We’ve done some looking around and Icebreak appears to be a part of China media conglomerate Tencent, which has been experimenting on Faceboook since last fall. And Ranch Life appears to be a Facebook version of Tencent’s QQ Ranch, a popular game in China.
The game is simple enough to learn as players walk through the basics with a flood of tutorial pop-up windows. Essentially, the idea is to buy and raise a multitude of different animals and sell whatever they produce for profit.
Each animal has four stages to go through: Baby, mature, production, and retirement (so-to-speak). For a nominal cost of the game’s in-game currency (there is not virtual currency, but you can buy more of the in-game version), players purchase the baby version of a rather wide variety of animals, and they will be immediately placed inside a fenced in area. After a few hours, they will mature and then be ready for production.
In order to produce, the player has to place them in a production area where they will create sellable, well, products after X amount of time. The value and type of items will vary from creature to creature, and while some are very obvious (chickens make eggs, cows make milk), others are either amusing (rabbits make… lots of rabbits) or aren’t clear (what does a monkey produce?).
After each production, the player has to wait a few hours, once again, before the process can be repeated, and eventually the animal becomes too old and has to be sold to market; for a decent price, of course.
As for what that income fetches, there isn’t a whole lot in the field of decoration here. Players are really only limited to upgrading their coop and stables. Though this does make the ranch look a bit better, they have no real control, and its purpose seems strictly functional – allowing the player to care for more animals at one time.
The care itself is the other money sink, as animals actually have to eat. As such, players purchase feed with up to 200 servings. Each animal will eat a set amount from the feeder every couple of hours, so it is prudent to check back and refill it at least daily.
Frankly, Ranch Life is exceedingly simple, but it is a nice little game for those that enjoy cute applications. Also, the number of animals, while limited to 15, are all very unique and include, in addition to the previously mentioned ones, pandas, swans, peacocks, and even kangaroos. Furthermore, each animal has sets of random, and entertaining commentary that they randomly spout out as they traipse across your ranch. According to the chicken, it was him that came before the egg.
As simple as the game is, there isn’t a whole lot to do early on. Once you have friends, you are able to go about and help clean up their ranch by swatting flies and cleaning up droppings (which can be sold… as fertilizer, hopefully), but after that, it’s pretty much a waiting game. That isn’t a bad thing, of course, as most social games are only designed to be played for five or so minutes at a time anyway, but it can make it a little difficult to get a new player hooked. Other than that, the game is a bit heavy on the spam side early on. Beyond the tutorial, its share this, post this, congratulations that, invite your friend, bookmark me, etc. Granted, a lot of games do this, but most of these are at least spread out to some degree. In Ranch Life, they are all done in the span of about 60 seconds.
Nevertheless, if you can get through the initial bombardment of feed postings, the game is still a cute and amusing game for those that like that sort of style. Furthermore, it goes to show, once again, that a game needn’t be complex to be entertaining, just have a strong central mechanic and a good sense of style. As it stands, the game is currently earning 25,000 monthly active users.