Dirt Farmer Team members participating this evening : Locke, Prashanth, Rina and Heather.
Mayur - Game Designer on the Farmville team.
Vinu – Product Manager at Farmville, he joined the Zynga family because he loves games.
Srivatsa – Executive Producer on the Farmville team
Opening Remarks from Srivatsa :
“I just wanted to start off by saying that it’s an honor to be participating in this show, I know we have some of our most engaged and long time players here right now. Some of you have been playing Farmville since the day its’ been launched and have seen the game grow from those days. For us, the Farmville team in Zynga, it’s been a humbling experience working to be on a game that has touched like millions of people worldwide and is still going strong after all these years. We love working on this game hopefully as much as you love playing it. I also would like to emphasize that we are committed to making Farmville a fun experience with high quality , and a large part of that is possible through valuable feedback we have been receiving from our players. So we are here to listen to you, to work with you and take Farmville to greater heights. Of course I would like to thank the Dirt Farmer team , you folks are just great partners. In fact we see you as the voice of our players and the feedback from this community is always taken seriously. I do hope you folks are seeing that. So yes I definitely value our relationship with Dirt Farmer and hope that it kind of grows stronger in the coming days.”
What can you tell us about the new upcoming Avalon Farm?
(comments below summarized not quoted unless otherwise indicated with quotation marks)
Heather : Everyone wants that dragon in the preview video that Rainer shared. It needs a face and everyone wants it.
It’s nothing like Hanging Gardens, seen many comments regarding that. With Hanging Gardens you do not have starting clear space or starting real estate to start your farm. With Avalon you do have starting clear space. That space is 15% larger than the standard 12x12. The entire farm with all 4 cliffs is larger than any other farm except the home farm. 20% bigger than most and you will have plenty of space for your crops. Up to now we have been releasing farms every two months and that has divided players firmly into two camps. One camp looks forward to and enjoys the new farms and the other is begging for new farms to slow down and give them some breathing room. The biggest effort with the design of Avalon was to address that divide and reach a middle ground. With Avalon the pace of new farm releases will slow down. Avalon will be one farm with two seasons. Season One, Avalon Wilderlands will be released for Early Access in January. Season Two, Avalon Kingdoms will be released sometime in late February or early March.
You can view a preview video of Avalon Wilderlands that will make the next section clearer by clicking here.
Avalon is the story of a young farmer girl who wants to be a magician and meets a whole bunch of interesting people along the way. She grows up through the seasons. To design the farm they looked at Medieval England and Medieval France to create rich colors and a Medieval centric theme fiction. A fantasy realm with farmers and magicians.
The two cliffs on the left side of the canyon will release and be available to play as of the January early access date. The two cliffs on the right side of the canyon will become available with the release of Avalon Kingdoms in late February or early March.
In addition to the change to the release cycle, there will also be a big change in land expansions. These will no longer take the form of an L, but they are moving to squares along the lines of what you see in Farmville 2. Also with all prior farms all expansions were farm cash exclusive and players had to wait a significant time duration for coin expansions. This time expansions will begin to be available from the General Access date for performing a series of tasks and game play actions to unlock them. They will keep the community apprised of how that works by releasing a bit more information prior to farm release.
Reasons for moving to the seasons approach include the fact that they cannot change or innovate to make farms more unique and less cookie-cutter with a two month cycle and player feedback has been that there are currently too many destinations competing for their attention and they wanted to slow that down.
Heather – Will there be something special to draw us in for Season Two?
Mayur – Yes definitely.
Locke – This seems like something that could bring older players back ,seeing excitement in hardcore veterans that don’t get excited about anything.
Vinukumar - Early Access date with be 12th January, 2015.
One thing that is on many players minds is customer support, both availability and quality. Are there any plans for more players to have access to at least email support and to improve on the accuracy of the information they provide?
Vinukumar : At an organic level they are focusing on customer support for all of Zynga’s games and especially for Farmville. They are working on improving the quality of interactions, expect lots of improvement coming soon. They are training them on new features and in improving sensitivity in interactions with players. They have received this feedback from Dirt Farmer multiple times. Looking to improve service so it is proper whenever new features are launched, support is to reach out to the studio if they don’t get it and the studio will be reaching out to them to check to make sure support agents know what more they can do to resolve player issues. Support access is also being expanded. More players now have access to support than did six months ago and the number is increasing slowly, more and more will have it in due time.
Missing Farm Cash Issues
Vinukumar : They have a detailed activity log and can look into each account by activity and time and issue refunds if farm cash was improperly deducted or too much was deducted. Training support so they know how it functions and what more they can do.
Srivatsa: They had several requests from Dirt Farmer to address missing farm cash issues. They are following the Dirt Farmer post (If you are missing farm cash and do not have access to support, or did not get a satisfactory resolution from them, report it by clicking here and commenting. ) and restoring if issues are found to be genuine on a weekly basis and also reviewing logs from their customer service portal. Then getting back to the player and saying we found missing farm cash on your account here it is
Heather : I think a lot of missing farm cash is due to lag, even those who go to bed and wake up and it’s gone, just their lag was so bad that it did not catch up before they logged off. That’s why we’ve been bugging you for the pop-up and did the poll per your request.
Locke : Many players believe that Zynga is intentionally stealing their farm cash. We’ve always told them that’s not the case as it’s just not good business sense. Our job is to maintain good relations between the players and the game.
Srivatsa: Hopefully you are already seeing results on this. Farm cash coming back and when players receive a refund they will get a pop –up indicating that farm cash was improperly deducted and it’s being refunded.
Heather: Yes we have seen posts on ASK and on the Farm Cash post stating that they really did not think it would work but thank you Zynga.
Vinukumar : We took player feedback on lag and clicking and are looking at changes of UI (confirmation pop-up) expect to see some improvement on this soon
Heather: Awesome – and folks if you click frantically during lag, do it on the right of your screen. If they give you a confirmation pop-up and you click through the accept that still is an issue – always click on the right.
The Friend requirement to play/claim from feed Farmville, which we are now the only game to have this with the demise of Cafe World, combined with the constant friend disconnections on Facebook creates huge amounts of player frustration. What are the chances of having this removed?
Mayur : Feeds are not going away, some players like them and they are trying to pass the choice to the player on whether to craft or use feeds, with features like Lost Reindeer. Feeds are an integral part of how Farmville functions and what made it social.
Heather : That’s not the issue, there are players who don’t want to craft and prefer to use the feeds but it shows claimed or expired when they click or that you have to be friends, but the poster is someone you’ve been friends and neighbors with for years and you know that it’s not actually gone because the next person to click gets it..
Vinu : That’s why unclaimed feeds were added where you can see your neighbors’ feeds not sure if you can see other friends they don’t control that to help players find feeds.
Heather : You can see your friends but unclaimed feeds doesn’t help. You click from unclaimed feeds and the post is still expired or claims that you’re not friends when you are and now you know 100% that it’s there from unclaimed feeds. Vote doesn’t require being friends and that feature works. Posts other than vote check for Facebook friendship and often do not work. Any other Zynga game does not have that requirement. With Chef Ville you can help total strangers in the Zynga forums. It’s something Facebook broke but you can fix it by removing that friend requirement. It stops people from collecting and helping one another, and causes drama between players because someone posts “gone” and they think someone didn’t click like or they think no one will help them when the reality is that their friends are clicking and nothing is happening. It messes up their social connection.
Locke: Someone from Zynga might be able to get in touch with someone from Facebook and solve that.
Vatsa: Getting in touch with Facebook is a good idea. They have received feedback from Dirt Farmer in the past on using the same mechanism used in the vote feature to eliminate the friend requirement and are slowly implementing it in other regular features. It could be put in place on a given Farm stand or other feature to see what the impact is. They are already working on it, but it is taking a while to do it.
Locke: The way the feeds are now is like you guys are building great cars but there’s no road to drive them on. If all the features worked like the vote, the game would explode in popularity.
Players love the stables and nurseries and while we really appreciate their return, most would love it if they could be made permanent. When people buy horses, most do it to share babies with their friends. What are the chances?
Mayur: “Since Stables and Nurseries were last released, there have been a lot of updates to the way buildings themselves function. We want to take a while before bringing them entirely back to make sure there are no adverse impacts, once we release them with updated functionality for buildings. That’s why the current idea is to keep them limited edition so we can test out if we face any issues and if we are able to iron all of those out, it will definitely become very permanent in the game.”
Heather : Wonderful , you just made people very happy.
Mayur: Just testing the waters right now to see if we see any negative impacts.
Locke : We need a new breeding feature with some exploit that players can figure out and enjoy that doesn’t really hurt anyone like stable stuffing.
Mayur: There is a new animal breeding feature coming, one that has never been bred before. It is currently in development
Locke: Hopes it’s sasquatches
Rina and Heather hope it is Dirt Farmer Gaby’s dragon breeding idea that we shared with them.
Special deliveries have recently been updated through Oasis Gardens. Is there a time frame to release updates for additional farms, and are there any plans to catch up on the all-farm items - like Wishing Fountain, older seed spitters etc.?
Mayur : Special deliveries are a high priority for the studio. Players value them a lot. Recently they have invested in bringing older farms up to date with treasures and buildable parts. They are also making them more accessible, a revamp of the gift page is currently in the works. Currently they are on page 7 or later and it takes a lot of scrolling to find them and send them out to the other guys. They are also committed to adding more farms, but this will take some time. They have not yet considered adding features like the wishing fountain and seed spitters but will look into that, it makes sense to do.
Regarding features, most players would like to see a slowdown of new features in favor of focusing on bugs… Now we're realistic, so we're not advocating a stop on new features, but most players would be fine if a new one wasn't released every single week. Has there been discussion on this subject at Zynga? A week here and there focused specifically on bug fixes would show players that there's some effort being made.
Vinu: They are focusing on fixing bugs. One thing they are trying is to avoid new bugs all together, by improving the process of rolling out new features with more extensive testing including playing through features personally themselves. They are continually improving this process and can detect bugs from their servers and work actively to fix them. Older bugs are being taken up and prioritized one by one. Would like to reassure the community.
Heather: Any updates on pen building error?
Vatsa: This bug has been open for a while, they have spent quite some time trying to get to the bottom of it, unfortunately without much success to date. They are still trying and with the next bug fix cycle it remains a top priority. They appreciate the ideas on causes that we have sent in, and hopefully they are closer to solving this than ever before.
What is the status of the mystery babies revamp?
Vinu: Heather I have one word for you – YES this is currently on the road map
The mystery game: talk about revamping it, then removed from market, when it will come back, and can you tell the players whether it will bring new rewards every week, or same old same old?
The Mystery Game will come back periodically with updated rewards, similar to the Bingo. Interaction with these types of features is less when they are there all the time. Will consider the possibility of a new regular cash game as in the mystery game's hey day.
Super plots don't work with LB, don't give extra bushels, add them to more farms.
Mayur: This is a dual topic, first the bugs in them, which yes will be fixed. They are already on the to fix list which is a very long list. As far as adding say 20 to a farm, Super plots can cause too much of a difference between farm cash and free players, because they are introduced early in the cycle.
Heather: There really isn’t much they can do that we can’t also do by purchasing large expansions and statues for double mastery and bushels .
Mayur: It still has a residual effect. They are looking at eventually reintroducing them in a manner where every one in game will have aces to super plots. A fairer way to reintroduce. We may See them on a new farm sometime in 2015, but no promises.
Premium babies and seedling were a hit, any chance to bring them back couple of days every 2-3 months, players can catch up on what they miss.
Revamps for new features are definitely on the road map, along the lines of the redesign of Mystrees into Nutcracker Theatre. There are many older features that players have expressed a desire to see return and they are prioritizing other things first.
Animal pens instant grow consumables? Something we might see in the future?
Locke: Also we’ve been taking questions in our second hour and our two resounding themes are a desire for an expansion to Dream Deer Woods and the desire for a building that harvests for Super Fertilizer.
Vinu: Do a lot want a buildable for super fertilizer? They had considered doing that but lowered priority
All DF: Yes
They will work on fitting these into the road map but no promises as yet.
Mayur : Will take up suggestions in the future with DF members
What can you tell us about new features and what to expect in 2015?
Vinu: With regard to new features they are excited about Bob’s Berry Farm, the Lost Reindeer with the map aspect and nice fiction and the Daily Delights which offer extra rewards to regular players or those who want to play more regularly.
Player feedback on quests led to the design of Bob’s Berry Farm which allows players to chose the difficulty level they prefer to do. Some folks just like to plow, plant and harvest, some like to craft items and it allows those with feed issues to get more items as well . They are looking to develop features that give the choice back to the player on an ongoing basis to serve the differing needs of the Farmville Community.
Plans also include slowing down the release pace of new features, as people are becoming exhausted and looking at designing new features to remain in play for a longer time.
We can expect more choice-based features along the lines of Bob’s Berry Farm, The Lost Reindeer and Wandering Pirate, main highlights will be choice based features.
The untimed quest system, which allows players to do quests at their own pace will also continue.
Heather: Anything else for 2015?
Vinu: Will work to communicate better with players. Asks the Dirt Farmer team and the player community to help create a buzz around Avalon, and encourage older players to come back and give it a try.
They are actively working to listen to players and live up to their expectations. The goal is to make Farmville easier, better and more fun. They will be passing choices on to players more often along the lines of the choice of 4 of 5 with the addition of the Nutcracker Theatre to Beat Magical Toy Town, Bob's Berry Farm and the Lost Reindeer. Expect more fun and better customer support.
The gift page revamp is in progress, they will be bringing popular features back and trying to offer something for everyone. More mini games, since players enjoy playing those once in a while, more flash crafts and flash crops as those have been popular (short term/ready quickly) and expect something awesome for Valentine's Day.