Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting started (and a bit more) with Farmville and Farmtown

The object of Farmtown and Farmville is to build a large, nice looking farm and fill it with interesting animals, buildings and decorations. There is a contradiction between getting a farm with a lot of nice buildings (like the expensive manor) quickly on the one hand and advancing in the game so that you are able to buy more things and give better gifts on the other hand. The buildings and decorations take up space that can be used by field plots that grow crops. Those field plots are what really help you advance in the game. Don't fill up your farm with "stuff" right away. 

These are beginning pointers. In subsequent articles, I will discuss some tricks and bugs, and go back to some of the points in this post and expand on them. This one article should have all the essentials for beginners. If you think I missed something important, leave a comment or sent me a message on Facebook.

The very first steps in Farmtown or Farmville are simple. You must first be a Facebook member to play these games. If you got an invitation to your Facebook requests page or were sent a gift (this will change soon) accept the invitation or gift and you will be guided by the game. If not, go to for Farmville or for Farmtown and the game will guide you.

Bookmark - Remember to bookmark the game in your browser so you can come back to it easily. If the game doesn't ask you to bookmark it, put the cursor on the little graphic at the beginning of the game address URL in the address bar of your browser, click the mouse button and drag the icon to the bookmark navigation bar in your browser.

Where to play Farmville - Farmville can be played from two Web sites. If you accept a give or neighbor request, the Web site connected to facebook will be displayed. Right now though, it is better to go to and play the game there. The reason is that when the game is working correctly, a display at the bottom shows the "Game Feed" - the announcements of different friends who are giving away animals for adoption, who found "magic eggs" or completed collections and are giving away "collectibles" and other goodies, as well as requests for help in barnraising or for gifts that you can help them with. 

Don't keep more than one Farmville or Farmtown window open. This uses up resources and one of the games will be "out of synch" as the other progresses.  When you accept gifts always click "yes" to indicate you have more gifts to accept in Farmville, to prevent the game from being displayed from the Facebook Web site. Refresh the copy of the game to get the new gifts in your gift box.

Getting Gifts - Any gifts you may have gotten are stored in a gift box in the instrument panel at the lower right hand side of the game display. Click on the gift box to open it. Farmville will show you both the gift box and the storage area. Select the gift box by clicking on it. Click Use to use the gift. In Farmtown the button may appear only if you pass over it with the cursor. It is beneath the gift image.

Coins, Cash and XP - In both Farmville and Farmtown you earn coins, cash and XP (experience points) as you advance in the game. The coins can be converted into XP by spending them on crops or buying objects. Every field plot you plow gives you 1 XP and every crop gives 1-3 XP. Decorations, vehicles and buildings (check them out in the market) can give you anywhere from 5 to 10,000 XP. The "best bargain" among decorations for both games is hay bales. Each one is worth 5 XP and the game spits them out with every click once you selected them. In addition, if you place enough  In addition, in Farmville, you earn XP by getting achievement ribbons for money spent, decorations placed, flowers or trees harvested. These ribbons are especially important for beginning and mid-level players and some of them are very easy to achieve. The top level blue ribbon can yield 250 or more XP and a large cash bonus.

You get about one cash for each level you advance. It takes more XP to advance at higher levels, but it is easier to get the XP as your farm is larger. 

Additional sources of cash - You can get more cash and coins just by buying them or getting "game cards" distributed by Farmville. If you have money to spend, in my opinion, buy a book or see a movie with a friend or make a donation to charity. Buying coins and cash in Farmville or Farmtown is about like cheating at solitaire, isn't it?

Buying things - In Farmville, go to the "Market" to buy crops, buildings, animals etc. In Farmtown, it is called the "store." The Farmville Marketplace is used for selling crops and hiring people or hiring yourself out.

Placing Objects - Always place objects such as trees and animals to the rear or at the right of the display area. If you place them at left or in front, they will cover fields. This is less of a problem in Farmtown, where you can hide most of the trees, buildings and flowers while working. 

Placing field plots - Field plots that grow crops are the most important part of Farmville and Farmtown. If you want to advance in the game, you will need to fill your farm with as many plots as possible. (Farmtown allows more plots). At first you will have a very small number of plots or fields. As you harvest crops you will have more and more coins and will be able to add more fields.  Be careful to place your plots as close as possible to each other and not leave extra spaces. If you are like me and have a jittery hand and crummy mouse, enlarge the display (see below) to make it easier to aim the plow (plowing a real farm is much harder). In Farmtown, click the Wrench tool at top right and check "Close up spaces between plots."  That will give you a lot more plots at the same expansion level.

What to plant - Usually the crop that matures in the shortest time pays the best per hour, and of course, tends to yield the most XP, and with growing time equal, the crops open for more advanced users pay better than the ones for beginners. That's true for BOTH Farmville and Farmtown. 

In Farmville try to stick to mostly one or two crops for a long time, so that you earn points toward "mastery" of that crop or those crops, and reach mastery quickly. Your progress for each crop is shown in the "Market" display just beneath the crop. When you have reached level 3 you get a big bonus and you earn some extra XP when harvesting the crop. So you can plant a 4 hour crop 2 or 3 times during the day if you are ambitious, and a 10 hour crop at night, or you can plod away with the same crop every day, or ever 2-4 days. 

However - you also get ribbons and bonuses for harvesting a variety of crops. You won't be able to get all the ribbons until you have progressed far enough in the game. The good news is that you only need one plot of each kind of crop to qualify for the ribbon.

A second "however" - As you progress in the game, new crops are open to you that pay better or have more convenient planting times. 

Farmville also has "specials" from time to time that may pay better and mature more quickly.

Farmville gives you ribbons (and cash and XP) for planting vegetables. fruits and flowers (separately). Remember that some things, like tea, are neither vegetables nor fruits nor flowers and do not count toward those ribbons. 

Withering - Crops wither if they are not harvested. In Farmville you can buy an unwither tool, but it is very expensive and not worthwhile. If you are going away for a long time, either don't plant anything or plant something that will not wither before your return. The wither time is about equal to the harvest time. If you planted a one day crop, you will have another day before it withers. In Farmtown however, the "day" is 20 hours. This allows you a bit of leeway and ensures that you can plant at about the same time each day.

Why you need trees and animals - Trees and animals look nice, but do not produce a lot of coins. They do not yield any XP. In both games, they are important for beginning players as "insurance." If you forget to harvest your crops and they wither, you can slowly gather enough coins from the trees and animals so that you can plant crops again. In Farmville you can get ribbons for trees and animals harvested, as well as some of the "collectibles" that can be traded in for cash, XP and fuel rewards.Don't fill your farm with too many trees and animals because it becomes tedious to collect from them and they take up space. You can not collect from them, but then there is not much point in having so many, is there? You can buy farmhands or arborists in Farmville for cash - but they cost 5 cash for one use. They will collect from all your animals or pick all your trees. You may also get them if people "find" them when collecting from their stables.

Farmtown animals and trees are more convenient. You can "hire" people to harvest your trees. In Farmtown, cows, geese, chickens, sheep and Lamas can be collected from by advanced players only just by buying the appropriate buildings - dairy farm, chicken coop and shearing shed. Farmville has a somewhat similar arrangement - a dairy for cows, a chicken coop and a stable for horses. You can have 5 dairies (more for cash) that each hold 20 cows. In future, you will be able to expand the dairies, Farmville promises. You can expand the chicken coop to hold 60 chickens. The stable holds 20 horses and will be expandable in the future. 

Enclosing your Avatar - The little farmer guy or gal (you can customize them by clicking on them) is very cute, but it really slows down the game. In Farmtown there is nothing that can be done about this. In Farmville, you should, at the earliest opportunity, trap your avatar so it cannot move. This will make the game quite a bit faster, not just for you, but for kindly neighbors who come to fertilize your crops and feed your chickens. To enclose your avatar:
1. Choose a time when nothing is planted in the center of your game board.

2. Refresh the display, so the avatar is in the center.

3. Buy 4 bales of hay and put them around the avatar so that it cannot move. 

This also avoids a Farmville bug. One time, before I had entrapped the avatar, I was plowing, and plowing and plowing and making no progress. I looked to a corner of the game, and there was my avatar, with its foot trapped in a crack between plots trying to free itself and having a sort of automaton epileptic fit!

Neighbors - To play either Farmtown or Farmville properly, you need to have at least 10 neighbors. In Farmville, you also get ribbons for up to 50 neighbors. You can also earn XP by fertilizing the crops of your neighbors and doing them "favors."  Click the Neighbors tab to see which of your friends are Farmville or Farmtown players and invite them to be neighbors. Although you can supposedly invite people by e-mail address, unless they are already your friends, they will not get the invitations. In Farmtown, both neighbors have to send and get invitations it seems, in order for each to be visible to the other.

You can "friend" me in Facebook and ask me to be your neighbor in either game (Ami Isseroff - there's only one in Facebook). You can also go to the fan pages of Farmville and Farm town. The fans are shown at the bottom left and you can ask people to be friends - add a note explaining that you want to be neighbors in the game. You can leave your name and or e-mail address in a comment below, but remember that email addresses invite spambots and spammers and undesirables. Write your address as myname(at) and not as so that the spambots cannot find it easily. 

Neighbors are displayed in the bottom left panel. You can visit them, send them messages (Farmtown) or gifts. 

Neighbor Favors - In Farmville, neighbors can fertilize your crops (and vv) and feed your chickens if the chicken are in a coop. You can generally fertilize up to 5 plots per neighbor and get 1 XP for each plot one time a day  You also get 5 XP for fictitious emergencies that appear for each neighbor each day, such as gopher attacks. If the neighbor has a chicken coop, you can feed the chickens and get 1 XP. Sometimes you will also find a "magic egg" that does good things. Fertilized crops yield 1 extra XP per plot when harvested and chickens fed by neighbors are more likely to lay "magic" eggs. However, if the neighbor's avatar is not penned in, it can take quite a while to feed the chickens, because the avatar must walk to the coop. The game may also be slow in highlighting the coop so you can "feed" the chickens. 

In Farmtown you can visit neighbors one time a day to perform some stereotyped action, such as watering crops or cleaning up after a tornado.  That earns you a bit of cash and XP.  It will also get you a bit more fuel when you refuel.

Display - In the bottom right panel of both games there are three buttons that control the display size. The square screen icon will toggle the game to full screen mode. The is very useful when you have to work with a large farm.  Be careful as the game, browser and computer may get "stuck" and hang.  If that happens in Windows, press the Ctrl-Alt-Delete keys together to get the Task manager. In the applications tab of the Windows Task manager select the browser that is running the game and click the "Switch To" button. That usually gets things unstuck. To avoid this problem, make sure few or no other tabs are open in the browser and make sure the game is not doing something like plowing when you "go full screen." The - button makes the display zoom out.  The + button zooms in. In Farmtown it is essential to zoom in if you want to plow a closely plowed farm easily, and that's where full screen mode is handy. Please note that when Farmville wants to allow you to send a message, it can only open the dialogue in regular viewing mode, so the full screen view is switched out rather inconveniently. 

Supposedly, you can use the mouse wheel to zoom in and out. Sometimes this works, and other times it does not work. 

Gifts - In either game, click the Free Gifts or Send Gifts button  to give gifts to your friends and neighbors, whether or not they play Farmville or Farmtown yet. Select the gift from the display and then click "Proceed to Send" (Farmtown) or "Proceed to Send Gift/Invite Request" (Farmville). In the second windows there are three lists that may take a while to fill up.  One listing shows all your Facebook Friends. A second listing is supposed to show only those of your Facebook friends who play the game, but often it shows all of your friends. A third listing shows all of your Facebook friends by photo icons. 

You can only (in theory) give a gift to the same person one time in a day, but this is reset at noon according to a timezone on the Pacific coast of the US, so you may be able to give 2 gifts on some days  But Facebook (not the games) also limits the total number of "requests" you can make with each application to around 40. If you have run out of requests for the day, you cannot send neighbor requests or gifts. A very frustrating feature of these games is that you may spend quite a while choosing friends to get gifts and then find that you cannot send any more requests. If you are in doubt, choose one or two friends and click "Send," If you don't get an error message, you can cancel the dialogue and select more friends for gifts. However, sometimes you can send only a limited number of gifts, and then the selected list will be truncated when you get to the dialogue. 

Expanding your farm - As you advance in the game you will be able to expand your farm. In Farmville, the largest farm is currently 24 X 24 plots. It takes a long time to load and is not adequate considering the size of some of the buildings. In Farmtown, the largest farm is two connected farms of 1024 plots each. The "back 40" farm can be used as a big field, which finance purchase of buildings and gadgets for the main farm.

Saving and losing your work - In Farmville there is no way to save your work at all. Planting, harvesting and plowing all take time - they are deliberately slowed down by the game, and you can get way "ahead of the game." But if it crashes then, you will lose all of your work. In Farmtown, you can click the little floppy disk icon in the top right instrument panel to save your game periodically. The game is operated by a game server that keeps all the information in a central database. That may disconnect periodically. When it does you loose all unsaved work in either game and you need to refresh the page. 

When to refresh your game -  You need to refresh the Farmtown game periodically to see if your crops are ready. If you just keep coming back to the page without refreshing it, it will always show the same numbers and the same crop display. Farmville updates the progress of crop ripening on its own, but it  should be refreshed if you have gotten gifts in another window. Do not refresh your Farmville game if plowing or planting or harvesting is still in progress. 

Sounds - Both games make cute animal sounds that get to be very annoying pretty quickly, especially if household members are awakened by strange ducks quacking at night. Click the speaker icon to mute the sounds. Click the musical note icon to shut off the music too. 

Video Quality - Farmville has an icon for video quality at top left. I can't see that it does anything, but perhaps if it is off (lower quality) the game loads a bit faster. 

Using Cash - In my opinion, objects that can be bought for cash only in Farmville are generally too expensive to be worthwhile. As an example, a single can of fuel costs 3 cash and is enough to plow or plant or harvest only 150 field plots. Save cash for special edition items you really want, or for farm expansion if you cannot get enough neighbors

Storage and Fuel - You won't be needing these at first so we will leave the details for another time. Both Farmville and Farmtown have vehicles that use fuel that can be had for free in limited quantities. Both games also have some provisions for storage that allow you to buy objects, get the XP and store the object, and to store seasonal objects (like buildings with snow) when not in use. 

Loading problems - If games do not load it may be due to a general bug in the game (Farmville announces when they are having "issues" like "loading issues." There  are never problems or bugs, only "issues") or a problem that affects only your game or a problem in your computer or browser:

- Try rebooting your computer and opening just the browser and just the game in the browser. Often loading problems are due to lack of "resources" (memory, window handles and the like).

- If that doesn't work, try playing the game in a different browser. When my game would not load in Facebook, it did load successfully in Google's Chrome and Apple Safari. All browsers are free and available for download on the Web.

- If that doesn't work, download and install the latest version of Flash player (there's a link on the Farmville game page).

- If that doesn't work, you can try contacting support. In my experience, contacting support and prayer have had about the same effect. 

Top Level - You probably won't need to worry about this for a while. In Farmtown the top level is currently 80.  In Farmville it is 70. When you get to the top level, you keep getting XP (at least in Farmtown) but since you do not advance any more levels, you do not get more cash. In Farmtown is means that your fuel allowance doesn't increase.  I am near the top level in both games. In Farmtown I was at the old top level, before the ceiling was raised. Everyone was "leveled up" according to the XP they had accumulated.

Farmville Only: 

Animal Produce - In Farmville, almost all the animals produce something. Penguins produce ice cubes! Horses produce horsehair and so on. Pigs produce truffles (not bacon). Stroking calves gives each day when they are "ready" produces XP, but they aren't giving veal. 

Adopting Animals - From time to time you may see a notice saying that a cat or other animal has wandered on to your farm and needs a home. If you click accept, you don't get the animal. A notice is posted in the feed and someone else can adopt it (sometimes more than one person I suspect). You can watch the feed and adopt other people's strays. There are ribbons for adopting animals and the adopted animals all produce something so you get cash from them. There is also a special "cat lady" set of ribbons for collecting from a sufficient number of animals. 

Cheat books - Cheat books are available for Farmville. Don't spend a dime on them. They are "pushed" by "affiliate sites." Chances are, if they are taking advantage of bugs or "back doors" in the game, the people at Zynga (Farmville) or slashdot (Farmtown) have already closed those holes. All of the sound and reasonable advice from such books would have long  ago filtered down the grapevine into the various blogs and Web sites.  We will discuss some of the tips and tricks I know in  later articles, and you can add your own.

Automation tools - There are software tools that will pick your crops and tend your neighbors fields and whatnot automatically in Farmville. I'm not sure how well they can work with all the game crashes and resets and server timeouts. Even if they can, what's the point? If the automaton is playing the game for you, where's the fun? 

"Saving your game" - This error message may appear when you play Farmville. It tells you not to close your browser. Usually, "Saving your game" means that Farmville has lost your latest changes and is not enhancing anything. Sometimes the game is saved and recovers. Wait about 15 seconds to half a minute before giving up and clicking the refresh button.

"Farmville has been enhanced" -  This sometimes means that Farmville is really adding an enhancement or has fixed a bug. More often it seems to really mean that Farmville server has crashed. There is nothing to be done other than refresh your game. 

Affiliate deals - Be cautious about offers to give you lots of XP or fuel if you try some product. More about this another time.

Only in Farmtown:

Hiding trees, flowers and  buildings - In Farmtown, you can hide trees, flowers and buildings, so you can see crops that are behind them. Use the wrench icon in the top right instrument panel. If you are careful, you can use this feature To plant crops UNDER flower beds, trees and buildings.

Marketplace - This is a special Farmtown feature. You get to the market by clicking on the Map, and then "Marketplace." You sell your crops there and you you can also hire people to harvest and to plow your fields and to pick your trees for you. You can also hire yourself out and earn coins harvesting or XP by plowing. 

Buddies - You can become buddies with the different people you meet. Click on the Avatar and ask the person to be a buddy. You can then see which buddies are online, and visit their farms. If they have work, they can click on your Avatar and hire you. 

Game Help

Farmville help is at Farmtown help is at, The Farmtown help is pretty comprehensive.  You can judge what the Farmville help is yourself.

If I forgot anything important - let me know.

Ami Isseroff

No comments:

Post a Comment

Posts are moderated - no spammers here! - Thanks.