Virtual worlds are driven by metaphor. In these new kinds of worlds, we need something to grab on to that helps us make sense of the world in terms of ideas we understand. From this we get notions like “tanking” (having lots of armor that lets you take lots of damage), “pulling” (attracting the attention of computer-controlled ships so they move towards you), and “farming” (doing some task repetitively to gain resources). I’ve been doing a lot of that last one recently, and it’s a surprisingly apt metaphor that I want to dig into a little bit.
After the panic and chaos of fighting Triumverate in Pure Blind, Morsus Mihi has settled back into Tribute, intent on rebuilding our coffers of ISK so we can fund our next big conflict. There are two basic ways that people extract value from 0.0 space: mining and ratting. In both cases, each solar system periodically generates stuff that has value. For miners, this means asteroids that can be mined for ore, which turns into minerals for item construction. For ratters, this means computer-controlled pirate ships (rats) that generate a “bounty” when you kill them (and sometimes drop valuable items). I’m going to focus on how the ratting side of things works, but it’s broadly similar for miners.
The first consideration is where to farm. For some complicated reasons I’ll go into this weekend, there are better and worse systems to do this. Some systems are better tended farms than others. These systems generate more rats per hour. These rats appear in asteroid belts (where asteroids appear, too) and cosmic anomalies (where asteroids are rarer / less valuable). The better the system is for farming, the more anomalies you have to choose from, and the higher value rats you’ll find in them. Battleship rats tend to be worth about 1M ISK in bounties each, battlecruisers are about 200k ISK, and cruisers are about 125k ISK. After you clear out an anomaly by killing all these rats, you have to wait for it to respawn with new pirates. Returning to the farming analogy, each anomaly is like a field on a farm. After you harvest it, you have to wait a little while for it to grow back. Plus, having more fields means more farmers can work simultaneously. A system being actively farmed at capacity can only support maybe 3-4 farmers simultaneously.
This is not a super fun process, but it’s an extremely reliable way to make money. I log on pretty much every night and run one or two of these and make about 30-50M ISK/hour. I could make more if I had a nicer ship and better weapon skills which would let me deal more damage to kill pirates faster.
From a macro-economic perspective, farming is a big way that CCP injects money into the world. While miners have to sell their products to other players, money is basically created for me out of thin air. No other player cares if these pirates are alive or dead, CCP just invented this system to give combat-trained players a way to farm in 0.0 space where there aren’t (with some complicated exceptions) agents to give you missions to run. This is also part of how corporations make their money. Every time I blow up one of these rats, my corporation (The Graduates) takes 15% of the bounty in a tax. This goes directly into the corporation’s coffers and funds various corporation expenses, like reimbursing me when I lose my ships doing stupid things in fleet ops.
Farming also requires a certain amount of geopolitical stability. I’ll write more about that side of things over the weekend, but suffice to say that having lots of enemy fleets moving through the systems you’re farming in drastically disrupts the process. (Tribute is pretty quiet these days, but you can still kinda see this in the player-deaths map compared to the npc-deaths map.) So while we have a few moments of peace before the rumored upcoming hostilities between the North and the South, I need to build up a nice reserve of ISK to fund my increasingly expensive war habits. Swords to plough-shares and back again.
This topic is continued in Part 2 of this article. Check it out to see how this mechanic forms the foundation for economic warfare in 0.0 territorial fights!