Facebook’s first social games hack, aimed at educating developers on Open Graph integrations, ended with prizes for GameHouse, Tien Len, GameFace.me, and Attributor.
GameHouse — already established on Facebook with the Uno franchise and a deep bench of casual game classics — built a bubble shooter with a competitive multiplayer mode that publishes results via Open Graph. Thus far, we’ve only really seen an integration like this in Zynga’s Words With Friends for Facebook, where individual moves and scores are published with screen captures of the game board. Vietnamese card game developer Tien Len added Achievements to their HTML5-based game at the event — unfortunately, we were unable to view the results for ourselves as the game is compatible only with Google Chrome browsers. GameFace.me added to their game a customization option that use friends’ profile pictures and also created game stories based on that activity to share in News Feed. Attributor, which isn’t actually a social game developer, added an Open Graph feature that publishes stories whenever users add books to their virtual bookshelf.
The lecture portion of the evening contained segments on best practices for building Social Games on Facebook, Scores and Achievements, Open Graph, Game scenarios for Open Graph and the Facebook mobile platform. Some of the information was probably already known to the audience, which was made up of devs from experienced Facebook game developers like 6waves Lolapps, Crowdstar, EA and EA PopCap, GSN, iWin, Kixeye, Nexon, Disney Playdom, Ubisoft, wooga, and Zynga. A few details may lead to new social game features, however, as these developers experiment with exposing different player activity types via Open Graph — such as how much users spend on specific items, which we could imagine seeing in a game that uses a player-driven auction house for virtual items.
Transparency is an issue game platform developers struggle with in closed systems like Facebook, Steam, or any of the major video game consoles. In cases where a platform developer hasn’t made it easy for developers to understand and integrate key platform features (e.g. Nintendo when the Wii console was first released), there tend to be a lot of substandard games flooding the platform in its early days. Over time, as developers become more familiar with the features, the games improve — by then, however, the target audience may have lost interest both in the games and in the platform itself.
Facebook initially encountered this problem by at first allowing game developers a great deal of freedom, and then cutting back on that when the nature of social game viral mechanics began to damage the broader Facebook user experience. This year, Facebook has taken great pains to restore some of the virality and open up lines of communication between itself and game developers through the Facebook+Games Page, Operation Developer Love, and events like the game hack. By the middle of 2012, it’ll be easier to see if these efforts have paid off in the form of a vibrant and well-informed game developer community.