Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Wealth of Christmas Gifts in FarmVille

Zynga pulled out all the stops where Christmas was concerned this year. Christmas in FarmVille always is a magical experience and the holiday celebrations are reasons enough for me to remain a loyal player, despite the other annoyances and frustrations that accompany the game.

For Christmas this year, the first experience at the start of Advent was a new Winter Farm, in the form of the Winter Wonderland, with a magical Railway and frozen Treasures... A new Sweets Shop on the Winter Wonderland Farm allows Players to prepare wonderful traditional Christmas Recipes.

This release was followed by the Winter Hearth closer to Christmas, where a Player's stocking resided and grew whenever others sent Stocking Stuffers. A magical Sleigh yielded Holiday Gifts each day when harvested.

Then came the Twelve Days of Christmas, a little different from last year and at first, a bit confusing to some players who experienced it in the past. This year, the 12 Days Gifts are contingent on the number of players who click on the link and a Player receives only a single item for each day. In other words, for the 12th Day Gift, 12 Friends or Neighbours must click on the link and the Player never receives more than one 12th Day item.

There were Christmas Quests as well but these can be highly annoying as there are FAR too many of them and they require FAR too many Crop harvests of Crops that a player may have no desire or need to grow. I'd rather concentrate on the Crops that can be used in my favourite Recipes frankly. The rewards for completing the Quests can be good or they can be disappointing. Many players ignore the Quests now, and that is a pity. If Zynga had only a single Quest sequence at any given time, it would be much better.

On Christmas Eve, Players were allowed to open the Gifts under the Christmas Tree by moving their mouses over each wrapped Gift. After all Gifts were opened, a little film appeared. Santa and his reindeer were silhouetted against a full moon, then landed on Earth and delivered a huge Gift wrapped in gold paper. It contained one of the most gorgeous winged Unicorns created in FarmVille. What is particularly wonderful about this is that EVERY Player who had a Tree, whether the Tree were large or small, received this glorious Gift. In too many cases with Zynga and other FB game creators, Gifts follow reality in that the rich receive more than the poor...
In this case, however, every Player received the Winter Pegacorn, which sells for almost 40 FV Cash in the marketplace.

The Stockings are an ongoing game. This should have been explained better frankly because I and many other Players did not become involved with the Stocking game until Christmas. There is a sequence of possible Gifts under two headings: Naughty or Nice. Players must receive a specific number of Stocking Stuffers at each level to initiate a vote by their Friends and Neighbours: Naughty or Nice. This determines the actual chain of Gifts one can receive, but there is an opportunity at each level to purchase the OTHER Gift at a reduced price if one wishes.

For the actual Christmas celebrations, I would give my vote to FarmVille for the best Gifts and celebrations. CityVille as always offers wonderful animated items and buildings BUT there are far too many clicks required for almost everything. The concept of four expansions, each of which had its own magical gifts embedded in it, was good but the amount of work (and work on the part of Friends and Neighbours) required to complete any of them was outrageous. It becomes frustrating and actually unpleasant to view the unattainable Gifts each day. Completion of one set of requirements for the first expansion, moreover, initiated ANOTHER level of requirements. In all, there are four different sequences that must be completed in order to unlock the 'Giving Tree' on the FIRST holiday expansion. I still have not been able to complete that, and it makes me very sad. If any one at Zynga reads my posts, I hope they will unlock these holiday expansions for ALL Players before Twelfth Night! Otherwise, (not that my vote carries ANY weight in the Zynga universe), I will vote CityVille as one of the unsatisfying Christmas experiences.

CastleVille should have been wonderful, but alas, many low level players were unable to participate in the St. Nicolas Quests at all. Players were given a Tree only when they had completed Quests. To create the Catapult that sent Gifts to Friends and Neighbours, they had to complete MORE Quests. Gifts only contained a CHANCE of being a desired Item. Very disappointing... in its own way, as frustrating as CityVille.

Fantasy Kingdoms gave every Player one spectacular wrapped Gift in the form of a special Christmas Tower. It was a very beautiful Gift and frankly, I'd rather receive one REAL Gift than the chance to receive however many Items that never materialise. So Fantasy Kingdoms has my vote for being the most reliable and always magical game.

Unfortunately, there are many frustrations that accompany FarmVille still. Although the animated advertisements ALWAYS load and proliferate, the game itself sometimes does not load. Travel between farms is almost impossible. More often than not, the Player is forced to reload the game before he/she can perform any actions on another Farm. This ultimately discourages Players from playing more than one Farm, unfortunately. Zynga, please solve this problem! It is frustrating and time-consuming to be forced to reload.

At least with FarmVille, clicking on links to help other Players is not too time-consuming. In CityVille, on the other hand, it can take ages for a click to reach its goal and very often one receives the message of 'timed out', making the entire process a colossal waste of time. If my Neighbours wonder why they don't receive more clicks from me on their CityVille posts, THAT is why.

As in FarmVille, there are far too many Quests in CityVille, to the point where Players are overwhelemed and either ignore all of them or stop playing altogether. Instead of spending so much time and energy on Quests that should be staggered over the course of months rather than days, the developers should be set the task of working out the glitches and problems in the game! The same holds true for FarmVille.

Why are we asked to become Neighbours with Players with whom we have been Neighbours for months in CityVille? This is annoying not only to the Player who is urged to make the Request but to the Player who receives repeated Requests to become Neighbours to existing Neighbours? Work it out, Zynga!!! Why are we asked to send Requests constantly in FarmVille to Friends who either do not exist (because every one we know ALREADY plays FarmVille) or are people who definitely do NOT wish to play FarmVille??? The splash screen is extremely annoying and when it appears after what should be a simple act of travel to another Farm, almost intolerable.

Despite all of this, it is wonderful to be able to experience a little Christmas magic in virtual realities like FarmVille, Fantasy Kingdoms, CityVille and CastleVille.

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