Friday, May 10, 2013

Neverwinter - A Beginner's Guide and FAQ

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows I've been talking about Neverwinter a lot over the past few days. Gimp got me to start playing and I'm hooked. I look forward to writing a few more posts about my impressions, thoughts, Auction House tips, etc. but right now I think what the internet really needs is a good beginner's guide. The wiki for the game sucks ass, to say the least, and many of the other guides I found left out important things like Invocation or Companions, so I'm going to try to give a rundown of what a new player needs and may want to know in their first days of playing.

(Don't worry, WoW fans, this blog will still see plenty of WoW content, I just want to talk about Neverwinter for a bit, if you'll allow me to.)

I. Introduction
Neverwinter is a free-to-play fantasy MMO based in Faerûn, the main continent of the Forgotten Realms, arguably the most well-known D&D campaign setting. I won't go too much into detail here so I don't get all D&D nerdy and forget the point of the post. Just know it's a fully fleshed out world with decades of lore to back it up.

It's put out by Perfect World, the same publishers of Star Trek Online. Like most free-to-play games it features a cash, or Zen, shop where you can buy things for your character, both useful and cosmetic.

So does free-to-play = pay-to-win?
No. There are items in the Zen shop which greatly impact your character (bigger bags, profession boosters, etc.) but none of them are absolutely necessary, they just help you along.

If you feel these items are necessary you're still not forced to pay. The game features an exchange allowing players to buy Zen for Astral Diamonds, an in-game currency. And so everything in the Zen Shop is available without paying, it just may take longer to get. Because of this I cannot say this game is pay to win.

II. Creating Your Character
Download the game and watch the cut scene. Be sure to watch the cut scene. You'll see a little bit of the playstyle of every class and so it can help you choose what you'd like to be. Here's the class run-down:

Guardian Fighter (Tank)Sword and shield wielding tank.They don't do tons of damage solo, they're made for tanking, and so this is great if you intend to level with friends. You may want to choose a higher damage class if playing solo, but you'll still be able to solo with the Guardian Fighter, you just may not feel as powerful.

Trickster Rogue (Melee DPS) - Standard rogue. All about DPS and being stealthy.

Control Wizard (Ranged DPS/CC) - Decent DPS and a lot of control, as the name suggests. Very squishy but the amount of CC they have should keep them alive.

Devoted Cleric (Healer, Ranged Support DPS) - This is currently the only healing class. They can DPS and solo well (this is what I play) but the important thing to know is they're currently the only real healing class, making them very sought after endgame.

Great Weapon Fighter (Melee DPS) - Less stealth and more big swords than the Trickster rogue.

What race should I pick?
Any race can be any class. Remember you'll be staring at this character all the time so I recommend picking something you like the look of. Races have racial bonuses but none are game-breaking enough to choose one race over the other.

It's asking me to fill in a background and deity?
From a gameplay perspective these don't matter. These are for us RPers who want to think of our character as more than pixels. Read up a bit, find something that sounds good to you. This doesn't effect play at all.

III. Playing the Game
The opening quest lines give a good introduction to the way the game handles and so I won't go too much into every little bit of things, but here are some basics that I wish I'd known:

The UI
There are two modes for the UI. They're called Mouse-Look Mode, which is the mode you'll normally be playign in, and Mouse Cursor Mode, which will allow you to use the cursor and click things. You switch between them with the Alt key.

Click on the image to view full size.

These different abilities will be introduced to you as you gain them through questing, so you'll get a basic rundown of the difference between all the spell types in-game.

IV. The Noob's Guide to Starting Out

I just started, what do I do?
Play through the quests. They'll acquaint you with the basics and eventually lead you to town.

I just reached town for the first time, what do I do?
Continue along your quest lines to find the next areas to level. 
Visit vendors in the Market to sell any junk in your bags. 
Collect your welcome kit from the mailbox. 
Store any items you want to keep but don't need to use (like your welcome kit) in the bank.

Press M to view the map in-game.
You should now also be eligible to play Foundry quests. Foundry quests are player-created content that you can play instead of the default quest lines. Access them by pressing H, searching the Catalog, and accepting a Foundry quest.
I just hit level 10-11, what do I do?
 It's time to start Invocations and Professions. 
  • Professions start at level 10: See section V below. 
  • Invocation starts at level 11: Once an hour you can Invoke at a Campfire. Stand at the Campfire and press Ctrl+I. You will get a temporary buff and possibly currency, items, and experience. Doing this once a day will also grant one each of Ardent and Celstial coins. You want to do this at least once a day to keep collecting these coins, which can later be traded for gear, mounts, and companions.  
I just hit level 16, what do I do?
You will have a quest to gain a Companion. Companions will help you in battle so you want to do this quest as soon as you can.  You can choose Man at Arms, Cleric Disciple, Wayward Wizard, or Dog. 
Non-tank classes will probably want to choose Man at Arms as it functions as a pocket-Tank for you. Warrior classes will like the Cleric Disciple to be their pocket healer. The Wizard deals good AoE damage and the Dog deals good single-target damage.
 I just hit level 20, what do I do?
This is when you unlock your first mount. It may be too expensive now (5g) but you will be granted 3 free tokens to get temporary five hour mounts to help you in farming up the rest of the gold you need. You receive these tokens from the blue Level Up box.  Alternatively you can sell items on the auction house for Astral Diamonds and use those diamonds to buy a mount from another player via the Auction House.

V. Professions
Every character has access to every profession. Unlike WoW you will not choose just a few out of a list. However you do have a choice of what you focus on.

Leadership: Grants experience, money and other currency, and items.
Mailsmithing: Creates armor for Clerics and Great Weapon Fighters.
Platesmithing: Creates armor used for Guardian Fighters.
Leatherworking: Creates armor for Trickster Rogues.
Tailoring: Creates armor for Control Mages.

I chose Leadership because the experience it grants will help when leveling my character. You may wish to choose whatever crafts items for your class. Eventually you can have everything, though, so don't worry about choosing "wrong."

Every class has a gathering "skill" associated. This means they can use the nodes without kits. So as a Cleric I can gather any Religion node without needing any supplies. Anyone can gather any node but for non-class nodes you need the right kit. All of my expenditures so far have been kits to gather nodes, which is why I had a bag full of profession items. I highly recommend having ~5-10 of every type of kit (other than your class kit, which you won't need) when you're out adventuring, so no nodes go to waste.

You open your Professions tab by pressing N. Every player can use/max every profession, it just comes down to how you want to go about doing it. In your profession screen you have available profession slots. You begin with one slot and can unlock more by completing certain tasks.

Your first move when getting started with Professions will be to hire an Asset. Think of these as workers or specialists for that profession. This is a fast task, and will be done soon. Once you have your asset you can send that asset for his first job.

When you click on the profession, in this example Leadership, you will see a list of jobs you can do. Choose one that fits your playtime. Ideally you want to be able to be there when the job is finished, so if you know you're going to be playing for a few hours you may want to do a 2 hour task, but if you're going to sleep maybe choose a 6+ hour task.

Doing a task will reward Profession Experience and possibly other rewards. As you gain more profession experience that profession will level and you'll have access to a wider variety of jobs.

As you unlock more Profession Slots you can have multiple professions working on jobs at once or you can focus all of your slots on one profession, as long as you have the assets. (You hire additional assets after reaching certain levels in the Profession.)

VI. Currencies
The only thing I don't like about Neverwinter is they have way too many different types of currencies. It's not hard to keep track of once you learn them, but it still seems like there are way too many. Let's get acquainted with what they are, how to get them, and how to spend them.
  • Gold (and Copper and Silver)
    Gold is the default in-game currency. You gain it from completing some quests and it drops from mobs. This is the currency you will use to buy your first mount as well as to buy profession kits, healing potions, and other consumables.
  • Astral Diamonds
    This is the currency used in the Auction House. You will earn it from quests (such as Daily Skirmishes) and from Invoking, as well as earning it from sold auctions. Most diamonds are earned in their Rough form and must be refined. (Press I, choose the Riches tab, and hit Refine next to Rough Diamonds.) You can refine 24k Diamonds per day, so do so as much as possible so you don't create a backlog of Rough diamonds.
  • Zen
    This is the cash shop currency that is used in all Perfect World games. For Americans, in USD, it costs 1c per Zen. You can buy this at the game's website but you can also buy this from other players via the Astral Diamond Exchange.

    Buy it from players here.
    Spend it here.
  • Ardent and Celestial Coins
    You earn one of each of these coins per day, the first time you Invoke at a Campfire. Ardent Coins can be held indefnitely and traded for gear, mounts, and companions by hitting Spend in the Riches tab.

    Celestial Coins must be "renewed" each day. If you go more than about a day and a half without Invoking the coins will expire, and so you must Invoke every day to build these up. They can be exchanged for Profession boosters which contain useful items for crafting.
  • Glory
    Glory is the PvP currency, similar to Honor in World of Warcraft. You earn it for participating in PvP battles and it can be spent on PvP items like potions and special mounts.
  • Seal of the Lion
    Seals of the Lions are dropped by bosses in dungeons and can be earned through Bounties (see next item.) Vendors in the market will sell mid-level gear for these Seals.
  • Bounty Items
    Most zones have a Bounty Hunter in them. Killing mobs in this zone will yield bounty items, such as Blackdagger Insignias. You can trade them with the Bounty Hunter to gain Seal of the Lion or random low level gear.
  • Tarmalune Trade Bars
    When you open a Nightmare Lockbox (think Mann Co Supply Crate from TF2) you will get random items and some Trade Bars. These are a sort of consolation prize so that people who open 200 boxes don't feel like they got completely screwed. If you somehow end up with enough bars to buy something there is a vendor on the outside edge of the Market who will sell mounts and other fun items and takes the bars in return.
VII. General Questions and Such
  • What's the best class?
    Choose what you'd like to play. But Clerics in general seem to be the most in-demand at endgame.
  • What is the best race?
    Halflings. HALFLING POWER. (But actually I don't know. But, I mean, come on, it's Halflings.)
  • Which profession should I level first?
    I like Leadership. If you wait till level 60 to level Leadership the experience gains will be worthless, so I chose to do it first. I'm unsure if one will pull ahead in the long run.
  • When do I get my first mount and how much does it cost?
    Level 20, it costs 5g
  • What should I keep track of?
    Make sure you've Invoked each hour and all your Profession Slots are in use. Make sure you do your daily Skirmish, PvP Domination, Dungeon, etc. as soon as you can.
  • Is there anything I should or shouldn't buy?
    In the market buy several profession kits for anything other than your default profession. Never let a gathering node go to waste. Do not buy the item Bag of Holes, despite its name it is not a functional bag, it is vendor trash players put on the AH to fleece noobs.
  • I got an enchantment, how do I use it?
    Enchantments are like gems in the Diablo games. You need a socketed piece of gear. When you have one right click on the gear and choose Enchant Item. Be careful, it will cost Astral Diamonds to remove the Enchantment.
  • I've got a lot of shitty enchantments, how do I use them?
    Low level enchantments can be fused into higher level level versions at a 4:1 ratio. The higher the level of enchantment the more likely this fuse will fail. You can purchase Wards from teh Zen Shop which will keep the fuse from failing. TL;DR: Fuse low level enchants to save bag space.

If you have any more questions or corrections please feel free to leave them in the comments. I will do my best to add in answers to common questions and will correct anything I may be wrong about. Remember I only just started playing a few days ago as well, so I'm far from an expert. If I missed, forgot, or messed up something please say so!

Also, was there something you wish you'd known when you started that I didn't cover here? Let me know, I'll put it in!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

In Defense of Glyphs

Readers may remember that I began gold-making entirely with selling glyphs. For the better part of a year my only income was through glyphs. Over time I've developed a love-hate relationship with glyphs. Sometimes I've felt it wasn't worth the effort, other times I felt that Inscription was touched by the Gods, given unto us to bring in great fortunes.

I rarely see people on the fence about glyphs. There are bloggers that seem to love them and do great things with glyphs (check out Twitchie if you're interested in a glyph-centric blogger!) and there are those that wouldn't touch the things with a ten foot pole.

There have been times I've recommended against glyphs for beginners. I thought back to my early days learning the ropes and how difficult and, at times, boring it was. In hindsight I thought "Glyphs were a terrible way to start. If I'd started with, say, Enchanting everything would have been better. It was only a slow start because glyphs are a bad starter market."

But that's not true. I've only really scratched the surface of glyph selling on Illidan but it's bringing back old memories. Having only Inscription at my disposal (I could do enchanting, but meh, not interested at the moment) and knowing none of the competitors it's like starting all over again. And it's great.

As I was mulling over my thoughts on the glyph market Power Word Gold posted a fairly anti-glyph market post which I found an interesting read. Now, this isn't "I'm right and he's wrong" and at the end of the day everyone should play the way they enjoy the most. But I wanted to write this post to assuage the fears new gold makers might have from anti-glyph sentiments that sometimes crop up in the blogging community.

The Weakness of Glyphs is Their Strength
Many people are frightened by the amount of inventory a successful glyph business entails. While you can make good profit with fewer items many big glyph sellers sell all, or nearly all, glyphs in the game.

To research all of the glyphs takes an extraordinary amount of time. Luckily not a lot of effort, but plenty of time. While we are starting to see the research method enter other crafting professions as well no profession requires as much start-up time as glyphs.

And so would-be glyph sellers look at their new scribe and see hundreds of glyphs missing, which they will grab a few of each day. They see their inventory slowly begin to fill while all the glyphs they can't yet make are selling like hotcakes. Sucks, huh?

No. It's amazing. If you wish to be an amazing PvPer you need to spend time developing your skills and no matter how much you try, some day you may just find you're not good enough. If you want to be in a top raiding guild you need to get the gear, the skill, and they may still deny your application.

But not with glyphs. Anyone who puts in the time to learn the glyphs will find themselves with all the tools they need to succeed. The barrier to entry in glyphs is the most easily overcome barrier of all, all you need is patience.

Fortunately for us many players do not possess such patience. They want gold now, not in four months, and so they pick up enchanting instead. This is one factor that keeps many people out of the glyph market, and if you don't let it keep you away as well you can succeed.

Why Selling Glyphs is Amazing and Easy
The only actual issue I took with Jim's post was his section called Why Selling Glyphs is a Pain in the Ass. If he doesn't like selling glyphs that's totally 100% fine, not everyone will like it. But I didn't like that he presented several of his experiences as facts and inevitabilities for other players, or that these things should necessarily discredit glyph selling as a fun way to make gold.

  • You will be undercut multiple times a day, sometimes withing an hour, sometimes immediately.
    Anyone who competes in a crafting market will deal with having been undercut. There are a few markets that are not susceptible to rampant undercutting (transmog, niche markets, low level greens) but for anyone who crafts for their gold undercutting is going to happen no matter what market you are in.

    Sometimes glyph sellers are particularly ruthless with their undercuts. But remember: Everyone has to sleep sometime. A glyph which has undercut yours will sell out eventually. Someone will buy your glyphs. They may not buy all your glyphs. They're not supposed to. When you sell glyphs you are playing the long game. It's not about selling the bulk of your inventory; it's about consistent income over a long period of time.

  • If you're not cancelling and reposting often almost none of your glyphs will sell.

    First off, remember the last little point. Not all of your glyphs are supposed to sell. Other than Glyphmas I can't think of a single time where I sold more than, say, 10% of my postings on a given day. So "almost none of your glyphs selling" is really pretty normal on most servers. But that doesn't mean its a bad market, it means you sell about thirty different items for any given class and not every one will always be purchased. But because you sell so many you'll sell some, and that is where the gold is.

    The beauty of glyphs is that you get out of it what you put into it. If you want to sit and camp the auction house for 20 hours a day you can, and you will make a good amount of gold. If you'd like to do what I currently do and post once a day and don't check back you'll still likely get enough sales to make it worth it. I post once a day and pull in about 10k. (And that's after a 2 month hiatus where any market grooming has ceased to exist.) Glyphs are always profitable. The question is not will you make anything, but how much you wish to make.

    Someone who sells glyphs 20 minutes a day will not make as much as someone who sells them for 20 hours. But in gold making you don't lose if your competitor makes gold. You lose if you cost yourself a sale by giving up on the market.

  • There are entrenched glyph sellers what will pull every trick in the book to force you out of the market.

    I gotta stop spending so much time on Tumblr before I get hooked on reaction gifs . . . anyways.

    This one is not a constant, but it's also not too far off-base in many situations. I've done some, uh, market grooming in the past myself. 30g Glyph Ceilings to drive out fair-weather competitors, alliances with other scribes to be sure we could make all the new glyphs faster than anyone else, etc.

    I won't pretend this won't happen to a new glyph seller. It might. In fact, at some point in time, if you stay in the market long enough, it probably will. But why be defeatist about it? No matter where you go, if the market is profitable it will attract competitors. Some of these competitors will be fickle and will leave the market when a challenger appears. Others will dig in and attempt to push the challenger out.

    But remember: Glyph selling is not a zero sum game, as much as some competitors seem to think it is. They may get 80% of the sales on the server but if you pop on at night, after they've logged off, and post them up you may snag that other 20%. You're not going to drive him out of course, but there's enough profit in the glyph market for you, too, if you're willing to stick to it.

  • You can spend lots of time, materials and gold and end up with nearly zero profit.

    Yeah. You can spend lots of time, materials, and gold in any market and end up with nothing if you make bad decisions. I hold that it is impossible to lose gold on glyphs if you make the right choices.

    Glyphs are not a vanity item. Sure, there are some cosmetic glyphs, but generally glyphs are considered a necessity for a character. Thus, as long as people are still playing, someone needs to buy a glyph. There are buyers.

    Glyph materials are some of the cheapest materials in the game. First and foremost, it's the only profession I can think of where some of the most profitable, end-game-relevant craftables are crafted with materials gathered by leveling lowbies. Many of the most profitable glyphs are crafted using things like Midnight Ink, Ink of the Sea, and Lion's Ink; all of which come from non-endgame sources which usually means that the prices are lower. If the prices aren't lower? You have the option of using endgame ink to trade so you can always get the best deal on your inks.

    Fool's Cap right now, across Alliance US servers, averages about 12g less per stack than a stack of Ghost Iron.

    I can think of no profession with such abundant, cheap materials as Inscription and so if you are spending too much on materials to make a profit you are probably failing to set your thresholds properly, or are just buying your herbs in one fell swoop, which is not recommended. Add herbs you use to your Dealfinding/Snatch lists and pick up herbs over time. Your profit margins will thank you.

    Time is another story altogether and the time investment will vary drastically by the seller. On Argent Dawn I spend roughly an hour every weekend crafting, and then about 10 minutes a day posting. So I wouldn't say I have a large time investment. On a more active server, or someone who camps more diligently, they may have to craft more often and thus invest more time. But their time should pay off. As I stated earlier, you get out of glyphs what you put into them. People who are putting in vast amounts of time and gold should also be seeing a very large gold return. If they are not they are making bad decisions and not doing it properly, plain and simple.

  • You are susceptible to people (often pissed off by the stress of selling trying to sell glyphs) crashing the prices in glyph markets on a whim.

    Any market is susceptible to manipulation. Glyphs only see it more because the materials are so easy to come by and the items so cheap to make (see previous point) that it's a lot easier to toy around with the markets than it is to toy around with, say, crafted epic weapons.

    I've been that person, crashing glyph markets for fun and profit. It's a valid tactic for market grooming and is also just a fun way to learn more about markets, your competition, addons, etc. But if someone else trying to mess with your profit margins is upsetting to the point it will drive you out of the market you should probably stick to dailies and not worry too much about the Auction House.

    My advice if someone does crash your market: Ride it out. Real players will eventually become bored or want more gold and the numbers will rise. Bots will eventually be reported and banned. No glyph market stays shitty forever.

  • Effective selling of glyphs requires large amounts of storage, crafting time and often an alt devoted specifically to the task.

    I guess different people will define effective different ways. I define effective as giving a good return on time and gold invested and as a result you can run an effective glyph operation selling the 20 most profitable glyphs off of your main, if you really wanted to.

    But let's assume that "effective" here means all-encompassing. Selling every glyph in the game. It seems like it takes an awful lotta space when you look at the glyphs. But it actually doesn't. You need one character with 11 Royal Scribe Satchels and you will be able to hold a stack of every glyph in the game between your bags and bank. No guild bank, no multiple alts required.

    This particular setup also drastically reduces the amount of time spent actually posting, cancelling, storing, etc. because you don't need to pull anything from anywhere, it's all right there at your fingertips.

    If you're wondering more about how this works out check out my video about how I manage my glyph inventory using one character and no guild bank. While this video was made before Monk glyphs were added to the game I continue to use this setup and all Monk glyphs fit as well. (Be sure to check the About section on YouTube for a swapping Macro to make it even faster.)

    Now you don't have to do it this way. You can sell from your main using a guild bank. You can use a mailbox as storage and sell everything ever made on one character. But setting a character up like this will greatly reduce the amount of time you spend managing inventory and let's face it, if "needing a separate character to sell your stuff" is a problem the gold game probably isn't for you.

  • Once you are entrenched in selling glyphs you have to constantly defend your "turf" from competitors new and old.

    Once again, this is personal preference. I haven't sold glyphs for two months and came back to decent profits on all sellers. Hell, my Horde competitor, who used to watch me like a hawk, stopped caring about me and upon returning I had three blissful weeks of amazing sales numbers since he didn't think to log on after I logged off.

    Glyphs are really not as serious as many people, myself included, have made them out to be. It's a market, just like any other. If you've got some to sell, post it up. If they don't sell, keep posting them. There's no magic formula or militaristic market training successful glyph sellers have: They just don't give up.

  • Glyphs can be one of the most complicated gold-making markets requiring knowledge of how to set up and utilize complex addons to run the market effectively.

    I'll leave aside the fact you don't have to "run a market" to be successful in it.

    Assuming you know how to use TSM there is no profession easier to set up than glyphs.

    1. Make a TSM group called Glyphs.
    2. Set Ignore Stacks Over to 1
    3. Enter "glyph of" into Common Search Term.
    4. Change your Post Time and Post Cap to what you want.
    5. Set your threshold to whatever you want. I set it to 50g.
    6. Set your fallback to whatever your server will accept. I do 280g.
    7. Hit Add/Remove items at the top.
    8. In "Select Matches" type "glyph of". Add every glyph.
    9. Make gold.

    Because glyphs are more than likely going to sell for many times their crafting cost basing the value of the glyph on crafting cost is usually not necessary to keep yourself getting sales and making profit. This allows you to just use one group for pricing settings instead of having to separate them by materials required.

    I pay no more than 18g/glyph so when I sell a glyph at 50 I know I'm more than doubling my gold. Then your threshold should be the highest you think you can get away with.

    Bam. One huge group, took about 10 seconds. Not too complicated.

Glyphs are Fun, Easy, and Profitable
At the end of all of this, if Jim really hates the glyph market then that's fine. I hate flipping greens. To each their own and if someone's having fun there's nothing wrong with the way they play.

I just wanted to speak up for the poor, misunderstood glyphs in case anyone out there was considering them. Glyphs are an amazing market for beginners and veterans alike. You can throttle how much you get out of them by choosing just how much you'll dedicate yourself to the market. You can make spreadsheets and look at graphs and stalk competitors or you can log on once a day, post your round and log off.

At the end of the day you will get from it what you put into it, and the only way to lose is to not play.