Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Facebook the second

Do you know that annoying feeling you get when you read about a new game and then find out you won't be able to play it because it runs only on platforms you don't have? Like iPhone games for people who don't have an iPhone. Or XBox games for people who bought a Playstation. Well, after several weeks without Facebook I was starting to get that same feeling about Facebook games. Read about something interesting, and had to dismiss it because I wasn't on Facebook any more.

I am still very much opposed to the idea of mixing my real identity with my gaming identity. That is mainly a search engine problem: There are valid professional reasons for people to search for my real name on Google and find my patents or scientific publications. And there are valid entertainment reasons for people to search for my pseudonym to find my writings about games. There isn't much overlap between these two worlds, and thus it is better that there are two different names to search for.

But then I realized that Facebook has an incredibly tiny footprint on Google. You can produce tons of game spam on Facebook, and Google will never see it. And as my real name isn't unique anyway (somebody else even got a website with my real name as URL), having a Facebook account under my real name is actually not a problem. I can avoid the mixing of real life and game life by simply not putting anything about my real life on my real name Facebook account. Fortunately me and my real friends are so ancient that we still use completely outdated methods of communicating, like talking face-to-face, or using last-century communication tools like the telephone.

So now I'm back on Facebook. At first I started with games that I don't need friends for. Both Woodland Heroes and Triple Town are very good. Woodland Heroes uses a complicated variation of the old Battleship game as combat mechanic. And Triple Town is one of the best "three of a kind" puzzle games I've played. But then I stumbled upon other games for which friends are needed. So where would I get those if I want neither real life friends nor my blog readers? Well, it turns out most games have forums, and most of those forums have a specific and very active "add me as friend and neighbor" section. In no time I had 20 new "friends", all of which were happy to send me virtual stuff in exchange for my virtual stuff. So I'm good for all sorts of Facebook games now.

Looking at the activity of my new "friends", I don't think I can really call them "casual gamers". At least some of them are seriously hardcore, considering how much time they spend on Facebook games every day. Not to mention that certain Facebook games need significantly more skill than most MMORPGs. Triple Town is *not* an easy game to play well. And I found out that I totally suck at hidden object games.

Meanwhile Google+ seems to have missed the boat with games. The service has barely grown, there are only 21 different games available (Triple Town is one of them). But Facebook users play 927 million hours per month, and half of Facebook's logins are specifically to play games.

I find it interesting that Facebook has a rule against playing with strangers instead of real friends, while the game companies run forums away from Facebook in which they run "add me" threads. There is a clear conflict of interest here between the company running the platform, and the company running the games. Facebook never really told me why exactly they banned my Tobold account, the "playing with strangers" was on a list of different possible causes. But seeing how widespread that is, I don't think I'll be banned again. And this time I could provide a government issued ID if Facebook asks for proof of my existence. But as Raph Koster mentioned in his GDC talk, I'm still very aware of the fact that playing on a platform in the "cloud" means that somebody somewhere has his finger on the power button and could end my second Facebook game experience.

I am curious if you have found a game where you thought "this game is better because it is on Facebook."

So far, I have only seen games which require Facebook simply so they can harass your friends (or force you to, which is more or less the same thing). I have yet to see games which exploit social networks in any positive way.
Ahah! Now the power belongs to those who actually donated to you!

Because you don't want to link tobold and your real name, you won't just advertise your new facebook account with your real name on here, which means that the casual reader has no way to add you anymore and be able to play with you on facebook!

But those of us who had the foresight to donate to you when the option was available learned your real name as a consequence!

Just for the it ok to add your new facebook account as a friend to play with you?
I am curious if you have found a game where you thought "this game is better because it is on Facebook."

Game mechanic wise? Very few. The only advantage I have seen up to now would be games like NanoStar Siege where you "PvP" in asynchronous mode against your friends, and the defense set up by a human opponent is more interesting and thus better than playing PvE.

What I'm not certain about is how the financials look. I have a sneaking suspicion that for some game companies the choice is to either publish their games on Facebook, or to not publish them at all, because they couldn't afford to have their own platform. Thus I play Facebook games on Facebook because they usually aren't anywhere else. Not "this game is better because it is on Facebook", but "this game exists only because it is on Facebook".

Which incidentally is why I bought a Playstation 3: There were games on that platform that weren't available for the PC. It isn't that these games were BETTER on a PS3, I simply wasn't given the choice.
Just for the it ok to add your new facebook account as a friend to play with you?

It sure is. But why do you think the option to donate has expired? I just changed the image of the donate button to "buy me a coffee", but otherwise it works as before.
Now I feel old Tobold. I have so far resisted creating a Facebook account in my own name for all the reasons you used to give. I hope you report how you get on so we can see how it works out.

I have noticed that when peoples privacy is compromised they often develop unspoken codes of behaviour to compensate. People living in cramped accommodation learn to ignore the sounds of intimacy from their neighbours. Even on Steam I have found myself deliberately not checking on real life friends because I don't want to know all about their gaming habits. Do similar behaviours happen on Facebook?
There is zero reason why a professional would put any data into an unknown like Facebook.

You don't know what your personal data is fully used for.

You don't know what your social network contacts are used for.

You don't know... and until there is a law that spells out what FB can do like the US did with the Credit data agencies in 1976... there is no point in trusting Marc Z. with our digital lives.
Facebook 1, Tobold 0

Having been forced to play under a real name even though you did not want to do so is a big loss to privacy.
There is zero reason why a professional would put any data into an unknown like Facebook.

Fortunately only the name and birthday are mandatory data you need to make a Facebook account. I simply left all the cases about address, education history, work, interest, and so on blank.

I even used one of the many cartoonification web services to create a "face" which while technically being mine is really, really hard to recognize and doesn't have enough data points for facial recognition software. Okay, I might have been paranoid about that.

Having been forced to play under a real name even though you did not want to do so is a big loss to privacy.

Agreed. Although continental Europeans are probably more used to having to show a government ID card with your real name on it at various places than Americans or the British are. On the other hand the US and UK have a lot more surveillance cameras installed.
SO it means if I want to add you as a friend, I have to give you money for it? Wish I was a superstar too... :)
I am sorry Tobold, but you have proven to have no principles. Facebook won, you lost. I am proud of myself for not making Facebook account yet, and based on what I read about this "platform", I never will.
"Fortunately me and my real friends are so ancient that we still use completely outdated methods of communicating, like talking face-to-face, or using last-century communication tools like the telephone"

lol! Nice to see I'm not the only one in that ancient order of face-to-face talkers.
What principles are you talking about? Did I ever say "I'm leaving Facebook and I'll never be back!"? No, Facebook kicked *me* out. And then it was just a matter to carefully check what limits to my privacy I would have to accept to be allowed to use that platform.

Speaking of which: A lot of "principled" people will presumably play SWTOR, or already play Battlefield 3. To do so they are forced to sign up to the Origin platform. And the terms of that platform make Facebook look like a bastion of privacy. EA will have the right to check what other files are on your hard drive, and check whether you have pirated copies of their other games on it. You will need to allow EA to install that Spyware on your computer to be allowed to play their new games. Welcome to Big Brother!
I'm pretty sure you're interpreting the "no playing with strangers" rule incorrectly. I think the rule is to prevent unrequested solicitation rather than requiring a personal, physical relation with the person.

Basically, it's to prevent spam rather than to control benign user behavior. It could be interpreted as you say, but I don't think that's why it was written originally. I'm not really sure how to explain it to Joe Average without resorting to something like legalese. It's written in normal English, something that's been asked for for quite some time. Ambiguity is the side effect.
My last post was unclear, let me explain myself: my idea is that all people on this world have some basic standards and principles. Most of those standards and principles are very diverse, and they help you decide whether given service or product is worth your while or money, or not. They are subjective. But I believe some of those standards and principles are so common that we share them, we could almost call them objective; among them is one which tells us to not trust one who robbed us before.
Facebook deemed your account info real enough to take your money, but not real enough to let you play with strangers. They essentially took money for whole cruise, but kicked you overboard halfway through. In EU, this is not legal, and I would sue FB if something like this happened to me. I would also never return to a service which stole my money willingly, I would have to be forced to do so, even tho I can't imagine what would force me.
I pity the fools who give up their privacy to play (somewhat dumb) games, but I pity those who gave up their private data for no reason even more.
When (and why) did privacy became acceptable price to pay for your games?
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