Signing off... until the new year!

I will be off visiting family over the next week until the new year. I will not have access to Guild Wars 2, as I will just be bringing along my laptop which is incapable of running it. I may get on to make a post or two, but I do not promise anything. I will be back in the New Year with tons of new material and content! Thanks for reading this year! I will see you all in 2013.

Promoting T5 Fine Crafting Mats

If you read my article on obtaining Mystic Clovers then you know I am working towards crafting the legendary sword, Bolt. Today marks another milestone in my quest towards this sword. I have obtained all my Tier 6 fine crafting mats. I got some from the Trading Post, some from farming, but most I obtained by promoting Tier 5 crafting mats in the mystic forge. For a number of the T6 mats this is the most cost effective way of obtaining the materials. It is also a great way to convert your extra skill points into gold. Today I would like to review the options open to you for promoting materials, as well as, sharing my experiences.

Tier 5 on left, Tier 6 on right.
The list of Tier 5 Fine Crafting Material is as follows; Vial of Potent Blood, Large Bone, Large Claw, Pile of Incandescent Dust, Large Fang, Large Scale, Intricate Totem, and Potent Venom Sac. Each of these materials has a corresponding material for each of Tiers 1 through 6. For example, the corresponding Tier 6 materials are as follows; Vial of Powerful Blood, Ancient Bone, Vicious Claw, Pile of Crystalline Dust, Vicious Fang, Armored Scale, Elaborate Totem, and Powerful Venom Sac. If you are interested in viewing the other tiers check GW2 Hub's article on fine materials, or open the collections tab at your bank in game and scroll down to Fine Crafting Materials.

All of the Tier 5 materials can be converted into their corresponding Tier 6 material via a Mystic Forge recipe. There are two recipes, one for the Piles of Dust, and one for the other seven materials. Today, I am just going to deal with the seven core materials, and I will talk about the dust when I have more data on the conversion rates. The formula for promotion is as follows;

  50 tier X fine material
+ 1 tier X+1 fine material
+ 5 tier X+1 Dust
+ X Philosopher's Stones
= random amount of Tier X+1 materials

If this looks complicated, do not worry. Firstly, Philosophers Stones are purchased from the merchant  beside the Mystic Forge named Miyani. Secondly, in the above formula, X, represents the tier of the material you want to promote from. Thus, if you want to promote from Tier 5 to Tier 6, X would equal 5 and the formula would be as follows;

  50 tier 5 fine material
+ 1 tier 6 fine material
+ 5 tier 6 Dust
+ 5 Philosopher's Stones
= random amount of Tier 6 materials

You can do the same for any tier material from tier 1 through 5. If you are looking to make a legendary, an ascended back piece, an infusion, or make gold than promoting tier 5 materials is the way to go. The cost of the dust is going to make other conversions costly, and your limited amount of skill points would be better spent promoting tier 5 materials. Today I did a number of promotions to obtain the last of my T6 Totems, Sacs, and Bloods. Here are my results;

  1750 Intricate Totems
+ 35 Elaborate Totems
+ 175 Crystalline Dust
+ 175 Philosophers Stones
= 234 Elaborate Totems (+199 Totems or 5.7 / pull)

For this transaction my costs were 14 gold for the Intricate Totems (~80 copper each), and 9 gold for the dust (~5 silver each). After taking into account the Elaborate Totems used in the recipe I am left with 199 more Elaborate Totems than I started with. These should easily sell for 29 gold (~17 silver each) after posting fee. All in all that is a 6 gold profit or 34 silver per skill point.

  1000 Vials of Potent Blood
+ 20 Vials of Powerful Blood
+ 100 Crystalline Dust
+ 100 Philosophers Stones
= 147 Vials of Powerful Blood (+127 or 6.4 / pull) 

Breaking this down into costs for Potent Blood, 8 gold (~80 copper each), and the dust, 5 gold (~5 silver each). Revenue on the 127 Powerful Blood works out too 15.7 gold (~14.5 silver each) after trading post fee for a profit of 2.7 gold or 27 silver per skill point.

  1000 Potent Venom Sacs
+ 20 Powerful Venom Sacs
+ 100 Crystalline Dust
+ 100 Philosophers Stones
= 166 Powerful Venom Sacs (+146 or 7.3 / pull)

Breaking this down into costs for Potent Venom Sacs, 8 gold (~80 copper each), and the dust, 5 gold (~5 silver each). Revenue on the 146 Powerful Venom Sacs works out too 19.9 gold (~16 silver each) after trading post fee for a profit of 6.9 gold or 69 silver per skill point.

Now, my savings in terms of making these T5 Mats vs buying them on the Trading Post is actually higher as the TP fees would be included in the cost to purchase. Thus, I saved 26.6 gold promoting these materials over buying them from the trading post, where as if I were doing this for profit I would have made 15.6 gold or 42 silver per skill point. I averaged 6.3 Tier 6 Fine Materials for every 50 Tier 5 Materials put into the forge, or 12.6 per skill point. We can generalize a profit formula from these statistics. In general it would be;

Profit = (A * 0.85 * X) - (B * 50) - (C * 5)
   where,
      A is the sell price of the T6 mat on TP
      B is the buy price of the T5 mat on TP
      C is the buy price of Crystalline Dust on the TP
      X is the # of T6 mats received per 50 T5 mats

The above formula can be used to get a rough idea of the profit you will make from promoting a particular material. Promoting materials offers a slight gamble, but in general this is going to be a gamble between a small profit and a larger profit. If you do some math before you make your purchases you should be able to determine whether you will profit or not. I personally use a conservative estimate of 6 for the value of X. Since each try takes 5 philosophers stones, and 10 stones are 1 skill point you can multiply the results of the above formula by 2 to determine your profit per skill point.

In the future I hope to compare this to using Cores to make Lodestones as well as dust promotion. All offer good chances at turning a profit for those unused skill points. Then, I will make a spreadsheet to let you enter TP prices to determine best skill point to gold conversion. Let me know how this works out for you.

This week in Guild Wars 2

GuildMag has posted their weekly round-up of all things Guild Wars 2 into one simple location for all to see. There is a lot of activity this week in the community, so head over and check it out. I have a couple highlights for you below.

Firstly, Guild Wars 2 has been winning awards left, right, and center (here and here too). Next, if you like the GW2 sound track you can get it on SoundCloud.com. GuildMag itself has a great article on Necromancer wells. Even if you aren't a Necro player it is worth a look so you know what buffs, heals, etc they can grant your character. Another great link is to this Reddit thread with various songs you can play on the choir bells. Then there is this video that is making the rounds,



I can't steal all the good links! So, head over and see what else is there. You never know what you will find.

Encounter Design: Spotlighting

The more I right this blog the more I am realizing that old school pen and paper RPG's, Dungeons and Dragons, and World of Darkness mostly, influence my views on Guild Wars 2. When I played with my friends in high school I am usually took on the role of the dungeon master. This continues even now over ten years later. I follow and keep up with a couple RPG blogs, Gnome Stew for example, and I am especially fond of articles they right on encounter design. Those were also always my favourite bits in the dungeon master sections of the Dungeons and Dragons books. Designing good encounters is not easy. Arena Net has an even more difficult task of trying to make interesting encounters and then make them interesting multiple times. 

Today I want to look at encounter design and how it relates to Guild Wars 2. Specifically I want to look at spotlighting. Spotlighting is a term used for when a DM designs a particular encounter or task specifically for an individual within the group. You can do this based on the players class, abilities, or skills, or you can focus more on who they are as a gamer. The whole point, though, is to make that player feel like the boss.

Guild Wars 2 has a tough time doing this and it is what makes a lot of the encounters feel bland. The problem is that Arena Net decided to do away with the "holy trinity" of Tank, DPS, and Healer and then failed to replace it with anything. Massively recently wrote an article on the problems Guild Wars 2 has and the lack of roles was one of there chief complaints. The problem it causes is that people do not have roles to play, and thus there is no spotlighting and no structure. Most MMO's have this built right in. If you are an awesome tank then every time you have to pull a room of mobs and sit on that boss you are spotlighting. When you do your job well you are rewarded with that feeling everyone feels when you do something no one else in the party could have done.

Arena Net choose not to go down this path. They have specifically stated that they do not want the holy trinity in their game. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, it just needs something to replace it. Having not replaced it with anything most encounters in the game are a snooze fest, because essentially they are all the same. The vast majority currently fall into one of two types, tank and spank, or dodge the AoEs. A tank and spank can be a relief after an extremely challenging encounter, and it has its place, but the vast majority of encounters in this game involve fighting a massive HP well. This is not fun, and I often find myself spacing out during most fights. Dodge the AoE can also be a lot of fun. The first time I ran Crusible of Eternity I had a lot of fun fighting the Alpha boss. After the third time fighting the same NPC in the same dungeon with the same mechanics I was done and hate going to run this dungeon because I know no matter what path I do I will have to suffer through the same encounter three times in a row.

There are exceptions though and Guild Wars 2 does have some good encounters, specifically, the hammer fractal. In this mini dungeons there are a series of encounters based around a hammer. The hammer is the only thing that can destroy the seals which are central to each of the combat encounters. There is a trick though, the hammer places conditions on the person holding it, does damage to you when you pick it up, and will out right kill you if you hold it for too long. This is great! Roles are back, kind of. If you have the hammer it can be a lot of fun. Although this is a great little mini dungeon it is still not all the way there. Two or three people are normally responsible for passing the hammer back and forth and they normally get this role because they are the most competent or the quickest to grab the hammer. The others are stuck doing the same old stuff. It is also extremely frustrating to have to explain this encounters design to those that do not understand it. The mechanics are left up to the player to discover. Why not have the mechanics explained as part of the story?

While not completely there, this dungeon takes a step in the right direction. If you are not going to have specific roles at the outset, tank, dps, healer, then make the roles within the encounter itself. For example, in the hammer fractal they could add two other items, say the gloves that go with the hammer. Wearing one of the gloves grants the person wearing it the ability to remove conditions from the person carrying the hammer. It would be possible to continue this theme and add in a shield too. The person carrying the shield can create a bubble which protects the person with the hammer from attacks. Finally, they could add in a helmet which allows the wearer to buff and inspire the person with the hammer to do more damage. Now each person has a role in the party, and will need to work well together to succeed. When they perform their part they will know that they were integral to the success of the party and team and each time you run the dungeon you can try a different role to keep things fresh.

This is not the only way that Arena Net could add more spotlighting into the game though. They could focus on class abilities. In Citadel of Flame path 2 there is a part where you need to kite some mobs around in a circle while Magg plants a bomb at the door. Usually the party takes turns kiting, usually starting with a Warrior. The warrior has the ability to leap a distance and makes an effective kiter. This is a spotlight moment for a warrior player. In the same dungeon you have to cross a lava field with Magg to retrieve some materials to make a bomb. A thief can do this easily on their own using stealth making for a great thief spotlight. Similarly, in Crusible of Eternity there is a laser trap that needs to be crossed. A Mesmer can quickly cross it and set up a portal to get everyone through. These are the kind of moments you say to yourself, "I am glad I picked that class." Another great thing about these moments is that you do not have to have a person playing that class to finish these dungeons. It is just vastly easier with a good player playing that particular class. It sets up situations where other people in the party will say, "I am glad we had that guy in the party."

Spotlighting is something that I believe would add more depth to the encounters in Guild War 2. It would make me happy I picked a certain class, and it would make the dungeons more than what they already are. This is something I learned being a Dungeon Master for Dungeons and Dragons and it made a huge difference in my encounters and how they were enjoyed by my players. This is not the be all and end all of encounter design and not every scene needs to have a spotlight moment. Guild Wars encounters need something though. The Massively article says it perfectly;
...[Guild Wars 2]'s actual group dungeons lack much in the way of structure, and group combat feels more like a mess of people trying to overwhelm events and enemies with numbers instead of finesse.
And that is exactly it. There is no sense of accomplishment when you finish a dungeon in Guild Wars 2. You just go off and look for your group for the next slog through another dungeon. In the future I will look at other aspects of encounter design and how Arena Net could utilize them to bring new life to Tyria.

Spending your Tixx Rewards


Today is the final day of Tixx's Wintersday journey to each of the racial cities. After today, if you have completed each of the events in each of the cities, you should have 500 Mystical Cogs, 1250 Drops of Magic Glue or Wads of Enchanted Stuffing (or some combination adding to 1250), and five different "frames" for each of the toys featured in the five different events (Plush Griffon, Princess Doll, Toy Golem, Toy Soldier, and Ventari). If not, do not fret. Starting tomorrow in Lion's Arch you will be able to repeat all the events from all the cities, as well as, participate in the new event.


You may be asking yourself what you do with all this stuff. Well, you have two options. You can either make an endless tonic which will turn you into one of the toys as many times as you want, or you can obtain a mini pet. The choice is yours. Below I will show you the recipes, and throughout the article I have placed images of the various toys. I personally obtained all five endless tonics, as I would rather turn into the creature itself over have a mini one follow me around.


To obtain the endless tonics you must go to the mystic forge and combine the following; 50 Wads of Enchanted Stuffing, 50 Drops of Magic Glue, 1 Pile of Glittering Dust, 1 Frame of your choice (see image to right). You will not obtain the endless potion automatically. There is a random chance involved. If you do not get the potion, do not worry. You will obtain a gift instead, and inside the gift will be some one time use potions, and the frame you used in the recipe. You will be able to try until you get it, or you run out of mats. Luckily, these mats are obtainable on the trading post. It took me twenty five tries to get all five. I got the Toy Soldier, and the Golem on the first try, I got the Princess Doll on the 11th, the Ventari on my 7th, and the Griffon on my 5th try. This means it took 1250 of each Glue and Stuffing, and 25 Glittering Dust. Expect to pay around 5-6g for these materials from the Trading Post.

You can also combine the four of the five endless tonics together. If you watch Dontain's video about these tonics you can see when he does this he obtains the 5th tonic he did not put into the forge. I suppose the purpose of this would be to allow players to obtain the tonic and the minipet of the same toy. Like Dontain, I was sure this recipe would yield the Endless Toy Tonic, which definitely would have been worth doing. Either way, these transformations are pretty cool. A lot of them have full animations for emotes; ie, dance, salute, sleep, etc. The dolls transformation even has a new dance! You can see all these animations in Dontain's video on youtube.

If, instead, you would rather have the mini pet than you can make that too. Note, however, that you will only be able to make two of the mini pets as each takes 250 Mystical Cogs, and you will only have 500 by the end of the event. Pick two that you like and put the following into the forge; 250 Drops of Magic Glue, 250 Wads of Enchanted Stuffing, 250 Mystical Cogs, and 1 Frame of your choice (see image at right). This will produce the minipet, I am told, first time and every time. So, those are your options for spending your Tixx rewards.

Now, I am curious as to how the markets for Glue and Wads will react now that there is no more supply, only demand. As far as I know the only way to obtain these materials is from these five Wintersday events and only the first time you complete them. Perhaps, there will be a future way to get more, but keep an eye on this. If there is no new way to get these materials then the prices should rise quickly. I've been buying and selling these mats since the start of the event, but I will be sure to start holding on to some. The first big rise in prices came on the third day on Tixx when people had enough materials to try to make a minipet. I was hoping for another rise today when people obtained enough to try again, but I have yet to see this rise.

Personally, I am really enjoying this Wintersday events. I would have liked some more challenge in the events and the jumping puzzle, but the sheer quantity of things to see and do is amazing. It is crazy to think that they put all this work into these puzzles and events, then we only get to play it for a couple weeks. It would be cool if they made some sort of Hall of Events that let you travel to previous holiday events and redo them for fun, or if anything, just to showcase the great work that has gone into these. I know a bunch of people that missed out of the Halloween dungeon and would just like a chance to give it a shot. Either way, great job Arena Net! If you would like to read my thoughts on the other Wintersday events check out this article where I talk about the events, and this article where I talk about the patch.

Wintersday Patch Notes

I don't know if you have had a chance to read the patch notes for the Wintersday release yet. If not, or if you can not be bothered, here is a summary of some of the interesting changes I noticed in the notes. There may be things I miss, what I have highlighted below are those things that affect my game play. First up, are a bunch of Fractals of the Mist changes.
Ascended Rings and Fractal Weapon Skin drop rates now increase appropriately with player scale. Non-infused Ascended Rings will no longer drop after scale 24.  
A Pristine Fractal Relic has been added to the daily rewards for scale 10 and higher. 10 Pristine Fractal Relics can be turned in to Golem Merchant BUY-4373 for an Ascended Ring. 
The chest received when Shaman Lornarr Dragonseeker is defeated now contains rare crystal materials instead of dust. The chest received when the Raving Asura are defeated now contains rare corrupted materials instead of dust.  
Vials of Condensed Mists Essence no longer drop after scale 10. Globs of Coagulated Mists Essence no longer drop after scale 20.
All of these changes work towards making the loot rewards better, and fairer. The old system had people running level 10 FotM trying to get an ascended ring so that they could advance in difficultly. The problem is that even if you get a ring the chances of it match your stats are unlikely, and since the rings are non-tradable you are left grinding FotM trying to get a ring you want. I personally do not like FotM for this reason and for other reasons I may discuss in the future article. This change works towards fixing a problem the community identified though which is always a good sign. Now this dungeon works similarly to the others in that you can trade in your tokens for a reward.
Rare crafting materials and holiday materials can now be deposited into the collections tab in the bank.
Honestly, never thought we would see this. I thought Anet was going to make us pay for the bag space. In fact I just wrote an article discussing the cheapest ways to get bag space. I sold off most of my rare mats because I was sick of holding on to them. Now I can be a good little pack rat and horde all my rare mats. I wonder if this will have an effect on the prices of these goods by restricting the supply.
Increased the drop rate of Passion Flowers from Passion Vines. 
The quantity of vials of Powerful Blood, Vicious Fangs, and Elaborate Totems that drop from loot containers is now 1-2 instead of just 1.
Expect the prices of these goods to start falling due to the increase supply. Looking forward to seeing those prices drop, although, Vicious Fangs have been on a downward trend for a while now.
Permanent Bank Access, Permanent Trader Express, and Permanent Merchant Express items now drop twice as often from Black Lion chests. Though still extremely rare, they can now be traded until their first use. 
The Black Lion Chest drop chance for mystery tonics has been reduced from 100% to 25%. Tonics now have the same drop chance as “Heavy Bag of Coins,” “Unidentified Dye,” or one of three new Guild Influence items worth 50, 100, or 300 influence. 
“Heavy Bags of Coins” have been added to Black Lion Chests in the tonic and buff drop sections. Bags hold between 80c and 1g50s. 
“Glory Booster” has been added to the list of possible buff drops. Buff drops now occasionally drop the “booster multipack” triple buff. 
Rarity and proportion of all other Black Lion Chest drops have been rebalanced to reduce overabundance of some items.
That is a pretty large list of changes to the chests. Personally, I have never bought a key, and I do not think I ever will. I have just heard too many horror stories of people buying $50 of keys to end up with nothing of any value, what-so-ever. Guild Wars 2 cash shop is an area of the game in need of serious love. I kind of want to give Arena Net my money, but I do not really see anything in the cash shop that I would want to buy. There changes to the Black Lion chest do not change that. 
When a team owns few or no defensive structures for a set period of time, a breakout event will now trigger at the portal. 
Repairable walls and gates have been updated to rebuild at 10% health instead of rebuilding immediately. 
Characters that disconnect during combat grant rewards to their opponent, and suffer penalties as though they have been killed.
No new changes to WvW besides the ones we discussed last week. Also, the culling trial is over and we have gone back to the old system. Anet wants your feedback, so head over to the forums and say something even if it is, "I did not notice a change."
Map names on the world map now display completion status.
I have already completed my world exploration, but I bet this will be nice if I ever do it again. When I completed mine, I had to go from zone to zone trying to find the points I was missing. Being able to see that from the map beats going from zone to zone any day.

There are a number of new items added to the Black Lion Trading Post as well as changes to each class. If you are looking for this information just head over to the patch notes and check it out. There is too much for me to just copy and paste over here. Anet has also posted it's design philosophies for each class.
We normally try to employ metered and controlled balance changes with each pass, rather than huge reductions or improvements to classes. We want to get all classes on the same playing field, and we want to avoid “whack-a-mole” style balance. HUGE increases and HUGE decreases lead to meta instability, and thusly, we try to make multiple small tweaks rather than putting in massive changes that we have to later correct. When designing and balancing the classes, we try to make sure that class roles and identities stay intact. So, in doing so, we make sure that there are rules and boundaries outlining the capabilities and weaknesses of each class.
It makes for an interesting read, and I encourage you to head over and check it out. This has been another solid patch from Arena Net. It shows they are listening to players concerns and addressing them. It also shows that they have begun to work on quality of life things, which is always a sign of a healthy MMO. There are still some glaring problems in the game, which concern me. Patches like these relieve some of that concern because it makes me think they have a plan that they are working on in the background that we do not know about. Something spectacular that will eliminate all my concerns. We will just have to wait and see.

Wintersday: First Impressions


I won't be writing any guides for the Wintersday event. A lot of other sites already have guides for a lot of the holiday content already up. My favourite site for up-to-date guides for Guild Wars 2 is Dulfy's MMO Blog and Guides. He usually is among the first to have a quality guide up when new content is dropped. I also find he is the quickest to update his existing pages when new things are learned. With that said for guides, just head over to Dulfy's Wintersday page or his event page. Below I have my first impressions of the various activities that have been made available to us for Wintersday.

Jumping Puzzle - Inside the Snow Globe


Compared with the jumping puzzle for Halloween, the Christmas puzzle was a walk in the park. Like the clock tower, this Wintersday puzzle is also a race against time in an instanced zone across torturous terrain. A difference is that there are a number of different starting positions this time around. This has the effect of spreading the active players out. Clearly Anet has learned from Halloween that players like to be able to see there characters when running a puzzle likes this.

This is not the only thing that makes this puzzle easier. The race against the clock is not so frantic. The platforms do disappear behind you and your life slowly ticks away, but the amount of time you are given to finish the puzzle is more than enough. The jumps seem to be a lot cleaner than the clock tower as well. Most of the times I fell in the clock tower it was due to the often confusing and uneven surfaces or getting caught on a weird edge. In this new puzzle all the surfaces are flat and there are no weird edge to get caught on.

The reward at the end, a booster and some karma, felt appropriate for the challenge. I really enjoyed the dancing gingerbread men cheering for you in the victory area. The fact that you can repeat the puzzle each day is also nice. Being able to see other players jumping from the start area is also a cool addition. I do feel that Arena Net has made improvements since the last holiday. The puzzle could have been more difficult though. In the future though I would like to see a hard mode and an easy mode to keep all players happy. For example, the hard mode for Wintersday puzzle could include slippery surfaces, a faster timer, and/or more wind traps.

Snowball Fights


The first day I got into the Wintersday content I spent about 3 hours playing this game. It is a fun distraction, but that is about all it is. It is not terribly well balanced, and most people just fight each other as opposed to doing for the objectives. There are a lot of laughs to be had though. The support classes snowball move is hilarious. I trolled with just this move for at least half an hour. The scouts sniper skill was a hoot, and I used it to put down a good number of people. I did not enjoy the heavy gunner. I could not get used to the slow movement when your gun is pulled out. In the end I finished up my achievements for this game and moved on to something else. It is always neat seeing how easy it is for Arena Net to add new weapons to the game.

Bell Choir and Music


The Bell Choir event entertained me for another couple of hours, and I have since gone back and played it some more. It is basically Guitar Hero in Guild Wars 2 with bells. Timing the notes is a little different though. In Bell Choir you have to press the note after it has crossed the line. This through me off for a while, and I still find myself pressing notes early. If I could change anything I would make the songs longer. The short 10-15 second songs isn't enough to get into the grove.

Along with the Bell Choir they have also added a bell item into the game which lets you play music anywhere in the world. There are two varieties, an infinite use and a single use. I find this interesting since this is something I suggested they add into the game a little over a week ago. I hope this is just the tip of the ice berg, and I hope we move towards seeing something similar to what Lord of the Rings: Online has for music.

Dungeons


As of the writing of this article I have had the opportunity to participate in three of the five Tixx dungeons; the Asura, the Human, and the Charr events. The first two were fun and unique, but the third was just a rehashing of the events from the first two. I found this disappointing, but I have high hopes for more unique content in the last two days. The rewards were not that nice, at least, it was not as good as the Mad King dungeon. A lot of the fun I had with the Mad King dungeon was running it multiple times with guildies. The events in this dungeon were also kind of frustrating to repeat making multiple runs not on the top of the list of things to do.

The really nice thing about this dungeon is the map. It is amazing with a lot of details. Little castles, and towns, trees and forests all of which is breakable. Sometimes it was easy to forget you are inside a blimp, that is until you get to the edges of the map which are set up like a set from a play, complete with a back stage. You can even get up into the flight deck with Tixx and Toxx. I spent a good amount of time just looking at all detail put into this map.


Conclusions

Arena Net has added a lot with this patch. It is great to see that they have also learned from the things people did not like in the last holiday event. This gives me great hope going into the future that we will see better and better stuff in the coming months. The world in Guild Wars 2 continues to change, as evidenced by the half restored fountain in Lion's Arch. Arena Net continues to build a history within Tyria with its players. This makes it exciting to think about the future to the day when you can say, I remember when that statue was destroyed and they had to rebuild it, or I remember the day Karka walked the streets of Lion's Arch.

There is a lot to write about, and I can not talk about everything in one article. I have so many screenshots from all around the world. There are some many people in Christmasy outfits. It is great to see everyone getting into the spirit of things. The cities have never been more active. I am not sure this will hold out past the holidays, but if Arena Net keeps adding more custom clothing and things like the choir bell I am sure we will see active towns as a regular thing. As I have talked about in two previous articles this is something that I think Guild Wars 2 is lacking. I have played a number of other MMOs and the town areas are always full of activity with people duelling  guilds hanging out playing games, people chatting  etc. It is nice to see this changing, and hopefully it starts to last outside of the holidays. Keep enjoying the holiday events. I will keep trying to post more about what is going on and all the changes.


Blog Summary - Week 2

I would like to take a moment today to summarize the articles I have posted here this week. I missed a couple of days of articles at the end of the week. I apologize for that, and promise I will continue to aim for at least one article per day. I hope you enjoyed the second week of my blog! Leave a comment and let me know how I am doing. Also, tell me if there is a topic you would like for me to cover in a future article. If you are running a blog and would like to appear in my blog roll please just let me know and I will be happy to include you.


Game Play


Commanders, Communications, and Balance, Oh my! - my suggestions for the future of WvW
DnD Teaches Guild Wars 2 - comparing weapons in DnD vs those in GW2


Trading Post


Portfolio Managements: Part 1 - how to make an excel sheet to monitor activities on TP
Portfolio Managements: Part 2 - stats to follow in your trading
Bank Space - how to obtain the cheapest bank and bags spaces


Current Events


Wintersday Video - initial teaser video from Anet
Preview of Wintersday WvW Patch - WvW changes announced in forums
New Redposts: Rollbacks, Kittens, and Orr - summary of several redposts
More Red Posts, more Wintersday info - more reposts summaries
Mike Lewis on Botting - Anet's team talks about the war on bots
More Winsterday Info! - yet more Winterdays talk!
This week in GW2 is up - GuildMags summary of the weekly activities in the GW2 community

Bank Space


Sometimes it is hard to come by places to put your stuff! Today I would like to compare and contrast some different ways of obtaining more space to put your stuff. I will look at buying more bank and bag slots from the Black Lion Trading Post, starting your own guild to obtain a guild bank, and starting mules. I will show you which is currently the cheapest method for getting more bag space, so that you can hang on to all your stuff!

Black Lion Trading Post


Buying another bank slot costs 600 gems. For those 600 gems you get 30 bag slots. At current market values (Dec. 14th, 2012) it would cost you 12 gold to buy those gems. That means that it would cost you 40 silver per bank slot.  Also, you can purchase extra bag slots for each of your character which cost 400 gems. At current market values it costs 8 gold to buy those gems.

Bags from the Trading Post


Now I will quickly look at the different options to buy bags from the Trading Post. The smallest bag I will consider is the 15 slot bag, as the other bags cost relatively little (less than I have rounded off in some cases). Currently the cheapest 15 slot, 18 slot and 20 slot bags on the Trading Post are 60 silver, 2 gold, and 12 gold respectively, which means that it costs 4 silver, 11 silver, and 60 silver per bag slot. If, you have to buy an additional bag slot it adds 8 gold to this cost meaning it will cost you 57 silver, 55 silver, and 1 gold per inventory slot.

Guild Bank


A guild can have access to three different levels of a bank. One with 50, 100, or 200 slots. These banks are bought with influence, and the influence can be bought with gold. No matter the quantity of influence you buy it always costs 20c per 1 influence. The 50 slot bank upgrade costs 3000 influence and thus would cost you 6 gold. The 100 slot bank costs an additional 20,000 influence which costs 40 gold. Finally, you can upgrade all the way to the 200 slot bank for an additional 30,000 influence which costs 60 gold. All-in-all the 50 slot bank costs 6 gold, the 100 slot bank costs 46 gold, and the 200 slot bank costs 106 gold, which works out to 12 silver, 46 silver, and 53 silver per slot. It is important to note you can not put your soul bound or account bound items into the guild vault.

Alts and Mules


The cheapest source of bag spaces is going to be your alternate accounts. Just get them through the first story, walk to the racial capital city, and port to Lion's Arch. There you can send them money to buy a couple starter bags (see above for cost break down). Once you have filled all five of your character slots, how much would it cost to add another character just for bag space? The character slot expansion costs 800 gems which would cost you 16 gold to purchase. A new account comes with 5 backpack slots, one of which is already filled with a 20 slot bag. I will consider the costs of filling the other four slots with 15, 18, and 20 slot bags. Four of each of these bags would cost, 2.4 gold, 8 gold, and 48 gold giving you 80, 92, and 100 bag slots respectively. Thus, the cost per slot breaks down as follows, 23 silver, 26 silver, and 64 silver per bag slot.

Summary


Here is a quick summary of all the various ways of obtaining bag slots that I went over above.
  • Open backpack slot
    • 15 slots, 4 silver/slot
    • 18 slots, 11 silver/slot
    • 20 slots, 60 silver/slot
  • Purchase backpack slot
    • 15 slots, 57 sliver/slot
    • 18 slots, 55 sliver/slot
    • 20 slots, 100 silver/slot
  • Extra bank slot
    • 30 slots, 40 silver/slot
  • Guild bank (No soulbound or account bound items)
    • 50 slots, 12 silver/slot
    • 100 slots, 46 silver/slot
    • 200 slots, 53 silver/slot
  • Purchase Character
    • 80 slots, 23 silver/slot
    • 92 slots, 26 silver/slot
    • 100 slots, 64 silver/slot
Those were all the ways I could think of to obtain extra inventory space. If you think of any others please let me know. You will have to use the above chart to make the decision for yourself. I personally, started a guild and bought the 50 slot bank. When gems were cheaper I also purchased a number of backpack and bank slots. Now it seems that started a new character just for a mule would be the cheapest way to go. I hope you find this helpful.

This week in GW2 up

The Guild Mag has posted it's weekly round up of the Guild Wars 2 community for the week. Lots of Wintersday stuff this week. And it seems GW2 Insider already has a guide up for three of the Wintersday events. One for the jumping puzzle, one for the snow ball fight, and one for the bell choir. There are a lot more articles like that in the round up, so head over check it out, and get caught up on the stuff you missed this week.

More Wintersday Info!

The guys over at MMOrpg.com have put together what they learned from an interview with ArenaNet's Steven Waller and Anthony Ordon about December 14th's Wintersday events. I have some highlights below, for all the details head over to the main article.
Snowball Mayhem – A brand new PVP map just for Wintersday, Snowball Mayhem is as it sounds: a capture the flag map where players use snowballs and special class-based abilities to conquer the other team. You’ll pick one of three holiday themed classes when you enter, and each profession has their own special skill on the map as well (Warriors get a dash, et).
I was hoping for World PvP with snowballs, but I will take this! They also mention two other events, a jumping puzzle, and a rock band like game called, Bell Choir.
In Lion’s Arch, all of Tixx’ tinkering will catch up with him as the Toypocalypse is upon him in his workshop. The final instance of the event is Guild Wars 2’s Horde Mode meets Tower Defense. You’ll face waves upon waves of runaway toys, while trying to preserve the toymaker’s workshop.
I love a good tower defence, so this sounds like a blast. I wonder how it will work? Maybe like build siege in WvW? Either way I am excited to find out! This might be something that gets some of my friends back into this game.
There are a whopping 275 new crafting recipes, not all of which are themed around the holiday (though many are).
Great news for traders! Especially after yesterday's scare rocked prices and sent a lot of things spirally down. Now we know that there will be a ton of new recipes that people will want to try out. After yesterday I was starting to think we would not see market spikes, but now the speculation is back on!
Lastly, I asked the team about the Grentch, and whether we’ll ever be seeing him again. The short answer? They sure hope so! But whether he makes it into this Wintersday, we’ll have to wait and see.
I know some players of the original Guild Wars were worried the Grentch wouldn't appear, and after reading about him, I was kind of disappointed as well. Maybe, just maybe, he will round out our holidays with a reapearance? We will have to wait and see! December 14th is almost here! Massively also has a good article covering this and Dulfy has a good outline of the upcoming events.

DnD teaches Guild Wars 2

A little over a week ago I wrote an article about what Guild Wars 2 could learn from LotR:O. Today, in a similar vein, I would like to discuss something Guild Wars 2 could learn from good ole Dungeons and Dragons. In fact, there are a lot of things I think GW2 could learn from DnD, but today I will look at just one, weapons and even more specifically I want to look at weapon variety. I feel this is one thing DnD does well. Guild Wars 2 weapon set is currently limited and I think by looking at DnD we could spice things up a bit.

Weapons in DnD


In Dungeons and Dragons there are a ton of weapons, nearly everything that you can think of. Some weapons are greatly different from each other and how they are used, for example a Bow vs a Sword, or a Spear vs a Whip. It is obvious that you do not use a bow or a whip in the same manner. There are different rule sets surrounding the things you can do with these weapons. A bow has a range, a sword is used in melee, a spear has reach, and a whip can trip and disarm. 

There are also other weapons that all fall under a certain category, such as Rapier, Sabre, Katana, or Scimitar  All of these are types of swords, and all act similarly, however, they each have something unique about them. A Rapier crits more often, a sabre has a bonus when mounted, a Katana hits harder, and a scimitar has larger crits. This is the primary area I think Guild Wars can learn from.



Guild Wars 2 meets DnD


In Guild Wars 2 we have a number of different kinds of weapons that each have their own rules surrounding them. I do think that GW2 needs more weapons in general, but a nice way to cheat would be to simply add some flavour to the already existing set. Swords could be divided up in the way described above in DnD. Each could have something unique about it, like a stat bonus, or a different attack. The whole weapon does not need to be changed up, it just needs some flavour. 

A Katana.
Take, for example, a thief and a sword in their primary hand. I have three abilities with the third depending what is in my off-hand, so lets just consider the first two for simplicities sake. With my primary attack I do Slice, Slash, and a Crippling Strike. With my secondary attack I do an Inflitrator's Strike. If say I was using a Katana, instead of Inflitrator's Strike, I could instead have a charge attack that deals vulnerability on hit. The ability stays mostly the same, with a different animation. The primary attack does not need to be changed.

A Rapier.
Then, for another example, I could use a Rapier and instead of Slice, Slash, and Crippling Strike I could instead do, Thrust, Lunge, and Parry which would mimic the fighting style of  fencer. The Thrust and Lunge would behave similarly to Slice and Slash, but Parry would give you Aegis for 2-3 seconds. The changes do not need to be huge, just a little something different would add that much more depth. And I could go on with more examples, Axes could be divided into, Tomahawks, Battle Axe, and Handaxe, Mace divided into Club, Flail, and Morning Star, Shield into Rounded, Tower, and Diamond, etc.

Conclusions


Little things like this could add a lot of spice to the game. This is the same conclusion that I came to in my LotR:O article. It seems GW2 has a lot of the big picture things, but is missing a lot of the little things that really add depth to a game. I have always found finding new weapons to be my favourite part of any game. This probably goes back to the days of playing the Legend of Zelda. I loved getting to the new area, figuring out the puzzle, beating the boss, then having this brand new weapon with new abilities. I think this is something GW2 is sadly missing. I think I unlocked all my weapon skills on all the classes I have played within 30 minutes of being in Tyria. I need something more out of this system, and I think this would be an easy way to get there while new weapons are in development.

Mike Lewis on Botting

There is a new article up on the Guild Wars 2 main page, outlining the Arena Net team's successes against bots thus far. There are some good gems in this articles such as, 
At least these rangers are clothed.

In the month of November, we terminated over 34,000 accounts for operating bots in Guild Wars 2. Moreover, we have observed a serious decrease in the population of bots in the game – and so have you, our players. The number of bots reported every hour worldwide has dropped from more than 2,000 in October to a much healthier 20 as of this writing.
Excellent news indeed. The effects of this can been seen in the trading post prices, and in the game world. No more naked rangers with bears running around everywhere. Hopefully, they keep up the pressure. I saw a pair bots the other day in my barracuda farming spot.

The article goes on to detail ways they will continue to attack that bot problem, including having actual people on patrol in the world of Tyria! Anyway, head over and give this article a read.

More Red Posts, more Wintersday info

There have been a bunch more red posts on the forums detailing what we can expect in the upcoming patch on December 14th for Wintersdays. The first post come from, Anthony Ordon, with respect to Wintersday resources.
No, there’s no resource nodes. Something else will take the place of ad-hoc, holiday content on the go. There are new crafting recipes, but the components for those will come from the rewards gained by playing any holiday content. (Forum Post)
He then clarified with,
I’m saying that there will be new crafting components specific to Wintersday. To get them, you play Wintersday stuff. Activities, events, etc. We took a very different approach to Wintersday crafting than Halloween. There’s a lot more recipes and we made some of our unique skins considerably more easy to get. (Forum Post)
I am not exactly sure what this means, but what I think I am taking away from this is that simply, there will be no mining nodes like Candy Corn for Wintersday. All the Wintersday unique crafting mats will be available from doing the various events. There will still be a need for current materials, but all the new mats will be obtainable from the Wintersday events only.

Next up, again from Anthony, we learn that there will be no high level content for the Wintersday content. Specifically he said,
No, you can be any level to participate in any of the main stage Wintersday content. And yes, there are both level-appropriate and level independent rewards. (Forum Post)
He then followed up by saying,
In general I would not expect difficult combat challenges in combat updates. The reception of including such content with the Halloween update was very poor. 
Fortunately, holiday events are not the only format of content update that will be added to the game. We can still add those challenges with future updates in the coming months and years ahead. (Forum Post)
Basically, what he is saying is that Anet wants to be inclusive for this special seasonal events, thus they will remain accessible by people of all levels.

Next we have a pair of posts (here, and here) by Jon Peters outlining buffs to a two signets that grant movements speed, namely, Signet of Air and Signet of the Locust. He also speaks of more reliable swiftness for mesmers here. Also from Jon Peters, is a thread about more changes to the Ranger, namely to the way pets targets.

There were also a number of posts telling of fixes to story bugs, event bugs, and even Keg Brawl achievements. Also, two posts by Jon Peters showing how certain abilities, Faithful Strike and Vigorous Shouts, stats are calculated (here and here). There are too many to detail here, so head over to the Dev Tracker and scan the list of those that interest you.

Portfolio Management: Part 2

Yesterday, I showed how to setup a spreadsheet to track your portfolio of products that you are trading on the Trading Post. Today I will quickly go over some of the key things you should be tracking, and how to easily go about it.

Trading Post Fees


Trading Post fees are easily to calculate. The cost of posting something is five percent of the sale price. Thus, if you post something for one silver, the cost of making the post is five copper. If you cancel the sell order you do not get this fee back. The Trading Post also takes another ten percent when you make a sale, so for then item we posted at one silver, we will be charged another ten copper when the items sells. All-in-all the TP takes fifteen percent of the final sale price, with five percent being upfront. Now, that means that you will essentially take home eighty-five percent of what you post an item for. In other words/, to make a profit selling at one silver, you have to buy at lower than eighty-five copper, or in general, you need to sell for at least, 17.6% more than you bought for.

Trading Post Fees.
It is important to know this fact, because this is your only expense. This expense will determine whether you make money or loose money. A calculator is enough to figure out your break even points, and my spreadsheet factors this in automatically. Another handy tools is tpcalc.com. It simply does the calculation describe above showing you your costs and profits.

COGS and Inventory


When we talk about Cost of Goods Sold we must also talk about how you calculate your inventory. There are a lot of different ways you can do this, and a lot of different ways it is done in the real world. There are three major systems, First-in, first-out (FIFO), last-in first-out (LIFO), and average cost. My spreadsheet uses average cost, because it is the easiest to implement on a spreadsheet. I simply add up the amount you have paid for a certain product and divide by the number bought. This is the average price per unit used to calculate Cost of Goods Sold.

Average cost inventory.
Intuitively, most probably use a FIFO approach. This means that the first price you buy at is the cost you take into account when you go to sell. If you bought eggs on Monday for 20c, on Tuesday for 25c, and Wednesday for 30c then you started selling your eggs on Friday you would first consider the price you paid on Monday and would have to sell at 24c to make a profit. As you work through your inventory your costs would rise and you would have to raise your prices.

LIFO on the other hand would have you sell the eggs you bought most recently first. Thus you would sell those you bough on Wednesday first and work your way towards the cheaper eggs you bought on Monday. In general costs of goods rise as time goes on. Inflation, in general, is driven by an increase in the money supply. As there is more money available people are willing to pay more for things. Thus, in general, FIFO will have you selling your cheaper goods first, and LIFO will have you selling your more expensive goods first. This is a general statement though for the long term, and doesn't apply to the short term, nor necessarily to the long term either.

It does bring up an interesting thing to consider, though. Do you sell your more expensive inventory first? or the cheaper stuff? If, in both scenarios you sell for the same prices, than it has no affect what-so-ever on your profit. In the real world, companies use different methods to make their business looks more attractive to investors. In this game, it really only matters to you. If you prefer to get the expensive stuff out of the way first, then do that. If you prefer to see big profits quickly sell your cheaper stuff first.

In the end, use the inventory system that works for you. Then use this system to arrive at the Cost of the Goods you are selling. This way you can effectively evaluate your trading post fees and profits. Even if you do not apply this to your trading in game, I hope you learned something about real world accounting.

Percentage of Inventory


Another important statistic I like to track is the percentage of a certain good as it relates to my total inventory. For example if I have ten gold in eggs, how much as a percentage is this of my total investments of one hundred gold? In this case ten percent. This is a good thing to track, because it shows how diversified your investments are. Having 100% of your inventory in a single good means that you have not diversified and your future hinges on a single market. If, however, you are invested in twenty different commodities and each makes up roughly five percent of your total inventory you know that any markets that bottom out will be covered by your other investments. 

My current inventory, as a percent of the total.

This is not to say that there aren't markets you should invest heavily into. It is a judgement call you have to make. Charts and graphs can help you make these calls. They can also give you signals as to when you have bought enough, and when it is time to think about looking for opportunities to sell.

Profit


The final, and most obvious stat to track, are your profits. For starters it is a moral booster to see this number slowly growing and to know your efforts are paying off. Secondly, once you break profits down to margins and start examining them on the basis on each commodity you will see where your efforts are meeting the most reward.

Based on current (Dec. 11th) prices
 my expected ROI shown per commodity
Simply, profits equal revenue minus costs. Sometimes this is also referred to as gross profits and since we have no other costs this is also our net profit. Above we talked about how to track your costs. Your revenue is simply what you sell the good for. If your revenue is higher than your costs, you are in the black and making gold. Otherwise, you are in the red and taking a loss.

Next, you can calculate your return on investment (ROI) so that you know how well your money is working for you. The calculation for this is simple, take your net profit, and divide by your costs (Cost of Goods Sold, and TP fees). This is the percentage of what you invested that has been returned to you. The higher the ROI the more lucrative the trade. ROI is not the be all and end all though. Trades with a low ROI, but a high turn over may be more lucrative than a high ROI with slow turn over.

Conclusions


The point here is to give yourself the tools to analyze the strategies you are using going into the market. This way you can re-double the efforts that are proving successful, and abandon those that are not. You can also examine the numbers closely and see where you went wrong and how to avoid future disasters, and on the flip side you can see how you succeeded and apply those strategies in other areas. Not only that, but the morale boost given by seeing your numbers rising, bars on graphs growing, is quite telling. Instead of abstract numbers in your head, it starts to become a real thing you care about and want to grow. Either way, the point is to have fun. If this is not fun to you, than do not do it. Continue with whatever systems you have in place that are working for you.

New Redposts: Rollbacks, Kittens, and Orr.

I was just flipping through the forums and I have come across a couple of interesting Red Posts that I thought I would share with you, so that you do not need to go to the troll infested waters. Firstly, is a post by Gaile Gray. She has a following to say,
Gaile Grey, GW1
We’re pleased to tell you that we are launching our Account Restoration Tool (ART) today. With that tool, we will be able to restore qualifying accounts that were compromised on or after December 1, 2012. 
Read more about the service in our Account Restoration FAQ.
This is excellent news! I am not sure how they got away with not having these tools in place until now, but it is a great relief to know that this is there in case I am hacked and all my stuff is stolen. A lot of players in the thread where this was posted are concerned that it states in the FAQ that each account can only be rolled back once. Now, there are good reasons for this. In either case Mrs. Grey assures us that each situation will be looked at individually and assessed from there.

Next, on a bit of a fun note, the swear filter on the forums has received an update. The way the system works is that it replaces all inappropriate words with the word 'kitten'. This has led to some hilarious situations as the filter is not working correctly. For example, the phrase "Crush it!" would be changed to, "Crukitten!". There are a ton of threads on the forums discussing this, and unfortunately now the hilarity of the kitten filter is over as we have this post from Mark Katzbach,
Mark's mugshot.

Thanks for the reports everybody. An update to the swear filter has been implemented, which should address these issues. Again, thanks for reporting, and please continue to report any bugs with filtering you encounter.




Lastly, a post from Jason King  It appears Anet is finally sitting down and going through the bugs in the Orr zones. Unfortunately, this comes WAY to late as I do not know anyone that still farms this zone. It has been nerfed now, and bugged for way to long. The temple fights are not fun, and usually result in most people just yelling at each other. Anyway, they are asking for your help in reporting bugs,
As Colin Johanson mentioned in his blog post on GW2 Live Development last month, we occasionally form “bonus teams” to do work on additional content. One of the teams we recently formed is focusing on improving the Orr region and fixing bugs in “Straits of Devastation,” “Malchor’s Leap,” and “Cursed Shore” – and they’d like your help! 
Please post here with any bugs or exploits that you’ve seen in the region with as much information as possible on the issue.  
As always, please search the thread before posting to limit duplicates. This is your chance to report any issues you’ve seen in these maps; so no matter how big or small it is, please let us know what you find! 
Thank you for your help and support, everyone!
Like I say, I think this comes WAY to late. I do not go to Orr anymore, and really do not care if it gets fixed. I ground on the Plinx event for well over 700,000 karma and weathered through two nerfs to that event before they killed it. If they had the time to nerf the event they should have taken the time to fix the bugs. Nothing drives me up the wall about this game more than Orr, but that is for another post.

I have noticed the communication from Arena Net in the time since the Lost Shores event and patch has increased dramatically. Hopefully this continues because it has greatly helped to reassure me that Arena Net knows what they are doing with this game.