Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sounding the Death Knell for ‘Old Heroics’

Are the original Cata heroics dead and buried already?

gongAs my regular reader may have noted, I’ve not written much on here recently; this is due mainly to me sunning myself in various parts of Europe.  Hope you all had fun while I was away… Having had a mini-break from WOW of just under 2 weeks (which I think I needed as I was becoming a little jaded anyways) I waded back into ZG and ZA with my priest.  Oh how I was rusty, it’s amazing how you forget the subtleties of playing your class after a bit of a break.  Anyway, after five minutes of flailing about aimlessly, I remembered how to cast Chakra and all was well.  I completed a few runs on the priest, but as I’m pretty much as well geared on my priest as I’m going to be from the new heroics (although the damn 2h caster staff from ZG still eludes me) I thought I’d dust off the DK tank and the druid and do a few ‘old’ heroic runs.  Now I know that they’re not technically that old, more middle aged, but that seems to be the way everyone seems to refer to all of the 5 man instances apart from ZA & ZG; far be it from me to fly in the face of convention.

Firstly I dusted off the tank, now I haven’t actually done much tanking since the release of the 4.1 patch as I’ve been concentrating on the mage and the priest.  My ilvl was 2 below the requirement for the Zanzilar instances so I’m pretty well geared as the old heroics go, but oh how I was rusty.  I actually took some time to read up and refresh my memory on tanking with the DK before venturing into an instance.  First off it was Grim Batol, oh the joy (my regular reader knows how I love this place, if you’re not him, have a read of this).  Not only was it Grim Batol, it was a half complete Grim Batol, their previous tank had deserted them, give them a chance I though, ‘he may have just disconnected’.  Oh how wrong I was.   We were at General Umbriss the penultimate boss in there, it’s really not that difficult as DPS or healer (especially with a reasonably geared tank), its a simple matter of not getting too far away so the breath can be avoided, not standing in shit, and dpsing the adds which spawn.  The healer, it seems, had a death wish, running at spawned adds, standing in the shit, and generally just jumping off cliffs as much as possible, but that’s not the worst of it, of the three DPS, only one of them managed over 5k, and him only just.  Now I know DPS isn’t everything, but we had a druid, hunter and a mage, regardless of how bad their gear was they should be kicking out at least double that; hell on my fire mage I was getting close to 12k on some boss fights before getting a single piece of heroic gear.

After five failed attempts, five failed attempts that weren’t even close and showed no signs of improvements, I decided enough was enough.  Now I hate dumping groups like this, but it was clear this was really going nowhere.  I took the time to apologise and politely (I hope)explained that I didn’t feel this groups DPS was anywhere near what was needed and left, I suppose I could have pointed out that their positioning sucked, and at least two of them didn't have a clue how to play their class, but I decided against it; to be fair, I’m not the greatest tank in the world and it would have felt a touch hypocritical.

So I queued for another random, after a quick food break, back refreshed, we were off to the Lost City of Tol’vir.  The first pull went badly, partly my fault I suppose, but not helped by someone breaking the crowd control at least twice and the groups inability to attack the marked targets.  Before the fight was over, the mage who’s crowd control had been broken had left.  Replacing the departed mage we cracked on, round to the first boss.  Now this boss, lets face it, is pretty easy.  Don’t stand on mines, avoid the charge (which is telegraphed well in advance of it happening), and blast away.  As I was kiting xxx boss xxx round for about the tenth circuit, it struck me that things weren’t going to well, we finally killed it, and I had a cursory glance at the DPS meters; none of the DPS had more than 4k!! what on earth is going on?? ok, there’s a bit of movement which effects the numbers, but not that much.  At this point I had a quick inspect of peoples gear, it was clear that at least one of the party had cheated the ilvl requirements, the rest of the party was in low to average quality gear, but you’d expect them to be able to manage the instance easily.  Not long after the group fell apart.

I ran a few further instances, both on the tank and the druid healing.  I witnessed it all, tanks who don’t know how to tank (no not me, worse than that), healers who had no clue how to manage their mana pool, DPS who refuse to switch to adds on bosses, and my favourite of all, people who were new to instances (which is fine, we all had L plates once up on a time) who were asked directly “do you know what to do here” only to cause a wipe and say, “sorry this is my first heroic, I didn’t know what to do”.

Not the most enjoyable afternoons play I’ve ever experienced, but it made for a new rant post, it got me thinking, why is it so bad in PUGs for old heroics? and it struck me, they’re basically training areas for people aspiring to the Zanzilar instances and 10 man raids.  People are able to power level to 85 from scratch in a few days, either not touching an instance on the way or being so overpowered, their inability to play their class doesn’t matter.  They hit 85, buy the gear they need to meet the ilvl, and then hack straight into the heroics. 
I’ve met a lot more new players also over the last few days in old heroics, either WOW is undergoing a resurgence in new subscriptions, or there are less experienced players doing the older content; I suspect the latter.  It seems people plough through the old heroics, gathering the gear they need and then jump straight into the new content; why wouldn’t you?  There’s very little reward for hanging around after you’ve met the ilvl, you’ll replace most of the gear in a few runs of the new stuff anyway.

So you’re not going to get too many people hanging around with better than average gear, so those players with poor gear stand out far more, they can no longer expect to be carried by the players doing the better DPS.  Those players who are ‘good’ players tend, in my experience of the last few days, to be far less forgiving, I’ve seen people drop out on inspecting other peoples gear before a shot had been fired, I’ve seen far more abuse from players, who weren’t that good themselves, and generally people treating PUGs as their means of getting to better things as quickly as possible, not really caring about who they trample over on the way.  The one thing I haven’t seen (yet) is ninja looting of gear which is better suited to others in the party.
It strikes me that the new ZA & ZG instances are where it’s at at the moment, and as everyone is clamouring to meet the requirements to get into those they expect to be handed the gear on a plate from the lesser instances, it seems to be fostering the kind of abhorrent behaviour which no one particularly likes to see, and also exposes the newer players to the game to an environment where they’re most certainly not going to learn, and more likely going to get turned off the game quickly.

Now I’m not saying that I don’t want new content, I’m already starting to feel that I’ve done the two new heroics to death, but Blizzard need to be wary of releasing new content which walks all over the existing stuff, are we going to get to a stage where the next lot of dungeons are released, which means that ZA & ZG simply become gearing zergs? With patch 4.2 coming along sometime soon, T11 gear is going to be far more attainable, I suspect so.  Blizzard have already proved they are capable of revitalising old content, in the changes they’ve made to the lower level zones, but as I’ve already mentioned in many of my other posts, the lower level instances, that is, the instances that aren’t the top level heroics, are just a joke.  Without a bit of care, Blizzard could be nullifying most of the content they created for Cataclysm only half a year after it was released.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Making money on the Auction House

Getting the best return for your trade skills

GoldCoinDealersI’ve found myself spending more and more time recently pratting about with professions, and seeing what I can do on the Auction house, with a fair bit of success.  In my post earlier this month, I talked about my brief investigation into the best methods of collecting ore and herbs, I’ve currently got five crafting professions maxed out on my characters, along with mining and herbing.  Added to this there’s all that ‘junk’ that you collect throughout instances that’s of no use to you but is required by others for whatever crafting they’re doing.  In this post I’ll take a look at what I’ve done over the past few weeks to make money on the Auction House with my hard earned spoils.

My crafting professions are enchanting, alchemy, gemcraft, inscription and black smithing; I’ve been an enchanter on my mage since day 1 of wow it’s something I’ve always done and always will do, both for disenchanting the green crap you pick up along the way and providing enchants to my characters and other guildies.  Alchemy came a bit later on my priest, for some bizarre reason the early (official) WOW guide recommended herbing to go with enchanting, so my mage ended up with millions of herbs and no spare bank space.  I started alchemy on the priest to deal with this and get a few mana pots to boot.  Gemcrafting came along later, I dropped tailoring in TBC for it, not sure why so lets just say ‘because’.  I started inscribing on my mage recently for two reasons, I made the druid so could drop herbing, and I was getting hacked off with paying 100g per glyph on the AH.  Black smithing I’ve levelled recently just to ‘have a look’.  I’ve got all of the others in the pipe line, but I need to chose one and make a concerted effort to level it next, which will probably coincide with levelling another alt once I get bored of ZA and ZG.

I’m going to ignore enchanting on the whole, with four lvl 85 toons to keep in enchants I never seem to have enough dust or shards to look to sell much.  I will however mention that since vellums came into play, its far less costly to level enchanting, simply enchant scrolls and stick them on the AH, you cover a lot of the ‘cost’ of not vendoring green rubbish.

Alchemy and Inscription are two competing professions to some extent, both use herbs as their main source of materials, alchemy specific herbs for specific pots, inscription isn’t fussed, it just needs lots of herbs to mill.  Look to use the cheaper herbs (probably Cinderbloom) on your server for inscription and use the rest for alchemy.  Gemcraft and Blacksmithing suffer a similar dilemma; do you prospect the ore or make something? I’ve tended to prospect stuff, mainly using it for my own gems but I'm starting to build up a stock of gems which is allowing me to look at selling some.

So you’ve got a million and one items you can craft, you’ve probably got as much of the raw materials you’ve collected, you’ve also got the intermediary states of these materials (herbs milled to ink, ore refined to uncut gems or smelted to bars etc.) do you look to sell just finished items or is there more money to be made with the component materials.  Well the answer, as with so many of my blog posts, is ‘it depends’.  It depends on the time of day or week, it depends on the prevailing economy of your server (it’s quite fascinating how they develop differently but that’s another post), and it depends on your competition on the auction house.  I’m going to concentrate on inscription for this post, as that’s the craft I’m currently focusing on making money with, but first lets take a step back and talk about addons. 

Addons are there to make your life easier, there are a number of addons which can significantly reduce the time taken to craft items and even decide which items to craft.  I’m assuming you, like me, utilise a collecting alt to do your collecting of raw materials, so the first addon you’re going to need is altoholic which collects detailed inventories of all of your alts and allows you to see who has raw components which you may need for a recipe simply by hovering the cursor over it.

Next up, you’ll want the advanced trade skills window,  this allows you to custom sort your trade skills, perform text searches, and queue multiple items to be crafted.  It’ll even work out which crafted items can be made from raw materials and queue intermediary stuff, e.g. if a glyph needs 2x lion ink, and you don’t have any, but you do have 2 of the Golden Pigment needed to make the ink, it’ll queue the ink first, and then the glyph for you, genius.  Sadly Blizzard removed the ability for ATSW to process multiple queued items automatically some time ago, so once you’ve finished making a particular type of item, you have to manually click on ‘process queue’ for it to move to the next item which is a bit of a bind but not the end of the world.

SellTabLast, and probably most important, is Auctionator, Auctionator lets you scan the Auction House in its entirety and record prices for every item on there.  It also modifies the buying and selling functions, when buying it’ll automatically list similar items by price, lets say you’re looking for Ink of the Sea as shown, it’ll group all of the same priced stacks together and allow you to buy them quickly, once you exhaust that price it’ll move on to the next.  Most importantly from a selling point of view, it can be automatically configured to beat the price of the same items already listed, and allows you to list multiple stacks, or break stacks down into smaller numbers extremely quickly.

All sounds very complicated doesn’t it? I suppose it is a bit when taken as a chunk, but as you work your way into selling you’ll build up your confidence with the adds and look to find more and more ways of saving time and automating stuff.  There’s one final tool, which a guildie introduced me to over the weekend (the same guildie who introduced me to GTFO) it’s not an addon this time though, its a webpage http://wowpopular.com/ which lets you see what are the most popular enchants, glyphs, gems, talents and a whole host of other things across all of the WOW realms, not only that, but it does it by class and even by spec.

You now have the supply, and you have a bloody good idea of what the demand will be; each class and spec has a list of pseudo-mandatory glyphs, this site allows you to quickly see which these are for every class and make them, since I started using it I’ve more than tripled my sales! and this is how:

I’m assuming you have a stock of raw materials, if not, go read this post.  First of all go to the AH and perform an Auctionator scan, this will make sure your database of prices is up to date and correct.  Next load up http://wowpopular.com/ on a companion PC (or alt tab) and list off the first specs of the first class’ glyphs.  WoWScrnShot_051211_205930Open up your trade skill window and hover over the glyph.  My first question is: is it sold on the AH for more than 85g? if not, forget it and move on to the next glyph.  The most used glyphs tend to go for about 100g on my server, some of the ‘levelling’ glyphs go for as little as 2g which doesn’t cover the materials, some for far more; this is a figure that I’ve chosen which means I’m making a reasonable profit on all the materials, it depends on your servers economy, pick a figure and stick by it (although you may want to adjust this over time).  Assuming the value is fine, have a quick look at the component prices by hovering over them  do all of the materials (if sold individually) come to less than glyphs auction price? does it allow for a reasonable profit? if so you can craft away, with one final check – do you already have any of the said glyph, hover over it again and have a look, I tend to only ever have 1 or 2 of any particular item oWoWScrnShot_051211_205946n the AH at any one time, keep the perception of supply down to keep the prices and profits high!  Rinse and repeat for all of the glyphs applicable to all of the classes, by the end of it you’ll find you have between 80 and 120 glyphs.

Now its time to head over to the AH and list them, this is key, you need to beat the prices of competitors on there, but you also want to stay competitive for the duration of the auction, accept that you will be undercut sometimes, but try and do what you can ot avoid it.  Chose your timeframe, I always go for 48 hours, as I can’t gaurentee to be on daily, if you’re on every day you may want to go for 24 hours.  As a rule, any glyph priced at or below the 100g mark I use the auto undercut function in Auctionator and list the item for 5s less.  For anything for anything 100-125 I list at 99g, for anything 125-200g its 125g, and for anything 200g+ I’ll go for 150g.  for any items where there are no competition I go between 100 and 125 depending on historic sale success.  This may sound a bit silly, why not simply beat the higher prices by 5s too and make more profit? From my experience, if you do this, somoene will simply come along and undercut you with a sensible price, you often see auction lists with one glyph at ~250g, a couple more in the two-hundreds a few more in the hundreds and then one in the 99g area, the higher priced items will never sell, so it’s a wasted auction. 

It’s then just a simple matter of collecting your winnings and restocking those glyphs that have sold, use altoholic to check if you have glyphs still as per the process listed above.  It takes me about 20 minutes to do a full sweep of http://wowpopular.com/ craft, and list them, I’ve quite often sold two or three glyphs by the time I’ve finished listing and I reckon on a steady 1-2000g ish profit per set of listings, this goes up a little at weekends as there are more people online.

Monday, 9 May 2011


How do you find yours?

Dungeon-FinderSince the 4.1 Patch hit, and before, there’s been a lot of consternation in the blogging community about LFD.  Has the new reward system made any difference to the queue? has the quality of tanking gone down as a result? are groups failing more?  As it’s been done to death by the rest of the community, I’m not going to even talk about the Call to Arms reward system, instead I’m going to take a look at group makeups a little more generally since ZG and ZA hit.

I’ve got two characters of the required level for the new dungeons, my priest and my mage, I’ve been concentrating on running these two primarily, but I’ve done a couple of the ‘old’ heroics on my DK and druid.  Lets take the new heroics first, the first thing I noticed is that players, on the whole, seem to be far better geared; yes I know the ilvl requirement is higher, but actually a lot of the players I see in the new heroics are wearing primarily 10-man epics, where as your average LFD player pre 4.1 would be somewhere between the basic 328 and being kitted out in blues with the occasional rep and / or valour point item.  I guess this is because the raider types were either bored of the old 5 man heroics, or were running less well geared alts through them; the new instances are new content and they’re there either purely to experience it, or to top the occasional bit of gear up that they haven’t gained from raiding.  Secondly, and probably as a result of seeing more raider types, I’ve noticed the skill level has gone up significantly, players on the whole, and in the face of new unfamiliar content, perform far better than I’ve seen over the past three months in LFD.  Take for example a guild tank who came along to a ZA run with me this week, he’d never even set foot in the instance before, let alone tanked it.  We were able to clear it, almost managing a timed run, just by giving him a quick run down of what each bosses abilities were over vent.  I’ve absolutely no doubt that a lesser skilled player would have had all sorts of trouble tanking ZA in such a scenario.  On the negative side, I’ve noticed people are far less forgiving in the new instances, probably as a result of being used to higher performance in raids, the most pertinent example I’ve seen being “5k DPS in here? REALLY?” kick…. (to be fair the guy was abysmal, but I’d usually expect to see him asked why his DPS was so poor and have suggested he needed to improve it before being kicked).  Chatting to people both from guild and randoms, I’ve seen a few comments along the lines of, “if you don’t know the strategies in here by now, you deserve to be kicked” which is a little elitist for my liking.

The old heroics are a complete different kettle of fish to what they used to be, I’ve been running a couple of specific dungeons on my DK to get the items I need to unlock ZA & ZG, one of which being Stonecore, on the first three trash packs, where a little crowd control and DPS focus is essential for all but the best geared groups, I’ve seen DPS pulling before the tanks ready or in one case before the healer was even in the instance!  The impatience of players that you typically see in the low end instances to level up and get ma gearz is creeping into the heroics where you really can’t afford to be so gung-ho.  Added to this, the queue’s do seem to be shorter, so I’ve seen a lot of people simply leaving the group if the random instance turns out not to be one of their liking, or one pull doesn’t quite go to plan. 

Come on people! do it right first time, take a little bit of time to do stuff, with some consideration for the other four in your group, and you’ll get it done quicker in the long run and you might even have a bit of fun (ya know, the reason you play the game) in the process.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Is bigger always better?

How to maximise your mining and herbing returns in a troll-eat-troll world

druid-trafalgarCollecting herb and ore has seen thousands of wow players over the years spending countless hours stooped over their computer into the long hours of the night filling their bags full of crap hard earned bounty.  Whether you’re a hardcore raider, serious casual player or just like dabbling with trade skills, collection of these consumables is vital.  there is an argument to say you could do anything which makes money and then use that money to buy these consumables, or the end products they’re used to craft from the AH, but where's the fun in that? (not apart from the fact that all professions offer their own unique soulbound items or buffs only to the characters which pursue them.    

This post takes a look at the finer art of collecting and I’ve gone to great lengths to research it, further than in any other post, and spent a whopping great eight hours compiling information for it, that’s more than a days work!  why have I done this I hear you ask?  Well firstly, I needed ore to level blacksmithing (just because, ok) and I needed to stock up on herbs to feed my alchemy and inscription habits.  My regular reader will know about my druid herber / miner toon, created solely to pull up weeds and smash lumps of rock (ok, so I’ve since found I quite like healing with her too).

So Why a (Tauren) druid?  well firstly I got hacked off collecting herbs on my mage and being constantly beaten to the weed by some git druid who doesn’t have to dismount / remount to pick the herb, which also allows you to avoid a lot of time consuming combat with local mobs.  Secondly the speed at which Taurens can pick herbs; considerably faster than other races.  Thirdly the instant flight form shape shift, gives a considerable performance improvement (especially when you’re competing with other miners for the same veins who have to mount up). Fourthly, the feral abilities mean you can slap down any inconsiderate mob(s) who happen to pick a fight when you’re mining.

There are a few other classes which I recon would be decent for collecting, mages for their blink & disappear abilities, rogues for vanish, hunters for fein death etc. but the instant cast flight form and not having to shape shift (i.e. dismount) for herbing sold it for me.
I’ve also made a point of learning both collection (discounting skinning and enchanting as they're more killing and collecting), I’ve had individual miners and herbers for a long period, and it always struck me how much time i was wasting doing one at a time, so I bit the bullet and reorganised my professions between alts to accommodate this, and wow has it paid off!

So you’ve got your collector toon up to level 85, and you’re about to set out on your first run, where should you go? good question, there are quite a few questions you need to ask yourself – firstly what is your priority item? are you collecting stuff to sell on the AH? are you looking to feed a fabricating profession (like blacksmithing or alchemy) habit? or are you looking to just collect raw materials for for of the ‘destructive’ professions like inscription or gem crafting where you don't care what the raw material is, you just want to mill or prospect it.

If you don’t care about the type of material you’re collecting, you might be surprised at which areas may be the most profitable for you to use (by profitable I mean in terms of both AH value and item yield), more of that in a moment.  If you’re looking to use specific items, such as Elementium or Pyrite, you’ll be restricted to specific zones.  Items like Twilight Jasmine only grow in one zone, so if you must have that item for a specific potion you must go to the Twilight Highlands. You need to consider both the number of available ‘nodes’ in the zone, and the comparable difficulty (i.e. time) in getting between them, for example, Zone A might have 100 nodes, but be massive, Zone B having 80 nodes but being half the size of A would generally mean that the average distance between nodes is closer, thus you’ll get more reward for your time.

Pick your primary aim(s), and head to the zone which offers the best reward for them, lets say for the sake of argument, my priorities are Obsidium and Cinderbloom, I’ve got a choice between Mount Hyjal and Deepholm, as both zones offer both in abundance.  Ore tends to be harder to come by, in my experience, so I pick myself a route which takes my through the most populous areas for ore, stopping off for any herbs I see, one exception for this is whiptail in Uldum, which only really grows on river banks where there are few ore nodes, so I make a detour on my route to encompass the rivers.  Use gatherer to plan your route, I always also have a secondary screen up with a map of the locations of my primary item type from wowhead.

The last thing to look at is competition, the time of day you collect is key.  If possible look to collect at off peak times when there are few others around to compete with, i tend to do a /who ‘zone name’ before heading out just to check how many other level 85s there are there (or if there are any other names which I recognise as being miners or herbers, or both, from previous outings).  There are two ways to dealing with competition; passively - you either give up and wait till later or go somewhere else.  Or you go on the offensive and beat your opponent forcing them to either give up themselves or accept a reduced reward.  Both will generally lead to a reduced reward for yourself, it depends on how confident you are.  If you are confident you can beat them, stay and fight, if not spend your time elsewhere.

So you’re off collecting, is there anything more you can do to to aid collection?  well yes, of course there is, or I wouldn’t of mentioned it would I? silly.  If you’re a seasoned collector, you may notice that the little yellow dots sometimes appear on the mini map after you’ve passed them with alarming frequency, this isn’t due to you being the luckiest soul alive and seeing multiple node re-spawns, I’m pretty sure this is down to server lag (i.e. you’re moving so fast the map hasn’t updated from the server to your screen in time).  I tend to fly in a slight zig zag, nothing to severe, this has both the effect of slowing your ‘map movement’ down a touch in order to give the nodes time to appear, and it means that you cover more ground in the candidate areas; veins tend to spawn on staggered ridges, simply flying straight along the edge of one of these will generally put you out of range of some of the spawns.  Make sure you use your downtime wisely, you have a couple of seconds when you’re hitting a vein or picking a herb, use this to your advantage and plan your next move, take a look at your map and spin round to face the direction of your next move, you can do this without interrupting the collection.  This is especially important when you can see several yellow dots, you want to get to them as soon as possible else someone else might beat you to them.

If you do see multiple dots on the minimap, I tend to go for the herbs first if I’m not worried about competition, pick the herbs quickly, and then shape shift for the ore.  If there is competition in the area, hit the high value ore targets first, if you have to lose something it should be the less valuable stuff, and from experience there tends to be more miners out there than herbers.  If you do encounter competition, and you decide to ‘stay and fight’ make sure you know your route well, and make sure you know any little short cuts which you might be able to sacrifice in order to get in front of your opponent, who is more than likely on a similar route to you.

So what about this extensive research? Well here it is! basically I spent a couple of days over the bank holiday, when I should have been drinking, but illness had other ideas, running different zones and recording the results to see which would actually be the best.  I did a quick straw poll of my guild:

“where’s the best place to mine?”

“where’s the best place to herb?”

I didn’t qualify either of the questions intentionally, I just wanted to see what peoples initial reaction was, unsurprisingly that Uldum and Deepholm came out on top, and Mount Hyjal got absolutely no votes.  Looking at wowhead, I compiled this table of the number of nodes in each zone:

From this table you can see that Uldum has the most herbs, Deepholm the most ore, and Deepholm again for a combined total.  So it’s simple right? never leave these two zones for mining and herbing right? wrong.  These numbers, expose the problems with statistics, on the face of it they’re best, but these raw figures don’t take into consideration the size of the zone (i.e. the average distance between nodes) or the competition (I'm assuming respawn times are the same from zone to zone as I have no means of gathering evidence to the contrary).

So how do we tell which is the best zone then?  here’s what I did:  I ‘sampled’ each zone, for a few runs of between 15 and 45 minutes and took the average yields of each, I also recorded the population of the zone from a /who before and after each run (this wont take into account alliance toons in the zone, so should be used as an indication only but given the ratio of characters from your server you can take an educated guess (or create a toon on the other faction and do a /who there too, I’m just not that anal… ok, I am, but I’ve only just thought of it). I recorded the contents of my bags at the end of each run, and also made notes of the number of nodes I lost to competition, and the number of times I was forced to kill aggrod mobs when mining.  I actually abandoned an Uldum run after four or five minutes having seen three other miners and two herbers in that time, in hindsight I with I’d carried on to get some figures of how bad it can actually be with sustained competition, but I didn’t, so tough luck…

nodes collected
This is actually a cut down version for display as the full list is too wide to fit on a web page and still be able to read without something in the Hubble range of magnification, a full break down can be found in the spread sheet here.

As you can see from the (full spread sheet) table, my best run was in Deepholm with a massive 13.27 ore & herbs per minute, but surprisingly the next best, and probably most consistently good (if looking at total yield) was Mount Hyjal! this is due in my view, to lack of competition from other collectors who assume its rubbish, the relative small size of the collecting areas, and the ease at which mobs can be dispatched or avoided due to their lower level.  When you dig a little deeper (pun intended) due to the amount of Elementium and Pyrite available, Uldum would seem to be the best, if your primary aim is profit from the AH or Black Smithing. 
So which is actually the best then? well I’m afraid there isn’t an answer any more concrete than ‘it depends’.  It depends on what you’re aiming to achieve, and the competition you’re facing.  For pure blacksmithing, due to the pyrite content, I’d say it's got to be Uldum, if you’re focus is ore for prospecting, then Deepholm has to shade it because you get both Elementium and Obsidium.  If you’re collecting herbs simply to mill (and thus you don’t care what they are) then Deepholm is also the place for you.  If you’re looking to use the herbs for potions, then you need to target the zones which have the best yield of the brand of herb you need, clearly Whiptail and Twilight Jasmine only grow in Uldum and Twilight Highlands respectively, so you’re pretty restricted.  the only zone I’d not bother with is Vashir, the swimming around is too slow, and, although it’s relatively small with absolutely no competition, the nodes are too sparse.  My real top tip, is consider Mount Hyjal, my own assumptions and my quick straw poll completely overlooked it, but the lack of competition means it is actually pretty good.  As a collector who is after stuff for Blacksmithing, Prospecting, Inscription and Alchemy, my general hunting grounds will be Uldum, Deepholm and Mount Hyjal, with an occasional forray into the Twilight Highlands when I need to stock up on Jasmine.  If you’re collecting purely for profit and sticking everything on the AH, then it’s even more dependant on your servers economy, you need to have a look at what’s going for the best prices on the auction house and tailor your runs accordingly.

One thing to note, I think I’ve probably done Uldum a little bit of a disservice on the herbing front, my feeling is that there are far more herbs, but I was primarily following a mining route with occasional trips down the river for whiptail, I pretty much ignored the other herb locations.
Finally, my tips for more effective collecting
  • roll a Tauren Druid
  • have both mining and herbing professions on the same character
  • invest in the fastest flying skill available
  • bind your shape shift to flight form to an easily accessibly key (I use the middle mouse button)
  • avoid combat wherever possible, it slows you down
  • install gatherer
  • plan your zones / rough route in advance
  • do a quick /who to check a zones population and for ‘usual suspects’ who are regular competitors
  • decide your tactics on competition, stay and compete, or give up / move to another zone
  • try and collect in off peak times if possible
  • when you’re actually collecting an item, quickly flick to the map to reorient yourself and plan your next hop
  • don’t dwell on the occasional nodes which you can’t get to or appear / disappear as you move, there are a few bugged nodes about due to clipping or phasing issues
  • make sure you have plenty of room in your bags
  • don’t be afraid to utilise the AH, if you need Cinderbloom and its 20s whilst Elementium is 20g, spend your time collecting Elementium, sell it and buy Cinderbloom
One last note, the ‘druid’ pictured at the top was an Eagle which swooped past my face in the centre of London as I was mid way through writing this post,  I can only assume he was trying to beat me to a node in the centre of Trafalgar Square and sat there mocking me as I walked away empty handed…
It’s also worth noting that the time I’ve spent doing the ‘research’ is by no means statistically significant, do do a proper statistical study I’d probably need to make my own addon and get lots of people to use it over a period of time.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

WOW, Remote access

to your auctions, guild chat and more!
auctionhouse-screen-01I recently talked about the potential for WOW to be played on a mobile device, I referenced the WOW remote auction house application which was available for both iPhone and Android devices.  Recently Blizzard have rebranded the application to WOW mobile and upgraded it’s functionality.  I’m quite surprised, and delighted, to say that it was made available to Android at the same time as iPhone.

The move towards a more generic ‘mobile’ name is well deserved, no longer is it just a method of viewing (or listing items for the premium version) on the auction house, you can now view your characters in a similar view to what you’ll be used to in the armoury, you can view your guild, and information on each of the members, but most impressively you can participate in guild chat and whispers with other online members.  For the moment, all of the features, barring the ability to list new auctions and collect money is free.  The Blizzard page seems to indicate that the chat functionality is only free for the moment.  I’m not sure I’d pay £2.49 for the pleasure of doing this, but for the moment while its free, it’s pretty good.

There are a few bugs, you’re required to select which of your characters you want to log in as, in order to view their auctions, the app sometimes gets a little confused as to who you are and whether you’re authorised to do things.  I’m currently getting errors trying to connect to guild chat, which would seem to be a server issue rather than an app fault, and occasionally I’ve had messages not send properly which has lead to a few ‘disjointed’ conversations as my comments arrive at the other end out of order.
On the up side, I’ve been happily abusing conversing with my fellow guildies for a couple of days using both wifi and 3G connections with pretty good success, and, in a stroke of genius, if you;re logged on playing the game, you can log in as an alt and have a conversation with yourself; finally I have an intellectual equal to talk to!…

All in all a good effort by Blizzard, a useful app for those of us who find themselves with time to spare while travelling or not sat in front of their gaming PC.  There are a few issues with the battery use, my HTC Desire lasted about 90 minutes with Spotify and WOW mobile running on the train yesterday, it would normally last me the full day with 3-4 hours of music listening and normal calls etc.
Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and I'll be able to perform rudimentary profession actions such as milling or crafting, perhaps even the odd daily quest; something like the jewel crafting quests which simply require you to craft and hand over three gems would be good.  I’d really like the ability to interact with some addons or other game features, like reforging, wardrobes and even loot lists from instances, all stuff that given 10 minutes to spare on the train you’d happily do, but sat in front of your PC you’d rather be playing the game.

I’d also love to see web access to the features of this app, I generally always have internet access, but am unable to play WOW itself (stupid work…) having IRC like access to guild chat would be brilliant, the API hooks are obviously there so adding a standard HTTP interface should be easy.  This would also enable players to link their WOW activities to more ‘internetty’ stuff, especially pushing the social aspects of the game, you could have a Facebook of sorts for trolls, linking profiles to social networking features.  Enabling this might further enable web apps to do other ‘stuff’ in a similar vein to what you see with the crappy games on Facebook.  Blizzard could develop whole mini games to support their main WOW application to further engage their subscribers.

This is clearly a move by Blizzard to further monetise their product, for my money the £2.50 a month on top of the WOW subscription is too much, that’s 30% on top of a monthly subscription cost.  This for me puts the premium app in a niche of people who have both money, are addicted to WOW and a life style which means they can’t play that much, I’m not sure the latter two go hand in hand in most cases.  If I were blizzard, I’d aim lower, sub £1 per month perhaps, or even as a subscription ‘sweetner’, i.e. subscribe for 6 months (rather than your usual 1 month) and get free premium access to the app – Blizzard wins because they get 6 months money up front, the subscriber wins because they get ‘free’ access to an app that they’d otherwise have to shell out for, everyone's a winner