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 28 August 2012

Booby Prize Animals

[As usual, all thoughts in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily represent the views of the admins or members of Frontierville Express.]

I've decided, if I can indulge myself, that it's time for another letter to Zynga.

Agree or disagree I'd be interested to see your thoughts in the comments, although remember to stay nice.

Hey Zynga, thanks for coming, sit down, there's something serious I wanted to talk to you about.

I like pizza.

Thin crust mostly, really don't like the big puffy ones, but other than that I'm pretty open minded, meat, veg, anchovies, even pineapple. When it comes to pizza I'm an unfaithful topping-chasing pig with a fear of commitment.

But here's the thing, however many different toppings I'll cruelly masticate with and discard, I can't do pizza every night, even trying a variety of eating positions.

So, we get onto prize animals, or specifically the mechanic of them.

Get animal, team with neighbour, feed it a ludicrous amount of times with something we have to craft, weight it, lather rinse repeat.

Basically we've now had Pigs, Sheep, Bulls and Ponies, not to mention the Carnival and Frontier games which were prize animals in a disguise so thin they might as well have just worn a pair of those comedy glasses with a big nose and moustache on.

We've had all of those in, near as makes no difference, exactly three months. That means this exact mechanic has been used every fortnight, 1 in 4, 25%, a quarter... however you read it.

That's bordering on the slightly daft, if I may be blunt for one second, you're flogging the ass donkey off it.

"But it's new things!" I hear you cry. Well, it's not. It's just pizza with a different topping, only it's being given to people who don't like pizza.

Thanks to the monotony of a free gift crop (just make them coins after a month) and a request being needed for every feed (and LOTS needed) the issue is the actual spine of the mechanic is as tedious as a four hour lecture on toenail clipping.

There are some people still doing ALL four prize animals and both carnival game missions, missions that are equally dull and differ only in cosmetic features, like the Kardashians.

We're already dreading Prize Goats, Prize Oxen, Prize Cows... I'd worry about giving you ideas if I didn't assume you'd already had them.

Expansions release night... people were HAPPY... they WANTED those missions. That's what we need more of. Compared to a normal release night it was heaven.

We need some fun homestead based mission threads without a building, like we used to have, harvest this, request that, tend the other, job done.

We certainly need that before we need any other prize animal. Because pigs were fun, sheep were interesting... and from then on it went downhill. Probably 7 out of 10 people hated the sight of the Prize Ponies. A few more and you may find a 10 out of 10 universal hatred rating for those poor Prize Goats...

So how about a compromise? You get one mission thread a week that's tedium and requesting for your clicks and marketing... We get one mission thread a week where we get to have fun?

Hows about it? Mundane Mondays and Thrilling Thursday, sorts both sides out...

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Bother of Business

[As usual, all thoughts in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily represent the views of the admins or members of Frontierville Express. To set the scene regarding my personal situation of it, I've only bought horseshoes once and they weren't for me, it was a contest prize on the site.]

As it's a Thursday Lord knows I have a few things to write for the site but I thought I would just take a moment to share some thoughts regarding something that's recently become a fairly emotive issue. The inescapable fact Zynga are a business and, if we're honest, we'd rather they weren't.

I'm not sure why, mentally, we tend to lean more away from paying for stuff on the internet, obviously I don't mean shopping, but services.

Logically Zynga need the same consideration as Ford, or Starbucks or McDonalds. They provide us something we want, and we can pay for it. Strangely it doesn't seem to work that way though, and there's a mildly illogical annoyance over Zynga wanting to get us to buy Horseshoes.

Perhaps it's because it's via the medium of Facebook, a free service in itself, or because it's an online game. Perhaps because there's adverts... although there's endless adverts and trailers when we go to the cinema and we still have to pay for a ticket.

Of course, it could be that even Zynga themselves slightly misuse the word "free", understandably so. The game IS free to play, and for most of us that's all it'll be. But a more precise definition is "FreeMIUM", specifically what the industry call Effort Limited Freemium and Feature Limited Freemium.

In other words, the game is free to play and you never HAVE to pay, but there's a fair bit of effort involved and you can bypass that with the moolah. You can also buy special little extras to put on your stead that looks pretty or give money back.

I mean, the point is worth making, it's not just Zynga. These Freemium models have been around for many years and are almost the staple now of mobile or Facebook games. Games take developers, support staff, community teams... they cost wages.

So, this is the compromise solution as I see it, and it'll take different things from BOTH sides...


Players? Join me in the Lounge, grab a sofa, tea and biscuits on the table (that's cookies for the Americans).

Ok, can we all agree Horseshoes isn't a dirty word? The step WE need to take is take a deep breath, admit Zynga are a business and allow them some steps to make money. When we see Horseshoes, don't automatically go with the obvious "Zynga want to make money" (of course they do) and take a look about whether THIS might be a good reason.

Take the Rejuvenation Plant for example, costs Horseshoes but is widely regarded as an impressive purchase. Or yesterday's feature of spending Horseshoes on extra requests.

Mathmatically it makes sense if you buy Horseshoes. Each single item usually costs 6-8 Horseshoes each, spending 5 HS to get a possible 5 items is something of a bargain. There's also the knock on effects, even if you don't pay yourself then there's still the extra posts coming from neighbours, and with one or two neighbours posting, that could mean YOU don't have to post for an item.

We, as players, need to say "they want to make money and that's ok" and also take everything on it's own merits, not just on the fact it's a HS purchase.


Zynga? Join me in the boardroom, coffee and doughnuts on the sideboard.

If the players do that *points up* then there's stuff YOU need to do, because there's a REASON people have got twitchy over Horseshoes.

For starters, most things cost too much, there's no real connection between the prices and the usefulness.

Take the Rejuv Plant for 100HS... That is a PERMANENT boost, and it's something that is helpful! It's not just about having to catch up or buy something because it's too much hassle, it's the perfect HS purchase.

Then you look at premium animals for 95 HS, that do nothing but look pretty. Or build/mission items costing up to 8 HS for ONE item.

Take the recent feature for adding an extra request... 5HS, good price. 20HS, daft price.

Let's have a bit more logic about prices, eh? Cheaper things are more likely to make people buy Horseshoes and be comfortable with Freemium items.

Secondly... take a break. the Freemium model calls for SOME extras people can buy, not everything, all the time.

The amount of "free gift" crops and animals in recent missions have been ridiculous, not least because the average player has a number of missions on the trot at the same time, so gets stuck. Maybe think about making the items a coin purchase a fortnight or so after the missions first roll. With how often missiosn are released you KNOW that people will have more stuff to gift, you get your clicks, people get to play the game, not just wait for the kindness of neighbours.

Freemium games still need to feel like you're progressing without paying, the paying is meant to hurry along the impatient, not give people the option of stationary or moving.

The amount of stuff needed lately? The amount of builds and crafts etc... That is what takes huge steps towards festering the discontentment.

If people enjoy a game, they'll be more likely to pay for it.

Make it good prices in a good game that's enjoyable even without paying, and you're onto a winner. It's not about glitches, they happen, it's about gameplay decisions that have been actively made.


Players? Zynga? Join me in the bar, we ALL need a drink now.

Players, empathise that Zynga are a business. If NOBODY bought HS, the game would go away. I've played games that have become unprofitable and have shut down. They want money, they need money.

Zynga, have a think about WHY Players are so adverse to paying for things, examine your project and think, what could we do to get more Player contentment.

Do it because you love the game and want it to succeed or do it because it might make more money, whatever your reason a better product helps everyone.

Now clink glasses, drink up and lets get to work. We've ALL got things to think about.