Zynga’s FarmVille and Helping Out on Farms

So I decided to check out FarmVille recently. Makes me wish I were playing Harvest Moon – I should dig up one of those games sometime. Maybe even the GameCube one.

Anyway, one of the game’s mechanics caught my attention. You can help out on the farms of your friends – scare away crows, or do some weeding. You only get suggestions to help on the farms of your friends; you don’t get anything for random strangers, unless you happened to friend someone like that.
So what does helping neighbours with their farm do for those neighbours? For the helping player, it’s a quick visit to another farm, and clicking two buttons, in return for a small amount of currency and experience. It’s also an automated notification sent to the player they ‘helped’.

For the helper:

  • A way of getting money without waiting for plants or animals to reach a harvestable stage. It’s instant and doesn’t require spending anything, but doesn’t get you much – about the profit from a single
  • A way of getting experience, similarly.
  • Tells the person you helped that you’re playing?

For the helped:

  • They now know the helper is playing, if they didn’t already. The helped player can then ‘help’ the player that helped them.
  • More notification spam.

For FarmVille:

  • Reinforces player relationships?

If it doesn’t actually do anything for the helped player aside from informing them someone plays, then the action is a little… selfish. Players aren’t helping people to genuinely aid them; they’re helping people to make a little extra cash on the side, or they’re informing their friend that, yes, they play FarmVille too.

It’d be nice if helping out on the farm lengthened the period of time crops remain harvestable, or maybe even harvested (some) ready crops for the helped player. Maybe weeds or birds trying to eat things could be actual problems for a player.
Come to think of it, are there problems to encounter in the game? I suppose something like that would have players checking too often, worrying too much, though. FarmVille is definitely on the casual, low-interactivity side.

MMOs and Region-locking

A few friends of mine have been very excited about the Dungeon Fighter Online open beta, recently. I personally don’t understand the appeal of the game, but then again, I never tried the Japanese version, so they probably know something I don’t.
They’re both a bit pissed off right now due to the Nexon version being for Americans and Canadians only. Apparently Nexon never saw fit to inform them or the community about that. So neither of them can play, whilst they were as hyped up about the approaching open beta as the American hopefuls were. I suppose. I don’t know about whether it wasn’t announced – I get the feeling Nexon were hoping all the references to ‘North America’ and nowhere else were going to do the job, but a lot of people are posting right now asking why they can’t play, living in… Europe, Hong Kong, or South America, for example.

So one of my friends came up with something; why IP block places that don’t have – and probably won’t have – a version of the game in the foreseeable future? What advantage is there in a licensed version of the game that won’t accept players from regions that don’t have their own version of the game?
Granted, if a version of a game is subsequently developed for one of the areas without, and that area is then blocked from accessing the other versions, you’ll have a lot of people moaning about their characters, accounts and possibly the money that went into the other version. Depending on whether it’s the same company now managing both versions or not, there could possibly be character transferrals from one version to the other – if the company decides that doesn’t give character-transferring players an ‘unfair advantage’ if there’s a significant focus on direct/indirect PvP, if it’s a manageable amount of work and not too complicated…
If it’s another company handling the localisation, foreign players would be a little screwed. They might, might be able to get a refund to money they put into the now-locked version. Maybe. Or they might be told ‘You paid your money, you had your fun. Now go play and pay that other version you wanted.’ They wouldn’t be able to get back the characters they invested time in, though.

But if people were only locked out of other versions once their region got its own version, what incentive is there to companies bringing new versions out at all? The audience you want to approach is possibly already satisfied by another region’s version of the game, and you’re not guaranteed to get that entire audience if you localise the version for them – some might have burnt out already on a existing version. Some might be irritated because they spent money on a version they’re now locked out of, and even if they play this new version, might not be interested in paying anything more, as they paid once and got burnt. Some might be irritated as they have friends in the other version that they can no longer play with.

I like Guild Wars’ approach; all versions are the same, can connect, can play with each other. Lobbies are by default your own region, but you can hop over into, say, the Japanese or Korean lobbies should you so wish.
Then again, Guild Wars has to be nice. People have to pay – once, admittedly, but still have to pay – to play.

Nota bene:
I’m still a little twitchy about Mabinogi, where more or less the same thing happened. As of today, Mabinogi’s wikipedia article states that it has… lessee… Korean, Chinese, Japanese, North American and Australian versions, but no European version.
I also play Turbine’s DDO, the North American freemium version, rather than go for the subscription-based European one. Really, no general outcome of this problem is going to satisfy me entirely, let alone everyone.