Bees and Pollen: What Games Can Learn From Social Insects

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(Image from Alan Avidan, Bees and Pollen, showing LIft delivered by Bees and Pollen compared to competitors)

 

[Editor's Note: This story was a recap of an interview InsideSocialGames.com had with Alan Avidan, Executive Director of Business Development at Bees and Pollen occurred on June 6,2013, during Day 1 of the Inside Social Apps Conference in San Francisco.]

Alan Avidan of Bees and Pollen is working on a new type of game play: predictive personalization. The idea stems from the fact that many players get frustrated when they get stuck. For beginners this might mean not clearing level one, where as for more experienced players, the breaking point might occur when they can no longer unlock certain features without using the virtual store.

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Atlas Raider review

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CrayonPixel rolled out their freshman title on FacebookAtlas Raider. Though the player introduction is sparse, the storyline is that your father has gone missing on a treasure hunt (perhaps for crystal skulls). Only a mysterious group called “The Foundation” knows his whereabouts. They hire you to find the crystal skulls and in the process you might find your father using your guide, an enchanted atlas.

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Taptiles Saga review

Taptiles Saga is a Facebook game from Arkadium. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is receiving regular promotion via sidebar ads in App Center.

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Taptiles Saga is essentially a three-dimensional take on mahjong solitaire, with cubic tiles stacked in a tower-like arrangement rather than a flat design with tiles stacked atop each other as in conventional mahjong solitaire. This means that the arrangement can be rotated and viewed from four different angles rather than the top-down view of regular mahjong solitaire. This would actually be a pretty original concept for a puzzle game were it not for the fact that this is now the seventh time Arkadium has used this exact game mechanic across all platforms, and the second time it has used it on Facebook. Still, in a world drowning in Bejeweled-inspired match-3 games and bubble shooters, any game that breaks from the “norm” is worthy of note, regardless of whether the developer has done it before.

Basic gameplay in Taptiles Saga requires players to match pairs of cubic tiles that bear the same symbol. Like in mahjong solitaire, tiles may only be removed if they are free to slide out of their arrangement and are not “blocked in” on two sides. As the player progresses through the game, additional types of tile start to show themselves, including dark magic blocks, which must be matched to clear chains off other blocks, and stone blocks which are unmovable except through use of a “pickaxe” powerup that costs soft currency to use.

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Bubble Loop review

Bubble Loop is a new Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play, and is currently being advertised in the sidebar module in Facebook’s App Center.

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It’s not difficult to work out what kind of game Bubble Loop is from its rather literal title — with a name like that it’s either going to be a bubble shooter or a Zuma/Puzz Loop clone, and in this case it’s the latter. This is somewhat better than contributing to the oversaturation of genres such as Bejeweled- and Diamond Dash-style “match-3″ puzzlers and traditional bubble shooters, but it’s still an unoriginal concept at its core. That said, Bubble Loop does provide a couple of interesting twists on the usual formula that make it mildly worthy of note — but ultimately it’s still an inferior knockoff of Zuma.

For those unfamiliar with the Zuma/Puzz Loop formula, it is similar to other match-3 genres in that players shoot out colored objects and must form groups of three or more of the same color. Here, though, rather than swapping gems around on a grid or shooting bubbles at a predefined arrangement, the colored orbs here roll slowly around a predefined track on their way to dropping down a hole. If the pearls drop down the hole before the level’s objective has been completed, the player fails. If the player runs out of time, the pearls immediately rush forward and drop down the hole, failing the level if they have not completed the objective by this point. The one interesting twist on the usual formula that Bubble Loop provides is the facility to end a level early — if the player completes all of the objectives for a level and does not wish to continue playing until time expires or the pearls fall down the hole, they can simply click an “End Game” button to prematurely end the level. This is obviously not the best way to get high scores, but for those primarily playing solo and attempting to “beat” the game, it is an efficient means of making rapid progress.

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Foxli Rush review

Foxli Rush is a new Facebook game from NGames. It’s available now in open beta on Facebook, and is currently advertising heavily in the social network’s sidebar module.

Foxli Rush

Foxli Rush is a simple combination of citybuilder and role-playing game, in which players take on the role of either the male FoxLi or his female counterpart Peach, who is pretty much the same sprite but pink instead of red. Players must help train FoxLi or Peach by sending them on expeditions, equipping them with items, building an army for them and constructing buildings in their home town that help to power them up and provide them with income.

The flow of the game in its early stages is very heavily directed by quests, most of which hold the player’s hand a little too enthusiastically, initially pointing out every single button they need to click on and even where to place new buildings. As the player progresses, the game does start to relax a little, but the quest system is still a little stifling, railroading the player down a single path for far too long rather than allowing them to discover things for themselves — or even to present them with a choice of things to do at any one time.

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Laboratz review

Laboratz is a Facebook game from French developer Adictiz. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and showed up as the No. 2 emerging Facebook game last week.

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Laboratz is a virtual card game based heavily on the “Triple Triad” minigame from Square Enix’s 1999 PlayStation role-playing game Final Fantasy VIII, though no acknowledgement is given to its obvious inspiration. The game sees players collecting a variety of cards that depict cartoonish mutated rats and then using these cards to battle against other players. As the player progresses through the game, they will be able to obtain new cards and upgrade their existing ones.

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Jelly Glutton review

Jelly Glutton is a Facebook game from Royal Cactus. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently showing up in the Trending section of the Games category on App Center.

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Jelly Glutton is a match-3 puzzle game that takes very strong cues from King’s immensely popular Candy Crush Saga. In other words, it takes a linear level-based structure with a variety of different objectives to complete, ranging from attaining a specific score in a set number of moves to clearing all of the “jelly” from a stage by making matches atop it. As the player progresses through the levels, they proceed through a number of different visual themes, all of which are food-based. This gives a degree of variety to the game’s aesthetic, if not the gameplay.

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Quiz Buddies review

Quiz Buddies is a new Facebook and mobile game from Playdemic. It’s available now on both platforms, and features cross-platform play between the Facebook and iOS versions. The iOS version does not require a Facebook login to play — the game also features a proprietary username system whereby friends can compete against one another without requiring a connection to the social network. This review is based on the Facebook version of the game.

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Quiz Buddies is a simple asynchronous multiplayer quiz game that pits two friends against each other in an attempt to score as many points as possible over the course of five questions. The questions are initially all general knowledge, multiple-choice challenges, but as the player progresses through the game, they can unlock various themed question packs. These question packs may also be acquired by asking friends or paying real money.

Gameplay in Quiz Buddies is designed to be quick and easy to understand. Players must simply answer questions as quickly as possible, at which point they gain points if the question was correct, plus a bonus depending on how quickly they answered. This bonus can potentially double their winnings for a single question, and this score may be further increased by using a once-per-game powerup that doubles the score attained for a single correct answer. Two additional powerups are also available: one swaps the current question for a new one, and the other removes two incorrect answers, giving stumped players a 50/50 chance of guessing the correct one.

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SlotoLotto Slot Machines review

SlotoLotto Slot Machines is a new Facebook game from Peak Games. It’s available now for anyone to play on the social network, and is currently featured on the front page of App Center.

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SlotoLotto Slot Machines is a very conventional slot machine simulation that allows players to compete on a selection of 18 different virtual machines, though only one is available to begin with. The game opens with a completely unnecessary tutorial that simply points out things like the “spin” button and doesn’t really explain how the machine itself works — a simple help screen pointing out interface elements would have been better and got players into the game quicker.

Once past the initial tutorial, which is mercifully short, gameplay takes the form of some very straightforward multi-line slot machines. Players gain experience points for each spin, with more experience gained for larger bets. Leveling up sometimes unlocks new machines, and these later machines tend to offer a combination of more possible win lines and larger allowed bets per line. Leveling up also rewards the player with virtual currency bonuses — though as usual, virtual currency may also be purchased and acquired in small quantities through a regular timed bonus mechanic that counts down in the corner of the screen.

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Dragon King Mahjong review

Dragon King Mahjong is a Facebook game from the Texas-based Simply Good Games. It’s been showing activity since January of this year, but has recently been appearing in the Trending section of Facebook’s App Center.

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Like most other “mahjong” games on Facebook, Dragon King Mahjong is not actually a digital version of the rather complex multiplayer mahjong game. Instead, it is an adaptation of mahjong solitaire, also known as Shanghai solitaire. In this single-player game, a set of mahjong tiles are laid out in an aesthetically-pleasing or symbolic pattern, and the player must remove as many of the tiles as possible by matching “open” tiles — those which are free to move horizontally in one or both directions — into pairs.

In regular mahjong solitaire, tiles may not be removed until they have been incorporated into a pair; in Dragon King Mahjong, however, clicking on a single open tile places it in a “select slot” ready for later matching. As the player gains experience levels through playing the game, they open up additional select slots, allowing them to complete a particular arrangement more easily by having several half-finished pairs on the go at once. This is a subtle change to the basic mahjong solitaire rules, but it actually has quite a large impact on the gameplay, as removing an open tile and placing it in the select slot will usually cause another tile to become open, which can subsequently be incorporated into the pair.

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