Slow Cook: Done By October

No matter where your interests lie, there are a lot of fun activities to do in Second Life. One of those SL activities that has been garnering a lot of interest is farming. Enter Digital Farm System (DFS), which started way back in October of 2016. DFS isn’t just farming, though. It is so much more.

Via: SL Newser – Design: Reader Submitted: Digital Farm System

This post isn’t being sent to Mastodon; I’ve been slowly cooking up a plan, an exit strategy if you will, for easing out of the Digital Farming System inworld game in Second Life. The essay linked and quoted above has been on my mind since I read it. It’s altogether enthusiastic, positive, and not really disclosing the risks and pitfalls a simple farming-and-cooking game poses to players.

The SL Newser article was reader-submitted, by someone who is clearly enjoying DFS, and more power to her.

It’s easy to get started with DFS. The DFS community as a whole is extremely friendly and open to questions. It is not uncommon to see people starting out in the DFS system by offering their assistance as farm hands, volunteers, and hired cooks. It’s also common to meet new people learning about DFS by visiting some of the many auctions that are held each day.

I don’t know much about the auctions, but I suspect that they are one of the only ways that some players can hope to earn back or profit from their investment of time and money in DFS. If you want any of the cool collectible stuff (and “cool” is a flexible concept here), you have to spend some serious money. The writer of the article did do a good job of describing the basics of gameplay within DFS, the use of the HUD to cook or craft things from your harvests of plants, animals, trees, etc. But she didn’t mention the amount of time it takes to grow all the ingredients you need in order to host a nice party for your friends… unless you just buy the ingredients rather than spending weeks and weeks to gather enough baskets of wheat or fruit to make whimsical desserts and main courses.

The auctions are a way for people to gather in a pressure-cooker environment, submit their stuff to be auctioned off by people using special scripts and timers, and they are designed to separate people from their money. They must be one of the most efficient and profitable way to get rid/sell your most valuable DFS items, which are usually the crazy-looking specialty items that get used up or expire, like water barrels and animals that end up as steaks and pork chops. I suspect that if you sell a good “lot” of collected produce, along with some rare stuff, you might get a nice windfall, but I also suspect that the auctioneers (and the places they run the events from, kind of like roving DJs) get a nice cut of the proceeds. That’s fine, it’s a way to make money off of the game, and there’s a hell of a lot of it in the DFS game economy.

There’s a lot to like about the game, but it takes over your inworld time. It’s relaxing to pretend to plant crops and harvest them, but you need fertilizer, which means either feeding male animals (and a lot of them, if you have a big farm) or you buy fertilizer in bulk (shifting the cost of production to someone else). And you have to feed the animals, too.

I was “away” from Second Life for 2 years, and as soon as I came back and realized all my DFS stuff was still rezzed out, I jumped right back in to tending, watering, trying to figure out what to plant, what to cook, and if I had enough milk, butter, cream and other ingredients on hand. A lot of things had changed – I was somewhat irked to find that they had changed some recipes and added some “limiting factors” that require the DFS cook to buy extra boosters or items that are ONLY available from the DFS main store, not on the (very active) secondary market. Just before I left before, the creator of the DFS game had changed the timing of how and when female animals “give birth” and in the case of cows, give milk. The original cows, paired with a bull, gave birth every 6 days, milk starting the 7th day, and live 30 days (0-29, really). .If the age timer hits 30, you get a “DIED OF OLD AGE” hovertext. You still “request the meat” though. Yum, yum. Then with the change, cows gave birth on the 9th day, and milk the day after. So that means 3 “crates” of milk lost per month. You had to rezz out new cows more often so that you didn’t have a big gap in age when your oldest cow reached Day 29 (and hopefully you got milk that day if the timing was right).

Milk is pretty important to a lot of recipes – many of them call for butter, cheese, cream, yogurt and  so on. So throttling back the supply of milk may have helped with a glut in the market (too much milk), but really hurts smaller farmers who don’t have dozens and dozens of animals rezzed out on mega-farms. It’s definitely got parellels to real-world factory farming and Big Dairy squeezing out family farms.

I’m a proud smallholder – and working toward being an even smaller smallholder by October, when one of my paid accounts is up for renewal. By October, I have to decide if I’m paying another $99.00USD, and keep the 1024m of land tier that the account contributes toward my group owned land. If I don’t renew that account, I have to reduce my holdings, attempt to sell that amount of land, and go on a strict prim diet.

I’ve been “cooking my inventory down” into a form that I can sell off in “lunchboxes” that are consumables players can rezz out or wear – if you don’t pay extra for (oh LORD this sounds insane) “clickies” that save your energy when tending animals. And yes, I pay extra for “clickies,” fertilizer, and scripted trowels that speed up the time tending fields. I was thinking about reducing that, too – but the next level down doesn’t include the fertilizer. I’d have to cut back on “field” crops and stick to the relaxing “Bees, trees, and chickies, and planties” model to keep playing, with probably 4-6 fields instead of the current…ye gads, 29 or 30 fields (I have a few more in inventory). It’s a hell of a way to downsize, but I’m gathering ingredients for my “core” meals and that takes time, and virtual acreage. Now reconsidering the “buy ingredients in bulk instead of farming them” strategy.

So tonight I bumped up against yet another unpleasant change – the male animals now have to be at least n-days old to be “ready to breed.” I had 2 cows also ready – nothing happened. Why? Because I recently sent a 29-day bull off to my butcher block, and the 3 day old guy doesn’t have what it takes. Someone could make a lot of money offering stud rentals of 9-day and older bulls, I’m just saying. And also, the other change, is that the old brown cows and bulls are “retired.” When the cows give birth, you get brown-and-white “Ayrshires” instead.  Fortunately, my old brown bull could give satisfaction – it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d have to plop down an Ayrshire bull to pair with the…. this sounds absolutely INSANE.

Here’s a picture instead.
Second Life cows and bulls

There they all are, with their feed and water – I’ll have to make sure I have plenty of both but fortunately they are into the Slow Food movement still.

A small Second Life farm by a roadside

And here are my fields. Currently I have about 3 or 4 times as many as I should have under my “simplify my Second Life plan” – as I’m gathering specific ingredients to be cooked down.

However, it occurs to me that this is simply an addiction – duh. The acquisition of fields, tools, gadgets, “special” ingredients, it’s all just a distraction from what I should be doing in RL, and the better creative work I ought to have been doing in SL.

I recently saw an uptick in sales of my older texture-change hats, partly because of Mardi Gras, partly because my stuff may be more searchable now that I’m active again (and paying a small amount for searchability on my shop parcel). I also got a very kind review from a young SL friend on Mastodon, who posted a photo of herself in the hat in front of my event-dependent shop in Flox:

It’s a beautiful shot and it’s her style – she favors the lighter palette. I’m more of a jewel-tones gal myself. Anyway, the hat is cute but it’s based on an old sculpt, and the mesh hat I made 3 or 4 years ago isn’t quite as nicely shaped. So I have to knuckle down and and get through the process of re-learning all the most useful keyboard shortcuts in Blender, and watch all of the Blender School videos by Goon. And to have the inworld time to do this work, I need to cut back on the farmie-clickie-cookie-tendie stuff in DFS.

Which somehow has resulted in having more fields now than I ever had in the Bruda Plateau, when I sold my farm and contents off and “just kept a few fields, 8 or so.”

Yikes, it’s an addiction.

I’ve been gradually “turning off” some of the scripted trees and plants, I turned off the beehives, and today after I harvested a few things, I started to “pick up” a few fields. My friend Wyvvern sells some very cute floral raised-bed items that seem well suited for my funny old squashed mesh cubes that I’m using as field borders; more of my parcel is going toward “decor” and away from “farm.”

Can I dial it back to a reasonable, sustainable level? The one thing I prefer to avoid is posting the “leaving DFS, everything must go” notices and watching the locusts descend, I’ve seen too many of those lately to want to go through that.

It would be really nice, though, to actually SELL some of this stuff. I’ve been posting notices, I am gradually getting the high value “rare” collectibles I stupidly bought 4 years ago listed in my Caspervend vendors… but they really sell better on the SL Marketplace, which takes a cut. Eh.

I’ll keep making announcements (I hate marketing) and eventually people will start to crack loose.

Or I’ll put together an auction lot. Lord knows, there’s an auction event happening every day, almost every hour. But no matter what it all sells for, there’s little likelihood of recouping what I’ve spent over the years playing this game-within-a-game. And when I see what other people must have spent to gather hundreds and hundreds of fields, collectibles, rare items, and massive herds of exotic animals, I wonder how people make their RL mortgage payments. And pay their medical bills. It boggles the mind.

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