Turpitude Design Tries Giving Away Virtual Currency With Wedding Street on Facebook

Turpitude Design may be a newcomer to Facebook, but its studio members have been on the gaming scene since, well, there has been a scene to be had. Most notable among this small, 10-member team is Stieg Hedlund, creator of such seminal titles as Diablo II and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon.  At first glance, its new title Wedding Street feels like quite a departure from Hedlund’s previous endeavors, but a closer look shows the same originality that have distinguished his previous titles.

Wedding Planner might have been a more apt title for the mix of wedding-related tasks: players will variously be a baker, seamstress, reception organizer, and florist (calligrapher to come). As the planner, players will choose up to five weddings to manage.

Each wedding has five characteristics to consider: length, budget, theme, color, and style. The length determines how long the player has to complete the wedding (one, three, or five days) and how many activities must be completed, as shorter weddings have fewer activities. Budget determines how much the player can spend on the wedding. An experienced player quickly learns that a big budget can just as detrimental as a small budget. The bride will become unhappy when a budget is woefully underspent, and some tastes are just difficult to spend.

Theme, color and style determine what the wedding will look like, and a player’s breadth of selection in each will come into consideration when choosing a wedding (or mission). Themes range from Rock’n’Roll, to Casablanca, to roses. Brides have a preferred color, but a range within that color is available – multiple reds, greens, neutrals, or browns. Styles are less specific but no less important, including laid-back, traditional, chic, eclectic, and formal.

The result of this is one of two of Weddings Street’s unique strengths: a tremendous capacity for user-generated content. Using only the default options for shape, a single pattern, one type of edging, one decoration, and a single topper, there are more than 53 billion combinations. Floral bouquets become even more unique as flower placement is freeform, creating a 3D presentation on a 2D frame.

Wedding Streets’ virtual currency system is its second strength. The basic outline looks pretty standard. Additional options for each creation must be purchased with the in-game currency, Honeys. Temporary boosts and permanent upgrades are available for each shop to speed the process, reduce costs, or increase the happiness of the couple. A single job – one cake, one dress – can be sped up and completed for two honeys regardless of whether 14 hours or 14 minutes remain, or all outstanding jobs can be completed for 20 Honeys.

The dependency on premium currency is moderated by the ability for players to earn an unlimited quantity of Honeys each day, beginning with sending coffee to friends. Coffee, of which 22 can be earned per day, speeds up jobs by 20 minutes each, while creating items for friends to use in weddings or to sell in shops earns an additional 22 Honeys per day. Sending friends wedding trivia from throughout the world can earn an unlimited amount of currency. Finally, friends can request that a help completing a wedding once per day; each request earns another honey. The only limitation is that no more than five Honeys per friend can be part of the player’s currency pool at any time – and the “friend” Honeys are spent first.

When asked about the monetization design, Hedlund remarked, “We wanted players to work together so we built in a reward system to encourage it. This allows payers access to a sort of middle-tier of virtual goods. Though it may appear that we are giving away items and losing money, we’ve found that players are more willing to purchase currency.  Research leads us to believe we have a really high monetization rate, approximately three times the norm.”

In other words, impatience and a need to use more expensive items to meet the criteria of a larger variety of weddings encourages the player to purchase the currency.

Some features — upgrades, new design options, and some cosmetic options for the shops — cost only Honeys. On the other hand, boosts and shop managers require the use of coin, which is difficult to obtain in significant quantities without exceptional micro-management. The only way to “purchase” coin is to trade 300 Honeys for 25,000 coin.

A last important component of Wedding Street is sharing. “When it comes to UGC, we think along the lines of ‘make and share’ and our goal was to make it possible for players to create items they wanted show off to their friends,” says Hedlund. “The standard Facebook icon is tiny, and some people don’t want to give permissions to a new game; we wanted people to be able to show their creations from the game without going to the game.”

A lot of care and attention went into the design of Wedding Street. For example, the cityscape changes from day to night with the player’s time zone; the tutorial guide changes clothes periodically; and care was taken to include wedding traditions from throughout the world. But it’s the ability to be creative in a way not previously available as well as a monetization system that truly sets Wedding Street apart.