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Restrained Playtime?

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How can I get my players to return to my game day after day, week after week and year after year? This was the first question I asked Myself before I started to plan my new project: Inhabitants After some days of investigation I found out that Content, Variety and Restraint are the most important cornerstones to the games I like to play. There should not be hard to understand why Content and Variety are important for a game, but why should a game be Restraint? Restriction is a very importent aspect of our Real Time Strategy games; There is an obvious reason why you can't build your factions most powerful units in the early stages of the campaign. Why do you think you won't find the awesome rocket-launcher on the first level in this brand new First Person Shooter game? The restrictive design decision keeps you going to find out how powerful you units are or how destructive the rocket-launcher really is. My current design of Inhabitants has plenty of Variety, but it is a game with no Content, like story or characters. Inhabitants is designed to be played online with a world-editing system that has to be Restraint in a way or two. The first solution that came to mind is a turn-based system where the player gains a set of turns each hour he's idle (either offline or just browsing around with zero turns left) and where each action has a cost of turns. I know this solution might seem a little bit weird without knowing the entire game concept, but I do not want the players to play Inhabitants for 3 hours straing and getting bored of it. Before I'll start my proof-of-concept code, I'll ask you how I should do to restrain my players to a constant set of playhours per session?

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Quote:
Original post by WixnerThe first solution that came to mind is a turn-based system where the player gains a set of turns each hour he's idle (either offline or just browsing around with zero turns left) and where each action has a cost of turns.


That's not turn-based, that's tick-based. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick_Based_Game

For a game with the ability of an RTS I've always thought that either restrict days a person can play per server. So for a game that's on US east people can only play from 7-10 at night. However that's extremely restrictive, but it ensures when a person plays many other people will be playing so it brings the competition up. RTS games are very tricky.

Before I continue, is this an MMORTS? Your post is vague about that.

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Original post by Sirisian
Quote:
Original post by WixnerThe first solution that came to mind is a turn-based system where the player gains a set of turns each hour he's idle (either offline or just browsing around with zero turns left) and where each action has a cost of turns.


That's not turn-based, that's tick-based. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tick_Based_Game

For a game with the ability of an RTS I've always thought that either restrict days a person can play per server. So for a game that's on US east people can only play from 7-10 at night. However that's extremely restrictive, but it ensures when a person plays many other people will be playing so it brings the competition up. RTS games are very tricky.

Before I continue, is this an MMORTS? Your post is vague about that.


Great that you informed me of this gameplay-style, had never heard of it.

My idea could evolve to an RTS in the future, but for now, it is a pure world-simulator. The basic idea is that a player can control a "patch" of a planet where he can alter the circumstances of the weather and the natural properties like temperature, humidity and wind etc.

At a certain stage, I want the server to "generate" foliage and critters with these weather- and natural properties as input.

The game has some similiarities with Spore (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spore_%28game%29) but with it's focus on the conditions for the critters instead of the critters themselves.

And as a sidenote; the player is NOT restricted to one patch, but as soon as he choses to work with another patch, another player can claim the first players previous patch to alter.

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I'd agree that a tick-based system is the best way to go. It (more or less) can scale directly to an actual RTS if that's what you decide you want. Most games of that genre have half hour or hour long ticks. People need to log in reguarly to play, but they don't spend hours playing the game either. But that kind of game doesn't appeal to everyone, but it should work for a world simualtion especially if it's simple enough for reasnobly 'casual' gamers to 'get'.

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I can't stand those type of games,
if im playing something, i want to play now, not for another 10 mins in 24 hours

I understand why its done as a web based game, but usually ill join, go thru my first turn, then never login again

Things to restrict

Limited points(ticks, stamina, whatever a counter that goes down any time you do things till the counter hits 0 and it recharges over time, its used alot.

Limited things to do, once you have logged in build and attacked what you had to
your better off logging of waiting for the bonus to gather, and give the other people time to respond.

Worse luck, basically you might succed the first 10 times, then after that the chance of success starts dropping until it wont work at all
then you have to logoff 12-24 hours, giving it time to recharge or you would be wasting resoruces.

And giving rewards for amount of time logged off, game i use to play
your first 5 times where alot cheaper then any game after that, so your encouraged to login for those 5 games, then logoff and wait 12 hours
but if you had the resoruces to pay for turns after, then your free to conitinue

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I think this is a good topic that alot of people over look, or do not put much thought into. Restraining the amount of time players "play" in an online game can go a long way in preserving the game's life. One of the top complaints of MMO's is the lack and availability of new content. Which can more then not be contributed to the average play time, approximately 22 hours a week per player.

While I do agree that this is something that needs to be examined; I also believe that you want to avoid creating concrete limitations. What I mean by this is you can restrain players through the use of your content. For example in your simulation an action will inevitably cause a equal or greater reaction from the simulation. The results of the actions can take time to manifest themselves. Therefore, the player has to try different things to get the results they want. This will help to extend the life of your content.

World of Warcraft is a good example of this. Endgame Instances require a amount of time before they reset.

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Thank you all for the feedback - it is really appreciated.

KGodwin
The thoughts I had in mind that the game acts as a simple wysiwyg-editor where you can alter heightmaps and a set of sliders to change environmental properties like wind, temperature and moisture etc, so this should suffice in simplicity for any casual gamer.

In a later stage of the world evolution you'll be able to place foilage and obstacles fitting in your current environment. This, in fact, is a restriction too; after a certain gametime, the world will evolve and you'll be able to do other things.

dinner
There is no surprise that this game mode does not please all the players out there, but I think this is the best way of preserving content and avoid player to play the game for 6hrs straight and get bored of it. the Inhabitants will implement some kind of timetick; probably years. Altering your heightmap will take "millions" of years, but fear not: The player will probably regain a set of 500000 years each hour.

xevoxe
I agree, the time of the evolution is a restriction itself but I am not sure if it is sufficient. In any kind of online game, there is always players that has a lot more average playtime than the approximated average gametime and I really don't like that. A player should have equal condition wether they'll play 10hrs or 2hrs

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Played a game recently called Virtual Villagers. Basicly a very simple village simulator where the whole point is to try and solve various "puzzles" or easter eggs. The game was setup basicly in such a way where I guess you were expected to run the game for maybe a few minutes a day. If you tried to play the game for say an hour, you'd quickly find it incredibly dull as everything that happens while playing takes place very slowly. You could see progress and influence what was going on, but it was just slow. But if you turned the game off and ran the game a day later (or sometimes just a couple hours later) you would see an increase in resources and a general progression that was significant enough for you to do something interesting with your next 15 minutes of gameplay.

I got the impression that they performed some calculations to figure out where the game should be everytime you ran it (I didn't experiment at all with changing my system clock). Everything took place locally on your computer except for a simple scoring system. But if you're making a game or simulation online then you could maybe have the server sit there and chug through various calculations as slowly as it needs to to effect changes that'd be significant to providing new gameplay elements. The trick would just be getting the player to realise that patience is a virtue in your game and that his patience will be rewarded. Watching a procedurly generated online world grow could be very rewarding indeed.

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Quote:
Original post by kseh

// .. //

I got the impression that they performed some calculations to figure out where the game should be everytime you ran it (I didn't experiment at all with changing my system clock). Everything took place locally on your computer except for a simple scoring system. But if you're making a game or simulation online then you could maybe have the server sit there and chug through various calculations as slowly as it needs to to effect changes that'd be significant to providing new gameplay elements. The trick would just be getting the player to realise that patience is a virtue in your game and that his patience will be rewarded. Watching a procedurly generated online world grow could be very rewarding indeed.


I've tried that game, but I never tried it long enough to notice that perticular behaviour.
Inhabitants will run the evolutionary math on the server-size each [timeframe - probably hour] and then send the processed data back to the client(s). Exatcly how this evolutionary math is calculated is unknown at the moment. Perhaps I need a dedicated cluster of high-end computers or just a single standalone computer besides the server.



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