Time to Wind it Down

I've been needing to write this post for a good while. Surely some of you have noticed that my posting frequency has gone WAY down. It's not just that we're at the end of an expansion and news is slow. It's also in part because I am burning out on the game. This blog has gone strong for over 6 years. That's a long time to devote to one hobby. Don't get me wrong, I love gaming. I'm just waiting for the next big thing to come along. So far I haven't found it.

In the meantime life moves forward and I'm turning corners in other areas of life. I started taking some online courses in Web Development this fall. I found a fully online certificated program through the University of California where I can brush up on my HTML, dive into CSS, pick up JavaScript and some of the other technologies needed to be a real web developer. I've been wanting to do it for a long time and now that my kids are a bit older I have the ability to take it on.

In addition to online classes, I started another big project this fall that has taken off big time. I think this one will surprise you guys and show how gaming can help you in ways you just can't predict. First, some background....

Like many of you I've built up my virtual hoard over the years. I don't get into it as much as the big time Goblin folks, but I enjoy crafting and selling my wares. I try to leverage my crafting within a time commitment I'm comfortable with. During the Mists of Pandaria window I finally got up to the one million gold mark. I might have bragged to my kids about it a wee bit. My gold pile continued to grow and about six months ago I crossed the 1.5 million mark. Once again I took advantage of the opportunity to lord it over my two teenagers who can't manage to build up more than 20k gold before they find something they just "have" to buy.

My husband has occasionally commented on my "wealth" with the joke "Why can't you do this in real life?" To which I generally respond something like "I don't think it works that way"... plus some rationale about how the WoW economy is kind of a closed system where there is a set number of wares that a person can make, competition is restricted to individual servers, etc. I guess it's basically the small fish in a small pond logic.

The most recent conversation took a different turn. He said "Why don't you try to do it in real life and see what happens?". Well I was kind of thrown by this idea, I really didn't think it was possible. We talked about it and I kept trying to explain how it wasn't the same. But he insisted that some of the tricks I had picked up in WoW might actually work for me in the real market. Now before you get excited, we're not talking about Wall Street or anything. But we enjoy watching Antiques Road Show and American Pickers and he thought I might be able to use my skills to flip stuff.

Well I was pretty intimidated at first, I started scanning auctions on eBay looking for deals. And since I don't know crap about crap, it went kind of slow. The first item I bought got broken in the mail -- the seller used a handful of plastic grocery bags to pad a ceramic pitcher! So that sucked and I was off to a rocky start. Next I started haunting Goodwill and got an item which also broke before they could get it to me.

Finally we took the plunge on an item that I knew nothing about -- it had no bids but I thought it was nicer than the $10 starting bid. No one else agreed and I won it. After that I got more confident and started buying other things I thought were underpriced. After a month we had a few dozen items and we opened an Etsy store. About three weeks after we opened our Etsy store we got our first sale -- the very first item I had gambled on! I sold it for 3 times what I paid for it =)

It took about a week to get another sale but we were hooked. We could watch the logs and see folks visiting our store and viewing different things I bought. After a while I got a feel for what was popular, I started using search tools to figure out what shoppers wanted and hunting them down. My WoW auction experience was actually helping me in the real world!

It's been 5 months since we opened our Etsy store and we are now averaging about one sale a day. In December we sold over $1800 worth of vintage items and this month we've already hit $1000 in sales at just under 2 weeks. Needless to say it does eat up a lot of my spare time what with scanning auctions, researching to figure out which items are underpriced, shooting photos and writing copy for the store and then boxing and shipping goodies once they sell. I'm having a lot of fun being a "picker" but it has pretty much replaced WoW in my daily routine.

One reason I wanted to share this story is to let you guys know why the blog has gotten so neglected. I would love to find another person (or persons) who's interested in taking it over and keeping it going. If any of you out there are willing to give it a try -- or know someone who is -- I'd be happy to set you up for a trial run. Please contact me if you have any interest, even a few guest bloggers that can rotate with each other would keep the blog going for readers.

But the main reason I wanted to share all of this with you is to let you guys know that gaming is not the waste of time everyone claims it is. I know we all get bashed about gaming and read articles about how terrible it is. I personally get offended with all the negativity that gets dumped on gaming as a hobby, meanwhile zoning out in front of a TV for hours every night is considered normal. Obviously anything can be done to excess but gaming gets singled out as being particularly valueless and that really bothers me.

So I'm putting my story out there to help support the idea that there is value in gaming. We learn and hone real world skills in games that we can apply to our lives. Whether its practice socializing for folks who have trouble interacting with people face to face, or learning how to cooperate and work in a group, or figuring out the logistics of bringing 25 people together to execute a flawless "dance with the devil". There are a lot of things we do in game that translate to real life. Even tasks as simple as improving hand/eye coordination on boss fights or doing pet battles to relax after a stressful day have value in the real world.

I credit WoW with giving me the opportunity to learn about economics, supply and demand, pricing strategies and more in a safe environment where a mistake would not cause me any harm. I gained the confidence (after some prodding) to try it in the real world and it really did help me develop skills I'm using now. So please don't let people tell you that gaming has no value. Any activity is what you make it and even if the only positive effect of your gaming is that it lets you unwind from a long day at work so you don't yell at your kids or your spouse -- that is a valuable thing to the people who benefit from it.

Don't feel guilty and GAME ON!
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Brainstorming the Garrison!

I believe that garrisons are designed about as far as the slides and screenshots we saw come out of Blizzcon. At one point a panel developer even said that they had not fully designed the feature in response to a question from a player.

SOOOO.....

Let's help them out! 

We can put our heads together and brainstorm some ideas for garrisons. You may recall at the last Blizzcon LeCraft invited Engineers to post their ideas for new recipes on the forums. We took that invitation and ran with it to come up with ideas for all the professions. I think we should do the same here. Let's throw out a bunch of ideas and vote on them to pull out the best ones. Then I'll take our ideas to the official forums and post them for Blizzard folks to read.

Let me remind you in broad terms what we know so far:

  • Limited access to professions we don't have via garrisons
  • Access to bank items when crafting
  • Stack sizes to be increased (no numbers given)
  • Offline collection of materials via followers
  • New recipes may be discovered via garrisons (no details on how)
It was specifically said that the use of garrisons would probably not allow non-blacksmiths to craft epic items. Other than that nothing has been fleshed out. This is our opportunity to share opinions on how we would like that feature to work (non-profession crafting).

My thoughts - perhaps non profession crafting could be limited to trainer recipes. Perhaps the mats would be significantly higher if crafted by a non-professional toon. I don't believe that any player should be able to make the best recipes for a profession they don't have. I might be willing to consider it if they had a much higher cost for doing it. 

For example my warrior wants to make a BoP item from Blacksmithing and is willing to fork over 2x or 3x the mats to have it (dual wield Lunar Crescent yo!). Since this is an obscure item that she has no chance of getting unless she drops Engineering and levels Blacksmithing, I could see an argument for allowing this. The same would be true for Engineering, let my other toons craft an awesome looking tinker helm for transmog but it costs me 3x the mats to make it for them.

Also, we've had comments about gathering via garrisons. While there is a convenience factor here, I think we should acknowledge that Blizzard probably doesn't want us getting all our materials this way. So maybe we should brainstorm ideas about where that line should be.

Ok people --- DISCUSS!
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Blizzcon Report, Day 2

The final day at Blizzcon is winding down and I made it back to my hotel to update you guys on the news. Not a ton of information to add to the pile today but I've been squirrelling away tidbits as much as I could. As you may have seen from my tweets I did not manage to get a good spot in the Q/A line and they ended the questions before I could speak. That said, there was not a professions developer on the panel and the answers they gave to other questions were a bit vague, so I'm not sure we would have gotten terribly detailed information from my queries.

Here's what I learned today:

The starter buildings for the Garrison will be a town hall, a mine, a farm and a fishing shack. You will use the town hall to interact with your followers and assign them tasks.

Small buildings include the Alchemy Lab, the Smithy, Enchanter's Study, Engineering Works and Scribe's Office.

Medium buildings include the Inn, Barn, Lumber Mill, Trading Post and Pet Stable

Large buildings include the Infirmary, Armory, Stable and Mage Tower

There will be Barracks and the barracks will allow you to get more followers.

Each building will have its own unique upgrade path.

The cost of a building on the sample screenshot was 10,000 gold!

Blueprints can be gotten via factions, questing, world drops and more. New tooltips will tell you the location for blueprints you don't have (much like the "not collected" pet lists).

After your garrison has been upgraded 3 times you'll be able to unlock a specialization. You may be able to change your specialization once per day (a cost may be associated with doing this).

All profession buildings can have followers

Your followers will be able to collect ore at your mine while you are offline.

New tiers of the garrison will offer more plots (for buildings). You fill all the current plots to upgrade to the next tier.

Missions will have difficulty ratings similar to quests (green, yellow, orange).

Your mine may have nodes inside that you can gather, in addition to followers who will gather for you.

Garrisons are unique per character and not an account wide feature, plans to support alts have not been fleshed out yet (WoW Q/A answer)

Garrisons will probably not allow you to make epic weapons from the Smithy but this aspect of garrisons has not really been planned out yet, they would like to balance it with players who are Blacksmiths. Current plans are to let players use garrisons to find recipes and do missions. No concrete plans on what types of recipes will be available this way.

The slots used for enchantments will be reduced but the number of enchants available per slot will increase.

There will be fewer gem sockets on gear but the gems will be more powerful. Meta gems are going away.

This is all I collected on Day 2, we'll see if any further information comes out in the aftermath!
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Blizzcon Report, Day 1

So I spent the day at Blizzcon and I had really hoped to tweet / blog from the panels I attended. Sadly the free wi-fi at the convention center is terrible and I could barely get a couple of tweets to go out. I had my iPad with me luckily and I took lots of notes during the panels. Now that I'm back at my hotel I can use their network to get a post done!

I'm sure you all know by now that the new WoW expansion is Warlords of Draenor. The new continent will be loosely based on the current Outland map. The big enemy in this expansion will be the Iron Horde. The main Alliance city will be Karabor in Shadowmoon Valley and the Horde main city will be at Frostfire Ridge in what is now the NE corner of Outland. There will be 7 new zones total.

I think the most important announcement for our type of folks is the new garrison feature. Garrisons seem to be the successor to Sunsong Ranch. We were told that players can choose which zone to build in and will have the option to move their garrison if they wish. Our garrisons will not be instanced, they will be in the world and accessible by our friends and guildmates.

Your garrison will also have followers who can be sent on missions, which can progress even while players are offline. We can interact with our followers by giving them names. We will be able to level up our followers and once they reach level 100 they will be able to gain ilevels instead of XP. The follower system will be similar to a mini-game where you can send them on quests, dungeons and raids.

Garrisons will provide limited access to professions you don't have, you can choose to build a mine if you want. There will be other types of buildings you can add to your garrison and each building will confer a benefit or perk of some type. Perks would include additional followers / player buffs / customizations and possibly extra abilities. It was also stated that we could assign followers to buildings such as a mine (presumably to gather materials?). In addition, our garrison would let us display monuments and trophies to commemorate completed achievements and rare kills we've gotten.

Players would be able to expand their garrison over 3 tiers (possibly meaning patches?) and choose which buildings they want in order to unlock specific perks. Players would be able to choose the location for their buildings. It was not stated that the number of buildings would be limited, but the fact that you are choosing seems to presume that you can't unlock them all. Each building you have unlocks special missions which can be run offline. Based on the graphics we were shown it appears that a garrison can be expanded to about the size of a small village or town.

That covers all the notes I have on garrisons, I'll be happy to add more information if I come across it tomorrow. Here are some other new features that were discussed today:

Collections - Heirlooms and toys will now be account wide with an interface similar to the pet/mount screens and the ability to mark favorites. It's undecided whether tabards will be included in this group.

Inventory bags will be sortable and each bag can be assigned a specific category of items. Quest items will no longer be stored in player bags and are being moved to the quest tracker. Vendor trash will be marked so it is easily identified from other types of items.

Bank - We will be able to craft directly from our banks!! (SCORE!!!). Stack sizes will be increased (no details given).

Please bear in mind that all of these new features are preliminary and could change drastically or be dropped (titan path) before release. That said, I'm pretty excited for some of these changes!
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Brainstorming the Castle - VOTE!

Ok guys, I sifted through the last post where we talked about ideas for Blizzcon questions and put them into a poll. Now it's your turn to vote in the poll and let me know which questions are the most important to you. You can vote for as many questions as you want. If you have new questions you want added, leave them in the Comments below and I will add them to the poll.

Here's the poll, GO VOTE:

Blizzcon 2013 Tradeskills/Professions Wish List Poll

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Blizzcon: Brainstorming the Castle!

As you know, Blizzcon is around the corner. And this year I am ridiculously excited to be a part of it for the first time. Just like in past years, I hope to blog the news as events unfold with particular interest in professions-related information. Unlike previous years, I may have the opportunity to ask a few questions on our behalf and get "official" answers. So I'd like to build a list of our top burning questions for the future of the game. Here are a few I jotted down over the summer to get the ball rolling:

  • Are there any plans to add new professions to the game or are we at maximum capacity?
  • What is the official rationale for abandoning Sunsong Ranch development in the next expansion?
  • What sort of changes are planned for the new training recipes and gathering "bits" that were added to Pandaria content to keep them relevant in a new expansion?
  • Has Blizzard solidified on the "discovery" mechanic for learning new recipes beyond trainer recipes?
  • What happened with Spirits of Harmony that caused them to fall out of favor?
  • Are you happy with the way Cooking played out in Mists - did more players utilized the improved Cooking?
  • Are you happy with Archaeology in Mists as far as the quantity and power of artifacts?
  • Do you have plans to tweak Archaeology to give it long term stamina? All of the new artifacts were pretty easy to discover in Pandaria.
This might also be a good time to reflect on what we gained in this expansion. In our Cataclysm poll we logged over 100 votes on new features for MoP. We didn't get everything on our wish list, but here are some of the items that were improved:

A unified daily token vendor for all professions -- Spirit of Harmony used as currency for vendor recipes.
Spread faction gains among alts -- Grand Commendations added in 5.1
Static bind on pickup recipes for non-raiders -- Smart loot drops added for certain new recipes.
Let players influence dig sites -- Tokens added to Archaeology vendor to reset/modify spawn locations.
Consistent level requirements on scrolls -- Scrolls changed to scaling in 5.4
Portable Anvil -- Score! Added to the game :)
Add new discovery/proc items to the game -- Many professions now have discovery recipes.
Provide alternative to "orbs" for raiders only -- Most professions have a daily CD they can use.
Remove JC dailies and use another gating mechanism -- Done, now JC uses daily discovery recipe.
Create more ways to use green gems -- Primal diamond/jewelry recipes arguably count for this one?

This is a great time to talk about what we want to see down the road. Once we have a comprehensive list, we'll build a new poll to tally votes. So please leave a Comment and let us know what new feature is important to you!
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Experiment Failed: Diablo RMT and In-Game Auctions To Be Shut Down

The results are in folks and it seems that the Real Money auction house system in Diablo III will be going down early next year. In addition, they're also killing the in-game auction house. So not only did RMT fail in a Blizzard game, but I'm guessing it polluted the economy so badly that they have chosen to yank all auction systems from Diablo.

Diablo isn't really my area of expertise and beyond playing through the first quest line in the beta a couple of times I had no interest in the game. However, many of us in the WoW community felt that the RMT auction in Diablo was a test bed for the possibility of getting some form of RMT system in WoW. Clearly this development does not bode well for WoW gaining any sort of comparable system. (Which is a shame because I'm currently sitting on 1.5 million gold --- just KIDDING!)

Honestly I never expected Blizzard to implement any serious form of RMT in WoW. If nothing else, the tax implications of such a system would be horrific. I know I have a deadly fear of the IRS and I'm sure Blizzard's accounting peeps have a healthy respect as well. Also, the idea that you could even remotely earn a living playing online games would open the floodgates for all sorts of cuckoos. Our social environment is polluted enough as it is without adding more fuel to the culture clash fire.

While it seems like an appealing idea for my WoW gold to be translated into real cash, I'm fairly certain I wouldn't sign on the for consequences that would go with it. It would bring hordes of non-gamers into our game lives and create a whole new level of angst. We thought the overfarming was bad in the early months of MoP and CRZ, that would be nothing compared to the massive farming that would come as a result of a real world "get rich quick" invasion.

What about you guys, what do you think of this development?

To Do List for Patch 5.4

Blacksmiths: Farm Pandaria mobs until you get the Balanced Trillium Ingot plans - craft one!

Engineers: Farm Pandaria mobs until you get Chief Engineer Jard's Journal and learn the recipes from it. Pop your Blingtron daily for a chance at the new Lil Bling pet!

Scribes: Farm Pandaria mobs to collect new Glyph recipes as well as the Crafted Medallion of Tenacity.

Leatherworkers: Farm Pandaria mobs for the Hardened Magnificent Hide recipe as well as the Drums of Rage recipe.

Tailors: Farm Pandaria mobs for the the Celestial Cloth recipe and craft one to learn a random Crafted Malevolent recipe.

Cooks: Visit the Timeless Isle to start the quest chain for Noodle Carts! I'm sad to say that I was not able to put this post together in time for the patch. I got stuck on the stupid Jade Temple boss and could not kill him. Unfortunately on the PTR player gear was scaled down to 463 inside the 85 dungeons. I have no idea if this will be the case when 5.4 goes live.

For now, you can review my notes on the quest chain leading up to this fight:

To unlock the starter quest, you'll need to head for the Timeless Isle. In the center of the island is Moss Green Lake. If you head east from the north side of the lake, you'll see a broken bridge in between two rock formations. This spot is called "Red Stone Run" on your mini map.

You want to head east from the lake to the top end of the bridge on the map. In reality you'll be under the bridge at ground level, not on the bridge itself. Right at the broken bridge is a quest object called an "old sign fragment". Just pick it up to start the quest.

Next you'll head southwest to the small village called Old Pi'jiu. This is the same village you probably rode past when you flew to the Isle (if you are Alliance). It's infested with spectral pandaren, so be prepared to fight your way in. I was able to use stealth to reach the NPC and turn in the quest. She will give you a new quest, this one requires you to kill the Sha of Doubt at the Jade Temple.

I'm not sure I'm thrilled with this idea of being required to kill dungeon bosses for recipes, but I'm reserving judgement until the end of the chain. I tried stealthing through the Jade Temple but apparently you can't get beyond the second boss without completing that fight.

Kill the Sha of Doubt, then turn in the quest on the patio behind (Lin Family Scroll). Don't leave the Jade Temple because you also need to kill a ghost panda named Lin Da-Gu. He's a level 90 elite with 7878k health. I don't know if this fight will be possible to solo. When I tried it on the PTR my gear was scaled down to 463.

UPDATE: Reports are coming in that the new crafted epics were changed to BOE. Don't forget to use your cooldowns and learn those recipes!!

Feel free to leave additional hints and tips in the Comments for others!




Engineering Goodies finally in with Patch 5.4!

Recent patch notes have indicated that the long-awaited Engineering recipes were finally going into the 5.4 patch. I did some research on Wowhead and it looks like the drop was changed from the Itoka kill to a random world drop. So I took my Engineer Kayree out into the world to try finding it. Because I know many of you have alts that you have not leveled in Pandaria, I decided to test an easy location. And I've confirmed that characters who are still 85 should be able to get this schematic. Please bear in mind that you will need a skill level of 600 to actually use the book!

Kayree went to Paw'don Glade and beat up some Twinspire orcs and peons right outside the village gates. This is one of the first locations Alliance will visit after they zone into Pandaria. The mobs are level 84/85 and should be fairly easy for a Cataclysm geared toon. I assume the Horde has comparable dudes to pick on in their starting areas. Assuming your toon is eligible for Pandaria content, you should be able to reach this (or a similar) location within 10-15 minutes of leaving your home city.

Kayree killed about 8 mobs at Paw'don before finding Chief Engineer Jard's Journal:


When you click on the journal, you automatically learn all of the new Engineering recipes, including:

Jard's Peculiar Energy Source
Sky Golem
Pierre
Rascal-Bot
Advanced Refrigeration Unit

Jard's Peculiar Energy Source is on a one day cooldown. If you want to make all of these new items, you'll need 65 jard-cores to create one of each. So you can see that the daily CD will be a limiting factor on production. It also means that we won't be seeing any pets on the market for at least two weeks, or mounts for a full month. So now would be a good time to stock up on ghost iron, trillium and/or living steel :)

If you have any questions about these new recipes or suggestions for additional research, please leave a Comment!
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No Plans for Updating Sunsong Ranch

It seems that Ghostcrawler recently stated on Twitter (in response to a player question) that there are no plans to update Sunsong Ranch. I'm actually a bit surprised by this on multiple levels. First - I had this question in my list of Blizzcon queries. I wasn't expecting the Devs to start talking about future expansion plans until after the final MoP patch went out. But I'm even more surprised that they are letting farms fade into obscurity.

Personally I thought the farm thing worked out fairly well. Folks who put a lot of time into their farm got a lot out of it. Players who didn't work on them obviously weren't able to reap the rewards. I don't know about you guys but I still farm almost every day with 3-4 of my toons. I'm not getting a ton of mats from my farm, but I get enough to supply my daily cooldowns and such. I think that's a fair use of the farming mechanic, I'm not getting rich or anything. 

I suspect a lot of players have abandoned their farms, I don't see nearly as many players in the Halfhill area as I used to. But that's not exactly shocking since I don't really see as many players in other populous areas either. What I think really happened is that a good percentage of the casual gathering we used to do dropped off in MoP. It's likely that the Devs want us to be out in the world instead of quietly tending our farms. In that sense, the experiment that is Sunsong Ranch may have failed in their eyes. It's a shame because I'm sure a lot of work went into creating farms and I enjoy having a little section of the world that's just for me.

Another thing I noticed that may be weighing against Farms is that newer recipes seem to be moving away from Spirit of Harmony usage. The recipes in 5.0.1 required a lower number of SoH than the 5.0 crafted epics and the 5.2 epics used none at all. From what I've seen so far on the 5.4 PTR there are yet again no recipes with SoH. Instead we are relying on daily cooldowns to provide a gating mechanism. They're also introducing a new type of "Spirit", that will likely be a raid drop item.

I would guess from this that the Devs didn't like how the Spirit of Harmony use played out. In all likelihood we stockpiled them too much and by the time 5.2 dropped they were no longer meaningful as a gate. Thus we got the raid dropped components instead. At least with 5.4 it looks like we'll rely purely on our daily cooldown to provide mats for epic gear. While I have no problem with gating to protect the markets, I don't particularly enjoy the supply of crucial components being controlled by raiders.

I'm definitely glad to see in the upcoming 5.4 recipes that raid components are not required to make epic gear. I don't know about you, but I haven't made even one 522 epic despite having all the recipes for a good while now. I just don't want to pay the outrageous prices that raiders expect for Haunting Spirits. In 5.4 the raiders will be able to use their spirits to boost their own production speed without bottlenecking the rest of us from making anything at all, which I think is a much nicer way to handle crafted epics.

From this side of the fence I suppose I can see where Sunsong Ranch didn't provide the value needed to keep it on the table for future expansions. If we assume the Dev consensus is that Spirits of Harmony were a failed gating tool AND that players using their farm for crafting materials was too anti-community, then the only real value from farms are for Cooking materials. Since Cooking is a secondary profession, it may not merit the dev time needed to keep farms in sync with it.

To my mind this is a shame because I enjoy noodling on Sunsong Ranch and I don't think I'm the only one. In lieu of player housing, it's a good personal area for players where we can putter around and do our own thing. But no one will visit them any more if they only tie into Pandaria content. If nothing else I'd really like to see them add an option for us to easily visit after the rest of the world moves on. Maybe a new type of portal shard that takes us to Sunsong Ranch to say hi to Shaggy, our yak, and Luna the Cat. And while we're at it, can we give the poor dog a name? Just sayin.

Feel free to leave a Comment if you want to join the conversation about the demise of Farming <sniff>
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