Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Kammler's WoW Triangle of Hierarchical Needs: An Answer to the JMTC Gold Carnival

Kammler's Wow Triangle of Hierarchical Needs

JMTC posts its list of Carnival entries in order of receipt. Which means you are reading this because you either started at the bottom and went up (unlikely) or you are reading every post (possible). Or you still seek some new nugget of information to satiate your ravenous hunger for earning gold (more likely).

No matter why you are reading, you deserve a different perspective--something new, unique--a fresh look at this topic. Look no further: I guarantee you have never seen this topic addressed this way.

I assume that everyone who plays WoW has limited time--after all, we all have school, work, a family, a significant other, a dog, housework, etc. None of us get paid to play unless we work for Blizz (in which case, why are you reading this anyway?).

For this month's carnival topic it became obvious that since every player has limited time the goal of every player should be to maximize play experience. How do we tell if we are achieving this goal? By evaluating our play according to Kammler's WoW Triangle of Hierarchical Needs.

Class Skill Training: The Foundation

Unless a player can train the basic functions of his class his play experience will be limited. More likely, he will get frustrated and quit. This is why at the lowest levels most players find that quest rewards and selling their looted gear is sufficient to "pay the bills to earn the skills" they need to advance levels. 

For most players, this need is satisfied very easily. However, when a player moves up the Triangle prematurely to the second level or beyond he realizes that now he may be broke and unable to buy that new spell or learn that new stance. 

When you see people begging in trade chat for a few gold do you ever ask why? I have spoken with many of them from time to time and my (very limited sample sized) research suggests they have usually spent their meager earnings in the AH or on other equipment--leaving their skill training unaddressed.

Why do Death Knights get a (sometimes undeserved) bad reputation? Because by starting at L58 they presumably do not learn the basics they need to be useful and productive in higher end content. Same is true at any level--if you aren't buying your skills and learning to use them then you aren't being true to your class.

Profession Skill Training: An Often Overlooked Need

Profession skills are very important as the second level of our Triangle. Now that a player has satisfied his base needs in terms of Class Skills he will very often find the Profession Skills give benefits that further relieve pressure on gold needs. 

At lower levels Tailoring gives clothies some good gear upgrades beyond those available from quest rewards. Same for Leatherworking and Blacksmithing. Ever wonder why both LW and BS give Mail gear options? I submit that it is so there is no specified path for lower level players who desire to learn one or the other--Mail armor is usable by all Plate classes and serves an important purpose until L40 when new armor specialization comes in to play.

Further, Profession Skill training gives newer players an important introduction to the gold earning "rotation" of gathering, crafting and selling. In fact, I submit that this basic skill is critical for any goblin. I believe it is just as important as learning tanking basics is for raiding or healing and mana management is for running any instance. The goblin who does not learn how to juggle materials, craft and list goods and create the most profitable items will suffer later when the stakes are much higher. 

Also, Profession Skills give the player an income stream that he will soon need as he moves into higher levels of the Triangle. Selling fish or cooked food can give a good revenue base just as listing bars and ore will provide revenue. It is similarly important for goblins to discover new play areas that often are discovered when fishing, performing archaeology tasks, etc.

Anyone think of the gold earning opportunities from say, Essence of Air? Highly sought after for +Agility enchantments this rare drop is best farmed in north western Silithus--but if a player isn't doing the quests that will take him to that area he may miss out on a great gold earning opportunity.

Finally, as the player moves into higher levels he will be able to complete daily quests that are worth a great deal of gold. I recall in the final weeks of WoLK that when I maxed my number of Northrend dailies (all 25) I was earning over 250g a day just in quest reward--let alone the vendor items and greens. Fishing and cooking dailies were part of this rotation.

Movement: The World Gets Smaller

By now the player has satisfied the two most basic needs--he has a solid foundation, is learning how to earn gold and perform other in-game tasks such as setting up a play rotation or learning where the good quest zones are. His needs for new challenges become greater. He must find new zones, new quest hubs, and new cities. His gold needs are also growing.

By moving more rapidly around the map the player is able to make better use of his time. He can get from point A to point B faster, complete quests faster, and can earn gold faster--not to mention that there is a self-actualization and Ego stroking satisfaction in obtaining his first mount--or the first fast mount--or the first flying mount, etc.

How many of you remember either feeling awesome as you rode around on your shiny new Mechanostrider or the euphoria of summoning your first Gryphon? Or how deeply unsatisfied you felt at L20 or L40 (or even L60, L78, etc.) as you walked along and watched those other guys riding their new mounts? 

The utility of riding is almost inseparable from the gratification received from reaching that milestone--but there is separation. The utility is required--that's why you don't mind riding the most basic mount available at your level. For now.

Gear Upgrades: Becoming Part of a Community

At whatever level he begins to run instances (and yes, I know that can precede L20--more on how that affects the Triangle in a minute) the player will realize that the gear he received in questing is just not right, or even appropriate, for the content at hand. And for the record, yes, PvP is considered an instance for this need.

Gear upgrades can be achieved one of several ways: by running (and often failing multiple times) in the level appropriate instances or battlegrounds; by crafting better gear (which can mean having to obtain rare recipes either by purchase or reputation); or by buying new gear outright. Many players want their gear NOW and don't like wiping; neither does a PUG. But just about every PUG will have tolerance for an under-geared player who knows his class and plays well. If the wipe is due to lack of play skill, get ready for a vote-kick.

Each method of gearing will require that previous levels of the Triangle have been satisfied. Learning the class mechanics is necessary for instances; crafting better gear means having invested the time in learning the recipes and training the skills required; buying new gear means having learned how to economize and remain frugal. Getting to and even navigating within some instances require flight or a good, swift Ram.

This level of the Triangle is the single most misunderstood aspect of play, IMHO. Many players move quickly from Class Skill Training to Gear Upgrades--missing important play patterns and not satisfying requisite needs. Some people will say that without the gear the play isn't as much fun. To the contrary, relying on gear to close gaps in a player's rotation or other lack of class mechanics soon becomes untenable. Run a Cataclysm dungeon with one of these players and you will quickly be able to tell they don't know CC, or can't hold aggro, or stand in the damn fire. You know who you are.

If a goblin has mastered the lower level skills required to gather mats, craft items, list both on the AH and reinvest profits wisely, his gear needs should be well funded by this time. If he has moved recklessly around the Triangle without purpose or a plan, he will find his purse lacking. 

"Over-skilled and under-geared" any day, better than the opposite.

Gems and Enchants

Gems and Enchants are available at all levels. Players can craft or buy +1 Stam scrolls and +1 Strength scrolls. Players who prematurely enchant or bejewel gear with overly expensive or rare chants and gems will find quickly that this gold was not well-spent. 

In fact, for my toons (and any guildies whom have sought my counsel have have heard the same thing): don't buy anything until you get to L75. Drastic? Perhaps, but the quest rewards in Outland at L58 and Northrend at L68 are huge upgrades and very useful. If you are running instances, the dungeon drops are even better. You will outpace the usefulness of this gear too quickly as levels fly by. By about L75 and until L80, there is enough challenging content that a better weapon or more resilience may be worth the investment.

There is a reason that gems are available at various levels with progressively greater bonuses. The wise player will not put a +30 Stamina gem in a crafted blue--when better gear may be obtained quickly from beating a boss that is on-level for the player. Use of Atlas Loot or Wowhead will help players at this level determine what the appropriate upgrade is for them. Making wise financial decisions at this level should be second nature by this time. 

Vanity Items

There is a reason Vanity Items are at the highest point of the Triangle. They are nice to have but not necessary for most players. Buying a Hyacinth Macaw instead of a flying mount may satisfy some basic Ego need but won't get that player from Borean Tundra to Grizzley Hills any faster. See that L65 Mage riding a horse from Shatt to Blades Edge? Be sure to comment on how nice her Black Tabby looks as you fly past.

Players may want to collect Vanity items to get achievements or to show off--but these are more like impulse buys at the supermarket checkout than they are real needs. If you take the roast and potatoes out of your basket and spend that money on gum, candy bars and People Magazine you may feel nice for a while.  But don't complain to anyone when you are hungry later.

WTF Does This Have To Do With Earning Gold With Limited Time???

I'm so glad you asked. 

See, this is a trick question. There is no hard and fast answer. The amount of time you need to spend earning gold is directly proportional to where you are on the Triangle. For example, if you are in the full-on Gems and Enchants level you need to spend a lot of dough to get that 2H Agility chant or that Bold Inferno Ruby.Therefore, you need to do several Obsidium Shuffles each week to earn what you need. Also, if you are in the Gear Upgrade level or higher you are most likely incurring significant repair bills--so you need more cheddah'

Similarly, if you are in the Movement phase you may find you can earn enough gold just through questing and selling the greys and whites that you accumulate. Or with minimal listings of ore and bars, or cloth and leather--but limited time spent in the AH. 

Planning becomes mission critical at this point. If you know you need 6k gold or more for your Cold Weather Flying then why the hell are you buying new Epic Boots? Is the incremental gain from more hit or parry really worth the loss of time you suffer every single time you move around the zone? Again, if you can afford to do both then buy the boots and get the mount when its time. But if not, the boots are not within your current level of the Triangle (or next level if you are below that rung). Satisfy your needs before your wants.

In fact, I submit to you that for most goblins earning gold has become part of the game, and as such, fits into the Vanity category.

Let me repeat that: earning gold as a game strategy is a Vanity practice. 

I know this position may not be popular among gold blog readers, but really, after satisfying whatever your game needs are, why would you need another 100k, or 500k gold? Yes, it is more useful than a new mount or new Epic Trinket but only because if you need to use it later for something, you can. That trinket you just bought for 15k gold is BoE so you can disenchant it or sell it for a few gold when you are done. But the 15k gold could instead be spent on power-leveling a new profession, a more 'gold-centric' activity for sure.

There is utility in having a large gold surplus but the players who hit a gold cap usually are pretty solid at other aspects of the game. Their Triangle is, again, satisfied. For the most part at least.

Ok Already.....How Much Time Do I Spend on AH Stuff If My Play Time Is Liimited????

The short answer is.....as much as you need. Not as much as you want, or as much as you think you may need later.....but as much as you need today in your zone of the Triangle. Yes, there is an element of planning for the next stage--but not necessarily for planning two or three levels ahead.

Class skills trained, Profs trained as far as you can? Ok, you are saving for a mount at your next milestone. So maybe that blue Axe in the AH for 300g REALLY looks nice, but how long will it take you to replace that gold? Can you get your mount after you buy the Axe? Or are you then behind schedule?

If you can't do both then let the Axe go and mine your ore, craft into bars, list in the AH and hit the quest circuit again--get to the next milestone with the gold in hand to buy what you have earned as a game progression skill (aka "reward"--that you have to buy).


My Triangle isn't perfect. It can be (and I'm sure will be) discussed, dissected, criticized and perhaps one day lauded. But what started as a campy theme for this article has proven instead to be a fairly succinct concept about gold and needs in game. 

See, the Triangle doesn't happen once. It can occur many, many times during your game experience. One Triangle may happen from levels 1-20, and then re-start at the foundation again because new game skills and prof skills are available. Or maybe you twink, so you never get past L19--and then vanity items become an end game for you. Or one could even argue that the foundation has to be re-established every time you get a skill point.

Do goblins who play the AH for hours seeking the gold cap feel less self-actualized than the player who satisfies his gear needs and moves to gemming with minimal AH play? Not at all. The goblin surely understand that the AH play supplements other areas of play. And by and large, AH pros have moved all the way up the Triangle many times--and have satisfied most (if not all) of the lower levels.

But if anyone asks you how much time you play the AH game do you answer "wow, a lot--seems to have just become a game within a game", and secretly think 'I should quest/level alts/raid more'? 

Or when you get asked how much time you spend on earning gold can you honestly say 'enough', and then smile to yourself with zen-like confidence?

((Written with all due respect to Dr. Maslow and his original concept of hierarchical needs))


  1. I loved your triangle analogy based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. Very creative and accurate analogy!

  2. Thanks Ali, appreciate the comments. Glad you enjoyed it.

  3. Nicely done but I believe your conclusion for the L58 DK is flawed. To create the DK, one must have another toon at that level or above. Therefore, they have made several transitions up and down the triangle but the need for gold outweighs their leveling ability, need for gear, etc. Example, your primary toon(s) are ally and you create a goblin. You cannot transfer gold to that toon because it is horde. So, why not create a horde DK which can go and do so much more than your low level goblin. Profession wise, gathering is the easiest and most profitable (for now). I now have a toon that can move freely up and down the triangle as needed simply to make it easier for the leveling goblin. Thoughts?

  4. @ Anonymous: You raise a very good point. Believe it or not this topic received much more "ink" in my unedited version--but got cut in the interest of length. Lol, I may have failed that test.

    Please don't confuse the DK example as anything more than a sideline to the main point. I also qualified the statement by saying the allegations are perhaps unjustified in many cases.

    But the point is that by running gauntlet of quests to initiate a DK and exit the Lich King's lair the player does not get the same 58 levels of experience he received on his original toon. Instead, he 'graduates' into the community with a crapload of skill points and a bar full of abilities that he has not truly mastered.

    Some players engage this new set of skills and learn how to play their class very effectively. Others do not. In the end it is no different than any other toon. The premise of the Triangle is that the successful player should satisfy each level of the Triangle before moving to the next level.

    Looking deeper at the DK example, the player comes out of the quest series with enough gold to have trained all his skills. He may not have played enough to master them but may indeed have enough background on other toons to have a good concept of how his rotation should work, what skills need to be employed when, etc. Or this could have other DKs on other realms and learned the skills there.

    The theory suggests he should continue learning his skill set and then focus on professions before advancing to movement--but he has a mount, so gear is next. My simple suggestion is that by jumping into instances or raids at that point the DK may not have a good understanding of the basics. But I do not suggest an absolute, that he never has that skill set down.

    From a gold standpoint he has an advantage in both size of his bankroll and ability to earn more--gathering or crafting. But if he does not engage his new skills and learn the basics he may deserve the indictments about not being an asset in a dungeon.

    Excellent point, thanks for the comment and for reading.

  5. Hi Kammler, great post very insightful and profound, and very detailed and thought analyse on what makes a WOW player ticks.
    I have just one question, is there any way to include the people we encounter in this game, or this triangle just apply to One Person?, I am asking this because wend I left WOW a few months ago before I came back this year, I was so tired of the game that the only thing I was here for was to be whit the people I like to talk and play whit, I was bored to death raiding ICC for the 1000 time.
    I don’t know if my question makes any sense, but I am just asking if the Human factor as any relevance to this subject.

  6. @ Alberthus: I think it should apply to everyone, myself included. The Triangle is sort of the guiding template that defines where any player is at the moment in the game.

    I'm in the Gear phase on two toons, the Vanity phase with one toon, Enchant/Gems on another and just barely hit Mount on two others. The way each one goes about the game is really tied to where they are on the Triangle.

    I suspect most players you encounter aren't aware of such a Triangle and don't realize they should have a more universal strategy.