Monday, March 15, 2010

My Tribe - Next generation Facebook games?

Following a recommendation from Cuppycake, I reactivated my dormant Facebook account and started playing My Tribe. As I said in my previous discussion of Facebook games, I recognize the power of the social engineering tools used for games like Farmville, but didn't like that these games were so lacking in actual gameplay. There isn't really much gameplay involved in apps like Farmville or Mafia Wars, it is just clicking to get rewards, plus incentives to give money to the game company and to invite your friends into the game. While obviously targeting the lowest common denominator is a valid business plan for a Facebook game, I don't actually think that the lowest common denominator is THAT low. After all, casual games like The Sims are far more complex, and sell millions too.

My Tribe can be described as a next generation Facebook game, very different from something like Farmville. It is an actual game. You control a tribe stranded on an island, and start building a civilization. The game is part "The Settlers", part "The Sims", as you give tasks to the individual members of your tribe to build things, to gather wood and rock, to fish, to do agriculture (basically there is a mini-Farmville as sub-game inside of My Tribe), or do do scientific discoveries. You need to feed and house your tribe, and you can create clothing and dyes to outfit them. They level up, and you can specialize them in specific careers. And they can have children, which grow up, making your tribe grow.

Part of the game is to set up everything in a way that your tribe lives well while you are offline, so that when you come back online your planned buildings have been constructed or upgraded, you collected science points for the next discovery, and everybody is still well fed and happy. But once you are online, there is also a lot of opportunity to just play, manually collect sea-shells, crates, and other goodies, harvest fields, level up your tribe, or craft clothing items for them. The game is cleverly set up in that there are events happening every couple of minutes, something new popping up to click on to collect. The whole thing is still casual player friendly, but immensely more complex than a simple Farmville or similar game.

My Tribe is fun to play, and combines the attractive power of "leveling up" your tribe and receiving a constant stream of rewards with a basic version of a typical civilization-building strategy game. There are even quests! But of course it uses all the same tricks as the previous generation of Facebook games, offering you a slow progress for free or a speeded-up progress if either you give them money or invite your friends to play. If you don't mind that sort of business model, feel free to send me a friend invite on Facebook and in My Tribe, as you'll need a "friend" in My Tribe for some of the quests.

I do think that games which are actually fun to play will have a bigger future on Facebook. And Facebook-like social tools will have a bigger future in various online games that aren't on that platform, including MMORPGs.

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