By AJ Glasser From Inside Social Games
Kabam and Paramount Pictures announced a new citybuilding crime-themed social game for Facebook based on The Godfather franchise. The Godfather: Five Families launches in fall 2011.
Lawrence Koh, General Manager at Kabam, walked through a trailer and some assets for the early the game. Players control a single person within one of the five mafia families established in Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel, The Godfather. Each family is meant to have its own benefits and strengths which the player can leverage in combat against gangs from other families. Players recruit friends to form a gang within a family and, through combat and citybuilding, rise through its ranks to potentially become the Don of their family.
The core gameplay loop involves building up structures that produce specific resources within a neighborhood, much the same as other Kabam titles — only here, “oil” or “gold” might be translated as “cement” or “cash.” Koh explains that these resources go not only toward building new structures, but also toward purchasing units to use in combat. Again, the Kabam type units have Godfather-appropriate names here, like “Thug” or “Professional.” Players send these units out to do combat with other families’ units occupying territory around the player’s neighborhood. Overall player progress is tracked for players with a “compound” mansion structure that gets prettier as the player increases in level.
The territory conquering aspect of the game is represented by much larger city blocks that house individual neighborhoods (including the player’s). Occupied territories display the crest of the family that holds it and specific industries within that block tell you a bit about what business that particular family is in (e.g. the Tattaglia is known for prostitution, so its occupied territory would feature brothels). There are also New York City landmarks that function as a sort of scarce resource that the families war for control over. These landmarks are meant to be consistent with 1935-era New York, the time period in which the game is set.
Combat in the game is asynchronous, depicted primarily by flashy artwork pieces like the one below:
Koh says that the combat will function with a rock-paper-scissors balancing dynamic where certain families have advantages over others, much as certain unit types have advantages over others. A player rank system keeps track of which families are ahead — and which player-formed crews within their families are leading. This encourages players to keep the status quo shifting by attacking the family in the lead — and by attacking the crew in the lead, even if it’s a group of players within your own family.
“Because it’s a mafia game, right,” Koh jokes. “There’s a certain amount of backstabbing.”
To discourage bullying, Kabam has gone with the popular social game combat mechanic of diminishing returns for attacking lower-level players. True to the romanticised mafia vision, there are no government or police factions within the game that restrict player activity. Kabam is counting on emergent gameplay from the community to sort out “fairness” — much like it has for Kabam’s other strategy games.
As for The Godfather license itself, Paramount Pictures has given Kabam fairly free rein to do what they like, even allowing them to set the game 10 years before the events of the novel and Francis Ford Coppola film trilogy. At this time, there are no special cross-promotion events or in-game ads for merchandise concerning the the Godfather films. The 40th anniversary of the first film is coming up in 2012, so there could be some potential brand push around then. For now, though, it seems like a very straightforward intellectual property license to a video game developer. Note that Paramount has been burned by these in the past, such as EA’s poorly-received The Godfather 2 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC.
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