Farmville plows the middle of the road


Spoiler alert! Farmville for the iPad brings the ultimate social networking game to Apple users. It’s fun, it requires you to cash in your life savings just like other games of its ilk, and, on a feature by feature basis, more recent games may have passed it by.


It’s a new year, a new OS and a new promise of gridlock in Washington. But I promise that’s as negative as I’m going to get, at least until the review.

It’s tempting to review the new iOS features but readers are no doubt still recovering from their new year’s hangovers, bowl game overload, or all those hours in church praying for peace on earth. So I’m going to spend the first week of the year celebrating game week.

Big 12 fans have to have something to celebrate. As bad as they looked during the bowl season so far, the Big Ten (where I attended grad school) managed to look worse. Imagine how bad it might have been had UT received a bowl bid with their 5-7 record as some people were hoping last November.

The bowl committee even set the Big 12 teams up with patsies who weren’t even close to being ranked. And still they went down like dominoes. Oklahoma won, but only because they lost their last five bowl games and the odds finally turned in their favor. Oh, and maybe they were still better than some of the other Big 12 teams as much as I hate to admit it.

Then TCU rubbed the Big 12’s noses in the turf by beating the fifth ranked Wisconsin (from the Big 10, no less).

I think there should be a new iPad game called Toilet Bowl. It pits all of the bowl season losers against each other to see who would have lost everything. I wouldn’t play, but I know friends who watch ice skating just to see the athletes fall on the ice. They would love it.

If the developers were really shrewd, they would only include six teams and you would have to add more by buying pigskin. And they could keep the worst players off the roster—the ones who threw the most interceptions or shanked a short field goal like Wisconsin did. You would have to buy more pigskin to add them to the roster to really hurt a team’s chances.

Then they would be following the model of today’s reviewed game, Farmville. The social networking game that comes loaded with hidden charges.

Maybe the Big 12 teams lost so many games because they were suffering from football fatigue the way I’m starting to suffer from game fatigue. I mean, how much football can you play before you realize you’re putting yourself in the way of physical harm for a remote shot at a seventh round draft pick and two weeks in training camp before your career ends?

If I have one New Year’s resolution this year, it’s stop playing every online game. There’s just too damn many of them, and—as many of you know—they hook you with a formula that you already love or you wouldn’t have downloaded the free trial.

I’ve gone from a half hour once or twice a day to being sucked into playing hours at a time. I find it really tough because I review these games for iPad Envy. I not only no longer have time to read my Thomas Pynchon novels again, or the two thousand page history of Christianity by Diarmaid McCollough, or even Karen Armstrong’s latest tome on religious belief—all of which I downloaded just before I started playing We Rule. I no longer even have time to read the two hundred page Nikki Heat novel, supposedly written (although I have my doubts) by TV character Richard Castle.

In my defense, part of this excessive playtime comes from my objective responsibilities as a reviewer. I have to give each game enough playtime to make an honest evaluation and then I discover I’ve invested all this time getting my island, city, restaurant, farm, smurf hideaway, cat rooms or fish tanks set up and, damned if I don’t want to hold onto the little fiefdom I’ve built online again.

But I have to let something go. Sorry Mi Mi, Buster and Velvet, my touch pet kitties that I downloaded because I was mistakenly led to believe Touch Pets Cats was an iPad game and not just for the iPhone. Sorry, guys, but Teddy Bear and Jenny Manytoes and Coco Puff, my real cats, deserve my attention and nothing hurts Teddy Bear’s feelings more than being told he can’t sit on my shoulder and purr because it interferes with harvesting coins from couches.

Don’t feel too bad. I abandoned Godfinger after I reached Level 60. My smurf village is already buried under snow and I don’t return to pet my caterpillar. There were just so many cherry cupcakes I could bake before it seems pointless. Touch Fish? At least I remembered to put the fish back into storage before I left the tank to fend for itself.

We Farm is on the chopping block because aliens, ski resorts, African safaris and NASCAR just don’t mesh well. Any more than reindeer and trailer parks. I haven’t quite brought myself to walk away yet, but the day is coming. We City? I don’t know how many luxury cruises I can take before the ship sinks.

In the meantime, I do plan on looking at three social networking games this week. After all, no one really wants to return to work. I know everyone will be sneaking out their iPhones as soon as the boss clears the door (including the boss) to play with their new Christmas games.

So let’s start with the blockbuster. The game that claims to have 240 million players1 worldwide. The game that even got mocked on Saturday Night Live.

Farmville.

That’s right, the Facebook behemoth finally came to the iOS and it’s iPad implementation looks splendid. But if you’re already a serious Farmville player (although that may be an oxymoron) beware, the iPad version doesn’t actually provide all the strokes and bonuses that you can enjoy online.

Why not?

It’s simple. Farmville was originally written for Flash players, and we all know Apple thinks Flash will ruin our iPads. Apple swears there’s nothing Flash can do that can’t be done with iOS but the developers of Farmville would disagree. Because a lot of the original game hasn’t arrived on the iPad.

The model for social networking games

I don’t know if Farmville invented the plant, farm, collect cash and buy more shit model, but other games have built on the model to ride their own cash cows.

Most readers will have already played a Farmville style game so you’re already familiar with the model.

Players begin with a farm and a couple of plots. They plant crops, harvest them and sell them. They use the profits from those sales to buy more plots, more crops and then houses, railroads, shops, trees and livestock.

Players build a farm and even a support system with shops and railroads.

Click image to see full size

Even the trees and livestock produce revenue. With time players can build a large homestead with shops, railroads, greenhouses, waterfalls and decorations galore.

There’s a catch, and a catch that readers of this blog will already know. The coolest stuff requires farm cash, and farm cash costs real money.

You also need farm cash to expand your farm should you want it to expand. Unless you have lots of Facebook friends.

This is the other catch. Catch 22.a. You also need a Facebook account to login.

Farmville’s success stems not only from its use of a strong gaming model but from the millions of people already on Facebook just dying to connect. So if you love to chat on Facebook, you will be able to find lots of Farmville friends. If, however, you prefer to play in relative anonymity and not have people you’ve been trying to avoid since high school poking you, you will really need the farm cash.

You can also visit other farms and feed their chickens and speed up their crop growth. You can send trees and livestock to your friends to help them expand their operation. Provided, of course, you have friends. But if you enjoy this kind of social networking, it will be easier to find friends on Facebook than in games like City Story and We Rule.

Caption
Farmville constantly offers new stuff to stuff into your farm, much of it with deadlines for purchase before it goes away for good. Many of the Christmas and New Years’s items will be gone this week.

All the cool stuff requires friends or farm cash and farm cash requires real cash.

Click image to see full size

Power Farm

Farmville does allow players to buy farming tools to speed up the farming process. You can buy seeders, tractors and harvesters to plow and till the land. If you have sixty or seventy plots they can really speed up the farming process.

The farming tools are really cool. You can use a tractor, seeder and harvester to farm your plots.

Click image to see full size

This is probably the coolest aspect of the game. It’s also the costliest because you have to buy fuel for your machinery. And, you guessed it, the only way you can buy fuel is with farm cash. Even your friends can’t help you with this.

Farmville Lite

While playing Farmville you collect all kinds of cool objects to build collections. If you only play iPad Farmville you will wonder what these are for and what you can do with them. You will wonder because you can’t do anything with them as long as you play on the iPad. To see all your collections and the neat stuff the other players get to see, you have to log on to Facebook on your Mac (or PC) and play the Flash version online.

And if I wanted a game I have to play on my laptop, I would play on my laptop.

On the other hand, this is probably one of the biggest advantages to iPad Farmville. If you already love the game and the poking and gifting with friends, you can now take it on the road with your iPad and leave your laptop at home.

Synchronization problems

Every once in a while, you harvest all your crops, pick your apples and groom your livestock. Suddenly you will get a message that your farm is out of synch with the Farmville servers. And you will lose it all.

If you’re lucky, you can refresh and start again. If not, you may be out of synch until your crops spoil. This is a about the closest thing to the real world expectations I can think of. You lose your crop because of an unexpected turn in server weather.

All in all, Farmville for iPad is a solid performer. If you love Facebook and social network gaming, or if you’re already a big fan of the game online, you’ll probably like Farmville. To be honest, however, there have been many iPad games released since that implement the model just as well if not better.

Jenny Manytoes rates Farmville

Jenny Manytoes would purr next to Farmville. It’s a solid performer, and it is the progenitor of many of the more recent social network games. But I think the best iPad games have moved beyond it.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System


Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she has higher expectations.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

1If this number is anything like We Rule’s three million players, it includes players who have long ago abandoned their farms.back


Contact me at Email iPad Envy, or
Email The Hidden Grimoire.

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About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in 4 Stars - Purr, Entertainment, Games, Social Networking Games and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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