I figured for studying purposes, I’d play the Google+ puzzle games, and see how they were like. I’m a sucker for puzzles game, after all, so I figured I’d play the following games: Angry Birds, Bejewled, Diamond Dash, and Bubble Island. In each game, since I’ve already played a game similar to these games already, I focused on the methods they seem to either monetize or advertise.
For advertising methods, Angry Birds was easily my favorite. By starting a level, you’ll immediately notice a friend’s avatar on the upper-right-hand corner, indicating his/her best score, along with your own. It creates a friendly sense of competition with your friends, as everyone tries to beat everyone else’s score. If you complete a stage, and manage to topple your friends score, you’re given an opportunity to share that score, and/or brag to your lesser friends how you’ve managed to top their high score. The social aspect is beautifully integrated into the game, managing to be inviting and competitive, without being annoying.
Bejewled was comparatively interesting. The game lists a few power-ups right from the get-go, though only one is available. By playing a brief 10-seconds game, you can gain a few coins to purchase the listed power-ups, and try again. Reaching a certain score allows you to share that score to your friends. Also, if certain items seems too expensive, it seems you can pay-up real dollars to obtain more coins. I personally liked how the system doesn’t prevent you from obtaining power-ups; but you can get them faster if you pay. Since it doesn’t penalize non-payers, nobody gets left out.
Bubble Island, a Bubble-Bobble clone, plays pretty much as expected. It’s cluttered high scores UI, though, attempts way too hard to make you invite your friends. Practically every button (and there’s a lot, let me tell you) except one attempts to spam your stream or invite your friends directly. The last button leads you to the next stage. Perhaps the worst annoyance is the “retry level” system. While the game occasionally rewards you a free retry, the rest must be regained by inviting your friend. Essentially, if you fail a level without a retry, you can’t play the game anymore. This annoyance is somewhat disheartening, especially since the level progression was carefully calculated.
Diamond Dash, though, manages to make things worse. The Collapse clone requires that you pay one heart to progress through the game. Play enough games, then it’ll prevent you from playing further until you invite another friend. To play further without invites, you’ll have to refresh the page again, making the game go through the excruciating load screen. It’s high-scores panel manages to look exactly the same thing as Bubble Island as well. This was, by far, the least pleasant experience I had with these Google+ games.
Overall, I think Angry Birds shows the best way to implement Social competitions. The invites or share requests are non-intrusive, and context sensitive. Beat someone else? Brag about it! Can’t solve a puzzle? Ask your friends! Or, of course, just buy the black eagle (skip-level item). It encourages collaboration and creativity without being annoying about. This design is extremely encouraging, and I hope to see other games follow suit.