Sunday, June 14, 2009

On the road again (and again...) and some self-promotion

I haven't been able to play much in the way of traditional gaming since, oh, the end of April because I've been pretty much constantly on the road.

Two weeks were all about fun and games -- my wedding and honeymoon -- but the remaining weeks have been bouncing around Chicago and Eugene (OR) working for a client with a game shipping this holiday. Oh, and then there was E3 week in L.A. But that was mostly a family visit.

In the mean time, I had a couple of panels accepted at the Casual Connect conference in Seattle this summer. The first part is going to be a joint presentation by some awesome folks who have worked on a variety of casual and board games (including the inventor of Pandemic... How cool is that?). I'll be talking about my work on Catan for XBLA. The second panel will be a brief interactive workshop on how to improve your own on-site usability/focus testing. I'm super excited about putting this together with my co-panelists.

What I have been able to do is experiment with "microgaming" in the form of Twitter games. I can't say I've found the killer app, yet, but I'm guessing that there will eventually be some sort of microgame that captures my fancy to the same extent Scramble has on Facebook.

The Twitter game I'm playing most is called BeatMyTweet. It's basically an anagram name (a genre I love) where @BeatMyTweet sends out an anagram every 15 minutes and people RT @BeatMyTweet the answer. A link to results (people are ranked by time of correct RT) is tweeted and takes you to the host website. Not the best game in the world -- and I'd probably have dropped it by now if I weren't a fiend for anagrams -- but not a bad start. Some issues:
  • Limited dictionary. Seems like the same words come up fairly frequently.
  • Limited leaderboards. It's hard for an infrequent player like me to keep up with folks who are glued to their PCs or cellphones all day. I need contextual leaderboards that show me how I'm doing relevant to similar others. Unfortunately the current leaderboards only display top 5 players and there's no way to drill in further to see how I'm doing.
I've also tried Spymaster which is basically a Mafia Wars knockoff for Twitter. The level of visual polish is high, although it does suffer from some UI annoyances. Unfortunately this is just not my kind of game -- and it is far too spammy for my liking. I hate cluttering up others' feeds with some silly messages from my game. I figure my Facebook friends will tolerate occasional game feed updates (and can block them specifically without blocking me) but my Twitter followers will likely drop me if I send too many spammy messages their way.

My hope is to find a Twitter game that is compelling enough that it drives me back more often to consume interesting data from the Twittersphere and (hopefully) pipe more interesting updates out to my followers, much the same way that taking my Scramble and Backgammon turns currently drive my Facebook behavior.

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