From snipers to gangs, mobile developer Glu Mobile has been busy as of late, churning out iOS games resembling social games in terms of design and monetization. The latest is Bug Village for iPhone and iPad, a free-to-play virtual space game reminiscent of the “farming-style” social game, that has climbed to #8 in the U.S. on the charts.
It’s not actually a social game, but it has many of the familiar game mechanics and monetization tools of the genre. Considering the successes of similar games, such as Capcom’s older app, Smurfs’ Village and Playforge’s Zombie Farm, it’s not terribly surprising that Glu is moving in this direction.
Glu Mobile’s casual arm appears to be racking up a portfolio of social-gaming style titles like TeamLava, which appears to use a single game engine to power many nearly identical games.
That said, Glu has a much higher level of polish. Bug Village is a decent translation of virtual, space-oriented social games with a very nice aesthetic. And bugs! While the game is technically sound, there’s nothing dramatically new about it.
There isn’t much of a premise to Bug Village other than the fact that players are asked to help an ant build a new village for all of his friends. Anyone that has spent time on Smurfs’ Village or FarmVille will know their way around this app right from the start.
Still, for those unfamiliar with the genre, here’s a simple breakdown. Players manage a handful of elements in Bug Village: time, population, income, and a new resource of food. Everything takes time to do be it building a structure or earning revenue. Like most social games, the time required to do these tasks runs from a few minutes to several hours.
As users level up, they can build more bug houses to support even more bugs. This populace is then used to “farm” resources from built trash piles. (Because let’s face it, ants aren’t going to be growing cabbage.) With each of these piles, one bug can work for a set amount of time, earning income relative to the amount of time it takes to complete a task. Since this can take an extended period of time by default, players will have to return later. This means that a single play session will likely only be a few minutes. Unlike most Facebook games of this genre, the piles do not appear to “expire” and result in lost “crops” should the player return too long after the task has been completed.
What Glu does to ensure the player returns, is use a food mechanic for the bugs. The population of one’s village becomes hungry over time, represented by a meter. In order to increase it, players must purchase food known to attract ants like cookies. Should you forget to feed the bugs, they will stop working until fed. But if their food meter stays high, users earn bonuses.
In addition, there are a few extras peppering the game. For starters, users are guided through the game with a basic quest system and can earn simple Game Center-integrated achievements. None are terribly interesting but it doesn’t hurt to have them.
Another little extra is that village will often get filled with overturned lady bugs or pungent stink bugs that can be removed or helped out with a tap. Players earn extra experience or income for players that interact with them.
Speaking of income, this is where Bug Village’s primary monetization tactic comes into play. In addition to the earnable in-game income, which are acorns dubbed “materials”, there is a secondary virtual currency named Coins that can expedite the gaming experience.
You guessed it. This virtual currency can speed up play. Since everything takes at least several minutes to accomplish, users have the option to make it happen instantaneously with coins.
Bug Village also gates some of its content, meaning if users want special decorative items and structures, they’ll have to pay. They’re not necessary but the best-looking items cost a small amount of real money. If players don’t want to spend actual cash, then coins can be earned via an offer wall accessed within the application. (Bug Village had the fortune of making it into the app store before Apple started cracking down on offer walls late last week.) If players wish to spend money, then coins can be purchased for $1.99 to $49.99. The earned currency, called Materials, can also be bought at the same price range.
In the end, Bug Village has a very polished aesthetic, but the gameplay isn’t particularly innovative as we’ve seen with many other developers in the casual space.