Facebook has been a social game platform for a few years now. The lack of quality of the first few games to be released on this platform could easily be explained by the youth of the concept. But no more. So here's a few useful guidelines if you still want to make your Facebook web-browser game suck in 2011.
(Article originally published on my blog Reactoweb)
1. Send e-mails, for everything, regardless of other mail settings
The key concept here is to be as intrusive as possible. After the user has allowed your game application to get his complete file on Facebook, given the right to post stories on his behalf and sending him e-mail, you definitely should abuse this right by sending a first welcome mail. After that, sending various mails based on game requests or even to help playing is totally legit, especially if there already is an in-game message system and a full-featured tutorial (more on that below).
Last but not least, make it difficult to opt-out from those e-mails. Either by requesting formal identification, or by allowing opting out of only one e-mail type at a time. That's right, you got the spirit.
2. Treat your players as five-year old childs
You can skip this part if you're really making social Facebook games for 5-year old, which aren't allowed to register on Facebook anyway. So your game must be full of pedophiles, which is a very convenient way of making your game suck.
If you're still with me on this one, I would advise you to give newcomers to your game absolutely no liberty to discover it by themselves. Make welcome screens numerous and intrusive, put up a long non-skippable tutorial, and make help screens appear frequently and randomly. If you can point to useless hints, it's even more better. Basically any way or depriving the player of the joy of discovery is acceptable.
3. Limit the player's actions
Now that we pushed the intrusive knob to 11, we can move on to the next topic : striping away the fun of the game or at least reducing it to a minimum for the players that did not click the "Remove App" yet. A good start should be to limit player's freedom inside the game. A simple action point meter does the trick very well. Give the player an arbitrary amount of action points they need to spend to perform any action in the game. Once the stock is depleted, make it very clear that they could buy more action points for real money.
Ok, maybe at the start of the game the action point amount is sufficient to progress steadily, but you can always make sure that this will come to an end by keeping the maximum amount fixed throughout the game. As it requires more and more actions to progress, the outcome of each game session (between the waiting period) will gradually shrink to a near-zero.
4. Force users to post useless crap on their Wall to progress in the game
Now we have our player hooked in the game, waiting eargerly for his next game session while reading in-game tips and/or e-mail you sent to him. But that's not enough. He should tell about your game to all his Facebook friends ! But I'm pretty sure that if you followed carefully the previous steps, he won't do it on his own. So we have to force it, right ? Introducing in-game required gizmos that you can't get without a friend clicking on a Facebook story on you Wall is just the perfect way to achieve it.
Blocking the player's progress by making him wait that people that don't care about the game click on a link that they sometimes never see, that's brilliant. But we can do better.
5. Make the game heavy, laggy and/or CPU-intensive
Enough of the game concepts, we can now speak about the technical topic. Fortunately in this field it's not difficult to achieve your primary goal which is, if I may remind you, to make your game suck. Obscure technologies available only on Windows (better, on Internet Explorer), crappy coding, over-detailed graphics, poor netcode leading to delays between actions and consequences, the more you can do is the better. Simply hire a low-wage foreign developer for your game and you probably won't have to worry about this point, and you'll even save money !
6. Crappy ads
Once you have your game up and running, you may want to attract new players. What better to design some Facebook ads ? Here's some good samples you can base your ideas on. Anything that is only remotely connected to your game, blatantly false or disappointing once in the game is suitable.
If your game still has some kind of success after following closely those guidelines, I really don't know what a good video game is anymore. Or do I ?