What is GFACE? Is it significant? Is there cake? All these questions about Crytek’s future game model are answered inside.
PLEASE NOTE: This writeup is based on the first stage of the beta, game integration or the ‘Media’ section is not available so does not appear here. GFACE is intended as a significant game hub in the future – this article is based purely on the live social networking feature.
PLEASE NOTE: This is also based on a beta version, any observations made at this stage may not be valid for the final version as significant changes could be made.
Crytek is pinning their hopes on Free to Play and their method of delivery, GFACE, is online. It’s been a few days since the opening of the GFACE closed beta, just enough time for me to get my bearings and report on what’s been happening. But first of all:
What is GFACE?
GFACE is a social networking site, integrating games into your browser, so you can play games on any system, anywhere. It is a mix between Twitter and Facebook, giving you an active timeline of interests that update regularly as people post content, be it videos that they like or webpages they are interested in. GFACE also allows you to ‘pigeonhole’ people, adding them to categories such as ‘Connections’, ‘Coworkers’ and ‘Family’ so you follow the posts of specific social groups.
If you want to add someone to a particular group you just click and drag their post into the category you want, shown in the screenshot below.
You may ask, why do we need another social networking site, what is so new about this to make it stand out?
One of the first things that you notice when you sign into GFACE is your timeline is already full, before you’ve even got started. The ‘Public Cloud’, shown above, shows the posts of the GFACE community, whether you’ve added them to your interest groups or not.
This gives you the brilliant opportunity to interact with new people, complete strangers, right from the get-go. Whereas Twitter and Facebook give you an empty page when you first sign up, making you find your friends and interests in the internet abyss, GFACE says ‘Discover things you’re interested in, right here, right now.’ Twitter and Facebook hand you an empty plate and say ‘enjoy your meal’, GFACE lays ingredients out in front of you, some you know about, others you don’t, allowing you to create a dish more interesting than the others.
This ability to interact with strangers allows for a more interesting experience, so far I’ve met an ex Free Radical employee (God bless their souls) a sound designer and a friendly member of the GFACE team to mention a few. Sure, you can go right ahead, search for your friends and just follow their interests like every other social networking site, but why would you want to do that, when there are new friends to make and interesting people to meet?
The GFACE site is clean and uncluttered, the buttons and links and minimalist, everything is easy to navigate. OK, the ‘Notifications’ section (where you are notified if someone comments on your post, comments on a post you have also commented on, or ‘stars’ your post. ‘Star’ being the GFACE equivalent to Facebook’s ‘like’) could be a little more user friendly, but this is a beta, so I’m sure feedback on this issue could rectify this.
Integrated video’s play smoothly and the text size for posts and comments is just right, easy enough to read without assuming the user requires 5 inch thick glasses to read. ‘Cloud View’ and the ‘Media’ section are yet to be opened in the closed beta, so I cannot comment on those sections of the site.
The search button also comes in handy, say you wanted to search ‘Foo Fighters’, GFACE would show you all the posts about ‘Foo Fighters’ or where ‘Foo Fighters’ was mentioned in the comments. This allows you to find your interests and start connecting with those who have the same interests too.
GFACE is also refreshingly unobtrusive. Whereas Facebook asks you for every detail about your life right down to your blood group, GFACE only lets you share your name, DoB and your gender. And guess what, even those are optional. You can chose to share even these basic details with certain groups, be it only family, coworkers, or everyone.
Yes, it sounds a bit strange, but the atmosphere of a site such as this is crucial. So far, I’ve been pleased with the friendly nature of GFACE, I’ve been able to engage in thoughtful conversation with complete strangers and the staff have been helpful too.
When I first arrived on GFACE, I was floundering around like a fish out of water, but a friendly member of the GFACE staff saw me struggling, pointed me upstream and let me on my way. I’ve seen this repeated many times with other newbies discovering what GFACE is all about. If GFACE can maintain this level of staff support when it opens fully to the public it will be a hit. Many sites fail to make their experience accessible to people who have just signed up, forcing the user to abandon the endeavor and retreat to safer pastures.
As with all social networking sites the ability to report offensive/abusive behavior is critical and unfortunately I have not seen the ability to do this. Again, this is a beta version so significant changes may be made to the final version, but it is disappointing to see that such a crucial feature is not obvious, even at this stage.
Also, once you ‘star’ a post, you cannot ‘unstar’ it. If you choose to show appreciation for a post, then realize it wasn’t what you first though, you can’t go back and withdraw appreciation. I hope this is fixed for the open version of GFACE.
GFACE still has a lot to show, the main point of the site, the games, is yet to come online, so this is far from the finished product. What has been shown so far though is impressive. GFACE has brought something different to the well-trodden ground of social networking – and pulled it off so far.
GFACE is new and risky for Crytek, if this, the main flagship for it’s F2P future does not take off, Crytek could be in some serious doo doo’s. But from what I have seen so far, there is no reason why GFACE can’t attract new punters on board.
For more on GFACE as new features come online, keep it here at CookingwithGrenades.com