Posted Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:21 PM
The author of Zynga games are the audience. They use the "ready-fire-aim" model, and as much as I personally don't enjoy playing most of their games, the numbers are pretty hard to argue with. There are no real "designers" in the social games companies. A designer is somebody hired to make "choices", plain and simple. Most of the choices that you made in Pitfall were probably made much like the choices I made when making Demon Attack. I basically made choices that appealed to me, personally. It wasn't very hard actually ... I would fiddle with a bunch of stuff, and if I liked it, it went into the game. Enemy logic ... colors ... sound ... number of levels ... difficulty. Whatever. All choices that we made based solely off our personal preferences. It's the basic "author" model.
But this "author" model has nothing in the world to do with what happens at a place like Zynga. Because the author of a social game is the audience itself .. the audience makes all of the choices ... every single aspect of every game is tweaked based on audience feedback, which is often instantaneous. Metrics rule each and every 'choice'. So there is no need for any one person to make the choices that you and I had the priviledge to make in those early years. The audience votes instantly, with their eyeballs and mouseclicks, all measured and instantly delivered back to the team.
I think Zynga has built a near-perfect machine to create the types of games they do. They used to hire "designers" all the time, and they were chewed up and spit out almost as fast as they were hired. And everybody in the social games space wants to be just like them. My latest experience was with EA ... less than a month ago ... brought in to help with the design of a new Zynga-like game featuring one of EA's cherished brands. My involvement with the project lasted exactly one day! It was an astonishing experience, to sit through a day of EA design meetings, to see just how the process of how a game is made has changed from "the day". One thing for certain ... there were no choices to be made. Zero. There was absolutly no reason for a person like myself to be sitting in the room. What we are discussing here, the notion of 'authorship', occurs to me as irrelevant to a conversation about experiences like Farmville. Farmville was never 'authored', there is no script or blueprint or spec. Farmville is a living never finished "thing", morphing every day, with all choices made for tomorrow's version based on yesterday's metrics. There will never be any sort of retro-Farmville players community, since there will never be a playable version of today's version of the game three months from now, let alone ten years from now. I remember playing Mafia Wars when it came out a few years ago, but there is NOWHERE I can go to play that game anymore, it's forever gone. I mean, you can go back and watch old movies, television shows, browse old magazines, read old books, listen to old recordings, or play old 2600 games which haven't changed since the day you made them. But you can never go play last week's Farmville, it's forever gone. The Farmville experience is not authored, it exists merely to serve the whims of the current audience, which changes every day. Sort of like Reality Television .. who is going to be watching reruns of Reality TV? Nobody will care.