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What Makes Social Games Social?


February 17, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next
 

Case Study: Kingdoms of Camelot

Overview

In order to better explain how these heuristics can be used to understand social mechanics, I'm going to apply them in detail to a game I know well, Kabam's Kingdoms of Camelot.

Our goal when we started Kingdoms of Camelot was ambitious: to create an MMO that also worked as a Facebook game. We wanted to combine hardcore strategy gameplay with Facebook's built-in social/viral channels and a deeper level of free-to-play engagement and monetization.

By a combination of skill, luck, and perseverance, we hit our goals and created one of most successful games on Facebook. Still going strong after more than two years, Kingdoms of Camelot is now one of the top strategy franchises on any platform, with 490,000 monthly active users as of this writing, so we must have done some things right -- particularly on the social side.

Let's look at what went well and what we could have done better for the both game's MMO and Facebook social components.

KoC as a Facebook Game

The core of KoC works fairly well as a Facebook game, since it can be played as a single-player, quest-driven city builder. Key social mechanics that work well with Facebook include asynchronous combat, a friend ladder with invites/requests, resource gifting, and viral feeds for things like building help.

Combat (asynchronous, asymmetric): Combat in KoC is asynchronous: the attacker initiates a battle against any player (even one who is offline), his armies march to the target on a map, the battle ensues, and results are then sent as reports to the inboxes of both players when it is complete. This simple, timer-based system supports bite-sized Facebook play patterns while still allowing for engaging PvP.

KoC's combat is also asymmetrical in that a player can choose any target. The world is a real, open battleground and doesn't use any lobbies or matchmaking like some PvP systems. This "always on" feature is mitigated by the fact that beginning players are protected from attacks and any player can hide his troops in a "sanctuary" to prevent losing them when offline.


Battle report screen in KoC.

Invite/Request system (asynchronous, symmetric): Like all Facebook games, players send friend invites and build a friends ladder. You can invite friends to be Knights that lead your armies and you can send gifts of resources and troops to friends. Players can interact with friends anytime, even when offline (asynchronous), but friends must accept invites and requests (symmetrical).

Social feeds (asynchronous, asymmetric): KoC's social feeds are similar to other Facebook games but focus on material, in-game incentives (vs. "bragging"). For example, players can share a Merlin's Magical Boxes token for a chance to win free virtual goods or post viral "Build with Help" requests that Facebook friends can click through to reduce the time to construct buildings, conduct research, or train troops.

Takeaways

What we did well:

  • Evolved Facebook city building games by adding in asynchronous combat
  • Leveraged integration with core Facebook channels for modest virality/engagement bump

Where we could improve:

  • Facebook channels are not as deeply integrated as some games
  • No "friend visits" or vanity social status
  • Friend invites and gifting are not tied to game progression or in-game resources
  • Feeds are only utilized for some features, limiting virality

Article Start Previous Page 4 of 6 Next

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