Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Entry 16: How much is your time worth?

I'm crunching along merrily on my shaman, and at the moment I am perfectly content to follow the leveling guide and just sort of cruise through the game in melee mode. Just got into the first few ranks of Unleashed Rage, so now that little shudder of glee I get whenever I crit has evolved into more of a sick cackle. The thing I can't stand about my shaman at this level is the unpredictability of fights, since everything is predicated on getting off a crit. Sometimes I run in, get crits/windfury procs like crazy and the target is dead before I can blink. Other times, I'll stand there for what seems like forever just dual swinging away, getting increasingly frustated as the white numbers continually get broken up by MISS, MISS, DODGE, etc, with nary a crit in sight. I hardly ever drop totems unless I know I can reliably pull multiple mobs in sequence. I've found that using Lighting Bolt Rank 1 is a great way of getting something's attention without having to leave my little bubble of awesomeness.

But that's kind of besides the main point to this article.

See, I think I've finally gotten up enough courage to blow away Ferenczy's Enchanting profession to take up a new one. I've long had an antagonistic view of my enchanting skills because I just don't find it all that useful. I disenchant more than I enchant, and it's getting really old. I've turned to guildmates with more time/less common sense for all my high level enchanting needs, and I haven't missed it at all. I've decided to drop Enchanting (sitting at 301 skill now) for Alchemy.

My reasons for this are manifold. First of all, I love thinking systemically. Having Feren as an alchemist seems to gel really well with his primary-primary profession, Tailoring, because of the high demand for elemental reagents in tailoring recipes. Transmutes could come in really handy, I think. Thinking cross-character, I could have Shatterhoof supply quite a lot of Feren's herb needs once he gets up to speed, further alleviating the costs of leveling a profession from scratch.

A quick Google search will turn up a plethora of various profession power leveling guides that walk you through exactly what you need to make at the various skill levels in order to progress. This sure beats having to figure things out for yourself and potentially wasting valuable resources, the most critical of which is time.

You see, most casual players are lack not the want, ambition, or skill to do well in the game, they simply lack time. Between my responsibilities at work and the time I want to spend with my family, my time in-game is significantly less than that of most of the population. This means that I have to plan ahead for what I want to do and prepare as much as possible outside of the game in order to fully utilize the time I do have. This means reading up on boss strategies, searching for the quests or bosses I'll need to overcome for the loot I want, or, in this case, brushing up on a leveling guide so that I can set up the necessary milestones I'll need to hit every play session.

In a roundabout way this has led me to my current situation, and it's given me some insight into how the free market within WoW really works. Every player, casual or not, has to determine for him/herself just how valuable their game time really is. Take the epic crafting recipes for instance. If you don't have a lot of time, it's probably more efficient for you to do dailies in small blocks of time and just buy your mats on the AH. Grinding can yield the materials far more cheaply in terms of gold expenses, but you end up having to rely on the randomized loot of every mob you kill for the stuff you want, whereas completing a daily will ALWAYS give you the monetary reward you set out to acquire.

If you need, like I did, more than 25 Primal Fires for all the Shadoweave I needed for my Frozen Shadoweave Set, you're looking at over 625g in Primal Fires alone. That's the equivalent of 250 Motes of Fire, which, at BEST, would take you 150 Fire Elemental kills to accomplish if every elemental dropped 2 Motes. We all know they do not, that the drop rate is probably closer to 20% for every Mote, so those 250 Motes are more realistically going to take you around 1250 elemental kills to achieve. On my best days I could take three elementals at a time in roughly the duration of a single Corruption spell, or 24 seconds. Add in travel time to and from mobs, global cooldowns and the like and you raise that to roughly one minute per elemental pack. That equates to roughly 7 hours of game time just killing elementals, assuming I can get three pulls per minute and don't have any competition.

Can you say bloody unlikely?

On the flip side, assuming you can earn 40g an hour doing dailies (some people put this as high as 100g, but I'll be conservative, and assume you have a non-epic flying mount), that's about 16 days worth of dailies to purchase all those mats. Sure it might take longer, but if you're strapped for time, a slow, gradual build up towards your final reward is less stressful than the randomness of the loot generation system and open competition on the mobs.

So what am I getting at? Time is valuable. Time is worth gold. Those seven hours spent grinding could just as easily be spent running two or three instances (or at least two heroics), or clearing Karazhan once a week. If you want to maximize your play experience, you need to figure out what kind of returns your likely to see for your time investment and choose the optimal path. How you define 'returns' is entirely up to you. For some people it means improving gear, or earning gold. Others might define it a little more abstractly by simply calling it 'fun'. If grinding on elementals is your idea of fun, more power to you. After all, someone needs to fill in the supply side of supply-demand. I'll be more than happy to reward your hard work with the gold I earn running dailies, if it means I get more time to do what I consider 'fun'.

In case I wasn't clear, that does NOT involve farming.

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