TGCVR – Results and Thoughts

The Great CityVille Race (click for details) concluded on Saturday evening, so what has it taught us?

Casual - Before

Casual - After

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Account A

Money: 9920 —> 29919 (19999)

Goods: 447 —>58 (This stat really doesn’t matter)

XP: 346 (Level 10) —> 1096 (Level 17) (750)

Expansions: 0 —> 1 (1)

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Hardcore - Before

Hardcore - After

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Account B

Money: 6476 —> 41296 (34820)

Goods: 715 —>91 (Seriously, it don’t mean nuthin’ blud)

XP: 344 (Level 10) —> 1215 (Level 17) (871)

Expansions: 0 —> 2 (2)

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Not very much really! While taking part in this experiment, I realized how flawed it was and that the Hardcore town was just snowballing. Overall, the Hardcore town did better because I invested my money more. Decorations did help a lot but, overall, it’s the same playing Casual or Hardcore if you just use your brain. There are some lessons to learn, but nothing too deep…

Lesson 1: Business > Population

Quite simply, if you want to progress and want to have a ton of money (the same thing), then businesses are the best route to take. Don’t bother with population, just get enough so you can build all your businesses and then forget about it. To get 15 businesses, I only needed about 3 community buildings (which raise the pop cap).

Businesses give you higher rewards, sooner and take up less space than houses. Once you’ve built the first few houses, they start getting bigger and taking days to collect. Even after all that time, the reward is definitely not worth it. Businesses also only take about 2 energy to build, whereas the higher level houses take up to 4. More frequent collection also takes advantage of the decoration income bonuses. This, coupled with the higher rewards, make it a no brainer.

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Lesson 2: Decorations make all the difference

With clever placement (mine above isn’t that clever, but I’ve tried maximising every income producing building) you can get about 15-20% more income on every collection building. There is probably an optimal placement strategy, emphasizing 4-square buildings with enough spaces between them to spam 1-square decorations. The need for businesses to connect to roads makes this more difficult than you’d think.

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Lesson 3: Plan your crops

This is probably something a FarmVille player can do much better than me. Planning how many businesses you have, how many goods they need, how long they need to refill and then timing your crops to be harvested at the perfect time, it’s complicated stuff! It definitely makes things a lot more lucrative, however. If you perfectly plan crops, you won’t even need to increase your Goods limit. Unfortunately for me, I needed a massive Goods cap limit increase because I wasn’t planning very well. Goods buildings take up a lot of space, both my expansions have been taken up by just 2 buildings.

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Lesson 4: Every 2 hours…

Collecting your rewards and crops in one big chunk is very important. The ‘Click Combo Meter’ raises to ‘Masterful’ and grants you a bonus of around 1000-1400 coins. At least at this low level, that is a lot. If you can reach masterful a couple of times, in one go, then you’ll be playing optimally. Until I reached level 17, it generally took 2 hours to fill my Energy meter. It’s not actually advisable to play CityVille every hour of  the day because the Click Combo Meter requires chunks of energy.

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As you can tell, there isn’t a huge amount to playing CityVille ‘Hardcore’. This leads me to conclude that it’s not as ground-breaking as I first thought. The gameplay has simply not advanced enough from the days of the original FarmVille. CityVille is undeniably the best generic city builder on Facebook (I prefer City of Wonder if you include all city games), but it really is just an extremely polished addition to an already saturated market. Undoubtedly it has been a success for Zynga, but it’s likely that it wouldn’t even make a splash in the pond if it didn’t have the backing of the Zynga brand name and the billions of FarmVille players.

I think the biggest thing CityVille tells us is that the Facebook game development industry is becoming much like the console game development industry. The big names have the advertising budget and the fanboys (installed user bases) to remain risk free. There is no need for innovation, there is no competition. Zynga is like the Activision-Blizzard of social gaming. They can release the same old big budget FPS war games (the city builders of traditional gaming in that there is an ocean of mediocrity out there) and no-one is going to care about the quality because it has the CoD brand name and all their friends are playing it.

Personally, I think this is quite worrying. While there are smaller developers, such as Booyah! (Nightclub City) and Cie Games (Car Town), innovation is likely to fall as the average Facebook gamer has no chance finding a gem in this rough. Facebook gaming is a haystack and innovation is becoming the proverbial needle. Until Zynga moves on from hay, there’s not much that can be done.

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Sam


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