Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Play Games on Facebook?

A question I asked myself and one that other players may ask as well is, with incredible games available for console, handheld and PCs, why would any one play games on Facebook that cannot promise the same detail or complexity? Why choose Farmville, for example, instead of Harvest Moon or Rune Factory?

The answer to this question for most people probably is that a fan of Harvest Moon or Rune Factory would not choose any Facebook game instead of Harvest Moon or Rune Factory. On the other hand, it is possible to play both types of game simultaneously. Rune Factory and Harvest Moon will wait patiently for your return, unlike Animal Crossing and most Facebook games, which operate in real time. If you neglect Animal Crossing, you will return to find that you must exercise some damage control before you can play the game with ease. In particular, you must deal with the Weeds that will have cropped up everywhere in your absence.

In Farmville and the other farming simulation games on Facebook that I have explored, there are no Weeds to clog your field, nor will any plot that you have tilled be subjected to the ravages of time and weather if you fail to plant seeds there for any length of time. You therefore can prepare your farm for planting and leave the game for whatever period you choose. This means that you can explore any number of Facebook games without committing yourself to any degree of attention unless you actually plant Crops.

When Crops are planted, they are time-specific and, if not harvested when 'ready' will wither and be wasted. It is a pity to waste Crops in any game.

One of the primary purposes of any game on Facebook is social interaction. If you use Facebook in order to interact with your Friends and Family or any one else, it becomes more fun to combine ordinary interactions with Facebook games. If you have a good friend on Facebook who is interested in farming simulation games, becoming his/her neighbour allows you to have more fun.

Neighbours are very important in a game like Farmville. You can play without having any neighbours, but you will be unable to reap the rewards of many of the bonuses and options that are available if you have Neighbours. The game really is geared towards the entire concept of social interaction as well as farming.

Having Neighbours is only the first step, however. You need to post your accomplishments on your Wall if you wish to help your Neighbours benefit from your successes. This is true of many of the Facebook games. It is a type of advertising, of course, but the games are free and there is little harm in it, apart from the possibility that Friends who have no interest in gaming may begin to believe that you are obsessed with it and do nothing else with your time.

You do not need to spend that much time on any of these games, however, in order to participate in them. That is the beauty of these Facebook games. Your investments in term of time and energy are under your control. If you log into Facebook daily, you can grow Crops that take 12 or 24 hours to mature and be confident of harvesting them before they wither. If you only log into Facebook every two days or so, there are Crops that can be planted that will not mature until two days have passed. Note that your XP gain for any Crop is linked usually to the number of hours it takes to grow. There are Crops that are equal in the time they need to mature but give different XP Gains. If you are seriously interested in increasing your Levels, you always should choose the Crops that give 2 XP instead of 1 rather than choosing the Crops that are most attractive visually.

Which brings me to another potential reason to play the farming simulation games on Facebook. I mentioned this in an earlier post actually. A player can construct a picture with his/her farm, whether in Farmville, Fantasy Kingdoms, Farm Town or Lovely Farm. You need not bother with strategies of profit if you would prefer to approach the game from an aesthetic point of view. I actually try to combine both considerations. My birth flower is the Morning Glory and I eagerly awaited the point in Farmville when the Seeds would be unlocked. Now I usually try to grow some Morning Glories on my field for the simple pleasure of gazing upon them. Some Crops definitely are more attractive than others. (Pineapples and Artichokes are among the less attractive Crops but they do give good XP and are profitable.)

I am wandering away from the point of this post I fear which is not to give tips about specific games but to explain the attraction of them in general.

The way many of these games work is by inserting random events periodically. In Farmville, one of these Events is the appearance of a 'Lost Animal'. When a Lost Animal appears on your Field, you cannot adopt it yourself, but you can post the information on your Wall to allow other players to adopt it. The Lost Animals tend to be varieties that are not offered for sale at the Market. Llamas, Black Sheep, Groovy Cows, Pink Cows and Party Ducks are some of the Lost Animals that the game generates. A player who is at a very low level can increase his/her Ranch population by adopting these Lost Animals but only if his/her Neighbours and Friends post the information on Facebook.

There are other little rewards and occurrences that can be 'shared'. When you collect products from your own Animals, you sometimes can offer them to your Neighbours, again by posting the information on your Wall. When a Special Event such as the Tuscan Wedding is in progress, these items may be ingredients that need to be collected in order to obtain special rewards. Special Events such as the Tuscan Wedding in Farmwille will not last forever. You can ignore them or participate in them. They are subsidiary to the primary purpose of the game which is to improve your Farm and your Levels of experience.

In many games on Facebook, increased Levels or other accomplishments result in Ribbons or Medals. This is one of the 'collection' option in these games. By posting the announcement of the award on your Wall, you can give your Neighbours an opportunity to obtain a bonus from it. The bonus usually is in the form of currency.

My actual guides for Farmville and Fantasy Kingdoms are posted on separate pages I created and will be published on IGN when they are more complete. For any one who wishes to explore Facebook games, however, I would imagine there are two general principles:

If you participate in the Facebook Community while playing the game, your success will be greater and you will have far more fun than if you play in isolation.

Have patience and do not rush to invest real money in any game. As in Harvest Moon, time and perseverance are your best allies in terms of increasing your own income in the game itself. Obviously, as these games are free, encouraging players to purchase currency with real money in order to obtain the best and most interesting items is one of the game's goals, but you need not be seduced by it. On the other hand, if you have a decent real income, investing $5.00 or its equivalent in the game is not entirely absurd. If you are a gamer, you can compare that sum to the price of a Console or handheld game and realise how it may be a way of supporting the creators of a good Facebook game. There are ways to purchase currency without sharing your financial details. It always it better to go through PayPal in these cases than to give any one access to your Credit Card or Debit Card information. The best players, however, are the ones who allow the game itself to generate currency for them.

Finally, these games exist to enhance your enjoyment of Facebook. Do not become a slave to any of them. As we all know, it is easy to become addicted to any good game.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should definitely try out FrontierVille. Although a lot of the contents require A LOT of neighbors or actual money to unlock, still for the most part very close to Harvest Moon. You can even get married and have children! (Plus weeds, trees, etc grow back frequently, very much like HM)