March 31, 2010

How to make games on Twitter

Both gaming and Twitter are massive growth areas in the media sphere, so the idea of games within Twitter is media gold-dust. To get an insight into what’s being done and what’s possible, I wrote up some notes from a SXSW panel talk on the subject . . .

The different types of Twitter game
There are 3 different potential types of Twitter game, each based around using different facets (both technical and conceptual) of the Twitter platform:

  • Broadcast: using Twitter as a broadcast mechanism – i.e. not necessarily using any functionality per-se, but pinging data across it
  • Platform: using Twitter’s functionality as the core to the gaming experience
  • Twitterverse: using Twitter’s data / API’s to build games around

Examples of different types of games

  • Broadcast: Gowalla and foursquare are both great examples of broadcast games, and both incidentally are geo-based games, using Twitter as a way of broadcasting a person’s status.
  • Platform: there are a couple of different types of Twitter platform game:
  • mini-game (casual) Twivial is a simple quiz based game, where you follow the Twivial bot and at select times during the day you have to answer questions. There’s also a similar quiz based game called Twitbrain. Beat My Tweet is Twitter meets Countdown, as it’s a word scramble game where you have to reply against the clock.
  • MMO (massively multiple online game) Spy master and 140 Mafia (are good examples of MMO style Twitter games. An interesting feature of both of these is that they provide incentives to “tweet out” during the game – to promote virality. Other examples include King of Pop and 140 blood family – a bizarrely popular game based around vampirism which was previously banned from Facebook.
  • Twitterverse: these generally much richer types of Twitter game, making the most of Twitter’s information streams for its API. Examples include:
  • Twirdie: a word-linked search based game using golf as its gaming analogy, in which you enter a word in to the search bar to control the type of (golf) shot you want to play. The more popular the word, the further your shot will go. I love this game!
  • Backchatter: a game mainly designed for conferences in which you place bets on which words you think are going to be most frequently tweeted about. You pick 3 words before the conference talk starts (based around a #tag), and then you get points according to a balance of frequency and popularity i.e. the more people bet on a word, the less points you get. So for example, if you’re in a games conference – and you pick the word “game” then although it might be tweeted frequently, you won’t necessarily get more points as more people may have picked it (if that makes sense!)

Notes on tools for making Twitter games
When looking at building a Twitter game, there are a few core things to take into consideration which will effect functionality:

Search API: by term / @name / #tag
Rest API: by Direct Messages / Friends and followers

Social network graphs
Characteristics you can look at and use are social graphs characteristics including:

  • nodes
  • edges
  • centrality
  • betweenness

Request whitelisting
To ensure you can make as many calls to the Twitter API as possible, you need to request “whitelisting” from Twitter which ups access to the API to 20,000 an hour – rather than the standard 150 calls.

So there you go – some practical and example based ideas of how to make games on Twitter!