Zynga's Brian Reynolds trying deeper, more clever social game design

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Brian Reynolds ZyngaHey, you asked for it. Zynga's chief game designer Brian Reynolds never rests, and even now he's working to bring deeper game mechanics to social games without increasing their complexity, Gamasutra reports. Good call, Reynolds, because we're not sure these games could become more complex, really. (Have any of you seen Kingdoms of Camelot?)

In an interview with the game industry news site, the FrontierVille creator was asked whether he expected to social games to become deeper. Reynolds replied, "I think we'll continue to learn how to design games that way. We'll be better and better at hiding the friction, but making there be depth."

In fact, that's what the former Civilization designer has been up to all along. The mechanics you see happening in FrontierVille today were intentionally designed to intuitively teach you how to play without reading a manual or 700 pop-ups. How close he got to that point is up for debate, but he presses on regardless in the name of deeper Facebook games.
So extremely simple parts that just happen to have very subtle interactions with each other -- that was what we were trying to do with FrontierVille. For example, have a lot of little systems, but we don't make the player have to read a book on how to play before they can start. It's more like, 'Oh look, there's a whole world of stuff; just click on stuff. No matter what you click on, something good will happen!' And then, eventually, you notice that animals work a little bit different from plants, and then maybe you notice, 'Oh look, if I put a sheep here, then the grass doesn't grow back.'
Reynolds continues to explain (check the full interview here) that positive reactions this garners from players, and that this feeling is one he wants to create in his games more regularly without introducing too many complexities like menus and guides. While some would argue that games like FarmVille and CityVille could use even less complexity, this is at least exciting for what Reynolds aspires to in social games. And if the next innovation in social games comes from Reynolds and Zynga, we know it will stir massive waves.

Are you excited to see what Reynolds has in store for Zynga, and inevitably, social games? How would you make social games deeper without being complex? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.
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