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The next-generation Facebook games will arrive one of these days. Gravity Bear, a new social game startup run by game veteran Phil Shenk, is betting that its 3-D Battle Punks game will meet that definition.

The company is announcing the beta version of its 3-D game Battle Punks will go live on Facebook today. It’s like a dueling combat game that you can play against your friends. One of the things you’ll notice is that the visuals, while still cartoonish, are a step up from the usual Facebook game.

The game is like a classic fighting game for hardcore gamers, but in an environment that fits more with Facebook’s style. It’s more casual in the sense that you can fight a round for a short time. It’s not necessarily meant to be played for hours on end. It comes with character customization tools, a variety of background environments, and a variety of weapons and loot.

A lot of people are trying to figure out the next-generation social networking games. Gravity Bear has now thrown its hat in the ring.

Emeryville, Calif.-based Gravity Bear was formed in 2008 by Shenk as part of a quest to take games to the next level on social networks. Companies such as Crowdstar and Zynga dominate the category now, but many people feel that even the casual gamers on Facebook will tire of the games like FarmVille with crude 2-D graphics. Whoever figures this out will make a bundle of money.

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