Saturday, October 3

My Latest Addiction


I found the above picture at

That's right I am hopelessly and pathetically addicted to the facebook application / game FarmVille. In fact, I even submitted a definition to urban dictionary for FarmVille Alarm which isn't up yet but should be in the next couple of days. (I will forgive anyone for stopping reading this post here)

The concept of the game is simple enough, and the strategy is not exactly complicated. You play as a farmer who constructs and nurtures his own farm including crops, trees, livestock, buildings, vehicles, and other decorations. There are two different resources that are relevant to daily play, those are experience points and cash (in coins). Your crops, trees and livestock all generate variable amounts of these payouts in a given number of hours. Nothing complicated here. It's this very simplicity, though, which inspired me to pursue one of the most monumental works of worthless nerdery in my recent past, and that is to document the possible payout potentials and opportunity costs so that I could make quality decisions about which strategies to employ.

As I said, the game play is exceedingly simple. This is in large part due to its lack of environmental / independent variables. In fact, they even tell you most of the critical information right up front. For example, if you want to plant strawberries FarmVille tells you that the seeds for one plot cost 10 coins and will sell for 35 coins once harvested in four hours. It will also generate one experience point (XP) upon planting. So anyone can approximate the profit margin on the fly. However, that wouldn't do you a ton of good because you actually want the profit margin per hour (which is still doable). Even then though, that's not going to help you out too much because each plot of land requires that the plot be plowed for a cost of 15 coins also yielding one XP. With this information we know how much profit is earned per hour compared to XP per hour. Unfortunately that doesn't really allow us to cross compare between categories like strawberries versus dairy ranching because it doesn't consider our last scarce resource which is physical space on our farm. These are the kinds of deeper level comparisons I was hoping to explore. That is to say, these are not difficult, but definitely more complicated than I wanted to retain in my short term memory. Thus, I started my FarmVille Spreadsheet.

I will present a select few of my more interesting findings here.

FarmVille Crops
Aloe Vera3.33.333.104

The first table shows the top earners as rated by profit/hr/area/xp. Two things stand out to me when I look through these data. First, I noticed that chronology of unlocking really doesn't have much bearing on crop quality based on this standard. That was very surprising to me as I would normally assume that the most recently unlocked crop is the one I'd like to focus on. Next, I was shocked that raspberries (which generate no XP when planted unlike all other plants) actually dominate this chart based on that unit of measure. Of course, this was nearly impossible for me to glean from the raw data because the hidden XP of plowing plots is very difficult to see until it's laid out in front of you.

A similar problem occurs in decoration costs when trying to decide which decorations will yield maximum XP at a minimum cost. Largely, XP is priced in decorations at 100 coins per XP (at least superficially), however when you consider the hidden costs of sale price and size a slightly different picture emerges. I'll allow you to examine those data at your leisure. However, these findings are less interesting because of two outstanding options. The absolute cheapest XP is that received for plowing plots. At a cost of 15 coins, one could plow his field, delete his plowed plots, and re-plow for maximum XP garnering at minimum cost. (Of course, helping neighbors is cheap and produces a relative ton of XP, but you may only do this occassionally and should be done whenever possible). The second cheapest XPs can be gleaned from uncolored Hay Bales which actually cost only 19 coins per XP. Another advantage of Hay Bales is that they can be purchased repeatedly without returning to the shop which is a nice feature although they must still be sold individually.

I would at this point like to point out a resource to those of us who also suffer from a FarmVille addiction. It is the site, FarmVille Villiage, and they have tons of tips tricks and analysis of the FarmVille game. However, I only found them after my entire spreadsheet was nearly complete, and I decided not to use any of their data. They do some of the same deeper looks at the numbers as I do, but I prefer my strategies and findings.

My last chart I would like to share concerns itself with currency costs of FarmVille decisions. You see, another question I have had throughout is how to compare currency ie. FarmVille Dollars (FV$) which can only be purchased for real money (USD) versus coins. Some items can only be purchased with FV$, so it's hard to compare their costs with other items. So through establishing a conversion rate I was able to translate FV$ into coins or USDs, whichever served my needs at that moment. I used the "Farmer's Best Buy" prices for coins and FV$ in USD to establish the conversion rate. Obviously, if we were not to buy such quantities at a time conversion rates to dollars would weaken causing USD costs to raise. Therefore, if anything I feel that my approximated USD costs are understated if anything.

FarmVille Currency Costs
ItemCost CoinCost FV$Cost USD
Acai Tree7,94327$4.50
Lime Tree7502.55$0.42
Hay Bale1000.34$0.06
Barrel Wagon4,00013.60$2.27
Rest Tent10003.40$0.56
Red Barn40,000135.98$22.66
Fuel Refill8823$0.50

I think hope that these are a little interesting at least. I particularly like the fact that buying 5 refills of fuel is like buy a real gallon of gasoline that you can put in your car and drive 20 miles (unless you are a green freak then it's much farther, or unless you're a real farmer, and then it's much shorter). In fact, one of my goals, which I might pin down a little more with an actual longitudinal study, is to establish the actual Gross Domestic Product in USD for the entire FarmVille Population. That will be a bit of a chore as most of the community is inactive and I am definitely not a representative sample of the average active user. However, off my cuff I would say that I produce at least 80,000 coins of production per day. Let's call my personal GDP conservatively $45 or $16,425 per year which is ridiculous.

I hope that at least some of you have enjoyed this post, even if for nothing more than laughing at me. I'd like to especially thank Sydney and Erox for sowing the seeds of interest in this game through their early adoption and repeated attempts to evangelize me. Also, Kari for inviting me to play, and to Adam for helping me cruise through the early game with lots of bonuses and free gifts.