Default AH UI is so terrible that players feel forced to use addons. Since many people don’t fully understand AH intricacies or addon capabilities, they think that any inefficiencies they encounter with these addons are actually due to WoW’s systems being bad and, because of that, do not seek ways to improve their AH experience. These inefficient addons also probably contribute greatly to unnecessary AH lag for other players.
Inefficient AH addons create an indefinite negative game experience for players, and also contribute to AH lag.
I’ve been thinking about the AH issues over the past few weeks, and the other day there was a comment in a reddit thread that really got me thinking. I think it shows that we have a big problem with people not realizing that they are using the wrong AH addons or using AH addons incorrectly when in actuality they could be having a much better experience.
For historical purposes, the comment I linked has 34 points at the time of this writing. The poster confidently claims that there is a fundamental problem with the AH, which is that all AH addons need to scan all AH pages to know if the user is buying/selling at the best price. Based on the high amount of upvotes, people generally either agree with this person or are uninformed enough to not immediately see it as bad info. And this isn’t the first time I’ve heard of someone complaining about having to scan tons of pages on the AH. Well, despite what that reddit poster would have you believe, scanning all pages is not something that addons have to do to buy or sell items at the best prices, as there is an API you can use to return AH search results sorted by buyout per unit, giving you all the best deals on the first page. If you don’t believe me, simply paste the following into your chat window and then open up the AH and do a search (paste it twice if it sorts backwards):
/run SortAuctionItems("list", "unitprice")
“Auctionator” is the biggest culprit I’m aware of. To briefly describe what this addon does: it allows for “convenient” posting and buying of items with very little time required to initially set up the addon. When you put an item in the AH window, it automatically begins scanning all AH pages for that item, and until it scans every single page, you can’t actually post your item. Same deal for shopping - all pages must finish scanning before you can buy any item, even if there are 70 pages of that item. As players have been pushed onto megaservers, they’re finding that it’s not as convenient now as it was when their realm had a lower population.
There are actually two distinct versions out there right now, by 2 different authors. One was a bandaid fix to the vanilla Classic version, since the original was broken when the TBC client came out. This ClassicFix version of Auctionator was available on TBC launch. To this day, the ClassicFix version has over 1.5 million downloads. And mind you, that’s 1.5m downloads after TBC launch. A distinct, more modern version also under the name “Auctionator” has more efficient functionality in the options, but got hardly any downloads until the November 11th release, over 5 months past TBC’s launch, so who knows how many people actually ended up switching. I tested the most recent releases of both addons, and both are functional.
The modern version of Auctionator (but not the ClassicFix) has options to scan only the first page for buying/selling operations, but… uhh… these options are not used by default. And that makes me think, if players think you need to scan everything to get the best prices, they probably wouldn’t go out of their way to look for an option like this, right? and even if they stumbled upon it by accident, would they even enable it? Well, to explore that thought more, here’s a screenshot I took from the latest version showing what it actually looks like when you mouse over the option to scan only the first page for shopping operations. Jeez - “Ignore results that aren’t on the first page of the current search.” Quite a mouthful, and doesn’t immediately help the average player understand why this would ever be a good idea. What is on the first page of a search, in the average player’s mind? Probably they have no idea, or they think it would just be unhelpful results because they think the AH sorts by bid or total buyout. The header for the tooltip (which you only see if you mouse over it) says “Exclude Results for Speed” but the description that follows does a mediocre job of explaining why it’s worth the tradeoff, if you ask me. Now let’s look at a similar option to scan only the first page for when you’re posting stuff. Wow, night and day difference in quality from the other option description. Both the description and the tooltip clearly express to the average player that they don’t need all auctions to determine the best price currently on the market. But still, the fact remains that players would need a reason to go into the options in the first place in order for them to actually end up improving this addon’s efficiency.
So potentially tons of players are using a wildly inefficient addon (Auctionator ClassicFix), or are using an addon wildly inefficiently (modern Auctionator), scanning all 27 pages of large prismatic shards every time they post their own shards, despite better options being available. These people are having a bad game experience and don’t see that it’s an issue with their specific addon because they just assume it’s WoW’s systems that are bad and that addons can’t do anything about it. If things remain as they are, players will continue using these inefficient AH addons indefinitely.
There’s also another potentially big issue here. Let’s suppose that there are tons of players using these addons to scan 15 pages of haste pots when they really only need to scan the first page. Well, doesn’t that mean that these addons are causing tons of unnecessary AH traffic that lags the AH for other players? AH lag is a big issue on megaservers, and one I experience daily when it gets to prime time on Faerlina.
By having had a terrible default UI for so long, Blizzard has effectively forced players to use addons if they want to buy or sell items on the AH with even the smallest level of efficiency. Because players are forced to either use 3rd party addons or the bad default UI, Blizzard is not ensuring that a positive baseline AH experience is being delivered to all players, despite the AH being such an important aspect of the game.
I find the idea of Blizzard breaking Auctionator or similar addons to be very silly when the alternative offered by Blizzard itself is practically unusable. Instead, I think Blizzard should make changes to the AH UI that make it a much more efficient, competitive option, and publicly announce that such changes are coming. This will hopefully encourage players to try out the new changes, and when they do, some will find that they’re having a much better experience, and players who continue to use their old addons will presumably experience less AH lag.
On the topic of AH lag, I also want to draw attention to another issue which could see a separate solution from the above. Not a lot of people are aware of this, which is probably because many serious players never use the default UI. The issue is that the default sorting method in default UI is “total buyout” and not “buyout per unit”. This causes Galaxybrainbank to strategize that, if he posts 200 1-stacks of large prismatic shards, the stacks of 2 or more already there will get buried, and players who use default UI will be more inclined to buy his overpriced 1-stacks, since getting to the more reasonably priced stacks of 2 or more would require way too much page scrolling. I can only assume that 200 1-stacks of LPS causes much more AH lag than 100 2-stacks of LPS. Furthermore, for players using addons that must scan all pages of the AH before allowing buying/selling as outlined above, this behavior is very problematic.
An easy fix to this is to change the default sorting method in default AH UI to buyout per unit. By doing so, we can help discourage this behavior and hopefully get some increased AH performance, which benefits everyone. I honestly don’t understand why total buyout is still the default sorting method, since buyout per unit is just massively superior as a default sorting method, and the framework is already there. The only time it makes sense to sort by total buyout instead of buyout per unit is if you’re dead-set on buying only 1 of a stackable item. But remember that players are smart and want their items to be sold - if an item is commonly desired in stacks of 1, players are going to be listing them in stacks of 1 at a competitive price anyway.
Another issue I have with the current AH system, since we’ve now embraced the #SomeChanges mentality and are potentially looking at AH changes here: how does it make sense to have the deposit be a percentage of the vendor price? It just seems so arbitrary to me. Why does it make sense to discourage players from posting items with high vendor prices and encourage players to post items with low vendor prices? This even goes back to the Galaxybrainbank LPS issue. LPS has a deposit of exactly 0c, so Galaxybrainbank feels no financial discouragement whatsoever from flooding the AH with 1-stacks of LPS and lagging other players, even if the chance of all of them selling before the expiration timer is miniscule. This is behavior that could happen even with no intent to manipulate the system, as players might not realize that excessive AH postings will cause AH lag and might see no apparent penalty for posting tons of enchanting mats. In my opinion, if you are going to have a deposit in the game, the point of it should be to encourage players to engage in healthy behavior, such as actually trying to make a sale in a reasonable amount of post attempts. I am not aware of any particularly healthy behavior the current deposit system encourages.