Last week, we brought you a sneak peek of the then unreleased chat feature in FarmVille. Now, the feature has started rolling out to farmers everywhere, and we can take a look at exactly how it works. When the feature rolls around to you, you'll see that your friends bar has new icons on some of your friends' pictures. This green outline and chat bubble (seen below) indicate that your friend is currently online and is playing FarmVille. It should be noted that your friends' list will automatically rearrange itself to list all of your online and active friends first, regardless of their levels, so you don't have to search for friends to chat with.
From now on, when you click on your friend's picture, you'll see a chat window appear in the bottom left side of the FarmVille gameplay area, rather than being instantly asked whether or not you'd like to visit their farm. Within this window, you'll have the option to "Visit" or "Send Gift" to your friends, with the gifting button bringing up a miniature version of the game's free gifts page, wherein you can send that friend a specific item like an Ice Cream Scoop for their Easter Sundae, a Buoy for their Hawaiian Paradise Aquarium and so on.
If you want to chat with a friend, simply type in the message that you'd like to send and click on the Send button. If your friend is also playing FarmVille, they'll have a chance to reply in real time and you can carry on a full conversation while also farming in the background. You can also send messages to players that aren't online, which will be delivered to them the next time they check on their farms.
Ultimately, this feature does seem rather useless at the outset, and friends take a while to appear on your list as active even when you know they're playing (we tested it - it can take a few minutes for them to appear after logging into their farms, and even longer for them to disappear after leaving). Plus, Facebook's own chat feature works just fine (for the most part). Still, this inclusion of in-game chat does open up possibilities for the FarmVille Friends feature, as you might be able to talk to those players that you've added as neighbors, but not as real Facebook friends. There's potential here for something great, but I don't think I stand alone in saying I'd prefer if FarmVille just came to Zynga.com already.
What do you think? Will you use this new in-game chat feature, or will you stick with using Facebook's own dedicated chat feature instead? Would you play FarmVille if it launched on Zynga.com? Sound off in the comments.