Digital Chocolate have decided to take on the life simulation genre with their new Facebook title New In Town, which launched on Feb. 6. Casting players in the role of a recent college graduate out to make it big in the city, the game tasks players with the management of several precious resources essential to survival even in the real world — time, money and happiness.
After customizing their avatar’s appearance, gender and name, the player is introduced to a number of fellow graduates who will later become the source of the game’s quests. Through some initial tasks, the player is shown how to get a job, how to perform the job to earn money, how to get food and how to buy new clothes. Following these introductory missions, future quests are presented as “challenges” against the other characters to see who can complete them first, with greater rewards on offer for quick completion. These quests must be juggled around the player’s other needs, however, lending an unusually deep degree of time management to the game.
Everything the player does costs a certain number of time units to complete — including moving around the city, though the amount spent on movement can be reduced by purchasing various means of transport. When the player is out of time units, the day is over and they must go to bed. If the player’s happiness level is too low or they are hungry, the following day has a penalty to the time units available, representing the avatar’s tiredness, or lethargy due to depression. Conversely, going to bed before depleting all the time units provides a bonus for the following day. Happiness can be restored by eating food (which only has to be done once per day in order to stave off the hunger penalty), shopping, socializing with friends or attending fun activities such as going to the movies. Happiness drops while working or studying, though both are necessary evils — working provides the player with money, while studying increases skill levels, certain levels of which are necessary to secure higher-paying jobs.
The “time” mechanic has an additional consideration: the number of “working days” available to the player. Working days are a finite resource that is restored over time, similar to an energy bar in other games. On working days, players are able to complete tasks that earn money and improve skills, but when they have run out, the player is only able to do things that cost money and/or restore happiness. This “downtime” is referred to as “leisure days” and allows the player to keep enjoying the game even as they wait for their allowance of working days to refill — though spending all their hard-earned money without any means to recover it is counter-productive.
The life simulation genre may have been dominated by The Sims Social for some time, and indeed a simple description of New In Town (“find job, improve skills, cultivate relationships”) may sound remarkably similar to EA Playfish’s title. Rather than resorting to copycat game mechanics or simply pushing out a clone of the established game, however, Digital Chocolate have chosen to take a fresh, original approach and present the game in a manner which works well. The player is offered freedom to explore and develop their character as they see fit while at the same time working their way through a more structured set of challenges offered by the game’s characters. In this sense, the player is given a lot more ownership over their avatar’s development than in some other social games, and this will encourage players to take a more protracted interest in the game. In other words, it becomes “their” story rather than a predefined one laid out by the developer. This sense of ownership will be a key factor in user retention in the coming months.
A solid suite of social features, a wide range of premium vanity items and the ability to use premium currency to eliminate “grinding” to a certain degree mean that the game has the potential to be both popular and profitable in the long run. Its original gameplay and high degree of technical polish may attract a wider demographic of players than many similar titles, and Digital Chocolate has plenty of plans in place for the future of the game, including ways for players to directly interact with one another’s avatars rather than simply visiting their apartments.
Due to New In Town’s recent release, we do not yet have any data on its monthly or daily active users. You’ll shortly be able to track its progress in the charts with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.
An original, innovative take on the life simulation genre with the potential to be a great success.