May 15, 2010

Guild life pre-Cataclysm: Surviving the end times

When I inherited leadership of a successful 25-man raid during The Burning Crusade, I had a steep learning curve. After the first year, I had mastered the fine arts of recruiting, juggling subs, managing raid time, resolving disputes and running a tight ship. Little did I know what awaited us when halfway through our Sunwell Plateau progression, Wrath of the Lich King was announced! Fortunately, my guild was able to weather the storm, and now that we are closing in on Cataclysm, I am much better prepared.

Guild masters who haven't experienced the pre-expansion blues may find themselves overwhelmed with the task of keeping their once tight-knit community from turning into a ghost town. Some players may choose the months before an expansion to take an extended vacation from the game. Others may choose to focus on a favorite alt, and still others are chomping at the bit to farm the highest tier of raid content in order to complete their ideal gear sets. No doubt all three types of players are in your guild. How are you expected to funnel everyone's pre-expansion desires and expectations into group-friendly activities that keep them logging on night after night?

Keeping a raiding guild together during the months before an expansion can be a daunting task for a first-timer. Here a few tips and tricks I learned from the last expansion:

  • Find out what people's plans are. Does your MT want to take an extended break from the game? Are your top DPSers begging to switch to their alts for raid content? Is your best healer logging in less and less as BlizzCon draws closer? Is the guy you just recruited bitterly complaining that raids are more and more infrequent? Talk to your guild as a whole and ask them what they want to do with their time. Often, you'll find that there are ways to keep burned out players interested in the game while pleasing the more active ones.
  • Set an end date for raiding activities. Players often burn out at the mere thought of running the last tier of content forever. An end date gives a clear-cut block of time for relaxation before the coming expansion, and you'll find that a lot of players will thank you.
  • Start an alt program. Whether it be an alt raid or rotating alts in on farm nights for a chance at gear, you'll find many raiders will tackle content with renewed vigor if it's from a different perspective. Be sure to be fair about it, though -- alts must be reasonably geared for the tier of content, and they must not be allowed to take gear over the mains that are carrying them through.
  • Give sponsored nights off to players who are extremely burned out, or let them play their off spec for the night. Can you 24-man the first wing of ICC? Great! Give that healer who's been begging for some extra sleep a night off with no penalty. Alternately, let him DPS for an evening. Be sure to extend the offer to other players who are feeling run down.
  • Set up some fun activities to shake up the monotony. The achievement system is a great source of ideas for your raid. Never completed The Immortal in Naxx? Take an hour and a half and go for it! Take an evening to grab your protodrakes from Ulduar, or go get A Tribute to Mad Skill on Heroic Anub'Arak. The possibilities are endless, but be sure to keep it low-key so that it feels more like a fun vacation and less like extra work.
  • Speed runs became a fad in The Burning Crusade, during the incredibly long span of time between the releases of Black Temple and Sunwell Plateau. A 25-man can compete against their own or others' best times for an instance, or several 10-man groups from the same guild can compete for prizes. Find ways to make it interesting!
  • Use an incentive program. At the end of each expansion, I liquidate the guild bank and split the spoils among the players who are still active at my end date. It makes everyone very happy to get a payout for their time and effort, and can often sway people to stick around for a cut of the spoils.
  • If you absolutely can't keep it together, grab your active players and offer your guild's services to another group on the server that's struggling for numbers. By helping others, you'll get your raid fix, and you can be sure that the other group's leader will thank you.
Whatever route you decide to go in order to breathe life back into your guild before an expansion, be sure to communicate your intentions with your guild members. Pre-expansion apathy can be tough going for even a seasoned guild master, but remember: This is the famine before the feast. In a few months, the hectic scrambling to hold things together will be replaced by an overflowing roster and a band of refreshed guildmates ready to stomp through tiers of new content.

Cryptozoic posts Wrathgate visual spoilers

If you're interested in the upcoming Wrathgate expansion for the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, then Cryptozoic has a treat for you: spoilers for the May 25 expansion. If you're dying to see what cards will be entering the game, to look at some new art or just to see if you recognize anyone on the hero cards, get thee hence and check out the images. Then you can spend the next two weeks feverishly anticipating the release of the expansion. Not that I would know anything about feverishly anticipating an expansion. Not me. No, sir. Nothing doing.

Cryptozoic's also been doing detailed previews of certain cards, discussing their impact on competitive play and their place in certain decks, so you can check that out while you're on their blog anyway.

Side note: I really dig the draenei figure on this card. I know, I know, blueberry LOL whatever, man. He looks badass and you know it.

May 13, 2010

WoW Cataclysm profession preview

Blizzard has just released a large preview of the major changes coming to professions in Cataclysm. We already know that there will be new recipes to craft and materials to gather, and that there will be another 75 points of skillups required; however we haven't really seen a clear and concise outline of what's changing until now. Listed below are the major changes to the overall professions, as well as new enchants and gem modifications.

Blizzard's full announcement after the break.

The highlights:

  • Blacksmithing, Leather working, and Tailoring specializations removed.
  • Blacksmithing, Leather working, and Tailoring will create their starter sets of PvP gear, which will be upgraded with new recipes every season.
  • New elixirs will be about 75% as strong as flasks.
  • An enchanter vanity pet is being added.
  • Engineering is still being designed, but expect new unpredictable gadgets to use on yourself or enemies.
  • Engineering will be able to make powerful bows, crossbows, and guns.
  • Scribes will see a "cleaning up" of minor glyphs.
  • Three new First Aid bandages.
New Cataclysm weapon enchantments:
  • Avalanche -- Chance to deal Nature damage on melee hit/spell hit.
  • Elemental Slayer -- As expected, this enchantment helps players deal devastating damage to elemental creatures.
  • Hurricane -- A stacking haste proc.
  • Heartsong -- Mana regeneration through increased Spirit when chain-casting spells.
  • Many more maximum-level enchantments are still in progress.
Gem changes:
  • Hit is now Blue.
  • Mastery and dodge are Yellow.
  • Intellect is now Red.

While the Cataclysm updates to many of the professions are still deep in development, we wanted to share some of the work that's been going on, as well as a high-level look at any lessons learned or changes to their underlying philosophies during the design process. Please be aware that not all professions have the same extent of information available right now, but each is receiving the same love and attention as the next.

Take heed of these teasers as you look forward to your new rank of Illustrious Grand Master!

Please enjoy!

  • Perks will continue to exist across all professions, and will upgraded appropriately.

Blacksmithing, Leatherworking, and Tailoring
  • Many of the green (and possibly some blue) items made during the process of leveling these professions will contain random stats. In most examples, two stats on these items will be set, and two will be random. The idea with these items is to mix up the skill leveling items so you're not just, for example, creating 10 pairs of boots that are all exactly the same.
  • Superior-quality items that require more materials than other recipes in the same skill range provide multiple skill-ups. For example, if a recipe takes three times the reagents, it will give you three skill-ups.
  • We didn't feel like we were getting much flexibility from specializations, so they have been removed for all three of these professions. The intent was to help people diversify their profession to feel different from that of other players, but through other professions we've found systems that work better to this end, such as simply making recipes available that you can earn over time.
  • To follow up the previous change, all items that required a specialization are now useable by anyone.
  • Tailoring the high-end Cataclysm items will center around a single cloth type that can be crafted through five different recipes -- each with their own material components and a long cooldown.
  • All three professions will create their starter sets of PVP gear, which will be upgraded with new recipes every season. In general, these are meant to keep pace as an entry-level PvP set below whatever the current Hero Point set is.

  • New elixirs will be about 75% as strong as flasks. So you can get more total stat points with two elixirs, but flasks will still be the best at giving you a single offensive or defensive stat.
  • New unique material used by nearly all high-level recipes will be created by alchemists on a one-day cooldown.
  • New Mysterious Potion created with common materials restores health and mana in a massively random range, as well as sometimes granting the benefit of another potion. The health and mana range is from 1-20,000 and is able to crit. The minimum amount restored, however, is scaled upwards by the Alchemy skill, making it a great choice for alchemists to keep for themselves.
  • All potions and elixirs now use the same basic vial type. Flasks still use a fancy vial.
  • New Alchemist Stone.

  • In general, material component costs for most recipes are more moderate in how much they require, while the highest-end recipes will still require large quantities. The goal of this change is to make the leveling recipes more consistent and not create unintended roadblocks in getting to the higher skill levels.
  • An enchanter vanity pet is being added.

New Cataclysm weapon enchantment preview:
  • Avalanche -- Chance to deal Nature damage on melee hit/spell hit.
  • Elemental Slayer -- As expected, this enchantment helps players deal devastating damage to elemental creatures.
  • Hurricane -- A stacking haste proc.
  • Heartsong -- Mana regeneration through increased Spirit when chain-casting spells.
  • Many more maximum-level enchantments are still in progress.

  • Engineering is still being designed, but expect new unpredictable gadgets to use on yourself or enemies. Toys, explosives, and even a new vanity pet or two. Oh, and powerful mechanical bows and crossbows in addition to guns.
  • In general, we want Engineering to remain a tradeskill mainly focused on creating fun or useful gadgets for the engineer, but we are exploring options for items that can be sold to other players for profit.

  • With the large number of class changes coming with Cataclysm, many existing glyphs will see new functionality.
  • Minor glyphs are woefully uneven from one class to the next right now, so they're a focus for us to clean them up and try to ensure that everyone has minor glyphs they're excited about.
  • New Darkmoon Cards will be added, with hopes they'll all be as awesome as the Greatness card.
  • We'll be adding more major glyphs as well, but in the hopes of making them as balanced as possible, we'll likely wait until after the expansion ships to add any for the new abilities in Cataclysm.
  • New and more desirable off-hand and relic recipes will be added.

  • Some gem colors have changed! Hit is now blue. Mastery and Dodge are yellow. Intellect is now red. These simple changes have created a much more diverse matrix of gem cuts.
  • New Jewelcrafting dailies will be introduced.
  • Many cuts are being added to support the new Mastery stat.
  • Some new Cataclysm jewelry recipes have completely random properties, and can sometimes create superior and epic versions.
  • Jewelcrafters will have some fun new (and potentially lucrative) vanity items, including fist weapons, rhinestone sunglasses, monocles, and stardust (sprinkle on players for entertainment).

Herbalism, Skinning, and Mining
  • All Cataclysm herbs have the chance of containing Volatile Life.
  • There won't be a new Lotus equivalent in Cataclysm. Alchemists will use the more reliably-found Volatile Life to create the new high level flasks.
Herb Example:
  • "Heartblossom -- Named for its deep red color, this delicate flower grows close to the ground, and always in pairs. If one blossom is taken, the other flower begins to wilt immediately and dies soon after. It is considered very unlucky to disturb a Heartblossom without blessing it first."
  • Savage Leather, the basic Cataclysm leather, can be gathered from most creatures found in the expansion areas and can be converted to Heavy Savage Leather at a 6:1 rate.
  • Pristine Hide, the rare Cataclysm hide, can be found when skinning creatures in the expansion areas, or be converted from Heavy Savage Leather.
  • Obsidian is the new common mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems, Volatile Fire, and Volatile Shadow.
  • Elementium is the new uncommon mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems, Volatile Fire, Volatile Water, or Volatile Earth.
  • Pyrite is the new rare mineral found when mining in Cataclysm, and can contain gems and Volatile Fire.
  • Previous Elementium Ore and Bar used for classic quests will be renamed to Elementium Ingot and Hardened Elementium Bar.
  • We like the gathering perks as they are; not a game-changing bonus but something themed and fun. But as all tradeskills are in the design stages these are still being discussed to a degree.

  • Cooking is still in the early stages, but we plan on continuing with daily quests, feasts, and some fun new recipes.
  • We liked the cooking dailies that had players picking up items that spawned in the world near the quest giver, so most if not all new cooking dailies will work similarly.

First Aid
  • Bandages will have a short cast time and put a heal over time effect on the target for 8 seconds. This effect is broken by damage.
  • Three new bandages! That's right: THREE!

Bandage preview:
  • "Dense Embersilk Bandage" Heals for 34,800 over 8 seconds. Requires 3 Embersilk to create.

  • Lots of new fish and other fun items to catch! Fish are still used to make premium food.
  • New fishing dailies.

WoW Magazine issue 2 preview now online

The preview for issue 2 of the World of Warcraft Official Magazine is up for browsing. It is 46 pages and highlights four subjects covered in the 148-page publication:

  • Dragons All of the dragonflights are described in detail along with a glossary of all dragon terms.
  • 40-man raids Tackling 40-man raids with level 80s
  • Warsong Gulch Strategies for WSG
  • Community Columns Members of the community contribute columns
The WoW Magazine is quarterly, by subscription only and has no ads. It's subscription price starts at $39.95 for a year. 

Gold Capped: Engineering isn't so useless after all

In World of Warcraft, engineers are a bunch of goofy characters who speak in childishly high voices and have a tendency to blow themselves up by accident in humorous ways. Anyone else sense that whoever did the concept art at Blizzard for gnomish and goblin engineers flunked out of engineering?

Anyways, while engineering is an amazing profession for certain parts of the game, it's dead last when it comes to making money- wow gold cheats. There are only really a few things engineers can do to make cash.  

In general, we want Engineering to remain a tradeskill mainly focused on creating fun or useful gadgets for the engineer, but we are exploring options for items that can be sold to other players for profit.

This quote was from the Cataclysm profession preview we posted about earlier. Engineering is currently barely ahead of farming in terms of income potential, and it's nice to see that Blizzard acknowledges this and might fix it.

Not all hope is lost, though. A savvy player can eak out a living if they focus on the right markets. First off, the elephant in the room: selling epic ammo.

Epic Ammo

Iceblade Arrows are the most popular ammo in the game now. The most accessible (and thus popular) weapons for hunters seem to be bows or crossbows. Despite my good buddy Brian's refusal to use them, they remain the lion's share of the epic ammo market. The bullet equivalent, Shatter Rounds, are also sold, but in much lower quantity.

Gnomish engineers (the specialization, not the race) can buy Plans: Iceblade Arrow from Alchemist Finkelstein in the Icecrown Citadel for the cost of one Primordial Saronite. Goblin specs can get Plans: Shatter Rounds. That's a pretty hefty price to get into the market; however, it pays off if you can make any amount of profits. Bear in mind, you need to be honored with the Ashen Verdict. Check out this Insider Trader from last December for the whole story.

Once you can make your ammo, it's just a matter of selling it. Hunters tend to stock up on these, but there's a definite demand surge on Tuesdays before raids (like many raiding consumables). The demand is pretty high all the time, though, so keeping your stock listed all the time will increase your market size. Pricing your ammo is a little tricky, however. Assuming you're not the only person selling these, you will need to decide on a strategy and stick to it. The mats for the arrows are two Crystallized Shadow, or two Crystallized Earth for the bullets. Eternal Shadow and Earth prices are typically fairly low. On my server, shadow can be gotten for 3.5g pretty reliably, which makes a stack of 1,000 arrows cost 70 silver to make. These stacks often sell for close to 10 gold.

You have to decide whether to undercut by a slight amount and share the volume at higher profits, or undercut heavily and get a larger slice of the pie at a lower profit margin. Bear in mind that lower prices on the AH will increase the size of the pie, too. Arrows are not "fixed demand" commodities. In fact, there are no fixed demand commodities in the game. People will never just buy something, no matter the price. Whether high volume with lower profitability is more money in the end than lower volume with higher profitability is something you have to calculate yourself.

Now you may ask yourself why I'm not advocating multiple stack sizes here. The reason for that is that no hunters ever want to buy less than a full stack of ammo. If they ever do purchase that, it's by accident, and if you sell small stacks of ammo for the same price as a full stack, there's a special place in hell for you. I'm not saying that hunters don't make mistakes and not double-check the three-point font number below the icon on the 10th stack they buy -- but I am saying that if you are the person standing there ready to take 10g from a well intentioned client, you are a failure. Karma will work it all out in the end, and in the meantime, all you've done is ruin someone's day (and possibly raid night).

Non-combat pets

Cute, lovable and pointless. It's the perfect storm of economic success. Engineers can make several sellable non-combat pets. The ones that are in the highest demand are the recently made BoE pets from Gnomeregan, and I went over the crafting mats and pricing schemes for these in another post.

Additionally, there are a bunch of other pets engineers can sell, some of which are very hard to learn and might be worth a lot of money if you can keep a small stock on the AH at all times. The schematics for these are impossible to farm, so add them to your snatch list and buy it if they're ever on the AH. These usually sell very well for a nice profit margin.

In addition the the ability to make a few things for the AH, engineers can make themselves a Zapthrottle Mote Extractor, which allows you to farm elementals from gas clouds (which you can see on your map if you have the extractor in your inventory). This is a minor benefit, but assuming you spend any time outside the auction house, it's a benefit.

Random items needed by others

Last but not least, we have this list of random items that are occasionally needed by others. And the following items are needed for quests: