Thursday, December 2, 2010

The concept of "friends" in Farmville.

Farmville is stupid game. It's a stupid game that I enjoyed for a little over a year before I decided that it was all becoming a chore and pointless, and so I stopped playing it.

But yeah, for a year, I enjoyed planting virtual crops, decorating my farm and helping out my neighbors, all with the clicks of a mouse.

It was fun game when everything was new -- you plant, you harvest and then you level up, and then you unlock more types of crops, get your achievements and ribbons, buy special items with the coins you earned etc.

I've always liked farm sims. In the days of Win95, one of the first computer games I played was Sim Farm, and then there was the Harvest Moon games on the Gameboy Advance and Playstation 2.

IMHO, Farmville is very simplified farm sim with very little punishment. The worse thing that can happen is crop wilting, which happens if you don't harvest them within certain time frames. There's no bad weather or disaster to worry about, no foxes that might kill your chickens, nor do you have care about budgets, profits or any kind of farm management issues. There are no elements of exploration or discovery. You plant, you earn, you get stuff by buying or from neighbors. It's its simplicity that makes it accessible to millions.

The concept of "friends" in Farmville

The game is designed to be played with many active friends as "neighbors" or else it's a very frustrating and slow game. Neighbors can help with crop fertilization and building projects through gifting of "building materials".

There might be over 50 million Farmville players but most of their real friends don't play it. So, in order to fix that, most players go to the Farmville forums and start adding people (complete strangers) who have posted their profile links in specific "add me" threads. 300 neighbors is the limit, but you could just add more so that your news feed is constantly moving with farmville postings of redeemable gifts, collections and other goodies. (And you can say goodbye to ever seeing the status updates of your non-farming friends ever again.)

Most of these forum-sourced friends-for-Farmville neighbors have no interest in any kind of friendly interaction -- they just want the stuff off your Farmville posts and you to return gifts and the occasional click-to-help. They are kinda like bots -- no thank-you, no "oh I got this ___ from your collection/egg/etc". Judging by the number of neighbors they have and the intensity of their playing style, I don't think they have the time to respond. But I have to say that it's disturbing when your real life friends or family start acting boorish or lose their manners when they play. I'm like Who is this?

I count myself lucky to have found neighbors from these Farmville forums who are helpful and personable, and some of my real life friends have been awesome neighbors. It is such a joy to play with people like this. We would ask each other what was needed and help each other out. Really great. Even though I stopped playing the game, I hope the strangers that I've added from the forums and that I've played with for over a year continue being my FB friends. Or maybe not, in which case, I might be dropped from their friendlist. There will be no hurt feelings.

One friend remarked how disposal friendships seem in these social game alliances, but she fails to understand -- when a person "friends" someone for a game, there is no expectation beyond the game. For a lot of folks, they feel it's just safer to keep that stranger on the other side of the screen a stranger. To put it bluntly, you are only friends because of the advantages that come with having that many for this game. And that is perhaps what the game teaches, is that you'll do better if you have as many friends as possible. And no, you don't always have to be real with them, you just need to keep them on your watchlist, help out every now and then, so you can share in their rewards when they reap it.

Cold? Maybe. Reality? Yes.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Call of Duty: Black Ops (PS3)

First day purchase and prestige edition at that. The radio controlled vehicle with video cam and microphone (plus the controller) is pretty cool but it's a disappointment that it's made of plastic parts mostly. Not very prestigious at all up close. But it will go nicely in my display case of game collectibles. (Time to make space again.) It also comes with a commemorative medal, and the game disc is in a nice hardcover "Classified" box.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fallout New Vegas (PS3): more play and screenshots

The desert feels desolate enough and the towns sufficiently empty and lacks good loot. I did complain about the game feeling empty, but I guess it's suppose to be this way since it makes sense that you find more stuff lying around in Fallout 3 because it's located in a major city.

Enemies are more vicious and tougher, it seems wiser to avoid them if possible.

I'm at the small settlement of Novac. New Vegas is probably a quest or two away.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fallout New Vegas (PS3)-- New game with old problems.

Fallout: New Vegas is the sequel to Fallout 3, build upon the same graphical engine as Fallout 3, players of the previous will be able to quickly get into the game with not much trouble. In my humble opinion, Fallout 3 had a pretty good leveling system, so it's not a bad thing that New Vegas continues using this system. It does feel somewhat aged, after all, the system is already a few years old.

It's been reported that Fallout New Vegas is plagued with technical problems from the get-go. It is particularly stinging because these are the same sort of bugs which have plagued Bethesda's games such as Elder Scrolls IV and Fallout 3, and these had been subsequently eliminated or at least lessened to an acceptable level after a few patches. So why are these same bugs and glitches back again in a new game?

Still, I consider myself lucky, because so far the game hasn't crashed on me except for the first time I started it up. Maybe it's because I don't play for very long stretches. But there are a lot of silly glitches such as:

1) Flickering of certain objects in the background.

2) Borders of entryways, such as doors, have a particularly bright outlines at times.

3) Killed enemies stuttering and flickering about on the ground.

4) Objects or bodies being thrown in the air when you enter an area.

5) NPCs popping out from behind you and suddenly speaking to you when you are sneak mode. (That's a bit freaky and breaks the atmosphere.)

6) Enemies not responding to you even though you are in plain sight and sometimes, they don't even respond to you shooting at them.

The game feels unpolished as a result of these technical glitches, odd NPC behaviors and other misc. strangeness.

It is quite noticeable that character graphics are not improved and imho, it's a little worse. NPCs have rubber faces with eyes that have whites that seem all too white and bright -- it makes them look like zombies.

New Vegas' vast open desert is mostly empty compared to Fallout 3's post apocalyptic Washington DC. It's very different with the lack of cover, you just have to make do. It's unnerving to have to track through that openness when there are lots of dangers like wandering enemies and rad scorpions.

Gun combat is much improved. Now when you look down the sight of a gun, it feels like you are playing a proper FPS. I found that I didn't need to rely on VATS as much because of this. The new character traits feature seems pretty interesting for further customization of your character.

There is now a hardcore mode for those who find the game too easy and it's one I'll try after I finish the game once in normal mode. In this mode, ammo will have weight, stimpacks don't fix broken limbs, and you have to eat and drink to sustain yourself.

About the main story and missions -- there isn't a great sense of urgency and the game starts out a little slow. At certain dialogue points, I felt that the game becomes way too scripted and doesn't give you enough ways to solve a problem. And now, with the probabilty of success based on the required skill plainly displayed, you wouldn't even have the urge to give it a try at all. (Whose dumb idea was it to have that displayed?)

In conclusion, open world rpg fans will still be pleased with the huge space to explore but if they have played Oblivion and Fallout 3, it's likely they will feel a little disappointed by this bug ridden release.

Professor Layton Vs Phoenix Wright

This is gonna be so awesome! No talk on the english version yet but these are popular characters from two rather popular games, so I would expect to see news about that in the coming months.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(Game-related ramblings of an internet junkie) Note to nobody

Game forums are always so fun at first but they always get over-populated by irritating types, or else, long-time members become frustrated and jaded, and then the whole place falls into negativity, sarcasm and constant argument over silly little things like how someone's preference is wrong or how one should/or should not say things in certain ways.

It's easy to get sucked in.

Just like it's easy to get sucked into conflict in life, in school or at work. You see these social groups forming. You find yourself belonging to one of these or want to belong to one of these. Might be funny to read some silly flame war for a while too. But before you know it, the community IQ falls, hostility is up and it's all not fun anymore.

There are always those who keep their heads. For the moment, I'm not one of these calm, level headed types. So I guess it's time for a break.

NDS: Dragon Quest 9 -- Sentinels of the Starry Skies

I'm not a fan of turn based JRPGs but this one's got me hooked. Dragon Quest 9 is set in a huge and pretty much open world to explore in, with monsters wandering the landscape (or in some cases, drop in on you.) and the map is dotted with towns filled with shops and quest givers. Of course, there's an epic main quest that will take 40-50 hours to complete.

Your character is a celestial who has lost his wings and halo after an earthquake that shook all the heavens and earth. After falling down to earth and being picked up by a kind villager girl who happens to run an inn. He will have to do good in the world in order to gain back his angelic qualities as well as... well... save the world (what else is new?). As with all traditional JRPGs, the game eases you in as introduces your background and the world in which you find yourself. The real game starts when you reach your first town and create your party of adventurers.

Party customization is basic but aesthetically very pleasing since all that you equip is reflected on your character. Gameplay isn't anything new but it is all very pretty, well implemented and traditional. There a whole bunch of equipment and items to make and collect, and lots of monsters to fight. Overworld map is huge with lots of optional areas for exploration and material collection (for your item making) and dungeons are properly designed and some have puzzle elements.

Over all, although this is an epic size roleplaying game, it's a rather casual one. You might need to level grind a little (or at least just don't avoid any encounters), the game plays smooth and without much frustration.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Note to nobody: Losing your game data

Games are sorta like dreams. They can be really pleasant, enjoyable and you want to stay in them forever. But eventually you will wake up, either naturally or rudely awaken by a loud noise. And it's all gone.

Video game data is an extremely volatile and fragile, prone to corruption.There's just no telling when it might all be wiped out of existence.

You do better if you accept this to be part of the gaming life. If it hasn't happened to you yet, it will someday.

Yes, it's disheartening to lose hours of game-play but well, shit happens. Put the affected games away for a few months. Play something new. Losing game data is nothing worth getting too upset over.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Note to Nobody

My gaming habit was greatly reduced in the past month due to my right wrist developing tenosynovitis. (hm maybe I'll make a blog of that.)

I've pretty much stopped PS3 gaming, abandoned my DS and PSP as well. Mainly playing iPod Touch / iPhone games these days.