Friday, December 31, 2010

Late Night Thoughts on the Wacky WoW Economy

By the time I post this it will be New Years Eve. The genesis for tonight's rambling began months and months ago, and I suddenly felt it time to release these harrowing thoughts on my loyal readers (I think I just heard a cricket, and it's the middle of the frickin winter).

I went to Business school. More correctly stated, I went to UNLV and studied Finance and Real Estate in UNLV's Business College, because Universities are actually made up of...oh, most college people are on break and don't want to hear another lecture for a month or so, so I'll move on.

Anyhoo, as I was saying, while in business school you learn a thing or two about, well, business, but quite a bit more about people. After having a good 7-8 years in the real world I can honestly say that about half of what is taught is a load of crap. I am sorry to any college student reading this, I don't mean to make you feel like your completely wasting your parent's or your own money (or the government's, in which case is perfectly fine), I'm just saying what I feel is true. You see, in college I never had a professor talk about the emergence of FAKE economies. They based all their cirriculum on the "Real World"...bunch of idiots.

Then again, what is a "fake" economy. I have three names, a first, second and a last. All my life I have been known by my middle name. But when people find out that the name I go by is my middle one the question inevitably follows: "So then what's your REAL name?" After 35 years of this (I just had my birthday, and yes I'm now unemployed and 35, horray for me), I've found myself growing tired of the same question. My middle name is just as real as my first, it's just in a different position on my driver's license. But being the benevolent human that I am, quick to show pity to the mentally impared, I spare them a lecture and inform them that my FIRST name is [fill in guess here].

Where am I even going with this? It's the consequence of not writing a significant or thoughtful post for almost two weeks now, I'm going soft and taking my brain with me. Or it may be that it's 1am and by back hurts and I can't sleep and I'm a little too, uh, medicated. I believe what I'm trying to do is tie in the gorilla that is the WoW economy with some personal recollection of some past experiences to try to create some meaningful connection that you can understand as a reader and some idiodic point that I'm attempting to make as a writer. Oh wow, it's late.

Anyhoowahoo, in business school I learned about this little bug called inflation. What is inflation? Well that can be simple or complicated, depending on your previous studies and current, accurate knowledge. Basically inflation manifests itself in the form of progressively increasing prices in order to purchase the same item, whether that is a bag of corn, a gallon of milk, or a barrell of crude oil. So let's say you need milk. Today you go to the store and pay $2, tomorrow it's $2.05. Did the milk suddenly change its properties or chemical structure or something weird like that? Well whatever happened the price of milk "Inflated", or increased.

Many things affect whether prices of good inflate, one of which is a shift in the supply curve of money, artifically increasing the money supply of a country. Think of it this way, diamonds are supposedly valuable because there aren't billions of them up for sale, but the more diamonds there are the less valuable they become, not because some law of the universe dicates it so, but that's just what tends to happen when humans understand and can see that there is a shift in the supply of some good, they simply begin to value it less than the day before.

To watch the WoW economy operate at the beginning of this expansion is an economists wet dream. Economics has always been treated as a social science by Universities accross my country, added into business schools due to it's focus on financial systems. Economists don't just study the numbers, they are looking at behaviors of the people, or the psychology of the masses. And when they feel like winning some nobel prize they draw some graphs and do some math.

(By the way, I really do respect economists, I'm just having a bit of fun)

One of the things that interests me the most is watching the work of inflation in all its glory. What's interesting is as people play more, a simplistic theory would be that people, over time, will tend to accumulate money. There is no fed to pump money into the economy artificially, and there are mechanisms in place (aka gold sinks) that play a role in taking money out of the system from time to time. These are tools used to help regulate potential inflationary risks. How I see it, however, is there are more mechanisms designed by the game to take your money than to pump some back in artificially. So given common economic theory of money (yes, I know there are multiple definitions of money), there's a better chance for a supply shift in the opposite direction, a shift to the left on the graph, money leaving. That sort of shift would tend to raise the value of each piece of gold in the game, keeping prices low and inflation in check.

But prices are a funny thing, as unpredictable as the people's brains who play the game. I've noticed a couple things lately. First, there are no shortages of supplies of any good out there, yet I see leg enchants being sold for 4-5K gold. Raw green quality gems being sold for 150g, and their more perfect, cut counterparts for 15g. There are more bots than ever, so there's plenty of herbs and skins for everyone. But people are using the "there's demand, that's driving the prices up" argument that frannkly doesn't hold water with me.

You see, anyone who knows a lick about economics knows that there is a delicate interplay between supply and demand, and markets tend to fight to find an equilibrium price somewhere. But economies are run by people, and people are unpredictable, and people are selfish, and there's always some douche bag that is trying to sell one herb for 1500g. Cataclysm hit shelves and masses of people decided that they would post thousands of auctions for whatever price they could sell them for. And you know what, the economy seemed to work fine. There were plenty of really hard core players that had the gold to spend whatever, making more and more goods and services inelastic, far more (on a percentage basis) than any REAL WORLD economy could ever boast.

Just about everything can be sold for anything now, or so it seems. And I cannot explain it. Frankly, any economist would say that both supply and demand curves shifted, thereby NOT causing prices to increase, but there are people out there who want you to believe that supply curves have not shifted, or that demand is so high that its shift on the graph merits the insane prices. Personally I think it's everyone silently agreeing to make money, ya know, for the good fo the game. But as people make tons of cash and things slow down and prices fall, what happens to that new player who rolls around Azeroth with 1500g in his/her bag and would like to run heroics or raid but cannot afford their 10,000 per week pricetag to buy all the gems and enchants and repairs and all.

I honestly have no clue how the WoW economy works, no clue at all. I'm amazed it does, even as it defies some real world economic theories. I guess there's nothing much to complain about, people seem to do just fine, but I have this nagging thought in the back of my mind. Are we creating just one more "Barrier to entry" for wanna-be raiders by charging insane prices for raw supplies (even though there's no lack) and even more insane markups by the crafters for the required enchants, etc demanded by any good raid leader? If WotLK was an expansion about inclusion, everyone got epics, everyone ran ICC, everyone did this or that, are we helping to swing the pendulum just a little too far the other way (Blizz has already swung it in the direction of exclusion) by artificially inflating prices ourselves because we can get away with it?

I don't think the average WoW player runs around with 30K gold in his/her bag. In my guild there are a couple, but most run under 3-5K at ALL times. Are we preventing newer, less wealthy people from experiencing something? True, anyone can work at it and make money to fulfill whatever goal they want, I know that, but not everyone is as equally cunning as another, we're all different and have different levels of knowledge, skill, and salesmanship. Maybe I'm totally wrong, maybe I'm just making crap up because it's like, really, really late for me to be up, but nobody is awake, the home is silent, and I got to thinking.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

It's Christmas Eve. Right now. So Merry Christmas to all who celebrate this special holiday.

For all other holidays of the season that I know of or don't know of, Happy Holidays to you as well. I hope that each of you can find joy in whatever activity you participate. Whether it's opening presents or slaying internet dragons, have fun and stay safe!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

New Expansion Resolutions - An Introspection

We're approaching a time of year where it's fashionable to make an annual list of personal goals known as "New Years Resolutions". I have never, and I am honest about this, NEVER made a "New Years Resolution" in my lifetime, at least not in the popular sort of way. I am a man of goals, for sure, but not trendy ones that are fated to die out and fade into the blackness that is my horrible memory. No, I make goals in life on a fairly regular basis and try to achieve them. Then I move on to another and treat it the same.

I made some goals for the new xpac, Cataclysm, as well. And lucky for me it was released in early December, not the New Year; this way nobody will be able to confuse them for those useless resolutions. I had a few basic goals in mind, here are some I'd like to talk about:

1) I would play the classes and specs that I wanted, and for no reason, guild or othewise, would I play a class/spec that was not of my primary choosing. Yes, I know, for some serious raiding guilds out there this goal is somewhat selfish, but I've never tried to hide the fact that I'm a selfish being. I enjoy having fun in the manner that pleases me, not others. Those that don't like that can find other like-minded people to associate with and can, fortunately, avoid me like the plague that Silvanas wants to spread among the Gilneas citizens.

2) I would not rush a toon to 85 out of any pressure from any guild, or from social pressures of being "undergeared" - basically I wanted to level at whatever pace made me happy. Again, selfish but my choice, that was my goal.

3) I wanted to heal, but with my Priest and not my Shaman. It goes back to playing the class/spec I want, and the good thing about this goal is that I can still be of use to my guild as a melee DPS, range DPS or healer, and I'll play the specs I want...a win-win situation if you ask me.

4) I had a goal to read more of the quests, get more involved in the stories and try to understand and remember more of the lore. An easy goal for one patient enough to read. Yes, a goal to test my patience, just what a selfish bloke needs.

So, how have I done so far? Let me see.

I started this expansion with four level 80's, a Shaman, Priest, Warlock (Gronthe), and a DK. I wanted to level my Shaman as Enhance, my first love, and to date I have done so. Even better, I have yet to succumb to pressure to "gear up for my resto spec". One way I have done that is to change my offspec from Resto to Elemental. I realize that Elemental and Resto can now share much of their gear, so a shift in talents would be the only necessary change if I choose to capitulate. But I won't, and Elemental is my official offspec. All my other 80's I'm leveling however I want. I'll go some in Unholy, then switch to Frost. I'll start in Demo then change between quests to Affliction. Whatever I feel like doing...I do. I'm staying strong and it's wonderful.

As far as pace, or speed of leveling goes, I admit that I leveled my Shaman to 85 already. Why? Because I was having so much fun questing that I couldn't stop, the results of such enjoyment is a level 85 toon. Hooray! But I did it at my own pace, which I call "fun pace". It was a pace of questing that allowed continuous fun according to my special definition of fun. Not as Spongebob or Plankton defines it, but as I do.

F - Is for friends who do things together!
U - Is for You and Me!
N - Is for anywhere and anytime at all down here in the deep blue sea!

Yes, thanks again, Mr Spongebob, for interjecting your definition. Now I don't remember what I was talking about. Ah yes, pace of leveling. With all my other toons, now 81 each, I've quested when I could at a pace that was comfortable. Now seeing some of the same quests for a second time I am taking further advantage of my time and enjoying the quests for what they are instead of a means to an end, namely a means to 85. Some of the quests in the new zones are funny, others sad, some boring, some exciting. But I think I've stayed strong with my second goal and paced myself how I like.

As for #3, I haven't gone into a dungeon with my Priest and tried to heal yet, so I can't say whether I'm living up to that goal or not, but there's plenty of time to level and play with these toons, and moving too fast never was a strength of mine.

As far as reading the quests and learning more lore, I admit that I haven't done as well as I wanted to. All the cut-away movies/scenes automatically help me stay in stories sometimes, but all too often I find myself accepting the quest and only reading the quest text when I can't figure out what I'm supposed to do on the fly. I've embarassed myself in front of my kids a couple times because of it, and sorrowfully appear as a hypocrite as I encourage my boys to read the quest text. But I cannot give up on myself, not yet at least. I'm still focused on my goal, and plan to keep trying.

Look, for me the stories aren't the best things ever written, I far perfer actual novelists and classic writers such as Hugo and Tolstoy, but the quests unveil stories that can entertain a casual and open mind. Never enough to win a literature award, and never intended to most likely, but the WoW quests can help teach you why you, the hero, are doing what you're doing sometimes. I will try to do better, is my goal to myself, and you all stand now as my witnessses.

Are you living up to goals that you made for the XPac? Are you falling short? Have you fell into traps that you didn't want to live through again due to social pressures? I don't mean to pry, I'm just a selfish, curious bloke.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Elementium Depths

In the Southwest corner of the Twilight Highlands there is a cave. Not any sort of ordinary cave, but a cave with the most dense set and fastest respawn rate of mining nodes I have ever seen in WoW. And you know what? I hate it.

Sure, it helped me level my mining in just a couple days of farming, but at an extremely high personal cost of my beloved sanity. Not only are these mines filled with Elementium and Pyrite veins, but they are also jam-packed with annoying mobs and even more annoying...other players.

Never during my attempt to level mining did I "steal" a mining node from another player, although I had many, many stolen right under my nose where I started to mine, was attacked, and a fellow player seeing this strolled right up and mined the node that I had started to bash on with my little toothpick. And thus I feel compelled to express my displeasure to all the thieving sneaks out there by stating what I believe to be the rules of gathering.

Horde v Alliance
If two people of different factions see a mining vein (applies to herbalism as well) all is fair as they use whatever tools they can to race their way to that node to mine it up. If they are on a PvP realm I would further concede that it's war and you could go as far as taking out the opposing faction player in order to remain alone and unbothered in order to mine up at heart's content. Basically, I believe that when it comes to opposing faction, there are no rules, and if you can do something to shaft the other faction go for it.

But when it comes to Horde v Horde or Alliance v Alliance, there are some rules to follow.

If two like-faction players see a mining node and a clear path the race is on and whomever gets their first gets the node. Where I believe people go wrong is when you see another player fighting next to or on top of a mining node and seeing that individual busy with an unfriendly mob decide that it's fair game to begin mining under their nose. Now some may argue that there is no evidence that the player fighting the mob on/near the mining node is even a miner, but I think that we need to give that player a chance to finish fighting to see if they begin mining.


Because if they are a miner, and the path had been clear, that person would have clearly won the race to mine and should be given the chance to do so. It's called etiquette, people, manners, and if you don't understand it you may want to pull up a dictionary and do a little reading. What's worse is when two like-faction people approach a mining node, one begins to mine, clearly before the other, but then is attacked. While the attack occurs, the second steps in to mine the node right under their nose. This is the worst case of an ill-mannered player, and is something that I learned early in my playing days, as just wrong - as I did it to someone else...once and only once...before I learned that I shouldn't have done so.

So there you have it, what I understand to be the rules of mining/herbing. I guess I just have to find a time of day when there are very few people farming that aweful place in the Twilight Highlands to do my business. Lucky for me I have tools that I can use to my advange to get an upper hand at times, namely Fire Elemental and Spirit Wolves, who can keep a mob busy for a short time while I mine, lessening the chances of others to display such horrendeous manners as I have witnessed lately.

I have now one toon at 85, and am working on my other 3 80's. Actually Gronthe is now 81, but you get what I mean. I have really, really enjoyed the questing experience, the dungeons are wonderfully challenging, although I have still yet to see any sort of CC from anyone. I suppose people think that is only for heroics, if at all, but I get the feeling that some just don't like the thought that they will have to behave differently than they did in Wrath dungeons/heroics. I hope those people all die in fail groups! Oh, sorry, I meant to be on a lighter note.

Digging up fossils is wonderfully relaxing, and it provides, unlike fishing, the chance to fly around Azeroth with a purpose, where I get to enjoy the free air and get something done in the process.

I would also like to take time out to thank any/everyone who stopped by for a read today. My posts are few and far between since I lost my job last month, and as unemployment still persists, my time to play and write and other has been limited as I am busy with many other of life's duties. But still, I find time at night to play, and time this morning to write. So I thank you for taking time out of your day to give my little corner a peek. Come back soon now and have a great day!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Mr Darcy is All Politeness

I've often felt I was born in the wrong time and age. I tell people that I credit my parents for my real life tendencies to politeness, but in reality my parents only encouraged what I already had a passion for. Even with my mother-in-law, whom I hate with a passion for destroying the life of my dear wife, I can't help but be polite when she makes a surprise visit (which have been far fewer over the years, gratefully).

For years I refused to read and/or watch Pride and Prejudice, but I found that I had something in common with many of those people in the story, I believe in outward politeness, despite how I felt about somebody.

But things have changed, and it's everyone else's fault!!!

Well, not anyone who reads this blog, of course, because you are all awesome! It's everyone else that has driven me absolutely insane. I've been doing a lot of playing and no writing this past couple weeks. Starting yesterday I experienced what many others have in the past with new, shiny wow features: a flood of activity, and very little to none of it is polite.

There are so many people in the new 81-85 zones and in the new starting areas (especially Worgen), that in a short amount of time I have ceased my emulation of Mr Darcy and have become Lizzy's mother, rude, arrogant, pushy, loud, and insufferable. When there are 6 people standing around a spot where the boss/quest mob is about to respawn, and nobody wants to group up, I have felt the need to put off all politeness and move to be quicker than all else in order to kill that really, really bad dude or pick up that shark tooth. And when I think I'm alone, the mob respawns, and I see a Hunter's shot go through my chest and into the mob's, I scream...loudly!

I need to chill, I know, but this wave of people doing the same thing over and over, from realm to realm, quest after quest after quest changed me literally overnight from a polite, thoughtful bloke to a rude, selfish, and bitter old man. I haven't done anything yet today, and I hope to be able to control myself better this time, as now I know what to expect I plan on taking things as they come and not worry too much about it, I know sooner or later I'll get my chance.

I wouldn't blame anyone else if they had similar feelings, in fact I sometimes imagine what others are saying about me as they watch me stab a mob in the back before they can cast their first spell. I feel bad, obviously, for enjoying it, but for my sake I need to learn how to cope with it all.

But for all my rude actions, at least I'm not trolling. I have never, I repeat NEVER seen as much trolling in the General chats of the zones I've been playing in that in the last 24 hours. It's worse, by a hundred fold, than anything that has gone on in the trade chats of the major cities. I don't know how to explain it other than statistics, that with a bigger sample size the percentages may not go up but the volume does. I've never put so many on my ignore lists than I did yesterday.

Still, I'm having fun, the game is new, fresh, and better than ever, imo. I'd love to experience the Worgen starting area alone, or swim the ocean depths with no fear of being robbed by a guildie (which didn't happen, but with so many out there not paying attention to who they are robbing from, I suppose it's a possibility). I hope all of you are enjoying the expansion, taking the good and the bad for what they are but doing better than I am at staying focused on enjoying yourself, and hopefully doing it more politely than I am.