How I made 1,000,000 gold in World of Warcraft

June 27, 2011

Actually, this is more of a look back at Tier 11, but don’t worry, I will cover the gold making enterprise towards the end.

Playing a paladin healer in Cataclysm has felt like a constant race with the nerf bat.  At launch, Paladins were just too damn good, so over the course of a few weeks our healing model got changed just about every week.  In that sense it was good that I hit 85 within 2 days, and was chain running heroic 5 mans on the 3rd day, because getting some gear early made the later nerfs mcuh easier to live with.  Usually through a tier of content you watch your mana pool increasing, I had a time when it was decreasing with every patch and hotfix.  Coming in with Tier 12 is another raft of changes, which will mean that once again I will have to retune all my reflexes and change rotation priorities.

Tier 11 gear sucked: I often /inspect other Holy Paladins when idling in downtown Orgrimmar and I have not seen a single holy paladin in tier gear.  It is embarrassing when your secondary spec is fully equipped first. And what is it with placing all the healing maces on end zone bosses?

 The new zones

Mt Hyjal remains a favourite for levelling … because the underwater zone of Vashj’ir is painful.  While Vash has its moments, the 3D environment is painful to maneuver around, and its just too big.  I think they would have done better to have taken half the ideas and saved them for a future patch/expansion.  Deepholm was fine, although its frustrating with alts in that you outlevel the zone well before you actually unlock the faction vendor there.  Uldum was a disaster with pretty scenerey, the Harrison Jones joke is a bit old, the none-too-subtle nazi references were lame, and it was slow death by a thousand cut scenes.  Twilight Highlands was good the first time through, but as my alts ding 85 I run out of enthusiasm to finish the zone, and they retire to watch the fires outside the Auction House.

Content difficulty

5 mans: much, much harder than Wrath. Guild groups vastly preferable to pugging.  I have not pugged since patch 4.1 (the Call to Arms random loot satchel does not tempt me).  My gut feeling, is that even in close to full raid gear, its much harder to heal a random group of strangers than the Wrath instances were.

Most-hated new instance: Stonecore.  Even post-nerf I still hate it.

Most-liked  new instance: Deadmines.  A little long, but a lot of thought went into making the fights interesting.

Raids: pretty good for 2 nights per week in the casual scene, but only if you have a solid team. As an introductory raid, much harder than Tier 7.  It would have been pretty hard to have gone 12/12 hard modes on two nights a week.  If half of my guild’s raid group had not quit in February, resetting our progress for almost two months, I think we would have reached 4-5 hard modes.  As it is, getting all 14 raiders a full 12/12 clear in the last month still felt like a good achievement for us.

Most-hated Encounter: Lip Boss in the Nefarian fight.  If I wanted to play a platform game, I’d play a platform game.

Most-liked encounter: Atramedes, once you got the hang of the sound mechanic, it was quite a fun fight for a healer.

Epic Fail: Throne of the Four Winds, random loot is random, and unloved.  I think we sharded almost everything bar the tier drops from Al’Akir.

Levelling: trivial, and very much a solitary experience now that pvp/instancing via LFG/randoms exists and most of the non-instanced group quests were eliminated.  Even without heirloom gear’s boosted xp, its very hard to actually complete all of a zone’s quests before you outlevel the zones.  Some of the old zones had a great makeover, and the new stories were fun, but I am not really tempted to go back through them all again.

Cancelling the rift sub

I canceled over something relatively trivial.  My Level 34 character was unable to buy water to recover from damage quickly, because all the vendors in zone only sold water that worked for Level 35+ characters.  But I also quit because the game was too much like WoW, in that in order to access the end game content I would have had to have devoted 500+ hours to grinding reputations/gear.  bad enough to do that in WoW, I’m not really tempted by doing it in a second fantasy theme park game.

If this had been my first MMORPG, I probably would have continued to Level 50.  After all, when I started WoW I levelled a Holy spec paladin to Level 60 thinking I was playing a DPS class!  But five years later, I am simply not willing to continue in frustrating play, when I have more rewarding experiences available elsewhere.  No one else in my WoW guild managed to make it past Level 20-25 before the sameness of the content got to them, and they too cancelled their subscriptions.

Key Play Decisions

I was offered a position in one of the hardcore raiding guilds on my server.  I turned it down.  Carpe Jugulum is a guild on my level

No pugging.  I have stuck largely with guild raids, bar a few Baradin Hold runs for the Loot Pinata Boss.

Only gearing one character (for raids, 5 mans, reputation, achievements, etc) not 2-5 characters.

Stepping up to be Raid Leader after the mass guild quit was worth it.  I helped recruit replacements, and then led the Guild to virtual glory.  Good times.  For my next trick, making sure they can do the same without me.

A Million Gold

I started with around 300,000 gold.  I spent about 100,000 gold levelling professions after launch.  In the next six months I made 900,000 gold.  This took about two hours a day of AFK/AH time.  Sorry if you are looking for an “I Win” button, but my success came as a result of:

First, having invested the time to get five characters with fully developed professions in Mining, Herbing, Enchanting, Blacksmith, Tailoring, Alchemy, Inscription and Jewelcrafting. Thats about a thousand hour investment.

Second, identifying niche markets that were profitable.  Reading Gold Blogs was helpful, but not necessary.  The most important tool here is actually the add-on “Auctionator”, which saves time by compressing price/quantity information displays for rapid viewing, and having quick AH list/cancel functions.

Third, relentlessly pushing those markets every day.

My most profitable market was JC, where I went long and purchased all the 5 token meta-gem cuts, ignoring the rings altogether and only later buying the 3 token gem cuts.  I also spent around 10k gold on each rare BOE meta-gem pattern or enchanting formulae that turne dup on the AH.  When the mats cost me 45 gold, and the gem sold for 299g I made a lot of money – anywhere up to 10,000 per day.

My second market was enchanting scrolls.  Slow steady earnings.  A few coins from rare enchants for BOA gear, but not a big earner.  However, because I have all the patterns, I don’t bleed money here.  Disenchanting has been curiously profitable too.

My third market was BOE shields, which was a good earner due to the BOP nature of Chaos orbs.  When other smiths were selling their orbs for 100g in trade chat, I was making 1,000 gold off them on the AH.  The smith also makes looose change from enchanting rods.

The silly earner is Primal Might, which takes me about ten minutes to farm, and sells for 500 gold on my server.  Not bad for something from two expansions back.

The Tailor makes spare change from making bags and spellthread.  I don’t use the scribe much, the inscription market is broken (it has prohibitive entry costs, and its impossible to make gold without addons, a small army of alts and a willingness to cancel and relist thosands of auctions a day).  I switched the scribe’s herbing profession to JC, and I’m making a long bet that epic gems will require daily mission tokens, so I have 58 of those stockpiled.

Things I don’t do for gold:

1) spam trade chat

2) snatch vanity items, hoping to flip them, everything I sell is something I make

3) farm and sell raw materials, I leave that to the bots

4) sell anything where I am making less than a 10 gold profit per sale.

Looking Ahead to 4.2 ‘the Firelands’

I will gear a second character for heroic 5 mans, purely for the farming efficency to get the iLevel 378 BoEs.  The lower weekly VP cap creates a strong incentive to reduce playing time of main characters by about 25%, but it will be much harder for hybrid gear sets to be completed.

Will the new tier work with just seven bosses?  Most of the ones I have raided in have had 12.  A lot of things are still frustratingly unclear.  With only seven bosses is the loot table larger or just more random?  Its also not clear how some of the crafting materials are acquired, although 25 man raids will get more of them than 10 man raids.  Maybe its a signal that the bosses will all be significantly harder than in Tier 11.

T12 gear for holy paladins is an improvement, mostly.  Well, it would have been hard for it to be worse.  Kurn has a pretty good breakdown at: http://kurn.apotheosis-now.com/?cat=90

At some stage I will try healing Cataclysm 5 mans in Tier 2 gear.  I’ll post screenshots!

The new healing paradigm gets some discussion here: http://wow.joystiq.com/2011/06/26/the-light-and-how-to-swing-it-balancing-holys-heals/#continued, and some number crunching takes place here: http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/2593008994.  While I’m not thrilled about the changes, I expect I’ll adjust after a week or two.

The guild goal for Tier 12, is to do some hard modes, and make sure at least one of our RDPS gets the legendary staff.  Thats going to require some work…

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RIFT: first impressions

April 24, 2011

Installation, took about an hour with the 2 GB download of patches.

First I played a Defiant warrior (paladin) to Level 20, then I played a Guardian rogue (assassin) to Level 20.  This gets you through the training quests and first major zone.

The Defiant storyline features a lot of fantasy technolgy, and a few examples of tech being used in situations where the means justifies the end.  There is some background dialogue in the starting instance where its clear that your comrades are using machines to turn living people into medical experiments.  The major story arc in the first zone is to deal with a former King, returned from the grave, and his army of crypt things.

The Guardians try to be more the good guys … if doing exactly what the Gods tell you to do is your idea of good.  The major story arc of the first zone is dealing with an Elf who is choosing to defend his own terriotry from Goblins, rather than sending all his resources off to Sanctum to do the Vigil’s bidding.

Its probably impossible to play a Defiant pacifist as you have to complete the story arc to leave the starter zone, which involves killing.

I ran into my first gold farmer spam within 70 minutes of play.  With my first character, just about the only trade chat in the city was from people trying to run gambling games.  With the second character, it was a bit better.

For the most part, the quests are the standard “Kill X Floozles”, “Collect Y Widgets” and “Express Delivery” to the next quest hub.  Not a lot of room for thinking here, although I found the rogues stealth ability allowed them to complete quests much more quickly as they could bypass a lot of potential enemies.  The poor warrior on the other hand spent a lot of time slowly killing things that objected to her breathing oxygen.  I did encounter one puzzle quest in the Defiant zone which was fun to do.  One annoyance I ran into, is that quests involving Elite NPCs that will squish you like a bug are not explicitly flagged for “bring friends with you or die”.

Quest hubs were okay.  I did get screwed around at first by the fact that the system stopped tracking your first five quests when it got another five.  So I had a few cases where I revisited an area 3-4 times.

Public quests and automatic grouping are a major feature of RIFT.  People can just invite you to groups, and you’re in the group without having to click accept.  When you encounter mobile armies of extra-planar invaders, or their actual invasion footholds, you get the option of joining any group that is already fighting them.  The main advantage of this, is that your will be easier for the healers to help in the default User Interface.  For the most part, I found invasion groups to be 100% Zerg and Zero% Communication.  I do wonder if rifts were ignored completely, where the game engine does allow the world to be overrun. Certainly if you play in short bursts the rifts can be extremely annoying, as they eat questgivers.

The pvp quests do not come with a warning that attempting them at level 11 will lead to pain and humiliation, which could be off-putting to a new player to MMOs.

Graphics are okay, tending towards green and dark shades in the zones I have seen so far.  More like LOTRO than WOW.  certainly the individual characters are pretty, although the plate/chain armour displays for female models are ridiculous … lots of exposed skin so that the gear you have by L20 makes you look a lot like a go go dancer.  A major plus for me was that when I looked at slope/wall and thought I can climb/jump it, I nearly always could do that, unlike WOW where I often mistake whetehr or not I can climb a particular slope on a hill – leading to much futile jumping on the spot.

User Interface is a lot like WOW, with a few more options than baseline WOW, but less customisation than you can get in WOW with addons.  The macro system might be a little more powerful in terms of stringing different abilities together.

In common with where many MMOs are going, each of the four main classes (Cleric, Mage, Rogue, Warrior) has multiple talent trees and options.  There are no pure dps classes, they nearly all have solid tanking/healing options.  So a Rogue includes assassins and bards and hunters with pets.  When you spend points in the talent “branches”, you get matching points in the talent “roots”.  So the roots provide common abilities, while the branches provide optional customisation.  The roots also make it hard to spend your talent points in a way that builds a complete failure of a character.  There is an increasing cap on how many points your can put into one soul tree, so as you level you are encouraged to spend a few points in the other trees open to you.  Access to multiple souls is interesting, but the early root abilities involve a lot of repetition of duplicate attacks (with different names and icons, took me a while to notice this and delete half the icons off my action bar).

I found the defiant city of Meridian to be grey and dull. I disliked the lack of connections between the different wings. Felt like a fortress, not a city.  The Guardian city of Sanctum was a little better, essentially one big cathedral full of NPCs surrounded by a ring road connecting all the services together.  The music inside the Cathedral was nice enough to make me stop and listen to it for a while.

Crafting: the big yawn. One reason I stopped playing LOTRO was the immensely frustrating craft system, which was filled with pointless grinding. No innovations here, beyond daily quests at skill 1. I dislike the model, where to level skill, you produce duplicate copies of items that are worthless. Its also difficult to tell at the start, which of the skills would be useful at the level cap. Based on previous experience, skills that modify gear in games are always more profitable than skills that make gear. So I choose enchanting and artificing, and took mining as the 3rd to get me into trouble (Rock! Shiny Rock! Must have the Shiny!).   For my second character I choose to ignore professions entirely.

There are reputation grinds too, again, not a favourite feature.  Again, I decided to ignore this completely.  I know there are NPCs out there that will sell me cool stuff if I’m “decorated” with their faction, but I really couldn’t be bothered trying to figure out who would sell me what.

Levelling experience: not too hard, nearly always get a new talent point or two each time, which I prefer to the crazy mix WoW now has of a point every second or third level plus one more for each of the last five. Skill training is still retrograde – run back to a trainer, hand over the cash, and now you are Johnny Awesome. I did like how certain skills in LOTOR were learned from practice in the field – its just a pain that it took a lot of Kill 100 mobs, kill another 100 mobs, to get anywhere.

Combat experience: typical, level equivalent normal mobs are trivial, elite mobs eat you for lunch, packs of mobs will nibble you to death. Game makes it clear form the start you are an ascended immortal soul, so one perk is once per hour you can rez where you died rather than running back in ghost form from the GY.

Instancing: yet to try this. Its old school in that you have to build a group by asking for help from people, and then actually walk to the instance.  Nothing I have seen in game suggests its all that different from WOW, although probably more like old school MMORPGs with a bigger requirement for communication and crowd control.

Rewards: quest items usually offer small upgrades to existing gear, with something for everyone.  Quashing rifts, especially the major invasions when 20+ rifts open at once, grants you extra currency for use in buying pretty good items.

In summary:

– its a competently executed fantasy theme park MMORPG, nothing too radical but so far I have seen no bugs, which is what killed several other games launched to compete with WOW

– solo play is fine, a good way to kill a few hours … but I doubt its going to keep my subscription for very long as my intial motivation to buy was to play with my brother, and he has already cancelled his sub

– for me, nothing to quit playing WOW for … there is nothing here my WOW guild would stop playing WOW for.  Its very much everything we do now, just in different skins, but we would all be starting scratch again for resources.