February 14, 2011 - by jacksonwest
Counting down to the Game Developers Conference, we’ll be highlighting one game a day powered by Joyent technology. Partly for an excuse to play games at work, sure, but also because our customers have developed some really fun, cool titles!
According to the United States Census, fewer than one percent of Americans actually work as farmers, which is down from over 30 percent of the population in the last century. However, the number of Facebook users who log in to farm has only grown -- with nearly 3.5 million active monthly users, it's entirely possible that there are more Americans playing Country Life and similar games as there are actual farmers in the United States!
You start the game with a fairly basic operation: A few plots of wheat, a few plots of clover, and one Holstein (I'll call her "Bessie"). The first thing is to harvest some of that clover and feed it to Bessie. Then you'll want to go to the store to buy some clover seeds and replant that plot. If you run out of coins, harvest your wheat and sell it in the barn. You'll have to unlock wheat seeds in the store to replant it, but you can always replant with clover -- keep feeding Bessie and you'll get plenty of milk to sell for coins later. And as you work your way through the levels, you can diversify your operation.
It'll take you some ranch cash, which you earn by leveling or buy purchasing, to get to the level of apiarist. But you can buy clover seeds for 15 coins and sell clover for 20, or let Bessie process the crop into milk that sells for 25 coins and start banking your earnings. The pace of the game is appropriately slow. This is farming, after all! And the prices aren't under market pressure, so you don't have to worry about overproduction, commodities markets or paying Monsanto licensing fees. Which might explain why it's more popular than actual farming.
Another explanation for its popularity is the level of interaction between the game developers and the players. Early in January, the team let people know via a wall post that an update was rolling out and if anyone would like to see any updates in particular. Six hours and a few thousand comments later, the holiday pie machine was updated to make pumpkin pie from all the squash leftover from fall plantings.
So if you're looking for a fun, friendly way to take a few mental breaks during the day while at your desk, you could do worse than Country Life. And if you're looking for an example of how to plant the seeds for a popular game and harvest millions of players, you might learn something from how Country Life treats their herd.