PlayByMail.Net is a PBM oriented website, whose aim is to promote play by mail gaming and to give PBM gamers a place to gather. From this website has evolved the PBM Wiki, a blog, and Suspense & Decision magazine, a PBM magazine for the 21st Century. The site contains both a discussion forum and a blog. The site seeks to facilitate PBM gaming by serving as a major modern resource for play by mail.
Greetings PBMers! Grimfinger has opened up this blog to allow a couple of new people to post when the mood strikes them, so yours truly is having a go.
I have a position in an Alamaze game that seems desperately precarious and triumphant at the same time. Perhaps that's the nature of that game? No, more likely it's because my real-life job has leeched away my time and energy for PBM matters. Each turn is a last-minute scramble to check with allies and submit before the noon deadline. I can't give away any details on my position just yet, but I will say that the game design is so tight that I can draft a decent set of orders -- enough to get me 80% of what I need to do -- in 30 minutes. It's a 30-minute panic of window-shuffling, but in a good way.
I also still have my position in Cluster Wars. I actually *missed* last turn. This is not good, but not catastrophic, because I haven't entered any kind of military situation yet. I am still turtling in my home system, so my economic engine is cranking away. THAT game takes at least an hour to draft up orders, and really could use a good 2-3 hours if you really want to play it right. And for those perfectionists out there, I imagine preparing a solid turn of a well-developed position with lots and lots of ships and colonies could take 6-8 hours. That's a lot of bang for your buck, especially with it being free.
This reminds me of the revelation an old chum of mine had once. He was not really a "gamer" at heart, more of a dabbler. But one day he saw Master of Orion 2 in the discount bin at his local computer store and bought it for $4. That being one of the best entry-level 4X space-empire games ever made, it sucked him right in. He was completely stunned by the value proposition. For $4 he had many scores of hours of entertainment. If he had known beforehand how much he would have liked the game, he would have gladly paid $40 (as many of us did, back in the day.)
So it goes with some PBM games. A particularly good design, or game experience, or in-game chemistry with other players, can become so immersive that the turn fee becomes perfunctory. The cost-proposition for a player becomes more a matter of time than money. There are a huge number of computer games/apps available for next to nothing that I won't play, only because I don't have time, or the inclination to clutter up my hard-drive.
Boutique game moderators -- let these be your goals: elegant design, engaging game experience (each turn!), and a player community that fosters great in-game chemistry. Succeed, and your loyalists will fork it over.
(Disclaimer: I have never run a commercial PBM game in my life...)