Friday, July 30, 2010

Watch for an Interview with the creators of Fantasy Kingdom!

In the brief period that I have been playing Fantasy Kingdoms, I have been very impressed not only by the creativity and graphic skills displayed in this game, but the attitude of Sneaky Games as well. The game is far more generous towards its players than any other Farming Simulation game I have encountered on Facebook and this fact, coupled with the sheer beauty of the game made me feel that it deserved to be promoted.

The people at Sneaky Games have been kind enough to consent to an interview about Fantasy Kingdoms so ... watch this page!

N.B. The screenshot with the Egyptian Pyramid shows one corner in the Kingdom of my Neighbour and Friend, ILuvHM.

The Wishing Well can be visited once each day by any player and will dispense rewards from 100 Mana to an actual Castle!

Creativity and Art in Farming

Crop Circles, where some force cuts a swathe through ripening grains or other Crops in order to create a symbol or pattern have been the subject of much discussion and even a film or two. Likewise, there are patterns in different locations throughout the world that can be seen only from the air and include both the Crop Circles and Nazca symbols. Ancient chalk figures in England such as the Uffington Horse and Cerne Abbas Giant can be seen from the ground but the best view is to be found from a high hill or from the air.

Oddly enough, it is when playing a farming simulation game that ordinary individuals can construct landscapes or patterns in a similar fashion. A friend of mine who played Rune Factory Frontier declared his intention to plant flowers in every field, including the dungeons, creating a landscape that would be extraordinarily beautiful. I sadly suspect he never had the time to complete this wonderful plan but it captured my imagination even if I never was able to find the time to do it either.

My first personal experience with creativity in gaming was a Level Creator tool in a PC game named Claw. With virtually no expertise in computer programming, I was able to create my own custom levels for the game. One could place bonus coins in any location for the Character, Captain Claw to reach. I loved creating patterns with the gold coins and in fact, wrote 'Freya' in the sky in almost every level I created.

The creation of any custom level was a time-consuming business and I doubt very many people even play Claw now. Nonetheless, I discovered some of the aesthetic pleasure in creating patterns with Crops in Fantasy Kingdoms, Lovely Farm and Farmville.

The Magical Crops in Fantasy Kingdoms are the most stunning and unusual and each has different stages of growth. The appearance of the Seeds when first planted is almost as beautiful as the Crop when it is ready for harveest. What surprised me, however, was the discovery that the Crops in Lovely Farm likewise have a number of different stages and are very beautiful at each stage. The Crops that are available at Level 1 are not the most beautiful on the whole and it is only when players raise their Levels that they can work with a number of different colours, textures and patterns not only in Seeds but in spouting Crops and Crops that are almost ready to be harvested.

I truly enjoy taking the time to plot out patterns on my field in Lovely Farm. In Fantasy Kingdom, I have become more involved in the magnificent buildings and decorations lately but aesthetics rather than cash flow always determine my choice of Crops there as well.

One can create beautiful patterns on the field in Farmville and indeed, some of the Flowers are lovely, but the game drives players to grow Crops in large quantities. The Co-Op Jobs and the Crafting (which requires Bushels that are randomly generated by harvesting a particular Crop) are all geared towards mass farming. It adds strategy to the game but makes it less of a Zen meditation exercise. I enjoy my visits to my Lovely Farm and Fantasy Kingdom far more for the most part, despite the addition of a magical carousel to my Farmville estate.

There are those who rake the sand in a Zen garden each morning and/or evening. For me, creating a beautiful pattern with Crops and Flowers has the same effect.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Farmville's Magical and Charming Option

I admit that I have been rather critical of Farmville and that, in comparisons with other, less commercial games on Facebook, it has shown itself to be less attractive.

Yesterday, however, I became aware of an Option that is truly magical but which, because of my own prejudices against anything ugly or aesthetically displeasing, I was not able to experience. The tale reflects very badly upon me but I will recount it nonetheless.

Within the last fortnight, I saw a posting by a Neighbour of a Lost Animal I never had encountered before. It was an 'Ugly Duckling'. I had encountered 'Party Ducks' and some other odd creatures such as the Groovy Cow but this was unlike anything else... The 'Ugly Duckling' was TRULY Ugly, with one enormous buck tooth hanging from its mouth. I did not wish to have a creature like that on my Farm and so passed up an opportunity for a magical and wonderful experience!

A friend of mine who plays Farmville DID adopt the Ugly Duckling, wondering if it would produce a Feather Harvest like the other Ducks. When it became 'Ready' yesterday, instead of an automatic Harvest, a pull-down menu appeared, offering him the chance to 'Transform' the Duck. Readers probably have guessed by now what occurs. The fact that I did not think of this when I first encountered the Ugly Duckling does not reflect well on some one who probably has read every fairytale and folktale in existence.

Yes, right before his eyes, the Ugly Duckling was transformed into a beautiful White Swan. I am kicking myself for not having adopted the Ugly creature, ashamed of my unkindness and envying my friend his acquisition of a glorious White Swan.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Birthday Wishes on Natsume Official Forum

A fan of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory sent me an email containing a forward from the official Natsume forum. She was delighted and surprised by the message which was simply to wish her a Happy Birthday from Natsume.

I wanted to share this because to me, it represents the attitude of Natsume and is the reason why I continue to volunteer to write Guides for Natsume games. Natsume never loses the personal touch, despite an increasingly heavy workload with all the new games that are being produced.

The philosophy of Harvest Moon and Rune Factory is one of placing friendship above financial considerations and selfish gain. In every Harvest Moon game, a player is encouraged to pay attention to the birthdays of all the other Characters in his/her community. It is apt really that Natsume should take the trouble to remember the Birthdays of the members of its Official Community Forum.

Bravo, Natsume, for embodying the principles of Harvest Moon in your corporate actions!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Farming Fanatics...

A Neighbour of mine in the wonderful game of Lovely Farm kindly allowed me to post her Facebook photo here. It is very apt I think for any one who plays Farming Simulation games, whether Farmville, Lovely Farm, Fantasy Kingdoms or Harvest Moon!
Thank you for graciously allowing me to share this!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Option of Crafting Goods in Farmville

Despite my somewhat jaundiced view of Farmville, it does have a multitude of endless interactions with the player and constant interfacing with other players as well. Lost Animals, Pregnant Sows, a Farmers' Market that offers Bushels of the Crops that you and your Neighbours grow as well as Co-Op Jobs are among the Options that appear whenever you play Farmville. Unfortunately, the Farmers' Market and Co-Op Jobs can be experienced only by players who have increased their Levels of experience. I now have tried both.

Between the Co-Op Job Option and the Farmers' Market Options, I personally find the Co-Op Jobs rather tedious, even when a Neighbour assists. Essentially, what is required is that you grow enormous quantities of a single Crop within a limited time period. If you do not have machines to till the field, sow the Seeds AND harvest the Crops, you will be forced to invest a substantial amount of REAL time in the venture, with very little reward really. You can earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold Medal and of course, you will earn whatever income and experience your Crops produce.

For my Co-Op Job, I chose to grow 1500 Red Tulips as I love Flowers. A Neighbour and Harvest Moon comrade very kindly added his effortst to mine. In all honesty, without his help, I could not have completed the Job and in fact, he was the MVP in this labour, supplying over 60% of the Red Tulips for the 'Wedding' organisers who contracted with us for the items. Annoyingly, some glitch in Farmville forced me to harvest the last 200 Tulips TWICE. I had completed the entire job and indeed, had re-tilled a number of plots when the game told me that the game had been 'enhanced' and forced me to reload. To my horror, when I did, I found that the 200 Red Tulips had regrown themselves magically and had to be harvested again.

You can choose between a number of different Co-Op Jobs but it appears that they all involve a task of growing and harvesting large quantities of a single Crop.

The Farmers' Market, on the other hand, has been invested with a Crafting Option that might prove interesting. When it first was announced, I was asked to choose between a Bakery, Winery and Spa. I chose the Spa, thinking that it would involve Flowers more than other Crops.

Actually, I suspect that the Recipes in all three Crafts require a wide variety of ingredients. As in games like Rune Factory, you need to raise your level of experience before you can make more than one Recipe.

So far, I have made 'Fresh Sachets' at my little Craft Cottage and sold one to a Neighbour.

The Recipe for a Fresh Sachet is: 3 Pumpkin Bushels, 3 Cranberry Bushels, 1 Sunflower Bushel

What is interesting here is that you can 'buy' any Bushels you do not have from a Neighbour's Stall if he/she has them, which extends your potential to complete Recipes for Goods.

It is not as interesting as Grand Bazaar, or any other Harvest Moon or Rune Factory game, but it is a step in the right direction!

Later: The automatic option to make a choice between the three Crafting buildings no longer is given to players. I was rewarded by responding instantly with the gift of a free Spa, but now you must buy one or more of the three buildings at the Market. The Buildings are: Bakery, Winery and Spa. The three Buildings are available only at Level 25 and each costs 100,000 Coins, making me rather happy that I responded to the offer when I received it! You may not even see them at the Market if your levels are not high enough.

If you do not have a Market Stall, you cannot do anything with the option as it all works through the Market Stall. Now, at the Market Stall, there are new Menus that allow you to Use either Bushels or Goods or, when you choose Bushels, to Make Goods or Uss a specific Bushel as before simply to gain Mastery Points during harvests.

At Level 15, with a Market Stall, you can buy Goods now as well as Bushels from Neighbours. The 'Fresh Sachet' costs 1100 Coins. If you have a vehicle, you can trade the Fresh Sachet for Fuel. I was rather disappointed to find that this is the only way to use the Goods at present, although Farmville promises that there will be an option to acquire special items in future as well.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar

I received a test version of Harvest Moon Grand Bazaar today, so I shall try to begin work on Guides for this game at once. I will not be able to share any information whatsoever about the game at this point but simply would like to assure players that I will be covering it.

Please note that there may be some differences between this version and the ultimate retail version, so I may need to make small changes to any Guides that I publish when the game first is released.

Although I evidently needed a little break from serious guide-writing, there is nothing that compares with Harvest Moon and Rune Factory!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Attitudes of Game Creators Inspire Loyalty

I would like to believe that a good attitude and a good response by a game creator in the face of an obvious error would inspire loyalty in players while acknowledging that it cannot override the essential entertainment quality or value of the game itself.

Fantasy Kingdoms have experienced a multitude of problems in the past few days. Free Gifts would not transfer, players could not visit other Kingdoms and often a player would apply to the Wishing Well in vain... Three months old, they obviously still are working on their game, but I have to admit that their willingness to admit to a fault and to compensate their players is admirable.

A few moments ago, when accessing my Kingdom, I received a message:

'We are sorry for all of the Maigc Storms and Fairy Dust lately. As a part of the Kingdoms Loyalty Programme, I have placed a very special Mana Chest in your Giftbox.

Love, Harmony.'

Contrast this with Farmville's response to an even greater series of disasters for players yesterday. Where Farmville is concerned, players have lost Animals, Barns, Gifts and other Items. Items placed on a player's land have vanished (permanently it seems) and the only response AFTER almost a full day of problems was that 'Farmville is aware of issues with loading Farmville and are actively working to resolve them'.

I personally lost a number of Gifts as well as a Japanese Trellis that Farmville gave me when I completed my Japanese Barn. I set the Trellis on my land today, having read a message from Zynga to the effect that the problems had been resolved and it vanished into thin air. Clearing my cache and reloading the game twice did not resolve 'the issue'... I would be much surprised if Farmville gave its loyal followers any compensation at all, let alone compensation equal to that given by Fantasy Kingdoms.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Benefits of Raising your Levels in Farmville

Players who are familiar with Harvest Moon or Rune Factory know that new options are unlocked when your levels of experience increase or when you complete specific goals. Although Farming Simulation Games on Facebook cannot compare with Harvest Moon or Rune Factory in their depth, complexity or the sense of satisfaction one obtains when goals are completed in HM or RF, there still are new options that are unlocked at higher levels and that can expand the game's scope enormously.

In Farmville, for example, you will find that the game will change when you reach Level 15 and have the option to purchase a Market Stall. With a Market Stall, you can interact with other Farmers.

The Farmer's Market

You will not be able to purchase your own Market Stall until you reach Level 15, nor will you be able to accept Bushels from other players until then.

Once you purchase a Market Stall, you can access the Farmer's Market through the Stall itself.

The little tutorial that can be accessed at the Market Stall gives the following information:

Each time you harvest a crop, you might find a bushel of that crop. When you find them, you get extra bushels for crop mastery! Crop bushes are used to speed up your mastery or XP progress, to unlock seeds that you can't yet buy in the market and to craft items in your Crafting Cottage. Coming soon!

Bushels you find are stored in your Market Stall. You can spend your bushels to boost your productivity on the farm! First click your Market Stall and select Farmer's Market, then click the 'My Bushels' Button, and then click the 'Use' button under the Bushel.

When you harvest a bushel, your market stall is set to sell those bushels for 24 hours. If you've mastered the crop, your stall will stay open longer. If you're already selling the crop, finding another Bushel will keep your stall open longer, too.

From your own Market Stall, you can see the Bushels your friends are offering. You can take up to 3 bushels from each friend. Just click the 'Get Bushels' button and start shopping!

In order to 'Use' the Bushel, you need to be growing the specific Crop and it needs to be ready for Harvest within two hours. Otherwise, there will be no effect whatsoever
Market Stalls are used both to store Bushels of specific Crops and to offer them to visiting Neighbours. If any Neighbour takes Bushels from your Stall, you will be rewarded. You can choose the form your Reward takes. You will be offered 10 XP, 4000 Coins or 15 Fuel. (?) Whenever you harvest a Bushel of a specific Crop, it automatically will go into your Market Stall and the Stall will open for business for 24 hours. There are ways to extend the time that the Stall remains open, but 24 hours is the normal time period.

Whenever you click on your Market Stall, you will have an option to access the Farmer's Market. Here you will be given the opportunity to see all the Bushels that your neighbours currently are offering. You can take three Bushels of any specific Crop from a Neighbour's Stall.

These Bushels can be used or shared with Neighbours. If you opt to 'Use' a Bushel that you have collected, you need to be able to harvest the same Crop on your own Farm within two hours in order to gain the benefit which is an increase in the Experience earned from the act of Harvesting that Crop. For example, if you choose to 'Use' a Bushel of Rice, you need to have Rice that will ripen within the next two hours and be able to harvest it before the time limit expires. Rice ordinarily gives +1 XP. If a Bushel of Rice is in use, however, each Rice square that you harvest will give you +2 XP.

Only one Bushel can be in use at any given point in time. If you have Bushels for more than one Crop that is ready to be harvested, you can use the corresponding Bushels sequentially.

If you have not reached Level 15 and attempt to collect a Bushel from a Friend's Wall, you will receive the following prompt:

Sorry! You need to get to Level 15 before you can visit a Farmer's Market and collect bushels! Would you like 20 XP from Farmville to help you on your way?

You therefore can claim a little reward of 20 XP even if you cannot collect the Bushel posted on a Neighbour's or Friend's Wall.

Garden Shed

The Garden Shed gives you the opportunity to save Flowers that you harvest to use as Decorations on your own land. If you love beautiful Flowers, you will enjoy this option tremendously. Unfortunately, the price is steep unless you have 10 Neighbours. On the positive side, there are no Level Requirements for owning a Garden Shed

The Garden Shed is described as follows:

Garden Sheds save Perfect Bunches hat you find while harvesting flowers. Use them to make decorative flower bouquets to put around your farm or share with friends! Your first Garden Shed comes with 10 rare bouquets as a special purchase gift!

The Garden Shed is a Building Item with two separate listings and prices:

Garden Shed
10 Neighbours Needed

Garden Shed
30 Farm Cash

The Co-Op Job is another advanced Option unlocked at Level 20. The third box at the lower left corner of your screen will change from the Delete Tool to Co-Op Farming.

Here is the description of Co-Op Farming from the game:

Co-Op Guide

A job is a task that involved seeding and harvesting a number of the specified crop within the time frame stated in the job. There are three levels of rewards in a job: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Medal rewards are based on how fast you complete the job, and give even more coins and XP. Gold is the most difficult of all but gives all participants a unique reward item.

To help on a job, find a job on the 'All Jobs' List. You must be firends with the job initiator, not already be on another job and the job must not be full in order to join.

If for some reason you want to leave a job, you can select 'Quit Job' at any item. If you signed on as a helper, your contributions willr emain but you won't get a reward when the job is complete. If you are an initiator, you can only quit a job if there are no others helping.

A new option that appeared yesterday but which has been heralded and advertised for quite awhile is the Workshop.

The Workshop Option

When my Character reached Level 25, the following Announcement was made, requesting that I commit myself to a specific Workshop:

Coming Soon!
Sign up now! You'll get an awesome Limited Edition item!

There will be three different Workshops as follows:

Uses fruit and vegetable bushels to make pies and cakes

Uses fruits and grain bushels to make wines and juices

Uses flower and fruit bushels to make perfumes and candles

If you sign up for the Bakery:

Pumpkin Bread
Bushels Needed: Pumpkins, Wheat

Strawberry Shortcake
Bushels Needed: Strawberries, Wheat

Spicy Muffins
Bushels Needed: Carrots, Peppers, Ghost Chili

Pattypan Tart
Bushels Needed: Pattypan Squash, Onion, Rice

If you sign up for the Winery

Sweet Sake
Bushels needed: Rice, Cranberries

White Sangria
Bushels Needed: White Grapes, Sugar Cane, Strawberries

Red Table Wine
Bushels Needed: Grapes, White Grapes

Fruit Wine
Bushels Needed: Raspberries, Blueberries, Sugar Cane

If you sign up for the Spa:

Fresh Sachet
Bushels Needed: Pumpkins, Cranberries, Sunflowers

Floral Perfume
Bushels Needed: Raspberries, Morning Glory

Soothing Herbal Lotion
Bushels Needed: Aloe Vera, Green Tea

Relaxation Oil
Bushels Needed: Blueberries, Morning Glory

Although you can accept one of the three Workshops at this point in time, it appears that some work still must be done by Farmville before you can begin to use them. The Limited Edition Gift I received for affiliating myself with the Spa (mainly because I love the flowers in Farmville) was a rather frightening garden gnome.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Rules relatiing to Gifts in Facebook Games

There is some confusion among players as to the rules respecting Gifts in Free Facebook Games. The Games themselves sometimes contribute to the confusion actually and although many games share the same rules, some are different. Of the Games that I have explored, the Rules where Gifts are concerned appear to be as follows:


1 Free Gift can be sent to a Friend/Neighbour every 3 Hours. Other players have confirmed the time limit. If any one has been unable to send another Gift after three hours, please let me know.

Players can find items in the Market that have a 'Send' as well as a 'Buy' Option, allowing them to send items to Friends. This is different from the Free Gifts Menu, where ALL Gifts are Free. I expect there are no time restrictions on the Items that can be sent from the Market.

CAUTION: Reciprocating with a 'thank you Gift'. In Farmville, when you send a thank you gift, it will be the SAME item that was sent to you. When this item is one that you specifically requested and which may not be useful to the person who sent it to you, do NOT activate this option. Many of the Free Gifts, such as Materials for Building or for the Tuscan Wedding have NO resale value! If your Friend or Neighbour cannot use the item, it is worthless and prevents you from sending a Gift he/she might appreciate far more.

Free Gifts are unlocked according to the Level of Experience of the Sender.

There are some special situations in Farmville when specific Items that do not appear currently in the Gifts Menu can be requested by a Message on the Player's Wall or by a Request to any Friends who have not played Farmville yet. At least, this was my own experience when I needed Bamboo. Bamboo is one of the Limited Edition Items that is included in the Gift Menu on a cyclical basis. When it did not appear currently in the Gift Menu, I was able to make a Request to a list of Friends who did NOT play Farmville or at any rate never had sent me a Gift before.

The Gift Menu in Farmville includes both Items that are permanent and Items that are cyclical and belong to a special Category. Collectibles, Building Materials and Special Event Items are cyclical. In other words, a Harness and Nails may appear for two days, and then be replaced by Horseshoes and Boards.

Fantasy Kingdoms:

There is no time limit nor are there any restrictions on the number of Free Gifts that you can send to a Friend or Neighbour. As with other games, however, when you send a Thank you Gift, it will be the same item that you received. What is interesting here is that Limited Edition Items that have expired can be exchanged indefinitely if you continue to use the Thank you Gift option! For example, the Sunset Tree no longer appears in the Free Gifts Menu as it was a Solstice Item but if you receive one as a Free Gift, you can send one back as a Thank You Gift!

All Free Gifts are available to a player at any level.

Farm Town:

One Free Gift can be sent to any/every Neighbour or Friend every 24 hours. Gifts are unlocked by the Level of the Sender. There is a very interesting and useful option in Farm Town that does not exist in other Games, however, which is that you can EXCHANGE any Gift upon receipt of it for any other Gift that YOUR Level has unlocked. I love this option. I only wish this game had better graphics. It is the ugliest game I currently play!

Lovely Farm:

One Free Gift can be sent to 15 Neighbours or Friends every 24 hours. You cannot send more than 15 Free Gifts to ANY ONE in any 24 hour period. In Lovely Farm, the Gift Menu includes both Free Gifts and Paid Gifts. Some of the Paid Gifts are Items that do not appear in the Shop Menu and can be obtained only if some one sends them to you. It appears that there is no time restriction or limit to the Paid Gifts you can send to any individual but I must confirm this.

Castle Age

One Free Gift can be sent to any Neighbour or Friend every 24 hours. A special Gift that does not appear in the Gift Menu will be sent to any one who responds to an Invitation to join a player's Army. I do not think an Invitation bars a Player from sending an Item from the Gift Menu during the same 24 hour period, but I must confirm this.

Gifts are not level-specific but often are part of a set that must be completed before they will be of any use to the recipient.

Tiki Farm:

Free Gifts include Seeds as well as rather unique and rare Animals, including Penguins, Koala Bears and Kimodo Dragons.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Reviews of Frontierville, Tiki Farm and Treasure Isle

Facebook makes me think of Grand Central or Waterloo Station... there is so much going on at any given moment and much of it is activity by strangers or people who would be strangers anywhere but Facebook. I have 100 new Requests for Friendship, Acceptance of Gifts, Acceptance of Neighbour Offers or whatever on my page on a daily basis, a News Feed that tells me what other people are doing, with offers from their pages of Bonuses or Mystery Eggs or other Items as well as a host of game adverts in the column on the right side of the page. Many of the Games advertised on Facebook are 'Free' but many offer a free 'taste' of the game, requiring real investment if you wish to pursue the Game with any dedication.

A friend persuaded me to try a game called Tiki Island, citing her own dream to live on an island. Although I was juggling at least five other games on Facebook, I decided I would give it a try for her sake. It is a charming little game in its way, apart from one VERY annoying point: Whenever you play the game, a pop-up advertisement for ANOTHER game called Verdonia appears in the middle of your screen. I find this both annoying and rather incomprehensible. The prompt demands that you: 'Play Verdonia NOW!' Well, why would a person begin one game and, without having any chance to perform any actions yet in THAT game, wish to transfer to another game instantly?

Pop-Ups of various kinds are very much a part of most of the Facebook games and they always detract from my enjoyment of it. These games are programmed to treat a player like an idiot, but it's all marketing. You may be in the middle of an activity such as plowing or planting and quite suddenly the game will suggest that you 'take a break' to send some free gifts to friends. Is the game acting in a generous spirit to promote selfless giving? Not at all. By sending a gift to a friend, you are drawing that friend into the web of the game. If it is a friend who currently plays the game, the act of giving still isn't entirely selfless. With your Gift is a pre-written request for the Friend to send YOU a Gift in return.

Frontierville was recommended to me by a number of Harvest Moon friends as the game with the most to offer, including an option for Courtship and Marriage. I dreaded the idea of becoming involved in yet another game when I hadn't sufficient time to deal with Fantasy Kingdoms, Lovely Farm, Farmville, Farm Town and Castle Age... but once again, I was persuaded. In fact, it is the most complex of all the games I have played, apart from Castle Age. On the other hand, it is the most FRANTIC as well. The entire game is linked to various mini-games. The most frequently activated mini-game is the one that is triggered by any gain of income, experience or food. Whenever you perform any activity, whether it is clearing land, tending a Crop or feeding an Animal, you receive coins and XP and often a Food Item as well. All these pop out in the form of Items you need to collect actively by clicking on each of them. If you fail to click on them quickly enough, they vanish. I need to confirm this, but I believe that you will receive the basic reward for your action without clicking on the Items and that clicking on each will give you Bonus points. Nonetheless, it is a bit nerveracking for me, especially if you have moved to a different part of the screen to perform another task, leaving behind all of the Items from the previous action that popped onto the screen. I daresay that a lot of players find this fun. Perhaps it is the antiquity of the laptop I use, or the less-than-accurate 'mouse' it has, but I don't enjoy it very much. Furthermore, the endless prompts that appear on the screen to 'share' every small accomplishment tend to conflict with and actually impede gameplay.

I think Frontierville is worse in this respect than other games simply because there is so much going on at any given moment. In fact, there are some fundamental defects in most of these games where messages and Requests are concerned. Why is it impossible to accept ALL your Gifts at once, in the same way that one can perform actions towards a group of emails simply by filling in a box, then choosing an option such as 'Delete' or 'Save'? You could have an option either to 'Accept' or 'Reject'. The only game that sends Gifts automatically into your Gift Box is Lovely Farm. In similar fashion, why could the game not allow you to publish all of its messages to your Wall AFTER you finish playing rather than interrupting you every few moments? All of these games are in Beta still, but really...

Speaking of 'Beta' versions of games or online games in general, one wonders about the wisdom of making any 'real' investments in terms of money even for a player who has unlimited funds to spare. In games that are made for specific systems or platforms, a player can save and keep his/her progress without fearing that an outside influence will render it unusable or even non-existent. Where any online gaming experience is concerned, what control does the player have apart from the transient control exercised while the game actually is current?

I am most tempted to invest real money in some of the gorgeous items in Fantasy Kingdoms but apart from the fact that I really cannot afford to do so, I must try to remember that all of these games exist only at the whim of their creators and could be pulled from the internet at any point in time.

Once upon a time, I created a wonderful site on with over four hundred pages of detailed erudite text and fantastic images. One day, changed its policy. What had been a free site would become subject to charges. I did not have the sort of resources that would have allowed me to keep a site of that size on the internet so it was lost...

I have digressed badly from the topic of this post, which is to review Tiki Farm, Frontierville and Treasure Island.

Were it not for the annoying and I feel, unethical insertion of the pop-up to play Verdonia, each time you load Tiki Farm, I would enjoy the game more. It is an interesting variation on ordinary Farming Simulation games. For a start, you have to farm on a volcanic Island, although the Volcano is not an 'active' option as it is in Treasure Island. It simply is decorative and can be moved like any decoration.

The biggest difference between Tiki Farm and most of the other Farming Simulation games is the fact that Ranch Products and many other Items are VERY time-restricted. You have to feed your Cow Alfalfa (shades of Hero of Leaf Valley) in order to produce Milk but, unlike other games where the Cow will keep her Milk until you can obtain it from her, Tiki Farm Milk will spoil within five minutes or so! You therefore need to remain active in the game basically whenever you begin any activity such as fishing or obtaining Ranch Product. There are Crops that ripen in half an hour for example! The only other Farming Simulation game I have played that has Crops with a comparable growth period is Frontiersville where Clover can be planted and harvested almost in the blink of an eye.

There is a 'Lost Animal' option in Tiki Farm similar to the one in Farmville, although the Animals are far more exotic and amusing. My favourite is the Enchanted Narwhal, who will wander onto your Island. If adopted, the 'spell' will be broken and she will be restored to her natural form, which is that of a lovely Unicorn!

Free Gifts are very much a part of all the Facebook games and Tiki Farms is no exception. The difference here is in the nature of the Gifts, which are original and exotic. One that appeals to me greatly is the option to give a traditional Japanese 'Beckoning/Welcoming Cat' or Maneki. Others include Kimodo Dragons, Koalas and Bald Eagles. There is nothing mundane about Tiki Farm.

Fishing is an option in this game as well, which makes sense for a Farmer living on a small deserted island! In fact, any item that generates products regularly, whether a Dairy Cow or a Dock, is defined as a 'Workshop'. An item must be placed in order to generate product where any Workshop is concerned. If it is the Dairy Cow, the item is Alfalfa. If the Dock, you must bait the rod with a Grub. Having triggered the operation with the appropriate Item, you then must wait five minutes for the result. If you wait too long to collect the Fish, it, like the Milk, will spoil and you will lose 200 coins of income.

Both Tiki Farm and Frontiersville are more complex and potentially interesting than the other Farming Simulation games on Facebook in terms of 'helping' Neighbours. In fact, Frontierville allows you to hire Neighbours for specific tasks as well as including the usual option for the Neighbour to initiate the visit. In Tiki Farm, you can collect items as well as tending Crops (by removing insects and watering them) while visiting a Neighbour's Island. It is when one visits Neighbours in any game that one begins to see the scope of the game in terms of advanced Levels. Where Tiki Farm is concerned, there are quite a few fascinating Workshops at higher Levels.

I am not really competent to discuss Treasure Island yet, as I have not had time to play it enough to judge. It appears to require an investment in 'real' money, however, which is one reason I did not explore it further initially. There is a type of Sunscreen that is required if you wish to explore the Volcano. I do not see an option to obtain that Sunscreen without investing in the game. Apart from that, the game was rather enjoyable, combining a Treasure Hunt with Farming. You basically journey from island to island to dig for Treasures. Each Island has a different goal in terms of the Treasure Collection you can find there. It appears that you usually will not be able to complete a Set by yourself. For example, on the Island where you must find a set of five Tiki Gods, you will find only four of the five, finding one duplicate Tiki rather than finding the one that would complete your Set. You therefore must find a Neighbour to trade Tikis with you.

On your home island, you can farm. There is a Gem Tree that is rather intriguing. Gems can be used to unlock barriers and probably have other uses as well. I haven't explored the game enough to discover much. One irritating aspect to the game was that, having played it a couple of times to 'clear' three islands, I was rather upset when, loading the game again, it failed to recognise me, forced me to begin as again even to the point of making me take the tutorial...

I will play Treasure Island again if only to review it properly...

Finally, I would venture to state that Frontierville is in a different league from all the other Facebook Games. For me, the point of Facebook games is to entertain without forcing a player to invest too much time and energy into any of it. If I want to play a 'deep', detailed game, I will choose Harvest Moon or Rune Factory, not a game that I must play on my laptop. My controls are not that precise, for a start, and it is annoying when precise actions are required that I cannot perform successfully. I do not mind interacting with other players. It can be very interesting to see how other people landscape their Farms or Islands. On the other hand, when a Game tries to force me to 'spam' every individual who ever has contacted me, I rebel. Almost EVERY Facebook Game will ask if you wish to use your email lists to find new Neighbours. I never have allowed that option to be initiated. I do not consider it ethical.

I have been playing another Facebook game called 'Castle Age' but as it is an RPG rather than Farming Simulation game, I will discuss it in a separate post.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lovely Farm on Facebook

Another fairly new game on Facebook that has caught my fancy, with its gorgeous graphics and its rather whimsical Items. I am writing a little mini-guide for this game as well.

Early tip: You will be strapped for cash in the early stages but whenever you visit a Neighbour, you can earn +1 XP and +5 Coins for each Crop that you water or fertilise. You will be given the option to water three Crops and fertilise three Crops at each Neighbour's Farm. If you wish to be a good Neighbour, therefore, you must keep a few Crops growing on your Farm.

I have created a little Guide for Lovely Farm. You will find it at:

Freyashawk's Lovely Farm Guide

Lovely Farm Guide on IGN

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Comparison of 4 Facebook Farming Simulation Games

Having spent far too much time playing Facebook games in the past week, I now feel that I may have enough knowledge of them to make a superficial comparison between the four Farming Simulation games I continue to explore.

The four games are: Farmville, Fantasy Kingdoms, Farm Town and Lovely Farm. Comparisons will be made of the Graphics, Music, Gameplay Options, Need for Neighbours, Need for Currency and Complexity.

Of the four, it is Fantasy Kingdoms that gives me the greatest pleasure, but I have come to realise that it is not as much of a 'game' as the other three. It is more of an ongoing work of art in which the player participates. Like a Zen Rock Garden, it calms my spirit and gives me joy simply to visit my Kingdom, to revel in the beauty and magic of the Crops that are ready to be harvested and then plan the visuals of my next planting. It really is more about landscaping than strategies for making money, although it helps to make enough Mana to purchase the items a player likes the most, and the ones that will yield the most Mana for future purchases. Furthermore, if you wish to be able to perform MORE landscaping, you need to expand your Kingdom and that requires Mana and/or Kingdoms Cash. Fantasy Kingdoms has the most beautiful Music as well. It is pleasant to listen to the melody while one visits. As far as Neighburs are concerned, you really need only one in order to send gifts back and forth. Having more gives you the ability to visit them to perform tasks, earning Mana, Awards (Charms) and Experience, but in view of the fact that the game makes no restrictions as to the number of Gifts that a Neighbour can send, the need for Neighbours is negligible in comparison with the other three games.

Farmville is by far the most socially interactive of the four games. You ability to succeed is linked to the number of Neighbours you have, as you can obtain rare and interesting items if you are aware of the Farmville messages they post. There is a great deal of constant interaction between the game and Facebook 'Walls'. Game Feed is recommended for this reason. You can obtain bonuses, Lost Animals, Mystery Eggs and participate in Co-Op Games easily only if you interact frequently if not constantly with your Neighbours.

The music in Farmville is decent and it has excellent sound effects where the Animals and farming actions are concerned. The graphics are really quite stunning in their own way, especially where Limited Edition Themes and fertilised Crops are concerned. There is far more need for strategy in this game than one may realise initially. It is rather nerve-racking at times, to be honest, and the game itself lends its weight to this anxiety with almost constant prompts. Whether it is a prompt to publish an accomplishment on your Wall, to ask other players to Fertilise your Crops or to send Gifts to them, the stream of messages make the game a bit laggy and do not enhance enjoyment at all. On the other hand, if you wish to obtain rare and interesting items, you will be grateful for the fact that other players are surrendering to the game's prompts and advice to post THEIR achievements and experiences... Farmville really is aggressively social in nature and you must reconcile yourself to this reality if you wish to be able to participate in all of the options that are available.

The least attractive aspect of Farmville in ethical terms is the way it is geared towards real investment on the part of the player. The introduction of collections and themes that are very limited in time and their marketing forces a player constantly to resist the seduction of the call to purchase Farm Cash and/or Coins.

I foresee another problem in Farmville for any player who invests a great deal of time and energy in the game. The players who are at very advanced levels may have extraordinary farms, filled with rare and fascinating items but the clutter often diminishes the beauty significantly. Unlike Fantasy Kingdoms, where Storage is free and offered at the start of the game, Storage Buildings must be purchased or constructed in Farmville and the less expensive of these have the capacity evidently to store no more than two items. Recently, I obtained a couple of Neighbours who are very advanced in the game and although I marvelled at the variety and quantity of wonderful items they had, their farms were NOT beautiful in a coordinated fashion. Instead, they had corners on their farms that were beautiful but in other areas, the farms reminded me of the village dump. Animals in enormous quantities packed as tightly as sardines, all waiting for harvest appears to be a common feature in the farms of players at Level 30 and above.

In Farmville, new options appear only at specific Levels. For example, although I obtained an option to collect Bushels of Crops to share from a Stall, my Neighbours who were at Level 10 were unable to collect them. Similarly, when I obtained a Garden Shed to store bouquet of Flowers, the same Neighbours at Level 10 were unable to take any.

It is at Level 20 evidently that the Co-Op option appears in Farmville. This is an option to accept a time-limited Job to produce a single Crop in quantity. When you accept the Job, you can invite other Neighbours to participate in the task with you. If all players who volunteer persevere to the end and the task is accomplished successfully, every one profits. (I wondered previously why so many farms I visited were dominated by a single Crop. Now I know.)

Farm Town promises to be extremely interesting to a player who has the patience and determination to reach the levels of experience and income that will allow him/her to unlock advanced options. It is very much like Harvest Moon in many respects, although the graphics are almost horrible and the music is primitive (but not unpleasant). If you add a body of water to your farm, you can fish, for example, and there are many different varieties of fish that can be caught. Furthermore, as in Harvest Moon, the varieties of fish are location-specific. In other words, a pond will yield different types than a beach. Unlike Farmville, where you can harvest Ranch Products from Animals even if you cannot house them in appropriate Barns at first, in Farm Town, the Animals you own will be useless until you can purchase the appropriate housing. They simply wander about aimlessly. You can interact with them by petting them, but you cannot collect any product from any of them unless I am missing something critical here in terms of gameplay. I continue to play Farm Town only for the promises that the future appears to hold. I want to try the fishing option in particular... Without investing real money in the game, I initially believed I would have to wait until my Levels increased sufficiently to earn me the price of a Pond, River or Beach.

The optoon to store your Crops and to visit the Market do not exist at low levels of experience in Farm Town. I only realised this when I asked a player at low levels to test it. She had only the option to harvest her Crops immediately. Furthermore, although I have the option to till two squares at once at my current level, the player at Level 7 does not have this option yet.

When you have the option to harvest and store your Crops rather than selling them the moment they are harvested, you then can go to your Storage and choose to visit the Marketplace.

At the Marketplace, you will be given the option to sell any or all of the Crops in your Storage. You will have other options as well. Farmers will be milling about the Marketplace and they will ask you to perform specific tasks on their farms. I have no idea if these farmers are real players or characters generated by the game itself. In any event, I first visited a farm in order to harvest Crops, including Garlic, a Crop I have not unlocked yet. When I returned home, half of the Garlic I had harvested was in MY storage as well as having earned Coins for my labours.

The next job I was offered was to catch fish from the river on a player's farm. So, even without the money necessary to purchase your own water source for your farm, you will be able to fish if you go to the Marketplace and wait for a fishing job! As with the Crops I harvested, some of the Fish I caught (50% of them actually) were in my Storage when I returned home.

Lovely Farm is the game that has a true Harvest Moon atmosphere, at least for me. It is totally silent, however, which means that it has to rank lowest where Music is concerned, having none whatsoever, unless I am missing a control. The graphics are wonderful, although they are not in the same category as the extraordinary beauty of Fantasy Kingdoms. The Crops are large and luscious. Unlike any of the other Farming Simulation games, you must water your Crops at a specific point in the growth cycle. It therefore is more realistic and more like Harvest Moon where the farming option is concerned.

Lovely Farm has ordinary Animals such as Goats, Pigs, Cows and Ostriches, but it has magical Fantasy Animals as well. There is a sort of folktale quality to the graphics in the appearance of the Forest Hut in which you live and the furniture you can purchase. It requires more effort perhaps to succeed than a game like Farmville, simply because you must pay more attention to your Crops. The ability to obtain all sorts of items and bonuses from the Game Feed in Farmville does not appear to exist in Lovely Farm. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. The advantage lies in the fact that you can play your game undisturbed. One other quality that makes Lovely Farm different from the other games is the fact that any Gifts you receive instantly go into your Gift Box in the game itself. You are not required to access your Facebook page to wade through thousands of Requests to find them. There is a limit of being allowed to send only one gift per day to any Neighbours or Friends in Lovely Farm, but that limit is shared by Farmville and Farm Town as well.

So far, it is the people who made Fantasy Kingdoms who have shown themselves to be the friendliest and most generous. They appear to work tirelessly to add new items to the game, and always add one or two Free Gift Items as well as the items that must be purchased. Daily rewards in the form of Mana are given and emails tend to offer items of some value as well. I am very impressed with Sneaky Games, even though the name is a little sinister!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Fantasy Animals in Lovely Farm

Lovely Farm is a slow-moving game in some ways, especially when it pertains to income. You can send a gift to a Friend only once each day, which makes it impossible to obtain much income by selling gifts or using them to generate money quickly. On the other hand, the graphics are really gorgeous and for some reason, remind me very much of Harvest Moon. The ability to send an Ostrich as a Free Gift to a friend at the very start was very compelling and added to the 'Harvest Moon' feeling I had.

Sadly, unlike Animal Parade, you cannot ride an Ostrich but it does lay eggs. Pigs, another Free Gift, appear to be rooting for Truffles, although I have not reached the point where I can 'harvest' any.

Crops are large and very attractive. A good strategy, if a player were focused on the game, would be to grow a large number of fast-growing Crops such as White Radishes in order to raise Levels and add to income as quickly as possible. Stupidly, although I did this, I missed the deadline for the harvest and they all withered.

This rings me to another aspect of the game that makes it more like Harvest Moon than Farmville. You need to water most Crops if you wish to be able to harvest them.
Like Farmville, however, you can help a neighbour by watering or fertilising THEIR Crops, although there is a limit of three portions of Water and Fertiliser and you are charged if you use them. It goes give experience, however. I have not quite discovered how often the fertiliser and water option appears yet.

What enchanted me today about the game was the fact that I finally had sufficient income and the required Level to purchase a Ranch Animal called 'Fluttergoat'. The Animals, like the Crops, are large and attractive. I did not know how large a Goat with Wings would be, but when I placed him, I discovered he was a decent size and absolutely delightful. I do not know what product he will produce but expect that it will be unusual and appropriate in some way.

The Fantasy Animals are defined as 'Seasonal' in the game which probably is the equivalent of 'Limited Editions' that will be offered only for a specific limited time period. Other Seasonal Animals available now are PorkyBees (Pigs with wings who are striped black and gold), FlyingCows (Black and White Cows with colourful balloons attached to them), FancyPigs (Pigs who have been painted with all sorts of colourful pictures) and finally, LadyCows (a Black Cow with black and red Ladybird wings). Of the four, I like the Fluttergoat best, although the LadyCow is rather interesting as well.

I do recommend this game to fans of Harvest Moon. Where Farmville has a rather impersonal, commercial atmosphere, Lovely Farms appears to have been created with real love. One expects a certain number of glitches and 'bugs' when a game is made by a smaller company... It is more discouraging to discover that a game like Farmville, enormously successful, is not only filled with glitches and 'issues' but does not have a friendly or helpful support system to go with them. From what I have seen on the Lovely Farm Forum, the people in charge of the game do make an effort to respond to players' concerns and problems. It is early days yet, but Lovely Farms has made a positive impression on me.

Fantasy Kingdoms Guide on IGN

A little guide I wrote for Fantasy Kingdoms now is published on IGN, although I created a page for the game as well:

Fantasy Kingdoms Guide on IGN

I still am extremely impressed with Fantasy Kingdoms. Although there are marvelous Buildings and Artifacts that require Kingdoms Cash to purchase and easily might seduce a player into investing real 'coin of the realm' in the game, they make it easy to play the game and to enjoy it without investing a single penny. Furthermore, I have been rewarded again and again for my interest in this game in the brief period in which I have played it. When the game was inaccessible, I received a Chest containing 900 Mana with an apology. I had not contacted any one or complained, incidentally, but the apology and Mana Chest (currency) were generated automatically. Yesterday, an email containing a 'coupon' for an Artifact, the Unicorn Topiary, ordinarily purchased for 2000 Coins, was sent to me. I contrast this generosity and concern with the unsatisfactory responses that I received so far from Farmville Support.

Although I love Fantasy Kingdoms personally because the concept and graphics are developed from a traditional 'fairytale' universe, I must make it clear that this game does not require deep strategy. It is more of a visual delight and a form of creative 'meditation' for me, in that designing the landscape of a Kingdom is sheer joy and dissipates some of the stress of my daily life. If a player is looking for a game that requires strategy, Fantasy Kingdoms would not be the answer. It is a work of art in which the player can participate and shape to his/her liking.

On Friday, I wrote: I am not certain if I will pursue work on a guide for Farmville any further, even though there is some strategy involved in playing the game successfully, as I am not entirely happy with a response I received from Zynga when they failed to deliver an item promised to me.

When I contacted them initially, they simply requested my User ID and the platform on which I was playing the game. When I sent that information to them, however, they then demanded a screenshot of the Carrier Pigeon message.

The Zynga response on Friday asked me to capture a screenshot of last week's Message from Zynga on Farmville telling me that they were going to give me Carrier Pigeons. The Carrier Pigeons never were given to me. Other players have received them. I did not. I am at a loss to know how I possibly could capture a message that appeared on the screen almost a week ago. It seems to me that as they generated the message, they should have a record of the offers they make to players, and it shouldn't be my responsibility to supply the impossible. It is a trivial matter, and I only post the issue here because I have been reviewing Farmville, along with a few other Facebook games, and this response reflects poorly on the company.

On Saturday morning, I received another email from Zynga about the issue. This one was from a different representative who apologised for the fact that I had not received my Carrier Pigeons and announced that they had been sent to my Gift Box. The issue therefore is resolved now. I still am rather disgusted by the endless hoops through which the first representative made me leap, and especially his demand that I perform the impossible, but perhaps he has received a little scolding from his superiors. I certainly have no cause for complaint in the quick response of the second representative and his willingness to solve the problem at once.

I therefore intend to continue to work on the little Farmville Guide at this point in time. Once Grand Bazaar is released, however, I doubt I will have much time for anything else!