Playdom Co-Founder’s New Facebook Game Inspires Faith In Flash, Innovation

Playdom Co-Founder Rick Thompson puts a lot of faith behind original intellectual property in the social games space. So much so that his investment project, Idle Games, spent 18 months and four cloud gaming-related patents crafting a God game for Facebook unlike anything the platform has seen so far. The title, IdleWorship, is due to go live in June.

Inside Social Games met with Thompson and Idle Games CEO Jeff Hyman in the developer’s San Francisco office for an early look at the game. The only exposure IdleWorship had prior to this showing was at stage demo from Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch during an Adobe MAX 2010 keynote last year (see video below). In our demo, Hyman showed us video captured in-game as well as brief selections of gameplay actions from the closed beta version of the game.

At the outset, we marked a similarity between IdleWorship and Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield’s browser-based game, Glitch, which we previewed yesterday. Both games put high value on art and on player-created environments, and even have a similar development history having both been in development for about 18 months before entering closed beta. The key difference here is that IdleWorship is for Facebook while Glitch is not.

Core Gameplay

IdleWorship puts players in the role of an actual god overseeing a society of primitive island people called Mudlings. Through traditional city-building tools, the player can impact the lives of the Mudlings by creating structures, wildlife, landmarks, and even new islands for them. The primary goal of player interaction with the Mudlings is to inspire Belief, which is used as the game’s default virtual currency. Players spend Belief on the city-building component of the game, on premium decoration items, and on “God events” that directly affect the Mudlings — such as lighting strikes or healing.

Players have the option of being a benevolent or a malevolent force in their Mudlings’ lives, but the game does not directly penalize players for morality choices the way good/evil dichotomies in traditional console games sometimes do. If a player neglects interaction with the Mudlings, they become agnostic and eventually atheist, making it harder for the player to order the Mudlings to perform tasks. At the other end of the faith spectrum, a player that interacts with Mudlings frequently and on a large scale (think inflicting a natural disaster) will inspire god-fearing Mudlings with nervous facial tics. No matter how the player interacts, the world is balanced in a way that does not allow higher level players any special gameplay advantages. For example, you can build the best boats to collect the most fish — but your Mudlings will get fat eating the fish and eventually starve when they run out of fish altogether.

Social Features

All of the above is the asynchronous aspect of IdleWorship; but the real sell for the title is the synchronous gameplay among other “God” characters. Players can visit a friend’s island and interact with their Mudlings, either benevolently or malevolently with the previously mentioned God actions. These visits can turn competitive as players can “steal” Belief from each other by converting Mudlings of wavering faith. Alternatively, players can set up shrines of their friends within their own Mudling populations to award their friends free Belief.

Many of these actions are coordinated such that players can actually see another player’s interaction with their Mudlings in real time when they log in instead of just receiving a in-game notification screen. For example, you would log in to the game and actually see a giant hand come down from the sky to flick one of your Mudlings off your island as opposed to only seeing a pop-up window with the words “AJ flicked your Mudling! Would you like to smote one of hers?” There is a window that does keep track of these God interactions and clicking on it will either take you to a friends island or open up a real time chat window with that friend (if they’re online).