So you're probably thinking "another Facebook game on 'Play This Thing!'?" with nested quotes and punctuation neatly laid out, because that's how you think - nested. However, here are some things you may not know that makes this particular FB game touchingly indie:
- it's made by the designers of Train and uh... this game you may have heard of: DOOM.
- its parent company is currently being taken the woodshed with hardcore mafia-style, Hostel 2-level grotesque punishment by Facebook. They've disabled all the distribution/retargeting channels on all the company's apps for six months, except this game, which is only suspended until Wednesday. The company is technically not owned by anyone, except its owners and maybe some VCs, but this kind of singling out gives it a shred of indie dignity, maybe?
- it makes numerous, canny references to the Millenial Fair in Chrono Trigger.
You take all the stuff that Brian Reynolds made work in Frontville but tweaked out, collections for example play like a slot machine reward every time you click a tree. You get one click every two minutes and you need some special items that pop-up to complete buildings. This alone will drive a significant percentage of the audience to pay less than a dollar into the game, just some extra Facebook credits and why not, but I think they'll be tapping into a higher monetization rate for that. They also have a more balanced economy, with the battle between nature and your energy bar brokered by Protectors which cost wood - in Frontville there was always a surplus of wood, here the snake gorges on its tail.
But wait! It doesn't sell out the level curve and adjust it so you get a Ding! at frequent, clean intervals, it instead has a meaty level curve, where each new Ding! marks new things to do, and where getting to level 20 puts you on par with Drizzt Do'Urden - albeit a Teddy Bear version.
There are monsters to fight, and gothic stuff mixed with Winnie The Pooh meets Redwall character designs.
My biggest criticism is they over-saturation of newsfeeds. Until recently, the way you promulgated a Facebook game and got people to re-engage was through prompting newsfeeds. Every conceivable thing you could post about is solicited for a feed, because maybe you'll click on one of those options, and it will shotgun some "virality" to people who browse your page. Well, Facebook nerfed the newsfeed, now only people who are already playing can see it - personally I think it's the best goddamned thing to ever happen to the platform. If they adapt this game to having just a few key feeds that relate to some actual social gameplay, a dimension where the title is currently weak, that would do wonders for the experience and probably the longer-term business.
My biggest praise is that this game has, more than any other title I've seen on the platform, pop-up book potential for new features to recombinantly deepenify it. I wish Brenda and John the courage, nay, the bravado - ok, that's just a synonym - to take this game in bold directions that challenge the conventional mass-market logics chaining the rest of the industry.
But I have a feeling the company politics surrounding the only revenue-generating property in the portfolio might complicate that. If that's the case: Brenda Brathwaite, John Romero, I am hiring.