Metaplace has recently a new social game out on Facebook, called My Vineyard, that takes a more refined approach to virtual farming than many other titles we’ve seen. Like making and drinking fine wine in real life, it may take more time and focus than what some people want — but the aesthetic and social experience could be just what others are looking for.
With a quasi-realistic style identical to their last title, Island Life, players are tasked with the management and care of their own personal vineyard.
Be it red or white wines, players can produce everything from the more commonly known chardonnay to the more expensive rousanne. Basically, players are given a pre-set number of field plots in which to plant their grapes, and after X amount of time they become fully grown. However, the typical steps of watering, bug killing, and so on have been removed in exchange for more wine-making elements.
From here, all the grapes are moved to a platform where they are stomped into juice (which is just a click, unfortunately), and placed into a cask of you choosing and set out to age. After the aging is complete, it’s time to sell.
This is where the game starts to get a bit more interesting, and will likely be the point that gets most people’s attention. For every cask of wine you sell, it will receive a rating from wine testers that will rate it up to 100 and leave you with snide commentary comparing it to things like “butter and grass” (at least that was the quality of our first couple batches). It’s a curious means to create an artificial goal for players, as that ranking appears to be affected by everything from the quality of grapes used, to the container, to even your friends.
Ah, yes. This is where Metaplace incorporates some more creative social features beyond bombarding the user with “invite a friend” messages (a lesson learned from Island Life). When each batch has aged to the proper amount — which will take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days — they can have their friends taste test it. This is by no means a requirement, but the more that “taste” it, the higher rating it will receive. Granted, it’s not any different than any other reward a social game might grant you for inviting friends or posting to your feed, but those rewards are often superfluous décor pieces. In the case of My Vineyard, the reward stems towards that goal of making the best wine; a goal artificially created by the developer by merely nudging the user in that direction, and not explicitly telling them “you need to do this.”
As for other social features, the app seems to be built in the same way that Island Life was constructed. Like Island Life, basic social elements include visiting each other’s virtual space and helping out the crops, but My Vineyard also brings back the previous title’s building construction method. Essentially, players can buy a house to decorate their space with, but it requires friends to turn it from a bunch of parts into an actual abode. However, instead of requiring 10 friends as Island Life did, this house requires 30 clicks from your Facebook feed, but only one friend can click a day.
As the biggest and best looking piece of decorum, the house is a socially meaningful structure to have, especially considering that My Vineyard looks to have the same multiplayer elements that Island Life did, such as chat. As such, it looks like players can, once again, literally visit each other’s virtual spaces in a synchronous, virtual world-like environment.
Unfortunately, the game is a bit of a slow burn, with the fastest grapes taking about six hours to grow, so it will be a long while until your vineyard is looking good enough for any sort of virtual party. Also, the usability of the decorating aspect is also a bit frustrating. Examples include not being able to see the object before it’s placed, often not being able to see where it can be placed or not, and having to switch back and forth between tools to move it once it has been placed somewhere.
Of course, these are all merely annoyances, and nothing terribly devastating. Overall, My Vineyard is rather calming, and will probably prove amusing to those who like farming-style games. However, it is likely that its significantly slower pace will detract from that player-base. At the same time, it’s virtual world’esque features could attract a completely different one. With such a mixing and matching of different audiences it is difficult to say how this new title will do. Currently, it sits on a mere 47,000 monthly active users (though it’s only been out a few days), yet Island Life has grown steadily to over 635,000 MAUs. It will be interesting to see if this new app follows that same trend.