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Zynga, which makes hugely popular Facebook “social games” such as Farmville and Mafia Wars, has released details of Adventure World, an ambitious and potentially more absorbing new type of social game.

Adventure World is an Indiana Jones-style strategy game in which players search for historical artifacts and piece them together to earn virtual gold and experience points.

The game is much larger and more complex than anything Zynga has built previously, and calls for players to strategize about not only what to do in the game itself but also which Facebook friends to invite along for the ride. It introduces concepts more commonly found in PC video games, providing a large, complex virtual world. Zynga hopes this will attract new players and keep everyone engaged longer, which is key to its profits.

Zynga’s existing games can be played in as little as a few spare minutes; the company makes money mainly by selling things for players to use inside its games. The company sells a lot of these virtual items; its filing for an initial public offering reveals that Zynga had $91 million in net income last year on $597 million in revenue. That marked a five-fold increase in revenue from the year before.

If Zynga is to keep growing, it needs to develop new kinds of social games, and Adventure World is a bold new step. It is 40 times bigger than the largest version of Farmville, featuring five major environments, including a jungle and the inside of a volcano. It has 35 different maps to explore, puzzles to solve, and enemies to battle on the way to collecting precious artifacts. Unlike other games that run within Facebook, Adventure World is designed to be played full-screen, immersing the player in the world of the game.

Adventure World was built by a team of developers with experience building “massively multiplayer online games” for companies such as Turbine, which makes The Lord of the Rings Online. The game’s creators adapted concepts from this kind of PC game in an effort to provide a richer experience. “We wanted to bring more story to Facebook,” says principal game designer Jesse Kurlancheek.

“There’s the emergence of a middle ground” between casual Facebook games and more immersive games, says David Bisceglia, CEO and cofounder of game company The Tap Lab, which makes location-based social games. He says a number of companies are looking at ways to bring the power of massively multiplayer online games—known for entrancing gamers for years on end—to social networks and mobile devices.

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Credit: Zynga

Tagged: Computing, Facebook, Zynga, social games

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