Champions Online is really no different. People complain about overinflated auction house prices all the time, about how transaction fees and auction limits ruin the economy, and how the value of certain super-rare items has plummeted.
Overall, I'm very happy with CO's economy. Even though the AH interface is horribly broken (and I'm sure the devs are aware), many people use the AH and most goods are available for sale (even the elusive buttcape). Because the cash-shop items can be traded and sold, there's a certain strangeness in the market, but this is largely a good thing.
Interacting with the market as a Silver member
Free players have a unique restriction that limits their interaction with the market: They can only carry 250 global resources per character. This is a huge restriction. A lot of top-level stuff can cost 300g or more on the AH. Does this mean Silver members can't buy items that cost more than 250g? Absolutely not!
One really good solution is to use a supergroup bank. As a Silver character, you can get a SG all to yourself with a little help from friends, and you can dump all your excess resources in the guild bank (you can actually use this to bypass bank slot restrictions somewhat, as well). If something pops up that you'd like to buy, just bug one of your Gold member friends (make sure you trust them!), transfer some resources, and he or she can buy it for you.
Obviously this requires you to have trustworthy friends, but this isn't EVE, so scamming one's friends isn't exactly commonplace. Make sure you screenshot any deals you make with friends, so in case you do get scammed, you have some evidence (send a tinyurl linking to your screens with a ticket) to show to the GM who handles your issue. Either way, situations like this are very rare. I've never actually heard of someone getting scammed.
If you don't have any Gold member friends, feel free to ask me (@Auspicious) and I'll help you out (assuming I'm online, obviously!).
The C-Store and the global market
Because many C-Store devices are tradable, there is a healthy secondary market for some of the higher-demand devices. Some players buy devices to re-sell on the open market for globals; it's a fast way to get cash for CTP components or rare costumes.
Currently, Cryptic points are worth slightly less than half a global. An hour alone with Emily Lovett (160 points) costs roughly 50-100g on market, while the transform devices (920 points) cost 400-500g. The value of these devices is actually dropping, which is surprising; it tells me that more people are spending money in the store, and the demand for global resources is rising faster than the demand for transform or growth/shrink devices.
This is good news if you're looking to pick up a transform device. I bought a purple demon transform device for 400g, which frees up my C-Store points for new costume pieces. It's also probably good news for Cryptic; in spite of my feelings about how the store is overpriced, the company is clearly making quite a bit in sales on these devices, because people who can't afford them with cash are buying them with globals. My one grievance is that respec tokens can't be sold on the market; if they sold for 500g, they'd be much cheaper than the normal respec process at level 40.
If you do buy limited-use devices, make sure you check the number of charges! Many people try to scam by selling devices with only 10 seconds left or a reduced number of charges in the device. Unlike trade scamming among friends, this is very common. Be careful.
In many other MMORPGs, crafting at the top tier is highly valued. It's usually a rough grind to get a maxed crafting skill, and high-level items are usually useful commodities for all characters.
In Champions Online, this is simply not the case. Part of this is due to the lack of different types of useful consumables (especially ones that do not share cooldowns) and the fact that crafted gear is largely garbage next to found gear.
In general, crafting is somewhat of a money sink. The entire purpose of leveling crafting is to gain the ability to make crafted travel powers (CTPs), to make crafted costume pieces, and possibly to make use of the unique devices available to each crafting discipline.
As I mentioned in my F2P Avenger guide, crafted consumables are quite useful, and a stack of level 5 healing stims can make lowbie questing a lot easier. The low-power consumables are fairly expensive, costing roughly 1g each. I'm not sure how well they sell, but 1g each is reasonably priced considering how much they heal. It could be a viable moneymaker early on, but I'm not sure how many people buy them. Most of the "fun" crafting devices are bind-on-pickup, including all of the Mysticism pets, which makes the unique elements of crafting more important for yourself than they are for other people.
The main "moneymaker" in crafting, if it can be called that, is crafting junk components that you get from decompiling into slightly-less-junk white items that can be vendored. If you are a Silver member, this is pretty important to keep your inventory cleared out. Remember that you can craft using components stored in your bank; you don't need to run to your bank in order to grab excess items. In some cases, you can actually make profit on this by buying stacks of common high-skill components, crafting low-quality primary slot items, and vendoring them.
Buying blue items on the AH to use for crafting is rather common. Cheap, high-level blue items are relatively common if you keep an eye out, and decompiling the items can give you a large boost in skill, especially at the low levels. Also, decompiling blue primary items yields rare crafting components that are needed for CTPs and other high-level crafting. Finally, getting a high research score (which is easier with blue items) is essential to get discovery items and research notes, which are needed to learn many recipes.
CTP components are the single fastest-moving commodity on the AH. The rare CTP components generally cost 2-5g each, but this is not fixed in stone, and people have inflated the price on Ritual Blood Knives to over 15g in the past. If you're interested in making a CTP, you will probably end up buying some of them. If you're interested in making money, sell your surplus Dragon Power Cores on the AH for a tidy profit. In general, if you get component item drops, make sure you check the AH to see what they're worth, because that half-stack of Reinforced Tissues you have could be worth 50g or more.
After CTP components, blue items form the most active portion of the AH. Some people buy them for crafting; others buy them for equipping. Standard blues vary widely in price depending on their level. Check the AH for items of the same general type and level (for example, secondary utilities of level 30) and price your stuff accordingly. Sell everything you don't use for crafting or equipping on the AH; the market is really fast-moving.
Legendary blue items (also known as "SL blues") are much harder to price. Legendary secondaries actually tend to sell for more than primaries because Legendary primaries are similar to purple items in value, while Legendary secondaries are the best items in the game for their slots. These items can only be picked up from Serpent Lantern or Demonflame and sell very well. Generally, high-level legendaries sell for over 20g each. Some can sell for hundreds, depending on the item's bonuses.
If you're looking for a good inroad into making money, even as a Silver member, buying Serpent Lantern to run the first bunker is a very good bet.
The real money sink: Costume pieces
While the C-Store holds a fair number of costume packs, there are many costumes attainable in-game. Weapon customizations are only available through dropped or crafted items, and the infamous Vibora costume drops are among the most coveted items in the game (next to the super-rare BoE crafted travel powers).
Costume parts tend to sell slowly but surely, as long as they aren't too overpriced. Some costume parts sell for so much that it's better to sell them on the trade forums, just to avoid the AH fees. The buttcape, for instance, sells for no less than 3500g and usually way, way more.
A surprising source of income is the adventure pack token costumes, which are BoE. If you are a Gold member or you own an adventure pack, consider spending your tokens on the costume pieces for resale. Silver members have to unlock them this way unless they buy the adventure packs, which creates a nice potential market.
The CO market is extremely robust, which I found sort of surprising. When doing the research for this article, I expected CTP components, crafting mats, SL blues, and costume parts to be the only thing for sale. I was really surprised to see DF token costumes, stims, and equipment moving regularly in the AH. After shelling out 4g each for ritual blood knives (thankfully I'm done with that grind, finally) and buying my purple demon device, I figured I'd look into just what moves in the AH.
If you were playing prior to F2P, you're probably as surprised as I am!
When he's not touring the streets of Millennium City or rolling mooks in Vibora Bay, Patrick Mackey goes Behind the Mask to bring you the nitty-gritty of the superhero world every Thursday. Whether it's expert analysis of Champions Online's game mechanics or his chronicled hatred of roleplaying vampires, Patrick holds nothing back.