Making mobile games is incredibly tough. Not only is it a crazy competitive space, but there is this constant gnawing pressure to lean more and more into design patterns that are one step away from gambling. Even when trying your best to live an ethical life as a game developer, that constant capitalist pressure is always there, eating away at you. Which is why I’ve been so floored by Farm RPG.
Farm RPG is an incredibly simple game – it’s little more than a text based game with an app interface surrounding it. But it’s incredibly addictive, free to play, has no ads, and is patreon supported. It also feels like a pure expression of the joy of making a game. Farm RPG is a game that is built for and with its community, and it has been making me mull on the nature of modern game development.
The core loop of Farm RPG is nothing revolutionary – grow crops, go fishing, engage in small minigames that keep you engaged in between time-gated content. Every hour your farm produces more goods, and each day you get new quests, animal products, and other ‘fun chores’ to keep you busy. But then, on top of that is an exceptionally engaging community vibe.
There are some really clever ideas in Farm RPG that help to foster a community. In addition to in-game chat, there are channels where players can request items to help them with their day’s missions. Whenever you scroll down in the home screen, you can see a list of all the new players who have joined (very conducive to giving ‘welcome gifts’ to new players). There are all kinds of ways that this game, which is mostly a solitary experience, has built a supportive and friendly community around it.
Then, there’s the way that community is managed with the developers. Community members are frequently able to respond to polls for rewards (including silly questions that remind me of the old “Everybody Votes” channel on Wii, but also questions around prioritising features for the upcoming roadmap). The game has an excellent frequency of updates, with new minor updates every few days, and major updates coming very frequently to keep the game fresh.
Even game-breaking bugs seem to be beautifully managed. Two weeks after I started playing, a minor update introduced a game breaking bug where players couldn’t plant crops – they would get lost permanently. The community was all posting in chat about how to avoid it, letting players know, and keeping each other posted on updates until the developer (who was asleep when the update rolled out) was able to wake up, fix the bug, and give everybody a gift as thanks for their patience.
It’s strange to have encountered a game that is at the same time so simple, but also such a beautiful expression of the dream of indie game development. It’s incredibly inspiring – so, well done to Magic & Wires, the team behind it. It’s a wonderful game that I would strongly recommend to everybody!