Sharendipity is a New Platform for Building Social Games

Sharendipity is a new platform for building social games. While the company has been around for over a year, the Sharendipity platform (still in alpha) is one of the first robust tools we’ve seen that simplifies and modularizes the social game design experience. We sat down with Greg Tracy, one of the creators of Sharendipity, to learn more about it.

For those readers that don’t know about it, what is Sharendipity?
Sharendipity is a collaborative platform for constructing, distributing and discovering games and interactive media applications. Creativity is required, but programming expertise is not! Our web-based drag-and-drop environment enables rapid creation of new casual games and multimedia applications, which can be easily shared on your favorite social networks or web sites.

Sharendipity is uniquely extensible. Individuals can leverage or contribute to a growing library of modular content such as game characters, behaviors, special effects, artwork and sounds – which piece together in new and surprising ways. Anything made in Sharendipity can be shared back to the community either in whole or as smaller, reusable components. When those creations have value, Sharendipity provides a secure, integrated marketplace for buyers and sellers to transact.

Sharendipity is integrated into Facebook, but what about other social networks?
We’ve built our user architecture to support any number of distribution channels. So although we have currently only distributed via Facebook and our own web property, supporting other social networks is on our roadmap. So today users can collaborate and share content between Facebook and sharendipity.com, and in the future we’ll support users from other social networks.
By the sounds of what has been stated about Sharendipity, it is perfect for would-be game designers without any programming skills. I have seen a number of the sample applications that have been made with Sharendipity. They very well display the capabilities of the software, but are fairly simple. How much complexity is possible? For example, how much scripting do you need to know in order to design a game like Bejeweled?
We’ve had a user build a Bejeweled-like game. And while it’s true that the logic associated with a match three game is more complicated than, say a shooter game, the real power of Sharendipity is that the logic can be bottled up and re-used in any number of games that require similar logic. This provides the potential for tremendous creative scale when the “hard” parts are abstracted away.

Is it still possible to get in “under the hood” and make changes using code?

Yes, our more technical users can either use our drag-and-drop tools to piece together logic and actions or they can take advantage of a javascript interface and interact with objects by coding in the traditional definition of the term.

So it’s a lot like design programs like Dreamweaver: easy to learn, difficult to master?

That’s a good analogy. But imagine if Dreamweaver would let you take your five favorite elements from five different sites and help you plug them together on your page. Then imagine that it let you extend the functionality and share the derivative back out to the community. Sharendipity is uniquely extensible and provides a terrific opportunity to accelerate the execution of new and creative software ideas.

How forgiving is the Sharendipity design experience? Even if it is a GUI interface, how much does syntax, event ordering, and so on come in to play?

Issues involving syntax are eliminated. However, if a user is trying to create brand new logic, there will still be a need to understand some basic programming concepts. Hopefully that user will be able to find the logic in the community and re-use it just like any other action in the system.

We’re also creating tools that allow component authors to define integration points. Sort of like a user defined wizard for every modular element in the community. Rather than having to worry about the “how” (such as order) of hooking things together, you’ll simply be instructed to provide the “what”. For instance, if you were to integrate a scoreboard into your game, the scoreboard author will provide an integration point that allows you to specify where the score value is being stored or may provide the user with an action to use when they wish to update the score. The author of the component can determine these integration points themselves.

How do art integration and animations work?

While some basic animations can be created programatically or through the use of animated gifs, we don’t provide good tools for creating animations on par with something like Studio 8 (which is designed to build animations).

Every core object in the system has an image property associated with it. That means you can simply drag and drop any image onto an object. Actions can also be used to dynamically change an object’s image as well, or to step through frames in an animated GIF.

Since there are tools to help the programmatically challenged, do any exist for the artistically impaired?

Artwork can be shared just like a game character, behavior or sound. We hope to cultivate communities within Sharendipity that contribute their artistic skills just like a programmer might do for complex algorithms. We also plan to partner with third-party services to provide access to their libraries of artwork from within Sharendipity.

Another great “oh, cool!” moment occurred when we created a painting application within Sharendipity called Painterdipity. It is a very primitive paint program built entirely from the platform’s core features. An interesting concept is that in the future the community might evolve this application into a more sophisticated paint program. Perhaps with special tools for the “artistically impaired”!

A designer tool for mainstream games called “Unreal Kismet” provides a visual GUI for designers that allows them to use Unreal Script without having to write lines and lines of code for level events. Essentially, they write small events, and connect them together almost like Microsoft Visio. How does this compare to Sharendipity?

We’re different in a few ways. Most importantly, the end goal of Kismet is still to produce code. They’re just trying to make it easier to visualize the logic. We want to provide total abstraction, and completely eliminate the need for producing code. In fact, when a user is creating a behavior for their evil enemy character, we never produce any code. That’s why users can instantly see, test, and tweak their logic in a live environment. There is no compilation step using Sharendipity!

For all intensive purposes, Sharendipity is one of the first “game engines” I’ve seen for social games on Facebook. Being a first of its kind, do you see it as becoming the Unreal Engine of its genre?

We love when others see the picture too! There is a tremendous opportunity to democratize the tools of software creation. Programming is becoming the new form of literacy, and if it can be simplified, everyone can begin to interact in new ways and piece together components to meet their specific needs.

What future changes are coming?

In terms of core programmable features within the platform, we want our users to guide us. Although we’ve solved a lot of very technical problems under the hood, from a user’s perspective, all of the innovation will come from the community as they extend and build on top of the platform. We’ve already seen some really innovative things done with the core tools, and will often see something and ask ourselves, “How did they do that?” For instance, one user figured out a way to manipulate the display properties of Sharendipity to make it appear as though the entire application is shaking. Now that this has been shared, it looks and behaves just like it is a core action in the system!

There are still lots of big projects on the road map, however. Most importantly is the e-commerce system we are putting in place to support a marketplace for the components that have real value. We want to provide an opportunity for our users to monetize the work they’ve done just like you see happening in Second Life and IMVU.

Sounds great! So I know the tools are still in alpha. When can I expect to be able to get my hands on them?

We are actively recruiting new creators. It is early so we ask for lots and lots of feedback while we work through the early bugs. Your readers can use the invitation code ‘social games’ to join the alpha group. Grab them while they last!

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Leave a Reply

4 Responses to “Sharendipity is a New Platform for Building Social Games”

  1. Jussi Laakkonen says:

    Just registered at Sharendipity, but it seems that the invitation code doesn’t work. Typing in “social games” in the invite code field just results in the error message “Code not recognized”

  2. Greg says:

    @jussi the invite code should not have any spaces in it. it should be “socialgames”

    thanks!

  3. Christopher Mack says:

    Hi everyone, just a quick typo correction. My mistake, but the alpha invitation code is NOT ‘social games’ but is “socialgames” – one word.

  4. Inside Facebook » This Week in Social Games for August 24, 2008 says:

    [...] Sharendipity is a New Platform for Building Social Games [...]

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