At the Social Gaming Summit 2010, Mark Skaggs, Zynga’s VP of Product Development and FarmVille’s lead designer talked about time-based gameplay in FarmVille. Appointment Dynamics, also referred to as a “Golden Mechanic” by Mark Pincus, is a game mechanic where a player is presented incentives to return at a predefined time to take an action.
In the case of FarmVille, the appointment dynamic is to return to harvest crops before they wither.
Mark shares further points in the video:
- Zynga tries to tap into implicit understandings: small plants take less time to grow than larger plants
- Analyze play patterns: offer variations for different player schedules
- Some people plant in the morning, return at lunch, return again at dinner, and then repeat the next day.
- Some people only play during work hours
- Most popular periods seem to be in 4 hour “chunks”, although they also offer 6 hour and 2 day (to cover players who play at work)