Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Gaming by the Numbers - Plants Vs. Zombies Vita

This seems like a strange game to do a gaming by the numbers post about and, indeed, if it weren't for an oddity that I encountered earlier today, I probably wouldn't have written this at all.  Certainly, there are other things I could be writing about tonight which is pretty typical - I figure out something early on and then blam, big news, but I can cover that tomorrow.  This has been in my brain all day and I'm going to get it out here because, well, I want to.  And it gave me an excuse to do a little number running again because I just like doing that every now and then because I am weird.  A weird person.  Who is weird.  Clearly.

Let's get this trick out of the way first and allow me to preface this with a statement which I will then leverage against numbers and show you why, in the long run, running this is not only easy, but the sane move.  This -is- an exploit since, presumably, this is a bug that has stayed in the game for this long for reasons we just don't know about.  If you'll take a look at my picture above, you will see that Crazy Dave is giving me Tree Food for the Tree of Wisdom to 'start me out' even though my tree is 175 Feet Tall.  This was done mostly for curiosity's sake as I only really needed to get the tree to a still-staggering 100 Feet Tall for a trophy.  This is, of course, no simple task to do because why would it be.

The Tree of Wisdom requires an initial investment of $10,000 which is, by all means, no small sum.  After you get a Zen Garden via the story, you can purchase another one, specifically for mushrooms, for the bigger amount of $30,000, though after you have that, you can happen upon Mushrooms in games that you can then raise over the course of three days (probably less if you check in often) that will sell for $10,000 each once fully matured.  Less the cost of Fertilizer, a Gramophone and Bug Spray (all of which I won't bother looking up the prices for) that you will likely need for the stages of their growth, it's fairly lucrative, if slow.  Regardless, once you're in the position where you can throw down $30,000 on the Mushroom Garden, you have much easier avenues with which to get some coinage going on and selling plants will just be supplemental to that.

Let's just focus for a moment here, though.  Let's say that you wait until you have everything but the upgraded plants unlocked/purchased and the Tree of Wisdom itself since those are the things that are a factor here.  By this point, you have put quite a lot of time into the game already and while I could try and quantify that in some numbers, let's just go with "a lot" and I'll kind of make a little "roll with it" hand motion and we'll be square.  You are, at this point, ready to get all up in the Tree of Wisdom business and grow this thing to the massive 100 Feet required.  You throw down your $10,000, it adds a new thing in your Zen Garden, you go to it and Crazy Dave goes "Here are five free food bags" and you give them to your tree and go " many more?"  Forty-five, or rather forty-six bags of food later, you will realize that you have...forty-nine bags left to go as the last bag raised the tree from 50 feet (the first time it actually displays a height) to 51 feet. 

So, let's break this down for a moment.  The Tree of Wisdom requires 100 bags of Food to reach the 100 Feet requirement.  This is a nice, simple number.  Where it gets less nice is when you realize that Tree Food costs $2,500 for one bag.  So yes, of course, first grade math, this means a 100 Foot Tall tree requires a $250,000 investment, though you get five bags for free, so it's actually 95 bags at $2,500 for $237,500.  Which isn't much better.  While I'm not -sure- of this, I am -fairly certain- that you have a limit of how many bags you can buy per day, and that limit is five bags.  Somebody feel free to correct me on this, but let's just suggest that it is true and cut out the money for a moment.  Five a day for 100 bags means 20 days of buying food and giving it to a tree, provided you have that much money and can do it, bare minimum. fairly ridiculous.

If you want to do this legitimately, it means farming the -hell- out of some maps, though what I've discovered as the 'popular' method is going on "Last Stand" (a map that's not initially available and requires a few other things beaten beforehand) and plopping down a -ton- of Marigolds (flowers that intermittently drop coins) as well as Garlic to force zombies into specific chokepoints that are lined with Gloom-Shrooms, an upgraded plant that costs $7,500 for the initial purchase, like so.  It's an ingenious method, actually and only requires a minimum of attention as it's more or less self-sustainable aside from the moments where you'll need to replace pumpkin shells (which you can replicate if you want, but the replicator card is a hefty $30,000 investment) and garlic cloves as they become degraded.  In fact, I wrote this paragraph while letting it just go and do that since I don't have to touch anything aside from the two shells that I -just- had to replace.

The problem with this is that it's a lengthy process.  This entire Last Stand thing will probably take upwards of 10-15 minutes all told, and the return I'm expecting is about $10,000 and that's being generous.  So, if I were trying to legitimately get the $237,500, that's 24 runs at ten to fifteen minutes minutes a run for 240 to 360 minutes or 4 to 6 hours.  Of doing nothing but babysitting Last Stand.  And that's if everything works right - on the last round of this run, my garlic cloves got decimated and I had no sun to help with that, so I just had to wait out the last ones as they sort of stumbled against the Gloom-Shrooms, taking one of them out as they died.  And this is, apparently, the 'best' method of farming coins out there which is something that doesn't really instill me with great confidence, because this is all for -one- trophy about growing a tree that offers you precisely nil in return.

It's for that reason that I have no issue with exploiting the little bug that is present with the whole tree of wisdom thing.  It's a simple thing - I stumbled across it, but it's documented other places as well.  When you're on the Tree of Wisdom screen, try dragging a bag of food from the spot on the bar to the tree and one of two things will happen, provided you have zero bags of food.  Either you will get a phantom bag that you can feed the tree or Crazy Dave will pop in and go "Hey, here's five bags of food" which is actually six because there is a phantom bag at the end of it.  If you get a Phantom bag, feed it that and then click to another garden and back.  Touch the icon and it should bring up the Crazy Dave thing, feed it those six bags, click to another garden and back and you should be able to repeat the Crazy Dave step over and over again until the tree is however tall you want it to be.  What proves to be a convoluted and expensive process becomes about ten to twenty minutes of equal tedium which is a pretty okay exchange in my book.

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