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Video: 5 things social games can teach core developers Exclusive
August 27, 2012 | By Staff

August 27, 2012 | By Staff
More: Console/PC, Design, Exclusive, Video

[Note: To access chapter selection, click the fullscreen button or check out the video on the GDC Vault website]

More often than not, modern social games rely on straightforward mechanics that target a casual, mass-market audience. This sort of simplicity doesn't always appeal to the hardcore-focused designer, but online game developer Dan Fiden (now of venture capital firm Signia Ventures) believes that social games may actually offer a lot of important lessons on core game development.

At last year's GDC Online, Fiden shared his thoughts on the impact social games have had on the industry, and urged traditional game developers to pay attention, as their influence isn't going away any time soon.

For instance, Fiden pointed out that social games have really changed the way players approach multiplayer sessions, as social players have become accustomed to playing with people they know in real life rather than a group of anonymous strangers. If developers are clever, they can leverage those pre-existing relationships to make their online games far more compelling.

"Facebook has allowed us to make games that assume real world relationships. We don't need to solve the problem of putting you in a situation and forcing you to make a friend... we have access to all of your friends we just need to put you in the same game together, and we can presuppose that relationship," Fiden said.

If a developer can expect that existing relationship between players, Fiden added that their games can become more complex, more social, and ultimately, more satisfying for the player.

For more of Fiden's thoughts on how social games can teach core game developers, be sure to check out his full GDC Online presentation in the above video, courtesy of the GDC Vault.

Simply click the Play button above to start the video.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to all of this free content, the GDC Vault also offers more than 300 additional lecture videos and hundreds of slide collections from GDC 2012 for GDC Vault subscribers. GDC 2012 All Access pass holders already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form.

Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins.

Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more free content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from upcoming 2012 events like GDC Europe, GDC Online, and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

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Joe McGinn
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Getting kind of tired of the condescending tone of "we show core developers how it's done" ... especially now that core developers like Valve are getting into free-to-play and getting 10x the monetization rates of the best "social" games. So who's showing who how to do it?

David Marcum
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It's a self defense mechanism that is battling an inferiority complex. Not that they are inferior, they've just been told they are. It's kind of "I know you are, but what am I?".

Kieren Bloomfield
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It's nice to have these presentations up and available to us. This one seems to confuse social and free-to-play. They aren't the same thing, though often they go hand in hand.

Core developers don't really have a problem with adding social features to their games. We've been adding multiplayer elements for years, both synchronous and asynchronous. The problem is that a great number of us are put off by being spammed about what our 'friends' are currently playing. This is something we need to learn from the 'social' games scene. How can we keep a player informed about their friends without the constant nagging that comes with 'social' games.

As for free-to-play, it's a business model that's going to work for some and not others. Personally I have never paid for anything in a free-to-play game and I don't think I'm likely to in the future. The model hides the value of the investment I'm putting in. I prefer knowing how much this game is going to cost me from the start rather than continually digging into my pocket the further I get into the game. The sad fact is that free-to-play pulls us further away from our ideology of creating games for the purpose of entertainment and drags us further into the business of making money and isn't ashamed of it. That's why we have such a hard time accepting it.

Dozer B
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Free-to-play is about as close as you can get to the old arcade model without having to dig out your laundry money. I have not seen many people claim that arcades were more about making money than entertainment. The industry evolved away from arcades just as it is now evolving into f2p.

Evolution is difficult even if it is necessary, that is what we sign up for in this industry.

David Marcum
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@Dozer B

"I have not seen many people claim that arcades were more about making money than entertainment. "

Then you weren't a kid or (more to the point) didn't have a parent when the arcades were the only game in town.

Paul Boyle
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Protip: Skip the first 25 minutes if you want to actually get to where he talks about anything you might care about. First half of the presentation is him name & statistic dropping, trying to convince you why anyone should listen to him, with no content at all (yes, I'm riffing on his content-cost theme). Unfortunately, even after that, the signal to noise ratio is quite low.