Zynga’s new game is less FarmVille, more Indiana Jones
Zynga is famous for making games about farm chores but now that it is on the brink of its IPO, it is trying something different. In the most complex game Zynga has released so far on Facebook, players in Adventure World need to unlock clues and puzzles to find the last city of gold, El Dorado. Reuters spoke with Nabeel Hyatt, the general manager of Zynga Boston about why this is a new direction for Zynga, which is not known for World of Warcraft-type quests. Zynga bought his company, Conduit Labs, last summer and now he leads the team that made the game hitting Facebook in a few weeks.
REUTERS: What makes Adventure World different from other Zynga games?
HYATT: We consider this to be a new genre of social game that hasn’t existed before. The overall adventure genre goes back 20 years and hasn’t really had a place in social games. You can’t build the same kind of social game that you would have built for a hardcore gamer. If you think about FarmVille and CityVille, we call them ‘invest and express games’ where you grow a city over time and you use that to express yourself. This is very different. It’s a new bold move for Zynga to make that is about exploring, discovering and uncovering secrets and solving puzzles and moving across lots of different maps and worlds. This game is a really broad expansive experience with more than 30 different environments when it launches and over 20,000 objects.
REUTERS: Why is this a new direction for Zynga? Is this going to be Zynga’s version of World of Warcraft?
HYATT: It’s the first Zynga game that focuses on your avatar and your character’s growth over time. Also, each of these maps you play on is almost like its own game and has its own type of gameplay. That’s a new thing for Zynga, which hones in tightly on one specific type of game play and then tries to polish it like crazy to get a really nice experience, like in FrontierVille or CityVille. A lot of us on this team worked in massive multiplayer online games like Lord of The Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons online. These are large expansive games that people run for years–World of Warcraft is over 10 years old–so we are thinking of a game that we would love to build and make now but also that we’d love to build and make two years from now or five years from now and players could log in any given month and find a new adventure. This game was built with longevity in mind.
REUTERS: What is the game inspired by?
HYATT: We are definitely inspired by massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings online. It’s a large expansive world that changes over time, so it has that in common with those games, but it’s not really that hardcore or meant to be a role playing game. From a game play standpoint, it’s probably closest to a game like Legends of Zelda, which was a strong inspiration for us. Genre-wise, it harkens back to pulp movies from the 1930s and 1940s, up through “Indiana Jones” to “Jewel of the Nile” and “National Treasure.”
REUTERS:What are some items players will want to buy in the game?
HYATT: If it’s anything like how I play the game, some of the gadgets are probably the most interesting things you’ll end up buying, like a grappling hook, or dynamite or a little eagle. Some of these maps are covered in a fog and I can use the little eagle to soar around and see the edges of the map.
REUTERS: When you talk about a hardcore audience, what do you mean? Are you talking about people who like playing Xbox or a heavy user of Facebook games?
HYATT: When people talk about casual games players, they are usually talking about a style of game and not a style of player because the reason Zynga has had the success it that there are casual games players who will spend 80 hours a week playing a game, or will spend lots of money playing the games, and care as much, if not more, than someone who will care about Halo or Call of Duty.
We also have people who play Halo and Call of Duty who play our games. They play our games because they can play with their mom or sons versus just their college roommate who they end up playing Call of Duty with.
REUTERS: Does every company acquired by Zynga have to come out with a game?
HYATT: We don’t talk about the prescribed nature of why M&A happens in one particular case and there’s no one-size fits all when we acquire a company. What is important for this acquisition was that they bought a temat hat has experience building social games and had new technology and a very talented team. We had built fast growing games on Facebook. We had a similar culture and they’ve been supportive of us in taking a big bold bet of innovating inside the genre and creating a new kind of gameplay.
REUTERS: How do you get the word out about a new game?
We do a variety of things. We have a situation at this point at Zynga where we have millions of passionate players who frankly are champing at the bit for the new games we release. So some of it is just notifying people that something from us is coming up. There’s a whole category of millions of players who are waiting for what Zynga is going to do next.
Photo: Adventure World screenshot courtesy of Zynga