Wednesday, May 02, 2012

The problem with Facebook games

Who am I kidding, there are a million problems with Facebook games.

But despite the fact that I get annoyed by many aspects of them, there were a couple I actually kind of enjoyed. I really like casual games. I'm especially fond of time management games or simple puzzles like Plants Vs. Zombies. Incidentally, the first time I beat PvZ it was all in one sitting during a bout of insomnia. Good times.

Anyway, here's the biggest stumbling block I have with Facebook games and why I'm pretty much done with them: because the developers can just turn them off if they feel like it.

I realize that this is something that MMORPGers also deal with, and I'm not sure how I'll feel the day that WoW finally gives up the ghost. I think part of me hopes that Blizzard always has a server running somewhere that I can be on.

But the basic thing for me is this: I've been playing some of my games for years now. There's one in particular that I really enjoyed called Restaurant City by Playfish.

The goal of the game was simple, you collected ingredients and combined them to learn recipes. You wanted to get the recipe to level 10. At first, I loved it. I wanted to master all the recipes. You see, I've got this thing where if there's a collecting aspect to a game I will PLAY IT TO DEATH. I'm not allowed to play Pokemon.

Then they started adding new ingredients. Then they made ingredients available for real world money, so they made them all more rare and hard to find. Then they started adding 7-10 new recipes EVERY WEEK. It got to the point where I had an excel spreadsheet that I would update to help me manage my quest to get a meaningless achievement in a casual game. For months I've kind of wanted to break free of it, but felt that I was *SO* close to getting all the recipes! I was at 94% for the longest time, then they added 10 more that all took the rarest ingredient plus 10 that took a new ingredient and well, I was back to 90% in no time. But still, 90%! That's so close!

Well, Playfish solved this problem for me yesterday when they announced that they weren't making enough money off of RC anymore and they were shutting it down. To "celebrate" they were adding eight new recipes, most of which take one of the rarest ingredients.

Last year, they shut down another one of their games called Country Story, right around when I finally started playing it again because they'd fixed some bugs with it and it was fun again. I uninstalled the game the day they announced it because I realized there was absolutely no point to continuing to play and build something that somebody else had the power to just switch off.

For years I've been playing RC, almost daily. It didn't take up a ton of my time, and I enjoyed it so I'm not complaining on that front. But now I realize that it was entirely wasted time because they can just decide that it's not working for them and turn it off. All my progress, all those recipes I did max out, all gone because it was never really real or mine to begin with. Nothing has driven that point home more perfectly.

I'm still debating if I'll do one last push to master all the recipes, but since I think I need 200 flour I don't know what I'll bother. I do know that I've taken all my other Playfish games and I'm prepping to uninstall them. I'm giving stuff away to people who still play and just giving up. Why bother making a character? Why build a "house" or do anything in Sims Social if it will just stop being popular in a year and they'll turn it off to do something else?

I'm just going to go back to playing Plants vs. Zombies, because the stuff I unlock in that will never go away.