Friday, 10 December 2010

The Beginning of a Longer Journey

I got to level 85 last night, which was quite a short journey; so now the job of gearing up begins. The levelling journey was fun: I chose Mt. Hyjal as my level 80 - level 82 zone, and on opening night, the zone was packed with adventurers - and their bones: the circle of bleached bones around Baron Geddon shows that many adventurers weren't listening to Galrond of the Claw, when he told us not to stand in the fire!

Being with so many adventurers, all corpse-camping quest mobs, was not good for immersion; and neither was the spawn rate of mobs. I know Blizzard wanted to cater for the rush; but it's not very immersive, after killing a boss and while still looting him, to be smacked on the head by the very same boss whose corpse is supposedly at my feet! I hope that after the initial flood, Blizzard can reduce the spawn rate; but I doubt they will, as this sort of thing happened to a lesser extent in Northrend, too - and I arrived there well after the initial flood had subsided.

Mt. Hyjal was okay. Oh, I didn't dislike it, but there was no wow factor. It played as if it had been designed in 2004 (despite the phasing, it could have been Darkshore). Deepholm was fine, very like an underground Hellfire Peninsula, or Blade's Edge Mountains; but for me the glory of the levelling zones was Uldum. Firstly, the visuals were great: the world was both beautiful and convincing (the graphics reminded me of Ulduar - I wonder if it was the same team)? Second, the storytelling was excellent, with two main storylines: the fight between the Ramkahen and their Neferset neighbours was epic, and could easily have spanned more than one zone; and the story of Harrison Jones racing with Commander Schnottz to uncover the secrets of the Titans was engaging. One niggle I have is that the world of Indiana Jones is not really the World of Warcraft, no matter how good the storyline is. Sure an attempt was made to tie the two together, with Brann Bronzebeard's Deus ex Machina appearance at the end; but it still doesn't gel. All the same it was a great story, and I loved seeing it.


I'm afraid there were several jolts to immersion in this release; the main cause was phasing, and the limits of this technology are apparent. The more Blizzard use phasing to tell a story, the more we as players are forced to go around the funfair in the order Blizzard tells us: get out of phase with the questgivers and things go rapidly downhill. So you have to do the quests in the order Blizzard wants you to, and no other order is really certain to work. I'm not talking about quest chains here, where one quest does not become available until the previous quest in the chain had been completed. I'm talking about interference from other storylines that might move you to a phase where the first quest chain becomes impossible to complete (because items you need are not in the new phase). Each phase added complicates both design and testing immensely. Where Blizzard carry it off, phasing is great for giving you the impression of changing the world. But the more phases added, the more the interconnections between different phases, the greater the chance to get it wrong, and this release has shown a number of phasing problems already (for instance, try following the breadcrumb quest in Stormwind (Rallying the Fleet) that takes you to the Twilight Highlands, while you still have Call of Duty in your quest log - Supply Sergeant Graves is in a different phase! Worse, it has prevented you, the adventurer, from wandering off the path, and doing your own thing. I wandered into both Uldum and the Twilight Highlands initially without following the breadcrumb quests for both. Let me tell you, that is an eerie experience! So paradoxically, the phasing feature, which was designed to give you the impression that you were controlling or influencing what went on in the world, left me with the impression of less control. I never felt more like a passenger.

One last thing. Blizzard told us that in Cataclysm we'd find the mobs a lot tougher than in Wrath of the Lich King - they were going to beef them up, make them less of a pushover. Well, from my experience, this is not true, at least in Mt. Hyjal, Uldum and the Twilight Highlands. Sure the mobs have more power, but so do we adventurers; and I still found myself able to kill mobs with 3 or 4 shots, usually before they managed to lay a finger on me (thanks to two great mage talents: Nether Vortex) and Incanter's Absorption. One or two of the bosses made me get out my mirror images to tank for me, but none of the fights were taxing. In fact in some cases, Blizzard already provides tanking NPCs for us. The instances certainly are different, however, and I appreciate that. It is very easy in the Stonecore, for instance, to overpull, and crowd control is a necessity again. I am looking forward to gearing up and trying the raids.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A loss

It was a bittersweet moment when I finally found cataclysm gear to beat the gear I spent so long acquiring for ICC. I sharded my Bloodmage gear with great reluctance. Having worked so hard to get it, our ICC gear means a lot more to us than just the stats attached to it - it carries memories. All the same, the piece I most happily sharded was the Bloodmage Hood. Was there ever an uglier headdress for a mage?

Monday, 6 December 2010

More than 25 quests

The Cataclysm hits tonight. Many adventurers are stocking their quest-log with 25 completed quests to hand in as soon as midnight arrives; but did you know you can hand in more than 25 completed quests?

The secret is to choose quests where the quest-giver asks you to get them something. But you don't accept the quest beforehand. You arrive just after midnight at the quest-giver, with the items the questgiver wants, then you accept the quest and hand over the goods in the same heartbeat.

A good example of this is the quest The Valiant's Charge. You go to the Argent Tournament quest hub with your 25 already-completed quests, and also with 25 Valiant's Seals. You hand in whatever completed quests you have there, then you accept The Valiant's Charge from the quest-giver and hand it in an instant later, handing over the 25 seals you had brought with you. So for about 5 seconds extra work on Tuesday morning, you've managed to hand in a 26th quest.

Here's another example: Hot and Cold. You just turn up with 6 frozen Iron Scraps that you had collected earlier. Again, for this to work, you mustn't have accepted this quest prior to turning up to hand it in. Also, as it's a daily, at least one of the 25 quests you did have in your log must not be a daily, as you can only hand in 25 dailies.

I couldn't immediately think of any other good examples, but I'm sure you can!

Friday, 26 November 2010


My account was ninjaed yesterday. When I complained to a GM he told me they wouldn't lift a finger to help; because the ninja was Blizzard itself.

I went to bed on Tuesday evening with 635/700 quests completed from my Loremaster of the Eastern Kingdoms achievement. I knew that there were changes afoot -Blizzard gave us three days' notice that these changes would be coming in the Shattering, rather than the Cataclysm - so with just under 600 quests complete, I tried to finish the achievement. But despite my efforts, I just couldn't complete another 100 quests in 3 days. So I was resigned to losing a few of the quests that count towards the achievement.

Imagine, then, my surprise when I woke up the next day to find out I had only completed less than 20 quests in the Eastern Kingdoms. That surely isn't fair. That is just wrong. Three days' notice that you're going to lose 600 completed quests? (To rub salt into the wounds, many of the supposedly rewritten "new" quests were carbon copies of ones I had already completed.)

Blizzard appear to be trying to rewrite history - to pretend that I hardly quested in the Eastern Kingdoms at all. We are living in Ghostcrawler's world now, and the world of Tigole et al. has been written out of history. It is now year zero.

However, just because the questgivers no longer want adventurers to perform the tasks they formerly begged for help with, that doesn't mean those tasks never existed and that I did not perform them. What Blizzard took from me was far more valuable than gold. Blizzard has stolen my past.

Friday, 29 October 2010

About sociopaths

I was listening to the radio on the way to work, and heard this hugely entertaining discussion on psychopaths in the workplace:

Or pick it up here:

or listen to it here (it's the first item in the show)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Why people stand in the fire

Why don't we get the hell out of the fire? Elder Game has a very intriguing answer. But first, to understand it, take a look at this video of basketball players, and see if you can count how many passes they make:

Excellent test, don't you agree! Now head on over to Elder Game and read his interesting article on Deathtrap Design

Sunday, 3 October 2010

A Draenei in the Deadmines

I have recently been levelling my first Draenei, and I can tell you, I've really enjoyed the experience: it's completely different to my previous experiences in the old world.

Firstly, the low-level experience is set at a particular point in time: just after the shaceship "the Exodar" crashed on an island off Kalimdor. Your tasks are all centred around the immediate aftermath of this event, as you try to help fellow victims of the crash, and repair the damage caused to the land you crashed in. You quickly discover that you've been followed to this world by your enemies, the Blood Elves, and you make first contact with some of the other species in your new world. The story is told immersively and you just can't stop playing, so much do you want to get to the next episode.

In contrast, all the WoW vanilla starting zones are set in a fairly timeless period, and the quests are more concerned with teaching you the mechanics of controlling you character, rather than immersion. So it's kill ten kobolds in Northshire and steal their candles. For no good reason other than that somebody asked you to.

So I really enjoyed the work I did on behalf of my fellow Draenei on Azuremyst Isle and Bloodmyst Isle. The first jarring moment in this immersion came when I reached the Exodar itself. There, Draenei commoners were celebrating Brewfest! What? How did we get involved in Brewfest? Did we meet the dwarves? I only just made first contact with our nearest neighbours, the night-elves, along with an expeditionary naval force from Stormwind.

Never mind. That was just unfortunate timing. I found a ship that took me to Darkshore and continued my explorations there.

When I started a night-elf, long ago, I found Teldrassil (once out of the starting zone) to be quite an immersive place, also. Plenty of good stories to be a part of, and not all of them involved killing ten rats. The night-elf quests in Darkshore and Ashenvale continue in this vein, and are among the best stories in Azeroth, even if there is quite a bit of Naga bashing and Murloc murdering involved. But the night the music died for me was the night I was given a quest in Blackfathom Deeps.

It is no longer possible to gather a group to go to Blackfathom Deeps simply by asking players around Astranaar and Ashenvale. They look at you as if you had two heads. A knowing smile crosses their face, the word "noob" forms at the back of their mind, and they tell you to use the dungeon finder. Another crack in my immersive experience.

So I did. I queued up for a random dungeon and found myself in the Deadmines. What the?! How did I get here? I wrote before about the gripping story of the Defias Brotherhood that leads up to the killing of Edwin van Cleef. What a sorry, half-baked version of that story my draenei met. Why on earth would he want to kill these miners, those goblins, yonder pirates and the various other denizens of the Deadmines that he met? What a horrible, horrible experience it was to be in the Deadmines without having been through the quests leading up to it. I thank the light that I at least experienced the world of Warcraft before the introduction of the Dungeon Finder. Boy, it isn't even a year old, at this point, but it has irrevocably changed the way we experience the world.

I remember how it used to be, how difficult it could be to get together a group, and I can see all the advantages there are to using it; I remember trade full of desparate requests of "LFM UK normal" and so on. All the same, Dungeon Finder as it currently stands completely breaks the immersiveness of the questing experience. I understand why Blizzard did what they did when creating the Dungeon Finder: they had already tried to fix the problem of putting together groups a couple of times, and each time it had failed, for various reasons. This time, they threw in everything they could think of, to give it every chance of succeeding. And succeed it did! Now it is almost the only way people do 5-man instances (I would hazard a guess that more people solo instances than put together a 5-man team without using the Dungeon Finder).

How could it be fixed?

Well, as I said, Blizzard threw everything that they could at it, in the hopes of making it a success where they had previously met with failure. Unfortunately, their over-egging of this particular pudding has been the cause of its problems (which are problems of success, not problems of failure, let's remember). Now that Dungeon Finder is well established, perhaps its time to remove some of the eggs from the pudding.
  • One idea would be not to queue you for instances that you haven't yet found the entrance to, or at least the summoning stone of. I think this must be foremost in re-establishing immersion.
  • Only form groups with people of your own realm, or at least give you the option of only queuing with people from your realm.
  • Drop you and your group at the summoning stone for the instance, not in the instance itself (I know this might cause problems with cross-realm parties, but they are not insurmountable).
  • Do nothing except create the group. After all, the problems people previously had was simply in getting a group together at all. It could previously take half an hour of barking in the trade channel to do it (how little the LFG channel was used!). Just form the group, and let the members take it from there.
  • Remove the free emblems or satchel of helpful goods. There should be life outside of instances as well!
  • You don't really want people entering the instance for the first time to be doing it with people doing it for the hundredth time. That takes all the magic out of it for the first timers.
I'm sure you have better ideas than me. I'd love for Blizzard to think about them.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Gevlon the Bully

So Gevlon doesn't believe that "morons and slackers" can benefit from education (his definition of morons and slackers are people who don't want to play WoW the way he thinks they should), and rather than fix his problem, he would rather eliminate them.

Well, I'd rather expel sociopaths, liars, bigots, and bullies from our game, and Gevlon is all of these.

For a long time, I thought that Gevlon was just harmless. Here was a guy with some wacky economic ideas that had been tried out in the 19th century and found wanting (and led to revolution in many of the countries they were tried in), and some weird ideas about how you should play the game the way he wants you to play it. A harmless, bright but ignorant kid, I thought, who doesn't yet know much about the ways of the world. But his lack of education on such matters hasn't stopped him peddling an economic theory from the age of steam and he has been engaged in a political endeavour to persuade WoW players of his socio-economic theory of Eloi and Morlocks (or "socials" and "goblins", as Gevlon calls them). Gevlon thinks of himself and his fellow travellers as Morlocks, and everybody who doesn't buy into his theories of how the game should be played as Eloi, and ripe for exploitation and elimination.

Gevlon the sociopathic bigot

This example really made it concrete to me that he is, in fact, the sociopath that he claims to be. He has no qualms about hurting other people greatly if it makes his life slightly easier. In general he does this by first making the people he is hurting appear subhuman: they are M&S, socials, filth, retards. The subtext is that they deserve whatever he wants to do to them. Once they are labelled and defined as Eloi, then those who label themselves as Morlocks may feast on them without pricking their consciences (many of Gevlon's followers are not the sociopath that he is, and have a conscience). This namecalling and labelling is a constant feature of Gevlon's blog, and its regular readers will by now have become so exposed to this hateful bigotry that they have become inured to it. It is bigotry and prejudice nonethless.

As a sociopath, Gevlon has no affinity for (and only a theoretical understanding of) the underlying concepts and mechanisms of society (perhaps this is because his real-life society exploded so dramatically in 1989. I don't know, and I don't want to make excuses for him). For Gevlon, the only person that counts is number one, and he will do whatever he can to hurt you if it makes things slightly more comfortable for himself. His philosophy is not utilitarian, he is not after the greater good. He is after the good of only himself. Sometimes this also benefits his stooges, but he is just as happy to harm them to benefit himself (for instance, getting his stooges to transfer realms to Inglourious Gankers, then pulling the plug on it once he got bored by it).

Gevlon the bully

Unable to fit into normal society sociably, Gevlon has no idea how to persuade people to see his point of view, and his best attempt is to try to bully them into submission with rudeness and namecalling. See, for instance, his attempts to persuade players to follow his orders in Alterac Valley (this came after this classic pair of posts "sitah and helcsi" and "its not my faliure", where Gevlon completely fails to understand Ten's comments on the leadership skills needed to gel an unco-ordinated group into a successful team, as team-building is a social endeavour). Or his recent attempt to bully people in Wintergrasp into following his orders, by kicking them from the raid if they don't. Gevlon is much more bullying in matters concerning the auction house, of course, where failure to follow his one true path could get you labelled a moron or a slacker or both. And if your game is to collect pets or achievements instead of gold or bosskills, you are labelled a moron by Gevlon. Anyone, in fact, who plays the game differently to Gevlon risks his wrath.

Gevlon the liar

Gevlon is a liar. He has admitted as much and even boasted about it (see LF10M VoA25, if you didn't already read it). He thinks this makes him seem clever. He and his fellow Morlocks feel it is acceptable to lie to what they see as fair game. By labelling the other raid as M&S, in other words subhuman, it's okay to abuse them. Also, he lies to the whole realm. But that's okay, the rest of the realm must be M&S or they'd be in The PuG; and you can lie to the M&S. Even those who join your raid. Well, PuG members, don't be so sure Gevlon doesn't see you as fair game, too. His lies and his bullying behaviour are for the good of one person: Gevlon. And sod the rest of you.

Bullying, lying, bigoted, sociopathic behaviour isn't tolerated in most societies. We should not tolerate it in WoW.

Monday, 6 September 2010

I become neglected, and am provided for

Kudos to Raimondas for showing how to make 2000g at level 10 starting with no money! Now you never need to be stuck for cash again!

Raimondas' archives have been destroyed in a cataclysm. Until he is able to recover them, the wayback when machine has preserved his article here:

Friday, 20 August 2010

I begin life on my own account, and don't like it

What professions should I choose as I start off in Azeroth? Well, that's easy! As you are beginning your journey, it is wisest to choose gathering professions - mining, skinning, herbalism. If you plan to do this, then you will have an easy time, because your professions will be making money for you from scratch - everything you gather can be sold for excellent profit in the Auction House. As you mine, or skin, or pluck, your skills in these professions will increase, making other ores minable, other carcasses skinnable and other herbs pickable.

The only thing you have to bear in mind is that it's easy for you to level your character faster than your gathering professions, and find yourself adventuring in an area where many of the collectibles are too difficult for you to collect. If that happens, you'll find that because you aren't able to gather as much, your professional skills aren't increasing as fast as your XP, so that in the next zone you enter it'll be even harder to gather stuff. It's a runaway train, and the only way to stop it is to nip it in the bud: if you find yourself in an area full of, say, mageroyal, or tin ore, and your gathering skills aren't yet good enough to collect it, then the best thing you can do is take a break from adventuring, and go back to the zone you just left and start gathering peacebloom or copper ore until you increase your professional skills to the point where you can start using them in the new zone. If you don't do this, your professional skills will stagnate through lack of opportunities to improve them.

Skinning has one slight advantage over mining and herbalism: you rarely need to go out of your way, for two reasons: because the animal you are skinning is one that you will often have killed yourself, and whose warm corpse you will be wanting to loot, anyway; and because very often when you are killing things, other adventurers will be killing things right beside you, and you can skin their kills without much extra work!

So, you can happily begin your professional life by picking two of the three gathering skills and sell what you collect in the Auction House. If you do this while levelling, you will be rich, because the fruits of your labour are always wanted by other professions.

Another popular strategy is to pick one gathering profession and a manufacturing profession that uses the raw materials you gather. If you're a mage, herbalism and alchemy are popular choices, hunters often choose mining and engineering (so they can make their own ammunition). Miners often choose jewelcrafting or blacksmithing, and herbalists who don't take alchemy often choose inscription. Don't bother with inscription, unless you are prepared to make a real industry out of it. It's the sort of industry that you would want to devote all your bag space to, and then some. It's the sort of profession that you want to devote a whole alt to.

Other popular combinations are skinning and leatherworking, mining and blacksmithing. Don't pick these. The idea is that you can make your own armour and save yourself a ton of money. Trust me, it never happens this way. You simply end up wasting your gathered materials making items to skill up your manufacturing profession, and you end up having to dump these manufactured items on the AH for less than the cost of the raw materials, because nobody wants them, not even you: you will get armour that's roughly as good as you can make, just by questing and looting.

What is important is that you realize that you are not stuck with these professions forever. As you reach higher levels, you will easily be able to afford to throw one away and quickly level another from scratch with materials you buy in the Auction House. Let me briefly tell you what each profession involves:

  • Alchemy: turning plants into potions
  • Blacksmithing: Turning metal into armour, weapons and so on (you must be at an anvil to do this)
  • Enchanting: disenchanting armour, weapons and so on into magical essences, and using these essences to enchant other pieces of armour, weapons and so on to increase their stats.
  • Engineering: making ammunition, and fun gadgets (bombs, rockets, goggles, toys) that mostly are only usable by engineers
  • Herbalism: plucking plants (for resale or reuse in another profession)
  • Inscription: making ink from herbs to create glyphs (and offhand items and trinkets).
  • Jewelcrafting: prospecting raw gems from metal ore, making jewelry (necklaces, rings, etc) and cut gems that increase their user's stats.
  • Leatherworking: Turning leather into armour.
  • Mining: digging up metal ore (for resale or reuse in another profession)
  • Skinning: turning dead animals into leather (for resale or reuse in another profession)
  • Tailoring: turning cloth into clothes (including cloth armour).

Of course, I didn't know all this when I chose my professions: I chose tailoring and enchanting - a common combination, but probably one of the worst for levelling mages.

First, I chose tailoring because I wear cloth armour and I thought it was a great way of using all the cloth I was picking up off kills; and it is, but the items you can manufacture as a low-level tailor are not the sort of items most people want to buy. The exception to this is bags, but the standard bag that everyone buys is the Netherweave Bag, and it's a long time before you learn to make those.

Second, I chose enchanting, as I thought it a magely thing to choose; and it is, and it also has a sort of gathering skill built in, disenchanting. This is handy because it allows you to disenchant armour that would otherwise be useless to you into magic essences (shards, dusts and so on) that you will use for enchantment, or for resale. Those enchanting materials can net quite a pretty profit, but in general, enchantment is a drain on your wealth rather than a benefit, as the low-level scrolls of enchantment you make while levelling are generally not as valuable as the mats you used.

Once you have maxed out a manufacturing profession, then the story changes; then you will be able to make rare and in-demand items that level-capped players need. For instance tailors can make spellthreads, which every top-level spellcaster needs and will pay a fortune for. Each profession has something like that, and will start to generate income for you, as well as providing special items that only you can use. Once you reach the level cap, and have enough money to be able to power-level a profession (i.e. buy all the materials you need in the auction house to get from level 1 to level 450 in the profession in a few hours) then it's time to review your professions and perhaps choose a profession for the bonuses it can provide you. Until then, choose at least one gathering profession, and either a second gathering profession, or a manufacturing profession that uses the fruits of your gathering or provides you with items you know you will need. Don't rely on being able to sell what you manufacture for more than the cost of the raw materials.

Finally, you should always pick up the secondary professions, cooking, fishing and first-aid. They don't take up one of your two professions, so you can have two primary and all three secondary professions (or four if you are a rogue: they get lockpicking as well).

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

A Little Cold Water

On the goblin subject of "time is money, friend", Tobold recently asked:

"Are you really trying to tell me that all the progress in the form of levels and gear you get in a MMORPG is a function of your *skill* in playing that game, acquired by many hours of training? Balderdash!"

I think we need to differentiate between you the player, and the character that you are playing. In RPGs (MMO or otherwise), it is the character whose skill increases as he or she spends time training. "Look! I have learnt a new spell, and can now cast frostbolts at my enemies. My skill in magic has increased." This says nothing about player skill. Their skill in magic is still zero. Players are roleplaying a character. The person that is making "progress in the form of levels and gear you get" is the character, not the player.

In this roleplay, it is quite easy to accept that time spent by our characters in practicing their skills actually improves those skills. It just so happens that the time the character is active is equal to the time the player is playing him. The same is not true concerning money. We do not so easily accept that our character's in-game wealth should depend on the player's expenditure.

I (the character) acquire items by in-game activities such as killing kobolds and taking their candles. Then one day I wake up and find the Eternal Staff of Uber-Pwnness in my mailbox. How did it get there? What is the in-game activity that explains its arrival? If there is none, if I get it simply because the player playing me bought it in real life, I have broken out of the play I am in, the actor is suddenly jerked back from the story to the stage. The same thing happens to me if it appears in your mailbox instead of mine (and I become aware of it, for instance by seeing it on your back).

Why do we play MMORPGs? Everybody has their own reasons, and I'm sure Tobold realizes that the fantasy of killing the Lich King (and not the reality of pressing keys in front of a screen) is a reason for many people. In other words, we play for the story, more than the gameplay. Of course the gameplay isn't unimportant, but RPGs in general and WoW in particular have such great stories. Without the stories, we are just killing ten rats to collect 10 XP.

Each time we are jerked out of Azeroth and put back into our living rooms, our enjoyment of the game diminishes. There are plenty of times this happens, and it seems to be getting more frequent recently: the dungeon-finder teleport, frost-emblems that magically appear in your purse as soon as a boss dies or a "heroic" is completed, greed steeds, pandaren monks, Mr. Chilly, and even the older battleground teleports (though at least I can sort of believe that I'm being teleported there by the battlemaster I spoke to earlier), trading card items, and the Zhevra mount and its replacement, the X-53. It's hard enough to ignore these immersion-breaking elements. I don't want to see an increase in them.

I understand that for many people, its a game of collecting (gear, bosskills, gold, achievements, reputation, titles, pets, mounts, recipes), and the acting is not so important, and I can understand that they may not be so perturbed as me, as long as the thing they collect is not impinged by a real-money transaction. However, once it does impinge, many (not all) collectors are also perturbed by it.

For instance, mount or pet collectors who want the whole collection must now go out and spend real money on top of their game fee for the new RMT pets and mounts. I see many players on blogs saying "yeah, so what? These items don't affect the game. They are cosmetic. Blizzard would never introduce RMT items that matter in-game". What they mean is "yeah, so what? These items don't affect my game." They don't matter in-game if your game is gear-collecting or bosskill-collecting or title-collecting. But they do matter in-game if your game is pet-collecting. To a pet collector, dismissing them as "cosmetic" has a hollow ring.

Anyway. In an MMORPG, it is not surprising that a character should improve his skills as time passes and he practices those skills and trains them. In WoW the time a character spends and the time a player spends on this is the same (not so in EVE, where characters may continue to train when the player is offline). However if we allow players to acquire items in-game simply through out-of-game RMT, that spoils some of the fun of many role-players and collectors - and we are all role-players to some extent: we are trying to kill monsters, not move pixels - and we are all collectors to some extent, even if what we are collecting is boss-kills.

Finally, to return to the original quote from Tobold, above, I doubt there are many people who think that WoW is mainly a game of player skill (though of course there are some who do not possess even the small modicum of situational awareness needed to GTFOOTF). Of course, some players are more skilful than others, but it is character skill that distinguishes a level 1 mage from a level 80 mage, not player skill. Player skill only matters when the characters are notionally equally skilled and geared.