I gather from this weblog post that Amy Jo Kim made a presentation at ETech and used fastr to demonstrate that games should have points. That reminded me to make a page of daily high scores for fastr (English only currently). It's only counting the top five scores for each round (because that's all I'm saving) and adding them up by player name (which are not necessarily unique). If you're into points, enjoy. If you're not, ignore.

In other game news, I've spent too long playing matchr. It looks easier than it is, which makes it addictive (despite the lack of points).

 

A couple weeks back, Jessica and I had some people over, and half the people played poker, while the other half played Scrabble. Ian and I were talking about this later and came up with the idea of mixing the two games. Jessica and I just tried out this idea, and found it quite fun, possibly even more fun than both poker and Scrabble. So if you like both games, you may want to try combining them.

A quick web search found that there's already a similar game for mobile phones called WordKing Poker. That games has various rules, but it's all human vs. computer, which I don't think would be very fun. Here's the game we played:

It's basically like Texas Hold'em, replacing playing cards with Scrabble tiles, best word wins. After ante, each player draws two tiles. Then there's a round of betting. Then three tiles are laid on the table, face up. Then betting, then another tile on the table, then betting, then another tile, and a final round of betting.

Words can be from one to seven letters long, and must include at least one letter from the player's hand. Points from each letter are added to bonuses for long words. We ended up with two points for a six-letter word, and eight for a seven-letter word.

We only played for about a half hour, so I suspect the rules could use some more tweaking, but it was a lot of fun. And I suspect it would be even more fun with more players. I might actually make a web version if I ever get done fixing bugs with fastr.

 

A few people have suggested that I should make a memory-style game based on flickr images. As I have told these people, this game was already made a long time ago. It's called Flick-a-Pair. As chance would have it, the person who made this game, Shelley Powers, was also the first to play fastr (from outside my house).

I don't have any plans to make another version of Flick-a-Pair, nor any other flickr-based game. It's fun to be famous on the internet for a day or two, but it just doesn't pay well enough to be worth all the time involved. I'm willing to waste my time on fastr, because I'd just be otherwise wasting my time playing some other game (most likely at Kurnik). But fastr is just not the business opportunity many have mistaken it for. It's just a fun little game.

 

I've been telling everyone who asked about the timing on fastr that each photo set lasted 35 seconds, and there was no way to get more than 90 points in a round because only 9 (parts of) 35 second sets can fit in one 5 minute round. But I did more testing tonight, and it turned out photo sets weren't 35 seconds at all. In fact, there was no consistent length to a photo set, which meant those who refreshed their browsers more often could get more photo sets, and higher scores.

I've fixed this now, so photo sets are actually 35 seconds, and no matter how often you refresh within that 35 seconds, you'll still get the same photo set. And because you can only submit a score for each photo set once, I believe the maximum score is now 90 points. Of course, I believed that before, and it turned out I was wrong, so let me know if you see a score higher than 90.

The problem was that I was using two different clocks, one of which wasn't keeping consistent time. Now I'm only keeping time on one clock, so the timing is more stable now. In addition to varying scores, this should also solve the issue of photo sets randomly repeating.

I'll try to update the Spanish and French versions tomorrow. If you notice any problems with fastr, please let me know.

 

At one point today there were 250 people playing fastr at the same time. It's currently down to about 120. I'm not sure exactly where the avalanche of traffic began (do that many people really read MeFi projects?), but it definitely picked up the pace significantly when fastr landed on del.icio.us/popular, where it currently sits both third and twenty-eigth (twice because I made the mistake I previously cautioned against by pointing to both randomchaos.com and www.randomchaos.com in different places).

I've had a few notes about bugs, most of which I've managed to fix today. One problem that isn't entirely solved yet is that there are few enough tags being used that some people have memorized them and are winning simply because they've been playing the longest. I just started using my new Flickr API key, which allows the game to show a random ten out of a hundred photos instead of the ten out of twenty it was showing before. That will hopefully level the playing field a bit, but I really need to add more tags.

Some people have suggested the tags should be random, but that's how it was when I first made the game (when just Jessica and I were playing), and it really didn't work. The problem is that people use tags that you could never guess from the pictures, like 500v50f or interesting or sarah. So I have to restrict it to certain tags to make it any fun at all. I just need to add more tags to make it more fun.

Other problems: people clearly want to be able to include links with their names, which was possible for most of today, until someone pointed out that it was also possible to insert malicious JavaScript in the name field (by doing so). So now it strips all tags. Eventually I hope to allow only link tags, but I need to remove most attributes (e.g. onload) to filter out problems.

People have been testing the limits of the name field all day, and I need to force the names to be a bit smaller to conserve space, but that's not a high priority. I added highlighting for your own name, so that should make it quicker to see where you fall in the list. But the list is too long, and I'm still not sure what to do about this.

Finally, the Google ads are awful. I don't want to just remove them because that would drop my pay for this project from the current $0.30 or so per hour to nothing, but Google continues to send various general technology ads rather than game ads. I was hoping maybe other people were seeing better ads until I saw a player named "spilt testing is obsolete," which made me laugh.

Later I saw a player named "split testing is NOT obsolete." I've toyed with the idea of adding chat to the game, but I'm pretty sure I won't, for a variety of reasons. It would be hard to chat and play at the same time. Also, there are enough people already using their player names as flame bait that I don't really want to know what chat would look like. And I also kind of like how the limitations of a username forces people to be more creative in expressing themselves.

I expect the numbers will die down eventually, but I hope today's surge of traffic will result in a steady stream of users over time. Despite all the problems I've discovered today, fastr is definitely more fun when more people are playing.

 

After making some improvements and posting to MeFi projects, there were just 72 people playing fastr at the same time. Surprisingly enough, it's still working. The first website I saw pointing to it was Tecnicalia, a Spanish tech blog. That made me think maybe it was worthwhile making a Spanish version. I thought it would be a fun way to practice a second language, and also let Spanish speakers play in their first language. But I haven't seen anyone playing it yet.

 

I made a game today.

Fastr is a game that uses flickr images. It loads ten images that all share a common tag, one by one, and you guess what the tag is. When you guess right, the tag will turn blue. Then you can watch the pictures until the next set begins. The faster you guess, the more points you get.

It's basically win, lose, or draw without the drawing, and more interesting pictures. I still have a few kinks to work out, but I think it's ready for some testing beyond Jessica and I. If you play it and notice any problems or room for improvement, please leave a comment here.