And then there’s Facebook…

The new title page on iOS. Gorgeous!

The new title page on iOS. Gorgeous!

Doctor Who: Legacy released their Facebook version on Friday. For those of you who don’t have a tablet or smartphone to get the iOS or Android version, you now have the ability to match gems and collect all of your favorite characters and Doctors! Remember, it’s a free game, so why not check it out?

Though I already am playing it on iOS (and am probably a week away from maxxing out all of the characters yet again – rank 5 has been hella fun; I need to write a guide on it), I installed the Facebook version and tried it out, and I have to say that I’m not too impressed with it. Now, if you don’t have the ability to play it on iOS or Android, then Facebook is the only way to go and I definitely recommend playing it there, because this game is worth a look for any fan. However, if you can play it on a different platform, don’t bother with the Facebook version.

Just as a note, you should know that I’ve been working in game development for Facebook games for a number of years now, and have also done some development on iOS, so I’m looking at this from the point of view of a person who not only plays the games on these platforms, but also has to consider how to make games on these platforms fun and enticing. It’s a slightly different point of view from that of a person who just wants to play games.

Without getting into the technical details, the problem with DW:L on Facebook is that it’s designed to be a tablet game, and it relies heavily on being able to accurately move pieces around by touching the screen directly with your finger and dragging them where you want them to go. If you’re playing on Facebook, you’re most likely using a mouse, and you just don’t have the speed and accuracy this game requires. This game is not like Bejeweled, in which you’re moving one piece to the next slot and letting go; you’re moving one piece all over the board within a strict time limit, and if you skirt a corner, you move pieces you don’t want to move. After a few plays, I was getting better on the accuracy, but it was very obvious that I would never achieve the speed that I have on the tablet, and therefore I won’t be able to play at the level I play on the tablet. This is one of the hazards of porting a game to another platform: things that are designed to work well on one may not work well on another, given the type of display, input devices, and other things, and DW:L just doesn’t work as well with a mouse.

The game itself also looks very much like it’s a tablet game being shown in a web browser. There’s a good reason for that: it is a tablet game being shown in a web browser. It’s built in a game engine called Unity, which allows the developer to create one game and present it on different platforms easily. (If, for example, they had used an iOS-specific engine to build game for iOS tablets, when they wanted to release the game on Android or Facebook, they’d have to create the game from scratch again on a new engine for each platform. This is what Unity prevents.) It’s a great concept and makes development easier, but the presentation of the game doesn’t look very polished in a web browser – it doesn’t look like it was made to be played on a computer. It also seemed to me that the graphics were a bit fuzzy, but I could be wrong.

Another thing that surprised me was that the game was exactly the same, without any features to take advantage of Facebook as a platform. If you’re familiar with Facebook gaming at all, you know how it works: a person playing a game usually spams his friends with posts from that game. Now, you’re probably thinking, “That’s great! DW:L won’t spam my friends!” but on the other hand, how do you tell your friends to check out this awesome game? I had to make a status update on my wall to do so, and if I wanted to post an image to demonstrate just how great the game looked, I’d have to take a screenshot and process it on my own. On the one hand, it’s nice that the game isn’t spamming my wall, but on the other hand, there’s no way for me to advertise it to my friends for them or to invite my friends to join me in plaing it.

And that’s really the crux of it: Facebook is a social gaming platform. The whole point of its gaming is that you do it with friends. DW:L ignores all that: there’s no way to post your favorite teams, or see what characters your friends have collected, or challenge someone to beat your score. All of its community is built outside of the game. It’s a decidedly single-player on a social platform, with less ease of play than its original form on the tablets. The tablets can have social gaming, but it’s the thing that Facebook makes easy, and DW:L hasn’t taken advantage of it.

So, final verdict? DW:L is still a great game, but Facebook isn’t the platform for it. If you don’t have a tablet or a smartphone, I still recommend checking it out on Facebook, because it’s brilliantly fun and addictive, but if you do have one, play it there instead.