Archive for July, 2011

Facebook Updates it’s Developer Policies -> no links to our competitors.

Facebook regularly updates it’s developer policies and doesn’t tell anyone. Developers are expected to check in often to make sure they are in compliance. Today Facebook added a new item to the list under Features and Functionality:

Apps on Facebook may not integrate, link to, promote, distribute, or redirect to any app on any other competing social platform.

The update is most likely in response to the rise in other networks trying to acquire content from Facebook publishers. Networks like Tagged, hi5, Wildtangent and if the rumor mongers are slinging even half truths… Google+ are all competing to bring new content to their platform and publishers are always looking for a wider audience.

Developers should note that the update does not mention pushing traffic to a standalone site though, where developers presumably can direct players anyplace they like.

The Future of Social Games Brought to you by Roadhouse Interactive

The Future of Social Games Brought to you by Roadhouse Interactive

Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 7:30 PM

Mozilla Vancouver

#209 – 163 West Hastings Street, Vancouver, Vancouver, BC (map)

This event is sponsored by:

Roadhouse Interactive
www.roadhouseinteractive.com

Roadhouse Interactive Ltd (RHI) is a next generation social online game production company founded by industry veterans with a collective track record of over US $2 billion in retail video game sales and extensive experience in the new production, development and operational models of social online games.

Playerize
www.playerize.com

Playerize is the first CPA network devoted solely to Social and Mobile gaming. Bringing publishers of games together with a marketplace of affiliates, Playerize offers an alternative to traditional on-network advertising.


Social Games are huge. They are getting bigger. But more importantly they are getting more interesting. What will social games look like in 2013?

Come hear four industry luminaries share their vision of the future of social games in a moderated panel format.

Moderator Mack Flavelle: Mack likes games and the Internet. He co-founded Compass Engine- a company that makes location based games. He is eager to share his opinions and learn from you.

Panel Members

Tarrnie Williams: Is the President of Roadhouse Interactive. Passionate about innovation, creativity, online and social gaming, and bringing the joy of interactive to an ever widening audience. 20 years of games industry experience, having served as studio head of Relic Entertainment, as well as multiple production and executive roles at Electronic Arts in their Vancouver and Los Angeles studios. During this time, Tarrnie has overseen award-winning game franchises across multiple genres, including Need For Speed, Medal of Honor, NBA Live, Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, and EA SPORTS Active.

Jason Bailey: Jason Bailey is a dynamic leader and entrepreneur known for his great sense of humor. He’s been involved in website building and development since 1998. His engineering specialties include SEO, SEM, CPA, Affiliate Marketing, Web usability, Web analytics, eCommerce, PHP, mySQL, and scripting languages. He is a game enthusiast and strategist and consults with game developers on a daily basis to help take their games to the next level. In 2006, Jason founded KITN Media, a leading CPA affiliate network, which evolved into Super Rewards in December of 2007. In just eighteen short months, Jason grew Super Rewards to become the world’s largest online virtual currency monetization platform, leading to the company’s acquisition by Adknowledge in July 2009.

David Ascher: David is in charge of Social and Communications at Mozilla. He is a student of games.

MORE SPEAKES TBA

How Starcraft Can Make You A More Successful Person

Like many people, when Starcraft 2 came out I rushed to get it and helped fill out the ranks in the multiplayer Bronze league. I played, knowing I sucked, but having fun all the same in epic noob battles. Being a proper nerd, I wanted to step up my game and really start to ladder- so I started learning the art of Starcraft.

In other words, I studied Starcraft. I learned through live training sessions, shout-casts of tournaments and high-level play, and daily lessons from Day[9]. Through this, and practice, I started to learn the core lessons required to succeed in the game. Soon I left my bronze league and entered  the world of silver and gold leagues. However I started to realize some practical, real-life applications of these lessons- I realized that the lessons to become better at Starcraft were lessons to become better at life:

Lesson 1: Have a Plan
Good Starcraft players start every game with a plan. These don’t have to be incredibly detailed plans, but really more of a general sense of what you want to do in a match. This is usually broken into chunks- what are you doing in the early game, do you go for early pressure or do you try a fast expand? What is the mid-game plan, what units are you going to try to win with, what is the main army composition going to look like? What is your late-game strategy?

Likewise, having a general plan in  real life is going to make you more productive. Broken into chunks- What do you want to accomplish today? Finish off this one project you’ve been working on, or work a little bit on a bunch of different projects? What tasks do you have to accomplish today- Knowing how many of these “opponents” you face is key to figuring out how much time you have to dedicate to each item of the day.

What are your mid & long term goals- When do you want to finish that project? What is the deadline to pick up that new hobby? Giving yourself timelines to complete items is a powerful motivator to keep slugging away on something, even when you don’t feel like. This is literally a way to gamify your life- goals with timelines to make yourself more productive.

Lesson 2: Build Orders
In Starcraft, a build order is literally the order in which you build your buildings/units. High level players usually have the timings of their orders practiced to perfection, so much so that they can do it on autopilot.

I’ve realized that we have build orders in life as well: The route you take to get to work, your routine when you wake up in the morning, even the way you dry yourself off in the morning are all examples of build orders- things you have done so much they are pretty much automatic. Being aware of these routines allows you to transition to the next lesson:

Lesson 3: Minor Improvements
If you’ve ever wanted to change your life, you may despair at the hugeness of such a daunting task. But the most amazing Starcraft players in Korea didn’t become grandmasters in a day, they did it through dedication and minor improvements every match.

This is so key to a successful player in SC, and to a successful player in the game of life- to be able to spot where your play broke down, choosing one small thing that you can say “Next match I will make sure I don’t stop making SCV’s.” or the real-world equivalent  “I will only check my email every 2 hours, instead of looking at every email as it comes in“.

These are achievable tasks, one thing you’ve chosen that will quantifiably make you a better player. Instead of fixing every bad habit you have, choose one and put all your concentration on correcting it.

This doesn’t just go for bad habits, being aware of the things you do on autopilot allows you to optimize those processes- find a route to work that doesn’t have as much traffic, or try switching up the order of your morning routine to free up some time.

Lesson 4: Play to Win
Day[9] describes this as the old “Just go fucking kill him” principle. Sometimes a player will get so caught up in having their perfect build order, or having the perfect unit composition, or scared that one of their expansions is poorly defended, that they’ll forget to just go in and destroy the opponent. Other times a player will perceive the enemy is a greater threat than they actually are, and convince themselves not to attack.

We have the same problem in life. Sometimes we get so caught up in the ancillary tasks (keeping everyone in the loop, getting feedback on a project, reporting your progress) that you lose focus on just finishing the damn thing.

The result is wasted time, time that could be put to use making yourself a better person. Time is the most important currency there is, and we all don’t have enough of it. That’s why if you don’t go for the proverbial throat, you’re not going to be fulfilling your life as much as you could be.

This also means doing things with conviction. Go into a situation knowing exactly what you want out of it, and put your all into getting that result. There’s a difference between hoping for the best, and grabbing the best by the balls- that difference is the difference between winning and losing.

We are all players

Your game may not be Starcraft, but realize that you are a player in a game and the only one that guarantee your success is you. Starcraft can help teach these lessons because it is so competitive: skill, and the determination to win are such necessary components for success. In today’s society, a similar attitude needs to be taken in order to for you to be as successful as you deserve to be. We’re living in a world where you need to stand out, and the only way to stand out is to do stand out things. You don’t need Starcraft to learn these skills, but you can learn them from this game.

En Taro Tassadar,
Justin Nearing [Looking for a job!]

The (Unused) Social Games Secret Weapon

In previous posts I defined “Social Media” as a product that leverages its community. In this post I’ll go a bit deeper into how to leverage a community, and how this is a severely underutilized tool in social games.

In social networking games, groups are power

IT’S ALL ABOUT GROUPS

The vast majority of games out there, even social games, are centered on providing gameplay on a player-to-player basis. This is absolutely important, as providing content to the individual is critical to that individual ever playing your game in the first place. However, building a system that allows users to form groups with each-other can be a critical step to inspiring long-term players.

Groups have long since been held (at a research/academic viewpoint) as a core part of social networks. In particular, the ease of creating user-defined groups is a strong indicator of how successful a social network will be. Most social games are a social network (ones that may leverage an existing social network, like games on Facebook), so logically a game with built in hooks to create and maintain groups is going to help the long-term success of your game.

These groups are so important for long term success of a game. In more than a few cases, a user who is not as interested in the game itself anymore will continue playing just so they can continue to interact with their friends. That is a huge statement- groups inspire people to continue to invest in your product even after the novelty of the game wears off.

BAKE GROUPS INTO YOUR GAME

Facebook already provides groups outside of games, where users can privately share game items, fulfill requests, and interact with eachother. However, if groups are baked into your game from the very beginning, you have a very powerful channel for retaining users. It also allows for some very interesting design possibilities- as long as its implemented as a core part of the game. As developers have learned with monetization and virality, “tacking-on” these features can look slip-shod and actually hurt your game.

So implementing groups from the very beginning is important. But how would we do it?

When thinking about groups, you have to deal with some questions.

- How many groups can a user belong to?
- Being allowed into one group will affect your game differently from an unlimited amount of groups. You could monetize this by having a number of “free” groups the user can be a part of, but have to pay to join additional groups.

- How do you deal with group control/hierarchy?
- Properly handling group control and hierarchy is very important. For instance, defining who in the group can allow new members to join. Who can kick members of the group? What powers does the groups owner have? What powers do officers have? Control of the group affects group hierarchy, and you want to have the hierarchy defined by the user.
- Give the user as many tools of control as possible, you want to give people a real sense of having power, and the ability to abuse that power (creates drama, we’ll get to that).

- How do groups directly affect the game?
- In order for groups to be core components of a game, they have to directly affect the game. Most social games have an individual user in control of a city, or a farm, or some kind of business. Basically, the game is a micro-economy controlled by the user. Plugging a group feature into the economy creates a macro-economy controlled by the group.
- Sharing resources and funds on a macro level is a lot more complicated (resource value becomes dynamic, based on the supply and demand of the resource in the group, gets even more complicated if you have group-to-group trading). However, it also makes this economy infinitely more social, as you have to coordinate with other people in order to maximize your profit.

FUEL THE FLAMES

But why create groups at all? What makes groups so much more social?

Groups are basically people interacting with eachother on a day to day basis. The thing with people interacting on the internet is that pretty quickly some drama is going to start. People will disagree with eachother, and this being the internet, the possibility of a disagreement turning into full-out war is likely. This kind of drama is so compelling for people- they will come back to the game (even if they can’t do anything else in the game today) just to see if buddy has replied to their last post declaring them an idiot.

If you have a grouping feature baked into your game, where users can easily join and leave groups, these disagreements can be leveraged to directly affect the game. For instance, say a number of group members disagree with a decision made by the group owner. The disagreement escalates, and the rebel users leave the group to create their own. Two groups that hate eachother? Now you can provide gameplay on a group-to-group basis, which is a very powerful motivator for the players of both groups to keep playing.

COMMUNITY DESIGNED GAMEPLAY

Having groups in a game can be a very powerful motivator. It directly grows an in-game community, and incorporates that community as a game feature. Since social games are all about the community of users playing, so it’s a no-brainer that tapping into this as much as possible will be a huge win for your game.

Good luck out there,
Justin Nearing (currently looking for a job!!)

Facebook Updates their Platform Policies for Developers to reflect Facebook Credits

If you develop games or apps for Facebook you need to be constantly monitoring the Facebook Developer Policies. I use the SiteDelta Firefox add on to alert me when there are changes. Here are the most recent changes that signal a shift in the policies to reflect a mandatory Facebook Credits environment.

Facebook Platform Policies

Facebook Platform Policies

http://developers.facebook.com/policy/

  1. Games on Canvas Pages must use Facebook Credits as their sole and exclusive payment method for all virtual goods and currencies made available to users within the game. All other payment options are prohibited within games on Canvas Pages unless they go through Facebook Credits rather than directly through that payment option. By “Payment Method” we mean any method that allows a user to complete a transaction where the user receives virtual currency or virtual goods in a game on a Canvas Page in exchange for anything of value, including, without limitation, by exchanging monetary value for virtual currency or virtual goods, whether directly at the time of purchase or via any previous transaction such as the user’s earlier purchase of a prepaid gift card or electronic code. In-game rewards of virtual currency or virtual goods earned by users through game-play activity alone are exempt from this definition.
  2. Applications may reward users with virtual currency or virtual goods in exchange for user actions that do not involve third parties, but rewards for user actions that involve third parties must be powered by Facebook Credits by integrating Facebook Credits offers. For example, you may not reward users with virtual currency or virtual goods in exchange for any action in which personally identifiable information is shared with a third party, you may not reward users with virtual currency or virtual goods in exchange for third party downloads, such as toolbars or ringtones, and you may not reward users with virtual currency for engaging in passive actions offered by third parties, such as watching a video, playing a mini-game, or taking an anonymous poll.

Accounting for Games

Along with Frank the Accountant and the good people of Full Indie we are presenting a workshop on basic accounting for small games studios.

Be aware, this is ENTRY level stuff.  We aren’t trying to make accountants out of you, we are trying to teach you how to keep proper records.  More will come later.

You can get tickets here.

Why

  1. Our friend Frank has a Bachelor of Commerce in Accounting.
  2. He is inpired by the Vancouver game community.
  3. He said: “How can I help out?”
  4. We said: “Teach us how to do the accounting. In babysteps.”
  5. And so this was born.

Details

  1. Monday July 18th.
  2. 6:00 – 8:00 pm.
  3. Location TBD (Gastown)
  4. Costs $10. (Prove you’ll show up and pay for dinner)
  5. Must bring a lap top.
  6. Workshop format- slides and hands on learning.

You can get tickets here.