One person who’s stuck around is Denise Lambert, executive director for a charity in Toronto. She has been playing for the better part of three years. She recently tried out “FarmVille 2” after getting early access to the game from Zynga.
“I loved it,” she said. “I just think it’s overdue. It is going to offer a gaming aspect that no other social game has right now. It’s much smoother, everything is more vibrant.”
She described the original as “so Neanderthal” compared with the sequel.
That might be what Zynga hopes, too _ that “FarmVille 2” will represent the next generation of online social games. Many of the new game’s features are based on user feedback. When the company noticed that players liked the animals in the original game, designers drew cuter ones and made them more prominent characters on the farm. Take care of them, and they give you milk and eggs and fertilize your crops.
Then there are people like Kim Lindell, an avid “FarmVille” player until December. She said she stopped playing because it wasn’t enjoyable any more. She found herself playing just to keep from falling behind in the game. It became a chore rather than an enjoyable pastime.
“I realized I never liked all the actual playing of the game itself anyway but mostly just enjoyed arranging the items (and) decorating,” she said.
Today, she is playing another Zynga game, “CastleVille,” though she says the game, like “FarmVille,” is “full of glitches and myriad hoops to jump through” just to play.
She hadn’t heard of “FarmVille 2” until Wednesday.
“I won’t be checking it out,” she said.
Zynga hopes it can lure players like Lindell back. The company invites some 200 people like Lambert to its San Francisco office each week to play games and offer feedback. Some of the feedback is positive; some isn’t. There are also paid focus groups, video and phone chats and live interviews that Zynga employees conduct with current and potential players. Sometimes, staffers even visit people at their homes to watch them play.
“We want to talk to as many people as we can, people who play, stopped, never played,” said Nick Giovanello, director of player insights at Zynga.
Zynga takes all that into account when adding new features and new ways to play. For example, users might stumble, discover software bugs or simply get bored. As with all its games, Zynga has changed aspects of “FarmVille 2” based on the data gathered during its trials. It will keep doing so, even after the game is out, treating it like a service rather than a finished product.