The Girl Who Played With Fire

I’ve got Facebook games coming out of my ears right about now! This one is to accompany the new movie ‘The Girl Who Played With Fire’ – out in cinemas later this month.

Play: The Girl Who Played With Fire

Ooh! Looks like I got one right =)

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Pizza Hut – Hungry For ‘A-Team’ Action

Hot on the heels of ‘Pass It Around Pizza’ comes ‘Hungry For Action’; the second social game for Pizza Hut UK. Supporting the release of the new A-Team movie, the premise is simple; smack the living daylights out of as many soldiers as possible.

We were originally going to create a brash tank-based game, until we realised that'd probably turn more women (being a large wedge of our target demographic) off than John McCririck's sweaty wackers on a humid summer's evening.

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Beware of the facebook UID “as Number”

Quite often it’s advisable to treat unique IDs as a string, particularly when using a third party API, as you never know when they may migrate from a numeric to alphanumeric format.

The Facebook Actionscript API is no exception. In a recent project, I’d already been treating user’s UIDs as a string, but got caught out when calling the GetAppUsers API method. This essentially returns the UID of each friend who has the same Facebook application installed. Instead of returning a set of string values, it returns an array of number values.

Storing this array within Actionscript doesn’t appear to be hazardous. The problems arise when sending that array via remoting (in this case using a sfAmfphp gateway).

Facebook currently employ two formats of UID:
OLD: 289204186
NEW: 100000792322346

The old format will be serialized and received by the PHP gateway as expected, whereas PHP will output the new longer format as, for example, 100000792322E+14.

Moral of the story: iterate through the array returned by GetAppUsers and cast all values to String.

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public function getAppUsersComplete(event:FacebookEvent):void
{
    var uidFriends:Array = event.data['uids'];
   
    // Convert all uidFriend uids from Number to String because AMFPHP messes this up (converts large int values to float)
    for(var i:int = 0; i<uidFriends.length; i++)
    {
        uidFriends[i] = uidFriends[i].toString();
    }
}

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Pass It Around Pizza

UPDATE: Read my “Pass It Around Pizza” article on the Blue Barracuda blog. Aimed at marketers, it looks at the benefits of using in-game incentives/virtual gifts and rewards in conjunction with the Facebook Platform.

I’ve been getting to know Facebook Connect and the AS3 API over the past few weeks, and finally I’ve been able to put what I’ve learnt into practice by creating a game for Pizza Hut UK.

Pass the ball as many times as you can in 45 seconds!

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Facebook Multi-Friend-Selector for Flash AS3

UPDATE Nov 2010: This requires the old REST API Facebook_library_v3.4_flash.swc, which has now been deprecated in favour of the Graph API. Please feel free to fork this for use with the new GraphAPI SWC. There is a little more info on this in the comments. I’d love to update it myself, but not sure when that might happen at the moment :-/

One of the drawbacks of the current Facebook Actionscript API is that it doesn’t come bundled with UI components, it’s simply a data API. Fortunately you can use the JavaScript Client Library’s FB.UI.FBMLPopupDialog() to render FBML overlaying your SWF (if you don’t mind using wmode=”transparent”). But still, when it comes to the FBML fb:multi-friend-selector, if you want to do anything but send out invites to your Facebook app (via a browser-redirecting POST) , you’re out of luck.

Ideally, the fb:multi-friend-selector would allow the setting of a callback which would return the UIDs of the selected friends. It would then be down to the developer to choose what to do with them.

So, I decided to recreate the fb:multi-friend-selector directly in Flash. It will allow you to input an array of uid strings and later return a FacebookUserCollection featuring the selected users. Unfortunately I haven’t created this to be a fully resizable component, it simply does what it says on the tin. Hopefully, you may find that this gets you out of a sticky situation once you realise the shortcomings of the FBML fb:multi-friend-selector.

Don't be fooled, this MultiFriendSelector is not FBML, it's Flash :)

You can download it from the milkisevil-toolbox on github. You’ll need to add the “lib/milkisevil/FacebookComponents.swc” to your project and create a new instance of the “com.milkisevil.ui.facebook.MultiFriendSelector” class.

Here’s a rough guide to how you might want to instantiate the MultiFriendSelector:

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// Don't forget to make the following imports where appropriate
import com.milkisevil.ui.facebook.MultiFriendSelector;
import com.milkisevil.events.StatusEventEnhanced;

// And the following inside your class
private var multiFriendSelector:MultiFriendSelector;

private function showFriendSelector():void
{
    multiFriendSelector = new MultiFriendSelector( facebook, 16 );
    multiFriendSelector.title = 'Your friends';
    multiFriendSelector.subtitle = 'Irritate the hell out of your friends!';
    multiFriendSelector.addEventListener( MultiFriendSelector.STATUS_EVENT, multiFriendSelectorStatus );
    addChild( multiFriendSelector );
    multiFriendSelector.getFriends();      
}

private function hideFriendSelector():void
{
    removeChild( multiFriendSelector );
    multiFriendSelector = null;
}

private function multiFriendSelectorStatus(event:StatusEventEnhanced):void
{
    trace('exec multiFriendSelectorStatus: ' + event.code);

    switch(event.code)
    {
        case MultiFriendSelector.CLOSE:
            hideFriendSelector();
            break;
       
        case MultiFriendSelector.SUBMIT:
            var selectedUsers:FacebookUserCollection = multiFriendSelector.getSelected();
            hideFriendSelector();
           
            var uidList:Array = [];
           
            for(var i:int = 0; i<selectedUsers.length; i++)
            {
                var facebookUser:FacebookUser = selectedUsers.getItemAt(i) as FacebookUser;
                uidList.push( facebookUser.uid );
            }
           
            // Now do some custom stuff with those uids
            myCustomMethod( uidList );
           
            break;
    }
}

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Going social in Actionscript 3

The last couple of weeks have allowed me to get intimate with AS3 implementations of the main social network’s APIs. I first started out playing with Adobe’s Flash Platform Social Services which is basically a layer providing access to Gigya (which in turn is an abstract API providing uniform access to all of the main social networks). As you can probably imagine, this also comes with a couple of drawbacks.

  1. Gigya aims to provide the ‘make one call, push to many’ approach. This is one of the reasons that the full spectrum of services for one social network aren’t available, largely because there won’t be a uniform equivilant on another network.
  2. The other reason, is that we’re relying on a single API vendor (Gigya) to update as and when every other API vendor updates. So where a great new service might be made available on Facebook, you’ll likely be waiting a while until Gigya provides an updated interface.

Not great. So putting aside a greed to support every social network under the sun, I swiftly moved to and focused on the the most popular (and arguably the best), the Facebook Actionscript API. This is basically an Adobe supported AS3 interface to Facebook’s REST API. The majority of it is very straight forward to use, and is up to date with the latest of Facebook’s features. The biggest pain, though, has been offering a smooth login experience.

There are several blogged solutions out there, but the smoothest I’ve found revolves around using the JavaScript API in conjunction with an “xd_receiver.htm”. The user logs into their account after which a JavaScript callback passes a session key, a secret key, the user’s UID and your (hardcoded) API key to Actionscript where it is verified via the REST API. This does require a bit of a hack seeing as the AS3 API doesn’t normally allow the setting of the UID, but I’d say it’s worth the trouble:

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import com.facebook.facebook_internal;

// Create a WebSession passing in your API key, the secret key and session key
webSession = new WebSession( apiKey, secret, sessionKey );

// Force set the uid (don't forget to import the "facebook_internal" namespace)
webSession.facebook_internal::_uid = uid;
facebook.startSession( webSession );

This solution will use those nice AJAX-populated dialogue boxes, so don’t forget to set wmode=”transparent” on your embed.

I’ve created a singleton-based wrapper, which provides me with easy access to basic functionality such as login and stream publishing, along with an accompanying JavaScript file (I’ve been accessing this via a PureMVC proxy – abstraction overkill?! Maybe!). It’s not exactly the tidiest of classes, but is fairly descriptive along with some doc-blocks. Feel free to download a zip here or grab the latest source from within the milkisevil-toolbox on github (you’ll mainly be interested in the api.facebook package as well as the js and possibly html test page).

Of course, you’ll also be needing the Facebook Actionscript 3 API (and SWFObject if you’d like to play with the test html page).

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