There is almost no brand as recognizable as FarmVille when it comes to social gaming. The original game launched on Facebook in 2009 and quickly became the most popular game on social networking site, with emphasis on engaging with friends in order to grow virtual crops and raising livestock.

The series has come a long way since then, and its newest addition—FarmVille: Tropic Escape—launched last week for mobile devices. In it, players go on a tropical getaway and enjoy the island vibe with tropical foods, adorable animals, fun excursions and their own beachside inn and tiki bar.

Nicole Opas, general manager leading the FarmVille: Tropic Escape team and executive producer for mobile and social games at Zynga, talks to [a]listdaily about the latest FarmVille adventure. Furthermore, having worked at Zynga for five years, Opas discusses the enduring strength of the FarmVille brand.

Nicole Opas
Nicole Opas, Zynga general manager and executive producer for mobile and social games

What is FarmVille: Tropic Escape about?

FarmVille: Tropic Escape is a completely new FarmVille game set in a tropical-themed world where players run a dynamic and fun beachside inn. Escaping to their own personal oasis, players journey through the island completing story-based quests, exploring uncharted areas and uncovering rare items along the way. With lovable new characters and companions, players can bask in paradise year-round as they create the most desirable tropical destination for VIP guests, all while discovering the mysteries of the island.

In what ways does Tropic Escape differ from previous FarmVille games?

FarmVille: Tropic Escape is a fresh, modern twist on the beloved world of FarmVille. When we set out to create a new experience for our players, the idea of escape and vacation really resonated with our team. In talking to our players about their ideal vacation, the overwhelming response was that they envision a tropical destination as their perfect getaway. We researched everything from the best restaurants in Hawaii to exotic island animals to make the game feel as realistic and authentic to an island vacation experience as possible.

In addition to building on the FarmVille legacy and taking players to a new destination, FarmVille: Tropic Escape brings new mechanics to the FarmVille franchise like the opportunity to earn daily rewards and in-game advantages by completing mini-games and enhanced social features.

Many mobile games are designed for short experiences. Does FarmVille: Tropic Escape follow that trend?

Our approach to design is player-first, where we imagine the different ways people play, when they play, and what they want to achieve in both short and long sessions. We designed FarmVille: Tropic Escape to be a game that you can pick up and play for just a few minutes of fun or for longer sessions. For example, a player can hop into the game, collect all the crafts and crops they had been producing and set up their next goals, which is a very satisfying short session. Or, they can spend more time strategically thinking about how they become the Top Resort on the weekly leaderboard and help their in-game friends, which turns into a longer experience. We also know that people play FarmVille games for years and years, so we’ve designed a game that’s rich in storylines and experiences to delight our players over months and years.

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How has the FarmVille series evolved since 2009?

At Zynga, we create games that are social at heart. We’ve had that focus since the first FarmVille game in 2009 and that remains a focus through this new addition to the FarmVille franchise. The way players want to be social has evolved and changed with the mobile landscape, and we’ve adapted to players wanting different ways to connect with their friends.

In web versions of FarmVille, we focused on players sending gifts and parts to each other to progress. On mobile, we’ve made the social interactions less about asking for items and more about playing together. We have these fun Beach Clubs in FarmVille: Tropic Escape where players can chat with friends, trade, send their guests to other islands and help friends achieve goals together.

How does a game like FarmVille: Tropic Escape stand out in an increasingly crowded mobile market?

FarmVille: Tropic Escape has exciting new gameplay that our players are really enjoying, like the mini-games, the brand-new characters, and storylines of mystery and romance—in addition to improvements to the interaction in core play like farming and crafting. We invite players to a modern-day island that makes them feel as though they’re leaving their hectic everyday life for the island life. We’ve been able to achieve this with eye-popping visuals, sounds and a level of authenticity that makes it feel like you can slip away to your own escape. We want our players to feel as if they are truly carrying a tropical vacation in their pocket.

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What would you say is FarmVille‘s most enduring quality that keeps fans coming back?

FarmVille put social games on the map and proved just how mainstream games could become. Since 2009, FarmVille games have been installed more than 700 million times, and that’s a testament to FarmVille as a truly mass market entertainment experience with appeal that crosses geographies and generations. From pioneering social to giving players high quality, engaging gameplay, there are a number of reasons why FarmVille fans continue to love our games.

But one of the biggest factors is the connections that our players make with one another in FarmVille games. Whether it’s reuniting family members to introducing them to the love of their life in-game, FarmVille has helped players form incredible connections with people around the world. At Zynga, our mission is to connect the world through games, and FarmVille truly embodies that spirit and focus.