Student Project: Facebook Application

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Mrop
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Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Mrop » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:20 pm UTC

Hi!

I have made a habit of exploiting these forums for the nerdier side of knowledge, so here I go again:

My school is accepting suggestions for our final project before we get our Bachelor's degree, and I thought it would be neat to make a game integrated with Facebook. The problem is that I need to assure myself (and our teachers) it is possible to get this project finished. I googled and browsed around on Facebook a bit, but I found it hard to estimate how possible the project is for the people involved in our schools project groups. The project will require somewhere around 250 hours per person, including writing a report and presenting our work in the end. The groups consists of 4-6 people from different programs at our School. The people that can apply for the project will be engineering students in fields such as Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Automation Engineering, and Physics. Some programming courses are included in all of these programs (and some programs can be prohibited to apply if I can explain why).

So, I wonder what level of complexity we can expect to achieve, what languages are best, what tools and services are required, or if it is a terrible idea and I am a terrible person for suggesting it.

_Axle_
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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby _Axle_ » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:36 pm UTC

I personally don't know what a facebook app requires ( only a quick search and understanding is its probably php and/or flash ).

Before I can suggest too much stuff, have a few minor questions :
Is your team already made?
What time frame do you have for the project, 1 or 2 semesters?
Anyone with artists talent on your team, or ability to find someone that does?
Anyone on the team actually have any good game design ideas?
Any school funding given at all? ( ie, if you wanted a hardware based project, would you provide any materials? )


Being a Senior in a game development school, the usual "I want to make a game" type questions and threads always raise the question of if the person really thought it all out. I don't know what kind of framework Facebook supplies or what API/Middleware is built in, but that can help down on some development time.
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Pinktits
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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Pinktits » Tue Oct 12, 2010 3:59 am UTC

It really comes down to knowing that you have capable Flash/PHP programmers on the team. It's going to be all them once the initial idea and planning is out of the way. And I wouldn't recommend taking on a FB-integrated game if you will be learning flash/php on the go.

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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Axidos » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:26 am UTC

Pinktits wrote:It really comes down to knowing that you have capable Flash/PHP programmers on the team. It's going to be all them once the initial idea and planning is out of the way. And I wouldn't recommend taking on a FB-integrated game if you will be learning flash/php on the go.

If this is the case, then consider this for a team of 4-6:
- You'll need at least 1 PHP programmer and 1 Flash programmer.
- Depending on how much of the work lies solely in the programming, you may need more than 2 programmers.
- If you have only 1 programmer, they might have to work their butt off to do the job of 2 programmers, and it's unlikely they would know both PHP and Flash.

Therefore: take a look at the classes the students coming into this subject have studied. If you cannot guarantee can potentially be AT LEAST two capable programmers per team, you are sentencing a lot of programmers to be overworked and some teams to have no programmer at all. If you cannot guarantee those programmers will largely be familiar with PHP and/or Actionscript, you are sentencing a lot of people to, as Pinktits said, have to learn Flash/PHP on the go (bad).

If you cannot guarantee the situation will not be largely catastrophic for teams in general, you might want to let this idea go.

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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Xanthir » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:34 am UTC

Agreed with the others. Making anything that's not totally shitty will require a guarantee of at least a couple skilled programmers per team.

Doing a web game does sound like a fun project, though. Instead of aiming for Facebook, with its attendant difficulties, try just doing a game with HTML5 and Javascript. Just this weekend I gave several talks on the subject - one going over general techniques and pitfalls you'd run into at a Game Jam sponsored by Google, and another where I livecoded a simplistic Worms clone in front of an audience at the Silicon Valley Code Camp. I have posts summarizing my talks and linking to demos and useful tools up on my blog.
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Mrop
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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Mrop » Thu Oct 14, 2010 9:14 am UTC

Thanks for all the replies.

_Axle_ wrote:Before I can suggest too much stuff, have a few minor questions :
Is your team already made?
What time frame do you have for the project, 1 or 2 semesters?
Anyone with artists talent on your team, or ability to find someone that does?
Anyone on the team actually have any good game design ideas?
Any school funding given at all? ( ie, if you wanted a hardware based project, would you provide any materials? )


The teams are not made, but as the submitter of the suggestion, I get a guaranteed spot in the team. The course is one semester long, half-speed (25 hours a week). I can't speak for artist talent or good game ideas beyond my own, but it can be added as an extra prerequesite for the applicants. No school funding is given, but I'm fairly sure the school can provide us with some of their server capacity if required.


Axidos, Pinktits, Xanthir: I know Actionscript well, and I know all the students at my programme (Software Engineering) know Java. I was able to learn Actionscript fairly quickly since it is basically the same syntax and I already have fairly good knowledge of coding design principles. As for PHP, I know barely anything, but I know there are alot of web coding wizards in my programme that know PHP. Having these languages as an extra prerequesite for the project would then be necessary, and to exclude some programmes from applying. I have heard that some Facebook apps use Java instead, and I guess that would be better for us since most programmes have at least one course in Java.

_Axle_
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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby _Axle_ » Thu Oct 14, 2010 8:03 pm UTC

Mrop wrote:Thanks for all the replies.

The teams are not made, but as the submitter of the suggestion, I get a guaranteed spot in the team. The course is one semester long, half-speed (25 hours a week). I can't speak for artist talent or good game ideas beyond my own, but it can be added as an extra prerequesite for the applicants. No school funding is given, but I'm fairly sure the school can provide us with some of their server capacity if required.


My only concern about a project for a facebook game is that it is a casual games market. I doubt you plan to sell/make money off a school project, but casual games are usually game play strong, content heavy and tech light. If you plan on getting a bunch of engineers together for a facebook app, its kind of a waste of tech people, if they aren't helping with game play design ( not architecture ) or content ( art, models, animation, whatever ).

I would probably suggest some kind of game architecture engine or awesome tech demo in the span of 1 semester. That would help reach into each of the different engineering fields expertise on creating this project.

You can choose whatever path you want, but I am just speaking from experience of making 3 student games that either finished or crash and burned due to team issues, each was in the scope of 1 year. As well as 4 solo tech demos. I was able to create decent tech demos as a single person, no middle ware in the matter of 1 semester. The scope of a game for 1 semester is big.

No matter what you choose, if there is code involved, get the school to open a Version control system for your team's project.
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Mrop
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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Mrop » Tue Oct 19, 2010 10:45 am UTC

Ok, thanks for all the advice. I have modified the suggestion, but I am not sure whether to submit it or not. Well see, and at any rate, much of your advice will be helpful none the less!

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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby Axidos » Tue Oct 19, 2010 11:26 am UTC

Mrop wrote:Axidos, Pinktits, Xanthir: I know Actionscript well, and I know all the students at my programme (Software Engineering) know Java. I was able to learn Actionscript fairly quickly since it is basically the same syntax and I already have fairly good knowledge of coding design principles. As for PHP, I know barely anything, but I know there are alot of web coding wizards in my programme that know PHP. Having these languages as an extra prerequesite for the project would then be necessary, and to exclude some programmes from applying. I have heard that some Facebook apps use Java instead, and I guess that would be better for us since most programmes have at least one course in Java.

Let me break that down into the vital pieces of information:
- Everyone knows Java. This is OK.
- Nobody knows Actionscript. You cannot use it.
- Web coding "wizards" sounds like a small group. In turn some of them know PHP. That means almost nobody knows PHP. You cannot use it.
Why can't you use two of those? Because it's unreasonable to expect them to learn those languages on the fly, and if they're prerequisites, you'll get effectively no programmers.

As for Java: Yes you can program Facebook apps with it, but there's something about that. Last I heard, the only way to use Java in Facebook was to deploy an external web service which Facebook calls upon.

Basically the only thing you can reasonably ask students to do here is learn to program a Java web service which, as it just so happens, is used by Facebook. You can't really go much further than that. If Java web service programming is ubiquitous knowledge, you can ask them to program a more advanced web service, but Facebook wouldn't be the means nor the end of that request.

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Re: Student Project: Facebook Application

Postby RebeccaRGB » Sat Nov 06, 2010 5:58 am UTC

If you're still considering this:

I have developed several Facebook applications. Although they're of the "extra info" variety rather than the "casual game" variety, I still have some tips for anyone considering taking on Facebook applications of any kind:

* Facebook's API changes rapidly and without notice. Expect code that used to work to break at any moment. Your programmers must be able to adapt fairly quickly.

* Facebook's documentation is often inadequate. Expect your programmers to be the adventurous type, not afraid to experiment to find out what works.

* PHP5 is the only language Facebook provides support for. Any other language means relying on a third-party library, which is often out-of-date or incomplete due to the reasons stated above. I would not try to write a Facebook app in any other language. If nobody knows PHP, this is a problem.

I don't mean to discourage you, but you should know what you're getting yourself into. Facebook is a headache to work with. The people at Facebook too often change things on a whim; as infuriating as it is as a Facebook user to wake up one day only to find the entire profile layout rearranged, it is even more infuriating as a Facebook developer to wake up one day only to find entire parts of the API marked deprecated, replaced with other stuff that doesn't even work the same way.
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