Friday, 20 December 2013

Supply and Demand – Some Fundamentals of Trading in the Hyborian Age.

In this post, Murddock covers the bare essentials of trading items for newbies so that they can make the most of their in-game lucre over the first few days and weeks of playing Age of Conan - Unchained.

Okay Okay … so you’re super new to Age of Conan (and perhaps to MMOs) and your new character doesn’t have a lot of moola and you wanna improve the character’s gear. What’s a new player to do?   

When most players start out on Tortage Beach, Kalanthes, the enigmatic Priest of Ibis, greets you and offers you something invaluable: a reason to live ... a new destiny to persue.  What the miserly bastard doesn't do is give you the basics, like food, weapons, or money.  Yes yes, he's a mystical priest and he's all about the journey not the destination and all that Emersonian blather. (Truth be told, Murd plied him with booze once and then asked why he didn't give friggin' money ... "Dude," the old Stygian scoffed, "If I gave every mo'fo, who washed up on that beach, a few gold coins, I'd be one destitute sonovabitch!")

Kalanthes: Generous with his wisdom, but stingy with his simoleons

Well the Priest of Ibis might be a tightwad, but Age of Conan, does provide various means to make your wallet swell. 

1) This first thing a new player needs to accept is this: you're not going to be excessively rich anytime soon.  

The game initially indicates progression via your experience points and levels accrued. If you could buy your way to the top, from day one, what would the point of playing be?  AoC wants you to take your time and learn its intricacies and as such, it mainly employs the mechanism in which players pursue better loot as one of several incentives.  For the time being, accept that you'll be trying to earn tin or copper, and that silver, gold and other currencies will be relevant later.

Hence, once you've fought your way up the beach; gutted slavers, Picts and demons; killed Saddur; slaughtered the Ape King; and defeated the Big Bat to get Turach his friggin' stone-blocks in exchange for having those shackles removed; you'll have acquired ample starting-loot and can access Tortage City. Your first chance to sell some of the crap in your inventory is upon you. 

The Tortage trader and, nearby,  Nalla, a food vendor.

Most players understandably run straight-away to the 2 types of commercial non-player characters (aka. NPCs, the term for in-game quest givers, enemies or merchants etc.) the game presents nearby: 

A) The vendors who sell things like potions, foods, armor or weapons etc.

B) The trader who's one of several NPCs that allow players to store, or sell items to other players in a persistent on-line market.  The trader window's "Buy" tab provides access to the same market-place no matter where you encounter a trader NPC.  

Okay, it is reasonable to notice that some posted items, some just like yours, are for sale for tidy sums of gold or silver and thereby assume that the most of the stuff you gathered is valuable. That's the first novice mistake: assuming.  The loot's generally not that valuable ...  most of it is essentially pooh. But even pooh has relative value.  Good things can grow from pooh.

The trader window showing players trying to sell the Ape King's Treasure.

The slaver's gold teeth and Ape King's Treasure are all items that new players sometimes try to sell to other players on the trader.  This usually happens because the items are presented as 'gold' or 'treasure' and, as such, are perceived as having value to other players, because the items seem to have value within the game's fictional setting.  The logic is reasonable: The Ape King's Treasure is some kind of gem. Gems are usually valuable in fantasy settings. For that matter gem's are valuable at any real world jewellery store; so this thing should be worth something to the scrofulous jerks on Tortage, n'est pas?  

Unfortunately, new players sometimes forget that some of the other players selling those very same items suited for low-level play, are also themselves novice players, who also don't have the full picture.  So when new players do sometimes see these items for sale on the trader, they mis-percieve their own items' values. 

However, a little more puzzling is when players try to sell items that have no seeming value, such as the Half-digested Foot. ... Perhaps their experience in other games has sparked a hypothesis that it just might be needed by others for a quest: which some items will indeed be.

Newbies mistakenly over-price items that won't sell.  The tool-tip better indicates an item's base worth.

Look it! These items you've struggled to accrue (viz. demon blood, weapons you can't use, duplicate bandannas, etc) are principally suited for just selling to the vendors to enable new characters to buy some basic armor or weapons.  Don't worry about selling them on the trader.

The simplest rules of thumb for your first couple of days: 
  • Yes, check the trader to see whether others are selling an item you want to sell 
  • In general, don't sell items labeled as whites or greys on the trader, stick with greens or if you get any, blues.  
  • Don't expect to sell all your items for lots of gold or silver while on Tortage.  
  • There are exceptions of course (like the Eyepatch, see below), but typically at levels 1-20 you'll earn some solid copper, if you're shrewd. And maybe you score a few silver, if you're fortunate.

2) Look at the Tool-tip pop-ups to appraise items.  

You can read the Vendor Price on the tool-tip to ascertain an item's minimum sell value at any NPC vendor.  Vendor's always buy item's for considerably less than they sell them (as in 'buy low, sell high' - that's capitalism people!)  If you put your item on the trader for less than the vendor price on the tool-tip, you're selling yourself short, because a vendor would pay you more for it than the player buying it will.  Most other players know this and they might actually capitalize on the seller's error, by buying the item, exchanging it at a vendor, and making a small profit.

Peek at each item's Tool-tip window to get a sense of its cost.

3) Items within AoC's player-community also have market-value determined by our old friends, supply and demand.  

An item's supply is determined by factors such as:

Drop Rate:  The frequency with which an item is 'dropped', (i.e. provided) by NPCs or by crafting 'nodes' (eg. trees that yield wood or beasts hunted for leather) affects the supply.  Regardless of level, some things 'drop' incessantly (eg. the Ape King's Treasure); some commonly, such as enchanted (green) items; some a little more rarely (blue items, such as the Savage Chest, Bloodleather Leggings, or Briskrunner Boots armor); and some are exceptionally unlikely to drop (eg. the Eyepatch) and yet are highly desired for their novelty factor.

The Eyepatch - authentic supply-side pricing

Difficulty of Crafting:  Items crafted in-game are produced by players who acquire materials through gathering drops (over time) or by buying materials in the player-market on via the trader.  If the crafting recipe requires rare expensive materials, then the crafted product will be correspondingly pricey.  You may observe crafted greens are very common.  They're routinely produced to satisfy the requirements for crafting progression.  Therefore they are often lower in price than the sum of the values of the materials used to make them.  However, crafted blue items which are more beneficial and which require a few rare materials to produce, are seldom sold at a loss.

No matter how the seller acquires an item, as a general rule, the more copies of an item that are for sale on the trader, the lower the market-price they'll typically fetch.
"But if I sell this thing, people might find me uhmm ... repulsive without it!?!"

An item's demand is an even more complex phenomenon.   It's ostensibly dependent on many variables:

  • How many players are online at any given time
  • How many of those are of a class or level that might want the item
  • And how many of those have a  feat-build that requires an item's specific attributes
  • How many of those players have the item already
  • How many players' guilds share items in their guild bank
  • How many players prefer to buy rather than grind (i.e. acquire over time) for the item    ...    and so on.

Learning which items are in demand and when is part of successful trading.

This can seem daunting, and frequently it is.  However, some approaches to trading are a mix of intuition and common sense.

For example, it's a good idea to set your items for sale on a Wednesday evening, to insure that their item's posting doesn't expire while the majority of players are online over a weekend. This is a time when demand goes up; but after a time so will supply.

4) Be patient and proactive.  Monitor the competition's prices regularly.

By checking the 'Advanced' box in the trader window, you can access more search filters.  It's a good idea to use this feature to have a look at similar items when you're trying to estimate an item's worth.  For example, filter for all 'Cloth Armor' and 'Belts' for levels 30-40.  You might notice that there are more belts suited for mages than assassins in this level-range ... so you can ask for more for an assassin oriented belt.

You may also want to occasionally, re-check how your item's price compares to others' prices.  Over a seven-day cycle, you can sometimes see a price drop dramatically, as players adjust their prices to undercut each other.

Examining prices over 7 days, implies an item's most recent set price drops to 10 times less than a prior competitor's asking price.


For certain things, it's more effective to sell common items, such as tradeskill materials or consumables (i.e. food or potions), in stacks by grouping a number of the same kind of item into a bundle of several.  Not all items can be stacked; but if they can, take a lesson from the bulk-barn: sell larger stacks for relatively low prices.  

For example, you can determine your optimum stack price by slightly undercutting the lowest prices on the trader.  First you determine who is selling a commodity for the lowest per-unit cost, and then you set your stacks for a slightly lower per-unit cost. This works best when the supply is high, and demand is constant.  If demand suddenly increases, a buyer may tolerate higher prices than your asking price.  Your stack will sell quickly, but you may nonetheless feel frustrated knowing that others got paid at higher per-unit prices.

You may alternately choose to adopt a line-in-the-sand approach, by setting a price below which you won't budge, in the hopes that over time once all the sellers who've undercut you have sold their stacks, that someone will be inclined buy yours. This sometimes actually works, if the demand is high and the supply low.

The Rat-in-a-Trap sweet spot!
Which stack of 5 Rats-in-a-Trap would you snap-up?

The aim is to find the economic goldilocks' zone, in which you undercut the competition, without selling yourself short.

5) Yes, other advanced players may want to buy items you've found.

Longtime players frequently generate alternative characters (called 'alts') to try out other classes or just to help friends.  When a player, decides to fast-track an alt, by equipping that alt-character with the best gear (so as to make advancement a more rapid and efficient process), the resulting character is called a 'twink'.  So longtime players do feed the demand for select blue and green items at lower levels.  For example, 'Traveler's' items provide movement speed boosts: a player may never want such an item for combat, but could want one for moving around. 

6) It gets better! Big scores are out there ... but you have to play to get them.

So where's it all heading?   Well the current AoC economy is stable but not especially dynamic.  As a result, it serves players adequately, but it doesn't motivate players to be economically forceful. Beyond the elite players selling a limited assortment of epic crafting materials and items (eg. Shards of the Exiled God), not much has changed since 2009.

That being said, with normal PvE play at some of the more recently introduced  areas, such as the House of Crom, world epic items do drop and some can fetch you a dandy price.  These have stirred up the economy somewhat.  Obtaining them is a matter of patience, skill, perseverance and yeah, luck.

Ibis weapons are currently the big earners at the trader.

Come to think of it, well maybe ol'Kalanthes' knew all along that, if you persevered as a player, you would indeed be in for some shiny loot.  Ahem, loot bearing the name of Ibis, no less.

Despite a plodding pace, caravans move constantly, conducting traders' commerce.

7) Though the market is stable now, a storm's a-comin'.

But the discussion doesn't quite end with Ibis rewards.  In the latest patch 4.1.5, a long lost tier of prestige has re-appeared.  'Legendary' as a designation has returned after many years of being mothballed within some code on a USB drive in a file cabnet in Oslo or Montreal.  

Murd can't help but think that legendary is an ironically apt adjective. There's a legend among Funcom developers, that someday ... in a forthcoming era known cryptically as "soon"; the currently inviolable ebb and flow of all commodities' supply and demand will become a maelstrom once the new crafting system goes live.  

If a legendary tier for crafting is introduced to replace, the epic Ibis crafting format, such legendary items might initially be obscenely priced.  Beyond such conjecture, we do know that new crafting materials will be coming, as will epic crafting for level 20 and above.  We also know that dropped items can be dismantled and some constituents salvaged.  So the overall supply of what are common greens and blues now, may dwindle; that crappy level 35 green cloth assassin belt may suddenly command a higher price than anyone would expect. 

The implications are intriguing. An elite HoX might start buying Guard oriented items, to salvage certain materials.  Sin's may start to furiously buy up Mages' staffs.  Slith may learn to love PvE in Azeroth!  Cats and dogs may start inter-breeding and giving birth to abominations: Oh god ... 'kippies' or 'puppens'.  Whatever they'll be called, Murd expects they'll stink up the place with their unholy bodily emissions.

Seriously though, it will be interesting to see how the economy changes as players react and adapt.  Though the the Khitan merchants curse their rivals with the words "May you live in interesting times"; Cimmerian profiteers, like Murddock, regard the arrival such opportune conditions as a blessing.



  1. mahhaha nice post mate. And yet I must state that my exile to the Azeroth is self inflicted and strictly for PVP reasons :) WoW is really quite charming when it comes to PVP. AOC's crafting will either pull be back to Hyboria or be the last nail in the coffin. We will see.

  2. Cheers Man! I suspect that if the revamp doesn't offer some engaging sustainable objectives, I might look to TESO in the spring for some fresh MMO geography.

  3. "Good things can grow from pooh." You can say that again!