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

Monday 28 February 2011

Service With A Smile

This little blog post is coming after a suggestion from Nancy, one of our members.

We often need to tell you to contact Zynga, but rarely go into much detail about how to get the best response and help... so here it is. I worked for over 8 years at a radio station and sometimes part of a shift would be to answer phone calls and listener correspondence. Also, as a self confessed nerd, I've spent a huge chunk of my life running unofficial IT support, both for the radio station and for family and friends.

Hopefully this means I know of what I'm about to speak. Everything here is my personal opinion based on experience and some knowledge, it's not an "official" guide and it doesn't come from Zynga, my only talk with a CS rep has been to try and fix a game problem, not a discussion of how they feel about the players.

I'm also NOT a Zynga rep or anything to do with the company, this is my own feelings from outside, before people shoot off and suggest this was written by someone connected with the company. Right, now that's out the way...

Getting customer service with Zynga is best seen as a two part process. What you can do before you get a hold of them, and then how to treat the request itself.

1) Before writing.

Obviously the first thing to do is come ask a question on our Facebook Wall, we're not omniscient and we can't do a lot for many of the more serious glitches but a lot of the simpler stuff we've picked up answers for. You may find within 5 minutes of asking on the wall your problem is solved, otherwise if it's beyond our expertise we'll send you to the big guns of Big Z.

So, onto Zynga, we get a lot of complaints about generic replies, especially to first emails. Often telling them to try a few basic things before real mention of the problem is made.

The thing is, this needs to be done. More than you may realise, problems can be solved by Occam's Razor, a theory that suggests the simplest explanation is often the correct one.

There's a reason why IT support ask if you've shut down and rebooted your computer, there's a reason tech support ask you if you've unplugged the appliance and plugged it back in again and there's a reason why Zynga ask you to do basic stuff in your browser.

Often it works.

There's no point an IT rep spending half an hour in your computer when a simple reboot would have fixed it. Sometimes these problems are completely unsolvable in any other way because they've simply appeared in the strange world of the computer and have no cause and cure.

Equally Flash games can glitch for the simplest reason, so before contacting Zynga just follow this flow chart:

Does My Game Work?
- Yes -
Reload the Game
Does my game work NOW?
- Yes -
Clear your Browser Cache
and Cookies
Instructions HERE
Does my game work NOW?
- Yes -

Clear your Flashe Cache
Instructions HERE
Does my game work NOW?
- Yes -
Contact Zynga HERE

If you do these simple housekeeping things first then it's one less step out the way. Can't say you wont still get a possible default email but at least you can respond quickly and say you've done all the basics. It's surprising how often doing the above works.

2) OK, we've had to contact them...

Right, this first bit may come across as slightly personal because it comes from answering support calls while being a very low rung on the ladder.

The person on the other end of the line is a human being AND, more often than not, totally unable to help with deep technical queries without assistance. The person you speak to is a customer service operator, not a game developer and not a manager. I cannot stress this next part enough so I apologise for the emphasis but I feel it's worth it.


We know the inherent annoyance and frustration of the game not working. I'm just a player like you and have had the glitches, problems and issues. You know what? The people on the other end of the line probably are too, and they also know the irritation you're feeling.

But going in with all guns blazing, using ALL CAPS and adding punctuation like it's got a sell by date (you all know what I mean!!!!!?!?!?!!??!!!!?!?!) will... well, it'll still get you helped because they're professionals... but personally if I had a choice between a calm letter or caller and a wildly flailing exclamation mark machine cussing at me? I know which one was most likely to get help first.

If I buy something and it turns out to be defective I pop back to the store and I request a replacement or a refund, with a smile because I know the poor sod behind the counter didn't put together that toaster with his bare hands. He takes the money and puts it in a drawer.

Some people on the other hand do go a little wild and end up berating shop staff like they've personally insulted them, just about stopping before slapping them across the face with a glove and demanding satisfaction via a duel at dawn. This is a (somewhat) family blog so I won't go into detail about what I think of them when I see this but suffice to say you wouldn't say it to your Aunt Mabel.

When you're writing to Zynga, be it via email or live chat, just take a moment to read back what you wrote and the impression it gives of you. The Rep doesn't know you personally, doesn't get a chance to go look at your Facebook profile and see a wall full of peace lilies and cute kittens. All they know about you is that one missive.

If I was asked (which I'm not) this would be my short list of do's and dont's for any message to Zynga.

Do... understand that the person on the other end of the line is a person.
Don't... swear. There's no reason at all to swear at a stranger over this. If you find yourself moved to profanity over an internet game, shut down the PC or laptop and go look at some flowers, stroke a puppy, eat some Belgian Chocolate (Americans, I can't push this step enough, taste some Belgian Chocolate and all your worries will leave you... Europeans have a word for US chocolate; bread).

Do... realise the person on the other end can't magically fix all problems, they might need a delay to contact a developer or a higher force.
Don't... threaten that you're going to leave the game, especially if it's because of a time frame. "If I don't get an answer today I'm deleting!" Well, if you're addicted enough you're getting this wound up? You're not giving up your fix any time soon. I see it a lot and strangely it's often the same people over a six month period who've "given up" approximately once a fortnight.

Do... try to put your problem clearly and try to be as grammatical as you can.
Don't... use CAPS LOCK, excessive punctuation!!?1?"!!!11! or txtspk... it's hard enough sometimes to work out what a problem is at the best of times, without the reps needing to break out a 133t dictionary to translate it to their native language or wade through CAPS and !?!s which make things much harder to read.

Basically, I think the answer is to treat the person on the other end with respect, understand game issues aren't their fault and realise that, as Nancy said to me in her email, you always catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Or, as I like to put it, you catch more friends with a smile than a shout.

I almost forgot your reward for reading the whole page! I'm out of invisible animals so... today your prize is an invisible Saloon, placed just off the right edge of your homestead. You can't see it or activate it but every time you log off? All your avatars (especially Jack) run off there for a drink... if the game takes a bit longer to load you'll know it's because they're staggering back to position.

Friday 25 February 2011

Turning the air blue...ish.

[WARNING, may contain language that will offend. But probably not.]

Something that's come up a couple times recently has been the issue of swearing on the internet, even what COUNTS as swearing and whether we should be allowing it on the page.

Now, it'll come as no surprise to most people reading this I am something of a curser in real life. If I smack my thumb doing DIY I do not, despite my Englishness, say "golly, that's a rum do...", I descend into a few choice words that are usually bleeped out on TV.

I think it's GOOD to curse randomly at pain and life in general. It lets out the anger, eases our mind and hopefully stops us bottling everything up until we become small balls of rage just waiting to go postal.

However, when it comes to the internet I do baulk at using profanity on the page. This is partly because I'm an admin and, despite all evidence to the contrary, to try to act like a responsible adult. It's also because it just doesn't seem right, the page is a public space and is full of people I know as members, but don't know personally.

I wouldn't sit in a cafe or pub cursing loudly, I wouldn't sit in a park shouting profanity until my face went blue. I don't believe in swearing excessively in front of children or people who find it distasteful.

But... this then brings up the question of what IS swearing?

Let me pop a few words out to you and see if you faint or not.

Darn, heck, fudge, flip, pish... Or my late father's favourite, bollards.

Anyone feeling a little lightheaded? Any red faces at my vile tongue? I certainly hope not.

For as long as I can remember I've known these semi-curses are out there. I certainly didn't know what many of them were replacements for when I was a kid, I learnt as I grew up and my language expanded to the more adult end of the spectrum.

I would happily use any of those words on the page and be fine if others did the same. They're sort of... swear words with immunity. We know what people mean when they say fudge, but in my mind it loses all it's impact. It's like saying we can't use the word poop because we know it also means sh... you know where I'm going.

What's often interesting to me is how ordinary words became swear words... or when swear words became ordinary words, I'm nerdy enough that the genesis of language interests me, the basis behind words and their history. This often shows up strange times where words have almost changed morality overnight.

I will now say a rude word... those of a sensitive disposition look away.

Right. Poppycock. Any reaction from those not looking away? POPPYCOCK. How about now?

Poppycock, for those who don't know, is a largely English word, usually used by army officers in films to say something is rubbish. "They're going to attack us tonight? Poppycock!"

Here comes the interesting part. That word comes from Dutch originally, and directly translated means soft sh... poop.

I think it's fair to say if you told someone what they'd said was "soft poop" they'd be a little more unhappy than calling it poppycock... because that word has been leeched of it's origins and become fair game.

On the other hand, we have the C word. Four letters, ends in T... I think everyone reading this probably knows the word of which I speak. It's generally held to be the most vile swearword around and still not allowed in polite society or on the TV. Use it in a live broadcast on the telly and you'll be presenting a shopping channel in the middle of the night before you even hear the echo.

Even I will refrain from using the C word, except in the most extreme cases. I'd NEVER say it to someone I didn't know and I'd never use it to describe someone.

However not that long ago, a mere blink of an eye in galactic time, that word was totally acceptable, in fact it was the de-facto word for describing that part of a lady in slang terms. Many bits of literature from around that time use it openly, even the more "serious" ones, not just the generally rude Chaucer etc.

In a relatively small step of time that word has gone from open and easy usage, to possibly the most hated word in the English language... and we don't really know why. One day someone decided it was rude, mentioned it to someone else and, in a wonderful example of the evolution of language, before long it became texto non gratis.

Of course, both geographical and social factors influence language, we can see one such thing in this very game of ours.

The good lady Fanny Wildcat, possibly prime suspect number one for the most innuendo laden sentences used in Frontierville, but it's fairly obvious that the designers were American, or at least not British.

You see, a fanny in America is a light slang term for a bottom. Here in Britain a fanny is the word for something on the opposite side of the pelvis and only owned by the female half of the population.

This does put something of a new slant on some things in game...

It's still something of an allowed term, a mere 3 or 4 on the grand scale of swearing, but it's fair to say it's a little ruder than it is for Americans.

Strangely it actually starts a whole chain of language differences from each side of the pond. What Americans call a fanny the UK calls a bum, which to Americans is what the UK calls a tramp, and in America a tramp is a promiscuous woman... and lo we return to Fanny.

I've spent a few interesting nights talking slang differences between the cross-Atlantic versions of English and it certainly brings up the potential for some interesting misunderstandings... (For example English people, do not ask in New York where the tramps are...)

As for social differences I think the most obvious is the view on blasphemy. I hold my hands up to be a perennial user of exclamations such as "God" or "Jesus Christ" etc. I try to temper that usage on the page because I know we have Christian members who dislike it, although one or two might sneak through now and then when I'm especially stressed.

In a way this goes back to the immune swear words of earlier, just as I will happily use darn and heck, I must admit I also use variations of damn and hell. I'll try not to if I know people would be offended, but I personally feel ok in using them, I don't consider them profane... but of course some people might.

I suppose really the only answer I can come up with, my personal feelings on the matter, are that we certainly shouldn't allow hard swearing on the page, F-words, "poop", definately not the C-Word. But in my mind the immune swear words are ok.

I don't mind a heck, a darn, a fudge, as long as they aren't overused... The official age of Facebook is 13, if a kid hasn't heard a darn or heck by then he or she's probably somewhere that doesn't allow the internet anyway.

It's also about respecting others, as with the blaspheming. I will go out of my way to try and temper language I know would offend, and I would like that to be a general feeling on the whole page.

That's my rambling thoughts anyway, I'd be interested in your views on the matter.

[Today's free animal for reading the entire post is an invisible chinchilla. Called Boris. Enjoy!]

Saturday 19 February 2011

Outfoxing the foxes with a new pet?

OK, my previous brainstorming idea seemed to go down OK so here's another one... (Dear Zynga, if this appears in game I want a creative position ;)) I'll say the same as I did the last time, this is hypothetical stuff streaming from my own brain, nothing that is planned or has even been hinted at to me or in public anywhere.

This is an idea that sprung from my brain just minutes ago while chatting to our upside down admin KT about the potential for new injured animals... so, how about this for something that would combine the injured animal mechanics with one of the most desired animals, add a piquant little mission thread and finish up with a little helper on our homesteads that does more than just be tended.

I'll try and talk you through it as it would work in game...

You're harvesting your chickens, geese or turkeys... up pops the message...

"A fox has appeared and tried to eat one of your fowls but... hang on, what's that? A dog has come from the forest and attacked the fox, driving it off. The fight seems to have hurt the poor thing though... looks like you'll need to nurse it back to health..."

In comes the now-known injured animal mechanic as you get your critter milk to nurse it back to health. However, once it's done it then kicks off a small series of missions...

Pioneer's Best Friend I - Housing the Dog: Your new pet needs somewhere to live if he's going to be helpful around the homestead...

Buy a Kennel in the market (small building, say the size of a chicken coop or even smaller)
Finish the Kennel
Craft a comforter

Pioneer's Best Friend II - Feed up the Dog: Your dog's going to need to get bulked up if he's going to be taking on varmints all day...

Have One Rump Steak
Collect 10 Dinner Bowls (Neighbour Request item)
Harvest 20 Wheat

Pioneer's Best Friend III - Train your Dog: It's time to get your dog out there takin' down those varmints, have some friends help train him into a lean, mean fox huntin' machine and make sure to pick yerself up a trophy!

Hire some dog trainers (5 neighbours, the same as the Barbershop staff or Trap Engineers)
Set your dog on one fox
Have one Fox Tail

At the start of this mission the Kennel would become active as a varmint trap. It'd work like a Groundhog trap and have a perimeter, only it'd radiate out in an arc from the front door so it wouldn't have to be placed in a silly central position, it could be slipped into a corner or against a fence. Once mission III is passed any fox that appeared in the radius would be automatically clobbered. Perhaps in base unarmed state the dog could be moved around the farm like any animal and tended for Collection Items (more on that later) coins, XP etc. Then when the kennel is "armed" the dog would move to be stood on guard outside it, there comes the tactical dilemma of using the dog as a fox trap, or a tendable animal. There would be a single dog limit.

Pioneer's Best Friend IV - Keeping those birds safe: Seems you've got yourself a good friend there, helping out on the homestead. Let him do your job and all your fowls can sleep a lot safer until they're ready to sell.

Catch 5 foxes
Trade in a Fox collection
Sell 30 Adult Chickens

There would be a Dog Collection that drops when he catches a fox or you tend him wish consists of:

Water Dish / Ball / Bath / Dog Biscuits / Dog Blanket

This maybe trades in for a dog-style decoration, a chicken boost or simply XP, coins etc.

So there we go, an injured animal that becomes a varmint trap with it's own Collection etc or could simply be used as a pet... we know the idea of a dog is very popular... as is new missions now and then for the "bored" folks ;)

If you've got this far then thank you for letting me indulge my weird brain activity on you, I've run out of invisible badgers so I'll be placing invisible gerbils on all your homesteads instead. Be careful where you walk...

Friday 18 February 2011

"I'm Bored" - The Most Dangerous Words In Frontierville?

Since the turn of they year we've seen 65 new missions, six new buildings, three new crops, a bundle of new decorations and some game-changing features such as the Kissing Tree, The Pony Express and injured animals.

Thing is... I'm actually feeling a little burnt out.

We know the big problem the developers face. Anyone starting this game gets used to never being without a mission thanks to the long story thread that first introduces us to the game, 38 central string missions and dozens of side missions.

We almost get indoctrinated into every mission bouncing up a new one, or at least when it doesn't one of the other little icons in our mission thread will.

So, when all the missions come to an end and we see nothing on the left hand side some folks get lost, they feel directionless... totally wrongly but I'll cover that later.

That's when we see the dreaded phrase on the page...

"When are new missions coming out... I'm boooooored..."

I must admit in a mission hiatus I do feel somewhat like the stereotypical comedy movie father in the front seat of the car, on the way to a holiday destination.

"Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet? Are the missions here yet?...... "

It makes me worry that the Developers now feel a duty to keep up with this vocal minority. The intensity of new stuff does suggest they're pushing out more and more things, over-reaching themselves in fact, in a hope of placating these few of the many who need newness at all times.

The problem they face is then alienating the silent majority, the ones who don't rush through missions, don't ever buy mission requirements with horseshoes or even those who use less than scrupulous methods of gaining mission items.

It sounds a bit mad, how can anyone complain about there being all these missions around?

Well, let me paint you a picture of a game player... someone who can't get on every day, doesn't have triple figures worth of neighbours and maybe even plays two or three different games, we'll call them Gamer X.

Gamer X is still doing the initial story missions, thanks to arriving a few months after the game released and finding all the new missions that longer term gamers only got recently. Perhaps Gamer X did start early but took a hiatus, lost their computer for a month or two to a problem or was locked out of their game for a bit.

When they log in they see up to six or seven different missions on the go at all times, old ones, new ones, timed ones, topical ones... a collective of missions all requiring their attention and all pleading for different things.

For a time that was fun, having stuff to do... but because Gamer X isn't horrifically addicted (as you can tell just from this, X isn't me) and doesn't want to add a lot of off game friends they find themselves lagging further and further behind. Time limits on posting means it takes up to a week to get mission items from wall posts and with few, or no, neighbours visiting there are no short cuts to any tend/harvest requirements.

Gamer X looks at all this stuff on their screen and realises how long they'll have to work to finish those missions... and they know that at this current rate of release for every mission they finish, two will have been released. They mutter something profane and close the game... knowing for every day they keep it shut the problem will intensify... so they remove it.

There is a problem much, MUCH more severe than boredom, it's burnout.

Boredom is temporary and highly unlikely to stop anyone playing the game, if you have no missions left you're an addict, plain and simple. You desire your fix daily.

For burnout victims the problem is more severe and much more likely to cause folks to leave the game. Sooner or later people will feel buried under the amount of stuff that needs doing and leave, because this is a game, and is meant to be fun... and work isn't fun when you feel under an avalanche of it.

New missions are hardly a great thing to celebrate when you've already got a half dozen on your screen, just like being given another report to write or account to tally when you have four on the go is why work is what we have to be PAID to do...

Boredom in this game is basically an inability to find something else to do when there are things all around... People forget that the game is not a dominatrix, you are allowed to do things without being told to.

Tend animals up to adult, sell them and start again from scratch. Plant crops, watch them grow and harvest them, only to plant more. Pluck fruit from the trees and bonuses from the buildings. Redecorate your homestead or redesign it... repaint all your buildings and give your family new clothes. If all else fails try a quick dose of "Mission Lite" and aim for some badges.

Try to remember the last time you did something in the game that wasn't mission dictated. Forget worrying about what future missions might require as most (read: all) of them are going to stick around for much longer than you need to finish them anyway.

Enjoy the game for the game, not simply for what it tells you to do... Every time you're going to say "I'm bored" think about the people who are the opposite, the people snowed under with missions and maybe even pressing that little X next to Frontierville...

...then go find something on your Homestead to do... If it helps, pretend I'm the game and that's an order. I'll give out some more invisible badgers to anyone who does it right.

Wednesday 16 February 2011

Downloadable Content... a Glitch Solution

(DISCLAIMER: All information and ideas in this post are purely hypothetical, As far as I'm aware nothing like this is being planned and there's zero precedent in Zynga history so is unlikely, I'm just having a nerdy brainstorm)

One of the biggest changes recently, possibly ever, to the console gaming market has been the gentle assimilation of what was originally a PC gaming-only staple, hard drives.

From a quick 5 minute install or update to the 30-45 minutes it took me to install the latest Gran Turismo on my PS3, console gaming has taken a huge leap forward in severely cutting loading times and being less static, gone are the days of buying a game on a cartridge or disc and that was the finished product.

I recently bought Fallout: New Vegas, a pretty new game but already on it's second patch by the time I got it, upgrading game content and features.

Along with being able to patch the game it even allows quick and easy addition of new content, even paid items.

And so, this got me thinking. Surely downloadable content is in the future of web games as well? Not so much for the sake of additional content or patches as they're even easier to do in an online platform... but the much maligned area of loading times.

Elsewhere I've mentioned the problems Zynga have with server issues, especially in the case of chicken farmers etc. Loading all the assets the game requires to function takes time and bandwidth, hammering the Zynga servers hard and giving us some fairly slow loading at times, even major game crashes.

So, dear readers, a vision into a utopian future.

I boot up Frontierville and it loads, swiftly and cleanly. I play it for an hour or so with no glitches, errors or rollbacks and my progress is saved smoothly to the servers thanks to there being minimal server load and a strain on the bandwidth.

I visit some neighbours... each homestead loads quickly and easily on my screen, no matter how many items they have or how bad a chicken farmer they are.

When closing the game I do so with the confidence born of knowing my game status will be kept safe until the next time I visit and wont have been lost in a worrying server-burp along the way.

All this simple, clean and swift gameplay is thanks to one thing... A downloaded asset pack/software insert.

Just think if we could download a small piece of software that would contain the vital in game assets, the flash objects and images that are the in game representations of the animals, buildings, avatars, trees... even debris and varmints.

This would mean every time we loaded the game, rather than needing to download all the required assets and place them over an internet connection from already strained servers they'd simply be plucked from our hard drives at many times the speed of even the fastest cable broadband.

The read/write speed of an internal hard drive (or even an external USB drive) is vastly better suited to the transfer of lots of data than an internet connection.

Even if only a quarter or fans took up the option just think how much freer the servers would be, how much less data would need to fly over those lines... A quick update of the software every time new content is launched would surely be better than the constant drain of the assets being loaded every time we boot up the game?

I'm not talking about playing the game offline, it would never work, we need that connection to the server and to Facebook. Just speeding up the play by making most of the server/memory hungry items locally sourced rather than dragged from online.

The game could still look online if no local assets are found, so playing on a friends computer would still be easy to do, just a bit slower. (I KNOW nobody would play this on a work PC at all, that would just be wro... QUICK! change windows and look busy, here comes the boss!)

As I said at the start, this is very much a hypothetical situation.

Could it be done? I don't know.

Would it help? I THINK so... but maybe it wouldn't, I admit I'm a fallible nerd.

All I know is the idea struck me and I felt the desire to waffle about it. If you managed to read right through the end then congratulations. You get the reward of a very special mystery animal, an invisible badger. It'll sit just off the top edge of your homestead and you won't be able to see it or feed it but you'll know it's there.

Go look, I've put it there now, just for YOU.

Saturday 12 February 2011

Testing the Relationship Boundaries on Frontierville

I'm guessing across some US states there may be something of a furore surrounding one of the three mission groupings for the love tree, specifically the one that leaves Hank and his Gameshow Host teeth on the sidelines and turns the Kissing Tree into a No-Man's Land.

Frontierville has always been open in its relationship permutations, as far as I know it's one of the few online games to allow same sex marriage (interestingly managing this before the real life states like Oklahoma that are presumably the base location for our homesteads have managed to themselves...)

Yes, the game will default once creating a spouse to the traditional opposite sex but this is swiftly changed with a click of the button by anyone who wants the game to reflect their real life sexuality.

Is this anachronistic as the state wouldn't allow it at the time? Yes, yes it is. But considering this is the game that gave us such Frontier staples as a Ring of Fire and a tame bear in a top hat I think the realism bar is already set somewhat lower than Olympic standard on this one...

Of course, what we have now is the suggestion from Zynga that two of the game's main NPC's have lesbian leanings, popping dominatirix schoolmarm Fanny alongside partygirl Bess, showing in some cases blonds like Hank don't have more fun, it's the brunette and the redhead you have to watch out for (possibly with a video camera handy or at least a telephoto lens).

To be honest some of us saw this coming. Back awhile I saw a comment from the lead game designer mooting the possibility of a penile-deficient coupling and my first thought was that it was a great idea, but there would be complaints... and also wondering why Hank himself didn't get to test his other sides... although neither Jack nor Bob make attractive propositions so perhaps the young ginger postman who I shall now christen Richard.

I think we know that there will be emails flying into the Zynga headquarters about this from some quarters, I wouldn't even be surprised to hear Fox News get a hold of it (almost looking forward to Glenn Beck crying and saying it's the end of his country as he knows it) but I know what the response should be from Zynga, even though I'm afraid their polite Customer Service staff won't be able to give it.

"Don't like it? Don't play it."

I think it's telling there are two badges for romance, and to get the second you only need to complete two of the romance storylines, in other words nobody is going to miss out on anything simply for not getting Fanny and Bess rolling in the hay.

Feel it's wrong to see two digital characters of the same sex kiss? (and let's face it, we're hardly talking hardcore girl on girl action here) Just pass that mission on and let Hank play the field instead and kiss both lovely ladies.

I'm not stupid enough to think gaming will change people's minds in EITHER direction. People won't get Fanny and Bess together and suddenly change their sexuality just as gay US servicemen showering together won't "pass on the gay" like it's some water transferable disease. It also won't make virulently anti-gay people change their minds either, and realise there's nothing wrong with the person you love coming equipped with the same mechanics as you have south of the belt.

Homosexuality is a part of life, it has been for as long as history is traced, it even shows up in the animal kingdom and I've been led to believe access to Frontierville is somewhat rare there (they all play Nintendo Wii).

Could they have ignored the X-chromosome only option? Of course they could... but in my mind they've made a good, and possibly brave, choice. In their own small way Zynga have decided to give a little kick to prejudice and intolerance.

The best part? You don't like it? It's a game, don't select that bit.

If the mere existence of it upsets you and makes you think about stopping playing? Dunk your head in cold water, write out 100 times "it's just a game" and go get Hank boinking Fanny just to make yourself feel better. And then Bess... But I think we'll address complaints about Hank playing the field another time (if there are any, many folks strangely believe adultery to be better than monogamous homosexuality)...

Monday 7 February 2011

Homestead Expansions, the two or four sided conundrum.

There's been a smidge of confusion over the Homestead Expansions lately, regarding the sizes and the amount of sides that are going to grow.

Some people have been saying that the two sided expansion is a glitch that Zynga will fix and we should be getting more at some point, but actually the entire confusion is down to a change in policy over how much more land we're getting.

We all started with a 25x25 tile farm, a tile is equal to one plot of crops. The first two expansions took us up by FOUR tiles along each side, so moving from 25x25 up to 29x29 required an all round halo of extra space. Now we only have a TWO tile expansion, we just get those extra tiles down two sides.

See the worlds dullest diagram:

Anyone still awake after that truly terrible use of Photoshop? (It pained me doing it...) Maths actually coming in handy in a real life situation... who knew?

As the amount of space was being decreased for reasons we don't know (server load? Keeping it in line with other Zynga games?) the two side solution is far and away the best as opposed to a single tile on all sides.

Most people tend to design their homesteads to the back right (or "upper" as you look at it) corner. Because you can't see behind stuff it makes it a logical choice. If we ended up getting a single small tile on all sides it would be almost useless unless we were all prepared to laboriously move everything on our homestead one square back and one to the right.

This way all our new space is front and centre which are always the two clearest sides, meaning it's actually much easier to expand and much easier to redesign.

The argument over less space can rage on regardless but personally? I really like it, espeally as I really do have my homestead locked into back right and spreading forwards, to be honest a single square around would be useless to me, I'd never do anything with it. This way Zynga are making sure we do get the most use from our expansion.