Wednesday, 27 March 2013

One chilly, blustery morning in March

I was at a funeral recently, for a loved one. We lowered his coffin into the ground as a chill wind whipped snowflakes around us. Afterwards, we remembered the good times, swapped stories, caught up with old friends and relatives. It was a sad and happy time.

Larísa came to my mind today for no apparent reason, until I checked the date. Two years ago, on another chilly, blustery morning in March, our dear friend Larísa retired from our lives. I loved her blog, and I would like to take the opportunity to remind her that retirement isn't the same as death. It isn't permanent. I would love to see Larísa come back for a few weeks, to have her opinion on the changes to our lives in Azeroth, to swap stories in the inn, and to catch up. Here's hoping.

Postscript: The Pink Pigtail Inn is no more. It disappeared near the end of May 2013. The hostname no longer brings us to Larísa's Inn. Mages can still peer through its cobwebbed windows into the now dark, cold interior by using the WayBack Machine.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Why is the rum gone?

A long time ago, back when the Hillbrad Foothills were contested territory, I used to hang out drinking milk and shooting the breeze with my favourite barman, old Barkeep Kelly in Southshore. He's not there any more, wiped out by the horde scum during the Cataclysm. But I still visit him every few months, by going back in time. I go to the Caverns of Time, and revisit the past: Old Hillsbrad, as it used to be, back when Kelly was young. But the conversation isn't the same, any more. He no longer has the wisdom that age brings, and he has no knowledge of the future that is our present. He's trapped in an endless recycling of past events. His conversation is starting to get tedious and repetitive.

But he does have one thing from those days that is great: Rumsay Rum Black Label. That stuff packs a punch! I always brought empty bags with me when I visited him in the Caverns of Time, filled them with rum and brought it all back for Fuill, my banker and battle-ground enthusiast. For you see, Rumsay Rum Black Label may get you drunk, but it also gives a +15 Stamina buff.

Or rather, I should say that it did. For the recipe seems to have been subtly changed, and the buff was silently removed a fortnight ago. I'm sorry to say that Old Hillsbrad will have few visitors in future.

Farewell and adieu to you, young Barkeep Kelly. 
Farewell and adieu, you Barkeep of old. 
For we've received orders for to sail back to Stormwind. 
And so nevermore shall we see you again.

On the other hand, I predict we will be making new friends in Halaa. The conversation is always good with Halaani Whiskey.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Googlereader, schmooglereader

A lot of people are, not surprisingly, getting worked up about Google getting rid of their RSS feed reader. I sympathize. But I'm much more concerned about other services that might be withdrawn. Like iTunes, or Steam, for instance. How many games have you on Steam that you couldn't play if steam were to disappear? Or withdraw their service. Or just withdraw their service to you! The Evil Empire that is EA Games already threatened to cut one of their users off from all his games on Origin if he cancelled his credit-card payment for Sim City.

Of course, I don't think Steam would stoop to such threats, but all the same, I can envisage situations were you can't access your games because of a problem with Steam's service. And I don't mean temporary interruptions of service, such as might happen if a mechanical digger cut through an optical cable or a virus (or a hacker) cleaned all their computers (and databases). Something more permanent. For instance, bankruptcy. Or buy-out. I'm sure a future purchaser of Steam (such as EA Games) could find a way to stop supporting games that it doesn't want to support.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

20 days of gold making - day 20 - must-read blogs

Nev asksLets spread some blog love - which are your 'must read' or 'go to' gold blogs or even other places you go for information & reading matter?

Do you know, I'm no longer a big reader of gold blogs now. I think the original Just My Two Copper site, while Markco was running it, was excellent. I really learned a lot from Markco. Monmar isn't doing too bad a job there, now. I still read Markco, on his GW2 site Guild Wars 2 Trading Post, where he carries on his amazing work.

My favourite place for economic information now is I especially love the fact that you can get feeds of the data to import into spreadsheets or other software. In fact, I reorganized all my crafting spreadsheets to make use of it.

I also read from time to time. It's full of solid info.

Apart from that, as I said, I don't read a lot of gold blogs lately, so it has been a pleasure to be introduced to so many that I didn't know about in the 20 days series.

Finally, I'd like to thank Nev for starting the series in the first place!

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

20 days of gold making - day 19 - rewards

Nev asks Have you bought yourself anything really expensive as a reward for earning all that gold? Or do you have a self-present in mind for when you reach your goal?

I've treated myself liberally! I started making gold in order to have the money to buy anything I wanted, and as a result, I bought anything I wanted! And what do I want? Well, I like raiding, so I've bought myself things that help with raiding: mostly expensive gear or tailoring patterns. Each patch, I'll buy myself whatever crafted gear will help me. Also, gems, enchants (or enchanting recipes and mats), flasks, potions, food; whatever will give me an edge. I'll also buy whatever will make my life easier: the Traveller's Tundra Mammoth.

But I've also bought plenty of fun items: I buy virtually every mount I come across (including Mekgineer's Chopper and the Vial of the Sands), and various potions and items of transformation, just for the crack.

I sometimes buy gifts for guildies, but rarely gifts that are useful for raiding. Pets or mounts, usually (I did once buy a dear friend a Relic of Xuen).

In short, I spend my gold liberally. that's why I got it.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series.

Friday, 8 March 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 18 - Advice

Nev asksWhat is the most important bit of advice you could give to a new gold maker? (not a game newbie though, just a newbie gold maker)

"Buy low, sell normal" was always Markco's favourite slogan. That's a good one, but I've something more basic.

It may seem obvious, but the best advice I can give is enjoy yourself. If you aren't having fun in and around your gold making, you won't keep it up. Of course that doesn't mean that every second has to be fun: nobody ever enjoyed milling herbs to make inks to make glyphs. But if you can be doing these things in an enjoyable setting, it will make it easier. For instance, your milling might take place in the few minutes between queueing for an instance and getting in; or while waiting for your raid group to assemble; a time when you've nothing better to do,anyway, and you get to feel you aren't wasting your time during these waits. Or you might be gathering your herbs or ores or leather or fish or meats while running daily quests you'd already be doing (rather than setting out specifically to gather stuff).

Or you might have a pleasurable goal in mind that lessens the pain of the dull bits of gold-making. Enjoying yourself might be as simple as being able to point to the progress you made towards some goal, whether it's a long-term one like "hit the gold cap" or a short-term one like "make enough flasks so that I've plenty to post on raid day".

Some people camp the Auction House. You might enjoy that for a few weeks or even a few month, but believe me, in the long-term, you need to be adventuring in Azeroth, or you'll tire of it. Get out and have fun.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Home is where the hearth is

Tesh's article Private Islands reminded me that we still have no housing in Azeroth, and the Sunsong Ranch is a poor substitute. His suggestion is excellent: Outland, that abandoned strange world through the Dark Portal, is full of islands floating in the air off the main coast. How about generating millions of these (procedurally is fine) and letting adventurers build their homes or castles here?

I don't think it will happen. I think Blizzard want to have control over the aesthetics of the open world, and don't trust us not to build giant penises on our islands. They would be right, there. I think the Sunsong Ranch shows the direction in which Blizzard would take private housing, if they ever chose to implement it: a privately instanced area in which you may make some decisions about what to put where, from a limited range of options.

All the same, it would be nice if the building blocks were there to allow us to express our creativity, such as it is, in our privately instanced areas. Wouldn't it be great if, Minecraft-like, we could build a house to our own design out at the back of the ranch? In Minecraft, of course, many people have built giant penises in their private world, but many more have built homes and structures of real beauty. Moreover, there's something satisfying about creating your own home, and putting your stamp upon it. Making a place in the world your home, even if it's instanced.

But once you've built your home, what can you do with it? Well, you could add useful work-rooms: a forge, a smithy, a mill (for automatically milling herbs into pigments), an alchemy lab, and so on. You could add display cabinets where you can display loot that brings back fond memories: Omokk's head, for instance, or the Gordok Ogre Suit.

 Or you might create a beautiful home to relax in and admire. And what if you'd like to show off your home? In Minecraft, you can invite others to your private world, by opening your server to others you invite. Wouldn't it be cool if you could do the same with your instanced home in Azeroth? How about if you could? How about if you could open a portal and take your party into your instance? Or, say, there was a portal stone inside your home that you could use to summon party members?

At the moment, your hearthstone takes you to an inn of your choosing. Soon you'll be able to hearth to your instance of the Sunsong Ranch. But wouldn't it be great if you could create hearthstones, or portal stones, that you could give to other adventurers, so they could visit your home, even when you aren't online?

Once you start thinking along these lines, there are other things to consider. Each such hearthstone has to be uniquely linked to your instanced home, and be distinguishable, so that for instance I can distinguish between a hearthstone that takes me to John's house and a hearthstone that takes me to Mary's (you might call them "invitations" rather than "hearthstones").

And how about if I could put them on the auction house? Maybe my work of art is so beautiful or thought-provoking or fun that people will pay me to visit, just as they pay to visit an art gallery or a museum. Now I have a new career: artist! And I must keep developing my collection to attract repeat visitors, opening new wings to house the new pieces of art. Or it could be a funfair I built, or a puzzle, or a pleasure garden where people can relax together and shoot the breeze.

What would you build?

I'm so enthused about this that just in case Blizzard like the idea, but are wary of using an idea that I might later claim ownership of, I hereby give up my rights to any and all ideas in this article and permit anyone freely to make full use of any or all of them, either as they are or in any form of adaptation. Just make it happen, please!

Sunsong Ranch

This post is part of Cold's Gold Blogging Carnival

Cold asked "What are you currently doing with your Sunsong Ranch?"

Good question, Cold. I'm letting the tumble-weeds blow through mine. I used to farm it diligently, clearing rocks and weeds, expanding the farm, planting seeds and looking after the crops. Not now. I realized I'm not all that interested in being Farmer Yoon's lackey. I haven't seen that lazy wretch lift a single finger to help. Also, I'm not too keen on the rest of the community. They seem to like you only if you're giving them things. So these days I stay away from the ranch.

I used to farm while I was levelling my cooking to 600, and the farm was good for raising ingredients. Well, I'm a master of Pandaren cooking now, though still haven't completed the quest "To be a master". I suppose I should, for the banquets. All the same, I can't be bothered right now. I've a ton of other stuff to be getting on with including trying to win just one battle in the Silvershards Mines for Wrathion, trying to kill the Stone Guard with my guild, trying to kill Blade Lord Ty'ak with my raid team, and trying to kill Warlord Bloodhilt (which will probably require the help of my guild or my raid team).

Maybe later I'll get back to the Ranch, if ever I get the time, or if I get short of money. Who said money doesn't grow on trees?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

20 Days of Gold Making - Day 17 - Pets

Nev asksPets - Did you used to do the Vendor pet sales? How have pet battles changed things for you?

There was a time when vendor pets were a big source of income. I even had an employee in Booty Bay whose job it was to buy horde pets  and sell alliance pets on the Blackwater Auction House. I also used to take a trip out to Stormspire to buy shedloads of pets there to mail to my banker, Fuill. And Fuill, herself, as an engineer, made some dough selling mechanical squirrels and the like. Those days are long gone. There was a time when you might sell 10 pets to an adventurer and his entourage of family and friends. Now, they are happy to share one between them, and when pets became heirloom-style items suddenly there was a rush of newly unwanted pets in everyone's pet journal. And since they could now be boxed and sold, that's exactly what happened to them.

Pet battles have changed the kind of pets that people want. Rare-quality 'blue' pets are important, common-quality 'white' pets are not. Does anyone collect pets just to have them now? I'm not sure. I think even collectors want to replace white pets with blues when they buy, though uncommon pets will always sell. I know there is a market for trained pets, and for blue pets, but white vendor pets just aren't in the same demand as they used to be. I didn't bother learning the new market for pets. I just pulled out.

Part of the 20 days of Gold Making series.

Monday, 4 March 2013

What is free experience for? A KV-1, of course!

I think you can probably guess what happened next after Friday's post, More Fun with Tanks. The clincher was double crew XP over the weekend. So I consigned my T-46 to the dustbin of history, and got a KV-1 by spending my free XP for the research. Then I noticed that the KV-1's engine can be upgraded to the same engine the T-28. That was the nail in the coffin for the T-28 as well, and I sold it, cannibalized the engine for my KV-1 and finally bought the StuG III. I trained both crews to 75% and set off to do battle.

Both fared pretty well, despite not having any module upgrades yet. The Sturmgeschütz is very fast: too fast for a tank destroyer! I keep getting too far ahead of my team; you would think I was playing a scout instead of front-line support. The KV-1 has the opposite problem: too slow. Still, both are good fun. I still need to get the hang of them, though. Once I've played more matches with each I'll be in a better position to evaluate them. Still, at least I never have to look at the T-28 again.

Friday, 1 March 2013

More Fun with Tanks

I've been slowly changing the tanks in my garage. When I last mentioned World of Tanks, I'd just bought the AMX-38 because it was on sale, and spurred on by the fact that it kept killing my tier two tanks when I met it. But since then, I haven't met a single AMX-38 in a tier II or III battle. I'n not surprised. Probably everybody who bought one has since sold it. They're rubbish when picking on somebody their own size. I sold mine. I suppose I could have got an AMX-40 instead, but I didn't. Instead, I fell for's next sale item, the Valentine, which of course was on sale for Valentine's day. I quite liked it, a solid enough tank, with a reasonable gun. I played it quite a bit, but in the end, I didn't love it as much as I love the Hetzer.

Envy was the reason I got the Hetzer. Every time I met it in battle, I'd found it impervious to my shots, and it could kill me as if it were swatting a fly. And it has lived up to its reputation. I love it. But against higher tier tanks, as I noted, I have to carry a couple of expensive premium shells (2800 credits per HEAT shell, compared to 60 credits for normal AP shells) if I need to be sure of damaging them. When I'm in a life or death battle with a tier 5 tank, I load a HEAT shell and pray he doesn't kill me before it's ready.

Not against KV-1s, though. I never use premium shells against them. They just bounce off the Russian KV-1, as if they were tennis balls. When I see one of these monsters, I "run away, little girl, run away". Wilhelm Arcturus had the same experience in his French B1. Just as envy brought me to the Hetzer, the little green monster has been whispering to me "you should get a KV-1". This is why my garage is not still populated with tier I and II tanks. Envy is leading me upward. I don't know why I give in, because I know that there's a tier VI tank out there that will make mincemeat of the KV-1, and will in turn be eaten alive by some other tank. I know this intellectually. But my lizard brain tells me "Get a KV-1. I want a KV-1".

I held out against the lizard. You see, I've already got eight tanks I like in my garage, and I've no space for more. There was no tank I wanted to get rid of to make room for the climb to the KV-1. That was, until last weekend's special offer: half price garage slots.

Until now, I've been a freeloader in World of Tanks, playing for free, happy to accept my role as target practice for paying accounts (not many of them in tier II battles anyway). I've never minded not having gold tanks, and as I can get premium ammo with in-game credits rather than gold, I've the same opportunity to use them as everyone else. And I don't need a premium account for the extra XP, since I've never minded "levelling" slowly. But two things I need are more garage space, and more barracks space; and they are only available for gold (and gold is not available in-game). But when I saw last week's offer of half price garage slots, I couldn't resist it, and bought 5500 gold for €19.95. Then I bought two garage slots. One for the KV-1 (and its predecessors) and one spare (eventually for my StuG-III)

Then I started working my way up the Soviet tree. The MS-1 I already had. In fact it's my most successful tank, after the Hetzer. The next in line was the T-26. I got this as a throwaway tank. It looks and feels just like the Vickers Mk. E Type B which I already have. I paid as few credits as possible to get to the next tank in the tree, the T-46, which then filled my last garage slot. My plan was to level the T-46, then replace the T-26 with the tank after the T-46, the T-28. But once I had researched the T-28, and went to delete the T-26, well I had to fight one last battle with it. And in that battle, I killed five enemy tanks and changed the course of the battle. And that's with a crew who are 50% trained. They must have known their jobs were on the line. So the reaper passed over them as I looked for another tank to sacrifice, cursing myself that I hadn't bought more garage slots while the buying was good.

What about the T-46, then? I could just sell it and press on. But they were in no mood for surrender either, and in a battle in Province, killed 4 tanks and won the match by invading and holding the enemy base alone.

Well, I guess I could look at the rest of my stable. The American T-18 is great fun, but perhaps its time has come. I took it out for a last spin. In Mines, it captured the hill and rained death upon the enemy, until it stood alone against four others. The siren went, and I knew the enemy were in my base, so I came down from the hill and found two reds in the base, at 86% capture. That frontal armour is amazing! Downed both of those, thanks to the fast reload speed of the two-pounder gun (thank goodness I wasn't equipped with the howitzer that day) and then came across a third enemy as I made my way to their base. He left me with 5% health but he died. 

I knew the last enemy was somewhere near his base, because I'd seen him take out the last of my comrades from cover behind rocks. I'd waited to see if I could kill him, but then came the siren and I had to leave him behind. Now I decided to approach from the island, which is the best route for protecting side armour when you get near the base: there are plenty of rocks to provide cover as you motor forward. Fortunately he'd stayed near his base, and was skulking behind some sheds. I poked my nose over the flag circle and started counting down the win. He was in a bad situation. He had to come out or lose the match. As my proximity detector told me he was behind the sheds, I guess his told me where I was, and he deduced that I could tell exactly where he was, so he knew he couldn't surprise me. He'd just have to come out and hit me before I could hit him. He came out. I hit him. He blew up.

That run of good fortune continued all morning. Each tank, when faced with the chop, reminded me just why I loved it. In the end, though, something had to give. And it was the T-26. I reflected that it was just the same as the Vickers in handling; and I had spent the minimum on it just to get past it; and I could easily buy another at any time; and the crew were only at 50% anyway. So the T-26 went out the door, and the T-28 came in.

The T-28 is the last tank before the KV-1. But the research costs of the KV-1 are 13500 XP, plus 1050 XP for prerequisites. That's a lot of battles. So I got the crew trained to 75%, in expectation of being in the T-28 for a long time. But now that I'm in it, I don't really think much of it, and I'm considering using my accumulated free XP to go directly to the KV-1. After all, when will I ever get better use for the free XP? I'll think over it for a few days, and see if I can find something to love in the T-28.

Current tanks:
Vickers Mk. E Type B
Hotchkiss H35
PzKpfw 35 (t)