Farmville Economics: What Price Experience?

Despite the fact that some people find my recent preoccupation with Farmville amusing, the traffic to my original series of blog posts on the Personal Economics of Farmville has been extremely high.  This isn’t surprising given the incoming links from the Zynga Blog and the Wall Street Journal.


Here are the quick links to my first three posts:

Well everyone knows that bloggers can’t resist traffic, so as a result, I thought I’d add a fourth post to the series, highlighting some of the insights into the economic value of Farmville experience points.

It all started with the analysis I presented in the second post, which modified the profitability matrix for each Farmville crop by adding an economic value for Experience.  Here is a snippet:

The question is, how do you blend the value of experience and coins? The truth is, the function for valuing experience is probably too complicated to get right.

However, I did find a simplistic proxy.  1 experience point = 15 coins.

Why? Well, it turns out you can just sit there, plow a square for 15 coins, and get 1 experience point.  You can then delete the square and do it again.  So at least, in theory, you can “buy” an infinite supply of experience points for 15 coins each.

Boy, did that start a firestorm.  It turns out, there is a well-worn analysis that says that Farmville experience is actually worth 10 coins.  Why?  If you plow a square of land (-15 coins, +1 XP) and plant soybeans (-15 coins, +2 XP) and then delete, you spend a total of 30 coins, and you get +3 XP.  Thus 30/3 = 10 coins / XP.

It’s a more complicated series, and it ignores the liquidity issue of requiring the purchase of 3 XP at a time, not 1 XP, but it’s a pretty good proxy for the “cheapest” way to buy experience.

The more I thought about this, however, the more dissatisfied I became with the answer.  The reason?  It ignores the incredible time cost of those set of actions:

  • Click the plow tool.
  • Click the square.
  • Click the market tool
  • Navigate dialog, click soybeans.
  • Click the square
  • Click delete tool
  • Click the square
  • Select “Accept” from the “Are you sure” dialog

Ugh.  For 3XP.  Can you imagine trying to get 4500 XP this way?  I can’t.

As a result, I’m even going to invalidate my original 15 coin / XP assumption.  In fact, you’ll notice that for truly painless actions, like buying a building, the number of XP gained is typically 1/100 the price of the item.  For example, when you pay 250,000 coins for a log cabin, you also get 2500 XP.

I think this effectively bounds the range of the value of XP.  Clearly, it’s worth more than 1/100 of a coin, because you ALSO get the log cabin, which is a pretty snazzy farm improvement.  It’s also clearly more than 1/10, because the time cost of that process is clearly extracting value beyond the coins.

So, value of XP is:

0.01 coins < 1 XP < 0.1 coins

I’m guessing the value of XP is close to 20 coins.  A haybale is only 100 coins, and it gives you 5 XP.  Since a haybale is a pretty negligible improvement, you can assume that most of the price is actually for XP.  So, that would bound the range even tighter:

0.2 coins < 1 XP < 0.1 coins

Now, I know what you are going to say: “You can sell the haybale for 5 coins, making it even cheaper!”.  The problem there is that now you have to go through the delete process, with the confirmation dialog.  Ugh.   I’m trying to avoid that work.

In fact, my analysis is still missing a “cost” for the implicit clutter a haybale creates on your farm.  You have a limited amount of space, so the “price” of a haybale is really:

Cost of haybale = 100 coins + MIN((time cost to delete haybale – 5 coins), opportunity cost of lost 1/16 of a square of land)

Maybe in a future post I’ll explore the opportunity cost of clutter in more detail.  It’s certainly the thing that would prevent you from literally filling your field with haybales to buy experience.  (Interestingly, Farmville just rolled out an improvement today that lets you buy haybales continuously!)

Finally, I have to share a tip that was posted on one of my earlier articles that has represented the single largest improvement in my Farmville quality of life:

If you “fence in” your farmer, then Farmville will harvest, plow, seed a square immediately, without waiting for the farmer to walk to it.

I was skeptical of this advice at first, but I tried it this weekend, and it speeds planting a large farm by AT LEAST 50%.  I use ducks to “fence in my farmer”.  I keep several in a box at the edge of my farm, and first thing I do is walk the farmer into the box.  I then move one duck to close the trap, and boom, 15 minutes added back to my life.  🙂

Your mileage may vary.  Enjoy.

Update: I’ve posted the following new articles on Farmville Economics:

23 thoughts on “Farmville Economics: What Price Experience?

  1. Pingback: More Farmville Economics… « Psychohistory

  2. Good posts! I have a small suggest to “fence in” your farmer. Every time you load the game, your farmer stands in the middle of the field. Every time it starts at the same position. I just put 8 hay bales around that spot. You don’t even have to walk your farmer into the “trap”. It’s automatically trapped. 🙂
    I’ve also created an excel spreadsheet to analyze the profit ratio. I don’t think you can add in the experience point into the comparison. I think it should be compare by either coin or xp. They should be compare separately. If you prefer to get more coins, you should pick the high profit crops, but if you just want to gain xp, you should pick blueberries.

    • you can box in your farmer using only 4 bales of hey thus reducing your cost by 50% and put animals next to him instead.

  3. “I use ducks to ‘fence in my farmer’. I keep several in a box at the edge of my farm, …”. Have you thought about placing them in the center, surrounding the initial farmer’s position 🙂
    That way, you don’t need to walk to the edge …

    • It’s a good idea – I guess I had a mental block around covering a planting square with ducks – thought they might get in the way. But I haven’t tried it… 🙂

      • it’s what i do too. saves lots of time.
        I love what you’ve done here, and i hate that soybean delete method for the exact same reason. Time, ugh – i don’t find playing farmville relaxing if i have to go through that hassling delete process. I find it interesting how you’ve factored in a value of our time spent on farmville, very nice.

        have you seen the new trees? olive trees seem to give more revenue than date trees, and i think someone did the math – the best farm would be crammed full of olive trees, leaving one square for the soybean-delete method, which would garner an unbelievable 80k+ exp per day.

        On another note, i’d like to see a post on the new harvesting machines and their inefficiency due to a lack of fuel. There are various methods suggested by others such as the 50-plot method and such that i’m sure you can google. it’s such a hassle as the farms get bigger to click on every small square!

      • ugh sorry, i just did a google and it’s not as easy as i thought haha. Basically the 50-plot method suggests that you plant crops in plots of 50 squares every 6 hours (which is how long it takes your fuel to refill). In this way, you can use every machine up on those 50 squares every 6 hours, replant them, and come back in 6 hours to collect the next batch.

        hope that was easy to understand, haha.

    • I haven’t needed to. Earning coins at the higher levels is more than sufficient to quickly expand your farm. Every expansion creates increased earning potential, so you can increase the size quickly.

      I’m definitely ready to expand to the 24×24, whenever they make that available.

      • Farms expansions can only be obtained through FV cash. Only one FV dollar is given when we advance a level. This means we have to advance twenty levels in order to get one farm expansion.

      • G’day, Pete from australia. Saw your post on needing neighbours in order to expand the farm. Well, I need some neighbours. Would love to you to add me.

        Some great posts here. Thanks again


  4. Yes, planting soybeans does take a while, but, if you really wanted to “cheat,” all you’re using to do it is mouse actions, and ones that are repeated without change over and over again. So, it would be trivial to download a mouse action recorder, record yourself planting, seeding, and destroying, say, one or two squares, and loop this process through the program. Yes, you can’t do anything with the computer during this time, so there is still a cost in terms of your time, mais, c’est la vie.

  5. I’m going to try the box-in method to see if it speeds things up. Let me also add that I have a script that I run with a mouse movement capture program. It’s VERY simple, anyone can do it and the math that drives it is basic algebra. If you’re, let’s say 5000XP away from a level. It’s 5000xp / 3 = 1666. Then 1666 * $30 = $50,000 roughly.

    The point here is to determine how many loops to run the script through. I plant my 20×20 farm with 399 tomatoes, leaving the middle one open, then set the script to run 1666 times. I go to work and check back in around lunch time remotely. It levels me every time, flawlessly. Some call this “power leveling”, I call it automated power leveling. If I have the money, I set it to run again. By the time I get home, I’m yet another level higher, and ready to harvest the tomatoes.

    I’ve been doing this since the beginning, first while planting/harvesting soybeans, then peppers, then grapes, now tomatoes. I never even bought one of the machines until recently, just to see how it works. I’ve only been playing for, 2, maybe 3 weeks and I’m presently a level 27. although by 5pm EST, I’ll be a level 28 as the script is currently doing it’s thing. 😀

    • I am currently at level 22 and have just been planting a variety of the top coin and xp so without the need for leaving my computer running and thus making my carbon footprint smaller…although not by much. lol

  6. Checking in again, tried the box in method, love it, I did it with pigs cause it just looks funnier. Also, I found a way to speed things along with the game and my script, I can now burn through levels REALLY fast. I’m clocking in at approximately 3000xp / hour with the newest version of my method.

    My original post was on September 17th I was a level 27, today is the 21st, and by 10pm tonight (when I have money again) I’ll be level 34. 4 days, and it’s getting more and more expensive, about $70,000 per APL run (Automated Power Levelling).


  7. My farmer is surrounded by cats. Note that fencing the center is also helpful to friends popping by to fertilize your crops. They are similarly trapped, so the fertilization happens faster.

  8. Pingback: The Personal Economics of Farmville, Part 2 « Psychohistory

  9. Pingback: Farmville Economics: Cranberries, Pattypan Squash, Acorn Squash « Psychohistory

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