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Casual Connect, July 25, 2012.

Please excuse spelling mistakes and the rough nature of this post as our updates during the IGDA Summit and Casual Connect this week are pretty much liveblogged. This session just ended.


  • Hans Yang, Director of Product, Zynga
  • Amer Ajami, Executive Producer, Zynga

 Zynga LA

  • Core formed by ex-EA LA devs, who primarily worked on RTS games, including Command & Conquer and Lord of the Rings
  • 50 man years working on RTS games
  • 188 man years on strategy games

Why adapt hardcore mechanics for a casual audience?

  • There has to be large audience of players among the tens of million of new social gamers who are hungry for something new

Evolution of Zynga games

  • Poker (first multiplayer game), Mafia Wars (social interaction via virals, PvP), Farmville (isometric), Frontierville, Cityville, Empire and Allies
  • Saw games were getting more complex, and players getting hungrier for more depth, something new
  • Zynga trappings + key, core mechanics from core RTS games = Empire and Allies


  • Territorial expansion (Civilization)
  • Stylish combat (advance wars)
  • Resource management (c&c)
  • Memorable characters (Street Fighter 2)
  • Boss battles (classic action games)

Qualities to look for

1. Presentation – colorful, bright, approachable

  • Look like other Zynga games
  • intro movie
  • fun toy-like units

2. Decision-making – simplify player decisions by making choies understandable

  • linear campaign
  • stronger units look more powerful (no need to reference stat sheets)
  • match icons for combat
  • arrangement of units makes no tactical difference
  • one number for strength and health
  • clear feedback for defensive placement – all upside

3. consequences – reduce negative consequences

  • Can’t ever miss
  • ability to retreat, no penalty
  • No limited window of opportunity for harvesting rare metals

 Tips for operating your game

Hitting your target

  • play test with your audience
  • bribe your neighbour to play, look for “shelf moments” (moments that make the player want to quit) and remove them

Focus on retention

  • Interesting choices stop being interesting
  • So you need to evolve the gameplay to keep giving the player interesting choices