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The lamentations of their goblins


The “big” change in WoW 9.2.7 was the roll-out of regional commodity sales on the Auction House.

Lemme splain.

Commodities are WoW items that are generally used or bought and sold in bulk.  For example, metals used by smithys, herbs used by alchemists, and so forth.  In some cases this also applies to the things produced from them, such as glyphs, potions, bandages, and so forth.

Prior to this patch, linked regions shared auctions for non-commodity items.  This patch basically made the sale of commodity items work across the same regions.

Turns out that didn’t work out the way they thought it would.

Actually, I don’t know how they thought it would work out, but I’m pretty sure that it wasn’t the way it turned out to work.

First, let’s separate the functioning of addons from the actual functioning of the AH. There’s always a bit of lag there, especially if the addon author doesn’t test things on the public test realm (PTR) first.

Even so, given the circumstances, the live data was not available on the PTR, so any testing over there was what my QA friends call “Sunny day testing”. This is term used to describe testing of scenarios under the best of circumstances, usually said in a scornful manner, and rightfully so.  If there’s a “least you can do” in this scenario, then what the PTR represents is at least two orders of magnitude less.

Let me define that “less” a little more clearly. Imagine, if you will, that the PTR has 200 or so commodity auctions for a certain item.  Okay, fine. The actual system, at least for the connected realm region that I am part of, was showing over 700,000 commodity auctions alone when they rolled the patch out. That’s at least three orders of magnitude difference between the test and live servers. And that’s an order of magnitude greater than the production servers were experiencing prior to this patch.

And boy oh boy did that make a huge impact.

By the end of the second night, for example, Blizz decided that they could no longer deliver commodity data to websites and applications over the same channel that they delivered everything else, and opened a new API endpoint just for commodities.  Unfortunately, the AH doesn’t get to use that. But that does give you a small idea of what kind of issues they were facing. 

Oh, and did I mention that Blizz completely shut down the AH at least twice in the past week?  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that happen.

All of this due to a lack of testing of real data and “sunny day” assumptions in testing both at Blizz and on the PTR.

Now, the manifestation on the client side (i.e. in WoW itself) was that, for a time, it was nearly impossible to buy commodities. Items would appear on a search, for example, but by the time you clicked on them to buy, they were already gone.  At this point in time, addons such as TSM are nearly unusable to purchase popular mats (such as Death Blossom, as an example, which is very popular with Scribes because of the excellent yield of Umbral pigments).

In fact, I still cannot use TSM to buy Death Blossom, though I can at last buy it using the native interface which had been hit and miss up until now (a week after the 9.2.7 patch).

I’m skipping around the brutal reality of this change, though, so let’s face the music.

I can use a the previous example of Death Blossom as a benchmark.  Prior to the patch, it was running around 3g per item. After the patch, it’s running 1.5g per item.  This kind of price collapse for commodities is fundamentally happening across the board – enchanting mats, milling and alchemy mats, metals … and of course, the items derived from them, such as glyphs, potions and flasks, and so forth.  On the Alleria server, at least, we are looking at a universal price collapse over all disciplines, all professions.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not sure what their expected result was, but they clearly didn’t intend that – or maybe they did, which means they are more bastardly than I expected. But I suspect that since Blizz tends to cater to unsavory characters – and you can’t get more unsavory than AH goblins – this was not the desired result.

That said, if they intend to fix this, then it looks like to me that they need to analyze each realm’s regional commodity market, and then shuffle some realms into different regions to stabilize this.

In the end, this will turn out to be a waiting game, in which the winners will be those that wait and see and then adjust appropriately. In my experience, this will require at least two, maybe as many as four, weeks to stabilize.

See ya then.