FarmVille is "kind of malicious" says Braid creator

Jonathan Blow says popular Facebook game is just "reward structure layered on reward structure" with no game at all; also takes issue with Plants vs. Zombies 2.

Zynga's popular Facebook game FarmVille is not really a game at all and is "actually kind of malicious," Braid creator Jonathan Blow said during a recent academic presentation.

"If you look at a game like Farmville, there's actually no game there. It's just reward structure layered on reward structure layered on reward structure with a hollow center," Blow said.

His comments were part of a public Neuroethics Society meeting that Blow spoke at in November. The full presentation was just recently published and is available at the University of California at San Diego's website.

Blow further claimed that Zynga's only aim with FarmVille is to encourage players to spend real-world money for virtual items or rope in their friends.

"All they're trying to do is get you to either give them money or pull friends into the game in order to potentially, eventually give them money," Blow said.

Blow also took issue with PopCap's recently released free-to-play game Plants vs. Zombies 2. In particular, he called out the game's tutorial, which can't be completed until players are shown how to spend real-world money on virtual items, even though the entire game can be completed without paying a penny.

"This is a way that they're trying to profit from you. And they know that rather than just tell you how to do this; when they can make you perform an action that they want you to perform later, you've crossed a barrier, you've broken an initial resistance, and it's easier to get you to do stuff later," Blow said.

We've reached out to Zynga and PopCap for comment on Blow's recent statements.

Blow is currently working on The Witness, set to launch as a timed-exclusive for the PlayStation 4 sometime in 2014. He also is interested in making an MMO.

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Discussion

126 comments
Hvac0120
Hvac0120

You can pay $100's to free to play games and never reach the amount of content or entertainment you can get from a $15-60 retail game.

No one should ever have to spend more than double the cost of a retail game of the same level of quality and entertainment on in-game purchases. And I'm being generous by saying "double" only because half of the people playing the game won't pay any $ for any content, so there has to be some room for the dev to make $.

No F2P game should ever have roadblocks preventing someone who is playing for free from being able to accomplish a task without paying real-world money. Everything should be attainable over time using in-game skills.

No game should require you to share with or sign up friends in order to advance in the game.

All F2P games should have a buy-it-all option that grants the person access to everything the game has to offer and should be equal to the percepted value of the game at retail. Of course, there are times when a content package is added to the game that can then have it's own buy-it-all option on top of the fee for the purchase of the original game's content.

I know I've missed some points of issue. Not going to write a paper about it in a comment.... Point is that the F2P market has a LOT of growing up to do. As it stands now, most F2P games have bad pricing strategies and rip off the customers who are supporting the game as well as limit the number of people who would pay if prices were more reasonable.

xolivierx
xolivierx

farmville = retardville
are people excited with cheap dumb entertainment?
is life that boring or is it your brain that doesn't have the capacity to function properly?

Rusmurf
Rusmurf

People don't invest in EA so they make good games, they invest in EA to make money. 

banana23man
banana23man

What more can you expect from a game made for a platform whose sole purpose is to make dumbass teens feel important? "Hey, look at this picture of my lunch which was prepared by someone else but I take all the credit because I spent my parents' money to get it!"

Taegre
Taegre

I've played and enjoyed games that use micro-transactions. Yet every time I find myself thinking I would enjoy it so much more if I could pay $50 and get everything the game has to offer right off the bat instead of paying $5 once in a while and walking a narrow path of paywalls and missing content even after I've paid my share.

noandno
noandno

Farmville is a cancer

MJ-X
MJ-X

Micro-Transactions? Meet Memory Editors.

Bypassed crap load of those on my phone and pc.

RoachRush
RoachRush

I vote with my money, and my money voted for Harvest Moon :D

cctv100
cctv100

Get used to it, this will become the major business model, it's easy to get money this way, all they want is money,aren't they?

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

Speaking of Plants vs Zombies 2 (which was mentioned in the article), I have to mention that, as someone who played and enjoyed the original PvZ, the second is, in almost every way possible, worse than the first game. It has less plants and less variety in terms of content and levels (no night levels or plants, not as many puzzle levels, no tree of wisdom or gardens, etc). The only thing it does beyond the first, is involve more micro-transactions. <_<


It just goes to show you how devs these days are less interested in improving the quality of their titles, and more interested in just making a quick buck, charging exorbitant prices for miniscule amounts of extra content. Sure, you can play through most of Plants vs Zombies 2 without paying a cent, but there are still some plants and upgrades hidden behind a pay wall, with no alternative way to unlock them in-game. 


It is a sad day indeed when a sequel has less content than the original and really improves nothing from its predecessor. It's even worse when it's ridden with micro-transactions, which really highlights the loss of standards on the part of the devs.

jigar7
jigar7

You said it! That is one of the reasons why I hate EA for spoiling an awesome game like PvZ.

PvZ 2 was a total waste. You can complete the game without spending a penny. But even after you reach 100% completion (3 stars etc)... There are still a few upgrades and plants that are locked. You can't win them. You HAVE to buy them separately... which is priced ridiculously! The total cost of the game would be around 20-25$... The original PvZ costs some 5-10$ and we got the full game. I hate the micro transaction system. PvZ 2 is not yet available for PC... the platform that actually made PvZ a smash hit!

F#k you EA! Hope some hacker hacks their system and steals everything EA stole from us. ME3 was a BIG let down as well. Dead Space 3 was crap!! All NFS games after Hot Pursuit were sh*t! Seriously EA... GTFO! Hope all your games are pirated!

I'm all in for Ubisoft... that is one developer I really like... I have never pirated any Ubi game till date.. you guys are awesome, except for that one sequel... AC3.. otherwise... you got all my money! Can't wait for Watch Dogs!!

TalesOfGod
TalesOfGod

Well, look at this!

A video game creator actually speaking against micro-transactions!


I thought I'd never see the day...

AlphaWILL
AlphaWILL

I'm sorry but all the people that are writing comments like , he has nothing to do with Farmville or he's making a game to get money just like Farmville. .just stop cuz u all don't like being charged for tedious additions to games..

Farmville's whole business model is micro transactions which leaked in to bigger games and now they've become the norm ..and absolutely no one likes them.

So u should be applauding him for calling out Farmville for simply being there to cracked ur wallet open .

And u say he's making a game to try and make money and you'd be right but the sole purpose of his game isn't to keep getting money from u as "maliciously" as Farmville

Tripwolf
Tripwolf

And he's 100% right.


Everything he said was spot on.

---Cipher---
---Cipher---

"kind of" is a bit generous here.... It's definatly malicious!


That said, even though I don't like it, it's still a game. Barely, but a game it still is...

PS2fweak
PS2fweak

I somewhat agree, but if people feel motivated to play it, it's still a game. I would never play a game like Farmville, but a lot of people do. I just don't see a problem with games like that existing. I just don't understand why developers and gamers feel the need to talk about games that have nothing to do with them. 


I would much rather them talk about games that real gamers care about. It's too easy to shit on casual games. 

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

the article begins by saying that he made these comments at an academic presentation.  If there's a link to a recording of the event, I'd like to see that.

If it was part of a presentation, then it sounds like he just had a beef with Farmville being labeled a game because he didn't want it to be considered on equal entertainment ground with the art that he is trying to build.  I can understand that.  And that is a curious observation about why Farmville works so well.  It is essentially a crack pill with a tiny but consistent high.  Just reward after reward after reward without being productive or particularly entertaining.

frylock1987
frylock1987

"All they're trying to do is get you to either give them money or pull friends into the game in order to potentially, eventually give them money"

Kind of what you and 100% of other Developers are doing with their games right?

Because...That's why you got into this Business. To make games, to sell to people, who hopefully will rope their friends in to buy the game they just brought because its "good"


I really hope no one takes this chode seriously.

Hurvl
Hurvl

"no game at all" That's my opinion of every facebook game I've ever seen and why I don't play them. Clicking on the cows in Diablo 1 is more fun and fulfilling.


I guess you can say that... Farmville Blows.

mari3k
mari3k

Plants vs Zombies 2 is a mess….


Popcap sold their soul to EA. I would gladly pay 20 bugs for this game, but I don't lay a finger on this pay to win crap.

lacee148
lacee148

sooo true! free-to-play "games" are not video games and they ruining a whole industry (I hope not). It's a shame that plants vs zombies became a free-to-play but I bet this idea wasn't come from PopCap. I'm just afraid other good games will be ruined because of this lousy strategy.

here are some ideas EA: 

in new Mass Effect we will be forced to pay for ammunition... maybe for travel.

in FIFA we will pay for a ball... or for renting the arena. 

in Need for Speed for gas.

in Sims we will pay taxes.

in Titanfall for titans.

.

.

.

sooo many possibilities... the dark future... HAPPY NEW YEAR! :)

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

oh no, people are using games to try and make money...... I mean isn't that why he got into making games.  So he could support his family.  I detest Farmville and most other facebook games as the money making schemes they are but ultimately it lies in the person who plays it to determine how much or how little the game really is.

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

@cctv100I don't see why I have to get used to something I don't like. I'll just vote with my wallet.

SultaN-s
SultaN-s

@TalesOfGodwell, I think most game-creators don't approve of this model. It's the Suits (publishers) who come up with these ideas.

jigar7
jigar7

@PS2fweak The reason why devs talk about this is because micro transactions are slowly making their way into bigger games. For example... Dead Space 3.. Why do you need micro transactions in such a game!! The chinese version of PvZ 2 was very difficult to clear (compared to the Australian/USA versions on the iPhone) and that was such a greedy move by EA. Though I wasnt surprised.. EA has been f**king up a lot since quite some time now.


I would hate to see Crysis/Assassins Creed/Far Cry/Watch Dogs have a micro transaction system embedded in them... plus you will be paying for DLCs.


Paid 60$ for Dead Space 3... and having those micro transactions around was quite frustrating!

StarsiderSajun
StarsiderSajun

@frylock1987 I actually had a response typed up, pointing out how it's not about the money and whatnot. Unfortunately I then noticed that you inserted the word chode into a comment that was already severely lacking on intelligence, so I no longer feel the need to give my opinion on the matter. =) Go to school.

Tripwolf
Tripwolf

@frylock1987 You realize people dont usually get into game development because of the money right? There's a reason there's so many starving artists.


It's this kind of lemming that is supporting EA.

zrex2metagor
zrex2metagor

@Mr_BillGatesthis is why you suck for your retarded comment. Taking farmville as a generalization for pc gaming is both stupid and retarded. Farmvilles a fb app, not a retailed pc game you idiot

TheKokopelli
TheKokopelli

@OrgeLambart I have zero problem paying for a game.  I do have a problem with companies almost forcing me to have to buy useless items to even have a chance of completing said game.

Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

Not all ways of making money are equally good. There's a difference between crafting an experience you believe is stimulating, interesting and rewarding for the player compared to using neuro-science based techniques in order to manipulate the player's brain and suck him dry. The latter I find deeply unethical.

cctv100
cctv100

@TenraiSenshi @cctv100 Nice vote,little wallet! But the problem is that this business model will be the major one someday(or it's already is), you can't escape unless you quit games

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

@TheKokopelli@OrgeLambart But it isn't your decision to decide what makes a game good or bad.  You know what the whole ploy of Farmville is, it's your decision to play or not play.


I'd wager loads of people caught onto the fact that Farmville was a scam, those that still play decide to pay their money willingly.



cctv100
cctv100

@TenraiSenshi @cctv100  Will be, someday in future. I have talked to several game producers, they admit that they are not happy with micro-transactions coz it dramaticlly decreases gameplay experience, and they also admit that it's a quite efficient way to make profit coz gamers can show such big purchasing power when it's a good game. Will change one day, but no alternative at the moment. :(

TenraiSenshi
TenraiSenshi

@cctv100@TenraiSenshi There will always be an alternative, even if it lies within the minority. Also, don't underestimate gamers. If they become unhappy with the way things are, they'll resort to piracy more and more, until they eventually cripple the industry.

You can only push people so far before they start pushing back.

superwhat666
superwhat666

@OrgeLambart @superwhat666 @Sushiglutton Wow... No further questions. I would truly hate to imagine what your answer may be to what you find as a valuable alternative to money in life. And I'm really sorry to hear you respond in the way you did. Very glad my boss doesn't have the same outlook on people and money in the same way you do. If so, I would absolutely hate my job. Regardless, I wish you the best of luck in life my friend.

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

@superwhat666@OrgeLambart@Sushiglutton equally good?  Do you think businesses run under the assumption of making the world a better place... hahahaha the naïve opinions of underage people.


Every business is out to make a profit of some kind, whether you slice it up as charity or low down dirty tactics like Zynga, the fact is money is money, and businesses want to make it no matter what.


Most companies would allow people to die if it turned them a profit, look at some of the heinous things done in the past in order to turn a profit, people who died etc etc etc.


Money is money is money, are you saying someone who cleans toilets doesn't have as good of money as a person who teaches.  The sums are different but they both spend the same way.


Game developers do make games only for the money, if they say they don't they are either A) liars, or B) going to go out of business.


You have some people who make games just because they enjoy it, they are called hobbyist.  Typically they release their games for free because it's a project for them rather than a business.


Anyone that is in a for profit or even non profit is out to make money.  Sure they may play the public face that they care about the consumers, but the bottom line is they care about the fat check more.  Otherwise their utilities get shut off, their families starve, and they don't get that fat royalties check.


So keep on keeping on and thinking that any business especially one in the entertainment industry isn't in it for the money. 

superwhat666
superwhat666

@OrgeLambart @Sushiglutton  Wow I feel incredibly embarrassed for you OrgeLambart.  Sushiglutton is making fairly valid points, and all you are able to do is change the topic and make no resolve to the points you bring up.

For example, Sushiglutton originally made the point, "
Not all ways of making money are equally good." You still have yet to respond to this.


Also, when Sushiglutton posted "crafting an experience you believe is stimulating, interesting and rewarding for the player" as a response to what you originally posted is a perfectly valid example that defeats your argument/misconception that game developers ONLY make games for money and no other reason.


Please realize that your original argument has already been countered and PLEASE would you stop changing the topic. I highly doubt Sushiglutton appreciates this random approach to a conversation.


And if you require proof of your topic changes, please read above. If you cannot find them, please simply ask me and I will have no problem pointing each of them out to you. Thank you and good day.

OrgeLambart
OrgeLambart

@Sushiglutton some people are addicted to junk food as well, should they ban all junk food because you can get addicted to it.  You can get addicted to soda, cigarettes, etc etc etc


The fact is if someone wants to spend their money on stupid items, what gives you the right to tell them they can't.  If you are ready to start paying their bills you get the right to tell them how to spend their money.


Since they pay their own bills, buy their own food, etc etc etc , if they want to spend 5 dollars to a recolored cow it's their own choice.  I won't do it but I won't begrudge them because they choose to do so.


Who gets to determine what is an isn't a game, Farmville is a game, it might be kind of sneaky about it's business practice but most people wise up to their schemes without much harm.


My wife was huge into Farmville for a point, making other facebook accounts, and spending real money like crazy on the virtual crap, I didn't say anything because it was her own choice.  We had the money so why not.


Eventually she realized how big a scam Farmville was and hasn't touched it since.  People need to take personal responsibility and accountability for their actions.


Farmville and facebook games aren't the first ones to use this scamster type method to make money MMORPG's have been doing it for years and years and years.

Sushiglutton
Sushiglutton

@OrgeLambart @TheKokopelli If free will was as uncomplicated as you seem to think, then there wouldn't be any research like this and companies like Zynga wouldn't make any money. 


Humans are animals and just like other animals we can be trained to do things as a result of various stimuli. Some people get indoctrinated by religious sects, others by slot machines. The simple: "it's your decision" just isn't how the world works.