Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Major changes to the glyph business

Blizzard decided to sabotage my project to blog less by releasing patch 4.0.1, bringing many significant changes to World of Warcraft, about which I could talk for hours. But in the spirit of not stressing myself, I'll first experiment with all these changes and post about them only slowly over the coming weeks. Nevertheless one change, which has been widely overlooked, touches a subject I've been discussing a lot: The glyph business. So I'll discuss that in this post.

The change appears minor, and probably won't even be noticed by the majority of players: Addons like Auctioneer or QA will in the future not be able to post multiple auctions at once. Every auction will require a "hardware" input, e.g. a mouse-click or keyboard press. If you are putting the three bind on equip items you found during your last dungeon run on auction, you will barely be affected. If you want to post 2,000 glyphs, that suddenly becomes a major hassle.

As I mentioned often, the glyph market is completely borked, because it doesn't cost anything to post a glyph, and the difference between the cost of making a glyph and what customers are willing to pay is so huge. Thus on every server I know, there are thousands of glyph auctions, with most sellers having hundreds if not thousands of auctions open, and prices wildly fluctuating between 1 gold and 100 gold for any give glyph, depending on who undercut whom when with what strategy. And that market is completely dependant on addons: It would be downright impossible to repost the same thousand glyphs every day if you hadn't got addons to empty your mailbox and repost the glyphs. The glyph business quickly went from being a game for many to being an industry for a few, with some participants being auction house gold farmers.

Sabotaging those addons is a good idea, and of course there is also that other major change to glyphs which makes that you only have to learn them once, and can later revert to glyphs you overwrote. But I'm not sure that this all will be sufficient to return the glyph market to anything resembling a player economy in a game instead of an automated gold making machine. The need for a hardware input is annoying, but not a hard cap, so some people will set up macros and keyclicking programs and hardware solutions that get around the problem. So we just get *less* people posting a thousand glyphs every day, without completely eliminating the phenomenon. What I would have liked to see would be a hard cap of lets say 100 auctions per account. That would be enough for every crafter who considers tradeskills as a game to post his goods, but would block the fully automated auction house gold farmers.

Remember: The player economy in a MMORPG is part of the game. The purpose is to provide fun to those players inclined to participate in that game. Automated trading only serves to diminish that fun, and due to the way the economy works there is no added value to the possibility of turning a few players into millionaires. As socialist as that might sound, in a game economy the entertainment needs of the many really should prevail over the exceptional cleverness of the few. There is no place for Ayn Rand in a game like WoW.
Hehe, you're blogging every day now Tobold! Be stronger!
And now lets say they would really implement a hard cap of 100 auctions per account.
Where do you think would you find your glyphs? There are about 335 different Glyphs available right now, if you can only post 100 no one would be able to cover the whole market.

don't get me wrong, I agree that the glyph industry is completely out of place. But you are trying to fix the symptoms, not the problem itself. The problem is that you have so many different but still fundamental recipies.
335 Glyphs, everyone of them will sell. Compare that to any other profession.

The only way to fix glyphs is to reduce the ammount you have to craft. Why don't you make something like a "Book of Classglyph" where you always lern a different random glyph for your class.
No you are limited to 10 different goods and thats pretty much in line with all the other professions.
Two simple ideas imported from Eve could fix some of the issues. First is turning auctioneering into a full-fledged secondary profession where your amount of auction slots is governed by your profession skill level. Secondly, the ability to buy less (or more) than the stack size posted by the seller. If you have 10 glyphs of a specific type, you could post them as a stack that diminishes as people buy individual glyphs from it. Instead of ten separate operations and auction slots, you only need one.
Also Keep in mind that the removal of automatization will increase prices in the long term.

The players who are playing and competing on the AH, mass posting quantities of all items are the reason for lower prices.

Any impediment on mass posting will simply lower the offer for any type of product.
Wouldn't the hardware workarounds you fear be akin to boting and therefore a banable offense? I also wonder how many players would have hit the gold cap without using the glyph industry.
@Okrane: Will it? With a more 'democratic' glyph market you'll see more people joining it, increasing competition. Also gold will be more spread out rather than concentrated, so even if there are slightly higher prices, there will also be slightly more gold flowing rather than concentrated among a few.
The glyph market is definitely supply saturated. This may be lessened somewhat now that each build can have three more glyphs, but not much overall.

Expecting to sell thousands of glyphs per day is way out of line. Most servers only have 1-2000 people logging in per day, of which only a small proportion are looking for glyphs. I thinks inscribers are better off selling their epic cards instead.
I don't understand why you think glyphs can't be participated in by casual players. Sure they can't list hundreds of auctions w/o add-ons, but who cares? If they only want to post their 10-20 they still can and might still very well sell what they posted. The old glyph system worked extremely well at keeping glyph prices DOWN for consumers (yay!) and a source of profit for those few who wanted to invest the huge amounts of time into it.

What everyone is overlooking is that what will ultimately rein in the glyph market is that everyone now only needs to learn glyphs once. This will make glyphs cost more but fewer purchases, more in line with other items.

I think if Blizzard was genuinely concerned about player abuse (and not just trying to reduce the server load of their auction system) then all they had to do was scale up the deposit costs for glyphs and it'd cut out most power sellers completely.
I think a soft cap would be better than a hard cap.

Simply make deposit fees scale based on how many items you have up for auction. Won't make any difference to the casuals, makes a small difference for the people putting up a few dozen stacks, but adds up to where if you want to hundreds of stacks up it just keeps adding up to the point where you can't put them up for high prices or risk throwing away all your profits if they don't sell.
"...difference between the cost of making a glyph and what customers are willing to pay is so huge."

Not so fast. Herbs prices (at least on my realm) skyrocketed alongside ink and glyph prices. At 3 inks each (I think Blizzard overshot with the "correction" here - 2 would have been sufficient IMO), cost of production is suddenly much higher. Sure, many glyph enthusiasts preloaded for the binge, but once that stock is exhausted...

I will say the semi-botting (thanks to QA Poster plugin) campers are having a tougher time of it, not being able to just AFK the whole time. THAT... is change I can believe in. /slapself

I understand the sentiment for the auction cap, but the fault is in the design of Inscription, where you have a profession with 300+ viable sellers at any given time.
"I thinks inscribers are better off selling their epic cards instead."

Shawno is likely on the right track, especially given how cheap they will be to produce, compared to prior Darkmoon cards. Plus, if I saw correctly, there is a chance to create a card that VENDORS for 5k, or some nonsense??
Besides, players won't need to buy a new glyph more than once. That'll also help in the fight against auction house pvp / glyph tycoons or however you want to call this minigame.

btw, why's blizzard opposed to that minigame? My guess is because it feels too much like today's industrialized activities.
1) Yeah for Tobold bloging! Just don't burn out, do only when fun, and try to remember how irrelevant, albeit annoying, the trolls are.

2) Bliz said that the inscription money is going to come from things besides glyphs.

3) 100 auctions per person would limit people who like to arbitrage; buy cheap stuff on Sunday night, sell Tues afternoon.

4) AH needs buy orders

5) A point where I am out of sync with everyone but I submit the problem is with ***asymmetric*** automation. I.e. the AH is just an automated way to keep people from having to spam trade with WTS for 48 hours. Similarly, eBay, which sells billions every day/month/idk of real $ has a way where when you place a bid for $100, you add a secret amount that it will automatically adjust your bid. So when I posted my Primordial Saronite, I could say bo is 300 but match any undercut down to 250, then that just makes for faster and more efficient markets. It is not the automation per se but rather that with a few hundred items in snatch and QA3, I am more automated than the casual. To be fair, you need AH buy orders to put upward pressure as well. Not having the automation just rewards the people who spam the AH more and cancel/undercut. (The normally sophisticated EVE breaks down here where Jita trading profits are far more about how ofter you log in than being correct about supply and demand. )

6) I read someone's post about battlegroups and how battlegroup-wide LFG has kept Blizz from having the embarrassment of having to close realms in down cycles. And then posited the idea of battlegroup AHs. I think a buy-only battlegroup AH with neutral AH size fees would certainly be more efficient. Your lowpop server could pay 20% more than on highpop but never 500%. Alas, the professional traders who would lose will complain far more than the 99% who would benefit. (Insert RL capitalistic rant about politicians, campaign contributions, and protected domestic markets.)
others here are right, the problem is *not* in automation. The problem is that there isn't *enough* automation, and that automation is not available to the casual buyer and seller.

In general, blizzard cannot get rid of goblins without completely breaking the economy. No matter what you do, if it is possible to trade, there will be many people who are stupid and or lazy about their trades, many other people who are willing to pay for convenience or time-shifting, and there will be other people who are very efficient and very goal-oriented about making as much of the profit from the the other sides of these trades as possible.

And note, that the ability to make a ton of profit in my chosen profession with a small amount of effort, leads to me *also* being a big spender on items that I don't make myself.

Even on items that I resell, I tip very well. If I don't craft an item, I require a bigger margin before I get involved, because I'm not interested in chiseling other crafters.

But note that I'm not a gold seller, I'm a regular player, who has raided, and I just happen to have a bank alt and like to make gold, and I can do it in fairly little time given the addons I have.

This change will be fairly annoying to me as I can no longer set my auctions to post while I go make dinner or something, but it probably won't keep me from posting. It's not really much worse than making enchant scrolls which either requires a bunch of special command line queueing of skillet, or the same act of clicking something every 5 seconds, while I'm making my scrolls.

I'll say this though, I don't make enchant scrolls unless I expect at least a 5g profit per scroll because of the pain in the ass factor, whereas other low deposit items I am happy to convert for a 50s-1g profit. So, now every profession will involve a minimum profit per item of a few gold instead of silvers to encourage people to supply it on the ah instead of spending their gold time farming something or doing dailies.

In any case, if your goal is to get rid of 24 hr ah botters, the *last* thing you want to do is limit the number of auctions. A player like me who lists my stuff at most once or twice a day easily puts up 4-500 auctions at a time -- far more if we are in the glyph market seriously (which I'm not).

Somebody who basically haunts the ah, might list fewer items because they are constantly canceling and reposting 1-2 items every time they get undercut, while I simply leave the number of items I think I might sell in 48 hours up on the ah.

But seriously, no matter what you do, some things are going to be worth doing on the ah for gold, and some aren't, and people who are good at the gold game and care about it are going to find a way to get filthy rich, and people who either don't care or can't figure out the simplest things about how to handle money are going to let most of their gold slip through their fingers. There is *nothing* blizzard can do to stop this, short of making the economy so broken that nobody actually cares about making gold, either because it won't buy anything useful, or is impossible to make at a reasonable pace.

If you want the market to be better, then implement buy orders and/or auto adjusting prices (i.e., I list my item for 300g, but it will adjust down to 250g if others undercut).

Those things will give the people who sit on the ah all day a much smaller advantage over those of us who normally play for an hour a day or so. And they will mean that players like me have a much smaller advantage over the people who just pop in and buy or sell their stuff randomly without knowing anything about the market.

Plus they will *improve* the functioning of the market and make it more efficient (prices available at any given time are more likely to reflect actual supply and demand).
Imo AH automation change is the game killer at least for me personally. It will significantly increase time required to do any meaningful AH business and turn into boring click fest. Automation is the thing that allowed a person like me who has about 7-8 hrs total a week to play game and can only attend a raid once on weekend to find a niche in the AH gold game. Because I had most my business automated I managed to make a decent profit 15-20k per week spending under 1 hr a day - pretty much all the game time I could afford on the weekdays.

Now with automation gone this niche is gone too and I don't see much sense to continue with WoW anymore.

Well if it was the Blizzard's intention so be it.
Putting things up on the auction house is more attractive now that there is less chance to be instantly undercut by a bot.

If it means higher prices so be it! *grin*
@pent "Putting things up on the auction house is more attractive"

Yes, if you have just few items to post. If you want 4-5k a day in profits this means at least 7-8k in revenue which means few hundred posts. And looks like Postal is also broken for the same reason. So you have to manually open all your mail with sale proceeds.
Didn't the glyph market take a huge hit when they changed the way glyphs work and you learn them now and you can easily switch them without having to buy it again?

That change has a bigger effect on the market than the one impacting addons.
I think there is room for Ayn Rand in WoW, preferably in the form of an NPC who you can find in some remote tiny town where everything is perfectly capitalistic and rich people defecate gold bars... So I guess that would be the goblin town then.
All the glyph traders confuse me.

Why on gods green earth do you need to make 5k a DAY? What on earth is the point of that? How is running some mods to make more money than you could ever need fun? It's all very confusing to me. Just don't get it. There's a lot of games with much better crafting... Tales of the Desert sound more in your vein. Or EVE. Since you seem to dig spreadsheets.
All epic loot hunters aka raiders confuse me.

Why on gods green earth do you need to kill bosses in ICC HM? What on earth is the point of that? How is getting a pixelated item with the word Heroic instead of normal fun? What is the point of running raiding treadmill to get more loot that you ever need and which resets with every new raid instance?
I guess that's the big game developer question: what is fun? In the AH business I perfectly understand that it can be fun to make a lot of money based on automated buying/selling/pricing decisions. I rarely did seriously play the AH, but when I did, it was fun to me.

Today, I'll just buy what I need without bothering much about its price. That seems stupid to AH pros, but it's in line with my current goals (which don't involve making tons of gold).

I also don't buy the market efficiency arguments - this is not (yet really) real life value but a virtual economy: Blizzard could grant each player a monthly income of 1 million gold if they so chose.

Blizzards idea of fun seems to center around meaningful (=based on momentary analysis of the situation) keyboard strokes/mouseclicks. (as a pvper I hope none of you keyboard turn...).

But as far as the AH is concerned, automation allows all AH players, casuals and pros alike, to get their share of meaningful keyboard strokes out of the AH minigame.

tl;dr: AH automation doesn't spoil anyones fun, so blizzard shouldn't bother fighting it.
Are the people making glyphs actually farming for the mats, or buying them from the AH to substain their bussiness?

Automation didnt cause the probems Blizzard is trying to address with this change, the players simply took advantage of a Blizzard provided ability to up the game, so to speak.

The ability of someone(think farming guilds here) dedicated enough to leverage the AH will be no different now than it was in Vanilla.
Any comments on the EA Louse saga?
Andrei, switching topics isn't really the answer. What is it that you find fun and engaging in glyph trading? I really just don't get it, so I'm asking.
Postal was working just fine this morning (version 3.4.2, IIRC).

What is fun in AH gold game? Btw, I never said I was in a glyph trading (nothing wrong about it though). Most of my profits came from enchanting, blacksmithing, alchemy and tailoring.

As for fun part it is pretty much no different from raiding - overcoming the challenge and sense of accomplishment. As mentioned earlier in my case it was also about finding a WoW niche before abandoning the game completely. With having under 1 hr of uninterrupted game time I could afford on most days raid progression was not for me. I read in several blogs that it was possible to play a meaningful AH game with relatively small time commitment. So I asked myself if I could do that - can I be successful at making WoW gold and hit gold cap spending under 1 hr a day 4-5 days a weak. It was a success for me - I earned way over the gold cap and it provided a great deal of satisfaction and fun. On the top of being able to afford just about anything in the game including buying a raid spot in the server top guild (26th in the US) alt run to complete ICC10 HM.
The glyph industry might have been much different if the material costs hadn't been so insignificant. Six glyphs from a single stack of herbs was downright silly, as was selling parchments from a vendor for silver pieces.

We wouldn't be having these issues if parchment came from Skinners, or if we needed to stock stocking a hundred different inks instead of just one (Jessica). Getting rid of the bots and their thousands of 4g stacks of herbs would have helped slow the market down, too. Blizzard seems to be focusing on making consumable cheaper and cheaper, and designing an entire profession around providing thousands of cheap consumable was bound to lead to problems, addons or no addons.
As someone who's made a whole lot of gold selling glyphs, the easiest way to fix the issue of mass listing of glyphs would be to increase the cost of listing them in the first place.

List prices are based on sell values, so you'd have to up that, but given that the materials costs of glyphs went up, it wouldn't be out of line to up the vendor amount.

By doing so, you'd enable people to list glyphs, but there'd be far less incentive to mass list and cancel. As is, people will just find ways around the new AHing limitations.
"So I'll have to create a 5 line program that clicks every second" were my first thoughts.

I'm pretty sure Blizzard does not want to stop the glyph posting. How else will everyone be easily able to get all their glyphs? These days 90% of the glyphs on a server are made by maybe five guys who do make quite a bit of money with it.
Limiting the supply of glyphs would have the exact opposite effect that you're looking for.

I currently make money in the glyph market by undercutting other glyph sellers on my server. Most of them have their baseline set at 200g, meaning that if there are no other copies of that particular glyph on the market when they go to post an auction, they post for 200g. I usually don't just undercut by a few silver when I see that. Why? Because super expensive glyphs invite more sellers into the market, and those sellers post loads and loads of super expensive glyphs that they make from buying the materials on the AH. You might make more profit per individual glyph from this strategy, but it's much harder to actually sell something when you're constantly being undercut by other sellers. I actually move glyphs a lot faster when the prices get close to materials cost, and since I collect my own herbs, I'm not worried about losing money that way. My time is all that's at stake.

My point here is that if I had an upper limit on the amount of auctions I post, I wouldn't be able to compete with the guys who post 5-6 of every glyph for 200g. I might post some of the really good primes for closer to that price because people actually buy them, but for something silly like glyph of lava lash, I'm not going to hold out for two weeks hoping some poor sap is desperate enough to pay 200g.

That's also not to say that I don't post everything for 5g out of the kindness of my own heart. I expect some in-game compensation relative to the time I put into making glyphs and posting them on the auction house, but I agree that some glyph sellers not only charging too much but shooting themselves in the foot for charging way more than people are willing to pay.

I actually tend to keep around 60-100 items on AH depending on the day because I don't have time to collect herbs to make much more than that, so your proposal probably wouldn't affect me. I just wanted to point out that cutting supply is not at all the answer.

I do get a lot of help from addons, but that speeds up the process for me. If it took me 3 hours to make as many glyphs as I do in 30 minutes now, I'd probably be far less willing to post cheaper auctions, if I did at all.

Finally, to answer the commenter who asked what was so fun about auctions: I consider it to be financial pvp, although I'm not competing against the buyers as much as I am the other sellers. It's a different aspect of the game than raiding or real pvp, but I enjoy it. I appreciate that it's just not for some people, just like battlegrounds or arenas aren't for me.
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