November 1, 2010

I clicked a cow and I liked it!

It seems that disagreement between traditional game developers and their social gaming colleagues is gradually increasing. The very different approach to game design and elementary concepts of the play feels like a schizm in religion.

I mentioned in my previous post the term cow clickers. It comes from Ian Bogost's Cow Clicker - “a Facebook game about Facebook games” as he describes it. It's a minimalistic social game where you have one cow and you have to click on it in fixed time intervals to gather points. Points buy you an awsome looking
cow to impress your friends clicking on neighbouring pastures. You can also spend some mooney to progress faster or just stop wasting your time. This Facebook app is nice example of theory in pratice. In typical social game player just activates timers.

Of course Ian Bogost is more pundit than regular game developer, but he is not alone who publicly attacked "social" trend in online gaming. Jonathan Blow (Braid, Indie Fund) in his talk on the Rice University labelled game designers of such games as drug dealers which create artifical obligations and waste users' time in the real world. There is an evidence which supports such strong statement in recent news - A mother killed her baby for crying while she played FarmVille. Focus of Jonathan's talk is wider and he points out that not only these games, but most of present games and other entertainment media as well are free of any meaningful idea. Paraphrasing Alan Moore "Artists should give the audience what they need and not what they want."

Overuse of metrics and achievements is an another big dispute. Psychological research showed that external rewards actually decrease intristic motivation. This fact explains why even dull tasks are so enjoyable for players of social games, but without rewards (ie. XP) there is no motivation to do them, or in other words, play the game. I recommend reading Chris Hecker's post on achievements.

A popular boardgame in my country is Ludo. You just move a four pieces across the board by rolling a dice. Only decision is about which piece to move and winning or losing is just by luck. Well, the golden era of this game was in times where choices were quite limited (Communism), but I noticed people actualy like it because there is fun from the play without burden of mental activity. It's quite similiar with the massively successful FarmVille which had once 85M users. Users who don't really want to be challenged or participate in some meaningful interaction. They just want to click, level up and be told, that they are better than their friends.

October 7, 2010

Why family farm?

Why did we choose the theme of family farm for our upcoming game? Most of people would think that given success of FarmVille, we had a clear source of inspiration. Well, we had started to work on a concept at the time when Zynga just finished recognition on Farm Town. It was October 2008 when we finalised concept and submission package for MEDIA Programme.

A family living on an old farm is a nice picture, isn't it? The farming started our civilisation and you can know farm as basic food production unit of many strategy games. Family farm is a living system - closed economy where business joins the family side of life in every single minute. Could be risky to make the farming fun. But if something would go wrong, we can always turn characters into zombies and let them fight with plants. Everything with zombies is popular!

Of course we know Harvest Moon and these series could be considered as our inspiration. Harvest Moon game design is influenced by (japan) RPGs. You have character, inventory with items, tools, NPCs, quests, etc. When they started work on the series in '95 for SNES there was almost no other choice of underlying game mechanics. More than ten years after that we were in a better position when searching for game mechanics. We experienced rise and fall of tycoons, admire and hate The Sims, enjoy modern board games and have many other minor influences.

Then in 2009 I started to recieve "cute spam" from my infected farming friends... I finish my case saying that we are working on a farming game, not addictive farming application. No fun for cow clickers here!  

August 30, 2010

Hello world!

Hello, I'm Martin Prochazka speaking on behalf of our team. I would like to start this blog by introduction of talented people behind Family Farm and other Hammerware games. Someone said that a picture is better than 1k words. So here I reveal identity of our current core team...

Jaromir Puncochar | Martin Prochazka | Jakub Kroupal

Martin Prochazka
I'm a CEO of this little company where coding, game designing and keeping an eye on production stuff is my daily work.
Tags: hobby economist, caffee, drum'n'bass, DS owner

Jaromir Puncochar 
Jaromir is our lead artist. A very productive one.
Tags: photographer, tea, PSP owner

Jakub Kroupal
Jakub is a skilled C/C++ coder focused on 3D graphics.
Tags: studying informatics, learning japanese, NES owner

 Greetings from Brno! ('70s picture postcard)

We live in Czech Republic (EU). You probably know Prague, but we are located in a less famous city - Brno. You have never heard of it, don't you. Nevertheless, we drink a lot of beer here too!

We have a regular open-space office, which is just one big room with tables, chairs, computers and a bit of mess. No pictures - we would like to keep some privacy for now ;)

That's all about our background. See you next time!