Social network games have been accused of being highly viral marketing machines that place monetization methods before actual game design.
But renowned Civilization
creator Sid Meier told Gamasutra in a new feature interview
that he is taking his own approach to the fast-paced social gaming space with his new Facebook game CivWorld
-- a design-driven approach that he brings from his years of working in the more traditional packaged games space.
"If we can make a fun game, there will probably be some way for us to monetize that," Meier said. "Some people will find that experience hopefully compelling enough, fun enough to want to invest in it."
It's a philosophy that puts a lot of faith in the audience, as well as in the design expertise of himself and the CivWorld
team, he admitted.
While many social games put monetization methods and user metrics first, Meier is using gut instinct, experience and subjective feedback to "find the fun," then gradually focus more on player behavior using metrics.
"That's the way we look at it," he said. "It's not about having a monetizing engine and trying to attach a game to it. It's about making a game that people want to play, and then thinking about the monetization issues."
Meier isn't totally against using metrics and other conveniences that social gaming development offers. But he believes that a solid basis of fun game design will pay off.
"Really thinking about how monetization can be done without destroying the experience for other players is really important," Meier added. "It was a new thing for us, and we wanted to be really careful about how it was done. So, a fair amount of thought did go into that."
The designer is aware that his approach to social game development differs from other social game makers (for example, CivWorld
has been in development for a year-and-a-half, whereas Zynga's wildly-successful FarmVille
was built in five weeks), but he's hoping Facebook-goers will start to catch on now that CivWorld
has launched in open beta.
"It's certainly an experiment," he said. "It's certainly something new. We'll see how things turn out."
The full Gamasutra feature
goes in-depth on Meier's design philosophies and approach to social game monetization.