Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Taste of Things To Come - Part 2

Note: Again, I want to reiterate that I'm not Sayge the fortune-teller and it has happened that Blizzard decided to change the rules I had based my assertions on literally a few days or even a few hours after I have written posts. So I might be shooting myself in the foot and various other body parts, but hey now you're warned so we're cool, right ? Right.

Moving forward from my last post, let's look directly at gold-making IN - THE - FUTUUUUURE. (So I've been listening to some old cheesy movies recently, so what ?)

We'll have:

  • Patch 4.3
  • SWTOR exodus and Holiday Lull
  • Exodus to Diablo III
  • Stocking Up phase for the next expansion
  • Summer Lull
  • ? (Fall 2012)

Patch 4.3
We're still getting details on what will happen in there, but there's 2 things that will be sticking out: Transmogrification and Epic Gems.
Transmogging will be the New Cool and will will be followed very strongly in MoP, so I don't know why people wouldn't get on that train because the possibilities are so vast it's overwhelming to stand in front of Wowhead's database and think that you have to look at everything in there with a new angle.
It warps the mind a little bit (and by 'little bit', I mean 'a whole fucking lot').

As far as gear outlets, we'll get:
  • new gear from the 3 new 5-mans
  • 3 pieces of Valor Points Firelands gear dropping down to Justice Points
  • PvP season gear dropping down to Honor Points (hypothetically)
  • new gear from the Dragon Soul raid and the Valor Point gear vendor
The usual gold-making staples will be in demand : gems, enchants, armor kits and bow and gun enhancements.
Jewelcrafters have their necklaces and rings upgraded to the new PvP hotness (meh, but I'll be the first to chuck a couple of each on the AH - that seemed to work for me the last time this happened).

A Vision of the 4.3 Gem-taclysm
Now I'd be quick to conclude that because Epic gems are arriving this late in an expansion (because this will be the last raiding content) I would say it's a big non-event filled with a whole lot of hot air, with some players (not all) wondering why they would dump all of their gold in these upgrades instead of rares as the next expansion is showing it's head, with all that quick gear replacement it will entail.
Yeah some players will make their money with the gems and it's all good.
But the interesting part this time around with the gems is that we currently don't know if Epic gems will be available from other sources than the geode drops from the Dragon Soul raid.
With Ghostcrawler's cryptic bit of info and nothing else being datamined and confirmed, we could very well be facing the scenario of having to deal with that single source.

Now THAT would be interesting.
If this happens, it will be a nice little experiment from Blizzard and I'm eager to watch the developments.
We can already predict some of the effects...

Just imagine: on Patch Day, thousands of Jewelcrafters rush to the trainer to learn as many Epic Designs as their token limit permits... and they just stand there, and wait for raw Epic gems to magically appear in their bags.
The ones who have been waiting, praying, shouting at the four corners of the interwebs for more than a year of the arrival of their in-game monetary Savior... they can't get their hands on a single gem!
Oh!, the crying and anger and braying and nerd rage that would fill the forums...
Oh!, the Blue posts telling everyone as diplomatically as possible ''You were warned, guys'' and pointing everyone to the new Raid Finder system and saying ''Epic gems are in there and we've made them really easy to get - go get them''.
Oh!, the entitled smug replies that will follow !...

But enough about my fantasies...
There will most likely be another source for Epic gems either by the time of the patch or in a mini-patch in the future when they'll apply the incoming nerfbat to the Dragon Soul raid...
Most likely.

Holiday Lull
Like most lulls, things will go up and down on the Auction House.
To make things interesting, some players will leave for a brief vacation to SWTOR, some will go play Skyrim (I've been told it's a big deal, but I don't believe the hype), University-type players will be back for a couple of months and kids will be back for Holiday vacation.
Chaos and shenanigans will ensue - a semblance of balance and normalcy will return mid-January as raiders manage to clear the Normal Dragon Soul content and try Heroic modes.
That lull will be the time for gold-makers to have fun, experiment with items that don't usually sell and boost some markets that will have been left wide open by the regular players.

The Great Diablo III Exodus
Whenever D3 will come out, you'll have the aforementioned lull effects happen again, but this time it might be from fellow gold-makers.
As we are all aware by now, the siren's song of the Real Money Auction House will attract the skilled auctioneers as they will use all of the tricks of the trade to attempt to cash in on Blizzard's offer.
Whether people will able to purchase gold-coated teeth apparel on eBay from that experiment is yet to be seen.
But what is sure is that many of them will be leaving WoW's Auction Houses empty of their presence as they try to beat the random drop and stat system of Diablo III.
If you notice that effect on your server, think 'Screw D3 - acquire currency' and get to it.

Preparing to part the Mists
To welcome a new era, we must get rid of our old ways of thinking, we must shed our skin, we must leave our possessions behind... and that means some major Cataclysm item dumping.

Okay I'm gonna ask you to try to think back at the months before Cataclysm.
Do you remember that a lot of markets completely crashed because people were getting rid of a ton of stockpiled items ?
What you need to consider and evaluate is the time to sell those items at the highest profit possible, both before the market crash and a few months down the road of Mists of Pandaria, when players will level their alts and alts tradeskills.
When markets will go down, you'll have to evaluate the cheapest possible price for some items to buy and stockpile for later.
Yeah, it's been like that for every single expansion in the past.

Example: remember how Eternal Shadow was going for about 1g a piece for the longest of times in the last part of Wrath ?
Remember when Cataclysm came and people dumped stacks of them at 1g per stack ?
Notice how today the market is up to 20g per Eternal Shadow ?
That's just one of many examples of how I've been making some of my money - with past expansions' items.

People will be dumping their items when they realize that no other content will be coming until the next expansion, when we learn of an Alpha test happening, when the Beta testing will start, when the official release date will be announced for Mists of Pandaria.
And there will also be the people who didn't think of getting rid of their items until MoP's Launch Day as well as returning players who cancelled their subscriptions after they got bored of the 4.2 content.

So selling and buying Cata stuff - watch for your server's mood and you'll get your timing right.

Perfect timing

Why not get into it right now ?
I mean, as long as I'm thinking of all of that, I might as well think already of all the stuff that might happen...

Have you been stockpiling Blackfallow Ink, by any chance ?
Remember that Ink of the Sea was the Wrath equivalent and was also used as currency at the Ink Vendor ?
Remember that as of patch 4.0.3, Blackfallow Ink became the new currency ?
While it's okay and even reasonable to keep a bunch of them to craft glyphs in the next expansion, people that will try to find a way to get rid of them later will have very limited avenues on what to do with them and everyone will be competing to do the same thing, that market will not become profitable because of incessant undercutting...
Well, you get the picture.

If Cataclysm enchanting materials take the same route as the Wrath ones did, Hypnotic Dust will be worth stockpiling, as well as the Celestial Essences.

Another thing you can prepare for, both for yourself and other people's moves: Mists of Pandaria crafting leveling.
People with crafting mats still in their bags will probably start leveling their crafting with the items that they already have in their possession before scouring the vast unexplored continent of Pandaria.
I'd look at the high level craftable items that we currently have and save just enough mats to get those beginning points.
I'd also look at those items to know what to look for in the Auction House when people will do that and flood the markets with those items that no one wants to buy - but you just might.
I wouldn't stockpile with the perspective of providing mats for the people that want to level their crafts because they'll be way too much supply already available cheaply by that point in time.

Pet Battle System - You're already on this, right ?
Gotta admire Blizzard's elementium-coated balls to almost directly point-by-point insert Pokemon in their game - and do with a straight face.
It was amazing to see the reaction of the audience at Blizzcon as everyone connected the dots and Cory Stockton was pushing even further.

Either you get it or you don't

You got what you asked for, guys.
It's been years that people have been asking for an in-game mini-game to kill time while waiting for a raid to start or for your queue to pop up, so that's what we got.
Now I don't know about you, but pet sales have been crazy since Blizzcon.
(And I also mean crazy in the way that tons of vendor-bought pets are in the AH and people are undercutting each other, even to the point of selling for less than the vendor price...)
Right as the Pet Battle System was being explained, was being mauled by viewers like it was a patch day (and is crashing almost daily from all the traffic!).
Tons of people going through their collections to find out what pets they were missing !
There's never been a bigger or better incentive for people to get their in-game pets before they start getting traded and leveled.
But you already knew this because you're on this right now, right ?

Peering through the Mists
Yeah there's a bunch of stuff that we can assume about the content of the next expansion, like that the Talent System re-haul and the removal of Relic slots will cause a huge change in the Inscription skill and Glyph market, but that's not something I would worry about or think too much about until we have more info on the direction that Blizzard will be taking.
The Cataclysm expansion has been one of surprises and a lot of molds have been broken, both to the surprise and dismay of many.
Guessing Blizzard's next steps is getting trickier, but it's all part of the game and the gold-maker has to adapt to everything's that being thrown at him and find a way to profit from any situation - even if you're looking waaaaaaaay out INTO - THE - FUTUUUUUUURE!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Taste of Things To Come - Part 1

Hey a video that has a line that's relevant to my article and some kung fu fighting! Excellent!

With the Blizzcon event out of the way and our heads reeling from all the info we've been fed, it's time to make some predictions.
I'm not too good at doing that usually, but I think there are some reasonable assumptions that we can make without hurting ourselves.

*grabs his crystal ball*

Obvious Stuff

First, we'll get the 4.3 Demon Soul patch in November. (All signs are pointing to that so far.)
A patch cycle usually lasts 3 months - the good raiders clear the content by that time at least on Normal mode and are banging their heads on the Heroic encounters.
Then people start losing interest and a general grumble starts to emanate from the masses about not enough content content coming their way and general assumptions about Blizzard's staff.

That cycle will be momentarily interrupted by two events: the release of SWeeTOR (people going to play that game that's about WoW with lightsabers) and the Holidays (people going on a short vacations, visiting relatives - the usual shenanigans...).

So come February, the patch cycle will be close to ending, the wonder and excitement and hype of SWeeTOR will have greatly diminished (just like it did with Rift) and near the end of the month/beginning of March, Blizzard will be melting the winter cold with the unleashing of Diablo III. (My prediction.)

And the competition shall tremble...

Shrouded by Mists

Now this is getting further and further in the future, so my crystal ball is giving me murkier images on what will happen next.
I see the second quarter of 2012 as being the time frame when a Mists of Pandaria Beta is released and a PvP-themed world event will find it's way onto the live realms.
Shortly after, in the third quarter of 2012, we will blow away the ocean mists with many cannonballs and explosions and discover Pandaria.

I would prefer Blizzard to release MoP before the next Blizzcon because that would be a whole year spent in a world of patch 4.3, but they have the excuse of having 3 IPs to release in a single year to scale it back as much as they can.
And I would bet some of my in-game currency that the Blizzard Marketing Department is totally against releasing them back-to-back : that would create confusion in their player bases, knowing fully well that many Blizzard fans (like myself) will want to play all 3 games.
It would not surprise me if they did a Blizzcon release - they'd have managed to keep us occupied with Diablo III and the MoP beta for just long enough, then throw a World Event at the beginning of Fall 2012 just to tide us over until Blizzcon happens.
If they release MoP sooner than that, the better for us all !
One thing is almost 100% sure: the release order will be Diablo III, Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, Mists of Pandaria.

Yes, you've noticed that this is the first time I've mentioned SC2 and I did not write it in the timeline.
And that's because we simply don't know what's happening with that game.
We know what they are working on currently because they've just told us, but we have no means to guess a timeframe.
But I think the release of SC2 will have little to no effect on the overall WoW community (I didn't see any significant change on my server when Wings of Liberty came out - did you ?).

The key thing we need to pay attention to for confirmation will be the Activision/Blizzard quarterly financial report conference calls.
(Next one is November 8th.)
With investors probably salivating at the prospect of the release of three long-awaited games in a single year, Mike Morhaime will have to start talking timeframes - and you can bet that the gaming community will analyze his every word to know when they can expect their games to come out.
(Or the conference call will be about financial analysts asking questions on the next cash crop of ''Call of Duty : How Can We Further Milk This Dead Horse''...)

Blizzcon 2012

We can be sure about a few things for the next Blizzcon:
  • They will hint at a Diablo III expansion being in the works.
  • They will hint at the Protoss chapter of SC2 being in the works.
  • If Mists of Pandaria has not been released by then, it will be all about hyping the expansion without giving too many details (see Blizzcon 2010 lackluster as Cataclysm was about to come out)
  • If Mists of Pandaria has been released, it will be detailing of future patches and discussing what we love/hate about the expansion.
  • Someone from Blizzard will mention the Titan Project in other terms than ''We're not ready to talk about it yet''.
So if you plan to go to Blizzcon once in your life, you might want to skip next year...

That timeline again

If my fake psychic powers don't fail me, that should be what's in store for us in our next Blizzard-themed year.
Hey, let's compare all of this with that leaked Blizzard timeline !

According to this, the SC2 expansion is slated for Q4 2011, Diablo III is slated for that same time slot but we know that's been pushed into Q1 2012, and WoW's 4th expansion is planned for Q2 2012 but that can be pushed further in the future.
So what I wrote sounds at least reasonable if the company is still sticking to their development plans (which might have been totally updated and doesn't look anymore like this at all).

What's the point of all this ?

This is a sort of heads-up of things to come.
Even if my schedule is completely wrong, you have a general idea of what to expect.
Heck, my WoW time will be limited by the 2 other games !
Most importantly, the Cataclysm clock is now officially ticking - which puts even more pressure on me to manage my time in-game and achieve goals that might be difficult to obtain once we jump into Pandaria.
But this is simply a blueprint for gold-makers of the potential behavior of players and therefore Auction House behavior.
If you haven't been able to detect the course of future opportunities in this post, I'll try to spell it out for you in my following post...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Gamble of Transmogrification

You're doing it wrong...

It's already been discussed when the feature was announced, I know.

However, I did not see a lot of gold-makers jump on the transmog train (or just not mentioning it a lot).
I suspect that the thinking behind this is that aiming to make gold with transmogrification is time and energy consuming: you have to peruse the database and look at every wearable item and discover the drop rates, then farm or get mats to craft.
While this is true, it is surely something that is still manageable for gold-makers.
We just have two simple problems to deal with before we actually see gold coming from that.
#1 - How do you go about looking for transmog items ?
#2 - Which items will people be wanting to buy ?
But until transmogrification is added to the game, the heart of the gamble is this: we don't know how people will react to transmogrification.

First reactions
When the feature was announced, some people cried of joy, and a rather large part of the community were angry buggers grumbling that it was a complete waste of time.
Then the PTR happened.
And I don't know if you keep your ears open for the echoes from the PTR, but something fascinating has taken place.
Players that had no intention of using the transmog feature now are constantly looking for ways to acquire sets, dressing rooming every piece of wearable gear.
To some of them, every green item now holds the possibility of being a part of a set, as if behind the fact of the item rarity was hiding a design secret, a jewel, something incredible.
Remember the outcry over the original cost of the feature ?
Yes it was because some players couldn't afford it, but it was also because some people that had a lot of money were running out of it because they've been using the transmog feature so damn often.
That should be telling you something.

You just wait until it's unleashed onto the majority of the WoW population.

''Wait - I thought you said we don't know how people will react to it ?''
Yep. But for gold-makers, there is still a risk.

Will people buy the items you post on the AH for their looks ?
Won't people go farm their Tier sets ?
How can you be sure that your items will be considered by buyers ?

Let's get something out of the way immediately : some players will want to spend no time on it, either because they want to progress with the current content or they have no time to peruse the old content and acquire the pieces or simply the time to run the old instances.
Okay that's them out of the picture (until other people make them change their mind about it).

One thing's for sure: not everyone will go transmog into their Tier sets - or if they do, it won't be for long.
My hunch about that ?
WoW players are very fickle.
Think of the mentality that is embraced by a lot of players of wanting items and sets that are exclusive and will show their 'status' (which is a way of being 'cool', because we all want to be the coolest of the cool) - if you don't know what I mean, I'll point you towards the thousands of threads about Legendary items.
Since the announcement of transmogrification, I have seen a growing number of people running old content to get gear - and it's a trend that will only get stronger.

I know most of you know this, but just in case of you don't - something NOT to invest in: Molten Core items.
If it's not already like that on your server, those BoEs will be littering your AH.
On the upside: if you have Thorium Brotherhood reputation to complete, there will not be a better time to do it, with tons of rep items at a very very low price. (Note that the reputation grind has somewhat changed in Cataclysm.)

Anyways, after running all those raids, people will have their sets completed.
And then what ?
Well, if you've poked around in the transmog discussions going on left and right, you will notice a trend: people discussing the most fashionable Tier sets for each class.
They come up with a consensus of which ones are awesome, which ones are not, and people go out and farm them.
So you will end up with a whole bunch of Paladins in Judgement set, and equivalents for each class.

Players will not have that.

(To be read with a wowcrendor ''rage'' voice)
''So many people dressed just like me ?!
That doesn't make ME special !
Aw, that set doesn't look cool anymore...
You've ruined it all for me !
I hate my parents !''
And then they'll blame Blizzard for not coming up with new cool items and blah blah bitch moan...

Enter You, the gold-making Transmog Extraordinaire.
What can You bring to the table ?
All the other items that people have forgotten about.

LF Transmog
That's when we tackle the two questions that I've mentioned at the start.
First, how do you find your items to sell ?
Well, take a look around!
You can always start by looking at all the items that the vendors are selling (Example: Ethereum Phase Blade - go 3D view it).
Then you can run some 5-mans and pick up all the BoEs and dressing room them to see the artwork.
You can look at all those sets you can find in the 5-mans that are not tier gear but still look pretty cool to run around with. (Of course you can save yourself the farming trouble by checking AtlasLoot...)
You then can start thinking to accessorize those sets.

You could also start parsing through the Wowhead database, but needles and haystacks aren't my bag.
There must be a better and quicker way to make some sort of sense in all those items, right?

That's when our often-maligned population of Role Players take the spotlight and show us the result of their research.
If there's one thing that you can say about them: they like to show their items.
Go find their sites and forums and check out the sets they are coming up with!

Here's a few links to get you started and check out their lists of other sites to consult :
The Visual Roleplay Gear List:
Disenchanting Azeroth:
Flux's WarcraftLooks :

And a fun mod to have:
MogIt :

WTB Transmog
What do I have to do to get some attention on my items ?
Bark about them!
I'd come up with some original material specially tailored to the item.
Make sure that you mention who's the best class to be wearing it and what attitude it will give the character - those are your two important selling points.
However, I'd want to be careful about the downside of barking for every item you'll be putting up on the AH...

The important task that the gold-maker will be doing in barking about items, will be to raise awareness about the esthetic qualities of items that were previously not desirable to the eyes of most people.
An in-game gold-making clothing designer is what you will become.
The money opportunities are still to be discovered as the population will play with this new toy and Blizzard will make some changes and tweaks here and there...
As with all of the new systems that are added by Blizzard, I'm excited about what will happen with this feature.

Tip #1 : Your new friend on Wowhead is a little tab that's called ''Same model as'', where you will find other skins for the same weapon model. You may find some surprises!
Tip #2 : Sets don't have to absolutely be combat-related. It will get better once they will remove the armor type specification (crosses fingers for that) and you'll be able to make situational sets and goofy combinations, such as using a fish for a weapon.
Tip #3 : Crafting alts and crafting friends that can make interesting BoE items are also your new best friends. Take the time to check out what your alts can make and hurry to make them and stockpile before the mat costs start rising when people will figure out that they can already craft it all themselves instead of buying them from you.
Tip #4 : Elixir of Giant Growth - because everybody's ego will need to be inflated on patch day.

An example of what can be done...

Here's my friend's bank alt: Trinkets !
She is wearing:
Dress shoes - Craftable
Gem Studded Bracelets - From the end quest of the Zandalari chain
Dalaran Wizard's Robe - A somewhat rare drop from mobs in Silverpine Forest that can only be killed by a Horde player
Violet Hat - Bought from a Dalaran vendor, this item will not be allowed to be transmogged because it does not have an armor proficiency (ie: ''Cloth'' would be written in the tooltip to make it Ok)
Farmer's Broom - Very rare drop from Tirisfal Farmhand in Silverpine Forest - My friend put an Unholy enchant on it, making it a DOOM BROOM!!! However, remember that mogging will remove any enchants and gems that were put on the items beforehand! So don't waste your time putting those fiery and frosty and mongoose enchants on them to make them more attractive (unless you want to get extra gold and be a little shady, but I don't recommend doing that lest your AH reputation take a hit).

Can we see the gold-making opportunities yet ?

EDIT: Added precision about the weapon enchants.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Status: Back in the saddle on a deranged horse and tying up loose ends

Sorry if this post looks like a jumbled mess of random thoughts - that's because it is.

Okay, now we're accustomed to the game again, remembering the old routine and going through all the previous blog posts and TUJ updates and figuring out what's happening with the game in general.
Last time I posted the amount of gold I had, it was 500k and I took my break when I was around 525-530k.
So now we're continuing on from... 680k ?
How did that happen?

Well I did mention that I was logging on to post items on Fridays for the weekend crowd and the big spenders looking for special deals.
I did make money off of the random things I put there.
Put I still had an auction Ace up my sleeve that managed to sell while I was gone: Recipe: Dirge's Kickin' Chimaerok Chops.
Yep, I had managed to snatch one for 5k during Wrath and I've put it in my bank for safekeeping.
My server has a bunch of greedy people but not a lot of big spenders, so prices generally tend to be lower than the majority of American servers (usually from 10% to 25% on high-priced/luxury items).
So I managed to get 75k for it when people would buy it for close to 100k on other servers.
Looking from the point of view of my server's economy, I got myself a pretty good deal for that item.

Unfortunately, I got rid of a lot of items during those weekends, so my guild bank was suddenly down to 1 1/2 tabs of items and nothing to give me a boost back in the AH game.
So farming time it is!
Nothing like some good ol' PvE ransacking of resources to fill back the bank.
Of course, I'm looking out for a few special things to sorta be ready for 4.3, such as:

-Transmogrification items
-Heartblossom (or just anything to make Inferno Rubies)

Going through all my toons' banks and assessing their general situation, I realize I have quite an extensive 'To Do' list.

-Must finish Cataclysm questing on all my toons to get the extra gold... and yes to help out the guild with the questing achievement... I know, I have a problem.
-Getting the rogue to 85 to open the damn 20 lockboxes I have stored somewhere (he's been sitting at 82 for months and sticking out like a sore thumb in my character list)
-Must craft those new bags for my main because I'm full of crap - yes I know we've got Void Storage coming, but I do long farming sessions that are unfortunately interrupted because of bag space issues
-Because I'm some kind of maniac, I want to hunt down most of the recipes my crafters don't have (save from rep grinding) and at the same time see if I can stock up on a few of them to throw in the AH
-Get Kirin Tor ring (less than 6k) on my warlock because he'll be needing to move from now on
-Need to get a portable vendor on my DK because it's annoying - 20K on the Mammoth or a few weeks of Argent Tournament dailies? Hmm.
-Still farming Anzu and the Time-Lost figurine from Terokk...

...and this is why I'm not anywhere near reaching some of the goals I set myself in this game.

On another note, I've been looking more carefully at the activity on my Auction House and have been noticing that most of the usual competition is not online at all.
Scrambling left and right, I've been trying to gather what they usually sell to fill in the gaps (mostly vendor recipes, a territory that had been filled by so many people that I didn't want to spend my time fighting them), which only makes me feel like I'm running around like a headless chicken.
So my advice for the Summer Lull still applies to this day: try to find empty markets for some chance at extra pocket money.

On the same subject, here's a random thought: You know what's been terribly absent from my Auction House ? Battered Hilts. Someone should do something about that. *stares at his DK farmer*

And I would like to take the time to mention that finally winning a Fishing Tournament is really satisfying, in the sense that I won't ever have to do it ever again.

Hopes to be less random next time.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Now I'm Down In It

I prefer to look at the cover rather than the seizure-inducing clip

Before I get back to gold-making-related posts, I feel like I need to write the following.
Don't worry - I'll get back to gold next time.

In the last post, I mentioned that I interrupted my vacation during the weekends whenever my friends and/or guild needed an extra person to help out with old and new raids.
The guild was trying to run the newly nerfed Bastion of Twilight one weekend, then Blackwing Descent the next after.
I joined and after I'd been given a brief summary of my role in the encounters by the de facto rogue, I performed quite well and even better after we'd wipe after a failed attempt on a boss.
I had a blast and didn't die horribly too often like most shaman usually tend do to (especially melee ones, eeech).
Then it turned out that my guild was progressing through Firelands and called me in for my first attempt at Majordomo Staghelm.
Then the next week, I was asked to replace someone on Baleroc.

Shortly after, I got a friend tell me that the raid leader had been quite impressed with my performance and had been asking for me to join the raid... when I was offline and at work.
As I chuckled with my friend, she pointed out that no one in the guild really knew what my background was, because I'm a Social member and never get to raid in current content with them.
I had never felt the need to show off what I could do or tell of my past experience with the game, because I'm not that kind of guy.
But now I realize that I've never even listed my full credentials.
Not just because people don't know, but also for a reason that I will be mentioning later on.

So bear with me as I take a trip down memory lane and tell you of the tale of how I've been living my second life as a member of Azeroth.

The Tale of Khalior

Part One: Out of the Darkness and into the Light

I've spent a very tumultuous first year out of my parents' grasp as I lived La Vie Bohème in a large apartment with 3 other people.
Then I moved to a new apartment with a wannabe artist who was constantly on the lookout for schemes to escape paying money to others and have people give money to her in exchange of trinkets and rough collages that she'd label as ''art''.
After a week of moving in there, I got a call telling me to hurry to the hospital as my mother was going into chemotherapy for her 3rd or 4th cancer (there was a fluke at some point.. it's complicated).
The next week, she had passed away.

I spent a whole year with dark clouds over my head and decided to go work in internet tech support in a call center for a major company in Canada that was paying much much more than my security guard salary.
I didn't know I was employed as a scab during a union strike until months later, and it was part of the reasons why I quit the job.
However, during slow times or lunch breaks, I picked up on the fact that a lot of guys were talking about the same thing: World of Warcraft.
They were hanging in forums, looking at online videos, and constantly talking about the game.

Now, I had heard of the game before.
I was a huge fan of Warcraft III and enjoyed a lot Starcraft, but had dismissed WoW completely.
It had too many of the things I didn't like in online gaming: it was all about that D&D crap that total nerds talked about in high school and it was an MMO - something that I had been told was a complete waste of time.
I knew Blizzard games were very very good but didn't want to be sucked in by that vortex of All Hated Things, and also knew that if I tried the demo, there was no way of getting out of it.
Working that soulless job at the call center had not improved the depression I was full-on sinking into.
I was spending most of my off-work time drinking myself to oblivion and playing first person shooters that gave me a kick of adrenaline but otherwise all felt the same.
A whole year after WoW's release, and a then-friend convinced me to try the 10-day demo, really not caring anymore.
Three days later, I was buying the game.

It was wonderful.

Nov. 2005, a year after the game had been released, Aeonfyre the Night Elf priest was smiting the heck out of creatures of Azeroth.

MY kind of gateway drug... *ducks*

Part Two: Not So Vanilla After All

The game fascinated me in ways I had never experienced before, dazzling me, giving me a boost of hope as I marveled at the complexity and beauty of this New World.
There was also that whole reward/rewarding system that quickly created a dependency that my crushed self-esteem drank like the most delicious Kool-Aid ever created.
Those two elements got me hooked.
I went through the phases that everybody's heard of: every single thing in your life becomes a means to play more WoW, denial of the issue, excess playing, etc.
I got over that eventually by the time the expansion landed.

Many things happened during this period, so I'll just highlight a few things.

I never got to see the epic PvP social events that were the epic battles of Tarren Mill VS Southshore, sadly, but I have participated in the War Effort leading to the opening of the doors of Ahn'Qiraj - I was level 50something by that time.

Also, this was a time when no one knew anything about how the game was supposed to be played.
So my level 20 to 50 experience consisted of questing solo and sometimes in groups with people who needed help... and I was a Priest Tank.
Hey - I had Power Word: Shield, I could heal myself : it made sense to everyone at the time!
We had never heard or encountered those ''warrior'' things yet.

Towards level 50 I got invited into the biggest guild on the server.
I reached level 60 somewhere around March 2006, and started to make myself known for two things: being a decent healer and a farming bot (got a lot of inquiries about that).
I was very good at picking a lot of herbs quickly and tracking down the elusive Black Lotus and everything went straight to the guild bank for raiding. (Back then I was just happy to help others)

Yeah that used to happen...

Then there was the Legendary Molten Core raid run that lasted 12 hours long...
We didn't down Ragnaros that day but we finally got to meet him for the first time.

I farmed my own Epic Riding training and Epic mount in a week and a half, back when 1000 gold was considered a fortune.
I killed the Carrion Grubs in EPL, sold greens and the precious Larval Acid that was needed to craft the Hide of the Wild - the must-have cloak for any serious wannabe raider at the time.
A week after that, I got the lucky roll and was in possession of the 4th or 5th Swift Razzashi Raptor mount of the server.
Also, I was a 3-4 weeks away from hitting the Grand Marshall PvP rank when the PvP changes were introduced... Had I paid more attention to the news, I would've had the title back then - my only regret of that period.

But otherwise, virtual life was good.

Then all went to heck in a Black Portal.

Priests are shiny

Part Three: My Burning Crusade

Our GM finally revealed himself as being a master manipulator that pitted people against each other instead of distributing the guild's wealth and most of my farming hours found itself locked in an abandoned account.
Mutiny was the only course of action, a new guild was formed, but I was forever distrustful of everyone except my close friends.
So the expansion hit the servers and I experienced it with a mix of amazement and bitterness.
I got a new job, schedule was in conflict with the guild's raiding time, and real life was not going too well either.
My priest got to raid a few times, but otherwise had done everything that could be possible to do solo.
Bored, jaded and about to quit the game, I tried one of those new blue things.
You know... Draenei.

Yeah being a shaman was good.
Compared to a priest, I could do damage faster AND could take on more than one mob at a time!
I quickly leveled Khalior to 70, then proceeded to make him my main character, which included grinding all my reputations again.
Yeah, that included the whole Scepter of Ahn'Qiraj chain... again.
Fun times.
The other important detail here is that while I was going through the whole leveling experience again, I paid a lot of attention to the quest text, put 2 and 2 together, and finally started to discover the game's lore and how broad and deep it was layered throughout the game. (Many 'lightbulb' moments followed.)

Aaaaand that's how I've spent most of that expansion.

Meanwhile, social situations on the server had turned quite sour and my Australian friends had expressed the desire to be in a less self-destructive environment, so we moved all of our characters from an American to an Oceanic server and into a pleasant, mature and experienced guild.

With a new environment, we were ready for the rise of the Lich King.

Wearing pieces of that Scourge Event gear I wish I still had...

Part Four: The Achiever

Northrend appeared on our maps and so did the Achievement system.
Since I had become quite the completionist, it was normal that was going to latch onto that when I had reached level 80 and completed questing.
But something quite different happened that was about to drastically change the way I played the game: there were achievements that required you to purchase gold sinks.
Pets, mounts, specific mounts - they all required that you have a good amount of currency.
I spent a good part of the expansion trying to find ways to make gold.
I usually got my total gold up to 50k-70k gold, then I'd buy a gold sink and get back to making gold again.
It wasn't anything very severe, but I was making frequent trips to the Auction House to sell items and had noticed that questing through Northrend gave quite a good amount of pocket change.

And after having mostly PvP and raid achievements to go, I decided to make as much money as I could get and fill my alt guild bank with as many things as possible.
I was tired of always running out of currency and I had heard the odd tales of people having so much money that they were giving some to their guild members.
I wanted to be able to have more gold than I needed, because I was divining that the future expansions were not going to be friendly to my account's wallet.

So with 90k gold, 5 full bank tabs, 7 characters whose bags were filled to the brim with various items and engineering materials (worgen rogue engineer was on my list), head full of tips by those new ''gold blogs'' that I had just discovered, I was ready for the Shattering patch.

I was quite proud of that one

Part Five: Rise of the gold-maker

Well that part is easy - just read the blog!
So far, I can say that the key word for me during Cataclsym has been 'focus'.
Focus on priorities, on doing most of my questing and running around on my main character first, on different goals, on helping the guild, on adapting quickly to changes and to try to predict what will happen in the near future.

Things are going well and the WoW vacation I recently took could not have happened at a better moment game-wise and in my life.
As I am reevaluating my goals, I find myself looking forward to Blizzcon 2011.
Mike Morhaime and Chris Metzen and everyone at Blizzard are probably aware that this will be THE Sales Pitch that will determine if World of Warcraft will be able to see the conclusion of what they've been ramping up to in the game. (Rumors have been mentioning two future expansions)

Spotlight's definitely on you this year, sir

I can say for myself that it is entirely possible that I will not be buying the next expansion if the pitch isn't stimulating enough interest in me to continue to invest my time in this game.
If that's the case, I will still accomplish the two tasks I've set myself this expansion: to see all the new game content and reach 1 million gold.
Then I'll follow the game from the sidelines as I delve into... something else (no, not SW:TOR... the closer that game gets, the less certain I want to involve myself with it).

I'm glad I wrote all of this down.
By no means is this a complete and accurate and expansive account of my years as a WoW gamer, but it's the main gist of where I come from, where I've been, how this game has changed me.
It started by being an escape from a sorrowful life, then became a drug, then a social medium, then a way to develop teamwork and team-building skills as well as a goal-oriented motivational device, then a teacher of all things economic (I almost flunked economics in high school : the irony is quite thick right here, folks).

So as I am picking up where I've left off in my gold-making ways, I am counting the days to Blizzcon with a little more emotion than I normally would feel for a geek convention.
Even though I think somewhere in my brain that I'm being ridiculous for thinking that, I can't help myself from feeling that way.