30 May 2010

Zynga - the new Amway

Once in a while I step back from MUDDING, console games and PC games and look at what is considered casual gaming. Zynga has lately been one of the names that is splashed all over such games - much as EPIC and IGN was in the past. They have become a staple of social sites such as MySpace and Facebook and have developed (I use that term loosely) multiple Flash games. Yet they leave something to be desired as a game developer. Perhaps it is a sense that gamers or even coders are developing the games instead of the accounting department. So over the next few weeks I shall take each Zynga game and critique it here - starting at the bottom.

Ah what IS the bottom - that is a good question. There are several games that vie for this position in my mind in the Zynga list of games. I think though Treasure Island maybe the winner. You begin this game on your own island with a hut. a shovel and little garden plot in which to grow fruit. Oh and a gem tree which grows a certain color of gem.

The basic game premise is that you travel to islands on a map and dig to find treasure. Each island has 3 treasure collection types hidden on it. Each collection contains 5 items to collect. The idea is that digging uses energy and returns fruit, experience points,a treasure chest, a special or nothing. Eating fruit restores a certain percentage of energy. Gaining a level restores it all and increases the max. So you click on a picture of a map, click on an island on the map, click on a spot on the island and watch your basic low grade toon go through some lame animation. Tinse and repeat till out of energy, eat fruit, go again.

Not boring enough for you? But wait there is more! See you can travel to friends' islands click on a button to chase off sea gulls or clean it or something and gain xp. Then get a gem from their tree. They may have a different color gem tree and this becomes important because you NEED these gems to unlock Tiki heads to gain access to certain parts of some of the islands. How exciting! Of course this means you must recruit friends to play the game and they have to agree to be your neighbors.

So what is the problem with this game other than the Ho Hum factor? Well, first if you do not have enough friends who cannot sleep at night and need something tedious to do, you are unlikely to get the gems needed to proceed. Unless you purchase, find or earn 'Island Cash' see Island cash is used for in game items. Like most Zynga games this is a lame excuse to get real world money out of its players.

As if that were not enough, the collections are so few that the RNG for any collection chest discovered returns the same items over and over. Figure 21 chests on an island 15 possible items to fill 3 collections, so why do i get 6 of the same
two items OFTEN and few of the others even to the point of obtaining NONE of one of the collections? Perhaps they are all behind the Tikis i cannot unlock because most of MY gaming friends have at least some taste

The final thing that makes this the bottom of the list, other than the stereotyping of islands and their dwellers, is just lazy coding. Performance is awful. Why does EVERY Zynga game kick my fan off into high on my machine? It is not like any real processing or even hardcore graphics are going on. I think most of the artists at Zynga use children's coloring books as templates for items and characters. Why can't pop ups for actions wait their turn? Why do they interfere with each other? And most of all I want to know why it is you can track how long since a neighbor logged in but cannot return a different message than you have already collected this from this neighbor today. How difficult is it to make another object to return upon that if statement? here let me GIVE you logic zynga -

Check neighbor gem counter //max number of gems that by be collected from island
Check last neighbor login //last login of island owner
Check PC obtained time //date and time of last gem obtained from this island by pc

on command get gem from basket
secure pc
IF neighbor login > 24 hours //island owner not played in over a day
return "Sorry your neighbor.name has not been around to harvest any gems. Suggest
neighbor.name come play with you on Treasure Island."
goto fail
IF neighbor gems <= 0 // max gems distributed
return "Sorry, neighbor.name's gems have all been claimed."
IF pc obtained time gem <= 24 hours //player got one from here already today
return "Return later you already got a gem from this basket today."
ELSE //valid collection condition
PC gems = pc gems +1
neighbor.gem counter -1
PC obtained time reset to server time

unsecure pc

Ok sort of messy psuedo code but when a game is about the intelligence level of a 3rd grader on a site that requires you be 13 or older to have an account. I figure there is a serious lack of basic understanding of logic in the coding team. Even Neopets has more exciting games than this and they are MEANT for kids. So as far as casual gaming goes this one FAILS.