Packrat: Game Creates Ripples on Facebook

17 09 2008

Techcrunch highlighted Facebook app Packrat on Monday, which seems to be causing a bit of a disturbance there. In a piece titled “Facebook Isn’t A Social Network. And Stop Trying to Make New Friends There”, Michael Arrington writes:

A big part of the game is “stealing” cards from friends, and so a lot of users add other users as friends so that their cards can be obtained. The application’s popularity has also led some users to create Facebook accounts for the sole purpose of playing the game.

Some of those accounts are now being disabled by Facebook, according to this discussion forum on the application site.

What’s curious is the email sent from Facebook to one deleted user, which states that Facebook isn’t a social network (it’s a “social utility”) and isn’t meant to build large groups of new friends. Instead, Facebook is meant to reinforce “pre-existing” social connections

The game revolves around collecting, earning money and stealing inventory items. A continual stream of new and fairly slickly produced new content perpetually plugs into the old framework, while old content expires and becomes irrelevant, unless you can collect it fast enough.

I tried it out a few weeks ago, and it really does reach the heights of grind and tedium usually reserved for MMOs. As such, there’s something weirdly compelling about it, so much so that Facebook have evidently performed some contortions around their terms of service to nip a potential and unintended community in the bud.

Packrat had the potential to become a trojan MMO, embedded in Facebook and incurring loads on their servers. Games are a very strange behavioural tool, and I think Packrat shows we only have a very superficial understanding so far.

(CC image by SCO)

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Infovore: Playing Together

28 08 2008

Tom Armitage has given a talk on games and social software entitled “Playing Together” at NLGD and also at Develop. We unfortunately missed it at the latter because we were running Games:EDU a couple of rooms away, but Tom has now posted text and images.

It’s a really broad ranging talk with some great thinking on what humans are and how we use games. It moves through the kind of social circles we engage in, how social software has drawn on playful experiences to cater to those, how people in turn find new ways of playing with things and each other, and what videogame designers might be able to learn from all of this. The large structure makes it difficult to quote from, so I suggest you go and read the whole thing.

And what do you discover about Nike+? You discover there’s a metagame to it. People start syncing late – filling up their run data and then only syncing at the last minute – to disguise how much they’re doing. They mess around!

Nike+ is ticking so many of our boxes: it’s asynchronous; it’s designed perhaps best for small groups; it turns running into a social object, putting it online. It’s a really great example of future for social play.

And it goes where I am: it’s a game that I don’t have to learn how to play. I already know how to run.

(CC image of volleyball by flyzipper)





WebWars: EVE

19 08 2008

Late last year was a season of highly polished AAA game releases, and the run out of summer this year seems to belong to interesting indie games. We’ve already had Braid and Echochrome, and upcoming is Flower.

Upcoming is also Webwars: EVE, which seems to be a casual take on CCP’s MMO, in which players compete to control websites. As Alice says, “It’s PMOG meets EVE!”

Which are both interesting projects in their own right.

I played EVE Online for a two week trial, and it was not only beautiful, but surprisingly deep and huge. I felt truly lost in a massive galaxy, rarely seeing the same players twice. It was a surprising mix of casual and complex, with an Alt+Tab friendliness that most games don’t have coupled with long travel times, leading to attention being on several things on the computer at once. However, the markets and character leveling were really very involved, calling for much advance planning and scheduling of play time. It was one of the first games to impress on me the quote Eyjolfur Gudmondsson gave to gi.biz recently:

alternate universes such as Eve’s are “real, but not reality.”

It is extremely interesting yet of course logical that CCP would turn EVE into a brand and spread it down into more casual territory.





Google Game Ads

14 08 2008

via Nicholas Lovell comes a rumour that Google are nearing a release of the in-game ad service they’ve been testing for a while. It’s most likely true given the recent release of Lively. Also, as Nicholas points out:

the opportunity for independent and smaller studios who fall below the radar screen of Massive, IGA or Double Fusion will be huge.

The current players of in game advertising are all chasing the short head while they struggle to create a big enough market, and it’s entirely possible that Google will eclipse them all with the long tail.





Areae Reveals Plans

19 09 2007

Areae

Raph Koster and co. at Area have been keeping quiet about what they’re doing, though the logo and Raph’s general talk of “game meets web” has been pretty revealing. Today, they announced Metaplace, which allows many virtual worlds to be connected up. From CNet:

“We are re-inventing virtual worlds that stop working like AOL,” Koster said, “and start working the way the Web does….You can build a massive multiplayer game in minutes there are style sheets to make building easier.

Koster said that Metaplace would allow users to employ Web 2.0 tools like tags, wikis and forums in the pursuit of quickly and easily making usable, fun virtual worlds.

It’s 2D only so far, but they’re working on a 3D client too.

Viewed from the games industry, it’s an incredible idea. Viewed from the web, it just seems sensible.

(via Wonderland)





Gamer YASNS

30 01 2007

Marek Bronstring, of Idle Thumbs, has made an interesting post about The Great Games Experiment: a social networking site for gamers. His take:

There needs to be a place where small games can virally market themselves the way small bands have rapidly emerged from MySpace and YouTube. I don’t know if this is going to be that place — it is still under major construction and has only 1200+ gamespaces and 2700+ profiles — but I will be keeping a close eye on it.

David Hayward





Sky and Google to Partner on web based video and communications

3 01 2007

Sky and Google are to partner over offering Sky-branded, but Google-based services. The two companies will team up to offer online video (both Sky content and user-generated), voice communications and search advertising.

Sky will launch a user-generated video portal powered by Google’s video tools – whether that’s going to be YouTube tools or Google video is not clear as yet.
Sky broadband customers will get an @sky.com email address powered by Google’s services for domains.
Sky also says it plans to “explore opportunities” in Google’s VoIP capabilities.
Google’s AdSense advertising tools will also be used across Sky’s websites.
Financial terms of the deal have not been revealed.
This is really going to change the game, especially for Sky which is battling the tectonic shift of audiences from TV to the Web and online video. It also means a significant foothold in the UK market with a content player which will further power its ad revenues.