EA’s Risk: Factions annexes Facebook with updates to original Xbox Live game

EA’s follow-up to runaway Facebook hit The Sims Social, Risk: Factions, launches today on the social network. The game faces a two-front battle in trying capture a dedicated niche audience while also keeping up EA’s momentum in the social games space.

Despite being named after a board game like EA’s Monopoly Millionaires, Risk: Factions actually has more in common with The Sims Social as it’s based on an existing video game franchise. The original Risk: Factions is a downloadable title for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network where players choose one of several “factions” and play against other players or computer-controlled opponents in the classic turn-based strategy game of Risk, which has players attempting to take over an entire world map.

In making the jump to social, EA has adapted the title for speedier play and more engaging multiplayer. Aside from the usual social game “hooks,” such as harvesting resources or matching games for bonus items, the developer has also added features and factions to create what amounts to an entirely new game experience under the same franchise. EA Producer and Risk: Factions designer Spencer Brooks walks us through what’s different and how the game’s older social siblings influenced development.

Inside Social Games: Fill us in on the background of the original Risk: Factions on Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Was the game a success on those platforms?

Spencer Brooks: It was definitely a success in every measure. It riffed off of some of the changes Hasbro made in the 2008 rules and we used that as a springboard and added a bunch of our features to that. Brand expectations, gameplay, just everything — that game raised the bar for [Risk].

So in 2008, [Hasbro] re-released the game and it wasn’t just world conquest, it was objective-based rules. You could take over the map and you win, but if you played with objectives, it’s better because you start with eight or six [players] and the first one who gets three [objectives] wins the game. It did two things — it sped up the game enormously and it allowed everybody to stay in the game even at the end. You could all be playing the game and then there would be a winner. It codified the need for the game [to go faster and keep people playing].

[The social game] is more or less a hybrid of the XBLA version. We made the factions play differently while in the XBLA and PSN version, the factions were basically a skin. For the social game, we’ve got the concept of special weapon, [where] each faction has its own sort of power up that you can put on the map and they give each faction a different play style. We have multiple maps like we did in the original — we’re launching with nine maps and we’ll release more every so often. We haven’t added all the features [of the original], but we’ve created new ones.

ISG: Like the Headquarters area? It seems a lot like the farm or the homestead setting in other social games where you go to collect resources…

Brooks: The headquarters is meant to do a few things. Yes, I think there’s an appointment mechanic going on in the headquarters right now because you need to check back and harvest your troops and collect your special weapons. But headquarters is almost meant to show a persistence and progression of you leveling up, then unlocking new factions and leveling each of those up. It’s your main resource generator and a progression indicator.

ISG: We notice that in the closed beta version of the game, you also implemented an energy meter that limited the number of games we could play per day. Now that the game is live, it looks like you’ve subtracted that feature. Energy meters are pretty standard for most social games — what made you decide to leave it out?