Is George Clooney popping up in FarmVille?
While the actor himself may not be addicted to the popular social game (which over 100 million people have played on Facebook since its popularization in 2010) the design and art director of FarmVille got on the phone today with EW to talk about how Clooney inspired a character, the animation ideas they got from Disney and Pixar, and what’s new in FarmVille land — specifically with the launch of FarmVille 2 Wednesday.
FarmVille 2 will look pretty different to fans of the game. It comes with a host of upgrades, including a jump from 2D to 3D animation. You can download and play FarmVille 2 on Zynga.com and Facebook now, and read below for EW’s chat with the designers.
FarmVille was such a huge phenomenon when it was created in 2010. What were some of the inspirations behind the game?
Wright Bagwell, Design Director: I think one of the inspirations was this hunch people had, like, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be fun, as oppose to a traditional game, where you sit down for a long period of time and play it, like a movie, there’s something more like a series, where you end each episode with a cliffhanger.’ FarmVille was about putting seeds in the ground and planting trees and thinking to yourself ‘What’s this going to look like in 4 hours?’ We had this hunch that people would find that fun. It was a big bet, and it really paid off. …FarmVille was really special because it put social games on the map. It was a huge cultural phenomenon.
And what did you hope to build upon with the launch of FarmVille 2 today?
Bagwell: What we wanted to do when we sort-of imagine FarmVille 2; we wanted to build a farm that comes to life. So we started to take some of what we know and love about TV and movie characters and modern animation, and wondered how we could get some of that life injected into this game. So we began by thinking that the mission here is to bring the farm to life, [like] a virtual pet that we love to take care of.
Can you talk a little about the decision to go with 3D animation?
Daryl Anselmo, Art Director: Sure, it really helped to bring the characters to life, particularly the character animation. The animals, when you feed them, they become happy, or happy to see you. These are all things we looked at in traditional animation and feature animation that really helped to inspire some of the emotions that we were trying to create with this game.
What feature films specifically inspired you?
Anselmo: A couple that we looked at were both by Disney and some of the Pixar films. Ratatouille in particular we were looking at, and Finding Nemo as well. I think Pixar does a phenomenal job of adding personality to animals and then bringing them to life in a way that’s distinguishable and memorable so we really applied a lot of that learning into our [animation].
I was told that the chicken in the game was modeled after the personality of Don Knotts?
Anselmo: Yeah, actually a lot of our animals we looked at celebrities that are kind of known and made some of the movements off of movements you might see from some of these celebrities. So for the chicken we looked at both Don Knotts and Rodney Dangerfield and tried to [use] signature movements that those gentleman had, and we built that right into the chicken itself. With the horses we were looking at young leading men, the young teenager leading men.
What of Don Knotts’ personality did you try and model into the chickens?
Anselmo: Don Knotts and Rodney Dangerfield had a charming, quirky personality and I could recall their eye movements and the way that they would quickly – their body language had sort of quick step movements to it. They were masters at sort-of comedic timing with their body language, so a lot of that was built into the chickens.
Any other characters that had celebrity inspiration?
Anselmo: We’ve got a character named Gus [pictured above] and when we were designing Gus we were looking at leading men, and a couple that come to mind are George Clooney and Brad Pitt. They’ve got that “loveable guy who’s attractive in a way he doesn’t really understand” [vibe] and we sort of looked at Pitt and Clooney and tried to carry that in his personality.
What else about FarmVille 2 are you excited about?
Wright: We imagine FarmVille as the next generation of social games. One of the things we didn’t really touch on was how your friends are so integral to social games. Your friends are the most important thing in this game. A lot of times you need help to make things go faster, if you run out of water or something like that. Your friends are always there to help you. One of the things people were asking for was ‘I want to have my friends help me out, but I want to tell them what I’m asking for.’ So social is really important to this game and I think people are going to be really excited about the cool new ways you can interact with your friends.