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Yann
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  SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Thu, 06 February 2014 14:56
Dear Small World 2 players,

As mentioned earlier, we would like to run some ideas by you for feedback ahead of our next major revision to Small World 2. This doesn't mean this development will turn into some sort of "design by committee"; but we are going to be looking for constructive feedback and brilliant suggestions, which we will do our best to implement within the scope of our development resources.

To accomplish this, we plan on releasing a handful of successive "Design Notes", each covering a specific topic. This first note is an introduction intended to give you the big picture on what we're planning for Small World 2.5

While the feedback we've received from you all about Small World 2 has been mostly positive, there clearly remained one important area where major improvements would be much appreciated: Online gaming.

The main problems reported by players are:
1) Other players inconsiderately dropping out of online games during mid-game.
2) Lack of real competitive gaming in the Quick Play area - the Play with Buddies, although nice, is not enough.
3) Lack of a real "lobby", à la Ticket to Ride, to help build and foster a strong community.

Before we dig into more details, remember that Small World is very different from Ticket to Ride gameplay-wise, so the recipes that work so well with Ticket to Ride can't necessarily be applied to Small World. T2R games revolve around micro-turns and the overall duration of games, especially 2 player ones, can be extremely short. On the opposite, Small World has much smaller number of game turns, but each game turn is much more meaningful and necessitates a commensurately greater amount of reflection. We believed, and continue to believe, that implementing online games on top of an asynchronous server would address the problem. And to a large extent it does, but it's not enough.

Fundamentally, there are two styles of games that people seem to want to play:
- "Single Session" games, played from start to finish in a fixed amount of time, like for the next 15 minutes, without interruption. This is real-time online gaming, just like Ticket to Ride. Obviously this is what people expect when clicking on "Quick Play" but it fails because games are still asynchronous and players too often bail out.
- "Turn-based" games that take more time, and where several games might be run in parallel, over a period of time. This is the typical asynchronous style of play.

In order to address all of the above issues, here's how we plan to rework the Online feature of Small World 2.

Idea #1: Replace "Quick Play" by a new "Online Arena"

We plan to remove the Quick Play interface and replace it by a completely new screen, called the "Online Arena". This screen will implement a full "lobby" (à la Ticket to Ride) in which you can chat with people who are connected, create a new game and see the list of open games that you can join. Very similar to Ticket to Ride.

Idea #2: Two types of games

When you create a game, you will choose between a "Single Session" game or a "Turn-based" game.
You will only ever be able to have ONE "Single Session" game at any moment, by definition. This is real-time gaming, meant to be played in a single continuous game session, and where you commit to stay in the game for its entire duration! As a result, if you - or another player - leaves the game, that person will be immediately replaced by a robot that will take over for that now-missing person - just like in Ticket to Ride - so that the game can continue to completion.
"Turn-based" games will remain the same asynchronous games that you already play Small World with Online. You can have several ongoing sessions at the same time, just like now.

Idea #3: Time-boxed playtime

Now, here is the new idea we haven't implemented in any of our online games yet: your playtime will be time-boxed, i.e. each player will have a preset and agreed upon, limited amount of allocated time to play the entire game. Each players' clock will automatically decrement that player's time, when it's his/her turn to play, very much like in a clock-based chess tournaments: each player will have a count-down clock that decrements time when it's his/her turn to play and that automatically stops ticking when his/her turn is over, automatically starting the next player's turn.
If a player runs out of time, he will automatically lose the game, but a bot will take over so that the other players can finish the game if they wish. In the case of a 2 player game, the player that still has time will automatically be guaranteed the win, even if he then chooses to not finish the game (because playing against a bot isn't as much of a challenge nor as much fun); in the case of a 3 player game or more, the bot stepping in for the player that ran out of time will allow the game to continue so that remaining players can continue competing against each other until the game's completion.
Not only will this always guarantee that a game is finished within the timeframe pre-agreed in advance by all players who joined the game, but it will also allow the community to easily organize tournaments, while introducing an interesting time element whenever players decide to opt for a short (as opposed to a long) Playtime period, much like in Speed Chess.

Note that this same time limit will also apply to asynchronous "Turn-based" game sessions, but the proposed playtimes will be much longer than with "Single Session" games (ie a typical playtime for a game might be several days as opposed to 10 minutes).

Next memo: Online Game Creation. We will cover the various parameters that you will be able to set when creating an online game, along some screenshot mock-ups.

We look forward to your comments!

The Days of Wonder dev team

[Updated on: Thu, 06 February 2014 15:21]

      
OneBagTravel
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Thu, 06 February 2014 15:50
Great ideas. I'm glad you're taking some of the feedback from the forums and implementing them. I feel the best scenario would be a combination of 2 and 3. I'd actually like a game lobby similar to Memoir 44. You can see games listed, the size of the game, and you can choose to play with people and chat with them before the game starts. In addition, I feel a default time limit per turn should be in effect by default for these "live" games. 2 minutes per turn is sufficient enough time to play an strategy. If they fail to finish their move in that time frame then they are removed from the game and a bot will take over. This action might also make them lose karma points if you'll still be implementing that system in with Small World 2.

I feel you won't have to change much from the core experience we have right now. There just needs to be focus on letting the player know the difference between the live play and the asynchronous games. My thought from the get-go was to only allow asynchronous games launch from the buddy list. That way each player knows the other and accept the asynchronous game style. I've had a few horrible public matches when the player just up and left leaving me hanging.

To summarize, focus on quick live matches, two minute time limit per turn, chat-room based game selector.

One last thought, if the chat room system is a no-go then just improve the current match making system. If I want to play a public 5 player game then let me choose that and match me with other 5 player gamers. Same goes for 4, 3, and 2 player games. OR if it can't find a 5 player match, then have it prompt me asking if I'd want to play a 4 player game that's ready to go.

(wow this was long) Laughing
      
eric
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Thu, 06 February 2014 16:41
To be very clear: The time limit won't be a time limit per turn, it will be a time limit per entire game for each player. So a 2 player game with a 10 min time limit will last a (maximum of) 2x10 = 20 minutes. Just like the way a Chess clock works.
      
DAC cazaron
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Thu, 06 February 2014 21:04
Rather than writing a long paragraph:

Yes please. Very happy with those suggestions.

Thanks, devs. Love your work.
      
Leeroy1
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  Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Fri, 07 February 2014 00:29
Several thumbs up for this. I like how you decided to go a different route with how online gameplay works, but learnt from the possible downsides of this and adopted a new yet familiar method that seems to be the fixer of the problem. This is what good teams are made from: listening to feedback and criticism, adapting the product to limit these criticisms, and refining a product to get it from 'good' to 'great'. Your work has certainly not gone unappreciated.
      
rasmussen81
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Fri, 07 February 2014 09:06
I think this is a wonderful idea and will fix the weak areas of the game. We'll have a lobby where we can meet and invite people to games, see what games still need players, and join ones that look fun.

We'll have bots taking over if someone leaves, so we can always finish a game, and the 'chess clock' idea will make it really easy to ensure people play in a timely manner (since they lose if their time runs out).

Great ideas, DoW! Keep the improvements coming. Very Happy

PS - I'm surprised there isn't more feedback (positive or negative) about these ideas. This is our chance to share our thoughts and encourage the developers! Use it, everyone!!
      
Leeroy1
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Sat, 08 February 2014 01:08
rasmussen81 wrote on Fri, 07 February 2014 03:06



PS - I'm surprised there isn't more feedback (positive or negative) about these ideas. This is our chance to share our thoughts and encourage the developers! Use it, everyone!!


I think this is because this was already a feature in Ticket to Ride (which worked beautifully iirc), so the negatives seem to have been previously covered or not glaringly obvious (if there are even that many). Rather than replacing the asynchronous mode completely, they decided to keep both as an option, which seems like the best choice, since it offers the best of both worlds (you don't have time to sit through an entire game at once OR you are dedicated to finishing a game).
I think the negatives in this is that there may be more bugs that arise from this, and the game already has a few (the in-game race/power descriptions still appear through the steam overlay, for one), so I think that they should try and fix some of these existing bugs before they ship the big update. Unless they fix them with the new update... in which case I'm all for that/

But yeah, people, don't whinge about the game and then proceed not to tell any of the developers about it. Tell them!

[Updated on: Sat, 08 February 2014 01:11]

      
AngryMarine
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Sat, 08 February 2014 22:35
It really takes time to digest it! This time I won't be quick to judge. In September the suggested ways to play seemed strange to me, but the more I was playing the more I was realizing that they are almost perfect.
Meanwhile I have only questions, not suggestions.

Will the "Online with Buddies" mode remain as it is?

Will there be an option to make Online Arena games ranked?

P.S. As for the lack of feedback from players, I think it is just because the thread is posted on the wrong forum. Why not post it where the digital variant of the game is discussed?

Edit: Now when the thread is moved to where it belongs the P.S. note may be considered outdated.

[Updated on: Mon, 10 February 2014 08:13]

      
jepmn
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Sun, 09 February 2014 19:36
I think these are really good ideas and a good direction. I think this will make it more likely for me to play against random strangers. As it is, I've basically given up on online play in its current form.

My only suggestion is to allow for more bot participation. I have a friend who moved several states away, and we play SW online every week for at least one game. But the way it works means we will always play two player games. Two player games are fun, but variety is the spice of life. With only two player, you don't get all the variations of fun that SW brings. Diplomat (again, please allow an option for this to be disabled in two player!) and Sorcerers are just not the same in 2p as in 3p+.

What I'd like to see in both Online with Buddies and Quick Play is the ability to fill up as many slots as you want with bots. I want my friend and I to be able to play 3, 4, 5, or even 6 player games (hey, I can dream) where we're the only humans (6p would put us on the same team) with the rest of the roster as bots. This has the advantage of being able to play a game with the full set of players, but for it to be FAST because only two of the players are slow meat-based computers.

Now that you're implementing server-side bots to take over for players (or if you're building the app so that one persons local bot plays for another player, whatever), I think you'll probably have more opportunities for this kind of thing.

BTW, LOVING playing on the PC now. Just had to say that. The UI possibilities when you get away from a touch screen avoid some of the frustrations. Still wish for an UNDO button (as long as you haven't rolled a die), though. I've bought the iOS and Steam version and will probably eventually get the Android one (I have a mix of devices).

Edit: I'll echo AngryMarine's comment. I didn't notice this thread because of the forum. Rasmussen pointed me here.

Edit: Glad to see it's in the Digital forum now.

[Updated on: Tue, 11 February 2014 18:18]

      
Yann
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 10:48
AngryMarine écrit le Sat, 08 February 2014 22:35

Will the "Online with Buddies" mode remain as it is?


Yes, except that the invitation system will be improved, which means that the game will really start only after all players have accepted the game.

AngryMarine écrit le Sat, 08 February 2014 22:35

Will there be an option to make Online Arena games ranked?


Yes.

Yann
      
AngryMarine
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 11:46
Thank you very much for your response, Yann!

Now that the picture of the future version looks much clearer to me, I can say that the changes you have announced are a huge step forward!

My special appreciation goes to the idea of Single Session games, I only hope that the frames of time-boxed playtime will be adjustable to our liking, because sometimes I meet very interesting interlocutors online and I would love to have time not only to play, but also to chat.
      
rasmussen81
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 18:21
AngryMarine wrote on Mon, 10 February 2014 14:46


My special appreciation goes to the idea of Single Session games, I only hope that the frames of time-boxed playtime will be adjustable to our liking, because sometimes I meet very interesting interlocutors online and I would love to have time not only to play, but also to chat.


I would bet that once you start a game you can't change the time limit. So let's say I start a single-session game with Billy Bob and give us each 10 minutes on the game clock. That means that no matter what, the game will be over in 20 minutes...but then it turns out that Billy Bob is an interesting fellow and I want to chat more with him...

Our game time continues to tick down as we chat, and there will not be any way to extend the time limit in the middle of a game! It would be best to finish out my 20 minute game with Billy Bob and then invite him to a game with a much longer time limit, so that we can chat as much as we want. Very Happy

[Updated on: Mon, 10 February 2014 18:21]

      
AngryMarine
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 18:49
I understand that once the game starts the time frames can't be changed, but I hope that I will be able to start a Single Session game with at least 20 minutes time limit for each player.

[Updated on: Mon, 10 February 2014 18:51]

      
rasmussen81
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 19:29
AngryMarine wrote on Mon, 10 February 2014 21:49

I understand that once the game starts the time frames can't be changed, but I hope that I will be able to start a Single Session game with at least 20 minutes time limit for each player.


Yes, we'll have to see how long the Single Session time goes up to. If it's not long enough for you, though, you can always start an Asynch game with a really long time limit and just play it in one sitting! Then you can talk all you want. Very Happy
      
AngryMarine
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 20:27
I really think that the time frames should be adjustable. If I have little time I will create a table for two with 10 minutes time limit for each player, and someone, who is also in a hurry, but wants to have a short game, can join my table.

But if I am relaxed and in no mood to be pressed for time I would love to set the game for 20 or even 30 minutes for each player. It does not necessarily mean that all this time will be used, but that will allow the players to feel comfortable during the game and to have a nice chat if they want to.

And if I start a Turn-Based game as you suggest, Jesse, it does not guarantee that my opponents won't leave having taken the first turn.

[Updated on: Mon, 10 February 2014 20:41]

      
AngryMarine
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Re:SW 2.5 (the software) - Design Notes #1: Introduction Mon, 10 February 2014 20:49
I would also suggest to give 1 minute to a player to re enter the table before being replaced by a bot in case the game crushes, as we know that it happens quite often.

[Updated on: Mon, 10 February 2014 20:51]

      
    
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