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

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 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,