Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: When Worlds Collide

This weeks Blog Azeroth shared topic is:

Have you ever tried to introduce real life friends to WoW? If yes, how did it go? If you never have, why not?

Sometimes even talking to real life friends about WoW seems impossible, even if they are into video games in general.  There seems like a huge barrier of information and jargon that is impossible to explain efficiently enough to support the anecdote you want to inject into an otherwise non-WoW related conversation.

I’ve actually introduced real life friends to WoW twice.  The first time was back just before The Burning Crusade was launched.  This first friend jumped right in and got hooked on the game.  He eventually was the person who introduced me to raiding and gold earning.  He’s not playing anymore but I’d have to say that introduction went extremely successfully.

Then just recently another friend got a trial account.  The difference is striking — my second friend has played one character of every race, alliance and horde, to level 20 and then stopped.  So, he played a lot, but hasn’t so far decided to take the plunge to a full account.  There are three factors that seem like impediments to him.  First, his account was hacked and that was an unpleasant experience.  Second, he is afraid it might become too time consuming.  And last but not least, there is just so much to learn now — the game has stretched out so far compared to vanilla.  It must feel impossible to a truly new player that they can ever catch up.  Basics that veteran players take for granted are hard to explain, like addons, duel-specs, glyphs, mail, the auction house, etc etc etc…  The trial account restrictions didn’t help much either.

I suppose many factors influence whether a new player ends up playing in the long term, but my general feeling is it’s harder now than it used to be.


Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: One Realm to Rule Them All

This week’s Blog Azeroth shared topic was suggested by me:

If it were possible, would you want Blizzard to put all characters in a single realm/game world by realm type — PvP vs PvE vs RP? Why or why not?

The short answer for me is yes, but.  Yes, but if that were to happen a lot of other things would have to change.  If Blizzard left the world largely as it is and combined us all onto one realm by rule set, the world would break quickly.  Chaos would ensue.  Apocalypse!  (ooooh, possible expansion title?)

Tokyo Subway

Just imagine your capital city, physically the same as it is now, with 100 times or more people in it.  Even at the lowest usage times, this would be unworkable.  It would be like the Tokyo subway at rush hour, or worse.

One solution of course would be to leave the zones as they are and make multiple copies of them, sort of instances.  I think other games that do this give you ways to switch your automatic assignment to one of these instances in case you need to interact with someone in another instance.  This just seems clunky to me, and counter to the whole point of one game world.

If it had been possible to have a single realm design in the beginning of WoW, the whole geography of the game would just be bigger.  Like in the real world, there would be more cities, and there would be no single city where you had to be ever.  No “single city bottle necks” to capacity.  It’s funny that now, Blizzard purposely makes some services only available in capital cities so that they don’t become ghost towns.  A single realm design would flip that script.  Also like in the real world, expansion of the game world would be required as population grew.

So however much a single realm seems good in theory, it’s not only difficult technically but impractical to do retrospectively.  However that doesn’t mean Blizzard could not consider more changes in that general direction.  Remember the world before battlegroups, or cross-realm lfd?  I think more features like these, including the a possible cross-realm auction house, can and should be considered.


Reward of the Week: Hit the Blizzard Store

I’ve been on lots of weight loss diets.  There are some things they all have in common.  One thing they all advise is that when you reach a goal you should reward yourself, but not with a chocolate cake.  In other words, don’t undo all the good work you’ve just done, and more important, don’t reinforce bad habits by equating food with all things good.

The next time you reach a gold goal, big or small, consider treating yourself with a trip to the Blizzard Store.

Blizzard Store

If you are anything like me you avoid overspending real life money on WoW.  It feels a little like cheating to buy all those mounts and pets with real money instead of farming them in-game.  But the advantage of buying something in the store as opposed to splurging on the auction house is that you don’t deplete your hard earned gold doing it.  And linking the purchase to reaching a gold goal does tie the purchase to the hard work you’ve put in inside the game.

If you’ve never used the Blizzard Store, don’t be afraid, it’s really well implemented and easy to use.  You can buy mounts for around $25 US and pets for $10 US.  There are plenty of other items and accessories as well as Diablo and Starcraft items if you are interested in those.  Have a budget going in, stick to it, and then enjoy your success having fun with your new item.  You’ve earned it!


Blog Azeroth Shared Topic Links: Starstruck!

The Blog Azeroth shared topic for July 9 – July 15 was suggested by Dragonray from Azerothian Life:

Are you starstruck by anyone? Does someone in the community respond to a post or a tweet and get you all speechless because they actually responded? Is there anyone you are waiting to have respond directly to you? Is there someone that you would like to chat to, but are too chicken? Am I the only one who puts other bloggers on a pedestal?

I posted mine here on Monday — since then many many more excellent submissions (14!!) rolled in.  Please take a moment to enjoy each of them.


Sunday Blog Post Roundup Vol. 5

What a week — the blog-o-sphere is on fire with good stuff to read.  Hang with me to the very end of this list, they are all excellent.

The Gold Queen posted a tip on how to “shuffle” leather.  It’s actually a type of currency arbitrage, and a good, easy tip.  Check the prices on your server before you jump in.

Croda at marketsforgold had two really good posts — one on how to get a guild bank (which actually points out there are some downsides to it) and one that shows exactly how they evaluate items for flipping potential, step by step.

Jim Younkin from Power Word: Gold posted a list of exactly what money making professions he’d recommend you have depending on how many characters you have to work with.

Mommar from Just My Two Copper didn’t use the words “business process” in his post, but that’s exactly what he was talking about when he posted about keeping a list of daily activities.

Faid from clockworkriot wrote two great inscription related posts.  The first was on preparation for MoP, and the second was on tactics for dealing with competition in the glyph market.

Staying on the topic of dealing with competition for a moment, on Phat Lewt’s Gold Blog, Mr. Lewt’s wrote a simple post about the basic ways gold earners track the activity of other sellers.

On ALT:ernative, The Godmother posted an excellent take on Blizzard’s new guild mentoring program.  I, however, took something else away from the post — her list of questions used when interviewing potential guild members.  I always say when I’m looking for people to work with, the only two really important qualifications are that they are cool and smart — most of the rest you can teach.

Focushot from Hunter Mastery shared a list of 10 gold making tips.  They are specific ideas for products you might not have considered.

Finally last but certainly NOT least, Cold from Cold’s Gold Factory gave his opinion on why the old gold earning cliche “buy low, sell normal” is a joke.  Also make sure to check out all the great posts that were entered into Cold’s Gold Blogging Carnival for July.


Marketing: Brought to you by the Letter P

(Well, I just had to make that joke at some point.)

I didn’t finish my college degree until I was a working adult.  When I did go back to finish I selected a program in eBusiness, all the rage at the time.  None of my prior education was business oriented, so I was happy to go back and learn all the basics of business.  However when I saw that every student was required to take a marketing course, I was…. well, concerned.  I didn’t care about advertising.

What I didn’t understand is that marketing does not equal advertising.  Advertising, or promotion, is only one part of marketing.  The definition of marketing that I like is:

The management process through which goods and services move from concept to the customer.

That isn’t part of business, that IS business.  It’s what we do even in WoW when we undertake serious gold earning whether or not we realize it.

The Four Ps

Basic marketing courses break the overall marketing process into four parts, called the four Ps:

  • Product — defining exactly what you wish to sell and how you will produce it.
  • Price — determining the right price, including volume pricing, discounts, terms, etc.
  • Promotion — communicating with potential customers to raise awareness and interest in your product.
  • Place — how or where you will actually perform sales transactions with customers.  (Not the best name, but they needed it to start with P.  Think “distribution”.)

Each of the four Ps is interrelated — for example how you produce the product effects the price, and the price might effect who you want to promote the product to, etc.  Modern formulations try to be more “customer focused” by changing product to customer or service, promotion becomes communication, place becomes convenience, etc.  But for our purposes it’s all the same idea.

When you read about a gold earning idea one way to start to break it down, evaluate and understand it is to identify the four Ps within it.  This is a great way to start creating your business process activities and figuring out if there are any gaps in the plan.  Let’s see how this applies to you in WoW by evaluating the four Ps of one gold earning market people love to recommend and write about: mysterious fortune cards.

Well the first P is easy, right?  The product is mysterious fortune cards: all done.  Not so fast speedy — you need to define exactly how you will obtain the product.  For cards you would have two choices: make them or buy them.  You would then break each of those options down further to evaluate them.  What materials are required to make them, and where would you get the materials?  Where or from whom would you buy cards to resell?  You could even consider if you should sell cards only or make some of them into Fortune Cookies, where buyers would get stat food and a chance to win gold.

Pricing mysterious fortune cards optimally is not as easy as it might seem.  Obviously you need to know how much it will cost you to make or buy them.  But then you need to test or guess what price people would pay that would maximize your profit, because presumably the higher the price, the lower the volume will be.  Also, when you think about price, think about the quantity or quantities you want to sell in.  Do you want to sell single cards or stacks of 200?  Finally of course, what is the competition pricing at?  You’ll probably want to do some test marketing and adjust your prices based on your results.

In some ways there isn’t a lot of promotion in WoW.  A lot of the time the only promotion I do is to list an item on the auction house — that’s promotion, it how I communicate to my buyers.  Many of the fortune card advocate out there suggest that more promotion than that is required to maximize the potential of card selling.  By “barking” in trade channel and either selling directly to players, or just using trade to advertise listings on the auction house, they instill interest in buyers who might not otherwise look for cards.

Finally there is place.  Again, in most cases for me I sell things on the auction house.  But you might find it more effective to deliver fortune cards to players in person.  Or who knows, selling outside the capital cities might be worth doing, especially if you are selling cookies.  Perhaps you could start a COD business — card of the day club anyone?

It’s too bad this concept is so wordy, because it is easier to apply it than it is to explain it.  I hope the wonky-ness of this doesn’t turn you off from trying it mentally the next time you read about a potential new product to sell.  It is a powerful concept that can help you make sure you are getting the most from your gold earning ideas.


“To Measure is to Know”

Lord Kelvin
Meet Lord Kelvin — all around cool guy. See what I did there?  Lord Kelvin is known for discovering the lower temperture limit, absolute zero, and units of of absolute temperature are named “kelvin” in his honor.

More on topic, Lord Kelvin is credited with two of my favorite quotes.  “To measure is to know,” and “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it.”

Serious gold earners need tools for measuring their progress.  There are many things to track, but the most basic ability you need to start is a way to track your gold balance over time.

I like to be able to get a quick overview of my gold balance all the time.  Trade skill master’s accounting module and auctioneer’s beancounter are big, all-in-one solutions that allow you to pretty much get any data you want about your sales and gold balance.  I use TSM:accounting for deep analysis, but for everyday, every minute use, I like Auditor.  In the author’s own words:

“Auditor is a nifty addon that tracks your incoming and outgoing money from a variety of sources, and provides an easy to use Data Broker interface to choose whose data you would like to look at, and for what time period.”

Auditor Display

Once you install Auditor, activate it and log into each of your characters, it starts tracking all gold related activity in real time.  At any time you can mouse over the auditor tag on your toolbar and you’ll get a tool tip like this one with an overall gold activity summary for a given timeframe.  You can select different timeframes and either view a single character or all character totals.

Lib Data Broker

There is one complication I believe keeps auditor from becoming a much more popular addon.  It uses the Lib Data Broker interface to display this tool tip and therefore to use Auditor you must have a Lib Data Broker display addon installed as well.  These addons provide you with toolbars you can customize and use to organize the data displayed on your UI.  For example, these bars provide an alternative to the overcrowded mini-map icon mess.  I currently use docking station as my LDB display, however it is getting a little outdated and it’s not on curse.  TitanPanel and ChocolateBar are other alternatives, however I’ve not tried them (yet).  You can find more information about Lib Data Broker and LDB display addons here.

It’s worth taking the plunge.  Once you have a LDB display you’ll find that many of your addons can use it to display information.  And just having auditor makes it worth the effort for the serious gold earner.


Mail Basics and Using CODs

I think it was on a recent episode of Call to Auction that the hosts discussed the fact that a lot of players don’t understand how the COD mail system works, and therefore they are afraid to use it.  (By the way, Call to Auction is fantastic — I’m so glad they are back and I really hope they stick around and keep the ‘casts coming).

I’ve noticed this as well.  I don’t generally buy or sell in trade but occasionally I do respond to people selling things there.  And if I suggest a COD more often than not the person doesn’t want to do it.   Even though we’ve been playing the game a long time, some things have changed over time and we forget the details.  So I thought I’d provide a quick overview/review of the mail system basics, including how COD works.

In-Game Mail Basics

The exact size of your mail box “behind the scenes” is unknown outside of Blizzard best I can tell.  However many pieces of mail you have, a maximum of 50 are displayed at a time.  To see messages beyond the first 50, you have to remove (read and delete) some of the first 50 to make room, and re-open or refresh the mail box.

Unlike a lot of mail systems outside the game, you do not retain a copy of mail you send.  (There is no “sent items”).  There is also no way to recover deleted mail.  The system is designed for mail to serve its purpose and be removed promptly thereafter.

Mail Expiration Times

  • Normal mail expires in 30 days, after which the message is deleted
  • Mail with attachments expires in 30 day, after which the items are returned to the sender
  • COD messages expire in 3 days if not paid for, after which the items are returned to the sender
  • Returned messages and items will expire from the original sender’s mail after 30 days and be deleted.  (In other words, they will not bounce back and forth.)

Delivery Times

  • Text only messages with no attachments arrive immediately
  • Mail sent to a character on the same account as the sending character will arrive immediately
  • Any mail, including those with attachments or money, sent between characters in the same guild will arrive immediately if the guild has the guild mail perk, awarded at guild level 17.
  • Without the guild mail perk, mail sent to a character on a different account from the sending character with items or money attached will take one hour to arrive.
  • Items purchased from the auction house arrive immediately in the buyers mail.
  • Money received from the auction house to the seller of an item takes one hour to arrive.
  • Returned mail arrives immediately
  • Money received from COD sales arrives immediately.

Cash on Delivery (CODs)

When you send mail with items attached, you have the option to require the mail recipient to pay an amount of gold for the items by selecting the COD check-box and entering the cost of the item or items.  You enter one total amount for all the items attached to the mail.

When a mail recipient opens the COD mail and attempts to take any of the attached items they will get a dialogue box asking them if they agree to pay.  If they do, the money will automatically be withdrawn from their gold total and sent to the sender/seller.

CODs are convenient for many uses.  Not only can you buy something from a seller in trade without either person traveling, you also don’t pay any auction house deposits or fees.  You can set up an ongoing deal with a materials farmer to send you everything they farm for a set price, and then not even be online at the same time.  And in conjunction with the guild mail perk, it’s a very convenient way to do business with guild mates since the mail is delivered immediately.

In the past there were issues with CODs being used in gold scams or for other under-handed purposes.  I’d rather not outline the tactics here.  But there have been changes made that make it pretty hard to take advantage with someone using COD.  As a seller you can be assured that you will either receive payment for your items or you will receive the items back within 3 days.  And as a buyer, you need to carefully review what is attached to the mail and what price the seller input before you accept the item — that dialogue box appears for your protection, so use it and don’t just click blindly!


Reward of the Week: Valor Point BoE Items

Valor Point Vendor

Many serious gold earners are also serious altoholics.  Hello, my name is Frinka…  If you have level 85 alts, when you reach gold goal you could reward yourself by buying them valor point BoE items.  Item level 397 bracers are available for 1,250 VP and item level 397 boots are available for 1,650 VP from the valor quartermasters in Stormwind and Orgimar.  Here’s the Wowhead list of what exactly you can get.

VP BoE list from Wowhead

Selling valor BoEs is an easy way for a lot of players who aren’t necessarily serious gold earners to earn gold.  There was a good Gold Capped post on WoW Insider about all the ins and outs of selling BoEs back in December.  If your main has enough valor points to buy some you could reward yourself by simply sending them to your alts instead of selling them to someone else.  If not, you can help out another player and reward yourself at the same time by purchasing a few items in trade or on the auction house.


Blog Azeroth Shared Topic: Acuzod Sat Next to Me!

The Blog Azeroth shared topic for July 9 – July 15 was suggested by Dragonray from Azerothian Life:

Are you starstruck by anyone? Does someone in the community respond to a post or a tweet and get you all speechless because they actually responded? Is there anyone you are waiting to have respond directly to you? Is there someone that you would like to chat to, but are too chicken? Am I the only one who puts other bloggers on a pedestal?

There are many people in the WoW community that impress me with their wit, ingenuity and friendly nature.  I’ve had virtual brushes with a few — Matticus from World of Matticus responded to one of my tweets, Robin Torres from WoW Insider acutally linked to my blog, and very early on one of my true heroes, El from El’s Extreme Anglin’, followed me on twitter.  When El followed me I remember thinking “gotta make my tweets good now.”

But however flattering it is to have a virtual brush with fame, nothing beats an in person brush.

Acuzod, founder of Overly Dramatic News, totally sat right next to me for like 5 minutes at Nerdtacular 2012!

I really was excited.  This was my first year attending Nerdtacular, or for that matter, my first time at any in person, WoW-related gathering.  For those who don’t know, Nerdtacular is a gathering of Frogpants community folks, who include listeners of Frogpants studios podcasts like The Instance and members of the large AIE guild on Earthen Ring.  Here’s the one blurry picture I took on my phone to prove I was there.

Nerdtacular 2012

I really like Frogpants founder Scott Johnson and I’ve been a long time listener to The Instance.  I have an alt in AIE, but I’m extremely inactive there, so I knew no one at this event, and I went alone.  I’m not shy — anyone who knows me will tell you that, trust me.  But despite Scott Johnson’s and Turpster’s and Dill’s statements that everyone should just “walk up and say hi” I found it difficult to do so.  They are running the event and signing autographs, and I just really didn’t know what to say.  I wanted to introduce Warcraft Street to that community, but I felt weird advertising.  So mostly I just sat and enjoyed the panels and laughed and had a good time.

When I saw his nametag and he sat next to me, I had to say something to Acuzod.  I introduced myself and when he responded I said “the famous Acuzod!”.  He replied, “Infamous maybe.”  That was it.  Brush over.

Acuzod is the founder of Overly Dramatic News. Here’s how they describe it on their site:

Overly Dramatic News is collection of parody news stories made to reflect how World of Warcraft characters would affect or be affected by Real Life. It’s World of Warcraft meets The Onion Radio News. Originally the brainchild of Acuzod, the network anchor seat was passed on to HuntsTheWind in early 2012.

Even before I totally became friends with Acuzod (sarcasm) I greatly admired the creativity it required to come up with the idea for ODN.  In addition I admire the professionalism with which it is acted and engineered.  It’s just plain good, so if you haven’t heard it, you should check it out.