Even though I’ve been incredibly busy with freelance work over the last couple of months, I’ve somehow found time to begin work on a system for playing boardgames through the web browser. This is something I’ve wanted to do for years but it’s only now that I feel I have the knowledge to achieve it on my own. I’m using the CakePHP framework and learning a lot of it as I go.
The way the system will work is heavily influenced by the amazing yucata.de which I play on all the time. The problem I think Yucata has is that a lot of its games simply aren’t suited to the online format. They even have one of my all-time favourite games on there, Stone Age but the way that players take their turns means that even if everyone has a turn every day or two, the game can last for months. In real life the game takes less than an hour and it’s fast paced with little downtime thanks to the turn structure which gives players lots of short, quick turns.
So I think that games must be carefully designed to make the most of the many advantages of online play.
Simultaneous turns vs. sequential turns
Assuming that players only get a chance to play once a day, if four players take turns sequentially then the chances are that they will be waiting four days for their next turn.
On the other hand, if the game allowed all players to enter their turns simultaneously, then they would only have to wait for the slowest player rather than all players before they can take their next turn. The game waits for all players to input their actions for the turn, then process all the actions and show the outcomes to the players for the start of the next turn.
Turn length and complexity
If when a player’s turn arrives it only takes the them 30 seconds to think about their options and enter their turn then it will feel like quite an anti-climax if they’ve been waiting a day or two for it. I would rather they had to give their actions some serious thought but entering them into the game should be as quick as possible. This suggests to me that a game should give players lots of possible options each turn but only allow them to perform a handful at a time.
A low limit on the number of actions players can perform each turn should have them trying to second-guess each other and weighing up the risks of everything they do. Coincidentally this sounds like exactly the kind of game I’d like to play!