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'Virality, Discovery, Persistence' The Foundation For Social Games

A new Gamasutra feature identifies and examines three key components that act as the foundation of successful social games: a persistent society, consistent sense o
A new Gamasutra feature identifies and examines three key components that act as the foundation of successful social games: a persistent society, consistent sense of discovery, and virality. "Beyond just allowing players to leave messages and compare scores, the goal of a social game should be to build a society," explained game designer Tony Ventrice. He says that game makers should promote cooperation amongst players in order to establish such a persistent society. "To achieve this, interdependence needs to exist; a true virtual society will only arise from a game environment where players can't fully succeed without the help of others." Ventrice also said that one of the fundamental traits of a successful social game is a consistent sense of discovery -- whether that sense comes from acquiring and collecting items Pet Society, or creating user-generated content in games like (fluff)Friends. "Players should feel as if they are evolving both their in-game persona as well as influencing the game world around them," said Ventrice. And one of the features that gets perhaps the most attention in the social gaming space is the virality of a game, the third component that Ventrice identifies and breaks down. "This facet of social game design is made possible by the widespread adoption of online social networks like Facebook. Social networks provide a pre-existing web of low-barrier-of-entry connections," wrote Ventrice. He added, "Games that tap into the trust and familiarity existing between friends have the opportunity to spread effortlessly on an exponential scale. Once a game finds a new user, however, if it is going to continue spreading, it needs to retain and convert that user into a new evangelist." For a more in-depth look at the different facets of these three key features that make up the foundation of successful social games, read the full Gamasutra feature, available now.

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