Sorry about the absence… been rather tied up.  There has actually been a fair bit of activity and related ideas I wanted to comment on, too.  Eh well, better late than never, I guess.

Quoting from this recent post by Moorgard…

The ideal, then, would be to create a game that players found absolutely compelling for years on end without feeling like they need to play a large number of hours per week to enjoy it or match up to other players in the world. They would limit their own time in the game spent performing repetitive tasks as a natural result of how the game is designed to play. In other words, that they would play a given number of hours per week because they want to, not because they need to.

The topic is finding ways to prevent the types of problems created in systems where ability is tied directly to “time played”: friends with different time constraints end up not being able to play together, that kind of thing.  So, how about somewhat disconnecting advancement rate from actual time in play? 

It seems utterly weird, of course… rewards and character advancement while not playing?  However, isn’t that exactly what the above ideal is going to boil down to, one way or another?

This is already being done in certain limited ways, on a covert basis.  The “Rested” condition in World of Warcraft, for example, is essentially bonus XP for not playing.  The simple expedient of allowing a character to have full hit points at log in, even if they logged out near death, is a minor reward for not playing, especially in games where unassisted hit point recovery is slow or non-existant (this resolved one of my pet peeves from the early days of EQ1).

Being more overt about this would not necessarily mean simply dumping XP on a character each time they log in, however.  A “mission-based” game, for example, could provide shorter missions of higher relative value upon first logging in for the day, with diminishing returns and longer run times for each subsequent mission offered.  Note that “grinding” in such a game would necessarily provide a very low rate of return in comparison, if this was going to have the intended impact, which would be potentially frustrating to some.

A somewhat more overt and contrived system might apply a reward only once per day at a specific time, a concept similar to many pen-and-paper RPGs like the Chaosium titles.  The amount of reward (and specific skills it was applied to, in a skill-based system) would be somewhat determined by the activities of the player, but limited to a certain range, where if a brief 1-2 hours of activity during granted X points, for example, a full 24 hours of play might grant 2X.  The diminishing returns concept applied on a daily basis, essentially.

In my dream design, I use the concept of “off-line time” quite heavily.  Time logged off essentially accrues to the player as a separate reward mechanism, and can be spent in variety of ways:

  • move the character between locations, mitigating the “log in and spend an hour jogging across the world to join my friends” effect, without resorting to the summoning spell workaround
  • practice and training options, allowing slow but constant acquisition of skill mastery or concept contemplation
  • “work for hire”, errand running or practice of craft/trade, allowing slow but constant acquisition of coin/cash
  • socializing, maintaining and enhancing existing NPC relationships and faction scores without the need for constant attention from the player

Time in play in reserved for locating new resources and new opportunities, and doing the “exciting stuff”… an alternate implementation of a “cut to the chase” philosophy, if you will.  “You can grind if you want to, but won’t leave your friends behind…” (a bad musical pun, sorry… if you didn’t get it, think 1980s and “Safety Dance”)

Part of the intent here is to make staying logged in and just grinding away a somewhat poor choice of the use of the player’s time if the intent is simply and merely to advance the character.  If the player has something they want to do, feel free… otherwise, just take some time off.  It’s kind of like “botting” without the bandwidth consumption, and available to all…

Anyway, just some disjointed thoughts on the topic that I wanted to get written up before they were lost in the mists of mental antiquity.