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New Facebook game “Zen garden” – a new star or a new fail?

New facebook game “zen garden” – a new star or a new fail? It has come to my attention that a new game named “Zen Garden” has been released on Facebook. The new players are coming to see a shiny graphics and a fresh Japanese-style-flower-garden-farm game play.
Would this particular game be a hit?
I’ve played it for months in Russian social network VKontakte long before it was released for Facebook and i must tell you some really important stuff concerning this particular game and its developers.

First of all, what is good about this game. It has some really nice drawn graphics including beautiful variety of flowers and pots, it has a lot of different plants scattered around its levels, ability to have a pond filled with water-growing blossoming plants and a lot of space to grow into. The game has been made by Russian development team PlayFriends and is run on micro-payments. This is where the good ends and the bad starts.

PlayFriends released Zen Garden 28 June 2010 under “Japanese Garden” title in major Russian social networks comparable to Facebook by the structure and purpose of them. I usual look forward to see new social games being released, so i started playing the day this game went on public and saw all of its developments (there were few). This is what i have to say about the main problems of this game…Zen Garden being previously released as Japanese Garden in major Russian social networks
First of all, it is bugged. Well of course, when a social game being released with “beta” tag on  it, it is supposed to be buggy, but this game’s developers did little to nothing on fixing the major bugs.

The game has a standard “help friends” feature – you can visit other people’s gardens and take care of them. After one of the content upgrades, this feature was literally broken – you could use only 2 items of all of your friend’s stuff. Not 2 per friend, mind you, but 2 per all of your friends. This bug was driving everyone mad for more than 3,5 months until PlayFriends fixed it (i see now they did it only because Facebook release). Also, before the Facebook release, it had only 4 content upgrades (3 of them being made in first 3 weeks of game play). I suppose, getting gold on Facebook made them do some new stuff, but i highly doubt that PlayFriends would continue doing so in a long perspective.

Having a constant flow of bugs of course made people complain in the game’s fan group. This complaints were either left unnoticed or (if you got persistent enough on pointing out the bad stuff to the new players) got repeatedly deleted. If someone reported a problem with connection or their payment being screwed or game not loading, they would not get help from the group’s staff no matter what – they’d just copy-paste a standard “clean your browser’s cache and reload the page” answer for everyone, even if you complained of the bug i mentioned above (not being able to take use of friend’s gardens), which is obviously has nothing to do with the browser’s cache.

Sometimes the game went down for days with absolutely no notice prior to the downtime. It was said the servers went down for some maintenance, but no new content or even a bug fix ever come out of these. Even worse, each time they’d do the maintenance thing a lot of players would lose money because the timer that counts time before your green stuff grows up and dies never stopped counting while the servers went down. You could have just logged in for a harvest and the next minute you’re kicked out with “we’re on maintenance” banner. When after a day or even more they’d come online again, all of your flowers are dead and money lost. If you had no free money on your account, the only way to keep playing would be buying game money – and hoping you won’t lost them again. No one ever got any refund for the flowers and money and time lost to “the maintenance”. I even suspect that PlayFriends team may be doing this on purpose to make people buy money to keep playing.

Zen Garden became unpopular because of its developer's attitude, high prices and bugs being ignored. Another major problem was unnaturally high prices for the in-game currency. Comparing to other games on Russian social market they were up to 10 times higher than in other projects. There are always people who are ready to pay whatever price tag is being set for them, but majority of players complained and just stopped playing. Buying a few pots or an upgrade to your lot was (and still is) in this game comparable to buying a full game on Steam. I personally don’t think this is something good and natural. Due to bugs being ignored, some players reported losing the money they invested in this game or losing the items they acquired with the real money.

So, you see, practically PlayFriend are one of these companies that do not give a crap about you or their project as long as someone pays for it. I had many random friends added in this game (up to a hundred, never less than 70 at any given time) to monitor player base activity, and I’d say maybe 3 or 4 out of 10 are still playing, and 3 out of all of them did bought upgrades for their garden with real money – an evidence of this game being unpopular due to its developers being greedy jerks. Now, after it’s obvious they screwed the project on Russian marked they moved to Facebook hoping to get some money until they screw it too.

Now, if you don’t mind bugs, arrogant GMs, assortment of critical bugs being ignored for ages and prices being set up abnormally high, you’re in for a play!

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