20110112

Thoughts on social gaming (but not WoW)

AKA: Brownnosing to game companies while job hunting

Some friends and I have been shopping around the social gaming / mobile gaming sphere, recently. I have done some field research on these games, and here are some of my thoughts on the subject...

(LEFT: a walkcycle executed on an isometric grid, modeled on Beyonce for reasons both clever, and hilarious, i assure you [helfrez for space's sake].)


Most of my friends got heavily into Kingdoms of Camelot or Market Street, whereas i went for City of Wonder, for reasons i shall elaborate upon momentarily. First i want to also namedrop Kingdom of Loathing so it's in your mind for comparisons, later.

Kingdoms of Camelot is a lot like City of Wonder in that it's akin to a sim-city driven game. You are given a map, and this map is your empire. You must allocate resources to increase population, standard of living, technology, acreage, etcetera. My issue with Kingdoms of Camelot was that everything took a little longer than I could tolerate to build. City of Wonder has similar issues, but they don't come until you're further along in the game and invested in the results.

In the beginning of City of Wonder, everything gets built much more quickly, and the curve in the waiting-parabola is much less steep. In other words, I became very impatient with Kingdoms of Camelot, when City of Wonder was just about hitting my stride. However, KoC has a higher demand for getting your friends to help you with tasks, whereas CoW is less a co-operative effort between you and your allies- you can visit someone else's city and pick up a game-generated tithe from your embassy and that's about it.

I would like it if you had the option of taking it a step even further. For example, if you could accomplish tasks not just by harvesting new players from your pool of friends, but by inviting them to a two-player puzzle or something similar.

Market Street, for me, had the opposite problem. It required far too much attention. The game seemed needy, and I lost interest in it quickly.

As an example of an excellent game that could be executable within the realms of facebook games, I would point to something like Kingdom of Loathing. In this game, every day you are given a limited number of turns- let's say 20. You are also given a quest, and you can have several independent quests running at the same time. The hook is that the game's content is *hilarious*. When you pick a class, you can choose to be, for example, a Disco Bandit or an Accordion Thief or a Pastamancer, to name a few. The game is rife with puns, fantasy/sci-fi references, and provides seasonally themed quests which you use to collect rare items and level up your characters. It could be called a poor-man's html World of Warcraft, except I think it's more fun than that.

Kingdom of Loathing's one lacking aspect is the ability to directly interact with other players, but that could be easily resolved on a facebook-like platform.

What Kingdom of Loathing brings to the table, which I have found missing from any facebook game, is that it has quest/goal driven content, and good copy. It holds my interest through humor, and I think a lot of social-games could benefit from adding intellectual content to the already-pleasing visual content.

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