Archive for the ‘ Interview ’ Category

Pirates Ahoy Revises Friend Visit Bonus

Pirates Ahoy developer Playfish has given the game’s friend visit bonus a much-needed revision, this week. Now, when a player visits a neighbor for the first time, they are awarded a random prize – either gold, food, or even metals.

In fact, visiting neighbors is now the ONLY way to receive the metals needed to restore found treasures. Gems can still be dug up at random.

In our testing gold and energy were much more common prizes than metals, but we still received plenty after making our way through our entire Pirates Ahoy friends list. It seems likely that players will build up a large stockpile of metals thanks to this new system if they consistently check in and stay social with their fellow Pirates Ahoy players.

Interview: Bubble Island’s Big Changes

Bubble Island from Wooga has nearly one million people logging in to pop some bubbles, each and every day. Who says big Facebook games have to focus on fish, farms, or pets?

We recently had the opportunity to ask Wooga Founder and CEO Jens Begemann a few questions about his hit game. Read on to find out how Bubble Island has evolved since launch, what’s next for the title, and secrets to beating your friends’ high scores…

Social Game Central: First off, for those readers that aren’t familiar with Wooga or Bubble Island, can you tell us a little about your company, and Bubble Island?

Jens Begemann: wooga (world of gaming) was founded January 2009 and is the leading European game developer for social games and the 9th biggest game developer on Facebook. We are a super-international team of about 40 people (from 12 different countries) based in Berlin.

Bubble Island is our second game and it was released in February this year. It is an classic arcade style “bubble shooter” type puzzle game where you have to connect three or more bubbles of the same color.

Before we released Bubble Island we did a very popular game called Brain Buddies which is a brain-training game. Our most recent game is called Monster World and we released it on Facebook just a couple of weeks ago.

SGC: Bubble Island is Wooga’s biggest title. Why do you think it has turned into such a hit?

JB: There are a few things that have proven to be very successful with Bubble Island:

* Emotional attachment is very important for social games. There are so many of them out there (and all free to play/try) that you have to stand out. We decided to do this by adding a prominent character to the game – the raccoon. He will follow you throughout the game, explore the world map, load your “bubble shooter” with new bubbles and gives you instant feedback when you are playing.

If you make a nice shot a explode a lot of bubbles he will jump with happiness, if the bubbles start getting closer to the ground he starts sweating and looks nervous and many more great animations.

* Playing with friends is always more fun than playing alone! In Bubble Island you and your friends work together: The more your friends play the more benefits you will get (like more lives)

* We are also very proud of the simplicity and quality of the game. The graphics and animations together with the easy-to-understand interface make Bubble Island a game that truly anyone will understand in a matter of seconds.

SGC: Bubble aiming & popping games have been around for a long time, and Bubble Island isn’t even the only one on Facebook! What sets Bubble Island apart from other similar games, and makes it unique?

JB: * Unlike most other games with a similar concept we have a large number of pre-defined levels. This means that you can go back and re-play a level many times to try and find the best/quickest way to finish it and set a new high score.

* There is also a clear progression in the game – giving it almost an “adventure game” feel where you unlock new areas and travel across the island.

SGC: How has Bubble Island changed or evolved since it was first released?

JB: We added many key features since the launch in February. E.g. this first version did not even include the raccoon as our main character.

But the biggest change is yet to be released. Let’s just say we have a new game mode coming in a few weeks that will will make all of our old (and new) players VERY happy…

SGC: Bubble Island starts off very friendly, but the final few levels are very challenging! Do you have any tips for Bubble Island players that might be stuck on a tough level?

JB: First tip is to become a fan of the game. Via our fan page we give regular tips and release “Bubble Island TV” videos (in 5 languages!) to give players tips and help. There is also a multi-language wiki at where our community (+10 million players!) share tips, strategy and walk-through videos:

SGC: Once players have cleared all the stages, one popular activity is to compete with their friends for high scores. What tips do you have for players trying to boost their score on a particular level?

JB: Go for the boosters! Try and bounce as many shots as possible, line up big drops/explosions and play as fast as you can.

SGC: I’m sure Bubble Island addicts would love a sneak peak at any upcoming changes or additions to the game. Can you tell us anything about the future of Bubble Island that fans can look forward to?

JB: We have been working for months on a new game mode that I am sure our players will love. It is almost ready and we hope to release it in a couple of weeks…

Interview: Kingdoms of Camelot Brings Hardcore Strategy to the Masses

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Kingdoms of Camelot is unique among social games in that it is not here to coddle its players. The game contains a lot of depth, and players are not discouraged from attacking one another. Far from it – war is a key tenet of the entire experience!

Most pundits insist that games on Facebook need to remain simple, but the team at Watercooler is clearly doing something right. Kingdoms of Camelot is still growing steadily, and is now enjoying nearly 4 million monthly active users.

We recently had the opportunity to pick the brain of Kingdoms of Camelot studio GM Wayne Chan about how they built a deeper social game, how Watercooler squashes bugs, and what’s next for KoC.

Social Game Central: For readers who aren’t familiar with Kingdoms of Camelot (who missed our excellent write-up), how would you explain the game to them? Is this a hardcore game for the Facebook crowd or a Facebook game for the hardcore crowd?

Wayne Chan: Kingdoms of Camelot is a Facebook game for players who are looking for a deeper, richer social gaming experience. As opposed to many of the lighter offerings on Facebook, the gameplay is more involved and strategic. It looks and feels like a real game. The game is a Medieval era strategy game, with players fighting against both barbarians and each other for control of the land. While the construction aspect is core to the game, we made sure that the game would also provide something for players to do with all the castles and troops they were building. What we wanted to do was create a game for those on Facebook who were bored or turned off by the more casual offerings out there. We’ve designed it for the Facebook crowd with a focus on a number of social elements, such as chat, banding with other players to form alliances, and competition through in-game events.

SGC: Kingdoms of Camelot is the only expansive role-playing game made by Watercooler (other titles include sports and quiz games), what inspired you create something so ambitious?

WC: The driving force behind our titles has always been tapping into passionate communities. We’ve built a number of very in-depth games such as Bracket Challenge, for NCAA basketball, Fantasy Football for the NFL, this year adding in great content from Sports Illustrated, as well as a number of other fantasy sports games. As we explored what other genres our users were passionate about, we found a large interest in strategy games, both within our own company and across our communities, and we felt it was a perfect extension of what we were already doing.

SGC: The game was a little daunting with all the depth available, even in the beginning. Were you ever afraid it would turn away a portion of gamers?

WC: We didn’t design the game to appeal to a mass audience; we designed it to attract a community of highly engaged players, and it has. Moreover, our core users actively share the experience with their friends, so the game is more viral than we originally expected. We think this speaks to the growing number of social players who want richer gaming experiences. We’re used to passionate users, especially with our sports apps, and while we were a little worried about this type of game overwhelming users at first we felt if we could ignite someone’s passion they would engage much longer than they would to a typical Facebook game that might be consumable in 5 minute intervals. We have a three year history of developing for Facebook and other social networks and we were confident that as long as we could build something that appealed to a core set of users, that they would feel compelled to share that experience with their friends.

SGC: How does a team like Watercooler handle bug fixes/glitches in a game of this scope? Is the work ever done?

WC: Our priority is always to make the highest quality, best user experience and to continue to grow and evolve the game over time. We are lucky that our users are so passionate about the game. With bug-fixing, the more information we can get from our users, the better. We prioritize bugs based on how severely they might impact enjoyment of the game and the number of users that are being affected. That’s important to us, because we have a lot of players who return frequently to the game on a daily basis. In a game with as many users as KofC, even minor bugs can seem huge to the few players affected by them, and we understand that all players want to have a game that runs smoothly at all times. One of our key metrics we watch carefully is user engagement and bug fixing is just a small part of the ongoing changes occurring weekly in game. We are always adding new features and complexity while at the same time looking to find ways to simplify the first time experience. With the dynamic environment and depth of this game, the work is never finished for the development team.

SGC: Are community members actively participating in the “beta” aspect of Kingdoms of Camelot? How much contact do you receive from players concerning fixes/other game issues?

WC: We receive thousands of e-mails from our community members on a daily basis. The more information we can get from our members on their problems, the easier their concerns become for us to solve. We also get lots of ideas for the game from our users and try to take some of those into account, while considering whether the suggestions will enhance or damage the game experience for existing/new players. We really love hearing from players, and really value their input.

SGC: Will there ever be a way to stop over-powered players from ransacking underpowered ones, or is it simply the point of the game to always be out there, with the risk of being attacked present?

WC: The risk of attack is something that distinguishes Kingdoms of Camelot from other Facebook games and makes it a much more compelling environment for our players. However, we’re also exploring options for advanced players and alliances to compete in ways that don’t involve developing players who may be caught in the crossfire. It’s important to keep in mind that even while the game has achieved popularity with long-time players, due to the very nature of Facebook, new players are discovering it every day, and we want them to have an enjoyable experience.

SGC: So, we’ve just started making our way through Kingdoms of Camelot, but what can players expect in the endgame? Once all your buildings are completed, where do you go from there?

WC: The current endgame is heavily focused on alliance combat and tournaments. While I don’t want to say too much about where we are going, you can definitely expect alliances to play a much larger role competitively and cooperatively, with players being rewarded for their participation in world changing events.

SGC: What separates Kingdoms of Camelot from similar MMO-RTS style games on Facebook, including Evony and a few others?

WC: There are a number of similar games out there, but what separates us from others is the focus on making sure key elements of the game have been designed from the ground up to integrate elements that have made Facebook successful. Each of these games borrows successful elements from the other, and we believe we’ve made a much more social experience that players will want to play with their Facebook friends.

SGC: What’s next for Kingdoms of Camelot? Are any new features currently being considered that we’ve yet to hear about definitively (full-screen mode, etc.)?

WC: The game is constantly evolving. We have players that are now playing into their seventh month and are still heavily engaged with the game and looking for more. We are going to fill that need! Look for barbarians to play a much larger role rather than simply being farms for players. Other features include the introduction of new buildings, new ways for alliances to interact with each other, and introducing an overarching storyline to each of the worlds that players can help shape through their actions.

SGC: With Kingdoms of Camelot a success, how long do you plan on supporting it (as your flagship game) before moving on to Kingdoms of Camelot II, some other game or whatever ambitious title is next from Watercooler?

WC: Kingdoms of Camelot will be supported as long as we have users that love our game and play on a regular basis. We’re looking to involve the community on a much more regular basis and plan to work a significant portion of the feedback into game features and upgrades. As far as other games, we have a number of other titles and major media announcements tied to our games that will be coming out shortly. Without saying too much — think World Cup! Our goal is to continue to building off of users passions in sports and beyond and to ignite new passions by creating the most engaging and rich games for our players.

SGC: Thanks for your insights, Wayne!

Interview: Meteor’s Island Paradise Creative Process

In addition to our Ranch Town Interview, SGC was also lucky enough to have the opportunity to ask Meteor Games President and COO Donna Powell a few questions about their hit tropical farming title Island Paradise.

Powell provided insight into how Island Paradise is different from other farming titles, how players themselves have changed the course of the game, how what exciting developments are on the horizon for Meteor…

Social Game Central: Island Paradise was one of the first tropical-themed social game hits. Now there are several. Is it flattering or frustrating to see so many island titles popping up?

Donna Powell: It was definitely surprising how many island themed titles sprung up following the success of Island Paradise. I don’t think you can allow yourself to be frustrated by it, we just need to step up to the challenge and make sure that Island Paradise is the most enjoyable tropical themed game.

SGC: Island Paradise certainly releases holiday expansions and other “expected” item packs, but the game also has more innovative expansions, like the recent archeology week. How does the team decide what items to release?

DP: Meteor Games is somewhat different to most social gaming companies in that we come from a very gamer-centric background as opposed to marketing/metrics. All our production team actively play our games, in fact the whole company are gamers. We have a lot of creative folks who put forward suggestions for things they would like to see added. We also listen to player feedback and run polls on our fan pages to get a feel for what people would most like to see.

SGC: Has fan feedback ever led to Island Paradise heading in a direction Meteor Games didn’t originally plan? If so, what did the fans clamor most for?

DP: Yes, all the time. We have a fantastic team of Community Managers who are very hands on with our player base. Most notably our fans wanted the ability to have more animals and to be able to interact with their pets. Early this year we released the totally revamped animal system that provided just that. This was a significant recode, but the positive response we received was definitely worth it!

SGC: Many members of the Meteor Games team have been making games for a long time – how is making a game like Island Paradise different than working on a traditional video game?

DP: The timescale is the biggest difference. As opposed to years, a game goes from concept to launch in a matter of months. This can take a lot of getting used to, but the plus side is you see results very quickly and are able to adapt to changing market trends very rapidly.

Getting the game to launch is only the beginning. In the console game industry once you ship your product, you are really sending your baby out into the world and there isn’t much you can do to help it adapt. With social media games, that is when the real work starts. You need to listen to your players, watch for new developments in the market and constantly add new features to keep your game fresh.

SGC: Anything on the horizon that the Meteor Games team is most excited about?

DP: Yes, our next game is something that we are all very thrilled about. It is a bit of a departure from what is currently available on Facebook and is going towards a more story driven approach. Like all our games, it is a very high quality product with an amazing art style, but we will have to wait and see if it will become a hit…

SGC: Thanks for the insights Donna!

Interview: Ranch Town’s Inspirations

Wild West farming game Ranch Town has really captured our imaginations here at the SGC office. We keep up with and enjoy dozens of games for the purposes of the site, but Ranch Town is one of only a few games that we would continue playing, even if we didn’t write about social games each day. The public seems to feel the same way – Ranch Town has grown slowly and steadily since launch, and is now entertaining over 500,000 monthly players.

We recently had a chance to ask Meteor Games COO and President Donna Powell a few questions about her hit western farm sim, where Meteor draws its inspiration, and what’s next for Ranch Town:

Social Game Central: For those readers that aren’t familiar with Ranch Town, can you give us some background on the game?

Donna Powell: Ranch Town is set in the Gold Rush era. You have claimed a plot of land and it is up to you to make a living. You start with a rather basic set up of a cow and some crops. As you progress through the game you unlock all kinds of machines that enable you to sift river soil for gold dust, catch and cook fish and mine that all important ore.

SGC: Ranch Town seems to take as much (or more) inspiration from Harvest Moon as other Facebook farming games. Where has Meteor Games drawn its inspiration from?

DP: Some of the core mechanics are definitely influenced by Harvest Moon. It is a great game that we have a lot of respect for. The Wild West theme really comes from a nostalgic love old films and playing Oregon Trail. Although fortunately in Ranch Town you are not in danger of dying from dysentery : )

At Meteor, we take our inspiration from anything we feel is interesting and fun. The main theme of Island Paradise is loosely based on the classic tales of Robison Crusoe, Treasure Island and Coral Island. We have also drawn influences from popular culture including Lost and Gulliver’s Island.

SGC: Right now, fishing and mining are done right next to a player’s farm. Is there any chance that down the line players might have to “travel” somewhere (like inside a mine) to perform these activities? Or that players might have to buy or craft a fishing pole or other equipment?

DP: The initial prototype for Ranch Town had an avatar that would run around tending to everything. We are working on releasing that into the game in the near future. [Note: This interview was conducted prior to the Ranch Town farmer debuting.] Your little guy/girl should really have a fishing rod, or at least a net if they are going to try to catch anything!

More advanced crafting, more space and the ability to travel to neighboring ranches are also planned.

SGC: Right now, Ranch Town’s ‘Western’ theme is fairly light. How does Meteor Games intend to give the game a strong Western flavor? Allow standoffs at High Noon?

DP: Haha, pistol fights may be a bit too violent, but we do have a lot of interesting concepts that have yet to make their way into the game. All these features will help build on the Wild West theme and create a more engaging experience.

SGC: Can you give us a sneak peak at any upcoming Ranch Town features? I’m sure our readers would love it!

DP: More space, decorative items and new animals.

We would like to thank Donna for her time, and for her insight into Meteor Games’ creative process.

Happy Island Adds Steakhouse & Bush Camp

Happy Island developer Crowdstar kept the updates coming today, adding a trio of new attractions, a handful of new decorations, and a premium mystery pinata.

The new attractions are: Bush Camp, Fish Tank, and Bill’s Steakhouse. The Bush Camp and Bill’s Steakhouse are both for sale for coins, and store 2700 and 2250 coins, respectively. The Fish Tank is for sale for 55 FB$ ($5.50), and stores 1750 coins.

The new attractions are: Expedition Jeep, Savannah Grass, Acacia Tree, and Redwood Boardwalk. Most of these items seem to match the new decorations (especially the Bush Camp) quite well. Perhaps Crowdstar intended for players to notice the synergy, as well?

Finally, a special Cinco de Mayo Pinata is also available for a limited time. The Pinata is for sale for 24 FB$ ($2.40), but is guaranteed to contain an item that normally sells for for more in the Happy Island shop. There are 15 potential mystery items in total.

Interview: Ameba Pico’s US Invasion

Ameba Pico from CyberAgent America originally caught our attention due to its strange (but oddly cute) name. When we tried the game out, we discovered it was less of a game, and more of a true virtual world or social platform. Players can run around in various themed lobbies with other players, strike up a conversation, play a minigame, even organize parties in their own virtual home.

As with most virtual worlds, the experience is only as fun as the player makes it. We had a good time giving our avatar a big bushy mustache and running around various rooms shouting “Mustache! Mustache!” …but maybe that is just us.

We wanted to find out the story behind this cute virtual world, so we tracked down CyberAgent America President and CEO Toshi Namba to ask him a few questions about his growing virtual world.

Social Game Central: Can you tell us a little bit about Ameba Pico in general, for those readers that aren’t familiar with the game?

Toshi Namba: Ameba Pico is a newly launched virtual world. It is browser based and provided through Facebook and our own website.

Ameba Pico was originally made in Japan and now it attracts more than 3 million users and has become one of the dominant virtual world services in Japan.

SGC: The game was originally released in Japan, before coming over to the United States. What changes were made to the US version?

TN: We added more hair and skin colors. Also the main hub’s theme was changed from Tokyo to New York.

Facebook was another change. We added extra features that are popular on Facebook, such as gifts.

We understand there is a different demand in different cultures, and we listen to all fan feedback, so we are going to add more features that people want in the future.

SGC: Where does the name ‘Ameba Pico’ come from?

TN: Ameba is our blog platform brand name. In Japan the game is known as AmebaPigg.

When localizing we wanted to keep our brand name, but needed to change Pigg because it may remind some people of the animal pig!

For the name, we were looking for something that sounded cute and one team member came up with Pico, standing for really small in number, which also fit to this small but scalable world.

SGC: In addition to furniture and electronics, the Interior store also sells a large collection of block cubes in various shapes and sizes. Can you explain what these cubes are for, or what players can do with them?

TN: You can use them in your room. Players usually start using them by creating steps and second floors. Some addicted block cube fans create even higher levels, up to six floors. Others create character faces, etc, using the room as a canvas. I love visiting other people’s rooms and I’m always astonished how they are being creative.

SGC: Ameba Pico currently has a handful of minigames, including Rock/Paper/Scissors and Reversi. Are there plans to introduce any more minigames?

TN: Yes. Definitely.

SGC: Ameba Pico recently introduced pets. Can you tell us a little bit about this new feature? Are more pets on the way?

TN: More pets are planned in the future.

Once you get a pet, you can feed them, and interact with them by lifting them up, give them a scratch, etc. As you spend more time with your pet they will learn more actions.

Each pet has its own personality. It’s another way of expressing player’s personality. They sometimes become a bridge to talk with other people, same as in the actual world.

SGC: Ameba Pico frequently adds new content to keep players excited. Can you give us a sneak peak at any upcoming fashions or meeting rooms that are coming soon?

TN: We are always asking our fans what they want to see in Ameba Pico. I think they know the answer and what we need to do is give them back what they want with more than what they have expected.

SGC: Thanks for the opportunity Toshi.

TN: Thank you Justin.

Exclusive: Treasure Madness Interview

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Social Game Central was lucky enough to speak to Treasure Madness developer zSlide recently about their hit treasure-digging title. We tried our best to dig up some treasure of our own for fans of the game, and while zSlide proved to be a cagey bunch and kept things close to the chest, we did come away with some bits of news on what Treasure Madness fans have to look forward to. Best of all, we also have a sneak peak at a big change coming soon to one of TM’s minigames…

A big thank you for zSlide for being good sports and putting up with all our questions they weren’t able to answer. And an even bigger thank you for the news on upcoming enhancements and additions they were able to share with us!

Social Game Central: Thanks speaking with Social Game Central! First off, for those that aren’t familiar, can you tell us a little but about zSlide, and Treasure Madness?

zSlide: zSlide has been in social gaming for 3 years. Initially we created our own portal,, which lets you customize flash games to post on your blog or social network profile.
In July 2009 we launched the preview of TM, initially named Treasure Mania. And we followed-up with a more complete version, renamed to Treasure Madness in November 2009. The game is still evolving very fast, hence we still call it beta.

SGC: Quick-eyed players have noticed that when skipping a minigame, there are a couple of new names and icons! Very sneaky. One title I noticed was “Wooden Maze.” Can you tell us anything about these? [Ed. Note: This interview was conducted before the new Wooden Maze minigame was released]

zS: Yes it appeared first as a teaser but we’ve released it now. I hope you like it.

SGC: First Christmas received exclusive treasures and maps, then New Year’s, and most recently Valentine’s. Is the plan to continue releasing holiday-themed maps and treasures in 2010?

zS: We are getting a lot of positive feedback on this kind of seasonal content, so yes, we’ll probably keep on doing it.

SGC: Although there have been lots of improvements and additions to Treasure Madness over the last few months, observant players have noticed we’re still in “Chapter 1: The Americas.” Does this mean future chapters are on the way? How would a new Chapter be different than a normal game update?

zS: First off, along with yesterday’s release, we renamed “Chapter 1″ to “Book 1″. You might think it suggests a Book 2 down the line… but I can’t elaborate on that yet.

SGC: Any plans for something really challenging for advanced players? Maybe a new, high-HP tile?

zS: Thanks for the suggestion. We’ll think about it.

SGC: Right now most advanced players are well beyond master-level for the 6 current minigames. Could they be made more difficult at high-levels in the future? Or will they remain unchanged?

zS: When you get to a high level, the duration granted to achieve the game gets shorter and shorter. But we’re working on it to increase the challenge further.

SGC: Anything else you’d like to tell Treasure Madness fans to look forward to? I’m sure they would really love a sneak-preview of something… ;)

zS: How about an alternate Gold Rush game, specifically tailored to our arachnophobic players:

Thanks again to zSlide. Treasure Madness is one of our favorite Facebook games here at SGC, so here’s to hoping there’s lots more to come from zSlide.

Farmville Releases $40 Unwither Ring

In a pricing first for Facebook games, Zynga developer Farmville has released a special ring that, if owned, will cause your Farmville crops to never wither again. Disclaimer: our headline isn’t entirely accurate – the ring isn’t actually $40. Relieved? Don’t be. It’s more – closer to $41.

The ring is for sale for 250 FV$, which works out to just over $40. In a textbook example of very deliberate virtual item pricing, gamers can purchase 240 FV$ for $40 flat, giving them not quite enough to buy this coveted piece of jewelry. To have enough, players will need to buy a bigger chunk of virtual Farmville dollars, ensuring they have plenty left over for other items.

Price aside, the ring itself is extremely powerful and its value should be apparent to all Farmville players. It is the equivilant of a “God Mode” or invincibility cheat in a more traditional game. Farmville has never been “difficult” per se, but this Unwither Ring makes it essentially impossible to lose.

In an interesting Valentine’s Day twist, players can’t actually purchase the ring for themselves. Instead, it is only available to gift to other players, and only until the 14th. Have a significant other that loves Farmville? Something tells me this item was created with just you in mind…

Exclusive: My Town Interview Reveals Big Plans

Social Game Central was lucky enough to sit down with Broken Bulb Studios President (and My Town developer) Jason Moore recently. We covered a wide range of topics, including details on traffic animation, the addition of trophies, and Broken Bulb’s plans to add over 100 new buildings to their rapidly growing title. We also solve the mystery of the “old man” who provides the tutorial voice-over when players first join My Town. Last but certainly not least, Moore gave us a visual sneak peak of one upcoming building.

Social Game Central: For those that aren’t familiar with Broken Bulb or My Town, can you tell us a little about the company, and give us an overview of your biggest game, My Town?

Jason Moore: Broken Bulb Studios is a brand new game studio who’s sole intention is improving the quality and experience of social games. Although the game studio is new, it was founded by a team who has been working exclusively on social network content for over 5 years.

Our biggest game, My Town, was designed with the idea of taking successful “harvesting” games to the next level. Our main goal in My Town is to allow users to express themselves via customization and control over building a town that they feel represents themselves personally. As we continue to build My Town, personal expression is our main goal.

SGC: Where did the idea for My Town come from? How long did Broken Bulb work on the title before flipping the switch?

JM: We wanted to build a harvesting game fit three main criteria. First, we needed it to be familiar. We didn’t want to invent some cool Space Planet World game that players wouldn’t inherently know what to do. Second, we wanted to create something that wasn’t being done in our market yet instead of being like every other developer who simply copies popular genres. The last criteria was that our users could use the game to express themselves. Eventually we landed on My Town and we launched the first Beta version after 3 months of work.

SGC: My Town has taken off like a rocket, and now has 5X the number of players it had a month ago. What about the game is attracting the Facebook community? Do they just love the music, or wise old tutorial giver? Or maybe they’re just lapsed Sim City fans?

JM: I think there are many reasons why My Town’s popularity is taking off. First and foremost I would be lying if I didn’t give credit to the fact that this is a game developed using every avenue Facebook allows to interconnect and grow the game organically through their channels. But more importantly, the game is fun and expressive. No matter how many users you can acquire, the question is always how many can you keep. That’s where we succeed and we believe it’s due to our player-centric mindset where our game players come first, second, and third.

SGC: Speaking of the old-man tutorial voice, I have to ask, who in the office provided it, and how did you all first discover his talents? Do you force him to answer the phones? Inquiring minds want to know!

JM: Haha, funny enough I personally did the voice over for the Mayor. I wanted to make sure our game stood out right when people signed up to play. I guess it’s not often that the co-founder and President does the “acting” in a game, but it’s also not often that the co-founder and President of a game studio went to college for “Acting / Directing.”

SGC: Right now, the more serious My Town players have unlocked all the game’s buildings. Are there plans for more high-level content? Can you give us an example of what that content might be?

JM: The plans are endless! We have so much in development it’s mind boggling. We will have over 100 new buildings added in the game by the end of the year. We are working on building famous structures and landmarks of the world.

SGC: The two icons in the upper right of My Town have been “Coming Soon” for a while now. Can you tell us about them? I’m assuming the trophy is going to be an achievements/accomplishments system… what types of things will players earn trophies for?

JM: Yes, the top two icons have been coming soon for a while, but the wait is almost over. Next week we will be launching our Trophies system and achievements will come shortly after that. One of the most exciting things about this system is that it will reward and entice users to build unique and meaningful towns. You won’t simply be able to mass build the one item that makes the most money to get ahead in the game and we believe this will make self expression much more prevalent.

(Question submitted by My Town fan) Are you considering adding animation (like moving cars or people)?

JM: We are already working on adding traffic and animation into the game. The two features we get asked for the most are traffic on the streets and a full-screen option. They are both currently being developed and should be seen within a month.

SGC: I’m enjoying My Town, but one criticism I have is that the game is really not too different from farming games, with players “harvesting” buildings instead of crops. Is there any desire to add elements like requiring power plants, or requiring buildings to be connected to roads? Or is this all part of the game’s balance between accessibility and complexity?

JM: We definitely will never require a normal structure to how you build your town. We want people to build their towns however they want to. That being said, the Trophies and more specifically Achievements system will completely remove the one dimensional harvesting feel. We’re very excited for this launch.

SGC: Finally, if I ask very very nicely, will you give us a sneak-peak at an upcoming My Town addition?
JM: Yes, I’ve included the image of an upcoming building. This will probably be released next Thursday, Jan 28th:

(click image for full-size)

Facebook My Town Luxury Hotel

I’d like to thank Jason so much for taking the time to speak with us. Keep your browser pointed to Social Game Central for all the latest on My Town and all your other favorite Facebook games.