Fair warning, this article is rather dense. But, sometimes it’s good to move beyond saying this game is good or this game is bad and be able to explain why. So, let’s take an academic look at a few models of resource production in online strategy games and see how they affect game-play. That is, how does a player’s resource production change throughout the course of the game, and what is the result? Shall we?
Tag - zynga
Console gamers must deal with the Activision effect. The browser gaming world must deal with Zynga. Developers, will you lose your soul too? Read More
Maker of Facebook wall spam Zynga recently released the trailer for its upcoming brand new social game: Adventure World. The game is coming very soon. But even sooner than the game is the speculation around the importance of Zynga’s IPO and how the game can make or break the IPO’s timing as well as its success. Is this game carrying more weight than it should? Find out more at OSG1
It seems like it’s the Summer of Strategy Games. The biggest news is that today Zynga launched “Empires & Allies”. This is the developer’s first realy step into the strategy genre, and it will be interesting how far they take it. Zynga’s games have a history of being overly simplistic, and more like casino slot machines than an actual game. It seems that with Empires & Allies, they are at least taking steps.
For months I’ve been bunkered down here with my laptop and a shotgun, blasting any zombies that stumble through the door and declining wave after wave of Facebook invitiations. But finally, my guard slipped and I got bit; I’ve started playing Cityville. To set context, of course my true love is online strategy games, but I have to confess I was having an affair with Playdom’s Social City for several months before I grew bored of her. I also dabbled in Farmville, just to see what all the fuss was about. With that said, here are my thoughts on Zynga’s latest offer.
Cityville is the love child between Farmville and a Slot Machine, hopped up on gamma radiation. All over Oliver-Ville buildings are spitting out coins and stars; hearts and lighting bolts are falling from the sky; meters are overflowing. As embarassing as it is for this “hardcore gamer” to admit, it is immensely satisfying to click on shiny things and fill up bars. In that sense the game is very slick and well polished, with a style that probably appeals to a lot of “casual” gamers. Regardless of what you think of the gameplay, Cityville is a slick flash game and Zynga definitely knows how to package something.
Of course the game spreads like a zombie-infection, because it’s designed so that you NEED to get help from your friends in order to progress. Unfortunately, this is still done in a very shallow fashion, with more emphasis on quantity over quality interactions. One of the features I was looking forward to was being able to “Staff” your Community Buildings with your Ctiyville friends. For example, to finish the Police HQ you need to find five friends to work there. I had thought this would be the start of some sort of meaningful gaming relationship, but apparently “working at my Police HQ” just means accepting my initial invitation, and that’s the end of it. I believe I have the same friends working at my Town Hall, Police HQ, and hospital. Lietuenant Joe Mayor, PhD. Further, once I fill all the vacancies, the building is considered “done” and I can no longer see who’se working there. That part of the game is over.
As I’m writing this review, I realize that my carrots are probably withering away. As in Zynga’s previous games, if you don’t click on something soon enough, it dies. I love being punished for NOT playing a game. Is this supposed to teach me responsibility? ‘Features’ like these are all over the game with Zynga’s very aggressive monetization scheme, but they make the game seem more like a commercial than an actual game. The problem becomes that most of what you’re able to buy is the chance to click on more shiney things, and I guess it’s up to each player to decide how much that’s worth.
One thing that Cityville excels at is letting me create and design my own city. In games like Travian and Ikariam, you are only given a couple dozen buildings and a couple dozen slots, which doesn’t really offer much in terms of customization. In Cityville, though, just like Farmville and Social city, you can put the roads wherever you want, put the buildings wherever you want, and decorate with parks, animals, and white picket fences. In that sense it’s a lot like playing with blocks or Leggos. Except that every ten minutes or so you need to drop in a quarter or ask your friends if you can keep playing.
Overall, the game definitely fulfills that need for a creative outlet, and the bells and whistles make it a very enjoyable experience. However, those searching to engage higher brain function or looking for a game that takes proper advantage of Facebook’s social platform will be a little disappointed. At the same time, Cityville, along with other similar casual games, does a brilliant job of reaching people who previously weren’t gamers at all, and maybe this will be the first step on their journey.
Gamasutra recently posted a few OSG related articles.
First and foremost is a new interview with the lead designer of Civilization V. They cover a range of topics, from the art style and music of the game, to the popularity of the genre itself. They use the same screen shots that have been available fors several months though.
Next is another article about EVE online and describing their single-shard approach to the MMO. The article again emphasizes the game’s strategy to solve technology shortcomings, in this case the inability to host too many players in a single game space, with design decisions.
Finally, there’s this article: “Zynga, Ngmoco and Evony debate whether mobile, social networking, and dedicated websites are the right moves — and each has its own answer to the question.” I think especially interesting is that Evony was included in the discussion, out of all the OSG companies that could have been chosen. I think that speaks volumes both to the current blindspot that the majority of American gamers still have to OSG’s, and the success of Evony’s risky martketing.