Eric Johnson

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Running With Friends Adds a Dash of Diversity to Zynga’s Mobile Games Catalog

RWF FriendsTo date, all of Zynga’s “With Friends” mobile games have been social twists on word and puzzle classics like Scrabble and Hangman.

But on the heels of runaway hits like Temple Run 2 and Subway Surfers, the company is off to the races, hoping to give those single-player phenomena a multiplayer-focused run for their money.

(Pardon the barrage of running puns.)

The company’s latest game is Running With Friends, a smart twist on the popular endless-runner genre. As with other games, you swipe on the touchscreen to avoid obstacles, collect powerups and move your character around the screen: Left and right to change into one of three “lanes,” up to jump and down to slide.

The twist comes in the form of some familiar multiplayer features that Zynga has built around this tried-and-true formula. This is asynchronous multiplayer, meaning you can challenge someone to a race without needing to play at the same time as your opponent to compete (as is the case in other “With Friends” titles).

Developed in partnership with Twisted Metal and God of War creators Eat Sleep Play, the game just looks good — the bright Subway Surfers-esque 3-D graphics are streets ahead of the other titles in Zynga’s existing lineup.

Factoring in a bit of luck from a pregame slot-machine spin, Running With Friends awards points to players based on how far they can run and how many bonus items they pick up along the way. And if one of your opponents has run the same obstacles as you already, the game remembers how they moved, sort of like the “ghost” mode in Mario Kart.

That means you might see your friends on the track and can shove them out of the way with a swipe — which, let’s be honest, is pretty fun.

The game is iOS-only to start (so, available on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch), but Zynga’s mobile SVP Travis Boatman told AllThingsD that the company will likely do what it has done with previous games like Zynga Poker and Words With Friends: See how the game does, improve it and then roll it out to other platforms, one at a time.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald