Take to the social skies with Aviator

Aviator is a Facebook-based business simulation developed by LandShark Games. It originally launched on the social network back in September of last year, but was relaunched by 6waves Lolapps on February 8, 2012. The game has been showing strong growth thanks to the publisher’s promotion ever since. This week it was the 16th fastest-growing Facebook game by DAU, and the 18th fastest-growing title by MAU. Our earlier review is of the original version; this is for the current version on Facebook.

Aviator casts players in the role of either the eponymous Aviator or his female counterpart, the “Aviatrix.” The story begins in Johannesburg, South Africa, where the player is introduced to the basics of the game: picking up passengers and cargo, flying between cities and unlocking additional flight paths to other locations. Shortly after the tutorial is concluded, the player meets that ever-reliable social game cliché, the “long-lost uncle” character, who provides them with a series of additional tutorial missions that introduce them to playing the market, investing in cities to construct new facilities and upgrading their aircraft.

The game then proceeds through a series of quests usually provided by the aforementioned uncle, but between these there is a fair amount of downtime where the player is free to do as they please. During these periods, the player is often given a fairly generic objective such as “watch out for adventure” or a cash milestone to meet. Players may then pick up passengers at the local hotel and ferry them to their destination; pick up packages from the local depot to deliver them; purchase and sell goods at the market; upgrade and customize their aircraft in the workshop; purchase land in underdeveloped cities to add market and workshop facilities where there were previously none; and watch out for profitable “contract” jobs which often require the pickup and delivery of a rare resource.

In essence, the game is very similar to traditional “space trading” games such as Elite, albeit without any combat and taking place in the 1930s rather than the far future. The game’s interface is simple to understand and clearly-presented, with the market screen particularly worthy of note for quickly allowing players to see which cities will provide them with the best prices for their goods in a straightforward graphical format. There is very little to-ing and fro-ing between different screens, so the pace of the game is kept brisk.

The game monetizes via Facebook Credits in several ways. Firstly, players may purchase repair kits for their aircraft, which suffers wear and tear with each trip but gradually restores itself over time. Secondly, they may acquire “Advertising” kits, which guarantee a full stock of passengers and cargo at the hotel and depot. Thirdly, they may purchase goods normally available at the market, including rare goods often required to complete lucrative contract jobs. Fourthly, they may top up their bank balance if their cashflow is falling a bit short. Finally, they may purchase Flight Certificates, varying numbers of which are required to unlock flight paths to new destination — an absolute necessity to complete the quests.

Many of these monetized items may also be acquired through cooperation with friends. Players may set a “preferred” item on their profile, meaning that they will only receive gifts that they actually need rather than accumulating an inventory full of useless junk. Players may also leave short messages for each other on in-game profile pages. Having a good number of friends playing the game is essential to progress, since the larger, more efficient airplanes are friend-gated. Players will occasionally  discover special packages addressed to their friends in their depots, which they may either deliver for a reward or keep for themselves.

Aviator is a good, easy to understand (but deep) title that is pleasingly different from the types of game most developers are churning out for the Facebook platform, though this may see it finding a smaller, more “niche” audience than certain other more universally appealing genres. Its social features could do with a little expansion — the ability to buy and sell market goods between friends would be a good addition, for example — but otherwise it’s a solid game that deserves to see some success.

Aviator currently has 560,000 monthly active users and 70,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.

Play

A fun social take on the trading/business sim genre.

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