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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You're a Goldmaker, You're a Goldmaker, EVERYBODY is a Goldmaker!!!

If you're reading, you know about the WoW Gametime Token.  You may have even bought one... or bought one.  It's the latest buzzworthy WoW feature that's been implemented and I had a hankering to jump on the blogging bandwagon and share some thoughts on it.  My disdain for proper SEO and how it affects the titles I give my posts will, sadly, have to wait for another post when I'm feeling more meta.

You've probably heard enough opinions on this to make your ears ring.  This is almost like flying in Draenor except it actually happened.  I was kinda happy to see that the token started out dead center of the range of 25-35k that I expected it to debut at.  But, please, please, let me finish before the golfclaps rob me of my hearing.  

While, I guess it's neat to know that my thinking wasn't wrong, there's plenty to learn from being wrong.  And that's a lot of what I'll get to today.  Being wrong and learning from it.  Because to a goldmaker there is no right or wrong. Only feedback.

I was wrong about thinking the price for tokens would spike to 50k by the end of the week.  And I should've known better.  When everyone first saw the results of the MMO-C poll that demonstrated there were more folks hoping to buy Gametime for gold rather than Gold for cash - by a ratio of nearly 2:1 - I had no hesitation in suspecting reporting bias.  That is, MMO-C readers really aren't representative of most players.

Remember the heirloom vendors in 6.1 and how many folks asked in trade where they were?  That was on the MMO-C frontpage at least twice in the days leading up to the patch.  But the arguments for a spike seemed good.  Those with hoardes (sic) of idle cash were primed, hungry, & vocal.  In retrospect, I imagine the implicit stigma of vocalizing excitement and plans to "legitimately buy gold" probably did more to skew my perception going into the debut of tokens than anything else.

But that wasn't the only thing. I also hadn't realized that Blizzard would of course create the pricing algorithm in a way that would prioritize the speed of sales.  They get an extra $5 over the most expensive sub price for each token sold.  Not only that, each sale off the AH is another month they can count at their quarterly earnings calls. It only makes sense they'd want to sell as many as possible.  Quick sales enhance the buyer experience for those buying gold - and make them more likely to buy again - often immediately.

Because if I had to wait more than half an hour to get my goods after Blizzard had my money, I'd certainly be less likely to buy a lot at once. As with anything new, folks like to try something before going all in.  Even when I bought 11 tokens on launch day, I amassed 80 new screenshots and used each token in sequence - waiting for the confirmation email each time before going to the next.

Blizzard already eats time on the clock after charging you to ensure the charge is legit.  Additional delay is something they'd want to minimize.  The point is, as any seasoned Goblin knows - if you want to sell something quick, you have to be willing to price it aggressively.  But of course, we don't get to price tokens ourselves.  Blizzard's Black Box (Triple-B!) does that for us.

Triple-B isn't new.  It was used for commodities on Diablo 3's AH for over a year.  It got put through its paces, and so Blizzard was able to refine an existing process rather than create one from whole cloth for the token system.  Knowing that time was their most critical variable, it only seems prudent that Blizzard would tweak Triple-B to minimize it.  The result? A Triple-B algorithm that responds with resale price decreases more readily than increases.

Succinctly, tokens are able to drop in price more easily than spike.  Because $5.

So combine the intrinsic nature and mission of Triple-B with a severely underestimated number of folks hankering to buy some gold, and you've got a 25% decrease in token prices from their initial value in less than 24 hours.

And not for lack of trying to keep the price higher.  Blizzard relaxed the restriction on those buying the Gametime for gold from 10 every 30 days to over 20.  And still we have a precipitous drop in prices.  Interestingly enough - you'll notice they opted to raise the limit on time buyers rather than drop the limit on gold buyers.

Because $5.

And I mention that without malice.  Because to a goldmaker, there is no right or wrong - only feedback.  We understand Triple-B now, but it's interesting to think about where all the time buyers went.  After all, raising the limit from 10 to 20 only really opened more market to those with more than 300k in disposable gold.  Thats not a lot of people.  But weren't most people supposed to have enough to buy one? They may not have had enough for 3 or 4 but they got 1, man? (s/o to Murphy Lee - keep stompin yo).

If you were on Twitter you'd have thought we'd see that big spike, too.  Given all the casual goldmakers proclaiming the universal ease with which gold can be made from the comfort of your own farmvi - I mean Garrison.  What virulent turd poisoned that punchbowl & prevented the masses from claiming their rightfully due free subscriptions?

What if I told you they got bored?  Because while running all the old Cataclysm raids on 25H solo will pay for your sub if you do it on 1 toon every week, for a lot of folks, that gets old.  It also takes more time than the ~2 hours worth of flipping burgers that a subscription would cost to clear those raids.  But surely folks can find some enjoyable way of making 25-30k a month?

Of course they can.  And hell - maybe they do but just spend a lot of it on other things.  At the end of the day I think most folks still see WoW as a regular game.  They spend their gold on shinies rather than hoarding it across more bankers and stashes than Bernie Madoff like some of us do >.>

And that's legit.  So is buying gold now, too.  The flip side of the lack of demand for Gametime is the overwhelming demand for legitimately buying gold.  And while I have no moral bearing on the matter, in my deepest of hearts, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

For a lot of folks, they aren't goldmaking savants.  In the time it takes them to make 10k, they could have earned the now real money equivalent of 150k gold.  And if goldmaking isn't something they enjoy, but having gold is - well then, the decision is obvious if they have the funds available for it.  And most do - because WoW offers a lot of bang for your buck at $15/month.  We may not always make use of it, but it’s there.  We spend a lot more per hour of entertainment on other things like movies, cable, and even bowling leagues.

So that’s an understandable, and perfectly legitimate decision through and through.  And while a lot of folks have likely wanted to buy gold, a sizeable fraction have not done so prior to the token simply because they didn’t want to risk their account.

On an individual level, none of this is surprising or bothersome.  But on the overall scale with which we see it happening, it makes me nauseous.  To see tokens crater so hard, so quickly, means that the demand for buying gold is much, much larger than the demand to offload gold for Gametime.  Gold buyers were limited to 10 per person, while time buyers can buy nearly 30 per person now.

It’s isolating - realizing that, despite the relative ease of making gold, so many folks prefer to simply buy it - pixel wealth.  And while the third party black market is something I’ve been quite familiar with for many years (know thy customer; know thy business; know thyself), and I’ve long known the cash value of things typically valued only in-game with gold - on a personal level, all this is just a bit beyond me.  

Do I care that the Swift Spectral Tiger I bought as a new goldmaker many years ago can now be had by those with deep enough pockets?  Well, no - that’s not exactly new information to me.  It bugs me knowing that so many would empty their pockets to shortcut their way to it.  It doesn’t cheapen mine - my favorite pet will always be the Thundering Serpent Hatchling I named “Klack” - regardless of how many folks bought or joined a guild for free to snag it.  Myself, I lead a group that spent several weeks grinding it out for my guild, and I’m insanely proud of that but don’t hold it against others.

But imagine, that the greatest joys in the game, are the things you get to experience and share with others.  The MoP CM runs with Megallo, Poly, Raph, & Damaind - those are things I can share with others who grinded for that achievement.  But the folks who levelled a fresh toon in a guild on a different server for it?  I can’t connect with you on the same level and share that pride because you simply weren’t there.  

And that’s a somber thought for me.  I understand the decision to buy gold.  I respect it.  I have more than enough money of my own to join the chorus, I just choose not to.  But, all this just gets me down - that no matter what, the thrill of bidding up items in GDKP runs to 150k+, or dropping 350k on a mount that I earned the old fashioned way, or dropping 100k on mats in a day that I will absolutely burn through before it ends - that is now the ephemeral hallmark of an Old Guard now long past its zenith.

And while I can appreciate the grand-scale reward the token offers - that it is a free sub offered fairly to those of us who've been the grease, cogs, and powerplants of the economy for one of the largest MMORPGs ever made - it somehow just manages to make me feel old. It'll pass, I'm sure - sometime in the next 11 months of Gametime I nabbed for gold :)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Linear Dependencies - Calculating Materials Costs

Part 1 - The Update.

As you've noticed, I've been kind of absent lately.  The show took a hiatus in early December, and the blog has been silent as well.  I caught up with Kathroman and Selltacular back in January to guest on their podcast, The Gold Exchange, but I due to some miscommunication, I wasn't able to get my part recorded - and we never got a new session scheduled to make up for that.

Back in December I got a call from a job I'd applied to back in October, and after a long story, I got the job and packed up me & the wife and moved across the country.  I also managed to finish up a project at my last job that ended in the FDA Approval of a drug called Cresemba.  That was a cool experience that I'm pretty proud to be a part of.

Moving... is a pain.  But I'm happy to be in the Raleigh-Durham area and out of Chicago.  As a New Orleans native, 7 years of Chicago winters were just too much for me.  It was time to move on.  As you can expect, new gigs and new digs have vacuumed up a fair bit of my free time.  That's the paradox of podcasting / blogging - it actually takes time and effort to produce quality content.  At the same time, youve gotta also have time to play the game you're making content for so that actually have content to produce.

That's the trouble I've always had as I got into winter - I lose interest in WoW and start tinkering with other things. And that breaks up any continuity I have going with the content I make.  As I told my bud Zerohour (s/o to my homie), if I make it through this winter spring, it'll be the first time in 4 years of playing that I stuck with WoW.  My first year I managed it, but never again after that.  Which is weird to think I've been playing this game for longer than my first marriage lasted, but I will say that WoW is a lot cheaper and less frustrating by orders of magnitude.

But I'm not a die-hard like Zerohour is.  The main reason I still play is that after years of wandering around servers and guilds and servers (I've yakked before about the awesome guild I was in that broke up after the GM quit - miss you, Alex), I've finally found a really cool guild.  I'm an officer and a raid leader for the Subvictor guild on Uldum, with my fellow Wind Trader, Gissa.  I've always enjoyed leading a casual raid (a lot more than just being in one - I'm sure that means something, but I don't worry much about it anymore).  Every Thursday and Friday night, no matter how much or how little time I've spent with WoW that week, me and the LNWS raid team (we nicknamed it "Put it on Gissa's Tab" because of the repair bills) kill bosses and grab loot and have fun.

Raiding has been one of the greatest joys and biggest improvements to the game in recent years.  The addition of cross-server raiding, LFR, and Flex tech have really bolstered casual guilds.  And for all the ambivalence I have with the current profession system, the gearing path is diverse enough to keep progression interesting no matter what level your raid is at.  No more huge brick walls.

But - that's the short of why I'm still here, but you haven't seen or heard much from me.  Except on Twitter.  I can't seem to keep my damned mouth shut there.  For every gripe I throw on social media, it seems there's 5 or 6 cool things that happen that I keep to myself.  So I come off as a grump.  But, hahah - whatever, right?

Part 2 - Is there an Actual Blog Post Here?

Yes (deadpan).  There is.  Which wasn't really something I planned, but just came up.  I'm not real keen on where goldmaking is at, but there are still some cool niches that opened up in patch 6.1.  I don't like talking about them publicly too much, because, unlike the shuffle, they can be saturated without a lot of effort.  And, even though I don't have an active stream or GoFundMe campaign or a Workout Partner (s/o to my homie), some of the stuff I say still gets heard and acted upon - so there's things that I'll regularly keep to myself.  What I do still like to talk about are the ideas and tools available for you folks to do what guys like Zerohour and I and others do - to explore and find those sweet spots in your server's economy for yourselves.

Because goldmaking never stays the same for long.  And as soon as Mr. Popularity cashes in on the latest hip new tip and broadcasts it to the faithful, it usually collapses under its own weight on the majority of servers.  You've gotta be careful - there are plenty of ways to make good gold - but they're not the same across all servers.  So there's a lot of this stuff that you just gotta be able to sort out for yourself.

Today, I want to talk about calculating materials costs in the latest patch.  This seems like a simple idea, but it can get a bit complicated in certain situations.  If you're and enchanter, do you add up your mats costs based on the market value of crystals?  The market value of shards that you use to transmute?  The cost of the dust that you feed into your work orders? If so, do you have the right follower assigned for the extra procs?  Is your profession level high enough for max yield (mine isn't on several toons as I've re-tooled them into more profitable professions)?  Or did you trade in your Garrison Resources at the trading post for that dust?  What did you trade to get those GR?

It's not simple, but there are ways to think about it.  The title of this post is a cool thing that I encounter on a fairly regular basis.  Linear Dependencies come up in my line of work when I try to model a response on covariates that are highly correlated to the point that you can write an equation that relates one to another.  Like, if I try to mathematically figure out if folks are likely to go to McDonald's based on factors that are both related - like whether they like cheeseburgers and whether they like french fries.  When that happens, it's kinda hard to tell whether folks will hit McD's bc they like the fries or the burgers.  At least without asking them.

The problem is that the accounting between the effect of fries and the effect of burgers is something we can't tease out without more information because so many people like both - they're hihgly correlated, and so their effects on hitting McD's can be confounded and are hard to tease apart.  That's a quick, simplistic example of a Linear Dependency.

Now replace McD's with mats cost of a crystal and burgers and fries with Dust and Shards.  They both make crystals via different means.  Now, because of the rate of CDs and WOs, we have an idea of the ratio at which each is made, but what about Rush Orders?  What about the conversion of dust into shards (sure it's not profitable on most servers now, but as is often the case, the impossible of today becomes the gold mine of tomorrow).  The math isn't impossible, but it can be more than simple to keep up with.

Of course, if you're feeling like a proper smartass, you're thinking, "Who gives a damn, Stede?  Either way is cheaper than buying raw crystals, and if enchants don't show a profit over the crystals, then I just sell the crystals themselves - donezos, man - screw math!"  And yeah, you're right.  If that's all it is to you, then stop reading, go level 11 Level 100 toons that are LW/BS or LW/Scribe and max your garrison every day - maxing is a straightforward thought exercise in WoD: he with the most alts, wins.

But since alts are easier & more enjoyable to level than ever in WoD, I've a suspicion that most folks have hit the maximum number of toons / garrisons that they can reasonably sustain every day.  And questions become not, "Can I make more gold by doing X?" but rather, "How much more gold can I make with X?" - because often enough, we're deciding whether it's worth time that could be spent on other things.  Of course, that's just an example - it has its flaws.

Here's the question I'm actually leading into:

There are a lot of pretty integral materials in WoD now that cannot be bought off the Auction House.  The interplay that soulbound CD materials have with Primal Spirits became a LOT more interesting in patch 6.1 with the addition of the profession traders.  Before, primals were a closed loop between gathering and the original primal trader that sits on your garrison near the tower.  But with the addition of the travelling profession trader to your Town Hall, you can now buy primals with Ore, Herbs, Leather, Fur, or Dust.  In addition, you can also create soulbound CD mats off cooldown using a Primal.  The mats are less efficient than your daily cooldowns, but there are plenty of applications where that inefficiency can still turn a profit.  It's no secret that even at the prices of Valor Boots (2-3k), base level epics can turn a decent profit.  And in any case where supply is not oversaturating demand (something that's not always easy to discern unless you've got a good feel for the market) and the profit potential is there, it can be a good move to continue crafting using off-CD methods.

Now, before I get too carried away, I want to go back and acknowledge a fundamental point that our token smartass reminded me of while drafting this post.  The cost of anything is what you give up to get it.  In the case of Primals bought off the trader, this can be a lot of things.  So it depends on which of those things you choose to use.  Of course, in WoW, we don't really want Primals or ore or bloods or whatchamacallits.  We want gold.  Glorious filthy, stinky, dirty gold.  That other stuff is a means to that end.  Gold.

So, if we're a smartass - which is my hope that you'll all one day become so that one day you can teach me all the secrets of goldmaking - then we realize that every time we get dust, ore, leather, herbs, or fur, it has a base value - we can just sell it outright on the AH.  The AH price is what I call the market value.  If nothing else, that is the cost in gold of what raw mats cost you.  So now, if you use Blackrock Ore to buy Primals because you don't have a JC and you hit your mine every day and have 4 stacks of the stuff just sitting in your bags and Blackrock Ore is 2g each on the AH, then your cost for a Primal from the Ore Trader is 1 Primal = 5 Ore x 2g each.  That's 10g.

Of course, like I said, primals don't really do much on their own - they're soulbound, and to cash them out, you've gotta make them into something else.  You can trade 50 of them for a Savage Blood - though that would mean you paid 500g for a Savage Blood.  You could also create a soulbound CD mat - like a war paint or a truesteel ingot.  But then you have to figure out your cost there, too.  A war paint is 4 pigments and a Primal.  I get about 2.5 pigments per mill, or 100 per stack of 200 herbs (I think - just using round numbers for the sake of argument here).  So if herbs are sitting at 1g each, then the pigments are ~2g each.

4 pigments x 2g each + 10g for a Primal gives us a War Paint that cost us 18g to make.  We can make 100 at that price for 1800g and make a crafted staff.  Which should turn us a decent profit - in a lot of places, we could double that money on the AH.  Now, let's remember - you've only got so much Blackrock ore in your bags - we said 4 stacks, right?  And on the AH, there may only be 2 or 3 stacks at 2g each - the rest may be 2.5g or 3g.  It may not be profitable to buy those.  Always remember that these aren't eternal fonts, Ponce - as you suck up supply, the cost of materials will increase, so keep that in mind.

That's one example - we just traded in Blackrock Ore to make double our money on a crafted staff - even though the profit isn't as big as it would be if we just waited on our daily cooldowns - if we didn't have any other staves posted on the AH, then hey - profit is profit!  Why not, right?  But what if we had extra furs?  extra herbs?  What if we were the patient, stealthy, lying in wait to pounce at the right moment type?  You know, like the greatest class in the game - the Rogue.

Then you could look at all of the options - herbs, ore, dust, fur, leather - and figure out which one lets you buy primals for the cheapest price.  Let's say it was herbs.  They end up cheaper than BRO.  So instead of trading all our extra BRO, we sell it.  We use the gold to buy more herbs, and then we use the herbs to buy cheaper Primals, and increase our margins on staves - or whatever we wanna make.  Heck, if you get your costs of Primals down low enough like this, you could even just trade it for bloods and sell em raw and turn a bit of a profit.

This is why having a spreadsheet, however simple, is a boon in WoD patch 6.1.  Because there are a lot of options available to you.  And once you've got it setup, you can literally punch in just a handful of numbers and find the best one to use at a glance.  Heck, if you set one up using my Sandbox (Tools page - like is in the sidebar at the top), then you don't even have to punch in the prices every time - you can setup the spreadsheet and then it will import prices with the click of a single button.

Agility reigns supreme in 6.1, now that all the professions have these ties that bind them - like Primals.  It's also a rogue's base stat.  No coincidence.  Pallies - just bubble and hearth TFO, this is real talk here - best class in the game that ever was - the Rogue.

Ahem - but while there are many ways to turn an honest coin, optimizing that coin for max profit, or lowest time commitment, or even just your personal playstyle, often requires some math.  With the right tools, and the right frame of perspective, though, that process can be shortened substantially.

With that, you should be able to have a good starting point to go forth and explore your server's market and make some gold.  Myself, I find the exploring part to be one of the more fun aspects of goldmaking, and I hope you will too.  Really, I do.  I probably won't be able to move another staff for weeks, so you better make some gold with this =|

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stede's Goldmaking Spreadsheet Sandbox - Warlords of Draenor Edition

You've built your garrison, driven the Iron Horde back into Draenor, and established a menacing presence on their home turf.  Your crafters toil endlessly fashioning weapons of war as you outfit your army - and the armies of your allies for the coming offensive.

As you open your inventory and see hundreds of the most powerful crafting reagents in the game, you wonder - what in the heck do I make to get top coin for the fruits of my labors?  Chest pieces sound good, but what if everybody is selling those and the market is in the gutter?  Do I really have to check every single one of the 8 or more slots I can craft to know which is best?  These are questions that are not easily answered right now.

No  longer.  Today, I'm happy to release an updated version of my spreadsheeting sandbox.  One that includes all the marketable crafts from each primary profession in Warlords of Draenor.  With the push of a button, you'll update your spreadsheet's data using Blizzard's latest snapshot of the AH (snapshots are taken once every 60 minutes or so - some data may be ever so slightly out of date).

From there, you can enter your cooldown and work order yields an have reports for each profession at your fingertips.  No more time wasted guessing or tracking down the answers to your questions.  With my spreadsheet - everything is in one place.

And the best part - if you happen to think of a question that I haven't answered in the spreadsheet, you can add onto it.  All the wowuction functions from the original Sandbox are intact and waiting for whatever crazy goldmaking scheme you can dream of.

So head on over to the Stede's Signature Tools page and download yours to get started.
(Microsoft Excel 2010 or higher required)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Episode 31 - Making Gold the First Week of Highmaul

After getting a baseline for professions in Warlords of Draenor last week, I'm back just in the very nick of time this week to talk about what to expect in this first week of raiding in Highmaul.  I talk in depth about Enchanting, Alchemy, Cooking, Crafted Epic Gear, and Darkmoon Trinkets - all after covering the big news on the dust buffs, the mine nerfs, and the updating of wowuction to include info on all the new professions.

I also give a preview of content to come later this month for the show, including a spreadsheet I've been ironing out that's pre-loaded with all the stuff we can make with professions in Warlords of Draenor.  Full show notes are, of course, available after the break - Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Episode 30 - The Good, the Bad, & The Rest: WoD So Far

After taking launch weekend off to gorge myself on the new expansion, I hop back on the mic to talk about my impressions so far of all the new profession systems.  Have a listen as I talk through the good stuff, the bad stuff and my thoughts of the rest of it all, including Enchanting Work Orders (dude, where's my dust?), jerks posting singles, Trading Posts, and Barns.

Full show notes are after the break - enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Episode 29 - Planning a Successful Launch Week for Goldmaking

After talking all about professions and planning your buildings on your Garrison last week, this week I focus on the last minute details you'll need to make your Launch Week a success.  Tune in as I talk about the importance of levelling profession alts, and the breakpoints you need to know about to maximize your Cooldowns, and your goldmaking in your first days in Draenor.

I realize that this show has a lot of information that I cover in a relatively short amount of time.  So, to save you the hand cramps, I'm including my show notes below the break - Enjoy!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Episode 28 - The Best 3rd Small Buildings for WoD

After going through and rating each profession on a scale form 1 to 10 last week, this week I go through and rate each on of the profession buildings on a scale from 1 to 10 in terms of how useful they are for a toon without the corresponding profession.  As you'll recall, we can make 3 small garrison buildings, but each toon can only have two professions.  So if you're wondering which third small building to take to maximize your goldmaking potential, then you've come to the right place!