Wednesday 30 January 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - day 10 - farming

Do you farm materials? Why? Why not? & which ones, where?

That's Nev's question for day 10. On the whole, the answer is no, I don't farm materials. There are a couple of riders I need to add to that.

I prefer to buy my materials from the auction house rather than going out specifically to farm them. But I often do collect materials while doing something else. For instance, I might be running an instance, and pick up cloth; or I might disenchant drops. I'm sure you don't count that as farming. Neither do I. By farming, I think we mean an activity where the main purpose is to collect materials.

Second rider: I actually do farm on my farm. Or rather, on Farmer Yoon's farm. I'm doing this specifically to level cooking. A useful side-effect of this is that I have plenty of raid food (though it would be cheaper to sell the raw ingredients and buy the finished product, if I didn't need to make the finished product to level cooking). But actually, Farmer Yoon's farm is a terrible time sink, and I avoid it as much as I can. He should get off his fat ass and do some work, himself.

I have actually farmed stuff in the past, and I will again. I usually set aside two days a year for farming small eggs, which are needed for two festivals; These things sell for amazing sums. I also went farming for wool cloth in Duskwood just before Winterveil. I got lots of cloth, but it didn't sell as well as I'd hoped. I won't be doing that again! I've also farmed herbs in the past, for levelling alchemy, because the herbs I needed weren't on the Auction House. I've never done that for inscription though. The materials I need are more predictable (or more unchanging) and I usually have stockpiles of ink, made when the herbs needed for them were cheap.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Friday 25 January 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 9 - niches

Nev's question today is:
What's your favorite niche market & why

There are so many niche markets to dabble in. For a long time, a blacksmith comrade of mine sold rods. They were needed only by mages, to enchant to create the next level of enchantments. A mage needed seven or eight over their whole career. Very niche, so most blacksmiths didn't bother making them. Copper rods, then silver rods, ..., then eternium rods, then ...., and then Blizzard removed them.

My banker's minion used to buy horde snakes and other pets from the Blackwater Auction House for resale on the Alliance AH, and in return sold Exodar moths. Now they're shared across your family and half the world has 9 of each to sell.

I always keep a few spellthreads for lower levels. Sapphire Spellthread, for instance, sells in small numbers, but at 200g. I always keep a few low-level spellthreads on the AH. Often I've no competition. Various low level enchantments are also good sellers. I suppose most of these are twink items for PvP at various levels.

If there is just one niche market for me, it would be cooking recipes, I suppose. I know where to find them, I know what they're worth, and I enjoy selling them. The ones that are awkward to attain (such as most Outland recipes) sell well, because of the hassle of getting hem from their vendor. The buyer is paying for the convenience, just as you might buy a ready-prepared meal rather than buying the ingredients and making it yourself. It takes a little bit of showmanship to sell the really rare ones, recipes that have been removed from the game. Here, bored trade scrubs really help without realizing it. If you can troll them, they'll be talking  for half an hour about how stupid it would be to buy your recipe, and how stupid you are for trying to sell it at that outrageous price, all the while allowing you to advertise it and make the case for why it is expensive.

 A challenge at the moment is to know whether to sell or keep the Desolace recipes from Gizelton's caravan. Are they coming back or not? Everyone seems sure that they are. I'm not so sure. They were deliberately rare in order to introduce a bit of a challenge to collectors and achievers. Maybe the recipes won't return until the caravan can be returned. And maybe that will take a bit of time. Maybe Blizzard will decide to move them to other vendors. Will they be easier to find? Maybe Blizzard will just quietly drop them. Who can tell? The fun is in trying to read the tea-leaves to set the correct price. And to be in on it in the first place. One thing is certain. Their current price is wrong. Either the few remaining recipes are the last we will ever see, in which case 50000g is not a bad price, or they will appear on an existing vendor, in which case 100g will be the best price for them. In my opinion Blizzard is not going to bring back the caravan just for three recipes. They've more important things to do. Look, they already deliberately got rid of the Recipe: Sporeling Snack. They won't mind losing these ones. But the opposite opinion is just as valid!

Rare items, such as the rare cooking recipes, are best sold through trade chat. Buyers need to be educated into seeing the value of rarity. An rud is annamh is iontach - what is rare is wonderful, as the saying goes in Gaelic. Education is a long-term project, and it took me a while to appreciate why people bought rare recipes. A common reason put forward by the trade scrubs was to complete an achievement  and whenever I'd list a rare recipe, for instance my favourite,the rarest Dirge's Kickin' Chimaerok Chops, scrubs would first be laughing at why anybody would want a meal that only gave +25 stamina, and then they'd be telling everyone how you could get the Iron Chef achievement without it. But the real reason collectors want it has nothing to do with achievements. It is simply to possess a rare recipe. Just like nobody buys a Penny Black or a Treskilling Yellow just to post a letter, or to complete their 10,000-stamp collection. They buy them to have something rare. Something that only they have.

There are other very rare items in the game. I'd love to get an education and move beyond cooking recipes. But they've been such fun!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Thursday 24 January 2013

Syp's picture contest

Syp at Bio Break is running a picture contest. He wants pictures of people "doing something MMO-y in the real world". I presume he means Azeroth. Outland's pretty unreal.

Here are my images of my guildies dressed up in their raid gear as characters from Earth Online.

Our raid leader explains our tactics for defeating the boss with
our new legendary weapon  - the [Projector of a Thousand Slides]

An epic projector from an earlier tier of raiding from the expansion "The Burning Celluloid"
- this is the [Projector of  Silent Movies]

The Boss

Raid wipe.

Killing Captcha

I was complaining yesterday about how I was losing comments that I posted to Wordpress blogs. In turn, Syncaine wrote about how he found it frustrating commenting on Blogger-hosted blogs. I sympathize with him and several of his commenters. Captcha is the bugbear here, and I thought I'd take a look at the Blogger settings to see if I couldn't turn it off. I found out how, so if you are a Blogger blogger, and want to do the same, here's what to do:

1. Go to (log on). You'll see a list of your blogs.
2. To the right of each blog name, there are a set of actions you can do for that blog. There's a little inverted triangle ("more options") among them. Click on it to see the options for the blog
3. Select "Settings" (the bottom option)
4. Click on "Posts and Comments"
5. Change the setting "Show Word Verification" to "No".
6. Save your changes!

Wednesday 23 January 2013

20 days of gold making - day 8 - reaching your goal

The next question that Nev posed on AHAddict is:
Thinking back to day 2, did you ever reach your goal or are you still working towards it? If you reached it - have you set yourself a new one

Oh, dear, I answered that on day two! Serves me right for not looking ahead.

I'll answer a similar question instead. Having reached my immediate goal of having enough money to buy some netherweave bags, and then my longer term goal of having as much gold as I need to buy anything I want, what am I actually doing with the gold?  Aha! I'll avoid answering question 19 just now ("gifts and presents"). What did I do with the gold, other than buying presents for myself?

Well, I will spend money to make money: for instance on tailoring patterns for desirable costumes. But that isn't the main use of my gold.

Growing up in Azeroth, I was enchanted by the world, despite the despoliation wreaked upon it by the invaders from beyond the dark portal and within. I was proud that my training could be put to use helping our Alliance in its struggle against the Horde, the Burning Legion, the scourge of the Lich King, the corrupt old gods and the madness of Deathwing. Even today we struggle on the unfamiliar island of Pandaria against enemies old and new. That is my purpose in life: to protect our Alliance from all threats.

Like all adventurers, I want to be the best I can be. So I spend my money freely on arms and armour, potions and preparations, flasks and feasts. I have never spared any expense in buying the best gear I can get, and properly preparing it with magical gems, charms and enchantments. And then repairing it.

My dieting regime is strict: I eat the finest Pandaren banquets, and the nootropic delicacies of the pot and the alchemist. Fish oil really does boost intelligence. I do a little farming in Farmer Yoon's ranch. He lets me keep all the crops, though in return he wants me to do all the work. No wonder the Mudclaws don't think much of him. But really, labouring on a farm is no sort of life for an adventurer while there are still orcs to be killed. And I'm too busy (I mean 'lazy') to actually do much fishing, so I buy most of my food at auction.

I'll tell you about my special treats on day 19.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Tuesday 22 January 2013

20 days of gold making - day 7- beginning again

If you were starting over again (maybe on a new server perhaps), how would you start building some capital & what goal would you set yourself?

There was a great answer to that question a few years ago by Raimondas, that I mentioned in "I become neglected". He showed how a level 10 can make his first 2000g. I particularly liked his advice for acquiring the first 20g: sell your signature to prospective guild masters!

In fact, it isn't hard making gold in Azeroth. Just sell everything!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Problems with commenting on Wordpress sites / Reputation revisited

Am I the only person having problems getting my comments published on Wordpress sites? It seems that for the last two months or so, my comments on most of these sites have vanished into the ether. It's very frustrating when I have matters of immense gravity and import to convey, but I can't comment on Syncaine's site, on Azuriel's site, on Cynwise's site, on Pugnacious Priest's website and a ton of others. I think it's because I don't log on with a twitter account, a wordpress account or a facebook account, and I don't want a gravatar. I just want to publish my comment, so I fill in my email address, my name and my website address in the three fields provided, enter my important comment, and click the "Post Comment" button. From there, the comment disappears off into the clouds (I am not even bothered by a captcha image to confirm the presence of my soul), never to be seen again.

Stop Press!
Azuriel figured out what was going on. My comments were in his spam filter. Erinys at Harpy's Nest tracked the problem down to the Wordpress spam-filter addon, Akismet, which seems to be a tad overzealous. I wrote to Akismet explaining the problem, and after a few days they added me to their whitelist.

Anyway, the last comment to disappear on me was one I tried to make on Azuriel's site, where he was looking forward to the rep changes in 5.2 (okay, he just said he was looking toward the changes, but I know how to read between the lines). Well, I'm not looking forward to them. I already mentioned in my Reputation article some problems with Blizzards reputation system. The changes in 5.2 are a retrograde step that just trivialize it further. Thank the Light that there are no tabards, at least!

Twenty Days of Gold Making - Day 6 - Best Market ever!

Which market has made you the most gold over the years?

That's an easy one to answer. Since I started, I've made more gold on glyphs than on anything else. Sadly, those days are behind us now. Blizzard made some important changes to glyphs back in October of 2010, with patch 4.01, the lead-in to the Cataclysm. This was the high-point of gold making through glyphs. Before this, when you learned a glyph, it became immediately active, replacing and destroying any previous glyph you had in that slot. Just like gems. After 4.01, however, once you learned a glyph it was never destroyed: it stayed available to you to activate at any time. This led to a spike in demand, as adventurers rushed to learn every glyph available to their class (since they were no longer destroyed, just activated or deactivated).

On the supply side, Blizzard had just successfully activated its Warden bot-catching programme, reducing the amount of herbs available, and also tripled the ink requirements for glyphs, so supply dried up. The result was that any scribe who had glyphs could sell them for a small fortune.

However, the downside of that for scribes has been twofold: the price spike attracted new scribes. Competition increased, and supply increased. Once people had bought all the glyphs available for their class, there was no more demand. So prices have steadily been dropping since Glyphmas 2010. It has been particularly bad for scribes (and good for everyone else) since our arrival in Pandaria. I'm not quite sure why that is. A new character race should have provided some new demand. Certainly a new class did, and monk glyphs are holding up reasonably, even as the other classes' glyphs tank. Perhaps it was that scribes stockpiled in preparation for another Glyphmas at the start of MoP, which never materialised.

Anyway, what's certain is that glyph sales are still a falling knife. As demand dries up, prices are dropping. Herbs aren't getting milled so there's a glut of them, dropping herb prices as well.

It isn't all bad for scribes: new Darkmoon decks, new offhand items, and new shoulder enhancements have kept them in cash. But glyphs aren't a licence to print money any more!

What's replacing it? Well, gems are still good, I suppose, especially if you're willing to camp the AH. I don't have any jewellers, so I can't benefit. We are going through a period of rapid change of gear as people qualify for heroics and then more and more LFR raids; replacing gear with new drops. This gear needs to be both bejewelled and enchanted.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Monday 21 January 2013

Twenty Days of Gold Making - Day 5 - Different bankers

Do you keep the same banker alt or do you change them up occasionally? Why?

Actually, no, I've always kept the same banker alt. I simply don't have any desire to reposition my banker, Fuill. She's happy doing that job, and I'm thankful she's happy and I don't have to find another banker. Plus now that she is also the guild master (and in control of the guild bank), it would be too much hassle to move her from the roles she now fulfils.She's no-longer XP capped, though, and is planning to PvP her way to level 39, when she must decide whether to stop there, or carry on to the top of the next PvP band.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Friday 18 January 2013

Blow the bloody doors off!

In my time as an Adventurer in Azeroth and Outland, I've killed giants, dragons and gods, I've blown up bridges and buildings and boats. How come I can't march into Orgrimmar, blow the doors off the bank vaults and cart off the gold that Garrosh is using to finance his megalomaniac plans?

Twenty Days of Gold Making - Day 4. The bank alt.

Do you use a banker alt/guild? When did you start doing that & why?

Funny you should ask that, I use both.

I had a low level employee that got into PvP and started playing battlegrounds. Fuill is her name, and she's a mage. Her professions were skinning and herbalism, but once she got into level 19 battlegrounds, she had to drop these. Why? Well, in those days, you couldn't switch off XP gain. If you wanted to stay at level 19 for Warsong Gulch (in those days, you got no XP from battlegrounds), you couldn't go out into the world and kill things, or even explore. I had my own horrible experience of this once at level 49, when I, too, had decided to spend a little time in random battlegrounds. I stayed at level 49 for about two months. One particular day, I was queued for a random battleground as usual, and while waiting, I took a gryphon taxi from Stormwind to Loch Modan, where I had some business with Innkeeper Hearthstove. As I was flying over the Searing Gorge, I was called to the battleground. As I answered the call, I was unseated from my taxi mount to be put into the battleground, and as soon as that happened, the unexplored part of the Searing Gorge that I was over became explored. I picked up a few XP for it, which was enough to tip me over to level 50, and that battleground was my last for a long time!

Anyway, Fuill was well kitted out with level 19 gear (she had the spidersilk boots and cape I mentioned in my last article, as well as a Tree Bark Jacket1, Keller's Girdle, and a host of other goodies). She couldn't work as a herbalist or a skinner for fear of picking up XP, so she decided to try her hand at crafting. First choice was to be an engineer, as it was her best source of head armour (Green Tinted Goggles). After reading Gevlon's blog in which he extolled the virtues of glyph production, she also decided to try inscription.

Inscription was a great profession for a gladiator. Once you join the queue for Warsong Gulch, you have to be ready to be teleported at any moment straight to the battleground, with only enough time to pick up a battle-bag if you're near a bank. So level 19 twinks had to spend a lot of time near the bank in Stormwind or Ironforge.  The proximity of these banks to the auction house was the reason that no other bank would do. In fact Auctioneer Jaxon in Stormwind was at that time positioned so that you didn't actually have to enter the auction house to target her! So Fuill spent a lot of time standing on a packing crate beside the mailbox outside, shouting orders to Jaxon through the wall, and picking up purchases without the need to move.

Time spent queueing could be whiled away in the AH, buying herbs, milling them, making inks, inscribing glyphs, and listing them for sale, all activities that could be put on hold for the call to Warsong Gulch.

As Fuill toiled away, she gradually learned more and more minor glyphs (which, it turned out, were the most profitable glyphs that a level 19 could learn), and started to run out of space in bags and bank. Inscription is like that: you need to stock hundreds of different glyphs and be prepared to see most of them in your mailbox again. That's what prompted Fuill to think of getting a guild. Somewhere to store gluts of herbs/inks/glyphs, in preparation for famines. Room to branch out into other markets. And so it was that she bought a moribund guild with a couple of tabs already paid for.

For a long time, Fuill was the only member of that guild. She named it BoI, which was short for Bank of Ireland (or Bank of Ironforge). Later she employed a minion in Booty Bay, for the Blackwater Auction house; but that eventually proved not worth the effort. Eventually when the Cataclysm arrived, she decided to try to build up the guild level to avail of guild perks. But how? By now she was XP-capped and fighting in twinks-only Warsong Gulch (though that was drying up). The only solution was inviting others to join the guild. And slowly, to her surprise, the guild became a real living guild, filled with interesting new people. I eventually joined her guild as well, and we started doing fun things together, looking forward to each other's company. May it go from strength to strength.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

1You can imagine how annoyed she was one patch day when she woke up and found that her jacket no longer fitted her, and wouldn't fit again until she was level 20.

Thursday 17 January 2013

Chinese tanks have arrived

Release 8.3 of World of Tanks has arrived, and with it the Chinese tanks. Frankly, I don't give a damn about the Chinese tanks, but all the same, gave me a new "Chinese" Renault NC-31, the tier one tank introducing the range. I played it a few times and hated it. I'll play a few more to see if it or its successors are any fun once they're elite, but at the moment, I think the best thing about it is I've got an extra garage slot. I think I know what tank will be getting sold to make way for my StuG.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Twenty Days of Goldmaking - Day 3 - initial technique

What were the first techniques/tricks/tips you used when starting out?

When I started, like everyone else I was just selling stuff at auction that I'd found while questing and that I'd no room for in my bank. But I started reading of  warcraft economy blogs. It was on one such blog that I came upon a tip that revolutionised my gold-making. It was at a time when I had just enough money to buy a few netherweave bags for myself, and no more. The tip itself was not a huge moneyspinner, but it gave me an insight into buyers. It was simple, and suited me well as a low level character. I can't find a link to the tip now, but it was this:

The Green Hills of Stranglethorn was a now-defunct level 25 quest that required you to find several missing pages from Hemet Nesingwary's manuscript. They were scattered all over Stranglethorn Vale (the zone which is now Northern Stranglethorn and the Cape of Stranglethorn). People who could hand in all the missing pages would complete the quest. The tip was simply to collect a complete set and sell it as a bundle. The pages themselves could be had for a few silver each, and the collection could be sold for 30g, according to the tipster.

But the tip included an eye-opening discussion of who would buy 2g worth of pages for 30g, and it wasn't level 25 adventurers wanting to complete the quest! As a level 19 adventurer myself, I could hardly afford to buy the bag and the bank bag-slot to hold the pages (in fact for my first sale, I bought the pages I needed off the AH, but hadn't a bag to put them in). No. Level 25 adventurers couldn't afford this. The buyers were all level-capped achievement hunters, who only needed to complete the quest to complete achievement the Green Hills of Stranglethorn, which was part of a bigger achievement, Hemet Nesingwary: The Collected Quests.

This was my first insight: most prices are set by rich level-capped adventurers (level 80, back then), not by poor levellers. Rich people pay for the convenience of having the quest items delivered to their mailbox. Poor people will not pay for that, and will not even buy the pages at any price. They'll get them the hard way, by killing every mob in Stranglethorn Vale until they have them. This was an important lesson for me: sell the luxuries that rich people want, and ignore the essentials that only poor people need.

Which reminds me of another set of items that I sold for great money at the time, the Spidersilk Drape and Boots, which were bought by rich adventurers for their level 19 PvP twinks.

The second insight was the importance of "secret" knowledge. Most people doing this quest had no idea how many pages needed to be collected, and what they were. The quest text just said to collect missing pages from four chapters. You had to go to wowhead (which most people didn't) to find out what pages were missing from each chapter. In fact, many people didn't even read the quest text correctly, and thought they had to get all pages from these four chapters, and so were hunting high and low over Stranglethorn Vale for page 2, for instance, unaware that it would never drop. I quickly learned to accompany each sale (almost all my sales were by COD) with a letter explaining what pages were missing, and assuring the buyer that they now had the complete set. One mistrusting purchaser actually insisted that I accompany him to Nesingwary's camp while he handed the quest in! The important thing was that I wasn't selling pages, I was selling a solution to the problem of completing the Nesingwary achievements.

The third and last insight this tip gave me was that the auction house wasn't the only way to sell stuff. In fact, you couldn't sell this bundle on the AH at all, because most of the value lay in the secret knowledge of what constituted a complete collection, and selling the pages individually on the AH only netted a few silver each. So I barked in trade, shouting out that I had a complete set of all missing pages, for the price of 30g. I loved scrubs laughing at me in trade chat or telling me how the  pages could be bought for a few silver, and what a rip off it was to sell them for 30g. Every time they did this, it would give me the chance to talk about what I was selling without spamming trade-chat. This has later been absolutely invaluable in sales of really expensive, rare items such as Recipe: Dirge's Kickin' Chimaerok Chops. In fact I tailor my messages in trade to elicit the most incredulity, guffaws and ridicule from the trade scrubs as possible, and I do as much as I can to annoy them (such as telling them that if they don't understand why the price is so high, the item is not for them; or even that they should keep quiet so as to avoid exposing their ignorance) so that they keep on advertising on my behalf!

I'm sure I sold about 100 sets of STV pages until the quest was made obsolete and replaced by a simpler one.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Tuesday 15 January 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 2. Goals

If you set yourself a goal, what was your goal & at what point did you set it?

As I mentioned in the last post, my initial goal was just to afford netherweave bags! I'll tell you what I did with them tomorrow.

My next goals were simply to afford mounts, dual spec, bigger bags, flying licences and so on. Much later I decided I'd try to reach the gold cap (which was only 214k at the time). I don't want to have gold just for its own sake, though. I'm not a gold hoarder or miser. I want to have enough so that I can buy whatever I want whenever it is for sale. Gold is just a tool, not an end in itself.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 1. How I started

This article has been submitted to Cold's Gold Blogging Carnival for February.

Nev Jones over at Auction House Addict has an interesting idea: to get bloggers to answer twenty questions related to the WoW economy over the next twenty days. The first question is straightforward: When did you start gold making & what triggered it?

I started making gold right from the start of my time in Azeroth as a result of the quest to get more bags. At the time, I kept virtually everything, in case it might come in useful later - I didn't know that grey items would never come in useful (what a pity. Wouldn't it be great to think that some mage out in a gingerbread house in a dark forest somewhere wanted you to meet her at midnight with a basilisk heart, a poisoned spider fang and a dried scorpid eye). So I wanted to buy bigger bags. At 10g a pop, netherweave bags were a serious expense, so at first I thought, I'll be a tailor and make my own. When that looked to be a rather long-term goal, I next tried to sell stuff at auction to get the money together. That was when I started looking around for tools to help with the (still) poor auction-house interface. Markco was still running the Just My Two Copper website at the time, and a Google search brought me to an article he had written there on Auctioneer. Markco really was a trailblazer back then. Anyway I installed Auctioneer on the strength of that article.

The greatest thing about auctioneer was to build up a database, over time, of the price of items. If it did nothing other than this it would have been worth it, back in the day when I didn't know if a piece of woolen cloth was worth 1c or 1g or something in between. Once you can set sensible prices, the money will start to come in. I got the cash for my netherweave bags fairly fast after that.

I'll tell you what I put in them on day 3!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Monday 14 January 2013

Gear Upgrade Vendor disappearing?

Green Armadilllo noticed that Blizzard is removing the Valor Point gear upgrade vendors on the PTR. Rohan isn't worried. He reckons that they'll be back in 5.3. Maybe they will and maybe they won't, but the sure thing is that you won't be able to upgrade any 5.2 gear, and 5.3 is when?, so if you're saving VP to upgrade your gear, now is as good a time as any to do it. Also bear in mind this blue comment:
we all know that even on live [servers] things can still change, so if a change is urgently needed, we do our best to apply it as fast as possible
Perhaps, having made the decision to get rid of the VP gear upgrades, Blizzard intends to remove them post-haste on live as well on the PTR. Perhaps in the next server reset? Probably not, but I'm not waiting around to find out, especially since there's no point in saving VPs to upgrade 5.2 gear. I'm upgrading my current gear tonight. Why not? We're bathing in Valor Points, thanks to Wrathion.

Friday 11 January 2013

Attunement is back

It's not called attunement any more, and it's not a hard requirement now, but attunement is back, in a new guise, and it's called Reputation. Let me come right out up front and tell you I welcome this.

I just finished the questline to earn my Sha-touched gem. It took me 108 raid boss kills to earn the requisite amount of sigils and the chimera of fear required for Wrathion to forge my Crystallized Horror (I could have done in in fewer kills, if I'd known what I was doing). Now he has me on two new quests: Earn 6000VP! and kill horde until I'm revered by him. Why would I do that? And why would I earn reputation with any of the other factions? the short answer is, for their rewards. Great weapons and armour are locked behind these reputation grinds. And why do we want these weapons and armour? Because we're stuck on a particular raid boss. Any edge we can get is worth the grind.

Now we can get into any raid instance without attuning to it. But getting far into the instance is another matter. If you're like me, you'll need to earn the reputation to get the gear. In fact in my case, because I'm raiding with another guild, I need the gear to keep my performance high enough to keep my raid spot!

Thursday 10 January 2013

The True Master

I finally completed Wrathion's quest to forge the sha-touched gem from the power, wisdom and fear of my vanquished foes. Nothing bad can come of helping Deathwing's son, right? Where's his brother, these days?

Wednesday 9 January 2013

Pay to Win

One common complaint about World of Tanks is that it's a pay-to-win game. Premium "gold" ammo (i.e. ammunition paid for with gold, the in-game currency that costs real money to buy) penetrates armour better than normal ammo, so people buying gold ammo have a better chance of killing you while your shots are bouncing off them. Gold tanks are already elite status (i.e. have already been fully upgraded, so you don't need to research better modules - such as new guns - for them), and allow you to 'skip' tiers. (you can buy a tier 5 elite tank without having to research your way through tiers 1-4).

I understand that the developers have to eat, so I don't mind them selling content, but selling wins is  little harder to stomach. In this case, developers make money from people buying gold, paying to win, on the understanding that we who play for free are there be blown up by paying customers to make them feel mighty. We who play for free are not players, we are NPC mobs. We are the content, as Gevlon says. At the low tiers, happily, there are not many pay-to-win customers.

I actually don't mind gold tanks, though I have no desire to buy one myself. It's a way of skipping tiers that you might not enjoy playing, to get to a tier you DO enjoy playing. Tobold, who covered this 18 months ago, also mentions another big advantage of gold tanks: their repairs costs are much lower at the highest tiers, so they can be used to build up silver credits to allow their non-gold tanks to pay for their repairs.

There are plenty of other uses for gold that I don't mind. Fore instance, expanding the garage and the barracks, so you can keep more tanks and more crew on call (just in case you haven't played World of Tanks, let me say that the only advantage this gives you is more variety. You can't actually take several tanks into battle at once). I did this in Star Trek Online, paying for another character slot in that excellent Free-To-Play game. As I say, I understand that developers need to make a living.

All the same, I've been most unhappy with the idea of gold ammo. This really is Pay-To-Win rather than pay-to-overcome-inconveniences. It's an intellectual/philosophical problem for me, not a day-to-day problem, because mostly at low levels people don't have gold ammo. It's really mostly in clan warfare that it's de rigeur (and there, everyone has it - so levelling the playing field).

So it was with pleasure that I read a small line in the Winter Resupply Special Offer news on the World of Tanks website:

Up to 50% discount on premium ammunition
With gold or credits, obtain better ammunition for less!

What's that? Premium ammo is now available with credits? - the currency you earn in-game through good play! It's pretty expensive: 800-6400 credits per shell normally. But at least it can now be had through in-game play. Tobold knew about this last October, but I only discovered it last Friday.

Not only is the high-penetration 'gold' ammo now available for credits, it was on sale for half-price over the weekend! I'd saved up nearly 500K credits to buy the STuG III and its upgrades, but I immediately spent half of that on gold ammo, buying a couple of hundred rounds for a range of my tanks. I even considered spending some more on shells for the STuG III, even though I don't own it, yet.

The gold shells have particularly made a difference for the Hetzer. As I mentioned last time, when fighting tier 6 tanks, my shots just bounce off, and they usually one-shot me. Now I carry two gold shells into every battle, and if I have a shot at a tier 6 tank from the front (i.e. driving straight towards me), I reload with a gold shell, and hope he doesn't hit me before it's loaded. Once it loads, it has a good chance of penetrating and killing my opponent, and I live to fight another day. I still have to hang back and try to identify targets of opportunity at long range; but with 2 gold shells, I can often escape what would otherwise have been certain death.

Another place where gold shells have made a difference: tier 2 American T18 tank destroyers are almost impervious to shells from tier 2 tanks from the front (in fact, I'm thinking of getting a T18, myself) They're the only tier 2 vehicle I fear on the battlefield. But they too are susceptible to gold shells. Against most other tier 2/tier 3 tanks, the gold shells are mostly a waste of money. Normal armour-piercing shells are sufficient.

Obviously, you can't use only gold shells (unless you are buying them with gold). Each shell costs roughly half the prospective earnings from the battle, so in-game winnings aren't sufficient to pay for a full complement of them. But it's good knowing you have a couple tucked away in the magazine.

Monday 7 January 2013

Hetzer heroics

I'd a nice time over the Winterveil festival. Not a lot of guildies around, so no guild events. Same story with my raid team: we've basically taken 3 weeks off raiding. That suited me well. I spent a lot of time relaxing and unwinding with my family in Earth Online, where the Christmas holidays were a lot of good, chillout fun. All the same, the weather was a bit miserable. We'd go out for walks and come home wet and cold (can you believe it? On Earth, rain and snow make you cold, which is a stacking health debuff that can actually kill you if you have it for long enough. Anyone who spent their time in Northrend wearing the Black Mageweave set knows how unrealistic that is). So as well as the usual eating and drinking and being merry, I spent a fair bit of time in the World of Tanks. The new physics engine is great! There are no invisible walls, tanks can drown themselves in lakes or fall down cliffs (and sometimes even survive the fall)!

My sweetest moment was when scouting in Province underneath the winding path above our base (at J7). From here, I can shoot at enemies going up the other winding path, above their base (they rarely seem to notice where the shots are coming from). Even better, it enables our snipers camping on the opposite hill to see enemy tanks above me, so they take a lot of fire without even seeing who's shooting at them; and it annoys the hell out of the enemy tanks above me, who can see me on the map, but can't shoot at me. Some of them get so annoyed that they try leaning over the path to try to get a shot; but I'm always tucked in tight, and generally ignore them for our snipers to take out, while I shoot up the opposite windy path. After one such duel with an enemy who spotted that I was shooting at him, I finally managed to kill him and looked up from my gun-sight, to find an enemy tank directly behind me, dead, vertical with his gun barrel in the ground and his rear in the air. A self-kill.

I've been playing World of Tanks very casually for quite a while, deliberately sticking to tier 2 tanks. This is great fun in light tanks, because you're usually fighting against other tanks in tiers 1 and 2, with only occasionally a tier 3 tank in your battlefield (tier 3 tanks are hard for tier 2s to damage, unless you do a lot of manoeuvring to bring yourself up behind them, or at least shooting into their side. Shots hitting their frontal armour usually bounce).

I've got pretty good at tier 2 tanking, and even when my side loses (which is 50% of the time), I'm usually near the top of the table for experience earned.

My style of play is not suited to scouting (rushing forward to detect enemy units for your team-mates to blow up, relying on great speed to avoid being hit). I prefer more static play. I can find a hidden spot from which I can snipe at targets our scouts light up, put on my camouflage netting, get out my binoculars and wait to kill tanks that can't even see who's shooting at them. So I thought I'd probably enjoy artillery; but it turns out that artillery play is a different game altogether from sniping. So I next tried tank destroyers. I chose the German line, beginning with the Panzerjäger I. This suited my playstyle well, but there are two problems with it.

Firstly, the problem with tier 2 tank destroyers is they are in a different battle tier to other tier 2 tanks. The World of Tanks matchmaking is a complicated affair that picks teams based on a battle tier. Tanks from different vehicle tiers can end up in the same battle tier. There's a simple-looking (in fact over-simplistic) chart on their wiki that covers it. But what is hidden in this chart is what decides what battle tier you go into. From the chart, you can see that a (vehicle) tier 2 tank destroyer can end up in battle tier 2 or 3, the same as any other tier 2 tank. Well, it aint so. My Panzerjäger nearly always seemed to end up in tier 3 battles, specifically Prokhorovka and Ensk, fighting tier 3 tanks.

The second problem with the Panzerjäger is that it has no turret, and it's gun has a firing arc of -10°/+10° That, combined with its so-so rate of fire, means that by the time you've fired and reloaded, your target has moved out of your sights (if he has any sense), and you have to resight him by turning the vehicle itself.

Putting these two problems together meant the Panzerjäger wasn't the greatest fun on earth. I could lie in wait for enemy tanks, but when I shot at one, I was unlikely to kill it outright, unless it was already damaged. In fact at long range my carefully-aimed shots were likely to bounce right off their armour. Meantime, if they've spotted me, they can one-shot me, since I'm in an open-topped tin-can. If they miss, they've plenty of time to move off, forcing me to rotate using my tracks, which knocks out the aiming for a couple of seconds and undoes the camouflage cover of the netting and whatever bushes I'm in. So the actual rate of fire is far less than the quoted rate, and survival time once spotted is on the low side.

Meantime in my lumbering French tier 2 Hotchkiss H35, I'm fighting tier 1 and 2 tanks. I can play the tank destroyer in them, and while I can't one-shot enemies, I can still snipe at them from camouflaged cover, rotate my turret to follow them if they try to run for cover, and if they get close, I can stand toe-to-toe with them in a firefight.

Rather than abandon tank destroyers altogether, I moved up to the next tier beyond the Panzerjäger, the Marder. This was a huge improvement, once fully kitted out. It's PaK26 gun can penetrate anything it might find itself up against, and deliver reasonable damage, its range is excellent, and best of all, it's firing arc is -32°/+25, so there's a good chance of hitting a target twice without having to move the tracks. This is more like it. But it's still an open-topped tin-can. Hey, if the next tier up was so much more fun to play, let's try again, with the Hetzer. That looks awesome. How many times have my shells bounced off that sleek beast? So I moved up to the next tier again, to the tier 4 Hetzer.

Each time you buy a new tank, it's initially a bit of a step backward. You've to learn its strengths and weaknesses, and upgrade its modules (the modules it comes with are always poor), so when at first the Hetzer seemed like a step down from the Marder, I expected it. The sloped armour is great, deflecting all but the highest penetration shells from the front. I read up about the gun upgrades available. The 10.5cm StuH gun (the derp gun) delivers a heap of damage but not great penetration and accuracy compared with the 7.5cm PaK 39 gun. The 7.5 seemed like the sniper's gun. So I researched and bought it, and got my Hetzer fully kitted out. But I still wasn't having great fun. The Hetzer just isn't great as a sniper, due to the poor gun arc, which I didn't think of when I moved up from the Marder. Plus, the 7.5 can't deliver much damage at range

I thought about moving back to the Marder, but first I tried out the derp gun. What a revelation! It has completely changed my style of play. I'm not a sniper any more. The 10.5cm StuH 42 is more like a bazooka than a sniper's rifle. Less accurate, slower to fire, but if you're hit, you're dead. This beast of a gun just blows away anything it penetrates. Since it's not great at penetrating thick armour at range, the best tactic is to use it as a blitz support tank, just behind the first wave of tanks, so that you can take on enemy tanks at close quarters and perhaps from the side or rear. This big gun usually sends anything it penetrates clean into orbit.

The downside of the Hetzer is that I can now face tier 6 tanks such as the KV-1S and M6. With their thick armour and heavy guns, they can easily swat me away. When I have one of these in my sights, the likelihood is that I'll be dead within the next ten seconds if he sees who's shooting at him.

But that's okay! The Hetzer is still storming fun to play. It gets into 2 types of battles, essentially: those in which it cuts through the enemy ranks like hot lead through butter (it's not hard to rack up 3-4 kills, 5-6 kills is not unusual even if the battle is eventually lost); and those where it's gunned down within the first two minutes by a tier 6 tank, and you skip on to the next battle in another tank. Plus it brings in loads of cash. I'm definitely not giving this one up!

Wouldn't this be great, though: imagine that in the 30 seconds before battle, after you've seen your enemies, you could change the modules on your vehicle to suit the fight you're about to go into.

I do want to go back to the Marder, though, which I think I should have played for a bit longer before moving to on. Despite its poor armour, I enjoyed the sniper style. I have a British Medium 1 in the garage that's not yet got a good crew, and doesn't really play any differently from the Hotchkiss I mentioned earlier. I think I'll dump it for the Marder.

Also, though, I want to get the next tank destroyer after the Hetzer. Only great things are said about the Sturmgeschütz. I fear another of my tier 2 tanks will have to be scrapped to make way for it.