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The humble farming simulator has a storied history in video gaming. From Animal Crossing to Harvest Moon, Stardew Valley to My Time at Portia, and even the likes of Minecraft and the Tycoon games, they're a beloved time sink for millions of gamers.
Town Star falls into this genre and manages to create a new kind of simulation experience. I'm not only referring to the integration of NFTs and the GALA token. There's a fantastic and fun free-to-play gaming experience, which marks it as a farming simulator for gamers of all shapes and sizes.
Town Star is a browser-based game for direct play on Chrome. Any modern computer can run it.
Don't be fooled by Town Star's simplistic visuals, this is a game of genuine depth. It plays from the isometric perspective, you start your experience by selecting a plot of land from a real map of the world.
Your location comes with various pros and cons. Weigh up the benefits of being near good transport routes — like waterways and cities — versus areas of good resources and space, like mountains and pastures. You start the game with a small number of assets and the goal is to build out a farm with crops, staff, infrastructure and buildings.
You need farmers to find water and bring it to the crops. And lumberjacks to harvest trees for wood to construct new buildings. This allows you to build more farmer homes, so you can get more staff to grow more crops. And it expands from there.
Like all good simulations, these simple beginnings offer an easy-to-understand gameplay loop that draws you in. And soon you're:
It's about more than making hay while the sun shines. There's pressure to create a sustainable business quickly. You only start the game with a set amount of fuel and money, so you must earn enough income to continue to expand your farm's produce, plus harvest and convert resources to create fuel to sell that produce. Remember: Each time you send a truck off to the city stocked with goods, you burn fuel.
It's labor built on trial and error. You'll build unsustainable farms at first. But trying different tactics and experimenting is part of the simulation fun.
Town Star isn't necessarily an easy game to "win" in this regard, but its checks and balances are logically done for the most part. And I love the extra yards the developer has taken to make you think beyond the obvious. For example, shadows from passing clouds or cast by large buildings will impact crop growth. And over-reliance on the industry gives you pollution issues. Some land needs to be cleared at a cost before it's useable. Locations with good ground cost you more fuel when delivering goods.
Ultimately your goal is to grow produce and create products that can be sold to the big cities. Doing so increases your rank, earns you the in-game money required to upgrade your farm and helps you complete the daily challenges. This entire experience is free-to-play.
I spent hours addictively playing this game with no concern for NFTs or P2E gaming. I was just having fun.
While there is a game's worth of buildings available in Town Star's free-to-play experience, they're the base options. Another layer of builds can be found as NFTs, bought through the Gala Games store, or from other players.
Initially, these NFT builds offered quality-of-life improvements. For example, rather than getting the generic storage shed in-game that can take 20 of any produce, you could get storage buildings as NFTs that store 20 of a particular produce. Or a crane that could speed up your building times.
We've also seen skins, items and promotional tie-ins that offer purely cosmetic changes to the game. They're pretty expensive, too.
The overall impression for NFT holders is Town Star is more focused on the whales than it is on regular Joe and Jills. And given Gala Games has no historical titles to measure against, I'm not sure if it will continue to build out the F2P experience, or put all content moving forward behind the paywall.
The play-to-earn mechanics in Town Star are interesting to say the least. You earn TownCoin — the token rewarded for play — once you've placed one of the aforementioned NFTs into your world. And you're capped by how many NFTs you can place by the mount of Gala Power you've earned.
At the time of writing, your Gala Power is a factor of how many GALA and TownCoin tokens you hold in your wallet. If you run a node for maintaining the blockchain, you also up your Gala Power. Eventually, you'll also gain Gala Power from referring other players, owning NFTs and being a long-time player.
Gala Power levels up in solid integers and increments of 1. So, if you have a Gala Power of three, you can place three NFTs into your game world.
It's the NFTs that determine the amount of TownCoin you can earn in any given 24-hour period. The rarer the NFT, the higher your earning potential. You still can't unlock your TownCoin earnings unless you complete the daily challenges, which include tasks like earning a specific number of stars — achieved by selling goods — or growing particular amounts of produce.
Complete the last daily objective and you can claim the TownCoin. From what I've seen, lower-end NFTs can earn you around US$20 a day, but I've seen rarer NFTs earn as much as $240 a day — March 2022 rates, at least. But the cost of those better-earning NFTs is significantly higher.
P2E gaming in Town Star is a super convoluted system that's much less straightforward than many others. But it's a system that provides exponential earning power, assuming you stake the earned TownCoin in your wallet and can afford NFTs in the first place.
Look at the loop: Owning an NFT allows you to earn TownCoin, and having TownCoin increases your Gala Power. This then allows you to place more NFTs and earn even more TownCoin. So, it's up and to the left, if you like.
But what if you're a scholar?
Gala Games has confirmed that renting NFTs will be introduced to Town Star in 2022. The loose flag is "season 2," which could be around Q3. Once introduced, a marketplace will allow owners to put up their NFTs for rent to scholars.
The current plan is for the system to be solely based on revenue splits and not on upfront fees as we see in games like Pegaxy. I like this approach as it makes the game more accessible. Suggested revenue splits are healthy, too — 50/50, 30/70 or 20/80 for scholar/owner. The only other thing to negotiate is the length of rental time.
Town Star is a much more enjoyable game to play than it is to earn. At least at the time of writing. And it may get harder to earn in the future despite the addition of a rental market. Once the game comes out of beta, you'll need to buy a season pass to even earn the right to place NFTs.
At the time of writing, the cost of a season pass isn't available. In comparison, season passes in games like Fortnite cost around $10 to $15. But a "season" comes with a ton of new content, maps and gear.
Will Gala Games reinvent the game each season, or just bill players for giggles? What's the player going to get out of it?
I'm far from impressed by this approach. It just doesn't seem right to hit people up again when they're already invested in your title via very expensive NFTs. Surely owning or renting an NFT is your season pass access: something Gala Games should consider.
There is no head-to-head multiplayer in Town Star. There are leaderboards, but you're not rewarded by being near the top on any given day. It's just there for your personal gratification. right now, it's you vs. the system, but some multiplayer options become available in the future.
For example, I'd love to click on and explore other people's farms, either for inspiration or to socialize. It would be intriguing if you could sell resources directly to other players, too. For example, you could become a water harvester and make all your bank shipping blue stuff off to neighbors.
There's untapped opportunity there.
I highly recommend you start your Town Star experience in the free-to-play mode to see what it's like. But if you want to invest in the experience, it's the GALA token you'll need. It's actually a handy token to have in your wallet.
In my opinion — remembering I'm not your financial advisor — Gala Games has a solid future ahead of it. There's a very promising roster of games the company is developing and publishing on the Gala network. As each game finds success, the value of GALA should increase. Plus, the token will have utility across numerous titles.
We have put together a how to buy GALA guide for those who want to acquire the token.
Find an exchange to buy, sell and trade GALA by comparing deposit methods, supported fiat currencies and fees. Select Go to site to sign up directly with the provider.
There's no shortage of developers rushing towards the NFT games and play-to-earn (P2E) market in 2022, yet Gala Games stands out. The company has become more than a games developer, but rather a platform for publishing titles from other studios, too. For example, big names like The Walking Dead: Empires and Peter Molyneux's Legacy are using Gala Games.Gala Games was founded by Eric Schiermeyer, who is also the founder of Zynga, one of the biggest players in the social and mobile gaming marketfor 15-years. You'll know Zynga from Words with Friends and, more specifically, FarmVille. It's one with experience in leadership — especially with proven success in emerging markets — that has our attention.
Let's be fair: There's a stack of NFT games that are focused on pie-in-the-sky ideas, or P2E first and gameplay second. As such, I respect Town Star for being the other way around. This is a great gameplay experience first, and the P2E aspects are a very close second.
I would happily recommend Town Star to gamers who enjoy simulations and management titles. Just enjoy the free-to-play experience: It's a lot of fun. I enjoyed the experience and invested way more hours in it than I intended without owning an NFT or investing a cent.
But this is an NFT game, and that side of the equation isn't such a slam-dunk. A rental market can't come soon enough. The NFTs are expensive and alter game play to the point where Town Star teeters on the edge of being a play-to-win experience. Not that you can "win," but you get my point.
Gala Games must stay aware of this in my opinion, and ensure a fair balance in the F2P experience moving forward.
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