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Plusekwal

Pausing the game in multiplayer

24 posts in this topic

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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A player could [i]ask [/i]for a pause, if the others agree, fine, otherwise too bad for him/her.
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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! ;)
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[quote name='Plusekwal' timestamp='1311856907' post='4841551']is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so? [/quote]
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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[quote name='Tom Sloper' timestamp='1311866650' post='4841648']
[quote name='Plusekwal' timestamp='1311856907' post='4841551']is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so? [/quote]
No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.[/quote]

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.

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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.
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[quote name='Sandman' timestamp='1311924646' post='4842020']
[quote name='Tom Sloper' timestamp='1311866650' post='4841648']
[quote name='Plusekwal' timestamp='1311856907' post='4841551']is it a good idea to enable the players to pause the game when they need to do so? [/quote]
No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.[/quote]

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.
[/quote]

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! [img]http://public.gamedev.net/public/style_emoticons/default/wink.gif[/img] -some of it, at least.
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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.
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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.
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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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[quote name='Acharis' timestamp='1311942464' post='4842108']
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.
[/quote]
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.
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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,
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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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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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[quote name='Hodgman' timestamp='1311939269' post='4842094']
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.
[/quote]

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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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 - [u]everyone can play with different nickname every time s/he joins the multiplayer room[/u]. 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.
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[quote name='greentiger' timestamp='1311975826' post='4842318']
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.
[/quote]
This is incorrect. In Warcraft III you [b]can[/b] 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:
[list][*]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.[/list]
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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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If they are close friends you know, why do you need to [b]force[/b] 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 [b]abuse[/b], 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 [i]will[/i] 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.
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[quote name='Kryzon' timestamp='1312166949' post='4842976']
If they are close friends you know, why do you need to [b]force[/b] 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 [b]abuse[/b], 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 [i]will[/i] 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.
[/quote]

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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[quote name='Kryzon' timestamp='1312055848' post='4842615']
[quote name='greentiger' timestamp='1311975826' post='4842318']
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.
[/quote]
This is incorrect. In Warcraft III you [b]can[/b] 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:
[list][*]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.[/list]
[/quote]

Perhaps it's just StarCraft 1 then where only the pausing player can unpause the game. Honestly, it would piss me off to no end if I paused the game because of a bathroom break or a phone call and someone else unpaused it. I think the solution of a pause with a timer is best (but 3 minutes is enough time to say call me back but probably not enough time for a bathroom break).
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You could handle it like a game of online poker. Any player in an active game can hit the "sit out" button. They still have a seat at the table but their turn is skipped until they come back.

You could even go one step further and put a time limit on how long somebody can sit out before being booted from the game. Say 10 to 20 minutes.
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[quote name='Tom Sloper' timestamp='1311866650' post='4841648']
No, it is not.
One player must not be allowed to impact everyone else's game like that.
[/quote]

So if after a 1hour game the UPS guy is at the door I'm supposed to instantly surrender? This obviously works in a FPS game where you often can join and leave games at will. But for example in an RTS it doesn't work out at all... I'd actually rather have to wait 1 minute while my opponent sorts out his stuff instead of him just randomly surrender whenever something happens. The SC2/Blizzard system works nicely in that regard. If someone needs a pause he will pause the game, announce why he paused (in 90% it's the phone) and shortly afterwards will come back and continue. If the opponent doesn't say anything about why he paused you ask and if he still doesn't answer you unpause...

In well over 1k SC2 ladder games I had only a single occurrence of someone going "wait a sec, phone" and then not coming back for 5 minutes, after which I unpaused.
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EDIT: Wow, apparently everyone else has quoted from WC3 too. Sorry.

-------------------------------------------------------------
Warcraft III implemented a system like this. Each player got 3 pauses, and every player can unpause the game even if they didn't pause it. It attracts trolls, yes, but they can't do a whole lot if you can just hit F10 then P (I think that's the hotkey...I still don't know after 8 years of playing WC3).
Defense of the Ancients has the worst gaming community of any online game, and this pause system is barely noticeable, even in the foul hands of those players (shudder). Sometimes it can screw you up, but very rarely, and you only get 3 pauses per player, so it can't be excessively abused. In some situations, players actually allow you to pause if you give them a reason in the start of the game.

That being said, Defense of the Ancients (which is a 'map' made with Warcraft III's map editor, using Warcraft III's graphics and engine) is a very competitive game and is being made into a "real" game called DotA 2. There was a tournament with a million dollar prize, played using the early stages of DotA2 (which might not have the pause system, but I think you get the point).

The worse, most horrible, not thought out at all system in WC3 was the save system. Any player can save a game, even in multiplayer, and everyone has to wait for it to finish saving, and it goes straight into their Saves folder. I'm not even sure how you would load a game that originally had 10 players in it at once...it's never happened. Instead, this system has delayed games, irritated lots of people, and put lots of save files named profane words in our save file that we, the players of WC3 and DotA, periodically delete. This is a system that could really use a "Player is requesting to save the game. Do you agree?" system...I think it has a cap to how many times you can save, though, because I've only seen about 2 in a row from the same player in the past, and certainly if there was no cap the ill hearts of the DotA community would've continued saving until everyone left the game.

I think a "Do you agree to pause the game for this player?" system would work, or one similar to WC3. Or both, so you have to agree to pause it and you can unpause it at any time, or have a vote that requires like, 20-70% of the players in the match to vote "Unpause" for it to unpause.
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Allow a certain amount of pause time per player per last 10 hours of in game time. That way it can be used in a single match but not in all of them.

Also moving the mouse should unpause the game so he cant just go browse webz wmtrying to bore others out.

And allow the other players to freely go around the map in case its a rts so they can think about a strategy while waiting.
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