Spontaneous Ludification is Full of Awesome and Win

November 25, 2008

I know I promised to describe the other Muses, but I never said I would do it in order. The latest muse has really been doing some interesting things, so let’s jump ahead and talk about it. The Spontaneous Ludification initiative in Project Muse started when I stumbled across a blog by Emanuele Feronato where he described his experiment in making money with free games. It sounded like great fun, so

Ontopolis started our own experiment.

Observations:

1. Hey, flash games are much cooler than they used to be! It’s alot like the early PC days and the Commodore 64s and Tandy’s and TIs. There are flash game studios, but individual developers can still build something cool, and get it to eager gamers who will immediately tell me what’s wrong with it.

2. An entire ecosystem of game portals, ad and sponsorship brokers and social networks gives a new game developer a free and easy way to reach the gamers and hear their opinions (which make the next game better). It’s a complete market and a fun place to play the game developer meta-game.

3. Games are just really cool.

Hypothesis:

A game with good game play and simple, free content can make enough money to pay for the effort of creating and marketing it as well as a little extra money for diet Dr. Pepper and cheeses, and several of these games over a few months might pay for a nice vacation.

Protocol:

Create a simple flash game using only free tools and libraries on Linux.

Tie it into an advertising network and upload it to portals.

Measure the results.

Experiment Notes:

November 17 – Coming up with a good idea was harder than expected, but I’ve decided to make a Pachinko type game with balls that bounce off pins and fall into bins which either add or take away a ball or provide a score.

November 23 – It took longer than I expected too, but I did have quite a bit of travel and work in between including a week long vacation in London.  I estimate it took about twenty hours, but most of that was learning Flash AS3 and researching MochiAds and getting my environment setup. I also found some great sound assets and a free physics engine. Unfortunately the physics engine looks like it’s no longer maintained, but it’s very nice and the code is easy so I can use it for one game. I also learned that looping sound support is very tricky in AS3. Pick an sample where you don’t mind a pause between loops. There is no reasonable way to eliminate the pause under without Creative Studio or a bithack only available under Windows.

November 24 – Added MochiAds and MochiBot and uploaded the SWF file for approval. Rejected at first due to a bug in the way I had inserted the ads (use their preloader example, you’ll need it). Resubmitted before I went to work. Email around noon says they accepted the game. Another around 4:00pm says they will also distribute it! Just before dinner uploaded the game to Newgrounds, Kongregate. There were 337 plays before I finished dinner!

November 25 – According to MochiBot there have been 3,546 plays since last night, 450 of those saw AD impressions (kongregate doesn’t show MochiAds and alot of them were there). The game has earned $0.18 in ad revenue. The game has earned a Kongregate “Good Game Bonus” and has a 2.70 rating with 121 votes. On Newgrounds, the game has been favorited 8 times, has 21 reviews and a score of 3.46 out of five! Not bad for a first try. I’ll let it run another day just on those portals and then upload it to others. I’ve noticed that the credits aren’t showing up (they get overwhelmed by game messages). I’ll have to fix that and upload an update. MochiAds makes that very simple with their built-in version control.

Some reviews:

“Stragely Addicting, Proof that no amount of bump mapping or 3d graphics will ever beat a solid concept.” – Super Perro

“Great Fun, Smooth game play, good sound. I would like to see different levels with higher point values.” – ripulus

“Amazingly fun game, I just hated that I couldn’t restart without watching the stupid highscore board pop up! The ad in the beginning is find, but PLEASE, take the scoreboard out.” – Zayro

And from Garwism who had high score for awhile last night:

“OMFG ADDICTION!!!
I got 19,000 points :D”

My own best score was only 1700…

Average Review: 7.9/10

Zayro wasn’t the only one that hated the scoreboard, and several people said the game was too easy because there were spots where the balls could fall straight through. (This makes me wonder if the randomization of the ball starting position wasn’t working for everyone.) And more people asked for levels and changing pin layouts. All in all great feedback and great ideas for the next game.

Results:

The experiment is still in progress but things look very positive.

Reactions — Whoohooo I’m a game developer! I made money on the interwebs. I’m so gonna celebrate when I earn my first $1.

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