New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that after watching multiple sections of the region rendered idle or outright destroyed after the most devastating hurricane ever seen this side of the Atlantic tore through the East Coast earlier this week. We could all use an opportunity to rebuild. For some, that will be getting out there and moving some trees. For others, that might be playing CityVille 2, the direct sequel to Zynga's record-breaking city-building game on Facebook.
The Zynga East team, led by creative director Brian Reynolds, have taken the CityVille franchise in an interesting direction. One that attempts to hold onto the charm brought through in the original while moving the series forward in ways that both challenge seasoned players and entice new ones. This isn't CityVille Sam's city, no, this is a city for a new lead character, a chiseled man with salt and pepper hair, no less.
Gallery: CityVille 2 on Facebook
"I wanted to try a little bit different tone with this game. It's a little bit snarkier, there's more sarcasm involved," CityVille 2 director of design Mark Nelson says during an overhead tour of his 3D metropolis. "It's got a little different feel from the original CityVille. So, I wanted to bring in some new characters, make them a little more over the top. I want there to be characters that people hate. I want you to go, 'Oh I don't like that guy. I want bad things to happen to him.' That's not a bad thing. There should be passion about these people. Love them or hate them, either one is fine with me. I wanted to go a little bit different direction with the character's and give it a bit of a different feel overall."
This new cast of characters also allowed for an increased focus on story, which involves a case of arson and investigating each new character as if he or she were a suspect. But what's potentially even more interesting is how the play itself has changed. While the core loop of collecting from businesses and using those profits to build out your city hasn't changed much (save for the elimination of farming), the ways in which you do that have ... along with a few surprises.
For one, every interaction with a building has a reaction-based mini game built around it, what Nelson calls a "Dooberometer". Say players are demolishing a building: For every whack of the wrecking ball that's made within the sweet spot, they'll gain more money and resources back from the demolition than they would if they chose not to participate, which is optional. But why wouldn't you want to?
CityVille 2 also operates in a day and night cycle, with different events occurring in each. For example, fires and power outages occur more often during the nighttime, while traffic jams and broken down cars are more likely to be seen while the sun is out. Of course, it's up to you to fix all of these issues as they arise to keep your city running smoothly and to keep the money rolling in.
To that end, there are also Districts. This could prove interesting feature, as it could make cities in CityVille 2 feel more natural than they ever did in the original. Players are encouraged to form special sections in their cities dedicated to a certain demographic or theme, like the French Quarter or the Chinatown, to earn extra bonuses and compete with friends on District leaderboards.
Yes, leaderboards are a thing in CityVille now. And now you can trash talk with your friends (or help them out) with real-time chat in-game. While this is still an asynchronous social game through and through, is friends are playing at the same time, they can chat with one another to give tips or, you know, talk smack.
Simply put, there's more to do, more ways to do it, and more ways to look at it being done in CityVille 2. But is that what the 2.1 million daily players of the original CityVille really want? "I think the reality of the situation is our players are more mature, less naive, and experienced now," Nelson points out. "I think that they demand a little more out of their games, they want greater sophistication."
Seeing parts of entire cities get wiped out and their infrastructures rendered useless by Mother Nature sets a fitting if ironic tone for the sequel to the most successful city-building game on Facebook to launch. It puts a lot into perspective, especially how fragile even the most imposing, proud cities in the world can scar. While it might be true that city-builders are nothing new on Facebook, at this point, I just want to build something.
CityVille 2 is set to launch on Facebook Nov. 1, and on Zynga.com shortly after, in 15 languages.
Click here to play CityVille 2 on Facebook Now >
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