Thursday, April 22, 2010

. . . Farmville

A Basic Guide to Farmville

T A B L E o f C O N T E N T S
  1. Introduction
  2. Basic Play
    - Crops -
    - Trees -
    -Animals -
    - Buildings -
    - Vehicles -
    - The Art of Gifting -
    - Special Events -
    - Expansion -
  3. Gaining XP
  4. Achievements
  5. Maintaining Relationships


If you are a fan of Facebook and you have more than just a few friends on that service, chances are good that you have heard of Farmville. If you have not, well, it is a game that is hosted on the site that features as its main component a farm.

You are the farmer, your job is to grow crops... And animals... And trees... And decorate it with farm-type stuff, all the while helping your friends and being helped by them as you each strive to make your farm the best farm that it can be! Ahem...

There is, I suppose, a logical approach to this very popular game - and when I say popular, I mean to the tune of 82,000,000 plus players (yes I really did mean eighty-two million players). Now granted, a handful of those players only play a few times, and some play once and never return, but by and large Farmville is the newest form of digital crack on Facebook, and its insidiously addictive nature pulls players back on an almost daily basis!


Well it is simple really - the game is structured to provide almost immediate and instant gratification. You can see your progress happen quickly - most players plant, grow, harvest, and then replant their first crop in less than a day, and despite the fact that there are two kinds of money in the game - coin which you can earn easily and use for most purchases, and dollars that you can only earn in small quantities - but you can purchase with real money - that are required for a lot of the really good and desirable stuff.

The simple point to that two-currency system is also the manner by which the creators of the game pay their bills... Make their money... Because while you can earn the second sort of money in the game - you get 1 dollar for every level you rise in the game - the reality is that most players will simply plop down the $10 for 25 Farmville Bucks rather than wait out the week or two of hard work that they would need to do in order to earn that 25 bucks, because there are really some cool things you can only purchase with the Farmville Bucks!

This guide is both a starting point for new players, and a guide to playing the game without spending real money - think of it as a tight guide to Farmville! The reason that I wrote it is (1) I am allergic to spending real money on imaginary things, and (2) I want my mates to both enjoy this game - and play it - so that I have lots of mates to play it with!

And so here, in this guide, are all of the secrets, wisdom, tips, and strategies that I have discovered while playing the game. How to maximize profit - or level gains - and how to make this game as fun as it can be without spending any real money. This information presented here is from my own thoughts and experiences, so it may have small errors, and I cannot make any promises on spelling, but by and large I hope you will find it useful. It is certainly worth what you paid for it!

Part I - Basic Play

- Crops -

The very essence of play in this game is planting your crops, and you start doing that by using the 6 plots of crop land provided for you by the mini-tutorial in the game, 4 of which already have some sort of crop planted in them. Creating tillable plots is a simple matter of selecting the hoe from the tool menu and then clicking on an area on your farm. But before you run about willy-nilly doing that, please bear in mind that every plot you create costs you $15 in Farmville Coin! This cost is offset partially by the fact that while it costs you coin, it also gains you a single experience point for each plot you create, but I emphasize the cost here because it is NOT a one time event.

To create a plot you must pay, and of course to plant seed on that crop plot you also must pay whatever the cost of the seed it - but after you harvest your crop from the plot you are left with an un-plowed plot - and it will cost you another $15 to plow it! Again I want to put emphasis on this, because it is a hidden cost in factoring your profits for growing whatever crop you choose to grow... When you are factoring costs you should always add the cost of the seed PLUS the $15 plowing fee, and then multiply that by the number of plots to determine your actual expenses. After that, you can multiply the cash value of the crop times the number of plots, and then subtract your costs to determine the actual profit for that crop.

If you are using automation tools - like the tractor - to plow multiple plots at the same time, you also need to factor in the cost of the fuel used by the tractor - and fuel is one of those items that is not easy to get because there are only two ways to get it - spend Farmville Bucks to purchase it outright from the store (which equates to real money and so is to be avoided) or have a LOT of friends in the game so that when they happen upon fuel in their fields and share it, you can obtain a reasonable supply.

Selecting what crop to grow is really a matter of what seeds happen to be available to you at any given time. What I mean by that is, every now and then the game has rare seeds available for purchase for a limited time that have a higher than average pay-off and require less than average growing time for that pay-off.

For example at the time that I write this guide, you can purchase Yellow Lentil seeds - a Limited Item that will only be available for another 11 days. THe breakdown for cost and profit is thus:

Lentil Seed Cost = $20
Plot Low Cost - $15
Total Cose per Plot = $35

Growing Time = 4 Hours
XP Gained = 1
Crop Sale Price = $80

Total gained from growing this crop is $45 per plot plus 1 XP per plot, which is not a bad return all things considered! The closest regular seed to this in grow time would be the Strawberry Seed, which sells for $10 but only nets $35 which gives you a profit of only $10 per plot once you factor in the plowing cost! The next comparable seed is Raspberry, which costs $20 but only has a 2-hour growth cycle.

Since you can do two crops in the same time as one crop of Strawberries lets double the units to get our comparison: Seed cost = $40 + $30 Plowing fee for a total of $70. Sales price on the Raspberry crop is $46 which we double to get $92, and after we subtract the cost of a plot ($92 - $70 = $22) you will see that is slightly more than twice the profit of the Strawberry crop but there are some onuses that we have to apply!

First, you actually have to be logged into Facebook at least every 2 hours in order to grow the Raspberries and not risk losing the crop to rot (berries rot FAST) thus wiping out any profits, and also - and this is a major deal-breaker - Strawberries have no XP gain on them, so you are spending that time and money and not gaining any XP!

When you evaluate what seeds you want to plant the obvious criteria is cost and profit, but there is another consideration to be added - time. If a crop completes its growing cycle and you are not there to harvest it within a certain amount of time (the actual time varies depending upon the type of plant) there is a chance that the crop will wither or rot, and you are then out all of the cost for growing it and gain nothing.

That being the case, time is an important consideration in the crop selection process! If you know you are not going to be able to log in and service you farm for en entire weekend, you want to pick a crop with a three-day growing time, like cotton or perhaps a four-day crop like artichokes. That way you know when the crop will mature, and you know you will be available to harvest it. These seeds cost a bit more than the berries, but the profit on artichokes is a whopping $119 per plot, and 2 XP per plot! Sure you could make more if you were actually there to grow other crops, but if you are not going to have the time to put into planting, plowing, and harvesting, picking a longer growing time is a key consideration.

- Trees -

One of the crops that keeps on giving, trees of many types are available in the game. Once you plant the tree (you can move them if you want to rearrange your farm) they begin their growth cycle, at the end of which they bear fruit - or nuts - you get the point. One good thing about trees is their crop is pretty robust! I have never had one rot or wither on me and in fact I am not sure that they can!

There is no obvious cost to benefit ration for trees - once you have the tree it will continue to produce crops as long as it is planted in the ground. The different trees have different growth cycles - for example the Cherry Tree requires 2 full days to produce its crop of cherries, while the Coconut Tree requires 3 full days. Another key item to consider though is the cost of the tree - for instance the two used in our example above are easy to factor - the Cherry Tree costs $225 coins while the Coconut, which is a Limited availability item, costs $1 Farmville Buck. Clearly $225 coins is not a lot of money considering that it will continue to pay-off for ever, but a Farmville Buck is not something you spend lightly!

Fortunately trees are one of the items that your friends can 'gift' to you - and you can even post a Wish Request that specifies the tree or item you most want.. Obtaining your trees in that fashion is the wisest way to do it - so when it comes to trees, seek them as gifts, do not pay for them!

Some trees pay off in a reasonable way - both in coins and XP - while others only pay in coins and offer no XP. Trees have a fairly high resale value, but selling a tree is never a good idea! Trees are your constant money maker, a crop that requires no tending or expense from you, and should be planted and retained, never sold!

- Animals -

Believe it or not, animals are a crop (or perhaps resource is a better word) producing commodity all by themselves! Once you get them and place them on your farm their timer starts - and when it matures, you gather their resource (or brush them in the case of horses) and that nets you coin! For instance a sheep produces wool every three days, and requires no maintenance by you. Its "crop" does not wither or rot - in fact once it matures it stays in that state until you harvest it, so it is a low-risk item.

What 'crops' do animals produce?

Cows and goats make milk - in flavors no less! A chocolate cow makes chocolate milk, a regular cow makes white milk, and a pink cow makes... Well, you can figure that one out.

Chickens make eggs, pigs... Well, since we are not actually killing them I am not sure what exactly pigs produce, but hey, it is money in the bank no matter how you look at it so I say place those animals!

Ah, but in order to place them you have to HAVE them, right? And that is a major problem because most animals - and I am not talking about just the Limited ones either - require you to spend Farmville Bucks. For instance a Golden Chicken will set you back $25 Bucks ($10 in real money), whereas a regular chicken (Brown Chicken) is a cool #7 Farmville Bucks (nearly $2.50 in real money). Obviously paying Farmville Bucks for our animals is not the way to go - but that is okay! You do not have to!

There are four ways that you can build a nice sized heard of animals at zero coin or buck outlay:

(1) Receive them as gifts from your friends. That is nice, but then your friends would have to pay for them, so maybe that is not the best way.

(2) Adopt them! This is one of the best ways to do it, but it requires you to read your friends wall postings and news on a regular basis. Randomly each day there is a chance that one of your friends will "find" a lost or orphaned animal on their farm.

When that happens, they have the option of posting a notice to that effect on their news wall, which in turn has a link on it that allows the first one of their friends to read the posting the opportunity to adopt that animal!

All that you need to do is be the first person to click on the adopt link on their news posting and you get a free animal that will produce a never-ending stream of money for you!

(3) Receive a bred animal from a friend. This is another good way to do it!

Among the different buildings that you can build on your farm are ones that are for animals. Of particular note is the Nursery Barn, a building in which you can place young animals who will eventually mature into adult animals, increasing their value to you (young animals do not produce as valuable a "crop" as adults do).

In addition to the Nursery Barn are other buildings in which animals can be "stored" to increase the profit potential from them - there is a Horse Barn, Chicken Coop, and Dairy Barn, just to name a few. When the adults are placed in those structures, they produce their crops in a uniform and often shorter time span, and it allows you to harvest as many as 20 of the same animal in one go - so it saves you time and keeps you farm from being cluttered up by hundreds of animals!

One side-effect of this though is that every now and then you - and your friends - will find a new baby animal in one of those buildings! When that happens you have the option of gifting it to one of your friends, and they can gift it to you - this is accomplished by you - or them - posting an adoption notice. First person to click on it gets the animal!

(4) Finally there is a fourth method - but this only applies to chickens! Every now and then the game will randomly spawn a special set of reward eggs in your Chicken Coop. You can then post a notice to this effect on your news wall, and your friends can take an egg to hatch, thus obtaining the type of chicken that goes with that egg. This method is in particular a great way to obtain the rarer and thus more valuable types of chicken - Black and Golden - for free.

The downside is, like most of the other methods, you have to be checking your friends news wall often, or they need to PM or text you about their find so that you can be one of the handful to actually obtain an egg!

- Buildings -

There are a bunch of different types of buildings in Farmville, some that serve a function, and others that are just for decoration. Here is a sampling of the buildings you can have in the game and what they do:

  • Barns of various colors (Store up to 20 items in them)
  • Chicken Coop (Stores chickens and allows collective harvesting)
  • Garden Shed (Stores Perfect Bunches of flowers you can then share with friends)
  • Horse Stable (Stores horses and allows collective harvesting and raising young to adult)
  • Library (Decorative)
  • Nursery Barn (Stores young and raises them to adult)
  • School House (Decorative)
  • Vacation House (Decorative)
In addition to allowing you to store animals and/or items building each structure also earns you large chunks of XP - for instance the Nursery Barn will earn you 50 XP! But the thing is, you actually do have to build them - meaning that you have to gather the parts required to do that - a task that you could expedite by spending Farmville Bucks - but that is not something we want to do.

We will use the Horse Stable as an example of the requirements for building a structure. To build a Horse Stable on your farm, first you will need to save up $5,000 coins, and then go to the Market and purchase the Horse Stable there. After you purchase it, you place it on your farm, and its appearance is a sparsely framed-out structure of 2x4's! To then turn it into the finished building, you have to put in specific items - here is the list:

  • 10 Bricks
  • 10 Nails
  • 10 Wooden Boards
  • 10 Horse Shoes
  • 10 Harnesses
You can either purchase these items using Farmville Bucks, or you can get them from your friends as gifts. The game allows you to give a gift to each of your friends once every 6 hours, so in theory you could obtain 3 to 4 gifts from each of your friends, each day. That means as long as you keep them well informed about what you need - either by posting Wish Requests through the game or by posting a note on your needed items to your wall or news board.

Once you have the required resources you can put them into the structure to finish it, and voila! You now have a completed Horse Stable! Go you!

The horse stable is one of the buildings on your farm whose color you can customize -though the cost of the paint - which comes in many colors - is $5 Farmville Bucks. While that is a lot of money, it may be an expense you are willing to bear in order to have a green, pink, blue, red, or white Horse Stable rather than a brown one!

Buildings are an important part of your farm and game play, as most actually serve a specific purpose, and all can earn you XP, so having a building project going all the time is not a bad idea! That way you can actually use the building resource items your friends will be sending you on a regular basis!

The most efficient placement of buildings - or for that matter trees, animals and other decorations, is to place them along the far edges of the farm, leaving the near-edges for use in placing plots. The main reason for this is because buildings and other objects can, if placed along the near edges or center of the farm, block or interfere with the use of some grid-spaces (plots).

There are some limitations to your use of buildings, and while these may not crop up on a smaller farm, you are likely to encounter them once you get to the larger sizes. Some good examples of this include:

The Dairy Farm
  • Functioning like a resource producing entity the Fairy Farm completes one cycle every 24 hours, and aggregates the cows that are contained within into a single harvest regardless of their type. When you harvest it you will receive the total amount produced by the occupants as if you had harvested each separately.
  • The cost of the Dairy Farm depends upon the number of neighbors you have, just like many of the other structures in the game. If you do not have enough you can only use Bucks to purchase it, if you do have enough, you can use coins.
  • You can only purchase a total of 5 Dairy Farms using coins. After that you can only purchase them using Bucks.
  • Each Dairy Farm will hold a maximum of 20 cows. Cows can be placed inside by drag-and-drop after selecting move, and removed by using the building's menu.

- Vehicles -

There are three vehicles (with variations of each that range in price and appearance) in the game that are of particular use to you - these are:

  • Harvester
  • Seeder
  • Tractor
Why are they useful? They each allow you to preform specific tasks in the game at a higher and faster rate! For instance the tractor allows you to plow 4 plots at the same time, the Seeder allows you to seed four, and the Harvester allows you to harvest four plots, making what most people consider the real chore in the game much faster and easier.

To use these vehicles all that you need to do is reach Level 12 in the game, purchase them with coin, and place them on your farm! Each time you use them they consume a specific amount of fuel from your fuel reserves however, so you will want to be sure to keep any and all fuel you get from friends, for completing collections, or as rewards from Mystery Boxes!

Once you reach Level 12 you can redeem the Fuel and it will be put in your "Farm Tank" - the level in the tank indicated on the screen by a yellow fill level bar and a number multiplier that indicates how many cans you have in the tank. For example, when the bar is half the width of the box and there is a 7x on the left, that means that you have 7 and one-half cans of fuel.

Every time that you use your vehicles you user fuel, so you want to be sure to plan out your fields in blocks of four, since plowing, seeding, or harvesting an odd block -say two plots - appears to use the same amount of fuel as doing four! Conservation is a good thing, and keeping costs low means gaining better profits!

- The Art of Gifting -

As odd as this may sound, gifting a neighbor with an item you actually want may be the quickest way of obtaining that item! The reason for that is that there is a mechanism in place when a player receives a gift - a button that they can press to gift back to the sender the same thing that the sender gifted to them. A lot of players do this under the assumption that the reason you gifted them that item is because you want one too! Keep that in mind when you send out gifts, and when you receive them.

If you really want a specific item or multiples of that item, you are best off posting a Wish Request for that item from the gifting menu.

- Special Events -

Every now and then - usually around a holiday - the folks that create Farmville add in a special event to celebrate the holiday or the season! Shortly before this guide was written the Spring/Easter Holiday was celebrated by the introduction of a special item called a Spring Basket and a set of special eggs that you can collect and place in that basket.

The Basket cost $1 Farmville Buck, and is itself the redemption system for the special event. How it works is simple enough - when you or one of your friends finds a special egg - and you can find them doing almost every activity in the game - you post an announcement to the news board that you found it, and a certain number of friends can claim an egg. You can also obtain them as gifts from friends, get them in Mystery Boxes, and purchase them from the Market for Farmville Bucks - but I do not recommend the later method.

Once you have a specific quantity of eggs - 10, 20, 30, 40, 75, 0r 150 - you can trade them in for the special prize that corresponds to the quantity that you have. For example 10 eggs will get you a Mystery Egg. Much like a Mystery Box, the Egg contains a random prize, and can include Fuel, decorations, and even a Farm Hand! For 20 eggs you can get a special sheep (called Sunny Ewe) that is wearing a costume, and 30 will get you a Bunny Gnome! I do not know what the other amounts will net because I have not reached that many eggs in my basket yet, but if/when I do I will be sure to update this section!

Please Note: This holiday event has ended. You can still obtain eggs in the game, but you can no longer obtain the Spring Basket - so if you do not have it, or you deleted/sold it, you cannot get another. Nobody knows how long the eggs will continue to spawn in the game...

- Expansion -

Eventually as you gain money, animals, buildings, decorations, and all of the other stuff that makes this game fun, you are going to be running short on room! The basic farm that you start with is more of a micro-farm - a small chunk of land that you use just to get your start. Expanding the size of your farm, however, requires you to meet specific criteria - either you have X number of neighbors (the specific number depends on the upgrade size) in order to unlock a given upgrade so that you can purchase it with coins, or you spend a considerable amount of Farmville Bucks to expand.

Obviously doing it via coins is the preferred method, since that does not cost real money, and besides you should be actively building a large group of neighbors anyway, since that will help you succeed in so many other aspects of the game!

If you chose to go the Bucks route because you either do not have enough friends for the upgrade that you desire - or you do not want to have that many neighbors - you should expect to spend some serious money! The upgrades are measured in grid-size, and the ones that measure 14x14, 16x16, 18x18, and 20x20 will cost you $20 Farmville Bucks per upgrade, which can quickly run into serious money. Beyond those upgrades are the 22x22 and 24x24 ones, which cost $30 and $60 Farmville Bucks each respectively.

If you are serious about the game you are going to want to upgrade it if just so that you have enough room for all of the very cool structures you can build. You will also want someplace to park your hot air balloon, and room for your swimming pool... My considered advice to you is to make friends, add neighbors, and make your upgrade purchases using coin rather than Bucks. Bucks you should save for the strategic items that you really want, or the Limited Edition items that you cannot obtain any other way.

Part II - Gaining Experience

Gaining experience (XP) is a significant part of the game - and not just for bragging rights! In fact gaining XP to increase your level is a key factor in play, because many of the seeds, items, and resources in the game, including buildings, are level restricted, while others require you to have a certain number of neighbors!

Fortunately there are a number of ways for you to gain XP, including:

  • Construct Buildings - each one you build pays off in a set number of XP
  • Earning Ribbons - Each ribbon you earn to commemorate an accomplishment pays off in XP as a nice dividend! See the Ribbons Section for more information!
  • Help a neighbor fertilize their crop - each plot you fertilize gives you XP
  • Help a neighbor with a chore - clearing weeds or varmints when you visit earns you XP!
  • Planting Crops - Each plot you plant is worth XP the amount depending on the seed.
  • Plowing - Each plot on your farm that you plow earns you XP.
  • Purchasing Decorations - some of the decorations in the Market include XP!
One of the best ways to gain XP is to help your neighbors. Every six hours when you visit your neighbors farm you will be prompted to preform a chore for them - pull weeds, run off some particularly annoying animals, or even fill in gopher holes - and in exchange for doing this you will earn XP and a little coin.

In addition to that, each visit you will be asked to help them out by fertilizing their crops. You are provided with 5 bags of fertilizer, and you receive XP for using them on your neighbors unfertilized crops or unfertilized plowed field. When you apply fertilizer to a crop they receive a better yield, which can take the form of a higher XP rate, higher coin rate, or higher proficiency number. In short it is a good thing that can have wonderful benefits for them, and earn you some XP!

But there are some things you need to be aware of if you are going to be a good neighbor - just a few tips to help make this system work really well!
  • Never leave your field un-plowed! If you log out of the game after harvesting your corps but fail to plow the fields again, when your neighbor arrives to help you out that day they will not be able to do so because there is nothing for them to fertilize! Always leave your farm configured so that your field or crops can be fertilized - this helps you and it helps your neighbor!
  • Try to have a chicken coop on your farm! One of the activities that your neighbor can preform each day is feeding your chickens - which earns them XP and earns you extra money when you harvest your Chicken Coop! Having your neighbors feed your chickens also may increase the chance of finding a good rare egg or other item in your coop when you harvest it - though nobody knows for sure if that is so, it is worth doing anyway!
  • Put your chickens in the coop! When your neighbor comes to feed your chickens they can only feed the ones that are inside your coop, so make sure that your coop is full! If it is not full, and you have chickens outside, why, put them in your coop! That way you gain and so does your neighbor!
  • Try not to fence in your Chicken Coop - the game requires your neighbor to actually walk over to the coop to feed the chickens - if you put a lot of obstructions in their way this can take extra time and frustrate them, making them not want to return to feed your chickens again! The best strategy is to place your coop near the edge of your field and do NOT fence it off!
  • Resist the urge to fence in your crops! Your neighbor has to move to the crop plot in order to fertilize it. Fencing off your plots may look cool, but it makes helping you harder, so try to avoid doing that!
You can earn a lot of XP every day by simply helping out all of your neighbors! The more neighbors you have, the more XP you can earn! Obviously that means you will want to invite as many people as you can to play the game with you - but when you do that, be considerate to your potential new neighbor!

Here are a few hints and tips on how to be a good neighbor when you are inviting others to play the game:

(1) Ask First! Instead of doing a blind invitation, or worse, sending a gift to a person on your friends list who does not already play the game, take the time to drop them a note telling them about the game, and why you want them to play it with you. You will find that this gets you a much better success rate than shotgun-gifting people every day!

(2) Be selective in what events you post to the news feed. Not all events need to be - or should be - posted to the news feed. For instance going up a level is nice, but posting it to your news feed is not beneficial to the other people who read it as all it is is a simple notice.

However, when you find Fuel, a special item, an animal, or a collectible, or you complete a collection or earn a ribbon, you SHOULD post about that! Why? Simple! Whenever you have one of those events, postings on it includes a link in the post that allows your friends to obtain an item, money, or a resource!

When you find fuel and post about it you are sharing the fuel. A certain number of people - I think it is ten - can then click on the link in your post and obtain a can of fuel for their farm! The same is true on collections, and perfect plants. Obviously if you do not post about a lost animal nobody will be able to adopt it, and posting about ribbons is a good thing because it allows your friends to celebrate with you AND obtain money or items as a celebration prize!

If any of your friends complain about your posts, point out that they can benefit from them! They may not even know about the links on each post and all this time they have not been benefiting from the share system, so telling them about that will not only make them not dislike your posts, but may gain them valuable items as well!

Part III - Achievements

Every now and then you will see a message pop up saying that you have received a colored ribbon - that means that you have earned and unlocked an achievement! There are a variety of awards for doing this, including money, XP, and items, and since these achievements are unlocked for preforming specific tasks, you can actually work towards earning them if you like!

The following list represents the current achievement list and is accurate at the time that this guide was written! Achievements come in four levels - Yellow, White, Red, and Blue, with Yellow being the lowest, and Blue the highest. These are the achievements in the game and how you earn them:
  • A Pretty Penny - Spend X # of coins.
  • Animal Shelter - Adopt X # of Animals.
  • Architect - Own X # of Buildings.
  • Best of the Rest - Receive MVP on X # of Co-Op Jobs.
  • Cat Lady - Brush Cats X # of Times.
  • Cream of the Crop - Harvest X # of crops.
  • Crop Whisperer - Fertilize X # of Neighbor's Crops.
  • Cunning Collector - Complete X # of Collections.
  • Egg-celent Discovery - Discover X # of Mystery Eggs in the Chicken Coop.
  • Employee of the Month - Complete X # of Co-Op Jobs at Gold Level as Helper.
  • Fabulous Foreman - Complete X # of Co-Op Jobs at Gold Level as Starter.
  • Fenced In - Place X # of Fences.
  • Flower Power - Harvest X # of Flowers.
  • Foremost Fruit Farmer - Harvest X # of Fruit Crops.
  • Good Samaritan - Help X # of neighbors.
  • Green Thumb - Harvest X # of Unique Crops.
  • High Roller - Earn X # of coins.
  • Horse Power - Find X # of Items in Stables.
  • King of Compost - Harvest X # of Fertilized Crops.
  • Knock on Wood - Harvest X # of items from trees.
  • Local Celebrity - Befriend X # of neighbors.
  • Lord of the Plow - Use a Tractor to Plow X # of Plots.
  • Need for Seed - Use Seeder to Seed X # of Plots.
  • Noah's Ark - Collect from X # of Unique Animals.
  • Not Spoiled, Gifted - Have X # of Unique Gifts in your Gift Box.
  • Pack Rat - Own X # of Decorations.
  • Pretty Garden - Place X # of Flower Bouquets on your Farm.
  • They of Mystery - Open X # of Mystery Boxes.
  • Tree Hugger - Harvest X # of Unique Trees.
  • Vegetable Virtuoso - Harvest X # of Veggie Crops.
  • Zoologist - Collect from X # of animals.
In the list above the X stands for the number of this task/item/activity you must complete for the current stage of your Achievement Ribbon. For example, a yellow ribbon might require 10 times, White 25, Red 50 and Blue 100.

The pay-off for completing achievements can be significant, so this is an activity that you should at least be aware of and try to work towards as part of your goal for playing each day!

Part IV - Collections

Introduced in January 2010, collections are a welcome addition to the game and pay off in a predictable and beneficial way! Each completed collection is worth:
  • 250 XP
  • $5,000 Coins
  • 5 Tanks of Fuel
The following collections exist in the game at the time that this guide was written, the items in each collection, and their general rarity level:

(1) Bugs Collection
  • Beetle (Uncommon)
  • Caterpillar (Common)
  • Centipede (Rare)
  • Dragonfly (Common)
  • Ladybug (Common)
  • Stick Bug (Uncommon)
(2) Butterfly Collection
  • Blue Butterfly (Common)
  • Copper (Rare)
  • Emperor (Common)
  • Painted Lady (Common)
  • Swallowtail (Uncommon)
  • Zebra (Uncommon)
(3) Country Kitsch Collection
  • Cow Bell (Rare)
  • Needlepoint (Common)
  • Pocketwatch (Common)
  • Salt Shaker (Uncommon)
  • Spigot (Common)
  • Thimble (Uncommon)
(4) Feather Collection
  • Banded Quill (Uncommon)
  • Blue Feather (Rare)
  • Dapple Plume (Common)
  • Green Plume (Common)
  • Hen Feather (Common)
  • Red Feather (Uncommon)
(5) Gardening Tools Collection
  • Cultivator (Common)
  • Gloves (Common)
  • Pruning Saw (Uncommon)
  • Shears (Rare)
  • Trowel (Common)
  • Twine (Uncommon)
There are a number of ways for you to obtain the items for these collections, including:
  • Finding them while plowing/seeding/fertilizing
  • Receiving them as a gift from a friend
  • Obtaining them by clicking on the link in a friends collection completion notice
  • Finding them in a Mystery Box
Obviously you cannot really control when you will complete a collection, but keeping your eye out for opportunities to do so is always a good idea!

Part V - Maintaining Relationships

While I touched upon this throughout the guide, I feel that the subject deserves its own section in the guide - a section on Maintaining Relationships!

Relationships are a significant factor in this game - for while it may not be the most social of games in the sense of communication while you play, it is nonetheless heavily reliant upon the good will and happiness of your neighbors. Keeping them happy - and maintaining your own happiness - is certainly possible, and you may even find it easy as long as you observe certain etiquette.

The first step in this process is to remember that the people you are inviting to play the game with you are just that - people - and not simply playmates whose function and purpose is to help you to make your game better. Taking an interest in their activities, wants, needs, and own interests is an excellent starting point for maintaining your friendship with your neighbors - especially the ones you do not actually know or communicate with in real life (IRL).

- Inviting your Neighbors -

The very foundation of your commitment to maintaining your relationships should focus upon how you invite others to play the game. Remember in the end what you are doing is appealing to their self-interest in order to reach goals you have established for yourself! They benefit from their relationship with you in the same way that you benefit in your relationship with them, through a constant flow of gifts, items, and services that you preform for each other.

Starting off your relationship by having the courtesy to invite a neighbor to play the game by sending them a message that describes the game is some detail, and appeals to their desire to have fun is an excellent way to start the process. Randomly firing off invitations or sending gifts to the people on your contact/friend list is probably not the best way to interest them in the game - especially if they do not have a lot of experience with Facebook gaming. If they do not have much experience, they may not even understand what those "gifts" are intended for, let alone know how to join the game - so a little care in crafting your introduction and request letter is a good idea.

- Their Needs are Your Needs -

You should be visiting each of your neighbor's farms on a daily basis to help out with fertilizing and feeding their chickens at a minimum - and while you are there, you should be taking a look around. What are they building? What resources do ou think that they may need?

If you discover on your daily visit that they have started building a Horse Stable, some Horse Shoes, Harnesses, bricks, nails, and wooden boards will surely be appreciated. Sending them these items without first having to be asked for them says a lot about you as a neighbor! It tells them that you pay attention and that you care about them, and it is this sort of attention that strengthens the bonds of friendship.

When you put forth this sort of effort, you will find that most people are willing to do the same and often more for you!

- Try not to Spam -

One of the less favorable aspects of this game is the notice system. Practically any activity that you do and accomplishment - no matter how small - is a subject of the notification system. What that does in a nutshell is post a notice to their news feed - and when they suddenly see a dozen notifications from you, and as many or more from the other people that they play the game with, it is easy to understand why that might irritate them!

For one thing, spawning a notice for everything you do in the game that is part of the notice system includes a lot of useless and trivial information - much of which is not of interest to anyone but you! On the other hand, certain notices have specific value to your neighbors beyond the function of filling them in on your progress, and that is something for you to keep in mind.

A good example of this is lost animal notices and found object notices (also known as "Shares"). Unless you do post these notices the system does not function! Your neighbors will not know about the lost Bull that is up for adoption, or the three Spring Eggs that you found and want to share with them, and without you posting that information, there is no link for them to follow anyway!

Another type of post that can result in bonus items and money are the ones connected to completing collections and earning ribbons - both of which have links that your neighbors and friends can click on to obtain money or special items.

While you should make every effort to limit the notices to the ones that are helpful or useful to your neighbors, if one complains about the number you are generating, be certain that you explain why you seem so free with saying yes to a news posting - explaining that the posts are actually useful to them, and then tell them why.

- Just Showing Up -

Just showing up consistently to help out on their farm says a lot, but it is even more important - some might even say critical - when you are participating as a leader or follower in a Co-Op challenge!

If you are not familiar with the Co-Op challenge system, that is where a group of players who are fairly close in levels pick a co-operative challenge, and then work together to complete it. If the challenge is for Cranberries, then everyone who has agreed to participate should be growing Cranberries!

It is very important that you do not accept an invitation to one of these events and then proceed to do your own thing - which can and often is viewed as intentional sabotage - by not growing the agreed to crop. I have seen the lead person in these events nearly go postal over this sort of thing, and it is fair to say that enemies were made that day. You don't want that, so remember, sometimes just showing up and doing what you said you would do is more than enough!

- Good Comments make for Good Friends -

It may not be obvious to you, but despite the fact that there is no mechanism built into the game to allow you to chat in real-time with your neighbors, there are elements that allow you to leave comments and offer encouragement.

When you enter a neighbor's farm you may notice that there is a chat bubble next to the name of the farm at the top right of your screen. You can click on this and then type in a comment for the owner of the farm, and then literally stick the comment on a sign and jam it into the ground on their farm!

One of my favorite things to do when I happen upon a particularly clever or pretty use of the decoration elements or layout on a farm is to post a sign nearby it telling them that I liked their design. You know what they say - you can draw more bees with honey than you can with vinegar!

In Closing

Like a lot of things in life that involve other people, you tend to get out of this what you put in. Alone is a lot harder row to hoe, but together with your neighbors, your lot gets easier. Call that my parting advice to you...

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Farmville® is the registered trade mark of Zynga Limited. Facebook® is the registered trade mark of Facebook. The use of images and/or materials from either entity complies with the Fair Use Statutes.

This guide is Copyright © 2010 CM Boots-Faubert. All rights reserved including its use on the World Wide Web. Permission must be obtained to reprint, display, print, or make use of this guide in any way other than to view it on the web sites that are authorized to display it. At this time, the only sites authorized to display this guide are and so if it appears anywhere else, they stole it!

Permission is hereby granted for you to print one (1) copy of this guide for your personal use. If you want to use this guide for any purpose other than personal use you need to obtain my permission first. You can contact me via email at chris (at) boots-faubert (dot) com.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

... Game Score

The other day I was playing an arcade game on XBox Live when I received a private message on the service asking me how I could have racked up so large a Gamer Score in so short a time?

To clarify, according to my Gamer Tag on XBox Live at the time I had only been playing for 1-Year (my 2-Year anniversary was yesterday and my tag now properly reflects that I have been active on the service for two years) so it looked to the average viewer like I had racked up better than 60,000 Gamer Score in only a year.

Now, 60,000 Gamer Score in two years is not such a big deal when you consider that the average game has 1,000 GP (GP = Gamer Points) in it, and can have more if there are DLC expansions offered for it. Viewed that way it would only take about 30 games a year to see that sort of score if you were getting all of the Achievements in them - I rarely ever do that though, and if you look at my played games list you will see that I average around 500 GP per game, which means roughly half of the Achievements.

The reason for that is simple enough - I do not pick my games based on their Achievements and I do not play the games with unlocking Achievements as my primary goal. If an Achievement is unlocked as part of normal play I will probably unlock it, but if it requires me to jump through hoops or do something I am unlikely to do anyway, well then I will probably not unlock that one.

Achievement Whores

Before my timer ticked over and the service reflected that I had been playing for 2 years and not just 1, I had been accused of being an Achievement Whore more than once.

"Nobody gets 62,501 Gamer Score in a year unless they are an Achievement Whore!" one message declared. This was a message from a person I did not know and who, I am certain, my only contact with was a single pick-up game in multi-player Modern Warfare 2!

Essentially what the player was saying was that I had picked games and played them to get a high Gamer Score. I can only assume that the guy never actually looked at my games list, because if he had, he would have realized that if I was anything it was not an Achievement Whore!

In the world of Achievement Whoredom there are certain games that you are always going to see in a players list of played games - these are titles that are practically a dead give-away that the person is an Achievement Whore. Titles like Avatar: The Last Airbender - a game that you can get 1000/1000 GP in for playing less than 5 minutes, requiring you to hit a wall over and over to do it. I mean the game only has 5 Achievements in it!

There are other titles - often called "Twink" games - that routinely appear in the game lists for Achievement Whores. "Twink" in this instance is short for "Twinky" which is an angel-food and creme snack cake, and in this instance is supposed to represent a very easy and therefore shameful accomplishment.

Some of the "Twink" games you will see in lists include King Kong, some of the Madden NFL games, in fact a lot of sports games that allow you to have the computer play itself and still unlock Achievements are on that list. There is Open Season, Up, a few fishing games, and some games that are based on comic book heroes.

The point here is that you will not find any of those in my played games list - not because I refused to play them, but because I have never had to play them. I have never needed to because for the most part I play two types of games - the ones I actually want to play, and the games I have to play for work. Mostly the twink games do not appear in either list.

At this point you might be asking yourself if this is really an issue at all? Bear with me for a moment...

Boosting is as Boosting Does

Ever heard of the term "Boosting?" It means getting together with another player or players expressly for the purposes of helping each other fulfill the requirements for specific Achievements in a particular game. For example players "boost" together in games like COD, where they join the same multi-player game, and then find a private corner in the game and take turns shooting each other in the head to unlock the achievement for X number of head shots!

Before you wonder - yes, this is considered to be cheating by a vast majority of the players online. In fact there are even players who spend part of their day actively combating this sort of gaming behavior - Google the name "Sandy Ravage" some time if you are curious about how this might be.

Some game studios will even ban players for doing this - and for more egregious violations of this sort, the XBox Live official service often not only bans a player, but zeroes out their Gamer Score and slaps the word "Cheater" on their Gamer Tag!

To say that this sort of thing is a problem is probably the understatement of the decade. It is a Big Problem, and an organized one. There are actually web sites and chat boards online whose only purpose is to help players connect with each other to boost GP! To help each other acquire Achievements.

Grey Market Economy

Hovering around the edges somewhere between the blatant cheaters and the regular players are the people that are often called Achievement Whores. There are websites that exist to publish hints and tips for unlocking achievements in games. They often provide road maps that a player can follow to unlock all of the Achievements in a game - though usually that means playing a game in a way that takes most of the fun out of it.

The vast majority of these sites are legitimate - I want to make that clear. The vast majority of Achievement Whores are not technically doing anything wrong, and they are not really breaking the rules - they just happen to have a different set of goals and values than most players, really. The point is, despite the fact that what they are doing is not "wrong" it is still not something that your average player wants to be accused of being.

What is in a Rep?

When I heard that there were web sites that offered pay-for-play Achievement services I was stunned. Basically these are people who, for a fee, will log into THEIR Xbox or PS3 using YOUR account, and then play a game and unlock the achievements that you want them to unlock. Why would anyone pay for this sort of service?

Well, it turns out that a lot of players consider their Gamer Score to be the visible representation of their reputation as a Gamer. In fact there are sites on the web whose purpose is to promote contests between members to see who can rack up the highest GP total in a given day/week/month, and other sites that feature the top 1000 Gamer Scores out there.

It is - for a lack of a better phrase to use - the Meter from which Bragging Rights originates.

Who cares? That is the question that most casual gamers are likely to ask. Clearly there is a fairly significant percentage of gamers out there who do care!

Judge me Not

If I am asked I say that I do not care about Gamer Score - I know that because I have been asked and that is what I say. The question is, am I being honest here? On one hand I really do not care about Gamer Score in the sense that I want mine to be higher than yours, or that I want to reach X score by Y time, but am I really completely immune to the pull? Does it really not matter to me?

The other day I was playing the Arcade game Ticket to Ride - one of my favorite Arcade games on the Live service and the game that I often play to relax after coming off of an 8-hour long run on a game I am playing for work - and I caught myself doing something...

I joined a game with three other players, and as I was waiting for the game to start, I jumped into the Friends Screen and checked the Gamer Scores for the players I was about to play - and specifically I checked to see what Achievements they had unlocked in Ticket to Ride!

Okay, it was a legitimate thing - after all knowing what 'chieves they have unlocked will tell me several things - how long they have been playing, and how skilled they are. And yet.... I was judging them by their Gamer Score. Not intentionally, but if I am to be honest with myself, I have to admit that in this instance, at that moment, yeah, their Gamer Score mattered.

We live in a very strange world, us gamers. I have not made up my mind about this Gamer Score thing... It needs some more thought.


You might think that the only group aware of the whole Gamer Score thing is the players - but you see that big G in a circle that I used as the illustration for this post way at the top? That is the symbol used to identify the website Gamerscore Blog - a site that is created by some of the employees over at Microsoft!

Now to be fair the content of that blog is not specifically about Gamer Score, but it is an interesting and anecdotal shading of the entire topic that it is used as a means of identifying the blog to the world, and its connection to the phenomenon. I am just saying...