Improving Facebook Games

I know you’re probably cringing right now at the words “Facebook” and “games” being in the same sentence without the word “suck.” To be honest, I can agree with that to a point. Unfortunately, however, I’ve been snagged in and caught in the annoying web of spamming friends with requests and waiting for my energy to refill. What I do love about these games, though, is that they are simple and fun little distractions; when I’m bored or have nothing else to do, I’ll check up on my games. That’s not to say that they’re amazingly fun, but still fun nonetheless. If certain aspects were revamped or even revoked, there would be a bigger audience for what people call “social” or “casual” games, and there wouldn’t be as many snobs that immediately turn their nose at one and not even give it a chance. I understand that these games are about playing a little at a time and interacting with your friends (hence the term “social”), but a player should be able to play the game at any given time, when they want to, and when they have the time to invest in it.


1.    Energy Systems
These have to go. Sometimes they make sense (such as in Mafia Wars where you only click on missions instead of actually “playing” a game) but most of the time these are just annoying. One prime example of games that shouldn’t use an energy system is Diamond Dash and Ruby Blast (the latter developed by Zynga). Both of these games are the same concept: they are similar to Collapse in that you click on matching colored blocks to destroy them. You’re limited to only being able to play a few rounds at a time before your energy (also known as “life” and “stamina” in some games) runs out. There should not be a barrier in these types of games at all. Besides being able to compare scores to your friends, what’s the point of playing something like that on Facebook when you can easily go to Newgrounds and play it without a limit? The only advantage is that you can instantly share your scores and achievements with your friends, but who cares other than you and a couple of other of people who play it?


2.    Requests
No. Just no. Waiting on your friends to login to their account, open up their game, and finally accept your requests is not fun. Not only do you have to wait until your energy refills, but you also must wait for items needed to progress through the game. A good way to get rid of this is to allow certain resources. For example, if you need wood to build something, then you can chop down a tree. If you need coal, you can go to a mine and collect some. These requests should be optional. Instead, though, these are necessary. One of the most intense examples of this offense would be The Sims Social. If you wanted to finish building something, then too bad. You had to request items first. These items are required and 99% of the time, you can only get these items from asking your friends. There is no other way to acquire what you need, except in some very rare occasions when you get items from doing other tasks, but the chance of actually getting the items is rarer than when the opportunity itself arrives. Of course, you are still limited by the energy system as well, making it even more difficult and tedious.


3.    Pop-Ups
The most annoying thing in the world is to open a game and go through a bunch of pop-ups. I just want to play the game, stop bombarding me with useless information. Most of the time these pop-ups are “Send free gifts to your friends!” or “Invite your friends!” How about no? If I want to send a gift to my friend, you know what I’ll do? I’ll click “Free Gifts.” If I want to read the news updates, I’ll click on “News.” If I want to see the results of a fight or quest or something similar, then I’ll click on it! Crime City and Kingdom Age (both made by Funzio) really knew how to piss off a player. Crime City had four different pop-ups: Daily Reward, Empire Times (results of fights, that I don’t do and that I don’t care about), a sale notice, and free gifts. The Daily Reward doesn’t bother me as much, as long as it only pops up once a day, but everything else is useless. Think of going to your favorite gaming website, like IGN or GameSpot. Imagine opening up the page and a bunch of information about games you don’t like are shown to you, and the only one to get away from it is to close a pop-up. Instead of just going to the site and clicking on the things you want, you would be bombarded by useless and annoying information. As said before, if I want to find out something, I will click on it. I don’t need it thrown in my face.


4.     Timed Quests
First off, if you start playing a game that has been around for awhile, you will have a lot of quests to catch up on. Not only that, but some games offer quests that expire after a set amount of time. One question: why? I already have to wait for my friends to give me the stuff I need to just play the game, and then I also have to wait for my energy to refill. What if I don’t have time to login every day and do the required tasks? These games should be about playing at your own pace. I shouldn’t have to be anxious and worried about not having enough time to finish a quest. So while you’re sifting through all the quests you have to catch up on, you also have to worry about getting things done in time.  Time limits in games are nothing new, and in some games (mainly RPGs) it is understandable that some quests in the game can expire, but in social games, there is no room for it. At least when playing a regular game, you can turn it on and off, reload your last save, etc., to try to accomplish the quest in time, but Facebook games are played in real-time, meaning you have no room for mistakes, which I believe is a true feature of all games: learn from your mistakes, beat the level in a different way. However, Facebook games do not allow mistakes to be made.


5.    Real Money
As with any game, developing one isn’t free and there must be a way to make money off of it. In order to receive revenue (besides advertising), developers add a different currency than the one already in the game. In order to obtain this virtual currency, you must pay real-life money for it. I don’t have a problem with this itself; if you have the cash and you want to get ahead in the game, by all means, go for it. The problem I do have though is the pricing, and what you get for it. Do you need coins to purchase a new building for your town, but don’t have the time or patience to earn it? Here, purchase this: you can get 1000 coins for $50! This is a little exaggeration, but in all seriousness, if I’m going to pony up real cash, then you should make it worth my while. Real cash should demand a huge bonus. For example, if I spend $5, then I should receive at the very least 100,000 coins. I understand money must be made to run the servers and allow the developer to update and grow their own games, but these companies rip-off desperate people wanting to achieve a greater status in their game. Whether this is intentional or not (depending on what company you’re looking at) it is still unfair. This premium currency is known in some games as estate cash (Hidden Chronicles), Sim Cash (The Sims Social), diamonds (Sim City Social, among others), etc. With this special money you can skip quests, purchase in-game coins, and items. However, there a lot of items that are exclusive to the real-life money you purchase. I understand exclusivity, but this should be reserved with very special items. For example, if I’m going to pay real cash for an item, it should be a huge golden statue of me holding a kitten, not a virtual t-shirt. There should be an option to buy these items with in-game coins, even if it has to be a huge amount.


6.    Permissions
Some of these games require special permissions, such as accessing your friends list. This one is understandable, again referencing to the word “social,” but some require your birth date and e-mail. Unless you specifically sign-up for e-mail updates, why are these things needed? I have not played a single game that utilizes your birth date, so why is it a requirement for some games? Of course, when you first open an app it tells you what is required, but the point is that the game shouldn’t need these, and some of these requirements might turn someone away from playing it, due to security or privacy reasons. Most games also post achievements and high scores, known as “posting on your behalf.” For a long time, I was unaware that you could even turn this option off. I finally realized one day that if you go into your privacy settings for apps, you can change it. However, this still does not stop Facebook from posting that you recently played the game. While this isn’t as big of an issue and is not quite as annoying, there is no use for it and if I turn the option of posting on behalf off, then it shouldn’t post anything at all.


7.    Tutorials
Tutorials are not all bad; obviously, they teach you how to play the game. However, if you’ve played one Facebook game, you’ve played them all. Most social games are built around the same structure: earning coins, structuring buildings, doing quests, zooming in and out, crafting, etc. Unless the game features advanced mechanics, a long tutorial should not be needed. A simple screen pointing to each option to explain it should be all you need. With any game you get, you just want to play it. You don’t want to spend 30 minutes on a tutorial, you just want to jump right into it and start experiencing it, and as for social games, it should be the same way.