Monday, September 10, 2012

Game Design Philosophy: TimeOut Mode


I've started a new section for rants, mostly involving game design ideas that are going around in my head. I'm not going to keep them to myself, because I feel that by sharing or throwing around the ideas, it might get some traction or people can expand on the ideas.

Unless, some company is paying me to keep my mouth shut, and that hasn't happened yet.

My method is mainly applied to PvE raids in MMOs. I would like to start a discussion on PvP and large scale battles in online games. What would be a fair way to handle disconnections? Also, I would like some input from the Xbox community. I don't play/have Xbox Live and I would like to know how they handle disconnections in their community.

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Handling Disconnections:

I've been playing MMOs and online games for a while, and most games seem to have a terrible way of handling disconnections.

In Wii/Nintendo Wi-Fi connection games, most communication with other players are highly restricted due to the overall younger nature of the players that are playing their games. Most people (as in Mario Kart Wii or Super Smash Bros. Brawl) tend to rage-quit if they are on the losing side to avoid having score penalties or losses on their record. There's not much punishment or recourse for this because you can't really tell (no one can really tell) if it's a legitimate disconnection or someone is actually butt-hurt and doesn't want to play anymore. Pokemon Black and White is starting to give harsh penalties for disconnecting in their Wi-Fi tournaments, and I believe forcing disconnections is marked on your trainer card, but I don't remember exactly.

Age of Empires and Age of Mythology have a timeout/wait period where the players can vote on whether to keep or drop the player. However, this could be abused, given that the opponents could try and unanimously vote to drop the player in order to get a competitive edge. This is the closest form to the method I am proposing, but unfortunately this is only used for disconnections and does not reflect the vision for strategy that I want to use.



Most MMOs just have the disconnected player drop the party and they will return once they log back in. This too can cause problems because if an integral member of the party drops out, it can spell certain death for the remaining party members, especially if it were a healer or tank.

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TimeOut Method:

This came up while I was angry about my disconnection last night. The whole party delved into chaos in the two or so minutes I was not online.

I was thinking about this method/feature called TimeOut. I got inspiration for the name because sports games usually have a set amount of Time Outs for each team, and they tend to start calling them like crazy at the very end of the game to do last minute strategy changes to try and win against the opposing team.


I also took into account that players take time to plan strategies for an upcoming battle, and TimeOut can be used for that as well.

How it works:

The party leader/guildmaster/person in charge would be given free use of TimeOut.

When TimeOut is initiated, all gameplay is frozen, the area is zoomed out and shown an overhead view with all of the people/enemies in place. The chat box is enabled and markers can be placed on the map in order to set a strategy for the party. This would be a good place to explain where people should stand, where they run to, and how the battle works. If there are multiple stages in the fight, TimeOut could be repeatedly used in order to adjust for dynamic strategy changes.

To handle disconnections in the group, the server should recognize the amount of people in the group when they enter the instance and when the group falls below this amount of people, TimeOut is automatically initiated. The party can then discuss whether or not they should wait for the dropped player to come back to resume gameplay or continue with the member dropped. 

To avoid abuse by players or making the content too potentially easy, there should be a limit on either the number of times TimeOut can be initiated OR a cumulative timer that counts down everytime TimeOut is used.


It's a simple method, and I know there's probably flaws in this design, but if you guys have suggestions or comments on it, it would be greatly appreciated. 

I would also like to work on a method for how TimeOut would work in other situations or games. Player vs Player or other situations.



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