Recently I decided to wade back into the putrescent and vile waters of Facebook gaming. I clearly did not have high hopes. Most Facebook games seem to be a small step above Progress Quest with monetary purchases that either completely unbalance the game to those who buy or have no worth. It seems to be an all or nothing deal which I believe is indicative of an overabundance of marketing/business people and a dearth of true game designers. The thing is, I can *see* the potential. Much like I imagine early game designers saw the potential in 3d graphics, online multiplayer, and motion control. This *could* be the next great stage of gaming. This could be the thing that pushes gaming into the wide main stream and silences all such arguments about the “outcast violent gamer” stereotypes.
I don’t even want to say how disappointed I am that such a cultural shift might come from something as absurd as Facebook or even any other social networking site. It feels like a thing that should come from the indie community, or from a AAA publisher. But I will take it any way I can get it.
Square Enix released a Final Fantasy “Mafia Wars” type game. I did not believe that this game would be true FF quality, as I was fairly positive it was outsourced to some for hire studio. But it was possible it had at least improved upon the quality of Facebook games.
To begin with, this game has very little to do with Final Fantasy, with one major exception. You have classes, and each of these classes are able to be changed out as you play. It seems even like one of the major goals is to gather new classes. The art is simple drawings, without a single animation. You go on accept quests, with no narrative and collect gear that simply allows you more access to new accept quests. You collect 7 of randomly dropped items for collections which are then converted to a new class medallion. They could and should take this about 10 more steps forward in complexity and make class decisions an actual choice with independent leveling in true FF style.
The interesting thing was, not much varied from other games of it’s ilk, except for a bug. This bug allowed you to add “companions” of other players without adding them to your Facebook friends. It allowed you to ask for help on click quests and such, without having them be friends. Now, you couldn’t send free gifts to each other, but you could send items you had already acquired.
And I was having a blast. I had added almost 400 random people from the discussion boards and was merrily tromping through quests and pvp fights with the greatest of ease. I didn’t know any of those people, but I gifted extra items, clicked on chest links, clicked to help with quests, and gifted action packs. I was wildly enjoying my progress quest, even though it meant very little, because I had all these friends helping me.
Of course, the company eventually fixed the bug and I lost all my ill gotten friends. Now it is me, and the lowly 4 people I managed to convince to play with me. And to be honest, it isn’t as fun or as consuming. I can still win at pvp, I can still quest with the greatest of ease, it’s just not as much fun because I don’t have 400 people to share it with. I don’t have 400 people to share items, help on quests, and give power packs to. I had found the fun in a game that had no business being fun. Then the developer ripped that fun away.
Now the true question is: How do I replicate that in a game, while still retaining the marketing desire for you to peer pressure your friends into playing?