Farmers, eh? Bastards, the lot of them as far as I'm concerned. For instance my mate Bunny, back when we were nine, had his dog shot dead by a farmer. I remember he cried his eyes out, sobbing uncontrollably in a heap on the ground. It was a pathetic sight - one that would've brought even Imelda Marcos to her knees. But the farmer? Absolutely no remorse whatsoever. 'Dog?' he said glibly when confronted by Bunny's mum and dad. 'Oh well, it'd been worrying moi corn, you see!' His com? Bloody hell.
Another unpleasant personal experience regarding farmers comes in the form of a friend of a friend's friend, called Tim. Tim works on a farm and occasionally appears at social gatherings where he corners people and gives them lectures on subjects such as modern silage techniques and about how he once met David Bellamy.
The final example. A band I was in ages ago did a gig at an agricultural college in Sussex, and we got booed off the stage. Okay, so the young farmers didn't like our particular brand of music - not many people did - but the point is that later on that evening, as we were loading all our gear into the van, we heard cheering, clapping and whooping as the dj placed that night's most requested single onto the deck. And the oh-so popular song in question? Combine Harvester by The Wurzels!
So there you have it. Farmers are callous, cold-hearted and merciless dog-killers who talk endlessly about the ins and outs of modern turd storage methods and who wouldn't understand decent music if it landed on their heads. Bastards, like I said.
So imagine my horror when I sat back in my chair after half an hour at the controls of Sim Farm and surveyed my new potato field with a feeling of pride!! And imagine my further horror when I saw myself actually (a) buying some more potato seeds, (b) planting two new potato fields, (c) checking on the current market price for potatoes, (d) digging some irrigation ditches to drain off the excess water from the potato field I'd accidentally placed on boggy land, (e) buying a little shed to keep my tractor and excess potato seeds in, and (f) removing a teeny bit of the fence next to the front door of my farmhouse and replacing it with a little country cottage-type gate... which I then opened' with a click of the mouse. Dark forces were obviously at work, and I was experiencing farmer mentality first hand.
Farmers aren't city planners
Sim Farm is a slow game. Well, sort of. I mean, it's not actually 'slow' slow, because whole days happen within the space of seconds but it's a kind of speeded up version of slow, if you know what I'm saying. I'll try and explain further though, because you won't know what I'm saying. Let me put it like this: in Sim City (the most obvious Maxis game for comparison purposes) you'd tend to get a very small working residential, industrial and commercial system together and then build outwards like billy-o while everything else took care of itself. The growth of your city, if you were careful, would soon be getting on for exponential -meaning you were continuously busy. The only thing that stopped you expanding was when problems occured in the infrastructure. So you sorted them out. Still busy. And by the time you had sorted them out. even more money was floating around in the coffers, and so your expansion programme could continue as never before. And so on and so forth. By the time your city was spread out across the whole map (and this obviously took a long time), you were ready to try a new one... one shaped like a Yin Yang symbol or the Star of David or a banana or something.
Dull, ploddy gits
Being a Maxis farmer is a bit different to being a Maxis city planner, though. In Sim Farm, although time zips by like Ben Johnson on his latest 'prescription', you have to slow down while still, conversely, keeping up to speed. Not with me again? Well, take strawberries for example. In fact take any crop. You don't really do a lot. but at times your mouse is moving in a blur. You plant a field, you fertilise it, you wait. Then you wait a bit more. And then you wait a bit more. A problem occurs in the shape of an attack by small, herbivorous insects, so you spray pesticide to kill them. While you're at it you spray herbicide and fungicide too. Then you wait. Then you wait again. And again. And again. Don't forget: the days may be hacking by but the weeks take seven times longer: and the months four times longer still. So you check the market price for your crop. An upward trend appears, and so you feel optimistic. You look at your real-life watch. Your real-life telephone rings and you have a brief real-life chat to a real-life friend and arrange to meet in the Slug and Lettuce at 7.30 on real-life Thursday. You hang up and get back to the game. You check your field and find that the harvest is coming along apace and will be of'A' grade, provided the weather holds out. So you check the continuously moving five-day weather forecast. Sunny. Sunny. Cloudy. Sunny. Rainy. On it scrolls. Cloudy. Cloudy. Cloudy. Sunny. Cloudy. You then check the temperature. 68, 68, 66. 69. 71 - Not absolutely ideal, but not bad either. Then you wait. Then you buy some fences and make a small enclosure. You've also just decided to purchase a small amount of livestock to breed and sell, but are faced with the tough decision between sheep, cows, pigs or horses.
Blam! Fanner's adrenalin rushl
Then your decision is made for you: you don't buy any of them right at the moment, because your crop is ready, and so you go to the sell menu. Hmmm. The asking amount is good, but it might be even better next week. So it's a gamble: (a) will the harvest retain its quality in storage for the duration, and (b) will the selling price go as you've predicted? Only one way to find out. so you decide to wait. You come to a decision regarding the livestock, and buy a couple of cows. And then you wait. Then the week has passed and you check the market prices again. Oh no! They've plummeted. And worse than that... the crop you stored has deteriorated. It was originally 'A' grade. Now it's 'C' grade. You could have made $7000. Now you can only make $1500. Shit, shit, shit. Six months of your life down the toilet. Still, what's six months to a farmer? Their sense of time is much akin to a geologist's.
Stardate 2396 (farmerdate: unknown)
Some time has passed and you've bought more land and property. You now own 16 onion fields and a crop-dusting plane and are in the process of getting your strawberry-growing area together. Also, the two cows you originally purchased have turned into a massive herd. You've made loads of money on the futures market too with your rice paddies. Well done. You're a proper farmer at last. You're old as buggery, your skin looks like leather, your breath smells of vinegar, you own nine Range Rovers and a bmw, you've got your cowhand's daughter pregnant and you've killed 915 dogs. It's time to leave the land and move full time into the stock market. But the City lads and lasses won't let you, because you smell a bit toiletish - and anyway, they're too busy organising a new food mountain.
Let's sum this game up
Sim Farm takes some elements from Sim City and crosses them with some from Sim Life, meaning that you end up with a game that's lots of fun at times, but not so much fun at others. I think a major problem is that if you screw up on one farm, it takes too long to get another established to the same degree. Sim City and Sim Ant were instantly accessible, which meant they were also instantly restartable should you get bored or stuck or whatever. Sim Farm, however, takes far more perseverance: it's a case of start a game and slowly build it up. Personally I haven't got the patience, the commitment or the underlying interest. But that's just me. What more can I say? Sim Farm is good, but not that good when you consider that Sim City 2000 is just around the corner.
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