Archive for January, 2010

Social Game Central is on Vacation!

Social Game Central is headed off to the great state of Hawaii in just a few short hours! I love Happy Island, Island Paradise, Tiki Farm, and all the rest of the Facebook games out there, but when the real thing is outside your door, it’s a little tough to get as excited about its virtual counterparts.

Our obsessively comprehensive coverage of all your favorite social games will resume on Tuesday, February 2nd. If anything super-huge happens (Like Zynga launching their Frontier game I’ve been hearing whispers about…) I’ll try to sneak in a few minutes to give you the scoop. Otherwise… see you next week!

Happy Pets Adds Dog Collars

Happy Pets added dog collars to its ever-growing list of pet fashion accessories, earlier today. In the update they state that our puppies and dogs are “beggin’ for COLLARS” and while I don’t necessarily agree with that, I will fully admit that developer Crowdstar created some pretty good options:

My personal favorites are the handkerchief and the little bow-tie. The collars are interesting because it reinforces something I’ve been thinking about the last couple days. In Zynga’s Petville and Playfish’s Pet Society, your “pets” aren’t really pets at all. They wear pants, they own cars… they have nicer furniture than I do. Out of the big three, Crowdstar’s pet game is the only one where the pets are actual PETS.

My point? I don’t really have one. I’m just saying… in the context of Happy Pets, collars make sense. In a way they wouldn’t in either of those titles.

New Details on Mafia Wars: Bangkok

Zynga released new details on Mafia Wars: Bangkok earlier today. The most interesting revelation is that Bangkok uses a new level-scaling technology to make the expansion more accessible. Bangkok is available to players beginning at level 18, but those that travel there so quickly will find it takes less energy and generates less rewards than players at higher levels. At level 200 missions will have much higher requirements, but also much higher payouts.

Zynga also gave many new details on the Yakuza / Triad system – it is a much more in-depth choice than Vory / Mafiya was in Moscow. Which faction you choose impacts what businesses you have access to, can open or close access to faction-specific items, and more.

Zynga’s entire note is below. I have bolded the elements that I feel are of the most interest:

Mafia Wars is proud to unleash its newest city – Bangkok, a city overrun by crime and chaos as two gangs struggle for dominance over turf. Get ready – you’ll finally get the opportunity to continue expanding your Mafia Empire. Do a brand new set of jobs, take over more businesses, battle with a new set of bosses, and earn even more achievements!

First, choose which side you’ll be loyal to – the Yakuza or the Triads. While the Yakuza place value in a good offense and in increasing their attack power, the Triads focus on strengthening their defenses to ward off attacks. Each faction has its own unique weapons and businesses to offer in exchange for your loyalty, and that allegiance will affect the rest of your game play. As you do certain jobs and fight against members of your rival faction, you’ll climb the ranks and earn respect within your own faction. Earning enough loyalty grants you access to special items at the Faction Store that are exclusive to that side.

In Bangkok, how you choose to spend your energy has never been more important. Be careful how you choose to play – siding entirely with one faction is sure to anger the other. As you use your energy in jobs and fights to increase your street credit with one side, your reputation will decrease with the other side. If your reputation drops below a certain level with a faction, they’ll cut off your access to their select items, so get a game plan and play wisely!

One of the ways we’ve made Bangkok unique from our other expansions is to make it more accessible to newer players. As long as you are level 18 and above and have collected the Yakuza Sake, Triad Coin, and Thai Note found in the New York jobs, you can travel to Bangkok once you have obtained your Passport. For players between levels 18 and 200, we’ve created a sliding scale for energy costs and experience payouts for jobs. This means that lower-level players can complete new jobs and advance through Bangkok’s episodes, as jobs will require less energy to complete but have correspondingly lowered experience rewards. Players who are above level 200 will not be affected by this sliding scale.

We hope everyone will enjoy this latest addition to Mafia Wars. Stay tuned for the release and try to grab your Thai passport to start your crime spree!

Fishville Adds New Plants and Coral

Fishville added six new plant and coral decorations to its marketplace, earlier this evening. While new decorations are always good news, it usually isn’t exactly very exciting news, to be completely honest. But in this case, I think that these decorations are an exception. They’re actually really cool-looking:

These are a definite cut above what is typical for a Facebook aquarium game. Fishville specifically named Yuma Coral, Elegance Coral, Australian Scolymia, Broad leaf Ludwiga as four of the six additions.

As usual, the additions are a mixture of paid and free.

Happy Aquarium Adds Fan & Email-Exclusive Fish

As Social Game Central has mentioned a couple times, there is a major change coming to Facebook as a games platform. The notification system (the pop-ups in the lower right) are going away. To compensate, game makers will soon have the ability to send emails directly to their players. But naturally, lots of people are wary about giving up their email address, so companies like Crowdstar are offering lots of in-game incentives to convince people.

Happy Aquarium is the latest example. Two exclusive fish were added to the shop earlier tonight: the Cowfish and the Banggai Cardinal. The Cowfish is only available to players that become fans of Happy Aquarium on Facebook, and the Banggai Cardinal is only available to members to supply their email address.

Our suggestion is that users should go ahead and sign up for emails. I know you might be wary of doing so, but the fact is these are social games – it is important for the developer to be able to have a line of communication with the player.

Farmville Adds Limited Edition Super Bowl Items

Zynga’s weekly limited edition items are the best yet, in my opinion. This week’s set of items all follow a Super Bowl (excuse me, Farm Bowl) theme. As is quickly becoming the standard, the items are available as a mixture of gifts, free marketplace items, and paid marketplace items. Only this time Zynga actually made some pretty nice items available for coins, instead of charging for all the most coveted decorations.

A complete list of the new additions: Line Quacker I, Line Quacker II, Sheep Spectator, Cow Kicker, Football Tree, Outdoor Grill, Gnome Ref, Football Helmet 1, Football Helmet II, The Bunnyman, Indianapolis Flag, & New Orleans Flag.

The best practical addition is the Outdoor Grill, in my opinion. It fits a wide variety of farm themes besides just football. The best novelty item is the Bunnyman Heisman parody.

As with all previous weekly Farmville items, these Football-themed decorations are available for this week only – so don’t delay.

Click any image for full-size:

Farmville Butteryfly Collection and Cunning Collector Achievement

In Farmville’s sizable update last night a couple new additions to the game’s collections system were introduced. First off, a brand new collection was added – Butterflies:

Butterflies work in much the same way as the other collections – items are gained via plowing, fertilizing, harvesting crops and trees, gifting, and the other normal day-to-day activities a Farmville farmer participates in. Once a collection is complete, it can be submitted for bonus coins, EXP, or fuel. Although this butterfly collection has been rumored for a while, it is almost assuredly not the last addition we’ll see to the collections system. I expect many more to be added in the coming months.

Also added last night was a new achievement related to Farmville Collectables: the Cunning Collector ribbon. The Yellow ribbon is obtained by completing just two collections, and I’m sure it takes many, many more to earn the Blue ribbon, if other Farmville blue ribbons are anything to go by.

What’s Inside the Farmville Maroon Mystery Box?

Another new Farmville mystery box was released last night, once again stuffed with new items that can’t be found anywhere else. I’ve articulated my feelings on these mystery boxes before (I don’t like them – I think they exploit the players), but there is no denying that they create a certain amount of excitement, is there? It’s one thing to spend a little money to buy a Mini Pony and a Snowmobile. It’s another thing to WIN one from a mystery box. Zynga must be employing some psychologists over at their offices.

A list of the new items the Maroon Mystery Box contains:

Mini Pony
Water Fountain
Outdoor Fireplace
Snowmobile
Footbridge
Cottage Deluxe

Images:

Cheers to Farmville Freak for the on the farm images.

Farmville Says ‘Thanks’ with Energy Biscuit

Zynga gave all Farmville players a bonus with last night’s update: a High Energy Biscuit. The biscuit, when used, causes your little farmer to zip around your farm at very high speeds, with the effect lasting 24 hours. Zynga singled out the $1 million players donated to Haiti through Farmville as the reason for the free item.

It’s a cool promotion, because as Zynga notes, high energy biscuits are a real item that the World Food Programme often distributes in crisis zones to help ease hunger.

Anyone wishing to learn more about Zynga’s efforts to help Haiti and how we, as social game players, can get involved should visit Zynga.org. Hopefully everyone out there is donating because they are moved by the plight of those less fortunate, and not for the promise of a free virtual biscuit.

Farmville Gives Fans Super Pumpkins

The trend of fan-only rewards continued today, with the ten ton gorilla (that’s Farmville) getting into the act. Zynga awarded all Farmville fans with access to an exclusive crop: Super Pumpkins. These glowing (potentially radioactive?) pumpkins have super-charged stats: they cost only 30 coins to plant, and harvest for 100 just 4 hours later. You will also gain 1 XP for your trouble.

These pumpkins were originally supposed to be a very limited-time freebie, lasting just until the end of the day Friday. But some fans haven’t been able to access them, so Zynga has decided to extend their availability. A new end-date for the promotion has yet to be set. Better take advantage while you can! I personally will pass, however. 4-hour crops are just too hardcore for me.