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

Saturday 14 July 2012

Bess' Romances... where next?

We can be sure that whatever happens with Bess' uncertain love life it'll involve one thing...


So, I decided to get my crystal balls out and do some prognostication at just what we might end up expecting in another of my Andy's Imagination series.

I'll take a look at the options she has, and try to imagine just what might come of each one...

The interest: Ahh, Ted. The newest option in the field and right now an odds-on favourite, if only because he's the latest trouser in the press. With a mutual love of animals and the wild there's certainly common ground there.

The missions: Surely the barn is no longer a good living place if they do decide to start dating and tie the knot, although for people who don't wan't ore birth missions 1'000 of each species of animal in your bedroom is likely (in fact, hopefully) a reliable method of contraception. Surely a log cabin would fit in with Ted's wild man lifestyle and environmental outlook.

Let's just hope Bess' doesn't have a trophy room of all the animals she blasted on the Pioneer Trail...

So, a new house, and of course, the first all-organic, environmentally friendly wedding.

Odds: 1/4

The interest: Good old Flintlock, the man of mystery. WHERE did he go when he left Bess holding the Horse? WHY did we build him an armoured car covered in spikes and weapons? WHAT happened to his wonky eye? WHO grooms his eyebrows? We may never know...

The missions: Flintlock returns like an Officer and a Gentleman, all white uniform and rousing soft rock guitar. Picking up Bess he carries her from the barn and onto the back of a horse where they ride off into the sunset... We just have to make sure it all happens right, so imagine a lot of crafting and various sneaky plans to keep all other love interests out the way.

Alternatively Flintlock reveals he's actually Albert Bickerthwaite, a shoe salesman from Boston and the entire thing has been an elaborate psychosis ruse to win the feet heart of the cowgirl he fell in love with when cobbling her boots. He returns the socks he stole during the fitting, although we do have a delicate mission to clean them thoroughly first.

Odds: 3/1

The interest: Hank, the man who refuses to let any pre-makeover pictures to ever see the light of day. He impresses single women with his ready grin, his DIY skills and a discount on all cucumbers.

The missions: Well, c'mon... first thing up is the breakup and divorce thread. With Fanny getting the house, the money, the General Store, custody of the children and the moral high ground this set of missions will be something of a doozy. Hank's only hope is to either build his own house or forever move to Beaver Valley with Bess... so it looks like we'll be building him a house.

An interesting graphical sidenote of this will be the new slap animation any time the Hank and Fanny NPCs are within 100 pixels of each other.

Odds: 10/1

The interest: The Forbidden Fanny, love of her life, torn from her by a closed community who refused to allow their free love, driving her to fake a series of "love" interests to try and conform to their narrow-minded "normality".

The missions: Fanny comes clean with Hank that their marriage is a sham, she was just scared of losing her job in the School, he's really just a brother to her. After a handful of missions Hank forgives her and they part amicably, Hank moves back into the general store and Bess moves into the house with Fanny. Hank surprises everyone by admitting his late "wife" before he travelled to our homestead was a transvestite called Geoff, was last seen in La Cage Au Folles nightclub with Jacques.

The final mission will involve having to get a second bridal dress form... If you thought a wedding with ONE Bridezilla was hard, you just wait.

Odds: 10/1

The interest: What can we say? Sometimes love isn't just two people...

The missions: Dealing with the twins is becoming just too much for the couple and we're sick of babysitting the little tykes, so Fanny and Hank hire Bess to be a live in Nanny. We spend 4 building stages moving Bess into the house and building her a Nanny-Flat, although after a few weeks of being in close confines the three of them come to an "arrangement" and Bess' nanny flat never seems to be very lived in...

The final set of missions involve hiring help for the General Store as Hank is finding himself feeling increasingly worn out these days.

Odds: 20/1

The interest: Bess gets completely sick of the whole romance thing and being the local talent for a string of new characters. She leaves the homestead and returns 2 months later as a nun, working in the chapel.

The missions: This will be a multi-thread set of missions, the first thread will be to help Bess find God (preferably not with a solvable Mae-style clue, "Request burning bushes from friends") and leave the homestead. 

Thread two is sending her various parcels and letters to keep her spirits up in the nunnery. 

Thread three is welcoming her back to the homestead and getting her all set up in the Chapel as a fully fledged member of the Holy Mothers of the Frontier Order. (Note, keep "collect 10 Chastity Belts" artwork family friendly, no razor edged blades or spikes.)

As an effect of these missions we will also need new talent and be introduced to Humble Bob's Niece, Not So Humble Tallulah.

Odds: 50/1

The interest: What? It's the wild west...

The missions: █  Censored 

Odds: 200/1

Saturday 7 July 2012

The Misfortunes Of Missions

[Please note: this blog is my own thoughts and ramblings. Anything contained in it does not necessarily mirror the thoughts of the other admins or Express as a whole.

Although I do have the membership of Frontierville Express to fall back on for impressions, there's going to be people who disagree, I don't speak for every gamer, just myself and the views I've got from my own gameplay and the page.]

I'm going to start this post with a sentence you'll have seen a lot.

"Too many missions!"

This got me thinking, is this cause, or effect? Illness, or merely symptom?

See, work with me here. In my mind, too many missions isn't a cause for unhappiness but an effect of other factors. Missions are why we play the game, we should love them... but then it hit me, missions are like food.

Give me a steady supply of duck in plum sauce, chicken jalfrezi or jambalaya and I'm happy, keep it coming (What? I'm built for comfort not speed...). On the other hand, by the second plate of sprouts or goat's cheese quiche and I'll be thinking "ok, too much, too much!".

So, to complete the meandering food analogy, I think our problem lies not in the amount of courses we're being cooked, but the unpalatable nature of them.

I think "too many missions", isn't the problem, it's an indicator of other problems. With that in mind I thought I'd see what those other problems might be...

Sharing is Caring

I used to work for the BBC, one of our studios shared their building with a Chinese Medicine Clinic. People SHARE work space.

Recently one big problem for me has been single use buildings with long convoluted building procedures. We build them, and then they're never used again, specialised buildings with extremely minimal use.

It's most frustrating when there's already similar buildings, the most obvious example being Mae. One storyline has so far accounted for four individual buildings, a Sheriff Office, a Jail, a Courthouse and a Sheriff Academy.

OK, the Jail had it's own graphical interest as you build it up a piece at a time (like Lego) and see the Gratchets hanging out of it, but surely instead of the oversized Courthouse and Sheriff Academy we could have just used current buildings? Attach the courthouse to the Jail, attach the Academy to the Office, both would do the same job and not be out of place.

We're now seeing buildings for almost EVERY mission, and too many of them have a lifespan totally at odds with how long it takes to build them and the space they take up (the recent Ferris Wheel being an obvious example). They take days, WEEKS sometimes to build, but the only reason to build them is because we have to build them... they serve no useful purpose.

I see Zynga's point of view, they survive thanks to viral marketing, wall posts and direct requests. Buildings are a massive source of those posts. But they don't have to be NEW buildings, they also don't have to be buildings we have to keep for no discernible reason. There's two options I see...

1) We upgrade current buildings. OK, so instead of building the next to useless Sheriff Academy, why couldn't we just upgrade the Sheriff Office? We could still need all manner of building supplies etc, but no more space used up.

2) We build them off the homestead. The Ferris Wheel could have just gone next to the Country Fair, not using up room on our steads.

We also need to think about REUSING buildings, or giving them good bonuses like the Clock Tower. Too many buildings right now feel like we're trudging along a marathon for absolutely no reward but  a building that won't ever be used again.

Buy None, Get One Free

These days we're shopping deprived. Even as a man I love a bit of retail therapy, although for me it's gadgets and PS3 games instead of shoes or a handbag (well, not unless I have a "special" party to go to).

Currently we're seriously bereft of shopportunities. I seem to spend as much time browsing my inventory in the hope I'll have some forges or lillies than I do planting items from the market.

Again, we get it, Z need viral marketing, but there's a few things to think of here. For starters, any future players or anyone who takes more than a week to finish a mission thread is stuffed.

Usually at LEAST every other mission has one of these dismal free gift crops that needs sending or requesting. Once that comes out, interest in the previous one dwindles. We're then trapped between the rock and hard place of either begging to be sent them or sending items to other people we KNOW won't want it in the hope they click to return them.

It also renders almost the entire gifting page obsolete, the main reason I wanted to get to level 100 was to be able to send dinners to neighbours and help them in their game. That basic, useful way of being social and helping our neighbours, is now killed.

It also makes a mockery of the constant popup we have in game for us to send things to neighbours, why would we EVER use that when we know we'll need mission items? (Not to mention the fact the things in those gifting popups are, without exception, awful things like breakfasts etc).

Finally, things we should want to KEEP doing, fishing, Pigs, Sheep... game mechanics that we should want to do behind the scenes are ruined because we can't ask for American Moss, Corndogs or Lemon Mint because we're having to ask for new stuff. It takes features designed to be long term and replayable, and turns them into another short term feature, done to complete missions then never touched again.

So, Frontierville, either stop it completely, or do what you did with the mixed tulips and after a fortnight or so make the items market items too, for COINS. Hoping to get one of 20 different things you've decided can only be free gifts (seriously, we're not going to buy them for HS, we're just not) is not fun, in fact it's extremely dull.

Then, if you want to increase gifting? Take the Level 100 limit off being able to gift dinners and put them in the popup, I can say with almost full certainty gifting would rise.

Century Break

We need more clicks. Seriously, I used to think 50 was fine. It's not. 100 would be.

Zynga, let me appeal to what you desire. You want networking, clicks, virals etc. Many, MANY people stop after 50, give us all 100 clicks and it will increase YOUR statistics and help everyone, as people will be more inclined to help, even if it's something they don't want.

It's About Fun

The whole thing, from start to finish is about fun. The missions should be the most fun we have, and right now they're not, in fact quite the opposite at times.

Frontierville, dear Frontierville, I love you but you need to think what happens when a game stops being fun.

I say this because I care, consider it an intervention.