CastleVille, a medieval-era game of princes and princesses, is an extension of a core franchise for Zynga, with CityVille still being the most popular social game with 53 million monthly active users. The company is refreshing the franchise as it prepares for its upcoming IPO as it has done with other recent launches, making its games more complex, interactive and story-driven.
The new game, expected to launch in the next couple weeks, was created by Zynga's Dallas studio, which was formed from Zynga's acquisition of Bonfire Studios. The team at Bonfire previously worked on major console and PC titles such as Age of Empires, Age of Mythology and Halo Wars.
CastleVille brings deeper characters and narrative storytelling to Zynga's games, says Bill Jackson, creative director of Zynga Dallas. "We've added more depth and life to the characters and focused a lot of time on making them as real as possible," Jackson says. "We're bringing the game closer to the design for a massively multiplayer role playing game for the mass market. The idea is to have a world full of things to uncover and uncover together with friends."
People can create their own intricate avatars in the game, or choose from a random one. Then they meet a variety of characters, complete quests and explore different parts of the world. The game's story develops as people meet characters and evolves as people interact with the characters. People make the characters into loyal subjects by building houses for them. The characters were developed with intricate animations for each movement they make, Jackson says. The game also has been built so that various elements in the game are "alive" and can all move at the same time.
CastleVille includes a new way of using reputation. People get reputation points by visiting their friends' kingdoms and helping them. And there are certain parts of the game that can only be accessed using reputation points, which adds more incentive to increase the social interaction in the game. Another new social feature of the game is crafting, where people can create art, armor or potions with the help of friends. Zynga will also be adding a bartering system where people can trade and sell items with friends.
CastleVille also adds a game mechanic to drive exploration called "gloom." These are dark areas outside of the explored kingdom. People can scroll over items in the gloom to get hints of what characters or treasures are out there.