Classics as Social Media Games

Oregon Trail is now on Facebook. It is kind of lousy. Take the old game and extend it so it cannot reasonably be completed in one day, to say nothing of one play session. Add in the social media mechanic of a limited number of turns/amount of energy, in this case several separate bars for that. Add in the social media mechanics of items requiring RMT or soliciting the help of several friends. Add in minimal spamminess. Serve tepid.

Civilization is now on Facebook. It is rather lousy. Take the names from the usual game and throw out pretty much everything. Keep the tech tree in a weird form. Keep the resource types. Replace most of the mechanics with a few mini-games. Remove the world map. What guilds are in most games, nations are here.

This is actually a good idea that makes sense. CivWorld makes superior use of social media gameplay mechanics, if only there were more of a game underneath. Isolated city-states can be competitive early on, but large and/or organized nations own the late-game; this makes sense, and you cannot “rush” it by wiping out other nations, so the game inexorably pushes towards social integration or failure. Instead of “come back in x hours to harvest,” the game accumulates harvests that you can cash in to make everything produce. There is a hard cap on how much real money you are allowed to spend per unit time. I cannot see much/any reason to spam your friends to do the equivalent of tending your crops. They are being a good corporate partner here, not trying to make up for the horrible game by adding addictive elements.

But the games are still horrible. Maybe there is some depth of whatever, were I to spend a few weeks playing HARDCORE, but they play like the original games fed through a food processor then dribbled over a featureless path that takes two weeks to walk.

: Zubon

11 thoughts on “Classics as Social Media Games”

  1. I liked CivWorld somewhat but I think expecting it to be like the original game is a bit unfair. CivWorld was a good foray into taking the civ idea and transforming it for the platform. My main issue with it was some of the bugginess rather than the gameplay itself, but that’s something they’re actively working on I think.

    Anything lacking in gameplay I think is mainly due to it being a bit of an experiment at this stage I’d wager.

  2. I don’t know whether I agree that uploading Oregon to facebook is a shame. I recognise that it is a bit of a classic and in it’s pure original form it has a somewhat iconic status. But we can’t keep gems like Oregon Trail isolated and unplayed, it is precisely because it is such a classic that it should be shared with a younger generation.

    Sure, they’ve probably bastardised it, and the peeps playing now won’t appreciate what the game was like first time around, but at least it hasn’t become a defunct idea languishing on some old server or floppy disk. At least it will still be played and enjoyed.

    I would object to the RMT and spamminess of the game not because it’s a classic, but because I object to most games with RMT and spamminess.

    1. Oregon Trail was released on the iPhone in basically its ‘pure’ form. It’s fun for what it is. Why is Facebook so different?

  3. The games may be awful, but then again they aren’t meant for players like you and I. These are casual games, despite the fan-base of the original games being specialized groups of highly radicalized people, these social media bastardizations are designed with the goal of maximizing the player-base. This simplification, I think, turns them into these tepid creations, devoid of the original mechanics that made the parent games so much more enjoyable.

  4. If people didn’t accept the nickel and diming of RMT, the model wouldn’t work. It’s clear that they do given how common it’s become in literally every genre, so this is only going to get bigger and bigger. It started with episodic gaming (already a transparently anti-consumer scheme to unreasonably extend development times and boost revenue for what should be a single complete game), spiraled into microtransactions (to the point where basically any given game will be released in an unfinished state so the missing parts can be sold for a few bucks each) and now we’ve got iOS and social media games where the entire crux of the game’s existence is to suck money out of consumers.

    The common thread between all of these practices is that they involve releasing incomplete games. Episodic games could be one complete game but the developers choose not to do so. DLC more often than not involves releasing games in an incomplete state. No cover charge games, be they iOS, social media or MMO, are basically incomplete unless you feed them money.

    We’ve gotten used to paying for unfinished work and that’s a little sad.

  5. Personally, I wish these games would take advantage of social media in a different way than just “Spam your friends to play so they can spend money too!”

    There are clever ways to integrate games into Facebook without harassing your friends over it. They just take second fiddle to making money.

    As for the “these are casual games” comment, I’ll have to respectfully disagree. You can make a casual game without sucking the life out of it. Heck, a good number of Game Boy titles fit this description: Meant for small, bite sized chunks of playtime while on the subway or in a car. The remake of Donkey Kong is an example of this. Many of the levels didn’t take up more than one screen, and provided a fun yet short challenge.

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