Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lazy and Pointless

I was talking to a guy who mentioned that he likes the new 5-man instance, Trial of Champions (ToC), because it is short and sweet. He is happy with Blizzard's decision to implement it this way because he can get in, get his loot, and get out.

I couldn't disagree more. Two words come to my mind regarding ToC: the first is "lazy", and the second is "pointless".

I'll start with "lazy". Call me a cynic -- and you wouldn't be the first to do so -- but my gut tells me that the whole reason it is implemented the way it is (as a single room with a handful of bosses and no trash worth mentioning), is because it was easier and cheaper for Blizzard to implement. In other words, they got lazy.

Imagine the man-hours that must've gone into creating an instance like The Nexus, with all the flashy colors and moving lights, long winding halls, and varied trash mobs and bosses. It had to have kept a whole team of graphic artists, animators, sound designers, etc., busy for a very long period of time.

Now imagine the work that must have gone into ToC. Some kid sat down at his Mac, and two hours later had the finished arena artwork. It took another couple of hours for an animator to add the two moving pieces (the big gate). Throw in a couple of bosses, and you're done. Voila, the cheapest instance on record (except maybe for VH). Grats Blizzard.

I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt, for now, and hope that they were just diverting every possible resource to the 3.3 instances, which are going to blow us all away with their detailed beauty and intricacy. But I'm not holding my breath.

And then there's "pointless". If your sole purpose in playing the game is to get better loot, why are you playing at all? This was the subject of my last post. The only reason for getting better loot is to make stuff easier. If your sole purpose in playing is to make the game less challenging, stop playing, because that's the least challenging of all.

You should run an instance because it is an immersive and fun experience. It should be something that grabs your attention, excites your imagination, and gets your heart pounding.

I can understand if you like the abbreviated nature of ToC because you simply don't have that much time to play. But if you like it because "I gets faster lootz"… you need a life. (And that's saying a lot coming from me.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Enough with the gear upgrades already

I like -- or at least don't mind -- most of the changes that Blizzard introduced in patch 3.2. But there is one thing I don't get, and I haven't been able to get a decent answer out of anyone on why it works this way. At least, not one that makes sense to me (which is my definition of a good answer).

Blizzard went through all the trouble to change all the existing Northrend instances and raids so that they ALL drop Emblems of Conquest. The upshot of this is that now everyone can get iLvl 226 gear. "Great!" I say. "Now we'll all be on a level playing field, and it will be purely playing skill and style that separates us." Which, imo, is as it should be.

But wait, not so fast… because in this very same patch Blizzard also introduced the next tier of gear, in the form of iLvl 239 and 245 gear! This gear can be crafted by people who spend too much time on the auction house – err, I mean, by people who have enough gold to afford it. Or it can be gotten from the new Argent Tournament raids.

So here's my question: WHY? You just went through all the trouble to make sure we all have the latest gear, and then at the same time made it all obsolete. What is the sick, twisted logic behind this decision?

Moreover, why did we need a new tier of gear in the first place?

The whole gear tiering system is just kind of stupid and drives me nuts anyway. My feeling is that you should raid because the experience is fun, and because it is challenging. Rewards ought to be in the form of achievements, titles, and such. If you raid solely to get new and better gear that will make the raid easier... why raid at all? Just stop playing, that is the absolute easiest it gets!

The big problem I see with continually introducing newer, better gear is that it essentially nerfs all of the other content. I spent all weekend running heroics with guildies, and it wasn't challenging so much as it was mindless. We are all in a mix of 213-232 epics, which are already much higher than the original 200's for which those dungeons were designed. The only real challenge was how fast we could clear each instance, not if we could clear them.

Which brings me to the next point. The closest thing I got to an answer on why they introduced a new tier of gear is because they plan on making the final Lich King raids much more difficult. But that makes no sense at all! If you make the content harder while simultaneously improving the gear, it's a zero-sum change. "We're going to make the raid content harder, so we are going to give you better gear so that the raid content is easier!" Huh what?

Who is the moron who came up with this system… and who are the morons who continue to perpetuate it?

If you want to make the raids harder, it's very simple: give the bosses more health, or make them do more damage. Give them ever newer and stranger abilities. Make more adds. Just don't go so far so that it requires new gear to do it; because then you've gone too far. Let people enjoy the game without introducing gear that essentially ruins all previous content because it is now too easy.

New gear is just a way for the content developers (in this case, Blizzard) to be lazy. Rather than creating content that is more challenging because it is different, they can create content that is harder simply because it requires slightly more powerful gear to do the same thing you've done in every other raid since first entering the Dead Mines at level 15.

Enough with the upgrades already.

Fix my add-ons, please

After the patch, a friend sent me note asking two questions about add-ons. He apparently thinks that, being a software developer by trade, I might have some insight into this topic. I've never created any add-ons myself, but here is my take on his questsions:

1) What is the incentive for someone to maintain extensive add-ons like Deadly Boss Mods, Auctioneer and X-Perl? There can't be a lot of money in it.

I suspect these started off a lot smaller than they are now. Some guy playing WoW had a need and decided to do something about it for himself. He's in a raid one day thinking, "I sure wish I could see everyone in the raid at once." So he sat down and hacked out an add-on that would do this for him. Then he sent it to a few friends, and they started using it, and started requesting that he add new features here and there. And he kept slowly tweaking it, adding things that he wanted or that someone else requested. Now five years later it is a gigantic behemoth with 7000 different configuration settings (give or take).

As to why he continues to maintain it… my guess is that it's just something he enjoys doing. It's just a hobby. People who can paint don't do it if they are only going to make money off of it. Amateur sculpters do so on their own time. Writing add-ons is just another type of hobby; it's a very creative process that can be personally rewarding for the right person. The fact there may also be thousands or even millions of people who use their work makes it that much more rewarding.

Not everything is about the money. (Just don't tell Gevlon.)

2) Why does so much stuff break every time Blizzard releases a new patch?

Let's see, how can I put this nicely? Blizzard has what we refer to in the software industry as "shitty development processes", "piss poor quality-assurance and testing", and an attitude of "we don't give a fuck regarding third-party developers".

As far as add-ons are concerned, there is absolutely no reason why Blizzard shouldn't be able to maintain backwards compatibility with 99.9% of the add-ons with each patch. But this would require actual planning and effort on Blizzard's part; which is apparently more than they are willing to invest in the development process. So instead, they just let everything break and leave it up to the independent developers to fix their own stuff, leaving everyone miserable in the interim.

From Blizzard's point of view, this is a smart business decision because (A) it costs them less money, and (B) they don't have to worry about customer satisfaction because we are all hopeless addicts and couldn't leave if we wanted to.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tuesday Redux

7:30 PM -- still no sign of the Dawnbringer server. Literally, it's gone. Not even showing up as "offline", just... vanished. I thought this would be a good day to link to an earlier post of mine:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Moron's Guide to Money Making in WoW

Having recently compared Gevlon's social commentary to watching a train wreck, I do have to give him props on one thing: the dude knows how to make money. And he is correct in that it seems to be a skill that is lost on a large number of the people who play WoW.

I recently maxed out my enchanting skill, and decided to dabble a little bit in the market of selling enchanting scrolls on the auction house. This experience has led me to reinforce my belief (which I think Gevlon and I share) that the world is full of morons. Allow me to share my experiences, and hopefully educate a few morons along the way.

For those of you with short attention spans and/or lukewarm IQ's, here is the good news: there is only a single rule you have to understand to maximize your profit.

RULE # 1: If you are selling an item for less than the market price of the materials used to craft that item, you are an idiot. Period.

Maybe you farm your own materials rather than buying them off the AH. And maybe you think that this allows you to sell the crafted item at a reduced rate, because your materials were "free". Clearly you are not a Rhodes scholar, and you probably even lack some very basic mathematical skills. So allow me to help you out with an example.

Let's take the example of "Chest Enchant #1". Let's pretend that this hypothetical enchant requires 10 Infinite Dust (ID) and 5 Greater Cosmic Essence (GCE) to craft.

Let's further assume that the current market cost of ID is 4G each, and the market cost of GCE is 8G each. (Results may vary on your server and at differing times, folks! This is just an example! Don't use my numbers to go out and calculate all of your costs!)

This means that the cost of making "Chest Enchant #1" is:

10x4G + 5x8G = 80G

So the absolute minimum you should be selling this enchant for is 80G and 1 copper. This is true EVEN IF YOU FARMED YOUR OWN MATERIALS! Why? Well let's say you, the enterprising young gnome, went out and disenchanted a bunch of world drops or quest items in order to get your 10 Infinite Dust. These essentially cost you nothing to acquire. So you have recalculated your base cost as follows:

10x0G + 5x8G = 40G

Now you think to yourself, "WOW! I can sell Chest Enchant #1 for 60G, vastly undercutting the other sellers, and still make a 20G profit!"

And if you think this, here is why you are a moron. Because you could've simply sold the raw materials and made 40G profit with less effort! That stack of 10 ID that cost you nothing will sell for 40G! And you don't have to craft a single thing!

This is why it never, ever makes sense to sell something for less than the current market price of the raw materials. You're doing more work for less money.

Maybe you didn't farm your materials. Maybe you just caught the market on a low day, and you bought a boatload of infinite dusts for only 1G each. The same theory still applies. If you sell a crafted item for less than the current market cost, just because your cost was lower, you are cheating yourself out of free money. You'd be much better off just relisting the materials you acquired cheaply at the current (higher) market rate.

Of the 20 enchants that I am currently trying to sell on my server, fully half of them are now selling below the materials cost... and in some cases, substantially below; like 50% - 75% less. And yet I feel powerless to stem the tide of stupidity that has invaded this market... and that I suspect pervades most markets on the AH.

I understand that not everyone plays the game to make money (I sure don't), but why would you go through the trouble of doing more work by producing enchants just so you can earn 50-75% less than if you had done nothing at all, and simply resold the raw materials?

Wake up people!

[Note that for simplicity, I've purposely ignored several variables that I think would just make people's minds explode, like including the cost of the AH fees, or the enchanting vellum. If this additional calculation is beyond your grasp, you should definitely stick to farming and selling raw materials, rather than crafting.]