A Closer Look at Zynga’s Adventure World

Zynga’s Adventure World is an exploration adventure game for with puzzle elements. The game will launch on Facebook in the next week or so.

This is the first title to come from Zynga Boston, the studio formed following the Conduit Labs acquisition back in August 2010. That studio has expanded via a hire-acquisition in the last year to include Floodgate Entertainment. In the last 12 months, Zynga Boston has expanded from 16 people to 35, recruiting some team members from MMO developer Turbine.

Adventure World is built as a combination MMO and classic adventure video game. Zynga Boston General Manager Nabeel Hyatt — formerly CEO of Conduit Labs — likened it to the original Legend of Zelda in the way the game invites players to explore and advance. Like Nintendo’s Zelda franchise, Adventure World players work through large area maps on a quest for treasure using tools or weapons collected along the way, like a machete or a whip, for example. The visuals in-game reminds us of the original Indiana Jones films, with a nonspecific 1930s era feel to the settings, decoration and interface.

During a press demo earlier this week, Hyatt showed three out of the 35 areas Adventure World launches with today: Base Camp, a Mountains map, and an El Dorado map. The areas are divided up among five international regions the player eventually visits as part a central quest around joining the Adventure Society. Each map within an area is approximately as large as the largest possible farm expansion available in FarmVille — making Adventure World one of the bigger social games on Facebook in terms of virtual space.

On the Mountains map and the El Dorado map, Hyatt was able to pull back the camera in full screen mode to show the entirety of the map even before his Adventure World avatar had begun his first quest. Being able to see all over the map at once prompts the player to explore the places they can’t yet get to and creates a sense of immersion that console adventure video games strive for. Hyatt casually mentioned that Adventure World runs on 60 frames-per-second — a high frame rate for a social game.

Gameplay itself consists of clicking on things the player sees on the map — such as an item to be picked up, or a discolored patch of stone to examine. Each action costs the player energy, but energy also functions as a sort of hit point gauge where the player is penalized every time they trigger a trap or fight with a wild animal. This encourages players to be strategic in detecting and disarming traps, and also in how avoid fights with snakes and rams and such by planning alternative routes through the maps. It is possible, Hyatt says, to go through a map without seeing all parts of it — which makes Adventure World the kind of game you’d want to replay.

As the player progresses, their avatar will gain a set of adventure tools like the aforementioned whip. Depending on how the player uses these tools throughout the map (e.g. attacking snakes with the whip), these tools will level up independently of the player’s level. Each map has a “preferred tool” that will best lend itself to the environment, which is where the social element of Adventure World comes in.

Like the recently-released Pioneer Trail expansion for FrontierVille, players in Adventure World can recruit their friends to help out during adventures. Unlike Pioneer Trail, however, this game allows players to recruit their friends along with all their friends’ in-game progress saved as-is. In other words, you can recruit a friend with a higher-level whip than yours into your game in order to deal with attacking rams on a Mountains map. The more often you recruit this friend, the more “guest energy” Adventure World grants the friend character, ultimately allowing the player up to 10 different actions with their friend’s character. Aside from Facebook friends, Adventure World player can also “earn” non-playable character friends to assist them on adventures. Each time the player completes a map, a member of the Adventure Society becomes available for recruiting. The player can have up to 12 crew members recruited at a time.