Real-Time & Turn-Based: Time Progression & Impact of Seasons on Time Zones
Anyone who has ever played a "nation-building" browsergames will agree that the game is highly preferred towards the more active player. This doesn't have to be a bad thing, if it wasn't for the fact that the less active player is substantially worse off. In these games construct building after building, and the faster you can do this the better you're off in the game and you're probably going to win it.
This bad execution of a Real-Time "Strategy" as opposed to the C&C (Command&Conquer) style of games, where all the players are active simultaniously.Just imagine for a second a League of Legends (War/Starcraft) match where the players are active at irregular times and instead of matches lasting 30 minutes they last 8 hours. Just the idea of it sparks shivers down my spine.
Then how can it be done right? Current Grand-Strategy publisher Paradox Interactive has a multiplayer side to most of its games, but people that have played any of their titles will tell you that the game is highly buggy, too many out of syncs through the game and half of it you're waiting for other players to organize their nations or pick policies. So the game is basically paused, and thus not a real time strategy, but more of a turn based game with insane amount of turns which load at different speeds.
Consequently, games such as Civilization and Total War just take the Turn-Based approach. Which is the best approach, but still requires all players to finish their turn before you can move on. Which becomes the more impracticle the more players parcipate, and in the end the game becomes more of a waiting game than anything else.
So how could we take the good out of both genres and make something that works an online "grand-strategy" game that essentially an open world?
Now I propose we merge merge both the Turn-Based and Real-Time elements in game. Use the fact that we have one giant world to our advantage. Let us say that we have a single world, one server, like in EVE. What we could then do, which would be very nice for our cloud-computing effort is to put everyone, by default (this doesn't mean there are no exceptions), in his/her time zone. So that means that the world will not be divided up in two, four, or six parts, but into 24 separate parts which all flow over in each other, as they would (should) in real life.
So about does this have to do with time progression? Well lets say we include the idea of seasons to the game, one would suspect that these seasons will occur at the same timing as they would in real life. However, the problem with this is that nobody wants to spend 3 months sowing the fields and planting crops without ever getting the damn crops, not to mention that winter would be kind of boring. So what can we do? I propose we divide up the day into 4 seasons. So every 6 hours you're in a different season.
What you would get is that at times with the most activity in game (afternoon/evening) would have players playing in what in old days would be the most active seasons. And the best times to wage war, which would also discourage people to attack unknowing players deep in the night. Thus, making the game self-balancing.
- 00:01 - 06:00 = Winter
- 06:01 - 12:00 = Spring
- 12:01 - 18:00 = Summer
- 18:01 - 00:00 = Fall
The seasons would flow over the map horizontally, as opposed to vertically. So when it is Spring in Japan it would be Spring in Australia, but I think this can be ignored for gameplay sake.
So you could then see the season Spring as one turn, Summer as another etc. With this you can still have a long-term planning aspect and make it more viable for people that are not so active to participate in this game. And in between these seasons you would have a real-time world were you would have trade, diplomacy, warfare and all sorts of things going on in your world. Not to mention, being in the same vicinity as people in your own timezone you're more likely to play at the same time as others.
Time progression through the ages would be easier to imagine I feel. Just take Civilization as an example: you progress slower and slower, going from 40 years a turn to even one if you're playing a Marathon. Now you can use this in a online environment as easily as in an offline. The problem is however: the length of the game. Is there going to be an end game? Will there be enough stuff for players to involve themselves with if the a 40 years take a single day, but those 40 years take place in the stone age for example. I think that it is more a question of content and what fits what. Which we will discuss at a different time.