Bulletpoints: On Farmville

So I finally gave in and went to see what all the fuss with browsergames is about. I chose Farmville for Facebook, thinking that going for the ur-game would be more insightful than to one of the other “Placeholder-Ville”-offshoots. I played it for several weeks, and here are my thoughts (in bulletpoint-form):

  • I get a miniature farmer, which is my agent in this world. Only through him I can interact with things, apparently. Can I change his appearance?
  • Oh yes, I can. Clothes are prohibitively expensive (unless you buy them with real money, more on that later), but most of the hairstyles and faces are free. Since I can’t recreate myself to my satisfaction, I settle for an evil version of me, which will probably do some evil farming.
  • I already have a dozen “free gifts” in my inventory from not doing anything with this game whatsoever since the beginning of time. Interesting.
  • Hey Farmville: You do not have to call if a “Free gift”. The fact that it’s a gift automatically includes the attribute “free”. (see: tautology)
  • Also: It is not a Free Gift if I actually HAVE TO PAY FOR IT.
  • I crated a huge mono-culture of neatly segmented fields of interchanging vegetables (to keep nutrients varied, which isn’t actually a feature), while the small space on the sides is occupied by trees and whatever animal or decorative object I seem to have.
  • I have to remove fields to display some decorative stuff, like a small garden. I don’t like this getting in the way of my evil efficiency.
  • I really wish you could issue mass-commands, as is “harvest all fields” instead of having to do “harvest one field” 46 times.
Behold, my evil mono-culture of soy beans.

  • Oh, you can buy those in form of farmhands? Only with real money? Clever.
  • (I won’t buy them)
  • Many online-games feature an early item-overload. Right on starting Farmville you are bombarded with ALL available items, 75% of which you can only get through real money or through the roping of other people into Farmville.
  • There are “masteries”. When you harvest something, you gain experience in said field, and so gradually unlock new types of seeds to plant. However, you only get those masteries after level 10. Which means all of the stuff you did before is wasted and does not count towards your total experience. I can conceive of no logical or economical reason for this. It doesn’t even make the game easier to comprehend, I for one was massively confused. Suffice to say, THIS IS STUPID.
  • The game reminds you as often as it can to either a) buy stuff, b) tell your friends or c) actively recruit your friends. I have the feeling they made mass-testing to get the maximum amount of notifications without pissing people off too much.
  • So here’s the thing: You can plant your stuff, it takes some time to grow, then you can harvest it. There is however a window of time for harvesting, which I think is the time it took for you plants to reach maturity. So if your strawberries took four hours to grow, you then have four hours to harvest them, after which they wither, and your invested time into the game will be lost (unless you “un-wither” them by paying money).
  • You actually begin to plant your stuff so that you have access to a computer when it will be ready. A internet-less day would be devastating to both your farm and your investment into the game.
  • Luckily, you can “un-wither” your crops with Farville-Cash (which you can buy with real money in inconvenient and unnecessary complex ratios, much like I maligned in my thoughts on Bioware-points). As with any good drug, the first taste is free.
  • Boiled down to its very core, the game is not dissimilar to Cow Clicker.
  • While digging in my field I found some gasoline. Huh. It didn’t specify whether it was a can, or if it just seeped out of the ground. Either way, I am nervous about this. The game treats the discovery of a toxic, carcinogenic and highly flammable substance in my field not with the sudden deaths of my crops, but with joy.
  • Oh, I can rotate my cow. No more east-west alignment for you, darling!


I guess this is probably a metaphor for something.

  • Apparently I can buy rusty scrap metal to make my farm look nicer. Interesting.
  • Oh, there it is. I can already exchange real money for Farmville-cash, but then buy Farmville-coins. And I thought there was no “pay to win” button.
  • When I click on my “farmer-me” I land in the clothes-section, where I can buy comparably expensive clothes. This sub-menu is laid out completely different from all the others, and always confuses me.
  • There are ranks, and levels, and skills, and achievements, and medals, and tons of rare stuff. Stuff!
  • Hey, a cross-promotion. If I buy 30€ worth of merchandise in an online-shop, I get 70$ worth of pretend-farmville-money, which I can exchange for more pretend stuff. It’s the circle of life.
  • There is a ton of stuff to plant and then harvest. You get vegetables, fruit, tees, flowers, and crops like wheat. There are also some funny items, like square melons or “super”-fruits (i.e. “super-strawberry”), which you unlock by mastering the “normal” kind. The problem is that it’s TOO MUCH. Right at the beginning you are bombarded with ALL OF IT, which you can only use a fraction, and unlock the rest over several weeks.
  • In the last day new feature has been added that shows who of your friends plays what game at what time. Great. Now everybody knows I tried this.

Well, these are my points about Farmville (and all other games that follow the formula, I guess). I can see how many people would find them interesting, but frankly, I outgrew them a long time ago. I already can control my impulses, and don’t feel any loyalty towards my virtual assembly of non-existent stuff.

Also, Farmville didn’t really try to respect me, with all the “give me your money”, “recruit your friend to give me money” and “you have to pay money to see all the cool stuff”-spam.

As a producer, I can see how this brings in revenue. As an experienced gamer, I can only look at League of Legends or Team Fortress 2, where you never have the feeling you have to pay to enjoy the game.

-Matthew

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