Merry Economical Christmas

Just an update post – I’ve not really dropped off the face of the earth, merely ran out of stuff to talk about till now.

I’ve proudly survived Guild Wars 2 Wintersday without spending a single cent of real life money.

The two minis I chose to make from the in-game stuff were the toy Ventari and the plush griffon, I’m too much of a lore fan to resist the first (even if he is kinda preachy and annoying) and the griffon just oozes cuteness.

Unfortunately I missed being able to craft a third mini from the extra cogs given out via mail through a crazy accident of fate.

I was playing on an extremely low level alt when the mail came, I clicked on it automatically to read it, but decided not to detach the gift from the mail and open it on the under level 10 alt. I mean, who knew what could come out of the gift based on one’s level, right?

Instead, when I later got on my level 80 alt, the mail had mysteriously changed to some kind of automated form message from Customer Support and the gift itself had morphed into an unlocked Black Lion Chest. There was a tiny little line in the automated form message that sort of implied that I might be seeing this message because I was on the wrong character. A sensible person, of course, would have spotted and registered this and got back on the low level alt to check once more, but the extreme weirdness (and temptation) led me to detach the Black Lion Chest and open it to check wtf was inside.

No lucky pop that would have made me extremely rich, but I did get a karma booster and another key, which led to yet another karma booster and some random junk like snowman tonics. So I got that instead of a duplicated 15 slot chest and 200 extra cogs that could have been converted (with additional stuffing and glue cost) into another mini. Not terrible, not great, just… odd.

Anyhow, I always have use for karma boosters, that’s two more months where I don’t have to feel compelled to buy one from the gem store when converting stockpiled jugs of karma.

With the remnants of my stuffing and glue (supplemented by some from the TP), I made a couple attempts at the endless tonic versions of the soldier and the griffon (bought another frame via 250 sweaters) and naturally, didn’t get them, but have about 5 each. Which is probably enough, given that I’m not the sort to hang around in a city or in a big guild group socializing in the first place.

All I’d really do with them is take cute screenshots anyway

I did, however, fall in love with the look of the toy soldier after becoming one briefly. Chasing an Endless tonic, however nice it would be to have one, is only for the filthy rich or the lucky though. I know my limits. Including my budget limits.

After some calculations and agonizing, I eventually came to a set of interesting conclusions:

a) If I was going to buy gems for real money, like $10 for 800 gems, I’d really rather spend it on something like a character slot. I still have two more unmade classes, and want a duplicate Guardian quite badly, ie. at least three more slots needed. Each character slot would yield a lot of gaming time and thus would be worth it, even if it is costly.

b) One mini, being 350 gems, cost an equivalent of $4.38. I can get an on-sale indie game or two for that. The mini, in real life money cost, is not worth it for me.

c) Gems are also worth in-game gold. Rounding up current rates to 2 gold for 100 gems, that means a mini would cost about 7 gold, and a character slot 16 gold. Bit on the pricey side for my tastes, but still, I -did- have 40 gold stockpiled in my bank. (I’m not a trader, alas, that somewhat miserable sum is just accumulated from playing the game and a bit of farming.)

d) For the toy soldier mini, I was willing to spend 7 gold (which would dip into my lifetime in-game savings) but not $4.38 USD, which could be used to buy other things.

And so I did.

Luckily, I think the princess doll is ugly as sin and the toy golem isn’t that special a companion cube, so I’ll happily pass on those two.

(Further equivalency calculations will yield you things like $1.25 USD = 100 gems = 2 gold. I can usually only earn 1-3 gold an hour or two on my level 80 – the higher limit is two paths of AC explorable with omnomberry bar buffs on, which means 3-7 hours of gameplay to earn a mini. Strangely, that sounds quite palatable to me.

Why strange? It’s also earning peanuts in term of USD, which suggests those people who suggest taking a temp job and working for an hour or two for higher USD rates, then converting it to gold in-game are rationally on to something there. Sorta kinda.

I’d posit that the difference is 7 hours playing Guild Wars 2 is a lot more fun (if less economically profitable) than an hour or half working at a fast food joint. And somehow, earning something in-game to trade for something else in-game feel likes part of the game, rather than cheating by dropping out-of-game cash for it and fast-forwarding through stuff.)

After doing those calculations and coming to those conclusions, it also got strenuously obvious that I could afford a character slot right NAO by wiping out half of my in-game savings.

I’d previously been procrastinating because I wanted to buy 2 slots at once to get my mesmer and engineer rolled up, but…

  • $20 is currently a lot for me to drop on a single game (see footnote below with reference to my drastically cut gaming monthly budget)
  • I’ve promised myself those two slots only after finishing up some rl tasks (which aren’t complete yet)
  • And I’d really be damned if I help add on to ArenaNet’s December RL $ profit report when they’ve been playing so many lockbox lottery tricks this month

Buying a character slot for 16 gold got around all that.

Yes, I know the gold to gem price is quite high being a seasonal holiday. It would probably drop later, but I was sitting around obsessing about it for a couple days so waiting patiently was a less preferable option in this case.

Yes, it demolished my in-game gold savings, but what the heck, it wasn’t doing much in the bank except being stocked up for a rainy day.

I got wanting-to-try mesmer and engineer out of my system for a while by rolling one up then taking it for a spin against combat dummies in the Heart of the Mists before deleting the character. Both seemed intriguing. The mesmer was especially complex. Also exceedingly ugly. I was trying for a noble male human mesmer look, but couldn’t quite pull it off. Back to the drawing board on that, it’ll make waiting for the slot easier.

The engineer, on the other hand, was almost perfect.


I wanted a ferocious female Ash Legion Charr that would almost look male except for her fluffy tail.

In-game though, she didn’t look that bulky and there was a distinct narrowing of the waist that seemed a little odd – may have been the armor or I mis-clicked a body type on creation. I also noted with some dismay that the Charr tail clips right through most of the medium armors. The Crucible of Eternity one was -perfect- though I shudder at the thought of getting enough explorable modes going for it.

Those two little niggling issues were the only thing that helped me delete her and wait for later.

That left the slot finally free for another alt bouncing around my mind. Literally. An Asura Guardian.

I like my Asuras as ugly as Vekk. Deal.
I like my Asuras as ugly and snotty as Vekk. Deal. Big ears is seksi.

Because the Asuran cultural armor looks really good and a small guy slinging a big sword or hammer over his shoulder and running with it is frigging awesome.

And I’m dying to explore the jungle zones with a lowbie, that is -easy- to play and not fiendishly complex like the human elementalist that I was trying to level and attunement dancing all over the place in order to not-die and achieve uber stuff.

Not to mention, try new Guardian builds without screwing up my existing one who is in a decently happy place. Yes, traits swapping only costs 3 silver. The headache of remembering where each trait originally went and/or swapping around new armor and jewellery is too much of a pain for me.

It’s been fun. A lack of drops forced my lowbie to use mace/focus for quite an extended while, and I have to say, I’ve learned to appreciate it a little more. Especially skill 3, which I previously attempted using in dungeons but didn’t really have a clue about. After playing the thief, whose one underwater spear skill involves timing a block for a return counterstrike of devastating effect, I suddenly understand that the Guardian’s mace skill 3 can also work that way, with less devastation but a decent “thunk” or apply protection if it doesn’t.

I especially look forward to using a hammer for a decent part of this Guardian’s time, I’m planning to go Altruistic Healing on him to see how it works, and also greatsword, which I didn’t use while it was flavor of the month for leveling guardians. I might even try mace/torch to see if the offensive torch can help to balance out the defensive mace’s nature. (And when push comes to shove, I can always fall back on what I already know, sword/focus, staff, sceptre/shield, sword/torch, and so on.)

This should keep me quite entertained with GW2 until I either earn another 16 gold or get things done in real life and can reward myself with bought gems.

So, footnote and other non-MMO games update.

For various real life reasons or other, I’ve had to cut drastically back on my gaming budget the past six months.

As a point of comparison, I used to give myself upwards of $600 SGD ($480 USD or thereabouts) per month as a maximum limit, though I’d usually spend under half of that. These days, I don’t want to break the $100USD mark and would rather keep within half of that too.

Surprisingly, it hasn’t yielded any shortage of games or quality gaming time.

The keys to my successful frugality have been significant amounts of patience waiting for games to get old (six months to a year easily does it, two years tops) and go on 75% sale before picking them up, checking on bundle offers / Steam / GOG frequently, not being picky on the type of games I play, playing F2P games and above all, being wise to marketing and sales tricks and measuring relative and absolute values very carefully.

Besides yielding to temptation during the month of the Steam Summer sale, I’m happy to report mission successful for the other months – including December.

I dare to say this now, even though there’s still five days to go, mostly because the Steam Christmas sale this time around isn’t that great, in my humble opinion. A number of fairly popular games have had their original prices increased to $14.99, leaving sales at $7.49 or $3.74 at best.

Me, I’m used to seeing them go for $4.99 or $2.50.

Perhaps it’s just inflation and those prices may stay constant for the next year, but I dunno… a certain amount of jadedness suggests that retailers know people buy gifts for Christmas and may just pick up things on 50% or 75% off without looking at the absolute cost itself. It’s a small markup and if you really want the game now and will be playing it now, it’s probably not worth sweating about, but for me, I’m more of an eclectic collector of games. I’ve honestly too many games in my Steam collection to finish playing in my lifetime (trying them out though, that’s different) so it’s not the end of the world if I wait.

The only drawback is I’ll be quite behind on the gaming trend curve, which fortunately isn’t much of an issue for me. If you have a large collection of friends who -need- to play such-and-such a game together NOW, then yeah, keeping up with the Joneses might be somewhat important.

My significantly smaller assortment of friends, alas, it’s like pulling teeth to persuade them to play a free or cheap game together (even giving them a free gift copy doesn’t work), let alone an expensive one,  and I’m always the initiator despite extreme introversion. I still have uncompleted games of Alien Swarm and Magicka that would be nice to maybe coop again someday. Ah well.

Someday, I would like and will pick up things like the new X:COM, FTL, Mark of the Ninja, Towns, Torchlight 2, et al.

I’d love to support the devs more, but I’m currently not made of money, so I’ll have to wait and be part of the long tail.

For now, here’s what I picked up in December:

ArtRage Studio Pro – $20.39 USD – a splurge, but it seemed like a good deal for the price. The painterly style intrigues and would be fun to experiment with, and might complement the Photoshop-style image manipulation I’m more used to.

Tales of Maj’Eyal donation – 10 Euro (aka $13.23 USD) – also a splurge, but this game has been taking an equivalent amount of time that I used to spend on Guild Wars 2, it’s that good and worth it, imo.

Ultima bundle from – $8.94 USD – GoG’s sales this Christmas have beat Steam’s in worthwhile deals. I was staring long and hard at the Deponia bundle, and I may recant if it goes back to $13.74 or thereabouts again. I was overjoyed to see the Alien Crossfire expansion added to Alpha Centauri, which I already owned, and will be playing the heck out of that soon. Thinking long and hard about Wing Commander and a few other games, some of which I used to own but haven’t played in forever.

Spec Ops: The Line – $10.19 USD – it’s not the best price for this game, I have a feeling it can and will go lower next year, but I’ve wanted to play it ever since it released. I’m a big sucker for a good story and commentary on morality.

Magic: Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012 Deck Pack 3 – $0.74 USD – Yep, 2012. I’m behind a year. Frankly, I haven’t even finished the 2011 version. Which helped me procrastinate on 2012. For some reason, I own the game, the expansion, two deck packs but not the third. So finishing it up. I note that the entire 2012 bundle is now going for $4.99, the usual sale price of just the game. This is really helping me to put off the 2013 version until the -next- year where no doubt, the same thing will happen.

Penny Arcade’s On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3 – $2.00 USD – Bright side, I finished volume 1. No, I haven’t finished volume 2. But I may as well, eh? It could get even cheaper at around $1.50 later, but that’s too much nickle-and-diming even for me for just two quarters.

Humble Bundle 7 – $6.42 USD – I already own Dungeon Defenders, and Legend of Grimrock, and Binding of Isaac, which frankly, are the main draws. But I don’t own the DLC. So well, sorta like paying for that and the other stuff is a bonus.

Grand total: $61.91. Not likely to exceed a hundred even if I go crazy with GoG in the next few days.

That’s a ton more games and value than buying a brand spanking new game on launch day.

Or *cough* buying 60 Wintersday Chests just to try to get Foostivoo and the other three minis.

Subjectively, anyway.

One thought on “Merry Economical Christmas

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