Sunday, April 11, 2010

Farming Afar via Game

In both the US and China, farming simulators are increasingly popular. Possibly in other countries too, I just haven't heard news reports about it. Such games involve pretending to farm by digging plots in a big grid, click for seed, click for water, click for harvest, and so on. It gives me an idea.
The games are popular because of their abstraction. What if there was a robot, able to do those various mundane tasks, with a supply of seeds and the ability to gather and distribute water? It would scan its environment, and report it to a game interface. People playing the game would indicate to "dig" various plots, water them, and which seeds to plant. The robot would receive instructions from the game, dig, water, and plant at the coordinates.
Each day it would report back to the game about the conditions. When the seeds sprouted, ground moisture and chemistry (reported as percentages of USDA recommended, "Nitrogen is at 53%, add more fertilizer!"), and the like. And players could resolve problems with a click.
At some point, the robot would report the plant ready for harvest. The player clicks. The robot slices off parts of the plant of commercial interest (like fruits, corn cobs, lettuce leaves), or if inapplicable, pulls the entire plant (carrots would be yanked, not cut), and puts it in a bin. The remainder of the plant is plowed under for fertilizer. Post-harvest, the robot reports the area as fallow, ready for another planting.
It'd be slow, compared to online farm games. There, crops are ready in as little as 2 hours, with the slowest crops taking maybe 7 days. Real crops would take at least 40 days, which may leave players feeling like they're lacking in accomplishment.
But unlike farm games, one would receive more than virtual money for this. The harvest bins would have a sale-able product, the profits from which could be split between the robot owner, the game producer, and the player. Playing the game could net you real actual money, possibly.
....nah, this is too insane.

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