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Andy's Workshop


Game chat and stories along with some articles probably for the more geeky among us,
all written by me, Andy.

Click here for my Frontierville Addiction Therapy Guide

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Lots Of Little Pies Or One Big One...?

This has been a subject I've so far avoided talking about, firstly because it's not funny and I prefer to have a joke, secondly because it's a very divisive issue and thirdly because usually I'm either described as a Zynga Stooge or criminally Anti-Zynga, often both of them at the same time.

But, I've decided to do it. I'm going to blog about Horseshoes.

I think, in our lucid moments, we all agree Horseshoes, Crowns, Farm cash etc is a necessary evil. It's how Zynga make their money and it's what keeps the game alive. No shoes, no money, no Frontierville, they're a business.

A world where everything is available for easily obtained coins is a cute little utopian thought but unrealistic (as I fear, are most utopian ideas... yes, I'm a cynic.)

But what I do often wonder is whether Zynga might be better served looking at having lots of little slices of lots of different pies, and not a few larger slices of one big pie.

Let me explain without food related analogies... Every time I look at the prices of stuff in the market or when Limited Edition animals come out, one thought comes to mind, "too expensive".

[Boring bit, I'm going to use UK Pounds... for reference £1 = US$1.57 | C$1.60 | Aus$1.54 | 1.17 Euros]

Now, at the moment Horseshoes cost 8-10 pence per Shoe (unless you buy the daft 1000 pack, then it's just over 7) and because I'm disturbingly sensible about money, that's the way I tend to think of it.

Take these new Australian limited edition animals for example. Altogether they cost 200 Horseshoes which ranges from £14 - £20 depending on which package you bought. Now me, personally, that's a little above my "impulse buy" threshold.


How about some other "real world" prices for market items?

Pardoned Turkey - 100HS - £7-£10
24 Hour Master Farmer Boost - 130HS - £9 - £13
Melons - 2HS each - 14p-20p each (they're like Pringles, who'd only have one?)
Dr Cluck - 80HS - £6-£8
Gold Fountain - 60HS - £4-£6

How about the most expensive item in the market? The Jungle Gym is 250 HS, that's £18 - £25 for that one decoration.

To me, even though I agree with the IDEA of Horseshoes, this doesn't seem to tally up with real life when I look at the actual COST, not in fantasy money but real money.

If those items in the market were for real cash, there is no way I'd even look at them. My working life is not going so well that I could sit and think "couple decorations, couple animals, field of Melons... yeah, it's only 100 quid or so..."

I will happily admit I have an impulse buy limit, and I do buy add-ons etc for games from the Playstation Network (my other gaming platform) but for ME, a single item in a game needs to cap at about £1-£2 at most.

To provide some balance, some things in the Market DO go under that, and are what I'd suggest are ok pricing. Badgers for example are 5HS each, and 30p-50p is what I'd call a sensible-ish price for an item like that, but even then... I'd say to reach most impulse buy limits you should probably get a couple for that money.

And so, finally, to the point. In marketing you have a couple ways of selling things.

If you make something big and exclusive, millionaire playthings (luxury yachts, sports teams, Bugatti Veyrons) you can afford to make them expensive and aim for an exclusive clientèle.

On the other hand if you make normal things (toy boats, sports video games, Fiat Puntos) you look more at smaller profit margins and mass sales.

You're pretty much choosing between expensive to a few people, or affordable to many.

To me, I think Zynga need to lean a LOT more towards the second option, and they might find it pays them in the end.

Ask yourself this question: Which is better, one person spending £50, or ten people spending £5?

Hands up who said the one person...

Hands up who said they're both the same...

Hands up who said the ten people...

Congratulations to the last group, they're the right ones. Even though the gain at that time is exactly the same, those 10 people may well return, they may well tell friends, they may well suggest to others to go spend money.

Even if the cost of horseshoes stayed the same, my own view is Zynga could see an upturn if they just became a little more sensible with their pricing. Instead of 200 Horseshoes total for the LE animals, what about 50? Instead of 250 HS for the Jungle Gym, what about 25?

Give us more for our money.

Buying items in games like this is almost 100% impulse. Like grabbing a chocolate bar in the supermarket or ordering that Green Day CD you find marked down on Amazon. Just like impulse buys the more you do it, the more addictive and easy it becomes.


Give people quick, simple cheap ways to spend horseshoes and it becomes easy to click here for a badger, there for a boost, anywhere for a mission requirement. I'm talking things that cost one or two horseshoes. Yes, I'll use the phrase again, IMPULSE BUYS.

Zynga get more people buying horseshoes which will likely level out the difference in prices and we get more boosts, decorations and cute animals to play with. Win-Win scenario.

There aren't that many types of Horseshoe person, the types are:

Will buy it no matter what - These people will continue to buy Horseshoes, whatever happens. They won't go away if Zynga make them cheaper, in fact it's more likely they spend the same money. Most folks I know don't buy Horseshoes for a specific reason, they're just a treat they buy for themselves each month or so.

Won't buy at all - Zynga can totally ignore the this set of people in marketing considerations. Some folks just won't buy at all. Anything from these folks is a bonus, but I'll tell Zynga something for certain. You won't get them to spend by keeping things the same.

Would buy if it was cheaper - Ding, ding, round one. Here's the market in the middle that would be the place to look because THIS is where extra buys would come from. Group one won't stop, group two won't start, Group three is undecided.

I would argue a lot of group three people would look at horseshoes if everything in the Market that's desirable wasn't so damn expensive.

So, Zynga, let me appeal to your capitalism if nothing else.

What do you have to lose by dropping the pretty daft prices on a lot of market items? What it won't do is stop people who currently buy shoes from buying them. What it CAN do is make new people buy them.

Horseshoes are necessary, we get that. But they also don't have to be an expensive plaything.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Tale Of Two Villes

This will be something of a confusing post for me to write because when it comes to the subject matter, I'm a little schizophrenic.

Today, children, we'll be talking about Farmville, Frontierville and common influences.

Let's get this bit out the way first... I used to play Farmville, I don't any longer. I quit because I was bored with no missions to do and also I disliked the fact we suddenly had to ask neighbours for items to build things.

Looking back the second reason seems a bit strange as I'm now playing Frontierville, a game who's spamming and marketing techniques are second only to Viagra emails in their invasiveness and, yes, annoyance but back then it was a simpler time, a few requests here and there and the devs hadn't got the daft idea everything needs a building.

Anyway, I'm meandering off the point.

The simple and unavoidable fact is that we will get ideas from Farmville hit us in Frontierville, in the same way as Frontierville was the first game to really be mission based, now they ALL do it. It does work both ways.

What we shouldn't do though is automatically assume that it's going to be a bad thing when we appropriate ideas from Zynga's biggest game and trot out the old favourite...

"It's becoming just like Farmville" (For shorthand purposes this will now be written as JLF)

...without actually trying the feature first.

Copied things aren't necessarily a BAD things... I can cook a mean risotto from a recipe card and I reckon a lot of folks reading this will have enjoyed tasting Nigella's pie or Ken Hom's chow mien.

For me, the defining thing is whether it FITS with the game, and whether it makes the game better.

Recently the old JLF was rattled out for the addition of Mastery. It's had it's problems (we didn't need two buildings doing the job of one and the popups might be a little on the large side) but on the whole I LIKE mastery, once the missions were done it was just something that sat in the background. If you wanted to do the repeatables to gain mastery, you could, if you didn't, it STILL rewards you every time you feed or harvest but at no cost to yourself.

I'd also say the rewards, and the reasoning, are right for the time. The more pioneers worked with certain crops or animals the better it would be, the better they'd get the more they'd be able to deal with better animals. Arguably the badgers are daft and anachronistic but the rest of the animals were all well designed and true to some semblance of life.

Mastery was really a case of JLF being used pretty much for the single reason Farmville had it first. Even though mastery itself was fairly passive, it was just an instant dislike because Frontierville weren't first.

On the other hand we had the survey the other day for animal breeding, something I was vehement in my dislike of, on the page, on the survey and in conversation with Zynga.

It was wrong in so many ways. For starters I don't think Pioneer folks took all that much trouble to breed pigs with stars on, cows with fleece or goats that could do algebra. Secondly it didn't really seem to ADD anything to the game, apart from yet another chance to fill our Facebook walls with spam (have you got a Frontierville only friends list to set posts to be private to? If not, you should.)

So there we go, two ideas, both from Farmville, one good, one terribly, terribly bad. The genesis of an idea can't be the defining factor of whether it's good or not.

And so on to crafting, the latest item to spawn a chorus of JLF. My view, if you're interested, is it looks intriguing. For me it fulfils a number of the important criteria:

1) The building looks good and looks like something from Frontier times (there's a reason I don't have an Inn L'Amour and I'll be deleting and rebuilding my bank)

2) The feature itself is right for the time, probably even more than the Farmville version. Pioneers made their own stuff, there wasn't a nearby Ikea to help out.

3) The items to craft are nice, right for the time (I'm ignoring the Robo Chicken, I will in game too) and actually in one case something people ASKED for.

In the past when decorations have been talked about White Fences were mentioned, and here they are. I also think the stony paths look so much nicer than the dull and dreary yellow lines that are our current paths.

Ultimately though, I might change my mind when I actually TRY it. But there's the nub of this whole post, trying it. My positive thoughts are so far based on the feature itself, any negative thoughts will be the same. I'll judge the feature on it's own merits, not simply because another development team used it first.

Farmville will have good ideas, and bad ideas, so let's not be gameist and trot out the JLF too often, eh?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Little History Is On The Cards

There's something of a kerfuffle going on at the moment due, largely, to something of a misconception about something in a recent game feature, so I've decided to cut through sensationalism a little and try to bring some history to bear.

I'm talking Tarot Cards.

So, a quick game of true or false.

Tarot Cards were created by pagans for witchcraft.
Tarot Cards are only used for divination.
Having Tarot Cards means you're going to use them for evil means.

All false.

Let's look at some REAL history. Tarot decks first appeared in the 1400s, not as a divination tool but to play the inventively titled game, Tarot (Or Tarock or Tarocchi), a game something like Whist or Bridge.

The opening player would lay down a card, the following player would have to place a card of the same suit down or a trump, or "throw away" a card of a different suit. The person with the highest card won the trick, and then the totals of the cards (each card had a different value) were added up for each persons tricks and the winner the one with the most points.

That's it, that's pretty much how to play Tarot, as someone who is confused into a stupor by Bridge even I can understand it. It was a common European card game, especially France and (always highly religious) Italy. Around 325 years give or take since the first game of Tarot is recorded is the first recorded instance of them being used for some kind of divination, and it wasn't until someone made a vague connection in 1781 that things started the innocent card game along a road to 'corruption'.

Tarot is even still played today, Germanic countries are a hotbed for it, and none of the players are evil, the players are enjoying a card game, for that's what Tarot is, despite any twists that can be made with its cards.

Now, it's fair to say that yes, Taromancy is a commonly known method of telling the future, but let's look at other items commonly used for divination.

Chickens - They would sacrifice them and tell the future from their entrails.

Stars - One word, astrology...

Water - Hydromancy, the color, ebb and flow, or ripples produced by pebbles dropped in a pool.

Fire - Pyromancy, casting something into the fire and checking for smoke etc.

Numbers - Numerology, still used today when people think they can divine things about you from your birthday etc.

Singling out Tarot Cards for singular dislike is as logical as saying we can't craft fire in the game because people have used it in the past for divination... and as for those pesky chickens in their dark satanic coops... No, we don't think that.

Tarot Cards are a tool of divination, just as chickens, water and the stars are, but that's not their PURPOSE. Nothing inanimate is inherently evil, it's all down to how it's used.

There are stunning misconceptions about Tarot, but the simple answer is this... it's a card game. An innocent one where the participants' only attempt at telling the future is to plan which card to play, and all players stay fully clothed and un-sacrificed for the entire performance.

Frankly it makes me laugh to think of all the heavy metal bands who think they're going all satanic with their album or track names when actually they could have called them Gin Rummy or Patience...

As an example to finish... would you be offended by a crucifix? What if it was simply placed upside down? It's amazing what innocent objects can be evil when used wrong... but that's not the object's fault and not a reason to shun it.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Andy Goes To Town...

[Please note this is an Andy Imagination post. I do not have ANY information about future plans etc, this is all in my head]

I've been having a little think about our homesteads, partly from seeing shots etc from the Halloween Ghost Town.

Something sprung into my head that would do two things that I'd quite like. Open up a chunk of homestead and allow me some more design flair.

It's no secret I love to design my homestead, in fact I've always been a fan of urban planning type games. Sim City, Zeus, Emperor etc, etc. City builder games.

By now my homestead design is becoming more limited with the amount of new buildings etc we're getting. It means everything is becoming very utilitarian, all business, no pleasure. And SO... here's my Andy's Imagination Idea for October.

A separate "Town" map.

We've seen the precedent, the greenhouse and the Trail both take us to separate maps that allow us to do different things, so why not have a second area for "Town" leaving our original areas as the Homestead.

The thinking is simple. The Homestead would be our "Farm" (I know, I know, folks hate the Farmville reference but that's what it is.) It'll have crops, farm buildings such as the barn, rodeo etc. It would be where we grow crops, tend our animals, it'll be where we and our families LIVE.

The Town area would be for the town buildings, Saloon, Inn, Church, Shops etc. It would be where we go to shop, to use amenities, to have a little drink...

So Homestead to work and live, Town to use buildings and shop.

The town wouldn't need to be very big, in fact it would only have to be, at most, the size of our very first homestead, only about 65% or so of a fully expanded homestead at the moment.

It would clear all the room off the Homestead that "Town" buildings take up, and let us explore our design flair. As well as being able to design our Homestead we could have a lot of fun designing "Town". It would be a much more logical place for statues, flowers, all those random decorations we've picked up.

We could design a main street, a school district with a playground, a church area with a proper design... Personally the increasingly tight surroundings of the homestead make me less interested in playing, tell me I have a 20-25-a-side Town area to design and I'd be as happy as Larry on nitrous oxide.

The other great thing it would bring is realism. Back in the Pioneer days you'd often not get a big town attached to a farm, they'd be split, at least partly. We're pioneers after all, not town planners, so why not let us have our pioneer homestead, all farming and self sufficiency AND a town to go to for fun etc.

In one fell swoop it would (well, for me at least) make the game better and stop folks worrying so much about homestead space, simply by moving stuff to a Town it would open a heck of a lot of that up.

I don't for a minute expect it to happen, but as with most Andy Imagination posts... I'd really LIKE it to...

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Are you suffering from RSD? - A Dr Andy Health Warning

There's an illness hitting the Frontier these days and it's not Prairie Pox... It's a new condition called RSD.

Request Surfeit Disorder.

I've got it, friends have got it, I think there's a chance you might have it. It's not airborne or carried by insects or water, it's not caught by exchanging body fluids in interesting ways, it's caught from Frontierville.

CAUSE: Far, far more requesting than is enjoyable.

Up to that point the patient will have found their life increasingly revolving around begging friends and associates for anything and everything needed before they can complete the simplest tasks.

SYMPTOMS: Include apathy, frustration, a lack of energy and diminished willpower.

The afflicted will show a general lack of enthusiasm about things they need to do in life and may twitch or generate a nervous tic when hearing the words request or ask. They will gain an intense dislike of Birthdays and Christmas when they're given things and may even find themselves incapable of functioning in social situations such as shops or dining establishments where requesting becomes an integral part of the customer-business dynamic.

Eventually, if untreated, the patient will find themselves on the other end of the spectrum. They'll be institutionalised into requesting and be unable to perform even the simplest of day to day tasks without requesting. For example when going to the bathroom they'll feel they have to request 15 toilet rolls first.

They're unable to cook without being handed the ingredients first, or even brush their teeth without a gift of toothpaste. Soon, everything in life will need 15 of SOMETHING handed to them... which will cause undue stress in all aspects of their home, social and, especially, sex lives.

CURE: So far unknown. At the present time patients must simply be cared for as best they can be. Be prepared to to pre-empt requests and give them items before they need to request them.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

My Frontierville Homestead

A little look inside the Frontierville mind of me...

As you can see, I lean towards realism with my homestead, there's very few daft animals (NO clothed ones!) or decorations as I really can't be having with dressed chickens or rings of fire. I also like having a nice thick forest around the back and some debris around just for realism (and it REALLY helps when needing bears...).

You might notice there's some buildings missing, they're either stored or deleted. If I don't like the look of a building or it doesn't feel right it's gone, Detectives Office is deleted, Pet Shop/Kennel is stored. It also counts for upgrades, I didn't like the look of the upgraded Inn or School so bam, back to basics on them. I'll do the same with the bank once I've got all the upgrade goodies, delete and back to level 3 or 4 that looks the most realistic!

So, here it is, the Homestead of me... (Click the picture for a high resolution version)

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Pioneer Trail - My View

I thought I'd indulge myself with a little blog, I haven't done one of these for a little while now and I've decided it's time to dust off the Workshop writing bench and rattle on about my feelings over The Pioneer Trail.

You'll excuse me if I only use the name for the new expansion part of the game because for me, my Homestead and everything in it will always be Frontierville and I will determinedly carry on with that name like a good old codger should.

The graphics on the Pioneer Trail are just stunning, I love the little missions and I enjoy the distraction immensely... however... Just like being a burglar in J-Lo's house there's a real danger of a big BUT just around the corner.

I've had some time to dissect the Trail now and I think I've got a good little handle on what it is, and I think many problems it has right now stems from people thinking it's NOT what it is...

The Trail is a side mission, an expansion, a diversion. It's the special features on a DVD or the cupholders in a car. To me the Trail is a Bonus Feature.

It's best played in short bursts, nip over, do a few things, do a couple missions and come home again, ready to take off to it again when you have a few minutes spare. It's not a book to sit down and read from cover to cover, its a gossip magazine to be picked up when you have to waste 5 minutes waiting for your sister to pick between all 97 pairs of shoes, or your mate to decide which brand of cologne is going to make him "lucky" tonight.

The problem is, because of how it's been released, perception of it has been altered. For one, the name change... What I play is Frontierville, and it has an expansion pack called The Pioneer Trail... but because of the name change people are seeing this new extension to our old game AS the game...


They're getting a backwards view on it. Instead of seeing it as Frontierville with an expansion pack attached to whittle away a little more of our precious existence in folks are seeing it as The Pioneer Trail taking to the fore and Frontierville being given the back seat, the supporting role, the Biden to their Barack as it were.

It also hasn't helped we've been bereft of new content for Frontierville over the last week or so. It's a totally understandable course to take, so much has been pushed out for the Trail to overwhelm it all with some new stuff on the Homestead would have been a little daft.

HOWEVER... here's the but again. By having no new content for the Homestead it exacerbated the feeling that the Homestead is becoming secondary. I know for sure new content is coming for the homestead, I can sit content in that knowledge, but other people aren't that lucky.

Already on Frontierville Express' Facebook page I've taken questions from people who are sure the homestead will be no more, that nothing new will be brought out for it, which is extremely wide of the mark, but it's an understandable fear.

Because of the combination of the name change and the lack of missions we see Frontierville being marginalised, pushed to one side. We also then, psychologically, see the Pioneer Trail taking over at the head of the table... the only problem is, it doesn't have the oompahs to be the top dog.

I love the Trail, I love it for many reasons. But I love it as a game extension. It's never long into playing I itch to get back to my Frontierville Homestead and play a mission, ANY mission... Hell, by this point I'd redo Canning...

The Trail isn't long enough, deep enough or filled enough to be the main game, it's only ever going to be a side dish in our Frontierville feast.

But the problem is with everything going on how it is, folks don't see it that way, folks see this as the big kahuna, the top cheese, the Godfrontier... and it's almost damaging the game itself. Expectations are being put on it to be a GAME in it's own right, not simply an extension of one already here.

It will never be a game in it's own right, but Frontierville is. Frontierville is a game that's kept me coming back for a year or so now, and it's Frontierville that keeps me coming back today.

I love the Trail in the same way I love cream on my hot chocolate and apps on my iPhone... as something to add spice, as the cream, not the hot chocolate.

I fear for the game if people play The Pioneer Trail and think that it's the main game, I fear for it if new players do likewise. It just isn't big enough or strong enough to hold up main game status. So I can only hope other folks think the same as me, that we've been given a great add-on, a wonderful extension to Frontierville, but NOT a whole new game in it's own right...

...and Zynga? Roll us out some homestead missions will you?

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What type of Pioneer are you?

As with most things in life it's quite easy to slip the majority of Frontierville players into some kind of category. The way you play and interact, the things you say and do.

So, see if you can find yourself on this handy guide of Frontierville playing types...


Playing Style: It's all about that number in the star! The High Riser always thinks the bigger the better when it comes to any number in the game and especially Level. 

They create mathematical theories and formulas that would make Stephen Hawking reach for a calculator to plan out the times they'll be on, the crops and animals they can place and the amount they can fit into their homestead and what decorations they can buy for the most XP gain... every single XP point is treated with a reverence usually attributed to holy relics.

Likes: Granny's Gut Punch, White Roses
Dislikes: Glitches, non-XP rewards for missions

Most Likely To Say: The flower pot gives 14.4XP per 10 coins spent but the stone edging only gives 14.3XP
Least Likely To Say: The Gut Punch didn't work on those crops... oh well, never mind


Playing Style: The Mayfly has an attention span that makes your average toddler with Attention Deficit Disorder look like meditating Buddhist. Long term missions? Pah! Ask again in 2 hours? Piffle! 10 tends of 8 hours each? Tosh!

The Mayfly will spend the evening of any newly released mission frantically scouring walls for building or mission items, will badger friends to send things and will burn boosts like there's no tomorrow. If they're not the first person to post a mission complete brag it's a deep and personal failure, and having to harvest any crop that takes longer than clover causes them physical pain.

The strange flipside of this is that The Mayfly is also impatient for more things to do, so will burn boosts and Horseshoes to finish a mission... then become agitated and ask repeatedly "when will we get a new mission?"

Likes: Animal Ready Boosts, Intuit Boosts, Red Eye
Dislikes: Waiting times, challenging missions

Most Likely To Say: Does anyone have any bear claws?
Least Likely To Say: I like this mission, it'll take me some time to finish


Playing Style: If there's one thing The Completionist likes best it's everything... They live for the icon on a collection that says they've completed it, they love their victory garden with 5 of every crop, they religiously count and tally up the missions to make sure nothing ever passes them by in the game.

Be it mystery animals, limited-time decorations or a special reward item, the easiest way to annoy The Completionist is to have something they don't and put it right in the middle of your homestead, where they can see it every single time they visit.

Likes: New Collections
Dislikes: Running out of time in a Timed Mission

Most Likely To Say: I'll trade you for that Pheasant?
Least Likely To Say: I don't think that's available any more, ah well, I didn't miss much


Playing Style: The Sickly One is very very ill. They've been made sick by the game and want everyone to know it, usually by pointing out every flaw and issue they're coming up against followed by the phrase "I'm sick of the game and quitting!" and an exclamation they'll never enter the game again.

Strangely they'll usually be seen a day or two later, telling everyone the problems they're having and exclaiming they're sick of the game and quitting... then a couple days later again... and again... and again... Just make sure you never tell The Sickly One a solution to a problem, that takes all the fun out of it.

Like a lifelong alcoholic The Sickly One always knows the best day to give up is tomorrow, but don't let that stop you from telling everyone you're doing it today and why!

Likes: Glitches and drama
Dislikes: Fixes and solutions

Most Likely To Say: I'm sick of this game!
Least Likely To Say: Hey, there's problems but it's no big deal!


Playing Style: The Casual Cowpoke really doesn't mind anything that happens in the game. He/She do the missions when they can and are happy for them to take as long as they take. They don't use boosts etc to speed things up and just enjoy growing up some crops and animals to feed.

They take glitches in their stride and any problems are met with the phrase "Oh well, I'll try later".

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I'm kidding, we all know this player doesn't exist!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Business of Pleasure

Let's start this blog off with a nice simple statement that most folks may agree with.

Zynga will sometimes do things we don't like.

It's that simple and I imagine there's many folks out there nodding their heads and reaching for pitchforks and flaming torches but bear with me a moment.

Some of those things are just gaming choices, such as creating a mission lots of people got angry about when they were told by other people they should get angry (What I call the Daily Mail or Fox News Effect). Or how about a simple scripting issue such as Hank and Fanny getting married and Bess getting with Flintlock?

With that sort of thing we're merely at the whim of the scriptwriters and game designers in much the same way as we have no say in who gets married in our favourite soap opera or who dies in the latest movie we've rented. We're playing a storyline that's being written for us.

Some things, however, can be simply explained away due to the oft forgotten fact that Zynga are a business, and this seems to often be the problems folks seem to find hardest to grab.

Take for example the current issue brought up by the recent Rodeo missions, to finish the Rodeo you need to send a request to a non-neighbour. They just have to click on it, then can just delete it and begone... and yet this has caused rather a lot of consternation among players.

Let's ignore the fact pretty much all of us should have a friend or family member who won't mind a single request on Facebook and look at the basic business reason for doing this.

When I thanked everyone yesterday for helping us reach 10k members I pointed out the fact we never would have got anywhere without word of mouth, without people sharing the page, telling their friends, getting us out there.

Well, Zynga need this as well, and unlike us, this is their livelihood, they're a business. All of you put your hand on your heart and ask yourself how often you've posted a status or a link saying "this is a great game, come play it!"

Anyone? Hands up? Thought so.

We just don't do that with Facebook games very often, so for things like Frontierville to thrive it needs it's own way of getting out there into the wider public who may not be aware of it. It needs the brag posts on walls, it needs neighbour requests, it very occasionally needs us to ask someone who doesn't play, TO play.

We're lucky with FTV, it's a game that can be played perfectly with just a half dozen good neighbours as opposed to many Zynga games which promote having lots of neighbours, such as Mafia Wars, with a distinct advantage to number of neighbours.

That in itself leads to it's own problems for Zynga, with the ability to set up privacy lists meaning folks who aren't interested in the game never have to see posts about it they occasionally (and it's been an EXTREMELY rare occurrence in the year it's been active) will ask us just to reach out and invite someone new.

Hell, we do it ourselves when we run a like/share contest... the difference is we're not keeping track of member numbers to be able to sell advertising. If someone wants to cross promote using Zynga (such as Intuit or Rango) then one of the main things when pricing it up will be "how many people will this reach?"

The more people on the list, the more money they make, the more likely we are to see a more stable game (hire more developers etc) and new game features.

Of course the other issue is the cry of "they want us to buy horseshoes!" that springs up when something tricky or time consuming is brought in.

Well, the simple answer for that one is... yes, yes they do. HOWEVER, before folks get too excited, you very rarely HAVE to.

By my count we need a steady supply of horseshoes for one single thing in game, the Horseshoe Pit badge, because it requires us to make "paid" throws to get. I never spend horseshoes but I still have serious doubts whether I'd have enough for that badge... but, that's one thing.

Every other time it's usually the difference between completing something in 6 hours and completing it in 6 days, no other time in the game do we HAVE to buy horseshoes.

(I'm not even going to dignify with a response the silliness of the occasional suggestion glitches are deliberately put in or things are deliberately throttled from appearing just to make us buy shoes.)

That being said, they do want us to, of course they do. I want people to buy my art canvasses or hire me to photograph their event or make them a website, it's called business and that's what Zynga are. Complaining that they want us to buy horseshoes is like complaining that Yahoo make us look at adverts if we don't buy Mail Plus or that Walmart/Asda want us to buy the more expensive stuff they sell, it's what they do.

Yes, yes, we may not like it but we all secretly know if it was up to us the game would be self contained, no bragging, no asking, no requesting... some folks might even want a daily mission that was nothing more than harvesting 5 clover. This is because we are all selfish, me included, and we want the game to work for us, in exactly the way we want it to work.

Unfortunately to do that, we sorta need to go write our own game, and I dunno about you but me? I'm not that good... and if I was I'd want to share it around. And get people to tell their neighbours about it. Funny that.

We all, as players, will have a complain now and then, I do it, you do it, everyone does it. But we also need to remember that Zynga aren't just here to make us happy, they're here to make us happy... and make money, it's what a business does.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Penguin Mutiny (FestiveVille), Winter Animal Storage...

As they watched the farm animals being moved into their new livestock pens and barns the winter animals felt sad, knowing that yet again they'd been ignored and not allowed in.

Derided for being "not realistic enough", or for even looking silly in their lovely hats and antler headbands they were sick of being looked down on.

The leader of the group, the antlered penguin, had decided enough was enough... he gathered his friends around and told them a tale of a magical portal that would take them away to a far off land where they could be themselves...

The Winter animals travelled for days, leaving the frontier behind them and moving further into the forest until... there it was, the inviting sign of the magic gate, a rough arch of rocks with a strange red and white glow inside it...


One by one the animals passed through the gateway, some brave, some scared, not knowing what was beyond, not knowing whether thy would appear on the other side the same as they were or if they'd ever see their friends again, all the animals drawn together by their differences, made into friends by the adversity against them and their feeling of being outsiders.

The last to pass through, the smallest of the sugargliders, took one look behind him at the forest, stuck out his little tongue and prayed, as he stepped through the portal, for somewhere to call home.

The small sugarglider felt himself being drawn along, lost and a little dizzy in the red and white swirls around him which went on forever, looking ahead he saw a little speck of whiteness in the swirls, getting closer, and closer and closer...

...until he tumbled out of the vortex and landed in a soft snowdrift that had been piled up to cushion his fall. He looked up into the smiling face of the antlered penguin and heard the laughs and happy noises of his friends as he looked around at the new land he'd ended up in.

The ground was all soft new snow, cold but welcoming, the animals had already begun to build igloos to live in and the reindeers had found a small forested area with an ice fishing lake in.

He smiled and ran to join in the fun, planting his cane with his stocking home on near his other friends and knew... FestiveVille was home!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Still doing canning? Get your motivational poster here...

It's fair to say there's still going to be folks doing those canning missions and feeling a little dejected about it... Well, never fear, Frontierville Express is here!

Feel free to download this classically styled motivational poster and gaze at it every day before tending to your oxen and planting more wheat!


You're welcome...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Five Stages Of Canning Grief

[This blog has been based on the Kubler-Ross Model of the 5 stages of grief]

Be honest, we're all feeling it right now. Canning. THAT mission.

To misquote Winston Churchill... Never have so many complained so much to so few... Emotions are running high, feelings are broken, all manner of psychological effects are coming to the fore. So I've decided to don my scrubs, affect a limp and present another in my series of Dr Andy M.D. posts to help YOU, thorough this troubling time.

Mission grief is a tricky and often painful time for everyone involved, but it's long been held that the process can be defined by 5 stages, so take a look below and see just where you are in the process of Canning grief.

1) Denial - "It's an April Fool Joke". "Haha, they'll never do these."

Denial is a temporary defence and the shortest held stage. To be honest we're putting this in here for completeness as no-one can still be feeling denial in any stage. The Canning is happening, whether you like it or not, it's a certainty that even if you don't have it yet, you will.

Eventually, everyone will Can. It's just a fact of life.

2) Anger - "How dare Zynga do this!", "This isn't fair!"

Anger is a dangerous stage, the person who's Canning will lash out at people involved and attempt to find someone to blame. Their reasoning is often distorted at this point and can be tricky to deal with. Because anger has become the dominant feeling anyone who shows an alternate view ("I'm enjoying the canning missions" or even "I've completed the canning missions") can be subjected to resentment and jealousy.

The anger stage has no place for positivity of any kind.

3) Bargaining  - "Just take half the food?" "Can we buy food with coins?"

The bargaining stage begins when the player realises that the Canning does exist and no amount of blame will change it. The player then decides to bargain in the hope that canning will disappear, that they can ask nicely enough and have the mission removed or push for changes to the mission.

They understand that Canning is going to happen, but are desperate to lessen the impact. Players may even be driven to such futile activities as online petitions or Facebook groups.

4) Depression - "I'm just going to quit!" "I can't be bothered playing the game any more."

Once any hope of bargaining has failed Depression sets in and often leads the player to illogical statements such as wanting to leave the game entirely. They retreat into a shell and refuse to see the good of the game and those around them as the experience has been tainted by the Canning.

It's inadvisable to use either extreme here when dealing with a depressed player, "It's going to be fine" and other positive statements will be ignored and can create the same resentment and jealousy as Anger. It's also highly recommended to avoid telling someone to go ahead and quit. Although the shock of going through with the action might jolt them from depression (the vast majority do not plan to go through with it) in some few cases it might cause more problems than it solves.

5) Acceptance - "OK, let's just get on with it.", "You know what, if I have to do it, I will!"

The final stage, Acceptance, is the hardest to reach for some but the best for their mental wellbeing. When reaching acceptance the player realises that the Canning Missions exist, they realise they're not actually that important and they either decide to ignore them and not do them, or decide to roll up their sleeves and do their best.

Eventually most players will reach acceptance, especially if kept apart from other players going through earlier stages. A player in stages 3 or 4 can easily be pulled back to stage 2 and lose all progress if coming into contact with other stage 2 players.

Obviously for the health of our members we at Express Hospital hope for a stage 5 conclusion for every player. Remember you can always get the help you need in our Support Group where fully trained admins and the experiences of other players will assist you through these troubling times.

Giving Everyone a Work Ethic...

One of the most divisive issues in Frontierville (I'm ignoring Canning, let's just agree it's not actually that big a deal?) is the existence of NPC's, Non Player Characters.

By that I mean Bess, Fanny, Hank etc, all the "townspeople" who stand by their business or home and can be interacted with.

For everyone who likes having them around there's someone who complains they're in the way or cluttering up the place. However, one thing that came to the fore when I was researching this (I do actually do a bit of research for some of these posts, for the hedonism post I asked my neighbour's cat, she said "meow" which is cat for "you're so right!") was that folks are better disposed towards the "active" NPC, Bess, than the passive ones (always best to have someone who's active not passive...) and if the other NPCs DID something... Perhaps they'd be happy with them being there.

And so, I got thinking. What could the NPCs all have as a "Daily Bonus" to make folks better inclined to have them on their homesteads? Cue Andy's Imagination....


Bess - Exempt, she's already a worker... Her hire command is brilliant, although a word of warning if you haven't found out yet... it DOESN'T count towards mission totals if you use her.


Fanny - OK, so Fanny is the teacher, seems pretty obvious what her bonus could be. I reckon that Fanny could work in the same way as a Horse Boost, we go talk to Fanny, she "teaches" us and for the next 20 or so tends we get double the usual XP for whatever it is we do.


Hank - I think, as Hank runs the General Store he could be used to fulfil a quest folks have made to us often. How about once a day you could visit Hank and buy a meal for coins from the store? Obviously have a sliding scale and not be too expensive but just once a day, the chance of buying for coins any meal you could buy for food (the HS only ones would obviously be exempt).


Doc Auburn - Three words. Full Energy Refill. He's the Doctor, he's surely got some restorative stuff to get you feeling perky again when you don't feel up (I think it's the blue diamond shaped tablets behind the chemist counter...)


Finkerton - Detectives don't just find missing people, they find missing things. Such as wishlist items or needed things for buildings... So once a day I think Finkerton could work the same as a care package. He goes off and tracks down something you've "lost" that'll help out.


Granny - With the general plot and personality of Granny this one was the easiest of the lot. Surely once a day Granny could get that shotgun out she loves wielding and act like a free Varmint Cannon! Click on Granny, select the varmint you want rid of and BANG... The old gal gets to use that bang-stick of hers for something useful instead of scaring the young-uns!

So anyway, that's just my idea of what they could do, I think it's both good for us as players and realistic (we have to remember the game limitations are there for a reason, buying meals for coins all the time or having an NPC shoot Horseshoes out simply isn't going to happen for the same reason cinemas don't have a bucket of free DVDs of the movie out the front).

It seems to be the NPCs are currently an underused resource...and one some folks aren't keen on. So perhaps his kills two birds with one... Granny.

It's an extra special reward for reading my post today... a brand new NPC! Yes, if you've managed to read all the way down here you've been rewarded with the limited edition "Invisible Esta" avatar. This admin-based NPC will sit invisibly just off your homestead and, once a day, can be clicked on to give a hint or answer to one game related question!

Lucky, lucky you!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life...

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad.
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle,
Don't grumble, give a whistle,
And this'll help things turn out for the best...
- Eric Ide/Monty Python

[WARNING: This post contains rampant positivity, good language and scenes of a happy nature. Reader discretion is advised.]

OK, I've been guilty of a couple of slightly moany posts lately, but I also believe in giving credit as well as criticism where it's due... plus I think we need this.

How much new stuff do you think we've received as we slip along gently towards the 100th day of the year tomorrow, especially considering the biggest complaint by the end of last year was people "being bored"?

Well, I'll tell you and I think you might be surprised at my count, we've had;

148 new missions - 1.5 a DAY give or take
13 new buildings - about 1 a week
2 building upgrades - Storage Shed repeatables and the new Mark II Coops
3 new full NPC characters (Bess, Doc Auburn and Finkerton) plus Jacques.
3 new crops (roses)
7 injured animals plus a pet dog
6 new mystery animals
1 new varmint (Coyote)

You know, that's quite a lot, and as much as some of them haven't gone down smoothly we've seem some truly brilliant additions and it has to be said that percentage-wise there are easily more hits than misses.

It was last night's addition that really sparked me, I looked through the information and thought... you know what? This is a cracker. The News Stand has taken an idea that's been seen in other Zynga games, expanded it, made it relevant to the theme of the game and, at least in my mind, come up with a winner.

It does interaction so much better than any other Facebook game I've played with the little personalised messages (without the annoying message posts of Farmville) and the ability go gift something specific instead of random.

The Blacksmith has also been a classic addition, even with the "blasted internet" problems that plagued it to begin with people were desperate to get their hands on a feeder and harvester, and I can understand why... I love using those tools, I will feed a SINGLE animal with my feeder just to get the extra XP and another nudge to my badge totals.

How about game features not building related features? Bess can be a godsend with her extra help a day, Coyotes (while disliked by some) are well designed and a good answer to a technical problem without becoming too controlling or banning something outright, and I love having a pet dog.

Even the art team need a little bouquet in my view. The forlorn look of the injured deer that tugs the heartstrings of the hardest pioneer, the little oft-overlooked glitter like the eyes peeking out from the curtains in the Detectives Office (something that gives Esta the heebie jeebies so extra points for that), those psychotic looking hunched over coyotes... Whatever we can say about the game it's not that it doesn't look great.

There are glitches and occasional skips, there's a little bit too much begging in missions and there are problems with the Flash player which, contrary to some beliefs, has nothing to do with Frontierville (like blaming a racing driver for crashing when his brakes fail) but sometimes we need to look past that.

When something happens that we don't like it tends to put a dark cloud over the whole of the game. It's fair to say the new canning missions haven't gone down well with some players, but it also needs to be remembered that that's ONE mission thread, and both avoidable and non-time limited.

I'm not going to write soppy little love notes every day about this game, there's still the occasional problem, feature or mission I'm not keen on, but for every Finkertons there's a News Stand, for every popup there's a fun mission.

I've had my own issues with the infamous Canning as any long term reader will know, but I also look at the list of the new features and can easily forgive them a single series of missions I don't like, because I know that the next thing that appears, in this case the News Stand, has a chance of making me realise just why I love this game.


If life seems jolly rotten
There's something you've forgotten
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps
Don't be silly chumps
Just purse your lips and whistle - that's the thing.

And...always look on the bright side of life...
Always look on the light side of life...


Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Moral Of The Story? Hedonism.

Welcome... please sit down in a circle and attempt to fold yourself into the lotus position while I expound upon philosophy, as I have had something of an epiphany this morning.

I was, as many are right now, thinking of the Canning Missions and I realised that the whole mission thread has a moral to it, a small game lesson, if you will.

That moral is Hedonism.

I don't mean half naked toga parties in a dodgy Ibiza club (although that would probably take our minds off the missions) but the deeper philosophical idea that spawned the name.

"Hedonism - Philosophy: The belief that pleasure is the driving force. Tenets include that we should live for the now as we do not know what the future holds."

When it comes to Frontierville we really need to start living in the NOW, and not spending so much time looking at or worrying about the future.

For ages now I've had a bundle of adult cows and pigs on my homestead. The pigs were for the expansion and I can't even remember what the cows were for, possibly to get leprechauns? Not a clue, I'm fairly sure they were around long before that.

I haven't sold them because "I might need them"... the fear of some random future mission requiring me to feed or sell adult cows and pigs has me leaving them cluttering up my animal pens waiting...

...waiting...

...waiting...

...waiting for something that may never come and totally ignoring the complete lack of logic in the situation. I could have grown and sold up to 10 sets of pigs in the time those have been stood around making the place look untidy. I could have grown oxen or crops... anything that would have been constantly getting me in food. But I didn't. I waited in fear of having to delay completing a mission for a few days.

I finally sold all those cows and pigs this morning and picked up 2'000 food or thereabouts. This annoyed me slightly, made me annoyed at myself. Let's say between first growing them and now I could have grown and sold another 5 sets of the cows and pigs. That's 10'000 food that I've missed out on because of fear and impatience.

I'm not happy with me for that.

To use another example... The cautionary tale of the 37s Expansion and Peanuts.

Many folks had 100 peanuts planted on their homesteads ready for the expansion on March 1st, which never appeared. In fact for non-horseshoe customers nothing happened until March 24th instead. A lot of those people kept their peanuts ready for the expansion, secure under a wither protect.

Let's do the maths. In 24 days they could have harvested and replanted 7 loads of Peanuts and still had the final batch ready to go on the day the expansion came out properly, that's 3'500 food right there. Again food some folks missed out on because we were all too busy looking forward and not wanting to wait a few days for them to grow once the Expansion did arrive.

We need to learn to be hedonistic in this game, THAT is the lesson the Canning Missions are teaching us. We need to take the missions as merely part of the game. We need to stop letting the missions tell us what to do and dictate our lives. Stop being scared that we'll disappoint the missions by not doing them straight away, they're there for US, not the other way around.

We need to stop planning ahead to finish a mission as soon as it arrives (and then be bored), just live for the now. Worried about selling those pigs because a future mission might need them? Just sell them, it takes 3-4 days max to regrow them to adulthood, a bit of waiting never hurt anyone.

I reckon by living in fear of future missions and keeping adult animals around that I don't need I've probably cost myself uncountable thousands of food.

I need to live for the now, I need to enjoy the game for what it is at that exact moment I'm playing it. Unlike life we may know what the future will bring a lot of the time in Frontierville but that doesn't mean we have to plan for it and whittle our gaming lives away by waiting for it to arrive.

The whole point of hedonism is to raise your happiness and pleasure by doing what you can RIGHT NOW that makes you happy, and from now on, that's how I'm going to play this game.

I'm still planning on being alive and being a Frontierville player in six months time. If it's taking me that long to complete missions? So be it, I bet I'll have still had fun along the way.


Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Dear Oregon Trail, It's Not All About You

Dear Oregon Trail,

We need to talk, I'm getting worried about you.

I know that YOU know how much so many people want you. You look around, you see so many people who want to get you, want you inside their... game.

It's got to you, and I'm not sure I like the person it's making you, you're becoming me, me, me all the time.

Everything that's coming out lately you're HAVING to make all about yourself, you won't just let the game be. You've become the guy who gets himself in every single photo in a wedding, even the one that's supposed to be just the bride and groom.

The Doctor's Office? It became about you and medical supplies.

The Blacksmiths? You went around telling folks that it was about making tools and supplies for YOU.

You know what I heard the other day? That someone was scared to sell the April Fool's Flaming Poos because someone told them they'd need it for... guess what? Yes, YOU. I wonder who might have told them that, hmm?!

Now, the Canning Missions. If it's not about making us use food before visiting you it's about having to do the missions to open you up, even though the missions themselves have a totally different plot line that's nothing to do with YOU.

Seriously man, suck it up.

I can't say this any more clearly. It's not all about YOU. Sometimes you've gotta stop being so arrogant and up yourself and let Homestead have a go in the limelight. He may be getting on a bit, he may be a little rough around the edges and overused... but have respect for your elders, without him YOU wouldn't exist.

You'll have your time in the limelight Oregon Trail, stop trying to leech out all of Homestead's time in the public eye before you get to put on your glitz and glamour and go live.

Best Wishes,

Andy

Friday, 25 March 2011

PopOff...

I think it's fair to say...

Esta's Blog needs readers, Visit Esta's Blog?!

...that at the moment there's...

You seem tired! Why don't you ask someone to make you a sandwich?!

...something of an annoyance...

Frontierville Express Souveniers, now 30% off in a SHORT TERM SALE! (That you'll see every day for the next two years)

...in Frontierville.

Did you know other people will do things for money? Why not pay Andy to come around and do things for you?!

Popups. The bane of the rest of the internet and now the bane of Frontierville. It's not like they haven't ALWAYS been there but I think most sane people are seeing something of a frustrating increase in amount.

I just sold 30 Goats for a mission. THREE times I was told to go visit a neighbour and just managed to get back in time to click the doobers and keep my streak alive for the second Pony Express delivery of the day.

Three times in just a short couple minutes (I wasn't driving them individually to market) could be deemed excessive.

Thankfully so far this morning I haven't had Bob hawking his wares at me with yet another Horseshoe sale... are we supposed to think we've been specially chosen? Is this supposed to tempt us while they're cheap? How stupid do we look? Humble Bob is the only man who has a sale on more often than a sofa warehouse. If anyone has managed to buy full price Horseshoes lately they were incredibly unlucky considering that so far I think there's been a 2 minute window on January 22nd when he WASN'T trying to offload them for 30% off.

As for Jack... oh Jack I do feel for you. I know you don't wan't to be an annoying git, I really do, but what they've got you doing... have some self respect, man!


You spent the first 20 levels of our Frontier lives teaching us how to do something, and now you spend the rest of it watching over our shoulders, reminding us and stating the bleeding obvious.

Go visit a neighbour! Yes, we did that VERY early on, I haven't hit my head or had a lobotomy, I know! I also take this as an insult to my social ability, like in real life I'd need someone to pop up EVERY 50 SECONDS and tell me to phone one of my friends, send a text or compose an email.

I have some social skills, there's also the fact half the missions at the moment seem to REQUIRE us to visit neighbours, so this is ridiculously undesired.

"You've run out of energy!" Yes, I know. That's why my avatar has stopped working. If you'd just SHUT THE HELL UP I'd be able to open the market or my inventory and get some more energy but noooooo... with the machine gun three popups that appear every single time I dare to use all my energy it's nigh on impossible. (You've run out of energy, ask friends for energy, BUY energy while waiting for a friend do send it...)

For starters I have lots of excellent friends, I have many, many tasty lunches, dinners etc in my inventory and food out the wazoo. I'm not going to spam my friends and use up gift requests for a measly 3 energy points. If I ever did it would mean I was in dire straights and therefore unlikely to want to BUY a meal while waiting... who would annoy their friends for a pitiful 3 energy, then go off and buy a meal because they're impatient?

Seriously, stop it. NOW.

I love the game and I totally understand the need for some kind of marketing but it's got too damn much. annoying ruddy popups every 30 seconds is not the way to keep people playing your game, it's the way to annoy them the heck away.

Have you noticed popups have been vanishing on the internet recently? It's because everyone considers them the second most annoying thing ever to spawn from this World Wide Web of ours (coming in a close second behind Justin Bieber) and companies have been finding better and less frustrating ways to get the message across... it might be worth you thinking of doing the same, or at the very least make it so we can play for a few minutes before feeling a deep desire to smack an old pioneer around his beardy face.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Seedy Side of Town...

[Be aware, some of the contents in this 'humorous' (relative term) post may not be for the young or easily disturbed and adult themes are used. Just like Esta when she's got her ready-for-work face on, approach with caution.]

We often get requests from people for certain buildings, especially when a new one comes out and the same things are often mentioned, things which would have been around back in Frontier times especially.

So, it got me thinking... What would have been around back then we WOULDN'T want to build on our homesteads... and thus a post was born.

Some of these buildings have been mentioned in passing and some are just off the top of my head, so allow me to put on my best tour guide impression and take you on a tour through some of the lesser desired buildings...

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Seedy Sides Tour Guides, your one stop shop for the parts of town definitely on the wrong side of the tracks.

And so, if you gaze to your left you'll see the first building, the Slaughterhouse!

How boring is it to just click on an animal and it vanishes? No more! Now feel the full interactivity of the Frontier self sufficient lifestyle! Click and drag your animals to the slaughterhouse to convert them to cash and food! Make sure to try one of every animal to see every possible animation!

Complete with Bert the Butcher character out front who'll give out interesting facts about which parts of animals go where, let's hope he doesn't explain hot-dogs again! (Hot dogs available from Bert's stall to the left of the Slaughterhouse).

It also solves the problem of those pesky Injured Animals, what if you don't want another one? Well, it's time for some buffalo steaks and a loin of venison!

The building has it's own Slaughterhouse Collection of a bloody apron, a bolt gun, a conveyor belt, tripe and a cleaver (Reward - a butchers outfit). It's also complete with TWO new badge achievements, one for number of animals sent and one for different types of animal.


Now, if you've all finished your complimentary Big Muck from Bert's Burgers I'd ask you to turn your attention to the right because with Bert's level of hygiene you might need this place... Yes folks, Say hello to Sullerton, Stearman and Sprugg, the Frontier's Undertakers!

Mr Sprugg waits patiently outside the building for when you decide you feel like trading in your spouse or simply let them get too close to the new, more dangerous, varmints. Whether it's rattlesnake poison or bear decapitation these people will give your family member the sending off of a lifetime!

Make sure to send your avatars over to them for a proper measuring beforehand and pick which wooden overcoat you'll be wearing from the Undertakers shop menu!

With the Excited Embalmist badge to aim for and the Undertakers Collection (Reward a black funeral carriage) you'll be the Angel of Death in no time!

The Collection includes a top hat, a long tailed coat, a bottle of embalming fluid, lilies and a measuring tape.

Remember to click the updated graveyard for a list of clients and to find the new use for the Flower Shop flowers! Would you like lilies or carnations on there?

Has everyone finished getting measured up? Excellent!

We always leave this place until last because some of our tourists often go missing here... so ladies and gentlemen, there she is!

Upset for the third wheel in the romance missions who didn't get connected up? Feel sorry for poor Jack who's left out altogether?

Never fear! Simply place the Parted Calves Cathouse on your frontier and send your avatars along for a bit of fun with one of the new characters, Tallulabelle and Juan!

You can send any character to the welcoming bordello where they'll vanish from your homestead for a 10 minute countdown, rendering the cathouse unusable. Once the 10 minutes are up you'll pick up a Cathouse Collection item AND 500 coins, your split of the takings.

Once a day you can also collect your own "Daily Bonus" from the building but be aware, although you'll gain a large amount of very interesting experience, this Bonus will drain all remaining energy and has a 3% chance of reinfecting you with the Prairie Pox, requiring another visit to Doc Auburn...

It obviously comes with it's own collection, handcuffs, stockings, leather waistcoat, blindfold and a piece of wood carved into an... exotic shape. This rewards you with the Cathouse Sign to decorate your homestead and a new avatar animation "The Itch".

Aim for the Easy Rider badge for another notch on your... Jackalope belt!

So there we have it folks and... yes? Um, yes, the Doctor's Office is over there... oh dear, we did warn you.

And so, as we come to... yes? No, I haven't seen your husband Ma'am... oh, he went... ah right, yes, he'll be a couple minutes yet.

I hope everyone has enjoyed our lit... YES? No, I'm afraid Juan is not for sale. No Ma'am not even for that much. No Ma'am, he doesn't have a brother. Yes Ma'am, we do sell Juan merchandise of that kind, check in the gift shop, in the curtained off area.

RIGHT, if that's all the questions I hope you all had a wonderful time, please feel free to check the gift shop! Bu bye now!
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Are they all gone? Phew, two lost to Bert's burgers, one more in the Undertakers and 5 unaccounted for after the Cathouse... not as bad as last week!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Zynga Poker? Try Frontierville For Your Gambling...

It may be that you like a quick flutter, the excitement of hoping Lady Luck puts her hand on your shoulder, the intense highs and debilitating lows of gambling.

But Zynga Poker doesn't necessarily have to be your outlet, the way Frontierville works means you end up relying on luck just as much as any game of chance, actually probably more as this game doesn't allow for the skills of card players to help themselves.

One question we often have on the page is asking what the chances are of a random event happening, a collection item dropping or a varmint appearing, even why some debris appears and others don't, and why they're not getting it.

The way Frontierville works in these situations is by rolling a digital die, one with 1000 sides to it. A die that, in reality, would have to be so big it would probably need to be rolled on the Bonneville Salt Flats so it didn't crush any buildings.

Each random event is allocated a range of numbers on the die and if one pops up... ding, ding, we have a winner! (Or loser, depending if you really WANTED that varmint...)

This means nothing is ever certain. I can sit here and tell you the chances of events happening but that's no concrete answer to how often things will happen for YOU. Welcome to chaos.

Let's take Coyotes as the most recent random event.

I cant remember the exact number so let's say *plucking a nice round number from the air* there's a 1 in 10 chance of a coyote appearing. That on the digital die if the roll is 1-100, up pops a coyote.

So, you feed a chicken, the die rolls... nothing, you do it again, and again, until finally you've fed 9 chickens. Because I've said it's a 1 in 10 chance, it'll seem like this final chicken should make a coyote appear! But it doesn't.

So, let's say it's a 10% chance instead. It's still highly unlikely that feeding 100 chickens will pop 10 coyotes. Some folks will have more, some less, some, by the law of averages, WILL have 10 coyotes... but that's more about luck again.

When you roll a die it's a 1 in 6 chance of a certain number appearing... but once you've rolled it you STILL have the 1 in 6 chance, the die, just like the game, doesn't keep a track of the numbers and not allow a second, third, fourth roll of the same number. Every roll is a single event, and that's how Frontierville drops it's goodies.

So, like all good betting shops, we can give you the odds of something appearing, but we really can't tell you a winner.

Almost everything that appears in game does so by a random roll of the dice, and often fears the game is glitched because something doesn't turn up, or in fact DOES turn up, is actually not a glitch but down, instead, to one of the most uncontrollable elements in the world.

Pure dumb luck, today available in two flavours, Good and Bad.

In honour of today's topic today's prize for reading is an invisible poker table for the characters to use when you're not looking. So if you log on one day and find Bess down to her underwear you'll know she's not joining the Poker World Tour any time soon...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Servers, Rollouts and Keeping Up With The Joneses...

I'm not really what you'd call religious, but I do quite like many of the Ten Commandments that God gave Charlton Heston all those centuries ago. Not killing, stealing or lying, respecting parents, not cheating on your significant other... these are all things that I think should translate easily into life for even the most fevered athiest.

One I admit I do have trouble with is the final one, not so much coveting my neighbours wife (he can have her...) but his ass donkey. Envy seems exceptionally difficult to control because it's almost visceral, it's a subconscious feeling of want rather than an active decision.

Envy is also extremely prevalent on our wall and in Frontierville... How many times have you heard the phrase "My neighbour has *insert mission here* and I don't..."

We see those posts popping up for new request items, we read about the missions on the excellent "Frontierville Express" (The folks who do that site must be geniuses...) and we WANT IT!

Well, we have a lot of questions on the page about how stuff rolls out and why it's so slow getting to people, so I thought I'd explain the general method and the reasons why here, with the help of another AAD, Andy's Awful Diagram.

Firstly a little basic info. The rollouts don't follow a set pattern, so just because you or a friend have it first THIS time, doesn't mean you'll have it first NEXT time, they share it around.

Also geography, time of joining, level etc, none of that has much bearing on your server. You likely as not won't have the same server as someone else in your house, or in your street. You'll likely not have the same server as someone who joined around about the same time as you.

When you join you're randomly assigned a server using a formula I don't know, be it the least pressured server at that time, your zodiac sign or your inside leg measurement, not totally sure. But there's no real way to be able to say "Friend A has that server, so should I."

Now, onto the rolling out procedure and the AAD.

Imagine the servers for Zynga as water storage tanks....



As you can see from that, there's a reason the rollouts are slow and come to one server at a time.

For a start if they tried to put the new stuff on every server at the same time the crash would be immense, the grinding would be terrible in the same way as trying to use a computer to copy something onto 20 different hard drives is slow and laborious, there's only so much a computer can do at any one time, the more servers they tried to fill, the slower things would be and the worse problems they'd cause.

Most people might notice slowdown for the few seconds/minutes it takes to load the info into a server. If they tried to add them ALL at the same time, we'd have hours of pure server gridlock.

The other reason is the one I put up there in the AAD.

Although everything is tested in house on production servers in a beta environment NOTHING is perfect and things can still slip through, stuff that only happens when the server load is heavier or when more people are all using a feature at the same time.

No testing is ever 100% certain in the same way as no condom is 100% certain to stop pregnancy. When the Zynga devs send the updates and new stuff out they know there's the chance of an unwanted glitch baby, and although they've taken every precaution, it'll happen.

So by rolling it slowly they also catch problems and glitches from the 1-5% who've had the update already and can patch it or put a hold on the mission before it reaches everyone else.

We've seen some missions come out before that have been put on hold for glitches and personally I'd rather see a solid game feature come out slowly with minimal glitches than everyone having it quickly... but it's broken.

So, next time a mission comes out, feel free to be envious of those folks who have it and impatient to get your hands on it... but remember there are reasons the rollouts are slow and steady, and they're for our our own good.

Your invisible gift is a special one today, 50, yes FIFTY invisible feeders crafted specially in my invisible blacksmiths. Feeding all your much loved invisible animals will never be easier...