We know what some of you will think of us. We've heard it from our colleagues. FarmVille 2? Really? You're playing that?
We are. And we're enjoying it. Can't deny it.
The three offenders on the staff are me, Kirk Hamilton and Mike Fahey. We've discovered that this game, like its predecessor, really does compel people to prattle on about their farms.
The rest of the team just humors us or asks us to shut up.
Here's an example from last Tuesday evening, which was logged in Campfire, the chatroom we use to communicate between those of us in the New York office and those around the country and the world (Warning: a little bit of salty language coming up):
Mike: I think I might enjoy a premium version of Farmville. Where you pay $20 and just do what you like
Stephen: Mike, I poured $40 into that game yesterday. I was sure that was going to send me surging past Kirk and Tim [Rogers]. It barely bumped me ahead
Mike: That explains the big cock on your farm
Stephen: there is a big rooster there, but, no, paying turns out to be useless $20 got my 10,000 gold coins or something which didn't even cover a second well
Mike: That's barely anything. I need 20k for the next plot. It seems like they don't have this monetization thing figured out for this game yet
SStephen: I spent the other $20 on 115 Farmbucks. That was way more worthwhilte. Except... it turns out that most of what you can buy, in terms of farm decorations, has no gameplay effect. it just gives you tiny bits of XP, but isn't worth it. maybe it appeals to players who like to decorate, but it's useless for getting ahead. Mike, what I'd LOVE to know is how to get more milk bottles for my baby animals without having to beg friends!
[Kirk enters the chatroom]
Kirk: ... always, the netherlord remains. I'm gonna go look at stephen's whale-farm
Stephen: Kirk, what's the secret to baby's milk bottles? Which apparently are NOT produced by goats who leave ... milk bottles. MADDENING
Kirk: I KNOW. one of the most irritating things
Stephen: is there no way to farm them?
Kirk: if only because it lays bare the bullshit at the core. nope. there's no way
Stephen: I've got an ibex. 5 bottles needed to raise it
Stephen: and these stupid animals keep prizing out
Kirk: yeah the rhode island roosters are the same way
Stephen: so I have to buy new babies and then need more milk, which is fucked up
Kirk: If you have a gaggle of reliable friends it's no big deal
Stephen: I don't. I have you, Tim, Mike and not many more
Kirk: but yeah when an animal "prizes out" I pretend that it's the same as on a real farm when an animal "dies"
Kate: this might be the most amazing conversation I've ever witnessed in Camp.
Kirk: I've been neglecting my farm due to torchlight 2
And it went on and on for a bit as I ranted about how FarmVille 2 treats the milk bottles earned from having goats as different from the baby milk bottles needed to raise new animals (I also ranted about this out loud in the New York office, to Evan, Tina, Jason and Chris' chagrin).
What exactly is happening here?
A few things:
- We're investigating... A bunch of us got curious about a game that we assumed would be popular/important, so we started playing it. One of my discoveries, as you can see in the exchange above, is that you actually can't pay to win. Paying money barely nets you any progress, at least not in terms of leveling up and out-farming/earning other players. Paying money is only good for getting decorative items for your farm, something I don't think any of us cares about. This discovery shocked me and has changed what I think of how Zynga games work.
- We're working... I volunteered to review it for the New York Times, so I was compelled to play it for a couple of weeks.
- We're treating this like a competition and discovering a pure game here... Say what you will about FarmVille and its new sequel, but ultimately we're finding that 2 has enough complexity and permits just enough strategic variation that we can plant our crops in the morning, check the harvest by the afternoon and show each other how well things are going. We're "peacocking and lawn comparing", as I put it in my Times review. We're each trying to out-produce and out-level each other in the game (with the strange twist that the game requires that friends help each other out to progress.)
So Kirk will send me e-mails that have pictures like this, just to show off. We're in a FarmVille 2 throwdown! And it fits well into our lives and between all the other games we're playing.
The time commitment for the game is so low, that it's easy for me to dip back in, push my game ahead for a few minutes, and then hope that my good planning will give me something to taunt him with a few hours later. This flow is actually very good, and I'd love to see other games adopt it: minimal time-commitment + maximum opportunities to be competitive with friends = sustained interest and a lot of fun.
I recommend that people try the game, if they have some friends with whom to compete. Try it, but be forewarned, you're going to end up talking like this:
StephenTotilo: (3:22:47 PM) by the way, fucking brushes, man
StephenTotilo: (3:22:49 PM) what the hell?
Kirk Hamilton: (3:22:52 PM) hahaha
Kirk Hamilton: (3:22:53 PM) brushes
StephenTotilo: (3:22:54 PM) you have to beg people for them?
Kirk Hamilton: (3:22:58 PM) it's another ruse
Kirk Hamilton: (3:22:58 PM) yep
StephenTotilo: (3:23:12 PM) I really am at war with these Zynga designers
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:18 PM) yes
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:18 PM) !
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:24 PM) that's been my number one take away
StephenTotilo: (3:23:28 PM) also, I have SOOOOOO much produce and nothing to do with it
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:31 PM) that the game is saying, "Come at me bro"
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:32 PM) yeah
StephenTotilo: (3:23:33 PM) I have 190 or so lemons
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:38 PM) I have like 195 sunflowers
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:42 PM) I'm set for animal feed forever
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:48 PM) and sunflower bread doesn't unlock for like ever
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:55 PM) I also have a couple hundred eggs
StephenTotilo: (3:23:57 PM) this is an outrage!
Kirk Hamilton: (3:23:59 PM) but never enough milk
Kirk Hamilton: (3:24:01 PM) I AM OUTRAGED
Finally: Can't judge a man (or men) about their FarmVille 2 playing unless you've played. A good test of that will be if you can discern which huge blunder I made while playing the game, as seen in the image at the top of this page. And no, it's not that I played FarmVille 2 at all!