The Pioneer Trail
|The Pioneer Trail|
|Release date(s)||June 9, 2010|
|Mode(s)||Single-player with multiplayer interaction|
The Pioneer Trail, formerly known as FrontierVille was a simulation, role-playing video game available for play on social networking sites such as Facebook. Developed by Zynga, and launched on June 9, 2010, it is a freemium game, meaning it's free to play, but players have the option of purchasing premium content. The game was shut down on April 30, 2015.
In art treatment and gameplay, The Pioneer Trail was very similar to one of Zynga's most popular games, [FarmVille]. Instead of a farm, however, the player played the role of a pioneer in the "American Old West."
The player created an avatar which resembled a [American pioneer]. The player then may have completed a total of innumerable collections which could be traded for coins, "experience points" (XP), decorations, livestock, trees, craft-able items, energy, and horseshoes (rare money that can be bought with real money). The player could also finish goals which included tasks such as gathering money, buying energy, clearing land, chopping down trees, raising livestock and trees, creating items such as beds, furniture, and clobbering unwanted pests such as bears, snakes, foxes and/or groundhogs. Eventually, the player may have acquired a spouse and up to four children. The player could have the other family members perform tasks. They could perform tasks simultaneously with their spouses and children, but the player risked being "kicked off" the game.
Other tasks included collecting from buildings, building inns, wagons, general stores, log cabin, schools, chicken coops, barns, trading posts, barber shops, churches, and sawmills as well as seeding, growing and harvesting crops. Completing goals yielded rewards for the player. One early source of game points, which was changed by the Zynga controllers, was for the player to build as many chicken coops as possible. One noted player managed to build 28 upgraded chicken coops. The chickens became ready to feed every 30 minutes, but the chicken coops could only allow the stored chickens to be feed only once in a 24-hour period. Having more than 24 allowed the player to feed all of their chickens for free every 30 minutes, which gave the player added coins, collection items, and game points. Feeding coops as often as possible did elevate the player's game level in a shorter time. Sometimes, players could set their own goals, such as surpassing a billion coins, or saving over a million food points, or growing over 1300 horses on their "land." One player of note, had passed over one billion twenty million coins, 13 million food points, and over 1300 grown horses on his land, when the game was deleted by Zanga. Horses were fed for free and gave between zero points to four points of energy. The (upgraded) barn could hold 1000 cows (of various types), 1000 horses, and 1000 mules.
Coins enabled the player to purchase decorations, buildings, crops, trees and animals. Horseshoes, which could be earned during the playing of the game, or purchased through real-world credit cards, enabled the player to buy mules and horses, paint buckets, hand drills, nails, bricks, hammers, and many other assorted crops or items. These items were essential for completing certain goals. Friends may also have "gifted" these items to the player.
Crops may have been planted and had to be harvested before they withered. As in FarmVille, the withering time of a particular crop was twice the maturation time. Also, as in FarmVille, crop maturity varied from five minutes, for the crop of clover, to four days for the crop of peanuts. Crops with longer maturation times provided larger payoffs. Harvesting could trigger encounters with "ground hogs," which needed to be "clobbered" to avoid using extra energy within their area of influence. Clobbering or scaring off pests and harvesting crops yielded coins, xp and food. Food was used to get energy, which was necessary to do any action in the game except for planting crops. Energy could be purchased in exchange for food or horseshoes. Every five minutes the player gained one amount of energy, unless the player had surpassed their "energy limit." When a player ran out of energy, they could either purchase more energy with food or horseshoes, wait for their energy to build up, or feed their horses again if they possessed the right collection. They could also gain energy by visiting their neighbor's farms and performing up to five tasks daily on each neighbor's homestead.
Animals could be purchased, gifted, or gained through specific collections and fed routinely for resources, or sold outright for a large one-time reward. They started out as juvenile animals and, except for race horses, needed to be fed several times (which were set by the game's rules) to grow into adults. There were two main types of animals. Mammals included goats, sheep, pigs, cows, oxen, mules and horses and birds such as chickens and geese. Mammals took somewhat longer to grow to adulthood and produce resources but generally provided a larger payoff. Birds took less time to grow and produce resources, but there was a chance of triggering a fox encounter when you feed them. Unless the fox was "clobbered" (killed), all birds within its area of influence (as seen with a red aura) can only be "sold" (i.e. "hunted"), not harvested.
Players could also plant fruit trees. Cherry, apple, pear, peach, and apricot trees are available. They were bought as seedlings and needed to be watered after specific time periods (in a manner similar to feeding the animals) to reach their full potential. They provided somewhat fewer resources than crops and animals did, but they never withered or were at risk for triggering the appearance of a pest.
Reaching a higher experience level or leveling up, rewarded the player with full energy, more coins, sometimes advanced the limit of a player's maximum energy. Leveling up occurred by accumulating experience points (xp). Experience points were earned by doing most actions in the game.
Initially, oak trees, pine trees, grass, cacti, wildflowers, rocks, and cow skulls filled the player's "homestead". At least some needed to be cleared to obtain usable land. Chopping down trees yielded one to three "wood," which was needed to construct buildings. Chopping down trees often trigger a bear encounter. Bears, while "harmless" (as there was no real "danger" in the game), prevented the player from doing some things. They were removed by scaring them off (read: "the bear dies"), which expends energy, but yielded rewards such as coins, food, xp, etc.). Clearing land could also trigger a snake encounter, which was handled in the same manner as a ground hog encounter, which was, "clobbering".
Collections were an intrinsic feature of the game. Collection items were found or given by the game while doing most actions in the game (feeding animals, harvesting crops, or clobbering pests). Collection items were automatically added to collection "sets." When a set was complete, it could be redeemed for in-game rewards, such as food, energy, xp, etc. The player could request collection items and can receive them as gifts via Neighbors or Facebook friends who were playing the game).
Almost, if not all, player's homesteads contained, at one time or another, one glitch or another. Sometimes certain items, trees, or animals might disappear. As the game progressed, real help was available to players with problems from real Zynga personnel, but this asset was disbanded when (perhaps) the costs (of time and salaries) exceeded the need to help players with real, imagined, or made-up problems or "glitzes" in the game.
As is a possibility with almost anything, players could, would, and did become "addicted" to playing the game. Some might have dreamed about the game or even set their alarm clocks to wake up to perform some chore or gain points. Even after the game was eliminated, players might find themselves nostalgic and despondent over the loss of the game itself and all of the real money, time, and/or human energy they spent.
- Peckham, Matt, PCWorld. "Zynga's Wild, Wild Western FrontierVille Launches." June 9, 2010.
- Shaul, Brandy (March 23, 2015). "Zynga to Shutter Six Games – Including Pioneer Trail". Adweek.
- Takahashi, Dean, Venturebeat.com. "Gaming legend Brian Reynolds on how FrontierVille might change Zynga." October 18, 2010.
- Real-time play for approximately four years. Amero, Alexander, Games.com. "FrontierVille: Everything you needed to know." June 9, 2010.
- Tecca, Yahoo! News. "Zynga’s Pioneer Trail: Like Oregon Trail without the dysentery." August 15, 2011.