If you can’t do something well. Don’t do it.
That’s been my philosophy on game development from the beginning. In Galactic Civilizations, it meant not having any multiplayer. We didn’t have the budget and resources to do multiplayer well. So we didn’t do it.
In Elemental, single-player is our focus. But we have decided to have multiplayer and that means we are going to do make sure it is done right.
Doing turn-based right
Real-Time strategy games do well in multiplayer because the game continuously moves forward. Players don’t have to wait for other players. In turn based, players inevitably have to wait and that makes them less ideal.
From a design perspective, having lots of different options for handling turns is going to be our focus. From a sheer budget point of view, we cannot justify the resources required to do multiplayer if only hard-core grognards are playing it online.
So let’s look at the different options and then we can discuss your ideas on how we can make a turn-based strategy game fun in online multiplayer.
Elemental will be able to support multiple different turn options so we don’t have to pick one (though we will ultimately *default* to one).
Option #1: Traditional Turn-Base
This is where each player gets their turn. They hit the turn button and then the next person is able to move. There is typically a time limit on turns.
Option #2: Simultaneous turns.
This is where all players move at the same time. When done, they hit the turn button. There is typically a time limit involved on turns or a timer that starts when the first person hits the turn button.
So what are some things we can play around with here? What are some other OPTIONS we could have?
I like the idea of a time bank. You get N seconds per turn. If you finish your turn early, you get to add those seconds to your time bank. If you run out of time, it starts to cost you gold. Like 10 gold per second. If you run out of gold, the turn goes automatically.
There could be city improvements that give players additional time to take turns.
The default time you get would be based on what “League” you were in. 5 seconds for the “gold” league. “10 seconds for the “silver” league and 15 seconds for the “bronze” league. We’ll talk about these leagues more at GDC.
Player could build a Time Bank improvement that adds 1 second to what they get.
Each second they don’t use, goes into their global time pool. Players could “cash in” seconds at a rate of 5 gold per second they want to exchange for.
Obviously, the above would be for experienced online players of the game. Players could choose a variety of options here but what we are looking for is a way to satisfy players who know the game and want to play online with other people and not have it be a long slog.
Certain things would need to stop the clock. Namely, battles. We are inclined to have tactical battles turned OFF by default for online but players can turn it on depending on their setup.
Tactical Battle Options would include:
- Only human vs. Human Battles
We will also have a Tactical Battle Threshold for minimum battle rating necessary to turn it into a tactical battle (ranging from 0 to 1000). You may not want a tactical battle of two soldiers but you might want a tactical battle when it’s two grand armies.
Now it’s your turn
A lot of you, like me, have tried to play turn-based games multiplayer. And a lot of you, like me, found them very tedious and not fun because of the pacing.
I like playing mulitplayer RTS games and FPS’s but multiplayer turn based just has never made the cut. So, what do you think would make it something that would be compelling to a larger audience that you would enjoy?