There’s this great quote from Zynga CEO, Mark Pincus, to an ex-employee on SFWeekly, “I don’t [f-bomb]ing want innovation… You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.” While it’s impossible to verify, seeing Zynga’s business strategy thus far, it hardly seems like much of a stretch.
Hidden Chronicles is the latest in Zynga’s long line of unethical game theft, where they make a shameless, heartless copycat of a popular, existing game. The game in question is Playdom’s hidden-object game, Gardens of Time.
Remember those awesome Highlights for Kids puzzles where you are given a list of common items, such as forks and needles, to find within a picture? This is the same concept, but geared towards adults. The object of the game is to find objects hidden within a picture based on a word list at the bottom. There is a mess of items hiding in plain sight, but you have to discern one from another.
The game asks you to play through scenes multiple times. It’s a surprisingly brilliant move, though one that Gardens of Time did as well, that gives the game replay value. The scene doesn’t change. You start to memorize the scene and item locations, conditioning yourself to click with almost no thought, and can improve upon your scores. Eventually, you start to move up the leaderboards and can compete against friends.
Outside of the core gameplay, you are tasked with maintaining your deceased uncle’s estate. You must decorate it, using the resources you gain for exploring an item’s “memory,” to gain estate points and unlock other scenes. Eventually, by interacting with the memories within these artifacts, you may be able to catch your uncle’s killer. You’re like “Medium,” but with inanimate objects. This is a far cry from the time-traveling story and setting of Gardens of Time, where you are basically “Doctor Who.”
Hidden Chronicles is shameless in the way it copies Gardens of Time. Aside from the difference in setting, there are very few things to differentiate this from Gardens of Time. The concept, the gameplay, the progression, the leveling, the user interface, even the art direction, all seem to be copied. One could argue that the core “energy” element was Playdom aping Zynga games, of course, but that’s moot when you see how much more has been stolen by Zynga. Though the art direction is very similar, colors all seem to be darker. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me members from the Mafia Wars team handled the primary art direction, especially with the presence of guns and knives in most scenes.
Being a Zynga game, there are your standard Zynga annoyances (“Zyngannoyances” or “Zyngnoyances”?) to be found. You are asked early and often to pester your friends. Construction in Hidden Chronicles is more complex. Most decorations require help from your friends to complete. Gardens of Time at least let you build things before asking to pimp your friends to upgrade them. If you beat a friend on a leaderboard, it asks you if you want to let them know… every single time.
The game offers premium content for those willing to pay. Cash-exclusive items often reward more estate points, meaning people who pay-to-play will advance the story quicker than those who don’t. Additionally, these paid items are typically more desirable decorations as a whole. If you want to impress your friends, get ready to pay, you damn whale.
On the plus side, Zynga’s numbers are still well below what Gardens of Time average. But the game is still very new, so it’s just a matter of time before they surpass Playdom’s game gets beat at its own game… or rather by its own game. One has to wonder how long Zynga can cannibalize their own games, while shitting out carbon copies of others, before people just stop playing them all together.
Just because everything about this game is a clone of an existing game doesn’t mean that it’s a bad game. It is, for all intents and purposes, inferior to the original. However, both games are fun. It’s just very lame of Zynga to leverage their users, using cross-promotion synergy, while copying a game that was somewhat innovative to keep their company numbers up. However, you don’t stay king of the hill by playing nice with others.
If you can only play one hidden-object game on Facebook, Gardens of Time is still the way to go. It’s just better, with a cleaner user interface, better setting, fewer post feeds, and a few moving objects that are inexplicably not to be found in Zynga’s game. However, there’s nothing particularly wrong with Hidden Chronicles. It’s just another example of Zynga’s uninspired game theft at work.Tweet
About the Author
|Fade to Slack is a founding member of Delta Attack, an American expatriate in South Korea, and a true believer in the legitimacy of mobile gaming.
Keep up with him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Fade2Slack so he can justify having a Twitter account.
Fade to Slack has written 308 posts on Delta Attack.