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I kinda hate Zynga.
I remind myself of that just about every night, usually around two in the morning, when I’m dreary-eyed, clicking around in Empires and Allies, trying to make sure I don’t waste any of the free energy (used for actions) the Facebook game steadily drip-feeds me. Yes, I’m an addict…and I hate my supplier for it.
When my E&A cohort (and former Bitmob/EGM writer Michael Donahoe) told me he heard the publisher was coming out with a fantasy-themed version of the military building/resource/strategy game we’ve been playing, I was quite thrilled. I’d go from gathering armies and fleets of commandos, Vulcan tanks, assault battleships, and Apache air ships to amassing dragons, orcs, and wizards for some dorky social-networking war. Perhaps it’d be like FarmVille meets Heroes of Might and Magic, which would be akin to mixing crack with crack.
Not exactly. Today, I found out Zynga’s upcoming CastleVille will be slightly less Empires and Allies and more CityVille — hey, it is a -Ville game, after all. That means it will be less about testing military might and more about building up your kingdom and going on quests and adventures. It’ll be a little more character and story driven than we’re used to seeing out of Zynga, but it doesn’t seem like it’ll be quite as “game-y” as their latest, Adventure World, either.
I spent a few minutes with Bill Jackson, creative director at Zynga Dallas (which has some developers who’ve worked on hardcore titles such as Age of Empires and Halo Wars), and he gave me a bit more insight into what we’re getting exactly with this newest -Ville.
Bitmob: Would you describe CastleVille as a little more Empires and Allies or more Adventure World in terms of gameplay?
Bill Jackson: CastleVille is the fourth-generation -Ville game. It starts with FarmVille, FrontierVille, and CityVille. If I had to pick a game [that CastleVille] is really close to, I’d pick one of them. It’s a part of that evolution. It’s got some CityVille in it. It’s got some FrontierVille in it. And of course, it’s got some CastleVille in it — its own unique stuff. But I would say FrontierVille and CityVille are the strongest influences there.
Bitmob: So is CastleVille more about building stuff and managing resources than, say, conflict or adventure?
BJ: In that light, the exploration and adventure elements are probably the big things that CastleVille adds to the -Ville franchise. That’s one of the key differentiators. It’s about exploring the world, finding and unlocking the cast of characters [editor’s note: pictured above], really learning about their stories…it’s about the narrative as well.
What do you do as a player? What do you aspire to? To build this magnificent kingdom and this beautiful castle. How do you do that? By following through the stories, going on the quests, unlocking the characters, and finding your way through this world.
Bitmob: Will you be slaying dragons…anything like that?
BJ: Yes, beastie combat is a big part of the game. So you’ll be going out and uncovering good things — like new characters to add to your kingdom — and bad things, like maybe a dragon or nasty wolves that you need to deal with.
So it’s not just all about perfect beauty and harmony. There is some conflict in terms of the beasties. You’re going to have to deal with them, and you’re going to have to ask your friends to help you deal with them as well.
BJ: We call them beasties. I can’t go through all the different types, but there are different ones with different behaviors. So yes, you’ll encounter some bad guys as you go through the world. [Laughs]
Bitmob: Can you be evil in this game?
BJ: You can be evil in certain ways, but the game is not about choosing a path between good and evil like in, say, some of the traditional console games that we’ve worked on that may have had that choice. It’s not a game about choosing good or evil; it’s a game about working with your friends to progress and to grow and to build what you want to build.