Thursday, 2 January 2014

Virtual Economies and Goldfarming

Back in the day I played RuneScape. It had unusual PvP mechanics and a great community.

The combat system was overhauled last year, which put me off the game. But eventually, owing partly to negative feedback about the new combat system, an official old version of the game was released called RuneScape 2007. I had a look at the RuneScape 2007 servers. All characters started off fresh. It would have taken forever to level up again, so I never really got back into it.

Now, Runescape has black market that deals in virtual goods exchanges for real-world cash. At the time it didn't occur to me, but with a little forward planning and a lot of bot script preparation it would have been possible to have a bot farm ready and waiting for the release.

Here is an example of what a gold farmer could have done using bots that did pickpocketing to collect gold at the start of RuneScape 2007:
  1. On occasion pickpockets get caught and take damage from NPCs. The first step would have been to get health restoring food - the cake stall at Ardougne would have been a good bet.
  2. After getting set up and in position, collecting 12,000 cakes per bot would take perhaps a couple of days.
  3. With the experience gained from cake thieving, the bots could be put straight onto pickpocketing the Knights of Ardougne that patrol around that area for 50 gold per success, running to the nearby banks for cakes when health dropped.
Given 25 bots, each successfully thieving from an NPC around once every 5 seconds and going non-stop, a gold farmer would bring in about 20 million gold per day that they could pass on to resellers. In the first weeks prices were around $20-100 real world dollars per million RuneScape gold, as borne out by historic quotes on forums like Sythe.

Based on these figures, an efficient and dedicated botter could have made tens of thousands of dollars worth of gold in just a few months. Now that is partly speculation and a best-case scenario, but it's clearly a tempting offer for many, which is why gold farming is so widespread.

There's a good case study about RuneScape 2007 goldfarming here:

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