One of the most popular video games on Facebook will be renamed this week. The game formerly known as Adventure World will be renamed for George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's renowned hero Indiana Jones as game company Zynga adds the most extraordinary character to one of its games since FarmVille got a visit from Lady Gaga.
Indiana Jones will become a prominent non-playable character for Indiana Jones Adventure World through the addition of a series of adventures that will, of course, involve lost treasures, bullwhipping and too many snakes.
And it's canon.
The free-to-play Indiana Jones Adventure World, which goes live on Tuesday, the 29th, will be considered part of the same Lucas-approved fiction that brought us Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles. That might seem weird for a few reasons, including the fact that, when it debuted on Facebook a couple of months ago, Adventure World had nothing to do with Indiana Jones.
Adventure World is a Zynga game, a sibling of FarmVille, CityVille and the rest of the upstart company's roster of free Facebook social games. It has nine million users a month, according to Facebook's internal stat-tracking. Like the other major Zynga games, it entices people to click and play for a few minutes per session before waiting to earn more energy to keep playing — or by paying for that energy to keep playing immediately.
Adventure World is different from other Zynga games because it is story-driven and plays a little more similarly to a classic action-adventure video game than a simple farm or city-management game, letting the player control a main character who uses whips and machetes to cut through jungle, fight snakes, deactivate traps and help local people, while questing for rare treasure.
Adventure World had seemed like an Indiana Jones riff from the start, not long after which Zynga said Indy would be coming to the game. A deal with Indy's caretakers has now been signed. The famous adventure can join the game officially in what Nabell Hyatt, general manager of Adventure World studio Zynga Boston, describes as "almost re-launching he game."
The Indy content for Adventure World will roll out over the course of several weeks. The game's creators hope that schedule will seem like an homage to the old movie serial adventures that inspired Lucas and Spielberg's great creation. Players will gain access to free, new chapters — adventures, really — that will be accesible alongside the game's many non-Indy adventures, all of which can be launched from the game's main base camp.
The first new Indy chapter, Indiana Jones and the Calendar of the Sun debuts on Tuesday, the same day the game's name and a few other elements will change. That first chapter, set in Central America circa 1934, consists of three maps that wil be explored in order as the new Indy adventure unfolds.
This starter chapter lets players meet Indy for the first time in the game, following up on some teases that have been injected in the game for several weeks. Those teases and Indy-oriented quests, were pre-amble to the sight of Indy appearing in the game world. He is no longer some distant quest-giver. In the new chapter, he functions as a non-playable buddy, standing in the playing field and occasionally snapping to action. Zynga reps showed me a portion of the adventure which kept the player in control of their own character, but which featured Indy helping the player at specific, triggered moments by using his bullwhip to cross a chasm or by lending advices. Indy gradually makes himself part of the adventure.
"It's like a buddy movie where we're helping each other out," the game's executive producer, Toby Ragaini, explained, though he clarified that players won't ever control Indy. He says that's a result of heeding players' desires to keep their own custom-made adventurer under their control, something they heard from gamers who gave them feedback about the Indy integration. "There was a much higher level of excitement about adventuring with Indiana Jones than adventuring as Indiana Jones," he said. People spend time crafting their Adventure World character, Ragaini explained, and don't want "to throw all that away for the opportunity to be Indy on one map." (Or three, apparently, as the case may be with this first chapter.)
The starter Indy map that Zynga showed me played out with several signature Indiana Jones trademarks. Indy needed our help to deal with snakes, which, yes, he hates. We had to navigate some traps and had to flee a giant, rolling boulder.
This first chapter, Calendar of the Sun takes place a little before Raiders of the Lost Ark and may thrill hardcore Indy fans with one detail: we're going to encounter Forrestal in some way. That guy was a rival adventurer to Indiana Jones. If you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark and forgotten his name, watch the opening scene again. "Forrestal" is one of the first words actor Harrison Ford says in the film, and Forrestal's carcass appears in the movie's famous first cave, skewered on a trap that Indy triggers. Zynga's official description for Calendar of the Sun indicates a band of "evil adventurers" is ahead of you and Indy in a quest for this lost Calendar of the Sun treasure. Forrestal is probably one of them.
Most of what was in Adventure World pre-Indy will remain after the re-naming. The existing quests will still be there, and players' progress won't be rolled back. New players will experience a modified introduction that will include Indiana Jones. Existing players who have played some of the recently-added Indiana Jones pre-arrival adventures will have a tiny bit of added awareness about what Indy is looking for. But veteran players won't have any special perks. The new content will add new trap types in the new maps and new collectible items. In the weeks to come, Zynga wil also offer Indiana Jones-inspired outfits for the player's character and new gadgets, including snake bait, greased pushblocks and a bear trap.
The addition of Indy won't bring the addition of the Indiana Jones movies' famous theme song, though. That wasn't part of Zynga's deal.
Hyatt, the game studio's general manager, said that the addition of Indiana Jones will bring with it "a little more danger" in the game's quests. Future chapters will bring players to Egypt and Tibet and could involve other Indy-series characters, which are all part of Zynga's deal with Lucasfilm.
The relaunching Indiana Jones Adventure World will go live on Facebook on Tuesday at this link. If you're starting fresh, Zynga says you'll be able to go on your first adventure with Indy when you hit level three. That shouldn't take long. It's easier than replacing a golden idol with a bag of sand.
As for adding other fictional characters to Zynga games, the official response is basically "if it makes sense." So did they consider Tomb Raider's Lara Croft for Adventure World, too? The official response is, simply, "No comment."