Keeping Up With the FarmVillians: The reality of staying happy on the farm

keeping up with the farmvillians
keeping up with the farmvillians

This week, I had to make an important decision regarding my DVR. The season finale of True Blood and The Real Housewives of New Jersey were conflicting with Keeping Up With the Kardashians ... again. But wait, didn't this just happen last week, and the week before that as well? Since the vampires of True Blood are always victorious over reality stars, I'm left with both reality shows fighting for my viewership, and I can't help but think this would be an awesome brawl if the RHONJ actually threw down with the Kardashian clan.

Anyways, it occurred to me that due to my favorite Sunday night shows' scheduling conflicts, and the little time I have to commit to watching them, mixed in with full-time FarmVille coverage and my 2-year-old son, I was no longer keeping up with the Kardashians. At all. In fact, I was dangerously close to the point of no return when it comes to leaving a TV series behind for good. A few missed episodes become seasons and then seasons turn into my Grey's Anatomy. (Is McDreamy still around? I'm forever lost in Season 4 limbo).

One of the most common complaints I hear from FarmVille players is that too much is happening in FarmVille. Farmers who aren't able to visit the farm daily are finding that a lot happens in a matter of 24 hours. Here are just a few of the big releases from the past week:

Space Out with Crops

Aside from the usual FarmVille Market updates of new Limited Edition items, there were 10 brand new Space-themed crops to plant. Before you get caught up in Mercury Melons and Moon Flowers, note that you'll need to Master them in succession. In other words, each crop has a specific mastery prerequisite in place where you will need to master one crop before you can unlock the next tier.

Good thing that FarmVille made it an unexpected Double Mastery week where you can earn double Mastery Points on crops (and trees) if you found the time to take advantage of planting any of the new Space crops. It takes will power to ignore those quest crops, but it's much easier when the quest is asking you to plant Eggplants for the 100th time despite mastering this crop three years ago. Hello, can we at least get some Super Eggplants over here?

Get Crafty

FarmVille Crafting Buildings (that's the Bakery, Spa, and Winery) are now available for free. This upgrade allows players to have up to three Crafting buildings per FarmVille farm without having to use any Farm Cash. Previously, you could only have one free Crafting Building and purchase additional buildings using Farm Cash at the cost of 80 Farm Cash per building. No more paying 80 Farm Cash per building.

Note: Destination farms' unique Crafting Buildings count towards the three-building limit. For example, if you have an English Pub on your English Countryside farm, then you can have two additional Crafting Buildings and make your choice from the Bakery, Spar, or Winery, but you may not have all four. FarmVille sweetened the deal by releasing new crafting recipes to help you get started in your new endeavors as a baker, spa specialist or winemaker. Add it to the list of your FarmVille accomplishments.

Train with a Master

Jade Falls' favorite pup, Master Motto, came to play (for free) and finally stopped asking us for our Farm Cash as the first week of non-paid access to Jade Falls' Enlightened Trails began. Master Motto is just like Master Lu except that he is a dog. They both love giving us challenges, special training in wisdom that only a master can bestow, and they even live in the same house on the elevated knoll in Jade Falls. Complete training with Master Motto and you can earn yourself some freebies such as Zen Points (ZP) and exclusive items like a Dragon Gnome. Master Motto sure is a cutie, but he has that way of making me feel like I'm never good enough and that no matter how fast I complete his challenges there's always something I could've done better. I'm still game for his challenges and his free stuff.

Turn your Coins into Farm Cash

Zynga's Coins to Cash program finally rolled out to a wide release, giving FarmVille players the option to turn their Farm Coins into Farm Cash. Turning Coins into Cash seems nice, but it's not without a price or paying a monthly subscription fee. The new service that converts your Farm Coins into Farm Cash costs around $10 per month. Each month you will be able to exchange a set amount of Farm Coins into Farm Cash. This is a subscription service where you will need to provide valid payment details and your membership into the program will be automatically renewed monthly unless cancelled.

Construction Projects: Baby Nursery & Cupcake Doghouse

A new animal building-with-purpose, the Baby Nursery, debuted as a place to store your Mystery Babies and harvest extra Animal Feed. The Baby Nursery provides a place for you to store all the miscellaneous Mystery Babies scattered about your FarmVille farm. As a bonus, it can be harvested for Animal Feed daily. Then, use your Animal Feed to grow-up some of those poor Mystery Babies hoping to see adulthood. We only wish this was the way the world worked -- a baby nursery that automatically produced milk. No more 3 a.m. feedings or midnight milk runs.

The Cupcake Doghouse arrived with new Loyal Dogs. The Cupcake Doghouse (pink) is the exact same concept as the Sunshine Doghouse (yellow). The main difference is that each have their own set of Loyal Dogs for you to unlock, and they require different colored Dog Treats to do the unlocking. The Cupcake Doghouse has a set of teacup sized Loyal Dogs including a Bichon Frise, Silky Yorkie, Silver Pomeranian, Pekingese, and Parti Chihuhua that are sure to make the ladies swoon.

High Roller Spending & Hawaiian Paradise Surprise

FarmVille introduced the 42x42 Farm Expansions across all farms for those willing to pay Farm Cash (no Farm Coin option yet). The lowest cost of the 42x42 expansion is 210 Farm Cash, but the price varies by farm. Some other expensive items included a Jade Money Tree, Jade Falls Unwither Ring, and a Double Jade Statue that made their way into the market this week each toting hefty price tags. The Jade Money Tree will set you back 260 Farm Cash, 250 Farm Cash for the Unwither Ring, and 200 Farm Cash for the Double Jade Statue.

Toward the end of the week everyone was surprised to see a new series of quests added to Hawaiian Paradise farm. Occasionally, FarmVille likes to keep us on our toes when most of us think it's safe to casually forget a farm. The new series of Hawaiian Paradise quests is unusually long with difficult requirements that include high crop harvests and triple the recipe crafting and if that wasn't bad enough, the rewards are not that great, to say the least. In fact, most of them are old re-released prizes. Blah.

Drive To End Hunger

Finally, the week wrapped up with even NASCAR paying a visit to FarmVille in a new in-game promotion between Zynga, FarmVille, AARP's Drive To End Hunger campaign with NASCAR as well as NASCAR driver, Jeff Gordon. As long as we're going full speed ahead, why not, right? The in-game event offers players an opportunity to donate money to the Drive To End Hunger campaign. You can make your donation when you gift your FarmVille friends a Tractor Pig for about $1 each.

Once you send a friend the Tractor Pig gift, you will receive a Grocery Tree for yourself as a bonus. All of the proceeds will go to Drive To End Hunger. Outside the virtual farming world, FarmVille and NASCAR fans were treated to another surprise this weekend when #24 Jeff Gordon's car raced this weekend decked out in a special FarmVille + Drive To End Hunger paint job. A FarmVille first for sure.

All that to say, there's no blinking allowed in FarmVille -- or so it seems. All of this went down in a mere seven days. Is it realistic to do everything offered in FarmVille, plus actually plant crops and farm (not to mention have a life outside the farm)?

For die-hard FarmVille players who play daily, this may prove to be more difficult than keeping up with FarmVille (or the Kardashians). It is often these players who strive to complete every quest, challenge, voting event, construction project, and still work on new masteries or hobby breeding. Doing it all is a lot of work and can become quite time consuming.

Trying to keep up can be overwhelming for some players, who may feel defeated when attempting to do everything in FarmVille, especially when it takes the enjoyment out of playing. I hear this a lot, "FarmVille is becoming WorkVille".

If this is true for you, maybe it's a good time to reconsider the way you play and instead, focus on the things that are important to you. Consider skipping certain quests if you don't like the rewards. If you find that planting rice or bell peppers for the millionth time is annoying because you mastered these crops years ago, then, consider skipping the quest. Instead, plant a crop you've been dying to master. Get back to the basics.

The mere idea of skipping something may make some players cringe, but if you find yourself not enjoying an aspect of the game, just remember everything is optional -- do something for yourself and for your own enjoyment.

It's nice to be able to pick and choose what we want to watch on television and then record it so we can conveniently enjoy it later. But sometimes our entertainment values are put in check and thanks to the DVR and scheduling conflicts we are forced to ask ourselves "What is the most important to me?" There's not always enough time in the world to keep up with every Kardashian, plus be a good mom, wife, employee, and virtual farmer. We don't have a DVR in FarmVille to force us into prioritizing, but it might be nice.

Kardashians image courtesy of E!

Are you keeping up with FarmVille or struggling because of too much going on? Tell us about your experience in the comments. Add comment.

Angela Morales created and manages FarmVille Freak, the largest FarmVille fan site, which provides news, tips and in-game updates for Zynga's Facebook farm game.