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Let's consider a game where every player is building his own medieval town. To make this question simple, let's assume that, on this persistent world, some people will play an hour every day (heavy players), and others will spend an hour per week (light players).

To keep the game fair, a gamer with a lot of free time shouldn't be able to grow much faster than a less present gamer just because he connects more often to the game.

So the first idea is to have a sort of time-based budget: You are saving "action points" as the time is passing. When you connect, you are able to spend this "action points". This way, players are fairly treated...

I see 2 problems:

  • On one hand, heavy gamers should have the opportunity to play. As often that they want to...

  • On the other hand, light gamers will be able to connect and make a lot of "actions" in a really short range of "real time" (for instance without been "seen" as the heavy players are..)

So my question is:

What are the solutions that allows light and heavy players to play flairly and balanced regardless of free time to play?

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Why do you want to punish people who want to play your game? If someone is willing to invest more time, they should probably progress at a significantly different rate compared to someone who does not. What is your reasoning for making this not the case? Do you not want people to play your game regularly? – Bill Sep 2 '11 at 14:54
@Bill, I think he does want people to play the game, but he want a game where people have a chance to be competitive despite having a job or going to school and generally getting 8 hours of continuous sleep every night. Which would make it different from the majority of games in the online long-term simulation genre. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Sep 2 '11 at 15:27

Make this "action points" system plus a multipliers system: The more the player keeps online, the less actions points he gets. Heavy players will be never happy in any kind of blocking system.

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I have a hunch that heavy players might be particularly unhappy about getting less action points. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Sep 2 '11 at 14:42
Yes, they will be unhappy and will complain a lot. But you need to be fair, are the heavy players the majority in the game? – Victor Debone Sep 2 '11 at 14:49
Heavy players will be heavy players, and they will generally game the system in any way possible. So if there is a punishment for being logged in, they will shape their login pattern to be hit as little as possible. They will probably still spend a lot of time planning, but the server can't see that if they don't log in to do it. – aaaaaaaaaaaa Sep 2 '11 at 15:37
By keeping online I meant doing actions that really affects the game, not randomness clicks to see your own town. – Victor Debone Sep 2 '11 at 15:46
It doesn't really matter what measure you use, the hardcore players will adapt to it. (But they still may not at all like it) – aaaaaaaaaaaa Sep 2 '11 at 15:53

The game economy should run at a set speed, you could make it so simply by everything taking a set amount of time. Just like any other other game, if you order a building constructed, it will take an amount of time, and your builders won't be available for any other job before that time has passed.

In order to keep this kind of system fair to light users it is important that all orders can be queued, even if the player at the time of giving the order lacks the requirements for giving an order, as that may have changed when the order is executed.

If you want a form of PvP combat in the game that is a more difficult task, you don't want someone to get stomped because they are offline when the battle happens. As I see it that leaves two options:

  • Defenders can't prepare for the individual battle, they may perhaps set up their defence in some general manner, but by the time they know that they will be attacked, it's too late to do anything about it.

  • Defenders have plenty time to respond (at least 24 hours from they know that they will be attacked until it's too late for changing the defence plan), some things, like what resources they have for the defence, will be frozen as in the above method, and it shouldn't be possible to alter the economy to make more soldiers available for the defence than there would otherwise be. But a making a defence plan, setting up units, giving battle-orders etc. might be possible.

Remember, it's always an advantage to spend more time. Spending more time thinking, discussing strategies on the forum etc. will simply make you play better. In some games you may however also get a far more material advantage in the form of being able to execute more orders or do them more timely.

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I find the Bonus-Pool mechanic in Starcraft 2 quite interesting in that regard. It's basically a pool of bonus-points that accumulates over time. When you win a match, you get "regular" points plus additional points from the bonus-pool.

Frequent players will deplete the bonus-pool quickly and therefore don't get extra points when they play. Less frequent players benefit from points from the pool.

How could this mechanic be transferred to a game like yours? I guess it would be interesting if you could earn your action-points (or currency) by completing tasks. The amount of points could also be dependent on how well you performed.

A frequent player will be able to play all the time and amass action-points he can use (to build stuff or whatever). Less frequent players also have to perform tasks (obviously) but they will get additional points from the "bonus-pool", so that they don't fall behind too much.

While this might sound quite similar to what you had in mind (action-points are given over time) it is different in that regard that you have to actually play the game to earn stuff (it doesn't happen automatically over time). The bonus will only kick in if you earn something during gameplay.

Just make it so that you get a slight benefit if you play regularly, but so that you don't fall too far behind if you only play once a week.

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What you describe, incidentally, is almost exactly what Blizzard has been doing in World of Warcraft since its original release; time you spend not playing the game gives you a bonus multiplier to experience you earn when you do play, so there's less of a gap between people who play a lot, and people who play only a little. ( – Trevor Powell Sep 4 '11 at 8:50

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