Confessions Of A FarmVille 2 Addict (AKA Pissing The Hours Away)

At one point 1% of the global population was playing Zynga’s FarmVille social game. Millions upon millions were milking virtual cows and harvesting imaginary crops, killing productivity and ensuring that many Facebook friendships were tested to the brink by constant streams of messages. The game ended up taking over some people’s lives, with timed crops and crop mastery ribbons resulting in some people actually turning down real life experiences in favour of being there to bring in the harvest.

I was one of these people, for a year I played the game and it got under my skin. Then I went cold turkey, and laughed at those who kept on playing. The idiots. It was a rickety ivory tower, granted, but one that I sat astride like some knowledge infused goblin.

“I would never play that game again” I exclaimed with an alarming regularity. And I was right. But then FarmVille 2 was announced.

You see there’s rule of thumb I live by:

“Don’t Criticize Something You’ve Not Experienced”

Which has seen me through the last few years of gaming related writing and opinion. If you play something woeful, you have the right, NAY YOU ARE OBLIGATED to be highly critical. But if you have only heard of a game being bad, and automatically slate it, then well you are either:

a) A Knob

b) Potentially Wrong

c) Missing Out On A Game You’d Enjoy

or

d) All Of The Above

Usually it’s D.

So with FarmVille 2 on the horizon I began to wonder if I should play it, from Day One, and then form an opinion based upon my experiences.

That was a few weeks ago.

I’ve played daily every since.

And I don’t really want to stop playing.

I should stop, obviously, it’s a Zynga game and I hold them accountable for the influx of Pay to Play apps and games that have become commonplace in the gaming world today, but FarmVille 2 has beaten the odds by having a decent level of game design under the surface.

Excuse #1 – Crafting Trees

As any hardcore RPG gamer and they will say that trees are VERY important when it comes to dynamic, rewarding gaming. Essentially you have to progress through a predetermined path – be it infantry coupled with technology and advancement, or trees and seeds – to get to higher level items and more effective objects/units. FarmVille 2 has this at it’s core, especially in the Crafting Cottage that tasks you with making a series of items, be it pies or drinks, from the ingredients you have amassed through your efforts. This adds an actual gameplay element to the game, and when coupled with a mission structure, gives a sense of purpose to my farming.

Excuse #2 – Improved ‘Friend’ Involvement

FarmVille infuriated my friends as they weren’t interested in the flurry of messages that the game posted to my Facebook wall. FarmVille 2 looks to combat this by setting up a community. This allows users of the game to be neighbours in-game, without having to be friends on Facebook. Which is GREAT. The first game encouraged huge friend lists to achieve in-game tasks, but this resulted in having to befriend total strangers. As a family man this went against the grain, and I avoided this where possible as I didn’t want to sacrifice privacy for a game. The new community means that you can work with other gamers WITHOUT having to let everyone see that picture you took of your arse for ‘japes’. It also means that you don’t have to hassle your real buddies for help. Which is also great.

Excuse #3 – It’s A Game

Ultimately we can all easily hate on EA, Zynga and Activision. They are the ‘Big Bad’ of the industry, but ultimately we all play titles that they put out. Zynga in particular is a company I loathe, to the point that I stopped playing Draw Something the instant that their logo was forced into the game, but they also put out Horn. Horn is a great game from Zynga and Phosphor Games and represents a move towards a more accomplished focus for the evil overlords. Zynga have the money to help new IP, and that’s important to remember. We all love indie gaming, but even the best among them need help. Limbo, Braid and Super Meat Boy were all helped massively by console support. Similarly EA enabled Dead Space and Mirror’s Edge to come to fruition. New IP. So with FarmVille 2 I tried to look past the name and reputation and concentrate instead on the game below the murky reputation. It’s a good game. Nobody really complains when these things his iOS/Android, as the gameplay fits the platform, but putting a game out as a Facebook app accessible through a PC seems to suggest that it HAS to be a more fully fledged title. Of course it doesn’t. It is designed as a dip in and out game, and that’s what it does. Visually it is great and it is so far being handled very carefully. I am actually enjoying most aspects of the game, and am not afraid to say so. My kids also play, so as a family we can co-operate on missions and that is always enjoyable. I am a gamer, and will game wherever I can. I just happen to be currently gaming via Facebook.

So there you go. Three ‘excuses’ for playing that actually don’t need to be uttered. No-one has to explain why they enjoy something, especially when it comes to gaming, but the lure of the sycophant is always a strong one. If I was playing a Facebook adaptation of Gears of War, I’d likely have a lot of gaming friends linking up in the game, but FarmVille is by association the epitome of what is ‘wrong’ with gaming, and to a point I’d agree. There is too much emphasis in-game on premium items, but let’s not forget that Gears of War 3 tries to sell us new gun colours. The business model is established AND profitable. I haven’t bought, and do not intend on buying premium items in FV2. This may result in a glass ceiling within the game, but that’s fine. I’ll walk away as I did with FV1 and be happy that I at least tried the game out and enjoyed what I found.

 

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