Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Do we need guides to level and make gold?

I declined an opportunity to make money advertising Zuggy's Gold Mastery Guide, sticking to my no advertising policy. Looking at the free copy Zuggy sent me, I started to think about the sense or nonsense of guides like that. So you get a post with my thoughts on gold making and leveling guides, and Zuggy gets a free link.

The principal problem of gold making and leveling guides is that they are trying to sell you information you could get for free elsewhere. How to make gold in World of Warcraft, or how to level up quickly, is frequently discussed on various blogs, or the comments sections of the many database sites. WoW even has lots of addons which help you level (QuestHelper) or make gold on the auction house (Auctioneer). So where is the market for a guide costing around $50?

The answer is probably that the usefulness of such guides isn't in the fact that they contain secret information (they don't), but how they compile that information in one package. You could find the same information for free, but it would take you a lot of time to find it all and sift through it. Personally I prefer to experiment and find out things for myself, but that isn't necessarily the case for everybody. Some people prefer to have a clear and simple guide telling them which quests to do in which order to level up fastest, or where you can go and make gold by farming or playing the auction house. As long as the guide is up to date, I can understand somebody paying for it, even if I wouldn't. I'm not the target audience for them, people who are much less informed about WoW are.

As they often point out themselves in their advertising, gold making guides are in direct competition with gold selling companies. I haven't got a clue how much gold $50 is currently buying you in WoW, but obviously there is a choice between spending that $50 directly on that gold, or spending it on a guide that tells you how to make gold. A gold guide has the advantage that it isn't against the rules to use one, but the disadvantage that you still have some work to do after buying it to actually get that gold. And it isn't totally risk-free, you pay the money before knowing how updated the guide is. If some patch changed the usefulness of the information contained in the guide, or if it presents information that is used by too many people, which makes the farming spots and auction house strategies less profitable, you might end up paying $50 for a useless pdf file. But then, of course, if you buy gold from a website you heard about in ingame spam, you might also pay money for gold that you never receive, having fallen victim to some scammer.

On the other hand, the few guides I had the opportunity to check out without paying for them did at least have the advantage of being more useful than the "official" strategy guides you can find in print. Printing and distributing a book takes so much time, that the information contained in such a printed strategy guide on a MMORPG is almost always outdated. Also I often found printed strategy guides to contain long lists of items or recipes, which are much better covered in online databases.

In summary, while I would say that leveling and gold making guides aren't strictly needed, they can be useful for people who don't want to take the time to find the same information spread all over the internet. Like RMT you trade dollars for convenience, and you risk being scammed, but at least you don't risk getting banned for it.
You are very polite, Tobold. Maybe too polite. I would have told him to dust off with his guide.

Zuggy does really well at promoting his guide...^^
He is very good in making money himself.

The guide is not needed. If you really want a lot of money but do not know how, or you are too lazy... people who REALLY need money desperately will buy it illegally. Then there is also the point that the coolest stuff in WoW requires other currencies than just gold, tokens e.g..

A Guide that helps you to maximize your profits still does not save you from working for it.
So, save the 50 bucks for a dinner with your significant other...
I am a heavy Carbonite user and whilst it does have a "subscription" fee for the full version it is not excessive and is extremely useful for efficiently completing quests. It means I waste less time searching for quest goals and more time spent reading the quest and enjoying the storyline.
I used Joana's guide to level 6 characters and the money was definately worth it. As far as a gold guide goes some people just need it. Mostly it comes down to time, if you have the time to learn everything on your own (it can take years) then you will get by fine without a gold guide. But some people are joining the game now and are completely lost as to how they can make gold in this game.

That's why I strive to try and provide people with the free option for gold guides at my site but I also understand that some people still feel more comfortable buying a gold guide.

BTW: Thanks for the post on my farming spot yesterday.
Three words: James Levelling Guide.

It's free and got my warlock from level 0 - 60 and my Deathknight from 55 - 76 (75-80 was not yet released). Great, great levelling guides and completely free.

As to "why use them", they will make you level A LOT FASTER then without a guide. So it is great if you want to level an alt as quickly as you can to 80. And I got used to his guides. Levelling the 75 - 80 without his guide felt slow and I felt I was missing out on content (where is that last quest I need, why did I only find 40/100 quests in this zone,...). James guide gives you every quest achievement (x quests in zone y) you can get in the shortest time. You do miss some of the exploration but if all you want is get to 80 asap, this is the way to go.
Sorry for the cynism... ignore if you do not want to ask yourself to what kind of gameplay guides and all that developed over time.

I know Joana's and Brian's (?) equivalent guide for the Alliance.

Why are people playing World of Warcraft if the game is such a chore. Why do you even make it even more so.
Follow this optimized path... Farm there till... and after some 30 levels: You now have the choice between two areas, but we will stick to the more efficient one in this guide, of course.

Some level up their 5th, 6th, 7th or whatever char, to get to the endgame. Basically, there were it is raid till you drop dead. Which is highly unlikely, as all raid encounters were streamlined so that my very old grandma could enjoy them, too, if her fingers would not hurt.

Guides: A way to ruin your gaming experience and burn out even earlier?

All hail to the followers of the green/golden arrow, btw. ;) I used something similar, Mobmap, myself. But is it not SAD what Questing and RPG in MMORPG have become by now?

If you enjoy the game, like I did for some time, you cannot avoid getting rich.

So please everyone post his favorite Guide for this or that aspect of World of Warcraft. I recommend a levelling service so that you do not have to bother the game at all. Do not forget to check the box "delete account at level 80" and/or "complete achievements", so that you do not have to bother with that either! :)
The James guide is awesome. I recently rerolled on another server with some buddies and I suddenly found myself loathing the idea of leveling to 80 with a fresh character with no other characters to help. And with limited time on my side my friends were leveling far faster than I. The James guide has helped me to stay focused. I no longer have to do 4-5 long distance/lots of travel quests, instead I can pop off 10-20 quests at a time with little or no travel involved.
I don't really get the point of guides, on the first char I lvled everything was fresh and new, reading a guide would've spoiled the experience of exploration to me. I do suffer from a little bit of altoholism though, but I still don't see the point in consulting a guide while playing on alts. I guess that's where it is, I call it playing, not lvling, because I had 4 lvl 70s in TBC, but 3 of them were basically collecting dust. I only raid and do instances on my main, who is also a great farmbot, so I don't need to have my characters at max lvl. Also, having lvled 4 chars to 70 and 2 more to 60 I do know my way around well enough to figure out the most effective way to lvl fast anyway. Granted, it might go even faster if I was following a guide, but again, I feel no rush to get my alts to max lvl. I lvl my main first anyway when a new expansion hits, and I love finding out things for myself. If I get really stuck there's always Wowhead on my other screen.

Just as an anecdote, I was second in the guild to reach 80 (and to reach 70 as well, but that was in a different guild), and while I don't know much about #1 I know for sure that #3 was using QuestHelper while I was just plodding along without any help (except Wowhead when I just couldn't figure it out on my own, which was very rare). I guess the morale is that guides aren't enough, you need time as well. ;)
I dunno...I have recently given some consideration to picking up one of these "how to make gold" guides. I make a fair bit of gold daily for minimal effort, but I am really curious what they have to say. For me, it would be more the curiosity than anything else. I might make slightly more gold than I do now, but I don't think it would be anything mind blowing.

That being said, I think there are definately some people that would benefit from a guide such as this. There really and truly are people who just don't know how to make money in WoW. For example we have a guy in our guild who has never obtained his epic flyer. He was convinced that he would never get one, and just plodded along doing his few daily quests a day to cover his repair bills. So one night he and I were talking about it and I said to him "don't you have a gatherer", to which he replied "yes, an herbalist". It was at that juncture that I keyed him into selling his herbs. He didn't think they would sell for anything, and had never given it any thought. When I told him that things like Lichbloom and Icethorn sold for 70-80g a stack and goldclover 40-50g a stack he was astonished. Two days later he had his epic flyer.

Some people, like my friend, really can use the assitance in the "how to make gold" field. Some people, like me, may or may not get my monies worth out of a guide...If I end up deciding to buy one I'll let you know how useful I found it! =)

I could also preach Jame's free leveling guides, and the whole wow-pro site in general, but his blog has links to interviews with GameSpy and WoW Insider ( And those articles, along with the corrections he posted will say a lot more than I ever can.

But needless to say, starting at point A, running to point B to kill ten foozles, going back to point A, then returning to point B to kill foozle king is NOT fun, and his really minimizes that, which does make the game more fun.
I love Jame's guide. I think that one of the biggest benefits, and hound mentioned it, is that it really helps you stay focused. When leveling with a guide I play longer than without, and I get more done in each chunk of time.

I would never actually PAY for a guide like that however, because as you mentioned, it is easy to get the information free. And I wouldn't use the gold guide either because, hey, there is no way it is going to cause as much focus as a leveling guide simply because even if you know exactly what to do, it isn't always guaranteed to get gold. There is no "Ok, do this, you should now have 1000 gold." checkpoints like there are for levels in a leveling guide.
A few years ago I attempted to quantify the value of this "market".

WoW is now probably the most complex game ever created, so it's not a surprise that there is a huge demand for guides to playing it. There's a huge demand for Microsoft Word training courses, and that's a lot easier to understand than WoW.

Just to clarify some of the comments above: "Free" isn't really free in this context - it is advertising supported. Paid guides potentially allow their authors to do a lot more, including working within the game itself, via addons. Shrewd observers will note that ad-supported guides can't be offered in-game, because one throws out all the revenue, while maintaining much of the cost. Ever wondered why there isn't a download link to LightHeaded on Wowhead's front page? I could go on about how Blizzard would benefit from a third-party micro-transaction model within the game... but I think hell will freeze over before that happens. It's just a game, right?
I also fully endorse Jame's Levelling Guides. I was using them to help level a Horde toon when he only had Alliance Guides available. Having seen samples of some other levelling guides, I can also say that they're far better written and concise than others which seem solely to be a list of steps to tick off. Also, as mentioned, they're free.

With regard to comments about whether guides are a way to ruin the gaming experience or not: my answer from personal experience is no, they don't. Not for me. I'm by no means a power leveller (I've only just dinged 77 despite getting WotLK on the day it was released) and am in no rush to get to endgame. But Jame's guides got me over several frustrating bumps in my unassisted levelling that were dampening my enthusiasm for the game. Consider zones like Stonetalon and Hillsbrad. While a lot of zones have a natural succession of quests that mean you can do the whole lot in a couple of levels, those two have a a range of quests that are quite diverse but can't often be completed in order without some levelling in between. Using a guide meant I had little to no grinding sessions (especially after the XP changes in 2.3) and also that I could sometimes find quests that I had been previously unaware of (like the pirates in Faldir's Cove in Arathi).

The other advantage I found was being able to play for even half an hour or so and feel like I'd achieved something. By skipping out tediously long quest chains that take ages for minimal or no reward, I didn't ever feel like I had just spent ages doing nothing.

It's personal preference, of course. If you stick rigidly to the guides with no variation with the sole aim of levelling as quickly as you can then, sure, you might miss out a lot. But to say that using a guide will absolutely diminish the game experience for a player is a fallacy. It's a "guide". It doesn't deal with class quests nor account for levelling professions. If you have a gathering profession (well, herbalism/mining) then you'll end up naturally exploring while gathering nodes.

That being said, I wouldn't pay for a guide.* The information is available for free in several places and they're not something I feel is a worthwhile investment. But, generally, guides have enhanced my play experience. YMMV.

*Although I confess to having bought the official Atlases which probably count. I don't know why - they just appeal to a very geeky part of me.
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