In a new Gamasutra feature interview
, Zynga East chief designer Brian Reynolds (FrontierVille
) explains how depth is coming to the form, but not at the expense of accessibility.
Reynolds, who has a long history of developing for the PC, recognizes that in the social games space, there is the need to hook gamers quickly. To him, that pick-up-and-play notion is an opportunity to find new ways to bring that depth to games, not an excuse to dumb them down.
"The thing is, that it used to be the kind of people that could even get through all the autoexec.bat stuff with DOS to play a game, well they were pretty technically savvy and they apparently liked to figure things out that weren't always the pleasant parts," says Reynolds.
"And there were fewer people you could sell a game to, but you could be a little bit lazy about how complicated the interface was and they'd still play it," he adds.
However, by 2011, the industry has learned that the removal of friction grows your audience, Reynolds says. "Taking out all that friction, caused by people having people figure stuff out, makes more people like your game. There's more people that are willing to play the game and so then [comically whispers
] you can make more money."
Now that this is a given, he says, "The trick -- if you're a game designer -- is to figure out how to put depth in. Because it's the choices and the patterns and all that stuff that makes the game fun, and last for awhile, and makes you be able to play the game more than one time, makes you always kind of looking for the next little hidden thing, or trying to get over the next challenge."
"And back in the '90s, we could make the games a little more openly complex, in how the parts fit together. Now it's actually more challenging to design the games, because you have to be very subtle with your depth; it has to be very accessible. So extremely simple parts that just happen to have very subtle interactions with each other -- that was what we were trying to do with FrontierVille
He's optimistic that this is the tactic that will continue to allow for maturation and growth of the space's output. "I think we'll continue to learn how to design games that way. We'll be better and better at hiding the friction, but making there be depth," says Reynolds.
The full interview with Reynolds
-- who is joined by Ensemble Studios co-founder Bruce Shelley, who is now consulting for Zynga -- is now live on Gamasutra.