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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Alternative Chat :: Episode 13


Again we are a day late, but we're here, even though this isn't the Podcast you were looking for /waves hand. Needless to say, it's time to see if this is Lucky Thirteen or not: settle down for a new episode of Alternative Chat!






This week, I will be mostly chatting about:

  • The best laid plans often go astray.
  • The Free 90 at Pre-order 'Thing'. WARNING: This takes a while.
  • The fact I have more 90's than this time last week.
  • The fact the Timeless Isle's great for levelling sub-90 if you have the means.
  • Accidental Goldmaker Week is delayed until next week. Sorry.





If you have any comments or thoughts on this week's Podcast, or you'd like to abuse me for not having a clue as to what the Hell I'm talking about, please send your mail to:

alternativegodmother (all one word) AT gmail DOT com

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NOTES.


There are no notes.



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We'll be back next Friday 24th (NO REALLY WE WILL THIS TIME) with the next episode of Alternative Chat. If you can't wait until then, the next episode of Azeroth in 5 will be available on the 22nd.

Memories are Made of This

This is my GollyRocket :D

However much you play this game, it inevitably ends up about the people.

I read Big Bear Butt's Post on his Rocket and couldn't help but smile. My Rocket was bought by Rob, my ex-Guildie who departed before Christmas, with the gold he left me from his race to Gold Cap As Bear points out at the end of his post, you'll forget the details of the Expansions over time, but you never forget the names of the people who touched you, and it's true. My life in game has been populated by individuals, names that stay with me even after all these years. Not all of them are great, either, in fact some of them are testaments to what I've tried to avoid becoming during my online life. I've mentioned a few of them in my Blogging career: the priest that taught me to understand what mobs did the most damage and how to deal with them. The Ex-Guildie who tried to con people into doing what she needed, who became my personal nemesis when she got thrown out of the Guild. The Ex-Guild Tank who didn't want to be anything other than the best on the Server and now is in fact just that with the #1 10 Man Progression Group... oh and the irate Guildie and his wife who accused me of having a mental disorder when I left him out of 10 man ICC group.

Ah, good times.

The point to this however is simple: often it doesn't matter about what you're doing, but who's there to remember it with. The shared experience is something many of us return to as key moments in our lives: sporting, musical, family memories are often built around these crucial events... and become part of your collective unconsciousness with those you shared them with. Hence you don't remember the boss names in encounters, you refer to them by the collective names you use in a raid team to abuse them when they refuse to die. It's not often about the first time you clear an Instance completely, it's more around the problematic mechanic you couldn't grasp and now think is simple. It is also grasping that 'winning' in Warcraft isn't really as simple as many people might have you believe: there is no Route One to success, and it really doesn't matter if you're first or last to the table in either level or approach to a particular Instance. The real key to 'getting' Warcraft has very little to do with the mechanics and a great deal more to do with the reasoning. Everything has a purpose, including making you play with other people. In fact, doing this alone is becoming more and more of a disadvantage.

Yeah, I know that's rich coming from me, especially after the week I've had levelling deliberately out of instances and without the need for other people, but there is a point to all this. The only real way to counter anti-social behaviour isn't to remove the need for interaction, its to encourage it. However, that's very easy to say, but somewhat harder to enforce...


Many things to kill alone.

One might well argue that with each Expansion that passes by, it becomes easier to lose yourself in the game and not play with anyone else. As content is trivialised the desire to solo things and prove yourself mistress of what was previously a stretch for 5/10/20/40 people gives the individual a sense of power she wouldn't normally possess in current content, and that's all well and good, but it doesn't teach you how to do your job (and so we're back to the posts of the last few weeks.) Giving people's 90's without understanding of their current situation (how to buy things, where to go for quests, what rules have changed) also carries risks, but if we work on the assumption that most people will go and learn if they want to... well, that becomes less of an issue. What remains is the mechanics of social interaction, and the basic tenets of respect and care that you'd expect if you were in the Real World. For many people, those things simply don't factor into game-play, mostly because they don't see the WE in gaming, they simply consider the ME. I can give you a perfect example of this from yesterday.

Interest is relative. Your server may vary.

Building respect in the Community may be the single best way to deal with the multitude of current sins that seem to plague the player base. The fact that any one person feels they 'own' a Guild is, at least for me, a pretty damning embodiment of how the single player mentality is really destructive in a social situation such as Warcraft presents. A lot of trust is placed in the people that run Guilds, and it is so often destroyed by individuals like this who believe their name affords them rights over everyone else, that you can just buy and sell people like this with absolutely no consequences. Blizzard have tried mentoring programmes but I feel that there really should be more significance and consequence laid at the door of people who trade Guild values like this, and that the notion of a Guild's 'value' should be redefined. I'm concerned at how little we've heard about possible Guild changes or improvements for Warlords. I really hope that's simply an oversight on the part of the Devs.

I'd like to think that the memories of Warlords with my Guild will be as good as every expansion that has preceded it, and that has a massive amount to do with the people I play with, and a lot less to do with the actual content. However, not everyone's lucky enough to be with the same group they started their Warcraft journeys with. Maybe it's time to start promoting friendship and understanding as reasons to play ahead of free L90's and fabulous raid content... and to ask people to stop playing alone. I know I need to spend more time doing just that, even if the temptation sometimes is to do the exact opposite. I know the benefits and the pitfalls. Sometimes, moving out of your comfort zone is the only way to make progress.

Friday, January 17, 2014

No More Heroes

Communications breakdown can mean only one thing...

It's the most brilliantly simple of fait accomplis, when you think about it.

People want to play Warcraft,  but in the main that means End Game. Getting there is tedious and demoralising when you have four previous expansions to plough through and the content is out of step with current development trends. There isn't either time or resources to go back and change that content to give it updated relevancy. Therefore it makes far more sense to eliminate the need to interact with that content completely, as it is has become impossible to remove because it is ingrained into what the game has become. The solution is elegantly simple. Just give people max-level characters now, and then everyone can do 90-100 together when the new Expansion launches.

Oh, and once the Expansion's established, allow people to buy L90's so they can play Warlords instantly.

So, that's the Future.

The gaming world sees things in extremes, in black and white, and rarely, if ever, accepts major change without throwing a hissy fit.
Source

Looking back on November, the article from which this quote is lifted seems like a lifetime ago. I remember how I responded to that idea too, with dismay and disappointment. I was very careful not to be in any way hissy, because the writing was on the wall even before we had Warlords on the table. I'd said before, in these pages, that I thought the purchase of max level characters would signal the End of All Things (TM) and yet... the reality is that this is the future. I am not Blizzard's target demographic, and if I was and I had the cash... well, yes I'd buy into this, because this is now how the game is played. It used to be about other things, back in the day, but now it is about convenience and focus groups and online surveys, and if those are telling Blizzard to offer a service they can make money from on top of the Subscription Model, would they really not try and capitalise on that?

There are going to be a lot of sad and angry people this morning, of that I'm fairly certain. The fact remains: this is a game that is entering it's 10th Year, with a film tie-in soon to begin production. To maintain the level of quality and consistency in both content and perhaps more importantly customer service that the player base has become accustomed to requires a sizeable and continuous financial commitment. If this move will help Blizzard continue that, then so be it. As long as the system can be regulated to ensure people don't abuse it via the means of bots and 'farmers', then there is no reason why it shouldn't happen. The problem could come with people buying 90's 'off the shelf' and having no idea of how to play them... but there's still 10 levels to complete before you're maxxed in Warlords. In what I think is both a significant and inspired move you'll get your 'free' 90 when you pre-order the game digitally to give you a chance to gear it BEFORE the Expansion arrives. Blizz even suggest you could go for your Legendary Cloak in that time, which says to me it won't be long before that happens and that they too understand that just having the character is one thing, but actually being able to play it is something else entirely.


Don't look for fault, look for answers.


You could argue, as Cyn the Infinitely Wise points out, that a lot of us are using the system to do exactly what Blizzard are now offering without the need to drop the cash. This is the key here: those of us who have the time can put in the hours. If you're able to buy what you need, is it wrong to not offer the service because of the objections? Does this move simply indicate that Blizzard are fulfilling a need based on considerable customer feedback and demand? Well, yes it does. No giant spaceships are arriving to destroy the Planet. The Apocalypse could well be imminent, but frankly I think I'd be better off not knowing it was so I could enjoy my last days with the people I care about. The fact remains, people want to buy stuff to play games with, and after a decade I reckon this is one game license that could actually survive that kind of change and grow from it as a result.

Two things will now dictate whether this move is successful:  just how good will Warlords be, and how many people might consider pre-ordering the game to get their hands on a free 90 once the offer hits.

I'm thinking we might not have that long to wait on at least one of those fronts to find out.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dawning of a New Era

Auspicious title, odd graphic, gets no better.

This is fantastic.

No, really, it is. This is the best time I've had in game for as long as I can remember, and I'm not just saying that, because some people seem to think that's what happens. I'm not here to make you feel bad that you're not enjoying playing, I'm just doing what I've always done, coming up for five years now. However, this is an odd place I find myself in, and I realise that Pandaria has changed a great deal more in my game playing than perhaps I'd first grasped when we started this journey last September. It could be, of course, that I'm the one that's changed, which may well also be correct, but if I look back to the end of Cataclysm...

This Expansion has been hard work. I'm actually beginning to enjoy that.

Mr Alt last night asked me why I've gone out of my way to avoid any questing unless I can make any secondary income out of it, and I realised it's not just because I have a moral aversion to completing that particular journey. I'm gaining far more enjoyment in actively finding ways to avoid the traditional grind, because I really have fallen out of love with the Quest Model, which would have been a bit of an issue when it remained the only manner in which to get to End Game. However, Pandaria introduced a massive amount of alternative choice to the levelling model, quite apart from the path you can take using Instances and Battlegrounds. Pet Battling as a method of XP gain's been absolutely fabulous, and having people like Liopleurodon and her Blog around is really rather useful in knowing which pets I ought to be levelling so when I extract the digit and finish off those bits of the Xpac I've not done, I'm already ahead of the game. Then there's collecting the Treasures of Pandaria and doing Lost and Found/Relic Hunter as a means for XP gain which has not simply a massive payoff, but an element of danger I'm finding quite thrilling.

Once I decided to do this using the 90 Hunter as Logistics Co-Ordinator, things got really very interesting indeed.


Three Guesses where we're going :D


It started off simply enough: drag the Shammy around whilst I kill Rares, which was great until she ran out of rested and I got impatient to push her to 90. So, I decided we were going to fly to the Timeless Isle and I was going to do my 50 Epoch Stones and 20 Elites with an Earth Shield an the ability to mine ore on follow. Every mob, regardless of rarity is 10k XP towards the total, and I was doing what I always do, only this time with the added benefit of MAKING MORE MONEY. Frankly, I should have started this months ago, but only now am I in a position to maximise the potential for this. This means I can take my 86 Priest/DE-r out for the Rares and shard everything. The other Hunter can come along and mine as the Shaman is when she's done... and I can carry on with my daily routine with the benefit of making an entirely separate Toon happy. I just had to learn to grasp the complexities around me and understand that time is the most precious resource I own, and as a result it needs to be maximised wherever possible.

Of course, having a Two Person Flying Mount makes transportation utterly academic (especially getting to the Island.) The Shammy can't loot the chests she's seeing sparkle at her, but dirt piles and mobs yield Coins aplenty, plus Lesser Charms which she can start stacking to ensure we pick up Warforged Seals as soon as we hit 90. It also helps having a second machine to do this with (though I could just as easily run two accounts from the same PC, I just choose to use this setup for convenience.) I don't even have macros, which I could organise, I just stick one on follow and off I go. I'll do my best to grind out 90 tonight doing Leather, which remains by far the most lucrative means for me to make money on the Island for the Hunter, allowing the Shammy to be exactly where she needs to be to clear out all the chests and then gear over the weekend. After that, I have a choice of recipients to come play whilst I clean up.


BECAUSE IT'S THAT TIME.

Frankly, I'm having a whale of a time, mostly because I've got the measure of what I need to do. There are clear, concise goals on the table to be completed. First up: all these guys to 90, so I can pick a Warrior to create at 90 and learn the only class I've never really got my head around without the mind-numbing tedium of 90 levels of frustration that's meant I never had one past L20. I'm going to use the feature as Blizzard intended and pick summat new to try. Everyone else will me maxxed before Warlords, because I have a plan.

It's glorious.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

This Week I Will Be Mostly :: Juxtaposed with U

OMG ACTUAL ORGANISATION

I finally got my arse in gear.

It was inevitable: my family of alts, however hard I stared at them, simply weren't going to level themselves, so I took it upon myself to get started with a couple and see how well things went. As it transpires I've gone great guns this last week, and I fully intend to continue this trend until I have many more people at 90. So far, I've managed the following:





Shaman is 89, and with an iLevel of 407. She's gotten there via numerous means: Pet Battles, mining, being dragged by P through Normal Instances (two computers FTW), Treasures of Pandaria, Pandarian Rares, and hasn't touched a quest since the Starting Area. She's maintaing her healing Spec too, with a full set of 496 gear awaiting her at 90 before I suspect being dragged about the Timeless Isle for a bit (again by P) to pick up enough Coins for a weapon, though I may just say bugger it and go straight for LFR and see if I luck out. We will see. Needless to say, as my Blacksmith it was glorious to take her to the Klaxxi Quest Hub, throw enough Zandalari Warbringer tokens at her to get the rep required for all the BS patterns, and then hand her the Kyparite to buy them, all at 88. I can finally make the Living Steel Belt Buckle. GO ME.





Non-Guilded Vanity Druid is at 87 with an iLevel of 416 (yay for BoA weapons), and proving a joy to level as a Principle Skinner. I made money from Tol Barad, then doing the Nessingwary Quests as an excuse to kill all of the stuff to skin. I knocked off John Dar enough times solo while in the area to have his Terracotta Fragment as a trinket too, but nothing actually useful to wear. I got the last half a level scooping up Treasures and sneaking around picking flowers, but I am still to max either gathering skill. Once I have rested up to 88 I'll be popping out to Townlong to kill higher level nasties and see what other Treasures I can pick up for massive XP boosts. I'm loving Boomkin again, had forgotten how indestructible my Druid is with rolling HoT's.




The token male Hunter has begun his journey to 86 and will be skulking around the Jade Forest wielding the impressive-for-his-level and fully upgraded Archaeology hunter weapon. He's already at iLevel 394 which I suspect may well get augmented over time. As an Engineer and a Miner, there's a bit of work to do, and his gathers will get used to max his skill. I am hoping to kill enough mobs to get the book to drop so we can add him to the Jard's Bandwagon, and after that...? Well, who knows. He and his beetle George had a great time late last night riding their Chopper around the Forest, for that fact alone I can see myself spending time with him as relaxation.

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These three are my focus, and once I have them maxxed we'll organise getting everyone a Farm and some jobs to do. On that front the Rogue has opened up all 16 plots on her place and I'll spend this weekend getting everyone so they can buy their own place, set their hearthstones to the Valley, and start churning out raw materials. I alsmost have enough Living steel to make the two Engineering Battle Pets and once that's done I have some long term goals: a couple of Fridges for bank alts, and then to put down materials to make at least one Sky Golem for investment, after which I'll sell any Steel I make that's not used for Belt Buckles or other sundries.

It's a lot to do, but I'm having a great time doing it. In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is the most fun I've had in-game for quite some time...

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Take Me Out


One other thing I should mention based on some other comments in here is that, just like today, PvP Power will be active vs players in any context, not just inside PvP instances. So if you're comparing a PvE and PvP piece of the same item level -- for example, a piece of Conquest gear and a piece of Heroic raid gear -- it should work out something like this: 


  • The PvE item is stronger in PvE instances 
  • The PvP item is stronger in PvP instances 
  • The PvE item is slightly stronger vs creatures in the open world 
  • The PvP item is slightly stronger vs players in the open world

Once again, I need to be clear that this is all early development thinking and anything might change, but our hope is that whatever we end up doing makes things work something like that. 




You remember last week when I suggested removing all PvP Crafted Gear from the game? Well, I've got a better idea. You can thank CM Lore for it.

As you can see, if proposed changes for the game come into effect with reference to gear, wearing PvP gear for... well PvP is what you ought to be doing, as will be the case for PvE gear. There's also changes coming up to PvP Power so that although actual output will be comparable, it's all going to depend on which targets you're hitting to begin with, and this is a key point. This means (if I read this right) is that PvE creatures will effectively be 'flagged' as PvE mobs for the first time whilst players will have a separate flag which means the calculations will be different for each thing you kill in game. This seems fairly ambitious to me in terms of fundamental game changes, and I can see why Lore might be a bit cautious about this being in the planning stage only. However, this potential change would make an awful lot of stuff a damn sight easier to both explain and understand for new players. It might also give Blizzard a chance to physically enforce a few rules about gear in it's own matchmaking systems.

What if, let's just say as an example, LFR wouldn't let you enter if you had PvP items equipped? Similarly, what if you wanted to do a Rated BG but couldn't enter if you were wearing PvE items? Suddenly, crafting could become a completely different beast, especially if the game allowed you to pick a PvP/PvE specialisation... and again we have a situation where gear becomes a means of 'gating' you into content, but only so far as to ensure you're doing the MOST DAMAGE you can. That can't be bad, can it? I mean, if this worked well you could at least guarantee that the people you were playing with via random matchmaking were at least making a cursory effort, even if they then went AFK or put you on follow for the remainder of their playtime. We still don't have a good way to tell if people are any good at playing, of course, but suddenly there might be a way to make people show some actual willing as to which flavour of gameplay they'd like to indulge in. Oh, and we can 'flag' World PvP Zones as being instances a la Wintergrasp so if you're not properly geared, you don't get into those either...

But of course, this is not simply infeasible but unfair.


YEAH BUT WHAT ABOUT FACTION BOSSES ^^

Blizzard's biggest single problem is their own success when it comes to trying to introduce change to make the game easier for new players to understand is the old, static player base. Yeah the ones who have been paying their taxes since Vanilla so you can still be here so don't change anything that might make me move out of my comfort zone who exhibit a resistance to change that can sometimes be disturbing. However, there is a valid point to be made, especially when Blizzard are trying to reduce the number of gear sets people need to lug about. You shouldn't be penalised if you wanna PvP by not having the gear, same with PvE. People should be able to do anything they want, at any point, without having to worry about the right items. After all, if my way became THE way, the Holy Grail of World PvP loses all its meaning, and that's just not right... and so we return to the perpetual stalemate. Ironic when Blizzard is making it's most focussed effort for many years to allow PvP and PvE to exist independently and to benefit those who choose to actually make the decision to take a side. That's the problem, in the end, having to make choices. Getting everything you want, regardless of consequence, could be argued to be a far more dangerous precedent to take than making people choose.

Actually, World PvP could be where you could just wear what you wanted without consequence, quite easily, but if you wanted to push your opposition's face into the floor and stand on their head, you'd still need to go do the work to get the gear to stomp harder than anyone else. I reckon I could cope with that too.


Many options, COUNT THEM.

There are many ways to allow people to enter PvP in Warlords with absolutely no work (or at least very little) The instageared PvP 90 could be one option. @Wabbage on Twitter suggested giving a complete set of PvP gear as starting area rewards, maybe like the DK Starting Zone... in fact, maybe the PvP 'area' in Warlords could offer something similar, so you could take your favourite 90 who you've already levelled to start there and pick up everything you need to begin playing say, in a day. Would a day's work be too much to ask for a set of gear you could then level in via Battlegrounds? I don't think so, though I am sure some people could find issue with it. The key here has to be freedom of choice for players, but at a price. This is really important: the same way people need to understand that if you want to play PvE well there are things you need to do, the same is undoubtedly true of PvP, perhaps more so. Most PvP-ers would argue it's their branch of the game that involves more skill and co-ordination, and they're right. If you want to do something properly, then making the effort should be the default state and not complained about when suggested.

I doubt what many would consider the Draconian restrictions I'm advocating here would come to pass, simply because Blizzard know which side their bread is buttered, and letting everyone cheese everything means they keep the most money in the bank. Still, I don't think there's anything wrong with pushing your playerbase into actually getting off their behinds and doing some work now and again... you know, some ACTUAL thinking once in a while. Needless to say, I hope these changes come to pass, because it will mean for the people who really do put in the hard graft, there will be some obvious rewards for doing so, on both sides of the gearing fence.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Confusion the Waitress

Piles of mobs. MANY, MANY piles of mobs.

I said midweek I'd been a bit rubbish organising myself in-game because of other projects: well, yesterday afternoon I managed to snatch a couple of hours and was able to work a massive amount of things out, which has gone a long way towards organising myself far better for the week ahead. This will be the first week for some time I've not capped Valor before the weekend, but that's actually not a disaster in the wider scheme of things. It has given me a chance to standardise my faff time, to work out who needs what, and to lay down a goodly supply of raw materials to use later in the week, a trend I intend to continue today. It transpires that getting a mining alt to 16 plots at the Tillers Farm is a fabulous way not only to build up a stockpile of items, but also to practice being a better Rogue (in my case), earn some money and set up a routine to boot. In fact, I have a confession to make.

I MISS DAILIES.

There, I said it.

When it is routine that drives so many people away, I find myself more able to plan and organise when it exists, especially in the quiet times. As a result, today, I will be sending alts to various Daily hubs and letting them earn Valor and cash by doing just that. I'll attempt to match the Hubs to individual skillsets, so I can maximise additional forms of income as a result. The key however, is the Valor rewards. If I can complete some dailies and grab more cash as well as the points, I will slowly accrue 3000 Valor per character in the most stress-free manner possible, which I can then spend on upgrades, and as that would mean 522 items that everyone on this particular list can use pre-Expansion, that's an additional added bonus. If I get to LFR at some point, so much the better, but I could even combine this with completing quests in zones I've not done too. What I'm going to crave in the next couple of months is VARIETY, and a way to at least make sure everyone's gear is not woeful enough to struggle when levelling, but at the same time it doesn't need to be LFR quality to continue. I've learnt that lesson from Cataclysm: when time is of the essence, you want to combine your activities in the most effective manner possible. For me that means money before gear, and that's a fairly significant shift from the last Expansion.

I could just go to the Timeless Isle and grind stuff in the hope that Burdens drop, but really I have no desire to do this on any more than one character a week, which is odd for someone who says they miss a Daily Grind. However the island is unforgiving at low gear levels and pushes you to LFR to upgrade so you can come back and make it easier, and that's one gating mechanic I refuse at this stage in the game to ascribe to. I would far rather get my alts to 90, do a circuit of the Island with them for chests to collect further stuffs, and *possibly* gather enough coins to upgrade weapons, but that's then pretty much it, because when 90-100 begins again everything will get upgraded via levelling, and there's no real point in sweating the gear issue. If this expansion taught me one thing it's that time IS money, friend. The Goblins were right. Money is what matters this time around, and the best way to make that is with something else, as we're going to amply demonstrate next week. On reflection, the 5.4 patch hub has a lot to answer for.


There's always one mob that refuses to play.

The Timeless Isle has pretty much completely devalued the significance of the gearing process. It's also created a completely new way to make money just for yourself, for your alts, without having to worry about auction houses or shuffling or indeed any of that pointless faffing about. This means that when I get my next 90 to the Island it's pretty much pure profit all the way. You see, every alt I've got thus far already has a pile of appropriate gear waiting for them, which means anything else I pick up is pretty much surplus to requirement. Mr Alt steered me towards the most simple of tips to bring in some gold I'm really quite embarrassed I never worked it out before. Although undoubtedly the most profitable way of selling the items is having an Enchanter who can convert them in to Sha Crystals, I don't have an Enchanter who wears every armour class. Rings, necks and cloaks are sorted for my Mage who can convert all the cloth. However, for everything else I have a problem. Unless, of course, I have a 90 who doesn't need the items... ^^

5g if you spot the Odd Item Out

This is how it's going to work, when I've written this I'll log my bankalt who has a pile of items sitting and waiting for me to sort (even if they look organised here) and I'll check that every pre-90 alt that needs has a complete set of gear waiting for them, including rings and neck. Then all the items I can that are cloth go to my Mage to DE, but more significantly the mail and leather items go to my 90 hunter and rogue to convert to their appropriate items, before I vendor them. This is how Mr Alt turned a 4000g profit last night, simply from items in his bank he'd collected but not yet used. Selling them unconverted is 5g but as items they have a far larger value, but as BoP's... plus there's no AH legwork involved. Just your cash, in the bank. As I don';t (yet) have a Plate wearer at 90 I can't convert those items but for everything else, it's money that was just sitting in my bank gathering dust, and with the speed Timeless Items drop... I'd frankly be stupid not to. Plus, MOTHER OF ALL FAFFS.

So, if you wonder what I'm doing today, it is Logistics Sunday. Everyone gets a job to do, everyone gets some bonus items to play with, and by the end of today (hopefully) everyone at 90 has a clear task to complete, with enough variety to keep me interested in the cold months that follow... of course, if a beta appears in the next couple of weeks, there's the potential for all of this planning to gracefully sail out of the window.

We shall see.