CN: Is that going to continue as the game is live? Or do you think that you're going to move to a point where you start harnessing more data?
SM: I think as we get a larger sample of players, the data becomes more meaningful. I think we will start to generate some useful information and figure out what parts of the game people are spending more time in and things like that.
If we're only finding out at this stage, then there's something wrong with our development process. We think we have a game that's pretty close to where it needs to be. I think the analytics are maybe about financing or figuring out kind of additional directions to go.
CN: How much did you study how Facebook games are built before you launched this project? Or did you in fact study sort of the way the big players or even games you particularly liked were built?
SM: It was really not our goal to re-create or copy other Facebook games around there. I think we're very early in the whole cycle of social gaming, and there's a lot of space to be explored, not just the games that are already out there.
So, we really wanted to explore some new space with CivWorld and not make a game based on other games that are out there. We're certainly aware of the other games that are out there, but they're not something we've studied. I think we're coming from a pretty different place.
KG: You said before at GDC again that gameplay is a psychological experience. That was really interesting. I was wondering if you think the monetization of gameplay is a psychological experience, and how much have you thought about that with a Facebook game.
SM: I think our approach to that is really... Again, if we can make a fun game, there will probably be some way for us to monetize that. Some people will find that experience hopefully compelling enough, fun enough to want to invest in it. That's the way we look at it. It's not about having a monetizing engine and trying to attach a game to it. It's about making a game that people want to play, and then thinking about the monetization issues.
One of our real concerns and goals is that monetizing not destroy the game experience. There can be many players who want to play for free, and that's fine. They're helping the game by playing and creating this world for people to play in. So, they want the experience to be a fun experience for those players whether you monetize or don't monetize, you're still contributing to the overall experience for everybody. So, we want the game to be fun for everyone.
Really thinking about how monetization can be done without destroying the experience for other players is really important. It was a new thing for us, and we wanted to be really careful about how it was done. So, a fair amount of thought did go into that.
CN: It sounds like you put most of your faith in the design and audience. A lot of times when I talk to people in the social space, they tend to come from different angles probably, but you know, it's more about the audience is viewed as an entity to really sort of butt up against, and the design of the game is viewed as maybe a tool to smooth that over. [laughs]
CN: It sounds like you more have faith in your audience and more faith in your design.
SM: Well, yes. I mean, we might be wrong [laughs], but I think that's what we do. We make games, and we hopefully make games that people enjoy playing and want to play again and want to play in a new way and are replayable. They just want to play another turn and enjoy the experience. We are hopefully leveraging our strength in this new area. It's certainly an experiment. It's certainly something new. We'll see how things turn out.
CN: Something with microtransaction-based games is there comes a fair point where people who work on them say, "pay attention to what your audience actually does, not what they say they want." I don't know if you've run into this so far, but I'm interested in if you have any perspective on that.
SM: Well, in a lot of ways, that's the next phase of our project. As I said, as your userbase grows, then metrics start to maybe generate some useful information. You're kind of almost getting back into my psychology talk. There's definitely a difference between what people say they want or say they do, and with what they actually do.
But part of the fun of gaming in general is to take on a new persona, to be the king of a civilization. Games give players an opportunity to kind of slip out of their normal persona and explore, experiment with cool new worlds. So, we're really encouraging that. We're really encouraging players to kind of think creatively about who they are, and maybe they're cooler and better than maybe they are in real life.
I might have gotten off topic of your question, but especially in these social multiplayer games, the players themselves provide a lot of the content, a lot of the interest in the chatting, the communication, and the working together. The more we can encourage them and empower them to do things within the game and make the game experience fun for themselves and also other players, that's a win for everybody. That's a big part of our design, to try and provide those opportunities.