Posts Tagged ‘ RPG

Fanglies Introduces Cookiedough’s Bakery

Playdom’s unique village game Fanglies introduced a new constructible business this week: Cookiedough’s Bakery! Like Chilibowl’s Diner before it, players will need to collect or purchase the required construction materials to complete the building before they can begin reaping the rewards.

Cookiedough’s Bakery requires three each of: Elbow Grease, Bag of Hammers, Thingamajig, Brass Tacks, and Fanglie Wrench. Players can buy these materials for Gems, the game’s premium currency, or they can receive them for free by requesting them from their Fanglies neighbors.

Once construction is complete, players get Cookiedough herself for their village, and can begin producing energy-giving food from her bakery.

FrontierVille Adds New Decorations

FrontierVille developer Zynga updated the game’s General Store today, releasing a wide variety of new homestead decorations. All the new items can be found under the Special tab, or on the first page of the Decorations tab.

The new items are: Sale Sign, Sheriff Statue, Lemonade Stand, Crates, Fruit Stand, Can Pyramid, Delivery Wagon, Sacks, and Trash Pile. Although some of these items are permanent additions to the FrontierVille store, others, including the stands and the wooden sheriff, are limited editions. These limited items are only available for two more days.

Castle Age Giving Away Free Favor Points

Fantasy Facebook RPG Castle Age announced a free fan appreciation event this week, with free Favor Points (the game’s premium currency) up for grabs.

The promotion is pretty simple. On the game’s free gifts tab, there is a new Favor Mystery Gift that players can send to their Castle Age neighbors. Once received, the gift will award the recipient a random number of Favor Points, from 20 a max of 1000. This Favor Mystery gift can only be redeemed one time per player, to prevent stockpiling free Favor Points.

What did you spend your free Favor Points on? Leave a comment and let us know!

FrontierVille Introduces Homestead Expansions

FrontierVille developer Zynga has finally given players an opportunity to expand their homestead! Like most FrontierVille goodies, players must first complete a collection of quests before they can access the additional space.

Things kick off with the “Time to Start Staking Claims” quest. Players must collect wood, buy a lumber cart, and collect one axe. As the five-part quest line progresses, players will need to ask for the help of their FrontierVille neighbors via Facebook wall posts, chop down more trees, clear their neighbor’s land, and plenty more.

The chain of goals culminates in players constructing a new building – the Land Office. The building thankfully only requires 40 construction materials, breaking the trend of each FrontierVille building being more arduous to construct than the previous.

At the Land Office, players can purchase the first 29×29 expansion by paying one Land Grant. These land grants are crafted at the office by paying 15 cloth and 100,000 coins. Future land expansions, 33×33, 37×37, and 41×41, are listed as ‘Coming Soon.’ The 41×41 costs a whopping 8 Land Grants, for a total cost of 800,000 coins and 120 cloth!

Have you completed these FrontierVille expansion missions? If so leave a comment and let us know!

FrontierVille Announces Contest Finalists

FrontierVille developer Zynga has been running a contest for about a week now to see which player could make the best use of the game’s new water themed decorations. Over 750 players entered, which isn’t surprising considering the grand prize is 500 horseshoes.

The development team has now narrowed down those entries to 10 finalists. And the community gets to decide on the big winner. Players can see the final 10 designs and vote for their favorite over on the Official FrontierVille Forums.

Our personal favorite is probably candidate 1, but there are lots of great design ideas at work in all 10 entries.

Fanglies Adds More Free Gifts

Playdom’s unique town building vampire RPG (we aren’t really sure how to describe it!) Fanglies received a free gifts refresh this week, giving players more free times to send to one another.

Players can now send each other a Cantaloupe, a Beet House, and a Squirrel. The Cantaloupe provides players with 10 energy, the Beet House is a unique home design that can’t be purchased, and the squirrel comes complete with a large set of fangs, like everything else in Fanglies.

Are you hoping to receive one of these new gifts, or are you still counting on your neighbors to send you construction materials? Leave a comment and let us know!

FrontierVille Adds Farming Decorations

FrontierVille developer Zynga released a variety of farming props, today. Although if all you FrontierVille players are like us, you don’t have any room for them because you’ve filled every square inch of free space with peanuts.

In any case, the new items are: Pull Cart, Bear Cart, Double Rainbow, Brown Poopcart, Green Poopcart, Yellow Poopcart, Pink Buggy, Black Buggy, Blonde Buggy, Brown Buggy, Mower, Farm Rake, Seed Drill, Hay Cart, and Empty Hay Cart.

We love Zynga’s (disgusting) attention to detail with poop carts coming in three different poop styles!

New Castle Age Hero: Suri

Facebook fantasy RPG Castle Age added another new premium hero to its ranks today. Players can now purchase Elven Princess Suri! This new general’s stats:

Atk: 18
Def: 16
Ability: increase Defends of players for every heroes owned

Suri’s origins are a mystery. Suri was left as a baby upon the footsteps of the Silver Light Kingdom where she was raised as one of Elizabeth Lione’s own. Elizabeth noticed Suris aura and power were very similar to that of the Demigod, Ambrosia.

As usual, three equipment equipment items specific to this general have also made their debut. They are:

Windthorn Wand: 16/14 +2 Attack to Suri
Guilded Tiara 10/10 +2 Def to Suri
Sunstone Crest 11/10 +2 Stamina

My Tribe Rolls Out Improvements

Big Fish Games rolled out a new version of My Tribe today, with a variety of new features, items, and bug fixes included. Big Fish Games did not provide a complete list of changes, instead opting to stay true to the game’s emphasis on mystery and discovery. The keen-eyed community has already made note of a few changes, however.

The most obvious addition are the new silver chests and barrels patient players are discovering washed up on their shores. Some players are still finding common gems and items inside, but others are reporting that they collected rare goodies. It seems a safe bet that these silver crates and barrels simply have a higher chance of containing something rare, without it being an actual guarantee.

Another new feature is the ability to move farm plots and tribe buildings – probably the single most requested My Tribe feature.

Finally, as a new event, islands can now flood in quite dramatic fashion.

How Zynga Treats Their Players Poorly: An Example

NOTE: This post has been updated. Please scroll to the bottom to see the latest developments.

A lot of ink has been generated about Zynga and their peers. Social game companies seem to take it on the chin from all sides. The enthusiast gaming press is dismissive (to put it kindly) of the entire social game space. The mainstream press only seems interested in talking about FarmVille to report on how many millions play during work hours, and how people are “conned” into spending $100s.

Given that we are a social games blog, our stance on the medium should be pretty clear. People are free to spend their downtime and their disposable income any way they want. Some people go to movies, others buy traditional video games, and some buy exclusive items for their virtual farm. These are entertainment purchases – if someone enjoys their time with the item or experience they bought, then it is not any less legitimate than anything else. So, to reiterate, Social Game Central considers itself a friend to Zynga, Playdom, Playfish, Crowdstar, and all the rest.

But… that doesn’t mean they get a free pass.

Below, we’re going to outline, in a high level of detail, one specific way that Zynga has treated their player base poorly in the name of making more money in their newest hit game FrontierVille. But first, it’s important to understand the most common ways that social game makers monetize their free-to-play applications:

Social Game Monetization Crash Course

1) Exclusive Items
By far the most common. Nearly all social games include a personalization aspect. Players have a space to decorate and arrange how they like. A variety of free decorations will be available, but players can pay to buy decorations as well. They are usually more elaborate, or have specific themes.

2) Allow Players to Play More
In many free to play games, every action a player takes cost “energy,” which slowly refills over time. This limits how much a player can accomplish in a day or single play session. Players can pay to get extra energy to keep playing. Many players do this to finish off a big goal they were working towards, or to surpass their friends.

3) Bypass Pain Points
This is where things can get a little dicey from a consumer advocacy standpoint, because these pain points were put into place by the developer themselves! For example, it used to be kind of a pain to harvest fruit from trees in FarmVille. So Zynga implemented a paid feature that allowed players to harvest from all their trees with one click. Another example: In Crowdstar’s Happy Island, it takes days to “build” some attractions. But players can pay to build them automatically.

Where & How Zynga Crossed a Line
So, now that you have some working background on how these games most commonly make money, let’s talk about FrontierVille and its ribbons, and why this serve as a case study for Zynga not having enough respect for their players.

In FrontierVille, the high-level goal is to settle on the frontier – chop down trees, build a frontier town, raise a family, etc. In a first for Zynga, the backbone of a game is a fun and robust system of story-based missions or quests. These quests are varied, and ensure players always have something to do. Players might be required to bake a cake, or raise some chickens, or build a school house.

In one specific quest, players are required to create two presents:

Presents are created by combining two in-game items, ribbons, and cloth:

Sounds reasonable enough, right? Cloth is obtained by visiting your neighbor’s FrontierVille towns, and players could create and send their neighbors ribbon as an in-game gift free of charge. There is just one problem – ribbon has been removed from the game’s free gifts tab:

Hmmm… a conundrum! Almost the only way to receive ribbon, an item required several places (more on this in a sec), was via a neighbor gift. But now it can’t be gifted. Surely this is a mistake on Zynga’s part? But wait… look in the cash store. Players can now buy a ribbon, for 4 horseshoes (about $0.50). There is almost no other way to obtain this item.

So, players need four total ribbons to complete the mission above. The mission might as well be named “Spend $2!,” because it is nearly impossible to complete without paying up. There are a few other in-game ways to obtain ribbons, but they are arduous and require a healthy helping of chance/luck.

What’s worse is that ribbons are required all over FrontierVille. Remember this is an item that players could previously create and send to other players, once per day. The same day that feature was removed, it was introduced as a PAID item. The game’s schoolhouse lessons require ribbons:

Players need 91 ribbons to complete all the school house lessons – nearly $45 worth. Although these lessons are at least tucked away in the school house itself. Unless players pony up for ribbons, the missions that require them will forever sit on the left side of their screen, pestering the player and reminding them that they remain incomplete.

We don’t begrudge Zynga monetizing their games. They need to, and have every right to. But it is essential they do so with respect for their player base, and not contempt. This means:

1) Not removing previously free items and reintroducing them as paid.

2) Not introducing missions or other critical, progress-stopping barriers that require items that are paid or obtained in-game very erratically.

UPDATE: A FrontierVille community manager stated Wednesday that the ribbons were removed from the free gifts tab “in error” and would be returned today, Thursday. As of now (12:00 PM PST) they are still missing. There has been no formal word on whether releasing Ribbons as a paid item on the same day they were accidentally removed as a free item was also an error. We have reached out to Zynga for clarification.

Several (15+) topics on the official Zynga forum complaining about the Ribbon change have been locked, with this same message – that the free ribbons would be returning today.

In the 6+ months we have been covering Zynga game religiously, we have never seen a paid item accidentally released for free in error.

UPDATE 2: The ribbon returned to FrontierVille’s free gifts tab at around 3PM today. Zynga declined to comment on this story officially, but did reiterate to us privately that its removal from the free gifts tab was not intentional and was done in error.

We still question the timing of the free gift disappearing the same day an option to buy went live, especially given the company’s well-known practice of performing frequent revenue tests, but we take their response at face value and are glad to see free ribbon gifting make a speedy return.