Bubble Safari bursts Zynga's bubble on real-time multiplayer games
"People might laugh at this, but this is the future," Zynga San Diego creative director Mark Turmell says confidently. "There is no question that all games in the future are going to have 'social' at their core, free-to-play at their core. What Zynga is really founded on is social, accessible and free-to-play. You can see the pressure already on the traditional gaming space to lower prices or monetize in a different way. Zynga is just light years ahead of the competition."
The name "Mark Turmell" might sound familiar to some: He's one of the main minds behind classics like Smash TV, NBA Jam and NFL Blitz. Now, he's left a similar role at EA Sports to bring his fiery touch to the FarmVille house. Enter Bubble Safari, the first Zynga game to launch simultaneously on Facebook and Zynga.com, and the company's move to keep ahead of the pack. It's arguably the most action-packed game to come from the developer yet, which is no surprise given Turmell's pedigree.
Bubble Safari, at first glance (and second, for that matter) isn't terribly different from hits like Bubble Witch Saga or Bubble Island on Facebook. In the bubble bopper, players help an ex-space program chimp named Bubbles rescue his friends and his girlfriends from some dastardly poachers by completing numerous puzzles of bubbles by matching three like-colored bubbles together. Those matched bubbles then turn into fruit, which are worth various amounts of points.
There's even an over-world map in Bubble Safari that tracks players' and their friends' progress in the overall game, just like the others. But that's about where the similarities end. For one, this is the zaniest bubble-matching social game we've seen. That's thanks to Turmell bringing the ever-popular On Fire mode from NBA Jam to the sub genre. When players make three matches in a row, their monkey blasts three fiery bubbles from the cannon, destroying entire clusters of bubbles to the blare of trumpets.
Players will come across several interesting power-ups too, whenever they fill up a Bubble Boost meter that randomly produces a power-up, like the Lightning Bubble that creates gaps on the rack of bubbles. Other boosts include sticky bombs that detonate after a few shots are fired, a paint splat that paints a cluster of bubbles the same color and steel bubbles that destroy hazards.
That said, numerous hazards stand to impede players' progress, which can go on indefinitely without spending precious energy if the player continues to complete levels. (Unsuccessful attempts will cost players energy.) If traps like beehives, spawners that create new bubbles to burst and the fruit-spoiling sun can be avoided, players can play forever ... at least in theory.
To help keep that streak going, players can swap out bubble colors every once in a while with their friends asynchronously to make that much-needed match. It's worth mentioning that this feature allows players to actually make use of their friends at the very moment they need it most. "We don't want to make games where there's a gate that requires you to have friend involvement," Turmell says. "We aspire to make your friends part of the experience. We want people to play together."
And that's exactly what players will do on Zynga.com, where real-time multiplayer will be in full force for Bubble Safari. Using a match-making system, Zynga.com players will get to go head-to-head with their friends or anyone else in competitive, timed bouts of bubble bursting. The lack of real-time interaction between players is one of the most popular complaints lobbed at Facebook games.
While Zynga certainly isn't the first to address that concern, it could very well be the most successful as far as casual players are concerned. Bubble Safari marks a series of firsts for Zynga, many of which make recent convert Turmell terribly confident in the developer's future. "One of our internal goals is to connect 1 billion people in one game, and we'll achieve that. It won't happen this year, but we're going to achieve that," Turmell assures us. "So, that's the real difficulty, that's the big transition, is trying to figure out how to best integrate your friends."
"We intend to compete in every category, on every platform, in every genre and make the number one property there. There is a broadening, and it's exciting because not only is there a big market for other experiences, but we have the talent and ability to pursue those categories."
Bubble Safari is slated to go live on both Facebook and Zynga.com tomorrow, May 9, in a whopping 14 languages: English, French, Italian, German, Spanish (Castilian), Portuguese (Brazilian), Norwegian, Turkish, Korean, Traditional Chinese, Dutch, Danish, Japanese, and Swedish.
Are you excited about or intrigued by Bubble Safari? Will Zynga come out on top in this genre too? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.