Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

11 July, 2008

Weekend Design Challenge: Time off
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 8:00 AM

I wrote this entry ahead of time and set it to be published today. Figured I’d give people something to think about while I’m gone.

As I wrote before, I’m off visiting family without the benefit of an internet connection. That also means I’m not playing any online games. So, let’s think about what this means for most normal people.

How can we treat time away from our computers in online games?

If I were still playing WoW with a raiding guild, I would be missing a week. That’s a week of missed progression, DKP, and general participation in the guild. Now, none of this is enforced by the game itself, but rather by the guild I was in. But, what types of changes to gameplay could be made in order to allow people to not miss out just because they have to go on a bit of vacation?

One idea is to use offline time better in general, similar to the mechanics that EVE uses. This allows people to continue advancing and/or contributing even when offline.

So, what is your thought? How can people still participate in a game even while off on vacation?

(Note, I’m out of town, so if you’ve never posted before it’ll take a few days before I can approve your post. It’s not that I hate you! Not *just*. ;)

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  1. I think EVE has a nice plan, but to really make it work you also need to couple offline time use with web based management. Which I think EVE is planning to do. So that if I am away from a gaming capable PC, it doesn’t mean I can’t do anything. Take EVE as the example, I’d love to be able to hit a web page with any PC or even mobile device to be able to set a new skill to train when the old one has finished.

    Comment by jason — 11 July, 2008 @ 10:05 AM

  2. The reason missing time in WoW raiding is so noticable is definitely based on game mechanics.

    For instance, if you have a group of friends that you regularly do 5-mans with, and you take off a week, you don’t feel the same sense of letting them down.

    I think the reason that it’s so punished in WoW raiding is due to the strict 7-day timers.

    If a week passes when you’re farming honor, or doing 5 mans, you don’t feel like you have let those potential items or points “rot”. You just didn’t do it that week, and you can catch up later.

    But with raiding, there is a very strong sense that each week there is a package of loot wrapped up, and all you have to do is break open the pinata to get it. Since you’re only able to open the box once a week, it’s imperative you open it every week. Because who knows, maybe this week will be THE week where that other warglaive is wrapped up and ready for us to open. And if we don’t kill Illidan, it’s lost forever!

    I think a simple way to solve this, (though it could cause other social problems), would be to unlink the raid IDs from the weekly reset. Allow raid leaders to reset their raids as frequently as they wanted, and likewise maintain a raid ID for as long as they wanted.

    Stuck on Felmyst? Keep the raid ID open until you sort out the problems, rather than feeling like you NEED to clear all the other bosses every week in order to improve your gear, and then just GET back to the place you were at in order to practice.

    Need to farm gear? Speed run your raid instances until you get the gear that you need.

    The raid game would play a lot more like the rest of the game if that were the case. If you took time off, you might even be further behind gear-wise, but as the schedule is more malleable, I don’t think you would feel the same loss of opportunity.

    Sure you might have missed a week of play, but in the future, you could catch it up by attending extra runs, (or not) even if it’s with another guild. Whereas now if you miss a week of time, those raids are gone forever. And that’s somewhat of a scary prospect.

    Likewise, there’s a problem with allowing people to reset their raids whenever they want to, and that is, many players will feel the “need” to reset them every possibility, and the typical high end raid schedule will baloon from 4 days to 7 days per week.

    This could get to the point where it could be difficult to find a guild that raids on a schedule you find reasonable.

    Also, it would probably shorten the time necessary for top guilds to progress, which would probably be a concern for content developers.

    However, allowing persistant raid could instead allow more diverse raid groups to play together, where you maybe only raided together on Saturday Nights.

    Since an instance could persist over multiple weeks, you could actually progress (albeit slowly) in a raid that plays once per week. Whereas now, you would have a very difficult time progressing as much of your time would be already spent defeating bosses you’ve already killed multiple times ebfore.

    That kind of went off topic. But, in conclusion, I definitely think that the reason there is such a feeling of lost time when you miss a week of raids is due to the static weekly reset. Making a much more dynamic reset would make scheduling much more flexible, and would remove that sense of loss. However, changing those rules about resets would change the setting of the raid game in general. I think, in a generally good way.

    Comment by Rob Crouch — 11 July, 2008 @ 10:17 AM

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