CMUNE Keeps Unity 3D-Powered UberStrike Going Strong on Facebook

UberStrike developer CMUNE‘s faith in Unity 3D appears to have paid off as the game continues to grow while approaching an anniversary on Facebook.

In the last 12 months, UberStrike (formerly known as Paintball Paradise) has grown at a steady rate to its present-day Facebook traffic of 880,000 monthly active users and 120,000 daily active users, according to our AppData traffic tracking service. The game also migrated to the Mac App Store this August with an HD version that currently ranks No.3 in Top Free Apps. The rest of its audience comes from versions available on MySpace and the game’s own site (using Facebook Connect).

The promise of 3D games for Facebook has been tough for developers to deliver on because of hardware limitations and most users’ aversion to plugins. With social games increasing in quality and trending toward cross-platform releases, however, developers have reason to explore 3D development as way to distinguish their titles and open up the road to easier cross-platform development. CMUNE was one of the first developers to introduce Unity 3D to Facebook, and so far, it’s the only one that we know of that’s successfully scaled in size and across platforms.

Ludovic Bodin, CEO of CMUNE, shares the challenges of backing Unity with Inside Social Games and explains how the developer walked users through the terror of installing a plugin to run a Facebook game.

Inside Social Games: What were the challenges of getting users to install the Unity plugin?

Ludovic Bodin: Initially we had very little idea of what was happening when users tried to play our game. We knew how many app adds we had and how many new accounts were created on a given day, but not much else. So we set about fixing the problem using a data driven approach — who were our users, what browsers and OS were they using and could they use the Java WebStart one-click install feature.

With that data in hand, we then needed to know where the dropout was happening, were they clicking the “Install” button, could they figure out how to run a “exe,” did the game finish downloading?

We found that most users had no problem with plugins per se, but mostly failed when it came to figuring out what to click on when presented with various browser “Run/Save” dialogs. We also found different browser users, had vastly different behavior. For example, more FireFox users click “Install” but [Internet Explorer] users have a higher installation success rate.

It’s worth mentioning that outside of fixing browser bugs, user interface updates tended to yield the best returns for reducing funnel dropout. We’re currently working with Unity to perfect the plugin installation flow and hope other developers can benefit from our research.

ISG: What changes to the prompt dialogue saw the highest conversion rate for players?

Bodin: Removing stuff. It’s design 101, but somehow it’s always tempting to explain everything on the first dialog. Having said that, using only a single “Install” button didn’t work well either. We’ve now struck a balance with obvious UI and just enough supporting content to intrigue the user.

ISG: CMUNE chose Unity for a Facebook game  before other developers had even really tried it. What prompted you to take that risk?

Bodin: Back in the day, it was a pain to play multiplayer games with your friends, there were gigabyte downloads, you had to find servers or do a LAN party, and it was technically challenging. So the original UberStrike concept was “tiny download, minimal clicking.” We wanted a game you could find using a URL, jump into a map with other players from around the world, and it just worked.

When we though about the publishing/distribution problem, it was something like “Where are the people? On Facebook. OK, let’s be there too.” From that point on, we thought about UberStrike as a social shooter and how we could leverage the social graph to enhance what is already a distinctly real-time social experience.

ISG: Now that Unity can target Flash 11, what changes (if any) do you need to make to UberStrike for the next generation? Or will you instead make a sequel? 

Bodin: That’s a good question. We’re still looking to see if the Flash exporter in Unity will work for UberStrike, as there are currently some technical show stoppers. We may do a port, but there are still some big advantages to using the native plugin that just don’t exist in Flash.

As sequel to UberStrike is definitely possible, although were not promising anything just yet. There’s a lot of very cool new features coming in the next release, and we’ve put a lot of effort into making the core game easier to learn and more rewarding, along with some love for the new Facebook API features.

I’d like to mention we are hiring.