Games With Friends!

You've probably been here before.  On your favorite social networking site you'll often get spammed by messages asking you to come play a game with someone or help them out by sending them some energy or other type of strange resource.  You don't want to play any of these games but you can't seem to escape the flood of messages.  Then you decide to start blocking those games.  The messages will immediately stop but in a matter of a couple of days to a week you get hit by new games that people on your friends list have found to play.

This is social gaming.  Games that you can play on sites like Facebook or MySpace that while playing you can send messages to your wall for others to see and try to reel them in to play with you.  It's the best I can do to keep them off my wall so I can actually see current things my friends are doing in their lives instead of how they just found the magical bacon in Cooking with Elves.  I love my friends (most of them anyway) but I'm one of those people who hates these types of games.  Why you might ask?

These types of games usually limit how long you can actually do anything in them with because of a simple resource system that involves several energy limits and currency choices that once you run out of you have to wait a specified time to actually do anything again.  This means that after about five to ten minutes of playing you can't do anything else.  Who wants to play a game like that?  Well there's a fun little catch involved that if you like the game enough and it appeals to you enough then you'll always be coming back for more.  

How does it work you might ask?  Well I'm going to show you as I decided to pick up a game and try it out and give you an idea of whats its like to play one of these games.  The game I chose was Flying Kingdoms and I won't go into much detail about the game itself but instead just use it as a template for what the other games actually look like.

How Social Games Work

Flying Kingdoms Indeed

FK Logo

Here is how it works.  First you will usually come about the game from seeing a friend play it and it looks appealing to your demographic.  Maybe you like farms, city building, fantasy worlds, zombies, magical bacon, whatever.  There are all types of games for all types of people and I guarantee that if you were to glance at the list of games they have available on your social networking site you would find one that looks interesting to you.

So you load the game up and right away they start you with a tutorial.  This will usually show you how the game works, what you can do in it and how the currency and energy systems in the game work.  When you play the game it will give you goals to complete and as you complete objectives you get experience, money, energy or various other objects you can display in your game's world for others to see.  When you finally run out of energy and can't make anymore moves or take actions in the game you have to wait for more energy which can usually take about twenty or so minutes to fill up completely.

Now take a look at the next shot here as I've highlighted this games currency system.

Currency System

Was I kidding when I said many types?  I sure wasn't.  What do all these crazy things do you say?  Let me go over them.

  • Gold Currency - Gold is for paying for things you do inside the game such as buying items, gear, housing, crops, supplies, and any number of other things you could think of.  You will get more of this as you complete various game functions.  Most games will have this type of currency.
  • The Purple Currency - Purple currency is for taking actions in the game.  Anything from attacking to gathering materials.  Right now it's maxed out but when you're not maxed you'll see a time limit there.  For every two to four minutes you'll recover one mana.  
  • Lightning! - This is the main energy you will see in any of these games.  It's exactly like the purple currency but in this games case it's for doing things with your flying castle such as building homes, collecting money etc.  Time limit to regain more is about the same as purple currency is.
  • Barrel - This is resources in the game and you use them to fund certain things.  For this game it was for my lumber mill so I could get more supplies from it to build various things.  You can collect them in various ways and I often saw them on the roads just lying around.
  • Blue Stars - This is your experience and is how you gain levels.  When you gain levels your purple and lightning currencies become full and it also opens up other options for you such as new buildings, crops, etc.  You'll see this one a lot in these types of games.
  • FK Gem thing? - This is another currency you will see a lot in social games.  It's used to buy more energy of all the types listed except experience in most cases.  It also allows you to buy things in their separate online store that aren't usually available in-game.  How do you get more of this?  By paying for it with real money.  Yes dollars.  That green stuff in your wallet.  This is also the only way to usually get unique items that are only available at certain times of the year like holidays.

Did you like that last part?  Micro transactions is what it's called and is how these games can keep producing more content and events for players.  Why would you pay for stuff though when you can just play the game as is?  Let's go into detail a bit about that.

How They Keep You Playing

Micro Transactions and Your Trophy Case

Now that I explained how the resources work and how you actually play, lets talk about how they keep you playing.  That's what they want to do right?  Because the more you play the more likely you are to buy something on their online store to show off to friends or your games community.  Here's a small shot of this games store.

Online Shop

Rubies.  Yeah I thought FK Gem Things sounded good.  It kind of looks like magical bacon...Anyway, rubies in this game allow you to buy more energy and to continue to keep playing.  You can also buy gold in this game and that allows you to keep building.  Other games though will have a wider selection of things to buy depending on the type of game.  Look at Farmville.  You can buy all kinds of different trees, livestock, buildings, decorations and much more for your own personal farm so that when your friends come to visit they marvel at your design and say, hey I like that!  That's pretty neat!  Where do I get it?  Then they go buy their own.  

Now I don't know how popular this game is but it doesn't have much to go with.  Games like Farmville though have had time to build a player base and give more for their players because they keep buying into the things they want.  It's free to play, why not donate a bit so they can keep making more?

But how do they keep you coming back?  Well the games are pretty addicting and easy to understand.  Just playing Flying Kingdoms I wanted to keep going and mainly because I got stuck on a quest and couldn't complete it because I ran out of energy!  Tried as I might I could not regain enough back.  But the game is so easy to play and control that you instantly get hooked on the world you're in especially if you like that kind of setting.  

For most people it's a nice way to interact with their friends if they don't have much time and just want to mess around in the game for ten minutes.  You can do what you need to do, run out of energy and stop playing until tomorrow if need be.

My Closing Thoughts

Stop the Spam!

I can't play these games.  I've tried a few times and it gets frustrating to keep up with anything.  Not to mention that when you do anything, and I mean anything, inside the game it will give you a pop-up that says "Hey!  Congrats!  Tell your friends you just found this magical bacon!" "Your turned level 13!  Share with your friends!"  Share it on your wall and the spam starts.  

Don't get me wrong.  These games seem very well put together with a unique design intent to try to get more money out of people who want to invest their time in them but I need a game I can play consistently.  A game where I decide the breaks and not the game.  These types of games are usually good for people who need to kill a little time between classes, on the bus, wherever, as they are usually made to work on your phone or mobile device.  

Along with the unique design choices they also make these games very easy with almost no challenge what so ever.  Collect these things, gain a reward.  Kill this, get a cool item.  Create the magical bacon, receive bacon...By giving you a small reward after doing almost anything, it makes you feel good and gives you incentive to keep playing.  If they made the game to hard, you wouldn't want to play.  Sure you would feel good after collecting a hundred pieces of metal to create the mystical sword of awesome but if it took you a month then it would feel almost exhausting and you would probably lose interest half way through.  Long term work for short terms rewards is a different story for another day though.

Now if you'll excuse me I just found out they have Slingo on Facebook.  Thanks for reading!