Civilization creator Sid Meier and his team at Firaxis this week launched the open beta for the studio's social gaming debut, CivWorld.
Meier is taking a different approach towards the fast-paced social gaming space. Whereas many social games spend a very short time in development before launching (Zynga's wildly-successful FarmVille was built in just five weeks prior to launch), CivWorld has been cooking for around a year-and-a-half.
Asked why Firaxis is taking so much longer to develop CivWorld rather than adopting the launch-now-update-often strategy, Meier told Gamasutra, "Well, this is Civ. I think there's another strategy, which is to kind of throw five games out there and see which ones stick. We don't have five games to throw out there and see what sticks."
"I think we kind of said from the beginning that this game has to be as good as we can make it," he said. "We're not going to have five opportunities to make games. We have to put all of our best ideas to make this game."
"That's part of the reason it took longer. I think also your first game in any new genre is going to require tools and infrastructure and a bunch of stuff that you probably don't already have," said Meier. "So, we did it as quickly as we could, but there was quite a bit involved. I think that's the reason it took the time that it did."
Meier also explained how Firaxis relied on internal, subjective feedback when designing the game, as opposed to analytics, which more established social game developers rely upon heavily.
"Well, we love to prototype, and we love to get feedback," said Meier. "We had a game running pretty quickly, and we were playing it internally fairly early. So, that generated a lot of great feedback and ideas, and kind of the process started... That's more subjective than analytical."
He continued, "Our process is geared toward the idea of fun, whatever that is, so we're basically looking to find the fun. I think that's kind of a subjective process. We didn't do a lot of numerical analysis, how many people are clicking here. I'm not sure whether that's the cart or the house."
"We're looking to find the fun, and we think that if people are having fun, they're probably clicking on the right places or the right buttons at the right time," said Meier. "So, it's more of a kind of subjective gameplay-oriented approach to development than maybe an analytical one."
However, now that the game is in open beta, the designer said that user data will become more of a focus as the game evolves. "I think as we get a larger sample of players, the data becomes more meaningful," Meier said.