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Web games for fun and profit

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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. Mahjongg seemed 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

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)

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

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

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.

[size="5"]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

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.

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.

[size="5"]Get your Nexus 1 to work without a data plan

[size="2"]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.

[size="2"]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.

[size="5"]Set it up for your local Wi-Fi

[size="2"]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.

[size="2"]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.


[size="2"]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
[size="2"]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.)
[size="2"]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.
[size="2"]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.




Adding Objects to post

I just wanted to see if I can add an object tag into my journal.

I've been able to do it by clicking the 'insert media' button,
but for some reason the .swf is showing up insanely small.






Embed Games website. iFrames vs. Object tags

So a while back I made this website to allow users to embed games into their own websites. One of the things I wanted to test was Google's ability to index iframes. I know they are able to index object tags, and on sites like my card game and solitaire websites, I have been able to acquire some decent links from people adding the object code to their websites.

I've learned a few things from the experience. The really nice thing about using iframes is the ability to add Google Analytics code into the frame, so that I can track exactly who is embedding the code, and how often it is getting called. Tracking down who has embedded object tags takes a little more effort and involves tools that look into the server logs.

The down side to using the iframe is that Google does seem to take quite a while to get them into their index (and maybe some will never make it in). But it does seem to get to many of them eventually. I'm not exactly sure what's better. I guess if you are looking to acquire inbound links quickly the better strategy would be to use the object tags. In the long run iframes may be a better choice. For my next embeded object site, an embed calculator website, I'm going back to the object tags.





So, I've decided to take my Mahjong Word game and tweak it into a Math game, which I cleverly named... Mathjong.

It's still very much a work in progress. I need some new art and sound effects. Right now almost every thing is a rip off of my previous game. Also it badly needs a scoring system, but I should have that in soon.

The tile distribution is off too. Currently I have way too many '=' signs, but I don't think it's a bad start.




Chrome App Store

So the Chrome App Store seems to be a pretty easy place to get a little extra traffic to your web game. It's pretty easy to create a new app. You have to sign up for a Developer account, I did this a while ago so I can't remember the details, but it was pretty easy. They do ask you for a credit card and you have to spend something like $5 to get an account, but if you are running Google Ads on your web apps you can make that back pretty quickly.

What Google defines as a web app is really just a web page. They don't have any restrictions on it, so if you want to you can basically use it to drop a link to one of your sites. The only problem with this is that people will complain and give you a low rating. Once you have an account you have to create a manifest.json file, which is just a text file that tells Google what the name of your game is, where the web page is located, and what the name of your icon file is (although the icon file doesn't really matter because you have to upload that later anyway).

Here is an example from one of my games:

"name": "Arcade Typing Game",
"version": "",
"icons": { "128": "typing_icon.png" },
"app": {
"urls": [
"launch": {
"web_url": "http://www.itypinggames.com/ChromeTyping.html"

The json file has to be uploaded in a .zip for some reason. You'll also have to upload the icon file and the screen shot separately... even if you include the icon file in the .zip you uploaded.

If anyone has any chrome apps they would like me to give 5 star ratings, feel free to post them here.

If anyone wants to give me a 5 star rating to help me out, here are some links to a few of my games.

Mahjong Words
Word Search
Typing Game
Spades Card Game
If you have complaints about the games, post them on this blog rather than hurt my Chrome Store rating please




New Casual Game

I've been pretty bad about blogging and working on the Side Scroller I intend to build... but in the mean time I built this Word Mahjong game. If you're a chrome user I also created a Chrome App Version. Please give me a 5 star rating

The game seems to be doing reasonably well so far. I need to work on the dictionary a bit. I was thinking about a "suggest a word" link and some sort of way to track the number of times a word has been suggested.

Ugh... so much to do.




Some platform art

I put together some bitmap art to build the platforms. The top grassy part of the platforms will be repeated along the x axis with an end cap on each end. Below the grassy part of each platform will be an earthen portion. I made it to look somewhat like the Super Mario Bros Wii game. Right now it comes in there different styles, but I will add more later.




Should I buy a Xoom?

So recently I've been thinking that I'm missing the boat on tablets. I've heard that it's not difficult to port flash games to the Android platform. I've been toying around with the idea of getting a Xoom and publishing some of my games to the Android store. The problem is I'm already buried with projects I'm working on, and I don't want to spend too much time on another.

Is anyone out there currently developing Flash / Actionscript games for Android or other mobile devices?

Does anyone have any advice on this?





Defining the Interfaces

Ok, there isn't much to see yet. I want to blog often to make sure I at least make a little progress every day. Today I took a little time to define the interfaces. So far everything is done in Flash Builder 4, but when I get to it, I'm going to use the Linkages in Flash CS5 to link Movie Clips to my classes so I can use Flash as a glorified art tool.

I personally prefer Flash Builder for writing the code. Flash is a pretty terrible coding environment. I find it much easier to lay out my classes and interfaces in Flash Builder.

I'm not sure I've divided the packages up the best way I can. I may have to reorganize. I put the letter 'i' in front of the interface names to make them stand out from the classes once I have added those.

For those who aren't familiar with Interfaces or what they are good for, most object oriented languages only let you extend a single class (C++ being a notable exception). You can, however, implement as many interfaces as you like. Since on screen objects will need to either extend MovieClip, Sprite, or some other DisplayObject I'm going to use interfaces as the primary way the game engine will interact with the display objects. Functions within the game engine will take the interfaces as parameters, and deal with the objects indirectly that way. Hopefully this will make the engine more extensible so that anyone who wants to use it for their own side scrolling games will be able to do so with less difficulty.

Hopefully I'll have more to show soon.




Flash & Actionscript Side Scroller / Platformer Game Engine

Right now I'm leaning heavily towards doing my game engine as a Side Scroller / Platformer type engine.

Right now I'm thinking of something that could be used and extended to make old school games like Super Mario, Metroid, or Sonic, maybe with some features of a newer game like Super Mario Brothers Wii.

I'm going to try and put together a class structure in AS3 first, then come back and actually fill out the code to make it work.

Once I have the general structure of the classes, I can build some ASDOCs, which will probably help the thought process.

I know this probably sounds pretty boring... but trust me it will be fun

I'm going to create interfaces the following object types:

1. PlayerCharacter
2. NPC
3. Platform
4. Teleport
5. PowerUp
6. NPCProjectile
7. PlayerProjectile

I can then implement these generic interfaces with classes that extend either movie clip or sprite. I'm also going to need some sort of level class that allows for the grouping and positioning of these objects. Also, there needs to be some way to configure the level (XML???) and some way to build the level that is being configured.




Open Source Flash Project

So I would like to start an open source flash game project... (or projects).

I've been writing flash games for a while now, and I think it's about time I started contributing some open source code.

Here are my potential projects:

1.) Flash RPG (Old School SNES style)
2.) Flash Strategy Game ( Something like what I have on turnbasedstrategy.com, but more generic)
3.) Flash Side Scroller

Looking for opinions as to what the best Flash / Actionscript open source project would be best to start on. Of course if someone has an idea of a better project I would love to hear about it.





The Dancing Monkey

It's been a while since I've posted, and I wanted to show off my dancing monkey.

That is all. [smile]




Chibi Vector Art

I'm toying with the idea of doing a Chibi Fighting Game. Here's a little vector art I did in Flash.




What now George?

Since North Korea has the bomb, perhaps we'll invade Cuba.

Hey, I just did my first political cartoon [smile]





It was pointed out that in my last posting one of my robots had an arm that was longer than the other.

Here's my fixed version:




Finished my black jack reskin

I've reskinned the black jack game I wrote earlier... and also put in a few new features. All new vector art. I'll need to get it up on GDS some time soon.

I think it looks pretty... but that may be due to my lack of artistic talent. [wink]




Vector Slot Machine

Here's a vector art slot machine I did last night. It was done in Flash, and I'm going to use it as the art for a Slot Game I'm putting together.

And yes... I do need to go out drinking. [wink]



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