Archive for October, 2009

Facebook to (maybe) change SRPG notifications

31 October 2009 Leave a comment

FacebookThis article brings a big smile to my face:

Facebook is meeting with top app developers on its platform to discuss a series of planned changes that could drastically alter the virality of social games, according to Venture Beat. If the report is correct, Facebook plans to alter the way notifications and requests sent by apps (including social games) display on user news feeds and profile pages. The changes would move these notifications to less visible parts of a user’s Facebook page.

One of my biggest qualms (and the qualms of my friends) is how much SRPGs spam news feeds and profiles. I’d love to have all this stuff shoved into a corner somewhere. The whole idea for SRPG designers is to push out all of these notifications to inspire friends to play with friends. But the problem is, and this has happened to me and countless others, not everyone wants to know that you recently reached level 97000 in Cafe Pets War Mafias.

Hopefully Facebook will work on behalf of it’s millions of users and push the devs to understand that there are not a lot of happy people with the Facebook service out there specifically because of game notification spam.

Categories: srpgs

Making right out of wrong

26 October 2009 Leave a comment

Champions OnlineI previously took issue with the way Cryptic failed to handle a major server issue in a timely manner with its Champions Online property. They announced today that they will be giving players one free retcon (opportunity to do a character redesign) with the launch of their Blood Moon Rising event at the end of this month:

Due to this weekend’s server issues, we’ll be granting a free Retcon to all players when Blood Moon goes live on Tuesday, October 27th. Keep in mind that free Retcons do not stack, so players who have not used their previous free Retcon before tomorrow morning’s maintenance will not receive a new one. Also note that free Retcons do not impact purchased ones in any way. Owning a purchased Retcon will not prevent you from receiving a free one. We appreciate your patience this past weekend, and we can’t wait to see you in Blood Moon!

As a player, I love free stuff. Any time I can get free stuff from a game developer I’m a happy camper, and with the difficulty in designing a Champions character that is effective down the road, getting a free retcon is a bonus. But, there’s also the cynical part of me that says that they’re just bribing me because I was pissed off at them. I was. They are. Free retcons for everybody!

Categories: MMO Tags:

That’s 8 point 6 million with an “m”

25 October 2009 1 comment

Cafe WorldHoly crap! That’s my response after I read a post on Raph Koster’s site (I’m playing feed catch-up) which quote from/linked to this article regarding Zynga’s Cafe World:

[Cafe World] has grown from 0 to 8.6 million users since it launched a week ago, according to AppData, based on a combination of cross-promotion from other Zynga games (including FarmVille) and advertising on Facebook.

The article goes on to say that Cafe World is not a clone of Playfish’s Restaurant City, but it is. It just takes all the bad things out, such as having to refresh your workers every hour, and not making you go through hoops to collect ingredients for recipes.

Speaking of RC‘s design, that whole ingredient collection thing is absolutely evil. You can’t really progress in the game per se, although you do get more space and the opportunity to hire more of your friends to work for you. The real thing that keeps you playing is the desire to collect more ingredients so that you can learn more recipes and raise their levels. But ingredients are devilishly hard to get: you either pay an arm and a leg for them on the market, spend $2000 and 2 days minimum (assuming you keep the plants watered) growing them in your garden (and you don’t get things like milk or ice, etc.), or wait for your chance daily to earn an ingredient by correctly answering the question in the daily quiz, as well as earning one ingredient daily. The way those clever bastards at Playfish have done it is that you want desperately to get ingredients as much as you want to make a really phat-looking restaurant. These two design elements combined make players more likely to spend money on microtransactions than they would in some other games, especially because in-game money is pretty much fixed if your restaurant is running 24/7 at the top of its game.

Zynga’s CW, on the other hand, has no current reward features, is somewhat illogical in its “buzz rating” system, and doesn’t have that level of pinache that RC does… yet. But, it’s Zynga, and they make better copies than everyone else, so I’m sure there will be a lot of great things down the line with the game that will make Electronic Arts ponder if it should have considered starting rumors about purchasing Zynga rather than Playfish instead.

This bit of the above article is also interesting:

To get a sense for what Café World means for Restaurant City, take a look at what happened to Slashkey’s Farm Town before and after Zynga launched FarmVille in June. As FarmVille grew, Farm Town’s traffic leveled off, even though it is staying steady with nearly 19 million monthly active users. The same may be happening for Restaurant City, as its traffic has also leveled off in the last week.

Players tend to forget about the original, and move to the next best clone out there. This is one of the reasons why the SRPG market lacks some serious innovation at this time. The good thing is that (hopefully) as the market continues to skyrocket, there will be developers out there who will explode SRPG game design, making it much more exciting for gamers, and more World of Warcraft-like profitable for the developers themselves.

Facebook SRPG experiment continues to FAIL

25 October 2009 2 comments

So far, my Facebook social roleplaying game experiment is an absolute failure. I wonder if it’s because I’m not as proactive as I could be, playing 10,000 games within my experimental Facebook account.

My iPhone experiment, however, is going along nicely, but it really depends upon the game. You can see the myriad of games that I’ve been playing on the iPhone below:

SRPGs on the iPhone

SRPGs on the iPhone

Swabs Online and Agency Wars are two new additions to my small stable of SRPGs. I only began checking them out today. The remainder I have been playing for a while, but unfortunately individual game data is not stored anywhere for most of the games, so when I had to swap my iPhone to “change the battery” at the Apple Store, I wound up losing all of my account data.

Gameplay for these games are mostly the same: press, press, press. Agency Wars seems to be slightly different in this regard, and Storm8‘s World War III is the one that I’m enjoying the most, mostly because I like, well, World War III scenarios. Some of the games listed above don’t have mission leveling, and I find that I tend to like those a lot less than I do the ones which have it. This is because I don’t really feel as if I’m accomplishing anything when I’m playing these kinds of games–the whole button smashing game design seems a lot more obvious because of it.

Getting more players in your team is not as easy at it is in most SRPGs when it comes to the iPhone. In order to recruit, you need to give people your character code. This means that you need to have other friends with iPhones and actively tell them your code if they decide to play the game as well. This can result in not a lot of people on your team if you don’t have a lot of iPhone-enabled friends with a need to play SRPGs while they are waiting for their latte machiatto espresso chai tea doubleshot at Starbucks.

Another design flaw? Possibly. Except players in many of these games have come up with a way to inspire others to invite them to their teams. Since all of these games have some sort of player versus player feature, many participants have taken to naming their character after their game code. This allows people to quickly scan the PvP list, find those who want to be recruited from the list, and send an invite. As an alternative to this, some players, after fighting another player, will leave a combat on their victim’s account with their character code.

Not all games have this level of recruitment agency. On Playdom’s Mobsters, I’m having no luck finding anyone to recruit, but so far World War III has been pretty good to me.

Of course, if I wanted to spend money, I could simply pay for points, which would allow me to acquire NPCs to fill my roster. Until recently, Apple didn’t allow microtransactions for free iPhone apps; recently, they changed their policy, allowing game developers to earn revenue via both microtransactions and adverts. I am not a Rockerfeller, so my SPRG gaming is going to be as free as I can get it.

Categories: srpgs Tags: , ,

How not to not handle issues

25 October 2009 2 comments

Champions OnlineOkay, it was a Saturday night when this happened, but still. As MMO developers, we all know that it’s important to keep our services running as close to 24/7 as possible, even on patch and expansion days. Our players want to play, and we want them to. I would hope.

I’m already iffy on Cryptic’s Champion’s Online, their second superhero-themed MMO. I’ve played their City of Heroes/City of Villains, now owned by NCSoft, for a couple of years and enjoyed it. Champions? Not so much. Granted, the game is still very much new, so there’s a whole lot of balancing that needs to be done to the game. As it stands, I’m stuck on level 19 with a fire character who can’t seem to do much except die. A lot.

Anyway, I was playing Saturday, or rather: I wanted to play Saturday. It was the afternoon, several hours after my early morning playing session, and I decided to pop in again and see if I could get far with a new character I created. Only I couldn’t log in. It took about 20 minutes for the character selection screen to display, and then another 10 or so for the map server to pop up. I simply assumed, at first, that the problem was with my connection, or even hardware. But later that evening, when I tried several more times, I popped onto the forums to see if others were having the same issue.

Champions defeated by server issuesTons of players were having the same issue I was. Not only that, at the time of this screenshot, the problem had been going on for over four hours. I can only imagine that either CO‘s community team is off over the weekend, or maybe their CS didn’t notice that their login server was shot to shit. All sorts of bells and whistles should have gone off within, say, 15 minutes of the problem making itself known. To be honest, I don’t know if any did, or didn’t. But what I do know is that on a busy Saturday night, players couldn’t play a game, and it took almost five hours before the game’s developer communicated with its players that there was an issue, and they were trying to resolve it.

They did wind up taking the server down, doing whatever magic operations at Cryptic does, and gave players a two hour downtime window. But they got the problem resolved within an hour, and heroes began cleaning the streets of Millennium City soon after.

Always keep your community informed. Even if it’s just a “we’re looking into reports” post. Otherwise you lose the trust of your players, and losing trust means losing subscribers, and no one wants that.

Categories: MMO Tags: ,

Infocom Book in the Works

25 October 2009 1 comment

InfocomThis news item from GameSetWatch excites me. Not that someone is making sexy hi-res photographs inspired by Infocom games… by that Rick Thornquist is writing a book about Infocom, and plans to interview a number of Infocom people for the book. I don’t know who Rick is, but he’s my new game history hero.

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Infocom games. They were some of the first ever video games I played on a PC and their ingenious packaging matched their more than ingenious games. I am still trying to remember what to do when you first get on the Vogon ship in the classic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (designed, in part, by Steve Meretsky). I can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Sadly, Amazon doesn’t yet have a product page for it, but when they do, you can be sure that I will pre-order it!

Here’s some good Infocom-related links for you to peruse and enjoy:

An experiment in fail? or how being anti-social in social rpg’s makes for a lonely, lonely world

13 October 2009 Leave a comment

Cafe WorldSo far, no one has decided that I’m worthy enough to friend in Zynga’s Mafia Wars, so I’ve decided to add their clone of Playfish’s Restaurant City, Cafe World. Like Restaurant City, Cafe World features a player-run restaurant in which you cook dishes and have your friends serve guests. There are a number of differences and improvement over Restaurant City. For example, your staff don’t get tired from working; as long as you have food, you will not have to check your cafe every hour or so to boost your staff’s energy. Dishes are also ingredient-prepared, meaning: you have to click your stove to “add an ingredient” magically several times when you begin to cook a fresh dish. Friends can also send you drink gifts which, when used, will take additional money from each sitting guest.

As in Restaurant City, Cafe World is dependent upon friends. To get staff, you need to select from one of your friends. The good thing is that they don’t have to already have the Cafe World installed; it’s not at all a requirement. But what if you’re a lone experimenter who lacks any friends? What happens then?

Select a friend to hire a waiter... oh, I have no friends :(Game over. That is, until I actually have at least one friend. Total show stopper. I don’t think Zynga or any game designer who has this kind of game feature considered a loser such as myself.

I guess I can’t play until I have a friend to hire. As it is, I can’t do anything. Logging back into the game returns me to the above screen. My restaurant sucks, and I haven’t even opened, yet! I guess that means I can’t play Restaurant City, either.