Friday, September 28, 2012

Adding Farmville elements to me my game

Or Scope creep crope sceep.

I've been downloading and playing a whole load of mobile games, one of which is a Farmville lite type game called Little Dragons. It's a nice little tamagochi type game where you you have to hatch and then take care of a load of cute cartoon dragons, with great production values and a disastrously bad monetisation system (I may be wrong about, I have no stats to back this up). It has a system where you have multiple habitats that contain dragons, and each dragon is constantly generating gold, whether you're actually playing or not. The habitats have a limit on how much gold they can hold, then they're full up and the dragons stop producing. As I said, this carries on in real time, even if you're not playing, so what it does is encourage you to open up the game every few hours, just to check on your dragons and collect the gold.

It works incredibly well with a mobile game because most people have their mobiles with them most of the time, and it's very easy to succumb to the urge to just open it up, make a few clicks and have a quick play. I want to leverage this impulse for my game, to make the players feel an itch to boot it up and take a quick look every few hours, even if they're not playing a long session.

Since it's so difficult to actually charge for an app I also want to add at least some form of micro payments to the game. I don't want to compromise the main game so I was thinking about adding an extra layer to the game which I could then charge for. It makes sense and I think will work well for this layer to be the farmville style crack that will keep the users coming back to my game all through the day.

What I'm planning is for the player to have a town that is the base for all of their characters to strike off into the dungeon. My basic thinking is:

  • The town will have several different areas/buildings that can be used to create items and consumables that can be used in the game.
  • A training building where you can build upgrades that can be given to you characters on creation.
  • An embassy to unlock new classes/races.
  • There will be an actual graveyard for dead characters - I'd love to let the player upgrade gravestones into extravagant statues and tombs.
  • Square of honour, with statues and monuments to successful characters.
  • Production buildings that generate resources, that will need to be harvested. Probably wil be mine, farm and lumber forest. Each will be upgradable.
  • Make it a rule that the items created won't be too powerful. They'll be the kind of thing that can make the early game easier but will be obsolete by the time the players gets to mid-late game. This means is hopefully won't compromise the main game for the hardcore players while providing a way to make the early game easier for the casual players, who may like this game layer more anyway.
  • This layer will be completely separate to the actual game so if I shit my britches I can discard it without breaking or having to rethink too much the main game.
  • I was already planning on creating a web version of the game to drive traffic to the mobile versions, and this gives me something extra to use to differentiate the separate versions without crippling the web version to the point that it's not fun.

The big, scary drawback to the idea is that this farmville layer could almost be viewed as a standalone game on it's own. It's a big job added onto and already huge job. The balancing will be difficult to get right, it needs lots of extra assets and plugging it into a micro payments system is going to require a crap load of testing, not to mention just learning to use the apis in the first place.

On the other hand it's something extra to make what I'm doing something more than just another tired Roguelike clone. It also adds some permanence to the game - something that survives even if you characters don't, and as it adds move avenues for micro payments it adds more chance that I may actually make some money from the game. I'm already mentally planning what I'm going to do.

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