For this project, I will be taking a look at OMGPOP's "Draw My Thing" and "Sims 3" from EA Games.
To begin, omgpop.com is a website that hosts multi-player games in a social online environment. It has a built in user profile system similar to Facebook. You can check what games your friends are playing, see your recent list of opponents, send challenges to other players, and see what games are most popular and who is playing them.
The site has it's own currency, which you can earn by logging in daily, winning games, betting against your opponents, watching ads, or answering survey questions. Of course, with this collectible currency comes one of the most addicting features of the website: customizable content. For every game there exists customizable characters, items, power boosts, etc... Focusing on "Draw my Thing", players can customize their writing utensil, clock timer, and even by vowels to get a jump start on their opponents as they scramble to guess what each other is drawing within 60 seconds. Sounds familiar? With a very sleek interface and a booming social network, omgpop has made online Pictionary and other simple games seems new again.
Omgpop's interface is as simple as can be and just the way we like it. Instead of listing games down the page with small icons like Kongregate.com, Armorgames.com, Newgrounds.com, and many other still do, Omgpop's aesthetic seems to borrow from the glossy sliding frames of the iPhone and similar Apple interfaces. As a testament to how alluring the interface is, several times since trying to write this analysis, I've been watching the billboard that scrolls through their games and have gotten sucked into playing them multiple times. It's hard to leave this site once you enter.
Moving on to Sims 3. My girlfriend got me hooked on the Sims 2 earlier this year. It was so easy to spend hours building elaborate mansions or decorating a house with quirky materials. The ability to create in the Sims only grew as EA very cleverly allowed user generated content to play a big role in the game. "Why not let them do our job for us, and they can make whatever they want and be happy!" Same basic principle to Second Life, of course its easier to create in SL than it is in the Sims.
Sims 3 was very hyped and highly anticipated. I was hoping it was going to be leaps and bounds ahead of Sims 2, but in some ways, it was even worse. EA may have been depending on user generated content a little too much this time around, and skimped on some critical building tools. The overall building engine and graphics are very similar to how they were before and the only new "big feature" was that you could now place objects on a 45 degree angle... Yippee! In the trailers, the cameras were all positioned closer to the characters and lower to the ground which gave it a much newer look. I was disappointed to find that the camera still really only functions in bird eye view, and trying to zoom in just results in the camera jumping around everywhere.
On a positive note, I was able to get more involved in self-design in the Sims 3. The characters have more flexable facial features and there's some decent user generated content to download. Having more control in character creation has always helped me get more attached to the character and more involved in the game. Unfortunately, the Sims 3 still doesn't keep my attention as well as it should for a highly anticipated release in this age of gaming.
After I was playing for a while, I noticed something about the game play was bothering me. I didn't know what it was, but I almost was feeling sad when I was playing. I eventually realized that the entire game felt incredibly lonely, a giant world with lots of characters that just did everyday things like me, and they weren't even real people. I'm starting to think that this format is not working as well as it used to for the Sims, especially when there are better games out there that have an online social capability. I was less interested in clicking on a person and saying "tell joke" when I could go online in Second Life and do it myself. I think if EA is going to survive another Sims game, it has to be like Sims online.
From my perspective, it seems that social interaction is becoming more and more important in gaming. Don't get me wrong, I love a good RPG with some good character writing for NPCs, but if the story isn't well written and immersive, the game can seem a little lonely next to some games with bustling online communities.