Piloting, from hercs to mechs.

Piloting, from hercs to mechs.
A running recap of what I'm doing for fun, between active duty flying, technology, gadgets, and some of my favorite games.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Back in the land of low ping...what lessons carry over?

I am so happy to report that I am back in the States with my wonderful wife, no longer stuck in Iraq or Kuwait.  So, with our U-Verse internet, I do not have the same latency or bandwidth concerns whatsoever.  (I have had some serious changes to my account, and I am now playing on Medivh server when able.)  I make it a point to learn long-term, applicable lessons in every adversity.  Here are some of the things that carry over nicely as I transition back into a stateside environment.

If you play on a limited schedule because of family, work, or business like I do...almost everything other than mechanics will apply.  Why is that?  Because I often must be able to simply drop whatever I'm doing in-game for something more pressing or important IRL.
Let's expand.  As a healer, I understand that my role is to be there to facilitate a group as they work toward a goal.  Traditionally, this means healing a heroic instance, a raid, or a PVP battleground or arena team.  Since I've been forced to focus on PVE for so long, that is my passion.  I do not always have time for a heroic, because I have set a boundary as a casual player.  How so?  I intentionally label WoW as my "HOBBY"...and much like other hobbies, I do not allow it to monopolize my time when I would rather be spending quality time with my wife, family, or friends.  The in-game effects are: I have to be doing something that I can terminate immediately without letting people down.  I don't want to be constantly leaving instances midstream or leaving guildies hanging.  I had to once this week and I felt bad.
So, what do I do?  I efficiently manage time on the AH with TSM.  I used rested exp to finish leveling a new toon, Smoogehunt.  Even as impressive, I maxed out jewelcrafting and inscription on that toon.  (Those professions were my motivation for starting the character in the first place.)  I efficiently complete daily quests on my DK and gather at the same time (currently in Deepholm for 1 more day to exalted, then probably Hyjal or Uldum).
I also gather quickly for very basic mats...right now, Uldum is a cash cow.  With the max flying speed on a Tauren DK, I can pick up 4 or 5 stacks of Whiptail in 20 minutes, and that will also inevitably be enough Volatile Life for my daily transmute to Volatile Air.
I complete a daily jewelcrafting quest, and I have accumulated 5 profitable patterns already.

Bottom line?  With a sporadic schedule, and only bursts of playable time at random times during the day, I purchased Staff of Dark Mending for the priest at 18,000 gold.  Enchanting is maxed and I self-enchanted the new staff with Power Torrent (not cheap).  I am now back up to around 12,000 gold, and that is after purchasing 6 heirloom items from the guild vendor (for the new leveling project Smoogebear).
I have not run as many heroic instances as I anticipated, but I correctly gemmed and reforged every single piece of gear for Disc, according to my research and guild suggestions.  I have accumulated 3 new 345 item level pieces, and I plan to purchase a Sandstone Drake within a week or so.  This is all with about 30 minutes played on average each day.

Three 85 characters, plenty of heirloom gear for my next toons, a priest that is gearing up nicely and a DK that can pull weight in heroics (thanks to the BOE maces from ZG that sell for 1200 gold now...Hercpilot has two of those and a good PVE DW frost spec).

I am really big on systems for success.  In business, this is very important...true residual or passive income can only come from a successful system, not raw amounts of effort.  And that applies so well to WoW as a gaming hobby!  My system involves efficiency tools like TradeSkillMaster and Auctionator, a good UI that carries well for multiple classes, clear boundaries regarding playtime (so I don't have to feel guilty about playing), and the knowledge of how to get the biggest bang for every minute I'm logged on.  I know there are higher levels of AH, raiding, or PVP success available...but I am very happy because I can still enjoy my favorite game without a 3 hour per day requirement.

As a caviat, I want to thank Krrang of Alchanon for welcoming me so warmly on a new server.  If you haven't heard his podcast, you really should check out "Love to the Guild Leader" on iTunes.  And congrats on level 25!  I hear they just dinged about 12 hours ago.  I plan to post some more on leveling tunes quickly and how that might apply to overseas/deployed/crappy-connection gameplay, so rest assured I am carrying on the specific strength of this blog.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A game within a game...and a lot of RL application.

OK, this is a quick post, but there will be a lot of follow-on.

I just started playing the AH, using my 4 maxed professions, and a few new powerful addons and resources.
1. TSM (TradeSkillMaster)
2. Call2Auction podcast
3. The Consortium site

I'm heading into work now, but might be able to elaborate in a little bit.

One of the better decisions I've made recently was leveling an alt to 85.  I'm happy with the decision to take herbing and mining, but just like real life, the real money does NOT come from trading hours for dollars (or gold).  There's more to be made if you're willing to take advantage of the market, your individual skills, and tools and training...just like real life.  Seeing a trend?
In this case, I'm talking about the potential profit of the AH combined with professions and addons like TSM (TradeSkillMaster) and Auctionator.

Up until today, this was me: Go gather as quickly as possible.  Smelt the ore and sell the bars.  Use the herbs to make flasks and sell them.  Eripedes from Call2Auction makes a great point: at some point, it is completely more profitable to use the AH and your professions versus spending time gathering.  For me, that point is undeniably now. 

I've been doing hours of research, reading tutorials, and listening to podcasts to start understanding what to actually DO to make gold with the AH.  Today I began using TSM, using Eripedes' basic setup tutorial.
Here's what I accomplished today:
I figured out how to automatically queue up alchemy recipes.
I figured out how to set up automatic posting of my flasks.
I figured out how to search for the required gems for my alchemy transmutes.

Here's what I really wish I had:
A jewelcrafter to prospect ore.
A good use for my 525 enchanter.
Proof that the TSM pricing I'm using is actually going to work on my server.
A TSM strategy that will earn at least 2000g each day.

Some good things I've found that are already helping me out:
Automatically posting auctions at a set price below competition allows me to post large quantities of multiple items very quickly, knowing that I am undercutting everyone without posting too low.  Also, the answers to all of my questions are out there, and the Consortium guys have put together an awesome community that seems relatively friendly to brand new WoW entrepreneurs.

I am still unsure how TSM determines the cost of the mats, although I'm setting up posts at a threshold of 105% of crafting cost anyways, based on guidance from Eripedes.  I have about 5k worth of auctions up right now, so I'll post the results when I finish up at the squadron.  Go figure, no WoW on NIPR computers.

There are some great parallels here, though.  What you can do using the AH as a platform for profit is conceptually similar to finding a way to take yourself out of the "ditch-digger" categories that the bots and farmers occupy.  I've heard many times from my mentors that the main element in success is the way you think.  An average man could be a doctor or a janitor, and the difference between the two is simply the way they think.  An average player could be gold limited or have an abundance of options, and we all know that everybody starts the game at level 1.  Some people have all day to play, and some people have only a few hours each week.  The crazy thing is that some of those time-limited players are gold capped.  And a whole lot of those people that log 40 or more hours a week are flat broke (probably IRL too).  My goal is to set myself up for a profitable strategy that will work on a bare minimum time requirement, because I have a lot of RL priorities that will go above my virtual wallet...such as my wife, my family, business, and my job.  I still want to excel at my hobby though, and this is THE best chance at a win-win as I finish my second deployment.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More WoW, deployment style...lessons learned

More fun with limited networks, tunneling, and “alt productivity” while in the desert.
  • The network setup in our “free internet” areas has forced me to find an alternative to HighPingBuster and other PuTTy tunnels.I am having very good luck with Your-Freedom and OpenVPN.I even purchased a Basic plan and it is worth $6.
  • Hercpilot is now level 85, with completely maxed herbalism and mining, and a 310 speed mount.He pretty much paid for himself, and herb farming is showing some serious potential.
  • High latency herbalism/mining is a new kind of farming.You need to make some changes, and there are some helpful addons I’m using as well.
  • A cry for help: Does anybody know of a viable satellite internet solution for future deployments for either an individual or a very small group of troops?I am having a really hard time finding anything remotely inexpensive and portable.
Before I start, here is a new rule I have for my characters: Don’t logout in Org. If your connection sucks when you try to get back in, you might find yourself making a new alt. The world latency in Org is considerably higher than most other zones, probably because of the bandwidth requirements.
Over here in Iraq, two of the the three routers that are set up for internet use for the troops automatically block PuTTy tunneling. This is the exact connection that HPB uses, and most of the time I am unable to connect to WoW through 2/3 of the available networks. The remaining router is usually the slower of the three, too. Skype, web browsing on common sites like google and facebook, and iTunes all work pretty well on those networks, so I knew that it was just a matter of finding a way around the preset blocks. I am quite pleased with Your-Freedom!
Small caviat: if you’re trying to log into Paypal through a tunnel, it will automatically limit your account and you will be unable to use it. My wonderful wife helped me set up the Your-Freedom account over skype, using the screen sharing function. She did great, and Y-F works wonderfully.
Setting up OpenVPN is easy, and requires a simple manual setting of the DNS on the TAP-Win32 adapter that it automatically installs. Configuring Y-F to use OpenVPN is equally simple, and that setup will allow me to browse the internet, log on to WoW, skype, download music, and even TORRENT uninhibited!
My initial tests indicate that there is slightly higher latency, but only slightly in game. Also, I did some research and found that “world” and “home” latency are different. From now on, the only one I care about is “world” latency, which is the factor for most of the send-receive functions in the game. The “home” latency only affects functions like chat, which probably explains why I can have a full conversation with a buddy on b.net while my character can’t even autoattack due to lag.

My official alt, Hercpilot, is now 85 with two maxed gathering professions and the fastest flying mount you can get. He is a DK, and leveling was fun in and of itself. I got to appreciate much of the 80-85 storyline, which I initially rushed through during late-night hours when cataclysm first launched and I wanted to get Smoogee to 85. I took time to read some of the dialogue and, probably because of lag, I followed the storyline in each zone. A good in-game friend, Kyle Rudd, hooked my toon up with a FULL set of redsteel gear AND a 2-H wpn that lasted me well through 84. The toon is still wearing most of that gear. Due to mob difficulty and latency, I switched between blood and unholy specs for most of the leveling process. I also want to point out that gathering is a good way to augment experience gains while leveling, especially with a DK. I got a flying mount promptly at 60, and it was a very quick grind to increase my gathering professions to a compatible level with outlands, northrend, and cata. It really makes gathering more viable for everyone, because you can FLY in the low-level zones now!! No more jumping around a mountain for an hour trying to get to a tough-to-reach iron node!
Gathering on a low-bandwidth, high-latency connection: It is not as easy as my U-verse connection at home, but sometimes it’s all I can do when the connection isn’t good. Here are things I’ve learned about gathering in these poor conditions.
If mobs are loaded in the area directly under you, herbs and ore will be showing on your minimap if they are present. That simple fact is how I can gauge when to stop and hover or when to blast through an area. One good strategy is to scan ahead of your character...if the mobs, critters, and NPCs ahead of you are loaded already, then you are receiving a good “feed” on nodes and you just need to continue until one pops up on your screen. If you don’t see any red, green, or yellow nameplates, you’re probably missing nodes. With an 1800ms world latency and decent bandwidth, your game will load NPCs and nodes slightly slower than you can fly. This is key: if you have the bandwidth, farming is easier. If you have the latency but low bandwidth, you need to let the game “cache”. Often, I’ll find that when I stop for one node, others will “appear” while I’m hitting that one.
Addons will help you. I highly recommend that you get rid of Gatherer and start using GatherMate2. GM2 has a Data file that will show all the nodes, and I think that is the best gathering addon out there for cata. I LOVE SimpleMiniMap v4, because it allows me to scale my minimap to 200% and it is compatible with ElvUI. This is a big part of my gathering strategy: I can see nodes clearly when they appear, and I navigate almost entirely off my minimap so it is easy to follow a pre-determined route. The simple code to make it the way I set it up is this: /smm scale 2. /smm skins skin 2. That is 200% and square.
I have not experimented with view distance and gathering nodes, but I will tomorrow after my flight tonight...(sigh, and after server downtime)
Lessons for you farmers: people still bot, apparently.  My experience so far is that the bots are relatively unconfrontational and will not approach you if you are already near a node.  Also, I have had no problem finding whiptail nodes whatsoever on Smolderthorn, even with what seem to be two other active farmers in Uldum.  It was respawning so quickly yesterday that I gathered 12 stacks in about an hour. That is a ton of herbs. Twilight Jasmine seems to be quite rare, though, and in the time I could farm a stack of that, I would already have 4 or 5 stacks of whiptail.