Some might say Hollywood has had the biggest influence on gaming, and others will argue that the late Steve Jobs is one of the most important figures in gaming. FarmVille-maker Zynga is also wielding a pretty big hammer, though you might be hard pressed to find many game makers who will freely admit to it.
Save for MMO maker Todd Coleman. The KingsIsle creative director, responsible for the kid-friendly MMO Wizard 101, says that Zynga games were a major inspiration for Grub Guardians, an online tower defense game that also serves as a companion game to Wizard 101.
"We're taking a trick from the Zynga playbook," he says. "The trick is that players like to connect to a game's advancement curve, they like to make forward progress from whatever device they have handy."
In this case, players who want to get ahead in Wizard 101, but don't have a computer handy, will be able to do so by playing Grub Guardians. Play a few rounds of the tower defense game in whatever browser you have handy (and later on iOS and Android devices), then score new items and experience for your pet in Wizard.
"Sometimes players take 15 minutes, sometimes two hours, sometimes just 30 seconds to play Wizard. We thought it would be interesting to expose smaller, more digestible entry points to make advancements in the game," Coleman says.
The one way Zynga isn't influencing this MMO developer? Metrics. Zynga is notorious for crunching numbers and then using them to drive the game making process. Coleman maintains that when it comes to making games with more complexity than, say, FarmVille, you can't just rely on data to make decisions. Sometimes, he says, you just have to go with your gut.
Coleman and crew's guts seems to be leading down the right path (Wizard 101 has 13 million unique users a month, according to the Gamasutra article), though it's also hard to argue with Zynga's number crunching ways when a simple game like FarmVille brings in 28 million players a month. In the battle of gut vs. numbers -- numbers win. Or do they?
> KingsIsle And Wizard101 Take Hints From 'The Zynga Playbook' [Gamasutra]