This continues from my original post.
Ilkor: Dark Rising is going to have a mixed turnaround. It isn't going to follow the typical PBM's of old where a turn is processed every 1 or 2 weeks. Since it is going to be a web-based browser game and people today generally expect immediate results we have decided to try and mix turn-based with real-time.
We're still in the development phase so we haven't ironed out all the potential concerns and issues, but currently our line of thinking is to run the game with three timelines:
Turn: This is the typical PBM turn as it is known. It will be a weekly turn-around. The turn number will be incremented at midnight every Friday. A turn will represent about 2 weeks in the game world.
Phase: A turn is broken up into 3 phases. Each phase has a deadline date, midnight on Monday (phase 1), Wednesday (phase 2) and Friday (phase 3). The phase 3 deadline of midnight Friday coincides with the end of the Turn. Orders are processed in a 'batch run' at midnight of each phase.
Real-time: During a phase various Actions are permitted. They will be processed immediately and the player will receive the result of the chosen action there and then within the website. Some real-time actions will spawn off emails to players in the form of a notification.
A player is expected to log on at least once per phase. That equates to a minimum of 3 times a week. The various instructions that a player can issue per turn are expected to be spread out over the 3 phases. This is done for a number of reasons:
- Reduces the risk of a list of instructions (orders) failing due to a knock-on effect from a failed instruction;
- Reduces time required to 'submit' a turn; each phase submission could be completed in less than 10 minutes. Breaking it up into 3 smaller chunks (phases) will help new and experienced players understand what they can do, how to issue the instruction and by when;
- More in-line with current expectations of 'browser gamers', but still retaining a large degree of the PBM turn-based strengths;
- Increases traffic & on-line activity (important for player retention and possible revenue streams);
There are 3 possible ways a player will be able to interact with the game during a turn:
Actions: These are performed in real-time. The player will be able to issue these actions immediately and receive the result. Such actions will not give the player an adverse advantage should he issue them before another player. We don't want to get ourselves into a situation where players that issue such actions early on in a phase get advantages over another player who isn't on-line or chooses to only issue actions at another time. The only time an action cannot be issued will be when the phase is processing it's batch of orders (at midnight of the Mon, Tue & Fri). A player has the choice to stay on-line the entire week and issue actions as and when he pleases, or he can log on once a phase and issue actions, or even once a turn (not advisable). A player will have 'x' number of actions he can perform in a turn. Lets call that number 20 for illustration reasons. This number may increase over time as his character advances through the game. Any un-used actions within a turn do not carry over to the next turn. The player may perform all 20 actions in the first phase or spread them out over all 3 phases etc. Each action type can only be performed 'x' number of times within a single turn. For example, a player might be restricted to only 3 Buy Actions per turn. We think there is enough combinations here to really make the player think long and hard regarding which actions he is going to perform, in what order and in which phase.
Orders: These are submitted and only processed at the next phase deadline. Orders can be added, edited and deleted between the start of a phase and the end of the phase (midnight). The duration of a phase is about 48 hours (phase 1 is 72 hours due to taking place over the weekend) so the player is able to alter his set of orders as many times as he wants within this time period. All orders will be processed on the deadline of the phase. All player orders will be processed at the same time, ordered in a logical manner (to be revealed later). Examples of orders could be movement. Potentially the player's character has say 45 movement points in any given turn. He could instruct his character to move north in phase 1 until all the 45 points are exhausted. Or he could just use up 20 points by moving north 2 locations. He may issue this move morning early on in the phase or right at the end. It doesn't really matter when he does this, just so long as it is done before the phase deadline. He could even recall the move order or change it. When the phase deadline kicks in, all move orders for all characters will be processed. Combat will also be dealt with in a similar fashion. This batch approach gives a nice twist to the dynamics, is more in line with traditional PBM (turn-based) and gives every player a chance to prepare themselves, rather than being at a disadvantage to those that are either on-line continuously or early on in the phase.
Tasks: These are very similar to actions in the sense they are processed in real-time. Tasks however are instructions that can be performed as many times as you wish. Tasks also do not really have a major effect on either your character, another player or the world in general. These instructions can be seen as house-keeping instructions, such as changing player preferences, sending a message to a player or the GM, equipping your character with an item from his backpack, etc.
I'm not sure if this article has explained what we are trying to achieve. Hopefully it makes some sense. I would be very interested to hear anyone's comments.