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
[Aktualisiert am: Thu, 06 February 2014 15:21]