Facebook's New Game Canvas: Good renovations take time

Under Construction
Under Construction

Call it a work in progress, under construction, what have you. Facebook recently announced some changes to what it calls the Facebook Game Canvas, or the area in which you play your favorite Facebook games.

The company announced these changes hours after its new competitor Google+ Games launched, and frankly, this is still a work in progress. While the changes made will certainly improve the Facebook gaming experience in the long run, it unfortunately looks like there is much to do.

Oooh ... Widescreen

Yeah, the change to a widescreen format is likely the most welcome of changes to the Game Canvas. Playing games like Pioneer Trail and CityVille in a wider area allows players to keep track of the Ticker (sort of, but more on that thing later) while playing their games. Generally speaking, it's an impressive feat that makes far better use of any widescreen monitors' real estate.

Unfortunately, only a few games appear in the new widescreen format so far. Keep in mind, though, that Facebook did say it is working with developers to bring more games into the new format. This means that the change isn't exactly automatic, and Facebook needs to be a part of that process for whatever reason. Hopefully it doesn't take long for widescreen to become the new standard in Facebook games.

Facebook Game Canvas Widescreen
Facebook Game Canvas Widescreen

It's like CNN, but for Games

The News Ticker is the second major change to the Game Canvas, and while it's certainly impressive, its execution hasn't exactly been stellar. But let's get the bad out of the way and end on a good note: For one, the Ticker sits too high on the screen, propped up by those dastardly sidebar ads.

When playing a game, it's natural to scroll down the screen to fit the game content just right within the browser window exactly, no? Well, doing so nearly obscures the Ticker completely, forcing players to scroll up just to see what's up with your friends. And with the amount of white space beneath the ads, there should be enough room to slide things down. What's the point of having a constantly visible and interactive News Feed if you can't see it completely?

Facebook Game News Ticker
Facebook Game News Ticker

However, the Ticker does introduce a lot of neat ideas, like displaying the last four games you've played above the Ticker. Better yet, hovering over each game's icon reveals all of the notifications you have pending for that game. A fifth icon will always sit next to those four games, which gives you instant access to all of the games you've installed on Facebook and a way to quickly buy Facebook Credits.

Throw in the fact that clicking any game update or icon in the Ticker will launch you into that game immediately, without having to load the page over again, and you have a seamless, smooth experience jumping between games. And considering that's essentially the purpose of the Ticker--to notify you of your friends activity and allow you to join them--kudos, Facebook.

The Ticker even gives players the option to recommend new games that they find through messages that appear and read something to the effect of: "Would you recommend this game to a friend?" Clicking "Yes" posts a call out to your friends to join you in the game. It's an interesting way to reintroduce game discovery to Facebook, and gives players at least partial control over what separates the wheat from the chaff on the platform.

All in all, color this Facebook gamer impressed by the Game Canvas changes. However, some optimizations need to be made if Facebook wants to maintain its lead on competing platforms like Google+ Games, no matter how distant that lead is. The sooner more games are featured in widescreen, and the sooner that Ticker comes down into view next to our games, the better off Facebook gaming will be.

What do you think of the changes to the Facebook Game Canvas? What do you think still needs work, and do you think these changes are enough for Facebook to maintain its lead on the competition? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.