Another FusionFall Review

One of the first things I noticed about the game was the interesting, intertextual and subtly reflexive way it plays with the idea of different versions of the same character. For example, in the first level of the game, Buttercup (of the Powerpuff Girls) sends you on a mission to save Dexter from “Fusion Buttercup” (the evil, Fuse doppelganger) who you then transform into Nano Buttercup (by defeating her), who then becomes your ally. This fluidity and intertextuality both refers to the way that children experience media branded characters in their own lives — as television characters, as many different incarnations of toys, as videogame avatars, and as the endless variations thereof the children themselves produce during imaginative play.

But the originality of the characters is soon overshadowed by the clunky game design. My first hour of play was plagued by server overcrowding, a bug that made it impossible to finish a specific quest, and full on browser crashes that repeatedly wiped out all of my progress in a particular level. This is likely more prevalent in the online free version than in the full-fledged software + subscription version that the free site promotes, but if CN wants to attract long-term subscribers, the trial version is going to have to run a lot smoother than it does right now. On the other hand, kids have been waiting so long for this game that it might not matter so much in the short term. Not to mention the fact that since so many of the other MMOGs for kids already on the market are similarly full of bugs and clunky-ness (I’m still looking at YOU Pirates of the Caribbean Online), the standards (and player expectations) among this demographic might not be all that high. According to Emily Claire Afan over at Kidscreen, more than 2.5 million accounts were created during the beta stage — so at least we’ll have a yardstick to measure its popularity against now that the game is live and running.

Gamine Expedition: CN’s Fusion Fall Launches

For some reason (perhaps my choices of play time) I haven’t had too rough of a time exploring FusionFall… however, my staff have had the same difficulties that Sara seems to be experiencing, and her acute review of the site in its early stages is dead on.

That’s the hard thing about first-launch.  Everyone is eyeing you (well, rightfully so with FF, since we’ve been waiting on baited breath for ages, with all the push backs on launch), and to be fair – it’s very, very difficult to come out of the web gate with a fully functional, nigh-on-perfecto performance for all.  Not to mention, trying a new concept with established (and much beloved) IP(s) of characters… that’s a tricky tight rope… and difficult to make everyone happy while still giving this amazing new experience.

However… good intentions for a great experience = amazing.  What else is amazing?  The follow through and execution on both functional & operational levels.

Often I feel a ping of regret when rambling about a new virtual world.  Why?  It’s new.  They’re just trying to get into the market – wham, bam, payment ma’am!  Off-set spending, ya know?  Users & proving concept is necessary to score money & more investment & licensing, which ultimately allows for the ability to build bigger, better, and give the users exactly what they want – at least that’s the lesson I’ve learned with non-household-name projects.

It’s amazing for me to go back to the Virtual Worlds that came out early last year (or even the year before).  They’re still, at heart, of the same context… but the improvements, choices, and play patterns have all changed in one way or another.

The sites that are unable to roll with the punches fast enough (or thoroughly enough)… those are the sites that we won’t see too much of, unless they just happen to be supported by golden wings of the wealthy angel investors.

Lots of people try to explain this early stage of bambi-walking (wobbly-kneed site just learning to walk, roughly) with a nice, clean term of “BETA.”  Sure, those of us in the industry know what Beta means, and bow to it with a certain amount of forgiveness & understanding.  But kids?  I asked a few big time online gamers… they thought it was a fish.

Basically, here’s the thing.  All these new sites – there’s stuff in it that isn’t necessarily of “high grade” execution.  Things that may not seem thought through, or well created.  We give those new sites their critical poo-poo’s.  We give those new sites the arched eyebrow of “this might be interesting in the future?”.  And we give those new sites pats on the back for the bits they’ve done well… right… pretty… flashy… fun.

The real label of success is this:  CHECK THE SITE IN 6 – 9 MONTHS and note the changes.  How well did the site take the commentary & restruction/recreate/improve?  Are they still around?  Do they have an audience of faithful and plentiful members?

If you’re still scrambling for members in 6 – 9 months, and you’re still scratching your head about why your project hasn’t become buzz worthy… chances are, you didn’t roll with the punches fast enough, and you aren’t engaging the audience in something they feel is necessary to their daily entertainment intake.

Now I’ve WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY removed myself from the original point of this ramble.  FusionFall has done some amazing things, and they still have work to do (don’t we all, hahaha).  There are other sites out there that are nigh on a year old now that STILL have functionality & operational issues for a site that has kick-arse content.  You have to solve the problems that break the fantasy of your site as quickly as possible, if you can (it’s a harder job for some than others, based on tech choices).  And then you have to build upon the world itself – play patterns overall.  Then build upon events & new changes/additions that have a slight ‘temporary exclusivity’ feel.  Then keep offering the community what it wants, blended into the context/concept of your IP.

Tall orders, but that’s what we all bought into when building playgrounds for imagination, dreams, and community.

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