Facebook games star Zynga is launching an old-school, arcade-style title that will be free at its new website or at the world’s biggest social network.
“Bubble Safari” crafted by a Zynga studio in the southern California city of San Diego will be the first title to debut simultaneously at zynga.com and at Facebook on Wednesday.
“This is a new style of game for Zynga in that it is a straight-out arcade game where people are going to lose,” said studio creative director Mark Turmell, who left U.S. videogame titan Electronic Arts last year to join Zynga.
“I’ve been making arcade style games for 20 years… and the learning from old arcade days applies almost 100% to the social market today.”
Unlike hit Zynga games such as “CityVille” and “FarmVille” in which people casually tend virtual crops or construct cartoon urban centers with occasional help of online friends, arcade games move quickly in real time.
“Bubble Safari” has an environmental theme, with players controlling an on-screen monkey out to defeat poachers by firing bubbles into an overhead rack to match colors and clear paths to higher levels, a preview revealed.
“The hero is Bubbles, a space drop-out monkey that has been living the good life in the jungle until poachers come and start taking his friends,” Turmell said. “He has to rescue his friends and stop the poachers.”
Zynga is considering partnering with a group such as the Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary in Uganda in keeping with the game’s nature-defending theme.
“It is always good in a game to have an arch enemy, and the concept of poachers running amok in the jungle is very real,” Turmell said.
“It is something no one is happy with… We have been trying to figure out a way to partner with that community and try to help.”
Zynga Networks posted a “Bubble Safari” video trailer at YouTube for those interested in a peek at the game.
Hazards and challenges heighten as players advance through the faux jungle and the 65 levels in the game. Online friends can pitch in by sending players needed bubbles or “power-ups” such as lightning bolts or bombs.
“For the first time in an arcade game, your friends can help you on a moment-to-moment basis right in the middle of a level,” Turmell said.
“From a social standpoint in an arcade game, it breaks new ground.”
Zynga also gave “Bubbles” a speedy frame rate for fast play.
The game will launch in 14 languages.
Players at zynga.com will be able to take advantage of tools that let them engage in matches with strangers as well as friends.
People can play through the game for free, or pay small amounts along the way for boosts or other benefits to beat levels faster.
“The free-to-play model is almost like the old quarter-to-play arcade model,” Turmell said. “For me, after going through the arcade and console generations, social is like coming home.”