IGX SDK now provides On Device Debug Console Logging

Deploying HTML5 games that utilise the IGX SDK to mobile feature will now give you access to a debug logging console that you can log text strings to and display on-device. This is great for debugging awkward issues across different devices. The Debugging service is automatically created for you when you create the Unity vendor via default service creation:

if (FBInstant.ext !== undefined) // Make sure that IGX is available
{
    FBInstant.createDefaultServices("unity");
}

You can now access the debugging services via FBInstant.ext.debug. The following functions are available:

  • FBInstant.ext.debug.clear() – Clears the debug log
  • FBInstant.ext.debug.log(string) – Sends a string to the debug log
  • FBInstant.ext.debug.show(show) – Shows / hides the debug log overlay, show is a boolean that specifies the visible state

IGX – Cross portal and cross platform SDK for web game and instant game developers

IGX stands for Instant Games Extension, it is basically a replacement object for the Facebook Instant Games FBInstant object which enables developers to:

  • Deploy games created that use the Facebook Instant Games API to the web and mobile with little to no code changes
  • Deploy HTML5 web games to mobile
  • Provide a common API across web portals
  • Build instant game features into existing games before deploying to the Instant Games platform, saving valuable time and money
  • Bolster the existing Instant Games platform with new features via FBInstant.ext, such as real time user to user communication

IGX SDK for mobile is now available

Web to mobile

Today I pushed the latest version of the IGX SDK to Github which provides support for deploying IGX SDK compatible games, including Facebook Instant Games and general web games to Android and iOS.

Games are hosted in a web view within Unity 3D. A new library has been provided which plugs into the IGX SDK and communicates between the web view and Unity which provides access to native features such as in-app purchasing and adverts.

Supported features include:

  • Adverts via Unity Ads (Admob is work in progress)
  • In-app purchasing
  • Social login via Game Centre and Google Play Games
  • Leaerboards via Game Centre and Google Play Games
  • Native sharing
  • Analytics via Unity
  • Open external URL’s
  • File uploads
  • Localisation support

The IGX SDK wiki has been updated providing instructions on how to set up a Unity project to host your game and content.

Below is an example of a deployed Facebook Instant Game which has been deployed to Android and iOS stores:

Who is the IGX SDK for?

The IGX SDK is for web and and Facebook Instant Game developers that would like an easy route to take their products from web to mobile platforms such as Android and iOS. IGX provides an alternative solution to the likes of Cordova, PhoneGap and CocoonJS.

Facebook Instant Games hits Personality Quizzes with the Ban Hammer

As of yesterday apps defined as personality quizzes on Facebook Instant Games have been limited to prevent their virality, which is basically the death knell for these self gratification apps. If you have written one of these apps (like me) then how will the changes affect your app? You will no longer have access to the users profile photo, their connected friends or the ability to switch to any of your other apps. As these apps rely heavily on the users profile picture being heavily featured to personalise the content it makes these apps even more useless than they were previously.

Its sad news, but developers have been enraged by these personality quiz apps appearing on Instant Games and polluting the very idea behind Instant Games. That said, there should be a place for personality quiz apps because there is huge demand for them, so please Facebook, create an Instant Apps :) .

One major positive that has come out of this is that the many developers filling their personality quiz apps with unlicensed imagery will finally stop profiting off the back of other peoples work! For that reason alone it also time for celebration.

Whilst the title says “ban hammer”, I was being being a little creative. These apps are not currently banned, however Facebook are updating their policies to get rid of them, so they will be banned in due course.

Is Facebook Instant Games Dying or Evolving?

A few weeks ago something strange happened over at Facebook Instant Games HQ. For me it was a delight and for other game developers it was a nightmare. Some developers received a big boost in new users whilst others saw a large reduction in new users. Things returned to normal after a few days but then I noticed that new users being pushed to all 14 of my Facebook Instant Games were gradually falling off, fast forward to a few days ago and new users to all of my games are being completely shut down. As of today I have now lost around 90% of my new users. This is somewhat alarming when you consider the effort and money that one has invested into Facebook Instant Games.

So I started doing a little digging as the Facebook Instant Games team are rarely forthcoming with information regarding big internal changes to game distribution. My first stop is of course this great resource. Instantintel provides current and historical stats on all Facebook Instant Games so we can see what is happening to the market. By looking at each individual game we can get a good idea of whats going on. Lets take a look at some of the top games:

Ludo Club – Lost around 2 million players since March
Helix Ball – Lost around 1 million players since March
Words with Friends – Lost around 1 million players since March

Even the great Everwing has lost over half of its user base since end of 2018, although I blame this on Everwing losing its golden boy status due to the arrival of quiz apps with user numbers that shot out of orbit.

Most other top chart games are also losing users hand over fist. Some new games lower down the charts are still managing to pull in new users probably due to boosting and featuring. One game does seem to be holding its users and defying the trend however and that is Quiz Planet. WHy? I have no idea, maybe they spend heavily on ads? Or maybe the game is just perfect for the audience?

Note that I have not included the quiz apps as these are mostly driven users from an external source and not Facebook Instant Games itself.

Lets examine what has changed at Facebook Instant Games to see if we can figure out whats going on.

  • Messenger bots became user opt in around the start of 2019. A lot of games starting seeing a sharp fall at this point
  • The appearance of quiz apps Q4 of 2018. This does not seem to be a significant factor

So it looks like NOT spamming users using bots to remind them to come back and play pretty much makes Facebook Instant Games a dead platform for traditional games. Why? Well, Facebook isn’t hip, its not the “in” thing, its for us oldies as my kids put it, so until our kids generation reach the ages 30+ they won’t be playing Facebook Instant Games. It also appears that many users that do use Facebook have either the attention span of a gnat or have more important grown up things to do :) .

Can any of this be fixed? Well we can start by evolving game play and moving away from traditional games, aiming more at a mature somewhat narcissistic audience. What sort of games? I’m still working on that one but if I strike gold I will be sure to let you know how :) .

The final question, why are pond life games such as mine being squeezed out? My guess is that the pie of users has shrank and is still shrinking, so Facebook Instant Games are scraping the bottom for food to push to its partners games. This would also explain why the boost that all games receive has been shrank down to a few thousand users on launch.

What is the future of Facebook Instant Games with its environment of bad discovery and low retention? I think if the platform and the games it serves do not evolve then it will become a platform of quiz apps, which it pretty much already is right now.

Facebook Instant Game Tutorials Live

Spent some spare time over the last few weeks noting down information that I do not want to forget regarding Facebook Instant Games development. I’ve been away from it for a bit and plan to spend more time away from it so want a nice easy reference for when I return.

I decided to turn my notes into a bunch of Facebook Instant Game tutorials to help other budding game developers out there.

You can read the tutorials here.

The individual links to each are:

I will cover more topics when I return.

Facebook Instant Games gets its first hard core porn app!

Its well known in the Facebook Instant Game developer community that Facebook Instant Games is a bit of a wild west. In the beginning god created…, just kidding :D . In the beginning some developers were taking well known web games and just dumping them onto IG to earn a quick buck, eventually the copyright holders arrived to the platform and got many of them taken down.

After this phase of stupidity, along came blatant ripping off of well known IP such as Pokemon, Mario, PUBG, Minecraft etc.., this is still prevalent today. You would think this would be limited to just small developers that don’t have much to lose if sued, but unfortunately it is not. The top app on Facebook Instant Games is called OMG, with around 130 million users and it uses well known questionable imagery from many movies, stars and musicians. Facebook however adopt the position that it is ok to use copyrighted materials and will not remove games and apps that use them unless the copyright holders complain.

Today Facebook Instant Games took a new turn with the arrival of Huber, which is basically a hard core porn version of OMG. I’m not against porn, but I am against it ending up in the hands of young kids. The app should really be restricted to 18+ but a fellow developer confirmed that it is searchable from their child’s phone.

The big question is, how did a hard core porn app make it through the Facebook Instant Games review process without an 18 restriction slapped on it? Well, very little is known about the review process, we have no idea if the process is done by AI or humans so who knows. The issue with the Facebook Instant Games review process is you submit an app or game with relatively harmless material but can change the material after the review process. Many of these OMG style apps host the visual content on their server with the Facebook or Messenger app basically acting as a web browser. This enables the developer to change the content on their server at any point in time with no review process. So basically its very easy to circumvent the review process.

Hopefully Facebook pull up their socks and slap an 18+ on this app and any others like it so kiddies can’t get a hold of it.

How can this issue be resolved? It can be resolved very easily by blocking access to external imagery so that all imagery has to be included with the zip file when the app is submitted to Facebook Instant Games. In addition, app updates will likely have to be reviewed for new developers. Existing developers that have developed a level of trust should be able to bypass the update review process.

TODAY lands on Facebook Instant Games and Google Play

TODAY Facebook Instant Game

TODAY Facebook Instant Game

Finally released my latest Facebook Instant Games offering to IG and Google Play.

What is TODAY? Have you heard of Nametests or OMG? Well its an app very similar to those with the exception that it does actually contain game elements. It was developed not in HTML / CSS but as an actual game. Why when surely HTML5 / CSS would have been much easier? Well a) I don’t like too easy and b) When you play TODAY you will discover that is very different to the likes of Nametests and OMG. Everything animates, questions open up in a dialog instead of shunting you back to the top of the page and shuffling up all the questions (that I hate, it confuses the hell out of me). But best of all it has actual games, games that encourage user interaction on their Facebook timelines as well as arcade mini-games.

How is it performing on Facebook Instant Games? Well, its tanked like every other game that isn’t being pushed by something. The likes of Nametests and OMG have upwards of 150 million monthly active users (MAU), why not TODAY? My theory is that apps like OMG need to be pushed by something, maybe a well known web site or Facebook page or some other social mechanism. Its easy to spot with Nametests because its been around for a long time, has millions of Facebook followers and a well established click bait web site. However OMG user acquisition is still a mystery to me. If anyone finds out how they are doing it then please let me know :) .

Anyway, I had a Google Play version up and running immediately thanks to the IGX SDK which takes my game from Facebook Instant Games and gets it running on web and mobile. An absolute god send, because deploying to mobile these days just isn’t really worth the effort of filling in the app store listing :D . Seriously that is how bad it now is if you don’t have any marketing spend. Don’t believe me? Deploy an app to Google Play or the Apple AppStore and listen to the crickets :D .

You can play the games here:

TODAY on Facebook Instant Games
TODAY on Google Play

I may release an iOS version, who knows.

Funny story actually about the Google Play version and their review team. The app was suspended almost immediately after I published it because it has a picture of two bodybuilding twin guys with their shirts off. Google Play stated that it was pornographic :D :D :D :D . I literally fell off my seat with laughter. Luckily I managed to get it re-instated. This is not my first run in with the Google Play review team and probably won’t be my last.

TODAY like all of my Facebook Instant Games was developed using the Booty5 game engine and editor. I really need to change the name of Booty5 to something a bit better.

Streaming League of Legends on Twitch.tv and Twitch extensions

Twitch.tv Logo

Twitch.tv Logo

Recently two family members have started streaming their gaming on Twitch.tv. They currently stream a game I love to play but am terrible at so prefer to watch :D . That game is League of Legends (I’m a lowly silver player, these guys are Diamond level players). if you like to watch gaming streams you should check them out, they’re pretty entertaining pair.

DDarkBlu on Twitch.tv (Support main)
Hastams on Twitch.tv (AD carry main)

I hang around in the streams and chat from time to time.

Anyway the point of this blog is to mention that it got me interested in streaming and streamers. I have discovered that Twitch.tv have an extensions API. I’m currently analysing the APi to find ways in which I can integrate it into the IGX SDK. This will enable developers to deploy their Facebook Instant Games straight to Twitch with little to no modification. Twitch.tv enables monetisation of your extensions via a currency called bits which seems interesting, so plenty of scope for earning money fellow developers.

The IGX SDK is a wrapper for the Facebook Instant Games SDK that enables you the developer to deploy your games and apps to web (mobile and Twitch.tv support coming soon) with little to no code changes, helping you maximise visibility and monetisation.

MEME arrives on Facebook Instant Games platform

So I got bored with writing games for Facebook Instant Games for a bit and decided to jump on the entertainment app (NO THEY ARE NOT GAMES :D ) train that seems to be doing well on Facebook Instant Games right now. I wrote a MEME generator / creator that lets users create their own MEME’s and share them to their timelines. The user can generate around 900 different MEME’s with over 500 different backgrounds. They can customise the text, text size, colour and even sign them. I don’t hold much hope out for it doing well, but its just something that I really wanted to create and really just a stepping stone to much larger more involved entertainment apps.

Coming to web and native mobile using the IGX SDK very soon.

Hello Instant Games X (IGX) SDK

Welcome to the web wrapper to wrap them all!

IGX SDK

IGX SDK


Hey fellow game developers. I’ve spent the best part of this last year researching, analysing and developing games for the Facebook Instant Games platform. Whilst it has been incredibly fun it has not been profitable, in fact I have lost a lot of money. Even so I still have faith in the platform and I do believe that one day it will come through for indie game developers trying to break through.

With this in mind, I’ve spent the best part of the last month working on something interesting and useful that I hope Facebook Instant Game (IG) developers and web developers alike find useful, hopefully encouraging more game and entertainment app developers to come to the platform, as well as give existing developers another way to monetise their instant games elsewhere.

Now I’ve explained the inspiration behind the creation, I will explain a little more about it.

I have created an open source layer called IGX. This is an SDK that has multiple purposes:

  • Bridges the gap between Facebook Instant Games and the web, allowing Facebook Instant Game developers to deploy their games to web and monetise them with little to no changes
  • Enables web game developers to include support for Facebook Instant Games before deploying to the platform
  • Enables all developers to use a common API which allows them to deploy their games across many web portals and provides common game services
  • Extend the IG platform, providing new features via other services

What is IGX? It is basically a complete replacement for the FBInstant object, so you can drop it into your code instead of linking to the FBInstant SDK CDN and your game should just run outside of the IG platform. IGX is based very heavily on two concepts, services and vendors. A service is a feature such as login, payments, ads etc, whilst a vendor is the provider of a particular service. For example, PayPal is a purchasing vendor. Note that some vendors provide many services, for example Xtralife provides user management, leaderboards, back-end storage etc..

You have some minimal setup to carry out depending upon which services and vendors you use, but once set up your game will deploy to that specific platform using all of its features.

Note that not all features of the Facebook Instant Games API are supported but most are. Take a look at the Github repo for more details. Also don’t forget to check out the Wiki.

Note that IGX is still very heavily in development so new services will be added over time. If you find a service that you would like adding then please get in touch with the details.

A new version of Booty5 the free HTML5 game editor will be released in due course with full support for IGX and easy deployment.

Join the IGX SDK community on Facebook.