Zynga Launches Pioneer Trail Expansion for FrontierVille Today, Migrates Base Game to New App ID

A little over a year after launching FrontierVille on Facebook, Zynga is ready to release the first major expansion for the title as a standalone gameplay experience called Pioneer Trail (originally titled Oregon Trail). The new content goes live on Facebook today.

In Pioneer Trail, FrontierVille players can form a party of three companion characters each with a unique role — doctor, hunter, carpenter. These roles can be filled either with non-playable characters from the player’s homestead, or by the player’s friends. At a later point, Zynga also plans to add a community functionality where players can meet and recruit other FrontierVille players to their Pioneer Trail game. Once each role is filled, the player’s party sets out on the Trail, which is made up of three unique locations through which the player must progress on the way to a final destination called Fort Courage.

Progression is quest-based. Each location will present the player with a series of quests that must be completed in order for the player’s wagon to move down the trail from one end of an area to another. A single story quest about a kidnapped boy underlies the entire journey, while each location also features its own narrative-driven quest. In the High Plains area, for example, the McBaggins family from previous FrontierVille quests turns up in dire need of the player’s help. Additionally, each location will have optional side quests and what FrontierVille General Manager John Osvald calls a “gigantorous social mission,” where the player needs to recruit a certain number of friends to pass.

While on the Trail, the player must spend rations on individual actions performed by their character or one of their party members. Certain actions can only be performed by certain characters — like the doctor searching the brush for medicine. This is where friends’ gameplay will become important, as friends can visit your Trail and perform actions like finding medicine or repairing the wagon without drawing from the player’s store of rations. Additionally, the player receives bonus rations for each time their friends visit the Trail to help out. Playing without friends — or with very lazy ones — forces the player to spend their own rations to activate characters and complete quests. Pioneer Trail offers players the chance to “fire” party members at any point during the game to replace them with other friends or NPCs.

Missions in Pioneer Trail feature branching possibilities and outcomes. Certain plot points prompt the player to choose one of two responses. Though a “wrong” decision during these instances will not halt progression, it will impact the player’s overall score for the Trail. As the player completes quests and eventually the entire Trail itself, they earn Trail Points to spend on special items that can be taken back to the homestead. These items range from decorations found on the Trail to single-click harvesters or chicken feeders. A secondary Pioneer Trail currency is Prize Tickets, which players can purchase with Facebook Credits and then turn around and spend on Trail rewards. Once players complete the Trail, they can replay it for more Trail Points.

The Pioneer Trail expansion is an interesting experiment in extending the life of FrontierVille, a topic we recently explored with Facebook’s Sean Ryan. Aside from just introducing a new gameplay experience, the expansion itself runs on a unique app ID on Facebook. When players first log into the FrontierVille after Pioneer Trail is live, they will be prompted to visit the trail, which leads to a new app install screen. Once installed, all of the player’s FrontierVille progress — their homestead, completed quests, inventory, friends, etc. — is migrated to the new app ID. At any point on the Pioneer Trail, if the player selects “Return to Homestead,” they do go back to their homestead as they left it, but not back to the old app ID. Zynga is still determining what to do with the original FrontierVille app ID once the majority of players have migrated. Osvald says Zynga will likely not have to create new app IDs for subsequent FrontierVille expansions.

Pioneer Trail launches on Facebook today.