LOLapps Gets Back in the Game with Ravenwood Fair

Just days after a short, worrying episode during which Facebook suspended all of its apps, LOLapps is anteing up with a new title: Ravenwood Fair, built by a team led by the legendary id Software co-founder John Romero. He’s currently working with the developer as a consultant.

Ravenwood fair follows in the footsteps of LOLapps’ last game, Critter Island, featuring a cast of cute, bobble-headed animals perusing attractions. But the island has been swapped out for a forest, and the foundation laid for a more in-depth game.

Playing Fair

In most Facebook games, it’s hard to find anything remotely unfriendly, whether in the characters or the scenery. Ravenwood Fair starts the player out alone in a scary-looking forest, with only an odd-looking raven, Huginn, as a guide. (In Norse mythology, Huginn and Muninn are Odin’s pet speaking ravens.)

Another moment, and seasoned Facebook players will sense an influence: FrontierVille. Your first job is to chop down a tree. When you do, prizes representing coins, experience and various items pop out to be picked up. Just as in FrontierVille, it will be a constant job and battle to keep the encroaching forest back.

But where FrontierVille merges in elements of FarmVille, ultimately becoming a farming game, Ravenwood’s heart is still in island and business sims. After the tree is down, you get to build your first attraction, a hotdog cart. Each new attraction adds to the “fun” of your fair, with successively higher levels of fun attracting more guests.

Your guests will wander the fair for as long as the fun level is high enough, and if you click on them, they’ll talk. Sometimes they spout one-liners, and other times make a statement or question that can be answered. While there’s nothing like a dialogue tree yet, and the responses are usually little in-jokes (one of my fair-goers mentions that he liked the fair in Chrono Trigger), there’s clearly potential in Ravenwood to grow an interactive single-player game.

The trees, by the way, are more than a barrier, harboring various unseen monsters that can scare your guests silly. When this happens, it’s necessary to sooth the guests. There are also protective objects that can be placed around the fair, like a “Happy Oak”, that keep back the bugbears.

Deeper in the forest, there are also prizes: new fair attractions that would otherwise take resources and money to build. If you can cut a path to these attractions and cut away the thorns, you’re free to claim them. Since the starting forest is fairly large, there’s a light exploration element here that will keep players happy chopping away at trees.

Overall, Ravenwood manages to pull off the combination of cutesy and creepy well, with an art style suggesting a certain Victorian eccentricity.

Single or Social?

One of the characters in the game innocently asked me: Do I prefer to play by myself or with others? I have a question of my own: Is LOLapps running a sneaky user survey?

Ravenwood comes, of course, with all the standard social appurtenances. You can make and visit friends; when at a friend’s fair, instead of playing lackey and cleaning up trash, you actually get to play their games, and get experience for it to boot. Of course, there’s also an endless supply of trees to chop.

At your own fair, the main incitement to interact with friends is to ask them for resources needed to complete an attraction. But the resources are also pretty cheap, running one Facebook Credit per (or 10 cents), and you can always chop trees or break rocks to find them.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied, in fact. To draw one more comparison to FrontierVille, in that game the average session is quite short — chop down a tree or two, and you’re done for the time being.

In Ravenwood, you can chop trees or refill attractions for uninterrupted minutes at a time without running of out energy; in fact, one of the resources that pops up most often is more energy. There’s also a constant supply of mostly resource-based quests to complete.

And there are always your non-player visitors to talk to. For now, the dialogue options are pretty limited, but as noted above, there’s clear opportunity to flesh out the interactions. One reason to do that might be questing; another might be to simply keep the player company. After all, even most single-player games are full of non-player characters (even if you’re generally killing them).

The point is that Ravenwood might be spending less time on deepening social interactions, and more on making a game that people want to play for itself. The involvement of Romero, a traditional game designer, only strengthens that theory.

As it is, Ravenwood Fair is a pretty good game. If you don’t like chopping trees or watching anthropomorphic animals play games, it might get boring, but both of those activities will be engaging enough for the typical Facebook gamer.

What’s more interesting about Ravenwood, though, is its potential to develop from a sim into a more interactive RPG. That’s a short step away, but we’ll have to wait to see if LOLapps decides to go in that direction.

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Leave a Reply

25 Responses to “LOLapps Gets Back in the Game with Ravenwood Fair”

  1. Mike says:

    Name some development teams that dont charge the Earth for simple games?

  2. Bart says:

    Mike.. the good ones charge lots because it takes a lot of work. Its always easy to assume that a “simple” game doesn’t take much time when in fact it does AND years of experience to produce a successful game.

    If you want to develop a successful game, either A) hire a team that knows what they are doing or B) learn to do it yourself to save money. (i can name at least one success story that did this)

    If you go the cheap route and outsource your development/games to say, china or india, you WILL get your money’s worth and end up in disappointment.

  3. John says:

    This game is so buggy. If this is the type of crap that Lolapps is going to produce, even with John Romero, then maybe Facebook had the right idea banning them.

  4. Bart says:

    BTW.. hats off to the art direction in this game :)

  5. lulabelle says:

    Ravenwood seems like an interesting game because there is always something to do in order to expand your fair. What isn’t clear to me in this article is how much real money do you need to put in to the game in order to get the full potential out of the game. I’ve started to get bothered by social games that constantly require me to spend real money on virtual items in order to enjoy the game.

    I’ve been beta testing a new game, coming out this November, called Raise The Village and it’s refreshing that the REAL money you put into the game goes to support a REAL village in Uganda…instead of just buying virtual items that become all profit for the company. They may still need beta testers so if you’re interested in a social game with a social cause you can check them out at

  6. Mike says:

    So why dont custom game companies tout themselves here then?


  7. Paul Gilbert says:

    wow, this is sure turning into the Bart, Mike and Paul show.

    Can name a few success stories, but would immediately point to Chris Sawyer and Rollercoaster Tycoon.

    Written completely in x86 assembly code and just using the services of freelance artist Simon Foster and musician Allister Brimble as and when needed.

    still a decent game even now

  8. Mike says:

    Welcome to the Friday edition of the Bart, Mike and Paul show.

    In tonights edition- Mike thanks Paul Gilbert for his reply messages and Bart goes roller skating .

    Stay tuned

  9. olalere nurudeen says:

    i like dis catooonish appearance am seeing, lovly, ok,& faaaantasstic.

  10. Paul Gilbert says:

    And so the social gaming experiment begins.

    i.e. is it possible for a micro developer to produce a successful game for less that $1000?

    Care to rise to the challenge Mike? First one to 100,000 MAU wins, I might even stretch to a bottle of champagne for the winner.

    Heck if anyone else wants to join in feel free.

    Very few rules I would say other than can’t spend more than $1000, can’t use more than 3 people, and NIL marketing budget. Other than that use whatever free thinking and innovation you can come up with.

    perhaps the moderator for these posts would like to chip in at this point, share with us Inside Social Games point of view of such a gentlemanly contest, How about a monthly feature on the contestants, plotting our progress and the like?

  11. Mike says:

    Impossible Paul at 1000 dollars

    Unless you have a very good developer friend to do it free or discount.

    I am actually very very umimpressed with the way this industry operates just for the big companies again the little guy has not much chance.
    I hope Google notice this when they fully launch GOogle games platform.

  12. Paul Gilbert says:

    Difficult yes, impossible no,

    I do have an awesome developer friend, me.

    The key to this will be the product, after all that’s all we’ve got and it needs to be really well thought out. It isn’t going to be Farmville or Treasure Isle, there isn’t the time or budget for that.

    It needs something simple, light and yet incredibly addictive, more down the avenue of Bejeweled Blitz, and I have a few really smart ideas that fit the bill perfectly which will be quick, easy and cheap to produce.

    Wish me luck and watch this space mate!

  13. Corkey says:

    the only problem i have with Raven wood is that you never have enough energy to activate all the games that you build and plus chop down trees. Thus making it hard to move forward. They really need to fix that part. I am currently level 10 and have over 30 games, protectors. so i am always in the hole when it comes to energy.

    yes i have friends/neighbors. but it don’t help

  14. Ugh says:

    Yep. I’m going to get real bored with this game real quick. There isn’t enough ‘treasure’ in the trees. There are too many monsters and too many games running out of stock and too little energy. There is just one small shape of a world to look at with not enough options to keep my ‘ADD’ at bay. Just another game to keep addicts paying money to their virtual world. It’s sick, really.

  15. trudy says:

    I’m with Ugh: Half of the energy goes to fighting monsters, the only way to move ahead is to pour real money into the game. This is, of course the developers’ objective but it’s just too obvious.
    I love the graphics, but cutting trees and whopping Grimms is a bit repetitive. Ah, yes, you can also sit and wait for your energy to refill.
    I already see that half of my neighbors have quit.
    Good luck with this!

  16. Лесная ярмарка | inSocialPlay — блог об играх для социальных сетей says:

    [...] Fair создана при консультационном участии Джона Ромеро — [...]

  17. Maris says:

    I have no more trees, how can I do much now…?

  18. Dustim Meegum says:

    This game is straight garbage. The developers dropped the ball hardcore, avoid lolAPPS at all costs!!!

  19. Gretchen says:

    I DO enjoy the game but cannot understand why LOLapps is so afraid (particularly while in Beta)of getting emails, or any kind of feedback. I have tried numerous times at various sites to inform them of glitches. My received gifts sit in storage because there is no way to use them (no “use” button), the right side of my screen when in “full screen” loses buildings etc. while scrolling. I feel these are glitches that are solvable and are ones that should be taken care of. Anybody, please let me know if there really is a LOLapps run by people who care about their products

  20. i'm so afraid to reveal my name says:

    I can’t play the game because i am sick, for that reason i’m so afraid too to play this game.
    I wish that LOLapps would change the characters appearance like it did Rockyou with mycasino.
    Also i leaved a comment that DOES NOT SAYS ADD ME,it’s about i wished about the appearance of characters.
    i’m so ansious to play the game, also the other players(count:5112404) do not worry a lot of all time of maintenance(that can be large as the from Lucky train) because they think the game is a bit bad.

    Uff, almost i have the famous program to don’t get very unhappy of not have the game because i’m sick.

  21. The Best Facebook Games of 2010 – Part II says:

    [...] marriage of FrontierVille with business sims, Ravenwood Fair from LOLapps brought the company back into the light after Facebook suspended its other apps. This [...]

  22. Terry Sayles says:

    Why am I getting disable fast loading on my game and I cant play? Is it because I used the sleep potion? All of my other games are fine. I miss playing. If I’m not able to play because of the potion used at least let me know. I’ve checked everything I can on my computer

  23. claire says:

    hi i cant seem to get on this game as all it says is it appears you are playing in more than one window refresh the page to continue to play i do so just to get the same message ive never had a problem with facebook or beta game before now a big let down

  24. Playdom’s Deep Realms Brings Classic RPG Play to Facebook says:

    [...] canvas, a true role-playing game has yet to break through. Social RPGs such as Frontierville, Ravenwood Fair and the like do include an avatar but the progression, stats, and choices that define an RPG are [...]

  25. Digital Chocolate’s New Game Zombie Lane: Innovating Within the Facebook Sim Genre says:

    [...] familiar to many players at it shares the same mechanics as many other games out there, such as Ravenwood Fair and CityVille, but it brings a fresh look and their own twist and take on the mechanics. This is [...]

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