Zynga has had a lot of success creating various types of what they refer to as "The Ville Genre." CastleVille, CityVille, FrontierVille, and the monster that started it all, FarmVille.
Well, that's only partially true. FarmVille may have been the first Ville game to become widely popular, but the first was actually YoVille, a Sims-like game that let players sync their Facebook account to an avatar like they would a Sims sim.
With their new game The Ville, Zynga is returning to the YoVille idea, cribbing heavily from EA's hugely popular The Sims Social while wrapping things up in its usual cheery, compulsive and vaguely psychotic vibe.
The setup of The Ville is essentially identical to The Sims Social. You'll make a character, to whom you can assign any of a number of physical traits. You can also customize his or her clothing, and then immediately begin building a "dream home" in which to spend time. This character is tied to your Facebook account, and so is also connected to any of your Facebook friends who play The Ville.
Home-construction is where things take on that familiar "Zynga Vibe"—you'll be able to lay out your house however you want. You'll want to make it look nice for yourself, but you'll especially want to make it look nice so that your friends will be impressed.
The in-game economy works the same as in other Zynga games—activities pay you in happiness but cost you energy, and getting energy takes time or real-world money. If you want to make your house more beautiful than your neighbor's, you'll most likely have to pony up some cash.
Where The Ville most resembles The Sims Social is in the interpersonal relationships you can build up with your Facebook friends. You can invite your neighbors over to your house at any time, and by doing activities with them, you'll build up your relationship. Then, if things are going very well, you can enter into a romantic relationship.
In the demo I saw, a producer took her character over to a potential flame's house and seduced him. Well… she had the points required to seduce him, and he'd indicated that he was into it. They rolled around a bit on his bed (obfuscated by a bunch of hearts, which was cute). After that, she moved on to another house where she worked on developing another friend.
Activities with your friends' avatars don't require them to be present, but when they get back, they'll see what they've been up to and can replay any interactions they've had with someone. So, if you go over and sleep with your friend, he or she will be able to replay the moment for posterity.
Unlike The Sims Social, in The Ville you can only improve your friendships with people—there are no options for enmity or rivialry, though Zynga's Mark Skaggs left the door open for that sort of thing in the future. There are plenty of other small features, and more information can be found at the game's Facebook fan page.
The Ville will launch on Facebook tomorrow, Wednesday the 27th.