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Idle Games and the 'holy war against social games that suck'

San Francisco-based startup Idle Games has a bone to pick with the current evolution of social games available, calling itself "the instigator of a holy war against social games that suck and aren't actually social."
San Francisco-based startup Idle Games has a bone to pick with the current evolution of social games available, recently calling itself "the instigator of a holy war against social games that suck and aren't actually social." Whether you agree with the sentiment or not, it's a statement that either sets the company up as an advocate of a new breed of social games, or sets it up for a huge fall, all dependent on whether its first release, Idle Worship, is classed as social by its players and critics. Gamasutra asked Idle Games' co-founder and CEO Jeff Hyman how Idle Worship, released on Facebook earlier this month, is "actually social" compared to what he deems non-social. "The question would be somewhat easier to answer if it was 'how are we not social'," Hyman quips, before stating what he believes are the defining differences. "Idle Worship offers synchronous and asynchronous game play. Fundamentally I don't believe you can have a social game without at least offering up the ability to play in real-time with others," he begins. Secondly, he states that for a game to be classed as social, "you must be able to play with anyone at anytime. Our platform offers an 'unsharded universe,' which is just a fancy way of saying it doesn't matter what server you are on. Everyone can play with anyone in real-time." To finish off, he says that Idle Games is looking to connect friends and strangers in ways that are "unrealized" in current social games. "Most actions you take in the game create 'reactions' or 'side effects' that ripple throughout the world," he explains further. "These side effects create social context between complete strangers. While it feels wonderfully random, it's not - these matches are selected by complex algorithms and our recommendation engine." "This underlying technology helps us bring together people that have a high likelihood of having fun together," he says. Before Idle Games began to put together what it describes as real social games, the team sat down to write a 159 page "script" that documented exactly how the studio planned to make Idle Worship social. "I would say at launch, we managed to get about 25 percent of what we wanted into the game," admits Hyman. "So while we do have a large team working on Idle Worship, we've also been working on two other games, one of which will launch this summer." On the topic of Michael McCormick, the lead designer of Zynga's hit CityVille that Idle Games hired away, Hyman says, "Although we just recently announced Michael's joining, he has been with us since January." "In that short time, Michael has made invaluable contributions that helped ready the game and it's initial feature set for launch. Currently, Michael is leading the charge on designing and implementing a very large set of new features."

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