Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Free Farm Game Online farm management game, encouraging multi-player co-operatives.

This looks like it's going to be an interesting (if slow) game. You start out with a beginner-level farm that consists of 6 squares of land that you own. One has your home on it, one a silo for collecting your produce, and one a chicken coop with 2 chickens in it. You start with $2000. There is woodland all around your farm that you can gather other produce from, but to cultivate it you need to buy it.

It is turn-based, with a farmer having a limited amount of 'endurance' per day. Each task on the farm uses endurance, and once you have too little endurance to perform any tasks that's you done for the day. And it really means day. A new turn starts at 3AM GMT every day. You can increase your endurance by eating, which can be done up to 3 times per day (they've clearly never heard of snacking...). In order to do that, you have to initially buy food from the market. I found it didn't really take very long to get through all my endurance and be done until tomorrow, and as a beginner I'm not in a cooperative or employing anyone else, so I have to wait now until tomorrow to do anything else. Frankly I found that a little frustrating.

The information display is interesting. Each square on the farm can be clicked on. When you do that you can see information about that square displayed at the bottom of the page, and you get a drop down with available actions for that square. Hovering over the action for a while brings up the information about what that icon means. Hopefully eventually that wouldn't be necessary, but it's a helpful touch for beginners.

I found it a little difficult to pick up what the various bits and pieces meant, and actually a little tough to read at times. But I think it gets the information across. The section at the top stays visible at all times, providing information on the current endurance level (although I have no idea what the little stars are above that), the current date and weather conditions, and things like your storage capacity and stocks of various bits and bobs.

The server keeps the game time, so presumably the date and weather is the same for everyone? It means that what you have to do initially and what is available to you is somewhat dependent on when you sign up (e.g. I've signed up on a hot day in August so I can move my chickens out of the coop and plant some warm weather crops).

Apparently skills have to be earned, so although you can gather from the woods from day one, apparently you get better at it the more you do it. This is reflected in getting more and better things in return. Equally your livestock is initially of a poor standard, but this can be improved by (I believe) breeding and improving your equipment. Eventually with enough money you can buy workshops to increase your skill levels further.

There is a market to buy and sell things, and that's also where you join cooperatives. These are player-managed, but I haven't really explored what difference they make to the game. There are also 'missions' that I have yet to explore. There also appear to be on-going competitions - again I haven't explored those yet.

In addition to the limited information provided by the mouseover/info stuff, there's a manual available from a link below the flash game. Click on that and a second flash item appears over the top, which provides more information and some starter advice.

It felt a little clunky, but I wouldn't have wanted all that information in the game interface so probably a good solution.

The homepage is interesting because it gives both starting information and in-game info, like the date, weather and pests to watch out for. It is very much in the same style as the game. I'm not sure if I'm just getting old, but I found both to be rather cluttered and the text rather small! The icons on the screen aren't very clear either.

I guess I'll have to log in and feed and water my chickens daily (yeah, honestly, or they die) for a bit and see if my opinion changes or I find more interesting facets to this.

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