Archive for December, 2010

FrontierVille Level Cap Increased

FrontierVille developer Zynga has increased the game’s level cap. Dedicated pioneers can now climb all the way to level 150!

Our memory might be failing us, but we believe the previous level cap was 100, meaning players now have 50 more titles to earn. The new title bestowed on a player each time they level up seems to be the only reward earned for these new levels – there are no additional gifts or items unlocked in levels 101 – 150.

Level 150 earns players the title “Tough-as-nails Founder” and requires a whopping 6,600,000 experience points!

First Look: Fantasy University

I’m going to be complete up front, here: Fantasy University is the funniest social game I have ever played.

The game is a text-based parody RPG, with gameplay similar to Mafia Wars or Kingdom of Loathing (or MUDs, for the oldschool gamers out there). Games like this live and die by the quality of their writing. If you’re anything like me you cringe a little when you hear that a game is intended to be a comedy. When it works and the writing is good, it is awesome. When it doesn’t, it is disastrous.

Luckily, the team behind F U (natch) seem to be pulling from a bottomless well of humerous pop culture, fantasy fiction, and game design tropes. Within the first 10 minutes of gameplay, I spotted references to Pirates of the Caribbean (or more accurately all Johnny Depp movies), World of Warcraft, Spongebob Squarepants, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and plenty, plenty more.

No single moment is laugh-out-loud funny, but all the little details add up, and create a very charming package. Players’ lodgings are the Mordorms. As a “Mathamagician” character class, my character deals Abracadamage. Your best friend and neighbor is named Ron Wheeezy. And on and on it goes.

Comedy is a sensitive and subjective thing, and I sometimes felt that FU was trying a little too hard – players take the “Hellevator” up to their dorm room, for example. But I found the writing to hit much more often than it missed. For every very obvious, hit-you-over-the-head joke, there are two more subtle references slipped in.

Besides the writing, the gameplay & game design itself also has a great attention to detail. Your character portrait changes to become more beat up as you take combat damage, for example. The gameplay itself is quite simplistic, but there is more to it than Mafia Wars-style “push button to win.” When in combat, players will have multiple attacks to choose from, and will also have the option of consuming HP-replenishing or stat-boosting items. So far, the combat is about the same depth level as the opening of any standard console turn-based RPG.

FU could do with a little streamlining. Navigating the game world involves a lot of clicking around different icons, and screens like your inventory or character sheet are a little too cluttered and unfocused. But these are side effects of the game being an actual game and not just a treadmill, so it is tough to complain too much.

I went in to Fantasy University with a huge dose of skepticism, but the game absolutely won me over. It’s smart, deep, and has a great attention to detail. Below we’ve reproduced the “disclaimer” gamers have to click through, as an example of what we mean.

Your application to Fantasy University has been accepted!

We are looking forward to having yet another bright young mind take advantage of the unending knowledge of the country’s finest and foremost Adventuring College (that we know of)!

We hope you are looking forward to the challenges presented by a Class-A Adventuring Education, and hope that you will meet any and all challenges with the same kind of fervor and optimism we exhibited in preparing this form letter!

Before you are actually accepted, there is one formality that will be taken care of by this magical letter. It contains a disclaimer form that must be accepted before enrollment becomes final.

Agreement: I, Justin Davis, do solemnly swear that I will do my best to uphold the traditions and integrity of Fantasy University and will always remember that I become the property of Fantasy University and that any accidents or punishments that may befall me up to and including death, dismemberment, depression, apathy, illness, decapitation (real or imagined), fraud, theft, delusions, nightmares, food poisoning, Rapture, stolen organs, borrowed organs, hallucinations, leg trauma, lupus, being burned alive, water torture, tickle torture, plain old torture, spasms, night sweats, day sweats, pant sweats, restless leg syndrome, restless elbow syndrome, poverty, canings, heat stroke, heat exhaustion, plain stroke, extortion, blackmail (which is technically different from extortion), blindness, deafness, loss of an ear, loss of one or more shoes, dew crotch, being forced to watch bad comedians (you know, the really bad ones where half of you wants to feel sorry for them, but the other half can’t stop laughing at how awful they are), and jury duty are all considered perks of the University and must be enjoyed as such. Furthermore, it remains the right of the University to… Geez, does anyone even read this crap? I spend 24 hours a day down here in this well, shackled to this printing press, writing up legal documents for you people BY HAND, and for what? A few half-hearted chuckles? My humor is all I have to give, and I try so hard, but what’s it all amount to? You’re never going read this anyway, and that’s okay. My wife will probably run off with some romance novelist, who she’ll fall in love with after he writes her into every single one of his best sellers. That’s cool, I’ll chill down here, with the rats, and the constant trickle of dank sewer water. No really guys, it’s fine. I’ll just keep making you laugh throughout this entire game, as you never once question where such brilliant humor stems from. You’ll never realize that every joke you read is really told by one lonely guy trapped in the bottom of a well, and that’s a fate I’m willing to accept. Bye forever.

First Look: CityVille

Social gaming juggernaut Zynga has finally flipped the switch on their long-awaited town building title: CityVille! Is the game destined to become a mega-hit like nearly every other Zynga title, or is it merely a re-hash of the town building concepts others games have introduced? Social Game Central is here to give you the full scoop.

The first thing we noticed about CityVille is that despite being a town-building title along the lines of My Town, Social City, and Millionaire City (among others), the game actually has more in common with Zynga’s own FrontierVille than any of their competitor’s titles. Players have an energy bar that refills over time, and must spend this energy to complete most in-game tasks, including constructing buildings, chopping down wild trees, and supplying businesses with raw goods.

Also like FrontierVille, gamers are guided through the game by a lengthy series of missions. Some are quite simple (Harvest Four Carrots), while others require more preparation and more help from neighbors.

Although CityVille is still quite easy to pick up and play, the game is probably the most complex Zynga has ever made – to progress, players will need to keep track of all aspects of their city’s health. The bulk of CityVille’s gameplay revolves around smoothly managing a chain of supplies. All elements are interconnected. For example, to raise their city’s population, players will need to have enough money to build homes. Players earn money via their town’s businesses. These businesses only produce money if they are supplied with raw goods, which are collected from farms.

It is certainly more complex than FarmVille or FrontierVille, but it never feels overwhelming. Players produce goods via farming plots, turn those goods into cash via businesses, and spend that cash on homes, decorations, and everything else they need for their cities to thrive.

CityVille’s social element is a major departure from other social games, including Zynga’s own. Rather than lean on news feed posts, CityVille instead has players reaching out to their social graph on a one on one basis, asking individual friends for help via notifications. Players need 7 employees to staff their police department, for example. Rather than making a news feed post asking for employees, players can instead bulk send notifications asking for help to up to 60 of their friends at once. We’re still mulling over the ramifications of this major change, and will have more thoughts on it soon.

Our first impression of CityVille is positive. Like all Zynga titles, it is very polished, and already has lots of content for players to experience. We’re disappointed that the game doesn’t seem to make much effort to break new ground in the way FrontierVille did earlier this year, but we don’t think that will stop this city building title from becoming a big hit.

Updates Resuming!

Hello everyone! It’s been a while :)

First of all, I would like to extend a personal apology to all the social game enthusiasts out there that have relied on SGC for your social game news fix since we launched in January. We have watched the site grow from 40, to 200, then 500, and ultimately over 2,000 daily visitors. It has been an honor supplying you all with the day’s hot social game stories.

But as the saying goes, when it rains, in pours. In September, a variety of unfortunate events all happened at the same time. Some personal, some professional, and some technical. Let me tell you, it is quite frustrating to know you have thousands of readers to please, but in your suddenly limited blogging time you’re forced to instead troubleshoot problems with your publishing software or hosting company!

So… that’s the bad news. It’s been nothing but barrier after barrier for some time now. What’s the good news, you ask?

The good news is… we’re back! All the site’s technical problems have been solved, lives have settled down sufficiently to allow for a consistent updating schedule, and we’re all eager and energized to once again begin bringing you all the latest and greatest from the world of social games.

We apologize again for the extreme interruption in our updates. We’re humbled by the 10,000+ (wow!) readers that have continued checking in the last two months. So… what did we miss? Leave a comment and let us know :)