LOLapps is one of only a few developers on Facebook exploring the concept of social game sequels. Rather than releasing a Ravenwood Fair 2, however, the company is going with franchise expansion through a new game called Ravenshire Castle.
As the name suggests, Ravenshire Castle is part of the same “universe” setting as Ravenwood Fair and will feature a similar art style and anthropomorphic animal characters. The gameplay will also leverage game elements consistent with what worked in Ravenwood Fair in the form of wood and stone gathering and emphasis on decoration as the means of gameplay progression. Beyond that, though, Ravenshire Castle is a whole different world.
Literally, Ravenshire Castle exists as a world parallel to the one the player engages with in Ravenwood Fair, as communicated visually by the concept drawing below. The idea is that first-time players can enter the Raven franchise from any point on this conceptual map and enjoy an experience that’s consistent with the other games, but unique enough to be its own game. Unlike Ravenstone Mine, which is an in-game expansion to Ravenwood Fair, Ravenshire Castle will be its own game that may or may not feature direct gameplay connection to Ravenwood Fair. At present, LOLapps wants players to create a new game avatar for Ravenshire Castle, but is considering cross-game avatars.
As the game is still in its concept stage, the details LOLapps chose to share with us are limited. LOLapps Vice President of Content Constantine Hantzopoulos and Design Director Glen Dahlgren walked us through a general description of the product at the singleplayer level and gave general ideas about the direction the social multiplayer component might take. Ravenshire Castle puts players in the role of a character who inherits an estate from a distant relative. Through collecting materials, the player must restore the castle on the estate to its former glory buy building individual rooms and decorations for those rooms. Each room the player succeeds in building adds a new non-playable character to the game, and like Ravenwood Fair, each of these character carry story-based quests the player can complete for additional resources and experience points.
Gameplay gets more complex in the form of a “care-taking” system where players must feed the castle workers who come to live on the estate after their corresponding rooms are built. Hantzopoulos and Gahlgren were careful to say that characters will not die or wander off for lack of food, but like the Protector characters in Ravenwood Fair, they need to be maintained for an optimal gameplay experience. Room placement also adds depth to the building and decoration gameplay as the game auto-generates hallways and doors between rooms, potentially providing gameplay advantages, although Dahlgren shied away from explaining exactly how.
The decoration level of gameplay is slightly more complex than what is currently available in Ravenwood Fair. Hantzopoulos and Dahlgren explain that decorations are “stackable,” meaning you could buy a pillar for a room and then place a separate decoration on top of that pillar. Additionally, customization is available at least for color options, allowing users more control over the appearance of decorations than they tend to enjoy in other decoration-centric games.
On the social features front, Dahlgren would only say for the record that LOLapps means to create social interaction that is meaningful for both the “visiting” player and the home player. Currently, Ravenwood Fair only allows players to visit each other’s fairs and mines to interact with their attractions or harvest resources. Players who receive visitors do get a bonus and notification of their friends’ actions, but nothing else.
The most significant element Hantzopoulos and Gahlgren wanted to emphasize to us was the concept of a story-driven narrative. Ravenshire Castle will feature a villain and a quest progression that tells a larger “soap opera” style story that ideally will keep players engaged. Similar quest structure in Ravenwood Fair and Ravenstone Mine validated that concept for LOLapps and so the developer is eager to continue the thread as part of the Raven franchise.
This is where Raven gets interesting. Because Ravenshire Castle is not a direct sequel to Ravenwood Fair and because its gameplay is significantly different, the game potentially attracts an entirely new audience to the franchise rather than relying on its existing audience to play two games at once. Social game sequels on Facebook are somewhat new, but the concept of “cannibalizing” the audience of an original for the sake of a sequel is something social game developers are very aware of. Taking the route of franchise expansion through branding rather than numbering seems like it could be an eloquent solution to the cannibalization concern.
Ravenshire Castle is due out this year, but LOLapps was careful to say they would not release the game before it was “ready.” As Ravenstone Mine only just went live in April, it’s likely the developer will space out the release for the sake of breathing room between the two titles. According to our traffic tracking service, AppData, Ravenwood Fair currently enjoys 6.2 million monthly active users and 1 million daily active users. Interestingly, the game saw a drop in MAU just after Ravenstone Mine launched that continues through this month, but DAU has remained fairly consistent around the 1 million mark.