Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
World of Farmcraft

Game developers, as well as the armchair developers on blogs and forums, tend to design games around what *they* would like to play. So if I'd ask you for what features your dream MMORPG would have, I'm sure you could provide me a list. But now imagine for a moment that you were an investor, with $50+ million to invest in a MMORPG project. As you can't afford that game to flop, you're more likely to look for features that you think will be popular, and you'll look at past successes. So what do we get when we combine the features of the most popular online games out there? World of Farmcraft, of course, the combination of WoW and Farmville.

In World of Farmcraft (WoF), every player starts out with a farm in a beautiful, large 3D world. He can plant things on that farm, breed various animals, and engage in other crafts. Tending to a farm only takes about half an hour per day, so the ultra-casual players might want to stick to doing only that. But players with more time on their hand can turn their plowshare into a sword, and go on adventuring. Players could also choose to do both, but the skill / talent system would make it better to specialize in either farming/crafting or adventuring, and only do little of the other activity.

World of Farmcraft would be a very social game, with lots of player interaction. Thus quests aren't provided by NPC, but by players. Farms can have problems with various pests, from wolves attacking sheep to threats of orc invasions. Thus farmers would offer a part of their profits as quest rewards to adventurer players to take care of these threats. In the other direction adventurers would buy equipment crafted by farmers. Players would organize themselves not in guilds, but in villages, in which farmers and adventurers need to work together against common outside threats.

What other features would you add to World of Farmcraft, taking basic design principles from either WoW or Farmville and turning them into something designed for maximum popularity for the largest possible playerbase?
Holiday animals, decorations, and events.

World of Farmcraft reminds me alot of Sims in a way too.
I think this would be great. Think about all of the people who play Farmville that would never play WoW. My girlfriend is one of them.

If I could play in the same virtual world as her that would be awesome. If farmers can give quests to adventurers and craft items to sell to them it would create an entire new type of MMO interaction.

If something like this were to come about I would like to see some sort of job system put in place. That way the players could not only choose to farm or adventure, but to do other things as well.
I have a lot of ideas but I think Housing and Fluff (pets, clothes, accessories, furnishings) would best accomplish the goal of popularity. Other features that I would like to see but would probably take away from maximizing user appeal would be professional guilds that allow players from different villages to band together (mercenary companies, farmers cooperatives, crafting guilds) to tackle bigger threats and challenges. Group-use buildings that confer bonuses over their communal counterparts (guild halls, crafting workshops, auction houses). Pets. Work animals. Marriage/unions. Children/adoption (see Torchlight's character retirement feature). Banking.
Mmh. I'm not sure about Farmville. In my opinion this game is an statistical network artifact.

Code 200.000 equally bad social games. Due to networking effect exactly one of them will eventualy dominate the rest.

Before you copy/paste Farmville (or WoW for that matter!) you should think about "Why is it so successful?".

I do not think that people just inherently love to plant virtual plants.

Still: To combine different playing styles in one game is one way of player generated content and therefore I welcome every try. EVE also tries it right now. If they are successful, Blizzard will follow.
Nils - that is what I was trying to get at. That by combining different play styles all together into one game it makes for very interesting player generated content.
I'd so play that.
I think statistics are vital to games in general. People are competitive in nature with themselves and others. Stats, achievements, high scores and lots of them. It brings me back to Grand Theft Auto where you could see all your stats. From how many people you've killed to how much property damage you have caused.
Give a reason to log into it every few hours. Make it playable through a web-browser, so people could play from work during their 10-minute break.

There are a few browser MMOs out there, FusionFall, and Free Realms are two examples.

By making it browser based, you're talking about a platform anyone can use.
I think the features are less important than the technical aspect for Farmville. It is an integrated app on Facebook that costs nothing and requires no download, so you can play it from anywhere. If Farmville were simply a game you went to a website specifically to download and play, it would have a tiny fraction of its current users.

Runescape consistently claims many more active players than WoW. It is a crappy game, but it's free and can be played through a browser with no download.

I'm not saying the game would be good, or even very profitable. But for maximum players, I think you clearly need to make it a free Facebook app.
Doesn't this model take us back a decade or so to what we thought virtual worlds were going to become?
"Doesn't this model take us back a decade or so to what we thought virtual worlds were going to become?"

Raph Koster thinks so:

As for World of Farmcraft what it needs from my perspective is niche alternatives. It pretty much encapsulates everything I don't like in a single MMO. The Britney Spears of virtual worlds.
I'd make it free to play with a RMT shop, and can be played in browser with lower graphics playable on a netbook OR a fully-featured several gigabyte download client with all the high resolution textures and graphical bells and whistles.
I also see technical problems. Most adventurers demand at least a WoW-Level of graphics that can't be achieved in a browser game. Farmville on the other hand absolutely needs to be browser-based because most of its playerbase is so ultra-casual that even downloading a client is too hardcore for them. Maybe client and browser could be linked somehow? Like...the client is the standard way to play but if you want to be just a farmer you could also use the browser. Your actions would control a half-automated pseudo-npc in the client-world while the movement of nearby adventurers would be visible very roughly in the browser.
I don't play Farmville, but when I read your description of this imaginary game I couldn't help but think "I'd so play that"!
Oddly enough, something like this would be exactly what I would want. An easier was to put it would be that more "active" players would be the heroes/adventurers of the typical MMO, while casual more "passive" players would be the NPCs of the typical MMO.
No way in hell I'd ever play that game. The only aspect sounding remotely fun is player generated quests. Outside of that it's a yawner and too much like Sim 500 AD.
How about establishing a local sexindustry ? Always seems to hit home. As for the consept Im not so sure. In other areas of marketing it seems ofthen that success comes from creating a need, not guessing what the need is. People wants to buy stuff so we tell them what to buy. People wants to play mmorpg so we tell them what to play. The games still needs to be awsome ofc.
A very nice idea, specially about the player generated quests. There is only one problem with this and that is exploits of the quest system. How would the rewards be worked out, does the farmers have to give some items of their own row could the mechanics create one? If the players have to spend their own gold and fortune for a reward, the rewards will probably be to low for the adventurers to do the quests, if the mechanics supply the it will create an easily exploitable system. for example a player could create two characters, one farmer and one adventurer.. and what would the player interaction come to then?

Why limit to just farming, when there are so many other crafts? The world would need blacksmiths, tailors, merchants and so much more.
Again it is a matter of balance, it must be just as rewarding to be a blacksmith as an adventurer, they must be able to make the same amount of gold in the same amount of time.

For sure this would unite so many different playing styles, and by that might even be able to take WoW's place as #1 MMO (when it comes to number of subscribers).

What I would like to hear more about is how to generate more player interaction. How to make a game more social and to reward god social behaviour? How could one implement player generated quests in an existing MMO?
I would play World of Farmcraft (in fact, I've been dreaming of it for a few years now). To me, the key to setting the game apart is to strike a parity in status between adventurers and "craftsmen." Typically, becoming a great craftsman only involves investing time and game money into accruing skill points; adventuring is biased by a player's skill so that skillful players can accomplish more with less. This culminates in epic players who fight in heroic raids. However, craftsmen seldom to rarely achieve server-wide fame; if they do it's because they've acquired an ultra-rare recipe and not because their crafting play has lifted them to a higher plateau.

If World of Farmcraft included certain crafts/tradeskill that were done by an active, player-skill based mini-games, such as some of the more advanced crafts in A Tale in the Desert (e.g. glass-blowing), then I think your game will be a hit--offering depth of play to people who like conflict and people who like socializing (and those players who are hybrids).
Looking at market penetration, I would try to leverage existing media like facebook and allow people to contribute content to build a player-driven (or at least influenced) virtual world. The target audience would be mobile devices. People could play games or puzzles to earn points or either real or virtual rewards.

Imagine a world where you could earn free cellphone time or music downloads. People could easily get hooked on that.

I personally would not have any interest in playing it, but from a business perspective, I see it as the next leap forward (or backward!) lol.
Harvest Moon, Rune Factory as an MMO?
Natsume may want to talk to you.
You're describing a Harvest Moon MMO. Or maybe Animal Crossing. I think it's a great idea and it surprises me no one's built this yet. More generally, why aren't there more MMOs that are designed around constructing things instead of killing things? Cities XL was constructive, but I don't think we can draw any lessons from its failure other than it wasn't very good.
This would be quick fail. The farmer does not give quest to others but try to clean the wolves alone. After the wolves killed him, he stops playing.
Add a feature to conquer other people farms and you have a winner!
I think Nils may be on to something there. There is very little variation in any of the facebook games.

They either run to the Wars, style of RPG lite. Or the Farmville model of Simcity Lite.

Its also got built in advertising in that your FB timeline fills up with reams of farmville (or mafia wars) spam posts and people keep sending you gifts.

Farmville may be popular, but I reckon its a blip.
Tobold, you realize you just perfectly described EVE, right ?
Only in your very warped mind. Because I'm pretty certain I left out the part of the description where the casual player is getting ganked by some hardcore jerk.
But seriously, what i meant is you described it perfectly.

- Player Quests
- Social Interaction
- Sandbox
- Farmer paying players for protection
- Skill system, specializing
- Villages (Alliances)
^^^ based upon the above, my new description of EVE Online is "tragic". A great game with a tragic (fatal?) flaw. A Macbeth analogy is apt; a fall from greatness by senseless killing. I remain puzzled why Gevlon is not playing EVE though.

I think a huge success will need to better accommodate [frequently] solitary players. "Alone together" A game with "forced grouping" makes it tougher to just log in for a few minutes, since there are social pleasantries and you might be expected to participate in some group event.

The ultimate MMO I think would draw more from Second Life. A very sophisticated VR, but it needs some structure to be an MMO. You may not need "Quest #487A kill 12 pigs", but the typical game player needs more guidance than just being dropped into the virtual world.
Can people play it from facebook on their iphone?
Tobold, you should refrain from drinking before 5pm.
1...the ability to do the farming 1/2 online and the war 1/2 in-game.

2...the ability for the hard-cores to buy crap for extra real $

3...ensuring that you can do the farm 1/2 without ever really having to worry about the war 1/2 (ya, wolves may attack my cows, but i can go on without doing anything to the wolves, so what if i loose 2 cows a day)...and visa versa (i can kill crap without having to worry about farming).
A major factor in WoW and Farmville's success is that they do not require you to interact with other players to be successful. Your premise has players forced to interact, which kills your ultra-casual vibe deader'n a doorknob. The game would absolutely need to be completely soloable in order to hit the broadest demographic [and get funded]. By "soloable" I mean "I never have to interact with anyone else EVER."

Some mild OPTIONAL interactions are desirable, but the game can't be set up to make soloers -- that is, people who NEVER want to interact with ANYONE else while playing -- feel lesser about themselves. (For instance, people who group in WoW don't really level meaningfully faster than people who solo... the tacked-on "end game" of WoW notwithstanding. Remember that most of those 12 million players never reach level 80 and certainly never raid.)

So with that in mind I would remove all interactions as stated, and simply make Farmville with an optional solo hunting experience that you can play with your friends. You might also be able to trade seeds and sprouts among friends, that sort of thing, or sell rare items on the auction house. In general, the extent of interaction would be the auction house and similar mechanics.
@Eric Heimburg: Farmville and many browser games requires that you get your friends playing to get certain things to unlock. Otherwise you won't make progress down that path.

@Kiseran: Look at Free Realms and FusionFall before you say that browser based games can't match WoW-level graphics.
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