Wowhead Economy Weekly Wrap-Up 130 | Auction House Throttling

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Wowhead Economy Weekly Wrap-Up 130 | Auction House Throttling



WoW Economy Weekly Wrap-Up
Hello! Welcome to the 130th edition of the WoW Economy Weekly Wrap-up!

My name is Samadan and I am a content creator focusing on making gold using Professions and TSM. I have a number of guides over on YouTube and I also stream my adventures on Twitch. If you want to see previous articles, they are all archived here on wowhead.com

Auction House Throttling

The big story this week was the rather drastic throttling that occurred as a hotfix earlier this week. The shockwave hit as if 100,000 goblins suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced…

TL;DR – Blizzard broke the AH for power users, now it’s fixed – kind of.

Sapu, the lead programmer on TSM noticed a sudden hit in performance on AH API queries and posted the findings on the Blizzard forums.

Starting this morning, auction house interaction with addons (in my case, TSM) has gotten significantly slower after a certain number of queries. This impacts all auction house functions (searching, canceling, posting, and buying).

Here’s a bunch of data which I recorded which demonstrates the issue. Each row represents a single C_AuctionHouse.SendSearchQuery API call (all the APIs experience the same issue – this was just the simplest to test). This data was collected on US-Shattered Hands, which has generally been a very fast auction house as it’s a lower-pop realm. Each row consists of two values: the timestamp in milliseconds at which the API call was made and the time in milliseconds it took to complete.

As you can see, the first ~25 calls are nice and speedy at around 300ms each. Then, some sort of throttling seems to kick in and they start taking ~4 seconds each. Reloading, relogging, or waiting a few minutes seems to reset this throttling (to some degree), but otherwise the throttling doesn’t seem to ever reset on its own.

While the AH has been much slower on higher-pop servers since 8.3, this new issue seems to be affecting all servers equally in my testing and from what I’ve heard from others. To put some numbers to this, searching for a very small set of items (i.e. mail Uncanny armor – 12 auctions total) took:

52 seconds on US-Shattered Hands now
10 seconds on US-Shattered Hands before today
Less than a second on US-Shattered Hands before 8.3

Shortly later, Blizzard responded saying the change was intentional …

Blizzard

Hello.

The performance reported above is expected and intended, following a hotfix that went into effect a few hours ago. The hotfix is intended to both address service issues, as well as address an imbalance between the vast majority of players and a very small minority.

Through our continuing work to address service issues as they crop up, as well as our constant efforts to find gameplay issues and fix them, we’ve observed that a small minority of all players generate the majority of Auction House traffic.

The players who generate all of the AH traffic are using addon-driven automation to gain a competitive economic advantage over other players, in addition to the increasing strain on the game service. Neither of these things is good for the game as a whole.

With this hotfix, we’ve implemented a new system that effectively gives each player a “budget” of AH actions per minute, and only kicks in once that budget has been exceeded. The system is tuned so that is should never affect players using the AH typically: buying consumables, listing gathered or crafted goods for sale, searching for specific items you want to purchase, etc. It should be essentially impossible to encounter the new limits for most players.

The new system will, however, throttle players who are using addons to run rapid queries to scan the AH for specific goods, or buy and relist huge quantities of items.

The current tuning values are a starting point for this. We very much welcome feedback on AH activities are hitting the throttle. If the current settings are too strict, we’ll want to relax these measures.

The takeaway points here were twofold..

  1. Blizzard was having issues with the speed of the AH traffic and this was intended to fix that.
  2. They felt players using AH addons were getting an unfair advantage and sought to remedy the perceived imbalance.

The throttling was very significant and noticeable and many players immediately took to responding to the results on the forums, asking questions and offering solutions. People were taken by surprise at the harshness of the change, the lack of any notification beforehand and questions as to what the actual issues were. The original thread got quickly locked, but a second thread allowed players to voice their concerns. Thankfully, the feedback was well thought out and delivered in return such as the post from BilisOnyxia

It seems to me that there were 2 main goals you wanted to achieve with these changes:

  • A reduction of the amount of auction house API calls made by players to reduce stress on the servers and speed things up for everyone.
  • Making the AH less frustrating and more accessible to “normal” players who have a hard time because people who camp the AH undercut them within minutes.

First, I’d like to give you some insight into what it feels like to use the AH with these changes in place and later on I am going to make some suggestions for how the herein before mentioned goals can be achieved in a much less disruptive manner.

I mainly play WoW because I enjoy the economy side of things, so these changes have had quite an impact on my day to day enjoyment of the game, but I think even “normal” players will be impacted by this change.

But even if it only impacted people like myself who post a lot of auctions, this change is doing a lot more harm than good. I have been playing WoW mostly to play the AH for the better part of 15 years and throughout all these years I have been reassured over and over again that what I do is a perfectly legitimate way of playing the game and that the economy and playing the AH is a big part of the game and its content. Now all of sudden we AH players are told that what we are doing isn’t an acceptable way to play the game and there are throttles put in place to intentionally slow us down and diminish our enjoyment of the game.

Now, as for my concrete and detailed experience with these changes:

On one of my characters I trade transmog. Today, I tested how long it would take me to repost 4 batches of 136 items (that’s how many items I can fit in my bags at once) that had expired would take. That’s a total of 544 auctions, which is a fairly reasonable amount for transmog – most people that actively trade transmog likely have more items than that.

The first batch of 136 items was the “fastest” as I hadn’t used up any of my call budget yet. I put “fastest” in quotes because even this first batch was terribly slow. I am using TradeSkillMaster to post the items, but even without an addon, I’d execute the same exact calls – it would just require me to navigate more menus and I’d probably end up getting carpal tunnel sooner or later.

For each item I have to look up the price of the other auctions that are currently listed for this item and then I have to post the item, so that’s 2 API calls per item I believe.

The first batch of 136 was the “fastest”. Since I hadn’t used up any of the budget, I was able to look up the prices for the first ~100 items without getting throttled, but looking up the last few prices was painfully slow. Actually, posting the 136 items while throttled took roughly 2 seconds per auction.

Total time to post the 136 items: 5 minutes and 48 seconds.

The second batch of 136 took me 3:36 seconds to look up the prices for all 136 item, the throttling kicked in after checking roughly 1/4rd of the items. Actually posting these 136 items while I was throttled then took a whopping 4:31, so roughly 2 seconds per item. Not only is this awfully slow, since the revamp in 8.3 we cannot “queue” API calls anymore either, so I can’t click a post auction button 136 times and then wait 4:31, I actually have to post and auction, wait 2 seconds, post the next auction, wait another 2 seconds, etc.
It feels like staring at a website that is taking forever to load. And the worst part is knowing that it could be faster but that I am artificially being throttled. You are actively making me spend 4:31 waiting for the AH to execute the commands I am telling it to execute.

Total time for the second batch of 136 items: 8 minutes 5 seconds

The third and fourth batches were fairly consistent.

Total for the third batch of 136 items: 7 minutes 55 seconds

Total for the fourth batch of 136 items: 8 minutes 5 seconds

So in total it took me 29 minutes and 48 seconds to post a medium sized stock of 544 transmog items – and that’s only counting the time I spent in the AH, it does not account for the time it took to collect the expired mails.

Before this hotfix, it took approximately 1.5 seconds in total to look up the price for an item and to post it. Posting 544 items would have taken me approximately 13 minutes 36 seconds. That is less than half the time it takes now.

I do understand that people who are constantly undercutting, canceling their auctions and reposting them over and over again are putting a lot of stress on the servers and I understand that some players might not enjoy getting undercut within minutes.

But that’s not what I was doing here. All I was doing was reposting a medium sized stock of expired auctions that I am putting on the AH both to make gold (obviously), but also to provide people with the option to work on their transmog collection. I don’t think anyone would say that me posting 544 transmog items is in any way harmful to other players, nor is it putting an excessive amount of stress on the servers.

And yet, despite using the auction house in its intended way, I am intentionally being slowed down. The new system is forcing me to spend more than twice as much time reposting auctions that simply expired. Am I supposed to not post auctions? Are we only supposed to post 50 auctions because more than that is excessive?

I feel like you approached this problem (whether there was a problem or not is debatable) with a sledgehammer, without engaging with the community first, without listening to our feedback and our concerns.

Only after you broke the AH and made it nearly unusable for many active AH players, only now do you ask for feedback. It’s quite disappointing and I hope these things will be handled better in the future.

What can be done better?

Obviously, I think the way you tried to address your 2 main goals you wanted to achieve with these changes

A reduction of the amount of auction house API calls made by players to reduce stress on the servers and speed things up for everyone.
Making the AH less frustrating and more accessible to “normal” players who have a hard time because people who camp the AH undercut them within minutes.
did not work out very well.

The throttling is punishing essentially every player who wants to post more than a couple dozen auctions – which feels like what the AH is supposed to be used for.

I thought about this and I think the main cause for both issues you were trying to address are not players who are reposting expired auctions like I did with my transmog items, whether that’s 100 or 2000 auctions.

What is causing these issues are players (and bots) who continuously cancel and repost their auctions over and over again, all day. Not only do these constant searches and posts put a lot of stress on the servers, it is also why “normal” players feel like they cannot compete as they tend to get undercut within minutes.

While cancelling and posting auctions over and over again involves searching for the items, canceling them and posting them, I don’t think all of these aspects are an issue and need to be throttled.

If someone wants to do a bunch of searches to look up all the different variations of level 120 BoE items that are currently on the AH, that shouldn’t be a problem. That seems like reasonable use of the AH and I don’t think that player get throttled.

If someone ants to repost their transmog items that expired to make some gold and so that people can search for appearances they are missing in their collection, that shouldn’t be a problem either. I shouldn’t have had to spend 30 minutes instead of 14 minutes reposting my 544 transmog items because I am getting throttled for no good reason.

Canceling on the other hand could be considered the issue. Obviously people should have the ability to cancel an auction if they no longer wish to sell the item, but the constant cycle of canceling items just to repost them at the lowest price again is what is causing so muchs stress on the servers. It’s what’s causing frustation for “normal” players that get undercut within a minute after they post their auctions.

My suggestion:

I think there are two fairly straight forward ways to address both issues, without being too disruptive for players who are not actually part of the problem.

1) Remove the throttling for searches and posting API calls and only keep the throttle for the API_C_AuctionHouse.CancelAuction call. You could even lower the “budget” for this or even increase the delay from 2 seconds to 5 seconds.
This way, people who are simply searching the AH or reposting expired auctions, both of which constitutes fairly normal use of the AH, won’t be impacted by any throttling at all. Yet, those players that camp the AH to continuously run cancel scans to cancel auctions that have been undercut just to repost those same auctions right away, undercutting “normal” players will not be able to do this anymore – or at least not nearly as efficiently.
If you disincentivize cancelling your auctions, then a lot fewer people will be constantly canceling and reposting their auctions, which will alleviate server stress and also make the AH more enjoyable and more fair for “normal” players.

2) Alternatively, you could remove throttling completely, even for canceling auctions and instead of throttling the canceling itself, you could make it so that items you cancel take 1 hour before they show up in your mailbox, just like the gold from successful sales.
Ideally, this would only apply to auctions that you cancel within the first couple of hour after you listed them. That way, you are still disincentivizing people from canceling and reposting their auctions all day, but you are still allowing people to cancel their auctions in the evening if they are about to expire anyway, so that they can repost them one last time before logging off.

TL;DR: Reposting auctions with the new throttling in place feels awful. People searching the AH and/or reposting expired auctions or things they farmed are not the problem. The problem are people who continuously cancel and repost their auctions over and over again all day. The best way to fix this is to throttle canceling or to make it so that canceled items take an hour to appear in your mailbox. Searching and posting items should not get throttled at all.

Thank you for taking feedback.

– BilisOnyxia

Blizzard were listening as promised in the blue post and a couple of days later, the heavy throttle on all auctions and searches was scaled back to just cancels over 100.

Blizzard

Update:

A few minutes ago, we significantly relaxed the throttle on all Auction House operations except canceling auctions.

Please feel free to reply to this with you feedback on how it feels now.

Thank you!

The change now was focused on cancel scans which perhaps was the area that Blizzard was most concerned casual players had an issue with. As an aside, it was noticed that there had always been a throttle of 100 auctions per minute since 8.3, just we never noticed as the auction house was still under burden.

The TSM team released a blog post sharing their thoughts on what occurred over the past few days ..

We’d like to extend our thanks to the gold-making and TradeSkillMaster community for sharing constructive and polite feedback after the changes to the Auction House were announced earlier this week.

At that time we made the decision to push an update to TSM that disabled the TSM Sniper functionality in the Retail version of the game, in the hope that Blizzard responded to our requests to engage in discussions on how we can contribute to improve the Auction House for everyone.

Blizzard continued to make adjustments and finally confirmed publicly that their initial implementation of ‘Throttling’ has been significantly relaxed.

It is worth noting that there has been a throttle of 100 searches per 60 seconds since patch 8.3 went live. This would have appeared as your TSM scan pausing for a while, but importantly would not have impacted posting speed as the recent throttling did. We believe the fact that people are just now noticing this shows how slow the Auction House has been since 8.3 launched, and how much faster it is now that Blizzard have reverted or relaxed the more recently implemented aggressive throttling.

At this point in time, we plan to re-enable Sniper with TSM4.10 as we have still not heard back from Blizzard. However, we remain absolutely open to working with their team to address any concerns they are willing to share regarding TSM functionality or implementation. As we’ve expressed in the past, we are prepared to make changes to TSM, including permanently removing the Sniper feature to help improve the AH for everyone. We hope to hear back from them soon on these topics.

So where does that leave us now?

  • For many, the reports are that the auction house is faster now, so that’s good.
  • Does it resolve players camping the auction house constantly cancelling and reposting? To some extent. It is still possible to cancel in small batches, so perhaps it will alleviate large volumes of cancel scans.
  • A lot of goldmakers, both power users and casual alike were upset by the way the hotfix was applied, the heavy-handed approach and the means of communication and feedback.
  • The solution does not help those who want to repost auctions close to expiring at a time that is convenient to them thus causing more frustration.
  • The system itself still favours those who are constantly posting on the AH, some have suggested introducing Buy Orders as other games have similar systems. How this would work is perhaps another discussion.

How does the AH changes affect you? Has your experience changed since the changes? Were you affected?

Ultimately, the aim would be for the game to be enjoyable for all in whatever forms they play it within the rules of the game. For many, goldmaking has been the core of their gameplay and using addons like TSM is much akin to using Weak Auras or Raid management tools to enhance that particular gameplay and provide information feedback.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments.

Professions Ranked

If that hasn’t put you off gold making and you are interested in more, BregVids has a video going through his opinion of Professions and ranking them in their ability to make gold…

100,000 Goblins

The /woweconomy reddit celebrated a huge milestone this week, reaching 100,000 registered goblins. That in itself shows how many enjoy or are interested in this aspect of the game. Much of the information you see here comes from there, so I highly recommend keeping an eye on it for up to date news and guides in the sidebar.

Personally, I want to say a big thankyou for the gold making community for being the most positive and welcoming community in any game I have experienced. This understanding and helpfulness shown by many players is heart warming.

Further Reading

Most of this information was discussed and originally posted on the /r/woweconomy subreddit or in the accompanying Discord Server. You can also catch me streaming live on Twitch on Sunday from around 7PM GMT UK Time (2pm Eastern Time) for the WoW Economy Weekly Wrap-up live on Wowhead.com, or you can tweet your feedback/thoughts via Twitter at @SamadanPlaysWoW

I hope you found this useful and If you have any suggestions or feedback, please do say so in the comments below..

Until next time, Happy Goldmaking!

Samadan





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