By Aj Glasser From Inside Social Games
Zynga raised some eyebrows earlier this week by announcing a hidden object game that, at a cursory glance, has an awful lot in common with both Playdom's Gardens of Time and Game Insight's Mystery Manor from visual style and setting to puzzle types.
Hidden Chronicles is about mystery, discovery, and a little friendly competition. Like snowboarding or making scrambled eggs, it's easy to learn but hard to master. As you move through boards discovering thousands of hidden items, you'll also unlock the story of Ramsey Manor, your home base in Hidden Chronicles. You'll meet and interact with unique caretakers there, and have the ability to build, decorate and customize the Manor.
Several months ago, Zynga hired on game designer Cara Ely on as creative director. At that time, two significant things were happening in the video games industry — downloadable games-focused companies were scrambling to get into social and mobile distribution and Gardens of Time was killing it on Facebook.
It's not hard to imagine that Zynga wanted to get in on the hidden object game now that other companies had proven it to be a viable genre for a social network. The question was, would they simply copy the mechanics that worked in competing games or try to build a hidden object game from scratch.
This is where Ely's history is important. She came to Zynga from I-play Games, one of the leading downloadable games portals oriented toward women with you guessed it a massive catalog of hidden object games. Ely spent five years at I-play developing franchises of hidden object games, most significantly the wedding-themed "Dream Day" series. Her design decisions in Hidden Chronicles are based on her learning rather than on the need to do what Playdom and Game Insight did in order to capture the same audience.
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