The Future Of PC Gaming, According To FarmVille Creator

For PC Gaming Week, Kotaku has invited top people in video games to share their vision for the future of computer gaming. First up, Mark Skaggs, the man at social gaming juggernaut Zynga who led the creation of arguably the hottest PC gaming going: FarmVille.

Move, Adapt, Socialise

As I'm inching closer to two decades in the gaming business, I've witnessed quite a few changes. The world of PC gaming is arguably in the middle of a fundamental shift. With the introduction of social and digital delivery, mobile and user-generated content, it's an exciting time for anyone involved in the industry.

While no one knows where gaming will lead us five years from now, I do have a few predictions:

1. We're going to live in a world where games move with you. Mobility is key - everyone is taking their PCs with them in the form of laptops and tablets. Games are playable across multiple devices and instantly accessible, leaving downloads and delays in the dust. While some players will be looking for a way to spend five quick minutes between classes, others will be playing their favourite game waiting for a business meeting to start. Other players will turn to gaming for the entertainment that immerses one in an alternative life - similar to what some players experience in various games today.

2. Gameplay will continue to change to the point where every game has social built into its core. Any game that does not have a strong social component will seem as old-fashioned as a joystick with a single shooter. New social game mechanics will become the social bonding agent that brings more people together in meaningful ways. The future may also bring a new form of digital family board-game night. Why play Monopoly with your mum and dad, when you can play a game with your entire extended family across the world at any time?

3) Finally, I think we're going to start seeing the initial inklings of adaptive game experiences. Games are getting smart - and eventually systems, along with the management software, will monitor a player's progress and adapt gameplay difficulty, mechanics and experience accordingly. For example, if a player has a difficult time getting past a level or mastering a skill the game will auto-adapt to help a player excel. This type of experience may also automatically serve up new game suggestions to help players find games that match their taste and style.

Suffice to say, I'm an eternal optimist when it comes to the future of games. I'm also looking forward to breakthrough moments in tech, game mechanics and art that will come unpredictably from the minds of game-making geniuses around the world.

Mark Skaggs is an award-winning game developer and 17-year games industry veteran most recently known for creating the world-wide phenomenon FarmVille for Zynga. He previously worked at EA where he oversaw development of several Command & Conquer games. He is currently vice president of product development at Zynga.


    Just so long as it doesn't go sending personal information off to third parties, and desn't spam facebook with stupid requests for things like wheels and carrots.

    People seem to confuse evolution and change with replacement, this guy included. The evolution of motion pictures did not destroy the novel, and social and casual gaming will not destroy the deep single-player experience. While I agree that the casual, quick-play and highly social market is exploding right now, and that those games will be with us for a long time, there is simply nothing that will make me believe that people will not want to play the Bioshocks, Fallouts, and Final Fantasys (Fantasies? can I do that to a proper noun?) of the future.

    The casual game--the one played in 5 minute bursts on the train--will struggle to captivate the player and transport that player into an immersive fictional world the way Fallout 3 does for its fanbase. In the same way that the Godfather is not going to be the same thing if you adapted it to 5 minute webisodes you watch on your phone on the way to work, these games are grandiose and deeply engaging. They won't disappear.

    On his third point, I think this is a strange way of looking at the world. Yes, there will be games that do this--Left 4 Dead already does. However, there will be artists who want to give players something in particular, not just set their brain cogs in motion. You can't make arguments about how hard it is to fight a resistance in an oppressive state without that game being difficult to play. The meaning of victory in games will be lessened if the difficulty adapts to ensure victory is achieved no matter how bad the player is.

    That said, if what this guy means is that PC developers are believing the hype--then yes, we will see the Farmville model applied to everything. That hype being that you can't sell a non-casual game not specifically engineered to create a social network of players forcing each other to play. Of course, if investors believe this without question then we will see more of these kinds of games. I hope that we see something more than this in the coming years, though...


      Though on point 3, I think his half-way there. Games are doing this already but for now the choice has been the users, like in recent Mario games, with clips of how to do things and Roselina. It is probably not a far stretch for devs to tinker with just doing this automatically and it maybe tiny and not noticeable. For instance you get a boss down to 3% health 3-4times, games sees a pattern, 5th time it gives the boss 3% less health. I doubt you'd notice in the heat of it.

      As for your end comment, I don't think there is anything to worry about. The whole "social" thing is going to reach capacity and when it does, it will also likely burst. I'm both looking forward and worried about that day, many people will get hurt.

    Isn't it sad that Farmville and The Sims seem to be leading the charge on the PC at the moment? Well sad for me anyway. I just hope that hardcore non MMORPG games don't disappear from the PC altogether.

    With regards to his first point, I dunno. I myself prefer a nice big screen with a proper sized keyboard and mouse. Laptop gaming has been ridiculously expensive compared to a proper PC for years and that doesn't seem to be changing. If you want to play those graphics intensive games, you need a nice kick ass laptop which loves to heat up. The only comfortable way of playing a game is on a desk and if it's going to be like that, I may as well be on a desktop. Besides, I dunno about everyone else but the only spare time I have to play proper games is when I'm at home. Gaming on a laptop will need to make ridiculous leaps and bounds before it comes anywhere near as practical as a desktop PC.

    Can't say I agree with point 2 either, Adam's already hit the mark there.

    If you really want to kill off PC gaming, keep reporting on Zynga like they are an actual game developer.

      Agreed. Kotaku, please blacklist Zynga.

    I support this, Zynga and anyone associated with them have no standing as game developers.

      I meant to reply to Roland.

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