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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2004

    Respecting the Players Time. Both for Morality & Good Business.

    The concern of burdening the player by calling for an excessive time commitment in a single setting has been touched on a bit, but only as a moral question for us, as game designers, to consider. But I plan on proving that it is that, and good business sense. It is in our best interest if we want to have a more successful game. But first I will write about the Moral implications of being over demanding of a players time.


    It is true that MMO's have been blamed for ending relationships, braking up marriages, and even parents neglecting children in some cases. MMO's are not the only games to do this, but they seem to be in a special destructive class of there own. As I see it, the reason for this is that they have demanded large amounts of time, from the player, in one sitting, just to get anything done. Where as other online games, such as first person shooters, demand less marathon like play sessions to get to a stopping point.

    It is true that people can get pulled into the potential addictive nature of any video game. But with single player games you have the option to pause, if not save your progress, from any point in the game. Because of this feature, people are able to brake and deal with family members, and at meal time, if not just save and pick it up the next day. That freedom, of not having to pay a price for stepping away from a game makes single player games much more friendly for players real world relationships.

    Then there are games like online first person shooters. It is true that in these game you can not pause the game in progress, but they tend to be pretty quick skirmish rounds that leave you with a good braking point in between matches to leave and do other things. Even if you have to leave during a match you do not have the same sense of wasting your time almost getting to a point, and will now have to redo the whole thing, like you do in an MMO.

    I have heard that modern MMOs are doing better at handling this issue, by braking up long quest into parts. I suggest we keep this in mind as we design our game. Because when you make a quest where you must put in, let's say, four to six hours, in one long stretch, just to get it done, and the player knows if they stop three or five hours into it then they will have to do the full four or six hour quest all over again, they are not going to want to leave when they have already put that kind of time into it. It is much easier to tell a spouse that you just need like ten to fifteen more minutes before you can talk to them, or eat, or watch a movie, or whatever, then if you tell them you just need three more hours.

    If you brake up the quest into manageable one hour parts, on an average, then you will allow players to play your game without having to strain their relationships. It allows them to complete objectives, and to progress in the game, without having to spend the whole night on it. What is more, if they should have to leave a quest part, that only takes about an hour, they can do so without having to think, “When am I ever going to have the time to go through this quest again.” Not to mention they are most likely going through it with friends that probably won't want to keep doing the same six hour quest over again just to catch you up, when you keep having to leave two thirds in to it.

    How it Feels to the Player:

    You have also got to think about how your game will make your player feel, if you are demanding long sessions in one sitting from them. Not only does it not feel good to let the people in your life down, but they player may not even enjoy that putting in that much time in one setting. They may be feeling a lot of frustration that it is taking so long. They may want to do other things, and be feeling antsy in their seats, just wishing that it was over. Now I tend to think that if you have players playing much longer then they want to, to the extent where they are not even having fun anymore, and only feeling stress about the time it is taking, that it is a bad out come.

    Now I don't think that you are morally responsible by making a game that is so much fun that people don't want to stop playing it. I would say that that is a good out come, and if people can't find the will to stop and do other things then that is just an issue with addiction that they will need to work out. But there is a big difference between people choosing to play longer, because they are having so much fun, then feeling that they have to stay on longer then they want to, just so that they don't feel they have wasted a bunch of hours, and have got nothing done.

    Good Business Sense:

    Even if the morality of this issue does not concern you, well then self interest should. If you are looking to get as many people playing your game as you can, then you have to consider how your game effects them. An important thing to think about, is that not everybody is willing the sacrifice their relationships for a video game. Many people, when confronted by their spouse, will realize that they can't both play the game and keep their lover in their life, and will simple agree to stop playing the game. Each time this happens, you just lost a valued customer.

    Another angle is that people talk about these things. When people hear about the vast time commitment that your game takes to play, many will decide that it is not for them, and will never even try the game, thinking that they just don't have that kind of time.

    In fact that is the number one reason I hear from gamers why they are uninterested in playing an mmo. You might think it is just the monthly payment to play, but people mostly say that it is just the time. Now the two do go together, in all fairness, as people also mean that they don't have the time to get their moneys worth each month. But a lot of people are even a bit fearful that they will get sucked in to the game and ruin their lives. There is almost a mythology about the potential social destructive powers of an MMO, that will some how make anyone powerless to resist it. So in this way you lose potential customers just by them hearing about the effect it has had on other peoples relationships.

    There are also other ways you lose customers. You lose some customers when they go to collage because they don't feel that they have time for it, even though they keep playing other games. You lose people as they get better, more demanding jobs, and or have kids, even though they continue to play other games.

    So, by just not being respectful of the players time, and letting them make progress in smaller chunks of time, you end up losing valued customers, as well as turning off potential customers. Because of that, I would suggest that you always keep that in mind, and try and design a game where you can make smaller chucks of progress so that you don't have to do it all in one day unless you want to do all the parts of the quest to finish the full quest in one day. That way you leave the choice in the players hands, and you will know they are playing more because they want to, and not because they feel they have to.

    One More Thing:

    I also think that you should keep the thoughts expressed in this post in mind when you talk about in game travel. Lots of people are only willing to give an hour or two a night to playing, and if they are not spending that time doing fun stuff, and are taking up their time just traveling from one spot to another, to meet up with friends, they may well just get tired of doing that and stop playing your game.

    In theory, I do agree with people, such as Nelson, that feel that it adds immersion into the world when you have to take some time to travel from place to place. But I must ask at what price do you do this in a game, and is it worth paying it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    This topic touches on a lot of different aspects of design, namely travel and missioning/questing mechanics among others. I would stress that the game world will inevitably be huge, and travel time as a consequence of exploration or just being on the other side of the world needs to be factored in.

    I think rather early on in the game development process a series of target goals should be agreed upon for things such as average travel time (market to market, quest hub to quest hub, etc), max travel time, average quest time (divide quests up into 1-10min, 10-30min, 30-1hr, 1hr-2hr) etc. Certain goals in the game should be tested and either lengthened or shortened depending on things like the difficulty of the mission and potential income. These kind of things are rather difficult to nail down at this stage of development, lots of Alpha testing and player timing will help immensely.

    When it comes to game time, coming from both World of Tanks and Eve Online, I know both extremes. Some World of Tanks matches last all of 2 minutes, some fleet fights in Eve Online had me sitting on a computer for 8 hours (it was a fun 8 hours, probably wouldn't do again though ) I think most people sit down and can play for 2-3 hours without a problem, most MMORPG's aren't typically your 'pick up and play for 10 minutes' type of arcade games, so a certain amount of player time investment is going to be necessary for proper level progression to take place.

    I guess all I'm trying to say is that so long as a good amount of testing takes place and a little voice in the back of the game developers head constantly asks 'is this game mechanic taking too much of the players time?', then we're all good
    Dangerous. Mute. Lunatic.
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