Voodoo Dragonomics

I have now officially played Dragon Quest X more than any other MMORPG. Usually I steer clear of games of this genre because they make me isolated, moody, and obsessive. But there’s something about this one that has drawn me in without making me a complete infected penis hole. For one, I can share it with my son who has a character of his own. As a father who can’t help but spoil his child, I hook him up with weapons and gold through the game’s postal system and in exchange, he learns how to read and recognize more Japanese characters when we play together. Second, it’s on the Wii U, so I am not tethered to a stationary screen like I was with World of Warcraft and Vendetta Online. Thanks to the miraculous and downright inexplicable technology of the Wii’s wireless gamepad, I can level grind in bed if I wish, and it doesn’t take a genie or a candle on a cake to make that wish come true, although that latter did play a catalystic role in reacquiring the game (happy birthday to my old ass).

If you go back to July of 2012, you’ll find an entry up here about buying this game for the first time, right when it came out, for the Wii. Incredibly enough, the characters that we created way back then survived, even after months and years of inactivity. And imagine my delight and surprise when upon rejoining the online world I was notified that I had 40,000 gold to collect – KATUNK (that’s the sound of a sack of gold hitting the counter). I wasn’t sure what for at first – dismissing the idea of interest accruing on the meager sum I had stored in the bank, and doubting highly that Square Enix simply rewards their players with in-game monetary gifts for simply not deleting a character from their servers. But a fortune is a fortune, and like a bumpkin winning the lottery, it took me all of one week to squander my newfound wealth, and here’s how I did it.

Crafting, crafting, crafting. After buying myself the most luxurious armor that my level 24 thief could equip, I re-dedicated myself to that noble pursuit of blacksmithing weapons for other players in the game to use. However, in order to make this job a source of income, one must needs spend thousands and possibly millions of gold investing in the recipe books and components needed for the items to be crafted and then sold in the online marketplace. For a game that only has a user base in Japan, the amount of commerce that takes place in this game is fucking staggering, and kind of requires an explanation of its own. It is probably not that dissimilar to other games’ user-run marketplaces, but is a goddamn marvel of ingenuity that hints at strange impossible plutarchian economies that would make any real life economist shit with anger, envy, madness, and above all, respect at its near perfect sustainability.

On my day-to-day delvings, I’ll go into that marketplace looking for some kind of, oh let’s say Silver Ore, which is an actual ingredient needed to make mid-level weapons. It’s a common enough item in the right areas, and many (technically most) of the game’s players have no use for it but to sell it. Sure, blacksmithing is a common profession for characters in DQX, but there are other jobs out there, and it is the other players who make clothes, food, and enchantments who see metallic components found lying around in the field the same way I see cotton plants: stray gold. People collect this shit while they’re out fighting monsters, then bring it back to town to sell. Inventory space is severely limited, so you have to get rid of it, and computer-run item shops won’t give you jack shit. This is why it’s standard to sell the things you find in the online marketplace, because you can undercut any shop run by NPCs, and usually have no problem finding a buyer as long as you price your stuff smartly. This is key to both generating gold and clearing out that precious holding space.

Now, my silver ore is being sold in various quantities by literally hundreds of other players, and you can even sort the listings by cheapest per-unit price. This list updates every time you access it, but you can be assured that the cheapest per-unit priced items will be snatched up almost immediately after being posted, even if it’s just a couple of gold less than the standard price. Say silver ore costs on average 240 gold per unit. Some smart guy puts two on the market for 460, or 230 per unit. That’s not a bad price, I think, considering, and so I select it and make my purchase when suddenly, the little creep behind the counter is like, ”Uh oh – looks like someone has already purchased that! Tough luck. Don’t hate me, bro.” This happened again and again and again one night when I was on a crafting spree. It’s almost a minigame in itself, browsing through the item lists, trying to find the aberrant cheap stuff and button smashing that A, praying to some weird petty god that you get the message, “Here you are – thank you for your purchase.” You start to think that if only you could apply this to buying and selling shit in real life, you could be… I don’t know. Some kind of tycoon motherfucker or something. But probably not. Remember, I went broke doing just this.

Now it’s hardly a given that you’ll make back your money just by collecting the pieces. When the components are purchased and the recipe is known, the actual mini-game of hammering out the product begins. One must remember that love and care, or at least care is needed for the process of crafting, or else you will fuck it up and churn out a sub-standard product that sells for poop, or perhaps a completely irredeemable glob of slag that is worth less than poop. This mini-game is rigged so that cheaper items are easier to make, which is kind of fucking brilliant when you think about it (think higher DCs on accurate hammer strikes in my blacksmith’s case). One could easily crank out 20 shitty swords with a small investment, but these are the questions that the crafter must consider: Are people really going to buy them? At MY prices? Is it worth it? And what is life, anyway? It soon becomes obvious that the returns on low-level items are shitty in terms of gold and experience, meaning that only by moving up, up and up can one expect to make an actual profession out of this hobby. And by hobby, I mean timesink. Christ, I haven’t even killed a slime anywhere in this article yet.

My problem is that I need crafting experience that will allow me to craft the higher level weapons, and I haven’t found my perfect price-margin that will let me continue making weapons AND turn out a profit on them. The demand for weapons is always there, but the components needed to make them sometimes end up costing much more than the standard selling price for the weapon itself. I took goddamn nearly 8,000 gold out of my bank account to buy two “wind cutter wings” for this new set of Falcon Claws, only to discover that such claws were selling for a mere 6,000 in the marketplace – and mine even had a two-star rating, which means they were some kick-ass artisan masterpieces. Luckily, my character uses claws, so I ended up using them myself to farm gold in the more traditional way while stocking up on components to nickel and dime my way back to wealth.

I can be a right stupid fuck when it comes to figuring this kind of thing out on my own, and learning to correct this flaw can be an expensive endeavor indeed.  Want to hear how I set fire to 17,000 gold with one careless, caustic fart?

Every crafting profession requires a tool of some sort. The tailor needs a needle, the cook needs a frying pan, etcetera blah blah, and each of these trade tools has a limited number of uses before it breaks and your have to buy another one. It’s like income tax, I suppose. Now I’m a blacksmith, so one day I was thinking, hey, I’ll just forge my own crafting hammers! The fucking things are ridiculously expensive, after all, and like the pothead who decides to grow his own weed, I went out in search of the necessary components for this project without doing any intelligent or discerning research at all. I ended up buying a recipe book for a Platinum Hammer that cost over 17,000 gold, and I was like hot dog, now I’m set. That’ll save me tons in the long run. It was only after my crazy purchase that I discovered I have to be at a crafting level of 28 to make this fucking thing. This was nearly 10 levels in the future, meaning probably half a million gold for parts, and at least 10 days if I work at it every day. The silliest, most premature purchase ever, right? Well, it gets worse. I discovered soon after this that tool crafting is a completely separate profession from weapon crafting, and that I would have to change jobs and start over from level 1 if I ever really wanted to make this fucking thing which I don’t. Are you serious? Fuck that, I’m just getting into my own right as a weapon maker, so let the tool makers make hammers for me, and I’ll just keep the bragging rights that my character knows how to make a platinum hammer even though I will never actually bring the filthy thing into reality. Anyway, that was 17,000 gold down the goddamn fucking toilet – there is no refund on recipe books that your character has read. They pretty much evaporate into light as soon as you read them.

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