Yearly Archives: 2013

How 9 years of World of Warcraft has made my life better

This week, I had a hard time coming up with a blog post. In-game, most things are going well right now. My guild just recently killed Garrosh on Normal and started heroics. There isn’t a lot of WOW news going on while we wait forBlizzcon to roll around. So, as someone who spends most of her time critiquing the game, I have very little to complain about right now – for the first time in quite a long time. Even in my real life, I enjoy working in my research lab, and everything has been going my way. It is hard to find topics to complain about when I’m so darn happy. So, today, in honor of Lisa Poisso’s post on WOW Insider, and the rapidly approaching 9 year anniversary for WOW, I wanted to write a happy post to answer one very important question:

“How has playing WoW made your life better?”

Many of the answers to that question echo Lisa’s post: bringing together family, teaching me skills (both gaming-related and professional), and so on.

  • Azeroth is where my family lives: The World of Warcraft game was one thing I had in common with the man who is now my husband. Early in our relationship, talking about the game – or playing the game – brought us together. In addition, my mom is one of the co-GMs of my guild and raids with me. Since I don’t live in the same state as my mother anymore, the game gives us a reason to talk to each other nearly every day. I’m thankful that the game allows me to spend quality time with my family.
  • Real friendships are born in Azeroth: During my six years of grad school, I didn’t always have time to go outside and socialize (especially when it was snowing outside). WOW gave me a connection to the outside world (beyond just the context of the game) and allowed me to develop friendships with many people along the way. Someone once asked me about whether WOW friendships are “real” or not. I tell them of the story of a 16-year-0ld guild-mate who died in a car accident in one of my earliest guilds. I tell them about the messages we left for his brother (who also played the game) after we heard the news. The fact that WOW players take their friendships beyond the boarders of the game to help each other when we are in need is enough evidence I need to know that WOW-friendships are real friendships. Even if some of the friends I’ve met along the way are people I don’t still talk to regularly, I still care about them as much as I care about the people I met outside the game. In the end, there are real people sitting behind the characters in the game, and I appreciate the friendships with all of the people who I’ve gamed with along the way.
  • Developing better writing skills: In the years of playing the game, I feel as though I have spent more time writing about the game than I have spent playing the game.  Writing blog posts and guides help develop my writing skills in several key ways. First, I have to translate complex concepts into easy to understand language for my readers. Being clear and concise in my writing takes practice, but is a skill that translates to my real-life career. Second, I have to keep up with deadlines (such as patch days), and in learning to write content in a timely manner, these skills have also turned into fast and timely writing for school or work-related assignments. In short, writing about gaming makes me better at writing in general.
  • Making me a better scientist: The analytical skills I use to scrutinize the video game are the same skills I use to scrutinize the experimental design in my real life scientific work. In fact, my current research project, involving development of an educational video game for teenagers with autism comes directly from my WOW gaming knowledge. Without a gaming background, I wouldn’t have the complete set of skills I would need to think about how games can make better intervention packages than the standard model of relatively boring “point systems” tacked onto otherwise boring content.
  • Developing leadership skills: Many years of being an officer in raiding guilds has taught me important leadership skills. This includes conflict resolution, team building, motivating team members, having clear instructions and goals, organizational skills, and more. The same skills that help with leading WOW guilds are also used for leading teams of people in other situations.

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I do want to highlight that most of the ways that WOW has improved my life are social in nature. While many people view games as solitary activities, WOW has been anything BUT solitary for me. The ways that WOW has improved my life is in bringing me closer to other people, and teaching me skills that I can use in my everyday interactions outside the game. So, thank you to all of you who have made my life better over the last 9 years of playing World of Warcraft!

Posted in Written By Lissanna

Guild Leadership Corner: Where have all the guild funds gone?

This post was co-written by Lissanna, Ranico, and Mindalen of Undying Resolution (US-Elune), as part of the blog’s guild leadership series.

Our guild has a problem. We’re slowly going broke this tier because Blizzard’s changes in 5.4 have removed our guild’s primary source of guild income.

Our 25-man raiding guild used to be self-sufficient:  We’re currently working on normal-mode Garrosh and working on starting heroics. Our guild offers repairs, flasks, food, gems and other raiding materials as part of the package of benefits we offer to our raiders.  In return for these materials, our guild keeps any greens, blues, or epics that drop in the raid and people don’t need. This includes BOE epics, BOE patterns, or shards/materials from disenchanting BOP epics. The guild also accepts donations from members, and plenty of guild members make their own flasks and such. For all of Cataclysm and the first several tiers of MOP, we were able to do this while still either making money or coming out even in funds every month. The beginning of a raid tier is almost always a profitable time in our guild’s raiding, with the end of tier economy usually slowing our guild’s income.

Something is wrong this tier: With the change to noodle carts reducing our food requirements, our actual guild income should have gone up at the beginning of this tier (especially with our faster than average progression through normal-mode content). Instead, we’ve netted an approximate loss of 250,000 gold in the first few weeks after the start of 5.4 (a really unprecedented early patch loss). Without major reductions in providing materials to our guild members, or increasing guild donations, we will have depleted all of our bank’s reserves by the end of December at the rate of loss from the first few weeks.

Where does all that money go?
Item name – Number of stacks per week = Average amount per stack(average per week)

  • Golden Lotus – 5 stacks of 20/week @ 1300G = (6500G)
  • Raw Croc Belly – 6 stacks/week @ 229G = (1374G)
  • Emperor Salmon – 5 stacks/week @ 125G = (625G)
  • Giant Mantis Shrimp – 3 stacks @ 120G = (360G)
  • Tiger Gourami – 3 stacks @ 225 = (675)
  • Raw Turtle Meat – 4 stacks @ 30 = (120)
  • Pumpkin – 6 stacks @ 290 = (1740)
  • Cabbage – 2 stacks @ 300 = (600)
  • Carrots – 2 stacks @ 200 = (400)
  • Green Onion – 2 stacks @ 200 = (400)
  • Additional Meats/Fish/Veggies in lesser amounts 6 stacks @ 100 = (600)
  • Gems – 20/week = (approx. 1200)
  • Enchanting mats – Random amounts – Not trackable. Usually donated or obtained by DEing greens.
  • Black Pepper – 3 stacks/week @ 1800 = (5400)
  • Rice Flour – 2 stacks/week @ 1800 = (3600)
  • Leg Enchants – 5 x 3 = 15 @ 400G = (6000)
  • Belt Buckles – 4 @ 400 = (1600G)
  • Shoulder Enchants – 4 x 3 = 12 @ 350 = (4200)
  • Guild Bank Repairs – On average we spent 10K gold per week on guild repairs.

What was our original source of income?
In previous tiers, BOE patterns would drop from raids that could be sold to non-raiders or other guilds that were unlucky with their pattern drops. We sold BOE epics that dropped from raids and didn’t require crafting. These BOE epics were often rare and of equal ilevel to the normal-mode raid gear. These were often bought by people who wanted to get a quick ilevel boost outside of raids at high prices. In addition, for the last several tiers, some epic crafting items required tokens such as haunting spirits. These tokens came from disenchanting gear from raids, and used to be so valuable in previous tiers that we didn’t hand out much off-spec gear since the need for haunting spirit tokens to fund the guild was greater than our guild’s need for off-spec gear. A combination of all three of these would mean that selling BOE epics, patterns, and required crafting spirit tokens were enough to keep our guild either breaking even or making a profit each raid tier. We could also sell the crafted items made from having the rare patterns and valuable required spirits.

In the current raid tier, NONE of these major income sources are available to us:

  • In the current tier, there are no BOE epic drops in the raid instance, so we can’t sell BOE epics.
  • There are no BOE pattern drops, so we can’t sell BOE patterns.
  • The current tokens (spirits of war) aren’t used in the same way as the tokens from previous tiers, and so fewer people are buying the tokens. Thus, these spirits can’t compensate for the loss of BOE drops from the raid instance, due to the spirits not being a required crafting material anymore.

Why are Spirits of War not enough to sustain guilds this tier?
As a tailor, the spirits of war only accelerate the rate of making the daily cloth grind to make Celestial Cloth. It takes 21 celestial cloth to make a single epic item. Making a celestial cloth takes 10 bolts of windwool cloth once per day. If you use the spirit of war, it still costs 10 bolts of windwool cloth to make a celestial cloth. So, all it does is speed up the amount of time. The spirit of war is not a required item to make the epic, and it does not reduce the resource requirements at all. Thus, guilds can’t sustain high levels of guild expenditures with selling these spirits of war on the auction house, since they sell at a slower rate than previous tiers. Guilds also can’t sustain spending with only spirits of war to make BOEs to sell (in the absence of BOE epic drops from the instances). For example, since the 210 bolts of windwool cloth (at 12 gold a piece) means that it costs us the equivalent of 2,520 gold to make a cloth belt.

While these crafted items are selling okay early in the patch (at an average of 15,000 to 20,000), this isn’t likely sustainable due to limitations on the current crafting materials (e.g., who is farming the raw materials to make the items in the first place?). There are only so many trilium bars our guild can farm up outside of raids (and in previous tiers, the BOE items we were selling came as raid drops, and not as spending hours outside of raids farming materials). As the prices of these crafted items (but likely not the raw production materials) will decline over the next 6 to 8 months, if we sold the belt for 5,000 gold several months down the line, we would potentially only profit 2,500 gold based on the cost of the materials to manufacture these items (a far cry from the rate of weekly spending the guild will still incur at a point where our individual guild members may be feeling less generous on their own to keep the guild bank afloat). The rate-limiting factor for making the epic belts and other profession crafted items is not the daily cooldown for guilds with piles of Spirit of War tokens, but instead the rate of farming drops of windwool cloth or other materials required to make the items, especially on lower population servers with hurting economies in the first place. To be profitable, spirits of war and their role in crafting needs to be seriously re-examined.

What could Blizzard do to help guilds recoup lost funds?
To save amazing guild bank systems like Undying Resolution’s, a change to the spirits of war needs to happen soon – before the next expansion.

  • Spirits of war could reduce crafting costs. They need to make spirits of war either seriously reduce or entirely remove the material cost for crafting epics. So, a spirit of war plus a trillium bar could produce two of the balanced trillium bars instead of creating only one; it could reduce the cloth needed to 5 instead of 10 bolts, and reduce the magnificent hide costs to 1 instead of 2.
  • Turn spirits of war into a valued currency. They could also potentially put patterns or items on a vendor where the spirits of war are a currency for buying items directly.
  • Add back raid BOE items. It could be possible to add new BOE items this current tier for normal & heroic-mode raiding, with higher ilevels than normally available (e.g., BOEs at the thunder-forged value level). However, at the very least, for the next expansion, BOE raid epics absolutely need to return.
  • Increase guild raiding challenge rewards. They could also help guilds directly by greatly increasing the rewards from raiding guild challenges. For example, they could increase the number of guild raid boss kills and the gold rewarded per raid boss kill for the guild challenges). If it isn’t possible to make it easier for us to sell things, they could help fund raiding guilds by giving raiding guilds more gold for killing raid bosses (and reduce the need for us to sell items in the first place).
  • Increase guild funds from the Cash Flow Perk. Increase the Cash Flow Perk percentage or make the Cash Flow Perk applicable to more sources of gold income (such as quest rewards or auction house sales). With the declining interest and reduced number of dailies, the Cash Flow generated through this perk continues to diminish and represents but only a small portion of our guilds gross income. This would be better than adding in a taxation system where guilds could “tax” their guild members earnings, since the cash flow perk is a bonus on top of what the guild members earn. However, a “tax” system could also potentially be used to allow guilds to control how much gold their individual members donate to the bank, and could be used for guilds to distinguish differences between themselves, and determine how much money from individual members a guild requires to sustain themselves.
  • Have inexpensive cauldrons (flasks) and feasts (food) available to raiding guilds every tier. While the noodle carts are a nice addition this last patch, this ends up almost being “too little, too late”. As golden lotus for flasks ends up being a major guild expenditure, a 25-man flask cauldron similar to the noodle carts would have gone a long way to making the guild bank issue into a non-issue. The guild funds are really only expensive in the first place because Blizzard took away cauldrons and feasts this expansion (making people reliant on individual food/flasks after a long time of having those provided by their guilds). We could compensate for this by sustaining guild income with sales of BOE epic drops from raids, but removal of the safety net really hurts guilds who created centralized guild banking to provide cauldrons and feasts to their guilds in the first place.

Conclusions:

While some non-raiders may see the removal of these exclusive BOE items as beneficial, they come with a huge negative downside for the raiding guilds who required those items to make large raiding guilds sustainable. At the current rate of gold loss, our once profitable bank strategy has us leaking money faster than our income can keep up.

We are making internal guild changes (such as offering guild members rewards for donations to the bank, posting notices of what items we need donations of each week, reducing the amount of raid repairs we allow per day, and other strategies). In the short-term, we have seen guild member donations increase due to showing the guild our finance problem. However, this is the equivalent of shifting the costs onto our guild members – instead of an individual member crafting a belt and selling it for 25K, they’re spending their time and money outside of the raid crafting a belt and giving that item to the guild to sell. At that point, it’s no longer the guild providing resources from the funds gained from selling items acquired from raids, but members sharing resources they personally acquired outside of raids. Even with serious changes, we may have to seriously consider reducing the quantity and selection of raiding materials we can provide to our guild members 6 or 8 months down the line if donations don’t stay high enough to make up for the loss in sustainability from raid drops (we will eventually exhaust the resources of the minority of raiders who consistently donate to the bank if all raiders don’t donate equally). With the fact that our guild has one of the best maintained guild banks I’ve ever seen, having to change the way we provide materials to our members would break my heart. For guilds less well organized than ours, it is likely that they will stop providing materials much sooner than we would, as they are likely to run out of funds much sooner than we would. If this trend continues into the next expansion and several raid tiers down the line, this loss of sustainable guild funding would also cost us one of our primary recruitment tools after several years, and would hurt the culture of our guild since our members are used to how amazing our guild’s resources have been thus far.

Of course this raises the broader question, why not have raiders pay for their own repairs and provide everything for themselves? Why do we even need a Guild Bank? That question can continue sofar as to: why do we even need guilds? Especially true with both LFR & Flex. The simple answer is we want to be able to create our own communities with our friends, we want to be able to craft our own collective narrative and history within the game, not just as individual players but as a broader guild. Please give us more tools and ways to do this, not less. The answer to a vibrant community is not simply connecting realms or removing barriers to raiding, it also includes making “Guilds” fun and interesting, making them a network of micro communities across realms that forms the backbone of the broader macro community in WoW (as they always have).

Posted in Guild Leadership, Mists of Pandaria, Written By Lissanna

Reflections on the Hearthstone Beta Patch

With little going on in WOW after the last major WOW patch, I wanted to take more time to talk about Hearthstone. This week, Blizzard did a full wipe/reset of the game, that included a major patch release to beta. Below, I’ll focus on some of the major change areas that impacted my game play over the weekend:

Hearthstone: Now with a real Reward System!

One of my major complaints early in beta was how unrewarding Play mode originally felt. This problem was fortunately addressed by several major changes to the reward system, outlined below:

  • Most importantly, they increased the rate of gold from winning in play mode. You now earn 10 gold per 3 games (e.g., 3.33 gold per win), up from 5 gold per 5 games (e.g., 1 gold per win). So, you get more gold and sooner. This encourages “just one more game” to unlock your pack when you are sitting at 90 gold and two completed wins. This is a lot better than “just 8 more games” when you are sitting at 90 gold and two completed wins. While I originally suggested that we should get 5 gold per win, this seems to be a happy compromise between the original value and my recommendations.
  • You can now earn experience for your class in practice mode beyond level 10. You can also gain class experience from playing in duels versus your friends (where previously, these duels versus people on your friends list provided no benefit). You can level up to 60 total levels for each of the 9 classes.
  • They also introduced gold versions of basic minions you can acquire from leveling classes.
  • They changed arena awards to give more gold for winning streaks, allowing quicker re-entry to arena for experienced arena players.
  • Increased social rewards: Your friends will know when you unlock legendary cards or finish a great Arena run.

Changes to the daily quest system.

  • You get to choose between two classes for the daily quests, instead of being locked to completing it on one character. This allows for more choice, and allows you to play the game with mastering 5 classes, instead of 9 classes, if you want to streamline your daily routine. Thus, If you really hate playing Garrosh (even if it’s just because of SOO Lore reasons), you can choose to never play that class. In making my class decisions, if I want to play druid and avoid warrior, I need to focus on: druid, mage, paladin, warlock, and rogue. This allows me to skip shaman, hunter, priest, and warrior early in the game with no penalty. See the listing on Hearthpwn to plan for the daily class choice combinations.
  • The biggest problem with this new daily quest system is that if you dislike both of the classes for the daily, you are still stuck having to do it. You still can’t drop quests even if you really, really don’t want to do it.

Don’t nerf me, Bro!

  • Of course, any patches to Blizzard games include class balancing changes. This came with many adjustments to cards (some changes for each of the classes, plus changes to general minions available to all classes). Some of the cards I was using got nerfed, and other cards got buffed. In general, the druid class took a couple hits, though Azureon posted in his druid Q&A why these druid card nerfs aren’t so bad.
  • The adjustment to druid decks mainly impacted higher quality cards, that wouldn’t impact new players all that much. My druid beginner druid guide is a good starting point for new players, since the default beginner druid deck didn’t get changed (and is still terrible). I did some minor updates to the guide to stay consistent with the changes. I’ll probably expand this more in the upcoming weeks.
Posted in Hearthstone

The benefits of Flex raiding

The latest World of Warcraft patch brought with it a new raid size – Flex raiding. With two wings of the four total wings available in the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, I thought I would talk about some of the benefits for Flex raiding.

  • Variable group size. If you have 20 people on to run a weekend Flex raid, you can hop into a raid and not have to pick up 5 unknown people to form a 25-man raid. If you have 11 people, you don’t have to sit one out to form up a 10-man raid. Instead, you can run with any number of people between 10 and 25. This lowers the administrative and organizational burden. If you have 15 people online, you can hop into a raid – assuming that you have the right group makeup with tanks, DPS, and healers.
  • People can join & leave freely. When we would do organized LFR runs, if someone showed up 10 minutes after you started, they couldn’t join the raid. In LFR, you couldn’t swap people out between bosses. In LFR, you couldn’t replace a bad PUG with a great friend. With the new Flex runs, you can do all three! If you start the raid with 10 people, you can still end the raid night with 25 (or any amount in between). We frequently have people show up late to our Flex raids and it doesn’t cause nearly the same headache that we experienced the last few expansions without Flex raids.
  • Individual loot system. An administrative burden for normal & heroic raids is the need to have some way to ensure that loot is fairly distributed. In 25-man normal/heroics, we run with an addon that tracks points (EPGP). However, for the Flex nights, we don’t have to worry about distributing loot, as the use of the LFR individual loot system reduces the possibility for fighting or loot drama in the more relaxed atmosphere.
  • Allows for organization. Unlike LFR with strangers, you can force the raiders running Flex to be prepared for raiding. You get to choose the members of your raid team.
  • Wings mean you can skip more bosses. A difficult problem with having 13 or 14 bosses in a normal/heroic raid is that you often have to do 12 bosses to work on the 13th. In most cases, this means that normal/heroic raids require significant time commitments to clear the earlier bosses and unlock the later progression bosses.Having only 3 to 4 bosses in a Flex or LFR wing means that you can skip the first wing if you just want to do the second – or you can skip the first three and start on the last wing (once they are all open).
  • Raid with your friends. A benefit of being cross-server is that you can raid with your friends. We can bring along social guild members, battle-tag or Real-ID friends along for the fun. Our guild does a Monday night alt Flex raid where I have been able to raid on my druid for the first time this expansion, as alt LFR raids weren’t very satisfying for my raiding guild.
  • Raid with strangers. If you don’t have an organized flex raid with friends, you can still organize groups of strangers using tools such as Open Raid. If you can’t plan in advance, you can also use an addon called OQueue to find a group in-game. Other communities such as Twitterland Raiding have been used for people to organize cross-realm raid groups.

Taken together, what does this all mean? Well, for one – there will be fewer organized LFR runs. Most of the organized groups will be better off hitting Flex raids (meaning you won’t be lucky and happen into the rare spots in the organized LFR runs when you do run LFR). I believe that Flex will be a very popular raid size for small casual guilds or for cross-realm groups of friends that were formed to run LFR groups together, with fewer drawbacks of having to pick up random LFR people. Either way, it encourages some consistency in raiding with friends, without being super rigid the way that normal & heroic raiding is. One thing I can say for certain is that I am really enjoying Flex raiding on my druid.

Posted in Mists of Pandaria, Uncategorized, Written By Lissanna

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