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Overview

Developed by Zynga, FarmVille is an extremely popular real-time simulation game that was released on June 19, 2009 as a Facebook application. Since then, the game has garnered over 80 million users (March '10) and 20 million Facebook fans. The popularity of FarmVille has lead to the creation of the "Ville" franchise, with other simulation games like PetVille, YoVille, FrontierVille and FishVille.

The game can be played without visiting facebook at http://www.farmville.com/. The game is technically still in the Beta stage and Zynga has not given a date as to when it will end.

Gameplay

Character Creation & Levels

The aim in FarmVille is to manage a highly customizable piece of farm land. Players start off by creating custom avatars and managing a small patch of barren land. The avatars are only cosmetic in nature and have no gameplay significance beyond looks. The character creator itself is very simplistic but avatars can be re-customized at any point in the game.

The game uses a persistent model and players level up by actively taking care of their farm. Player level governs the items available for purchase, as certain exclusive in-game items and gifts are only available at higher levels.

Farm Management

The meat of the gameplay lies in the game's extensive farm management tools and the in-game market based around it. Players must first plow a piece of land, plant seeds and wait a certain amount of time before harvesting the crop. Harvesting normal crops awards players with experience points and Farm Coins, which are used for various commodities both within and outside the game. However, the game's economy gets complicated and controversial because of the inclusion of Farm Cash, which can only be bought using real world currency.

Achievements!

Player's farm can also be filled with other useful items like trees, livestock, buildings, gifts and vehicles. Each of them improve the quality of the farm and award players in different ways. The challenge lies in maximizing experience & coin-return with the number of hours it takes any of these items to become harvestable. If a crop is left unharvested for too long after maturation, it withers and becomes useless. And since harvesting time can vary from hours to days, players must accommodate their farm management into their daily schedule.

Buy in-game cash using real dollars
  • Seeds: The basic building blocks in the game, seeds are the cheapest commodity in the market place. They include vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains. All of them give different amount of XP and coins per hour. Seasonal crops like wheat take longer to harvest but provide a bigger gain in coins/hour. Fruits like Strawberry are short term crops that give a higher XP/hour.
  • Trees: Trees provide players with a slow and steady stream of XP and coins/hour. Trees do not wither and are therefore easier to manage for players. However, a majority of trees can only be gifted to a players by others or bought using Farm Cash.
  • Animals: Livestock is one of the harder things to manage in Farmville as they take up a disproportionate amount of place when compared to the coin/hour return of trees and seeds. Animals are generally bought using Farm Cash and used as gifts for decoration purposes.
  • Buildings: These are the high investment, high gain structures for a farm. Most buildings are available only through Farm Cash, however select few are also available through Farm Coins (only to higher level players).

Ribbons

Ribbons are form of in-game achievements. Certain ribbons are used to encourage players to interact and share gifts with their facebook friends.

Farms

Farmville has several farms a player can visit as to date and these are Home, English Countryside, Lighthouse Cove and Winter Wonderland.

Animals

There are 100s of animals in FarmVille. Here are the main ones:

SpeciesCoinsTypesDescription
Cow500Strawberry, Chocolate, Longhorn, BrownBasic Livestock, can fill up dairy farms and give calves
Chicken100

White, Rainbow, Candycane, Rhode Island Red

Usually the most filling on the farm, can be put in Chicken Coops to make mystery eggs.
Duck200Can be put in a Duck Pond to raise ducklings.
Horse500Another basic animal, can be put in a stable to raise foals. Breeding is common among FarmVille players.
Pig1000Gives lots of coins and can be put in a pigpen to find truffles.

Social Networking

Or Sign up for GameFly!

Probably the biggest reason for Farmville's popularity is its use of the Facebook social networking structure. Players can invite their Facebook friends to be farming neighbors. Adding neighbors allows players to look after each other farms and send each other gifts or anything else they might require.

The game also prompts players to share their in-game activity on the Facebook feed. These messages will be shown on the feed even if other players don't play Farmville.

These messages are often used by players as a form of S.O.S for their farms and ask for help. Or simply share free gifts with their friends. This leverage of the social networking structure has led to many non-players despising the game for its "Facebook Spam".

Economy & Controversy

A source of continuous controversy, FarmVille's economy can be divided into Farm Coin and Farm Cash. Coins can be earned in game or bought from the Farmville store. However, Cash can only be bought through the game's store or earned through signing up for various promotional programs like credit cards or other subscription programs like Netflix or GameFly. It has been estimated this indirect income through subscription plans is actually higher than direct payments.

Scamming & Spywares

In an interview in November 2009, Zynga founder Mark Pincus confessed to scamming the Farmville players with underhanded tactics like installing spywares and giving away user information to partner programs like Netflix, Blockbuster and credit card companies. Pincus has gone on to condone such behavior in other gaming start ups, recommending "any mean necessary" to make money. It should be noted that the game has since removed the spyware.

These tactics have been heavily criticized by the gaming industry and the tech blog, Techcrunch even went on to mock the game by calling it Scamville.

iPhone Version

On June 24, 2010, Zynga announced plans to release Farmville as an iPhone app. The app will follow the same free-to-play model seen on the PC and Mac.

Food distribution

Zynga has used the success of the game to get into real world food distribution. The 7-eleven chain has recently started carrying ice-cream labeled with the Farmville brand.

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