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Hardcore Farmville and the games that play themselves

Posted on 21st Jan 2013 at 10:13 by David Hing with 13 comments

David Hing
When the iPad arrived on the scene it was the device that industry commentators liked to declare as "scaring the pants off Nintendo" because of its desirability among the market that the Wii and DS were chasing.

When the iPad arrived in my possession, I could see that traditional console developers had a while before they needed to be too worried about this thing. Mobile gaming has definitely come a long way since my first foray into the Apple App Store, but despite that, its landscape is still peppered with one particular type of game.

Hardcore Farmville and the games that play themselves
Castle Story, a game with no discernible castle, or story.

This is the type of game that plays itself. The game that tells you when you can and can't play. The game that holds back and says "well, if you buy these gems, I might be able to do something for you" whilst flicking a coin and chewing on a tooth pick in the corner.

This is the despicable, oft derided, rarely loved and much maligned Farmville clone.

In my naivety, I ended up downloading and trying quite a few of these and in many cases, the much maligned tag is justified. I thought Godfinger looked like it had a bit of a Populous thing going on, giving you powers to remodel a little planetoid and affect the weather, but after 30 seconds of playing around with the terrain it told me I'd run out of energy and would have to come back later, meaning this particular god I was roleplaying must have been asthmatic. This was a shame because I was enjoying it now and was likely to discover a hundred other games between now and later and highly doubted that I'd want to come back to the wheezy out-of-energy deity who could no longer raise mountains from the earth.

I thought Castlecraft had an interesting Settlers look to it and might be worth a try. Then it told me that I had to wait six hours for my blacksmith to build and that no, there really wasn't anything else to do between now and then and so I found a common theme.

Hardcore Farmville and the games that play themselves
I actually rather liked Dragonville and decided to crop out the score at the top because I was a little embarrassed by it.

Dragonville looked a bit interesting in a Theme Park with dragons kind of way. It was interesting enough to make me pick it up long after I'd learned about this particular type of game and it held my attention for slightly longer than I care to admit, but there was still that moment that when I was most engaged it said "nope, come back later".

Obviously, this is a very conscious trick. They get you to what they hope can be described as hooked and then tell you to pay up. It's a prime example of "the first one is always free" tactics and in someone that didn't know there were infinity-plus-one other games out there on pretty much every electronic device they own, maybe it would work.

From my little foray into the world of pay-to-not-wait-around games (PTNWA - pronounced Peh-Ter-Nwa) my early conclusion was that any kind of delay in gameplay or any kind of stop sign that gets thrown into your face was the quickest way to kill the title. I thought I had turned into some kind of low attention span digital entertainment junkie, refusing to wait for anything until I found something with an incredibly similar that I was truly hooked on.

Hardcore Farmville and the games that play themselves
I think of this game as hardcore Farmville. In space.

Eve Online doesn't give you a farm, or a micro-world, or a kingdom, or whatever the particular flavour of digital terrarium is giving you to manage. Eve Online doesn't slowly feed you asinine tasks to show you just how much content there is out there. Eve Online gives you a universe that feels legitimately huge and tells you to go, without really telling you where. This is a world that you really need a friend who has been playing it slightly longer than you to tell you what to do.

So why do I think it's a hardcore version of Farmville? Well it's mainly the patience and waiting around aspect. So many things you do take a serious amount of real world time. Training skills once you get to the juicy and useful ones can take a minimum of five days real time, installing manufacturing jobs can take full days without any queuing up that you might need to do before they actually start, and physically moving from one side of the galaxy to another can take an age. There's also even the option to speed things along by paying money into the game, albeit in a slightly more abstract way - instead of speeding things up, you can just buy bits of currency with real world money. With the general goal of Eve Online being the acquisition of ISK, paying for it pretty much cuts out the middle man.

Hardcore Farmville and the games that play themselves
It's not always interesting or even fun, but it always looks cool to me.

Eve Online does one thing that the Farmville types always get wrong in my opinion. You might have to wait for things to happen and things might take a long time to go anywhere, but you're never once outright told "come back later". There's always something else to do, or to look into, or to investigate. It is a huge universe and whilst you're waiting for your hybrid charges to finish building you can always go hunting for pirates in low security space (or rather go looking for people to blow you up) or go mining, or scanning for abandoned space stations and unstable wormholes.

None of us have any shortage of media. It is a very brave game that throws a road block up at its players and demands that they leave and come back later. I suspect we would all love and cherish the likes of Farmville if they didn't do that. At its heart, it is a game we have all played and enjoyed before, but unfortunately this particular iteration is one that tells us to bugger off from time to time, and nobody wants their entertainment to do that to them.

13 Comments

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Xir 21st January 2013, 13:55 Quote
I've never even tried farmville...

If on the other hand someone would port the original AoE to my handheld, my day would be lost...
ashchap 21st January 2013, 14:08 Quote
I don't mind games making me wait, as long as there is a reason, not just "give us more money!". I remember playing Planetarion a lot, back in the early '00s. The whole game was based on 1 hour 'ticks'. Everything took an integer number of hours to happen, so launching an attack on another planet could take 5-7 hours and all you could do once you had launched was wait (and get up in the middle of the night!) to see if the enemy managed to get their defences in place in time. The waiting meant you had time to discuss things with other players, set up alliances and devise strategies together.

Waiting adds an extra level or realism to the game, but that realism is completely shattered if you can pay to skip the wait.
steveo_mcg 21st January 2013, 14:20 Quote
Aye, games like Neptunes Pride put the Real into RTS.

My wife had a lot of these games on the go at once for a while but she soon got bored.
blacko 21st January 2013, 14:36 Quote
the thought of a full blown total war on my ipad makes me a little damp.
Xir 21st January 2013, 15:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashchap
... so launching an attack on another planet could take 5-7 hours and all you could do once you had launched was wait (and get up in the middle of the night!) to see if the enemy managed to get their defences in place in time.
one word...Galaxywars
Cei 21st January 2013, 20:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashchap
I don't mind games making me wait, as long as there is a reason, not just "give us more money!". I remember playing Planetarion a lot, back in the early '00s. The whole game was based on 1 hour 'ticks'. Everything took an integer number of hours to happen, so launching an attack on another planet could take 5-7 hours and all you could do once you had launched was wait (and get up in the middle of the night!) to see if the enemy managed to get their defences in place in time. The waiting meant you had time to discuss things with other players, set up alliances and devise strategies together.

Waiting adds an extra level or realism to the game, but that realism is completely shattered if you can pay to skip the wait.

Planetarion ruined my social group at school. The backstabbing was insane - we all were pretty high level really, and took any chance to get an advantage. The day after a successful raid the loser would generally come in to school in a massive grump and refuse to talk to anybody else for ages. Of course, looking back, we basically picked on everybody and nobody was actually constantly the loser, but it sometimes felt that way.

Such a good game for the time.
forum_user 21st January 2013, 20:36 Quote
A game that fits this category is Paradise Cove. It is another cute, town creation game that utilises gems and other shiny trinkets to hook the kids. However the worst part is that it also includes a form of gambling. So, you buy your kids £2.99's worth of gems to help them build their town, but later on you find out that your child visited a cute cartoon mermaid who happily announces she will look for riches and treasure for them, but it will cost a few gems ... 5 minutes later, gems wasted, child develops personality disorder and gambling addiction. Starts stealing the valuables and pawning them for money ...

Anyway, I wish a journo would highlight this disgusting development in these 'cute' games.
IamJudd 21st January 2013, 21:04 Quote
Clash of Clans. Really good game that you can play with or without paying for the gems.
dolphie 24th January 2013, 00:25 Quote
It's all about Progress Quest.

http://progressquest.com/play/roster.html
Griffter 24th January 2013, 09:21 Quote
dead space 3 and u must pay in game after ur "hooked" also... the gap between ipad and consoles is smaller than u think sadly.
wuyanxu 24th January 2013, 10:09 Quote
I've tried many many games on the App store, as soon as I see any sign of "PTNWA", I delete that from my iPad/iPhone. Same goes for apps that require micro-transaction to unlock features, it's not a business model aimed at gamers.

So far, only the few older paid games that was on "free-app-a-day" stayed on my devices and games that I bought outright such as GTA3.

Don't know about the developers, but I will NEVER buy into their micro-transaction scheme. Never I tell you!
Stegas 24th January 2013, 16:51 Quote
Has OP tried Planetary Interaction (in EVE)?
LightningPete 15th July 2013, 16:07 Quote
EVE - not even summed up entirely but makes a great point in the article.

There politics on a grand scale. Theres an economy that is scary to resemble lots that our real world economy has.
Its factions and alliances of players cause so much rift and changes that the politics and economics changes dramatically in each region of constelations. Then theres your own standing with numerous players and NPCs that can cause you to lose that vital trade route. Theres logistics to consider , i dont have a ship big enough to move all these shipments at once, trading contracts of all types for others to do for you another aspect. Simply put its a digital almost realisation of a life we live in but its more exciting war-torn or business aggressive.
Farmville is just a pathetic excuse for all the noob gamers who enjoy phones and tablet games who cant be bothered to actually play a proper game.
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