This article isn't about the usual sort of thing I write about in this blog, but I just uninstalled Castleville and as a former game designer I wanted to comment upon it.
Castleville is, in many ways, quite cleverly designed. It's a happy, sappy time with no real threats. It has charming characters, cute animals, amusing villains. If you have time, you can soak up hours each day arranging and rearranging your kingdom's buildings and landscape. In this regard it's pleasant and inoffensive.
The game is clearly designed to make money for Zynga, the company that designed Castleville. That's fine on the face of it, since I never expected them to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. But if you want to play for free, as the game tempts you to do, forget it. There will be a cost. Either you will be forced to pay real-world money to buy “crowns,” or you will pester your friends endlessly. The game is set up so that you either give them actual money or you advertise for them. There is no way to simply play by yourself.
Believe me, I tried. I spent about two months seeking a way to play more-or-less solo, and without paying any money. There are some very sophisticated games (such as Anarchy Online, as just one example) that only mildly penalize you for not paying in any way. Yes, you can get extras if you pay more than nothing, but the game experience is still complete and satisfying when played free.
Castleville, on the other hand, will pollute your Facebook timeline. It will continually default to informing all your friends (not just your Castleville neighbors) with news of your trivial accomplishments and needs. Yes, you can manually delete these messages from your Facebook timeline, but since your Castleville friends also place messages there this turns into a dull daily chore.
You can opt to not place many of these messages on your Facebook timeline, but this makes it impossible to complete key quests in the game. Eventually you will arrive at a point where progress is blocked because every avenue of exploration requires the completion of a quest that requires you to splatter Castleville messages all over your Facebook timeline.
I have uninstalled Castleville. I don't mind a game posting the occasional message on my timeline, but when it does so to the point that it starts to obscure everything else, well, it starts to look like my entire life revolves around playing a game.
I salute Zynga for the cheerful, fun, silly aspects of their game. The designers (game, systems, graphic and otherwise) did a marvelous job! But they were clearly told to make the game profitable without regard to how much it dominated the player's Facebook existence. And in the long run, that's not a game I care to play.
When I uninstalled it, I gave it 2 stars out of 5. I'd like to have given it more, to show my respect to the designers. I'd give them 5 out of 5. But the implementation of the business model dragged it down to 2 stars.
Castleville currently has something like 7 million “likes” on Facebook. My little review won't hurt them. But if you're considering playing it, consider also how it will take over your timeline. Is that really the message you want to send to others?