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Pausing the game in multiplayer


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#1 Plusekwal   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 06:41 AM

I'm developing a puzzle game where players take turns to make their moves. The game features a multiplayer mode over the net, and I've there put a time limit of 45 seconds per turn so games dont last forever.
My question is: is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so? Imagine you're playing the game and you are being called on the phone or you need to go to the toilet or something else which prevents you from playing for a while - it would be annoying to lose a turn or even the game just because of that.
The pause would be limited to 5 mins and one player would be able to pause the game only two times so it doesnt get abused, but still that is likely to annoy the other players and attract internet trolls.
The chat will still be available when the game is paused.
So what do you think, do the advantages of implementing a pause make up for the possible drawbacks?

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#2 6510   Members   -  Reputation: 151

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 08:38 AM

A player could ask for a pause, if the others agree, fine, otherwise too bad for him/her.

#3 gsamour   Members   -  Reputation: 140

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 08:39 AM

I don't know if this is valid, but what about a "pause request" ?
You click a Pause Request button and get an input box where you can type the reason for the pause (or you can tell your friends via voice chat). Upon the request, the game could be paused for a brief moment while your friends decide whether or not to accept. Then each of them can click a button to accept/deny the request.
In theory, this sounds good to me, but in practice it may be a bad idea. Not sure.

EDIT: I must have just missed 6510's comment. Good idea 6510! ;)

#4 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 10690

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 09:24 AM

is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so?

No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.

You could do what mah-jongg games do: when the player has to step away from the game, he can have an automatic player take over for him temporarily. It won't make the same decisions he would, but he isn't holding up the game. The automatic player cannot be super-powered (it can't have X-ray vision into what's going on in the other players' games, it can't be superhumanly fast), and in fact the automatic player should be an inferior player, so no player is tempted to use it all the time to get high scores.
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#5 Sandman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 2137

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 01:30 AM

is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so?

No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.


I don't entirely agree with this, at least not as a general principle.

In my opinion, it depends - certainly as the number of players grows the potential for abuse or irritation grows. Also for serious, competitive games, it should not be allowed.

However for more casual games, with a reasonably small number of players (no more than four, perhaps) it seems quite reasonable to allow a player to pause the game, subject to certain limitations: a certain number of pauses per player, a time limit beyond which the remaining players can kick the pausing player, or otherwise unpause it, or a voting system to allow the pause in the first place.

I would only implement it as an optional rule however. Some players may not mind, others may prefer not to have the irritation. And in the world of game development, optional features like this tend to have low priority.



#6 Flimflam   Members   -  Reputation: 661

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 02:05 AM

There's a few ways you can go about this.

1) Allow the player to pause the game, but limit the pause duration for 1 or so minutes per game. Allow the player to signify in the pause screen that they will forfeit if they don't return in time.
2) Allow the player to prompt the opponent(s) with a request for pause. If the opponent(s) do not agree then the person requesting a pause should have the option to forfeit or resume playing.

I think the second option is more polite and well rounded, personally. Sometimes people have to get up and forbidding such a necessity is really just cruel as there is a number of reasons why they may not be able to wait. It's better to just wash your hands of it and leave the choice in the hands of the players rather than yourself.

#7 SuperVGA   Members   -  Reputation: 1121

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 02:10 AM


is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so?

No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.


I don't entirely agree with this, at least not as a general principle.

In my opinion, it depends - certainly as the number of players grows the potential for abuse or irritation grows. Also for serious, competitive games, it should not be allowed.

However for more casual games, with a reasonably small number of players (no more than four, perhaps) it seems quite reasonable to allow a player to pause the game, subject to certain limitations: a certain number of pauses per player, a time limit beyond which the remaining players can kick the pausing player, or otherwise unpause it, or a voting system to allow the pause in the first place.

I would only implement it as an optional rule however. Some players may not mind, others may prefer not to have the irritation. And in the world of game development, optional features like this tend to have low priority.


I agree on the optional rule. For some servers, it's just nice to have an unpausable guarantee. :)
-Although pausing can also be implemented as a voted option so everyone needs to agree on it (maybe in a complex RTS or if people happen to eat/sleep at the same time)
Pause could also be allowed by "team leaders" of some kind, -and it could have a timeout and be unavailable to players on the same team / everyone for some time afterwards.

So a couple of ideas on how to make pausing an MP game less annoying.


EDIT: Oh well, Flimflam beat me to it! Posted Image -some of it, at least.

#8 Brainsaw   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 05:27 AM

I think for a two player game over the net (e.g. a puzzle game) it would be OK to have a pause, but you should make sure no one can get any benefit from pausing the game, e.g. enable pausing only after a player has taken his step.

#9 Hodgman   Moderators   -  Reputation: 35103

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 05:34 AM

In starcraft (edit: SC2), anyone can pause the game (3 times, i think), but anyone else can also unpause the game.

I've found that if you warn people that you're going to pause for the door/phone/oven/etc over chat first, then they do the honorable thing and don't unpause... even though they have the option of getting a cheap win by unpausing while you're away.

#10 Acharis   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4245

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 06:27 AM

Bad idea. Multiplayer games are not to be paused. If you can't secure the time to play these, don't play in the first place (forcing other players to wait because one player failed to secure the required time is unreasonable). That's why multiplayer games should have solo play option too.

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#11 SuperVGA   Members   -  Reputation: 1121

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 08:09 AM

Bad idea. Multiplayer games are not to be paused. If you can't secure the time to play these, don't play in the first place (forcing other players to wait because one player failed to secure the required time is unreasonable). That's why multiplayer games should have solo play option too.

Well, that's one way to do it.
Have you played Baldurs Gate, (BG2, IWD, IWD2, Fallout or Neverwinter Nights) or Europa Universalis (Victoria or Hearts of Iron)?
You might as well not play them in MP if there wasn't a proper pause feature, it's vital to the gameplay.

So it's not always unreasonable. Naturally in an average Deathmatch FPS or RTS, I can see your point.

#12 HopelessMT   Members   -  Reputation: 100

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 08:22 AM

I think it is really related to how competitive the match would be. If the game is a casual game, I do not see a reason not to have a pause feature. But the mention of exploits is quite true. Highly competitive games should not have a pause feature,

#13 Konidias   Members   -  Reputation: 214

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 01:57 PM

Whatever you do, there should be a limit to how long a game can be paused. There are a few turn based games I've played in which the opponent would purposely not take their turn (in a no time limit game), so that the game came down to "who will get bored and leave first". What would happen is we'd have this great game and then after 10 minutes of playing and getting to the end of the match, the loser would obviously not want to take the loss, so by sitting idle they forced the winner to sit there forever, or quit the match and lose even though they obviously should have won.

So yeah, it can be a huge game breaker if you don't put some limits in there.

I think the pause request is by far the best option mentioned so far. If your game has 45 second turns, you could potentially be AFK for a minute or two without even losing your turn. If you went afk right when it was your opponent's turn, you'd have the time they take to make their turn, plus the 45 seconds you have to make your turn... That's enough time to usually answer the door or phone or whatever.

But yeah, if you know you're gonna need 5+ minutes, you could have a pause request and if the players agree, then you'd get like an up to 5 minute pause break.

I think having a cpu take turns for you is a little much... Seems like more trouble than it's worth. I would say that you could also take a tip from most poker software... (since they are turn based also) You can get up at any time during the game and when your turn comes, it will just count down the timer until your time runs out, and then it goes to the next player's turn...

So you could, essentially, skip a few turns and have several minutes of AFK time.

Remember that while not being able to pause is an inconvenience for one person, being able to pause is an inconvenience for EVERYONE else. You've gotta look at both sides in this situation, not just the "solo player experience"
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#14 greentiger   Members   -  Reputation: 144

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 03:38 PM

i like the way blizzard handles this problem.

any one player can pause the game at any time and it causes the screen to go gray and pauses all action(s).
however, each player only gets 3 pauses (it'll say something like "Player X has paused the game -- 2 pauses remaining).
we have found it especially common when someone gets an unexpected phone call or has to go to the bathroom :-)

one of their games says "Resuming game in " and then counts down to from three (3 ... 2 ... 1 ... and then action resumes).

i think that would be an excellent way of handling it. it also depends on the TYPE of game.
having pauses during a deathmatch or one-on-one FPS tournament would be unthinkable to have a pause feature (that would be SUPER annoying).
but for a game like warcraft 3 or starcraft 2 it's pretty much essential, since a game can last 15 minutes to hours.
as a puzzle game where rounds have a set length but matches do not, i would say pauses would be a mandatory feature.
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#15 greentiger   Members   -  Reputation: 144

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 03:43 PM

In starcraft, anyone can pause the game (3 times, i think), but anyone else can also unpause the game.

I've found that if you warn people that you're going to pause for the door/phone/oven/etc over chat first, then they do the honorable thing and don't unpause... even though they have the option of getting a cheap win by unpausing while you're away.


no, not anyone can unpause the game (well maybe they can in starcraft II but not in starcraft or warcraft III). only the player that paused the game can unpause the game.
it is considered good gaming etiquette to warn BEFORE pausing and BEFORE unpausing.
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#16 Plusekwal   Members   -  Reputation: 102

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 01:19 AM

Thanks for the replies.
I think I will add both the both the automatic player thing Tom Sloper suggested and the pause - it will be without vote, but the player will have to give a reason in order to pause. The pause will be limited to 3 mins and there'll be a small countdown before the game is unpaused if cancelled earlier. There'll be also one pause per player.
During the pause the screen won't go black or gray - infact the only difference will be that players wont be able to make moves and the time will be stopped and it'll write PAUSE with the time remaining somewhere.
What do you think about this?

Also, I think it's important to add that there won't be any teams or stats or even profiles - everyone can play with different nickname every time s/he joins the multiplayer room. Also there won't be any competitions (or atleast there wont be built in system for this) - so I think there isnt really any reason to delay the already lost game.

#17 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 3350

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Posted 30 July 2011 - 01:57 PM

no, not anyone can unpause the game (well maybe they can in starcraft II but not in starcraft or warcraft III). only the player that paused the game can unpause the game.
it is considered good gaming etiquette to warn BEFORE pausing and BEFORE unpausing.

This is incorrect. In Warcraft III you can unpause a paused state thrown by another player. This avoids having someone pause the game forcibly and make everyone leave or wait as much as that player wants.

So, summing up the way Warcraft III handles this:
  • Every player is allowed 3 pauses. If they have used their pause 3 times they can't pause anymore for the rest of the match.
  • Every pause halts everyone's game.
  • Every player is allowed to unpause any other player's paused state.


#18 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1979

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 05:50 PM

The answer is to offer options to the player during startup.

When you start a multiplayer game, let the users toggle 'special rules' like that.

If I'm playing with some random people online, then I don't want pausing, or at the very least I want restricted pauses. If I'm playing with close friends who I know, and I or a friend requires to go afk for a second, then I want a robust pause option.
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#19 Kryzon   Prime Members   -  Reputation: 3350

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Posted 31 July 2011 - 08:49 PM

If they are close friends you know, why do you need to force the pause? this doesn't make sense to me.

Even if you did implement what you just described; say a friend requires to go afk 'for a second' but that second turns out to be ten minutes (hey, it's not his fault, he just miscalculated time).
I doubt anyone would like to forcibly and frustratingly look at a static screen for over 5 minutes and not be able to do anything about it.
Forcing a pause in any case is very dangerous, as this leaves an open door towards abuse, which is something you should be minimizing at best. You are assuming people will behave, while you should be assuming that at the slightest opportunity of abuse in your game someone will exert it.

In my opinion the Warcraft III style pause is a single solution that works best in most cases by leaving abuse-control with the users themselves. This holds the qualities of a solution anyone should be taking into account.

#20 Luckless   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1979

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Posted 01 August 2011 - 10:25 AM

If they are close friends you know, why do you need to force the pause? this doesn't make sense to me.

Even if you did implement what you just described; say a friend requires to go afk 'for a second' but that second turns out to be ten minutes (hey, it's not his fault, he just miscalculated time).
I doubt anyone would like to forcibly and frustratingly look at a static screen for over 5 minutes and not be able to do anything about it.
Forcing a pause in any case is very dangerous, as this leaves an open door towards abuse, which is something you should be minimizing at best. You are assuming people will behave, while you should be assuming that at the slightest possibility of abuse in your game someone will exert it.

In my opinion the Warcraft III style pause is a single solution that works best in most cases by leaving abuse-control with the users themselves. This holds the qualities of a solution anyone should be taking into account.


So, if your best friend needs to run to the bathroom, you want to disrupt a fair and friendly game by allowing things to continue to advance while he isn't there?

As for the abuse, I really don't see anything related to abuse happening when you have the option to disable it. If your 'friend' keeps pausing the game to annoy you, get better friends. If you're not playing with someone you would trust with it, don't enable the unrestricted pause function.
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