Archive for May, 2008

Our third title is… Bowling Buddies!

May 8, 2008

Bowling Buddies from Playfish

It feels like only a few days since we launched our second title Word Challenge (mainly because, well, it is), but it’s time to reveal our third title for social networks. It’s called Bowling Buddies, it’s the debut title by our team over at the Playfish Arctic studio, and is available to play now on Facebook!

We chose bowling because it’s one of the most fun ways to socialise with friends. You don’t bowl alone in the real world – you bowl with friends and family – and we wanted to capture those competitive elements for our game too. We are very excited about two innovations in Bowling Buddies: a new kind of control system which makes it very easy to pick up play, and we’ve thrown in some 3D graphics as well!

On the controls side, most bowling games use meters where you click to set the direction, then click again to set the power and spin. We’ve gone for something different – and more natural – in that you bowl with your mouse, by grabbing the ball and, well, just… bowl. We worked a long time on the mechanic to get it right, and then built Bowling Buddies around it. On the graphics side, we’ve added a sprinkle of 3D to the cut-scenes, character art and in-game visuals to make it richer. Although for slower machines you can turn off 3D and still have a game that plays well.

For launch, we wanted to make Bowling Buddies a fun, competitive bowling game where you can customize your character and compete with friends and you network. But we’ve got lots of exciting features in the works for the future, so look out for those and please provide feedback in the game forum as always!

Feel like putting your bowling skills to the test? Head here!

Facebook’s stricter app regulations are a good thing!

May 7, 2008

There’s some interesting data over on the 20bits blog, showing how the level of activity in the Facebook developers forum has been declining since the start of this year. There are 27% less active users now than there were in January on the developer forums, spurring fears that developers are abandoning the platform.

Apparently this decline is reflected in activity on the Facebook platform itself – apparently applications launched in early January were on average 1.5 times more successful than apps launched at the end of March.

Both VentureBeat and The Equity Kicker suggest that Facebook’s stricter regulation of applications may be part of the reason, as the site places more restrictions on how applications can interact with users. However, the latter blog points out that “the bull case for Facebook is that their actions have cut out low quality applications and that developer activity will rise again as they start producing better content”.

That’s certainly a view we share. As a games company creating high production-value games for social networks, we see stricter moderation of the platform as a good thing. It will help reduce noise for consumers, and get them to focus on the applications they enjoy using.

Over time, there is clearly an incentive for social networks like Facebook to support the kind of applications which help them achieve their goals – distribution, retention, time spent on the site and monetisation, for example – over applications that ‘game’ the system, and reduce user satisfaction through excessive spam or other questionable features.

We haven’t really seen an impact on our own numbers from Facebook’s recent changes. We just launched a new game, Word Challenge, and reached 100,000 players in less than a week. Meanwhile, our first title, Who Has The Biggest Brain?, is still going strong with more than 2.5 million players.

So, the Facebook platform is maturing, which is a good thing for users and developers should be thinking harder about how to add value to it. Facebook’s approach to building its platform has been very thoughtful to date, and this just seems the next natural step in its evolution.

Besides, if you’ve developed games on traditional platforms, you’ll know that the platform providers are far more restrictive about publishing for their system. By comparison, things are still pretty good on Facebook!

Our second title is… Word Challenge!

May 1, 2008

One of the frequent bits of feedback we’ve had on Who Has The Biggest Brain? is people asking if we can include some verbal games, to complement the ones based on numbers and abstract thinking.

So we’re pleased to announce our second social game – a title that focuses entirely on verbal ability. It’s called Word Challenge, and it’s available to play now on Facebook.

The objective is to create words from the letters provided as fast as you can. There are 40,000 to find and we’ve tried to keep the game very fast and arcade-centric, like Who Has The Biggest Brain?

You start every game with two minutes of time to find as many words as possible, but you get bonus time whenever you find a word with four letters or more. When you run out of time you are shown the words that you missed – with the ability to click on them a definition of what the word means. At the end, you get a rating from 20 vocabulary types, ranging from mime to a poet – taking in drill sergeant, circus ringmaster, hermit and rock star along the way.

We’re launching the game with English, Spanish and French dictionaries and will be looking to support more with time. We’ve pushed out the boat when it comes to connected elements too. For example, there are bonus rounds where you have to unscramble your Facebook friends’ names for extra points. And we’ve got competitive elements like weekly, monthly and all-time high-scores between you and your friends.

There’s also something new: a challenge mode, where you go head-to-head against a friend. It’s to settle those arguments about who’s best, without any complaints that one of you got easier or harder words to work from. It’s asynchronous, so you play through, and then your friend receives the challenge, and plays with the same words as you did.

We’re really excited about Word Challenge and hope you’ll enjoy it. All feedback is welcome on the game forums as always!

Want to play? Head here, and don’t forget to tell your friends…

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