Having shifted from simple quiz-style apps to branded games to its own in-house games, Lolapps has found its place on social platforms. Now, it’s killing off its other titles to focus on Ravenwood Fair, a social simulation created with the help of veteran game designers John Romero and Brenda Braithwaite, that has users “clear a scary forest and build a fun fair.”
While the two designers have gone on to start their own company, Loot Drop, Lolapps is pushing forward. It has brought in another gaming veteran, Dave “Dr. Cat” Shapiro, of Ultima and Furcadia renown, and plans to introduce a major Ravenwood expansion, Ravenstone Mine, as well as a new game. A far cry from its early apps, Lolapps’ introduction of “designers from the traditional game space who have a bias towards more proscriptive answers” has helped position to capitalize on the increasing sophistication of social games.
Ravenwood Fair, its hit game, now reaches more than 25 million monthly active users across five networks, the company says — not only on Facebook but on IMVU, Japan’s Mixi, Germany’s StudiVZ, and Orkut. Expansions have been a slow but growing trend for app developers, with Zynga adding them for Mafia Wars in 2009, and now for FarmVille with English Countryside. The overall goal is to extend what has traditionally been the short life of the social game.
A Preview of Ravenstone Mine
One of the charms of Ravenwood Fair has been its oft-appreciated non-level restricted design. After level 15 — about the time the player retention is ensured –any restriction on items is removed. It is at this point that the level curve starts its stratospheric climb, players start are saturated with currency, and buy multiples of darned near anything they please.
But for all of the six months of its existence, the six US holidays, multiple themes, three seasons, there has been no extra space for players’ accumulations of virtual goods. Every new feature means packing everything ever tighter into a confined space or creating a new fair. This will change, sort of, with the upcoming expansion Ravenstone Mine.
When last we viewed it, rather than the standard building out of land, Ravenwood Fair will be building down, allowing players to work an optional fully-fleshed Ravenstone Mine underneath the fair. Though the general mechanics of the mine are similar to the fair, the two are different and unique areas. Flowers won’t grow underground and ore carts and track won’t be laid above ground.
One of the ongoing frustrations of Ravenwood Fair has been obtaining resources from nodes that don’t respawn and were consumed at lower levels, with crystals being a prime example. With the ability to mine for mineral resources in your own as well as neighboring mines, this is solved.
But Ravenstone Mine is not simply a mine-themed extension of the fair above. The same pool of energy is shared between them requiring the player to choose between the experience-heavy mine and the food-heavy fair. One will level the player faster; the other allows the player to refill his energy more frequently. Though some resources will be needed up top from down below and vice versa, the majority will be used where found and with limited-edition items, players must choose wisely or spend Facebook credits to complete construction. It is a subtle but effective mechanic.
With more than a few weeks still before launch, LOLApps has been trying new approaches to monetization by introducing sales on items in-game. With the game spread across so many diverse platforms, it is difficult to accurately say just how well it is performing overall. It is one of the largest games on Facebook, with 11.5 million monthly active users and 1.12 million daily active users as of today, according to our tracking service for top apps, AppData.
All in all, with its focus squarely on the franchise, LOLApps appears to have matters well in hand.