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I started playing Die2Nite and was surprised that it has such a strict limit on the number of actions per day. After a while, I figured it was just part of the charm.

I also started playing Magic Duel and it has a similar mechanic that limits the amount of actions per day.

Is there a game design principle behind a decision to limit actions per day in an MMO?

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2 Answers

up vote 14 down vote accepted

Some reasons I can think of, some of which may or may not apply to your specific examples:

  • Monetization: limiting the amount of actions in an addictive free to play game, and then offering to unlock more actions by paying money is a common way to monetize games.

  • Game balance: by limiting the amount of actions a player can make in a day, you can force players to think more about their strategies, instead of simply giving advantage to players who endlessly grind on your game. Think of this as the extrapolation of the "1 move per player" rule of most board games.

  • Regulations: some countries, like South Korea, have regulations that online game providers have to follow. I think some games have to limit the amount of time players can be connected per day.

You have to be careful though, because if your game is not fun enough, or if players begin to feel helpless, the fact that you can only do so much in a determined period of time could lead to your ruin.

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+1 In free games with no in-game purchases they limit it too. Most likely the main reason is the balance. –  sm4 Jun 28 '13 at 2:47
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Limiting actions per-period can also help to encourage increased sustained concurrency, by requiring that players keep logging in frequently to achieve optimal use of their daily actions to reach a longer-term goal. –  Josh Petrie Jun 28 '13 at 3:02
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In most MMOs without such a constraint, success in the game depends solely on how much time someone spends on it.

This makes these games very frustrating for people who have full-time jobs and thus can not compete with those who have time to play several hours each day.

By limiting the actions per day you level the playing field between these people and make the game enjoyable for both types of players.

Related question: MMORPG design for time-limited players

Related South Park episode: http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s10e08-make-love-not-warcraft

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Downvoted because i don't agree that constraining actions per day levels the playing field. You've just created two different groups, those who've played a lot of days, and those who haven't. There's still no way to catch up to others. –  user1895420 Jun 28 '13 at 16:40
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