Digging into the hopes and experience buried in FarmVille 2 [Interview]

FarmVille 2 Interview
FarmVille 2 Interview

You've read our in-depth preview of one of the most anticipated social games of the year, FarmVille 2. (You did read it ... right?) But you still have questions. So do we. To get to the bottom of it, we chatted with FarmVille 2 design director Wright Bagwell to learn more about the finer details, hopes and experience behind this long-awaited Facebook game.

What part of the existing FarmVille audience do you expect to be more interested in say FarmVille 2 over FarmVille?

Our hope is that everyone who plays FarmVille and that everyone who has played FarmVille from way back in the day, might be interested in trying this out. I mean, we really believe that there's something about farm games that really appeals to people's sort of basic instincts about like I mentioned everyone grows up understanding how farms work and how fun it is to grow things.

I mean, my hope is that we haven't designed a game that appeals just to one kind of person or one kind of player. This is really a game for everybody and we've tried to really add a lot of depth to the game that makes players feel like there's something really fresh here about the mechanics and how you have to play this game. We've avoided making it feel complex. I think when you watch me play the game, everything feels really natural and intuitive, but yet there's more depth there if you want it.

How do you think players will be able to manage both playing the original FarmVille and FarmVille 2? Also, how exactly does Zynga plan to support both at the same time?

Well, first of all, there's two separate teams here at Zynga and both games are supported very, very well. We're certainly not going to let either game affect or cannibalize the other one. The other thing that I would say to the players is that we've designed FarmVille 2 to feel like you can have a really satisfying session in a short amount of time and we want to make sure that it always feels like you can play for a few minutes and we like to describe it as the best five minutes of your day. We always want to make it feel like it is something you can play for five minutes and have a ton of fun with and that you can always play more, but that you can really get a lot out of it in a short amount of time.


Are there any unique or interesting ways that FarmVille 2 will connect with the original, or is Zynga keeping them as separate as possible?

We are keeping them separate, and the reason is, when we approached designing this game, and we thought really long and hard about this topic. And what we realized is that this game is actually so different from FarmVille, that it just didn't really make any sense for us to try to connect them. The mechanics worked very, very differently. And so It didn't make any sense to bring assets over, over to let players bring their boards in. And what we heard from our players was that the people who are playing FarmVille still really loved FarmVille. And if we are designing a very different kind of game here, we wanted players to feel like there is another new game here. So they can be playing both games rather than feel like we are replacing FarmVille.

How do standard neighbor visits work for the visiting player in FarmVille 2?

One of the really cool things is that, if I need something--like I'm crafting apple scones, and I need apples--I can actually go find my neighbors who have apple trees, and click on them for a chance to get apples. So, the way the games works right now. It's like, I have a chance to get apples. But, the cool thing is that, if I know if I need apples, I can go look for apple trees on my neighbors farms.

Or I can ask my friends, like, 'Hey guys who's got apples trees?' And what we've seen on the team is that people will actually start posting messages on Facebook, like, "Hey guys I planted some lemon trees. Come and get them." And then everybody wants to go over to their farm to get the lemon trees. And somebody else has got the orange trees and things like that.

FarmVille 2 screens
FarmVille 2 screens

Can you speak to how your experience as a game maker has influenced your work on FarmVille 2?

Well, I've been making games for about 15 years. I started off making Quake maps as a hobby and so my passion as a gamer, doing this as a hobby, is really what got me into the industry, and I've always been just really passionate about the stories that you can tell as a game creator and one of the things that I started to see over the years is that I worked on a lot of single player games over the years.

So, I was at EA for 11 years before I came to Zynga and I was the creative director for the Deadspace franchise. So it's a very, very different kind of game. Very different demographic. Actually, one of my friends when I came here was like, "Wait. So you came from the game that moms hate to the game that moms love?" So people always ask, "Well, how can you go from making survival horror to casual games?" And for me, designing games is a lot of fun no matter what kind of games they are.

But the reason that I came to Zynga is that I started to feel like I really enjoyed how games connected to people and I thought back to what really drew me into games as a child and as a hobbyist. It was about games connecting people. I remember playing my Atari when I was a kid. My family would sit around and we'd play the Atari together and I like playing party games together--Pictionary. Those kinds of things, and when social games and mobile games came out onto the scene, I just loved how suddenly I could connect to people in this really fun casual, new way.

That was really, really exciting to me and thinking about, "Wow. In some ways this is a totally new and innovative direction that games are going." On the other hand, it's sort of getting back to the basics, which is that games should really be about just playing with my friends and having a good time with my friends and connecting my with my friends and that's really what drew me to Zynga. I'm actually a really big believer in the mission and the vision that Zynga has about connecting the world through games.

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