Experimental Game Dev Interviews
RSS icon Email icon Home icon
  • The Future of Social Games and Developing on the Hi-5 Social Network

    Posted on January 13th, 2011 IndieGamePod No comments

    You can download the podcast here…

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • Guest Post: Communal Discovery in Social Networking Games

    Posted on November 10th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Most social networking games, like FarmVille, are lacking. Sure, they have millions of daily players, but they are not completely utilizing the social networking half of the genre.

    Seth Priebatsch gave a very interesting Ted talk (here) in which he described four game dynamics: appointment, influence and status, progression, and communal discovery. The appointment dynamic requires one to go to a certain place or do a certain thing at a certain time (crops in FarmVille). Influence and status involves changing someone’s behavior through social pressure (John just became a level 80 plantation owner, and I need to do that too). The progression dynamic is when progress is measured through the completion of tasks (ribbons in FarmVille, along with the experience bar at the top).

    The fourth game dynamic Mr. Priebatsch listed was the communal discovery dynamic, in which a community works together to accomplish something. This has only recently been implemented in FarmVille, the biggest Facebook game, in the form of co-op farming, in which friends must grow a certain amount of something to succeed in a given time. I have to applaud Zynga for taking risks according to game design theory, and the feature did what it set out to do. But this dynamic is far more powerful than that.


    A game which anchors itself in communal discovery and teamwork, if done correctly, could skyrocket. Imagine a game in which each person picks a team to join and must carry out a job important for the team. Where the FarmVille co-op farming fails is its lack of competition and its less than interesting mechanics.

    Team-based competition produces many sources of fun. You are not just playing for the levels and experience (progression dynamic), but also to out-do your friends (partially influence and status) and become a part of something bigger than oneself (communal discovery).
    Now think about dynamic mechanics. Farmville’s mechanics are very dull, as they are clicking a button every few hours, but they are fun as they use the appointment dynamic, among other things. What if the mechanics themselves involved teamwork and thought?
    This leads me to my example of a social networking game which uses the dynamic of communal discovery, among other things, to excite the player, keep them coming back, and, something very important for social networking games, make them talk about it when the computer is off.

    company teamwork

    The game: Enterprise, a social networking game with the theme of the company. From the start, you have two options: to start your own company in a certain category, or to join someone else’s. You can join your friend’s company, and the owner will assign you a job. Depending on how large the company is (or how much your friend likes you), you can be assigned a job anywhere from labor (with FarmVille-esque gameplay), to ideas (well received pitches and ideas tend to attract more investors), or maybe even research (taking polls to test ideas), advertising (spreading the word), communications (collaborating with other companies), management (to oversee others), and many more.

    Individual workers get experience points for completing tasks, performing well, or as bonus rewards for recognition from the owner. You are paid weekly, according to the salary assigned to you by the boss (every job has a minimum salary), and things get interesting. Not only are you working as a team to increase the company stock quote (changed weekly), but are struggling within the company too. At any point, the owner can fire, hire, give a bonus, promote, or demote any worker. On the other side, workers can decide to pull together and protest, stopping work until certain wages are met.

    competitive teamwork

    As the company grows, new jobs and options open up to allow the company to grow, including working with other companies to make even more money. If a company’s stock continues to rise, people (both friends and strangers) may invest their investment money (must be invested in order to make money one can spend in the game). Companies can offer dividends and send progress reports to investors to attract even more investors, which is one of the factors in the company’s stock quote.

    What’s great about this game is that a huge sense of teamwork is formed, a very important dynamic that would lead to debate outside of the game. At work or school, people can talk to other players, discussing strategies, companies, making deals, etc. Everyone’s working in the same boat, while also striving for personal experience and making a good track record for when they apply to a bigger company or start a company on their own.

    Anyways, that’s how one can use the communal discovery dynamic in a social networking game while also keeping the elements of personal achievement and progression. I hope this shows you how exciting a game like this could be, as well as make you think about how one can create meaningful game mechanics that lead to near infinite paths of possibility, as well as spread the game by word of mouth.

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginner’s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

  • Social Game Flash Engine Tutorial, Part 4: Adding in a special IsoItem

    Posted on October 8th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment


    This is the next part in the tutorial to build your own Social Flash Game MMO based on the Free Social Game Flash Engine

    You can read part 1 here…

    You can read part 2 here…

    You can read part 3 here…

    Special items such as animals are handled in a particular way. Animals in the game follow the same standard of set up that normal items do, however in order to control the seperate animation behaviour they were given a slightly extended set up. First of all our animal must exist on one frame and be given the instance name “animal” as shown:

    As you can see, the elephant is a 2×2 IsoItem, and is positioned exactly the same way an item is. Now, if we dive into our “animal” movieclip and see how the animation is set up on the timeline:

    We can see the three main frame labels we’re looking to have, “standing”, “moving” and “eating”. These three frame labels will get called at the appropriate time for the animal. The rest of the process is exactly the same as adding an item, except that it should be placed in the storeanimals.xml file.

  • Social Game Flash Engine Tutorial, Part 3 – Working with a Store

    Posted on October 7th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment


    This is the next part in the tutorial to build your own Social Flash Game MMO based on the Free Social Game Flash Engine

    You can read part 1 here…

    You can read part 2 here…

    Part 3…

    VetRanch allows the player to purchase items. These can take the form of animals, decor, buildings, or even some extra land. Persistent data is becoming a growing trend in flash games, giving the player an in-game currency and allowing them the ability to purchase items and have them still there when they come back to play again the next day. It’s little things like this that increase the fun and replayability of the game.

    The store in VetRanch offers the player extra experience when they purchase the item, this is one of the ways that the player can help raise their level in the game.

    To trigger the building of an item in the store, we use the following IsoMap function:

    setCurrentBuilding(ref:int, type:String, cost:int)

    The reference is the unique id found in the itemlist.xml file talked about earlier, the cost is obviously how much should be deducted for building the item once it has succesfully been built. The type variable is what we’re interested in, this is what we use to determine how the item should behave.

    For instance, if we set the type to “item” then it will behave exactly like a static item as we would expect. However, if we set the type to be “zoo” then it will take on the characteristics of an animal.

    Placing an Item in the Store

    Once we have inserted a new item into the game, we need a way to add it into the store so it can be purchased and placed on the players map.

    The store currently loads the decoration information from the storedecorations.xml, which has a typical format of:

    <items c=’decorations’>
    <item fl=’3′ f=’5′ p=’500′ i=’isopics/statue1.jpg’ uid=’31’ box=’0′ xp=’1′ pt=” t1=’0′ t2=’0′ >Statue 1</item>
    <item fl=’10’ f=’5′ p=’500′ i=’isopics/statue2.jpg’ uid=’32’ box=’0′ xp=’1′ pt=” t1=’0′ t2=’0′ >Statue 2</item>
    <item fl=’1′ f=’0′ p=’10000′ i=’isopics/pool.jpg’ uid=’30’ box=’0′ xp=’1′ pt=” t1=’0′ t2=’0′ >Pool</item>
    <item fl=’10’ f=’25’ p=’250000′ i=’isopics/mediumhouse.jpg’ uid=’43’ box=’0′ xp=’1′ pt=” t1=’0′ t2=’0′ >Medium House</item>

    The two important attributes we’re interested in here are the “uid” field, which links directly back to the uid specified in the itemlist.xml file earlier, and the “i” attribute which links to a thumbnail image of our statue. “p” is also of importance, and refers to the price that the item will be sold for.

    To add in our large statue, we could place something along these lines in the .xml file:

    <item fl=’3′ f=’5′ p=’500′ i=’our_statue.jpg’ uid=’4′ box=’0′ xp=’1′ pt=” t1=’0′ t2=’0′ >Our Statue</item>

    Now our item should appear in the decoration tab in the store, and can be purchased and placed into the game with no additional compilation of the main game needed.

    Clothing Store

    The game also comes with a clothes store to give the player compete customisation over their appearance in the game. Feel like dressing your character in the style of a certain adventurous archaeologist? No problem.

    By letting the player dress their character any way they please gives them the much needed ability to express themselves and this helps them to truly get hooked into the game. All of the characters clothing can be externally loaded, this means we can add hundreds of costumes into the game, giving the player no end to the possibile combinations to choose from.

    The clothing store is fairly self-contained, and can be shown or hidden by calling the following two functions Main.as.


    If you’re wanting to play around with how the clothing store works, open up AvatarShop.as, this is also where we can set the prices of the various hair styles, tops, bottoms and shoes along with various other details.

  • Social Game Flash Engine Tutorial, Part 2: Adding in a special IsoItem

    Posted on October 5th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments


    This is the next part in the tutorial to build your own Social Flash Game MMO based on the Free Social Game Flash Engine
    You can read part 1 here…

    Part 2…
    The first thing to understand when working with an Iso World is how to generate an isometric grid. This will become very useful when it comes to developing items or flooring for the game.

    As can be seen, Fig 1.1 is a 2D grid that we start off with. The first thing we need to do is rotate this grid by 45 degrees, then squish it in half in to what is shown by Fig 1.3. This will give us an isometric grid to work with.

    The default size of tile we will be working with is 86.2×43.1 pixels, as specified in the IsoMap.as file. This can be obtained by taking a 50×50 pixel square, rotating it the 45 degrees and reducing the height by half.

    In order to best develop a standard that we will work with in the Iso World, we will be placing the 86.2×43.1 pixel tile at the (0,0) point in a flash file. For larger IsoItem’s, these must be extended downward in the appropriate direction as illustrated here:

    It is really important that these dimensions and positioning are followed in order for them to be displayed correctly when loaded into the game, and for the sorting to work as expected. We have now extended both the xlen and ylen to be of value 2, and have a 2×2 IsoItem basis to work with:

    We can make this loose guide into anything we choose, for example this overly sized statue might fit perfectly into a 2×2 IsoItem tile slot:

    Now all that’s needed is to delete our tile grid and we have a 2×2 IsoItem ready to be inserted into an Iso World.

    In VetRanch, all items are loaded into the game when the Iso World is generated at run time, so we need to save this as a seperate .swf called our_statue.swf.

    The next step is to upload this information to our .xml file, so that the game knows where to find the information on the new IsoItem we have just created. Every item in the game must have a unique identifier, and should appear in the itemlist.xml file. Opening the .xml file you will see lots of items listed, it should look something like this:

    <item uid="1" type="item" loc="isoitems/1.swf" frameno="1" xlen="1" ylen="1">This is item #1</item>
    <item uid="2" type="item" loc="isoitems/1.swf" frameno="2" xlen="1" ylen="1">This is item #2</item>
    <item uid="3" type="item" loc="isoitems/1.swf" frameno="3" xlen="1" ylen="1">This is item #3</item>


    The attributes of a single “item” is given by the uid (the unique identifier), loc (location of the item), frameno (the frame number that the item is on) and the xlen/ylen, these are the two values we’ve talked about. For our statue they will both take the value 2. Finally, this is followed by the items description.

    Next, by taking the next unique identifier (we’ll take the number 4 for this example, assuming there are only 3 other items in the list) we might have something that looks like this:

    <item uid=”4″ type=”item” loc=”our_statue.swf” frameno=”1″ xlen=”2″ ylen=”2″>Our statue!</item>

    Now that the game knows our item exists, where to find the image of it and the size of tiles it will take up on the map, we will need to place this item in the store so that it can be purchased and placed in the game.

  • Social Game Flash Engine Tutorial, Part 1: Developing Your Own MMO

    Posted on July 19th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    This is the tutorial that goes along with the FREE Social Game Flash Engine


    Over the following set of articles we aim to give you all of the information you’ll need to create your own flash based social MMO.

    For the most part we will be targetting Facebook. Facebook’s 400 million active users makes it an ideal platform to target. Their Flash API allows us to connect with the player and encourage them to share the experience with their peers. Allowing the player to interact and solve problems with their friends can help make for fantastic gameplay.

    VetRanch is an example of an open source MMO aimed at Facebook that takes part in an Isometric setting, where the player engages in the exciting role of being a vet. The player must raise animals, care for them and release them when they have been nursed backed to health. We will be taking a look at the VetRanch code, and the way the game is set up and then use this as a basis to help you create your own MMO.

  • Developing Successful Social Games on Facebook

    Posted on November 6th, 2009 IndieGamePod No comments

    Blake talks about building hit social games on Facebook like Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves

    You can download the podcast here…

    Or listen to it here…

    Read the rest of this entry »