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I have an online multiplayer card game resembling spades/bridge and I want to implement a system that autoplays when a client disconnects. Right now, there is a client and server. In the new system, there will be an autoplay server sitting between the client and the actual game server.

The client connects to the autoplay server which in turn connects to the game server. If the client disconnects during a match, the autoplay server is activated.

Both servers will reside on the same machine so communication cost should be minimal. Processing cost should be minimal as well as the autoplay will be programmed with limited skills only to keep the match going till the end. The idea is not to break the game flow once a player disconnects. But, I don't see autoplay systems in popular commercial games such as Zynga poker (maybe in this case because a disconnection can be easily be considered as a Check or Fold.) Well, is it really worth it to have an extra layer for autoplay?

Edit: Are there other drawbacks for having an extra layer for autoplay?

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I feel like this would be a better, more appropriate question, if you rephrased it so it wasn't asking about users' opinions on whether or not autoplay is "worth it." –  Josh Petrie Apr 18 '13 at 4:59
    
If you want it implement it. –  danijar Apr 18 '13 at 19:35

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

When you play a game online, you usually play it online because you want to play against a human opponent. So it doesn't make much sense to play when your opponent is computer-controlled.

But when you have a multiplayer game which has more than two players and which becomes unplayable when one player drops out of the game (like Hearts), it would certainly be preferred by the remaining players when they could end the game with the remaining human players while the missing player is taken over by an AI. The more players the game requires the more likely will it be that one player will drop out of the game.

When the game system allows players to leave the game suddenly (like in a game with a last-player-standing win condition), leaving the game should be treated like another lose condition.

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+1 for the fact that when people play online, they expect human opponents: the whole reason for having online multiplayer games! –  Mika Apr 20 '13 at 18:11

If you want the feature, implement it.
If you don't want the feature don't implement it.

If you're unsure if the player wants it, implement it and notify the user if the other player disconnects and give them an option to continue with the AI player.

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Whether to replace a player or not is of course a design choice. I think the question you have to ask yourself is: do you want to count a player quitting as a win for the other player or not?

  • If not, you'd probably end up forfeiting the match results, to which replacing the player with an AI might be a good alternative.
  • If you do want to count it as a win, there is no need to replace the player. But in the case of a connection problem, you'd end up with branding the disconnected player as a quitter and therefore count it as a loss. Having them both play against the AI in this scenario would allow both of them to get a fair chance at winning the game.

So in the end it all comes down to your preference and what you think is fair to the players involved in the match.

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