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Writing Web Games

The pitfalls of User Generated Content.

Posted by , 12 June 2013 - - - - - - · 1,704 views
flash games, web games and 2 more...
The pitfalls of User Generated Content. I've been playing around with more User Generated content in some of my casual web games recently. My sites are fairly small (thousands to low tens of thousands of daily users), so this advice probably will not hold for huge websites. In general I've found giving the users a little more freedom to create is a lot of fun. It's interesting to see what people will do with the tools you provide.

Beware of Spammers

Way back in the mid 2000's when I did Epoch Star, I had been really turned off to UGC by the spammers that had to be constantly fought off of my phpbb bulletin board. It eventually became a multiple hour a day job, at which point I just shut the whole thing down. Strange as it may sound, the fact that projects like phpbb are used by so many people can be a problem when it comes to spammers. Any protection from spammers provided by a system can always be circumvented. A system with a huge user base can make a tempting target, so it provides the incentive for spam innovation. The community of developers can plug the holes quickly, but unless you keep your software up to date (and I was never good at this) you're always going to be behind the curve.

User Generated Content take 2.

So about a year ago I decide to give this UGC thing a try again. This time I was going to create my own system with my own filters for removing spam before it got out of control. I started out with my Word Search website. The idea is that I can get some good data from words users are submitting and try and find patterns of spam.

If you're like me, and you make a living from online ads, it can be rather difficult to work in User Generated content for a few reasons. Any page you display ads on has to comply with the Terms of Service of your ad provider. This can be pretty challenging because your users aren't going to know (or care) what deal you've worked out with your vendors.

After threatening emails I realized I had to build my system so it wouldn't display ads on any pages that violate my terms of service. For the moment I'm doing this through some auto filtering and an approval system where I have to approve a page before it can run ads on it. I'm not sure this is a great long term solution. It seems to be working fine when I get about 100 submissions a day, but I'm not sure it will scale to 1,000, and certainly not 10,000.

UGC fits some games better than others.

Allowing the users to create their own content seems to work better with some games than others. I generally operate in the casual space, so I'm not even sure how I would work it into some of my games. My Word Search site seemed to be the most successful, getting around 100 puzzle submissions / day with about 4 our of 5 puzzles getting approved for submission into my directory and serving of ads. Mahjonggseemed to also work out fairly well, but only about half the puzzles submitted are worth putting into my directory. I've had less success with Pyramid Solitaire and my Typing Game, although my Typing Game has been having a few issues since I put out my last update.

A few features I've found helpful

1.) Bulk delete by IP address - some guy will figure out a way to spam you and you will want to bulk delete his stuff.
2.) Editable filters - You will want to have filters to reject content automatically, and you'll want to be able to easily add to these
3.) Filter on N0n-@lpha char@cters - to get around your other filters, a lot of spammers have a lot of non-alpha characters in their text.
4.) Filter on URLs - most spammers are looking to promote their web site.


Christmas Games and the Chrome Store

Posted by , 16 December 2011 - - - - - - · 900 views

I've been busy reskinning games with a Christmas theme. Holiday themed games seem to do particularly well on the Google Chrome Store. The Chrome store is a great way to get free advertising for your games. Essentially everything on the Chrome Store is nothing more than a bookmark. The cool thing about it is the more people use the Chrome Store to book mark your 'apps' the more Google will advertise your app on the Chrome Store. This results in a nice little viral loop. I had a lot of success with Halloween Mahjong, and I've been using the traffic from my Halloween Mahjong app to drive traffic to my Christmas Mahjong, Christmas Freecell and Christmas Solitaire Chrome 'apps'.

Now, to demonstrate the power of the Chrome Store, here are some screen shots of the growth of my Christmas Mahjong & Christmas Solitaire sites (Christmas Freecell is still pretty new so I'm not including it).

Christmas Mahjong Traffic by week in the last 6 weeks (0-24,000+ Weekly visitors, 85% Chrome traffic)

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Christmas Solitaire traffic by week for the last 4 weeks (0-5,000+ weekly visitors, 90% Chrome traffic)

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Christmas Freecell has only been up a few days so I'm not including that in my list... but I'm getting over 100+ visitors after only 4 days of being up, so it looks promising. If the trend for these games holds with the trend I saw with Halloween Mahjong, the traffic will fall off slowly after the Holiday, but not as much as one might think. Right now I'm not running ads on these games, so time will tell if they turn out to be a profitable venture. but in the short run it looks like a Holiday theme & Google Chrome is a good combination for attracting traffic quickly.


Halloween Mahjong

Posted by , 09 October 2011 - - - - - - · 344 views

A quick reskin of my Mahjong Game (ok, it wasn't so quick), and voila. I have created Halloween Mahjong. In some ways I like it a lot better than traditional Solitaire Mahjong like I've created some of my other web sites. Instead of having flowers and seasons in the Honor Suit, the Honor Suit has 9 different tiles and the tiles that would have been flowers and seasons are all the same. The Candy Corn look a little bit too much like the Pumpkins, (especially when they are small) so I tilted the Candy Corns a little to make them stand out some. I need to put sound effects into the game... hopefully I'll find something nice and spooky sounding in my Sony Library.

Halloween Mahjong

P.S. I've also been working on another domain specifically for embedding objects into web sites and blogs. I'll discuss that more a bit later :-)


Mathjong Chrome App

Posted by , 22 September 2011 - - - - - - · 460 views

So I've finally finished up Mathjong and I put a Mathjong Chrome App on the Google Web Store. In general I've found giving away a game app on the Chrome Store is a good way to get a little extra promotion for a game I've created. So far I haven't had any game changers this way, but it seems to be a good way to pick up some extra users.

I've also used the MathJong and Word Mahjong code bases and created a standard mahjong game that I've put on my new website Mahjong For Free. I created a core .swc that contained all of the game specific code, then I'm able to create layout and skin files that allow me to easily create new layouts and skins for each game.

I've recently upgraded to Flash CS5.5 and I'm soon going to try and put the game on to my Motorola Xoom tablet. Hopefully it will just work, but I don't yet have any experience with porting flash games to the Android or iPhone platforms, and I've heard performance is an issue.


Using a Nexus 1 with no data plan.

Posted by , 31 July 2011 - - - - - - · 388 views

I recently got a Nexus 1. It's my first Android smart phone (I have a Xoom Tab). What I was hoping to do was use my Nexus 1 with my AT&T plan without having to get a data plan. I've got a weird plan family share situation where I only spend $10 / month on my phone, but it has no data plan.

Get your Nexus 1 to work without a data plan


The Nexus 1 is not tied to any specific carrier. It comes unlocked, so in theory you should be able to get it to work with most carriers. Just to be sure, make sure you check to see if your carrier is supported before you get one.


The first thing to do is go into your 'Settings' menu, and click on 'Wireless & network settings'. Do this before you even put in your sim card. Then scroll down until you get to the 'Mobile networks' option. Go into that menu and uncheck 'Data enabled'. Also, uncheck 'Data roaming' (probably not necessary when 'Data enabled' is unchecked... but do this for good measure.


Set it up for your local Wi-Fi


The next thing you do is hit the back arrow and make sure you have 'Wi-Fi' checked. Then go to 'Manage wireless networks' and add your wireless network in. You'll need to do this anyplace you want to use the Internet. That's the down side to this endeavor. The up side is you save yourself $15 or $20 / month not having to have a data plan.


If you mostly use your internet places where you have a wireless hot spot anyway, it's a cheap alternative to buying a plan. This way I can use my Nexus 1 to make phone calls anywhere, but only use it for Internet access in places with a Wi-Fi Hot Spot.


DISCLAIMER


1.) Make sure you have your mobile networks turned off, or you could get charged a crap load in data fees. AT&T charges $10 / MB if you don't have a data plan and you use their data. That means a 1 Gig movie could cost you over $10,000 to watch. BE CAREFUL
2.) I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE for any charges or expenses you may incur if you try this. This applies to me (Rick Battagline) as well as my company (BattleLine Games LLC.)
3.) DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK. It worked for me, but that does not necessarily mean it will work for you. You may get charged by your phone company. That is out of my control.
4.) Your phone setup or phone network may be different from mine. I don't know how much your plan may charge for accidental data usage.






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