What I keep reading is that Social games are going against the entrapping stages, and the best Social games of the future will be closer to true casual games. So what are differences that must happen for a Social game to become a Casual game with social structures installed.
- Gaining skills, and mastering them: This means the player has to get a sense of getting better. In the case of puzzle games, they will start getting a higher score. If you create a level system, then there should be a significant difference between levels so that they can feel like they have improved.
- Allow the player to have choices. Choices (especially if its beyond a binary choice) give players a sense of power. Allow them to see and know all the things they can do (too much can also be overwhelming so its good to have some limits).
- Allow the players to feel that what they are doing matters to the game world (Farmville, for example, has plants die if you don't water them and harvest them on time).
- Don't just throw rewards at the player. Larisa recently pointed out how dissatisfying that can be.
- As a social game you want to allow the player to interact with his friends, but avoid anything that spams. Everyone hates spam.
- Allow for parallel competition with others. This is a social game, and it is good to be able to compare levels or restaurant size. Raid progress and sitting by a flight master with your drakes is similar to this.
- Make the game fun! This should really be number 1. This means to give tools and then challenge the player into using those tools. Everyone once in a while you up the challenge. Keep the player learning new things, and they will keep having fun.
- Have a long term goal. Why should the player keep playing? What is all this learning skill for?
- If you are going to make players use RMT, then make it worth their while. It shouldn't allow for someone to "cheat" their way to the top, but it should have a use, and it should be more than a minute one. (Amazingly enough, color changing is worth the investment, as the player gets to control the look of their avatar, and that has quite a bit of importance).