Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Closer Look at Smurf’s Village app for the iPhone and iPad


 UPDATE!
This article is still great, but the NEWLY REVISED Poor Smurfer's Almanac for 2012 just hit with all new information about the Dreamy Smurf update, all new crops and more! Check it out today!


  I know what you are saying: “Stan, you have to be smurfing me here!  Are you smurfing serious?”  Yes.  I’m not smurfing your leg.  Trust me, I never would have imagined that this would be something I would ever pay attention to, much less devote my precious time, and yours, to. (watch that preposition dangle!)  But two weeks ago, a friend of mine on that devilish social networking timesuck posted that there was a Smurfs app for the iPhone and better yet, it was a game.  Now, I am a child of the 80’s, two things are very dear to me: Pee Wee Herman, and the Smurfs.  I will always love both with a bizarre and clinical unconditional love that can really only be understood by twins and those who have climbed Mt. Everest.  So when you tell me there is a Smurf game for my phone (which, let’s be honest isn’t really a phone anymore), you have to know I’m going to give it a look.

The Smurf’s Village app, for all intents and purposes, is basically a pretty skin for the already epidemic Farmville or Frontiersville or Petsville or any of those other horrid social networking games developed by Zynga. Well, almost.  There are some important differences and I’ll get to those in a minute.  But first let me tell you how asinine I find those social games like Farmville.  Perhaps the most obnoxious thing since spam emails, these social network “games” are thinly disguised marketing tools used to monitor network activity and promote online interaction to increase the potential to exploit the bottomless resource that is the internet.  Games like Farmville seem to be built not around playing a game that is fun, but in asking your friends for supplies and otherwise cluttering the pages of everyone you know with insightful messages like “Stan, I need 4 nails to finish my fence,” or “Pam just stole a pig from your pen, click here to see what else is going on in Farmville.”  And you get these wonderful missives regardless of whether you partake in the madness or not.  I do not.  Worst of all, Farmville, and its cohorts, entice you to spend REAL MONEY, not video game money, rupees or gil, but REAL MONEY to buy things to speed up the progress of your farm.  And most of the things you spend your REAL MONEY on can be acquired by playing the game, it just takes more time.  So, much like the real Capitalist system, if you don’t want to earn your achievements, you can just buy them.  I pretty much hate everything about these kinds of games.

So how? How can I advocate Smurf’s Village?  My defense is shoddy and rests mainly on the phrase, “but dude, they are smurfs.”  However, I will tell you why I am sinking hours of valuable game time that could be going toward Kirby’s Epic Yarn or EA NFL Training Camp into this stupid little app, and I’ll try to make it sound convincing.

First of all, Smurf’s Village differs from its extremely obnoxious cousins in some very important ways.  Most importantly amongst these ways is that the game play is much more passive than something like Farmville.  There are no pushy messages from friends (even though the game is linked through facebook to your network) to give them things or to harvest their crops.  You can give gifts to your friends, but no one ever contacts you, and if you never connect to the social network, no big deal, the game plays on.  So, right off the bat, SV is not as self-effacing as its predecessors.

Second, the game is simple and fun.  If you are not familiar with these kinds of games, they are basically micro-management games reminiscent of SimCity, Roller Coaster Tycoon, or the Sims.  The premise is minimal: Gargamel found the Smurf village and destroyed it, scattering smurfs far and wide (and apparently spawning multiple clones of distinctive smurfs like Papa, Hefty and Smurfette, since each new village has one…).  Your job is to rebuild a new smurf village and make it flourish so that the smurfs will have a new haven to call home.  This reclamation project requires you to build mushroom houses for the smurfs and then put them to work farming in order to generate more revenue to keep the revitalization going.  Apparently, Papa Smurf is able to sell the produce generated by the farming to an undisclosed outside buyer who will in turn give the smurfs money (not REAL MONEY, let’s get that straight) with which they can buy building supplies, tufts of grass, and moss covered rocks.  Why you have to buy such things is really beyond me.  But those are the tools you use to beautify and enhance your new smurf village.  As you progress in the game, you will gain access to more and more décor items like colored fences, flower patches, and even different kinds of mushroom houses.  The game goes on like this at least up the level 25, the last level in which it is indicated that you can unlock new items.  If you like micro-management games (and I tend to) and the Smurfs (see above), then this game is a fun little diversion.

But you have to maintain that perspective.  See, it’s not all sunshine and roses.  The Smurf’s Village app is absolutely 100% free, but as you well know, you don’t get something for nothing, that’s not the American way.  And this is where shades of Farmville creep into your otherwise smurfy world.  You see, some of the best stuff you can buy: Smurfette’s house, Hefty Smurf’s House, friendly snails and caterpillars (which grant lots of XP daily) cost not in-game money, but smurfberries.  Smurfberries are a rare commodity in the game and you only earn a small amount per day (1 per level early on, after level 10, 2 per level and so on).  No big deal, right? It’s all part of the game.  Wrong.  You see, those great things that cost smurfberries, don’t just cost 5 or 6 berries, they cost 25 or more.  Thus, it could take months just to add Painter Smurf and Farmer Smurf to your village.  It could, but it doesn’t have to.  You can always spend REAL MONEY (again, let’s be clear), and BUY smurfberries from the game.  See the shades?  You don’t have to wait; you can have all of the best things right now, for a price.  Now to be fair, the smurfberries are pretty reasonably priced, if we abandon the idea that paying for video game content is unreasonable to begin with.  Fifty smurfberries only cost five REAL DOLLARS. And fifty smurfberries can net you at least Smurfette’s and Painter’s houses (with a little help from the berries you’ve accumulated along the way).  To make matters worse, smurfberries aren’t just for buying the rare stuff, you can also spend them to speed up the harvest, shorten build time for mushroom houses, or instantly increase your population.  And therein lies the trap.  If you can restrict your smurfberry usage to just those rarities and not things you can get just by being patient, the impact of this otherwise exploitative option is greatly minimized.  If the villages of my friends are any indication, the lure of instant villages is too great.  For some of my friends this appears to sing to the tune of upward of twenty or thirty dollars or more. Guilty admission, I spent $5 to obtain Smurfette’s and Painter’s houses, and I may break down and spend five more REAL DOLLARS for Hefty and Farmer, but after that I will probably be done spending REAL MONEY on video game content for my iPhone.  I justify it by emphasizing how little I am really spending and that I am spending it on having fun like I would if I were going to a rock concert or live theatre.  I justify it with just a twinge of shame. (see my rant about downloadable content from several months ago for a full understanding of my cause for shame)

Honestly, though, the game is fun.  It is fun running the little smurfs around, having them farm and build fences, growing the village and adding new décor elements.  It is fun, plain and simple.  I like micro-management games and this one manages to find a soft, nostalgic spot in my heart.  The game is limited in several important ways, however and I am hopeful that since this is fluid software those issues will be addressed.  Most pressing is the fact that the game is quite limited in scope at this time.  As I stated before, the game stops giving you things to unlock after level 25.  I’ve been playing for about a week and half at this point and I am already nearly level 17.  If they do not release updates or expansions soon, my time with the game will be smurfed.  There is also a lack of diversity in things to do.  Once you have all of your smurfs busy farming and you’ve built everything you can build, there isn’t much else to do.  Sure, there are mini-games to play like Papa Smurf’s Potion Mixing Game or Greedy Smurf’s Baking Challenge, but these are only available for credit (XP) once per day and the games only last about 45 seconds.  The game simply needs other things for you and your smurfs to do.  There are some plot (very loosely understood here) driven tasks to undertake (as in “grow some tomatoes to rid the village of skunk stench”), but the later you get in the game, the more scarce those become.  It can become really easy to lose interest if there aren’t more things to do in the village as the game progresses. I guess I cannot complain too much, however the damn thing is free after all.


FINAL LOOK
So if you are looking for something fun to waste some time with while you wait in line at the DMV or are on a long car trip, Smurfs Village can be a fun way to accomplish just that, but you’ll need to keep things in perspective lest you get seduced into blowing your hard earned cash on something as ephemeral as video game content.


The Poor Smurfer’s Almanac
How to get the best productivity out of your village

Planting Schedules and Yields:
Know your crops!  By planting the right crops at the right time you can maximize your productivity.  Planting certain crops will enable you to generate large sums of coinage or experience in shorter amounts of time.  Not all crops are created equal and planting the wrong crops can several retard the growth of your village.  The chart below details which crops give you the best yields respective to whether you are looking to harvest $ or XP. 

Best Quick Growing Crops (grow time of 1 hour or less)
XP Yield                    $ Yield                      All Purpose
Cucumber (120)         Blueberry (120)         Blueberry
Blueberry (120)          Raspberry (36)          Raspberry
Currants (120*)          Blackberry (12)         Currants
Raspberry (96)           Currants (10*)           Blackberry
Blackberry (60)          Strawberry (9)           Cucumber
Strawberry (45)          Cucumber (8)             Strawberry

Best Mid-Level Crops (grow time of 2-6hours)
Brussels Sprouts (37.5XP  $7.5)
Peas (25XP  $5)
Carrots (16XP  $3.6)
Tomato (13XP  $2.6)

Best Long Term Crops (grow time of 9-24 hours)
XP Yield                      $ Yield                      All Purpose
Onion (14.5)                Corn (15.4)               Artichoke
Artichoke (13)             Sarsaparilla (6.25*)   Sarsaparilla*
Sarsaparilla (12.5*)     Artichoke (2.6)          Watermelon
Watermelon (10)         Watermelon (2)          Pumpkin
Pumpkin (10)               Pumpkin (2)              Corn
Potato (6.25)               Potato (1.25)             Onion
Corn (4.4)                   Onion (0.8)                Potato

XP and $ amounts are calculated on average yield per hour.  The amount of $ is calculated to reflect net profit (gross profit minus seed cost).  (Example: Brussels Sprouts yield 75XP and $20 in 2 hours growth, hence they yield and average of 37.5 XP per hour and $7.5, $15 gross profit minus $5 seed cost)

*The amounts for Currants are averaged up to reflect 2 yields per hour even though they can only be harvested every 40 mins.  This is for simplicity sake, adjust your planting accordingly.
*The amounts for Sarsaparilla are not reflective of their steep 1 Smurfberry seed cost.  Since there is no in-game monetary equivalent for Smurfberries, there is no reasonable way to evaluate seed cost.  You will have to decide the value of this cost and its overall effect on the profitability of planting this crop.

Plant smartly.  A well organized farm can accumulate a great deal of coinage and XP every day.  Depending on when you have time to play, figure out how to harvest the most crops in a day.  If you have a routine sleeping pattern, plant crops just before you go to sleep that will be ready to harvest immediately upon your waking up.  Maximize your grow time the same way for the rest of your day.  Make your farm work for you when you cannot work it.

It is strongly recommended against planting Potatoes, Strawberries, and Tomatoes.  These are the worst of the respective groups and will not accelerate your growth.  Also, with a seed cost of 1 Smurfberry, Sarsaparilla is a poor investment unless you have REAL MONEY to burn.

If you have the time, Blueberries are VERY lucrative!

Once your village is up and running, start populating it with snails and caterpillars.  Both generate a lot of XP daily if you check in on them.  Smurfette is good in the same capacity, but snails and caterpillars are much better and you can have multiples of them.  Plus, with a productive village you can add 2 snails or 1 caterpillar each day. This will help you advance in level much faster than with crops alone.

Later in the game, after you have built your village to your satisfaction and have nothing new to build, you can put your money to use buying XP by buying scenery and then deleting it.  Sure, this is a bit unethical, but it can turn money you are not using into valuable XP.

Design your village smartly.  You may want to consider dividing up your field into sections.  One section should be devoted to generating XP and the other coins.  Or simply design two separate fields and dedicate each to a task.

Unless you just have lots of REAL MONEY to burn, don’t waste Smurfberries on instantly growing crops or building houses.  Save your Smurfberries for things like the special smurfs or rare items.

Farmer Smurf is very important.  He can increase the yield on crops grown in fields that touch the perimeter of his house by 50%.  This means that up to 8 fields can see significant yield increases due to his presence.  He should be the first smurf you spend Smurfberries on.  You can arrange it so that he influences a full 8 fields, if you stagger your fields correctly.

Build bridges as soon as possible.  They greatly increase the size of your village and thus the arable land available.

Upgrade Smurf houses regularly to increase your population.  There are limits to the number of houses you can have per level, so this will help grow your village and get around this limitation.

Thanks for taking a look and have a smurfy time giving these hapless smurfs a new home!  Enjoy the smurf out of this fun little game!

4 comments:

  1. Great article, thank you. Why don't you mention the Golden Corn to grow Gold? It's the best long term crop!

    Here a couple thoughts on snails and caterpillars:
    • With caterpillar: need 10,000 gold => 10000/154=65 fields = 65*9=585 hours => 0 gold and 65*44=2,860 XP + 1000 right away = 3860 XP
    • Without caterpillar: plant corn instead, get 65*15=975 gold and 65*155=10,075 XP
    • Diff XP = 10075-3860=6215 -> reimbursed in 12.5 days since caterpillar earns 500 XP/day.
    • Snail costs and earns half of caterpillar, so both can be used interchangeably. Snails are just better for kids since there is more clicking… ;)

    One word of warning: to grow 40 crops of Golden Corn (the best long-term gold earner), you need 40*11=440 coins. Watch out not to deplete your gold with these expensive purchases. For Onions (for XP), you need 40*16=640 coins.

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  2. Nico, Golden Corn (just called Corn in this installment, we are in the pre-"Corn" era) is at the top of the Gold Yield list. It certain was the best money earned of its time!

    Thanks for reading!

    ReplyDelete
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