December 27, 2010

Facebook Favorites

My new company makes mobile games for iPhone and Droid phones, but also Facebook games. I think one of the most important things to do as a designer is play games, so to me this clearly means I need to play Facebook games. Oh no, the dreaded hellpit of evil, theft, and villainy of the video game world.

I've found my assumptions to be largely confirmed in my Facebook game travels. But I've also found that there are some games I genuinely enjoy. In fact, I even have a favorite Social game developer now: Wooga. It seems I'm not entirely alone in my enjoyment of their games. Maybe I should get about making better games to beat them...

Social games are largely asynchronous cooperative time sinks. As such, maybe a post like this will encourage you to join me!

Bush Whacker: The closest thing to Diablo and Zelda on Facebook.

In Bush Whacker, you take control of a slightly wild-eyed male or female character equipped with a stick and a burning desire to whack bushes. Also monsters, but mostly bushes. Much like Diablo (or Zelda if it were played w/ a mouse) you click bushes and your guy goes to whack it, expending energy as he goes. Whacking a bush has a few results:

  • XP gained: Gain XP to level. As you level you have a larger reserve of energy, power, and mana, and gain access to harder areas. 
  • Potential Gold: Use gold to buy all sorts of things.
  • Potential Gems: Like gold, used to buy all sorts of things.
  • Potential Power Crystals: You choose to use a crystal before whacking a bush or monster. If something is there (there could be nothing) you'll multiply the number of items found by the number of crystals used. It is an awesome dice roll mechanic.
  • Potential Mana: You call down a lightning spell that destroys bushes/monsters without using energy. 
  • Potential Puzzle piece: Each zone requires you find X puzzle pieces. You then use them to complete the puzzle, which then spawns a monster. Spend a lot of energy to capture the monster and add him to your corral. 
  • Potential customization item: Players can customize their avatars with hats, belts, capes, swords, and more. Each player also has a home to customize. Both are fun ways to show off and look cool!
Here's my little whacker:
Oh yeah, that's a Fez w/ a snowman pet
Swapped out Fez for cowboy hat. My rockin' home. 
There are also quests and several forms of progression -- very similar to World of Warcraft in this regard. For example, there's a repeatable daily quest where I can fish junk out of the pond to gain Fisherman Tokens. Doing Christmas Holiday quests earns me red raffle tickets, which I assume work for all holiday events (By the way, the Christmas quests and rewards are pretty stellar). 

Most surprisingly, there's a very entertaining skill-based PVP arena that you can play regardless of your current energy. It puts two players in a small arena and bushes spawn. Points are dolled out for whacking bushes and the player that earns the most points wins. The strategy is based on timing, precision, and a little bit of luck. One oddball factor is that balloons will appear. The player who whacks the balloon gets a one time ability of speed boost, stun the other player, or a lightning bolt that effectively earns the points for all bushes. This sounds way over-powered, but there are games where I've earned every power up and still barely won. The arena, of course, has its own rewards and titles to unlock. 

The energy game is fun and adds a light layer of strategy. If you have a friend who plays, you can trade a full energy refill once every 24 hours. You also get your energy re-filled upon leveling, so you want to time the use of these. You can also spend real dollars for energy refills. Finally, you can find fruit while whacking bushes and monsters to extend your playtime. If you use 20 power crystals and hit a bush with a fruit, you suddenly have 20 fruit, which is just awesome.

There are two energy items I always save for: one that increases the rate at which I gain energy (reduces time to tick) and the other increases the amount of energy gained per tick. I now gain enough that I can log in multiple times per day and have fun. 

Of course, the game is built with the now required set of Achievements and stats. Overall, very well made, very funny, and very polished experience with loads of progression. I think this is my favorite Facebook game!

Monster World: The farming game I cannot stop playing. My first Wooga game.

My current Monster World plot. 
I played Farmville for all of 8 minutes before I decided that I loathed it and never wanted to play it again. Monster World is a farming/decoration game. You plant things in plots, come back later to harvest them. Meanwhile, money earned is used to decorate your farm, which makes your helper happy and you can place more farm plots. 

Yet, I'm level 27 and I've been playing it for weeks. I think a lot of it has to do with the sheer amount of charm and the quality art. The game is cute, full of funny monsters, and has plants like Unicorn Trees, Brick Trees, Soda Pop bushes, and more. It lets you hire a friend as a helper, which always amuses me. And I like the decorations that you can buy. 

It's relaxing and satisfying. I know I'm just pushing buttons, but I like to play it...

Bubble Island: Apparently, it's just Bust-a-Move. Also, a Wooga game.

This is a polished and charming match 3 game that Beth says is "just like Bust-a-Move." I never played Bust-A-Move, so it's new to me!

You shoot bubbles and if you match colors you knock them down. The game can get pretty challenging, so advancing is satisfying and not handed out freely. Furthermore, much like Bejewled Blitz, you can see your friends' status on the "board," so passing them up is doubly satisfying.

I find that its friend requirements are a bit steep -- if you have friends/real money, you're able to save progress more easily in the middle of a game world. Otherwise, you need to do things in a single sitting. Not a big deal, but I sure wish I had more friends playing!

Cityville: Somewhat like SimCity.

If you're like me, you've been patiently waiting for a real Sim City follow-up. Alas, in the absence of a modern sequel comes Zynga with a new 800 lb. gorilla to terrify and wow everyone with their crazy player statistics.

Unlike Farmville, Cityville is actually pretty fun. There's a nice little gameplay loop going on.

  • Build residences to bring people to go to businesses. Residences generate money over time.
  • Build businesses to earn money over time. Business require supplies.
  • Build farms to grow crops which create supplies to supply businesses.
  • Community buildings let you build more residences.
The customization aspect is really fun -- you control the layout of your city. The proximity of your businesses and residences with the games abundant decorations also increases the amount of money earned for every payout. There's a fun game in figuring out how to lay your roads (roads are required for businesses and residences to be "active"), place your decorations, then place your buildings to maximize profits and make your city look cool.

The community buildings do become quite the hassle really quickly if you aren't playing with a small army of people who are also active players. You must staff the community buildings with either real-world friends (free), or use Zynga bucks to pay the NPC to do it (note: there's no gameplay in staffing. You're just filling a slot). You earn 1 Zynga buck for every level you gain, but I'm at the point where I need 12 friends to staff a library, and I only have 6 people playing actively. I'm about to hit a wall and I just haven't felt interested in paying money for the game, whereas I'm this close to spending money on Bush Whacker.

It'll be interesting to see where Cityville goes. The game's player base is exploding and will soon surpass Farmville's huge numbers. But, Zynga reportedly devoted an absolutely massive team and a long-time making this game. Will it pay off? 

Brain Buddies: I'm smarter already! Yep, also Wooga. Damn ze Germans!

This is a fairly simple game that tests your logic, memory, and math skills with short, timed mini-games. It's fun, fast, and much like Brain Age for the DS, you feel smarter upon completion.

I'm most impressed with the t-shirts you can order in the game. They have a really slick interface where you can pick images based on your score, achievements, pick a size, style of t-shirt, and color, then order a shirt. Not only do you get unique swag for a game you like, but you become a walking billboard for the developers. 

That's right -- I scored in the top 84.5%
What else? 
I have a few games I still need to try, not to mention there are new games constantly. Kingdoms of Camelot is supposedly earning tons of money. I'm curious what's going on there. I want to play the CSI game. I'm hoping for a mystery game, but ultimately I'll settle for campy hilarity. I also want to dig a little deeper into Wooga's newest game, Happy Hospital. There's some good humor going on that I appreciate.

What are you playing?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bush Whacker sounds like a facebook game that would actually keep my attention. The world has so many games now, thanks for helping weed through all the garbage.

- Ray