Updates Aplenty

Long form aside, here’s a quick list of weekend achievements, first in WoW

  • Monk (main) completed the steps to unlock flying in Legion.  He did so by completing a pet battle.
  • Monk completed the steps required for the class mount
  • Monk is halfway (?) done the Argus quest line – enough to unlock all the world quests, and armor upgrades to 925 for class hall heroes
  • Demon Hunter realized that to get the class mount, he needs to complete a the same chain of quests as the Monk.  He’s already sacrificed everything.
  • Rogue and Paladin, while 110, have not finished their class hall quest.  They are benched.
  • Death Knight is at the class hall step that requires a dungeon run.  Ehhhh.
  • Death Knight hit 110.

There are really 2 parts to this.  The Monk and the DK.

Most of the Monk’s time has been on the Broken Shores and the main quest line.  There’s a dozen or so steps required, and they cover pretty much everything the zone has to offer.  I think it’s a really solid way to make people try everything out once, and see what clicks.

Flying is unlocked through reputation – and the main source is the main quest line.  Some of those steps are a bit more painful (waiting on a class hall quest), a bit more grindy (Sentinax marks), or even a bit luck based (killing 3 rares when none are up).  The last step was finishing 6 world quests.  I only saw 5, then remembered I hid pet quests.  Did that and the screen lit up.  Flying ahoy!

The better news was that I was 2 small quests away from the class mount.  Monks get Ban-Lu.  Here’s a neat art piece on the cat.  Oddly this is pretty much how my tanky Monk looks.

veli-nystrom-wow-monk-mount-final-preview-veli

Every other class needs to do 2 things.  Finish their class hall quest (which is a week’s worth of effort due to the timed missions) and do the Broken Shores quest line (a couple days’ worth).  DH may do it since the mount is neat looking.  Rogue and Paladin… nope.  Devs – note for you.  Paladins and Warlocks have had enough horses that are golden/green.

Death Knight

Heirloom gear is supposed to give more experience.  As per above, I have already leveled 4 characters to 110.  I think only the Rogue did so on rested experience.  All of them hit 110 by the 4th zone, though at different points.

The DK hit 110 on the 4th zone – though only 10 or so quests in.  Just before completing the southern part of the map.  I did not see the experience gains from heirlooms here.  The stat boosts are nice though and makes the gear/stat cliff at 110 more bearable.  Now it’s about picking the right world quests to get him up to 850-875.

What did save time was flying.  I decided to focus on that with the Monk before doing any questing after hitting 100.  While each level too the same amount of quests/experience, each of those levels was extremely fast.  The longest was 30 minutes and that was mostly due to 2 bonus quests that gave pithily advancement but large exp boosts.  The main speed boost was flying.  It cuts leveling time by 75%.

Now I’m stuck on a dungeon quest for the DK, a run through Nethalrion’s Lair.  And since I hit 110, I collected 3 pieces of artifact knowledge that were around 3 billion each.  So all the traits are unlocked on all 3 specs.  I don’t have any decent relics, but it’s something.  Time for some world quests.

Alts

Similar vein of thought here… WoW had a long history of being alt-friendly.  Leveling was a joke after the first few runs – heirlooms did all the work.  Getting to level cap was easy enough, then a few days of dungeon runs put you in a decent spot.  At least up until MoP.  WoD, garrisons and the rep grind did it in for me for alts.  Legion pulls back a bit on that, with the dramatic exception of the artifact weapon – in particular the power and time gates.  That’s been reverted now (AK is shared on an account, time gates on 3rd relics are gone, empowerment is gone).

Given that the focus for BfA seems to be a reversion of the “bring the player” mentality, with a renewed focus on class distinction, that probably means people are going to have more alts.  The leveling portion is one thing, but it’s the cap-level activities that will need to be balanced.

I’ll go back to my old recommendation with MoP – make proving grounds mandatory for each class.  Continue to have unlocks/achievements, but base those on the account – not the character.  To figure out if that alt can take on extra content, just put them in the proving grounds.  It’s not time locked, takes about 20 minutes to reach gold rank, and is a great way to figure out how class mechanics work.

Update on the Death Knight

Apparently Legion opens up at level 98.  WoD ended before I was even halfway done with Shadowmoon Valley.  Yay!

Tank Swap

I swapped to Blood for the last bit of WoD.  It went better in that I finally had the ability to restore my health during combat, but the overall damage went down.  There’s clearly something wrong with the scaling numbers, as every piece I had was within 5 item levels of my heirloom gear.

Let’s just say I won’t be running a cloth-wearing alt through this anytime soon (sorry ‘lock!).

Legion Boost

I guess I should have guess since all the expansions seem to open up 2 levels before the original entryway.  I figured I’d run the Broken Short campaign and test out both real tanking combat with proper numbers, and get a piece of gear from it (~100 item levels upgrade).

Like tearing through wet tissues.  Or rather, exactly like every other tank I’ve leveled.  Clearly, there’s a number issue pre-Legion, since the balance is as expected here.  Tweaks a plenty in the next few months I’m sure.

I had forgotten that DK’s already had a class hall, what with Acherus there since WotLK.  I was disappointed that it wasn’t upgraded a little bit.   Monk’s kept theirs, but it looks neat.  Acherus feels like a teenager’s basement.  Good news is death gate, making travel to/from quite easy.  (Side note – of the halls I can access, my preference from best to worst – Rogue, Monk, Druid, Shaman, Paladin, DH, DK). The tanking weapon – Maw of the Damned – was quite easy to acquire.  It’s neat to see the Lich King again (or the new old one… confusing).

My fingers are crossed that this story line actually plays out.  The DK storyline really closed a long time ago, but since it was the Burning Legion that actually created the entire line…it seems ripe for opportunity.  So far though, underwhelming.

Heirloom Scaling

First, my armory link.

You can see that a) the armory hasn’t been updated since 7.0, since it doesn’t list tier 3 Heirlooms, and b) that the actual items scale at a lower rate than gear drops.  At level 100, they are ilvl 605, compared to some ilvl 700 items I have equipped.  That apparently changes at 101, where the ilvl jumps to 695 and caps at 800 at level 110.  Not really an issue, since I’m doing just fine combat-wise.  Better than fine.

I did spend the 25,000g to upgrade all the items, giving me 45% more experience gains for Legion.  I have no issues with the actual content in Legion, but I’ve leveled enough through the core and have the achievements set that it isn’t needed.  The downside to the ugprade is that one I’m done the DK, the only other plate wearer is my Warrior – whom I will not be leveling any time soon.  Odd enough given that I could use that exp boost on the cloth wearing classes.  Ah well, making that money back won’t be too hard.  I get a gold mission every day that nets a bit more than 2k.

For now though, I can get through the levels without having to worry about rested xp.  And if the timing works out, I should have Legion flying up and ready within a week.

 

 

Adventures with a Death Knight

They are not pleasant experiences, and it has nothing to do with role playing.

I started WoD at level 94.  I’ve made it to 97.  I have face-tanked more than at any other point in WoW’s history.

2372am

The starting scenario, where you break the portal and set up your garrison, the one that was a cakewalk on 5 characters.  The DK died a half dozen times… and I learned that there’s a timewarp effect that brings you back from the dead immediately.

Following that, I decided to take another look at my gear.  Aside from 2 crappy trinkets, everything else was within 10 item levels.  Ok… maybe it’s the spec?  I used to play frost, but heard good things about unholy as it had a pet.  Read up various guides on the interwebs.  It’s actually a remarkably simple build with 1 builder, 1 finisher, then others based on cooldown availability.  Cooldowns/triggers that take their darn time.

I do recall the first time through Draenor, where rares were quite hard to take down solo.  It was serious effort, but doable.  I am unable to get any of them to 50%.  I died quite a few times to the first mini-boss, blowing through every cooldown I had.  Even paying attention to spells in order to interrupt those worthwhile didn’t help.  I even resorted to consumables.

I won’t even go into the garrison invasion I botched.

Conspiracy Theory

Didjaknow that the refer a friend system was recently changed?  The experience boost was changed from 200% experience down to 50%.  And it no longer stacks with heirloom bonuses.

The way that RAF worked in the past, for the price of 1 month subscription you could level up like a rocket.  1 shotting everything and hitting max level in a few days.  This was great for two specific cases.

  • People wanting to quickly level alts
  • New players that wanted to go straight to the end game

This was bad for these use cases

  • Learning how to play the game
  • Experiencing any of the content in a logical manner
    • It was impossible to follow quest lines this way

The conspiracy here is that the RAF change, combined with the level scaling changes are a rather dramatic change to the leveling process that has been around since at least Cataclysm (7+ years ago).  The decision point of RAF vs. character boost is now gone.  If you want a max level character, then you need a character boost.

I will recognize that Blizzard has a talent for pricing things just at the top end of reasonable.  Enough to get people to complain, but not high enough to get them to not buy it.  I think most people can see the race swap requests that BfA will bring due to the new sub-races.  If that’s not a cash cow…

Death Knight Next Steps

I play a lot of multi-spec classes.  I have leveled nearly all of them as tanks.  That means that my DK is going to swap to blood and then try this run again. I only have a couple levels to go in WoD anyhow, which is good.

I had forgotten about the WoD enemy density issues.  Legion has groups of enemies close together, and most classes have decent AoE abilities. WoD was the final expansion of solo kills.  Once Legion closes up, I’ll write up a retrospect on the WoW expansions…it’s remarkable how this last one has addressed so many hurdles that WoD introduced.

WoW Tokens and Opportunity Cost

I wrote about Opportunity Cost a while back (2012).  The premise is simple enough, how much are you losing by doing one activity instead of another.  These are purely logical constructs.  Say I take a day off work to do some renos at home… I may be saving money by not having someone do it for me, but I’m losing a day’s pay.  Different for everyone.

I had an interesting conversation with my father in law on this topic, related to the costs of renting vs. owning.  In North America, home ownership is the pinnacle.  But if you spend money every year on upkeep, and the housing market isn’t super, then you are actually losing money.  In the most logical sense, someone who buys and doesn’t invest a penny until they are ready to sell will have the best return.  They’ll live in a house that’s in disrepair, but they’ll make more money.

Back on topic.  WoW Tokens are at about 170,000g on US servers.  These are by far the cheapest of all prices, and each gives you a month of playtime.  That means that to keep playing “for free”, you need to make 170,000g + your regular expenses.  This is to save you $15US.  Or just under $19 igloo-dollars.  Right.  It’s nearly 10,000g for $1.

Let’s math it out a bit, in USD to keep it simple.  The US minimum wage is $7.25.  It’s certainly higher in some places, but let’s take the bottom level because it works out to 2 hours of work for 1 WoW token (for 1 month play).  But that’s gross, not net (taxes after all).  So let’s say a 30% tax rate (which is high for this pay rate), which would give ~2.5 hours of work for $15.  This is again ignoring that people need to eat/live on that money, and certainly for some $15 is a lot.  That is the contextual piece.

More context, what else is ~$15 a month?

  • a coffee every other day
  • 2 beers + tip
  • Netflix + Spotify
  • One uber ride
  • A week of bus rides
  • 2 lunches
  • A day’s parking

True Cost

A side effect of playing WoW is accruing way more gold than you could ever use in normal play.  There are gold sinks (to remove WoW gold from the economy) but they are all optional.  Gone are the days where you were short on gold to get something (TBC in order to buy flying was the last time for me).

Syp is running some work on this and he points out some good items to make some cash.  They are all active ways to gain gold, yet they are all tied to activities he’d do anyways.

Let’s say it’s 15 minutes a day to sort out Order Hall missions.  There only purpose of these is to unlock quests.  The rest is for artifact powers / gold gains, which can be accrued at much higher volumes elsewhere.  But 15 minutes.. and even doing it on a mobile device is a decent thing.  Especially if it nets you 1500g a day.

Some people make money with pets, others with crafting, others with trading.  Each requires some amount of time, and the activity presented must be valuable in itself.  So while the cost of doing world quests might be an hour a day, if you were already planning on doing them the cost is actually slightly above zero (since you’ll pay closer attention).

True cost = cost of an activity to make gold – the cost of an activity to have fun

Token Cost

I mentioned earlier that there are regular costs to just playing.  Either you craft items to use, or you take flight points, buy pets, repair gear.  Whatever your monthly costs are, you need to make even more than that to get a token.

And if we break it down into play chunks, let’s go casual and say you log in 3 days a week (argue that if you want).  That’s 12 days to make 170,000g or just over 14,000g per day that you need to make as profit.  That’s a high number.

Opportunity

Remember, you are competing against 2.5 hours of real-world effort to make this WoW gold.  That’s a need to make 70,000g per hour in-game spent doing things you wouldn’t do otherwise.  Maybe it’s an extra 5 minutes on world quests.  Maybe an extra 10 on class hall missions.

Or maybe, just maybe, the act of getting the gold is itself the goal, rather than just filling up the coffers – and then you are not spending any time not having fun.

 

Catching Up

I haven’t paid a monthly sub to WoW since month #2 of WoD.  The WoW tokens have been easy enough to acquire to meet my needs.  (There’s a post on opportunity cost on that topic later).  With the recent patch changing the leveling game, I decided to dip the toe back in.

Can I say how poor WoW is at welcoming old players?  Or maybe it’s just all MMOs. Guild is gone, can’t understand trade chat, there are quest markers everywhere.  One of the nice things of FF14 is that that main quest line (MSQ I think it’s called) has a different icon, and there’s only ever one.  Long story short, it took about an hour for me to figure things out again on my Monk.  Then another hour of clean up.  Usually at the end of an expansion I just drop every quest item and sell my entire bag contents.  This is not one of those times and I’m sure as rain that there are items in there that I need.

Goals

My original goal was to level up some of my alts.  Monk, DH, Rogue, and Paladin are all 110.  Druid, Hunter, and Shaman are all over 100.  That leaves a DK, Mage, and Warlock that are between 60 and 100.  Then my slow friends the Warrior, and Priest under level 20.  I will have you notice that the classes with the most amount of roles are the ones I tend to play the most, with the exception of the Rogue who dates back to server start date.

The Warrior was a small test before my last time off.  I wanted to give a shot to the one class that I have never been able to bite into.  I can clearly recall it killing everything it touched in a single stroke, feeling more like a cheap Diablo clone.  After 1 session I was done.  Priest has never worked for me either.  I’ve preferred the Warlock approach to damage.

Back on topic.  I decided to give the DK another shot –  a dual role tank that can solo pretty much anything.  Rune management is why he’s been benched for years.  He was 94 (from the Legion pre-launch event) and had yet to unlock WoD content.  I am not a fan of WoD, for reasons explained many times on this blog.  But to level up, I know that Shadowmoon + part of Gorgrond is usually enough.  But wait, what about flying to make things ultra easier?

Flight Paths

Above point about not being in love with WoD = not having unlocked flying on Draenor.  I also left Legion before unlocking that flight mode.  Let’s take a look see what’s involved…You can check that out here – Flying Pre-check tool.

Quest lines – ok.  Treasure collections – that’s fine.  Exploration – done.  Reputation – ugh.

There was a time I loved reputation grinds.  I remember the centaur clans in Vanilla, lots of fun.  Blizzard has taken many approaches over the years.  Pure enemy grinds, daily quests, weekly quests, boosts, rare drops…you name it.  And the differences between WoD and Legion are enough to make me question my sanity.  (Irony – meet Insane in the membrane)

Legion requires you to have completed the Suramar questline, which was actually pretty neat, and at the time a great source of gear/power.  There’s a single part where you need to LFR and kill Xavious, but that was a quick romp.  Most of it dealt with launch-era things, which is good.  The real kicker is the faction amounts.  You get that from a long quest chain, or through the World Quests at 75 rep a pop.  It adds some variety to it all, but it’s not something that will be done in 2 or 3 days.

WoD is based almost entirely on Tanaan, which was added late in the cycle.  Same general requirements which are just fine.  Then there are 3 factions to max.  2 of them take about 15-20 days, depending on your luck.  One of them can be done in a day, but only if you grind out elite mobs.  So I can spend a month or so unlocking flying for content I won’t spend more than 1 or 2 sessions playing through.  In an expansion that was designed for ground travel.  I’ll make due.

Side note, in the recent patch all flying pre-WoD was combined into a single skill, which is great for leveling and saves some cash.  There are even 2 heirlooms per faction to unlock all the vanilla zone flight points.

Next Steps

So the plan is to work on the flight plan in Legion since I have many characters in that content and the rewards are relevant to some of them.  Also to upgrade all my heirloom items to at least 100 that provide an exp boost (helm, back, chest, legs).  That’s 500g for the level 60 item, then 1000g for 90 upgrade, 2000g for 100 upgrade, and 5000g for the 110 version.  I already had some portions of this done, but the entire investment for a level 110 is 34,000g.

The good news is that since stats are spec-specific, I can use any piece of plate instead of DPS plate.  The bad news is that since 7.3.5 enemy HP now scales, meaning that I can’t have 1 super set of cloth from 1-100, ignoring the benefits of armor.  Dreadmist for everyone is over with.

From there, I’ll work the DK up through to 101 in order to unlock the basics of Legion.  I figure I’ll hit 100 before Shadomoon is half way done.

 

WoW’s Legendary Gambling

I’ve played my fair share of Diablo 3.  That game is based on two main concepts – stats and specific gear bonuses.  The RoS expansion went full bore on this theme, with good success. Some specs cannot be played without a specific number of specific items.  There is very, very little strategic gameplay past that point – for most players anyway.

Getting those pieces of gear is the main challenge, and there are 3 main ways to achieve it.  Random drops from farming runs.  Cubing some items to have a chance at something better.  And Kadala shard-trading.  Kadala shard trading is the best way to get armor, while cubing is the way to go with weapons, from a cost perspective.  You get shards, trade 25 or so to Kadala, get a random piece of a specific slot – say a chest piece.  The optimum gearing path with a new character is to farm shards for gear.  A couple hours is often enough to get all the pieces needed, then it’s a grind to upgrade those pieces and get the complementary ones.

WoW’s Version

This is where things go sideways, since WoW is not an action RPG.  For a very long time, strategy won out over stats.  Set bonuses took a while to acquire, and stats bonuses were not massive increases in chance of success.  Except for legendary items.  These have always been coveted, as anyone with a legendary (a current one) was significantly more powerful than others.  The ring in WoD is the last example, but it required a significant amount of hoops to acquire.  The path was known.

Legion kept the same “game altering” legendary item system as before, but took out all controlled mechanisms to acquire them.  Not only was getting one a rare and random event, the actual item you received was random as well.  You could easily get a crappy legendary.  But the power benefit of a good one was massive.   All you needed to do was grind endless dungeons.

This reminds me a bit of the tuning done for Burning Crusade.  Raids past the first tier were all balanced against fully-gemmed gear, stacking Shamans, and everyone using Battle Drums.  If the raids were balanced against “regular raiders”, then those using the above strategy ran through without challenge.  Legion raids are not nearly as bad as thing, but the perception from raiders is that good legendaries are required.

Plus, let’s be honest.  For every person in your guild that gets a legendary, there are many more that feel disappointed that they can’t get one too.  Especially when the player has ZERO control over getting one.

Patch 7.2

Here things change, as Blizz is introducing the same Kadala mechanic from D3.  Trade in shards, get a random item for a specific item slot.  Any legendary will be for that slot.  This addresses the full randomness of acquiring one, in that you now have another method to try your luck.  It’s still RNG.  We don’t know how many shards, or the chances, therefore how much time expected.  But it’s an improvement.

Blizz also wants to tweak the legendaries to bring them closer together in terms of power.  That’s good.  It doesn’t really address the fact that legendaries completely change a spec’s playstyle… but it’s something.

Closing

I get what legendaries are trying to address.  I don’t personally think this was the way to go about it.  Adding the effect as a top-tier artifact trait would have accomplished the same thing.  Having legendaries be simply big stat boosts with unique art would have been fine to me.  I’ll be quite curious as to see how the shard dealer works in 7.2, and even just the analytical data that Blizz will collect on how people are spending them.  My guess here is that after a month or so, legendaries will be tweaked again, as the majority swings towards specific ones.

 

Paying for a WoW Sub

I am not cheap, but I am frugal.  I like value for money and am not one to pay out of pocket if there are other means.  The world doesn’t revolved around cash-money, regardless of what people may tell you.  It runs on perceived value and effort.

WoW subs can be paid either through money or in-game gold.  Both require some effort.  The question then becomes, which is more effort – the real world money or the in-game one?

How long does it take me to earn $15US vs how long does it take me to earn ~90k gold?

For the first part of that question, the answer is not very long at all.  But I’d rather spend that money on beer.

For the second part, it’s actually slightly more complicated.  So let’s break down my “regular” gold making activities.  In this case, these are activities that are just part and parcel of regular play.

  1. Class Hall quests
    1. These award around 2000g per run (assuming secondary goal completion).  I get on average, 1 per day, per level 110 character.  I have 3 that are maxed.  I don’t even have to log on for this, the WoW Legion app is enough.
  2. World Quests
    1. I run these with my Monk and Pally.  Quest + gear + cache = ~500g per day.
  3. Felwort & Infernal Brimstone
    1. If these are up, I run them.  Felwort gives 5+ per quest, sells for ~200g each.  Brimstone gives the same amount, but sells for ~150g each.  I have 3 herbalists, 3 miners, and the quest show up every 2-3 days.  Worst case, 1000g per day.
  4. Blood of Sargeras
    1. Trading 1 of these gets me 10 herbs that sell for 30g each, so 300g.  The acquisition rate varies greatly, but the minimum seems to be 5 a day.  That’s 1500g per day.
  5. Herbalism farming
    1. Starlight Rose and Foxflower.  The first sells for 65g, the latter for 30g.  Both are slow going.  I make no active effort here, but they are the only 2 herbs I will stop and pick when there are WQs in the respective zones.

Without any real effort, I make (2000+500+1000+1500) 5000g per day.  Since WQs stick around, I don’t have to login every day, and things can roll-over into another day.  Worst case, 20 days in a month.  That’s 100k g per month.  Without actually trying, I pay for my monthly sub.

Imagine if I actually considered this effort?