Most social games, whether Zynga’s city building simulations or a gamified contest or tie-in for a consumer brand or movie, are about whittling down the gameplay options to those that either provide basic gameplay enjoyment or else provide some sort of social utility for the user. Hence, the cross-over between traditional game brands and, for example, Facebook games, has been close to non-existent. We have seen occasional brand extensions, such as the Madden NFL Facebook game -- but that was basically a coaching simulation, and nothing like the popular console game.
Civ World, from Firaxis and 2K Games, may be the closest someone has come to putting a serious core game (a term used for the in-depth PC and console games played by enthusiast gamers) on the Facebook platform. The game, entering a public beta phase today, looks and feels a lot like the classic Civilization PC games that have been popular for 20 years. It also works in some of the social networking and sharing that makes a Facebook game such as Frontierville so popular. And, of course, there will be a monitization aspect, as there is for all these social/casual games -- in this case, paying into the system to speed up the development of your empire.
If an experiment like Civ World works, it could open the floodgate for more big gaming brands to test the Facebook/gamification waters (although the concept of gamifying a game franchise sounds ridiculous at first, there’s little conceptually that Farmville shares with, say, Halo).
However, at this early beta phase, Civ World feels like a lot of good ideas struggling to find a way to the surface. The game is sluggish -- a definite knock for something meant to be played in short minutes-long increment's -- and the on-screen tutorials don’t do an adequate job of explaining the game’s goals or mechanics.
From a more practical standpoint, Civ World lacks two very important parts of the Facebook game language -- the small game window cannot currently be expanded to a full-screen view, and much more importantly, connecting with Facebook friends online is difficult, and in some cases, impossible. Rather than having every Facebook player able to connect as in-game friends, you’re shunted off to a random game session, which your actual friends playing the game may or may not be a part of. OF course, none of this is clearly explained, even in a copious Wiki and FAQ documentation players are urged to read.
That said, we really want to see Civ World succeed, and there’s definitely the bones of great casual/core crossover experience there. But with companies like Zynga rewriting the rulebook for what works in online gaming, Civ World will have to adopt a few of those standards (such as screen-zooming and easy friend connections) before it has a real chance.