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 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...