If you had talked to FrontierVille creator Brian Reynolds a decade or so ago, he probably would have never dreamed that he'd be a pioneer of the social gaming movement, creating a Wild West-themed game for something called 'Facebook.' At that time he was knee-deep in creating real-time strategy games like Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and Rise of Nations, which generally appealed to geeky guys with powerful PCs and a penchant for military maneuvers.
Reynold's time spent creating those PC games are, ironically, exactly what helped him create one of the most popular games in the world, played by both men and women of all ages, many of whom have never played a computer game. He went into more detail on how that's possible in his recent keynote speech at the GDC Online conference in Austin. I caught up with him afterwards to take his temperature on FrontierVille five months later and the state of social gaming.
FrontierVille launched in June and now it's the #3 most popular game on Facebook? Would it be right to say the game exceeded your expectations?
It exceeded mine. I made the game feeling like "OK, well this is going to be my first social game as a designer and most of my colleagues, certainly on the design side, we were all new to social gaming, and we were all, you know, trying to learn about it and pick it up, and I felt like "Well this will be our game that's 'Okay.'" I felt like, I was proud of it. I felt like ...