Wednesday, 27 June 2012


There are lots of skills that let you combine things into other things, usually resulting in a gain in currant value and in imagination.  Within those skills there are many different things you can create and the gains for each vary.  When it comes to gathering the raw materials to make those things, however, there are three main tracks: Animals, Trees and Rocks.  So let's look at how we spend our gathering time and how profitable it is.

There is no clear optimal way to harvest from animals.  Perhaps by doing extensive testing I could arrive at the optimal strategy for me, but it wouldn't necessarily be optimal for you.  Should you massage butterflies?  Should you pet piggies?  Should you squeeze chickens at all, and if you should, should you wait a second to get a final squeeze from a chicken that is in the air or should you just give up squeezes here and there?  What if the chicken is next to a tree, is it worth all those extra key presses to get those few extra grain?  And speaking of being in the air, what do you do about butterflies that are high in the air?  How much time should you spend getting every last piggy from a very overlapped pack of piggies?

I have intuitive answers to all of those questions.  Intuitively I think squeezing chickens is worth it if I can mash the enter key to do so but not if I have to do anything more complicated.  When going for pure maximum value I don't think petting or massaging is right, but when trying to earn imagination for an alt to reach a specific level I always petted.  If I can't reach a butterfly with a normal jump then I ignore it or get one mouseover milking in if I can do so without more than about a half second of work.  I won't do a second milking because you have to wait for the voice bubble to expire.

If some of that sounds crazy to you, then I would say that you may be underestimating how profitable gathering from animals is.  By this I mean that you may think it is worth spending an extra two or three seconds to milk a butterfly a second time and get your 12 imagination and 30 tool vendor currants.  Or maybe you think that for 10 grain and 4 imagination it's worth pressing to the right between two pressed of Enter.  I'll come back to this in a moment.

I did my test in Groddle Meadow, just wandering from street to street and harvesting from animals.  I never looped back on the same street twice but I didn't have a planned route that brought me past the highest numbers of piggies.  It was a rather unscripted event where I might squeeze one chicken and not another without a particular reason other than it feeling right.

After a good number of streets I stopped the stop watch and totaled my gains.  It happened that my walk ended at almost exactly 10 minutes of animal harvesting.  In that time I harvested materials worth 16,606 currants at the tool vendor, spent 875 energy interacting with animals and gained 3256 imagination.

So, each second of animal harvesting cost 1.46 energy, gave 5.43 imagination and got me 27.68 currants.  Based on this you can see where my intuition about butterflies and chickens comes from.  Two seconds to catch a butterfly for a milking it just too much, it pays less than the average two seconds spent walking around and harvesting.  You need to get three chicken squeezes in a second to beat the average, so mashing one key can do it but pressing key sequences and waiting for feedback is pretty iffy.

There is definitely an optimal way to harvest trees and it is the serious resource routes.  We know that tree harvest will tend towards 15.6 units per 3 seconds as it is optimized.  It is walking and loading time that slow tree harvesting down and more trees on one street means less of both.  In a timed run of the gas route I determined I could harvest a general vapour every 0.347 seconds.  On the serious route it was every 0.256 seconds, which is 35% faster.

Trees also produce random bonuses when you harvest from them, so those have to be taken into account.

It takes about 2 minutes to run a private street full of trees.  In that time you spend 60 energy, earn 180 imagination and get 3441 currants worth of goods. In this case, I am assuming you are collecting gas and I am valuing it at auction prices.  All other goods are valued at tool vendor prices.

Each second of collecting from trees you spend 0.5 energy, earn 1.5 imagination, and gain 28.7 currants.

Optimal rock harvesting is also pretty easy to figure out.  You want a street with enough rocks that there is always a rock for your to be mining so you have no screen loading times.  A player street can have enough rocks on it to accomplish this.

So on that street you harvest all the rocks then go back to the beginning where the first rocks will already have respawned.  Unlike animals and trees, you will also have to repair your pick.    Furthermore, unlike animals and trees you will be losing mood over time.

Ultimately you may not have to worry about mood.  Assuming you have the upgrade to gain mood when you repair the amount of mood you lose is extremely small.  In my tests I found I was going through about 11.5 mining ticks per minute, which means that if I repair those I'm only actually losing 3.5 mood per minute.  At that rate it could take a long time before you drop below 90% depending on the size of your tank.

I mined for half and hour to get a decent sample size.  In that time I spent 2745 energy, gained 4392 imagination and collected 15522.7 currants of goods at tool vendor prices.  The astute among you may notice that that 2745 is not divisible by seven, despite mining costing seven energy.  What it is divisible by is 7.5, which is how much energy mining really costs when you have to pay for pick repairs.

That means that each second you spend mining you spend 1.53 energy, gain 2.44 imagination and earn 8.62 currants.

Other Resources
Last night I did some tests of Jellisac harvesting and it came out pretty close to mining.  Barnacle scraping can't catch up in any case - to make it as profitable as animal harvesting would require a magical never-ending barnacle and seven glitchen joining in with you.  Dirt piles have similarly poor return to barnacles.

Common Units
As regular readers will know, I like to use currants as a common value to compare gains of currants, energy and imagination.  If you want to buy an energy it costs you around 0.75 currants and if you want to buy an imagination it costs you around 1.07 currants.

Using this conversion, animals return 32.4 currants per second, trees are 29.9 and rocks are 10.1.

Is Mining Really so Bad?
I've done these tests a few times to make sure I didn't do something horribly wrong.  There are a lot of different ways you can add those numbers up to try to figure out which is the best thing to do, but no matter how you add it up animals and trees are similar while mining is about a third of that.

Now part of the problem with mining is that you don't get as many gems as advertised on your upgrade cards.  Truly Outrageous IV says it gives you an 8% chance to get a gem when you mine, but observations show a rate much smaller than that.  However, even if gems were given at a rate of 8% per mining tick that would only increase the currants per second from mining to 14.00 - still far below the rate from either of animal or tree harvesting.  In order to close the massive gulf we would need to not only get gems 8% of the time, but also for every gem to be a diamond.  That would give a value of 32.77 currants per second which would make up for the extra energy and reduced imagination compared to animal harvesting.  In fact, diamonds 8% of the time would probably make mining the best gathering activity, but it would be only be a fraction, and only if you have a street to yourself to mine.

But I Have Friends!
If you mine with friends you mine faster as get more chunks.  It's easy to use a to figure out how much faster you go through a rock, but that speed boost is somewhat muted.  If you spend less time mining rocks then you spend more time walking between them.  As I noted above, as a solo miner I got in 11.5 ticks per minute which means I was spending around 51.75 seconds out of each minute mining rocks and entering mining commands after finishing mining rocks, plus an additional 0.46 seconds out of each minute repairing your pick.  That's 52.21 seconds actively mining to 7.79 seconds of walking around.

Suppose we get through rocks twice as fast.  Then we only spend 26.1 seconds actively mining, but we spend the same 7.79 walking around.  That means clearing rocks twice as fast only increases the speed at which we get through rocks by 77%.

Also by introducing more glitchen we introduce loading times when we have to change streets.  You cap out needing about four streets for pretty much any number of glitchen since past a point more glitchen doesn't really make you mine faster (you all need to take one tick of each rock).  For each street in your circuit you have to add about 10 seconds of load time to the total time to run the circuit.  If you only have one street you get to skip this since you never load.  It takes one player around 15 minutes to do a full run of one street, so it's pretty easy to adjust the time it takes more players by just calculating their time to make a full circuit and adding 10 seconds for each street.

So after doing all of that, how much better does mining get?  I have a chart:

Yuck.  Mining is actually worse with two players because of street loading times - that is, you'd be better off each just sticking to your own street.  It only approaches 50% greater returns with 9 partners.  So if 10 glitchen all get together to mine and co-operate seamlessly in doing so on four home streets which have been set up for maximum mining they will still be getting less than half of what they would get if they all just wandered randomly about the world talking with animals.  That setup combined with getting gems from 8% of mining actions still wouldn't make up the difference.

After reading all of this, you may be wondering (as I have for a long time) how it was that a large segment of the community got the idea that mining was the best way to make money.  Keep in mind that optimally harvesting from rocks and trees requires relatively recent game additions while collecting from animals hasn't changed much at all.

When I find the time, I'm going to write some more about the effect this disparity would be having on the prices of things and on behaviour if we were all the sort of selfish, rational decision makers that economists like to think we are.  I might also argue that gathering resources is one area of the game where some attention should be paid to balance.

We'll just have to see,


  1. There were a few more factors in play when mining was first considered the "best" way to make money.

    1) Gems were more regular. This was probably offset by them not stacking and having to go to a vendor often, but a lot of high value items will feel more profitable, even when it isn't.
    2) Rock spawns were regular and could be precisely timed. When Ajaya Bliss first opened, a coordinated group of 5-6 could always have exactly one rock up, and would never have a loading time factor in play as they'd just circle the room. You could also teleport in and out, so the only concern regarding bag space was the energy cost of your teleports.

    Also, animals were far less predictable. Great profit could be had by capturing and selling pigs to vendors, and thus they also had a considerable donation potential. There was a brief time when you couldn't keep pigs on public streets for more than a couple of minutes before someone would pignap them. I bet you'll never guess why animals can't be sold to vendors now.

  2. Some very good points. I do recall when piggies were relatively scarce. I'm not sure how much of a change there was to gems or how much it matters. There (according to kevbob) a diminishing returns on gems, which each gem you find makes it less likely that you find another that day. As I noted, even if we got our full 8% gems it would still lag pretty far behind.

    I never really believed that mining was the best, but certainly if it ever was it was because of the extremely ideal conditions you describe.