8bitrocket.com
31Mar/100

Essential Guide To Flash Games Code Supplement #2: Chapter 10 Driving and Turning Supplement

Essential Guide To Flash Games Code Supplement #2: Chapter 10 Driving and Turning Supplement

In chapter 10 we build an engine to handle an unlimited sized scrolling world with 32x32 sized tiles. On top of this scrolling engine we build a driving game. I had never completed a 360 degree driving game before this but as I wanted to do something "new" for the book I took on the challenge. Given the short time frame needed to build the engine, the full game and then the 60+ page chapter on the subject (in two weeks) I had to leave a few things out of the finished product. I will be exploring adding them in this an future installments. Let's fix something first

Now, the point of the chapter was really to create the scrolling engine and provide tile-base collision detection routines in this type of fluid open environment. I didn't focus too much on the realism of the car movement as I am a B minus Physics student at best. But, I do want it to be at least moderately accurate, so there is at least one fix to the current version that I would like to present.

While creating this game I wanted to provide somewhat realistic driving controls to ensure that it at least simulated how a car might drive in the real world. One thing I did was I add in code that changed the amount of rotation of the car when turning based on the velocity of the car. In the book I make the car turn in a linear relationship with its speed in a positive proportional manner. In a less masturbatory wording, the car turns at a sharper angle the faster it is going. I finished up the game, wrote (and re-wrote) the chapter (3 times). It went to the publisher and was printed in the book. Two weeks ago I started a re-skin / updated version to support the book virally. I let Steve play this version and he said, "hmm, your car drives like a tank". At first I thought he was full of crap, but yes, he was right. Cars can turn at a sharper angle when moving slower than they can when moving faster. I had my turning speed code implemented backward!

So, to fix this, I have changed the code.

Here is the code as it currently exists in the com.efg.games.driveshesaid.DriveSheSaid.as file's update() function

<font color="blue" size="2"><br /><font size="3">if (player.velocity == 0) {<br />    player.turnSpeed = 0;<br />}else {<br />    player.turnSpeed = player.minTurnSpeed + (Math.abs(player.velocity/10));<br />    if (player.turnSpeed &gt; player.maxTurnSpeed) {<br />        player.turnSpeed = player.maxTurnSpeed;<br />    }<br />}</font><br /></font><br />

Here is the modified code that will make a more realistic driving and turning experience.

<font color="blue" size="2"><br /><font size="3">if (player.velocity == 0) {<br />    player.turnSpeed = 0;<br />}else {<br />    player.turnSpeed = player.maxTurnSpeed - (Math.abs(player.velocity/10));<br />    if (player.turnSpeed &gt; player.maxTurnSpeed) {<br />        player.turnSpeed = player.maxTurnSpeed;<br />    }else if (player.turnSpeed&lt; player.minTurnSpeed){<br />        player.turnSpeed = player.minTurnSpeed;<br />    }<br />}</font><br /></font><br />

That's it. Hopefully this will; make the car drive and turn in a more realistic manner.

If you prefer a more realistic Driving and Cryin' experience, I suggest Scarred By Smarter.

31Mar/100

Review: Kill Screen Magazine Issue 0

Review: Kill Screen Magazine Issue 0

killscreen0.jpg

I've written had many stories through the years at 8bitrocket.com about video game magazines. I've covered personal stories about magazines like Electronic Games that influenced me while growing-up. I've interviewed some of my heroes of the first era of video game journalism like Bill Kunkel, Arnie Katz, and Michael Schrage. I even once reviewed an issue of PC Gamer magazine (after which, inexplicably, my subscription was canceled). I've done this because I love the medium of the video game magazine. At least, I once loved it. However, In the past decade I found myself buying the magazines on a less and less frequent basis. Even when I did buy them, I would usually start reading from the back of issue, where (most of the time) the best stories were stashed. Ever since magazines started to include overly hyperbolic previews, followed by numbered and scored reviews, I've found myself skimming those sections to get to some kind of meat of the type I once adored in back pages of the magazines I read in the 80's and 90's. Those usually came in the form of columns, speculative pieces on the future of games, or long-form stories about game design and development. Last year, when PC Gamer dropped all their columnists (recently reinstated), I felt the final limb had been drawn on the "hangman" game for the medium of the video game magazine.

Then I read about Kill Screen.

I think I found the link on one of my favorite sites, gamesetwatch.com. It was a magazine that purported to be something completely different. It began as a Kickstarter.com project, asking for donations so that the magazine could be printed. Normally, I would not have cared, except for these two paragraphs on their kickstarter site:

There is a single question that we are fixated upon "What does it mean to play games?" We want to be what early Rolling Stone was to rock n' roll or Wired was to tech. We want to look like the Fader and walk like the Believer. We're talking about the long format read on the creative minds behind AAA and indie game titles sided by the personal essays about what games mean as part of our daily little lives. There are intersections between the games and everything else that are only beginning to be explored. The minds of the videogame world are woefully faceless and we should change that.

Enter Kill Screen.

Here's what we're proposing a smart approach to a beloved medium led by folks who've written for the New Yorker, GQ, the Daily Show, Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, the Colbert Report, the Onion, Paste, alongside some lovely photos and even a poster or two! We promise to keep explosions to a bare minimum and limit fawning praise for Modern Warfare 2 to a giggle.

 

This seemed to be exactly what I had been missing for a decade (or even longer). There were several levels of donations. I could have given $5.00 for .pdf, but I wanted real MAGAZINE. To hold in my hands, put on shelf, or read on the can. I chose the $20 option because I could both feel "involved" and get a physical copy to covet. The whole idea of a magazine about video game written by adults (even if those adults were younger than me), was exciting. I checked the web site a few more times in December, and then I forgot about it. Many months went by, and last Saturday it arrived on my door step.

To be honest, my first reaction was of being "under whelmed". I leafed through it once very quickly after the kids had gone to sleep, assessing the situation. The publication is roughly 3/4 the size of a regular magazine, and at 65 pages contained lots of "artistically placed" white-space. I have to admit, that the disappointment was palpable. I guess I expected a glossy publication that had the texture, size, text depth, and smell of magazines from the days of old. I paged through it, but did not read a word, and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, my wife and kids and I went on a hike together, so I had no time to check it out again until later that evening. Again, when everyone else was asleep, I took a second look at Kill Screen issue #0. I recalled why I paid $20 in the first place. It was not for a huge glossy magazine, it was for the promise of writing that might re-animate video game magazines out of grave dug for themselves in the 21st century.  I wanted to read stories about games that made me "feel" something more than anger at cookie-cutter reviews or uninformed opinions.    I picked up the magazine again, and noted the things that I liked about it. It was printed in full color, on a stiff card-stock almost like a literary journal. Also, there was no advertising, so every one of the 65 pages had the potential to say something interesting that I wanted to read. Then I opened it up and did just that.

When I had made it through every story I noted what was *not* there. There were no reviews with scores or otherwise. There were no massive previews. There was no outdated, web-scooped news. There were no strategy guides, release dates, or letters to the editor. In fact, absolutely none of the common features of a video game magazine appeared in Kill Screen Issue # 0. I did not miss them.

So what did I find? Validation.

I always knew there was more to my love of video games than pixel depths, polygons, and licensed power-pop songs. In fact, many times I've tried to capture my own feelings about the nature and importance of video games in my life, but have mostly failed. I've tried to locate stories like these on the internet, but they are sparse and hard to find. Here, in my hand, was a collection of stories better written than any I could hope to write myself, but with many of the same emotions and feelings that I had been trying to capture. Even though I was not familiar with any of the writers, I understood their voices almost immediately.

The first story that really drew me in was "Player One, Player Two" by Jason Killingsworth. This was chronicle of a guy who learned to be friends with his younger brother by playing video games together. Since my brother and I had very much the same experience, this one was close to my heart.  I was happy to read that someone had the same type of experience, and it was important enough for them to write about it. The next story I read, "Play In Isolation" by Ryan Kuo was about indie game designs. The focus of the story, the game "Where Is My Heart"" about hiking and relationships by Bernhard Schulenberg, hit very close to home. Since I had just been hiking with my family (and, inexplicably, designing a video game with my kids as we walked), I could see the brilliance in this idea. The complex interactions between children and their parents should be ripe fodder for games of all sorts, yet the ground of that path has hardly had the dust unsettled, much less had a path beaten into it. Still another piece that resonated was "Us vs. Them" by Leigh Alexander. It was a story about the quest to find like-minded lovers of video games in sea of kids with no frame of reference and guys who like sports games. It mirrored many of the feelings I've had trying to make friends in the modern world.

There was much more to enjoy as well. From the bizarre ("Walk through For A Made-Up Game"), to the meaty ("Air Traffic: A Million Miles"). One nice thing that I did not expect were the stories of specific games. Even though none were games that I was necessarily interested in playing, they were told from the perspective of how they resonated with the writer, which transcended the the topic and kept me reading. There were also some clever cartoons and art work of the kind you would not normally associate with a magazine about video games (read: no manga boobs...thank the Lord).

The one warning I have should be obvious: this is not your little brother's video game magazine. There was little overtly objectionable in Kill Screen Issue 0 (some mild drug and sexual references that should go over the heads of most kids), but many of the stories required a bit of life experience to understand and fully appreciate. I  recommend it for adults only, or at the very least, for smart kids 15+. Also, while I loved what was there, I still feel that there was not enough of it to justify the price (beyond the first kickstarter issue).  I've purchased similar-sized trade paperbacks for $14.99 and copies of Retro Gamer magazine for about the same price, so that seems be a point that is closer to something palatable to the audience. If that is not possible, then a few more good stories and images for the asking price would be very welcome. No matter though , I would still have to call Kill Screen Issue 0 a rousing success. All I asked was that it made me feel something about my place in the world of video games, and the place that they have in my life. When my throat well-up reading "Player one, Player Two", I knew it had achieved that goal that several times over. I plan to buy the next issue, and if the quality continues at this level, I
might just be hooked for good.

You can check out Kill Screen here: http://www.killscreenmagazine.com/

29Mar/100

Essential Guide To Flash Games Code Supplement #1: Ch. 1 Games With The Flex SDK

In the book Essential Guide To Flash Games we make every attempt to give developers code that will work in both the Flex SDK and the Flash IDE. However, the three games in Chapter 1 are an exception. Because there were too many essential topics that we would need cover later (i.e. Bitmaps and Bitmapdata) we could only really fit code for the Flash IDE for those games.

However, we still feel that those games need to be addressed as full Flex SDK implementations. This first "code supplement" is meant to fill that gap. You can download this code package here.

Please note, that this is not supposed to be a comprehensive lesson on how to create these games with the Flex SDK. This simply a set of highlights to watch for when you try to compile them and look at how they are different from the originals.

Basic Game

The "Basic Game" is simply a quick implementation of a game loop that counts the number of mouse clicks by the player and writes them out in trace statements. There is not much that needs to change for the Flex SDK version, but to capture the traces (at least when using Flash Develop) you will need to download and install the Flash Debug Player.

Balloon Saw and Pixel Shooter

The Balloon Saw and Pixel Shooter games requires a lot more changes to work in the Flex SDK than the Basic Game. Most of the bigger changes are detailed below:

  • Assets: You need raw assets for this to work. I have created .gif files for the images, and .mp3 files for the sounds. The original .wav files will not work. These files have been added to the src/assets folder for each project.
  • Embedding Sounds And Graphics: Just like we describe later in the book, you will need to create specific embeds for the assets you will use with the Flex SDK. Each assets needs to be embedded in the properties section of the Game class like this:
    [Embed(source = 'assets/blade.gif')]<br /> public static const BladeGif:Class;  <br />...<br />[Embed(source = 'assets/pop.mp3')]<br />public static const PopSound:Class;      
  • MovieClips: The Ch.1 games rely heavily on Flash IDE MovieClips. We need to simulate this in the FlexSDK versions of the games. To do this, we will create empty MovieClips for each asset, and then attach the embedded graphics to the MovieClips. For the "blades" in Balloon Saw, we need to further move the graphic to the "center" by subtracting 1/2 the width from x and 1/2 the height from y. This will center it in the MovieClip so the rotation works. None of the other graphic assets need to be centered in the way.
    player = new MovieClip();<br /> var tempBlade:Object = player.addChild(new BladeGif()); <br /> tempBlade.x = 0 - tempBlade.width / 2; <br /> tempBlade.y = 0 - tempBlade.height / 2;
  • Sounds : To play sounds we need to create a SoundChannel and Sound object for each sound we want to play. Again, this is the most basic version of this code. Later in the book we improve upon it. The complications here are another reason why we left this out of the original Chapter 1. There are three things we need to do to support the playing of sounds with the Flex SDK:

1. Make Sure to import the SoundChannel class. (we already imported Sound in the IDE version)

	import flash.media.SoundChannel;<br />

2. Create a reference to the sound (popSound) and a SoundChannel (popSoundChannel) for each sound we want to play. These should be declared in the properties section of the Game class so they can be accessed by the every class function.

	private var popSound:Sound = new PopSound();<br />   private var popSoundChannel:SoundChannel = new SoundChannel();

3. Play the sound when necessary.

	popSoundChannel=popSound.play(0,1);
  • Animations: Pixel Shooter  requires that the explosions are animated. In the Flash IDE version we simply created a MovieClip to play. However, for the Flex SDK version, we will not do this. Instead, we will embed three frames of animation that we will play when a ship explodes.

1. When an explosion is created, we create an empty MovieClip and attach the first frame of the explosion to it, just like we did with all the other graphics. Notice that we also create an instance variable named currentImage. We need this so we can remove the old frame and add the new one when we change frames.

var tempExplosion:MovieClip; <br /> tempExplosion = new MovieClip();<br /> tempExplosion.currentImage = tempExplosion.addChild(new Explode1Gif());<br />

2. Next, we set two other instance variable, frameCount (the explosion frame that we are current displaying) and frameWait, a count of frames that the current images has been on the screen.

tempExplosion.frameCount = 1;<br />tempExplosion.frameWait = 0;

3. finally, we need to update the moveEnemies() function to swap the explosion images when frameWait reaches 3, or delete the explosion when frameCount > 3.

 var tempExplosion:MovieClip;<br /> for (i=explosions.length-1;i&gt;=0;i ) { <br /> 	tempExplosion = explosions[i]; <br /> 	tempExplosion.frameWait++;<br /> 	if (tempExplosion.frameWait &gt; 2) {<br /> 		tempExplosion.frameWait = 0;<br /> 		tempExplosion.frameCount++;<br /> 		if (tempExplosion.frameCount &lt;= 3) {<br /> 			switch(tempExplosion.frameCount) {<br /> 				case 1:<br /> 					//do nothing<br />				 	break;<br /> 				case 2:<br /> 					tempExplosion.removeChild(tempExplosion.currentImage);<br /> 					tempExplosion.currentImage = tempExplosion.addChild(new Explode2Gif());<br /> 					break;<br /> 				case 3:<br /> 					tempExplosion.removeChild(tempExplosion.currentImage);<br /> 					tempExplosion.currentImage = tempExplosion.addChild(new Explode3Gif());<br />					 break;<br /> 			}<br /> <br /> 		} else {<br /> 			removeExplosion(i);<br /> 		}<br /> 	}<br /> <br /> }

Again, this is only a quick discussion of the changes that need to be made to the games from Chapter 1 to make them work with the FlexSDK. None of these changes are optimized, and they are simply the most basic changes we could make to support the Flex SDK. The rest of the book, beyond Chapter 1, shows how to take the concepts introduced here and improve and optimize them.

 

Again, you can dowload the code here: http://www.8bitrocket.com/book/ch1_flex.zip

 

28Mar/100

A closer look: The Games Of Ace The Super Villain #1: Aceroids

A closer look: The Games Of Ace The Super Villain #1: Aceroids

Ace is a relatively new Flash game developer. Having cut his teeth making games with Game Maker, he has started to port some of his ideas to to the Flash platform. Steve and I have gotten to know Ace over the last year via email. He is a talented artist, with a very unique style, who is starting to develop some very nice technical skills. Let's take a look a one of the games he has released in the last few weeks. We also have a couple drawing tutorials from Ace in the pipeline, but over the next week we will take a look at a few of his new games before we get to those.

Now, on to the first game.

Aceroids

aceroids_preview_pic.jpg

Aceroids is a very well made cartoon style Asteroids contest with some very large colorful sprites and lots of stuff to blow up. I have played just about every Asteroids style game ever made so I am a good judge of the fun factor in this style of game. This one is closer to the classic Blasteroids than the original Asteroids, and I have to say that I had a lot of fun playing it. It uses a familiar arrow keys to rotate and thrust and space to fire that has become somewhat of a standard in the last few years for controlling classic Asteroids variants. Your job is to mine space gold by shooting giant space rocks. The gold is unstable and will not stay around for ever, so you have to be pretty quick to pick it up.There is no traditional score in the game other than the amount of gold that you collect.

When you first start up the game you are faced with choosing one of three ships:

aceroids1.jpg

Once you choose your ship (I'm not quite sure of there is a difference in control or features for each ship other than a unique look), you re dropped into a familiar Asteroids style single screen arena style play field. Unlike the original Asteroids, in Aceroids you cannot warp off one side of the screen to the opposite. In this game you bounce off of the walls. Ace has crafted some nice ships and rocks in a very non-pixel graphics, art-based style:

aceroidsgamescreen1.jpg

As you can see, the sprites are huge and colorful. The yellow floating objects are gold that you can pick up to complete the "space gold mining" theme of the game. There are some very strange space life forms that will come on to the screen and disrupt your pleasant rock shooting and gold collecting: (the giant thing with purple tentacles and 3 eyes is a difficult monster to destroy)

aceroids_monster1.jpg

The music loop is very fun and upbeat, although it can become repetitive, but I do like it. The dancing girls on the scoreboard almost seem to be rocking in tune to the song, so it makes for a very fun atmosphere. The game play boils down to little more than a fun take on Asteroids, but don't let this stop you from having a go. The controls are a little loose and thrusting is a recipe for disaster, but the HUGE rocks and fun space life forms that you encounter make this one a blast (literally) to play.  Ace has a very unique style and sense of humor all his own that you are certain to enjoy.

Try it at NewGrounds

aceroids final pic.jpg

{hint shift+ 1, 2, or 3 will let you switch between the different ships while playing)

26Mar/100

Essential Flash Games Book Shilling Continues: Some Illustrations/Images/Figures

We wanted to show some sample pages and chapters from our book, but we don't have approval yet.  so, instead, I will continue our shameless shilling by showing you some random images and illustrations that we included with the text.  This is only a small sample of all the images included in the book, but it give you some idea of the areas that are covered.

Images From Chapter 1

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Images From Chapter 3

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Images From Chapter 4

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Images From chapter 5

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Images From Chapter 6

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Images From Chapter 7
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Images From Chapter 8

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Images From Chapter 9

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Images From Chapter 10

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Images From Chapter 11

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Images From Chapter 12

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22Mar/100

Flash Indie Game Interweb Mash-Up: March 22, 2010

Flash Indie Game Interweb Mash-Up: March 22, 2010

Fizzy.com and the Fizzy Game Developer Network
The Fizzy.com GDN has new eCPM per play rates that have doubled in the recent weeks. The rate per play on a normal Flash game that you upload (with Mochi ads if you want them too) is $.80 CPM per play. The rate for enhanced free to play Flash games is $2.00 CPM (no Mochi allowed). They also support play to play and downloadable games. An enhanced game must use their score system, but they also offer game save and other optional features. I don't see any down side to using their system to monetize you games. In fact, I am about to put a couple into their system and see what happens. There is an API that you must integrate with (AS2 and AS3), but it doesn't look too troubling. Note I had trouble getting the API to compile with the Flex SDK. I received an email back that said they are looking into the Flex SDK problems. I will provide and update when it is resolved.

IntelliJ IDE for AS3 Flex SDK Development?
I have heard of this IDE before, but my buddy, Scott Jeppesen (Creative Bottle) has encouraged me to take a look at it again. He says that it is the best AS3 IDE that he has used. Looking over their site I see both free and paid versions and MAC, Windows and Linux builds. I plan to give the MAC version a whirl this week and see that the deal is. Looking over the extensive plug-in list I see some very interesting stuff (Google App Engine, etc). I don't see Actionscript or the Flex SDK listed though. If anyone else has used this for AS3 and wants to give it a good word, please let me know.

CyberAgent - Yet another Facebook Socialization Exploiter?
Cyberagent announced the launch of Ameba (sic) Pico last week. They claim that it is

"a new virtual community that combines gaming, social networking and virtual goods, tightly integrating it into the Facebook environment. Ameba Pico is the first English language offering from CyberAgent and is based on Ameba Pigg, one of the most popular and successful virtual worlds in Japan."

So, I decided to test it out a little bit and see what the fuss is all about: First you create and avatar and you get a room. The process was a combination of the BarbieGirls system that I am all too familiar with and the Wii Mii creation system. I was awarded 5 tokens for completing the tutorial. After the tutorial, I played around a little bit. There were no games to play (that I could find). The system has some of the features you would expect from a virtual world such as micro transactions for items to decorate your room and your avatar. I was a little confused by the currency. I was given tokens for completing the tutorial, but "gummies" seem to be a significant currency also. There is a "travel" option that lets you go to sections for message boards. I clicked on the "game" one and was taken to an area where I could post messages about games. It was a little convoluted as it resembled ab actual community message board with scraps of paper plastered on a wall. It was kind of innovative, but a little difficult to read.

There is not a lot to do here yet. I don't belong to many virtual worlds and I don't see me coming back much. I am sure the developers will start to add in more fun content, but I will probably never see it.

HeyZap Ads Launch
I received an email from HeyZap stating that they have launched and they are seeing $3.00 CP rates. Very very interesting...

Blogs
-Gamingyourway: nGfx has thought provoking entries on control schemes and tile systems, while Squize does a nice job explaining his blitter system.
- Photonstorm (not photostorm.com) : Rich makes a snake game with Fixel, glows over our book (thanks!), and tackles Flash V. HTML5
- Ickydime: Mark has a nice Smogout postmortem.
- Untold Entertainment: Ryan has the Best and Worst of the 2010 GDC and a review of the Google Nexus One phone.
- Porter's World: The prince has a nice list of his favorite games from earlier this year.
- Lost In Actionscript: Shane a nice piece on an AES encryption library for PHP and Actionscript.

Games (stuff sent to me or things a randomly find).
KrissX - A very well done word game (By Chris Taylor) that is available as a Flash demo, on Facebook, and as a download purchase.
Aqualux - This is another great Flash game (By Alex Liebert) that is also available for download. It is a "pipe dream" style game on steroids.
First Person Tetris - (Thanks to Alan Donnelly for sending me the link to this one). A very interesting take on the original Tetris where you control the entire screen (NES and all). It is very well done, but I don't know if it is legal or not.
ColorBallz - the latest sweet little time waster from Emanuale!
Stoner - A nice little Tetris meets match 3 game by panzerhund.
Unknown Sector: A Mochi Coins game by SamRaski. Equip your ship and blast through 95 sectors.
Open Doors 2 - A deceivingly simple (but it gets difficult) puzzler by soapaintnice.

Small Faces...
- Dice 2010 Video Presentation On "Outside the box design" concerning FaceBook games.
- Just check out the entire Lost Garden Blog...you won't be disappointed.

8bitrocket stuff you might have missed
- Steve first three parts on Mochi Social Games (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
- A new game from the book was released: Blaster Mines
- An interview with Atari 2600 developer, Steve Wiota
- Steve's Haiku love story about Mochi and Shanda's hook-up.

Seriously off topic
-
Fredrik Larsson's brilliant "one-man-band" medley of TV show theme songs. Why is he not rich beyond belief?

As always, you can't go wrong with www.flashgameblogs.com

19Mar/100

Updated: Do You Want A Free Copy Of Our Book? Review It On Your Web Site (closed).

Updated: Do You Want A Free Copy Of Our Book? Review It On Your Web Site (closed)

Ok, the response was overwhelming and we have enough offers to review the book now. We are in talks with the pubisher about the number and type (PDF v. Paperback) of review copies that will be available.

Thanks to all that signed up. We will have an update next week on availability. We will contact all of those offering to assist in reviews via email to update when and if copies will be available.

Our publisher has told us that they have a limited number of free copies of our book for legitimate game development blogs and web sites if they plan to write a review. 

If you have a site and would like to review the book, please email us your contact information here: info@8bitrocket.com

We are not sure how many copies are available, so we will try to honor these requests in the order they are received.  However, if you have linked to us in the past, or if we have heard of your web site, you might jump a bit higher on the list.

Thanks!

-8bitrocket

18Mar/100

Ouch My Face Hurts! A Facebook Social Games Deep Dive.

Mochi Game Developer's Fund Chronicles #2:   Ouch My Face Hurts! A Facebook Social Games Deep Dive

So I've never really played a "social" game on Facebook before today.  Since those types of games were propped-up by some as the "second coming" at FGS, and because the Mochi Game Developer Fund is looking for "social" games, I decided to experience these amazing monetary achievements for myself and see what I've been missing.  I'm not talking about successful Flash games with truly addictive game play that have been made to work with Facebook (i.e. Desktop Tower Defense),  I'm talking about the holy grail according to the four social games panelists at FGS: ones that have been built with Facebook in-mind from the ground-up.

Taking a cue from that very same Social Games Panel at FGS, I went to visit one of the "ladder owners",  Zynga,  to see what games they advertise on their web site. I clicked on a game that I've never heard anyone talk about, Coaster Kingdom (sorry, I refuse to link to it).  I'm a huge fan of Roller Coaster Tycoon, and I thought this would be right-up my alley.

However, when I got to the "game", my "deep dive" knocked me into reality as my head smacked the very bottom of this wading pool rather quickly and  it still hurts from the shock of it all.  What I found was really not a game at all,  just a fancy disguise on-top of the Facebook friends, awards and payments system

When I started "playing", every step of the way, I was asked to ping my Facebook friends to continue the "game".  I started with one crappy ride,  and some awards to send people.   I also got to click on some visitors and invite them to my park.  When I did, they were turned into coins.   Literally, from human to money.  That's all they did for me.  In a well designed game like Roller Coaster Tycoon, the visitors walk around, ride rides, and enjoy themselves.  You get to feel the joy of entertaining them.  This social "Facebook" game" boiled that entire experience into the most basic, guttural type of transactions:  people show-up to your glittering kingdom, and they are instantly turned into cash.   It's like you have the "Midas Touch", where all you feel turns to gold.   I wonder, do the designers of this game understand that they story of "Midas" was a tragedy?   There is no "fun" here to dole out, just a basic, naked transaction.  I was shocked at the lack of respect paid to these in-game avatars.

At the same time I got the sense, while "playing" that the lack of respect the game has for the in-game "customers", extends to the lack of respect the designers have for the people who play the game itself.  If you think about it, they too are simply designed to "turn into cash", when they show-up to "play" the "game" .    There is no "joy" here at all.  It's mechanical, and cynical.  The "game" here is little more than a meta-transaction layer on-top of an existing web site.
To do nearly anything I had to annoy someone living and get them to play.  In many ways, this
is no different from your standard pyramid scheme or multi-level
marketing program where you gain "prestige" based on how many people
are in your network.

Calling this game "social" is a stretch of that very word.  The only thing "social" about it is what makes it kind of "anti-social":  You must spend your "social capital"  to continue in the game.  This is not unlike the "friendship goodwill" that is destroyed when someone tries to get you involved in a multi-level marketing or pyramid scheme.  When you are asked to join, you smile at first, when they continue, then you try to think of a way to end the conversation. Finally you realize that the only way to end it is to go away from this person  forever (or at least until they come to their senses).

Have you ever had a friend who was into one of these "pyramid" schemes?  Do you recall how their demeanor changed when they talked to you?  Did they go from talking to you about everyday things, to only wanting to talk about this new "business"? Did you get the feeling that every move they made was designed to convince you to try this great new "opportunity"? Were they always trying to get you to go to a "meeting" or a "party" where you would be hounded into buying something you did not want?  If so, are you still friends with that person?  Probably not.   The friendship goodwill was destroyed.

Internet "social capital" is a relatively recent outgrowth of social networks, but it is very similar to this concept of "friendship goodwill"  It's a measurement of how elastic your patience can be with the updates and pinging you get from your social network friends.  After participating in a social network like Facebook for some time, you get to know who to connect with and who to avoid.  The ones you avoid have most likely, used-up all the "social capital" you are willing to extend to them.  How does it get used-up?  By receiving constant updates, invitations to groups, when they send you unwanted awards and gifts, and also, attempts to ping you into these "social" games like Coaster Kingdom.

There is a very real phenomenon brewing here and it is called named "Facebook Fatigue."   More and  more stories are appearing use this term to describe how people are starting to tire of this kind of "social network" interaction.  Still, as of yesterday, Facebook is the biggest site on the internet (bigger than Google)...but that might be because they are also now the one of the biggest hosts of internet scams.  This is important to note.  Without the success of Facebook, games like
Coaster Kingdom could not exist.  They rely on ubiquitous,
single-sign-on platform  with millions of users for their systems to work.

The designers of these "social Facebook games" say that the audience for games is changing  and becoming more casual. No, that is not really the case.  Gamers are gamers, and they still like actual games.  The fact is, the internet itself has become more "casual" too, with many more people participating, and that means a much bigger and more diverse population to get wound-up into these types of "social games".   Many of these new users arrive at Facebook as if it is the only site on the internet.  It's almost as if Facebook has replaced the old "AOL" as the internet hot spot for "noobs&rubes".

At the same time , apps like Coaster Kingdom are not really games at all.  They are, like Ryan from Untold Entertainment said at FGS,  "slot machines".    However, they are slot machines where you spend both money and the social capital you have have created over the past few years. The irony is, it's a slot machine with only pay-in, but no real pay-out.

To me, games like Coaster Kingdom fall into the realm of P.T. Barnum, "There's a Sucker Born every Minute" territory of entertainment.  "The Carrot" of playing every day to gain more park "visitors" is like a virtual sign that says "This Way to The Great Egress".  Players rush through the "game" part to get to what is next.  That's good, because the game itself has been minimized to the point that there really is nothing there at all.  Roller Coaster Tycoon at it's heart, was a builder and physics simulation.  Coaster Kingdom has none of that.  In fact, you could easily change the theme to "Auto Parts Kingdom" and the results would be pretty much the same.   However, players don't need much of a game anyway, because they are always looking for what comes "next". But, in reality, there is no "next" at all.  Just an empty door that leads to a trash filled-alley way, where they can ponder the validity of what they just saw. They then  discover that  their pockets have been picked, they have no ride home, and no friends left to call for help,after pissing them away by pinging constantly to play some damned Facebook game.

Update:  Uorp (Comment below, clued me into this awesome YouTube parody commercial for Farmville).

Interestingly, Farmville looks like it is MORE elaborate than Coaster Kingdom.

16Mar/100

Tunnel Panic (Essential Flash Games book demo) (2010)

Game Demo From Essential Guide To Flash Games Book (2010)

Filed under: Action, Games No Comments
16Mar/100

Blaster Mines (Essential Flash Games book demo) (2010)

Game Demo From Essential Guide To Flash Games Book (2010)

Filed under: Games, Shooter No Comments
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