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December 13 2013

'Candy Crush Saga' Update Will Suck Even More of Your Time
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Candy Crush Saga just received a massive game update, adding an additional game world and 65 brand new levels. You know what that means: Prepare to spend even more time and money on the seriously addictive puzzler.

The update introduces a new game mode, Dreamworld. Any player that has completed at least 50 levels of the original Candy Crush Saga can access the new area by tapping (or clicking in Facebook) on a new character, Odus the Owl, on the game map.

When you enter Odus' Dreamworld, you have a chance to play a new set of levels, this time, with a twist. Read more...

More about King, Social Games, Ios Games, Entertainment, and Gaming

December 10 2013

Facebook Highlights 5 Growing Gaming Genres in its Ecosystem
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Gaming on Facebook is continuing to evolve as the platform attracts new creators and players. The social network now has more genres than ever making up its most-played and biggest-earning games, according to information from Facebook.

While Facebook, which has 260 million people playing games each month, used to be known primarily for such games as FarmVille, Dan Miller, the head of the North American Games Division at Facebook, said the top 20 grossing games are more diverse than ever. Facebook highlighted the diversity in its 2013 Games of the Year review.

More about Facebook, Entertainment, Gaming, Facebook Games, and Social Games

August 17 2012

Board Game Classics ‘Settlers of Catan’, ‘Dominion’ Invade Your Social Networks


A Sample of the Online Dominon

Popular strategy board games like Settlers of Catan and Dominion are coming to your browser, social networks like Facebook and Google+, and mobile devices.

Goko, a startup working in stealth the last 15 months, has purchased more than 150 licenses for existing analog games, in addition to working with developers to create products reminiscent of those games. Their plan is to bring these games into as many social spaces online as possible, thanks to the flexibility of HTML5.

"One of these games have been played in living rooms and homes for generations, and we wanted to capture that experience online," says Brian Howell, Goko's vice president of marketing.

Dominion is a deck-buil…
Continue reading...

More About: board games, social games


August 07 2012

August 06 2012

Zynga’s ChefVille Will Help You Make Dinner



Zynga wants to help you cook dinner. Coming this week, ChefVille, the newest game from the company incorporates a new "Game to Table" model, allowing you to earn real-world recipes while you play.

Somewhat similar to the company’s current cooking game CafeWorld, the “next-generation cooking game,” has players create their own restaurants.

Ingredients are key in game play, and each item you learn to cook in the game is made from scratch using the same things you might use if you were making the dish in the real world. Just like you might ask to borrow a cup of sugar from your neighbor in real life, ChefVille encourages you to ask your neighbors for help with ingredients you do…
Continue reading...

More About: ChefVille, Facebook, Zynga, social games


July 25 2012

February 09 2012

FarmVille Toys Are Coming: Zynga and Hasbro Sign Licensing Deal


If Angry Birds and Cut the Rope can have toys, why can’t FarmVille?

Social gaming juggernaut Zynga is teaming up with toy maker Hasbro to create a “wide range of toys and gaming experiences” based on Zynga properties and brands, a release read.

The first products are expected to hit the market in Fall 2012. The agreement gives Hasbro license to develop and distribute an array of products in various toy and game categories for Zynga’s various properties. The companies will also be able to co-brand merchandise, which could potentially lead to digital product tie-ins.

The Hasbro/Zynga deal is just the latest to create real-life products out of social games. Angry Birds is a bona fide brand of its own, with licensees for everything from toys to plush dolls to baby clothes. Disney’s social network for tweens, Club Penguin, sells plush toys that also act as in-game bonuses.

While Zynga has an enormous audience — 227 million users play its games every month — its biggest hits (CityVille, FarmVille and Words With Friends) don’t have immediately recognizable mascots or protagonists like Angry Birds. Sure, the -Ville franchises share similar character designs but the games are largely about individual player experiences.

That doesn’t mean that products based on the brand can’t work. Speaking only for myself (and not the rest of Mashable) this recovering FarmVille addict would be tempted to buy a miniature FarmVille playset or stuffed Truffle Hunting Pig.

What about you — do you want your own mini CityVille or Words With Friends toy or tie in? Let us know.

More About: casual games, hasbro, social games, toys, Zynga

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Game Developer Wooga Draws In 40 Million Users


LIVE from the third annual Inside Social Apps 2012 conference.

Mobile game developer Wooga recently ranked as the third most popular game developer in terms of monthly active users (MAU) on Facebook with more than 40 million players each month. The company has so far released six games: Brain Buddies, Bubble Island, Monster World, Happy Hopsital, Diamond Dash and Magic Land. The games are available in seven languages. Versions that sync to mobile devices will soon be launched as well.

The characters in Wooga games — unicorns, princes, trolls and buck-toothed giraffes, for example — combine a Disney-like wholesomeness with the madcap look of video game characters, such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario.


Wooga, based in Berlin, was founded in 2009 by Jens Begemann, Philipp Moeser and Patrick Paulisch.

The company says it experienced 185% user growth in 2011, and plans to add 100 new employees this year.

“Wooga’s growth is organic in every sense. Only 5% of our new users come through paid ads and 40% through viral features, with the remainder coming from cross-linking through our existing games,” CEO and co-founder Jens Begemann said in an interview.

Just this week, the bipartisan, tech-promoting organization TechNet released a study, which found that apps have created nearly half a million jobs in the United States since 2007, dubbing the result the “app economy.”

Do you play Wooga games? What do you think about them? Tell us in the comments.

More About: apps, employment, jobs, social games, Wooga


February 08 2012

New Facebook Filings Reveal Details of its Relationship With Zynga


Facebook just amended its S-1 filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the documents offer deeper insight into Facebook’s relationship with Zynga.

Facebook amended or added 26 new documents to its SEC filing and these updated documents provide more color on Facebook’s stock allotment and its relationships with other companies.

As first reported by Business Insider, that includes a more detailed look at how Facebook and Zynga work together.

In original IPO filing, it was revealed that Zynga accounts for 12% of Facebook’s revenue. That news was enough to lift Zynga’s stock and made clear that the relationships is symbiotic.

The amended filings include a Developer Addendum effective as of May 14, 2010 that discloses the developer relationship between the two companies.

The documents says, in part:

The parties acknowledge that FB desires to enable Zynga to build the Zynga Platform on top of the Facebook Platform, and the parties desire to, amongst other goals set forth herein, work together to increase the number of users of each party’s products and services.

The parties further acknowledge that Zynga is making a significant commitment to the Facebook Platform (i.e., using Facebook as the exclusive Social Platform on the Zynga Properties and granting FB certain title exclusivities to Zynga games on the Facebook Platform). In exchange for such commitment, the parties have committed to set certain growth targets for monthly unique users of Covered Zynga Games.

In essence, what this agreement says is that in exchange for building atop Facebook’s platform, Zynga got Facebook’s assurance that it would meet certain growth targets.

Those growth targets are based on a linear weekly growth rate for web and mobile. In exchange for meeting these targets, Zynga promised exclusivity of its titles on the Facebook Platform and promised exclusive mobile integration.

There are more documents in the new filing that also look interesting and we’ll be following the wider story as it develops.

More About: Facebook, ipo, social games, Zynga

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January 10 2012

10 Classic Video Games You Can Play Online for Free

Fire up your time machine and visit your 12-year-old self. Tell him that all the computer games he’s saved his hard-earned allowance for will one day be free. Stick around to watch him cry, but try not to create any time-space paradoxes — we’ve got gaming to do.

Below, check out our list of official remakes, ports and offers of classic video games that found new life on social platforms and free sites.

Have we missed any? Share your favorites in the comments.


1. The Oregon Trail





The game that made dysentery fun was released as a Facebook app last February, much to the delight of grown-up school children everywhere. It's now social, of course, but the decision whether to ford the river is all your won.

Click here to view this gallery.

More About: Facebook, features, games, Gaming, social games

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December 22 2011

Facebook Names Top Games of 2011


Social gaming was a big trend in 2011 and we expect the market to continue to grow in 2012. Facebook, the biggest platform for social games, released its list of the most popular games of 2011.

Unlike most year-end lists, this one actually has quite a few surprises. I fully expected CityVille, Zynga’s hit social game, to top the list. Nope. According to Facebook’s measurements, that honor belongs to Gardens of Time.

In the update announcing the list, Facebook does say it is basing its ranking on “games that drew the most active users and received the highest user recommendations.”

That probably accounts for some of the discrepancies we found against other Facebook app data sources, like AppData.com. According to AppData, CityVille is the most popular game with 48.8 million monthly active users. Conversely, Gardens of Time ranks much further down the list with 8.5 million monthly active users.

Accounting questions aside, here are Facebook’s ten most popular games of 2011:

  1. Gardens of Time (by Playdom)
  2. The Sims Social (by EA)
  3. Cityville (by Zynga)
  4. DoubleDown Casino (by DoubleDown Entertainment)
  5. Indiana Jones Adventure World (by Zynga)
  6. Words With Friends (by Zynga)
  7. Bingo Blitz (by Buffalo Studios)
  8. Empires & Allies (by Zynga)
  9. Slotomania-Slot Machines (by Playtika)
  10. Diamond Dash (by wooga)

What Facebook game got your attention this year? Let us know.

More About: Facebook, playdom, social games, Year End 2011, Zynga

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December 16 2011

Understanding Zynga: A Post-IPO FAQ


Zynga started trading under the symbol ZNGA this morning. Although early results show a slight dip in the $10 share asking price, Zynga remains one of the most promising IPOs in the tech sector.

At Mashable, we’ve actively covered Zynga for the past several years. We decided to breakdown the company, its games and its business model.


Understanding Zynga


In this video for CNN International, I discuss the craze behind Zynga and the company’s various business opportunities.


The Games


Zynga is known for its games. The games run the gamut from farming, poker, Sim-like city planning and word games. The most successful games are often variations of games that have already existed in a pre-social gaming world.

CityVille, Zynga’s biggest game, is described by the company as “Monopoly Meets Main Street” — but it’s also very similar to SimCity.

Words With Friends, which Zynga acquired in December 2010, is basically a socialized, online version of Scrabble.

Zynga’s top games include:

The top games by monthly active users, according to AppData.com are:

  • CityVille (48m)
  • CastleVille (35m)
  • FarmVille (31m)
  • Zynga Poker (28m)
  • Words With Friends (13m)

Keeping Users Active


A core part of Zynga’s business is keeping users engaged and coming back for more. On that front, Zynga’s S-1 shows that the company has 227 million active monthly players who play 2 billion minutes a day of play.

Growth in Zynga games is actually flattening. When Zynga first filed its S-1, the flattening user figures were a concern to some potential investors.

It’s true that active monthly users as of this month are down from where they were in December 2010. This means that Zynga is under pressure to keep users more engaged and to bring new players into the fold.

To keep users coming back, the company frequently does promotional marketing with celebrities, musicians or movie properties. This week, we reported on Zynga’s plans to bring Michael Buble to CityVille.


The Business


According to Zynga’s S1, the company has generated over $1.5 billion in cumulative bookings since 2007. The company became profitable in 2010, earning $90.5 million in profit on $597.5 million in revenue.

SEE ALSO: 11 Facts From the Zynga IPO

For some, the biggest potential problem with a Zynga investment is the company’s reliance on Facebook. Zynga and Facebook have a mutual love-hate relationship. Zynga relies on Facebook for its social graph and user interaction — and Facebook generates a lot of revenue from Facebook Credits and other Zynga payments. Still, the two sides don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Zynga has veered into other platforms, including Google+ and iOS. The company also plans on launching its own broader Zynga-based platform for game play.

More About: ipo, social games, Zynga

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December 15 2011

Michael Bublé Comes to CityVille


Michael Bublé is coming to CityVille. The Grammy-winning artist — whose album Christmas is currently number one on the Billboard 200 — will be making a (digital) appearance in Zynga’s hit Facebook game.

Bublé joins a growing list of entertainers and brands that have integrated with various Zynga properties. This particular integration is well timed; not only is Bublé’s album a big hit, CityVille proper is transforming itself into a winter wonderland.

Starting next week (around December 21, though the actual date hasn’t been announced), a Michael Bublé avatar will make its way to CityVille. Players can mingle with the avatar and complete quests — including having a holiday bonfire with his band. The quests are styled after Bublé’s personality and include objects like a Segway, a turntable and a hockey stick. After completing all the quests, fans are treated to an exclusive video from Christmas.

The integration will run for one week, however items and the bonfire building that fans earn in the game can continue to be used and displayed.

In the past, CityVille has had integrations with Enrique Iglesis and with the Michael Jackson IMMORTAL World Tour by Cirque du Soleil. Zynga tells us that fans loved the concert. With the Enrique Iglesias integration, more than 45 million concerts were held in just one week in CityVille. That’s a stunning level of uptake, even given the game’s broad userbase.

CityVille, which launched last year, is Zynga’s biggest game. According to AppData.com, 49 million people play the game each month. As Zynga prepares to go public, CityVille continues to be one of its crown jewels.

Zynga’s Scott Koenigsberg, GM of CityVille, tells us that when it comes to partnerships and building integrations, the focus is on doing what will delight and excite players. “Zynga listens to feedback from its users and our goal is provide the best game experience that we can.” While the quiet period required by SEC regulations prohibited Koenigsberg from discussing any future promotions, it seems safe to bet that these types of partnerships are critical to Zynga’s continued monetary success.

What’s smart about how Zynga approaches this kind of partnership — and we’ve seen this before with Lady Gaga and Jimmy Buffett — is that the branding and the promotion often tightly align with the game itself.

In a game such as CityVille, where Christmas and holiday-themed quests and challenges are already ongoing, having a recording artist who also happens to have a hit holiday album on store shelves is the perfect kind of synergy. For the frequent player, it offers an incentive to have another digital trinket to show off.

Take it from someone who was once sucked into the vortex of FarmVille (don’t judge me!), the digital bragging rights one gets from having those trinkets on display is a great way to convince newcomers to spend more time in the game.

It will be interesting to see what promotional opportunities Zynga takes in the future.

More About: cityville, michael buble, social games, Zynga

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September 01 2011

July 19 2011

ESPN Releases Social Game for Sports Fans on Facebook


ESPN is mixing its sports prowess with the increasingly popular casual gaming sector by releasing its second social game, ESPN Sports Bar & Grill.

The game, now playing on Facebook, was developed in collaboration with Playdom and tasks players to run a virtual sports bar. It’s also presented by Samsung, which means Samsung products, including the Galaxy Tab, are integrated into gameplay.

In the always-on ESPN Sports Bar & Grill game, Facebook gamers level-up and keep the lights on in their sports bars by serving patrons beer and typical bar fare, completing challenges and earning sports collectibles.

These “sports bar owners” can also upgrade and decorate their bars as they go, pipe in a live feed of ESPN Radio through their bars’ virtual sound system and even show simulated live sports games — with actual scores updated in real time — on their virtual television sets.

Players already familiar with the Facebook-friendly FarmVille-style of casual gaming should feel at home while playing ESPN Sports Bar & Grill — and they can expect the game to require their frequent attention and become more involved with more play.

ESPN Sports Bar & Grill is the sports entertainment brand’s second social game in collaboration with Disney-owned Playdom. The first release, ESPNU College Town, debuted in September of last year. That game has more than 582,000 monthly active users and 60,000 people playing every day, a company spokesperson tells Mashable.


ESPN Sports Bar & Grill





Choose a Team





Wall Decorations





Challenge





Game Predictor





Games on TV





Samsung Galaxy Tab Integration





Magazine Selection





Magazine Close-Up




More About: casual games, ESPN, ESPN Sports Bar & Grill, facebook, facebook games, social games

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July 18 2011

Happy Oasis Wants To Be FarmVille of the Middle East


Is the Middle East ready for a game that combines FarmVille-like gameplay with a progressive social message? That’s the hope of the makers of Happy Oasis, a game that debuted on Facebook last week and has already amassed more than 100,000 active users.

The game itself is modeled quite similarly to FarmVille and its ilk, but localized for the Middle Eastern market. Developed by Aranim Games, a Jordan-based company that has previously created a successful line of comic books in the region, Happy Oasis offers both an Arabic and English language version and tasks players with building up their own “Oasis.”

I caught up with the Aranim’s CEO Suleiman Bakhit last week at TED Global in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he told me how the company is trying to tailor to the surging online population of the Arab world.

“[You use] traditional farming techniques, there are different kinds of buildings and markets you can build. You can build an Islamic garden block by block,” he told me. “We’re taking some of the Arab habits and traditions and turning them into social gaming mechanics.” During Ramadan, for example, the game will be introducing a Mosque building system. You can get a sense for the game’s look and feel in the video below:

Notably, Happy Oasis is also capitalizing on recent events in the Middle East to appeal to youth culture. For instance, both men and women can buy and drive cars in Happy Oasis, an issue that has been pushed to the forefront recently in Saudi Arabia, where women have taken to social media to defy the country’s rules against female driving.

Bakhit thinks his company’s insight into the culture will help his game prevail over Zynga, a company that has shown an appetite for international expansion but has yet to take hold in the Middle East. “There are serious cultural issues that are extremely sensitive … most western companies won’t know how to deal with these issues,” he said.

For Bakhit, Happy Oasis and the comic book company that preceded it were born out of a personal mission to teach the world about Arab culture after being the victim of a beating shortly after 9/11 near his university in Minnesota. He said, “I had a decision to make, go home or do something about it. I decided the best way to deal with this was to go speak to school children and spread the message that not all Arabs are terrorists.”

From there, Bahkit went back to Jordan. It was there that he started Aranim, which sold 1.2 million comics last year. Much like Happy Oasis, the comic books feature localized story lines and fictionalized Arab heroes, some of which may find their way into the game, Bahkit tells me. Aranim is currently funding its social games through continuing comic sales, though the 12-person company is looking to raise additional capital, Bahkit said.

You can check out some images from the game below:


Happy Oasis





Happy Oasis





Happy Oasis





Happy Oasis





Happy Oasis




More About: happy oasis, middle east, social games

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July 15 2011

5 Best Practices for Applying Game Mechanics to Your Website


Craig Ferrara is a senior gaming & UI expert at Gigya, where he designs the integrations of Gigya’s technology into clients’ websites. Gigya makes sites social by integrating a suite of plugins like Social Login, Comments, Activity Feeds, Social Analytics and now Game Mechanics into websites.

Conversations about game mechanics — the rules that govern how enjoyable a game is — are changing. Formerly a topic mostly discussed by game designers and gamer geeks like myself, gamification is now part of the business discussion as marketers look to apply it to websites.

One concept that has remained constant, regardless of who is having the conversation, is to identify ways to keep players engaged and games fun. This applies to your site as you encourage social user participation via gamification tactics. Let’s break websites down by their common social tools, and target ways to effectively gamify them.


1. User Generated Content


Increase content generated by users on your site. By incentivizing content creation, the user becomes more engaged, thereby making your site richer and more dynamic, as well as improving its SEO. Content is mostly submitted through simple vehicles like comments, ratings or reviews. These are basic ways to get feedback from users based on the content you produce and present.

For example, reward top commenters, but also look for alternative ways to reward commenting on pages. Perhaps allow “weighted commentary” — that is, permit users to sort comments based on each commenter’s respective “rank,” with the most highly ranked users’ comments appearing at the top of the feed. While this kind of reward falls outside the scope of badges and points, it gives the most active users something just as desirable: clout.


2. Sharing


Aside from being both repetitive and easy, sharing can prove incredibly useful in syndicating your content. With gamification elements, users feel even more compelled to syndicate your content. While sharing naturally lends itself to gamification, content publishers should be aware of one potential pitfall: rewarding the user simply for sharing is in violation of many of the major social networks’ terms of services. Social networks prohibit immediate incentives for clicking the share button in order to prevent users from spamming their feeds with random content to earn points.

One way to work within this system is to have users work toward a larger overall goal or ranking as a result of sharing. Instead of prodding your visitors to “click to share and earn ten points,” sharing can be a means to bring users toward an achievement. Doing so gives visitors the idea that sharing has value, but does not drive toward mindless clicking. Instead, they’ll share what actually matters to them instead of just spamming their networks.


3. Feedback


The Facebook “Like,” Google’s new “+1” and other reaction buttons serve as both content contribution and sharing tools. They allow users to express an opinion with just one click. Furthermore, you can incorporate gamification by rewarding users for “liking” content on your site — prioritize the opinions and feed activity of highly ranked users. For example, when a website’s activity feed displays popular articles and top user reactions, a visitor will likely feel more compelled to click. Think in terms of Roger Ebert giving “a thumbs up” to a movie versus relying on someone less influential.

The benefits of showing ranked reactions in the activity feed are two-fold here — not only will the user expose content to others on the site, but they will also showcase their rank, thus encouraging others to achieve the same status.


4. Social Login


Social login brings an invaluable layer into the game: a user’s social graph. A basic principal in game mechanics states that users are more inclined to participate if they have some real world benefit behind the rewards. This can be as simple as increased reputation within a community. Once a user logs in via social APIs such as Facebook Connect or Twitter, she can then compare herself with gaming friends as well as social network friends, all in one space.

Now your visitor knows some people in the site community — but they’re still new to the game. How can we encourage participation? Maybe award them small amounts of points just for clicking around, or more points for remaining on a page and consuming content. Therefore, a user who may have no initial interest in earning badges will still be able to advance in the rankings given their increase in participation points. As soon as they recognize the value in earning points (perhaps their comment appears higher in the activity feed), they’ll get hooked and consciously participate. Keeping users involved in the game without any effort on their behalf is a great strategy for converting them into active gamers.


5. Keeping Score


Any good game mechanics implementation goes out of its way to educate users on achieving and advancing within a system. For instance, offer instructions alongside every badge, and show an indicator of their progress within that achievement. At the same time, you don’t want to bombard site visitors with constant, blazing reminders. Instead, consider using simple JavaScript notifications that don’t monopolize valuable site real estate.

Of course what good are all these badges and points if you can’t show them off? By integrating game mechanics into activity feeds and leaderboards, you allow your users to do just that — all while putting a human face to the game. Activity feeds not only allow users to find their friends within their social graph, but also to view their friends’ badges. In turn, those participating in the game learn how to unlock badges for themselves. Any good game mechanics implementation should go out of its way to inform the user about how to level-up.


Follow these pointers to connect your site’s social elements with game mechanics that allow you to reach both your passive and enthusiastic “gamers.” Keep in mind that tying rewards to your existing social elements is just as important as the rewards themselves. Just as with social games like FarmVille or World of Warcraft, participants should feel as if they’re part of a community through which they can proudly syndicate their achievements.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, yurok

More About: business, game mechanics, gamification, incentives, social media, web

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July 10 2011

Sid Meier Interview: Bringing Civ World to Facebook


The legendary Civilization game franchise of has officially gone social with last Wednesday’s launch of the open beta for Civ World. The Facebook offering aims to bring complex strategy to a space currently dominated by more casual games such as FarmVille.

Will longtime Civ fans be satisfied by a social version of the game? Will Facebook’s casual gaming scene embrace a title with such a steep learning curve?

We had the opportunity to speak with preeminent game developer Sid Meier, the man behind one of the most revered strategy franchises, to find out a bit more about his company’s plans for Civ World.


Q&A With Civilization Game Developer Sid Meier


The Civilization franchise is loved by gamers who like to go deep, and Facebook games are not always known for this. How will Civ World hook the existing fanbase?

Our goal is to bring the core Civilization experience to Facebook, so that Civ fans will feel right at home with the game. We feel that the Civilization experience can be delivered in fun and meaningful ways on many different platforms. Civilization on the PC and consoles is different than the one we’re bringing to social networking, but players will recognize many of the elements that have been in Civilization games before. We want to deliver the same addictive gameplay that Civ players love, in a way that will engage folks who enjoy playing games on the social network platform, and we look forward to adding to the experience as the game continues to evolve on Facebook.

Is there a trade-off between game depth and social features? And if so, will it be enough to appease hardcore Civ fans?

No, there isn’t a trade-off between these two features. Civ World is a very deep and robust gameplay experience with social strategy at its core. With the direct collaborative and competitive gameplay, achievements, and a systemic marketplace for trade, the game offers a new level of depth to Facebook games. Civ World is a game where players join with their friends to build the world’s most powerful empire. Our in-game chat feature makes it easy for players to work with other members of their civilization to quickly build their empire or decide which civilizations to invade. Civ World consists of some basic concepts that are easy to learn, and the complexity arises from working in collaboration with others towards a common goal. You’ll need to think strategically if you want to win a game! Plus your opponents are also all people — which makes them tough opponents who can surprise you with new tactics all the time!

It seems Facebook friends can play cooperatively (as members of the same civilization) and competitively (as members of competing civs). Can you elaborate on how these dynamics will work?

Players in the same civ can work together to strategize on the different aspects of the game like culture, science, production, and battles. For example, Wonders can only be built by a civ [containing multiple players] since one person is only allowed to contribute a single Great Person. There is even competition within a civ to become the king or queen. Between the different civs, you are competing to become the strongest civ in the game. Civs compete against each other in battles, in researching a certain technology first, in building the most wonders, and acquiring other resources that add to the strength of their Civ. Citizens in a civ can also share resources with each other which can give a huge boost to their civ.

How critical is collaboration in Civ World? Are players who go it alone doomed to fail?

Collaboration is really the key to winning in Civ World. Only civilizations can win eras and start a battle. When in a civ, you can reap the benefits of having a larger pool of items to share. However, you can still have fun building your city, acquiring resources and some achievements, and visiting other player’s cities all on your own. You just won’t win a game that way.

What are “fame points?” How do they relate to victory?

Fame points represent the score in Civ World. A wide variety of actions and accomplishments can produce fame points such as winning a medal, being a member of a civ at the time that the civ wins an Era victory, winning certain auctions in the market, and winning contests. Each player has a fame score for every individual game, as well as a total or “lifetime” fame score aggregating all the fame points they have earned from all the games they have played.

Are all Civ World games happening in the same “universe” like an MMO, or are individual games isolated?

Like an MMO, the game is persistent and continues even if you are not playing; however, the game does have a beginning and an end. There also is a limit to how many people can be in a certain game; however, there are multiple games going on at the same time.

What if none of my Facebook friends play Civ World? Will the game match me up with strangers of similar skill levels?

If you do have friends in a game, Civ World will match you up to that game, but if you don’t have any friends playing, it will put you in a game at random. Through our in-game chat it’s easy to meet players, and the most experienced players will help guide new players with helpful hints.

How persistent are the games? What happens if I don’t log into Civ World for a week during a match?

The game is persistent and continues even when you are not playing. We’ve worked hard to balance the time you spend playing the game with what you can do in the game, because we want everyone to be able to contribute and have a chance for victory each time they jump in to play. Even if your time is limited, you can still contribute to the success of your nation by working with your friends to coordinate a victory.

Civ World is there when you want to play. So, you can rule the world on your own time. If you don’t log on for a week or so, the game will continue on. However, there is an end to the game, and the length of each game varies depending on how it’s being played, so you’ll want to check back as often as possible so you don’t miss out on the fun. New games are also starting up all the time, so you can also jump into a fresh game and not worry about being behind.

What’s the business model for Civ World?

Civ World is free to play, but players can choose to use Civ Bucks, which is our premium game currency. Civ Bucks can be used to get gems to enhance your throne room and city, for extra harvests, more moves in the various mini-games or additional gold to purchase buildings or market items. However, to keep the game balanced, there will be a cap on how many Civ Bucks can be used each day on items or actions that impact gameplay. We want the game to be balanced and interactive in a way that accommodates different play styles and strategies.

Any plans for a mobile app that will let players check in on their Civs from a smartphone?

There are lots of great ideas out there and we’re looking forward to exploring all of them. We’ll keep you posted.

More About: Civ World, civilization, facebook, gaming, interview, Sid Meier, social games, social media, video games

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July 08 2011

PrivacyVille: Zynga Turns Its Privacy Policy into a Game


Zynga, the creators of hit games like FarmVille and CityVille, has used its social gaming talents to create a gamified version of its privacy policies.

PrivacyVille is the gaming giant’s take on the boring privacy policy. It’s essentially a step-by-step tutorial through the most important aspects of the company’s privacy policy, using its trademark town and character designs. “PrivacyVille is modeled after our most popular game, CityVille, and provides a brief tutorial covering important sections of our Privacy Policy, as well as helpful resources about controlling your information online,” the company said on its blog.

PrivacyVille goes through items such as how Zynga handles email, the company’s mobile policies and the security measures it takes to protect user payments. Reading each section increases a user’s progress through PrivacyVille until he or she completes the tutorial. Once completed, the user is asked five (very easy) questions to confirm that he or she went through the tutorial.

One of the most interesting aspects of PrivacyVille is that it connects to RewardVille, the company’s virtual currency program. Users that complete the PrivacyVille tutorial get Zynga Points (zPoints) which can be turned into virtual currency or rewards.

It’s just the latest move for a company on a hot streak. Last week, Zynga filed for a $1 billion IPO that could value the company north of $20 billion. While the company’s user base has stopped growing, its revenue is booming.

More About: cityville, PrivacyVille, RewardVille, social games, social gaming, Zynga

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July 06 2011

Civ World: Can the Legendary Strategy Game Conquer Facebook?


In the pantheon of strategy gaming, you’ve got your Sim Cities, and your (Insert Industry Here) Tycoons. And then there’s Civilization, Sid Meier’s seminal PC franchise that goes so deep down the cerebral rabbit hole, it has been likened in some gaming communities to “playing a spreadsheet” — a very addictive spreadsheet.

For those unfamiliar with the core series, the goal is to build a civilization from the dawn of agriculture to the present day (and beyond) by carefully managing productivity, food, culture, commerce, research, social policies, technology, war and diplomacy. The games are turn-based, have a steep but rewarding learning curve, and often present a strangely plausible “alternate world history” that has hooked strategy lovers since 1991.

As the gaming industry enters the social era, so too has Civilization with today’s open beta launch of Civ World for Facebook. 2K Games offered us access to a press beta last week so we could try our hand at world domination, Facebook-style. Has Firaxis built a social game “to stand the test of time?”


Social vs. Depth


The first question on the minds of most Civ fans will be, “Does Civ World offer the same depth as its franchise brethren?”

In a word, no. But that’s not the point. Civ World is not about playing the aforementioned “spreadsheet,” but rather, playing with people.

As you decipher the early-game mechanics and start building out your nation, it will hit you like a ton of bricks — Civ World, like many Facebook games, can be supremely addicting. Small incentives like timed harvesting opportunities and mini game rewards will keep you glued to the app, even if you’ve exhausted your options in that sitting. If you’re playing in a game with many active users, you’ll feel compelled to check in regularly. The world is incredibly persistent, and we felt we were falling behind if we did not play at least twice daily. That aspect can be good or bad, depending on the experience you’re looking for.

The importance of Civ World’s social aspects cannot be overstated. Each player acts as a “nation,” and joining a civilization — the Arabian Empire, for example — will enable you to cooperate with other Arab nations on technology research, wonder creation and battles. This is where the fun really begins.

Within each civilization is a player ranking system. Depending on your accomplishments, you can rise through the ranks to become a duke, a prince or a king. Ministries are part of another ranking system, and titles like “Defense Minister” or “Finance Minister” will have an acute bearing on your influence and strategies. Ranks allow you to vote on important matters like the implementation of civics, and whether or not to wage war on another civ.

Collaboration is also imperative to victory. Civs that don’t communicate, or players who try to go it alone as “independent nations” will encounter a severe disadvantage. Unfortunately, we ended up joining a civ that only grew three-nations large in our game, and our allies were not very communicative. As a result, we barely made it to 2,000 AD having just discovered the technology of “Writing.”

We didn’t get to experience the fun of jockeying for internal ranks, voting on civics, pressuring other civs, or going to war, in other words, the meat and potatoes of what is quite obviously a very social game. The potential is clearly there, and players should initiate these conversations often if they hope to get the most out of the experience.


Limitations


While its social aspect is core to the game’s appeal, the messaging system and events log need work. A lot of clutter makes it challenging to parse importance from irrelevance. We also found it difficult to figure out what had really gone on since our last login. Each new play session felt very disconnected from previous ones, which leads to another issue: lack of immersion.

One of the thrills of playing prior Civilization titles was discovering and interacting with other players on the world map. Civ World’s geography is siloed — you play on your own little map, and communicate with other nations through chat channels and menus. Military units are also represented by cards, played as a hand during battles, rather than as soldiers on the map in proximity to cities and resources. Losing a battle doesn’t actually cause ruin to your city or people — it only boosts your opponent’s chances at important era victories.

The net result is a nagging feeling of gameplay isolation — that you’re not necessarily playing in the same “world” as your peers, and that their actions are only affecting you by proxy. All the Civ mechanics that we know and love are baked into Civ World, but there’s no overlaying sense of immersion to really draw you in.


The Bottom Line


For a Facebook game, Civ World is very complex, but not nearly so much as its single-player predecessors.

If you’ve been holding out on FarmVille and Mafia Wars in the hopes of finding a more thought-provoking social game, give Civ World a shot — but don’t go it alone. Round up a few of your strategy-loving friends to take the plunge with you, and make sure you’ve all read the official wiki before you get started, especially the parts about player rankings, civics and battles. When jumping into a new game, Civ World will connect you with about 200 other players, but 2K Games representatives tell us that it will be easy to find and join up with existing Facebook friends, either collaboratively or competitively.

Communication is everything, not just when it comes to winning, but to the actual enjoyment of the game itself. And perhaps most importantly, if you’re already a fan of the Civ franchise, approach Civ World with an open mind. It may not be the game you’re expecting, but it will provide fun for a whole new set of reasons.


The City Screen




Players will spend a lot of their time on the city overview where they can build and upgrade structures, maximize citizen efficiency and harvest resources. It also serves as a main menu where players can access in-game chat, the events log and the marketplace.


The Tech Tree




Civ veterans will find the tech tree familiar, but you won't have much luck progressing unless you win those all-important era victories.


The Throne Room




The throne room is a meta feature that players carry with them across games in Civ World. Game achievements will allow you to unlock throne room items and accrue gems to purchase them. Decorate your room to show off your accomplishments.

More About: casual games, civilization, facebook, facebook games, games, gaming, Sid Meier, social games, video games

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