Understanding Social Games

I keep hearing the praise for “social games”. I’ve yet to hear anyone really define whadda hell they are, but I can’t help noticing that there might be something into all this. Here’s a few articles I digged from the internetz:

(Found these articles via Twitter #socialgames channell by the way.

Any good articles to share? Let’s make a bigger list together, m’kay?

And more links from you readers:

Mind Your Game Design

I was taking out our doggies and was solving a game design puzzle in my head. Earlier very basic prototype was showing me that I need an alternative route.

Well, during the 30 minutes period outdoors I came up with an alternative approach to my design. Now the problem was that:

  • I was in the middle point of the trip
  • I’m outdoors
  • Two dogs to walk
  • One of them was pooing
  • My game idea needed to be stored somehow

So, I don’t carry a notepad, iPhone, Playstation 3 or any other vehicle with me in these situations, so I needed to trust my memory. When I got back home I was happily forgotten everything. Then I started thinking what I had already solved. Well, luckily I remembered my outdoor solution and also – while writing things down on paper – came up with a few additional ideas for certain issues. All was good.

This isn’t the case always. I find it extremely important to write/draw down any potential ideas/solutions so that I don’t forget them.

But how to dot down ideas that come in the middle of something like this – when you are taking the dogs out. Or when you are jogging. What devilish devices you carry with you?

Oh, and please don’t tell me that you’ve solved this by: “I don’t go out”.

Weeks #2 – #3 Game Dev Daddy Insight

I was about to write my experiences with the newcomer, and I thought it was time to write week #2 post. Then I realized that geesh, this newcomer has been here for 3 weeks already.

This gets me to my first point.

Fact #1 – Time flies
With such a cute lil creature around, time just flies.

Fact #2 – Ownership is cool and this applies to game dev
Think of a following job, where you need to:

  • change poo/wee diapers 6-8 times a day (and night)
  • vacuum the mansion and wipe the dusts every other day
  • prepare food for the clan
  • sleep infrequently
  • take out the garbage every day
  • not getting paid (in fact, you pretty much pay to do all this)
  • among tons of other stuff there just is

And so on. Over and over, day after day, night after night.

Any sensible person wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t.

But, now add “ownership” (sort of*) and things change. Now it’s about me and my stuff. And everything is fun. Modding, good RPGs know how to give “ownership” to people. By letting players to create something, a much stronger experience can be created.

It can be as simple as letting player name the character.

Which games have done this well. Can you name a game where you really took “ownership” over things and it made the game better to play? Fallout series comes to my mind first.

*I don’t consider “owning” my baby but perhaps my point is understood.

Stop Faster, Higher, Stronger

One strange phenomenon that has been bouncing inside my head is the thinking of “I want/need/must/should/would/will release a game this year”. When my cute baby girl arrived in our house, I have stopped to think things through. I was still bit anxious to “get a new project done” but the more I stopped to think things through, the more calm I started to feel.

Yesterday I stopped stopping, and knocked together some prototyping based on game ideas I had. I actually don’t know yet what will come out of this and what platform this will be (or what theme) but I’m using my cute monster warriors to help me out.

This is prototyping the actual challenge in the game, and the actual roles could at this point be pretty much anything (from zombie survivors to samurais to chi masters to whatnot). Now the first aim is to test how the conflict could work out.

Stop sign
Instead of trying to run, for me it felt good to stop. It feels good to look for the right direction and test the waters a bit before jumping in the pool.

Sort of makes sense in real life too.

Mute Button, Please

I really enjoy how Valve has done player voice communication stuff in their games (like in Half life 2 – and the mods). You have good in-game voice system but also the possibility to mute or select how to use the microphone.

Well, this is not the case in EA’s NHL ’10 for PS3.

Yesterday I thought to play one match and it was pretty good game, except that I don’t remember anything else than the “yoohoo” sound that one of the players kept saying every now and then. When the game was about to begin, somebody was saying “yoohoo” (with a high pitch) in the game. When there was a first face-off, I could hear “yoohoo”. After the first goal, another “yoohoo” took place. After the first period, again this bloody “yoohoo” came there. (If you’ve seen Ace Ventura 2 movie, where Ace was doing those “yoohoo” sounds in the presentation room you might get the picture about how this sounds).

Bloody annoying, and I have no clue how to mute that guy when the game is going. In Valve’s games they tell you (1) who said the thing and (2) give you the possibility to mute him. In NHL ’10, you are left with the only possibility to rant about in your blog about the lack of the mute button.

Well, enough ranting for today. Prototyping has been going well and I believe I have something to show shortly*.

I Found One Artist, Not Sure If He Is Skilled Enough Though

After blogging yesterday about finding an artist I got this urge to doodle something on paper. I “borrowed” (that’s a nice way to say “I copied his art”) a creature design from Kwanchai Moriya and started drawing something on paper. And then using my computer & GIMP to put some pixels and colors together.

I ended up drawing these lil’ chaps here.

Look, they can even bloody animate:

And with awesome background coloring:

I might give this guy (= that would be me) a test run and do something and see how this turns out. My skills are probably at least enough for some prototyping.

I’m Pondering Wondering If I Should Try Find An Artist To Form a Dev-Duo

I’m somewhat on an edge here regarding getting art to my game. The pros and cons for finding an artist and forming a dynamic dev duo with him I see as follows:


  • I don’t need to think about doing/finding/buying good looking art: that’s what the artist can do.
  • Development budgetwise it could be a good move.
  • Two guys can motivate each other and bounce ideas back and forth.


  • Losing some control over things: artist (in my opinion) needs to do his thing which is totally cool – I want The Art Guy to have control over what kind of art he does. It’s the “game design ideas” and “how this game should work” of losing control is a potential pitfall. (Of course by looking from the bright side one could say that 2 guys can end up having much better design than just one guy)
  • Delays in decisions and stuff: when there’s 2 people involved in something, things are several times more complex than they ever will be when there’s just one guy doing something. But hey… if I wanna create a cooperative game, perhaps it makes sense to cooperate with somebody in the development phase as well?
  • Finding a good match is no easy thing to do. (But luckily miracles happen… I’ve noticed this after simply posting on my blog that things start to roll forward. This blog is like a wish well – I’ll throw some ideas on wall and see some of them sticking. Who knows, maybe something good will follow from this blog post as well…)

You’ve seen my game ideas. I’m now pondering whether to find an artist to team up with. I’d handle programming. Artist would handle art. Rest of the stuff would be fought about.

(Just kidding.)

What you think? Which way you are currently going?

Maybe I’m Onto Something Now

Today I’ve been thinking of combining some of my game ideas into a cooperative browser game. I was thinking samurai theme (zombies could work too) where players would have different roles and they could gain experience to raise “levels” (sounds pretty “it’s been done 700 million times in the past” but me likes it). Players could choose from different roles and they would need to cooperatively be victorious in raids to receive accomplishments.

Game would combine something from the “zombie browser game” (platform, “rpg” aspects) but also from the “tactical battle” idea I had (=stole from Knizia) which would require players to cooperate in order to beat raids.

In a really short summary, I was thinking a game where players would be able to design new raids (“mod” the game so to speak), play anywhere/anytime (browser based), cooperate with friends (certain combos/healing/stuff like that would be designed so that friend aid is required) and it could have leveling options (rpg elements to help grow your character in the way you want).

Besides one aspect (cooperation), these elements don’t perhaps sound so new but the vision I have and the feeling I have about this idea makes me bit more confident to do more playtesting for this idea.

Maybe I’m onto something now.

Engine is what troubles me and I’m now pondering whether indeed a browser version could be possible to create from this. I need to sketch down some gameplay elements and see if I can knock together a brief gameplay demo to see how all this works together.

Not much of a “pratical game dev tip” here in this blog post, but let’s say that following your gut feeling might be just what I need.

Maybe I indeed am on to something here.

P.S. Is “steampunk samurai zombies” as one possible theme too way over one’s head?