Monday, 15 September 2008

ISK-Farmers Are People, Too

I can tell there'll be a few voices crying, 'Foul!' over that title. Let me point you towards this article. It's what you get when you type isk farmer into Google search and hit I'm feeling lucky. It's a nice relief to me: I never saw that when it was first published, and I did just find it five minutes ago as I was looking for a way to avoid having to repeat what everyone probably already knows. After a skim through it, I can see that it contains nearly everything I've learned through personal experience, however there's not much more than a single line regarding the mission-running farmers I'm accustomed to and can spot from five systems distant (slight exaggeration).

I think it's quite amusing the way they detail how to go about farmer-hunting. A guy from Enuma Elish apparently - according to the corp rep who showed up an hour later to ask why we'd popped his corpmate's mega - mistook me for an isk farmer when Atrocitas first moved into Arzi. Considering I was already on my way to Outlaw and had just acquired a 25mil bounty, we were all a bit sceptical about his motives.

*gets giggles from reading back through the chatlogs of the incident*

AAAaanyway... ^__^

Arzi was crazy with farmers when we moved in. There were literally hundreds of them. A few were definitely macros and they disappeared quickly after we started shooting them, but most were real people being paid to run hauler missions back and forth 23/7. I honestly don't know if the alliance that was in residence when we moved in was letting them run in exchange for protection fees the way they were doing for all the other carebears in there, or if they were just crappy at shooting them. But we settled in and got busy, and the farmers were anything but silent.
[15:21:53] be ture > shit
[15:22:37] erentukas > genocid:)
[15:23:03] Shae Tiann > ... what the hell are you guys doing out there?
[15:23:20] Creesch > smartbombing
[15:23:20] Phelaen > smartbombing
[15:29:16] erentukas > killer still outside?
[15:29:53] be ture > yes
[15:30:28] be ture > Oh, God
[15:36:20] erentukas > mada....

And they weren't all in haulers, either. I lost a myrm when we went after a raven in a mission and he called in a neuting scorpion for backup. They were ballsy, bumping us with shuttles and noobships if we were sitting outside; if someone was flashy, they would shoot, too. Well, they learned to only shoot the red ones after the first few errors...
[22:35:28] Shae Tiann > evening, c
[22:36:58 ] (notify) C stone: You have foolishly engaged in criminal activity within sight of sentry guns and must suffer the consequences.
[22:36:58 ] (combat) C stone [0T66](Impairor) lightly hits you, doing 2.4 damage.
[22:37:15] Shae Tiann > ...well, that was silly of you

A lot of our sec went because we were killing them before they could loot wrecks - theirs or someone else's, they didn't seem to care which. Some, like 'be ture', 'Bwotau Zhao' and a few others, were fun targets and fought back well. Others were just meat on a hook and would return the most outlandish insults in exchange for their popped haulers. We got to know them and could identify one worker's set from another's based on the way they were named, the race of the characters, 'birth' times, and how often we scanned out 'AHYAMAHA' flying SHASENG's Bestower. Some were Japanese, some were Korean, a couple were from Singapore; most were Chinese. Every so often, one of us managed to get them talking and they were quite happy to describe the production-grind-style life they were used to. They were interested in knowing where we were from, what we did when we weren't playing Eve, if we would give their mission loot back or take money to leave them alone.

And we were costing them. Every time you steal a farmer's ore, pop his wrecks and cut his missions short with the aid of a well-placed missile, you are interfering in their job. You are costing them a lot of real-world money and making them a workforce liability by taking their stuff and hurting their agent standings. I'm not saying this to make people feel badly for griefing them; I'm telling it like it is. I could say something about how the gameplaying industry fits into East Asian society, but I don't know enough about it to make suppositions like that; if you start making generalisations, you end up on the edge of prejudicial stereotyping, which is something I have a raging aversion to :p It's an industry that may well stem back to the first days of online gaming - earning and selling ingame money for real-world cash. Supplying the demand, because nobody likes being skint; and while you can't do much about that in Real Life when you're stuck in a rut, it's a much smaller felony to remedy the situation in a virtual world. There isn't much that can be done to stop the practice, either - it's not considered a crime in the Real World, the perpetrators live on the other side of the planet, and the only measures that could possibly bring a halt to it would also ruin gameplay for the people who continue to play legitimately. All they can do is enforce measures to discourage player endorsement of farming, relying on the word of players to point out the farmers and banning accounts which receive inordinately large amounts of ingame currency for no apparent ingame reason. It does nothing at all about the source of the issue, since they just make new accounts, get new ISPs, rinse and repeat.

There's nothing that can be done about the hundreds of workers who rely upon the game currency industry for food and housing without applying far more severe consequences than any police force would see as reasonable. If we were to make OOG currecy trading a criminal offense, it would raise all sorts of issues about international trade, the limits of the world market, and who, exactly has jurisdiction over what happens on the internet. There are places in the world where certain actions which may be wholly legal in a game would be considered vastly more heinous; do they have the right to prosecute a member of their nation for doing something in a virtual environment? Or to enforce their own laws into a game which is published and run from another country and culture where virtual actions aren't taken as seriously?

Do we really want to go there just now, when the games industry is still considered a niche market, despite being bigger than Hollywood by now? I'm not going to outline the potential consequences of that; chances are, I'd only hit the less severe ones. We all know how members of the government can fuss over games content and propriety; what do YOU think would happen if they suddenly realised they could have a LOT more control over that than they thought they did? Or worse, that they could be making money from it?

As much as we might not like to admit it, ISK farmers are people, and they're not going anywhere.

... So shoot away! >=3


Spectre said...

Wow. That was a really well written post. Usually I have trouble paying attention to giant blobs of text but you kept my attention on that one.

Ivanneth Maethor said...

I was kinda shocked at the length of it, myself o_O I promise not to do that too often, yikes.

Carole Pivarnik said...

Lengthy post but well written and it makes some good points. We see a lot of suspicious activity in the area where we live--haulers and smaller ships piloted by characters that just scream "farmer" which seem to be able to travel with impunity. One almost *never* sees their "easy target" wrecks at gates and stations. Yet two fair-sized pirate/PvP corps with quite a few players online all the time are located in systems that these easy targets travel through regularly. You'd think more of them would be getting popped. It might be related to the fact that many online members of those corps never seem to undock. I wonder why that is.

It remains to be seen if there is a connection between the two...and if there is, what (if anything) can or should be done about it. I'm not necessarily keen to have a killboard full of popped farmer haulers and frigates (especially as they are known to carry nothing of value), but it might be worth launching a campaign to see if any kind of obvious response pattern emerges over time.

Ivanneth Maethor said...

It really should be checked out, especially with the number of non-combat agents in those systems.

Speaking of the neighbours, Mynx, I chatted one of them up earlier and he dropped me their killboard info ^_^

Helicity Boson said...

You have a point. But just because someone would otherwise *not* have a job does not mean an exploitative one is neccesarily better...

Ivanneth Maethor said...

I never said being exploited was preferable :)

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