Sunday, May 23, 2010

Games as Inspiration

To play or not to play - that may be the question running through your mind about a certain facebook/myspace game.

Okay, some of you might think to yourself that these games are a waste of time. True, some of them really might just be that. But then again, they might not be. Cryptic, I know, but I have a point, really, I do.

When I first joined facebook, I like many of became bombarded by requests to play different online games. If you were curious, like I was, you start checking them out, just to see if they are interesting and worth playing. Well, when you start playing one, that leads to playing a multitude of others?


Well, for those of us polite or "pay-it-forward" kind of people, you start playing a game you really had no intention of playing because someone you met, who seems very nice, gets enjoyment out of something and needs neighbors to accomplish something within a game. That happened to me this weekend.

Sure, I could have said no, but I didn't. I opted to start playing Social City.


Because when I needed neighbors actively sending out gifts to accomplish something in Farm Town I have been invested in for months, she didn't say no. Sure, she already played the game, but that's not the point. The point here is that if my playing the game and sending out gifts can make someone's day a little brighter, well, then my time has been well spent.

That's why I do play many of the games I do. I'll admit that Yoville, Petville and Fishville have difficulty holding my attention for too long - there's not much to them and they do take quite a bit of time to load and it's really annoying - but others have just caught my attention and I find myself excited to do, of all things, click the mouse button.

What games have caught my attention so religiously? The answers just might surprise you, but then again, they might not.

Initially, I played Farm Town, Dragon Wars (dragons, need I say more?), Vampire Wars, Pirates Rule the Caribbean, Mafia Wars and Fashion Wars were the games I played on a very regular basis. In the beginning, they were all different and played differently. The only thing they had in common was the strategy used in building character strength.

Then, the makers decided to change the format of all of these games - with the exception of Farm Town - and make them all work virtually the same. As a result, the games feel too limited and cookie cutter and have lost most of their original appeal.

Currently, Nightclub City, Social City, Country Life and Treasure Isle have grabbed my attention. Farm Town seems to be the only one to really be able to maintain my attention.

So what is it about these games that draws me?

The building aspect. In Farm Town it's the ability to build and create different farms. With Social City, it's the ability to create your own city and watch it "grow". Nightclub City is pretty much the same thing, only it's focus is one Nightclub rather than an entire city. However, the neat thing about Nightclub City is that, provided you get your place making enough money, you can change it's design to your whims.


Social City - Haven't played the game enough yet to have discovered any.

Nightclub City - Drink storage space can take up a lot of room - but that's the nature of the beast and part of the game. You just have to figure out creative ways to deal with the extra storage tanks if you want to continue to make money and grow your club.

Country Life - Too many of the buildings (Green House, Water-well, etc.) require building materials be gifted or purchased with Ranch Cash (Country Life $$). If you can purchase the building for coins, you should be able to buy the parts necessary to make it work for coins too.

Farm Town is beginning to become overrun with facilities and stuff and needs more space for building. In order to have all the facilities run properly, you need to grow more crops....I need a fourth farm.

Things about Farm Town I'd change if I could:
1. add a "hide animals" button
2. make cows and goats purchasable instead of gift only
3. create a coffee mill and make it cost coins not FT $$
4. add cucumbers as a crop for a higher level (80 or 90) and make the preserve factory able to produce pickles
5. make all fruit producing trees purchasable instead of some as gift only.
6. add at least 60 new levels
7. make all animals harvestable for meat as well as other stuff like milk
8. If you buy it in FT$ you can sell it back and get FT$ instead of coins - only fair.
9. Instead of creating new facilities, just improve the existing ones with seasonal/rotating things to produce - The pizzeria could make other types of Italian food using existing crops (eggplant, garlic, basil). The sandwich shop could use caught fish and rice to make sushi. The taco place would use avocados and other stuff to make guacamole - You get the point.
10. Improve the server capability by having the user save Farm and Store data on own computer - this would allow user to harvest, plow, and plant without having to be connected to server. However, the user would need to connect with the server to hire people, to use/earn Farm Town $ and to sell stuff as well as connect with the server once every 12 hours to update and program changes.
11. Use soybeans to create bio-fuel to operate equipment - much more green and soybeans happens to be an existent renewable crop.
12. Make solar panels functional and make existing fuel-using seeders and harvesters hybrids - the solar power would allow them to use less fuel...
13. Create another crop (usable in one of the facilities) that grows in 2 hours and one that grows in 6 hours.
14. Add a "4th Farm" only it's primary function would be as a town/city and would allow you to build a city.

In case you're not familiar with the game, you wouldn't see the pattern, so I'll tell you. In my opinion, the game is too neighbor dependent. It's one thing to need neighbors to grow the size of your farm, harvest your crops, plow your fields or work your facilities so they produce faster, but you shouldn't have to rely on your neighbors to gift you items to make your facilities work (meat, pickles, fuel, etc.) - that's my biggest pet peeve about the game and Facebook games in general.

Any game I'd like to see created?

Beer Town! I'd love to be able to grow hops, barley, malt and other ingredients used to make beer. It would be so cool to be able to determine if you were going to have a brewpub or just be a brewery with a tasting room. You'd have to pay attention to things like IBUs, Gravity, and whatever else you might have to do to brew a batch of beer. Granted, things would move faster in the game world than the real world, but I see Beer Town as having a lot of potential.

Of course, I'd find it cool if you could do this in Farm Town, but I get why you can't - kids play the game and it wouldn't set a good example.

How can these games be inspirational?

Well, as a writer, inspiration does come from everywhere, so why not the online games? It doesn't have to be the backdrop, but some element in one of the games could provide an author with inspiration - you just have to be open to it!


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