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Mainstream game designers go social in FrontierVille

FarmVille creator Zynga has a new social game launching today on Facebook, called FrontierVille.


FarmVille creator Zynga has a new social game launching today on Facebook, called FrontierVille. With 60 million active players (although the number can vary widely month to month), FarmVille is the unstoppable juggernaut of social games (a relatively new category, which includes games played on Facebook and other social networking platforms), and Zynga is hoping lightning strikes twice.

The new game takes the action in an even more rural direction than FarmVille, setting up shop in a far-flung frontier town. Game designer Brian Reynolds describes it as, "Oregon Trail meets Little House on the Prairie meets FarmVille." And his involvement may be the clearest indicator yet that social gaming is merging with mainstream gaming.

Although currently the chief game designer at Zynga, Reynolds has a long history in PC gaming, having worked as the lead designer on games such as Civilization II, Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri, and Rise of Nations--a very strong strategy game CV for the social/casual games market, which is sometimes derided as offering only simplistic fare.

I hope that bear's friendly... Zynga

Starting with nothing but a covered wagon and a plot of land, players can explore the wilderness, build a town, or raise crops. If that sounds vaguely similar to FarmVille, it's because the games are very close, using much of the same time-and-turn-based gameplay. Like FarmVille, you can invite friends, trade items, and, of course, purchase in-game items from Zynga (the financial engine that drives the social gaming business).

FrontierVille's live beta launches today, and you can play it here. See also more on the game from AllThingsD and some starter tips and tricks from [disclosure: I'm married to the editor-in-chief of AOL's].

Will mainstream PC/console gamers ever go for social media games? Should apps like FarmVille and FrontierVille even be called video games? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.