Friday, November 21, 2014

A Current Review of FarmVille

Once upon a time, Zynga created a game they christened FarmVille.  There have been some accusations to the effect that they stole Farm Town's concepts and more, but one way or another, FarmVille became a great success.  Facebook was fairly new then and FarmVille and Farm Town were two of the primary farming simulation games on the platform.  The graphics of FarmVille were far more sophisticated than those of Farm Town, although Farm Town offered some very sophisticated options to players who had stayed fiathful enough to reach high levels.

I never played Farm Town to that extent but I did play FarmVille through the years as more and more new Farms were opened, each with a different theme.  There was an Hawaiian theme, a Christmas theme, a spooky Hallowe'en theme, a New England theme, a British theme and so on and so forth.  Five years later, FarmVille continues to release new Farms every few months but what is the bloody point?  The game is too huge.  It take at least 20 minutes to LOAD the newest farm, and making the trip to an old farm is as dangerous as taking a propeller plane to Nepal.  The page is inundated with streaming advertisements, all of which slow the loading process.  Furthermore, the actual gameplay is far too complicated now.  Every day, it appears that new crafting options and challenges are thrown at the player.  Some of us simply want to FARM but that is near impossible now.  All of the missions involve crafting which requires endless bushels of crops of different types.

Most of my old Neighbours do not even play the game any longer.  Many of them cannot load it.  Others are simply fed up.  What a great pity!  Zynga continues to brag about the number of users, but I suspect that once 'Liked', few bother to 'Unlike' the game and many of the numbers consist of players who haven't looked at the game for years.

Zynga's stock became almost worthless for a time.  Now it is up in value, but that probably has more to do with other games than FarmVille.  Why not make FarmVille viable again though?  Why not clean up the loading page for a start?  We don't need to be hit with reminders endlessly about crafting, shipping licences, eternal double points and the Terms of use.  Simply let us access our farms and I think you might find that actual gameplay will increase.  Zynga has the capacity to load games quickly.  I have seen it on the mobile device games like Castleville Legends and FarmVille 2 Country Escape.  Why not bring FarmVille back to a place where it can load within five minutes???  We are not idiots nor are we robots.  We do not need to be told what to do every five seconds.  The gameplay is interrupted constantly by prompts to send all Neighbours Special Delivery Boxes or buy the latest Items or use the most recent crafting option or WHATEVER.  We can choose ourselves whether or not we wish to perform these actions.  It is frustrating, irritating and in all honesty, quite counterproductive to inundate players with so many stupid pop-ups and arrows that we cannot plant a single crop on a single plot or harvest a tree or animal.

And here's a thought: instead of creating NEW farms, why not increase the capacity of our Gift Box to accommodate all the items the game practically FORCES upon us?  Thank you for adjusting the number of clicks needed to receive the daily stamp item, but it is rather frustrating when one has to spend hours to sell or otherwise use items from the Gift Box in response to a declaration that no new items can be received until one seriously diminishes the total.  THAT is your responsibility, Zynga, to increase capacity for something we actually NEED.  We do not need multiple Hallowe'en farms, Alien Farms, Emerald City Farms, Jungle Farms, Australia Farms or anythiing else under the sun.  Give us a chance to work on the multiple farms we have accrued over the past five years!  You offer sales from time to time on land and items on old farms, but when our games crash or freeze due to the fact that the myriad prompts and pop-ups require us to be on the NEWEST Farm, what is the point???

Friday, November 7, 2014

Changes in Family Farm Seaside in response to Players

Recently, I wrote a post about some aspects of Family Farm Seaside that were frustrating to players, including myself.  A number of small changes have been made now, to enable players to operate more successfully.

One of the issues involved a Jack O'Lantern Machine that had to be completed from Materials obtained randomly when fishing with a special Hallowe'en Hook that required 125 Bait.  The Machine requires a total of 500 Materials.  It was released a few days before Hallowe'en and players had four weeks to complete it.  Even so, there were two fundamental problems with this.   A Machine that is particular to Hallowe'en should be completed in time for Hallowe'en.  A week after Hallowe'en, many players had not completed the Machine and were heartily sick of fishing.

The developers have reduced the price of fishing with the Hallowe'en Hook from 125 to 100 Bait.  This is a temporary 'sale' but is helpful.  Furthermore, they have reduced the price of purchase of extra fishing tries from 2 RC to 1 RC.  This too is temporary but shouild enable many players to complete the Machine.  I finally completed mine this morning.

Another problem with the release of the Hallowe'en Machine was the fact that the game had another ongoing project that required a large number of Seafood Items that, like any Seafood Item, could be obtained only randomly when fishing with specific hooks.  With a limited number of fishing tries, one could not perform both the Cooking Stand and the Jack O'Lantern Machine projects.  It is extremely frustrrating when one cannot participate in all Missions, Quests or projects in a game that one plays faithfully on a daily basis.

Today, a new time-restricted Quest was released.  You can find it on my Family Farm Seaside Guide page.  Some Quests in the past have included tasks that required a large number of Seafood items. This one does not require more than 10.  This fact is significant in that many players still are working on the completion of the Jack O'Lantern Machine and need to be able to use their allotted fishing attempts for that project.

Whoever developed the Family Dinner Quest thought it out very nicely.  Items that are required in one step are used in a later step and the Items that are required for the Collections Mission are required for tasks in the Quest sequence as well.  In other words, farmers can further the Collections Mission by completing a task for the traditional Quest sequence.   This has not been the case in the past, where many tasks really had no connection to any other task or to the corresponding Collections Mission.

I do not know if any one at FunPlus read my 'open letter' or not but the developers obviously became aware of player complaints and addressed them in a timely fashion.  For me, this is what distinguishes a truly good gaming company from a  poor one.  Moreover, I am more inclined to invest time, energy and even money in a game when I know that player concerns are heard and addressed than I would be in a game where it is evident that no one ever listens.  The developers of the original Family Farm actually invites players to make comments and suggestions about every aspect of the game.  I  hope a forum can be established for players of Family Farm Seaside where they can do the same.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Open Letter to Fun-Plus about Family Farm Seaside

First of all, let me be absolutely clear about one thing: I consider Family Farm Seaside to be the best game that is available for mobile devices.  I have over 500 days of continuous log ins for this game.  I have completed every possible mission... until now.

The graphics are beautiful.  Gameplay is easy enough for the so-called 'casual gamer' but challenging enough for seasoned players.  Unfortunately, however, there are some new options that are almost impossible to achieve and this is the subject of this post.

Initially, Family Farm Seaside was a farming simulation game.  No more, no less.  Like the original Family Farm on Facebook, there were Crops, Animals, Trees and Machines that could be harvested. There were missions that were unlocked at specific levels and had no time constraints.  Then, missions became available with time limitations.  These usually were linked to specific festivals or holidays and gave rewards in the form of new Trees, new Machines or new Decorations.  All very well and good so far.

The game expanded to include a fishing option.  Fishing always was random, however, in the fish one actually caught.  This was not too much of a problem as long as Missions did not demand specific Fish or Seafood Items.

A Kitchen was released, then a Beauty Shop, where Items could be used to create Cooked Dishes or decorative pieces respectively.  Finally, quite recently, a Cooking Stand was released.  This in itself was not a problem, as long as the Dishes that were required to complete the Missions were not too difficult to make.  Unfortunately, two things occurred almost simultaneously:

The Cooking Stand 'Missions' are linked to rewards in the form of a sort of Bingo type card where each Round, requiring a specific number of specific Dishes, completes a square on the card.  Round 3 of the current Cooking Stand Mission required two Dishes, each of which required two specific Seafood Items.  One needs a total of 200 Dishes to be 'sold' in order to complete a round.  Four dishes, each of which has a maximum of 60 are available to be made.  Even if one completes 120 maximum of the non-seafood dishes, one needs another 80 of the other two dishes.  Fishing, remember, is random.  I spent a week fishing without ever catching the items required to make these dishes.  After using the items stored in my Barn, I still lacked the ingredients needed to complete the round.  One can use RC (premum cash) to buy the ingredients, but each dish required TWO, not ONE seafood item.  This meant that I would have had to spend a total of 40 RC to make 20 more dishes.

Perhaps I could have caught the ingredients needed but at the same time, a new Machine was released for the Hallowe'en season.  It was an unfinished machine that required a total of 500 ingredients, ALL of which had to be caught by using a special Hallowee'n Rod when fishing.  Again, results were entirely RANDOM.  After fishing almost constantly since the release of this Machine, I still lack 25 materials and I am fed up.  One cannot even PURCHASE the missing materials.

Fishing is restricted to a specific number of attempts.  These are replenished over the course of time, but if one wants more attempts, one must pay 2 RC for 5 additional tries.  The game ran a brief sale wherein one could purchase 5 extra tries for 1 RC.  Even taking advantage of this, I still lack 25 materials.

I am NOT the only player with this issue.  It is ruining the game for me quite frankly.  It is not fun to go fishing without catching a single material I need.  I continue to catch the materials I do not need, but many of the items caught have NO materials attached to them.  Every fishing try requires 'bait'.  The Halloween Hook requires 125 bait per attempt.  Slowly, I am exhausting all the items in my Barn, items I had saved for potential use as cooking ingredients.  I hope some one at Fun-Plus will address this problem and either make the Bat Wings more plentiful during fishing or give us an option either to trade the materials we have caught but no longer need for the ones we do need or give us an option to purchase the missing materials.

Yes, we were given 4 weeks to complete the Jack O'Lantern machine but it was released only a couple of days before Halloween and Halloween is OVER.  My enthusiasm for the whole affair has diminished with each unsuccessful fishing trip.  Moreover, I sacrificed the Cooking Stand round completion for this.

I have been playing this game for two years or more and have invested significant time, energy and even money in Seaside.  I am growing disillusioned, however.

There are two more issues I would like to address here:

First of all:  in the original Family Farm and Happy Farm, if you somehow do not log in one day, you lose only 7 days of log ins.  In Seaside, I believe you lose all your progress.  That was certainly the case when my device failed and I could not log in last year.  The developers kindly reset my log in history but even so... shouldn't it be a 7 day loss instead?

Second, the time-restricted Missions are becoming too difficult.  In the beginning, a Collections Mission required 150 materials in order to redeem the final Reward.  It was increased to 250 but in the last Mission, it was increased to 350 materials.  That is too many!  Collections always are random and to be forced to collect 350 materials in order to redeem the final Prize, a prize that is required about halfway through the traditional Quest sequence, is DISCOURAGING and counterproductive.  I know many players who simply gave up on  this Mission.  Is that the way the game should work???

I think developers are paying too much attention to the highest level players to make the game 'challenging' for them, not realising that those of us in the middle are being discouraged from continuing.  Please reconsider!  Better a mission that can be completed in a timely fashion by ALL players than one that is too difficult for most players apart from the power players at the very top of the iceberg.

Thank you for your attention.

Let me finish by declaring that Family Farm Seaside remains the only mobile game I play regularly.  I stopped playing Farmville 2 Country Escape and Castleville Legends because there were two many conflicting new options and too much stress.  I hope to God Fun-Plus will learn from Zynga's errors and not make Seaside a similar stress-filled activity.