Interview: Playfish’s Adam Gutterman on Designing Monopoly Millionaires for Facebook

In November of 2009, Electronic Arts Inc. acquired Playfish, a leading creator of social network games such as Restaurant City and Pet Society, with an eye on strengthening EA Interactive, a division focused on web and mobile. Adam Gutterman (previously of Three Rings Design) was brought on in August 2010 and he took Monopoly Millionaires to market on Facebook. We spoke to him about the challenges of bringing a board game to the social game space.

Inside Social Games: Tell us something about yourself and Playfish / Hasbro / EA plans for social games.

Adam Gutterman:I am a Producer here at Playfish and I am the Producer for Monopoly Millionaires. Hasbro and EA partnered together for bringing quite a few of Hasbro titles to the video game playspace and as you know, EA acquired Playfish. EA wants to bring their IPs and titles such as Madden to the social gaming world and Monopoly, being one of Hasbro’s most storied and beloved board games was chosen to be the first.

ISG: What were the challenges in bringing a competitive board game like Monopoly to the social gaming space?

AG: Well, as you mentioned, it’s competitive. Someone wins and others lose. That’s the first challenge. Secondly, in most board games, there is a defined beginning, middle and end; and thirdly, most board games are limited to a small number of players; from two to perhaps eight. To get a game like Monopoly to work as a social game, we kept the things that are familiar and recognizable to game of Monopoly; the entire classic board, the movers, the core mechanics of moving, collecting and building. Then we had to add features to make it a cooperative social game.

ISG: So what did you do to make Monopoly into a social game, and why would players want to get friends to play Monopoly Millionaires with them?

AG: In Monopoly Millionaires, everyone has their own board to build and express themselves with, and the core mechanic in the game is to visit other boards. You have to visit other boards in order to collect property cards to build on your own board. Social exchange also draws people to visit each other, and we let you know who’s come by to visit. For example, if I see that Drew has come by to roll on my board, I’ll want to go back to roll on his. Apart from that, there are also quests to roll on other boards and what we call “treats” – little piles of treasures such as gold, extra rolls and property cards that spawn randomly on boards that you collect if you land on the space.

ISG: What’s with these traps that suck Monopoly money from you? All that has done for me is to let me know whose board I’m not visiting.

AG: (laughs) We thought to put some competitive aspects into the game, and as you’ve expressed and per other player feedback received, traps are going to be re-imagined and will re-appear in a different fashion. Along with the re-imagined traps, we will also have player placed treats which will help attract players to your board.

ISG: What is the goal of Monopoly Millionaires?

AG: The key word is Millionaires. The goal is to acquire wealth, to be a real estate magnate, to be the one with the most popular boards and to do that, you want to attract players to your board. I’ll say it again; the core mechanic of Monopoly Millionaires is visiting your friends. In most social games, visiting your friends is a side mechanic. I want to go on record as the first to make that our core mechanic.

ISG:  What plans do you have for players to make their boards attractive and to attract players to Monopoly Millionaires?

AG:We will be expanding missions, and provide a way to build out the board. The center of the board right now is a blank canvas. We’ve got some decorations, but will have ways to expand the hotels, to build attractions and generate more revenue. As mentioned we will re-imagine the traps and provide player placed treats. We are not done designing the board yet. There are 99 levels right now, and that’s many, many weeks of play.