Wednesday 27 February 2013

Pay-to-win lawsuits

In Earth Online:

Apple is facing a $100m bill to compensate millions of parents whose offspring inadvertently used iPhones and iPads to rack up large bills of their own. The technology giant agreed to the payout after five sets of parents said that their children had bought too many “virtual goods” whilst they were playing with apps on the Apple devices. [source]

I don't want to discuss why Apple should be paying this bill when they didn't benefit from the sale of "virtual goods" (the app providers got that benefit). Nor do I want to point the finger at parents who let their kids use their iPhones, when they know that those iPhones have the equivalent of their credit card details on them, in an easy to use form. Nor do I want to get into an  argument over parents' responsibility for the behaviour of their offspring. What I want to mention is the possible consequences for pay-to-win games.

The games that were the subject of these lawsuits were RMT games. The issue for the parents was that they were advertised as free-to-play games, and the parents downloaded them (or sanctioned it) on that basis. The kids then bought virtual goods and got the benefit of them. They continue to have the benefit of these goods (I don't believe they're sending them to Apple or removing them from the accounts of the kids), but their parents are now getting a refund. This has to be the way forward for every cute hoor that ever played a game for free: buy the One Ring or the Sparkly Pony or the PLEX or the gold ammo, enjoy it, then claim that it was your kid that bought it, and demand your money back. But don't demand your money back directly from the seller of the virtual goods (or they might take back the goods). Instead demand it back from some third party intermediary, such as PayPal or Visa or MasterCard, or even the providers of your download software such as Microsoft or Google. People who can be arm-twisted into stumping up, but can't take back the goods.

Expect more such lawsuits.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Darkfall 2010 fail

Chris at Game By Night thinks that Aventurine's PR team need help. It isn't just their PR team that needs help. In fact, I bet their PR people are throwing their hands up with horror at what's going on. Their whole project management is rubbish:
  • The very idea that they could have launched without a beta test was madness in the extreme.
  • They gave out a launch date, and then missed it. Missing dates isn't great. It shouldn't happen on a project where the project management team knows what they are doing. Better to give out no dates than to give out dates that you aren't sure to hit.
  • That the November 20 release date was put back only a few days before the release was due tells you that they didn't really know the state of their product even a month before the due date (or they were just burying their heads in the sand). What was going on? The product should have been with the test team for a few months before that, and by one month before release, the initial testing should have been completed and bugs fixed, leaving at most only re-testing of fixes. It is a sign of blind, blundering management that they were still finding show-stopping problems in the last month.
  • Having failed to hit the November release date, how did they decide on the December date? Did anyone actually have a plan that showed the product could be released on December 12? Given that they showed (see previous bullet point) that they didn't have a good handle on the state of the product, I doubt it. It seems to have been a date plucked from the air. 
  • Having failed to meet their first date, it beggars belief that management would put themselves in the position of repeating that failure three weeks later, by failing to meet the second release date. To miss one release date may be regarded as a misfortune. To miss both looks like carelessness.
  • It is only after these previous failures that the management team realize they need a beta-testing program. Better late than never.
Having decided on a beta-testing program, they have finally realized that they should keep silent on an actual release date. The reason, I suspect, is that they are very unsure of their actual game-play, and instead of recruiting beta-testers to find bugs, the beta-testers are reporting on game-play features that they don't like, and Aventurine are responding to that instead of telling them "We're happy with the game we designed. We just need to iron out the bugs. We spent the years 2009-2013 designing the game based on what we felt was wrong and right with our previous game. The time for requirements-gathering is long over. We'll put your suggestions in the backlog for consideration in the next release."

But instead, I'll bet you that Aventurine is responding to new requirements, as if it were still 2009 and they were near the start of the project instead of at the end. You know how that's going to pan out. We see it time and again in the forums of various games where forum warriors cry "nerf this! buff that!".  Here's how this goes: feature X is a feature that most beta-testers are happy with. For instance, arrows fly in an arc, lets say. Most people are happy with this. These people say nothing. Just like I don't bother mentioning that my toast wasn't burnt at breakfast. I take it for granted, I don't praise the toaster for not burning my toast, I only talk about my toast when something unusual happens, such as the toaster burning it.

Some testers, though, are unhappy with feature X (for instance, arrows flying in an arc) because it makes aiming difficult (without stereoscopic vision, it's hard to judge distance, so how can they know just how much above the target they have to aim to allow for the arrow's fall?). They make a noise. They want it changed. So the feature that most people were happy with (or at least, not unhappy with) gets changed. Some people are delighted. But now a different group are annoyed enough with the new design that they complain (no arc? Unrealistic. Stop pandering to unskilled players and cater to the group you said was your target, hardcore PvP players. Players who relish overcoming difficulty). So it goes. No game-play can delight everybody. And once people realize that the product team is not convinced by the game-play they designed, everyone will want their own changes. Imagine if you could tell God that you don't think the gravitational constant should be so large, or that water shouldn't expand on freezing, and he would listen to you instead of turning you into a pillar of salt? You'd never stop redesigning the universe!

 This project is an unmitigated disaster.

Friday 22 February 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 16 - Flipping

Nev asks: Flipping! Do you flip stuff regularly or sometimes? Big ticket items or smaller high volume stuff?

I quite often flip stuff, both big ticket items and smaller items. For the big-ticket items, I have a snatch list that I use to find unusual items whose value I know, but the seller doesn't. But Fuill, my banker, also has a snatch list for herbs that she uses for inscription, and she constantly buys up cheap herbs. She doesn't mill them all, and keeps some of them for sale when the price is higher, or when there are none of that particular herb for sale. She even buys cheap inks and pigments for later resale. 

Some cheap items I have to resist filling my bank with. When you see woolen cloth at 10% of normal price, it's tempting to weigh in and buy it all up; but the effort of selling it again later better spent on richer pickings. Well, I've learnt that now. All the same the urge for a bargain is strong!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series.

Thursday 21 February 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 15 - Professions

Nev asksProfessions - do you have all of them, some or none? Which is your favorite for goldmaking?

I think if you're serious about goldmaking it would be quite important to have all of them. I'm not serious, though, and I and my relatives don't have all of them. I have maxed tailoring and enchanting, a common combination for mages; Fuill has inscription (for making gold) and engineering (for PvP); and I've a few other relatives that  have between them that have blacksmithing, alchemy and jewelcrafting, none of them maxed out (and therefore not very useful).  I did want to get them maxed out, but there always seems to be something better to do. Between us we also have all the gathering professions, and I have cooking and fishing at max level. Fishing seems to be valuable, but cooking is a net drain. the raw materials usually seem to sell for more than the finished dishes.

For goldmaking, Fuill used to make a lot of money with glyphs, but now that's a dead market. Engineering pets were also quite good to her, but that's another dead market now. It seems few people collect pets just to have them, now. It's all about the pet battles.

Tailoring is still fine. Entry-level PvP cloth gear still sells reasonably well, especially the level 90 ilvl 450 stuff (Contender's Silk set and Contender's satin set), as does pretty or unusual stuff, for instance shirts, wedding gowns, tuxedos, stuff like that. I've not really made much money, though, with ilvl 476 gear, though, and I've no ilvl 496 patterns. Frankly, I don't want to spend a lot of money on a pattern that I might not make back on sales of the finished article!

Enchanting isn't too bad, either, though it's not as good as it once was. I think LFR is the reason. Here's my tinfoil hat theory on this: back in the day, a lot of people wanted to raid, but couldn't easily raid because they were not in a raid team. Breaking into a raid team is tough. You need to impress a raid leader that you are capable, at just the point where they were looking for a new member of their team. Fortunately, it was not impossible. The usual way in was to win friends and influence people. You would get yourself invited to a PuG and hope that the alt of a raider was present, and noticed you, and added you to their friends list.Then when their raid was short a body, the raiders would search their friends list to see who was around who could help. Or simply the raid leader might be calling out in trade that their team had a free spot, and was seeking a suitably qualified mage to fill it. Anyway, you had to make sure to impress at least one person that you knew what you were doing, and that included being properly geared (including belt buckle), gemmed and enchanted. You would be inspected. Questions would be asked.

In the new world of raid-finder, though, all that matters is your ilvl and you're in. Doesn't matter if you're a warrior wearing cloth or a mage in spirit gear. Gems? Enchants? Belt buckles? Don't waste my time!

Now a lot of people who wanted to raid were frustrated by the previous scheme, and would be lucky to get into one raid a week pugging. Usually when that PuG finished for the night, there was no further progress that week. So many people who would in the previous scheme have tried to join a PuG to get noticed decided that they'd prefer to use LFR instead, to avoid the hassle and frustration. It isn't the full raid experience, but you can see all the bosses that way. Several times a week, if you like. Such people would not need to buy enchantments. Only the people still trying to impress future raid leaders need those.

So, at the moment tailoring is my favourite profession; and farming and fishing seem to be the most lucrative.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Monday 18 February 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - day 14 how much time

Nev asksHow much of your playtime is devoted to gold making? Do you raid/pvp/pet battle too or is the AH your main playtime?

My gold-making is done in the time between doing other things. During Wrath, I got bitten by the raiding bug, and so I spent a lot of time trying to get into raids: my guild at the time raided once a week, and I always had a place there (because I would lead that raid), and I would try to get into other people's raids as well. Also, running heroic instances was important for gear drops and emblem drops. So that took up a good deal of time. My banker, as I mentioned earlier, enjoyed level 19 PvP, and would spend a lot of time in Warsong Gulch, so that pretty much absorbed most of my time and hers. Most of our gold-making was done while she was waiting to be called to battle.

The guild I'd been in during Wrath fell apart at the end of Wrath, just before the Cataclysm. I joined a new guild that was one of the top raiding guilds on the realm, and spent the first few months of Cataclysm raiding with them; but mages were not doing good damage in Cata, and I struggled to keep my raid place. It didn't much matter, though. That guild was torn apart by the change from 25-man to 10-man raiding, and by egotism. That was a bit depressing, and I stopped raiding seriously for the most of Cataclysm. I joined my banker's guild and had a little fun making gold instead, so most of my time in Azeroth at that point was devoted to making gold, and building up the guild.

With the discovery of Pandaria, I've re-discovered my love of raiding (though getting into a raiding team without changing guild is a challenge), so my gold-making time has reduced. That's as it should be. I've enough gold to be getting on with.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Friday 15 February 2013

Travel in Camelot Unchained

I mentioned in We Flew Spitfires and The Wanderer how I felt that safe fast or instant travel cheapened the Virtual World experience. So I was delighted to see in Mark Jacob's blog (foundational principle #2) that there will only be "very, very limited fast travel options". Excellent! In fact, the more I read Mark's foundational principles, the more I'm salivating at the chance to be in that world.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Doomsday is a comin'


Don't read any further if you do not yet know what the Divine Bell is. No, don't look it up! Come back later, don't spoil your fun now/

If you do know what the Divine Bell is, but haven't yet been to Darnassus to meet Jaina, also please stop reading now, and don't even read the letter that Agent Connelly sends you, until after you've talked to Vereesa Windrunner. His letter seems to have come through a time warp.

Okay, so if you're still with me, you know what has happened in Dalaran. What, you don't? I told you to stop reading! Honestly, don't spoil your own fun! And if you're a horde spy intercepting my communications, well it's too late. We're onto your game.

If you're still with me, then you've seen Jaina's reaction to finding out that the horde is yet again trying to build a weapon of mass destruction, using another artifact, the Divine Bell. Once again, Garrosh is behind the plan, and even though we managed to uncover the Divine Bell and get it to safety, the horde stole it from Darnassus and with the help of the Sunreavers of the Kirin Tor, teleported it through the Kirin Tor capital, Dalaran. As you know, that was the last straw for Jaina, and she finally decided that the Kirin Tor could no longer remain neutral in the fight between good and evil. Finally, the Kirin Tor has declared for the Alliance. Jaina herself arrested every Blood Elf she could find in Dalaran, and imprisoned them in the Violet Hold. About time!

Vereesa Windrunner is pretty happy about this turn of events. The Silver Covenant strenuously opposed the presence of the Sin'Dorei in the Kirin Tor, and she was maddened even further when the horde killed her husband, Rhonin, who died trying to contain the explosion at Theramore. Her Silver Covenant are happily booting blood elves out of Dalaran, and killing any who try to resist arrest. She asked me to help her, and I went about my tasks with a smile on my face. Finally, Jaina has seen that if you keep turning the other cheek, the horde will just slap it again.

Whiny horde adventurers (who, let us remember, are down in the Krasarang Wilds killing Alliance engineers and other non-combatants) are complaining that the poor blood elves in Dalaran were just poor shopkeepers and peaceful citizens, in fear of their lives, and were killed without warning. Well, I'm here to tell you that it isn't so. I didn't kill a single Blood Elf in Dalaran who didn't attack me first. These horde need to take responsibility for their own actions. They partook in the attack on Theramore; they smuggled the Divine Bell through Dalaran. Did they think that there would be no repercussions, and that Jaina would always do nothing in response to their evil deeds?

I was mildly disappointed that King Varian Wrynn was in negotiations with the Sin'dorei that he hoped would lead to them joining the Alliance. Let me say this clearly. Blood elves have shown again and again recently that they are not to be trusted and have no place in our Alliance of Light. They would stab us in the back when it most mattered. Besides, everyone knows what they do with bottled troll sweat at their orgies in Silvermoon City. The only horde who have any good in them are the tauren.

Light be with you!

Thursday 7 February 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 13 - Yay!

Nev asked:

What was your biggest 'Yay!' moment?

Probably my biggest 'Yay!' moment was the very first sale I made of the complete set of missing pages of Nesingwary's Journal for 30g, at a time when I didn't even have enough gold to buy a bag to put them in! But I already covered that on day 3, so let me tell you of another important moment for me.

It was still early in my goldmaking career when I saw some guy on the trade channel asking 1000g for a pet I'd never seen before: a digusting oozeling. Not only had I never seen it before, I'd never seen a pet on sale for such a price before. He didn't have any luck selling it, and he was barking all day. Next day he was still trying to sell it. By now I was intrigued and had looked it up on wowhead. I didn't know how to price it: there was no data on it in my Auctioneer database, there was, of course, no undermine journal, and wowhead, allakazzam and so on didn't in those days have auction house prices. All that was available was anectdotal posts by people who had bought or sold it. I reckoned that it was one of those items you might sell at a good price if an interested, rich pet-collector passed by, or you might have it in your bags for months without a sale.

I started talking to the guy. He was tired of trying to sell it, and I easily talked him down to 800g, and bought it. 800g was over half of my money at the time, so I couldn't afford to not sell it, but I thought I'd got it at a good price.

Now, you're probably looking it up on wowhead and TUJ now, and thinking I got a real bargain, since it's listed at 8385g buyout price on wowhead, and 9263g alliance-EU market price on TUJ. The thing is, list prices are not sales prices, and on rare items such as this one (only 185 currently on sale throughout the EU),   there is always a large discrepancy. In my experience selling rare items, you can add a large pinch of salt to any published prices. Moreover, back when I bought it from the guy on trade, there was a lot less money sloshing about Azeroth than there is today.

Anyway, back then I didn't have any experience selling rare items, and few price-points to help me gauge the right price. So I simply made a wild guess and decided to sell it at double what I'd paid for it: 1600g. But first I set about nobbling Auctioneer.

Since I had no data about digusting oozelings in my Auctioneer database. I reckoned there was little data in anybody else's, and I had a sort of prime-mover advantage in setting prices. So I listed it for around 3000g on the AH for a week, each sale for 12 hours, and each price slightly different to the others (and that's also why I don't trust sales prices on rare items - I know from first-hand experience how easily they are manipulated).

Once I'd done that, I then chose a Friday to list it at 2000g on the AH, and started barking this price in trade. Once trade scrubs started laughing at my price, I was able to tell them what a bargain it was compared to the average price of those oozelings!

I love trade scrubs - the guys who hang out on the trade channel and have an opinion on everything. They are invaluable to somebody trying to make a market, because they can be guaranteed to laugh at attempts to sell something they've not come across before, and this allows you to expose their ignorance, all the while talking up your product. For instance "who would waste 2000g on a pet!", they assert (it's a rhetorical question). This is not the time to become defensive and just respond that pet-collectors would, for that just allows the scrubs to ridicule your potential customers. No. Now is the time to make your potential customers feel good about themselves. the correct answer is something like "This item isn't for you. You could never afford it. My customers are rich, and this is pocket change for them. If they want something, they can go out and buy it, whatever it is. Unlike you, they didn't waste their lives chatting in trade."

Now you might have been talking to the top raider in the realm, but it doesn't matter! The important thing here is that you've made your potential customers feel better than that person, and you've hinted that conspicuous consumption is one way of differentiating themselves from the crowd. Also, you've got the data to prove that your price is a bargain!

Anyway the result is that a pet collector contacted me that weekend, and haggled the price down to 1600g. I got the price I wanted, he felt good about getting a bargain and a very rare pet, and everybody went away happy!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Wednesday 6 February 2013

20 Days of Goldmaking - day 12 - oops!

Nev asks, apropos gold-making,
What was your biggest 'oops' moment?

It was back in the early days of the campaign against the Lich King. Frozen Orbs were a expensive back then, the way Sha crystals are now. They were looted from heroic dungeon bosses in Northrend, and were in high demand for making ilvl 200 gear, back when ilvl 200 gear was a big deal; and also some ilvl 213 gear with +frost resistance. These were a very big deal indeed. Back in that time, frost resistance was important in both Naxxramas (the first raid in Northrend) and Ulduar (the finest raid instance ever). Without frost resistance, you took frost damage from various bosses, and this just wore the healers down.  So to reduce the strain on healers' mana pools, adventurers would stack bits of frost resistance.

Can you imagine any LFR raid nowadays where something like that could happen? Where damage dealers or tanks would spend their own money on gear to make healing them easier? This was also a time when tanks didn't automatically create massive threat just by clicking "tank" on entering the dungeon, and healers and damage dealers would actually get enchantments that would reduce their threat - rather than increase their HPS or DPS - to help the tanks keep aggro. Such co-operation was more common then, because your fellow dungeoneers weren't random strangers. Good times.

Anyway. The price of these orbs was fairly steady for a long time. Oh, yes, there were the occasional troughs and peaks, but they always came back to their steady price, over 100g each on my server. I made a lot of money just buying them when they dropped into a price trough, say 80g, and reselling them when they climbed again. But a time came when I bought them at 80g, and they dropped even further. I bought more at 70g, and again at 60g. But the price kept dropping. And dropping. There'd be the odd rally, and I kept buying them, expecting we'd seen the bottom. I realized that they were never going back to 100g, but at 30g, when you see a bounce, you figure that they've finally turned the corner. I bought them again at 20g, and 15g until I had filled a whole bank tab with stacks of Frozen Orbs. But they just kept tanking until they reached their vendor price of 5g each. Lesson learned: never try to catch a falling knife.

There was no big shock reason for this. It was just a chain of consequences that I didn't figure out until it was too late: the demand for frost resistance gear was drying up: raiders who needed frost resistance gear bought it early on, and didn't need more once they had it. Also, healers were getting better geared enough to be able to handle the demands of the raid-wide frost damage. And finally as more and more bosses died, higher ilvl gear was appearing, both from boss drops and newer crafting recipes that didn't require frozen orbs. At the same time, though,  the supply of orbs was dramatically increasing: thanks to the newly introduced dungeon finder, many more people were completing heroic dungeons and looting a frozen orb.

The addendum to that story is that one day some guy was calling in trade, offering to buy the orbs for 10g each. I'd whittled down my stocks by slowly crafting them into spellthreads or items for disenchanting, but I still had about a quarter of my stock left. He bought them all. The next day, I saw in the new patch notes that a new vendor (Frozo the renowned) would convert these orbs into more up-to-date materials. The price of frozen orbs was back at 25g. Double whammy!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Twenty Days of Gold Making - Collected Works

This post is just to direct people to the twenty days series started by Nev over at AH addict:

  • Nev's original post is here
  • Her summary of participants is here
And here are my posts:

  1. Day 1 - How I started
  2. Day 2 - Goals
  3. Day 3 - initial technique
  4. Day 4 - The bank alt
  5. Day 5 - Different bankers
  6. Day 6 - Best Market ever!
  7. Day 7- Beginning again
  8. Day 8 - reaching your goal
  9. Day 9 - niches
  10. Day 10 - farming
  11. Day 11 - Addons
  12. Day 12 - oops!
  13. Day 13 - Yay!
  14. Day 14 - Time
  15. Day 15 - Professions
  16. Day 16 - Flipping
  17. Day 17 - Pets
  18. day 18 - Advice
  19. Day 19 - Rewards
  20. Day 20 - Must-read blogs

Death penalty in World of Tanks

The death penalty in world of tanks is a near-perfect death penalty. It fulfils Nils' requirement that the perfect death penalty be a extremely effective deterrent, but completely harmless when it does occur. Also it is a"clear-cut" penalty, to use Nils' term. Of course, he doesn't really mean clear-cut (i.e. clear and obvious), that's just his German English. He means that it once it happens, it's over, and has no lasting effect (for instance by leaving you with a loss of experience, or a loss of a crew-member, or something like that).

While driving your tank, you absolutely want to stay alive. But once you die, you forget about that battle immediately and skip on to the next one in a different tank. are even kind enough to let you know that the crew is still alive ("This tank has had it. Everyone get out!"), for people like me who worry about the welfare of NPCs .

It has two very minor flaws:
1. Sometimes the death penalty isn't quite as effective a deterrent as it should be. We've all seen tanks rushing towards the enemy and certain death alone, in the hopes of winning a scouting achievement.
2. There is an aftermath for people who like to keep on watching the battlefield to see how the game pans out. I do this often. In this self-inflicted situation, the dead tanker can see what's happening, but not contribute much. It can be a pleasant aftermath if you are able to help your team win by keeping them informed of each-other's position (by a flaw in the game, dead people can see all their team, living people can only see those in radio range. But dead people can still talk on team channel). It is a painful aftermath, though, when you realize that the guy you thought was defending your base is actually AFK! I stop watching games I've died in as soon as I've used up my 5 reports/day on these AFK tanks. Otherwise the pain is too great!

Tank Changes

I thought I'd get rid of the Chinese tanks and make space for a StuG III, but it didn't happen in the end. Instead I found myself getting blown up by both the tier two Vickers_Mk._E_Type_B and the tier three Chi-Ha, the first because of its excellent damage, and the second because of its excellent penetration. I'm loth to get a Chi-Ha, because it will end up fighting tier 5 tanks, against which it will be useless, but I was happy to get the Vickers, which has turned out to be a great choice for me. Like the Vickers Medium Mk I that I sold last week, it can peek over the top of the wooden fence at Malinovka; it has can do decent damage though not as good as  the Medium Mk I; but it has better armour than the Medium Mk 1. So I ended up not selling my Chinese tank to make way for the StuG

I said just a short 24 hours ago that I'd like to try playing the Marder II A bit more to see if I could get to like it again. And then there was a sale of French tanks, and I sold the Marder and bought an AMX-38 instead. This was another tank that kept blowing me up in Tier 2 battles, but it turns out that it mostly seems to get me into fights against Tier 5 tanks, which it can't penetrate. More seller's remorse.

Just for the sake of posterity, I think I'll list my current tanks:

Vickers Mk. E Type B
Hotchkiss H35
AMX 38
PzKpfw 35 (t)

Tuesday 5 February 2013

We Flew Spitfires

Gordon of We Fly Spitfires asks "Do MMOs Make You Feel Old?" I wrote quite a long reply on his website to this, but grrrh! Yet again, a Wordpress-based blog ate my homework. Undaunted, I know at least that I can respond here.

Gordon mourns the passing of his once-nimble dexterity, and feels old when faced with bleeding fingers caused by the game mechanics of today's MMOs. In days of yore, combat mechanics were much more straightforward than they are today. Even Syncaine, when not bashing WoW for being too easy, is praising Ultima Online because it's combat mechanics were basically semi-afk auto-attack.

It's hard to see the logic of Syncaine's position, since WoW combat is much more complex. And yet there is some merit behind what he says. In earlier times, MMORPGs were virtual worlds where we played the role of an adventurer, exploring these worlds, helping the people we met and occasionally slaying monsters. Today's MMOs are combat-based games, so it makes sense to improve the combat mechanics to make them more interesting. Virtual worlds are shrinking. Non-combat game-play is disappearing.

Travel, for instance. Once upon a time, we would venture forth from a city to find a distant wizard living in a dark tower in a darker forest to ask him for arcane help with an enchantment. The fun you could have on such a journey was great. Nowadays, there is no need to find him. Just look up his location on wowhead. No need to do any venturing forth, either. Just fly, teleport or zone in. And anyway, we now automatically learn the enchantment without needing to visit a trainer.

In bygone days, we would find concealed entrances to mystical dungeons deep inside caves high on lofty peaks, or in submerged caverns below the sea. It was a rare moment to come across these thresholds to adventure. We would ride for many leagues, o'er hill and dale, for three days and three nights, back to the city where, in a basement beneath a beer-swilled, sawdust-carpeted tavern down a narrow winding lane, our guild of adventurers holds its secret deliberations. There, we would raise a party of trusted comrades to investigate the dungeon, map it out and discover what lay within.

Today, no investigation is required except on Google. Nothing in the dungeon is unknown, except the location of its entrance1. Instead, all we need to do is click the Dungeon Finder's "Enter Dungeon" button along with four other strangers and congratulate ourselves on how streamlined getting into dungeons is nowadays compared to the old days, and how bored we are to be doing them for the 50th time. Still, at least the tank knows a route whereby we can skip half the instance. Meantime, we've missed all that game-play of the imagination, and Blizzard has had to make the combat more complex to make up for it. The big old world we used to find adventure in is reduced to a city background that acts as a lobby to the discrete combat games we queue for.

So, do not mourn the passing of your dexterity, Gordon. Mourn the passing of your virtual worlds.

1. The only time the location of the entrance is needed now is when the group wipes and the players have to find their way back to their corpses from the graveyard. Many a player has dropped group rather than having to actually find the entrance! Blizzard, take note. Put the Spirit Healers inside the instance, preferably every 100 yards.

Tank destroyers

I mentioned some time ago what great fun I've been having with the big derp gun on my Hetzer in World of Tanks. I still love it! I since went back and tried the Marder II again, as I'd promised myself (I dumped the British Medium 1 to make room for it). It's okay, but I don't love it. It's a great improvement over its predecessors, but after the great big gun on the Hetzer, I just don't really like the choice on the Marder. What seemed like reasonable damage when compared to the Panzerjaeger is just not exciting compared to the Hetzer. Maybe I've just got the wrong gun equipped. Also, my aimer seems pretty slow. I'll keep the Marder for a bit longer and see if it grows on me, but for now, it's just not hitting the spot. I said that I was going to get the StuG III after the Hetzer, but I'm afraid to, now, in case it does for the Hetzer what the Hetzer did for the Marder!

Meanwhile, in what is probably a case of sellers remorse, I'm sorry I sold the British Medium 1, because it had a pretty good gun for tier one, and also because (unlike most tier one tanks), it can shelter behind the wooden fences in Malinovka, but it's high enough to have the gun peeking over the top. You might not think a flimsy wooden fence is much defence, but believe you me, it is! The reason is that the fence hides the whole body of the tank, so you only have to be careful about hiding the turret behind bushes to be well camouflaged. Tanks that just sit in bushes can think themselves camouflaged, while in fact they may be unintentionally showing a bit of skirt. Secondly, unlike a bush, once you are spotted, the body is still shown as being unhittable, so enemy tanks aim at your small turret rather than your big prow, and are likely to put shots over your head. And thirdly, the body is shown as unhittable because in fact it cannot be hit while the picket fence is protecting it. Now it just takes one hit to blow the picket fence to kingdom come, but that's one hit you don't take, and it gives you time to haul ass once you've been spotted.

Anyway, for now that tank is gone.

I didn't mentioned in Hetzer Heroics that I had an artillery piece (or only mentioned it obliquely). Well, I had. An SU-18; a Russian piece of junk that hadn't the range to hit two thirds of the map and only tickled what it did hit. And only held 20 shells. I can't tell you how many battles I ended up in a scouting role with that tin can, simply because I ran out of shells. Anyway, I upgraded it to the SU-26. This was an improvement: better range, more room for shells, and a better gun, when I finally got it fully upgraded. All the same, I think that artillery is not for me. I'm glad to have played them, to get the insight into how they work and how to avoid getting hit by them, but I'm happy to have sold it.

And what I got in its place made me glad to be alive! The American T18, which I threatened to buy in Pay to Win, is finally in my stable. And it's everything I had hoped it would be. It's reasonably speedy and mobile. The frontal armour is great; enemies really need to get close to penetrate it. It has a couple of guns which pack a punch, and it behaves like the Hetzer in miniature, in many ways. One thing that puzzles me, though, is my choice of gun for this tank destroyer. Like the Hetzer, it has a howitzer that packs a real punch but reloads slowly; anything it penetrates it kills; but if it misses or ricochets, the enemy has plenty of time to outflank me and hit me from behind. And its accuracy is not such that it always hits, and its penetration is not something to write home about. Alternatively it can be equipped with a  two-pounder gun that has great penetration, and fast and accurate rate of fire, but doesn't do anything like the amount of damage the derp gun can. I assumed I'd want the derp gun, since that's what made the Hetzer such fun to play; but it turns out that I'm more comfortable with the two-pounder, for reasons I can't explain, because I don't quite know them, myself. Perhaps it's the slow speed at which the howitzer projectile leaves the barrel. It takes quite a while to reach its destination. I'm not sure if its much worse in that respect than the mighty Hetzer, though. Perhaps its the type of battles a tier two tank destroyer gets involved in. I don't know. Anyway, for now I'm experimenting with both guns.

Friday 1 February 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 11 - Addons

Nev's question today is
Most of us use TSM, Auctionator and/or Auctioneer in combo with Postal - are there any other lesser known gold making addons you use?

I'm glad you ask! I love the addon Ackis Recipe List. Whenever I'm out and about, it's great to know about vendors in unexpected locations. I don't often go out 'farming' recipes, but I always like to pick a few up if I'm in the neightbourhood, and Ackis Recipe List is great for that. One caveat, though: they aren't fast at getting rid of recipes and vendors that don't exist any more.

But my favourite gold-making addon is Lil Sparky's Workshop. I like TSM Crafting and all, but I just trust the numbers I see in Lil Sparky's Workshop better, and I like the interface. In case you haven't used it, it's an addon the integrates into your crafting window, and adds the price the item costs to make, and the value of the finished item (either at auction, at the vendor, or disenchanted). I prefer it to TSM crafting because it integrates into my existing crafting window, rather than presenting a new one. This is important, because it provides a context to the recipe/pattern/blueprint. I can remember when I learnt it from seeing it in relation to the recipes around it. So it helps me determine if it's really gonna sell, or languish in my back-pack for months.

That's the thing about prices in gold-making add-ons. they usually show list prices rather than actual sales prices. Imagine I were to look at Merlin's Robe. The average buyout price on this is north of 2000g, and the mats are around a half to three-quarters of that. But nobody buys it, because it's an out-of-date WotLK item. I used to love it, but it's all over now. Here's how I imagine the auction history of that item goes:
list at 4000g; unsold.
list at 4000g; unsold
list at 3000g; unsold

list at 3000g; unsold
list at 2000g; unsold
list at 2000g; unsold
list at 2000g; unsold

list at 2000g; unsold
list at 1000g; below cost price to get rid of the damn thing. Unsold

list at 1000g; unsold
list at 1000g; unsold
list at 1000g; unsold
list at 100g; maybe bought for novelty value, or returned and finally disenchanted.
From that series of auctions, most addons will tell you the average price for the item is 1864g, but in fact it's worth sweet Fanny Adams.

Well, I wouldn't make that mistake with Merlin's Robe because I know it so well. I wore it for a long time myself. But say some random robe shows up as profitable, or some random enchantment, or some random flask or potion. You look at the AH, and there are items for sale. Now I could pop out to the Undermine Journal and log in and see who sold what recently, but the first thing I'm going to do will be to look at the recipes around it. One of the is bound to remind me of the context of the item. "Ah, yeah", I say to myself, "that's a BC enchant. I doubt anyone bothers with it now, even twinks". Or "Ah, people are making this to disenchant it for the mats". That initial context tells me whether it's worth taking a further look at the item or just ignoring it, and that's why I like Lil Sparky's Workshop.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series