Gameloft Launches Green Farm on Facebook

Green FarmIt has been a while since a new farming game made its debut on Facebook, but the folks over at Mobile Entertainment have spotted a new title in the genre from Gameloft, called Green Farm. It’s not the first Facebook title ever for Gameloft, a well-known mobile developer, but the release is nonetheless interesting.

While in many ways the same as a typical farming game, Gameloft’s take does feel a little different. Aesthetically pleasing and coming with a handful of new mechanics, the game is well made and already has around 120,000 monthly active users.

As in any other farming game, players plant crops, harvest crops, and sell crops. In order to mix it up a bit, they can also grow various farm animals and trees. Truth be told, there isn’t anything more to say about the game’s core. All the mechanics have been done to death in a slew of clones.

MarketGameloft did create a few minor changes here and there. One of the major ones comes in the form of farm equipment. These expensive devices appear to be tools that will automate different processes around ones farm. As an example, players can purchase an “Apple Juice Press” that will produce 100 units of juice a day from up to three apple trees. There are also “green” items that can be purchased for virtual currency such as a “Compost Box” that will produce free fertilizer.

In fact, there are a lot of green items — hence the game’s title — in Green Farm. What makes them special is that they typically give the player some form of renewable resource that increases profits. In the case of organic crops, these will often produce free seeds for the player to reuse once harvested. There are even solar panels and windmills to buy, but their purpose is unclear. All the tooltips state is that it produces “E” over a period of time, yet the game never explains what that is.

One might think it energy, but, surprisingly, Green Farm doesn’t have this mechanic. Regardless, considering that the noted tools cost virtual currency, it might be something worth clarifying.

BearOther machines are mainly for convenience, consisting of seeders, plowers, harvesters and so on. Essentially, it’s all the big, heavy equipment one sees on a modern farm. It’s a nice addition as veteran FarmVille players are well aware of how large a farm can grow (Zynga also offers tractors and other equipment). There are even animal housing structures (e.g. a Chicken Coop) that will hold a certain amount of that animal, rather than having them wander about.

Where Green Farm tends to differentiate itself the most is within its social features, although most of these have also been seen before.

Visiting a friend’s farm comes with the typical prompt of “help them out.” In our case, it was a bear that we had to scare off, as in FrontierVille. Surprisingly, the bear was physically on the farm, and teleporting about (just as real-world bears do). The idea was to catch it before it moved again. This wasn’t terribly difficult, and not much more fun then clicking an “ok” or “help out” button, but it was a step in a more interesting direction. Additionally, should the friend have any animals, the user can pet them for some extra reward and gold.

SocialBeyond this, players can also visit each others’ farms in real time — when that friend is playing — and actually see and chat with them synchronously. It’s not a wholly original concept, but one that we see fairly infrequently.

The only other aspect of Green Farm of particular merit is its aesthetic quality. Unlike the myriad of other farming clones out there, this app actually looks extraordinarily good. Everything not only looks more vibrant and higher quality, but a lot of the objects move or animate, really making the game feel a bit more alive.

On the negative side of things, farming games are old hat on Facebook. Though FarmVille has stabilized, recent months have seen its users drop by over 20 million (currently, the game is around 61 million MAU, but was once well over 82 million). Few players of FarmVille are likely to leave a game they are established in for what is, for all intents and purposes, more FarmVille. It’s the same enigma that presented itself to the massively multiplayer online market a few years ago when MMO developers were looking to emulate World of Warcraft by, essentially, cloning its premise and mechanics. It’s only recently that game makers have learned that people won’t quit WoW to play more WoW. With any luck, social developers will also recognize this pattern.

Overall, Green Farm is a solid game from a technical stand point. It looks good, plays fluidly, and has few problems in the usability or feedback departments. The game comes with a few new toys here and there, and some nice social mechanics. Unfortunately, in the end, these elements are superfluous additions to a tired core concept.