Online/Browser/Facebook games

I’ve spent a fair few hours in the last few weeks playing Facebook games – something I hadn’t previously been tempted to do. But there are a few things you can only learn by simply playing the games for a while, regardless of your level of understanding behind how these games work. The way they’re written and put together and the way they get people hooked and pull in revenue are important factors to understand before creating these apps, but I think it’s even more important to check they work properly.

Even higher-budget titles (by way of example, I’ve spent the most time on Square Enix’s Chocobo’s Crystal Tower, and Ubisoft’s CSI: Crime City) have plenty of issues. I know these titles are both in beta, but I’ve noticed a couple of things I’d personally address if I worked for them:

Hosting
Choosing the right web host is important, along with adding decent state-saving while playing.
Amazon’s Simple Storage Service did not cut it for me (CCT!), unless the problems I encountered were related to updates. In which case, make sure the user is warned when logging-in that it’s scheduled. There shouldn’t need to be a ‘save’ button either – this feature should be completely redundant in an always-connected game.
CSI wasn’t much better at times, where if the server did take too long, you’d be booted and told to refresh the browser. This would be much more acceptable if it didn’t lose some of your progress, or take you past a cut-scene you were watching and not allow you to see it again without playing the whole case again.

CCT error

Addiction
When you figure out what it is that keep people hooked, before or after release, keep on top of it. Raise any level caps when a pre-determined number of players get there. Newer players will put more time (and maybe money) in to catch up. If they have enough friends, they’ll keep playing for positions – 24th place is great when you know the people who are in 25th and 26th well.
CSI has ‘coffee’ to top up units, which you can randomly find in the game, take up to 4 freebies from your friends per day, or buy with real money.
CCT however has both a Breeder Rank and an Ascender Rank, of which only the Breeder Rank is shared with your friends – both are capped, with the Breeder Rank capped at level 30/73,300 points. Once you get here, there’s no more progress to be made, and all the additional points you earn are lost. Regarding ranking positions, it seemed initially that the first person to get to the Breeder Rank cap stays at the top of the ranks, regardless of their Ascender Rank, so you can never beat them. There’s literally no more competitive incentive to continue playing…

Less importantly, but as it’s incredibly annoying it’s worth a mention – I’d love to see more dialogue-skipping options in CCT. It’s simply irritating that it asks me if I want to share EVERY event with my Facebook friends EVERY time. Wait until I have a round number, so remind me to show off when I have my 1st, 10th, 50th, 100th… Alternatively, a ‘remember my answer’ tick box in several places would solve a lot.  Am I sure I want to save? Why wouldn’t I want to save?!
Continuity is a problem in CCT too – feeding Chocobos real food requires dragging, while giving them a treat requires clicking instead. You’re also forced to watch them eat, which seems to take ages when trying to build their stats.

Both concepts have some great psychological elements – CSI where you can rush through finding all the evidence or you can complete searching every grid, and CCT where you can treat your Chocobos as virtual pets, and have some feeling of responsibility for them. Someone will one day make the ultimate browser game, where all productivity and the human race will both come to an end…

~ by Richard on 15 January, 2011.

One Response to “Online/Browser/Facebook games”

  1. Are Square Enix reading this? Today they’ve lifted the level cap on CCT…

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