Five Features FrontierVille Discovered During Design
by Josh Sprague
FrontierVille was lauded as a big step up from FarmVille when it released, but it wasn’t a lot different from FarmVille when it was still on paper. Speaking at GDC2011, Zynga’s Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds explained that the team had already decided on certain things they wanted to carry from the farm to the frontier. They would include the energy bar from FarmVille since that prevented the player from burning through the game too quickly. They would also make everything in the world clickable, especially when visiting friends. As well, they wanted exploring and reclaiming the wilderness to be a big part of the game.
While they had a few other features in mind, they quickly jumped off paper and into a playable game. As they put together a primitive version of the game, they began to make discoveries that would become the hallmark features of FrontierVille. Reynolds explained that the best features showed up after they started playing in the new frontier-themed sandbox they set up.
Have you ever wondered what the name is for all the goodies that spill out of a tree or animal when you click on it in FrontierVille? Well, the team dubbed these things “Doobers” and the name stuck. Rather than just showing plain old numbers after completing an action, the team found out it was more enjoyable to see what came out and click up the rewards. This doober moniker carried over to CityVille as well and has become a standard feature in many games since.
Initially, animals only showed up on the frontier when the player added friendly fauna like pigs, sheep and chickens. The team wondered what kinds of less lovable creatures might show up in the wilderness. So, they added a snake that would pop out when clearing away rocks and briars. In testing, players would jump and become a bit concerned when the snake appeared, but the concern would melt as they clobbered the snake and goodies popped out. One player even spent the rest of his day clearing weeds until he conquered every last snake on his property. So, while negative situations are typically avoided in social games, they found that a surprise challenge could turn out to be more fun.
The FrontierVille team wanted players to visit each other a lot from the outset. However, they wanted to find a way to reward players for visiting and helping each other out. This is where the reputation system jumped in. Players would get hearts (read experience) for helping each other out and the more they helped (leveled), the more they were rewarded.
Humor in Feeds
Facebook status messages about lost animals worked for FarmVille, but the FrontierVille team found that adding a layer of humor to status messages made them even more viral. For example, a picture of a lone pioneer woman washing a sheep added some goofball charm that players more readily posted to their walls. Reynolds said, “Players want us to write their jokes.” While I would like to have some freedom to customize these “jokes,” I think they’re right about starting with a funny prompt.
One of FrontierVille’s hallmark features was the inclusion of a narrative arc, but this wasn’t planned from the outset. The team knew they wanted quests to be part of the game from the outset, but it wasn’t until they started thinking of ways to tie these quests together that the idea of a story appeared. So, instead of just chopping wood to fulfill an arbitrary quota, you were chopping wood to build a cabin to get ready for your husband or wife to come.
What great features have you seen show up in games after play kicked off?（Source：socialgamestoday）