I made a Facebook game in under 48 hours.
What’s the game about?
The theme for this quarter’s Ludum Dare was “It’s Dangerous to Go Alone, Take This”. So I immediately thought that it would be perfect for a facebook or social network game.
The original vision was a trading game between players. They can create items and sell them. Players aren’t allowed to use their own items. They should buy them from their friends. When players create an item, they give it a price which gets deducted to his coins. This way, players will have real investment on the items they make. When a player buys an item, its creator gets paid.
But players can also get items for free. Creators can publish their items as wall posts, and players who click through that link get the item for free. The creator still gets paid (by the system, for being a viral channel 😉 ).
I originally planned on a battle system, Go Aloning!, so that the items will be more than decorative but I ran out of time.
I wanted to explore the gift giving and wall spamming mechanic of facebook games. If people share a personalized wall post, would his friends respond positively?
What went wrong?
Software Crisis – I wasn’t really planning on making a facebook game, until the last minute. (Ok, maybe I did, but I wasn’t decided until I knew the theme). So most of the tools I used were downloaded as I needed it. I had to download XAMPP and SQLYog and had to look for my day job projects which was tucked away in my backup drive.
On the morning before the theme was announced, I discovered that it was my Photoshop trial’s final instance. The backup plan was to create procedural art, which is also fun.
Hardware Poverty – I made this on a netbook. 1.6Ghz processor and 2GB of RAM and all my browser tabs and IDEs == frequent freezes. Also, my internet connection was a very unreliable Sun Broadband USB dongle. Disconnections and freezes were frequent. My brain took it as an opportunity to freeze as well.
Inaccurate Task Estimates – I still suffer from this. But I feel I’m getting better at it now. The more projects I make, failed or not, the easier it gets to guess my capabilities and limitations. That’s why I had to let go the battle system. Either that or miss the deadline.
What went right?
Simplified Concept – the game looked simple on paper. It required a simple database backend. And doesn’t require me to draw assets (no Photoshop needed).
Worked on a familiar platform – I make facebook games for a living. This means I’m not exactly a noob when it comes to making this sort of stuff.
One of the risks I was anticipating was the development to production deployment. My typical day job project takes careful setup in syncing the development and production servers. I didn’t have time for that, so I just made sure the folders, urls, database names are configurable and hoped that my local server was exactly like my webhost’s. It worked flawlessly — the webs didn’t notice I swapped servers.
The game is far from finished. But the vision is doable and seems like a good learning exercise for me. I’m keeping the app active and updates will come as soon as the judging is over. If anyone is interested in following the development of a true indie social network game, like this page: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=189157287797834
Oh and here’s a timelapse video: