Cityville – Next Big Thing?

my level30 cityville
A glimpse of EusoffWorks - joshuatj's Cityville town

Ya, it’s another game by Zynga. Somehow I didn’t manage to hop onto the Farmville wagon early enough last round. By the time I started playing Farmville, most of my friends are already way higher level than me and that sort of turn me off :p.

So here I am, checking-in to Cityville multiple times per day, just to check on your crops, click on the businesses and visiting your neighbours.

As much as it sounded pretty mundane and dumb – no doubt Zynga is really the master of creating addictive Facebook games. Every single round of Cityville will not take you more than 10minutes but once you’re on it, you find yourself constantly refreshing the page at stipulated time (depending on what you’ve grown and how long it takes for it to mature so that you can harvest). Somehow the features in the game are design such that you always find yourself telling yourself ‘just one more click!’, 5-10 clicks later you repeat the cycle. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you see it), there is a “energy” feature that limits the number of actions you can do per cycle. Many times I nearly found myself wanting to pay “real money” just to buy a few more energy so that I can continue to do “just a few more actions”. After all, it’s just 2USD for 15 Citycash, in which I can buy +12 energy with just 9 Citycash. (Sidetrack a little, the energy requirement reminds me of the “Stairway to heaven” exam question in CS1101S. In short, how many different ways can you go up the stairs with n steps given the ability to take either 1, 2 or 3 steps. An extension of the question included the energy requirement per step criteria. ).

As it is I have not gave in to the temptations of spending money for a few line of flash codes. I think my resistance is still quite strong, thanks to makmai for instilling the frugal mindset in me.  Fortunately for Zynga, people like me is not their typical users, if not they will be bankrupt within days. According to, Zynga have just gotten a $180million capital injection, that seems to suggest that the company is doing good and it will be around longer than most people expect. Incidentally, InsideFacebook has also reported that Cityville has been the fastest growing game on Facebook, the growth awe shocked everyone. Cityville surpassed FarmVille Zynga’s most popular game with 69 million monthly active users (MAU) as of 31st December 2010. Farmville’s growth plateau  at around 57 million monthly active users. It is also said in the same article that Cityville showed momentum to reach the 85 million MAU mark. If it does Cityville will be the biggest app on Facebook! A more detailed statistic over at InsideFacebook reveals that it has already hit 80 million MAU! Considering that Cityville was only launched 4 weeks ago, the growth is truly unbelievable. It proves only one thing, that there is still a large blue ocean out there for Facebook Games! You just have to get it just right and “BOOM!” you’re the next big thing! (can’t help but Mood Diary & Farm Wars came into mind….. What seem to be lacking? Why can’t we be the next big thing?)

Well, it seems such rapid growth does come at a great cost – the problem of scalability. I have been getting this pop-up more and more frequent lately

cityville seem to be experiencing technical difficulties
cityville seem to be experiencing technical difficulties

You would thought Zynga, such a big company would have thought of ways to handle the problem of scalability.

I’ve always dreamt of the day where Simcity/The Sims, KOEI Genghis Khan IV and all simulation games became social, and that cities I have built will be connected to other cities that my friends have built, sharing a complex ecosystem where every action that I take will actually affect the whole ecosystem. Although Cityville is still a far cry from that ideal, I think it’s starting to be heading towards that direction, where games are no longer you vs computer, people-to-people interactivity being built into the gameplay itself. Not unlike the already famous and popular Multiplayer Massive Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) genre. But as it is games are already getting more and more complicated, very soon a new batch of veteran facebook gamers will emerge. This is unlike the history of computer games, I believe a similar pattern can be observed by looking at the growth of arcade games into PC games and then online MMORPG. Maybe Facebook games is also following the same pattern, in that games are getting more and more sophisticated as time goes by. It started with casual games like Zuma & Bejeweled, then it evolved for a while into some kind of interactivity in the form of MSN messenger games, then came Facebook games (injecting social elements into gameplay), so what’s next?

So what do you think is Facebook’s next big thing?

Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Wisdom

I really think crowd wisdom is the current paradigm, so what other fields out there that can benefit from crowd wisdom?

穷则变,变则通,通则久(,久则穷)?Confucius said only the first 9 words, the last 3 words was added in much later. A quick search on google reveals this blog that mention that the author himself adds the last 3 words to emphasize what he wants to say.

Time is relative

Today is Friday (29th Jan). Monday (1st Feb) is effectively 3 days away. Thursday 2359 (28th Jan) seems like yesterday. Wait.. it was just yesterday.  January is coming to and end. I couldn’t agree more that time is seriously relative . So little time so many things accomplished. Second semester of Year 4, shiok lar!

Past Monday half of my 2nd milestone in CS3216 will be done. On to GWave….

However, the present frame requires me to cross Saturday and Sunday, two huge mountains. Now I feel like a mountaineer.

People asked,

“Why are you so energetic and passionate all the time?”.

..because I draw my energy from an eternal source.

It reminds me of an old chinese chorus that I used to sing that’s adapted from Psalms 121.

我 要 向 山 举 目 ; 我 的 帮 助 从 何 而 来 ? 我 的 帮 助 从 造 天 地 的 耶 和 华 而 来. (詩 篇 121)

here’s the English translation:

I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (Psalms 121:1-2)

Dialogue with Mr. Ong Peng Tsin

Who is this guy Mr. Ong Peng Tsin. More details @ the Facebook event. DISCLAIMER: this blog post was written during a lecture.

Honestly, I went into the dialogue session without any idea what it’s gonna be like. I would have guess what it is since it was prof. Ben who organised the dialogue. But seriously, this is effectively my first dialogue session with a successful entrepreneur. within the first few minutes, I know I’m in for a treat.

Just like the first CS3216 class, soon enough hard questions kept popping-up, e.g. “how do you define success?” “what’s your motto in life?” “how do you manage to overcome your biggest challenge in life?”. Mr.Ong answers all of them with no sweat. It seems like successful people always have a set of formula under their belt. For Mr.Ong, it is “Clarity”. a simple search in the eng-chi dictionary gave the chinese equivalent of 明晰. “Define clarity” on google gave it as “the state, or measure of being clear, either in appearance, thought or style. (wikitionary)”. It is of the clarity of purpose. It is about being clear that this is where I should be now, doing what I should be doing. That, I classify as good material for my mental acrobatics. We shall leave the acrobatics for later. Another key point that sort of hit me was Mr.Ong’s definition of Smart people. I don’t really remember why he attempt to define a smart person. I know it has to do with some engineering recruitment etc. But anyway, the first criteria is the ability to work with people, team-working skills. That’s true, as we all know 2 brains is definitely better than ONE, especially those who resonates. however this definition is everywhere. The thing that hit me was the second criteria – an inquisitive mind…. It’s about the natural curiosity about things around. It’s about asking the question WHY and the attempt to answer the question on our own. It’s about trying to figure out hard questions. According to these criteria, In a way a smart person is a person with clarity as well. Clarity requires a lot of consistent question answering.

With this set of formulae, I try to do some curve fitting with my experimental data (personal experience). Immediately, it’s intuitive that it’s a nice fit. this might sound like a brag but the immediate conclusion is that I’m smart! I believe most of us in CS3216 must be smart as well, if not we might not even pass prof. Ben’s recruitment exercise. As described in my “about joshuatj” page I love mental acrobatics, to a point I take it as my hobby (or sport). Essentially, mental acrobatics is my unique way to achieve clarity. It’s no too big a different from what Mr.Ong has described. That’s what I do all the time, I enjoy asking myself hard questions and attempt to answer them logically. (Thank God that I’ve met some rare individuals that can take my mental acrobatics e.g. Cheeeng and recently Kana and Raymond)

In a way, what I’m doing here is sort of like Thinking out loud (writing out loud?) and I really like this a lot. I called this “Output Learning”. I believe that unless I am able to put what’s in my head into words (saying it out OR writing it down), I don’t really understand what’s going on.

So now, the mental acrobatics, as Mr. Ong has said, startup is like an Extreme sport, if one is not ready, one shouldn’t jump into it so soon. However, I was taught to live a middle way  life 中庸之道. How do I balance this two apparent opposite polarity? Is extremity absolutely necessary for influencing others?

ah… and I found a transcript of another interview with Mr. Ong 2 years ago. That is after I wrote this post

What I hope to learn in CS3216

Well, that is it. I got in. I’m taking the alleged “most-xiong” module of all time. From what I’ve heard so far, I think this is definitely not an opportunity to missed and I’m glad I’m in it. Rumour has it that this will be the final year that CS3216 will be offered in NUS. If that’s true, I’ll be the final batch of CS3216 – and that is a pretty good milestone.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about CS3216 is a module offered by NUS School of Computing (SoC). Its full name is “Software Development on Evolving Platform”. This semester, the “evolving platform” is Google Wave. Now that is something real cool – I’m once again at the forefront of evolving technologies.

It’s good to be writing again. It has been some time since I’ve wrote something. Oh no wait, I’ve just wrote 35 pages for my FYP report. But it’s different I guess – Blog is much more dynamic, it is closer to ramblings than proper structured writing. I like that feeling when my “brain pores” opens up one by one. It’s almost as if I can feel the inter-connection being form between the neurons in my brain.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be writing about what I hope to learn in CS3216. But before that, I would like to talk about CS3216 itself.

First of all, the fact that CS3216 is the converging point for NUS most talented individuals excites me. It’s like 华山论剑 where all the 武林高手聚集。I’m sure that I will not walk away from this module empty-handed. I have always believe that the best in me will only be ignited (挑旺) if I am being put through tough challenges. In one sense what Vinod Khosla (first CEO & Chairman of Sun Microsystems) said is really true “every big problem is a big opportunity” I’ll add “…the bigger the problem the bigger the opportunity“. I will never be satisfied until I’ve tried to overcome it, and if it doesn’t really work out, I will keep trying until as and when God slam the door on my face.

While I am writing, some scenes in Dragon Ball came into mind. I vaguely remember the plotline of 孙悟空 getting stronger and stronger each time he pushes himself over his comfort zone. I think if we don’t constantly push ourselves we’ll be stagnant and start rotting instead. Well in RPG games, your level can only go up as your experience increases. I believe it’s no different in our current reality – we have to keep leveling up!

Ok, enough of my ramblings. What I hope to learn in CS3216. Firstly, it’ll be programming. I think the mere fact of being around elite programmers while they’re working is enough to absorb enough essence to last me for quite some time. Besides, the intensive programming assignments will push me to pick up programming legitimately, that’s good.

Next I hope to learn more about how to learn from learned people. It’s not that I don’t know how to learn yet. But from what I’ve heard so far, there’s no doubt I’ll be learning a lot of new things by the end of this module. Thus, I am more interested in solidifying some of my ‘learning skills’ as I use them in this module.

I hope to build networks. CS3216 attracts talented people with like-minds. It’s gonna be an exciting journey traveling along with people who could understand what you say, people who knows how to appreciate xkcd, people who goes shopping @ SIMLIM (only), people who gets all excited with new gadgets and technologies and hopefully develop long lasting friendships .

I have always wanted to work on my pet project – a collaborative social media platform. However, I am technically too weak to realize my ideas. Hopefully my ideas will be able to resonate among the class mates. Praying hard here. Ha.

EDIT 20100212: The more I think about it I think the strongest reason that I insist on joining this module is the like-mindedness of Prof. Ben Leong and myself. No doubt he’s very charismatic but some of his principles and world view are not dissimilar with mine. In addition, I got to know that he is a Christian who believes in God’s Will reigns in our life. And his wife plays WoW! Ok, that is totally random but it shows how COOL is Prof. Ben… a wife that plays WoW… I am still stunned.