Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 04/10/2012 - 16:14.
'Take It Easy!' is bingo improved or Euro bingo by Peter Burley. Burley took bingo (arguably a game because there are no meaningful choices) and added risk management and real choices. Each player gets their own a hex shaped board divided into smaller hexes. The designated caller picks and announces a random hex tile and other player play that tile. Each player can place the called tile onto any open space trying to line up high value rods. Each tile has three color rods that go in three directions. When you connect the same color rod across the board you score the value of the rodss. So if you manage to connect four orange rods, value 8, across your board, then you earn 32 points.
The difficulty lies in that each tile has three rods; when you match one color rod, two other colors may mismatch and you have to decide which colors you want to score and which ones you want to sacrifice. Like bingo, there is no player interaction because your board does not influence another player's board. Hence 'Take It Easy!' can accommodate unlimited players as long each player has their own set of tiles and board and be ear's reach of the caller.
Since over 500,000 copies have sold, multiple digital implementations of 'Take It Easy!' exits. The best are the iOS and Facebook app by Zabu Studios.
I have a sort of love/hate relationship with Dragons of Atlantis. It's the first Facebook game I've played for more than a month, and the first I've really been tempted to spend money on (though I've resisted). And there are things about the design that I really admire, but also things I hate. I've even fantasized about going to work for Kabam, to teach them some basic truths about wargame design that they apparently lack.
It's a Travian-style game, but with better graphics, and, at least for me, a more interesting backdrop. You start with a single city, and build buildings that produce resources -- good, stone, wood, and metal -- that you use to build more buildings and troops -- as well as other buildings that improve your tech or increase your troop production capabilities. The basic algorithm is a triangular/doubling one; each upgrade of a building increases its production as a triangular number, but building time for the structure doubles. (Google triangular number if you don't know what I'm talking about here.) This is minimalist, interesting design, and a fundamentally sound approach.
Okay, I could be totally wrong here, and I invite correction, but if I'm right, we have our first real indie social game hit.
Stick Run is by Otto Manuel, who has done a series of Flash-portal games, some of which are pretty good, like StickCombat.
Stick Run is a somewhat frustrating sidescroller with, really, only two buttons; jump and crouch. You move automatically left-to-right, and must avoid obstacles in your path. Anything you hit is instadeath. In some cases this is tricky, e.g., jump too soon and you hit an upper obstacle, but not soon enough and you hit a lower one. Graphics are stick-figure primitive, gameplay is fast and brutal, and the music (unusually for social games) does not suck.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 06/14/2011 - 21:40.
Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter (HON) for Facebook is an adaptation of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) 4th edition rules in the Forgotten Realms setting, centering around the Neverwinter city-state. Liquid Entertainment simplified the D&D paper RPG by limiting details and choices and hiding dice rolls. There are numerous races and classes in the D&D paper RPG but in HON, you can create one character from a permutation of four races: Human, Eldrin (elf), Dragonborne, Halfling (hobbit) and four classic classes: Rogue, Fighter, Cleric and Wizard.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Thu, 05/26/2011 - 19:44.
Trade Nations is a casual, social econ sim by Z2Live with art and gameplay assistance from Bight Games. Initially developed for iOS, it is now available on Facebook. The difference between the iOS and Facebook versions is slight but the development for iOS has slowed down, while new features are being tested weekly on the Facebook version by Bight Games. The premise of Trade Nations is that you are a ruler of a medieval commune of naive peons. These peons work around the clock and serve you without question. It is the dystopian world of Marx's Capital. Or, one could argue, Trade Nations is a simulation of the forced labor of the Five Year Plan of Mao and Stalin. I mention economics because Trade Nations does a great job of offering an accurate economics engine that is easily understood and accessible by casual and serious gamers alike.
Submitted by sebastian sohn on Tue, 05/24/2011 - 13:28.
Pickomino is simple dice game by Reiner Knizia. The game consists of sixteen domino-like tiles with cost values of 21 to 36 on the top portion and worm victory point value icons, 1 to 5, on the bottom. The game also includes eight six-sided dice with standard 1-5 pip values and a worm icon instead of the 6. Each turn a player rolls dice and choose which same-value dice to set aside, then roll the reminder. Thus if you roll a set of two 2-pips, three 4-pips, and three worms, you can set aside one of the three sets. The worms count as 5-pips, and at least one worm die is necessary to buy a tile. You cannot pick a set of dice with pips that you already have set aside, making Pickomino a press-your-luck game. You can buy any tile that adds up to your dice pip count or less. If you roll the exact number, you can steal from another player's top stack. Who ever collects the most worms is the winner.
I ordered an organic mattress from the US for my daughter, paid half the price in customs fees, and the thing doesn't fit the crib. I went to the hardware store to buy wood planks to fill in the gap, realized by volume what the cost would be of just filling everything in, and had an idea. This flash of engineering brilliance probably game from playing a lot of the wagon repair game in the FB version of Oregon Trail.
So you're probably thinking "another Facebook game on 'Play This Thing!'?" with nested quotes and punctuation neatly laid out, because that's how you think - nested. However, here are some things you may not know that makes this particular FB game touchingly indie:
- it's made by the designers of Train and uh... this game you may have heard of: DOOM.
- its parent company is currently being taken the woodshed with hardcore mafia-style, Hostel 2-level grotesque punishment by Facebook. They've disabled all the distribution/retargeting channels on all the company's apps for six months, except this game, which is only suspended until Wednesday. The company is technically not owned by anyone, except its owners and maybe some VCs, but this kind of singling out gives it a shred of indie dignity, maybe?
- it makes numerous, canny references to the Millenial Fair in Chrono Trigger.
You take all the stuff that Brian Reynolds made work in Frontville but tweaked out, collections for example play like a slot machine reward every time you click a tree. You get one click every two minutes and you need some special items that pop-up to complete buildings. This alone will drive a significant percentage of the audience to pay less than a dollar into the game, just some extra Facebook credits and why not, but I think they'll be tapping into a higher monetization rate for that. They also have a more balanced economy, with the battle between nature and your energy bar brokered by Protectors which cost wood - in Frontville there was always a surplus of wood, here the snake gorges on its tail.
But wait! It doesn't sell out the level curve and adjust it so you get a Ding! at frequent, clean intervals, it instead has a meaty level curve, where each new Ding! marks new things to do, and where getting to level 20 puts you on par with Drizzt Do'Urden - albeit a Teddy Bear version.
There are monsters to fight, and gothic stuff mixed with Winnie The Pooh meets Redwall character designs.
My biggest criticism is they over-saturation of newsfeeds. Until recently, the way you promulgated a Facebook game and got people to re-engage was through prompting newsfeeds. Every conceivable thing you could post about is solicited for a feed, because maybe you'll click on one of those options, and it will shotgun some "virality" to people who browse your page. Well, Facebook nerfed the newsfeed, now only people who are already playing can see it - personally I think it's the best goddamned thing to ever happen to the platform. If they adapt this game to having just a few key feeds that relate to some actual social gameplay, a dimension where the title is currently weak, that would do wonders for the experience and probably the longer-term business.
My biggest praise is that this game has, more than any other title I've seen on the platform, pop-up book potential for new features to recombinantly deepenify it. I wish Brenda and John the courage, nay, the bravado - ok, that's just a synonym - to take this game in bold directions that challenge the conventional mass-market logics chaining the rest of the industry.
But I have a feeling the company politics surrounding the only revenue-generating property in the portfolio might complicate that. If that's the case: Brenda Brathwaite, John Romero, I am hiring.
Finally a Facebook game that makes you feel like you're on Kongregate! See those blood splatters in the header pic? That's monster blood, the result of killing via explosives and projectile launches. See that array of buildings? That's a non-decorative arrangement I used to express myself, with concerns for both architecture style and radius coverage of my peremeter, which has been optimized - optimized! - to cluster AI paths into areas of maximum overlap. In this game I was allowed to make decisions which affected my success relative to everyone else in a matter that was challenging. Surely italics are better than quotation marks for placing "sardonic" emphasis?
Finally a Facebook game that makes you feel like you're on Kongregate! See those blood splatters in the header pic? That's monster blood, the result of killing via explosives and projectile launches. See that array? That's a non-decorative arrangement I expressed myself through, with concerns for both architecture style and radius coverage of my peremeter, which has been optimize - optimized! - to cluster AI paths into areas of maximum overlap. In this game I was allowed to make decisions which affected my success relative to everyone else in a matter that was challenging. Surely italics are better than quotation marks for placing "sardonic" emphasis?
Yes, the folks at Casual Collective, makers of really neat multiple experiences like Buggle and featuring the maker of Kongregate breakout-hit Desktop Tower Defense, have applied their hybrid of depth and accessibility to that "space" where traditional designers have feared to tread but where angels tread quite freely (the investor variety): The Facebook. Now you can open that book of faces and proceed to start breaking said faces by spawing groups of home-brewed monsters at the door-step of other folks' tower defense arrays. If you succeed in overwhelming you can raid resources in order to grow your tower-defended base even faster. They take the chestnut of setting a timer and coming back for a reward and granulate it to a wide spectrum of time ranges, upgrade this building for 20 minutes, this one over two hours, research this monster for a day, harvest some putty in an hour and a half of the collector will be too full to continue - somehow this juggling act, in contrast to the optimal appointment that games like Farmville or Cafe World offer, appeals to the epic-compulsive drive of the active competitor or manager-type gamer. However according to their chart, people burn out on that and the resulting ratio of daily to monthly players is lower than you'd expect from a demanding strategy game.
The PvP is pretty fun as you raid someone multiple times and they start hitting back, so you reflexively get into these petty rivalries with folks you've never met - would like to see more with my actual friends, structured local leaderboards, short-term races to a goal milestone, alliances and wars and tournaments. But maybe they can roll that stuff out, at 200k DAU they're pulling prolly like 5k a day so they're probably holding onto positive operating-margins with this thing and you're going to see some new stuff roll out over time.
As far as the early game goes, I admire their boldness in not folding to the mainstays of Facebook game design. The interface is kind of a mess from a "casual" (or is that casual) point of view, but they just trust you to deal with it. Most notably, the focal mechanic of the game, attacking other players, doesn't become accessible until after a few days of active play, they even give you 14 days explicitedly when you start up. This kind of commitment, as fickel as it may seem to those who have losts years to MMORPGS, is staggering for a social game.
But hey man, at least we have a game where you can post a newsfeed that isn't totally hokey, and maybe even inspire some badass admiration as you start unlocking that hardcore, high-level monster and warn your friends. I Like that.
I just realized that I haven't reviewed a platformer in a while, which is totally inexcusable. In my defense I'm still smitten with VVVVVV. Terry is about to release the final version shortly, to tide you over till its release I'll direct you to this little gem of a game. Jumper 3 was lovingly crafted by Matt Thorson, half of the development crew of the impeccably-fun RunMan: Race Around the World. I called RunMan a gamer's game and it holds true here as well. If you dig platformers you shouldn't pass this up, it's a blast.
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