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I'm sure it's been asked but...
Are the items from the item shop a must, or are you able to progress through the game just as well as other players with out them?
What almost every players have is a cape from cash shop. You can buy one with money game though... I believe that the money is mainly made by nflavor using the stamina savers.
You have a stamina system, increasing really slowly when you are not killing monsters, but decreasing fast when you are killing monsters. If you have stamina, you double your experience. So someone who has stamina levels up twice faster than someone who hasn't. A stamina saver is "saving" your stamina, meaning that your stamina doesn't decrease when you kill. Using a stamina saver, during an hour you get double experience. These are used during dungeon parties (groups of 8 ppl killing tough monsters in one of the dungeons) and last an hour.
People who spend money mainly spend it on stamina savers (SS). You get around 40 stamina savers for $50. Meaning that you will make double experience during 40 hours of dungeon parties (DP).
Exemple : 1 hour of DP at lvl 40 with SS = 1.5lvl while without SS you will get 75% of a lvl.
at lvl 80, 1 SS gets you 40% of a level (20% without SS)
at lvl 100, 1 SS=20% of a lvl (10% ithout SS)
and so on....
Means that you need twice more work for the same lvl without SS. Nevertheless, SS can be bought ingame to other players. On my server, a SS is worth 1.8million rupees. If you are grinding empty pet cards (cards with which you can try to tame a pet), usually you can expect one in 4 hours of grind, and you can sell it around 12million rupees. That means that you can grind and use SS too.
There's a kind of conversion rupees (game money)/gpotatoes (cash money) which is around 1 gpot = 13,000 rupees on my server. That means that you can nearly buy anything without spending a dollar, it will just take more work of course....