You may recall that on New Year’s Day, my alt Clover decided to try her hand at virtual farming (with the Digital Farm System, or DFS). About 3300 avatars are part of the official group, and these avatars grow virtual crops, raise virtual livestock, sell their produce or else use it in recipes to cook food, and then eat said food to replenish Energy Points (EP), which are depleted during various farm chores. I was told early on by a pair of experienced farmers, “You won’t make your fortune, not for a while anyway” and had no idea at the time just how serious they were.
The cows look and act like cows. They grow as they get older, and they reproduce. You can turn off the hovertext (YAY). In order to keep them “happy” (and, apparently, they die of neglect if they are insufficiently happy) you have to brush them multiple times a day, which eats up EP. Brown cows do not breed with black-and-white cows (something I really wish I had known early on). For some chores, you wear your HUD, you click on an item, and click the command like “prune” or “tend” or, in the case of cows, “brush”. I didn’t realize at first that you have to click the “care” button on the HUD, or else you’re just standing there, animated like you’re brushing a cow, but not actually doing anything.
My first mistake was getting the basics (as described on the website) at the Marketplace. The website lists out the things you will need to get started: some cattle, a dirt field, some hay seeds, a Water Well, etc. However when you get these items, along with the free HUD, on the Marketplace, you get little to no instruction as to their use. You don’t know that you have to fertilize the field first by having a bag of fertilizer nearby and clicking the field. You don’t know you have to draw up barrels of water from the well to have nearby to water your field (I for one assumed the nearby water well sufficed). I learned about $L400 later (not counting parcel rental) that what I should have done was gone to their inworld main store and gotten the Starter Pack, which comes with a notecard with much more detailed directions.
Mistakes, a natural part of a learning curve, proved to be costly. Putting the wrong ingredient in the wrong order resulted in an “oopsie”, a 1 EP food item in place of the 25 EP tomato soup I was trying for. Leaving anything on the stove too long– say if you crash or lag– results in an oopsie. Putting the wrong ingredient into your HUD when you didn’t mean to cook with it can cause the item to disappear for good (such as happened with me when I went to “use” a pile of hay I’d grown, not knowing I needed another piece of equipment– a feed mill– to give that hay to my cattle to eat). I will readily say that the members of the group are there to answer questions, but when you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t exactly ask until after something goes wrong and you aren’t sure why.
I had hoped there would be more RPing in the DFS world than there turned out to be. I had hoped, where there are so many food and drink possibilities, that I would see specialization, themed places. Like brew pubs or coffee houses or bakeries. My original vision when I started out was to host a weekly farmer’s market– with entertainment and all– with people having specialty booths. You know, an authentic-feeling modern city farmer’s market, something regularly happening in town besides church services (nothing against, just hoping for other stuff too).
What I quickly found, however, is people gaming the system, maximizing EP and sales for all they are worth. And who can blame them? I sank a total of six grand (including land tier) into my idea, making a dairy farm of my own. I brushed cows more often than I brush my own hair IRL, I even got up at 5 one morning to use the internet at McDonald’s when my home internet connection was out, so as to keep my virtual cows from dying. And for what? A crate of milk, which has 4 uses, goes for about L$4 right now. To make one of these, you need a cow, and a bull, and for them to not die for 6– or is it 8 now?– days, then you get one crate of milk. In 24 hours, if they don’t die, you get another one. I am not an economist. I am not a mathematician. But I can tell you that the sheer number of milk crates that I would have to produce– and sell in a cutthroat market– in order to cover both tier on a parcel and the cost of all of the hay and the EP is a number I can not fathom attaining.
So, in conclusion, Clover Farms is doing pretty much what many farms in DFS-land appear to do every week, and closing up shop. The parcel’s already sold, and the remaining inventory is being sold off. Someone’s making their fortune here, but it certainly wasn’t me. Liquidated farms seem to be a common way for savvy farmers to snap up equipment, livestock, and produce at an even lower price than L$4 for a milk crate. I found myself thinking about the situation of farming in RL, about how those with more money to invest and the ability to subsist until the other guy goes broke have a great advantage over those who are struggling to keep the lights on. And when the second person in the scenario goes udders-up, the thrifty and resourceful swipe up what’s left for their own gain. This got a bit depressing all of a sudden.
Anyway, Clover’s Farm closed officially on February 23, 2019, and is just selling off leftovers to try to recoup some percentage of the lost investment. If you try this, may your luck– or your math– be different from mine.