Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last night I attended the “Changing Tides of Social Gaming” event held by SF Game Developer’s Workshop. The speakers were Blake Commagere (Facebook gaming pioneer) and Curt Bererton (CEO of ZipZapPlay). Here are highlights from that event, most useful to social game developers:

Don't wed game balance to Facebook constants
  • For one of Commagere’s games, team was relying on the # of users allowed in invites to provide game balance (at the time, you could invite 20).
  • Then FB changed this to be lower # at first, with increases later, which threw game out of balance and made it less fun overnight.
  • Then the team had to spend days trying to just get back to where they were before FB deployed their change.
  • Beware of the tendency for attaching to these “constants” because they become variable very quickly, without warning.
Three rules of FB games (as of today – take with a grain of salt as FB & FB games are always evolving)
  • Facebook games are played in small time increments. If you need a 5 min tutorial, you're too long – no one will play your game on FB.
  • Go easy on text. No one wants to read on FB.
  • Focus on accessible things. Cute has a larger audience than dark.
Development time for ZipZapPlay games – concept through launch
  • Cats Cove = 5 developers took 4.5 weeks
  • Happy Habitat = 6 developers took 5 weeks
  • Baking Life = 6 developers took 6 weeks
Make ads for undeveloped apps and look at click-thru rate on them to measure user interest
  • Create ad, place it on other games. (Point ad link to anything – competitor site, whatever. Doesn’t matter.)
  • Look at click-thru rates. That is almost always a good indicator of success of that thing, almost like prototype but way cheaper and quicker.
Iterate quickly on minimum viable game - engineer for the shortest time to market and then test test test.
  • A/B or Split testing is HUGE.
  • If you aren’t structured to do this from launch you will be unable to adapt to the audience’s wishes and you won’t have a long tail.

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