Thursday, 4 November 2010

Third World Farmer

Flash game, single player.

Interesting game - initial play I was quite bored and frustrated by the random nature of the events that destroyed what I was building up (probably the point). I lasted 17 turns, but was irritated by my people dying and the family work rate diminishing, and there didn't seem to be any feedback on why or anything I could do about it.

Second run through I discovered that I could potentially sell things (by clicking on the other icon under the money section), which lead me to click on the little images of the people. That unlocked a whole extra dimension to the game for me, giving me access to each person's individual health level, the option to supply medicine, send them to school and when they got old enough let them get married. That made the game a lot more engaging for me, to the extent where I could almost cope with the random events.

The interface (once I'd discovered all of it) was pretty straightforward to learn but might benefit from some tutorial options perhaps. The graphical display of the farm and the options for each field were clear, and it was very straightforward to see what you had as a family. By hiding the health of the family it does give the appearance of playing as an outsider - you can see what they have, but you have to 'ask' each member of the family for their current status.

I wanted a clearer indication of how each of my crops had done in relation to the inputs. It might be possible to put some kind of educational slant on that, so it was only available after so many years of education had been supplied (who knows, maybe it's in there and I didn't buy enough education!). As it was, the impact of marriage and babies and education and so on only really seemed to apply at the end of the game in the working out of the score. I'm not sure if the score was really necessary - surely the point is really the number of turns you survive?

The tag line wasn't the most enticing - 'Endure the hardships of 3rd world farming' made me think twice about playing to be honest. But the point of the game seems to be to get across how arbitrary and hard life is. Only getting an annual report is interesting, all decisions made and no chance to modify as a result.

1 comment:

  1. My initial and ongoing problem with the game is the lack of information both on how the game is played and on the realities of farming in the game context. For example I'd want to know more about cotton than that it's "light and fluffy" and the minimal information on the other crops gives no real basis for choosing to plant one crop rather than another. Equally the logic of events and consequences is often opaque e.g. the information given on sending a child to school, marrying off your children or having babies offers no hint as to the potential outcomes of these decisions.
    My second criticism of the game is that I felt little connection with the farmer or his family - both the user interface and the gameplay put you in the position of a detached observer rather than an active participant in the lives of this family. The main graphic shows the family as a distant static group of figures - and there is no alteration of the figures through the game - illness has no visible effect. Also, after the activity at the start of the season (when you plant crops, buy livestock etc.) there is no facility for you to intervene or take any action in response to outside events as the seasons roll forward to the end of harvest.
    My final(!) negative comment concerns the lack of clarity in the user interface. For example, for me the graphic indicating where crops and tools had to be placed was too subtle - the first time around I was unable to position a shed on the farm (and so couldn't buy livestock). Also the family figures give no indication that they can be clicked to reveal health information and other options.
    However, having been persuaded to invest more time exploring the game I realised that there is more to this game than meets the eye - the pity is that its shortcomings might deter many players from taking the time to find this out.