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I'm working on a text RPG (in principle similar to cantr.net) that allows players to role-play their characters in a player-driven world. Players form cities, societies and so on. Pretty much nothing is predetermined for them including currency, etc.

The thing I'm struggling with is how to strike a balance between "pro" players that are logged in nearly 24/7 and more casual players that would like to log in once a day/two days. Most of the systems already take that into account and I'm fairly happy with them, but I'm struggling with creating traveling system that would be fair both ways.

Currently for crafting and other things I'm using "energy" points that are capped at X number and regenerate Y number per hour (basically it regenerates every three real-life days so allows for some catch-up if you miss a day or two). Could it be applied somehow to traveling? What are your ideas?

The world is a flat surface with x/y coordinates the "locations" are just specific points on a map that users can go to and while in the same "location" they can interact with each other. Kinda like Fallout 1 map. I was thinking of allowing movement of X units per 1 energy + some bonuses if vehicles/horse is used.

Let's assume this situation: a thief steals something in a town and starts to run. The game shouldn't require the guards (which are player characters) to be online 24/7 to be able to catch up. They need to have some form of slack or catch-up mechanic to be able to compete, but the thief shouldn't be severely punished by that either. I don't want to force guards to be online too much but at the same time I'm trying not to create a situation where guard characters can just talk freely and "don't give a shit" for a day and then go and chase because they know they will catch him easily.

What are your thoughts on this?

EDIT: As requested I'm going to include a bit of more context here. The game itself has no goals, quests or really any "purpose". All that I need to provide is a world and mechanics that allow player characters to craft, fight and live in a sandbox world and do whatever they wish. Players are "role-playing" in the Dungeon & Dragons sense - they actually have to play and talk from the perspective of their character.

But since I can't expect players to be logged in 24/7 I need to create a fair (or close) system with respect for players' time.

The biggest problem I have is with travel. Not travel per se but chasing mostly. How not to require constant logging in and checking if something happened, allow to catch up to someone who logged in earlier/in different timezone but give the chance to escape as well.

I was thinking about energy points (so players would have to strategize and leave some "just in case") and using something like Tracking skill which would influence how well one character can find another character in travel.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ While I generally enjoy questions about game mechanics, I am afraid that this one is not really answerable. You are just not telling us enough about your mechanics to balance one mechanic (travel) which likely affects pretty much every aspect of your game against a another mechanic (stealing) which you only describe very vaguely. \$\endgroup\$ – Philipp Feb 19 '18 at 12:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ The energy cost sounds like a reasonable solution, and it has the benefit of consistency with other time-limited actions players can take. Is there anything about this solution you're unhappy with, a problem with it that we can help you solve, or a tuning issue we can help balance? \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Feb 19 '18 at 13:51
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I am afraid Phillip in the comments is right, but I have some thoughts I am going to share...

Is the game expecting the player to always chase the thief? If yes, I would slow down the 'escape' speed and speed up the 'chase' speed. It is harder to run when you are carrying a bunch of other people's stuff, right? This could potentially make a fun mini-game of choosing the right target.

Is the game wanting the person to simply get revenge? If yes, I would introduce a bounty system. The player wouldn't need to be the one to chase at that point. The thief would simply be a wanted person until someone gets the player's stuff back. If the thief keeps stealing, eventually the reward for taking him down would be quite enticing. You would want to make sure that the player who was stolen from was notified when the thief was caught.

If the option to chase the thief is basically a side quest, perhaps you can send sightings of the thief to the victim? Then, the player could decide now or later if the chase is worth it. Perhaps even much later in the game! For example, they decide to not worry about the theft, but a month later they get an update that the thief was spotted not so far away. Well, if the 'chase' is a short one... that might change things!

The concept sounds fun. If you update your post to flesh out the mechanics, I am sure others will give more insight!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I like this idea but I will add that as since the weight of the stolen items should slow the thief down, they could offload some (or all) of the goods at one or more safe houses. When caught, the thief then loses all the stolen goods at the last visited / closest safe house (ie, caught and confessed). The reason I say this is that it increases their chance of being caught by being out more often but also to keep thieving without the risk of losing everything when caught. \$\endgroup\$ – Stephen Feb 20 '18 at 11:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have added some information. The biggest problem is that it's not a game about guards and thieves. It's a role-playing sandbox that aims at society simulation, crafting and so on. Traveling from location to location is my problem because of situations where player characters might want to race/chase/run away. It needs to be quasi-fair for both sides because of it's sandbox character. \$\endgroup\$ – user134865 Feb 20 '18 at 12:59

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