Seeing as how many of the guides that I'd like to take a stab at already exist (thanks to our wonderful contributors!), I have elected to create this guide -- as I don't think that one currently exists regarding this particular topic (not in the qualitative/logical form that I'm shooting for here, at least) -- in an effort to encourage players to think before they spend. Educated spending is something near and dear to my heart -- both in SL/PL and "the real world" -- so hopefully a few of my suggestions will prove to be of some value to you, my fellow players. Disclaimer: Everyone is entitled to their own play- and spending- styles (so by no means am I trying to shame or discredit how you choose to play the game; rather, my goal is to get you to think one more time before you journey down the path of making a significant, short-term investment with minimal long-term returns).
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Various In-Game Spending Situations:
So, you're one of the first people to reach the latest level cap (congratulations!). While you likely were able to loot a few pieces of the latest, most-coveted set for your toon along the way, you -- unfortunately -- weren't able to get every piece. The stats associated with the pieces that you're lacking are almost certainly an upgrade relative to what you're currently using (and, wow, they look amazing, too!), so should you proceed with purchasing the pieces that you're lacking from the CS? Before doing so, here are a few things that you should consider:
- When a new campaign is released, the availability of the new gear that you're looking to purchase is inherently going to be limited. By buying the latest and greatest items (of high desirability) early on, you are likely going to be paying 100-1000% more for that same item relative to its value weeks or even days after the fact. If you're ok with doing so, go for it; if not, wait for the prices to settle down.
- Similar to the warning above, players that are fortunate enough to obtain new, seemingly-rare items likely don't have any idea what their items are really worth. As such, they are probably going to list their items for over-the-top prices. Until a few more of this same item have been looted, it's difficult to quantify a "reasonable" price. Until more of that item make their way into the market place, listers can and will be able to charge outrageous prices (not to knock the listers for doing so -- "true" item value simply can't be derived initially).
- Once new content comes out, most players will begin to shed their previously-prized gear as it can be replaced with newer, better gear. This invariably will result in rapid (and, often, extreme) depreciation of item value. Be prepared to lose a good chunk of your investment, as a result, with the release of new content.
- As a counter-argument to my comments above, the fact that you are upgrading your equipment with such purchases shouldn't be over-looked: Better individual stats generally translates to improved contributions in both a group and solo setting. That said, is it worth it to you?
As an alternative to the scenario above, you are considering buying the latest premium, platinum-based equipment. After all, the stats are a little different from the lootable gear (and, hey, it even looks a little different from its non-platinum-based alternative!). Once again, you may want to consider the following:
- As we saw with the release of the Slouch-O campaign, STS decreases the platinum-based purchase prices of items from previous campaigns/level caps. Your 10-platinum-per-item purchases today may only cost, say, 5 platinum in a month. If you want to purchase premium, platinum-based items prior to reaching the minimum required level associated with those items, please resist the urge to do so and wait until you actually hit the minimum required level (you may luck-out and get them for a better price as a result of doing so).
- Unlike their non-platinum-based alternatives, you will not receive any sort of compensation as you begin to ditch your premium, platinum-based items with the release of new content (featuring better items). You can, however, stash these premium, platinum-based items (so you may find that they are of some value down the road in the form of hand-me-downs to "twinks" and what not). Again, you should consider these sorts of transactions on a case-by-case basis for the reasons outlined above.
Skipping ahead -- now that you have the complete set that you've been drooling over for the last few days/weeks/months -- you want that "sparkle"/set bonus offered by the customized version of your set. After all, it seems like more people have that sweet-looking "sparkle" by the day as you surf around town (and, no doubt, the stats are better!). Well -- you guessed it -- there are some pros and cons associated with taking this approach:
- As a plus, your stats are -- without question -- better than they would be if you were strictly wearing the non-customized alternative. As already discussed, this should equate to improved contributions in both solo and group situations.
- As a minus -- and this has also already been mentioned -- you will likely have paid a whole lot more for these items (whether you crafted them yourself or bought them). Be prepared to take a hit as the resale value of these customized items will also drop sharply with the release of new content.
Long-Term Investment Opportunities Utilizing Educated Spending/Selling Techniques:
Contrary to what may appear to be common sense, not all investments/wealth opportunities are based solely on foregoing making a big purchase immediately following the release of new content. In fact, you may find that the best opportunities for gaining wealth stem from selling items at crucial points in the game's timeline. So, what -- exactly -- am I alluding to?
- Whether or not it's obvious when you initially loot a new item, time may prove that you truly have something special in your inventory. A purple (or, one day, a pink!) weapon (as a hypothetical) obtained right after the introduction of new content may drop like wild fire over the coming days/weeks (resulting in reduce worth), or it may not drop for anyone else for some time to come (suggesting higher-than-initially-thought worth). This is -- and always will be -- a gamble; sometimes you'll win, sometimes you won't.
- While not really present in the context of SL currently (less, perhaps, certain vanity items), some items will eventually be categorized as "timeless." For those of you that play/played PL, I would consider the elite pinks from Shadow Caves to be a great example. The stats of such items may or may not be phenomenal in the grand scheme of the game, but wearing them indicates a certain amount of prestige. It is important to recognize such items, as they will likely retain their value well after new content becomes available.
- Think ahead: What will people/want need down the road? As we're all aware, PvP does not currently exist within SL; however, we know it's coming. PvP will certainly lead to the creation of "twinks." Determine what the best "twink" gear is (and where it drops), farm it, and sit on it until the market demand for it rises. Such items should be viewed as long-term investments.
- Trust your gut: Despite my "warnings" within this guide (and this item is largely meant to serve as a counter to my first point within this section), a seemingly high-priced, "new" item may actually prove to be both rare and worth a whole lot more than you paid for it. A weapon with an unusual proc seen early-on may serve as a good example. Again, this is a roll of the dice -- you may or may not luck-out.
- Players have "pink fever" (not to be confused with Gooooold Feeeevaaa!): Up until the release of Slouch-O, a green item was essentially the equivalent of a pink item (i.e., it was the best 'quality' that you could obtain); meanwhile, no one actually forgot that these green items were, well, green. With the release of Slouch-O, however, the flood gate for purple items was opened (and we even saw a small trickle of those fabled pink items hit the market). Some argue that the custom Slouch-O sets will retain most of their value with the onset of the next campaign -- and they may be right, who knows? -- but the current progression of item colors suggests that the next campaign will feature a lot more pink items (perhaps even complete sets!). Should we see that "dam" currently holding back the pink items bust come next campaign, what lengths will players go to in order to have the necessary funds to purchase the most desirably-colored items in STS' games? It could get interesting!
- Don't forget about your crafting slot in your inventory: If you're not planning on crafting and/or you don't pay much attention to this section of your inventory, please take a close look at what may be hiding in there! The current custom sets require multiple crafting components, some of which -- despite being green (or even orange) in color -- are worth a pretty penny (especially to players that are dead-set on completing their custom sets). Thus far, letting certain such items sit idle in your inventory has not proven to be wise (there once was a time when you could sell Kinetic Carballoy, a green, for 25K a pop!). If you don't have an immediate use for it, sell it: You will almost certainly be able to re-purchase it for a fraction of what you sold it for in a few weeks.
- The hunt for blue [October]: Vanity farming is a difficult topic to debate (especially since -- on top of being extremely rare drops which you're not guaranteed to hook, regardless of how much effort you put into the hunt -- we still don't have concrete data to show where best to find the vanity that you're potentially wanting). In my mind, though, there is a clear time when best to vanity farm; that time (I think) is when the market starts to get saturated with once-rare items (which, in turn, are no longer worth much). A popular "hunting" method is to farm (and re-farm) the first 12 mobs that spawn at the beginning of The Outer Limits in Numa Prime. These mobs don't drop much that you can vendor (and, when they do, it's typically a low-value white item), but -- once in a while -- they may drop a blue. Is your time better spent farming these low-value trash mobs (which may, should lady luck smile upon you, drop a vanity) or farming, say, Scorcher in Slouch-O (where you can vendor plenty of trash items, loot a few purples, and still have an opportunity for a vanity drop)?
- Think "global": Use time zones to your advantage when buying/selling items from the CS. Based wholly on personal observations, the best time to list an item in the CS -- where "best time" can be viewed as the highest probability of avoiding being under-cut while, in turn, retaining the desired listing price -- is during the "non-waking" (i.e., late evening, more specifically) hours relative to the United States-based time zones. I haven't seen any demographic data with respect to where the majority of the SL player base physically resides, but my bet would be that the highest percentage of players lives in the United States. By listing items when the apparent majority of players are not, you are -- in essence -- mitigating opportunity for "bid collision." In addition, I would argue that Fridays and Saturdays are the best days to list "big ticket" items (as this is when the most players -- that is, potential buyers in this context -- are likely to be on). Using this method, I wouldn't recommend listing most items for more than 11 hours (exceptions to this recommendation potentially consisting of pinks and vanity items when they're "first seen"). Alternatively, leverage the same (but opposite time-of-day) logic when buying from the CS, as more sellers typically equates to better deal opportunities.
- Look beyond the CS: While, perhaps, the most convenient avenue for buying/selling items, don't be afraid to post on the forums if you can't quite seem to find the deal that you're looking for -- whether buying or selling. The CS is limited to "gold-based-transactions," but the forums are not: Try bartering (i.e., "these items for that item," "this item plus this gold for that item," etc.). You could also try sending a tell to a given lister in-game, but there are inherent challenges with doing so (i.e., you both have to be on, the other player may not be in a good position to discuss such a transaction when you approach him/her, etc.).
To be continued...