Tag Archives: Facebook

Finding the Fun – Facebook Edition

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?

Bejeweled Blitz on facebook

So today I received an interesting message asking if I had hacked Bejeweled Blitz. I generally have the highest score for the week of my friends and apparently it has gotten annoying for at least one of them.

First, let me say, I would never hack a multi-player game to give myself an unfair advantage over other players. Boo to anyone who does. This is why I would never buy gold in WoW unless it was offered by Blizzard and *everyone* could get it. I like the playing field to be level.

Now this brings up the question, well if you didn’t hack it, how is it that you have *such* high scores *all* the time. So here is my guide to winning Bejeweled Blitz.

1. Play all the time. I have BB on my iPhone. Sitting on the ferry. Waiting at the ferry building. In line. Anywhere I am waiting, I can play a run or two while waiting. For those who play on a computer, this is *probably* a good reason for *why* you have lower scores. 50% of doing well in BB is simply getting a good set up. The more games you play, the more likely you are to get a good setup.

2. Know when to concede the fight. If your current high score is 100k, then any match you play where you are going to get under 100k is a wash (unless you are still training at spotting the matches). I usually watch and if I am below 25k at 30 seconds, I go ahead and restart the match. After a few days, I will restart if I don’t have a 3x (or greater) multiplier and 50k+ at the 30 sec point. This allows you to squeeze in more games and thus have a better chance of getting the really good setup.

3. Multipliers are everything. You will see the gems show up with a number on them. These, once matched, go to the upper right corner and multiply the bonus for groupings. So instead of getting 500 for matching 3 gems, you get 1000, and so on. Also, blowing up a multiplier with a power gem counts for adding it to your side.

4. Well then, how do I get multipliers?!? The multipliers appear based on the number of gems cleared from the screen in the last few seconds (I think it is somewhere between 10-12 in a single cascade). The best way to get them to appear is to cascade or get a power gem to blow. Cascading is when you make a match and as the gems fall they make other matches. Power Gems are formed when you match 4 gems and it gives you a firey gem. When you match the firey gem, it blows up itself and all the gems touching it. If you form a corner (so 5 gems that form an angle) you get a super power gem (it glows) that when match will blow all the gems in the same row and column as the super power gem. These are far and away your BEST asset for getting a high score.

5. Hypercubes, not as awesome as you think. All of my highest scores are rarely if ever gotten with hyper cubes. Hyper cubes are gotten by forming 5 in a row, then you swap it with a single gem and it blows up all the gems of that color on the board. Sounds awesome right? The thing is, those gems that get blown up *don’t* appear to count for the multipliers showing up. And unless you cascade (which I usually don’t too much) now you have a weird board with not alot of clusters. Hyper cubes are best left alone and then blown when you have multipliers of the same color on the board. For example you have 2-3 multipliers that are all green. There is a green gem next to the hyper cube. Blow green and get those multipliers.

6. Basic matching. You can’t beat just clearing gems. If you don’t see at least 2 matches on your immediate screen and you are just starting, restart. If you spend more than 5 sec looking for a match (so your hint pops) restart. If you are matching like mad and aren’t getting any cascades, restart. I always get this feeling like I am working too hard to match, and usually my score is in the 10-20k range and I am 30 seconds down. This is why I say if you are so far along and your score is so low, restart. Also you have to train your eyes a bit to look for the “odd” matches like when you have two gems on either side of a different one, but a matching gem above or below the center mismatched one.

7. Horizontal is better than vertical. Not sure why, I am sure some mathy person can explain it. But regardless, horizontal matches yield more cascades than vertical ones. So if you can match something horizontally or vertically, go for the horizontal.

8. Play from the bottom up. If you play at the bottom, the gems move more. More cascades, more points!

9. Don’t focus on that one setup. I watch other people play and I see them trying to wrangle the gems to set up a hyper cube. Don’t do it. You can’t control the gems. You will waste more time. You only have a minute. Focus on making alot of small matches quickly. And as it turns out, 4 matches or angled 5 matches are *better* than the hyper cube.

10. Play fast. Match as quickly as possible. This includes the fact you can start matching as soon as the gems appear BEFORE the game begins, gaining you 3 precious seconds. Also if you hit the blazing fast event (where the whole screen turns red) all your matches explode for massive cascades and points. Also you can make matches on other sides of the screen while your last match is clearing and cascading.

11. Tailor your gameplay to match your focus. Paying too much attention to the score and timer? Ignore it then. Noise bothering you? Turn the sound off. But as you get better try to add in attention to things, like looking over the whole screen to see several matches. I can pay attention to my score and time without losing focus on matches, and that is a valuable skill in all games.

There are likely more hints and tricks, but these are the ones I use. How did I figure all these out? Well I played the game a great deal. And I tend to look for the rules and goals of a game more critically due to being a Game Designer. It is just second nature. I notice trends and percentages. I think about how they code the game.

So now you know. I expect to see some competition. 🙂

Merry Christmas and BAH HUMBUG!

So I saw a quiz on Facebook that terribly concerned me.

Do you get offended when someone says Happy Holidays?

I looked at this and thought, wow, what an idiot. Who would make a question that was so obviously one sided? Then I read the results. Shockingly 20% of the people said Yes, they were offended when someone said Happy Holidays. Are you KIDDING ME? I am all for political correctness, but this isn’t about being correct or polite, or non-offensive. This is about Christmas.

Put aside your feelings on religion or commercialism and think back to being a kid. There is a reason “like a kid at Christmas” is such an apt comparison to people who are happy and excited. At the very basic level Christmas is about family, friends, celebrating, and doing nice things without the expectation of getting something in return. Christmas is joy, love, peace, and hope all rolled into one ball of well wishes. A beautiful tree, with brightly colored bulbs, bright lights, a cup of cocoa or coffee, snuggled under a blanket looking down at the wrapped packages knowing you are going to get to open them in the morning. Knowing you got someone something they will love and get to see the look on their face when they open it.

When I wish someone a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Holidays I am telling them, I wish for you all the best things this season. I wish for you to spend time with people you love, eating food you love, opening presents you love, and generally just have a wonderful moment in an otherwise normal year.

I am NOT saying you have to believe in Jesus, not saying worship at the altar of capitalism, not saying I think your religion is inferior. I am wishing you a Merry Christmas, in all of the Hallmark sense of the word. I usually respond with Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays depending on what you said to me. To me they are interchangeable and mean the exact same thing.

For those of you out there who get your panties in a twist over someone saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, shame on you. Get over yourself for ONE MINUTE and stop to consider the fact that someone who likely doesn’t know you from Adam, just wished you joy and happiness. How often in this day and age do you get a kind word from someone just for the sake of being nice?