There and Back Again (but on a slow horse): Nipah's Journey

So I have essentially taken money from Cryptic in my time playing Neverwinter... sort of.

They toss you a default mount that goes 50% faster (so base speed + 50% = 150% essentially), and its serviceable but the lack of zooooom rears its ugly head once you get to around level 40 and hit the really long, long, linear layout zones.

These long, long, tiresome trail zones (which are pretty and interesting, just not fun to navigate because of the lack of any type of shortcuts) "incentivize" people to throw their hands up in the air and (or so I'm led to believe the developers think) say "Fuck this nonsense, I'm dropping $35 on an epic speed mount!", while rifling through their wallet for their credit card.

But oh, not Nipah. If I'm playing a free to play game, I'm damn well going to make sure it stays free. The goblins from WoW always said that Time is Money, and I agree... to a certain degree. I'm wasting my time running at 150% speed when I could be jogging along at 210% (epic mount speeds), and that wasted time is equated to wasted money (in-game, I suppose), or at the least just time wasted in the game that could be spent outside of the game when I log off earlier because I got to my destinations 30 seconds sooner (hah, yeah right).

This story has a point, I swear...

So I've been playing this game for about a week and a half or so now, and the one thing that is starkly obvious is that they want your money... something fierce. Like seriously fierce. It feels like they're a day away from tracking me down in person, picking me up by the ankles, and trying to shake any loose change out of my pockets. Whether its the mount speed (lookatthatguyontheepicdoinglapsaroundyou!), the upgrade cost for companions (only 50k for the first hit!), the constant barrage of locked boxes (buy our keys!), or the "subtle" message that pops up any time someone gets the special mount from those locked boxes (AssMaster69BootyTastic has gotten an Armored Griffon from a [Shaundakul Lockbox]!), its blatantly obvious that They. Want. Your. Cash.

But a week of my freetime is pretty staggering, I'll be the first to admit. I get up, go to work, get home, and I game. I spent time with family two days a week for a few hours, but the rest of that time is just me and a PC/console, or a book, or drying paint... whatever. So investing my staggering amount of leisure time into one game generally leads to one of two outcomes: I now own everything possible to own in a game, or I've now become bitterly fed up with everything about it, and now writhe about with a burning hated of everything I once loved about it.

So that being said, I was damn well not going to drop $35 of my hard earned money (he says while typing this long, pointless post from work) on some digital worg or panther or a giant crab you surf on top of. Those comics don't buy themselves, so I'd just have to "work" for it by, you know, actually playing the damn game.

I started by making my character, and then another. And then leveling them up a bit to the point where they could do dungeons and pray to get the diamonds I needed to buy the cash store currency. I then got a coupon for 20% off a character slot, and dropped 400 cash store money (earned in game) on a third character, who I also leveled up. The reason for more characters is: There is a limit on how many "rough" diamonds you can convert into proper diamonds per day. Also, you only get a bonus amount of diamonds the first two dungeons and two skirmishes you run per character. So by having more characters, I was able to net more diamonds... and more diamonds = more stupid cash store money. Combined with the double diamond event last weekend, I was able to amass a rather large supply of the damn things across my three characters, which allowed me to progress into the next step of the plan: convert those diamonds into cash store money.

Zen. What a dumb name for a cash store currency... seriously. But I had to get it, or I'd be putzing around forever at bullshit impulse speed like some kind of crippled star ship (warp speed Mr. Sulu!) The thing to note about the diamond > Zen conversion is that it is not 1:1, or 150:1, or some easy to gauge metric... Oh no, it is completely at the mercy of people, most of whom are a bunch of bastards. So the price may be 115 diamonds for 1 Zen at 3am on a Wednesday, only to jump to 180D > 1Z on Saturday afternoon. Bastards, the lot of them.

I got in on the ground floor because I - A: have no life B: had three characters and C: invested a good chunk of my in-game time to farming those diamonds... So while the prices were still low, but also while I was netting 2x diamonds from the weekend event, I cashed in on diamonds at the lowest price possible (about 115/130:1 over time). I knew that as the event progressed, the supply of diamonds would go up, and the demand for them would go down, so the price to convert would inflate, meaning I'd get less Zen for my diamonds, which puts a cramp in my "fast mount now" plan.

So come yesterday the rate was 180:1 diamonds to Zen, and I only needed 1000 Zen more. Which was 180,000 diamonds... which was still a fucking lot. I mentioned the conversion cap for "rough" diamonds earlier, so let me explain: You get rough diamonds when you do stuff: dungeons, skirmishes, pet this animal for this one quest, I dunno... MMO stuff. The cap to convert per day is 36,000. It's a lot, don't get me wrong. And its per character, so my cap was essentially 3x that (108k for those still following along), which is a solid amount to attempt to pull in a day...

I forgot to mention that there was another event going at the same time, which had enemies dropping little loot boxes that could contain all kinds of stuff, not the least of which was varying amounts of rough diamonds (2k - 20k, I think it was), so combined with my 2x net from each character, I was a bank vault short of swimming in my diamonds like Scrooge McDuck.

But lets not pretend that I was hitting that cap regularly... oh no. Most of those loot boxes had garbage in them, or a token you collected to buy a fancy horse mount (50% speed still, boo), or crafting materials or maybe even a boat, I don't know.

So my terrible loot luck aside (long story short: I spent about 20k in diamonds to get the other 20 tokens I needed for that fancy horse out of spite), I was rolling in diamonds, but theoretically so was everyone else... and I confirmed this theory when I saw the D>Z conversion rate go "through the roof", so to speak... Anyone who plays on PC or XB1 will laugh at 180 being staggeringly high, but for the PS4 right after launch, it was a pretty quick hike up the mountain, so to speak.

At the end of the event, still needing about 170-180k in diamonds, I was left doing it slow and steady again at 1x rates. Jump to Thursday, where I finally bit the bullet, removed my old bids @ 130/150:1 and dropped all my diamonds into getting them at 168:1, and crossing my fingers that the price would drop low enough before the weekend hit and they went shooting towards 200:1.

And I got them... I was the proud owner of 3505 Zen, all earned through the extremely hard work of playing a video game I was already enjoying quite a bit (being free smooths a lot of those rough edges, yo). But I wasn't done... Because I think I mentioned that I'm cheap? > scrolls back up > I might not have. But you've probably already inferred that by this point. See, I mentioned a coupon for a character slot earlier, which I got from... something. I wasn't paying attention. I opened a box or something and it was like "We Want Your Money", and I was like "Great. I want that, and I have fake money I earned without paying for it."

Well, it turns out you get a coupon at level 20 from this fancy little box they give you (openable every couple levels for some potions, identification scrolls, etc) for... 15% off a mount. Hey now, you say, that means you only needed 29XX Zen! Oh, my sweet summer child. No. Turns out that you still need the actual amount of Zen for the item before you can even use the coupon, or it'll tell you that you're short. I found this out when I had 400 for my character slot, and it was all "lol coupon what? 500 zen bitch", so I had to quickly convert another 100 and then it was like "Oh, you have a coupon sir? That will be 400 Zen my good man."

So with my 3505 fake internet money in hand, I now need to level a fourth character up so I can get a hold of that coupon. Which isn't a huge deal, as you apparently unlock some extra character slots if you get to a certain level (or something, I now have room for a 5th character for whatever voodoo magic reasoning), and I wanted to play a Rogue anyhow.

The upside is that there is an event going on right now where you get 2x the experience from doing [stuff], so I was able to zoom through about 12 levels last night (6-18) while participating in the other event (I'm noticing a trend here) that rewarded me with some blue dyes, item enchants, rough diamonds (huzzah), and the potential chance to get a companion (see: NPC slave that follows me around, kills my enemies, maybe heals me, and anything just short of carrying my burdens (sadly)) that looks like someone took a fel hunter from Warcraft and thought "You know what this needs? More ball sack."


And now I need that on my Warlock, because its ugly as sin and it would look hilarious following the poor Halfling around.

But yeah... I've spent about a week and a half playing this game, and I've earned roughly $40 worth of in-game currency for my "hard work"... So free to play? Damn right it is... assuming you don't value your time at anything like I do.