Farming as Fun

Can farming in games be fun or enjoyable? And when I say farming I’m not talking about games like Harvest Moon. I’m talking about farming as in playing a game with the sole intention to gain something by repeatedly performing some action. What is gained is most often loot but it can be currency or even something like increasing some game mechanic like attributes, traits, or faction. Farming methods can vary too. Most often it involves killing a single mob or groups of mobs continuously until you acquire your goal.

What got me thinking about farming was a post I saw on the Grim Dawn forums about whether farming was something that should be “curbed.” I understand why farming is perceived as something negative to gamers. The ones who don’t like it split mainly into two groups: those who think that any gameplay not intended by the developers is wrong and those who think farmers shouldn’t be able to get better/more stuff just because they have more time to spend. While I respect the first opinion, my response is usually, “you play your game your way, I’ll play mine my way.” The second argument has no ground to stand on. How is it any different spending my game time getting gear/xp by playing through the game “as intended” or just killing mobs in one area over and over? There is something to be said for games where there are limited amount of mobs to kill but I won’t go into that here.

Developers, in large part, have ignored farming. Occasionally, single player games that are loot driven, games like action-RPGs, will tweak mob drops or mob locations in patches. If they even mention it, they will often say that it took away from “the gameplay.”

ArenaNet, the developers of Guild Wars, took a more active and direct approach. Right after release of the game they implemented some code, often referred to as farm code, that reduced “the benefits of repeatedly farming a single location, quest, or other objective.” While how the code reduces drops is still contested, it’s confirmed that they do not affect the drops most wanted by players. This would be items like skill tomes, gold items, greens items and rare materials. They have said this was done to combat RMT gold selling.

While farm code mainly affected gold farmers, there was other changes ArenaNet implemented that did hurt your average farmer. They will often introduce new mobs with the express intent of stopping farming in a certain areas. At least twice they have introduced mobs to the Underworld to stop or slow the farming for Globs of Ectoplasm (Ecto). Ecto is used as an ingame currency and is also required for the most sought after armor in the game. The first mob introduced to the Underworld was Dying Nightmares. They only have 90 health, and all they do to the player is strip enchantments. This is a problem because most solo farm builds rely on enchantments. Over time, players found ways to get around the Dying Nightmares. So ArenaNet added Skeletons of Dhuum, which have skills that do damage which protection, blocking and damage-reducing skills cannot prevent.

So the question is, can farming be fun? To answer that, we first need to look at the different kinds of farming. To start off, we have what can be called gambling farming. An example of this would be killing all the bunnies, hoping for the super rare drop “Bun Bun Hammer of Unholy Destruction.” You could spend a week killing woodland creatures getting nothing and then suddenly, you have your hammer. The other kind of farming is often called grind farming. An example would be vanquishing a certain area in game to gain faction with another. Fast leveling where you’re killing large groups of mobs would also fall under this. This type of farming is defined by a steady gain. Gambling farming would be considered more fun by many just because of the payoff and how it feels like less of a grind because of the uncertainty of when or if the payoff will happen.

There is also a division of farming when is comes to solo versus group. Many gamers find group farming more enjoyable if for no other reason than the social aspect and being able to work together to obtain a goal. Solo farming has advantages as it can be done at anytime, not just when others are around and willing to help. Obviously, there are more rewards for time spent with solo farming.

One final thing to consider about farming is it often requires a higher skill level as compared to regular play. When fighting a large number or harder mobs at a faster pace, the chance of failure is greatly increased. Being able to farm mobs solo or with small groups that usually take full teams of eight to kill is highly rewarding in itself and most certainly fun.

The final answer would then have to be that farming can be fun and enjoyable. Farming with friends makes it even more so. While game developers can and will continue to adjust their games for imbalances caused by farming, people will continue to farm.

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