On the cusp of an initial public offering of stock, San Francisco-based Zynga is expanding its offerings and spicing up play.
The game going live soon at facebook.com/castleville invites players to become part of a cast of characters including a dragon slayer with a weakness for cupcakes, a lothario, and lovely maidens.
Once players create animated proxies in CastleVille, they will set about making friends, vanquishing enemies, building realms, and dispelling a mysterious darkness cloaking the kingdom.
“You are rebuilding a happy kingdom and out there is a gloomy land where people are lost and need to be brought back to the light,” Jackson said of the overarching storyline.
The latest installment in Zynga’s popular franchise, which includes CityVille and FarmVille, incorporates video game console-style exploration and role playing.
“It is the start of a design that looks like a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) for the mass market,” Zynga Dallas creative director Bill Jackson said while providing AFP with an early look at CastleVille.
“It doesn’t insist you play on their time… You can play it on your time.”
MMORPGs such as market-leading World of Warcraft require players to be at their computers playing one another simultaneously.
But CastleVille lets players fight beasts, build castles, save damsels and more during bits of time they can snatch and then synchronizes actions with moves made by others.
Jackson’s team livened scene graphics with animation like fish jumping and trees moving in wind, and planted surprises in the form of software “Easter eggs” that trigger special effects.
“We really wanted to make the world feel alive,” Jackson said.
He recommended playing CastleVille with headphones, since a 75-piece orchestra in Seattle recorded music for the game.
CastleVille accomplishments can be automatically posted to Facebook, where friends can play as in-game allies to trounce adversaries or surmount challenges. They also get to share in rewards.
Being social by visiting the realms of friends in the game earns players credits that can be used to buy virtual items.
In-game crafting tools let players make potions, art, or other goods that can be bartered in a trading system, part of a game update to be released shortly after launch.
CastleVille will also be available worldwide in 17 languages.
Zynga is building its own game-themed social network in a move that promises to reduce its dependence on Facebook as it prepares for a billion-dollar stock market debut.
Zynga last month provided a glimpse at “Project Z,” an online community where people could play popular titles without having to go to Facebook.
More than 232 million people play Zynga games each month, with most of the activity taking place between friends in the world’s leading social network.
Zynga games are free to play but the startup makes money by selling virtual in-game goods to players and serving up advertising.
According to its SEC filing, Zynga, which was founded in 2007, enjoyed $235.4 million in revenue in the first three months of the year, compared to just $100.9 million in the same period of 2010.
Zynga filed paperwork in July for an initial public offering aiming to raise about $1 billion from the markets.
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