course, with T11 content being nerfed by 20%, this otherwise consistent demand may be tempered by a new supply of farming guilds/pugs churning out BoEs, so keep your head... or sell it, as the case may be.

*I understand from the forums that some of the T11 trinkets are better itemized than the Avenger's trinkets and even trinkets from Firelands itself. My point is less about raiders in the market for BiS gear (who likely already got it months ago), and more about the people interested in getting epic trinkets right away.

Monday, June 13, 2011

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 128x128 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.

Friday, June 10, 2011

When To Expect Epic Gems

Are there really people still talking about epic gems? Apparently so. Let me make it really easy for you: epic gems will be released when all the profession bonuses are updated.

The stat bonuses from any one profession is around ~80 extra stats above what you could otherwise attain. As you can see from the pictures above, a Bold Chimera's Eye grants +67 Strength vs a Bold Inferno Ruby with +40 Strength. (67 * 3) - (40 * 3) = 81. Mixology from Alchemy increases your flask strength by +80 stats, Synapse Springs gives a 480 stat bonus for 10 seconds every minute which is a ~16.66% uptime that averages into 80 stats, and the wrist enchants such as Major Strength were expressly added into the game to counteract imbalance that came with Leatherworkers having Embossments, such as +130 Strength, when everyone else had to settle for +50 Hit or +50 Haste (nevermind how much better primary stats already are from secondary ones this expansion).

If epic gems were added to the game, the profession bonus for JCs would diminish from 81 to 51, assuming that epic gems are +50. Simultaneously, the profession bonus for Blacksmithing (two extra sockets for +40 gems currently) would outpace everyone else as they are able to fit in two extra epic gems. Clearly, this would be bad design. The imbalance was fixed in Wrath in patch 3.2 by increasing the stats on the JC-only gems, keeping them proportionally as good as the other professions, which were similarly boosted to account for Blacksmiths.

Yes, I know 4.2 sounds like 3.2 + 1, but it does not work that way at all. If you will recall, 3.2 was released as the third tier of raiding. Meanwhile, 4.2 is merely the second tier of raiding this expansion. We cannot rely on patch numbers anymore given Blizzard's new policy vis-a-vis "smaller, faster patches" (which I find unlikely will continue past 4.2, else we should have been hearing about 4.3 already, yes?), but it is safe to say that whatever patch will contain the third tier of raiding will also contain epic gems. But even more specific, epic gems will be in whatever patch includes updated profession bonuses. It has to, by design.

So until you start hearing about a stronger Mixology, Embossments, or Chimera's Eye cuts on some PTR, feel free to continue speculating on Pyrite and/or making bank on rare gem cuts.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A Question of Ethics

One of the downsides to a small-pop server is that there are fewer things to spend your gold on. More people equals more AH competition, of course, but it also means more volume of BoE epics and other goodies. Having already hit my goal, I am more interested in perhaps seeing another Fury of Angerforge or basically new BoE epics instead of the tired 353 and boring 359 crafted pieces. After another day with nothing new, I lamented in Trade chat one night "WTB more interesting BoE epics" in an effort to shake something out of the tree.

The problem with shaking the tree is that sometimes hairy things actually fall out.

Vitreous Beak of Julak-Doom is a BoE epic drop from an elite mob in Twilight Highlands, and basically requires a raid group to kill unless you want to fight for half an hour. As you can see from Trade Chat however, the item itself is allegidly hot, e.g. the result of a "ninja." The question then becomes: do you care?

Scenario 1: You find Virteous Beak on the AH for 7500g buyout.

Scenario 2: You haggle someone selling Virteous Beak in Trade Chat down to 7500g.

Scenario 3: You win Virteous Beak in a raid, but don't equip it right away because you lack the enchanting mats to put Hurricane/Power Torrent on it. Two weeks later, your raid team collapses. You sell the Beak for 17,000g on the AH.

Scenario 4: You low-ball someone selling Virteous Beak on Trade Chat in spite of a random person going on about how the seller is a ninja (in a non-Master Looter situation).

Scenario 5: You buy 105 stacks of Elementium Ore for 24g/stack from someone who is clearly a bot.

Among the five scenarios, which ones are ethical and which ones are unethical? I think we could all agree that Scenario 1 is pretty straight-forward ethically... but does the difference between 1 & 4 really come down to ignorance? As long as you do not know the sweat shop conditions of the Malyasian plant that manufactured the shirt you are wearing, it is ethical to purchase said shirt? And what does it say to us as AH barons to flagrantly purchase bot-gathered Ore off the AH (or even barter directly with said botters!) when our actions directly affect the gold-selling trade?

Would you have bought the Vitreous Beak from the guy for 7500g (assuming you had a caster who could use it)? Would you have bought it and then resold it for, say, 17500g? Does any of this sort of thing phase you in-game when it comes up vis-a-vis ninja/bot-farmed goods? How goblin is goblin?

Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Tale of Two Economies

As I may have mentioned before, every single time I log into WoW, the first thing I do is collect the sales from my JC business, cancel any undercuts from the day before (I list for 24 hours, but I don't log in exactly at the same time every night), relist unsold goods, and then see what is profitable to craft based on that day's prices. Just because three Purified Demonseyes sold during the night does not mean I will cut three more - if the price of uncut Demonseyes is higher than what Purified ones are going for, I will toss up 3 more uncut Demonseyes instead. If uncut Demonseyes are lower than some arbitrary number that feels good to me, usually ~20g, I will buy them all out to restock my supply.

Otherwise I allow the other JCs to do the legwork of clearing out the garbage when certain cuts tank the market, as opposed to being the fully-engaged goblin who buys out the entire market of thirty 15g-20g Pussiant Dream Emeralds in the hopes of reseting the price. To me, 15g-20g means the gem is not selling, and thirty of them means the price has not yet hit the floor. This sort of dovetails nicely into a reader email I received:

[...] My problem that I am currently having is that while I hear that JC is a fantastic profession, I can't seem to find what is so lucrative about it at the current moment.  I am aware of the 4.2 lull that might be hitting along with some people, so gems are not in as high demand, but my server (Blackrock... where everything is worth pennies) seems to have no demand for cut gems at all.  I scour over my Undermine Journal on the jewelcrafting page, and the scene is pretty stark.  Almost nothing seems to be moving right now.
Should I be cutting my losses at this point and stockpiling rare gems for 4.2, or am I missing something here?
The unspoken preface to every gold blog post out there is the same as the ending to any fast food restaurant commercial: "Local participation may vary." Surely, I said to myself, things could not be that bad on other servers. Assuming that this gentleman is a proud member of the Alliance (as all gentlemen are wont to be), I walked doe-eyed into... a mental landmine.

The TUJ image on the left is from Blackrock Alliance, the imagine on the right from Auchindoun Alliance. So... yeah. I can see how - perhaps - someone might be questioning the lucrivity lucrativeness of the JC profession in the face of those post-apocalyptic figures. Bold Inferno Rubies selling for 25g apiece? Gazing deeper into the economic abyss reveals, if not why, at least how it is Blackrock maintains such absurdly low prices.

The above is number of auctions posted for Bold Inferno Rubies in the last 96 hours, or four days. You can see me on the right, plodding along with my 3 Bolds per cycle, just as described. Conversely, we have this Athenae character on Blackrock posting an average of 32 Bold cuts every twelve hours. At around 25g apiece. From my prior experimenting with TUJ, we all know that TUJ counts canceled auctions as "sales," so it is possible some portion of that number represents vaporware. Regardless... that is pretty absurd. Where were all these Inferno Rubies coming from?

Well, good sir, if you were curious as to the cause of this market collapse, look no further than what appears to be the bank alt Stillfurious. Four-hundred and fifty-seven uncut Inferno Rubies in the last 96 hours. Stillfurious only auctions gems, and ironically, red gems like Inferno Rubies apparently makes up only 18.7% of the colors of warez he has available; granted, he posts in the neighborhood of 800+ gems a day. I remain baffled as to where all these goddamn Inferno Rubies are coming from, though, especially considering Heartblossom is 100g/stack, Carnelians are at 9g apiece, and Elementium Ore is at an eminently reasonable 26g/stack, but still relatively cost-ineffective in terms of 26g Inferno Rubies. Then again, TUJ is indicating there to be over 8,000 auctions of Elementium Ore at various times in the last few days...

So I suppose the answer to the implicit question of "what is so lucrative with JC?" is... well, it is clearly not lucrative at all on your server, unfortunately. Or, at least, not any of the Inferno Ruby cuts. Some random smattering of other cuts like Defender's Demonseye appear to be going for 75g apiece with uncut gems at 9g. The formal question of "should I cut my losses and stockpile for 4.2?" would be a definite maybe.

Here is the thing. I named this blog Player Vs Auction House because my first choice was taken I reject the notion of PvP combat via the AH. Does PvP happen? Yes. Would crushing Stillfurious beneath your righteous boot-heel for making the cut gem market less profitable than selling Linen Cloth (no, seriously) feel good? Sure. Does it really accomplish anything in the end? Probably not. Stockpiling gems for 4.2 is not a bad idea at all, but it depends entirely on whether this supply glut is going to be maintained into the future. If it is, you may be kinda screwed by stockpiling. That is not to say that you should abandon JC entirely though.

It may be tough to read without clicking on it, but according to TUJ an Elementium Moebius Band worth 3299g only actually costs you 644g and some change to craft on the same server with those 25g Inferno Rubies. Blue 346 gear may not be as in season as it was a few months ago (and perhaps even less so moving into 4.2), but if your server is sufficiently large to support 8,000/day Elementium Ore stockpiles and 25g Inferno Rubies that depress prices for weeks, then it's likely enough newly dinged 85 toons are available for you to hawk your warez upon. Even "fire sale" prices like 1000g each is still nearly a 400g profit margin. It is risky this late in the tier with new patterns coming out and not being able to fall back on cut gems, but it is an option if you do not have another profession to easily fall back upon.

Good luck.