By AJ Glasser From Inside Soical Games
This is the first title to come from Zynga Boston, the studio formed following the Conduit Labs acquisition back in August 2010. That studio has expanded via a hire-acquisition in the last year to include Floodgate Entertainment. In the last 12 months, Zynga Boston has expanded from 16 people to 35, recruiting some team members from MMO developer Turbine.
Adventure World is built as a combination MMO and classic adventure video game. Zynga Boston General Manager Nabeel Hyatt — formerly CEO of Conduit Labs — likened it to the original Legend of Zelda in the way the game invites players to explore and advance. Like Nintendo’s Zelda franchise, Adventure World players work through large area maps on a quest for treasure using tools or weapons collected along the way, like a machete or a whip, for example. The visuals in-game reminds us of the original Indiana Jones films, with a nonspecific 1930s era feel to the settings, decoration and interface.
During a press demo earlier this week, Hyatt showed three out of the 35 areas Adventure World launches with today: Base Camp, a Mountains map, and an El Dorado map. The areas are divided up among five international regions the player eventually visits as part a central quest around joining the Adventure Society. Each map within an area is approximately as large as the largest possible farm expansion available in FarmVille — making Adventure World one of the bigger social games on Facebook in terms of virtual space.
On the Mountains map and the El Dorado map, Hyatt was able to pull back the camera in full screen mode to show the entirety of the map even before his Adventure World avatar had begun his first quest. Being able to see all over the map at once prompts the player to explore the places they can’t yet get to and creates a sense of immersion that console adventure video games strive for. Hyatt casually mentioned that Adventure World runs on 60 frames-per-second — a high frame rate for a social game.
Gameplay itself consists of clicking on things the player sees on the map — such as an item to be picked up, or a discolored patch of stone to examine. Each action costs the player energy, but energy also functions as a sort of hit point gauge where the player is penalized every time they trigger a trap or fight with a wild animal. This encourages players to be strategic in detecting and disarming traps, and also in how avoid fights with snakes and rams and such by planning alternative routes through the maps. It is possible, Hyatt says, to go through a map without seeing all parts of it — which makes Adventure World the kind of game you’d want to replay.
As the player progresses, their avatar will gain a set of adventure tools like the aforementioned whip. Depending on how the player uses these tools throughout the map (e.g. attacking snakes with the whip), these tools will level up independently of the player’s level. Each map has a “preferred tool” that will best lend itself to the environment, which is where the social element of Adventure World comes in.
Like the recently-released Pioneer Trail expansion for FrontierVille, players in Adventure World can recruit their friends to help out during adventures. Unlike Pioneer Trail, however, this game allows players to recruit their friends along with all their friends’ in-game progress saved as-is. In other words, you can recruit a friend with a higher-level whip than yours into your game in order to deal with attacking rams on a Mountains map. The more often you recruit this friend, the more “guest energy”.
Adventure World grants the friend character, ultimately allowing the player up to 10 different actions with their friend’s character. Aside from Facebook friends, Adventure World player can also “earn” non-playable character friends to assist them on adventures. Each time the player completes a map, a member of the Adventure Society becomes available for recruiting. The player can have up to 12 crew members recruited at a time.
Hyatt briefly demoed an area where a crew member could come in handy on the El Dorado map. The primary puzzle in this area involved pushing blocks onto switches in the correct order to raise a platform up to a dais containing a jewel piece. Alone, Hyatt’s character would’ve had to push blocks and determine the sequence through trial and error (which burns through his energy gauge). With a friend recruited, he could have the friend stand on switches to work through the sequence (burning through the “guest energy instead).
Also, if that friend had a grappling hook gadget handy, the friend could have bypassed the entire block-pushing puzzle by grappling up to the dais to collect the jewel. This grappling hook tool also allows players to explore new areas in other maps.
The final area Hyatt shared was the Base Camp area where all players first start out. From here, players can purchase items that help out on adventures, decorations for the camp itself, and supplies needed before going out on adventures. Like CityVille, there is a time restriction on how fast the player can bring in supplies without paying premium currency, forcing the player to spend a certain amount of Base Camp instead of rushing right back out to the adventure maps.
Adventure World is monetized through the sale of energy refills, supplies and special “gadget” tools, like the grappling hook. Some of these gadgets can be unlocked through gameplay, while others are premium items. Some provide a direct influence on gameplay like the dynamite gadget that can blow up rocks blocking off parts of the map, while others provide a passive bonus like a compass gadget that reveals all hidden treasures on the map.
Interestingly, Zynga Boston hasn’t chosen to monetize hints for the puzzles and quests. In other classic adventure games and puzzle games, the player must give up something in order to get a hint on how to solve a puzzle or find an elusive piece of treasure on the map, usually buying a special item or taking a score penalty. Hyatt explains that through play testing, Zynga Boston is confident they’ve made the puzzles intuitive enough to where nobody will need a hint. And in case the large maps overwhelm a player’s eyesight, a “Show Me” button on the quest screen will automatically pan the camera to where the player’s next objective is at no cost to the player.
Adventure World is due to go live in the next week or so, according to Hyatt. Zynga’s last new game, Empires & Allies, launched in June and peaked at an all-time high of 53.2 million monthly active users and 7.7 million daily active users. The Pioneer Trailexpansion for FrontierVille launched in mid-August and so far has 19.7 million MAU and has stabilized at 3.1 million DAU.
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