Category Archives: Social Media Games

Social Media Linkbait

You are familiar with sites that regurgitate content with provocative headlines as linkbait. You see them on your Facebook wall or as the “related content” gnawing at the edges of web pages. They are fond of lists, gifs, splitting small amounts of content across multiple pages, and generally working their content-to-ad ratio as much as possible.

They are now getting over the headlines of “You won’t BELIEVE what…” and “this one WEIRD thing” that will change your life/pant size/gender. Which is sad, because folks were working on a browser extension to get rid of them. This month, you instead get five dozen headlines advertising a list of similarly AMAZING regurgitated content where some random number is cited as totally worth clicking the link to see their ads. “12 postcards from CHILDREN that will INSPIRE you to be a better person! #6 is a must-see.” “31 Sandwiches that will CHANGE how you see CILANTRO. #17 will REARRANGE your SOCK drawer!”

Comments are open for your bets on the next viral headline template.

: Zubon

Exciting Gaming Weekend Ahead

Steam has the Batman franchises (Arkham and Lego) 75% off, so I now have Arkham Origins. Is it worth springing for the Season Pass or any DLC? I have the Millennium skins from a Humble Bundle.

New Humble sale, so I have a few new indie games to try. I already have and enjoyed Defenders Quest.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 released its future world for the Android, so I have more things to try there. So far: fun! We shall see whether the new content addresses the issues I have been complaining about or pushes further towards monetization. PvZ1′s Zen Garden is back with an altered implementation. It still produces coins, and it now produces one-level plant buffs. The game immediately dumped about 80 plant sprouts on me to encourage me to buy the new gem currency that unlocks more plant slots. I support “here is a lot of free stuff you can use over time or right now if you pay us” as solid F2P design. (Or maybe that was a bug.)

And the new GW2 WvW event is going, so I must try that out. Although, as I type this, I don’t really know why: WvW content has not changed, and I guess we’ll see whether the match-up algorithm for this event is better or worse than Season One or the usual week-to-week system. [Update: nope, us vs. FA and SBI. GG, see you next week.]

: Zubon

Find the Exploiter on the Graph

Munchkin cheat with both hands My alliance was winning the current war in Game of Thrones Ascent, but it turns out that an estimated quarter of our victory points came from exploits. It was possible for players to instantly craft an expensive item using no resources, which could then be sold for silver — an infinite money exploit limited only by how fast one can click. And here I thought our camps were getting repaired quickly because we had allies sending us repair actions. The alliance was docked those points and four players were permabanned.

Folks on our team talked about whether the whole alliance should be penalized for the actions of a few, how much could it really have affected things, and weren’t people in other alliances using the same exploit? And then the developers posted this graph. phase_5_exploiters There is no scale on the left, but you can pretty easily pick out three of the four people using the exploit. One of them seemed to realize that keeping it on the down low was a good idea. The other three contributed about as much silver to the alliance war as the next 97 people combined. Once the developers knew what to look for, that kind of stuck out.

In a previous alliance war, our alliance was also severely docked points because some players were using a modded interface. It did not give anyone special abilities, it just let you perform actions quickly rather than clicking many times to launch 1 attack.

Because Hear Me Roar is one of the largest alliances in the game, we are still safely in second place, and the new first place alliance is allied with us (yes, the terminology there is unfortunate). I noted previously that my part in the team is sending help to our allies, who send us help in return. On the developers’ accounting of our victory points, it notes that our allies gave us enough aid to repair 234 camps from “destroyed” to “fully operational,” so the support squad feels pretty good despite the devastating setback.

: Zubon

On the Benefits of Coasting

I have trouble letting go. For long periods of time, I have games that I am not interested in playing but for which I expect to regain interest later. For single-player games, that means shelving them, and I can play Civilization again when I have the free hours. These days, most of my games are online multiplayer games with incentives for frequent play over binging, so I spend a fair amount of time “coasting.”

Efficient use of dailies is a core example. Most MMOs have dailies now, and many have rested bonuses, once per day rewards, etc. You can cash in several of those quickly and call it a day. Most social media games have a daily login bonus, a process you can productively reset every 24 hours, etc. You can bounce off a half-dozen of those while reading your RSS feed. Games with updates frequently have festivals and events, and you can get 50% of the reward in 5% of the time if you just log in, pick the low-hanging fruit, and accept that you are not going to grind enough to get the top tier reward.

This is a reason why I have never run out of karma, money, laurels, etc, in Guild Wars 2 and why I have 600 levels of characters despite having been “on break” for about half the game’s lifespan. In less than 30 minutes, I can get a small stack of rewards. I don’t need to do that every day to have a huge stockpile when I get seriously interested in playing 3 months later. I have a routine of visiting a half-dozen games, seeing if there is anything new, getting double rewards for whatever strikes my fancy, and wandering off.

Because I am exactly the sort of player who likes to play in binges, and nothing fuels that like coming back to a stack of gold pieces, 20 points to assign to abilities, an entire screen of unlocked rewards, a new festival…

: Zubon

Alarming Prospects

Roast Pheasant Bringing together the topics of design slippery slopes (particularly with cash shops) and Game of Thrones Ascent, we have this frightening picture. It may be a little hard to see (it is grayed out because nothing in-game calls for it), so let me explain what you’re seeing there. This is the sort of game where you send a knight on a mission and wait for him/her to finish. A Roast Pheasant is an item that will speed that by 28 hours. They do not have anything in-game yet that takes 28 hours to finish, but they have already built the infrastructure for it. And you can auto-complete a 28:05 mission for just $9.50 (or a 56-hour mission for just $19). And hopefully you succeed, because you can fail those things, and I have failed three 80+% chances in a row.

: Zubon

Quantum Leap

I am still playing Dawn of the Dragons, despite the standard social media game mechanics. Something about the energy bars and the false sense of achievement is compelling.

Mission zone 10 is an expansion pack gear reset sort of experience. Players quickly acquire zone 9 gear due to the multiplayer mechanics, and then better from leveling up while wearing it. Along the way, nothing except zone 9 raids do much damage to you. Bosses deal trivial damage, and random encounters deal exactly 1 per attack. And then you hit zone 10. Continue reading

Against Covetousness

I have been playing Dawn of the Dragons, because having just one energy mechanic game at a time is less than gaming. The actual gameplay of any of these tends to be low, but in combination they can be entertaining.

Dawn of the Dragons has lots and lots of items, because grind and cash shop. The crafting tab is where much of the rubber meets the road: a fight has a chance to drop a trophy, and combine trophies to get an item, then combine items and trophies to get better items. They have these for different maps, for raids, for events, for raid events, and so on for three years of development. There are five tabs for crafting, and the longest list has a progress bar dozens of screens high. That is a lot of scrolling to see everything.

This is to be expected after years of development. Following MMOs as I do, I am used to entering at the beginning. Sure, your game may have 1000 achievements, items, or raids, but you started earning them during the pre-order head start. You naturally earned most of the new ones while trying each update, so you have a subset of Things To Do that probably covers 10% of the list, and you know which part of it is relevant to your character. And then you have the new player who must do/get all the things! He joins your guild and asks every five minutes how to get X. It is essential that he gets X as soon as possible, and it is tragically unfair if X was event-related and is available only seasonally or (horror of horrors) not at all anymore.

This is my first time walking into that situation in a long time. It is pleasantly inuring. I occasionally see those new folks (but mostly people with levels in the four-digit range), and I occasionally ask something (but I can type it into Google as fast as I can type it into chat), but mostly I am just enjoying coasting. I got some newbie tips, I am accumulating some things that do who knows what, and I am working in no particular direction except up. If I keep playing, I will someday join those players in the higher digits, and I could start caring and planning. But really? That overwhelming list is somewhat comforting. I would need a lot of time to refill the energy bar to reach a lot of that content. I would need to play for months or more to see events repeat. It helps to get past the false sense of achievement.

: Zubon

Cash Shop Upgrades

At Spinks’s suggestion (congratulations on that engagement to Charles Dance, by the way), I have been trying Game of Thrones Ascent, a Song of Ice and Fire-themed game on Facebook. They have had exciting growing pains as millions of people pounded unsuspecting servers over the weekend.

As ever with these, monetization is an important question. Beyond the usual power and convenience items, one or two items in almost every upgrade track (for the talent trees and each building) require the RMT currency to unlock. For the buildings, that is usually the best economic upgrade it has to offer, like doing things faster or queuing up resource gathering.

wolves pay, being a sheep is free The talent tree RMT upgrades get interesting because most of them are PvP improvements: better rewards, higher defenses, more frequent attacks. The increase per point is small, but they add up, and the cash shop items are stronger than anything I’ve seen available for crafting so far.

I feel like I should be upset at what translates to a pretty blatant Pay To Win, especially since unlocking all the options would take more than $50 in cash shop currency, not including any convenience or power items. (So far, the only way I have found to earn the RMT currency in-game is the reward for logging in for many days in a row. This is odd; most games give you a little so that the taste will encourage you to buy.) Part of this is ameliorated by the fact that you still need to spend the talent points in those PvP skills, so the people you are attacking are spending theirs elsewhere and probably not falling behind much. The improved economic options are a bigger thing than the explicitly PvP options. Part is the comic’s observation: if you are not paying for the game, your only value to the company is as content for the people who are paying. In F2P MMOs, you provide content by grouping, talking, and being someone to whom the paying players can show off their leetness. Here, you are sheep to their wolves. That makes a certain sort of sense to me, and it is not like the strictly PvP games where the only reason to play is to fight others. You get to play along/through the Game of Thrones story, so presumably you could PvE it up in quiet obscurity. Also, this is Westeros, where life generally sucks for the poor and powerless, so if you’re not bringing money to the table, the nobles will stomp on you while sneering.

: Zubon

Ooh, reincarnation mechanic. If that comes with an ascension bonus, I’m interested.

Heirs to Progress Quest

Progress Quest is the original 0-player MMORPG. It was designed in 2002 as a parody of the gameplay you know and love, with “fire and forget” convenience that went beyond auto-attack to auto-everything. Turn it on, create a character, and the game takes it from there. There is not gameplay as such, but it is a brilliant piece of work and strangely hypnotic.

As with most things, there is actually a genre of these by now. Kongregate has an idle game category. Epic Combo is notionally amusing, and Farm of Souls is more of an idle RTS game (with just peons). I’m tempted to fiddle with a few of these, but Kongregate is currently promoting Anti-Idle, which has enough little things going on at once to actually make it a game. It has its version of Progress Quest that you can play interactively instead of idling. It has a mini-FarmVille, a lousy Mario Kart, a collectible card game that doesn’t look very good but probably is not the worst on the site, a variety of mini-games, fishing, and some other things I have yet to sift through. It also has its own quests and achievements built in.

At worst, the gameplay is no worse than things you have paid to do (mine in EVE, farm almost anything). At best, well, it’s not a lot better than that anyway. When social media games were having their heyday, I found some of them interesting if I played 5 or 6 at once. The aggregate can involve interesting resource and attention allocation. Most of that seems built in here, plus your equivalent of offline skill training.

: Zubon