In the Fourth Age, the Era of Global Recession, when the stress monster reigned supreme, sending the helpless pocketbooks fleeing for the hills, there arose a champion to fight for the masses. This was the MMO: an incredibly cheap source of entertainment that allows the average Joe and Jane to blow off some steam by hitting a dragon in the head with a hammer. Come home and relax, kill some monsters, chat with your guildies, and buy and sell your virtual goods in a stable, reliable market.
Oops. Stable, reliable market? Not anymore!
Whether you've been reading the AO forums or not, chances are that you've noticed that prices keep going up, and up, and up, and up. That long-awaited shiny new piece of conqueror's armor is going to cost you an increasingly large amount of shiny pennies. When I first bought my Conqueror boxes, they went for less than a million each. Now, just a few months later.
We've seen more than 100% inflation in only two months. Holy cow! (For those of you interested in such comparisons, the average annual inflation rate of the US Dollar is about three percent).
The theories for the cause of inflation are many:
Some say that the inclusion of the Hwarang quest, which requires 500 collection points (points which would have previously been spent on equipment boxes) and its heady 100m in cash has resulted in an overflow of gold.
Others have noted that removing the ability to JP indy items (i.e. torn pages, water dragon scales, etc) has removed an easy source of Sea and Earth Elements, which are often used in the Barter Shop to obtain high end crafting items. Thus high end crafters (i.e. the ones with the full bank accounts) have had no choice but to rely on Dragon, Conqueror, Freezing, and Divine gear to obtain their elements.
Still others have blamed the various minor adjustments, a supposed ninja nerf in Goonzu loot and an overall 80% reduction in item drops.
Whatever the reason, it's quite clear that outfitting our mercenaries in the latest gear grows increasingly costly. We are left with a choice: do we try to stick our fingers in the overflowing dam as it breaks apart, calling on players to be less greedy as if the market wasn't simply following the tides of supply and demand, or do we accept that that the dam is lost and build a boat, stock it full of delicious ripe apples (so as to avoid scurvy), put on our pirate hat, raise the ol' skull and cross bones, rattle our cutlasses, then sail forth to pillage the seas?!
Okay, perhaps I got a little carried away with my metaphor, but nevertheless I say: avast!
And so we come to the useful part of the article: how to make money in AO. Of course you've got your obvious methods: do some quests, kill some monsters and break their piggy banks, scam honest players by selling a freezing orb as a crystal ball of harmony... er wait... ahem... but I'm here to offer you some tips and tricks and hopefully soon you'll be sailing along, your weapons glittering as they smash newly-killable monsters left and right.
Jackpot is a non-secret alternative method of looting and the savior of my constantly depleted bank account. All of the high levels know it and use it, but I find that many low levels are simply unaware of its existence. I even have some level 90+ guildies who ask me what jackpot is all about.
The process is simple: buy a jackpot license appropriate for your level at a fixed price (300k for II, 3.6m for IV) from the market and let the looting begin. You've got twelve item slots to fill with quantities up to 9999 and at any time you can acquire all (which simply moves the items into your inventory) or you can select one item in the list and do a "Jackpot Challenge" which converts all of the items in your jackpot window into a single item, the quantity of which depends on what else you've got in there.
It is with the Jackpot Challenge that the real profits come about. At first, you can just leave jackpot on and simply pick any items you want, this is one of the best ways for low levels to get Ashen Crystals, which you'll need to upgrade mercenaries. Once you get into higher levels, though, you'll want to start setting up a specific jackpot by finding some highly used low cost material to place into your first slot, then filling the rest up with high value boxes and goods. For the purposes of demonstrating this, I used a low level boss to get an enchant II box and then ran ind. dungeon 101 (and photoshopped the result into the same picture):
In this case the result (using prices on my server) is worth twice as much as the input. Ta-da, magic makes it happen! Though some people accumulate month-long War Cry jackpots worth billions of gold, your best bets are commodities that many crafts use: topaz, animal bones, crystals, etc.