Cricket is a somewhat under-represented sport in the world of computer and video games, and it is with this in mind that Indian gaming company Zapak has brought CricVille to Facebook. The game is a social cricket game that combines business management simulation elements with skill-based gameplay during matches.
After installing the game, players are launched into a brief tutorial in which they are introduced to their new cricket ground — little more than a dirty wasteland at the outset. This is where team management mode introduced. While in the management part of the game, the player is able to hire, fire and train players, with their abilities affecting match outcome; hire coaches for limited periods of real time to provide bonuses to the team’s skills; acquire sponsorship deals with numerous rather unsubtle bastardizations of recognizable brands to provide income; and build up the team’s stadium to provide greater rewards from playing matches. Incentive to continue playing is provided through a gradual unlock system, with better coaches and stadium parts available to higher-level players, or those willing to spend real money on the game. Gameplay in this section is simple but provides opportunity for players to build up their team — optionally guided by a series of tasks at the side of the screen — and see the fruits of their labors through the growth of their ground.
When the time comes to play a game, the player has two options: a practice match against a computer-controlled team, or a social match against either a friend or another worldwide player. A tournament facility is also planned for an upcoming update. During practice matches, the player takes on active control of the batsmen in the game, while the team’s turn to field is simulated at high speed with no visuals. In a social match, gameplay is asynchronous — the challenging player is first up to bat against the opposing team’s bowlers with their abilities determined by their statistics, then a challenge notification is sent to the other player to inform them it is their turn to bat. When both players have played, the final result is calculated.
The game assumes a basic familiarity with the rules of cricket as it does not take any time to explain how to play outside of showing the basic keyboard controls. These are kept simple, with two shot buttons for varying degrees of power and directional controls determining in which direction the ball will be hit. If the player successfully lands a hit on the ball, they are able to trigger their players running by simply pressing a key, with their speed determined by their statistics and upgrades.
A match is straightforward and relatively quick to play, and allows cricket fans the opportunity to enjoy the game at a much faster pace than real matches, which often continue for several days. The player is encouraged to develop a sense of ownership and pride in their team by customizing their colors, choosing a name and even renaming their players — with a profanity filter firmly in place. Presentation is solid with clear visuals in the management section and realistic sound effects and smooth animation in the match section. The only element which feels somewhat unfinished is the fact the management part of the game is completely silent, with no music or sounds at all.
One mildly questionable aspect of the game is the amount of unnecessarily sexist imagery throughout. While it’s a fact that Indian Premier League cricket (on which the game is based) does indeed make use of female cheerleaders in revealing outfits, in the case of this game every “out,” “four,” “six,” and even the end of a match is punctuated by a gratuitous full-screen animation of three cheerleaders gyrating provocatively. The whole game is presented in a lighthearted, cartoonish style but this feels a little too much at times — and may even be off-putting to some fans considering playing the game.
Even so, CricVille is a well thought out game that is easy to understand yet provides a great deal of opportunity for friendly competition between fans — and, by extension, a strong built-in viral promotion and retention strategy. Even those with only a basic grasp of the rules of cricket will be able to find the experience of challenging worldwide opponents and Facebook friends to be enjoyable.
From a business perspective, the usual reliable combination of premium items and an energy mechanic mean that — assuming Zapak is able to acquire a healthy player base — the game has potential to be quite profitable, particularly in those parts of the world where cricket is a popular sport. Developer Game Ventures saw some success last year with its Facebook cricket game, Howzat Cricket.
CricVille has picked up 6,000 monthly active users and 1,000 daily active users since its launch in late January. To follow its progress, check out AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.
Questionable imagery aside, this is a solid offering for cricket fans.